Publishing 101: Who Should Read Your Book Before Publishing?

When writers finish their book, a common question I see is, “What’s next? Who should review it before it gets published?” It’s a great thing to consider. Some writers edit their book a few times then publish it on amazon. If you’re a trained editor, that should be fine, but it’s always a good idea to bring in fresh eyes to review your work. When you’ve read and edited your book so many times, it’s easy to miss small things because you’re too familiar with it. For example, no matter how many times I read The Purple Door District, I still missed the fact that one of my character’s names was spelled incorrectly.

Actually, five of us missed it, ha!

Now, I want to make this very clear from the beginning. These readers are using their personal time to help you. It’s important for the author to show them respect (and for the readers to also show respect to the author). As an author, don’t pressure readers to get the work done. As a reader, understand that the author has put their heart onto paper, so when you provide critique, make sure it’s constructive.

So who should you talk to?

Beta Readers: Beta readers read your book through the earlier stages. They give their initial impressions of the book, point out plot holes, inconsistencies, or anything major that they feel needs to be changed. This is a great opportunity to make a list of things for the beta readers to look for if you’re concerned about particular scenes, characters, or plot points. This feedback can help you turn your writing into a much stronger book and fix things that might otherwise seem broken. Take what they say into consideration, and perhaps ask if they would be willing to read a second draft.

Also keep in mind that you, as the author, don’t have to make all of the edits. These are opinions, after all, and you ultimately have control over your book. This applies to all the feedback you’re given.

Sensitivity Readers: Sensitivity readers are a subset of beta readers who review works to check for cultural inaccuracies, bias, representation issues, stereotypes, problematic language, etc. I personally use sensitivity readers because I write about characters outside of my scope. Example, I’m a white bi-sexual woman, but I also write about black heterosexual men, as well as Native American, Hispanic, Latino/a, and Indian characters. I want to make sure I’m representing everyone correctly without showing any bias or including accidental racist undertones. Now, there’s an argument going around that books shouldn’t need sensitivity readers, and if it’s fiction, why should it matter? In my opinion, correctly portraying people and cultures is very important, and I want to make sure my readers can see themselves in the characters and aren’t offended by my work. We already have enough racism going on in our country today, our books don’t need to add to it. I know I can’t please everyone, but I can at least make an attempt to appeal to the masses and not be ignorant to the needs of those outside of my scope. For more information about sensitivity readers, check out the link above.

Editors: This goes without saying, but you should have an editor look over your book. Again, no matter how many times we read our work (even if we’re editors ourselves), we’re going to miss things. We’ve built the entire world in our head. We might know what we mean in a sentence or paragraph, but an editor can clean it up to make it clearer for readers to understand. You can hire different types of editors too, whether they’re copy editors, line editors, or they kind of do it all. Expect to pay for an editor. They put a lot of work into their craft and should be compensated for it.

Proofreaders: A proofreader is one of the last people to look at the book and will skim it for any final spelling or grammatical errors. While editors can do this as well, it helps to have another pair of fresh eyes on your book even after the editing stage. I had two proofreaders who caught things my editor and I missed. And the proofreaders even found errors that one of the other proofreaders missed. My proofreaders review my book just before I click print, that way any egregious errors should be caught.

Except Carlos…your misspelled name will live on in infamy.

ARC Readers: Arc, or advanced reader copy, readers are the ones who first get your printed book in their hands. They may be tasked with leaving reviews on Amazon or providing quotes you can use when marketing your book. They may also catch any final errors that you missed, or problematic plot devices. At this point, everything should be pretty clean, but it does sometimes happen that an arc reader will point out a name the author forgot to remove, or perhaps a red herring that shouldn’t be in the book at all.

In extreme cases, ARC readers, or early critics, might point out a major objection to a book like what happened in Amelie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir. The author pulled her novel from printing because of objections readers made about the depiction of slavery. Some critics denounced the novel, calling it “blatantly racist.” It’s possible having a sensitivity reader on the manuscript may have helped with this issue. In response, she said she intended to write the novel from her “immediate cultural perspective” and address indentured and human trafficking in industries across Asia instead. This situation started a twitter explosion on whether sensitivity readers are needed or not, and it still continues today. Be that as it may, it was the ARC readers who made the objections and caused Zhao to halt her book, which may have helped her save face in the end.

As a note, I think Zhao reacted with professional grace and respect. She took her reader’s objections in stride and sought to fix the issue rather than condemn the readers for their critiques.

These are just a few people who can review your book before it’s ready for publication. Make sure, too, that you’re giving your book to people who will provide honest feedback and won’t just say, “Omg, I love this. It’s amazing!” or “This is garbage. Throw it out.” Neither of these is helpful (though it is nice to receive the praise). And when you receive feedback, be gracious and understand that these people are just trying to help you. They aren’t your enemy. They aren’t trying to make you fail. They truly, and honestly, want to make your book the best it can possibly be. If you’re not able to handle critique, you may want to reconsider publishing so soon because, believe me, this world is filled with critics (both good and bad).

Another thing to keep in mind is hiring editors, sensitivity readers, etc., does not come cheap. Make sure you budget for it, or find other arrangements with the readers. Whether it’s swapping book edits for book edits, or giving free copies of your book to readers, make their time worth it. If you respect and appreciate them, they’ll respect and appreciate you.

What about you? Do you have particular readers you go to when you finish a book? What’s helped you the most? Let us know! Also, if you’re an editor, sensitivity reader, proofreader, beta reader, or ARC reader, feel free to post your services below!

 

Marketing Tip: Street Team

This week’s marketing topic was inspired by Byrd Nash’s instagram post about street teams. Be sure to check out her many writing tips, as well as her new book:

Wicked Wolves
Find it on Amazon.

To start off, what is a Street Team? This is essentially a group of people who are your go-to folks for marketing your book. They’re the ones who share your posts on social media, leave book reviews, provide writing feedback, etc. They’re the backbone of your whole marketing plan who can help get the word out about your novel. I’ll go more in-depth in a moment, but one thing to keep in mind is that these people are usually volunteers who take time out of their day to help you promote. Treat them with kindness and respect and understand that sometimes they can’t always be “on” to help you. Some of my street team folks, like Brian K Morris, are there to provide me with moral support when I feel kicked down, and I can’t appreciate it enough. So be kind.

Why Have a Street Team? 

Whether you’re trade or indie, you’re going to have to do some marketing for your book. As an indie author, I wear the hats of the writer, editor, proofreader, designer, marketer, website creator, book signing scheduler, etc. It’s a lot of work. But, as I’ve expressed in many blogs, you don’t have to go it alone. The street team helps take some of the burden off of your shoulders. When you need to reach a wider audience, they’re there to spread the word. You can’t beat having a lovely group of people to help you.

Who Are They? / Where Can You Find Them? 

Honestly, your street team can be anyone. Family. Friends. Editors. Fans. They should be people you trust who have shown interest in your book and your journey.  They may even be fellow writers that you’ve met on twitter or instagram, or during writing conventions. Be sure to ask them before you add them to your street team, though. People don’t like being bombarded with information that they never asked to receive. One way you can keep track of who’s on your team is by creating a facebook group specifically for them. I have a group called The Purple Door District: Street Team! where I share my information. Generally, my street team is the first to see new content before it goes out to the rest of the public. Interested in becoming part of my street team? Let me know!

Arc/Beta Readers

One way the street team can help is by volunteering to either become a beta reader or an arc (advanced reader copy) reader. They’ll read your book and provide feedback about possible things you need to change to help make your story stronger. Specifically ask them to review topics/plots/characters you’re most concerned about because your beta/arc readers will be your last line of defense before you go public.

Reviews

Having people willing to leave reviews is so important for an author. Like it or not, the algorithms on Amazon will determine how your book gets promoted. The more reviews you have, the more likely Amazon will be to share it around. I believe the key number is 50 reviews, but frankly, any amount helps. Reviews don’t have to be complex, either. Your street team can leave a rating and something as simple as a one word review. Granted, getting a full review is wonderful, and I wouldn’t snuff that if they’re willing to do it. I’ve had some excellent reviews from Ellen Rozek, Byrd Nash, and Shakyra Dunn for example. The best ones are when the readers are willing to provide constructive feedback along with their kind words.

Social Media Sharing

Another way your street team can help you is by sharing important news about your book across their social media platforms. The more people you reach, the better chance you have of selling your book, or acquiring followers. They can share things like cover releases, book releases, giveaways, or, hey, even your quest for a reader’s choice award. Be sure to give them ample notice and all the information that they need to share your news around. While you may have some of the same friends, chances are all of your street team members will have an audience that you don’t know. The more platforms you can get across, (twitter, facebook, instagram, goodreads, allauthor, bookbub, etc) the better.

Book Buyers

Now, let me be clear, just because someone is on your street team, that doesn’t mean they’re obligated to buy your book. But, it is a nice perk if it happens. Likely your street team members are readers themselves and are interested in your book or want to go the extra mile and support you by buying your novel. Can’t say no to that, right? Be sure to interact with them and the rest of your book-buying audience. Let them know how much you appreciate them for helping you.

These are just a few ways that a street team can help you, especially near a book launch or book release day. Do you have a street team? How have they helped you? Feel free to share your story below!

On another note, I really am working to get nominated for the Epic Fantasy Fanatics Reader’s Choice Award. If you have a second, please consider voting for The Purple Door District. Thank you so much!

 

My Mission as a Writer

As I was trying to think of a topic to write for this blog post, I came across an interesting list of questions on 40 Blog Post Ideas for Novelists, Poets, And Creative Writers. “What is your mission as a writer? What do you hope readers will take away from your work when they read it?”

We all have different reasons for writing, but our mission? Now that really makes you think. So, in no particular order, here are the reasons I write.

Mission 1: To Entertain/Escape

I love books. They make me laugh, cry, stay up way too late at night to find out what happens in the next chapter, and rage. They let me escape from life and get lost into another world where bills, mortgage, work, and adult responsibilities don’t plague me. I want to create a world where people can immerse themselves and feel that same sort of escapism, especially if it’s from trauma.

I grew up feeling pretty lonely. I had parents who worked, and I wasn’t the most social kid, so I had a lot of time to be alone and think. Books became my way to deal with the loneliness. I could always rely on a new Jedi Apprentice to appear at Borders (when that was still in existence) each month. The characters in my fantasy and sci-fi worlds started to become my friends. And when something happened that made me upset or hurt me, I could dry my tears with the pages. I want my books to be that for other people so they have something that can comfort them, or entertain them, whatever they need.

Mission 2: To Inspire

I have a dream that one day a reader will come up to me and say, “You inspired me to write my own story.” I’m not trying to be egotistical. I want readers to feel like they, too, can put their stories down on paper. I firmly believe that anyone can be a writer. Whether you roleplay, write fanfiction, poetry, short stories, novellas, novels, scripts, journals, blogs, random musings, etc…you’re a writer. And if you have a story to tell, you should do that. I want readers to feel like they can come up to me to ask for advice and encouragement. I have plenty to give, because I want others to succeed as well. And I know that if one of my favorite authors told me, “I believe in you,” it would have spurred me on to write even more. So, I want to be that for someone else.

Mission 3: To Be Inclusive 

Whether it’s The Purple Door District, or one of my other novels, I want my writing to be inclusive. I acknowledge the privilege that comes with being white. But I also know the struggles that come with being bisexual, morbidly obese, and a woman. I definitely do not know everyone’s struggles, and I can’t be the voice for other people who are discriminated or suppressed, but I can at least provide a space where many can feel included. I work with sensitivity readers so that when I write about folks outside of my scope, I don’t come off as a racist jerk due to pure ignorance. I know I may not always get it right, but I do try to do my research, and I do my best to improve when I receive critique.

If I’d read more books with bisexual characters, I might have recognized my sexual identity sooner. If I’d had books with strong females instead of the damsels in distress, I might have realized earlier I can be the hero of my own story. So many books focus on white cis characters (generally male heroes), so how can people feel like they’re included? I can’t touch on everyone, but my mission is to include as many people as possible because that’s our world! We’re not just one gender or color. We’re a plethora of incredible cultures, colors, and abilities. Everyone should be celebrated, not treated like they’re “the other.” So if you feel like you’re missing from my book, tell me. I’ll see what I can do.

Mission 4: To Write For Me 

Just like other writers, I have my own stories I want to create. I see worlds and characters, and hear music in my head. I have far too many plot lines to work with, and I want to put them all down on paper…someday. Maybe when I become a full-time author I’ll be able to indulge my muses.

Writing has been a part of my life since I was a little kid. One of my fondest memories is scribbling down a dragon story on notebook paper and watching my world, and characters come to life. I roleplayed on websites, and learned to develop my characters. I created fanfiction to show my love for Redwall, Harry Potter, and, yes, even My Little Pony, because it made me happy. When I hit a writer’s block, I tend to crumble because I feel like I lose a part of myself. I can’t do the thing I absolutely love because I’m stuck. Some people don’t get it, and that’s fine. My writing doesn’t define me, but it does make me really happy. It’s what I want to do, and I hope that one day it can become a full-time job.

Heh, I think all writers have that dream.

I guess, in a nutshell, my mission is to write for myself, inspire others, provide an escape, and be inclusive. Who knows, maybe as I become a more experienced writer, I’ll realize I have even more missions.

What about you? What’s your mission as a writer? Feel free to share below!

Musical Musings

There’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with your novel and a good song to set the mood. While not everyone likes to write with music, there are plenty of us who need that additional inspiration to guide us through our craft. I’m one of those people who can listen to the same song on repeat for hours on end because it elicits a certain emotion that keeps me going.

Music has always been important in my life. When I was a kid, I remember listening to the Little Mermaid soundtrack. I could tell my mom what was happening based on the music. And I’m not talking about the songs with lyrics. I mean the instrumental pieces. I played the clarinet in middle school. My dad introduced me to the world of opera and operetta (still love it that Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was the first operetta I attended). I also loved musicals like Cats, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, Rent, etc. I learned how music can tell a story, not just in the lyrics, but with the instruments alone.

As I got older, I started creating my own stories to the music. I’d pick a song like Vivaldi’s “Winter” and I’d sit back, close my eyes, and try to imagine a story that was happening through the music. Characters sprang to life. Icy forests caught in a snowy storm. Snow fairies darting through tree branches and bushes. It wasn’t just music to me; it became an entire world.

So I started collecting songs that did several things for my writing; created the world, represented my characters, and quieted my mind. I made playlists that were 40 songs long because they all reminded me of my characters or world in some way. Right now, Naomi Scott’s “Speechless” from the new Aladdin movie is my song of choice. The lyrics remind me of one of my characters who survived an abusive relationship and came out stronger than ever. Some of the lyrics like “I will take these broken wings / and watch me burn across the sky” make me think of my character who literally has a phoenix living inside of her.

So what can you do to help you get into the creative mood using music?

Character Playlists: Find music that reminds you of characters. I pick out lyrical songs for most of these because the words invoke feelings about the characters and what they’ve gone through in their lives. I used to create separate playlists per book, but sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I just put them all on shuffle and see which character speaks to me the most.

World-building Playlists: I mostly choose instrumental music for these, but having lyrical songs that represent your story’s time frame or world can be just as useful. James Horner’s “Avatar” and Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” soundtracks are definitely ones I use for my fantasy/medieval stories. On the flip side, I might use pop music or gothic rock (thank you Within Temptation and Evanescence) for my urban fantasy world because it just fits the setting and the characters. Play around. See what catches your attention.

Mood Playlist:  I also create playlists that have nothing to do with my characters or worlds. These are generally songs that I know won’t distract me from writing and will actually sooth me if I’m stressed out. Some easy choices are meditation soundtracks with water, music, and soothing chimes or bells. Another day, I might replay the “Night King” from the Game of Thrones’ season 8 soundtrack 15 times. Right now, I’m listening to “Lord of the Rings Music & Ambiance.” Most of my mood music is a mix between gentle or sad. It’s rare, but sometimes I’ll have louder, head banging music. Again, it depends on the mood. But this might help you get into the groove of writing. Turn on your playlist, settle into a comfortable spot, and get writing!

There are also fun programs out there where you can create your own ambiance.  Check out Ambient Mixer. Maybe you want to spend an afternoon in the Gryffindor common room or explore Rivendell. Perhaps Loki’s quarters are much more to your liking. You can listen to premade background music or make your own.

Everyone has their own tastes in music and their own ways to get into the writing mood. What do you do? Do you have favorite songs that inspire you? How do you find them? Feel free to post below.

Happy writing and listening!

 

How to Find an Agent: 101

Ah, literary agents. Those elusive, mystical creatures that you can only find at the end of a double rainbow. Or at least, that’s what it can feel like to a new author. After the excitement of completing your book has worn off, it’s time to take the next step to find an agent (if you’re planning to go the traditional route). Yes, you can still query certain small presses and publishing houses directly without an agent, but you have a better chance of getting your foot in the door if you have someone praising your book.

So, where do you start?

Books:

  • Favorite Books: Look at your favorite books that match the genre of the manuscript you’re trying to publish and take note of the publisher. From there, you can do a search online to see what agents work with that publishing company. If the agents accept similar books, they may be interested in taking a look at yours.
    • Some publishing houses don’t require you to have an agent. DAW, for example, accepts unsolicited fantasy and science fiction novels. So if you don’t want to take the time to find a literary agent, that’s another way to go about trying to get your book published.
  • Guide to Literary Agents 2019: This book, along with those in years past, can help you select an agent. It guides you in preparing a query letter and introduces you some of the current agents who are seeking submissions.
  • Writer’s Digest: Whether it’s in magazine form or online, Writer’s Digest always has a plethora of information about the writing world. They even have their own section on locating literary agents and will sometimes promote particular agents in their printed magazines (which I highly recommend). Not only that, they provide great advice on how to prep yourself to query agents/publishers/editors.

Query Tracker and #MSWishList

  • Query Tracker: This free site is a great way to scope out publishers and agents. Not only can you see who is or isn’t accepting queries, you can categorize what fields you’re most interested in (fantasy, YA, romance, etc). You have to sign up to do a specific search for an agent, but again, it’s free. The people on this list are considered legitimate agents as well, so if you hear about an agent who might be a good match for you, run their name through Query Tracker first.
  • #MSWishList: This site shows the manuscript wish lists of agents and editors and also provides advice on writing query letters. An editor is a good route to go as well because they may be able to connect you with an agent. Scroll through and see who’s interested in your genre and click on their names to learn more about them and what literary agency they represent. Also, make sure to put their names through Query Tracker for additional information.

#Pitchwars and #Pitmad

  • #Pitchwars: This is a Twitter mentoring program that happens once a year.  Published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. The mentors then help the writer perfect their manuscript to prepare it for an agent showcase. Participating agents review the lists of books and will make requests. This year’s Pitch Wars mentee application window opens on September 25th and will stay open until September 27th, so get those manuscripts ready!
  • #Pitmad: This is a “pitch party” on Twitter where writers pitch their completed, polished, and unpublished manuscripts in tweets they share throughout the day. Agents and editors make requests by liking or favoriting the pitch, which means you can query directly to them. Keep in mind that you have to be unagented to participate. #Pitmad happens quarterly, and the next one is actually this Thursday, June 6th! To learn more, check out the site, or you can read my past entry, Brace Yourselves: #Pitmad is Coming.

Make Literary Friends

  • Whether in person, through twitter, facebook, or instagram, try to make literary friends. Sometimes the best way to find agents is by learning about them from other writers. You can also follow agents on twitter and see when they’re looking for manuscripts to represent. And believe me, most of them are nice and won’t bite ;-). Just be yourself, and don’t harass the agents about reviewing your manuscript. Be patient. Just like you needed time to write it, they’ll need time to read it.

Important: Before you even begin reaching out to agents, keep these things in mind:

  • Look for an agent who represents your genre.
  • Take note of the agent’s submission requirements, because everyone has something different.
  • Make sure you have your manuscript polished and ready for review. If they make a full request, you don’t want to have to tell them that you’re not done.
  • Book summary: complete
  • Pitches: complete
  • Query letter (without the personal info directed to the agent): complete.

I hope this helps you take the next step to getting your book traditionally published. Remember, you’re not alone, and I believe in you.

Colors and Symbolism in Writing

Color and imagery play such important roles in all forms of media. They can enhance how we might view a character or act as a device for foreshadowing. Some colors can blatantly symbolize who’s good and who is evil, or denote where the character’s loyalty resides. While it’s easier to see on tv and in film, it’s just as important in books.

First, what do the colors mean? Taking a look at Judy Scott-Kemmis’ website Empowered by Color, she outlines the different emotions created by color.

  • Red: Generally this is the color associated with passion, sex, energy, and ambition. But it’s also the color of anger (which is generally why people might have heightened emotions when sitting in a red room).
  • Orange: Social communication and optimism. It can also be a more negative sign of pessimism.
  • Yellow: Color of the mind and intellect but it can also suggest impatience and cowardice. (Maybe this is why the mind stone in Avengers is yellow).
  • Green: This is the color of balance and growth. Though it can also be a sign of jealousy/envy.
  • Blue: Tranquility, trust, and peace. Some rooms are painted this color to help people feel calm.
  • Purple: Imagination (both creative or impractical)
  • Pink: Unconditional love as well as immature and girlish
  • Brown: Down-to-earth, protection, and comfort
  • White: Purity, innocence, completion
  • Gray: Compromise
  • Black: Mystery, secrecy

Keep in mind, this is one person’s view of color, but it seems pretty universal in other studies (though with some minor differences).

How do these colors come to play in stories?

Good vs Evil

Let’s start with Star Wars. Generally the Jedi Knights wear white/beige clothing while the Sith are dressed all in black. As a character slips to the dark side, their clothing color seems to change (ie Anakin Skywalker). Of course, it can be argued that Luke was wearing black at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, so was that meant to throw us off or hint that perhaps Luke could still slip to the dark side?

Their lightsabers, as well, seem to play a part in good vs evil. Jedi wield green (growth) and blue (peace) lightsabers while the Sith use red (anger).

When we’re told stories, it’s not uncommon for the good character to wear white clothing to represent purity while the villain is cloaked in black/darkness. Obviously this has led to discussions about how this just reinforces racism (white = good, black = bad). So some writers have tried to move away from this trope. Or, so-called bad characters are starting to have redeeming stories told about them (ie. the film Maleficent).

Color and World Building

Color also plays a big part in world building, as some societies are built directly around color. Let’s address Avatar: The Last Airbender. Each of the nations (earth, fire, water, air) have different colors to denote their different kingdoms. Earth Kingdom wears brown, yellow, and green. Water Tribe wears blue, purple, and white. Air Nomads wear orange and yellow. The Fire Nation wears primarily red, brown, and black. They each have their own distinct color, and it works well with what we’ve learned about what the colors mean. Green/growth and brown/down-to-earth seems very fitting for the Earth Kingdom. Blue/peace, purple/imagination, and white/purity works well for the Water Tribe, while red/anger and black/mystery embodies the Fire Nation.

The world of Harry Potter does this with the houses as well. Gryffindor is red and gold. Ravenclaw is blue and bronze. Slytherin is green and silver. And Hufflepuff is yellow and black.

Star Trek also plays around with colors. Now, each ship or generation kind of varies their uniforms, but in general blue = sciences, yellow = command, red = you have a death wish. But in all seriousness, if you look at articles about Star Trek like “The Take” you’ll find that every person wore a specific uniform designated to their station. Unfortunately, the red shirts just often went down to the planet and never came back.

Foreshadowing 

Colors can also be used to foreshadow events, or show a character’s progression or regression mentally. The big example I’m going to use is from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. You can skip ahead if you haven’t seen the season yet and don’t want spoilers.

***Begin GOT Spoiler****

In the case of Daenerys Targaryen, her color scheme changes drastically along with her mentality. In Episode 1, she wears pure white clothing. She is in the north, with her lover, ready to fight a battle to save the people. She still has her best friend, her mentor, and her two dragons. Her intentions are pure. Between episodes 2-4, her white clothing takes on red lines. They just fought a battle and she watched someone she cared for deeply die before her eyes. Not only that, she starts to realize she doesn’t have the support of the people like Jon Snow. Then she loses her best friend and another one of her dragons. Episodes 5 and 6, her clothing shifts to red and black during the burning of King’s Landing and her ascension to the throne. In previous seasons, she had mostly worn white, blue, and browns (purity, peace, down-to-earth), and in the end, she goes mad while wearing red (anger) and black (mystery). It was a beautiful, though tragic event, of what was to come.

***End GOT Spoiler***

Another element of foreshadowing comes, again, from Star Wars. When Anakin first starts his training, he’s in the traditional white or brown Jedi garb. But as the story progresses, and he starts to slip towards the dark side, his clothing changes to black. The last time we see him whole, he’s fighting in black attire against Obi-Wan in white. After that, he’s left in his Darth Vader suit just so he can survive. We watched through color as he slipped away from the light to darkness.

These are just a few reasons why you might consider using colors in your story. For lack of better words, you paint a broader and more beautiful picture of your world when you add in these elements. From color meanings, to symbolism and foreshadowing, there’s so much you can play with.

 

Fantasy and Society (OWS CyCon)

Introduction 

I’d like to offer you a warm welcome to my blog. I write what you want to read, so feel free to drop a topic below! I hope you enjoyed visiting Timothy Bateson’s blog. If you haven’t stopped by, make sure to check him out!

My name is Erin Casey, and I’m an urban fantasy/YA fantasy/medieval fantasy writer. My first book The Purple Door District came out December 2018, and the next book in the series, Wolf Pit, will be released in December 2019. To learn more about my series, and all the other projects I’m doing, find me on my website, twitter, instagram, and facebook.

If you’ve come here from OWS CyCon, you can find my booth here. If you’re new to OWS CyCon, CyCon is a weekend-long book online convention where you can meet authors, vote on book covers, check out interviews and readings… all without putting on pants! I’m also involved in cover wars, character wars, and several panels. Be sure to visit the CyCon website and Facebook events acting as the hub for all of our events. Sign up for our newsletter or RSVP to the event to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bookish goodness we have to offer. Be sure to visit the Fantasy Sci-Fi Reader’s Lounge, especially on Sunday, May 19th from 11am-12pm when I’ll host an author takeover event. 

Now, with all the logistics out of the way, let’s get into the heart of the blog post!

Fantasy and Society 

Whether you write epic fantasy or urban fantasy, you have to find a way to integrate the fantastical world into “normal” society. How you do that depends on several factors of world building. We’re going to talk about a few of these in hopes that they’ll get you started in developing your fantasy world.

Who Knows? The first question to ask yourself is who knows about magic and your “not human” characters (we’ll call them parahuman in this case)? Are your parahumans just starting to come out in society or are they a secret hidden away from the government?

For example, in The Purple Door District, society is starting to learn about parahumans. There’s a government section that is specifically devoted to the parahumans, though they generally keep to themselves unless otherwise needed. The way parahumans can find each other is by going to Purple Door Districts, safe havens that are marked by purple-colored doors, or purple-colored items at the front of the building. In this case, some people know about the parahumans, and others don’t. They try not to announce themselves because Hunters lurk in the shadows, people who think parahumans are an abomination and want to kill them.

What about your world? Whether society knows about your parahumans or not can play a major factor in the danger your characters may endure.

Jobs/Economy: What kind of jobs do your parahumans have (whether they’re “out” or not in society)? Are werewolves more likely to take on heavy-lifting jobs like construction or maintenance work while suave vampires are more adapt to being lawyers? Do you have places that are run by magic (think of a coffee shop that’s powered by magic and produces drinks with potions that help with stress, anxiety, weight loss, etc.)? Or do their abilities not influence where they work or what they do? Note: If you find the idea of a fae-run coffee shop interesting, check out my story Coffee Chaos on wattpad.

Introducing Your Readers to Your World: Once you have your world established, how do you want to introduce the magic and society to your readers? Some writers will introduce a character who is human or not very aware of the parahuman world and slowly integrate them, and the readers, into the world. In other cases, you can use someone who knows about the world but has a very different view of it to help your readers adjust. Stick with some familiarity so that the readers don’t feel completely overwhelmed.

Government: As mentioned, The Purple Door District has a government faction that knows about the parahumans and keeps them in check. What about your world? How is the government involved? Do the parahumans have to watch their backs? Are they free to roam in society as they are? Does your world resemble X-Men where some government officials call for sanctions against them while others want to protect their rights? It’s good to figure this out ahead of time because it can help you know just how much trouble you can get your characters in with or without government involvement.

How Powerful Are Your Parahumans? Do they have abilities that could threaten all of humanity? Think of Professor Xavier and Cerebro and how his ability almost took out all humans/mutants in the 2nd X-men film. Are there fae who have their own world and government and could easily take over humankind? Or are your parahumans more like groups of vampires and werewolves who can be considered a threat but can’t take over the entire world? Knowing this allows you to figure out how society might either accept or fear the parahumans. You can also play around with the characters who have different power levels. How would an overpowered character react to a situation vs someone who is weaker? Figuring out how you can integrate the fantasy element into society will help you further develop your characters.

These are just a few elements to think about when you’re integrating fantasy into society. One thing to keep in mind is that you want it to be believable. Know why parahumans act the way they do, or why society treats parahumans a certain way. Be creative, and most importantly, have fun!

I hope that you found these tips helpful. If you want to learn more about integrating fantasy into society, take a look at Kayla Matt’s blog.

Happy writing!

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Author Interviews

Whether you’re a blogger interviewing an author, or an author responding to a blogger’s questions, it’s very important that you both provide quality and professional work when it comes to interviews. I’ve been interviewing authors for over a year now, (and been interviewed as well) and I’ve noticed a few things that both help and harm the interaction. So I’m going to divide this up between Do’s and Don’ts for both authors and bloggers.

Authors

  • Do
    • Provide all material requested from the blogger the first time around.
    • Edit your responses (spellcheck/use proper grammar and capitalization) so the blogger doesn’t have to fix it.
    • Provide high-resolution pictures for yourself and your book covers.
    • Get your material to the blogger on time.
    • Answer all the questions (unless otherwise agreed upon) and provide interesting information. One-word responses won’t engage the reader or the interviewer.
    • Post the interview around to your social media platforms and give the blogger credit.
  • Don’t
    • Badger the blogger about when your interview is coming out or keep requesting changes (unless you have a book coming out and need to provide a sale link).
    • Act rudely towards the blogger. They’re doing you a favor by creating the interview for you.
    • Answer questions dishonestly
    • Cut down other writers or bloggers in your answers.
    • Ghost the blogger.

Bloggers/Interviewers

  • Do
    • Get questions to the authors when promised.
    • Provide a designated day that you’ll post the interview and stick to it.
    • Provide the author with a link to the posted interview so they can share it around.
    • Review the answers before you post it on your site in case of errors or controversial responses (depending on your site’s dynamics).
    • Answer any questions the author might have about the interview or provide clarification.
    • Be honest to the author about what they can expect (are you posting the entire interview or just portions of it?)
  • Don’t
    • Act rudely towards the author. You two are trying to work together to help one another.
    • Post the interview late or not at all.
    • Ignore the author’s concerns if something is posted incorrectly in the interview.
    • Ghost the author.
    • Promise a posting date until after the author has provided their material. (I’ve missed posting interviews because authors didn’t give me their information in time).

These are just a few ideas to keep in mind while interviewing and getting interviewed. Bloggers and authors should remember that they’re working as a team. Together, they can provide exposure to each other. I’ve read far too often how authors have lashed out at book reviewers, bloggers, or interviewers for petty reasons. Bloggers can’t post interviews without authors, but authors can’t gain exposure without the help of bloggers. Work together harmoniously and you will both succeed.

If you both find that you’re on completely different pages, then it’s also okay to politely agree to go your separate ways. What it comes down to is respect. We’re all professionals here, and it’s important to treat each other like people and not invisible faces.

 

The Calm Before the Storm (A Game of Thrones Discussion)

Game of Thrones season 8 demonstrated a common theme of the “calm before the storm” of battle. Before everything goes to hell, the characters get their final moments together.

Note: Be warned, for this post is long and full of minor spoilers.

Readers and watchers have waited in anticipation, counting down the days when Game of Thrones would return to the screen. Theories and speculations bombard Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media outlets, some reasonable, others extremely far fetched but still fun. It’s hard not to see some advertisement or merchandise about GOT when you get online.

Finally, on April 14th, we returned to the iced-over world of Westeros.

And responses to the show were lackluster.

In fact, many people have complained that the first two episodes were merely full of dialogue and nothing actually happened. There was no fighting, no epic dragon battles, nothing that entirely felt like GOT except for the random sex scenes and witty banter. With the trailers promising epic fights, it’s not surprising that people would feel a little disappointed that they didn’t get that action immediately.

However, I think people fail to see what GOT did do for us.

The show demonstrated a common theme of the “calm before the storm” of battle. Before everything goes to hell, the characters get their final moments together. For anyone who has seen the show or read the books, we know that George R. R. Martin is pretty merciless. No one is safe, so this may be the last time we get to see our beloved characters that we’ve followed over the years.

Episode 1 does a wonderful job of bringing characters together again who haven’t seen each other since the first season. All the still-living Starks are finally back at Winterfell. Arya and Jon reconnect for the first time since the tender moment in season one when he gave her Needle. Jon gets to see Sansa and Bran. It’s heartwarming and something many people have wanted to happen. At the same time, we get a lot of call backs to season one:

  • Arya leaping in Jon’s arms to hug him
  • The Starks greeting a ruler (Robert/Dany) at the front gate
  • Jamie and Bran sharing a moment at the end of the episode, an echo of when Jamie shoved Bran out the window
  • A boy climbing the walls/tree of Winterfell to see the approaching royalty

It’s a nice reminder of something we haven’t seen for so long.

Episode two goes deeper into character development, giving them a chance to share one last moment together before the coming battle. For the first time, enemies-turned-allies  break bread together. Think of the scene around the hearth with Tyrion and Jamie (Lanisters), Tormund (Wildling), Brienne of Tarth (once a knight for the Baratheons then a protector of the Starks), etc. This is a profound moment, especially when Tyrion jokes to Jamie about how he’d love to see the look on their father’s face if he knew they were willing to fight and die at Winterfell. There are no Houses at this point, just people coming together to fight for the living.

You also get many special moments for individual characters:

  • Brienne is officially knighted by Jamie
  • Arya has sex for the first time with Gendry
  • Arya and the Hound reunite after she left him for dead (which is just a funny scene)
  • Jon, and then Dany, learn about his true heritage
  • Theon returns after leaving Winterfell in shame and pledges to fight for them and protect Bran.
  • Sansa shines as the Lady of Winterfell and a defender of the north, despite Dany’s claim to the throne.
  • Brienne and Jamie share a tender moment when he promises to fight for her.
  • Podrick sings a song to pull the episode together (wonder if Ed Sheeran will cover that one too)
  • Missandei and Grey Worm pledge their love and a future with one another

Yes, the episode is filled with dialogue. No, there aren’t action scenes or daring quests for us to talk about. But the depth in what we do receive with the characters can’t be ignored.

Books and movies are known for this “calm before the storm” so writers can make the readers/watchers feel and care about the characters before the inevitable battle. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Harry talks with his deceased loved ones before his fight with Voldemort. It’s a slow, quiet moment where he has to face his fear and he knows he has his family to back him. Likewise, he talks with a ghostly Dumbledore to understand his purpose in the battle, and in the world, before the final fight at Hogwarts. In Lord of the Rings, we get moments with the characters preparing for battle and saying final goodbyes or offering encouragement. In the Hunger Game series, more than once Katniss gets quiet time with her family or Gale or Peeta before everything goes to hell. Think about Katniss and Peeta kissing in the cave before they threaten to both eat the poisonous berries. These scenes are what helps us connect with the characters and makes us care what happens to them. Game of Thrones has done this many times like when Rob and Talisa sweetly agree to name their unborn child after Eddard Stark just before the horrible Red Wedding scene.

So why such a negative reaction to GOT season eight? Could it be because fans had to wait over 500 days to see a brand new episode? Is it because we’ve just gotten so use to the blood, guts, and death that we’re not used to character development anymore? Who knows. I personally enjoyed the episodes because I know when the battle comes, and the characters fall, I’ll at least have had some closure in their relationships with each other. I’ll care what happens. And I’ll mourn deeply for them.

I do this in my own writing, not just for my readers, but for myself. I know who isn’t going to make it, and I want to make sure they have a chance to say what they need to say before they die. It’s closure for me as the writer as well. Here’s a character I’ve spent months writing about who’s no longer going to be with me. Of course I’d want to find a way to say goodbye, and I do that through the “calm.” In the same way, I want the chance to say goodbye to the characters I’ve watched for several years before they pass (and before the show ends).

You’ll get your battle next week, I’m sure. And I think, in the end, we’ll appreciate the two episodes we got with our characters before the series comes to a close.

Meditation and Writing

Those of you who have followed my blog long enough know that I like to periodically spend time talking about mental health. As someone with depression and anxiety, it’s important for me to find ways to relax my mind so I can heal and also focus on my writing. Most people also know that I suck at self care, and it’s something I’m trying very hard to learn.

Recently, I started attending group therapy that focuses on the mind, body, and soul. I always thought I was awful at meditation (I still struggle with it), but the more I work at it, the more I realize how much it calms me. Sometimes I use my own writing as a form of meditation, typing out a stream of consciousness without any concerns about my language or where I’m going with it. I do that when I talk about my dreams, or if I’m having an episode where I just really need to get my emotions out. I generally call that my angry poetry phase.

But I digress.

Meditation is a habit that I think we can all benefit from, so I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned, and other kinds of meditation I do to ease my stress/anxiety.

Deep Breathing

This is probably one of the best and easiest ones to start out with. Whenever I get worked up (or wake up from nightmares like I did last night), I try to focus on deep breathing. Sit in a relaxed position and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You want to focus on making your belly feel soft. My guide suggests that you whisper “soft” when you breathe in, and “belly” when you breathe out. Try to do this for awhile. Even 5 minutes of deep breathing meditation can really help. It certainly helps me get through a bad work day.

Here’s a guided meditation that can help.

Music and Mindfulness 

Once you have the breathing down, try to be mindful of your body. I like to put on soft music, usually water mixed with song or music that focuses on peaceful sleep. There are also a ton of apps on your phone that you can download that have guided meditation or songs. The app Calm is a great example.

Lie down (or sit) in a comfortable position and turn on the music. Then focus on feeling each part of your body. Your arms, your legs, your fingers and toes, your head. Loosen each muscle one at a time and focus on your breathing and relaxing your body. Guided meditation can help you focus. Make sure you think about your body and don’t let your mind wander (easier said than done for us writers). If it does wander, that’s okay. Just pull it back into the moment.

Only have a few minutes? Try a quick 5 minute meditation for things like anxiety.

Imagery Meditation 

One of my favorite forms of meditation is something I didn’t exactly realize I was doing until I talked with my therapist. Imagery meditation is essentially when you create an image in your head and focus on that. It could be imagining light coming down and wrapping around you. It could be picturing water or waves crashing against rocks. Maybe you see yourself on a beach or in a forest. Or, in my case, I imagine a garden that only I can enter. Focusing on each detail gives your mind something else to think about other than stresses or anything else that’s bothering you.

Here’s a guided video for example.

Animal Meditation

Okay, so this might be something that I made up, but I think animal lovers can understand where I’m coming from. There are moments when I pet my birds or preen them where all my stress just goes away. The same thing happens when Aladdin, my sun conure, sleeps on my chest. I can feel his breath and his little heartbeat and it calms me. I find myself relaxing and focusing on them and their happiness, and it makes me happy in return. Imagine doing that with a dog or a cat. I bet you wouldn’t mind spending 10 or 15 minutes doting on them.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, often a more peaceful mind helps with my writing. The ideas flow more freely without bundles of anxiety and depression distracting me or clouding my brain. I’ve been playing meditative musical tracks while writing, and I can feel my anxiety go down while I work.

Writing can also act as a prelude to meditation. If you’re upset or filled with a bunch of emotion, write it out. Say everything you’d want to say without fear that someone is going to read it and judge you. Doing so can help you clear your mind and make you feel freer. It opens you up to meditation and writing your story.

To be honest, I usually find myself relaxing so much with the guided meditation, that I just fall asleep. As someone who struggles with sleep, I’m not going to complain about that. I’m quite new and rusty with it, but meditation has already started to help with my depression. I hope it helps you as well.

If you have any meditative practices you’d like to share, post them below!