Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: My POV on POVs - Whom to Use, and When

So, as you see, we're doing some big work on the blog. New posts, a tag system, more subscription options, all sorts of stuff! But the biggest thing we're adding is Writing Wednesday!

Now, instead of waiting weeks for me to fall out of my novel, I'll have new writing posts going up every Wednesday covering plot, characters, pacing, story structure, and pretty much anything else I've run into as a writer. Have a writing problem you'd like to talk about? Put it in the comments below! Today, by popular request, I'm talking about how I handle POV, so enough business. Let's get started!

Writing Wednesdays: My POV on POVs - Whom to Use, and When

(Note: If you don't know what a POV is, go here for a great breakdown.)

If you've ever read any of my Fantasy (especially my Eli Monpress books), you know I am the queen of multiple POVs. I love them. I love how they let you show the reader different parts of the story at different times to increase tension or give a different point of view. This is why the Paradox books drove me crazy sometimes, because it was in First Person, which felt like being stuck in a canyon. All this amazing stuff was going on in the background, and I couldn't jump over to show it. Let me tell you, it took a lot of narrative acrobatics to figure out how to fit all that stuff in without the luxury of POV switches.

Fortunately for me, third person writing (my favorite style) is all about the POV switch! That said, though, you can't go too crazy. POV switches are a powerful narrative tool, but each perspective you jump to adds a layer of complexity and weight to your novel, and that can get out of hand very quickly. So how do I decide when to jump POVs and when to stay? Or which character gets a POV and which stays to the side?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Romantic Times 2015 as a non-Romance writer - Why I went, and was it worth it?

Souvenirs! My husband asked me to bring him back
the most Texas thing I could find. Mission accomplished!
If you were anywhere near my Twitter feed last week, you're probably more aware than you'd like to be that I was in Dallas, TX for the Romantic Times Book Lover's Convention, one of the biggest Romance genre conventions in the world. I didn't actually know that before I signed up because, ya know, I'm not a Romance author. Even FORTUNE'S PAWN, the most romantic of all my books, only has romance as a sub-plot, and my covers most definitely do not have pretty dresses, leather pants, or rock hard abs. So why did I, an SFF author, go to RT?

Well, in the beginning, I went because Ilona Andrews (whom I already owed a bar's worth of drinks for giving me a great review of FORTUNE'S PAWN on her blog) asked me to be on her Urban Fantasy panel. At that point, I was only vaguely aware of RT as a place where Romance authors went to have epic parties, but when Ilona Andrews asks you to be on a panel, you say yes. So of course, I accepted instantly, and then I scrambled off to the internet to find out what, exactly, I'd signed myself up for.

The answer was a lot more than I expected. RT started as a reader con, but these days it's more of a giant who's who in the Romance writing and publishing world. Everyone, and I do mean everyone--big NY publishers, small presses, self pubbers, Amazon's KDP team, NY Times mega bestsellers, readers, reviewers, fans, bloggers, book store reps, librarians--who has any connection to the Romance genre was packed into a giant hotel meeting and partying and moving through panels in a giant mass of networking fury. 

As a mid-list author who is only tangentially connected to Romance, this was a pretty intimidating world to dive into. Other than a few Twitter/email interactions, I knew no one there, and I was constantly worried no one would care about me or my books since, again, I'm only a "Romance Author" by the furthest stretch of the definition. Also, like any giant con, RT was expensive

Given all that, you can imagine how nervous I was, but I'm happy to report that my RT gamble paid off better than I could have hoped! It was absolutely worth the time and money for me both as an author and a Romance reader. I could gush for hours about all the awesome connections I made and the fun I had, but I think I've fangirled enough for one month, so here's the same information in useful bulleted list format.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Heartstrikers #2 is FINISHED! (Plus where to find me at RT 2015 and other announcements)

First things first, ONE GOOD DRAGON DESERVES ANOTHER, the sequel to NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST, is finally done and with the editor!

I still have to actually get the edited manuscript back, make my changes, send it back for copy edits, and then send it to beta readers before the book is ready to come out, but the hard part is over! My aim is to have the book out before the end of summer. I'll post a real date as soon as I know.

I really can not tell you all how excited I am to finally be done with this book. After a YEAR of failing forward, I finally have a novel I am proud of and I know you guys are gonna love. Also, Marci is MVP of the year in this. GO MARCI!

Yes, those cats are plot. Are you excited? CAUSE I'M EXCITED!

In other news, I'm going to be at Romantic Times 2015!

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but with RT just around the corner (as in Wednesday), I thought I'd be good to remind everyone that I'm going to be a guest! Here are the two panels I'm doing:

SCI-FI: COOTIES IN SPACE — How to Keep the Romance Without Losing the Rocketships!
Does sexual tension negate the science? Or can passion and physics coexist? How can authors create intimate relationships in the midst of high-tech, otherworldly science fiction settings — and keep readers of both genres turning pages? Beam up to this panel and find out!

Event Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 1:15pm to 2:15pm
Captain: Linnea Sinclair
Panelist(s): Rachel Aaron (aka Rachel Bach), Donna Frelick, Monette Michaels (aka Rae Morgan), Sabine Priestley, M. D. Waters
Location: Atrium Level (2nd Floor)
Room: Bryan-Beeman B

PARANORMAL: Happily Forever After — Writing Beyond the Kiss
We all know the story: the hero and heroine fall in love and overcome impossible odds. Finally their love triumphs, they kiss — and then what? With supernatural creatures having such long lifespans, and in some cases being immortal, how do you keep relationships and adventures fresh after that big kiss?

Event Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 2:30pm to 3:30pm
Captain: Ilona Andrews (aka Ilona and Gordon Andrews)
Panelist(s): Rachel Aaron (aka Rachel Bach), Kresley Cole, Jennifer Estep, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Chloe Neill, Kerrelyn Sparks
Location: Atrium Level (2nd Floor)
Room: Gaston

Why yes, that is me doing a panel with FREAKING IILONA ANDREWS AND KRESLEY COLE! It will be a struggle to talk through the epic fangirl meltdown I'll be having, but I'm going to try.

In addition to these two big official events, I'm also going to be at the book sale and doing one of the meet and greet sessions (UPDATE: I'll be at Fan-Tastic Day on Saturday from 6:15pm to 6:50pm).

I'll also be just, you know, going to the con! So if you're there as well, and you'd like to hang out and have fun/talk shop/whatever, just tweet me and we'll find each other! I'm going to be at the con from Weds to Sunday, so I'll probably be lost and alone. Come be my friend!

And finally, our online tool for making monthly KDP reports actually readable, KDP Plus, has been upgraded and now has its own website!

This was originally a tool my programmer husband made for himself so he could translate my KDP spreadsheets into a format we could actually read/use. It worked so well that we decided to put it online so others could use it, too!

We're still adding features, but right now KDP Plus lets you upload the monthly report spreadsheets you get from Amazon and then see all those numbers translated into readable, interactive graphs that show you things like total lifetime sales by title and how much total money you've made. You know, all that VITAL INFORMATION Amazon should just give you.

So if you're an author who publishes through Amazon, give it a try and let us know what you think! It's free and you don't even have to make an account, so why not?

And that's it for updates! I'm finally free of writing crisis mode, so expect a lot of blog posts in the future. See you all at RT!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Where to Start Your Story

FINALLY! A craft post! Allons-y!

Way way back in the halcyon days of last November, someone on my yearly NaNo thread asked me "where do you start your story?" I love this question for a lot of reasons, but mostly because 1) there are so many different places to start any story, and 2) different starts can create entirely different reading experiences, even if the basic plot is the same.

One of the first things I think about when I sit down to actually plot a book is where I'm going to start. As a general rule, the best place to start your story is always wherever things get interesting,  BUT (and here's where it gets cool), "where things get interesting" can vary enormously depending on your audience/genre.

Take this plot I just made up:

When she was nine, Mary's family was eaten in a dragon raid. Swearing revenge, she tracks down a knight of the Sacred Order of Dragon Hunters and demands to join. After saying no many times, the knight eventually gives in and agrees to train her. Many years later, Mary has become an amazing Dragon Hunter and is ready to avenge her parents. But when she finally enters the cave of the dragon who took her family so long ago, she discovers everything she thought she knew is wrong, and the real monsters are the ones she never suspected.

Exciting stuff! Now, where would you start this story? There are a lot of good, exciting spots, many of which could work, but which spot is best depends entirely on what kind of story you want to tell.

For example, if I wanted to write a YA, I'd start when the wounded and determined child Mary approaches the knight and demands he teach her to hunt dragons, and then show how she never gives up even when he says no. Once he eventually gives in, I'd show her training and have her finally get to the dragon cave for the mid-book climax, where I'd turn everything on it's head.

On the other hand, if I wanted to write a gritty, dark fantasy about a woman on a path of bloody revenge, I would jump way ahead and start when Mary is already a professional Dragon Hunter doing her final prep for the hunt she's been training her whole life for, only to get in and realize that everything she's assumed up until now is wrong, and things are much darker and more dangerous than simple dragon killing.

Or, if I wanted to play this plot as a straight up Fantasy romance, I could even start the book at the moment when she enters the dragon cave and discovers the dragon she's been training her whole life to kill is actually a super hot dude who's never even heard of her parents and the whole thing was a set up and now they have to work together to find the true killers.

All of these stories would have the same basic set-up plot: girl loses parents to dragon, girl learns dragon hunting for revenge, girl goes to kill dragon and things go wrong. In execution, however, these stories are in fact wildly different in everything from tone to the end secret. All of the above are valid entry points for their particular versions of the story, but what I'm really trying to get across here is that the beginning of a story is not a fixed point. Where you enter a novel depends as much on your audience and what kind of story you're trying to tell as it does on plot.

This isn't to say opening with a hook isn't important. It's vital! Think of the last time you picked up an unknown book. Did you keep reading if the opening page was boring? What about the opening paragraph? Of course not. You put that sucker down, and rightfully so, because the author failed to hook you. This is why asking questions like "where should I start my novel?" is so important, because if you can't keep a reader past the first page, they're not going to be your reader.

Again, though, see above. Not all hooks are the same for all genres and readers. A young girl struggling with the impotent rage of seeing her parents eaten by dragons is a powerful opening, but only if that's the tone you're going for in your book. What's gripping for a gritty Fantasy might turn off readers who're here for a lighthearted dragon/dragon hunter romance and vice-versa. This is another reason why it's so important to know your genre before you start writing. Being published means writing for an audience, and the more you know about how to entertain and hook that audience, the more successful and happy your career will be.

I know all of this seems like a lot to think about for something as simple as an opening scene. Personally, I didn't really start thinking about this stuff until I was multiple novels into my career. I simply wrote what felt like a natural beginning and worked from there. That's not a bad way to write, especially if you have good story instincts, but it can't possibly match the level of control and finesse that comes from actually knowing and thinking about what you're doing.

Good novels don't happen by accident. They are a string of conscious, considered choices. Writing is work, and like any work, the more thought and finesse and skill you put into it, the better the end product becomes.

I hope this post helps you find new ways to think about how best to begin your own books! As always, thank you for reading, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck in your writing journey!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST now available in print!

You asked and, after a lot of fudging around to make it look as perfect as possible, I delivered! Nice Dragons Finish Last is now available as a print edition!

Click to see in full glory! (And thank you to my husband for being the hand model!)
As you can see, these are trade paperback sized with a smooth matte cover and clean black printing on white pages for maximum readability. They came out even better than I expected and I absolutely love them! (And I hope you will, too!)

Also, for fans of my Legend of Eli Monpress series, the final book, Spirit's End, is now available in audio! I know, I know, that cover. Still, the narration is amazing (as always) and I can't tell you how delighted I am to finally have the audio book version of the series complete.

As always, thank you all so much for reading. I hope you enjoy these new versions, and fingers crossed I'll be able to announce the release of the second Heartstriker book, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, soon!

Until next time, I remain your friendly neighborhood Spiderman author,
Rachel Aaron/Bach

PS: For those of you wondering where the blog content has gone, it's been eaten by dragons! Getting Heartstrikers #2 out ASAP is my first priority at the moment, but I am in the home stretch. Once I get the book out to my editor/betas, I promise the writing articles will flow again!

Thank you all, and hearts forever!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kindle Big Deal vs Bookbub

Good news, everyone!

Yesterday, I got an email from Amazon offering Nice Dragons Finish Last a potential spot in the upcoming Kindle Big Deal. I participated once before in November, and we were generally happy with the results, so I was excited to do it again. BUT (you knew that was coming, right?) there was a catch this time, because with the second dragons book nearly ready to go (yay!), I'd been aiming to apply for a Bookbub ad during this same period.

At the moment, Bookbub is considered the gold standard in book advertising if you're self-published, or even traditionally published given how many NY titles they feature, but it's expensive and tricky to get in. There are no guarantees they'll accept you. Also, if you're going to do a Bookbub ad, your book can't have gone on sale for a lower price during a set period of time before your Bookbub ad, which would pretty much write out participating in the Kindle Big Deal.

Now, I realize of course that this situation is an embarrassment of riches. I am exceedingly lucky to have a good chance at participating in either of these promotions, let alone both. Luck aside, though, I still had to make a decision, so I did what I always do in times of overwhelming detail: I turned to my husband, business manager, and all around amazing dude Travis and asked him to look at the numbers and figure out the best strategy.

I expected a simple yes or no answer. As usual, though, Travis blew me away, sending me an amazing email chock full of information and graphs! (Can you see why I married him?!) The email was actually so good, I asked him to turn it into a guest blog post because 1) I thought you guys would be interested to see some real world book advertising results/decisions, and 2) the post I was going to write on managing multiple POVs in a novel is only a third done and it's already Thursday.

I know the blog has been pretty business heavy of late, but hey! Writing is a business. I promise we'll get back to the craft posts soon, but for now, here is Travis to give you an inside look at the kind of business decisions you have to make as a working author (and save my blogging bacon).

Take it away, love!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Writers and Money Part 3

Sorry for the long delay! I really meant to push these out in a series, but my writing's been going really well lately, so I was loathe to leave the writing cave. BUT, I'm back now, so let's talk mon-neh!

For those of you just tuning in, this is the final installment of a three part series about writers and money. In Part 1, I talked about how authors make money in the traditional, advance paying publishing system. In Part 2, I talked about self-publishing money. Now, for Part 3, we're going to talk about what you actually need to do with that income, wherever it comes from, in order to make a full time living as a writer. So, without further ado, here's

Writers and Money Part 3: Taxes, Quitting the Day Job, and the Realities of Making a Living as a Full Time Writer

As the meme dog would suggest, here are some DISCLAIMERS!

1) Everything below is written in the spirit of sharing information, not as iron clad rules. I'm not actually a financial adviser (or a dog), and as such I can only speak from my own experience, which is almost certainly going to be different from yours. With that in mind, PLEASE don't make any major financial, career, or tax decisions based purely off what you read here.

2) All the tax advice below is written from the American perspective, and as such might not be relevant in your country. That said, wherever you live, if you are making any sort of significant income off your creative work and you have a specific tax question, TALK TO AN ACCOUNTANT. Yes, they're expensive, but knowing this stuff is their job, and that's worth paying for.

Okay, now that we've established that you're not going to run off and reorder your financial future based off a single blog post, let's get to the good stuff.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Writers and Money Part 2

I didn't meant to take such a long break between these. Husband got out of the hospital unable to do much except lie in bed and look pathetic just in time for the holidays, so, naturally, life became a whirlpool of insanity. But now I'm back more or less, so let's talk money!

Writers and Money Part 2: Self Publishing

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Writers and Money Part 1

Not to start this post off on a downer, but my husband (the Travis whom all my books are dedicated to) is in the hospital. It's no longer life threatening, but I'm spending most of my days this week waiting in hospital rooms with beeping machines and occasional massive interruptions. Naturally, this makes fiction writing challenging to nigh impossible, so, in the spirit of feeling like I'm still getting work done and to distract myself, I thought I'd do a series of posts on the non-writing author topic I get questions about the most: money.

Money is one of those gauche topics everyone is curious about but no one likes to discuss. I can understand why. In a culture where people are more likely to tell you about their sex life and medications in casual conversation than their financial situation, money talk, especially money talk in public, can feel almost obscene. At the same time, though, one of the most popular mantras in author circles is that, if you want to succeed, you have to treat your writing like a business, but how can you really do that if the most business-like aspect of the whole affair--the money--is couched behind euphemisms and shame?

So, in keeping with the open spirit of my blog, I'm going to spend the next three posts talk openly and candidly about my experiences with the money-side of being an author. Because this is such a broad topic, I'm going to be breaking the subject down into three parts: traditional, advance paying publishing, self-publishing, and how to manage taxes/writing income. For today, we're going to talk about the most obfuscated and confusing of the three, Traditional Publishing.

Enjoy, and please let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to know about money and authorship in the comments below.

Writers and Money Part 1: Traditional Publishing

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Interview with SF author Jennifer Foehner Wells, all around cool lady and author of FLUENCY!

Sorry for the lack of posts! I have fallen down a writing hole. BUT, I have emerged blinking from my cave because the absolutely wonderful Jennifer Foehner Wells, author of the smash hit first contact Science Fiction novel FLUENCY (and hopefully many sequels to come), gave into my pestering and graciously answered some questions for my blog! Hooray!

For those of you who haven't yet read the book yet, FLUENCY (which is only $3.99 right now!) is a super fun, classic SciFi novel about a NASA mission to make first contact with a mysterious, seemingly abandoned alien ship floating in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Our main character is a civilian linguist who gets drafted to come along and help decipher any alien writing, and the whole story is just really exciting, creepy, edge-of-your-seat fun. I enjoyed it a lot, and I hope after reading this interview, you'll be ready to give it a try as well!

Now, *pause to put on jaunty interviewer cap*, on to the interview!

RA: Let's start with the super shallow question: YOUR COVER IS GORGEOUS! It was the first thing I noticed about your book and I'm super jealous. Can you tell us more about it and why you decided to go with a "space" shot instead of something more character or action oriented?

JFW: There’s an interesting story there. At the midpoint of drafting FLUENCY, I was already thinking ahead to how I was going to indie publish it. I’d been looking for artists on DeviantArt, and contacted one or two, but nothing had actually gelled into existence. One day I was looking at the National Geographic website and saw some gorgeous space art. I kept coming back to it. The art was just STUNNING. It contained a credit, so I googled the artist.

I figured he must be a professional if Nat Geo was using him. I found his email address and shot him a brief email, outlining what my project was about. I asked him if he did book covers. He did. He seemed to be intrigued by the premise of my book.

I asked him how much he would charge. When he told me, I felt defeated. I couldn’t afford it. At first I just let it hang like that. Then about 48 hours later, I decided to be polite and I sent a note saying that I would keep his name and come calling when I had made some money at writing. He replied, asking what I could pay. I named the largest sum I could manage that I hoped wouldn't insult him (I was a stay-at-home mother at the time, out of the workforce for a decade—I was using my family’s savings—at the time this felt INCREDIBLY RISKY).

Miraculously, he agreed to that sum, and a few months later, I had the painting you see on the cover. The artist’s name is Stephan Martiniere. He has done covers for many SFF greats like Sanderson, Stross, Heinlein and many others. His career has been simply amazing. Shortly after FLUENCY came out, I got to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, which Martiniere had done concept art for. (I mean…WOW!!!!)


Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. I would never have presumed to ask him to do it, if I had known these details about him.

That was such a lucky break for me. Having great cover art is so important. People become enchanted by that first, and then read the blurb and reviews before deciding if they want to buy. So, that was pretty darn helpful.

As far as choosing what to depict on the cover—that’s interesting too. Because I never considered anything other than the ship I’d imagined in my head. I sent Martiniere the passage in chapter 1 that describes the ship and I told him the Providence could look something like SpaceX’s Dragon or the (at that time) defunct Orion capsule. He took that and went with it. There was no back and forth. He sent me a final and I squeed and bowed and chanted “I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.”

RA: Wow. That might just be my new favorite cover story of all time! Not gonna lie, your cover was the reason I clicked on your book (I know, I know, shallow), but I was drawn to the pretty purple spaceship. Now that I know there's a story behind it, I love it even more!

Another thing that really drew me to FLUENCY was your decision to use NASA instead of making something up. I felt it really grounded the book in our world, which did amazing things for the first contact aspects of the story. What made you decide to set the book in the realistic near future as opposed to something more fantastic?

JFW: When I set out to imagine the premise and outline of FLUENCY, I thought about the elements that personally appealed to me in the SF that I loved. Most of my favorite SF was not set in the far future, but set in contemporary times, happening to average people. That made the fish-out-of-water element that much more visceral and evoked a wonderful “it could be me” sense that I wanted to be a part of my own work. It grounds the story and also allowed me to jump right in without having to explain a how a culture and society were set up—I would leave that kind of development for the aliens I would use in the story.

RA: I also really liked your heroine, Dr. Jane Holloway. I can't think of another book I've read in any genre where a linguist took center stage. How did you decide on her profession? Do you perhaps have secret linguist origins? Also, will she go all Ellen Ripley on us in book 2? 

JFW: Dr. Jane Holloway is NOT Ripley. I love Ripley and what she did for women in popular media, but Jane is not ever going to be that kind of badass warrior. She will remain a clumsy intellectual that gets more and more adept, I think, but never ninja-like.

By the end of FLUENCY Jane was overwhelmed and withdrawing, trying to appear to be strong for her peers, but inside we could see through her interaction with Ei’Brai that she was very scared. You will continue to see that kind of inner truth and vulnerability from her as she struggles to cope with her new role.

And also, Jane is not ME. I’m much more like Alan Bergen, actually, in attitude and…erm…sailor-speak. :P

I don’t have secret linguistic origins. I studied biology, actually. But I do love language, especially Latin. And English. Duh. : )

There were several reasons why I chose to write about a linguist. One inspiration was Daniel Jackson of the Stargate franchise. I loved that character with an embarrassing level of fangirliness. I’d already written some Stargate fan fiction about another linguist I invented (so I already had linguists on the brain). Then, when I was in the earliest planning stages of FLUENCY, I heard a piece about Dr. Dan Everett on NPR. I was immediately intrigued by his story and googled him for more info.
I found this article in the New Yorker and read it over and over. It struck me like a blow to the head that I needed a linguist in my story. After all, how did we expect to be able to communicate with aliens? Everett was talking about first contact with remote tribes and I realized that what he was describing—a monolingual field situation--was very similar to what first contact with an alien race would be like.
Everett is one of those very gifted people who can learn languages easily. I’d heard of people like him before and they’d always intrigued me. (Especially after my own maladroit attempts at communicating in Spanish when I lived in Costa Rica during college.) It turns out they are very rare and many people do not believe they are real. Which seems silly. We hear of math and musical savants all the time. Why not a language savant?
I decided to take elements of Everett’s story and ascribe them to Jane. So, basically, the language superpower, the trip to the Amazon, and pulling a canoe upriver while stricken with malaria—those all actually happened to Everett. The rest was my imagination.

RA: I absolutely love that! The whole "how do you communicate with zero common ground" angle was one of my favorites of the book. Also, YAY for Stargate fans! I was always a Sam Carter/Jack shipper myself. (What can I say? I love a no-nonsense lady and her badass commander trying to be professionals while dealing with UST.)

Speaking of UST, as we are both ladies who write SF with romantic elements, let's talk about luuuuuv. Did you always plan to mix the softer feelings with your hard SF, or did it just sort of happen? Also, how have readers reacted to the mix? I know for my Devi books, it was a love or hate deal with almost no middle ground. Has this been the same for you?

JFW: First, let me say that, yes, I planned the romantic subplot in this novel from the beginning. It was always part of the plan from the earliest conception of the work.

Yes, Rachel, it has been the same for me. I don’t understand the controversy here. Nearly every major motion picture and television show, SF or not, contains romantic elements. People in all walks of life become attracted to each other, enamored of each other, all the freaking time…um…daily.

It’s a pretty major element of the human condition. Throughout history, so much of our art—poetry, paintings, music, has been devoted to exploring, understanding and celebrating attraction, lust, and love. CONNECTING with another human being, on a deep and spiritual level, loving that person, body and soul, is something nearly every human craves. Why, then, is it problematic in this particular genre?

I think a better question is this: why does most SF deny the existence of this natural aspect of human interaction? Or: Why is sex used in some SF as a commodity instead of as a connection? Or: Why is rape trivialized so much in fiction? Or: Why does a romantic subplot make a book “girly” and unworthy?

The answers to all of these questions lie in patriarchy, acculturation, entitlement, and hubris. I refuse to kowtow to these elements. Carol Shields said, “Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.” That’s all I did. I’ll learn all I can from criticism of my work, but this is one area where I will not bend.

*lifts the mighty hammer of feminism and hoists it to my back*
Next question. . .

100% AGREE!


(gathers her composure)

Ahem, let's move on to the inevitable shop talk. Can't be two writers talking without shop talk, can we? Now, as anyone who's cruised the genre lists on Amazon in the last month knows, FLUENCY is doing amazingly well! I'm betting it's a combination of your lovely cover, smart price, interesting blurb, and great opening pages followed by a good story. Other than those obvious beauties, though, can you tell us anything else about what you did to make FLUENCY such a break out hit? I mean, other than write a super awesome and unique SF book?

JFW: Well, I really think that my awesome Twitter following helped out. I’ve been following SF fans on Twitter for about three years now. Twitter is so much fun and I have started so many wonderful friendships there. The ability to find and connect with a very specific subset of people that share the same interests is the most amazing thing!

So, the day I announced that my book was up…well, tons of people bought it. Then the amazon algorithms took over and it got very visible. Amazon seems to favor new authors that are selling well. The Almighty Zon does like its unicorns.

I never expected any of this. It’s been a complete surprise and such a whirlwind. I feel very blessed to have done so well right out of the gate. I’m determined to keep my foot in the door and help as many SF writers through as I can. I answer questions daily across social media platforms about what I do, and how I’ve done this and I never hold back if I think I can help. I’m not in competition with anyone else. Readers read lots of books and if they like yours, they may like mine, and the next person’s as well. We are competing, not with each other, but with candy crush and flappy bird.

RA: Very true. I've had almost the same experience with Nice Dragons, though to a lesser degree. Congratulations again on your success! You deserve it. It's like I keep telling people: write a good book, give it a good cover and blurb, and good things will happen.

And while we're on the subject, let's talk publishing! We're always interested in the sausage making side of things here on Pretentious Title, so can you tell us a bit about how FLUENCY came to be? And on that same note, do you have any wise words for other SF authors who'd like to follow in your footsteps?

JFW: I initially planned to self-publish. When my local SF writing group read FLUENCY, a couple of members pulled me aside and told me that I would be selling myself short if I didn’t try traditional publishing. So, I decided to give it a try.

I did some Twitter pitch competitions, some blog contests and also submitted some queries. But the process was so demoralizing. Either I wasn’t even acknowledged as having submitted or FLUENCY was rejected (I bet some of those agents and presses are kicking themselves now!) and I just got fed up and decided to go forward with my original plan. That was the right decision for me.

It had taken a year to write the first draft of FLUENCY. I took another year to get some distance from my own prose and then to revise it. In the meantime I worked on another novel (now on hold for the moment—a superhero origin story called Druid). After I had completed all the revisions that I and my writing group thought the book needed, I hired a proofreader. Then I spent a month learning how to format and publish the book.

My wisest words for other writers:

Write every day.

Follow your gut and your own interests, not a trend.

Get lots of eyes on your work, but don’t ask for how to fix anything—ask for a reader’s reactions to it, in order to gauge if you’re getting the responses that you intended. Ask for feedback on things that were confusing, on sentences that tripped them up, on places where they felt strong feelings.

Be patient with yourself. Don’t race to publish or to submit queries. Relax. Let your work sit on a shelf for a while—as long as you can bear. Go back to it with fresh eyes and work to trim it, hone it, enhance it. I don’t subscribe to this idea that self-pubbed authors need to release a gazillion books to succeed. You need to release GOOD books to succeed. Produce the best you are capable of.

Join a serious writers group—down to earth (not pretentious) but with high standards. Hold yourself and others to high standards in the kindest and most encouraging way possible.

Read about your craft. My favorite book about writing is: Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

Keep writing. The more words you have under your belt, the better those words get.

If you decide to go indie: INVEST. Invest in your work by hiring good, professional support: cover artists, formatters and editors. It will make a world of difference in the quality you provide your readers. That matters.

RA: That is all excellent advice! Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time to come onto my blog. I am absolutely delighted to see more female authors in my favorite genre (Devi was getting a little lonely). I might cackle manically over your success every time I see someone implying that hard SF books, especially hard SF books written by women, "don't sell." We're all in this boat together, and I for one am delighted to have you aboard! I hope you continue to write great books for years to come.

I hope you all enjoyed the interview, and if you haven't already, don't forget to check out FLUENCY! I'll be back soon with more actual writing posts. Until then, I remain your terrible orange font user,