A Star Filled Sea: The Final Covers

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So I did this Kickstarter a year ago (holy crap, that’s a long time ago) for a novel projects called A Star Filled Sea and am now waiting on the final ebook/print version from Polgarus (they’re due to start the project today).

This is my first novel under my new byline and doesn’t it look snazzy? Scarlett did an amazing job (as always). This project has taken longer than I planned but it’s well worth it. I’m just looking forward to getting it done and dusted so I can focus on new stuff (and fulfil my obligations to my backers).

You can get look at the variant (not quite finished) paperback cover which uses a similar image but horizontal:

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Oh and, as a bonus, here’s Ben Adams’ interior art:

Ben Adams made me this for the novel.

I’m not yet sure on a release date but it won’t be long. I’m really looking forward to seeing the cover for this one and holding the print proofs. Next to The Parting of the Waters, this is my favourite cover so far. I’ll update you with more when I have it but for now, this feels like the homeward stretch and I’m glad to be nearly done. I want to move onto more projects, different things, and there is, of course, a trilogy of Josh and Chaya to work on.

Reconciling With Myself

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Betwixt and Between: Scarlett is updating the cover of A Star Filled Sea.

Scarlett, my awesome designer, is in the middle of updating the cover of A Star Filled Sea for me so I can get the final ebook and print versions to my ever-patient backers. I’m woefully behind but the edits on the manuscript won’t take too long, it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing them, then sending it off to Polgarus.

Except I’ve been trying to reconcile my past self with my new persona in the form of trying to decide if I need to update The Whispers in the Desert, The Changing of the Sun, The Parting of the Waters, Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea and republish them under my new name. I’ve decided not too for two reasons: it’s a bit of work (aka, right now, I cannot be arsed, though this may change) and I wasn’t Asha when I wrote them. Going forward, everything including the Ashteraiverse novels will be published under my new name beginning with Star. This includes any short stories I publish or sell, any other series I write and by the end of the year Asha Bardon will become my legal name (and I can’t wait!)

I’m not burying Lesley, I’m just not her anymore but mine is an interesting quandary. When I have the time, I may well update the novels to reflect a unified brand but at this point it doesn’t really matter (especially as I have a number of short stories up on Amazon under ‘Lesley Smith’).

The thing is she’s not quite done yet. Last year I had five manic episodes, at least three bouts of depression and don’t even get started on my Generalised Anxiety Disorder. But, thanks to upping my meds, for the first time this year I feel in control. I’m taking steps to sort out my debt (which is going to take me the better part of the year to clear) and I realise now I over-reached myself with the Kickstarters. My intentions were good, my planning and budgeting not so much.

The good news is A Star Filled Sea will be going to layout this week and then I can order proofs, order in BTSBTS and get everything shipped off, hopefully by the end of March. It shouldn’t cost me more than £500 at most (worst case scenaro) and I’ll be glad when it’s done, if only as fulfilling orders calms me. I know people will be getting their books and that I’ve done what I promised. At the same time I’m taking steps to deal with the financial consequences of promising people things without thinking about the physical costs or not budgeting with enough wiggle room.

I suppose, at least, I won’t do this again. I’m lucky in that I have a good credit score and still have options for, at the very least, not being saddled with interest on my credit card repayments. So, for now, I’m focusing on finishing thing,

Then … I don’t know. I want to do more Kickstarters but the stress aggrevates my condition. Part of me just wants to spend this year writing and go from there but, at the same time, I want to be productive and so stuff. I want to get more books into the world, though it seems Asha is more of a short story writer than Lesley ever was.

So, for now, at least I have things to focus on.

On Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Idea Generation Class

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So it’s Monday, I’ve spent the weekend rushing to get the last edits done on A Star Filled Sea and emailed off to my editor, somewhat delayed by my keyboard upping and dying on me again. Monday afternoon swings around and I’m actually thinking about a nap, then the image above pops up in my newsfeed.

Mary Robinette Kowal, one of my favourite authors and my even more favourite audiobook narrators, needed people to guinea pig a new class.

That night.

Hello there!

Doing one of Mary’s classes has been on my author bingo scorecard for a while but the classes either sell out too quickly or are out of my price range. This one was a sliding scale and a chance to a) learn and b) help her test out if the class worked. Oh and it’s not like I was doing anything else.

As I keep saying, I’m not a great short form writer and I was especially eager to see the class was about how you generate ideas for stories and then turn them from a budding idea into a proper planned outline. I’ve done short story classes before but they’ve always been general and haven’t ever really touched the nitty gritty of how a story is created.

So, short version, sold.

I admit I didn’t expect to get a ticket. They were gone within half and hour (I was 7 out of 8). The class was conducted over G+ and I learned a couple of new things, such as using Google Drive and how to put my name and gender pronouns (something Mary regards as justifiably important and it was refreshing to be asked, rather than assume everyone is cis; plus I got to have ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ as my tagline, appropriate as D insisted on coming to watch the class).

The class was based off of Orson Scott Card’s MICE quotient, something which rang bells (I have a first edition copy of his Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy on my bookshelf). That’s basically a way to classify stories as milieu (place stories), idea, character or event. You can also mix and match or add in a sub-plot thread but the important part is deciding what kind of story you’re going to write.

Half my problem is I’m a pantser when it comes to short stories, I never, ever plan them. They just spill out of my brain and onto the paper, which is half the problem. I have an idea, race through the text and then flounder or rush the ending. I think pre-planning a story from initial idea through to individual scenes might be especially beneficial as it will actually allow me to have a structure my stories usually lack.

Though initially advertised as a one day course, it actually ended up and needed to be two. We spent about five hours in class with homework and it was time well spent (even if it forced me to choose: writing or Zumba ? Guess which won?) I love how Mary uses her back ground in puppetry to explain things as the theatrical analogies worked especially well (I have a little theatre experience, which was enough to follow and much of it is common sense stuff).

I did have problems comprehending a couple of things, mainly due to my Asperger’s. I’m not great at thinking out of the box of my own brain or seeing things from certain angles. That said, Mary did make a point to come back to things and try different ways to explain as they came to her which made the second day’s class tremendously worthwhile.

I especially liked how she taught us to nest stories and the process of breaking a vague idea into scenes, then looking for the gaps and methodically filling them to create a story which would hold water, so tight were it’s seams.

Again, classes like this are an awesome networking opportunity and it was nice to see every other member seemed to have one or more cats (I believe this to be a requirement of the ‘So you want to be an author?’ contract). Mary herself is lovely and ever so patient; both of which are excellent qualities in a good teacher (especially if there’s an open Q and A at the end).

I had an idea I’ve been mulling over for a couple of days, inspired by an off-hand quote. That story, I think, needs to sit for a bit while the idea matures. However I also have this Lovecraftian story that I’m going to submit to my crit group, Draft Zero, next week and so my plan is to take what Mary taught me and rework what I have of “Washed Up Upon the Shore” and try to write it using MICE.

The one thing the class taught me is that it’s not just the effort you put into a story, it’s the process. Though sometimes tedious, Mary’s method can be applied to any form of writing, and it will serve you well if you want to construct that isn’t bloated by extra characters or scene and is tightly composed.

This is the first time I feel like I’ve done a class where the secrets of short story writing have actually been revealed in detail. Hell it’s not a new system and MICE is used by lots of writers, it just never occurred to me this was how everyone else does it, or should. Two days well spent, if you ask me, and I know this is going to set me in good stead for my future stories.