Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Reading Books Because They Are Trendy

I am a voracious reader, which lends itself well to my other hobby as a writer. I can see what other authors have done with a certain topic, and adapt accordingly. Sometimes I read the bestsellers. Sometimes I read more obscure works. Working at a library helps me with both.

My point is, I don't always follow the literary trends. Yes, I picked up Harry Potter to see what the hype was, and thereafter devoured the entire series and all eight movies. I also picked up Twilight to see what the hype was, and have never touched a Stephenie Meyer book since, even though the rest of the series remained wildly popular. I don't plan on reading the equally-popular Fifty Shades of Gray because, no matter how many people have read and enjoyed it, I've read small snippets and found it to be apocalyptically bad writing.

Reading books because they're popular isn't always a bad thing. A lot of times, they're popular because they have something to recommend them, like a compelling story and engaging characters.But reading books just because everyone else is reading them is not necessarily the best way to gain new reading material. I know people who have read every single book that Oprah Winfrey has recommended. Those titles don't interest me. I know people who would plow through the New York Times bestsellers list if they had the time and money. Some of those titles i may check out, or I may not.

The problem comes when a certain genre of book becomes popular, and writer (like me) try to cash in on the popularity. You crank out a book, polish it, and send it to a publisher--maybe even the same publisher that put out Popular Series--certain that the trendiness of y our book with develop into sales. Then you discover the harsh truth: In the time it took you to write your book, the trend has passed you by. What was popular, isn't anymore. Or worse, your contribution is only the latest in an already oversaturated market, and editors are sick to death of hearing about this topic.

What happens when the trend you were following so faithfully dries up and blows away? How do you find the Next Big Thing? You look at what's just become popular this time around, and decided whether it's for you or not.

Or, you can just do what I do, and take each book on their own individual merits rather than because they're trendy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Some Personal News, 6-30-2015

To all of you who were expecting a blog post last week, my deepest apologies. I've been going through a bit of a crisis. I've been under a lot of stress, which led to me in the ER with a panic attack a couple of Saturdays ago. as a result, I've been placed on some new medication which has calmed me down but seems to have fried my creative circuits.

This sucks in so many ways it isn't even funny. I've only just become acclimated to the meds after two weeks, during the course of which they left me nauseous, sleepy, jumpy, or irritable. I've been told that I won't have to be on them for the rest of my life, so that's something, but writing has long been my escape, and now I can't even rely on it.

Here's a brief rundown of stressors that I've been dealing with:
  •  After resisting for the longest time because of crippling dental anxiety, this year I started the ball rolling on getting my teeth fixed up. This hasn't reduced my dental anxiety any, but I've found a guy who will put me completely under to get my mouth renovated. This will take a couple office visits, but at least it's better than the couple dozen the previous dentist quoted. Downside: It will be expensive. I will have help in paying for it, though, so all that's left is the appointments themselves.
  • I will be moving in August. The two places that my roommate and I are looking at won't even accept rental applications until the beginning of July (!) for a move-in date at the beginning of August, so I'm still stressing about that for another couple of days. Moving isn't going to be much fun anyway, but due to various overlapping reasons, it needs to be done.
  • I recently was involved in a car accident on the highway. The car still works, but I'll need some bodywork and a new paintjob all up the left side after getting sideswiped. Fortunately, my insurance will be paying for most of it, leaving me responsible for the $500 deductible.
  • I recently had surgery to remove a cyst, and discovered that I am allergic to something involved in even latex-free steri-strips. The surgeon suggested I might be allergic to the stuff that he used to make the steri-strip stick better, which I think is stupid, but I can't help that right now. I had a hell of a rash at the site, but I have a prescription for an ointment that seems to be clearing things up. Yay!
  • There's a possibility that I have an anxiety disorder, which completely fails to shock me. I'm on the waiting list to get a psych eval, but I might not even get in to see the psychologist until September. In the meantime I just have to chill and be patient.
In good news, Hungry as a Wolf is still on track for its October 31 release date, and I've been churning out a bunch of outlines so that I will be ready when my writer's block finally clears. This might not happen until the dust starts to settle around September, but I'm looking forward to getting a chance to freaking relax already. I've been dealing with my various crises one at a time via assembling the components of a pirate costume to potentially wear to the St. Louis Ren Faire next year, so that's something to look forward to.

I'm still looking forward to being able to write again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Twenty Questions Character Interview: Alistair Mechanus

Hello, faithful readers! This week's post will be a character interview with Alistair Mechanus, the male lead of my SFR novel Heart of Steel.
  1. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? In my line of work, I'm almost constantly moving or working on something, so that's a difficult question to answer. I suppose if I had a completely free day--no projects, no crises, no processes to monitor, I might spend it in one of my greenhouses with Julia. I'd show her around, tell her about the different flowers I have... [he smirks] occasionally dodge the servitor robots watering the plants. My second choice might be playing a game of chess.
  2. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while? [He frowns.] I know that my appearance may be shocking and strange, and my mannerisms aren't exactly in line with those of mainstream society. I remember when I first met Julia, she thought I was a madman. [he shrugs] She was right, of course, but under my cybernetic implants I do have a soul, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to protect those I care about.
  3. What's your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that'll happen in your life? [He sits back.] Uhhhhhh.... well. That's rather a complicated question. I suppose my most distilled answer would involve two people with similar interests and who care about each other. I, uh, I hope this will happen in my life. I mean, I'm planning for it to happen, but the devil's in the details, I suppose. I can only hope she says yes.
  4. What are you most proud of about your life?  Mainly I'm proud that I was able to recover my humanity. for ten years I didn't know who I used to be. All I was, was a clinical machine hell-bent on world conquest, and I didn't know why. I threw myself into my work, and I suppose on some level I was afraid to remember what happened. My past was too frightening to contemplate. But... with Julia's help, I... I was able to recover who I used to be. It hurt, a lot, and I nearly broke. now, though, I can heal. I'm still a broken wreck by most people's standards, but at least I'm in a position where I can put my mind back together.
  5. What are you most ashamed of in your life?  [He is silent for a long time.] I... I lost someone very close to me. There was a car accident, and it may have been partly my fault, but... I was too busy recovering and rebuilding myself to really attend to her. She was in a coma in the hospital and... i didn't even visit her. I was too busy making sure I looked my best. she died, and... I didn't get a chance to say goodbye before they took her off life support.
  6. If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick? [A slow smile spreads across his mismatched features.] Tony Stark, I think. Sure, he's fictional, but in his world he's a technological genius and a celebrity. Everyone loves him. From what I've been able to find out, he seems like a good man, and a brilliant one as well.
  7. Do you think you've turned out the way your parents expected? [Breaks out laughing.] I don't think I've even turned out like I expected.
  8. What do you believe about God?  I'm not sure what I believe about God. If there is a supreme force out there that's in charge of everything, then they're doing rather a shoddy job taking care of things. On the other hand... if the supreme force is simply intellect, then everyone has the potential in them to be the force that moves the world. As for what an external supreme force might think about me... [He shrugs.] I haven't thought about it. The fact that I've made my way through some fairly horrific events should count for something, I would think.
  9. Is there anything you've always wanted to do but haven't done? What would happen if you did it? Cure cancer, I think. I mean, I have a lot of plans for the betterment of humanity, but curing cancer is one of the major ones. If I could do that, a lot of people would go on to have full, healthy lives who otherwise might not have. [He shrugs] Is it cliche? Maybe. But as long as I'm improving things, I might as well think big.
  10. What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? What did you learn from it? [He goes a bit green.] Losing Lauren. Absolutely. It broke me, on so many levels, and it taught--rather brutally--that maybe I can't save everyone... or maybe that I need to pay attention to the really important things before I lose them.
  11. Tell me about your best friend. [He smiles] Arthur is an artificial intelligence that I programmed myself. He largely serves as an intermediary between myself and the operating system that runs Shark Reef Isle, but, more importantly, he's been a valuable conversational partner and a sanity anchor--as far as sanity can be measured in someone like me--for the past decade. He's kept me from getting lonely, and he's also been there to hit me over the head with a dose of perspective when I need it. i think he cares for me as well, on some assembly-deep level. After all, I created him, though I don't exactly lord this over him. We've just been... partners for the past decade, nearly inseparable because we're connected on the mental level.
  12. What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone? Why? [He looks grave] I sent my combat drones to dismember a man while he was alive--conscious but paralyzed. He was a creation of mine--Julia's boyfriend at the time I met both of them. I'd turned him into a cyborg because he was gravely injured and I thought he would make a nice gift. it turned out that he was even crazier than me. He was willing to kill to keep Julia from leaving him. I won't apologize for it. He had to be stopped.
  13. What would you like it to say on your tombstone? "DEUS IN MACHINA".
  14. Describe your ideal mate. [He smiles] Smart, gentle, funny, a little quirky... beauty is a plus, but honestly, look at me. [He gestures to the cybernetic implants in his face] If she has the personality, everything else is a bonus.
  15. What are you most afraid of? I'm most afraid of losing my humanity again. I don't want to break, and I don't want any more people close to me to get hurt.
  16. What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most? Right now the most important thing in my life is Julia. She helped me find myself again, even though she had every reason not to bother. I value her friendship, and the gentle affection she shows me.
  17. What do you like best about yourself? Least? I like my intellect the most about myself. It allows me to solve problems that most men--or women--of science couldn't even begin to unravel, or might think were impossible to start with and just give up. I can think outside of the box to see that there is a solution, and then work towards it. As for what I like the least... [sighs] Well, sometimes I'd like my face back, and the limbs and organs I lost. It would be nice to be fully human again, so that I don't have to worry about accidentally hurting anyone... [he looks at his metal hand] But then I worked hard to get where I am today. The scars aren't all that pretty, but at least they show that I survived.
  18. What do you like best about Julia? Least? I like that she was able to look past the mess and see the man that I am underneath. I'm sure when she worked in the emergency room she saw people who looked worse than me, but she still showed me compassion when she was afraid. [He smiles.] Then again, the Healing Angel is seldom afraid. As for what I like least... [sighs] She doesn't seem to understand that all my servants--the chimeras and the robots alike-- would never, ever hurt her. Uh.... we're working on that. I mean, it's not her fault if she's afraid, but she's not going to become less afraid by avoiding them.
  19. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? I'm feeling pretty good about my life right now. I'm on the cusp of something great that's been ten years in the making, and I can dedicate the culmination of my efforts to the love of myself. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, though. I just wish it were done so that I could admire the fruits of my labor.
  20. Are you lying to yourself about something? What is it? [The thinks about this for a while] With the way my mind is, I wonder if conquering the world will be enough. I mean, I tell myself that once planet Earth is mine, everything will be great. [shakes his head] But what if it isn't? What if I'm left wanting something more? I like to think I'm sure about all this, but I have doubts. A hundred thousand things could go wrong, and then where would I be? I can only fix so many things before I have to accept the project as a failure... and then there's ten years down the toilet.

I hope you enjoyed this insight into the mind of a mad scientist who's a romantic at heart! Let me know if you want to see an interview with any of my other characters!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Double-Edged Sword of Outlining

Recently, during the course of an apparent drought in inspiration with my existing works in progress, I turned to outlining to help me sort out the eleventy billion other ideas that were jockeying for my attention. I figured that it would be a good way to sort out my thoughts and free myself of the logjam that was keeping me from getting on with things, so that I could concentrate on current projects.

Outlining, I discovered, was a wonderfully efficient way to get down an idea in a state more fully formed than an elevator pitch or a logline, so that I could be sure of what plot points I wanted to hit when I eventually got around to writing it properly. I've used this technique in the middle of some of my WIPs, reminding myself of the path from Point A to Point B and all the stops along the way. As a result, I now have three complete story outlines waiting in my new outline folder, and another one on the way.

Good, right?


I discovered I have a new problem.

Once I finished the outlines, suddenly the idea was no longer in my head. It was like putting someone's phone number in your smartphone's directory and thereafter being completely unable to remember it.

It's frustrating.

It's illogical.

It's maddening.

It's... actually pretty dang useful. Once I had time to think about it, having the idea no longer in my head made room for the ideas I actually wanted to work on. Yes, I panicked at first, but I soon came to realize that this was a form of sorting out my thoughts. as long as I had something written down, I could come back to the outline to draft it properly. In the meantime, it wasn't in my way.

In other words, what seemed to be a brain fart turned out to be a handy effect.

I fully intend to go back and revisit these outlines, of course, incorporating them into my writing process. Whereas previously I started with an outline/rough draft hybrid, I think there is room for complete outline first, then rough draft based on this. This is hard for a historical pantser like myself to really grasp, but as long as it works, who am I to complain?

How many of you outline before the rough draft? How many prefer to just start typing and see where the story takes you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June 2015 Progress Report

Well, readers, half a year has passed since I made my writing to-do list way the heck back in January. I've made a fair bit of progress in my writing goals since then, so let's see how well I've done:

  1. Stay on top of my blog a bit better. I'm acing this so far, with one blog post a week no matter where my brain happens to be at the moment.
  2. Keep my website updated. Um. Working on it? I've redone the Works page on my website and I've been keeping that updated, but the blog portion needs constant vigilance.
  3. Send out regular newsletters. This I've been acing as well, even though at times it feels like I'm scrambling for material.
  4. Edit and polish Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. This is very much a work in progress. I've done my first edit pass, and I'm waiting to get it back from my last beta reader before I start revving the chainsaw again.
  5. Finish rewrites on One Spooky Case. Okay, I've barely even touched this one. I have no excuse for this, other than my mind being elsewhere working on other projects. It's in the queue.
  6. Finish the rough draft of The Cinderella Gambit. Also in the queue. My muse hasn't even glanced in that direction.
  7. Finish all my WIPs. HA HA HA no. The ideas keep coming faster than I can write them down. I'm trying to find a system. Currently trying outlining.
  8. Hold more author events. Nothing major so far, but I have a Dealer Table booked in Bookseller's Row at Archon for this year, so that's something.
  9. Market the heck out of myself. This I've been keeping up on a bit better--mainly the word of mouth thing, but I've been posting regularly on my author page and pimping my various books in their different formats on Facebook. I'm going to start pre-release promotion of Hungry as a Wolf this week, in anticipation of its Halloween release date.
As you can see, my to-do list has been a little hit or miss, but I have made progress. Doing this by myself is hard, but I'm learning more and more every day, so that helps. I do plan on outlining the rest of my WIPs once I get the time, but those are the key words--once I get the time. I have accomplished a lot this year, though, and I hope to accomplish lots more in the future!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Heart of Steel Audiobook now available! (and some other stuff)

As of this weekend, the audiobook of my SFR novel Heart of Steel is now available for sale on Audible here, Amazon here, and iTunes! I'm very excited about releasing my second audiobook, but of course it would have been possible without the vocal and technical talents of the narrator, Peter Reynolds, who helped bring this project to life. Check it out today for a quirky, heartwarming romance about a cyborg who learns how to be human again, and a traumatized doctor who learns how to trust again. Learn more about Peter here!

In other news, polishing is progressing rapidly with Hungry as a Wolf, so I will be able to move up the release date for that book to Halloween. This should be exciting news for fans of Sheep's Clothing, as it picks up Wolf's tale a few months after the conclusion of that story. I plan to re-releasing a rewritten version of Sheep's Clothing at some point in the future, as well as an omnibus edition of both my weird western books. I will keep all of you updated on that.

Next week I'll give you all a full update on how all my projects are going, and how much progress I've made towards the writing resolutions I made at the beginning of the year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

You Do Too Have Time to Write!

"I wish I had time to write!"

Ever find yourself thinking that? Ever been on the receiving end of people saying that to you?

Lots of people think you need to sit down in front of the writing implement of your choice for hours on end to crank out the Next Awesome Bestseller, and while it helps, it isn't always necessary, and thinking that it is will just leave you spinning your wheels waiting for Enough Time.

When I started writing Heart of Steel, I had a guaranteed hour a day to work with. I work full-time, and I wrote like an absolute fiend during my fifteen-minute morning break and my 45-minute lunch break. It took a while, but I eventually ended up with a 54k-word novel. Neat, huh?

Now, this situation was not ideal, of course, because Heart of Steel was practically running out my ears at that point and I just wanted to get that sucker down, but it worked out okay in the end.

So how can you squeeze in the time to write? Here are some tips:
  • Carve out a block for writing. This can be an hour that you specifically set aside for writing. During this time, you don't answer the phone, you don't check your email, and you don't browse on Facebook. You just write on whatever project offers itself up to your brain.
  • Guard your writing time like it's the Holy Grail. Seriously. If you have housemates or family members you need to let them know that You Are Not To Be Bothered. Lock the door if you have to.
  • Trash your excuses. The Procrastination Monster is an insidious beat. If you find yourself thinking, "I'll sit down to write after I finish the dishes", or "let me just read this next article on Facebook", or ""Let me check my email first", STOP. Close that off. put everything else aside and writing. The other stuff will be there when you finish. (Exceptions: if the house is on fire, someone dear to you is bleeding, or a Roland Emmerich movie is happening in real life.)
  • Get in the habit. This one will be hard. Your brain might not always be cooperative during your writing time. Don't worry about it. If you're drawing a blank, just free-write. Get those words out. Set up a routine. Get in the habit. I had to do this during NaNoWriMo to make sure I got my word-count total down.
  • Use writing tools. I found a bunch of sites that offer reinforcement programs to encourage you to write, both positive reinforcement (Written? Kitten!) and negative reinforcement (Write or Die). You may need to play around with some of these to see what works for you.
  • Write whenever and wherever you can. If all else fails, bring your writing tools with you. My smartphone can access Google Docs, where all my works in progress are, so I can peck away at a story wherever I can find wi-fi. Failing that, bring a small notebook with you to capture ideas as they happen. Get creative!
If you follow these tips, soon enough you will be in the habit of writing. Guess what--that's all you need in order to crank out that story you have in your head! I won't happen all at once, but it will happen.

You just need to sit down and make it happen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why a Bad Review is Not the End of the World

Getting negative reviews is never fun. Here you have this story that you worked hard to write and get published (by whatever means) and here comes this random person who doesn't understand the Process who tears your story--your baby--apart. It's tough. It hurts.

Over the weekend, I got my first two-star review on Goodreads, for my novel Heart of Steel. Two of them, actually... one of them from InD'Tale Magazine. Now, to put this in perspective, this is out of 19 total ratings, and my average rating is still 3.75 stars.

Still, it stings. This is a fact of any writer's life, and why so many of us are terrified to release our work into the wild because What If People Don't Like It? Heart of Steel is actually the first novel I ever wrote, but I sat on it until after Sheep's Clothing was released because of this fear. Heart of Steel isn't a conventional love story. People who like conventional love stories wouldn't impressed, and this was clearly the case with at least one of the ratings.

And that's okay.

But why is it okay? Don't they understand what genius my story is?

Probably not, and nothing requires them to.

Reviews and ratings on places like Goodreads and Amazon hold power, but not the sort of power an author might thing it does. I've seen people (not naming names) offering to exchange five-star reviews. I've also heard of websites (again, not naming names) that sell five-star reviews. This is cheating, and largely frowned upon by people who want to get by on their own worth rather than paying for fake accolades.

Complicating matters is a recent rash of the opposite problem: review trolls who careen through Amazon and Goodreads giving 1-star reviews at random, just to be jerks. Fortunately, both sites allow you to report the trolls so their douchebaggery doesn't affect your score.

But what about the others? I hear you cry.

Well, all things being equal, more reviews = GOOD THING, because it means more people are reading your book. If you wrote a good story, their feedback will reflect this. If they just weren't that into your story... well, their comments will likely help you improve as a writer. Reviews that aren't entirely stellar cal also help your legitimacy as a published author, since it proves that you're not stuffing the ballot box with people who would praise you as the next coming of Ernest Hemingway even if you wrote absolute dreck. (Not calling your stuff dreck, but I've read some bad books that got rave reviews.)

Besides, bad reviews are not about you, the author. They indicate that the reader didn't like your book. Maybe your choice of topic isn't right up their alley. Maybe your writing style doesn't inspire them to read more. Maybe you stepped out of your usual genre and it wasn't a resounding success. What matters is they read your book. They gave it a chance and decided it wasn't for them. Not everyone shares your taste in stories, but hopefully enough people do in order to build a decent fanbase.

Eventually, the good reviews will outnumber the bad, and you will feel vindicated. If not, you will have learned something

Both results are just fine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Writer Problems

Everybody has problems that are, more or less, unique to them. Then there are the problems that are unique to certain groups. Here is a list of problems unique to writers that I've discovered through my own career, in no particular order:

  1. You can't sleep because your brain is playing out scenes in your head.
  2. You can't sleep because a character is arguing with you.
  3. Not enough ideas (usually due to having a deadline).
  4. Too many ideas (usually due to actively working on an active project).
  5. You're flooded idea while at your day job or running errands, but when you finally have a half-hour to yourself and sit down in front of the computer they flee to the far corners of your mind and hide.
  6. Completely failing in your mastery of your native tongue. Ever known the shade of meaning you wanted but not the word that goes with it? Ever rewrite a sentence seventeen times because it refuses to convey the idea you wanted? Yeah.
  7. Arguing with your spell-check program.
  8. Arguing with your grammar-check program.
  9. Arguing with your inner editor while writing your rough draft.
  10. Going through your rough draft afterwards and thinking it's crap.
  11. Your editing notes for the rough draft sound like Gordon Ramsay.
  12. You have a love-hate relationship with a red ballpoint pen.
  13. Rewriting the same chapter three or four times before you get the story to flow in the right direction.
  14. The story refuses to go in the direction you want.
  15. The characters refuse to cooperate with you.
  16. People telling you that writing looks so easy.
What writer problems have you encountered? Respond below!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Twenty Questions Character Interview: Wolf Cowrie

This week, I'm going to add a new occasional feature: Character interviews! I can't guarantee that this will be anything approaching regular, but it should be a fun exercise, and informative for both me and my readers.

I will be using Auto Crit's "Twenty Questions" method, described here. I will be answering the question in-character as Wolf in italics.

  1. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? I don't get any of those. I guess I'd go out hunting--just me and nature--or maybe go to the local saloon for a drink.
  2. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while? I'm a half-Sioux in the frontier. Most folks know me by skin color first and by reputation second. Most folks might write me off as short-tempered or even rude, but when you've been through all the stuff I have you learn how to get to the point real quick. That said, if you manage to get me as a friend, I'm about the best feller to have on your side when things get tight.
  3. What's your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that'll happen in your life? Marriage, huh? Do I look like the marrying type to ya? Well, if ya insist. my idea of a good marriage is a feller finding a woman who completes him, and the other was around. A rough feller like me couldn't exactly hook up with a high-class lady--she's gotta know how to handle herself. I used to think that I wasn't gonna get married, not after Kimimela. Now, though... things are starting to look up. I still love Kimimela, you understand, but she's gone. I gotta keep moving forward now. I guess it all depends on whether I can step out with this lady I've been fancying without her Pa feeding me a shotgun.
  4. What are you most proud of about your life? (If they answer with something other than a personal statement, like a business achievement, ask "What about on a personal level?") My proudest moment, I think, was finally taking down that son of a bitch Russeau. I'd been hunting him for five years, and now I've got my payback from him for Kimimela. [He runs his hands through his hair.] It wasn't all sunshine and roses after that, but I got him good. A close second would probably be earning the respect of the people in Goldwater--which is nothing short of a miracle considering the place is up in the Black Hills.
  5. What are you most ashamed of in your life? (Again, if necessary ask "What about on a personal level?") I still ain't proud of the fact that I couldn't save Kimimela. I mean, some nights I lay away wondering... was there something more I could have done to get her back after she'd been turned into a vampire. [He looks down.] I keep wondering if I could have saved her rather than just had her head off and been done with it.
  6. If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick? Doc Meadows, I think. He seemed a bit limp-wristed when I first met him, but he save my life, and he's tough when push comes to shove.
  7. Do you think you've turned out the way your parents expected? [Laughs.] Probably not. The thing is, I don't think my Pa ever found out my Ma was a skinwalker, so he'd be all shocked to heck if he found out I was a shapeshifter. My Ma, though... I think she had it in her head that I'd grow to be a respectable Sioux man rather than a wandering gunslinger and monster hunter. Then again, none of us predicted Russeau, so where it is.
  8. What do you believe about God? (If they believe in God, ask "What do you suppose God thinks of you?") I believe that there's lots of things out there that can help a good man if he's in a pinch. The white folks got the God they pray to in their churches, and I got the Great Spirit that Indians follow. Hell, for all I know they might be the same thing. As for what either of them thinks of me... [scratches his ear thoughtfully] Well, I like to think I've been doing the best I can with the hand I've been dealt. I ain't pretending I'm an angel--I've done some bad things in my life, but all of them needed doing. I've been getting rid of the monsters and such that would be hunting down His people, using what I have and what I know to protect people. I'd like to think that He figures I'm doing a good job of that.
  9. Is there anything you've always wanted to do but haven't done? What would happen if you did it? [He purses his lips thoughtfully.] Whelp--strange as it might seem, I've always wanted to live a peaceful life. You know, settle down with a nice woman, maybe have a couple of kids. I don't know what kind of kids we'll have... whether they'll be more like her or more like me, but... [shrugs] Worth a shot anyways. Trouble is, the lady I got my eye on--and her on me, by the way--is a white woman, and even if I've got me a reputation as a hero in these parts there's still gonna be people who won't like me stepping out with her, let alone marrying her. They'd have some loud arguments against it, in fact, and she might get caught in the middle. That could get real sticky in a hurry.
  10. What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? What did you learn from it? The worst thing that happened in my life? That would be when I went to Kimimela's village to ask for her hand in marriage... I had wedding gifts for her and everything, so her parents could see that I'd be a good husband, but... when I got there, the place was in flames. The people who lived there... all dead. Slaughtered. drained of blood. Massacred by the man that I came to hate with every fiber of my being--Russeau. I saw him, up on a hill, looking down at the ruins of the village... and he... he had Kimimela. She was in... some sort of a trance. I... I couldn't stop him from taking her. I tried, but he was too strong and I didn't know near enough about what he was. I keep thinking that I could have done something more... that I could've saved her, but... [He shakes his head.] That was the day I learned about the monsters in the frontier... starting with vampires. That was the day I started hunting.
  11. Tell me about your best friend. (If you think it might be interesting, ask "How did you meet? What do you like about this person? What do they like about you?") I don't got many friends, but I'd say the closest I got to a best friend is Lucifer, my horse. Well, he's mostly a horse. I snagged him shortly after Doc and I took care of Russeau in Salvation, and whatever else he is, he's the only horse in these parts that's willing to carry me. [He smirks.] We had to have a bit of a discussion about that, but it's all settled. He's the devil incarnate on four hooves, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
  12. What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone? Why? ("Why" is usually a good follow-up question to any response!) The worst thing I ever done to someone was shoot his wife with a crossbow. She'd been turned--not into a vampire but into some other kind of nasty hungry critter. There was no time to explain things to him, so I put her down real quick. I'll never forget the look on his face after. I don't think Lucifer ever looked at God with that much hate.
  13. What would you like it to say on your tombstone? [He grins] "Look out, Devil--Here I Come!"
  14. Describe your ideal mate. She'd be strong, pretty... [laughs] patent... and she'd know her way around a gun. [coughs] I got someone in mind, actually... [grins]
  15. What are you most afraid of? I'm afraid that the way I live my life right now, hunting and being hunted by every nasty thing in the frontier, I might just lose everything I've come to love. Everything I care about. I try to get around it by traveling light, but being a local hero makes that kind of hard.
  16. What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most? [He looks thoughtful and settles back on his heels for a bit] The most important thing in my life? Well, I'd be lying right now if I said it wasn't Susannah Twohill. What we got... well, it's complicated because of a lot of things, but I'd go through Hell and kick the Devil between the legs for her.
  17. What do you like best about yourself? Least? I like that I got the know-how to defend people from the nastier critters on the frontier, but I hate that I wasn't able to save Kimimela, in the end.
  18. What do you like best about Susannah? Least? [He smirks.] Susannah's got grit. You can take that to the bank. She's not like the usual ladies you get in big towns from rich families, all hiding behind their fans and their money and hoping that the boogeyman don't crawll in their bedroom window and get em. Dang it all though... sometimes I just want to strangle her because she's brave, but she's stubborn, too... a real hothead. I could explain to her why something wasn't safe until the cows came home and she'd still tag along anyway. [He smiles fondly.] Maybe I'm crazy, but I wouldn't have her any other way.
  19. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? Right now, I'm at a bit of a crossroads. I could keep on with the monster-hunting, or I could settle down once and for all. There's no real hints about what the right direction is. I've been hunting for a long time, and it would be nice to have a rest, but... I'm worried the nasties will just find me anyway. Reputations tend to cut both ways like that.
  20. Are you lying to yourself about something? What is it? [He thinks about this for a long while.] Well, I'd like to say that what I am--half-skinwalker--doesn't bother me at all. I mean, I've been this way my whole life. I can't imagine what it would be like if I didn't know how to shift. Sometimes, though, I think things might be easier if I was full-human. Heck, even if I was full-Indian a lot of things would be less complicated. 

There's my first character interview! Would you like to see more of these? More questions? Different questions? Any particular characters you'd like to see interviewed? Let me know!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beta Readers Wanted: Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life

Hello blogosphere! I have an announcement to make...

This evening I will finally be finished rewriting Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. This was my entry for NaNoWriMo last year, and since I sacrificed coherency for word count, it was an absolute mess when the rough draft was done. Editing it was a bear, but I persevered, and now it's ready for beta readers!

Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life is a Supernatural Young Adult novel about a seventeen-year-old high school student in St. Louis, MO, who happens to be the latest in a long line of necromancers. She has been raised knowing that the dead are nothing to fear, so ghosts and zombies aren't anything remarkable to her. Unfortunately, it has left her with exactly one friend, a lot of people at school looking at her like she's Drusilla, Queen of the Zombies, and no apparent hope of finding a boyfriend.

This changes when, two weeks before Halloween, she is asked out on her first date ever by the single cutest guy in her school. Unfortunately, spectral activity is increasing around St. Louis, and it seems to be centered around Tiffany herself. How, Tiffany must get to the bottom of some increasingly hostile haunts before a) everything goes to Hell on Halloween or b) she scares off her impending boyfriend.

This is my first YA novel, and in addition to the Urban Fantasy stuff it will also deal with potentially triggery topics like bullying, suicide, and depression. I will need some help to make sure I capture the high school experience accurately, because it's been a while since I've been seventeen years old, and I'm sure the social dynamics and the language have evolved quite a bit since then.

If this sounds like something you would like to read, please feel free to contact me and let me know what format you prefer.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kickstarter Aftermath and Moving Forward

Well, my first Kickstarter project wasn't as successful as I'd hoped it would be, but that's okay. Self-publishing is always a learning process, and I think the next time I try to go this route I will get things more right than I did this time.

In the meantime, though, I do plan to move forward with the polishing and publication of Hungry as a Wolf. I'm in communication with an editor/proofreader on Fiverr who can work within my (tiny) budget, and a graphic designer on Facebook has offered to do my cover in exchange for a copy of the finished book.

So, for all of you who backed this project, thank you! It means a lot that you took the effort to invest in my novel, and I will keep you in mind when Hungry as a Wolf is finally published.. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do! Feel free to follow along with my progress on my website here or my blog here!

In other news, I'm very close to finishing the first round of edits for Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life, so I fully expect that title to be available for beta reading next month. Anyone who likes supernatural YA fiction should feel free to give this one a shot. Follow my progress here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wild West Zombies

I love zombie movies. I think my love for the genre started with a Behind the Scenes look at the making of the music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller", but it only continued with the Romero Whatever of the Dead movies. Zombies are fun and gory and insatiable (and technically ghouls, as portrayed by Hollywood) and pretty much universally recognized. However, zombies in their modern form have been around since the 1960s, and they've been deconstructed, reconstructed, parodied, and even turned into romance heroes in the meantime. So what could I do with the silly things to set them apart, aside from dropping them in the American frontier?

I do what I did with Wolf Cowrie's background and draw from Native American mythology, of course! As I indicated in my first article for the Kickstarter campaign, Wolf being raised Sioux was a happy bit of fortune, considering the setting was in a territory that would eventually be South Dakota and all the racial drama that happened between the local people and white settlers. The Sioux were historically the mortal enemies of the Ojibwe, who hailed from the region of southern Canada... and the Ojibwe's folklore told of a charming little critter called a Wendigo.

Depending on who you asked (the stories vary), a wendigo is either a human who resorted to cannibalism and turned into a monster, or an evil spirit that drove men to acts of violence and cannibalism. I decided to split the difference here, while taking a page out of the account of the Donner Party story: The wendigo was there, but trapped in a vessel and unable to get up to monkeyshines until a bunch of gold miners uncovered it and subsequently had the Worst Winter Ever.

The result: intelligent, berserk undead, animated by a supernatural force that drove them to consume human flesh. To add another layer of horrifying to the whole thing, these screamers (so named because of a horrifying shriek they emit when they spot food) are completely aware that the hunger is not their own, but those geographically closest to the wendigo's influence can't do anything about it. They don't feel revulsion, or fear, or anger, or remorse, and they absolutely will not stop until they have eaten you.

The result combines elements of Return of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, and 28 days Later, and I think on the whole they work out well as a literary monster. Who says you can't do anything new with zombies?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Confessions of a Character's Development: Wolf Cowrie

It was kind of funny how Wolf developed. When I was planning out Sheep's Clothing, the dynamic between the two male leads was intended to be sort of a Holmes-and-Watson-style partnership, with Doc Meadows as Watson (of course) and the bad-ass gunslinger as Holmes (which is why he ended up being so tall and lean). Things didn't quite turn out that way, of course, especially as Wolf started to evolve into his own character.

The first thing that happened was I made him a werewolf--or more specifically, I made him half skinwalker. A skinwalker is a nasty critter from Native American mythology that can turn into any animal it wants, so I had to handwave Wolf having a human parent in addition by saying that his mom (the skinwalker) was mildly fond of humanity. On the heels of that, it seemed logical to also make him half Native American (on his mother's side), and a whole pile of cultural knowledge went along with that.

In a way, this left him still in the same boat as his original inspiration, plus a bit of Simon Belmont from the Castlevania games--with a boatload of relevant information about his monster-hunting lifestyle and not a whole lot more. Rather than an intellectual or an altruist like the Great Detective, however, Wolf was out for one thing: revenge (Back to Simon, depending on the game). He might not have the education, but he has the intelligence and the anger to hunt Alexandre Russeau for five years. Wolf Cowrie is patient, and that makes him a very dangerous enemy.

Of course, by the time we get to Hungry as a Wolf, that mission is all over and done with, leaving Wolf twisting in the wind. He has a pretty complex backstory for what might otherwise be a relatively generic half-Sioux gunslinger wandering the Territories, and that makes him fun to write. He's still going to be a monster hunter--that's kind of what he does--but Hungry as a Wolf is more about helping him get his feet back under himself.

He evolves a lot during the course of this novel, and I plan for him to evolve more in the next novel I have planned, where he has to face the consequences of his past while he's planning for the future. I won't say any more than that except that you can't tear a bloody swath through the monster population for five years without getting some blood on your hands, and his collateral damage is going to trigger someone else wanting revenge.

Because that's how people rolled in the Old West.

Come check out my Kickstarter Campaign for Hungry as a Wolf here!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hungry as a Wolf Kickstarter Campaign: Week 1 Update

It's been a week since my Kickstarter campaign went live, and I have two backers who pledged $5.00 each, so a big thank you to Lukas Schmoelz and Mark Adam Thomas! I still have a long way to go, though, so be sure to tell all your Weird Western fan about this project!

The idea for Hungry as a Wolf started much the same way it's prequel Sheep's Clothing started: I wanted to re-imagine a classic horror monster that's been nearly done to death. Last time around, it was vampires, and I read Dracula for the first time in a while to get some measure of where literary vampires came from, and I also researched vampire myths from all over the world to see what their folklore roots were. (Fun fact: Every single culture has a vampire myth, including the Native Americans. Cool huh?) This time, I decided to try tackling zombies. Unfortunately, literary inspirations were kind of thin, and no two zombie movie franchises seemed to follow the same "rules" (on purpose, I imagine). So, once again, I delved into folklore to see where they originated.

Once again, Native American mythology came through for me, supplying the Ojibwe myth of the Wendigo. The Wendigo (depending on who you ask) either used to be a human who ate human flesh and turned into a monster, or is a sort of demon that possesses humans and drives them to a frenzy of insatiable hunger, especially for human flesh. This could easily be mapped onto the template of a sort of insane fast zombie. If they were smart zombies on top of that... Bwahahaha. For extra horror bonus points, Hungry as a Wolf is set in 1875, not too long after that little thing with the Donner Party (researched that, too).

Now for the fun part: Wolf Cowrie, the hero, is half-Sioux. The Sioux weren't exactly on friendly terms with the Ojibwe in 1875 (when this book takes place). Also, by chance, I wanted to set this story in the Dakota Territory. I discovered that the Black Hills were Sioux holy ground... and also the scene of a gold rush. I was already giggling madly by this point, seeing at least three sub-conflicts that would be running alongside the flesh-eaters. Add to that a thread left over from Sheep's Clothing--whereby Wolf is still recovering from a personal tragedy--and this is one heck of an elaborate character arc for him.

Honestly, with so much material to work from, there's no way I could not write this story! More on this next week as the campaign continues!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hungry As a Wolf Kickstarter Campaign is now Live!

That's right, readers--the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Hungry as a Wolf, the sequel to my weird western novella Sheep's Clothing, is now live! It will last until April 16th, 2015, and every dollar you donate brings me that much closer to getting Hungry as a Wolf polished and looking awesome for the public!

I'm really excited about my first crowdfunding campaign, because and despite the fact that I'm going into this more or less blind. Just like self-publishing, I imagine crowdfunding will be a learning experience.

If you want to check out my Kickstarter campaign, just go here. I'm got a fair number of rewards for contributors of all kinds, and I'm not asking for much in the grand scheme of crowdfunded publishing, so donate what you can! Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On World Conquest and Zombie Outbreaks

I know this post is a little late in the day, but I wanted to make sure I had my stuff together before I blogged about it. You know how that goes.

First bit of news concerns the Heart of Steel audiobook. Yes, this will be a thing, and I've chosen the narrator for it and everything. The voice of Heart of Steel will be Peter Reynolds, whom you may or may not recognize for his narration of "The Things", a perspective flip of the 1982 movie The Thing, and selections from Fallout: Equestria, which is what happens when some crazy person crosses over My Little Pony with Fallout (yes, really). He's also done voice work in tons of video games, and to judge by the QA sample he's done of Heart of Steel so far, he's great for creature-heavy works. Learn more about him here.

The other bit of news concerns the Kickstarter campaign for my upcoming weird western novel Hungry as a Wolf, the sequel to Sheep's Clothing. This will also be a thing, and to prove it, I have a preview of my project available on Kickstarter hoping to attract some feedback so that I can have the best chance possible of raising the funds I need. So, if any of you have experience in using Kickstarter and/or are interested in seeing Hungry as a Wolf published and want to help, please check out the campaign here. I will have the campaign open to feedback until March 17th, so any help you can offer (advice-wise or financial-wise) will be greatly appreciated. I'm not asking for much compared to other publishing campaigns, and I'm not asking anyone to fund a sabbatical from work or a research grant.

I mean, the book is already written. I just want it to look its best. Besides, I write fantasy. I've researched the heck out of the bits that need researching. All that is done. I just have the final polish to work out.

So that's this week's blog post. Next week, I'll be launching my Kickstarter campaign and getting my first real taste of crowdfunding, and keeping up regular updates for the month that will be running. You can also keep up on my Facebook page here if you are so inclined.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hungry as a Wolf: Kickstarter Proposal

So, I've started a project on Kickstarter. At the time of this writing, it isn't anywhere near ready to see daylight, but I have the bare bones down.

Things I still need:

A Project Photo

I have a frontier woman outfit in my closet (cosplay nerds unite!) and will wear that in my project photo, with my other two books on display.

A Project Video

Not sure how I'll swing this. I will see what the motion video capabilities are on my phone and see if I can rope on of my friends into helping out.

The Story

I'm Elizabeth Einspanier, author if Sheep's Clothing and Heart of Steel. My current project is Hungry as a Wolf, a sequel to Sheep's Clothing, and I'm nearly done!
Hungry as a Wolf will be the second book in my weird western series, focusing on Wolf Cowrie, the half-breed gunslinger, as he faces off against a horde of intelligent ghouls possessed by the spirit of a hungry demon in the Black Hills in 1875. I researched the history of the area and as much of Sioux culture as I could for this novel, as well as nailing down the racial politics and overall culture of the Dakota Territory in that time period, and made the historical elements and the folklore behind the story as accurate as I could.
At this point, I am editing the third draft according to feedback from my beta readers, and I plan to hire a professional editor and a proofreader for that added layer of polish. Additionally, I plan to hire a cover designer from Fiverr so the finished book looks great. I already have my editor and proofreader chosen.
Once I have the necessary funding, my timeline will look something like this:
  • One month with the editor
  • Rewrites and tweaks
  • One month with my proofreader
  • Last polish
  • Cover artist and pre-release promotion
  • Release!
I acknowledge that this is a rough layout of how things will go, but barring any disasters I expect Hungry as a Wolf to be out late 2015 or early 2016.
My budget for this project will be $745 USD, which will include editor fees, proofreading fees, cover designer fees, and the first small run of print copies and rewards for contributors. Anything you can contribute will help me get this project off the ground. Thank you for your time.

That's the rough draft of my pitch story. If any of my readers have experience in using Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites, any assistance in polishing or tightening it up will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Countdown to Hungry as a Wolf: Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo

In this week's blog post I'm going to compare the two top contenders for crowdsourcing my third book, Hungry as a Wolf. It's a weird western novel and the sequel to my novella Sheep's Clothing, which seemed to be pretty popular(ish), and in any case it turned out Wolf Cowrie had another story in him.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the two biggest and most popular crowdsourcing sites I've been able to find, and the two best suited for a creative project like this. Since 2015 looks like it's going to be The Year That Everything Happens (between dental work and moving house) I need to save as much money as I can. Currently, I have a few hundred dollars in my business account--a tidy sum, but not quite enough to do what I need to, and I like to have a bit of a safety net just in case.

On to the comparison!



 Kickstarter is the most popular and best-known crowdfunding site out there. It curates its projects for applicability, meaning that not every project qualifies, so there's a higher chance that successful projects will be featured.


Indiegogo is a distant second to Kickstarter in popularity, having only about a sixth of the fanbase. However, they have much looser guidelines, allowing you to fundraise for any kind of project or financial need. It doesn't curate projects for applicability, meaning anyone can try to raise funds for whatever.

Funding Models


Kickstarter has an "all or nothing" model, which means that I only get the funds if I reach my funding goal. On the one hand, this cuts down on flexibility, but it can also spur potential backers to work harder to donate if they know that the project won't happen if they goal isn't reached.


Indiegogo offers the option of flexible funding. What this means is that no matter what percentage of the goal is reached, the project gets to keep all of that. This allows for more flexibility in projects where the project can still be launched even if the whole amount is not reached. However, even if the goal is not reached, creators must still deliver all promised donation perks.



Kickstarter applies a 5%  to all successful campaigns, while failed projects incur no fees.


Indiegogo applies a 4% fee to successfully funded projects, making it a slightly cheaper alternative to Kickstarter. Like Kickstarter, failed Fixed Funding projects incur no fees.



Kickstarter is much more popular than Indiegogo in this regard. In the United States, where I am, Kickstarter is by far the best-known crowdfunding sites, and in many ways, it has become synonymous with crowdfunding itself.


Indiegogo is better suited to smaller projects, but considering how much Kickstarter is dominating the crowdfunding market, their chances of viral marketing success drop off hard.


While I was thinking of doing Indiegogo due to their flexibility and their shallower learning curve, it's starting to look like I'll have a higher chance of success if I go with Kickstarter. I'll keep Indiegogo in mind in case Kickstarter isn't successful, though.

Next week: Working out my Kickstarter Campaign Pitch!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Heart of Steel Release Day!

As of 8:00 this morning, my SFR novel Heart of Steel is available for purchase! (WOOT!) Currently, it is only available via my CreateSpace estore here, but in 3-5 business days it will be available on Amazon.

To mark this happy occasion, I've also arranged a blog tour through Goddess Fish Promotions to get the word out. Here is the list of stops (starred entries include reviews):

Please pop by and comment on these blogs for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate to Steampunk Emporium! I will post on Facebook as soon as Heart of Steel is available on Amazon, but I imagine the estore will work just as well. If you like quirky romance with a twist, I'm sure you'll enjoy my latest book!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Countdown to Hungry as a Wolf: The Budget

Next month, once I get the last of the feedback from my beta readers on my Weird Western sequel, Hungry as a Wolf, I plan to start a crowdfunding campaign to get this thing launched. In order to get that done in something approaching an organized fashion, I will, of course, need to outline what I will need and how much each element will cost.

I'm not going to ask anyone to fund my research or the time spent writing it, because it's already done. I'm also not going to ask anyone to fund an educational trip to South Dakota for last-minute fact-finding, because that will smack of greed, and I've heard what happens to people who try to get their writing entirely crowdsourced like that. (It isn't pretty).

Instead, I will focus on the concrete things that I still need that will definitely cost money: editing, proofreading, and cover design. These will be unavoidable expenses if I want my book to be polished and professional (even if I'm not, lol)


I always value a fresh perspective on my work, and if the red-pen approach leaves me with a better story on the other side, so much the better. I have too much pride to not edit, especially since I've seen what happens when others don't edit. (It's not pretty.) I've been fairly happy with Windy Hills editing with my previous novel, Heart of Steel. Their prices are decent, and I won't go bankrupt using them.
Price: $120.00


This may seem like an extra step, but this is distinct from editing. Proofreading will give Hungry as a Wolf a good final polish and typo hunt before it sees the light of day. I've used Julia Proofreader in the past, and I plan to continue to use her here. She charges $5.50 US per thousand words, which also works for me.
Price: $300.00

Cover Design

I think this is  where I'll have to make the biggest investment, to judge by past experience. If I go with Fiverr, I might pay less, but I'll need to choose carefully. I've never used Fiverr before. On the other hand, if I go with Creative Digital Studios, the designer for the Heart of Steel cover, I'll pay more to go with a known quantity. I will do further research while I'm getting my polishing done, and I might have to see how my budget pans out on the other side of my crowdfunding campaign. I'm not planning to cheap out on this, so $125 will probably be my minimum.
Price: $125.00 to $500.00

Total:  $545.00 to $920.00

So, yeah. Looks like $920 will be my goal. There's a good chance I won't end up having to spend that whole amount (in which case, BONUS) but I want to make sure I have enough to fulfill all my needs. Next I'm going to compare the two top contenders for my crowdfunding campaign, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, so I choose the best forum to raise the money I'll need. If any of you have any self-publishing experience (good or bad) with either of these, let me know!

But First...

Next Tuesday is the scheduled release date for Heart of Steel, and I've been really excited about that since, oh, last August. Unfortunately, Createspace has been having technical difficulties, so there is a chance that at least the paperback release date will have to be postponed. Hopefully if that happens I can still release the ebook on time, but regardless of what happens I will put up a blog post telling you what's what, and hopefully include the relevant buy links.

UPDATE: The issue with Createspace appears to be resolved. Heart of Steel is back on track!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Website Updated! plus, Countdown to Heart of Steel and other Progress Reports

In honor of my upcoming SFR novel Heart of Steel's release this month, I've revamped several sections of my website, mainly the works page. Mainly I'm taking a page out of Ksenia Anske's book and have made a separate page for all my works, whether they are completed, in editing, in beta, or even unfinished works-in-progress. This will make things easier in the long run. I'm also going to start adding links to reviews to works that have been published, so that you will be able to find everything about a given book on one page. Cool, huh? Check it out here!

Of course, the event of this month that has me in a big ball of excitement is, of course, the Heart of Steel release on the 17th. I feel like I got more things right with the run-up for this, but of course this is likely to be a learning process for a long time. Hopefully I will continue to get more things right with each successive book release, until I'm an ace at this self-publishing thing. (This will probably never happen.) For this book release, I signed up for a blog tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, the people who did my cover reveal late last year, to do a big book blast on release day! Check out the details here!

In other news, I've been getting feedback from my beta readers on Hungry as a Wolf, the sequel to Sheep's Clothing, and I have a fair idea of where I'm going to go with the next round of rewrites. I'm also making good progress with rewriting Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life and hope to be done with Draft 2 by the end of this month, at which time I will open it to beta readers. Also this month I will be vetting crowdfunding websites for getting Hungry as a Wolf polished, edited and launched (I have it down to Kickstarter and Indiegogo) and getting my budget calculated for all that.

Short version: I've been busy already this year, and I don't see the pace letting up anytime soon. This is good for me and me readers, because it means I'll be hammering away at getting my work out as quickly as I can. Now I just need to find time to work on my WIPs and I'll be golden.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing Prompt #1: Sharks Swim in the Forest

Here is the first of my Writing Prompt articles, with thanks to "The 180 Prompts I Actually Use" on Tumblr. The prompt in question is "Sharks Swim on the Forest".

The first sign of trouble came about an hour into Jack's hike. He'd always loved hiking in the woods, particularly along this stretch of trail that wound through a particularly dense portion of the park. Even though it was coming up on noon, the shade offered by the trees kept him cool, allowing him to notice the exact moment when silence descended like a curtain.

The birds stopped singing. The insects stopped buzzing. Nothing moved around him. It felt like the entire forest was suddenly holding its breath, waiting for... something. Jack froze where he was, unnerved by the sudden silence. What was going on? He glanced around slowly, looking for any sort of danger.

Then he saw it--a gentle swelling of the loose turf like something was headed past just under the surface. The mass undulated past, and then sank into the soil.

Cold sweat broke out on Jack's brow, and he took a few cautious steps away from the spot. Then under his rear foot, the turf swelled again, and he jumped away. This time he saw something that at first his mind refused to believe. A triangular, back-swept fin pierced the soil, showing Jack a silhouette that nearly everyone could recognize, no matter where they were.

It was the fin of a shark. There were sharks in the forest.

Jack froze. The swell passed him. The fin vanished beneath  the soil.

Run, he told himself.

But where?

Get off the ground. Get up a tree. Just don't let them--

Another swell lifted the soil,  but this time it changed course and headed directly for Jack. There was no time to debate the possibilities of land sharks. Jack broke into a run, headed for the nearest tree with low branches. He wasn't exactly an expert tree-climber, but blind adrenaline would have to serve where experience failed him. He glanced back once, and saw the gray triangle of a fin slice its way through the soil, bearing down on him.

Jack hit the tree trunk at a sprint, trying to turn his forward momentum into upward momentum. He clawed his way up the trunk, scrambling from branch to branch like a terrified monkey--which, all things considered, wasn't all that far off.

He risked a glance down and saw the dirt and underbrush below him explode with the force of the emerging shark. It was definitely a shark, too--there was no mistaking the leathery gray skin fading to white on its underbelly, the gaping slit of a mouth lined with chainsaw teeth, and the soulless black button eyes that foretold death to anything that happened to be edible. The shark lurched upwards, jaws open to bite.

Jack pulled his foot up and out of its reach just in the nick of time, and its jagged teeth closed on empty air instead. He hooked his foot around a nearby tree branch and looked down at the thing as it belly-flopped onto the turf with a meaty sound of impact. A few moments later, the shark wiggled, writhed, and then dove back under the dirt, kicking up a few final clots of turf with the flukes of its tail.

Jack didn't dare relax, though, as the shark and its two apparent pack-mates started circling the tree where he'd lodged himself. How patient were hungry sharks? Jack didn't know, and even if he did there was no way to compare that to these things. He settled himself in for a long wait, hoping his snacks and water held out until these monsters got bored and wandered off.

He had a feeling it would be a long wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Heart of Steel Giveaway!

It's less than a month before I release my SFR novel Heart of Steel, and to prepare for February 17th, I am holding a giveaway on Goodreads! Come check it out for a chance to win your free copy of this quirky romance!

When reclusive cyborg Alistair Mechanus first sees ER doctor Julia Parker, it is love at first sight--for him. However, ten years of virtual solitude on Shark Reef Isle have left his social skills badly rusted, and his initial overtures confuse and horrify her. When his misguided act of kindness spirals out of control, Julia is forced to trust the mad genius with her life. She has the skills he needs to unlock his forgotten past, but learning who he used to be may come at the cost of his remaining sanity.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Heart of Steel by Elizabeth Einspanier

Heart of Steel

by Elizabeth Einspanier

Giveaway ends February 17, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writing Progress Report: Jan 12, 2015

This week's blog post is going to be a Situation Report regarding all the writing projects I have in various stages of pending, both to give myself a chance to get all the information organized and to give you guys a free peek at what's coming up for me.

Title: Heart of Steel
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Length: Novel 
Status: To be released February 17, 2015
Summary: When reclusive cyborg Alistair Mechanus meets ER doctor Julia Parker, it is love at first sight--for him. While he eagerly drops his plans for World Conquest to woo her, ten years of solitude have left his social skills badly rusted. When his misguided act of kindness spirals out of control, however, Julia is forced to trust the mad genius with her life, and discovers a more vulnerable side under his armored plating. She has the skills he needs to unlock his forgotten past, but will learning who he used to be come at the cost of his remaining sanity?
Notes: I'm really really excited about this one. Whereas with Sheep's Clothing   I was sort of acting on impulse, this time I planned everything out (...sort of) and actually got some pre-marketing stuff done in the last half of 2014. Now I just need to finish formatting it for publication, which shouldn't take too long. I also plan on having a Goodreads giveaway to further build the buzz starting next week and leading up to the actual release date.

Title: "The Fetch"
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Length: Short Story
Status: Under Consideration
Summary: A young man finds himself pursued by a terrifying monster who believed he has taken something form it. He might not be so happy to give it back once he discovers what it was...
Notes: I'm really hoping to get this one published in a magazine or something. Call me weird, but even as a self-pubbed author I feel like getting something I wrote chosen by a publisher will validate me.

Title: "Siren Song"
Genre: Diesel Punk
Length: Novelette
Status: Under Consideration.
Summary: Raymond Crowe, a Mage living in Manhattan in 1937, investigates reports that a Mundane nightclub owner might be using a dangerous potion to beef up his singing talent, at the risk of driving the singers insane. Crowe must not only get the potion out of the hands of a Mundane who doesn't understand the risks, but also rescue the sister of one of his Mage contacts and find out who was distributing the stuff in the first place.
Notes: This was my first diesel punk story, and I'm sending it off to magazines for the same reason I'm sending off "The Fetch". This one's quite a bit longer and more involved though, and I can easily see using its setting for further works. We'll see how it goes.

Title: Hungry as a Wolf
Genre: Weird Western
Length: Novel
Status: Beta Reading
Summary: In this sequel to last year's Sheep's Clothing, Wolf Cowrie is back, with a dangerous mission that will test him to the limits: the mayor of a mining town in the Dakota Territory has hired him to investigate the disappearance of the gold mine that the town relies upon for its income. First problem: The gold mine in question is in the Black Hills, right in the middle of Sioux country. Second problem: A lone survivor managed to escape whatever befell the mine, only to transform into something undead and craving human flesh. Third problem: The mayor's daughter seems to have taken a shine to Wolf, and Wolf is still recovering from the tragic end of his previous adventure. What's a gunslinger to do in a situation like this?
Notes: Once I finish getting beta reading feedback on this one and subsequently polish it a bit more, I'll be kicking it over to my editor for a thorough second eyeball check. I plan to start a crowdfunding campaign to finance the nuts and bolts, but I'm still vetting the different platforms.

Title: "One Spooky Case"
Genre: Fantasy Mystery
Length: Novella (for now)
Status: Rewriting
Summary: A by-the-books Watchman gets paired up with a Watch necromancer to investigate a girl's murder in the city of Port Vandalar.
Notes: I have a lot of rewriting to do with this, which might very well double its previous length in order to give the story the tension it deserves and a more satisfying climax. After that, it may well be novel-length. Who knows?

Title: Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life
Genre: Supernatural YA
Length: Novel
Status: Rewriting
Summary: Tiffany Blackheart is a perky, outgoing high school student who wants what every seventeen-year-old girl wants: good grades, friends, and a boyfriend. Especially a boyfriend. There's just one problem--she's a necromancer. Being able to talk to the dead hasn't done kind things for her social life, and neither will the buildup of spectral activity that's due to peak on Halloween. Finding herself on the eve of finally landing a boyfriend, Tiffany has only a week and a half to figure out what's going on before everything blows up in her face.
Notes: This was my NaNoWriMo novel, and I'm taking a heavy editorial chainsaw to the thing before I let anyone else see it, even my usual beta readers. This is my first YA novel, so I'll need to find some actual teenagers to help me get the details right. High school was a really long time ago...

Title: Heart of Ice
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Length: Novel
Status: Active WIP
Summary: Irina Zimaburya has spent the last six years as the Winter Princess, with her powers over ice and snow making her the ideal living weapon in a war that started when she was twelve. Now, on the eve of peace, Irina must try to remember what it is not to be a weapon, but a woman, and relearn what it is to not be feared during the course of peace negotiations. Prince Heinrich is determined to thaw the newly-crowned Winter Queen's frozen heart, but his true mission is not all that it seems...
Notes: I will freely admit that this was loosely inspired by Frozen, though my heroine has a more messed-up backstory and little to no emotional support. I'm making good progress with the rough draft, though, so I'm overall happy.

So this is the rundown of my current projects. It looks like a lot, but jotting them down like this helps me keep all this stuff straight in my head and make it look like I'm a lot better organized than I usually am. I hope to get them done this year, and I'm confident that I will.

How many projects do you typically have going on at a time? Which one mine are you most looking forward to seeing published? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Writer's Vengeance: How to Get Away With Murder

I have a T-shirt that reads, "You're dangerously close to getting killed off in my novel". Killing real-life people off in effigy by way of a character you've written is the best therapy for an annoyed writer, as it typically leave no mess, no clean-up, and if done properly results in no lawsuits against the author.

Admit it, writers--you've done this. Heck, I did it when I first started writing fiction in grade school. Was it childish? Yes. I was twelve. Was it amateurish? Yes. I was twelve, and had not yet gotten the hang of things like changing names to protect the innocent. I wrote thinly veiled vengeance fantasies that today would be termed hate-fics, and not one of them has ever seen the light of day. It was my therapy, and it was my way of coping with the difficulties of life.

Doing it this way as a professional writer can be dangerous, though. M. Night Shyamalan is reported to have done something like this with one of his critics, writing a thinly-veiled version of him into his Lady in the Water as The Guy Who Is Wrong About Everything. Michael Crichton, too, wrote a critical reviewer into his novel NeXt, as a politician with the same name and from the same college, only with a small manhood and an accusation of having raped a four-year-old. Both Shyamalan and Crichton came off as childish and petty with these character assassinations, even (especially) if the characters bore only the vaguest passing resemblance to the originals.

The trick to doing this properly is not to just drop your target into your book without even a name change, even (especially) if you write him as The Worst Human Being In The History Of Civilization. If you write speculative fiction, this is a bit easier, but still, step carefully. Get creative with the name changes, not just changing a couple consonants at the beginning of the surname. Make your target realistically obnoxious, so the sympathy is all on your protagonist (you do have a relatively sympathetic protagonist, don't you?) Then, when the pot is well-stirred so that your chosen victim is recognizable only to you, have fun.

That jerk that cut you off in traffic? His car gets stepped on by the monster of the week. The co-worker that nobody likes who's decided you and he are best buds? A stampede of a chase spills his coffee, wrecks his laptop, and covers him in grime. Your ex? Riddled by arrows while trying to attack the hero's army. Your current squeeze's psycho ex who is determined to ruin your happiness together? Eaten by something horrible. A  narcissistic acquaintance for whom ruining your entire life is considered an average Tuesday? Eaten by something even more horrible, or taken for study by something from beyond sanity and vivisected alive if you're not feeling merciful.

Doing this is the writer's equivalent of coming home from a rotten day, plugging in a first person shooter, and mowing down wave after wave of virtual enemies. If done well, it can be seamlessly therapeutic, relevant to your novel, and equally satisfying to your reader to see That Jerk get their comeuppance, even if they don't know That Jerk from Adam beyond the story. Done badly, though, it comes off as a tantrum in text, and could get you in serious trouble. So get your therapeutic deaths out of your system, writers, but step carefully. Bad writing is still bad writing.