Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Let Words Be Your Dreamkiller!

Whew! I never thought I'd get them done, but I did. My first trilogy is complete. I just sent in my line edits and now await the cover art and maybe some fine tuning before its release on ebook first in August, 2012.
Which brings me to a question...have you ever finished anything you've started? Do you have more things on the back burner; the infamous pile of "I'll get to it later"? Maybe you figured it's not worth it because of what others have said. Granted, there are people who cannot write well but I am speaking to those who know they are gifted to etch pen to paper, or stamp key to screen.

So, for those procrastinating on writing because of crappy things said to you: get off your hind parts and start! Geez! He's rude. It may sound rude, but there are times in life people need a fire under their feet to get them moving. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Hey, that would make a cool story," and did nothing about it. Honestly, I wasn't sure I had it in me. Yes, I've written things for school, and articles for an organization I've belonged to, but I thought those jobs to be minuscule. I truly felt you needed some massive training, degree, or job entailing tons of writing experience in order to script a novel. Not so. In fact, when I first wrote my first draft, I thought it 'neat' until other people liked what they heard.

Hmm, maybe I have something here. So, with God's help, I pursued it. Now, I have two novels published, one to be released, another awaiting contract, two more completed, and another half-done. Whew! Those works may be on the back burner, but I shift my pots around and let some simmer while I add ingredients to other masterpieces, and all of it done despite what others have said.

Do not quit, stop, or just plain forget. There may be something hidden in your words, a story to tell, a testimony to share, which could change the lives of people who read them, forever. Never underestimate your potential by accepting doubt, negativity, and disbelief as the final verdict. Those words are DREAMKILLERS!
Now, I'm talking about verbiage expressed by family, friends, fellow authors, etc. You name it, there have been folks who've either said harsh things to crush my dream or remained silent, saying naught, and being just as uncaring.

But you know what? It didn't stop me. Accept what others say about your writing and you might as well tie some strings to your limbs, head and buttocks and let them control you in life; be the puppet they want you to be. OOOORRRR...do what you know you are capable of doing and start your dream. And now is as good a time as any. I look forward to seeing your works published.
Take care,

Get Your Fantasy Story Published: Insider Manuscript Submission Tips From an Editor

Writer's Digest Books & Magazine recently contacted me about guest posting and I said absolutely! They also provided a new page for my personal website. Check it out! It's about Writing YA Fantasy. But first, read this guest post by a Content Editor of Writer's Digest. And if you don't know about Writer's Digest, check it out, too. It's an awesome writer's resource.

Ask anyone. The biggest question when you're a writer is likely "how do you get published?" Some writers start thinking about it way before they should—before they've focused their attention on improving their craft and writing a good story. In my opinion that should always come first and if you're serious about getting published, well, then that's your first step, isn't it? Make sure your writing is good and write something worth reading. 

That said, when you are ready to get published, what do you do? There's plenty of advice on how to get published out there—volumes and volumes written on the subject. But within all that wealth of information that's available, how do you know which advice is right for you, especially if you write within a specific genre like fantasy (or an even more specialized niche like fantasy YA or say paranormal YA romance)? The key (aside from having a really great manuscript) is in being detail oriented and communicating well. Sounds easy enough, but if you've been writing for any length of time at all, then you know it can be tricky. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you in your search for publication.

Do Your Research

Before you approach a book publisher with your novel submission make sure you research the kinds of books they publish—you don’t want to send your futuristic cyberpunk novel to publisher looking for dragons and swordplay.

Obviously you should know the subject matter they deal with (and you can often find this out easily enough from their website or a market listing). But beyond that, I recommend dipping into a few of their books. See what the voice of the writers they tend to publish is like. What tone do their books have? It may sound obvious, but if you like what you are reading, then it's more likely that your book will be a good fit. If something about the books turn you off then maybe your writing isn't a good match for what the publisher is looking for. It doesn't mean your writing is bad—only that you're not compatible. As with dating, maybe it's best to just be friends.

This applies to short fiction as well. Before shopping your short story around make sure to read the publications you intend to submit to. Reading other stuff out there will help you zero in on the right publications to target your stuff to, and chances are it will also help your writing. After all, to write well you should read a lot.

Read the Fine Print

I can't stress enough the importance of carefully reading the submission guidelines. Everything you need to know about the way a publisher (or publication) wants to see material submitted will be outlined there. If you don't read them, you're setting yourself up for failure. It's like showing up for a test in school without having studied. Sure, you might skate through somehow, but the odds are definitely not in your favor. Guidelines exist for a reason. Read them. Follow them.

Query Letters

The query letter is your admission ticket. This gets you through the gate, so it's important to do it right. The best way to do that is to keep it short and to the point. The agent or editor who reads your letter wants to know in the fewest words possible what your book is about. Period. My advice is this:

  • address the agent or editor by name
  • deliver a short sentence or two that tells them who the main character is and explains the crux of the plot
  • offer any relevant details about yourself (this should be short and only be included if it seems like something that might be helpful in selling the book)
  • and finally ask them to contact you if they are interested in seeing a submission package

For short fiction you can ignore this last point since for most short stories you'll be submitting the piece itself along with a cover letter. (All of the above info works just as well for a cover letter as it does a query.)

Submission Package

Your submission package is what you send when you get a positive response from your query, asking to see more material. This may vary from publisher to publisher (which is why it's important to read the submission guidelines). Some publishers may want to see a synopsis (a short summary of the entire book's plot), some may want sample chapters, some may want the first 50 pages or so, and some may want the entire manuscript. Their response (or their submission guidelines!) should outline what they'd like to see. Follow those directions as closely as possible.

Submitting Fantasy Stories

So, what is different about submitting a fantasy, science fiction, or paranormal story?

The real answer is “not much.” The process is the same. The kinds of materials, the types of correspondence, the attention to detail—all of these things are pretty much the same no matter what genre you write in.

However, one important thing about fantasy stories is that there is often a great deal of information that needs to be conveyed in order for the story to make sense. After all, in many instances you've built an entire world that is different from our own, or you've invented a system of magic that has an intricate set of rules, or maybe you've created an entire culture or belief system. Such large concepts can be difficult to convey concisely, but that's exactly what you have to do. You need to boil down your fantasy world's setting or the natural rules that govern your characters' supernatural powers to a simple description.

Agents and editors have short attention spans (they have to do a ton of reading). Your fantastic planet filled with seven different warring races that are unlike anything known to mankind may sound amazing to you, but to an agent or editor it can sound like the other 10 projects that crossed their desk just this morning. What makes yours special? What the essential thing about your story that makes you want to tell it? If you can answer that question, then you have what you need to put in your query letter (hint: it usually comes down to your main character and his or her internal or external conflict). The other details are secondary and you should explain them in a way that is short and to the point, leaving out anything that might confuse matters or bog down your pitch.


Scott Francis is the editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, the premiere resource dedicated to helping writers get published and find a literary agent. He is an editor for Writers Digest's writing books where he works to develop resources to help writers advance their writing careers in numerous ways including: improving writing skills and writing techniques, getting published, building an author platform, and learning to be a better writer. He is also the author of Monster Spotter's Guide to North America and co-author of The Writer's Book of Matches.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And Three Makes a Series!

Set in the unexplored magical worlds of the Arctic, Norway, Finland, Siberia, and Scotland, the Witches of Galdorheim series follows the travails of Katrina, a witch with spelling problems. The newly released "Scotch Broom" takes Kat into the Otherworld located just a smidge in time and space in the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, she meets the denizens of the fey world. One of these creatures is called a skrat.

Download a PDF Sampler of all three books in the series and the bonus short story, Spellslinger. Just click here.

The Skrat

Besides the big ol’ gods, legends, and spirits–the ones that get all the press–myths are populated with a myriad of often tiny, more often unmentioned beings. Their job as minor characters in the mythos is not always mentioned, but they exist (well, in the mythical sort of existence) nonetheless.

While writing the Witches of Galdorheim series, I delved into western European mythos finding the supporting cast for my books. Like bit players everywhere, they often ended up on the cutting room floor.

For example, in the opening scene of Bad Spelling, I mention tussers and tomtes. Raise your hand if you can tell me what they are. No peeking at the book OR the internet! Right, you’ve never read the book (except for a couple of you), so you’d not have a clue. Please note in the comments if you already know. Anyone? Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Mythica.

In the third Witches of Galdorheim book, Scotch Broom, I elevate one such small-time player to the exulted role of minion. If you watched the Ice Age animated films, you might be familiar with the proto-squirrel (with fangs) named Scrat.

The screenwriter either made the name up or also hit the Encyclopedia Mythica like I did. If the latter, then he simply used the name because a skrat is not a proto-squirrel at all.

One of the many creatures that are said to move into the farmhouses from time to time is the skrat. He usually lives in a beech tree or a cave and looks like a chicken that has been caught in a downpour. His wingtips and tail drag on the ground. He may also transform himself into a small bird, a goose, a dog or cat, or even a hair-covered man. Any family he lives with becomes rich.

Excerpt from Scotch Broom:

Here’s a brief scene illustrating the skrat playing its minion role.

A scratching at the door caught her attention. Walking over, she peered through the peephole but didn’t see anyone. “Oh, bother. Is some spoiled brat trying to play tricks on the old woman?” She grabbed the handle and jerked the door open, screaming, “I’ve got you!”

Nobody stood on her porch. A clucking made her look down. A scraggly, wingless chicken, looking as if it’d been out in the rain, crouched at her feet. The skrat stood on four wobbly legs, staggered around Cailleach’s legs and into the house. It squatted by the fire and ruffled its feathers.

Cailleach glared at the scruffy creature. She never could tell one from the other, but they had their uses. “What do you want, Skrat? I’m busy—”

Skrat spoke in a high-pitched, ragged tone as if he was gargling pebbles. “I have news.”

Cailleach stepped closer. The skrats didn’t bother her unless they had something good to report. “Tell me.”

“Witch is near.”

The hag considered for a moment. “Is it one of the Wiccans? They’re harmless. Always collecting plants for some potion or another.”

“Wiccan, yes, but witch, not wannabe.”

Cailleach narrowed her eyes and plucked at the hair growing from her chin. “Where, exactly?”

“In bogs.”

“Why would a real witch be there? Staking out territory?” The crone pondered a moment then looked down at the skrat, which had not dried out at all.

“You watch. Bring your brothers with you. Report thrice daily to tell me what she’s up to.”

The skrat nodded its featherless head. “What you pay?”

Cailleach aimed a kick at the skrat, but it scuttled out of the way. “Bother! You’re always asking about pay. Have I ever shortchanged you?”

“No. Want to tell brothers.”

Cailleach glared at the creature. “A month’s grain for each of you.”

“Done. I go now.”

The skrat wobbled to the open door and departed. Cailleach closed it behind the creature and returned to her fireplace. She swished the brew in the cauldron a few times.

“Bah. This isn’t right. It should be green by now. Besides, it stinks.” She hefted the handle and dragged the cauldron to the sink. Grunting, she lifted it and tipped the rim, pouring the slimy yellow guck down the drain. She had no more time for experimenting with ancient formulas. If this invading witch was out for a fight, Cailleach needed to be ready to give her one.

Note: Cailleach is the Scottish Celtic goddess of winter fallen on hard times in the present day world. She’s tired, aging, a mere vestige of her former glory, but a scheming old bitch like her won’t ignore opportunities when they fall from the sky. Which is exactly what Katya does.

Witches of Galdorheim Series

BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
Amazon Kindle or MuseItUp Bookstore

If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home. 

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo.  A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.
The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.

MIDNIGHT OIL - Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim SeriesShipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?
Amazon Kindle or MuseItUp Bookstore

Kat is a nervous wreck waiting for her boyfriend's first visit to her Arctic island home. He doesn't show up, so she's sure he’s given her the brushoff.

When she learns he’s disappeared, she sets out on a mission to find him. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.

SCOTCH BROOM -  Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
Amazon Kindle or MuseItUp Bookstore

Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches’ arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble.  Her younger half-brother tries to horn in on her trip, she gets lost in the magical Otherworld realm, is led astray by a supposed friend, then she has to confront a Scottish goddess who’s fallen on hard times.

While dodging the goddess’ minions and trying to find her way out of the Otherworld, Kat soon learns she shouldn’t underestimate the old has-been for one second; the crone still has a few tricks that can drain a witch’s magic in a flash. To make matters worse, Kat's brother secretly followed her into the Otherworld. Now he’s in danger too.  Kat has to go one on one with the goddess to save herself and her brother.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Never Settle

You've finally finished your novel.  You've revised it and rewritten it and edited it 800 times; it's now ready for the next step.  The most mind-numbing, emotionally draining, self-confidence wrecking step:  submitting it to agents/publishers.  You've done your research of how to spot a "bad" agent or publisher, and you know how to avoid them.  You just know a respectable person is going to pick up your book.

It's no secret that the publishing world is full of "Nos."  They have form rejection letters that they send out because they say no more often than they say yes.  At first, the rejections slide off your back.  You shrug your shoulders and say, "It's okay, someone will like it."  Then, after countless rejections and your confidence sliding down the drain, you become desperate.  You think, "Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe I'm a horrible writer."  You beg and plead in your mind for someone to pick up your story.

Then, you finally get a "yes."  All of the negativity melts away and you are floating on air.  You knew it all along; you knew your book was good.  That moment is very exciting, and it does make the whole ordeal worth it, but you still need to keep a level head.  Just because a company is reputable, that doesn't mean they are good.  Here are some things to do before signing the contract.

1.  Read the contract through word for word.  Make sure you understand everything in it.  If you don't, ask questions.  Have a lawyer or contract specialist look through it, especially if you don't have an agent.  It might sound pompous, but this is your work, your career, make sure your rights are protected.  Again, if anything arises, make sure to address it with the publisher. 

2.  Contact some of the authors and see if they are happy with the publisher.  A company can look great on paper; they can have tons of sales and hundreds of books, but how happy are the authors?  Does the publisher answer emails in a timely fashion?  Do they get their royalties when they're supposed to?  Little things like this can make working for someone incredibly stressful and frustrating.  Most authors are more than willing to share their experiences, so shoot them an email and find out.  I recommend talking to at least three or four.

3.  Follow your instincts.  If you've done both of the above and still think the company is great, then go for it.  But if there is any doubt in the back of your mind, do a little more research, continue to send the manuscript out.  Having a bad publisher is NOT better than having no publisher.  Being angry and stressed out because the publisher is not holding up their end of the bargain can take its toll on your writing life.

In the end, it boils down to what is going to make you happy.  While having a book published is the ultimate high, dealing with a horrific publisher will completely undermine everything you've worked for.  Always do your research and make sure the company fits your needs and will make you happy.  Sometimes, that means dealing with a few more rejections or putting your novel away for a while so you can work on the next one.  As hard as that is, it will make everything better in the long run.

Pembroke Sinclair has had several short stories published.  Her story, “Sohei,” was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine.  She has novellas and a short story collection forthcoming from Musa Publishing and eTreasures Publishing.  Her two novels, Coming from Nowhere (adult, sci fi) and Life After the Undead (YA, horror), are available from eTreasures Publishing, as well as Death to the Undead (YA, sequel to Life After the Undead), which is forthcoming.  Life After the Undead was a Top Ten Finisher in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll in the YA category and the cover art category.

Under her real name, from March 2008 to January 2011, she wrote scientific articles for Western Farmer-Stockman.  She has a nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films, scheduled for release in summer 2012 from Scarecrow Publishing (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield).

Pembroke has her Master’s in English and is a freelance content editor for Musa Publishing, as well as a content and line editor for eTreasures Publishing.  You can check out her blog at pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com.