Meet Kelly Phillips, Indie Games Writer

sl28copyIt’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of indie games(you should see my Kickstarter collection–I actually had to ban myself from the site) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I am thrilled to introduce today’s guest, Kelly Phillips, who has written for a host of indie games and even run her own indie tabletop RPG studio with her husband. She’s been kind enough to share some great insights into the world of games writing and writing in general.

Please give Kelly Phillips a warm welcome.


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Have you started thinking about your goals for 2017?

2016 is rapidly coming to a close–a fact I’m sure many people are grateful for, since this year’s been a bit of a shit storm–and that means it’s time to sit down with ourselves and have a hefty dose of total(and potentially brutal) honesty. We need to take a look at what we’ve accomplished this year, where we stand in our careers and lives, and what we want to accomplish next year.

Now, it may seem a bit early to do this. After all, we still have almost all of December to meet even more of our goals, right?

Well, that’s true to an extent, but December is one of the most hectic months of the year. The holidays bring all kinds of responsibilities with them, and if you’re going to visit relatives out of town, you’re going to lose several days of writing time this month.

Often during our yearly planning we like to treat December like the other months of the year, planning for the same level of productivity, but when the holidays come around we find ourselves too exhausted to push forward in even the tiniest ways. No matter how you feel about your family or how much fun you have at the festivities, holidays are exhausting for everyone and our planning should take this into account. Spending time with our families and friends is just as important as achieving all our personal and professional goals. So is self care, especially if your holiday dinners tend to be fraught with drama.

In other words, you probably won’t be as productive as you expect this December. I’ve never hosted my family holiday dinners but I’ve also never had a December where I actually met all of my goals, largely because I work hard all year and my brain needs some time to recharge.

So this year I’ve only set myself two big writing goals for the month–one to finish a short(ish) story and submit it to an anthology, and the other is to work closely with my editor(s) and make Good Bye the best it can be before our release date.

Which means I’ve also already got a pretty good idea what I’m going to do next year. No, I haven’t written it all down yet because things might change, especially the timeline for editing Good Bye, but I’m thinking about it, and to be honest, I’m already looking forward to 2017.

Are you thinking about next year already? Are you still too entrenched in an ambitious December goal list to look past it? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

My first publishing contract — and what comes next

As I’m sure a great many of you are already aware, my first YA novella, Good Bye, has officially been contracted by The Book Smugglers Publishing and is set for a 2017 release, along with three other awesome novellas you can find out about here.

I’ve been working towards this moment for more than half my lifetime–the first draft of Good Bye was written roughly ten years ago–and I can’t begin to express how excited I am.

I am also incredibly busy. There are a million things to do when you’re planning a book launch. I’m lucky enough to have a publisher willing to put a significant amount of work into my release, but a massive portion of the work will fall to me. I’m the only one who can answer interview questions for me. There is a lot of content only I can produce related to the book and all of the backstory I’ve written for it.

More importantly, I need to do everything I can to make this book the successful launch of a long writing career. To that end I’m working on several short stories, two of which are already earmarked for submission to specific anthologies, and I’m also starting preparations to run a crowdfunding campaign for my first full length novel, Moonshadow’s Guardian.

What does this mean? Well, most of the Tuesday content here will now either be a) really short or b) a book review, because I’m burning my way through the TBR list pretty quickly these days(one coming next week). I’m planning to transition from doing email interviews to running a podcast sometime next year, and I have Much Much Bigger Plans we’ll talk about when they’re a little more rounded out.

In the meantime, thanks for reading! I hope you’ll stick around to see what comes next.

Crystal Collier shares the secrets to a successful blog tour–and a giveaway!

Welcome Crystal Collier here today to share her new book and some writing tips!

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?
 
BUY: Amazon | B&N

DIY Blog Tours

Thank you Dianna for having me here today!

So you’ve written a great book, it’s being published, and now you have to get the word out. You’ve heard about blog tours but don’t have the cash to pay for a service. What do you do?

Do it yourself.

Truth is, you’ll probably have more success with it if you do, and you’ll meet a bunch of new, wonderful people. I’ve run several successful tours with between 50 and 80 hosts, and learned the hard way what works, what doesn’t, and the best time frames. Lucky you, I’m going to share my recipe for success.

How to Organize a Blog Tour
Figuring Out the Details:
1.
WHEN: Research when book sales are highest for your genre and target it. Ex: I
write paranormal. September-November is my sweet spot.
2.
LENGTH: 
Marketing is LONG TERM, so pick a pace YOU can handle. Tours can run for:
      * Months (one to 3 features a week) 
      * Day after day for a week to a
month

      * 1 day as a blitz
3.
WHERE: If you’re a blogger, ask friends to host, but reach beyond your circle. 
Make a spreadsheet of potential hosts. Research sites with aspects from your books. Ex: I write about time travel, so I might approach a popular blog that
features historical trivia in one of my eras.
Querying Bloggers:
Click to enlarge
Put out a call through social media for hosts, BUT, for valuable internet realty, you will have to query. Create a succinct email including:
  • A direct subject line. (NAME OF BOOK: Blog Tour Request by AUTHOR NAME)
  • A personal greeting. Show that you’re familiar with the host. Blogging is all about connecting.
  • Introduce yourself. (Credentials and something memorable.)
  • Share your book image and details: tag, blurb, buy links, publisher, genre, length. These will show a potential host how professional you are.
  • Tour details: Dates & features available.
  • An incentive (gift card raffle for hosts—$5 is awesome, just a something to say “thank you.”)
  • End by telling them how awesome and appreciated they are.
Keeping Details Straight:
Create a sign up form via Google forms or web programming, and export it to a spreadsheet where you can keep track of ALL THE DETAILS.
 
The Tour
Give yourself more than enough time to prepare features. Plan the tour 3 to 5 months in
advance, and query no later than 2 months ahead of time.
DO NOT PREPARE THE EXACT SAME FEATURE for every host. (Unless it’s a one-day blitz.) People will follow your entire tour if the content is new and exciting. Create a media kit and make it available to all hosts.
Feature Suggestions: Think beyond these ideas. Invent things that go with your theme.
  • Interviews: Attention spans are short. Limit the number of questions interviewers may ask. (3 to 5 is plenty.) You might even send them a list of potential questions.
  • Introduce Characters: This may be done through character interviews, a casting post, graphics, and quotes, etc. (For my current tour, I have a character doppelganger quiz. Who is YOUR MOT Twin?)
  • Reviews. Query early. (3 to 4 months is optimal. 2 is cutting it close.) Follow up. People you know are most likely to say yes. Ask reviewers to post their reviews after the tour if they would rate the book less than 3 stars, and be ready to provide a feature in place of the review.
  • Guest Posts. KEEP THESE RELEVANT TO YOUR BOOK. Every post needs to hook people on your story. A “story hook” illustrated in gifs is an example of a highly effective idea. Expert posts are also epic. (Using examples from your books to hook readers.)
  • Author Reading. A virtual reading (best with a live audience) via Youtube or in a podcast.
    (Keep these short—excerpt length.)
  • Promotional Spotlight. Book cover, summary, author picture, bio, excerpt, and buy links. These are widely accepted and loved by book bloggers. Excerpts sell books. Keep them short: no more than 500 words and preferably less than 300 (or a single page of
    print). Before each tour, find potential excerpts and ask friends to choose their favorites.
  • Games. A Truth or Lie game, online scavenger hunt, a quiz, choose your own adventure, a book excerpt where the story continues in a chain of blogs, trivia. Make it simple AND easy to share.
Giveaways:
Amazon giveaways are instantaneous, but limited. And expensive. Rafflecopter has a free option. If you use this, post an image of your prizes ABOVE the widget. (And be sure all hosts receive the code & image.) Assign as many points as possible to incite mob mentality. (The higher the number of entries, the more people will enter. What can I say? We’re lemmings.) Invite authors in your genre to contribute prizes & share. Word of warning: buyers may hold off on purchasing your book if it’s being offered in the giveaway. It maybe be better to offer swag or backlist titles. Advertise on sites like these about your giveaway. (For free.)
Communication:
It is easiest to format your posts in Blogger or WordPress, then copy the html and send it to your hosts. This way all images, links, etc. are already in the post. Some hosts will request the text and images be sent separately. Make sure to send posts NO LATER than a week in advance. Two or three weeks is better.
 
Each morning of the tour, send emails to the hosts for the following day—to thank and remind them. Some will still fall through. That’s okay. Move on. Use YOUR social media to promote ALL posts. Thanking hosts is a tactful way to do this.
In the end, a successful tour comes down to planning and execution, but remember, marketing is most effective if everyone is having fun. Make it enjoyable—for you, your hosts, and your readers.
What are some blog tour features you’ve seen that were particularly neat?

 

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.

Find her and her books online HERE.

(Email address is required for awarding prizes.)


What Canadians must learn from the American election

flag_of_canada-svgDear Canadian Friends,

We must remember that our country is only slightly less bigoted than America(it seems dramatic, especially if you live in the GTA which is way less bigoted than small town Canada, but the level of hate is the same; people here just tend to be more moderate about how they show it) and that in a couple of years, we risk going back to being a conservative nation.

In the past three days I’ve seen half a dozen articles calling for progressive Americans to come together and stand against the new fascist regime(I can call Trump a fascist, right? Right). I’ve read at least thirty social media posts saying the same thing: now is the time to band together, to create the ultimate mass movement, to put the pressure on the Republicans and let them know Americans want to keep the rights they’ve won.

Today I’d like to make my own rallying cry, but not for Americans. Fellow Canadians, this message is for you.

We have a lot to learn from this election. Canada may still be living in the shadow of the Harper government’s mistakes, but it’s easy to believe we’ll never go back there. The truth is we will always be at risk. Conservatism won’t go away. There will always be rich white folks whose only real concern is staying rich and white.

Even more importantly, we are at risk of becoming complacent. It is all too easy to believe we have made all the progress we need to–especially when we’re watching something as foul as the most recent American election, which makes our politicians look like sweet kittens–and to stop fighting for better lives, especially if you’ve managed to stay in the middle class throughout the economic turmoil of the past few years.

But this is the time when it is most important for us to fight. We must put pressure on our government to come through on the promises they made to us. Most importantly, now more than ever we must raise our voices for electoral reform. If there’s one thing I hope Canada has learned from this election, it is the possibility of a similar election here. No, we don’t have the electoral college(that’s a different rant for a different day), but we do have a broken First Past the Post system, which led to more years of Harper than anyone wanted and made everyone so afraid that they didn’t even consider voting NDP. We will never have a true three party system until we get rid of First Past the Post.

There are many other things we need to pressure our government into doing–like improving living conditions on reserves and legislating affordable childcare–but I believe that electoral reform is the most important. Why? Because without it, we’re far too likely to end up with a government that will destroy all the progress the Liberals have made. Without it, we will keep bouncing back between the Conservative Party and the Liberals, making baby steps forwards and then backwards, never getting anywhere.

Please, please help ensure that we don’t end up walking down the same dark path America has taken. I know most of you don’t have a lot of time or money to give to a cause of any kind, but even a few dollars or a single day of volunteering can make a huge difference.

Take a moment to go to Lead Now, a non-profit actively pushing for voter reform, and use their system to send a message to our government. Share the Lead Now website–or this article–with all your Canadian friends. Pledge a few dollars to the fight for proportional representation. Do whatever small thing you can, but make sure you do something.

If we do not come together to stand up for our rights and our country, the rich and the powerful WILL take it away.

We can stop it, and we must.

Please join me on the quest for a better country,
~Dianna

Book Review: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

goldenhand_garthnix_epicreadsOn October first one of my favourite authors, Garth Nix, released a new novel in his Old Kingdom series, Goldenhand. Now, I already knew I was going to love this book. I reread the Old Kingdom series last year and read Clariel for the first time while I was in the UK(where I somehow managed to pick up an autographed copy of Abhorsen, but that’s a tale for another day), and I was stunned by how much I still loved the series.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough about the series–today I’m going to tell you about Goldenhand, starting with the blurb:

Goldenhand takes place six months after the events of Abhorsen and follows the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, which is featured in Across the Wall.

Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic. On a dangerous journey, Lirael returns to her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier, where she was once a Second Assistant Librarian. There, a young woman from the distant North brings her a message from her long-dead mother, Arielle. It is a warning about the Witch with No Face. But who is the Witch, and what is she planning? Lirael must use her new powers to save the Old Kingdom from this great danger—and it must be forestalled not only in the living world but also in the cold, remorseless river of Death.

My Review

The moment I started this book I was immediately thrown back into one of the first fantasy worlds I truly fell in love with, and in Goldenhand you have the opportunity to delve even further into that world than ever before. Garth Nix has clearly spent a lot of time developing this world and it shows in every painstaking detail. The magic system of the Old Kingdom is one of the most fascinating and well developed I’ve read, especially in YA fantasy, and I learned a lot more about it in this book, which was both enjoyable and inspiring. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I had to put this book down to take notes on ideas I had for my own worlds and stories.

Another thing I’ve always loved about the Old Kingdom series is the variety of strong female characters, and Goldenhand is no different. Lirael–protagonist of the first two books–is once again a main character. She’s obviously grown a lot since the beginning of the second book(conveniently titled Lirael) and even a fair bit since the end of Abhorsen, which is awesome because too many characters seem to remain static no matter how much time passes between two books.

Goldenhand also features Ferin, who is a total badass from a part of the world that has only been mentioned in passing throughout the other books: the lands north of the Old Kingdom. She may well be my new favourite (human)character, although it’s a hard choice for me.

I’m not going to put any spoilers in this post, but I will say Goldenhand has one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in years. It is absolutely perfect for the book.

When I post this review on Amazon I will definitely be giving Goldenhand a 5 star review.

Buy your copy of Goldenhand today!

 

Author Interview: Padraig O’C of DasWyrd Press

threefoldseervol1 Today’s author is currently running a Kickstarter for his DasWyrd Press, an indie publishing house committed to producing excellent diverse books(and maybe eventually diverse games, but you can learn more about that from Padraig). Please give him a warm welcome and don’t forget to check out his campaign!

Can you tell us a bit about your overall vision for DasWyrd Press?

Right now, the primary focus for DasWyrd Press is really just getting our first and then our second novel out. I would like to eventually work out an ongoing publishing schedule of yearly releases. Eventually we would like to expand a bit further than we are to up to two books a year and even more.

We’d like our big space opera to get released as an RP forum and see it coming out as an RPG for tabletop down the line.

What about the first two DasWyrd Press books?

Well, we are only going to be publishing one novel this year, it comes on the 16th of next month! That novel is Threefold Seer Volume 1: Those Apart. The second novel which is just a draft, is currently free on our website under the fiction tab. We would like to see that hopefully reach full publication sometime next year or in 2018 pending our current resources.

That sounds awesome! Can you talk a little more about the storylines of the books you’ve drafted so far?

ThreeFold Seer Volume 1 is kind of the pivotal novel in a longer series. Its set in a world is evenly split between the mortal and the divine. Powerful Goddesses have long dealt with the problems of their own children, and are watching as Mortals war amongst themselves. Seventy years prior to the novels start, an Immortal Witch named Ifsii slew the Six Seers in succession. Afterward her actions brought in an age of ever increasing cult fanaticism and fascism across the world. This is where the novel takes place. The ThreeFold books in general will primarily deal and focus on the various Seers and their place in the world.

Some are trans,s ome are simply queer, and others are biracial and face issues of identity. Most of my books in general are focused on personal experience and separating oneself from the external designations placed upon us.

The Nyla Clarkson novels which are hopefully going to see their day in publication are about Faeries and a young Changeling who does work for them. In both cases these novels themselves are all connected to a greater metaverse known as the Oak Cross.

Did you intentionally set out to write diverse novels or is that just the way it happened?

When I first started writing I usually always wrote from a female perspective, and I just had a greater connection to what I once considered the opposite gender. Over time I started writing more and more diverse characters. My Amazon novels feature people from parts of Greece, Africa, Turkey and across Central Asia. I like to write about people who have different experiences, and I I like to learn about other perspectives in this world.

Its’ why I’m an anthropologist.

Truth is I’m a quirk person at heart. I like stories that are different, interesting, and have something that sets them apart from the others. I also like stories that are just something I can relate too. Growing up as a geek and later coming out as Genderqueer has really often put me in a place of always feeling as the odd person out. So that has become a driving force in my writing in general.

Why did you decide to crowdfund DasWyrd Press?

Honestly, because right now my funds are limited and I’ve invested a lot into the books as is. To purchase the amount of books we would need for the print-run would be more out of pocket. All of our work so far has been paid straight out of pocket by myself and members of the DasWyrd Staff. The Crowdfunding project gives us a boost in PR; lets us see who wants the book; and also lets us get a large goal down without investing much more need income into the company which is still not making a profit.

How long have you been working on DasWyrd Press?

The initial name and idea dates back well into 2010 when I was originally working out the idea for a lengthy RPG design. I was on the phone with a friend and started discussing the unification of years of random forum RPG unvierses into a singular one. We were going to do a comic and sadly that idea never got off the ground. But from those notes I started working out what would later become the Nyla Clarks novels. The other ideas were created from an old RPG I ran called Altear which eventually gave birth to the current staff team for DasWyrd.

What advice would you give to other writers who want to write about other cultures and LGBTQ+ characters? Are there any specific resources you can recommend for research?

First, research, research, research! Take the time to learn about the subject you want to write about, and then if you can reach out to people and just absorb from them. When it comes to other cultures, I usually do several hours of research and often then spend hours just thinking something over. When I write in the theme or in the spirit of something I do my best to understand it. For example, Irish Mythology and Celtic Folklore often paints the Faeries as mischevious, as hard to understand, and as aloof. All of my Fae characters thus take on these traits and often seem strange to human eyes.

In ThreeFold Seer I have elements of so many cultures it would take me a while to name them all. The point of ThreeFold Seer however was to mirror primary cultural traits and themes found across the Oceanic Rim. In many Southeast Asian societies there is a divide between Upland and Lowland populations. Societies were also heavily casted in some areas especially in Hawaii where rulers hid their tombs to prevent people from stealing their mana. These kinds of things I subtlely weave throughout the worlds to pay homage to the sources, but I retain my own touch on them. In both cases I don’t claim ownership of the notion of Mana in Hawaii or in other Polynesian cultures, but I take that idea and I let it permeate my writing.

For LGBTIA the best thing to do is to make a person, sounds strange right? A lot of time when I read nascent writers working with LGBT they focus on a particular “quirk” of that experience. For trans their story often is focused on “passing” and the “transition”. For lesbians and gays its often the affair of love with another. There is nothing wrong with having characters who proudly define themselves by their gender expression or sexual orientation, but a lot times people only use that. They ignore the fact that we are writing stories about -people-. Queer people just want to be humanized and so really when I created characters like Sik’anzi from ThreeFold or Nyla, I wanted to just tell a story from that perspective.

The last thing I would say is don’t just talk to people, and do not just research be ready to revise and reconsider. If you are not a member of a community you are taking something from them when you write about them. Give them credit, and be ready to deal with backlash if people do not like your interpretations. That being said I encourage artists to branch out and explore new experiences and to increase the diversity and representation of their work to give voice to more identities in this world.

If you could sit down to lunch with any one author, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Wow that is a hefty question. Honestly, I would love to sit down and have lunch with Ursula LeGuin. I mean I am a Tolkien lover like any other, but when it comes to direction of writing I look to LeGuin the most. I still need to read Left Hand of Darkness, but her books on Earthsea have driven my writing for years. The idea of a world that is not only filled with diverse peoples, but where one actively deconstructs fantasy norms. Not to mention she is a giant of the writing world, and is just a nice person in general!

Interesting choice; I have to be honest, I haven’t read much of her work but I know a lot about her life. Anyway, on to the final question: what are your immediate next steps after the Kickstarter campaign is over?

If the Kickstarter does well then we need to move forward and make sure we can print the books. Right now we’re waiting on a final few factors to allow us to do that. If our goal is not we plan on doing a more limited campaign a week after. There is also plans to finish up the next ThreeFold novel draft as well as pushing forward on Land in the Stars our big space opera project.

Sounds like you are already well on your way to creating an awesome publishing company. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Hey readers! Want to support DasWyrd Press? Don’t forget to stop by their Kickstarter campaign!

The Dabbler’s New Direction

a-change-is-as-good-as-a-restRemember a couple weeks ago when I put up a survey asking what direction The Dabbler should take? Well, you have spoken, and I’ll admit I was mildly surprised(in a happy, bubbly kind of way) when I got your answer: most of you want to see more of my fiction, both excerpts of my novels and short fiction.

Of course, I can only write so quickly, which means I can only post so much fiction. And since the other thing most of you wanted to see was book reviews, I’ve come up with a schedule:

 

  • First Monday of the month: Book review!
  • Second Monday of the month: Short fiction and/or excerpt
  • Third Monday of the month: Book review!
  • Fourth Monday of the month: Writing & reading goals for the month — what I accomplished & what’s next

This schedule will begin at the end of this month(I am doing a book review next week but I have a guest post scheduled for the 15th). Interviews will continue to be posted on Fridays every week.

Does this mean that I’m opening up the blog to review requests?

Not exactly. I’ve already got a pretty long list of books I’ve promised to review on my blog, and new books are coming out all the time. Next year in particular several authors I used to work with at Musa will be publishing new books or republishing old ones and I’d like to feature their work because I already know it’s fantastic. So I don’t want to open the floodgates to review requests from just anybody.

That said, I’m still taking interview requests, and if you’re interested in doing an interview you can request a review as well. I may or may not agree to review your work as well based on your blurb, but even if it’s not really my sort of story I will probably at least do an interview.

Why am I switching to Mondays?

I’ve been thinking about changing up the schedule on my blog for a while, both to give it more structure and to see if a different schedule brings more engagement. Posting on Mondays and Fridays allows me to more easily spread my social media posts throughout the work week. It also gives me a chance to participate in the #MondayBlogs hashtag, one of the most prominent hashtags for bloggers. I honestly don’t know how switching to Mondays will change my schedule, but I’d like to find out–so I’ll be posting on Mondays for the next six months and tracking my metrics.

Are there any other big changes coming?

I’m glad you asked! There are a couple super secret projects currently in the works, but what I can tell you is that I’m also going to give my newsletter more structure–and I’m also in the middle of outlining a short story subscribers will get for free. Starting this month I’m going to send my newsletter out on the last Friday of every month. Newsletters will contain publishing news, links to my best blog posts from the month, and a sneak peak at the story and/or excerpt I’m working on for the next month.

Want to keep up with everything happening at The Dabbler? Sign up for my newsletter here.

Author Spotlight: Leanna Renee Heiber

eterna-and-omega-coverLeanna Renee Heiber has earned a BFA in Theatre Performance, become a certified Actor-Combatant in knife and hand-to-hand fighting, created amazing jewelry and other artwork, and written several novels–but the Eterna Files is her first series to incorporate major LGBTQ+ characters. Today she’s here to share how the Eterna Files came to be and why she finally felt comfortable writing a truly inclusive novel.

Please give her a warm welcome.

 

 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Eterna and Omega?

I write Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy. Gaslamp Fantasy is the industry term for Victorian-set fantasy novels, and I’ve been holding down my place in this niche genre since 2009 when my debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker came onto the scene, which has since been reissued by my publisher, Tor Books, as Strangely Beautiful in a two-volume edition of the first two books in the series. I have now ten books in this Gothic, Victorian fantasy vein, all my worlds are parallel worlds, one doesn’t have to have read one series to pick up another, but I do hope crossover characters will appear enjoyably familiar.

My Eterna Files books are a fully Gothic sort of X-Files meets Penny Dreadful (with a better outcome for my female characters) kind of series, a very cross-genre series that will appeal to fans of mystery, historical fiction, paranormal fiction, suspense and thriller, with elements of horror and noir.

From the back cover:

In New York City, fearing the dangers of the Eterna Compound–supposedly the key to immortality–Clara Templeton buries information vital to its creation. The ghost of her clandestine lover is desperate to tell her she is wrong, but though she is a clairvoyant, she cannot hear him.

In London, Harold Spire plans to send his team of assassins, magicians, mediums, and other rogue talents to New York City, in an attempt to obtain Eterna for Her Royal Majesty, Queen Victoria. He stays behind to help Scotland Yard track down a network of body snatchers and occultists, but he’ll miss his second-in-command, Rose Everhart, whose gentle exterior masks a steel spine.

Rose’s skepticism about the supernatural has been shattered since she joined Spire’s Omega Branch. Meeting Clara is like looking into a strange mirror: both women are orphans, each is concealing a paranormal ability, and each has a powerful and attractive guardian who has secrets of his own.

The hidden occult power that menaces both England and America continues to grow. Far from being dangerous, Eterna may hold the key to humanity’s salvation.

2. What part of the story came to you first?

Characters. Always characters first and everything else later. I’ve been drawn to the 1800s ever since I was a child (can’t explain it other than perhaps a past-life connection and kinship), and I followed that interest in my schooling, gaining a BFA in theatre performance with a focus study in the Victorian Era and then in various jobs as a primarily classical and 19th century period actress, tour-guide and genre presenter. Beyond a Victorian setting as my usual wheelhouse, everything else leads with character, likely due to my theatrical training, which is inextricable in how I think about storytelling. It’s always from character point of view. Because the 19th century was such a complex, fascinating, repressive, innovative, brutal, grand, gritty hypocritical and harrowingly difficult time period for women and anyone outside of a very narrow window of people in power and influence, the era as a character study has proven endlessly fascinating to me.

3. How much planning did you do before starting the first novel?

A lot of brainstorming and note-taking, some research and a lot of daydreaming about where I wanted the threads of my other series to come together in this series. Eterna as a series is really a fruition of a lot of what I’ve worked towards my whole career thus far. It’s ambitious, with a huge cast of characters and a broad paranormal scope. I’m a total “pantser”, freeform and spur-of-the-moment, so while I turned an outline into my editor at Tor, when I turned in the full book, it looked very little like it. Once I’ve begun a series, the rest of the series falls in a bit more codified of a line, but starting out is always wild wilderness and wandering through it to find the story is both exciting and terrifying.

4. Did you actively decide to make your characters queer or is that just how the story developed?

It was a mixture of both. In my first books, due to the industry at the time and various in-house demands, I didn’t feel I had the place or freedom to include expressly LGBTQ+ characters, although there are plenty of characters that don’t have specific designations that might fall into those categories, however I wasn’t able to put it directly and expressly on the page until the Eterna Files series. Inclusion is very important to me, and I didn’t want another series to go by without being direct about LGBTQ+ inclusion, so it was important that my Eterna Files books take that specific step.

My world and friendship circles are very diverse and LGBTQ+ rich, and I want my books to reflect my world, especially because so many diverse narratives are actively erased or excluded from historical narratives.

Because so many of my characters are people struggling to find their way in the world from various pathways outside traditional cisgendered heterosexual white male patriarchy, a certain diversity is realistic and organic, and the way everyone interacts with the power structure, whether they are within it or outside of it, comes from a specific, character based reality.

I also make sure to ground a lot of my power structure in historically progressive circles; Quakers, abolitionists, feminists, suffragists and activists. The act of acceptance and inclusion is a banner my characters are passionate about standing behind, and would have been historically, that isn’t my trying to place something modern onto a past as though I know better, the kinds of people I write about existed and paved the way for all our modern rights and inclusions. The maddening part of writing about historical struggles for rights, equality and representation is that we’re still fighting many of the same battles today, violently and exhaustingly. The parallels are staggering.

But I don’t center the Eterna Files series narrative solely around these issues, I’m writing a supernatural suspense series, the rest folds in around the action and adventure.

5. Can you recommend any good research resources for other writers who want to bring LGBTQ+ characters into their historical fiction?

Queer stories exist throughout history, hardly a modern phenomena, but how they would have spoken about their lives and identities are sometimes very different from our modern dialogue, so first, I recommend understanding the vernacular of a particular era of interest when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues and seeing where those kinds of words might lead, with an understanding that there is a long and difficult history of violence, secrecy and repression and erasure in many of those narratives.

More than nearly any other resource, theatrical plays have had a profound effect on me and broadened my understanding of LGBTQ+ narratives and echoes through history. Some of the scripts and performances that stand out to me as particularly striking were M Butterfly, Gross Indencency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and Boston Marriage. These plays affected me profoundly and I sought out research material and further reading via those playwrights and their suggested reading materials. But the first of those, for the most part, are tragic tales.

What’s so difficult about LGBTQ+ research and narratives is that rights and basic humanity have always been under attack. That’s why it’s so important in our modern era to break out of that rut and showcase more victories, surviving stories of love and triumph.

Historical writers tend to gravitate towards an era. Find your era, find an aspect of history that you’re particularly drawn to, then just start hunting down names of actual historical people who were queer or may have been so, hidden in life or no, the narratives are there, and that, much like the plays that affected me, will lead to a lot of further reading by following those trails.

6. How would you like to see representation of LGBTQ+ characters change in the next five years?

Due to the restrictions and indeed laws of the Victorian era, my Eterna Files and Eterna and Omega characters cannot be “out” beyond their close circle of friends. Some are more vocal about it than others, but everyone is ‘careful’. Yet I try not to confuse careful, due to their time period, with ashamed, tortured or lesser as characters. I do not pretend or flaunt the restrictions of the era, they are very much a part of what keeps the tension, conflict and drive going in my stories. Outside of the era, I want to see healthy depictions, people who are not at war with themselves even if society is at war with them. Paths towards purpose, self-assurance, freedom and chosen family are at the core of what I want for my characters and those I read.

So much of what I’ve seen throughout my life in LGBTQ+ representation in historical fiction has been tragic in nature or relative to crime or predation. Baiting and tragedy for tragedy’s sake has grown so tiresome, as if characters are doomed if they identify as LGBTQ+, or are constantly “othered” or fetishized. Tragedy can be earned, if it makes sense for the character and the arc, fine, but not solely because of identity or due to unexamined stereotypes and tropes. Just because other time periods, including our own, have lots of restrictions and fights for rights doesn’t mean that everything has to be solely a struggle. I also don’t want sexual or gender identity to be the only defining factor in my characters’ lives. It’s not always the most important thing said or referenced, it’s a part of their life as any other character trait would be, and I like when I see holistic, well-rounded characters across the board.

7. What are some of your favourite current books about LGBTQ+ characters?

Goodness there is so much good stuff out there now and on the horizon. Heartening, innovative, fresh, real narratives. Look to the Young Adult market, that’s where you’re going to find a rising tide of new content that deals with some of the issues I’ve addressed here. Follow YA authors, the Own Voices movement and the We Need Diverse Books movement. Saundra Mitchell, a great YA author (I really love her Vespertine series) has been very vocal just recently not only about LGBTQ+ inclusion but also about how reviewers should responsibly handle LGBTQ+ content and that’s gotten a vital dialogue going that’s been important to follow.

8. What advice would you give to straight writers trying to write about LGBTQ+ characters?

As a straight, white, cisgendered writer, I speak only from personal experience about my own journey. More than anything else. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen.

If you don’t have LGBTQ+ people in your life already, expand your horizons and make new friends. It isn’t their job to educate you, so don’t expect that, but you’ll learn so much just by listening to their experiences, by living life alongside them as an active participant and friend. Talk about the difficult issues if they are willing to, and confront your own biases, discomforts, phobias, preconceived notions and ignorance. Apologize if you misgender someone or make a problematic generalization. Try to do better, and if you’re earnest and genuine, you will have a much broader understanding of humanity in general. There’s nothing better for a writer than constant exercises in empathy and understanding.

LGBTQ+ folks make up many of my closest friends and family. I listen to them as best I know how. Some are willing to serve as sensitivity readers. I make sure my agent and editor are always willing to press me on anything, as both have a keen eye for inclusion and positive representation. Of all social media, I am most active on Twitter. That can be a very toxic space if not curated and protected but I find it’s been a very good place to read and listen to the day to day accounts of people (I follow writers, publishing industry resources and artists) living other experiences than mine and being willing to discuss the complexities of life. The ability to listen helps then in turn when you spend time with your characters and they tell you who they are, fully, wholly, in every dimension. The more listening, the broader the experience of life, art and the heart.

9. If you could give an aspiring author any one piece of advice what would it be?

The business is brutal. It’s full of ups and downs and constant worry and stress. There is no silver bullet to success, and everyone’s definition of success is just as unique as everyone’s path to publication. No two people will have the same story or the same trajectory. Focus on your own.

Enjoy the process. Find characters, a setting, and a plot that creates within you an endless desire to tell their story. Find something you can obsess over. Fair-weather interest won’t get anything done. Only a certain amount of obsession and willingness to edit and hone a story into a finer tuned instrument can make a hobbyist into a professional.

Your desire to have that story out in the world has to be so much stronger, so much louder, than your fear of what will happen to it. The fire of creativity and the discipline to put words to paper has to burn hotter than the bonfires of anxiety.

And be nice. Toxicity will get you nowhere. Being nice wins in the long run, because it’s a long, long process and you’re not the only one in the race. Pace yourself, take care of yourself and your loved ones. Artists are all in this together, so value yourself, your art, and the art of others.

And listen.

 

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

Many books all at once! By Christmas I’ll have a reissue of “A Christmas Carroll”, a Strangely Beautiful novella and I’m presently drafting the fourth and final book in my Strangely Beautiful saga. Perilous Prophecy, a Strangely Beautiful prequel (which you can preorder at Barnes & Noble now!) comes out June 20th. The first two books in that series are included in the single omnibus edition titled Strangely Beautiful. The next Eterna Files book, working title The Eterna Solution, will release next fall.

I have free reads, writers’ resources, a mailing list and links to my other work such as my Etsy store of unique jewelry, art and more on my website: http://leannareneehieber.com and I’m active on Twitter at http://twitter.com/leannarenee and FB at http://facebook.com/lrhieber so please join me there!

Thanks so much for your time and attention, and as I always say, being a writer of ghostly tales, take care and happy haunting!

Purchase your copy of Eterna and Omega today!

Author Bio

eterna-and-omega-cover

lrh-author-photo1Actress, playwright, artist and award-winning, bestselling author Leanna Renee Hieber has written ten Gaslamp Fantasy novels. These Gothic Victorian Paranormal sagas are set in 1880s New York City and London and appeal to adult and teen audiences alike. Her Strangely Beautiful saga hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists, garnered numerous genre awards, and has reissued in a special edition from Tor. Her new Gaslamp Fantasy trilogy, The Eterna Files, an X-Files meets Penny Dreadful kind of series, is now available from Tor. She has been featured in numerous notable anthologies and her books have been translated into many languages. A proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she’s been featured in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire and leads ghost tours through Manhattan with Boroughs of the Dead. Active on Twitter @LeannaRenee and FB http://facebook.com/lrhieber, more about her work as well as free reads and writing resources can be found at http://leannareneehieber.com

Don’t forget self care during Nanowrimo

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200This will actually be my second year in a row not participating in Nanowrimo–I’ll be busily editing some of the novels I wrote in the 10 Nanos before that–but I know there are close to half a million writers around the world preparing for their own attempts. Many have cleared their schedules, stocked up on snacks and caffeinated beverages, and done extensive writing exercises to prepare for the month ahead. You may even be one of them.

One thing you probably haven’t thought about much is self care. It’s something we tend to forget at the best of times, so why make time for it during what may well be the biggest creative challenge of your life?

Well, let me answer a question with a better question: have you heard of post-Nanowrimo blues? It’s a gloomy, hazy feeling many participants get for one to three weeks after November ends, created partially by the sudden lack of activity on the Nanowrimo boards and partially by creative burnout caused by reaching the end of the marathon.

Different people experience this feeling for different amounts of time and to varying extents, but the experience is so common that there are endless threads about it every year in the Life After Nanowrimo forum.

This foggy, unproductive two or three weeks may be fine for someone who has no intentions of building a full writing career, but if you want to do this writing thing for a living it’s an incredibly long time to be away from your work. You’re already struggling to keep writing time in your daily schedule, you need to do everything in your power to make sure you’re inspired when the time actually comes.

You may not be able to completely prevent creative burnout but you can dramatically reduce the risk of creative burnout by making time for self care. Even an extra twenty minutes of stretching, meditation, reading, or anything else that calms you down can make a huge difference in your mental outlook for the day.

Self care should be scheduled into your daily routine, even in months when you’re taking on a big challenge like Nanowrimo. Cherish it as much as you do your writing time, because when the mental haze settles in you’ll find yourself staring at a blank page for an hour instead of doing your daily writing.

So this Nanowrimo, promise yourself two things: that you will put all of your creative energy into your novel for the month of November, and that you will still make time to relax.

Do you regularly write self care into your schedule? What do you do for self care? Let me know in the comments section below!