Monday, September 30, 2013

The Unexpected Pressure of an Unfinished Series

I am delighted today to welcome DelSheree Gladden as a guest on Heroines of Fantasy.  I met DelSheree at the online workshop  Since then, she and I have kept in touch with each other as we've embarked on separate but parallel paths of publication.  DelSheree's YA fantasy novels are wonderfully dark and incorporate the culture and mythology of the Southwestern United States.

DelSheree lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children.  The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology.  Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities.  When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually teaching yoga, coaching gymnastics, reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.  Her publications include Escaping Fate, Twin Souls Saga, and The Destroyer Trilogy.  DelSheree's newest series, Someone Wicked This Way Comes, follows Vanessa and Zander Roth, siblings with an uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering that will either gain them limitless power or lead them to their deaths.

This week on her blog, DelSheree Gladden will be hosting a Meet the Characters Blogfest.  Read character interviews and bios from a variety of authors, and cast your vote for character contests.  There is also a big giveaway with lots of great prizes.  Meet the Characters Blogfest runs from October 1 thru October 31. 

You can also visit DelSheree Gladden at her website.

Now, without further ado, here is DelSheree:


The Unexpected Pressure of an Unfinished Series

Normally, by the time I am ready to publish a book, I have the entire series written. There is a certain sense of relief I experience while writing when I know that if I change my mind about a character or plot point in book three, I can go back and change book one or two without upsetting any readers.
Wicked Hunger is the first book I have published without the series being completed…and it is driving me crazy! I hadn’t planned on publishing Wicked Hunger for a while (until books 2 and 3 were written), but when I was offered a publishing contract, I got excited, got ahead of myself, and signed on the dotted line.
Great, right?
Except now I can’t seem to finish the half-written book two, Wicked Power. I am too bogged down worrying about how the rest of the series will progress and whether or not I have everything just so in book one to get there.
So what did I do to cure this bit of writer’s stage fright? I basically got myself into the same mess with two other series! Needing a distraction, I turned back to the first book I published, which hasn’t had great sales, and decided it would fare better as a series. So I wrote a second book, and now have plenty of rewrites to worry about as beta readers give me feedback. Still too distracted by pressure to finish Wicked Power, I decided to finish a different half-written novel, temporarily titled “Invisible.” Wondering if the project was interesting enough to continue, I arranged to have it featured on Wattpad. The response has been great, but I still have 4 chapters to write, and probably editing and rewrites as well…not to mention readers are already asking for the next book.
Clearly, I need a better solution to the difficulty I’m having on Wicked Power.
For those who haven’t read Wicked Hunger, it is the story of the Roth siblings, who are cursed with a terrible hunger for pain and suffering. The origin of their curse remains elusive, but the danger it poses is very clear. It becomes even clearer when Ivy walks into their lives. Zander is immediately enamored with Ivy despite the fact that Vanessa is convinced she’s only there to destroy them.
Wicked Power will follow Van and Zander as they explore the Godling world and try to figure out who, if anyone, to trust with their lives. There are a few key aspects I’m still ironing out, but I aim to have it available early next year. I hate to keep readers waiting too long and I suspect that in the end, that will be what finally gets me through the block I’ve been experiencing with this book. The encouragement and enthusiasm I receive from my readers has never failed to spur my creativity and push me to finish a project.

About Wicked Hunger

Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying. They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious.
Vanessa’s instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy’s appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens.  She becomes determined to expose Ivy’s secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories.
One of them is right about Ivy … but if they lose control of their hunger, it won’t matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip, and they’ll all be dead.

Purchase your copy of Wicked Hunger on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Author Louise Turner

It's my pleasure today to welcome historical fiction author Louise Turner as our guest on Heroines of Fantasy.
Born in Glasgow, Louise spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a Ph.D on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and at a young age, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story ‘Busman’s Holiday’. Louise lives with her husband in West Renfrewshire. 
Her first novel, Fire and Sword, is set in the turbulent period which follows the murder of King James III of Scotland, and the succession of his son, the future James IV.  At its heart is the struggle endured by John Sempill of Ellestoun, a young man who finds his future put in jeopardy  when his father dies fighting for the losing side. 
You can visit Louise at
First of all, a big THANK YOU to Karin Gastreich for her invitation to contribute to the Heroines of Fantasy Blogspot.
I’m Louise Turner, and I’m a writer of historical fiction.  My debut novel, Fire and Sword, is set in 15th Century Scotland and is now available from Hadley Rille Books.
You may be scratching your heads and wondering what a writer of historical fiction is doing on a blog dedicated to fantasy.  And I must confess, I wondered at first what I could possibly say that was relevant, or appropriate.
But then I looked back along the path that brought me here, and everything fell into place.  I was brought up on science fiction and fantasy.  My mother raised me on a varied diet of Dr Who and Susan Cooper, J R R Tolkein and Ursula LeGuin.
Is it any wonder, then, that my earliest pieces of writing were fantasy and science fiction?
One thing did, however, set my mother apart.  She was a big fan of historical fiction.  But somehow – with the exception of Rosemary Sutcliff – it was a genre that completely passed me by.  Then I went to university and discovered archaeology almost by accident. It was at that point  my life changed completely.
My original intention was to mine archaeology for inspiration so I could write science fiction and fantasy, but as time passed I thought I’d give writing historical fiction a go.  And once I started dabbling with the genre, I was hooked. 
It was at this time that I started reading historical fiction, but I was often left disappointed. I found history exciting, and vibrant, but most of the time the stuff I was reading just seemed plain dull.  The characters often seemed to be manipulated by history, marionettes pulled by the strings of Fate.  I wanted to read something different, something which reflected the way in which people interacted with each other to create history.  Is it any wonder that my main inspiration came from novels set in the Union-Alliance universe of C J Cherryh,  graced with multi-layered plots which make you really feel like you’re witnessing history in the making?
A number of fantasy writers are directly inspired by medieval culture and society, but it sometimes feels like the genres of fantasy and historical fiction are following parallel, but entirely separate, courses.  In reality, they have much in common.  That common strand tends to be humanity.  Even a brief study of ancient and historic societies shows that human beings can exist in infinite variety.  But they remain, nonetheless, human.  Throughout the millennia, they’ve lived, loved, died.  They’ve mourned.  They’ve created things of great beauty.  They’ve spun tales of wonder and delight.  And sometimes, they’ve proved themselves capable of almost unbearable evil and cruelty.
Scratch the surface.  Look a little deeper. Whether you’re moving forwards or backwards in time, or you’re exploring realms that are completely invented, you still need the common reference points.  Universal problems and truths remain consistent and when the author keeps this at the forefront of their mind, the story will be credible and the characters worth caring for, no matter when and where the story may be set.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A few questions about productivity...

Hello folks! Mark here.

I spent the last three months "off" from the blog revising and re-writing book three of the Pevanese Mosaic: King's Gambit. Terri has it now, and while I wait to see her response I get to start up again here. Book four, and what I expect to be the final volume, is taking shape both on the page and in my head. I started a short, related project for HRB that also takes place in the Pevanese world. Those tasks, hopefully, will make for a productive fall and winter.

And speaking of productivity, that is my subject today. Since I sent the file for Path of the Poet-king off to Terri, I've been feeling on the edge of words almost all the time, but my productivity is almost nil. I know they are there, waiting for me. Vivid dreams that include heretofore unexplored territory, colors, whispered dialogue from as yet unnamed characters populate my waking and sleeping hours. I find such experiences fascinating yet perplexing.

You see, I have to start assigning and grading papers. My motivation is not the highest. Send coffee and a few red pens. Better yet, send me a nice quiet three day weekend with no lightning and storm clouds  How about a cup of concentration and a pile of active verbs? Anybody? Beuhler?

So, here I sit tantalizingly close to a bunch of real meaningful words, and I'm feeling less than productive. I'm not used to such paucity. When I composed Poets of Pevana, I averaged 1500-2000 words almost every session. When King's Gambit came together, I think I actually averaged a bit more. During the re-write for Path of the Poet-king, I think I had a number of 3000+ word days, especially during those bits that were new additions to the story. I was rocking the productivity and felt like an honest to goodness 'author'. Heady stuff. I know I'm on the edge of another all encompassing plunge into words and warrant. As big Bill had Hamlet say, "The readiness is all."

What is your barometer for writing, artistic success or productivity? Does the word count matter to you? Could you actually be satisfied with adding just one word? Do you find it easier to write for long swathes of time where just about every other portion of your body numbs down, goes to sleep or stiffens from lack of use? Or do you cram your search for words into those moments you manage to carve out of an otherwise over-busy schedule? Do you write better in the morning or during the quiet of the night? This summer, I recrafted Path of the Poet-king mostly during the early morning hours, sipping good coffee and hanging out with the cat and summer sunshine. I figured out that I needed to limit myself to three cups or I would get too jittery and balloon the typo ratio.

So, how do you define your own productivity?

Mark Nelson

Monday, September 9, 2013

What is the Face of Women in Fantasy?

It seems to be a hot topic of late--what are the faces fantasy wears?
(pics removed)

Eowyn, Polgara, Hermione. The warrior-woman, the motherly, yet powerful, sorcerss, and the brainy, determined young witch. What do these heroines have in common? They are all female, yes. Not a shrinking violet in the bunch. Determined. Loyal. Able to take over the situation or step back as needed. DRESSED.

Eowyn, as depicted, comes out of the early 2000s. Hermione is 1990s, and Polgara is 1980s. These are the heroines of fantasy I have read, watched, loved. It never even once occured to me that for a good many outside of the genre, these are the faces of fantasy:
(pics removed--scantily clad warrior women, and leather-clad tough chick wielding weapon)
At least, I hope those who know, love and actively read fantasy know these ladies don't actually exist within the covers. I purposely did not choose real book covers; I don't want to put up another writer's work in a negative light. I choose alternate artwork that directly corresponds to cover art I've actually seen.

The cliche of the woman in black leather, usually with a weapon in her hand, looking over one tattooed shoulder is, well--so cliche that I thought it had kind of faded out. But no--in the last two weeks I've seen two new releases depicting the same pose, the same clothing, the same, same, same. Urban fantasy seems to have ONE cover with little variation. But urban fantasy is not epic/traditional fantasy. Neither is the warrior woman dressed in a maille the snow. Or the gentle, sensitive--and again, scantily clad--sorceress. I have not read them, even in the books they appear upon. So why are they representing the faces and forms of fantasy for so many?

I started thinking about this several weeks ago, when a friend read my book out of loyalty, perhaps a bit of curiosity. "I don't read fantasy," she said. But she read it. And she loved it. Genuinely. When we talked about it over lunch, she told me she had a completely different view of fantasy. She thought it was, well, more like those second "covers."

I've been looking, REALLY looking at the covers of the books I read. I don't find any leather-clad, weapon-bearing heroines. Neither do I find maille bikinis. What I find is the fantasy art I know and love--castles and landscapes, heroines in traveling clothes and cloaks, the occasional sword, horse, knight in armor, thief. In other words, a whole lot of different covers that evoke the story within. I imagine people who read fantasy as a matter of course know that the cliche is not representative of fantasy as a whole, whether urban or epic. But those outside of it are getting a really, really skewed vision of the genre.

There are so many reasons this might be so--demographics, movies, marketing, gaming. I have my theory why the face of fantasy is misrepresentative. You tell me yours.

~Terri-Lynne DeFino

Monday, September 2, 2013

Five Golden Rules of Marketing

Every writer who decides to publish must tackle the task of marketing. 
Some authors market solely through the internet; others emphasize in-person events.  Most do a combination of both.  Whether an author dedicates 80 hours a week to marketing or just one, she looks for strategies that give the most return for the time and money invested. After all, each of us has a lot more to do than market our latest book.

Most authors are happy just to stay afloat.
There is plenty of information about marketing out there, floating like flotsam (or swimming like hungry sharks) in the wake of the shipwreck of the traditional publishing industry.  Some of the opportunities that drift our way are free, most are increasingly expensive.  Are any of them effective?  Your guess is as good as mine.  In the constantly changing landscape of marketing it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine the best way to reach potential readers. 
So I’m not going to tell you which piece of driftwood to cling to or what sea monster to avoid. The truth is, whatever you encounter along the way, the best marketing tool you have is you.  My "golden rules" of marketing are about you, and how to keep yourself successful and sane while navigating the high seas of publishing.

1. Pace yourself.
Decide how much time per week you can dedicate to marketing, and stick to that limit.  For most authors who have friends, a family, and/or a day job (in other words, something of a life), this means that what used to be your writing time will now be writing time and marketing time.  Yes, your writing WILL suffer when you publish. But that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t suffer too much.

Do not, I repeat do NOT, make a list of all the marketing things you think you should do and then enslave yourself to that list.  Instead, prioritize marketing activities within your personal time limits.  When your time is up, stop marketing! Go back to writing or to your friends or your family or your day job. If you do not pace yourself, marketing will take over your life, to the detriment of many other things that are more important and provide more happiness and fulfillment.

2. When you see a chance, take it.

Is that my next great marketing opportunity, or just another
monster ready to eat up my time and money?
Be an opportunist. When in doubt, try it out - within the constraints of time and budget.

There is little that’s come across my own desk, marketing-wise, that I have not tried. A guest post on a friend’s blog?  Sure!  An account on Goodreads?  Why not!  A Facebook page?  What the hell!  A special offer on a blog tour?  Well, let me check my bank account. [clickety clickety clickety] Ok!  I can do it. 
Has everything I’ve tried worked?  Some of it has, some of it hasn’t.  Most of the time, quite frankly, it’s hard to tell.  This brings me to my next golden rule:

3. Stick with what you enjoy.
Note that the most important consideration is not what “works”.  It’s what you enjoy, in part because it's often hard to pin down what works, but mostly because this is your time, your life, your adventure. You deserve to enjoy it. 

I also have the very deep conviction that if you do not enjoy marketing, potential readers will pick up on the negative vibes and go elsewhere for their next novel. If you despise Facebook, then don’t open an account just to sell books. If you are uncomfortable meeting people one-on-one, then maybe book signings aren’t for you.  If you love to hang out with fellow geeks to talk fantasy and sci fi, try attending a con.  All of this because. . .

4. . . . You are looking for friends, not readers.
At its heart, marketing is about making connections.  In the process of making connections, we also seek to determine what the other person is looking for, and whether the product we offer matches their needs and interests.

Since my first publication, I’ve met many people who say they don’t read the kind of story I write. That’s okay. Willingness to read Eolyn has never been a prerequisite for becoming part of my circle of friends and acquaintances. 
More often, I’ve met people who like fantasy but for one reason or another choose not to purchase my novel at the first encounter. That’s okay too. Almost invariably, 3 or 6 or even 12 months down the road, these same people turn up with book in hand and the unmistakable glow of the satisfied reader.  I loved this novel!” they say.  “Will you please sign it?”

Those have been some of my best moments in publishing, and they might not have happened if I’d made the reader feel in any way uncomfortable for not buying my book at our first encounter. 

5. Remember, you are always NEW!

We may never know how many authors have met their doom
on the high seas of publishing.
In the self-publishing world, there’s a curious emphasis on the book blitz and the opening push to launch and sell a book.  I call it “curious” because this is a glaring holdover from traditional publishing, a world that is beholden to large print runs and upfront investment that demands a quick and certain return. To this day, if you publish with a large press and your book does not catch fire within the first six months, you and the entire print run will be cast overboard and sunk to the bottom of the publishing ocean, never to be seen or heard from again.

Small press doesn’t work this way, and I think self-published authors could learn a lot from the small press model.  As our editor at Hadley Rille Books, Eric T. Reynolds, likes to say, we are always new.  While the launch is also a special event at Hadley Rille, the steady marketing pressure that follows is equally, if not more, important. Marketing efforts are applied throughout the contract life of a book. Our books may not hit the dramatic sales peaks characteristic of the book blitz, but they do sell steadily for a very long time after the release.  And there are always, always new readers out there who are delighted to discover our titles.

Well, I am at my official word limit, so I will finish here.  I hope you found something useful in this post, and that sooner or later your marketing efforts will land you on the beach of your dreams.
. . . Or if not the beach of your dreams, then at the very least a place with dry land, ample shade, fresh water, and some new and interesting friends.

Happy endings are in the eye of the beholder; this one
looks pretty good to me!

Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich