Tuesday, December 30, 2014

To-Do List for 2015

Hello everyone! I've decided that this is going to be a thing for my end-of-year blog post--my list of writing resolutions for next year!

Before I get to that, I just want to let everyone know that I will still be accepting beta readers for Hungry as a Wolf until January 1, 2015. After that, I'll be attending to the feedback I already have and waiting to see what other advice I'm going to get. I do read all the notes and try to resolve all the points of confusion, so trust me--your beta reading really does help!

Now, on to my list of resolutions:
  1. Stay on top of my blog a bit better. I know I've missed a couple of blog posts here and there with really no good explanation other than laziness. This year I resolve to stay regular on this, because not only does it keep my readers informed of what's going on in my writing, but it keeps me disciplined. So, every Tuesday, I will post on my blog, whether it's an original article like this one or a response to a writing prompt.
  2. Keep my website updated. I've been bad about this. I don't see why this should be so hard--I have full editing capabilities over the silly thing, and if I stay on top of the blog spam on my website I won't get buried in it. So, once a week, I will look over my website, clean out the spam folder, and make sure everything is up to date.
  3. Send out regular newsletters. I really have no excuse. I should be sending out a monthly newsletter with updates and stuff to the people on my mailing list, and just like with my blog I've been missing issues. Yeah. I know. So, the first Thursday of every month, I will make up and send out a newsletter to my mailing list.
  4. Edit and polish my NaNo novel, Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. YA is a new writing genre(ish) for me, and I suspect this will take a lot of work. Tally ho!
  5. Finish rewrites on One Spooky Case. The fact that I need to extend the story to almost double its current length to keep the suspense up should be no matter. I have a beta reader all lined up to reread it and make sure everything jibes.
  6. Finish the rough draft of The Cinderella Gambit. This one is going to be a semi-priority, because it's been sitting half-finished in my WIP folder for a few years (!) now and it's time I got it done.
  7. For that matter, finish all my WIPs. Seriously, I have like 20 of them sitting there staring at me. I want to start finishing those rough drafts and moving them out of that folder so they stop piling up already. Once I start clearing them out, I can start writing rough drafts of all the story ideas I have floating around in my head.
  8. Hold more author events. This will be a good way for me to really get my name out there as a new author so people actually know who the heck I am and what books I offer. At this point I've held a grand total of three author events--one reading and two signings--plus setting up a dealer table at a convention. I need to get over my introversion and get out there more. With my upcoming SFR novel Heart of Steel due out in February, I will have the perfect opportunity to hold a book release event. I won't be able to surf the dealer rooms of as many conventions as I would like due to financial concerns, but I will give it my best try.
  9. Market the heck out of myself. I'm an indie author. It's all on me. I need to do all the pavement pounding to get my name and books in the hands of my potential readers. It'll be hard, but there it is. With the upcoming changes to Facebook, it's going to be even harder, but I figure that will just force me to get more creative.
So that's my list of writing resolutions for 2015. They're going to be a lot of work to get through, especially if I want to stay on top of my writing, but I'm feeling fairly optimistic. Hopefully once I get a couple of books released things will start to pick up more momentum.

What are your writing resolutions for 2015? Share them in the comments!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Looking for Beta Readers!

Hello, dear readers! It's time for me to plan for my next book release, and for that I need your help! I am looking for beta readers for my weird western novel Hungry as a Wolf, the sequel to my weird western novella Sheep's Clothing.

When the mayor of a prosperous boom town in the Dakota Territory hires halfbreed gunslinger Wolf Cowrie to investigate the lack of contact from their local mining outpost, Wolf knows he's headed into a powder keg. Tensions run high between the white settlers and local Sioux, meaning Wolf will have to get to the bottom of this mystery in a hurry. Something that Wolf has never encountered before lurks in the Black Hills, though... something hungry that craves human flesh...

If this sounds like something you'd like to beta read, let me know! You can reply to this blog post on Blogger, or contact me on my website or any of my social media sites. I will be happy to send you a beta copy in any format you like, as well as a copy of Sheep's Clothing if you haven't read it yet. I hope to hear from you!

Website: http://elizabetheinspanier.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.einspanier.author?ref=bookmarks
Twitter: @GeekGirlWriter

Friday, December 12, 2014

Post-NaNoWriMo Recovery

It's December. That means that those of you who were working on a novel for the National Novel Writing Month are in the clear by a significant margin. Heck, I had to postpone this article for a week just so that I could think clearly about the topic. Assuming you finished your rough draft (and if you did, good for you!), now comes the time to decide what to do next.

The main thing that you absolutely do not do if you value your reputation as a writer is send your rough out to publishers as-is. I've heard of this happening and it makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit every time. And even if you think its the finest contribution to modern literature since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for the love of your deity of choice do not self-publish it as-is. I've heard of this happening and my faith in humanity crumbles a bit more every time.

You take that rough draft and you put that sucker away for a while. I'm not even going to look at Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life until January. Stephen King recommends letting your draft hang out in solitude for six weeks. Why? Because when you do pick it up to look it over and unleash the fury of your red pen on it, you'll be able to do so with the level of detachment this process requires.

What to do in the meantime, though? Lots of things. Read. Work on another rough draft (I have a whole pile of works in progress I could pick up). Edit another manuscript. Do what you can to clear your NaNo novel from the front of your mind. Think of December as a mental palate-cleanser. Relax.

Why is this break important? Because after living and breathing your draft for a month solid, the words might start to blur together. You'll start seeing what you meant rather than what your fingers actually typed. Stepping back and clearing your head will let you do that first pass of editing properly. I generally recommend self-editing for the first pass of a manuscript, but especially here, because you'll be able to catch all the embarrassing mistakes that you will subsequently be glad nobody else saw.

It's understandable if you want to get right into editing your NaNo novel right away, but have patience. The results will be well worth it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Designing an Alien Species for Fun and Profit

For decades, science fiction writers and scientists alike have speculated about life on other planets. The possibilities they've come up with range from funny-looking humans (Thanks, Star Trek!) to completely incomprehensible horrors from beyond the limits of sanity (Thanks, H. P. Lovecraft!). This offers modern authors a wide range of possibilities to choose from, which can be liberating and terrifying all at the same time. On the one hand, the possibilities are endless. On the other hand... okay, where do I start?


 If an alien species is going to be a meaningful part of diplomatic negotiations (successful or otherwise), it's going to have to be at least as smart as humans. If it's going to be the one who seeks us out, then unless we already have FTL technology by the time of whenever the story is set, they're going to default to smarter than us. Why? Because the nearest galaxy is maybe a dozen light years away, and your alien species will need to have determined that there's something worth checking out on our insignificant little planet, or else they wouldn't have bothered.

That's not to say that individual aliens within your species can't be idiots. You get those all over.


As indicated above, this can range from really really human to really really not. Many early aliens in visual media looked human simply because there was no such thing as ILM. In the Star Trek universe, most of the sympathetic aliens resemble humans with accessories because the Progenitor seeded a butt-ton of world with genetic material, and let evolution do the rest. Star Wars, being set in a space opera universe with a bigger budget, has a wide variety of aliens, made even more diverse with the addition of motion-capture and fully CGI sharacters. In written media, of course, you have a lot more freedom to make your aliens look like whatever the heck you want, but be cautious with aliens that are obviously not humans with weird makeup.

Non-humanlike aliens can even resemble familiar Earth species, like cat people (a favorite, for some reason), lizard people, or even insects. In general, the less mammalian they look, the harder it is for we humans to relate to them. Give them weird senses and a corresponding lack of familiar anatomy, and the average first contact team is going to be cautious, if not initially afraid of them. Once you start getting into the more mind-bending aliens like sapient colors (I have seen this played for laughs and for horror), it gets harder and harder to comprehend them, until you get the sort of things that should not logically follow the same laws pf physics, let alone biology, that we do.


Admit it. Coming up with a completely alien culture is hard as hell. Most fictional cultures will have some aspect of a familiar human culture, even if it isn't practiced openly, locally, or currently. This can be a good thing, if you want to use this fictionalized culture to make a social statement, but you will need to tread carefully and change things up. Transplanting an earth culture into your story wholesale can smack of lazy writing (no matter how awesome lion-folk Spartans would be). In general, your fictional species' culture needs to be an organic extension of the sort of environment they developed in, what they find important, and what they're naturally skilled at. That means you will need to build the heck out of their home-world and come up with a history for them, even if your human characters never find out much about it.


Aliens are weird. They're supposed to be. Even familiar-looking behaviors and rituals can be performed for reasons that come completely out of left field, and understanding why can be a major part of the story (see Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card for one example). Then you have the critters whose sense of morality is so completely divorced from ours that we have a hard time predicting what they will do any why, and they might have no concept of why what they did was wrong. Trying to weed out malicious behavior from attempts to help can be fun and horrifying by turns, depending on how you swing it. Try taking a quality and turning its importance3 up until the knob breaks, and see what that does to your creation's mindset.

In Conclusion

Creating a completely new alien species can be either piles of fun or an exercise in hair-tearing frustration. There's a lot of thought and world-building that can go into it if you want to have a meaningful first-contact scenario, but if you really get into it you can have almost as much fun working out the details of your species as you do writing a story featuring it. If you have fun writing about it, chances are your audience will have fun reading about it.