Promises and Readers

© Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (aka @Snarkbat)

I did a class with Seanan McGuire and Cat Rambo (I’m a long-time member of the Rambo Academy of Wayward Writers) last week which left me thinking.

I want to make a promise to my readers: I’m working on a series and I want to finish it. I’m trying to flesh out how many books we’re looking at (I’m thinking five plus short stories). Also, I seem to be writing from the end first, rather than the beginning.

But I want to make a promise to you. To all of you. I am writing and I will finish this series.

We will get there.

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When Does Evolution Become Transformation: “Washed Up Upon the Shore” to “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”

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I’m not sure when Story A (in this case “Washed Up Upon the Shore”) becomes Story B (what I’m currently calling “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”). The tenses changed from second person past to first person present and, while it’s at its core a milleu story about a priest on a quest to save a child, the story doesn’t feel the same anymore. Now into its sixth iteration, there are new scenes and a completely different journey towards a similar ending.

So where do you draw the line? Is Story A just a proto-evolved version of Story B? More importantly when does a story become so transformed that you can submit it to a market as a totally different entity to an earlier, imperfect draft?

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I have no idea. I suppose the good thing is I only submitted “Washed Up” to two markets. I’m revising it now because I want to submit it to a specific place which happens to be open. I can feel that itch in my fingers as I think about how the story needs to go. How I should have planned it. I can still do that, of course, and I have a mental map in my head. I also know where this needs to go, the marked out scenes and the comments from my crit group that the story needs to be darker.

But I’m left wondering, when does A become B and perhaps there isn’t an answer.

But that’s okay.

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Giving Patreon a Second Chance

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I wanted a chance to really interact with my small but growing fanbase. I also wanted a place to put random short stories, pieces of short fiction and detail my novel writing process. I’m about, once my mood lifts, to start The Fractured Era and The Broken World, the Atridia Duology. I’m not normally a fan of paywalls but I also want to try a longer term form of crowdfunding, with videos and all the secrets of how I write.

Even a dollar helps so please do check out my Patreon page now. Pledges go out on the first day of the month but I’m asking for monthly amounts so a single pledge will get you a lot of content, plus having people who want to read my stuff, it keeps me motivated. Right now that can only be a good thing.

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Re-Telling and Re-Taleing with @CatRambo and @RachelSwirsky

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Every time I sell a story (in this case “One Quiet Night” in Volume 2 of Mosaics), I like to use the money to do something which will help me as a writer. This normally means taking a class that I think will help me, either from a networking perspective, a skills one or just because it’s something I want to do.

There were eight of us, plus Cat and Rachel which really pushed G+ to its limits. Bandwidth issues aside though, it was a fun two hours. I’m a mythology nerd of the highest order and this was an excuse to start thinking about stories I’d like to retell and the ways in which to do them. I’ve been a fan of Rachel’s since reading her story “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” and loved her recent story in Uncanny, she’s also known for her reworkings of stories and fairy tales.

I always enjoy classes like this, coming out with at least one idea and the vast scope of re-telling stories was much bigger than I expecting (from things like Romeo and Juliet, which is a retelling of the Greek myth of Pyramus and Thisbe (one of my favourites), going all the way through to modern fan fiction and satirical works like Scalzi’s Redshirts (which takes the piss out of Star Trek incredibly well).

I came out of the class with an idea for a sci fi retelling of Pandora’s box (which I’m sure is popular) and a Persephone story. As usual with Cat’s classes, they leave you with this desire to write (even if my own mood isn’t exactly conducive to doing that right now). Both Cat, who was the quiet host, and Rachel are excellent teachers and this is an excellent class, especially as the final section addressed cultural appropriation and how to handle unhappy people convinced you’ve nicked their cultural heritage for your own purposes.

Rachel also recommended the Writing the Other class which seems to me to be a natural compliment to this class. That’s definitely a class I’m looking at taking, even if it won’t be for a while.

It was a fantastic evening, even if we ran over time-wise and the video didn’t work (again eight people is a lot for any Hangout to deal with). I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the class write as well as doing some myself when my mood picks up.

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Check Out My New Author Photo!

© Adriano Leme Photography
© Adriano Leme Photography

My friend Adriano—of Adriano Leme Photography (and the designer of my Ashteraiverse/publisher logo)—has been helping me shoot some new author pictures. We might do some more but this one is my favourite of the batch so far. I get to wear my hat and look … well in my head I look like someone plotting, which I am.

Me. Hat. Computer. Done.

Oh and FYI, I always plot. Sometimes a new book, sometimes world domination.

I’ve been meaning to get new headshots done for the last couple of months. Mary Robinette Kowal recommends authors get photos done every couple of years. My last ones were done by a classmate with an SLR and my dog. Now I want to stand on my own two feet, so to speak, rather than being Uni’s silent partner (trust me, she’s the bigger of the two of us, with the larger ego).

Oh and, for fun, here’s my other favourite shot:

© Adriano Leme Photography
© Adriano Leme Photography

 

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Considering Patreon

 

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I’m thinking on a Patreon. I have lots of short stories and could really use the money, even if it’s nothing more than coppers. Some of the stories are stand-alones I’ve simply not been able to sell, other as Ashteraiverse stories and I find myself in need of an outlet, even though, in the past, I’ve never had much luck with Patreon.

Now though, thanks to several anthologies, I’m starting to get a name for myself and I am, sadly, broke. I hate being reliant on the state and I’m just too disabled/sick to even look at jobs (not that anyone will employ me). I certainly have no desire to go back to work full time, I just can’t do it. But crowdfunding, it offers something else that continues to intrigue me, especially if I post stories which is a nice and easy thing to do.

The trick is the followers, the people. I am going to try this as an experiment, spend the weekend updating the page. Even if I get a dollar a month from one person, it’s certainly better than nothing, right?

Edit: You can check out my Patreon by going to http://www.patreon.com/ashabardon

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Up and Coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Writers is Now Available!

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This is one massive tome but it’s also only available for a very short time. It contains my short story “The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture” (written as Lesley Smith) as well as at least fifty other Future Chronicles stories and other writers you should be reading.

Look at this anthology as a free excuse to expand your list of favourite short form writers. 1.1 million words worth, specifically, and 120 authors in their first and second years of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Go download it now!

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Finding the Angle in Short Fiction

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I’ve been making a concerted effort to write more—and better—short fiction and send it out to markets. This is partly because I want to be a better writer and because I would love to see my name on the covers of magazines I adore reading. I can’t subscribe to every magazine but I do read LightspeedUncanny and BCS religiously (thank you Kickstarter credits, regularly updated websites of free fiction goodness and Weightless Books).

I’ve spent the last couple of days devouring an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of my friend Kim’s Mosaics: Volume 1 and it’s a beautiful tome, not just physically but compositionally. That’s what struck me, the positioning of the stories, poems and essays was particularly well done and I’ve not yet found one entry in the anthology I don’t like whereas I normally find anthologies are very much like albums; you love a couple of songs and the rest are kinda meh. That book has a soul which is a very hard thing to do and is seldom ever seen in magazines, no matter how well they’re curated.

I suppose a lot of that is down to the fact the anthology was curated with chosen pieces rather than a compendium of on-spec stories (which is how the anthologies I write for normally seem to be done). It makes for a nice change but it also got me thinking about my short stories, the ones I’m sending out to magazines, those are all on-spec (meaning I’m writing and sending them out without being asked for them). This makes it much harder as you’re basically writing stories in the hope that one of the slush editors/the EiC are going to like them enough to buy them.

But these on-spec stories, they’re also me; my ideas and composition. I have four stories out right now, with one more to follow after my crit group later today. Each story has focused on different ideas, styles and tenses. One is urban fantasy, another sci fi with notes of magical realism and fantasy, the third is historical, alternate fiction and the fourth an origin story. The latest story is epic fantasy with a secondary world based on ancient China which is just about ready to go out into the world for a round of rejectomancy. The last is a second person sci fi story about an author whose stint in a mental hospital activates psychic abilities which allow her see other worlds and dimensions, eventually evolving to a point where she is almost able to alter reality.

Each story is stand-alone and unique, part of the act of selling stuff is knowing which markets to try and that, in my opinion, is the problem or, at least, the challenge of submitting to market. You’re basically sending stuff out with no idea how it will be received, though if you’re lucky then you get rejections (called personals) with a note on what the editor liked or didn’t which can help guide future submissions, albeit to other markets.

Of course then you have that great question: to re-edit or not re-edit. A single editor doesn’t speak for the whole collective and one change might turn another editor off a story entirely. Being a slush editor for is one of those things which should help, except I did it for two issues and never had one of the stories I sent up go anywhere. Plus, with new magazines, it’s much harder to find a soul than with once that have been going for years. It’s almost like a brand and those, regardless of whether it’s a person or a magazine, take time to form. But, boy, is it fun to watch.

Every time I get a personal, I want to re-edit. This is my character flaw: I’m impatient and I latch onto what people say as if it’s gospel. It’s also why I’m in a crit group, surrounded by people whose opinions I trust, especially when it comes to my attempts at short fiction. Like journalism, it’s all about the angle except it’s this amorphous thing which changes depending on the editor.

I started a file last night, a folder on my browser called ‘Short Stories I Love’, mostly composed of entries from Lightspeed and Uncanny of short fiction which has really moved me. It delights me when I see the authors of my favourite stories with new ones in magazines I wait for with baited breath each month. I’d love to be able to to subscribe to every magazine but I can’t so I rely on the biweekly updates where fiction unlocks for free on publishers’ sites. Doing this, it’s helped me with my own writing but has also helped me, with my short attention span, to find a medium I really do love to read.

And if I read it, one day, I’ll sell just the right story.

Until then I’m going to play the probability game.

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Mission Statement (March 2016)

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This is an updated version of a post I published on my original site which, as I’m now Asha, deserved to be reposted and updated to reflect my new persona.

Susan Kaye Quinn has written an awesome book, The Indie Author Survival Guide, which I recommend to all my own mentees and she’s now writing the third edition of. I got chatting to Susan last year because my problem isn’t the writing, outside of my Kickstarter campaigns and giving books away for free while they were free on KDP Select, I have a horrible time selling them. The covers are gorgeous, the editing top notch but shifting copies is hard, particularly in paperback. Yet, as she kindly reminded me, there’s a difference between publishing books and running a business.

For example, I was able to give away over 500 copies via freebies/Kickstarter which means people are reading my books. I don’t write for the money, rather I do it for the stories and the love of getting them from my head into people’s hands.

Susan asked me if I’d done a Mission Statement, which is one of the exercises she outlines in her books. I hadn’t but I decided to do it and now I’m updating it. The exercise is still useful as it clarifies your desires and becomes a reminder of what you want to achieve that you can amend as needed.

So without further ado:

Mission statement (2.0)

I want to use my skills from ten years of journalism, my innate curiosity and desire to question to write short and long form projects focusing on sci fi, fantasy and speculative fiction. I want to establish a multiverse which includes elements of the above and binds novels, serials and short stories together into a cohesive whole but also explore new forms of writing and standalones which are of high enough quality to be submitted to anthologies and magazines.

Most importantly, I would like to get stories out there. This is not about money but rather about establishing a fanbase and a dialogue with people who enjoy reading my work. I will continue using Kickstarter and Patreon as these seem to be good ways to engage but also ensure funding goals are met which will allow me to publish several novels/serials/shorts per year.

I would like write at least one short story per month on top of any other projects and submit it to one of a number of my favourite short fiction markets (Lightspeed, Uncanny, BCS etc) in the hope of making a sale. The more stories, the more chances and the odds might be low but they are worth it.

Due to my health and disabilities, I might not be able to teach professionally but I would still like to help new writers on their journey, to mentor people so they don’t have to make the mistakes I did and help push the idea that if you’re going to publish, then make sure you do it well. I want to inspire other people and prove that anyone can be an author but that doing it well will only help their careers.

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So I’m Eligible for the 2016 Campbell Award (Year 1)

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Cover by Holly Heisey, www.hollyheiseydesign.com

I’ve never been eligible for an award before (though there’s zero chance of my winning anything or even being shortlisted). That said, thanks to my sale to The Z Chronicles back in June, I’m first year eligible for the prestigious Campbell Award. There’s been quite a kerfuffle regarding the specifics of being able to apply for this award (I don’t think the organisers were thinking fifty plus Future Chronicle writers were going to clammer to get their names on the list).

Anyway, once you’re eligible, there’s an anthology to submit to. This one is purely about exposure and the idea is it’s going to make it easier for voters in the Campbell Award to read fiction from the less well-known authors, including me. It’s taken me all morning to send off my only qualifying story ( “The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture”) but that’s done. I’ve been trying to get myself on the list, a pre-requisite and this morning’s forced stay-at-home-with-a-chest-infection has

I’ve been trying to get myself on the list, a pre-requisite and this morning’s forced stay-at-home-with-a-chest-infection has given me the time to do the actual submission process (the deadline is like this weekend). It’s going to be made available for free for a short period so that folks can download and read in order to better educate their voting later this year. As far as I understand it, if you submit a story it will be included in the anthology.

I’m a little sad as I’m having to submit a story as Lesley and not as Asha, due to the regulations (which say you have to be paid for a story in order to submit it). The good thing is, though, that next year I will have more stories to submit and be able to do so as Asha as the award board were kind enough to put me on the list as Lesley Smith/Asha Bardon.

Again, I have no chance of winning and I don’t say that to be negative or self-defeatist, it’s simple a status of fact. I won’t win or even be shortlisted,  not this year, not next year. These kind of awards are popularity contests but, that said, it’s nice to be able to say I’m on the list. It’s given me a lot more impetus to write/submit to markets. A push in the right direction is always a good thing and can only help me on my path to being a better writer.

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