Guest Post: Writing for Three by Anne E. Johnson

I had the good fortune to meet Anne at Headhouse Books in Philadelphia, where she gave a spectacular reading from Green Light Delivery back in May of this year.  She’s a fabulous and versatile writer, and I do mean versatile.  She writes short stories and novels for practically all age groups, including children, young people, and adults.  In this guest post, she shows us the fine art of keeping her trio of Webrid Chronicles main characters distinct.  ~~Mo

The Webrid Chronicles are about Webrid, obviously. But he can’t save the world alone. Part of my job as an author is to make sure the reader can distinguish Webrid from his fellow main characters, and to keep those distinctions consistent throughout each novel and the series as a whole.

These Three Musketeers in Space could not be less like each other. Most obviously, each of them has unique physical traits. Let’s say, they would never be mistaken for siblings (except for the way they argue). It’s equally important that these three characters be distinguishable by their speech mannerisms. As is true with every human I know, these aliens speak in a way defined by their upbringing and self-image.

Webrid is huge, bulky, and hairy, with claws and sharp teeth. He couldn’t care less what he’s wearing, and he doesn’t think or speak in complete sentences. He’s clumsy and often hungover, as we find him the morning after a night of partying in chapter 1:

From his vantage point on the floor, he could see his pants from yesterday, poking out from under an overturned chair. They were good as new once he shook the glass dust out of them. He had the claws of one foot caught in the first pant leg when someone knocked on his door.

“Crap,” he said to the universe. “Yeah, comin’!” he called to his visitor. He bumped his head on a wall lamp while hopping down the hallway. “Who is it?” The question was followed by a musical rrrrrip as his claws sliced through the cloth. “Aw, freakin’ hell.”

Stravin, Webrid’s drinking buddy, is slender and neat. He decorates his downy white feathers with expensive, fashionable clothes. He’s an engineering genius and clearly educated at the finest schools. Like Webrid, Stravin appreciates pleasure, but as a delicacy, not a smorgasbord:

“Come in, come in,” urged the slender, feather-coated man. He wagged a long, downy-white finger at the cart. “My dearest Webrid, I thought you’d forsworn this carting nonsense.” Before Webrid could reply, Stravin motioned into the foyer. “Ah, well. Just roll it into the front hallway. Nothing else to be done, I suppose, since I know you won’t leave it outside.” Quietly, but just loud enough for Webrid to hear, he added, “And this way my neighbors won’t see it.”

Once the cart was parked, Stravin dragged Webrid toward a velvet-covered ramp. “Burrow those giant cloppers into the sweet softness, my dear.”

“What?”

“Your feet, you brute. Into the footholds.”

Webrid didn’t see any footholds, but he stepped onto the ramp as he’d been ordered. The velvet swallowed his toes and heels. “Hey!”

“Don’t struggle so, darling. Think of it like sex. Just let it happen naturally.”

And then there’s Zatell. She and Stravin go way back. She has an illegal interplanetary rocket taxi service, and keeps her very own rocket in her back yard. (Never mind that she’s a truly awful pilot.) But the most remarkable thing about her is her shape. Zatell has about thirty little hand-feet encircling her round body-head. She walks by rolling or cartwheeling. And she talks like somebody whose defense mechanisms are always on full-blast:

“You stinky hoongofl!” she cried as she rolled toward the passenger side of Stravin’s car. “I haven’t seen you in ages. What sewer have you been hiding in? Is there even a sewer wide enough to hold your ugly butt?”

Talking to Zatell was like talking to the working girls at Joolo’s Skinny Dip Club. Webrid knew better than to be offended at the trash that spewed out of their mouths. Laughing warmly, he bent way down and gave Zatell’s puckered face a nuzzle. “Hey, sweetheart. Lookin’ good!”

As with all inseparable friends, these three sometimes need to be pulled apart before they blacken each other’s eyes. But they’d also lay down their lives for each other without a moment’s pause.

Thanks for dropping by, Anne!  I can hardly wait to dig into the latest escapades of Webrid, Stravin, and Zatell!  

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You can learn more about Anne E. Johnson at her website.

Purchase Blue Diamond Delivery directly from the publisher, Candlemark & Gleam, or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Don’t miss the rest of Anne’s blog tour stops, which include author AND character interviews, more terrific articles, a giveaway, and a space music countdown!

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Well, virtual dinner, at least.

Amazing author Anne E. Johnson, will be stopping by tomorrow on her Blog TourAEJohnson small

She’ll be telling us about what it’s like to write a trio of leading characters, which is exactly what she does in Green Light Delivery and Blue Diamond Delivery.

This adult series is lively, fun, and imaginative, and so is the trio of characters in it!GLD-link

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So, get caught up on your reading at Anne’s other blog stops and don’t be late for dinner!

~~Mo

A few numbers and a lot of words about current publishing models and royalties . . .

For my author friends and others interested in the publishing (r)evolution, I’ve added a new page to World Enough and Time, entitled Help for Writers.

The first post on the new page gives some information and does some number-crunching on the topic of royalties and how they are being handled in the many publishing models currently available to writers.  It’s a L O N G post with definitions, tables, and explanations.

Read more here to compare royalty structures in 7 publishing models in the fast-changing world of digital publishing.

The Next Big Thing – Work in Progress

Hello, folks.

I’ve been tagged for a “chain blog.”  It’s called THE NEXT BIG THING – WORK IN PROGRESS, and it’s an opportunity for writers to share with you a little bit about the work they’re currently doing and then tag other writers who will do the same.

I want to thank TS Gwilliam, who tagged me.

She was tagged by Kate Thompson.

I’ve linked to their blog posts, and I hope you’ll drop in and read them and get to know these authors.  At the end of my answers, I’ll tell you who I’m tagging and why.

Here we go!

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Discordant: Kin Foreign & Familiar

Wait.  I’m not done!  I’m not known for short titles, as you can see.

Discordant is Book 2 of The Staves of Warrant trilogy.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Because it’s Book 2, Discordant was a natural offshoot of developing the storyline for Book 1, Incorrigible: Secrets Past & Present.

The idea for the overarching story evolved over a period of about 4-5 years as I played with writing the story as a fantasy before the speculative nature of the tale finally smacked me in the face.  As I toyed with the word “warrant” and the concept of worlds that changed (I’m a big fan of philosophies of change), I began to imagine a “universe” (for lack of a more accurate term) of Shifting Worlds.  I linked that with a character who was a shape shifter (albeit a very lousy one) and the multiple definitions of the word “warrant,” and lo and behold, all kinds of WHAT IFs started popping into my head.

The settings and themes for Discordant also evolved over time, but from some research I did on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (in Carlisle, Pennsylvania) and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  Again, all of the WHAT IFs started haunting me, and so I decided to address them in the second book of what I knew would be multiple books.  The story of the Staves of Warrant and the exploration of the Shifting Worlds universe just couldn’t be told in a single novel (unless it was the size of War and Peace … on steroids).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

It’s epic speculative fiction, science fantasy to be specific.  As of right now, the plan is to release the novel in episodes, like I am doing with Incorrigible.  If that plan works out, Discordant will be released in three parts.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Gosh.  I hadn’t given that a bit of thought, but I’ll give it a shot.  For Grainne, I’d choose a tall actress, so maybe Caitlyn Larimore or Suzie Plakson, either of whom could pull off the lead role of a female character who grows into her own skin, so to speak.  For Fenn, who is even taller than Grainne, I’d choose Liam Neeson. I’d love to see him in a role that involves magic in the way it does for Fenn.  I’d drool over Johnny Depp (for whom my desktop computer is named), but Mr. Depp isn’t right for that role.  He might make an interesting Paidraigh Keenan, though.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Even pacifists have their limits.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be self-published in digital format as episodes and then in digital and print formats once all of the episodes have been released.  All of my works are published by my own company, Bookmite Press.

7. How long did/will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About 30 writing days, so slightly longer than it did for Incorrigible, which was written in a month (about 25 writing days) from an apartment looking out at the spires of Lincoln Cathedral in England.  I’m an outliner, so I have a good idea of where the story’s going before I start writing.  Then, the muse takes over, and I puke out a first draft.  After that, I may spend months revising before I’m comfortable sending it to critique partners and beta readers.  Then, I revise again like a madwoman until I am sick of it but can live with it out in the world.  Drafts are the easy part for me.  Revision is sometimes fun and sometimes painful, but always the hard work of writing.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm.  I’m not sure there’s another book out there like Discordant, though it does have elements that other novels have.  For instance, it has women protagonists who walk between worlds, like the women in Charles Stross’ The Merchant Princes series.  It’s a cross-over novel, like those of Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I mentioned earlier, this novel is part of a series, and I was initially inspired to tell the story of a woman whose life didn’t turn out quite the way she’d planned. I wanted to show how the world changed around her and how she found strength, despite adversity, to make a socially responsible difference in the lives of those whom social systems and governments treat with indifference and disregard.  But I wanted to say all of that through a story, not a lecture.

I think the world of fiction needs female characters who are strong but also flawed because that’s realistic.  Yes, bad things happen to them sometimes because that’s the state of the world, and I’m not sugar-coating those conditions with prettiness and nice.  Growing up, I had a strong, positive role model in my grandmother, who had experienced sickening social injustices, including being married off to a man more than twice her age when she was only twelve years old.  After she died, I learned she had been a bootlegger during the Depression, because that was the only way she could make money to feed her eight children.  I want readers to meet some women I believe my grandmother would have liked.  Discordant has some of those women in it.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hmmm.  My one hint at the plot would be that readers will find out if the person who dies near the end of Incorrigible was a real person or a ka.  Evil of me, huh?

Discordant is narrated from the point of view of multiple characters.  That’s one of the fun things about it.  Readers can get into the minds of several characters who are very different from each other.  At least one of those narrators is not what s/he appears to be, but readers will have to figure out which one that is.  Yes, I am evil to the core.

As a genre-bender, Discordant takes readers on a ride through fantasy and through science fiction.  The Shifting Worlds universe has numerous settings, ranging from medieval to dystopian and from fantasy to high-tech.  The story gives readers pieces of a puzzle that ultimately link all of those settings together.

And now it’s tag time!

I’m tagging Sabrina Vourvoulias, author of Ink, a speculative fiction novel I’ll be reviewing on World Enough and Time in the near future because it is an amazing and terrifying story that every American adult should read.  Sabrina’s blog, Following the Lede, is where you’ll find her Next Big Thing post on April 25th, but don’t wait until then to look at her blog.  It’s full of fascinating posts and honest reviews.  Get to know Sabrina.  Her posts are worth your reading time.

I’m tagging Brian Rathbone, author of the World of Godsland fantasy series and a real-life horse guy (No, HE isn’t a horse.  He HAS horses and loves them.).  Brian is one of the friendliest, most hard-working authors I’ve “met” through social media. Be sure to visit Brian’s blog, where you’ll find all kinds of cool things, including free audiobooks and downloads.  Brian’s Next Big Thing post will appear on April 25th.

Enjoy!!

Mo

Branding: Why I Chose Epic Revolutions

I recently spent an enlightening week attending IndieReCon, a fantastic online convention focusing on publishing and authors, with an obvious emphasis on those involved as “Indies,” an evolving term encompassing small publishers and the authors whose works they publish, as well as self-published authors and authors publishing under their own imprints.  I should add that the team who put together this Con did a spectacular job and made a point of not bashing the traditional publishing world.  On that, I highly commend their professionalism.  There’s plenty of room for everyone in this industry. (Twitter hashtag #IndieReCon)

“So, what’s IndieReCon got to do with epic revolutions and branding?”

“I’m getting there.”

I love books and everything about them, including the evolution of the publishing industry, and IndieReCon made me think about all of that and about how to define my unique brand.  We are at a true juncture in publishing history, one in which evolutions have enabled revolutions.

We can thank technology for bringing us here.

Ease of file conversion and simplified uploading, along with opening up international distribution channels, have enabled mass Indie entry into the ebook market.  Advances in print-on-demand technology also have made entry into the print market a viable option for Indies (publishers and authors), as well.

“Okay.  So those are evolutions in technology.  What do they have to do with epic revolutions and branding?  Stay on topic, woman!”

“Oh ye of little faith.”  *gratuitous eye roll*

Technology has brought us to this juncture, and I feel pretty safe in betting that it will continue to aid all sides of the publishing industry in more ways than we can count—from encouraging more artists to join the party to bringing global entities together in new ways.  But technology is mostly an enabler.  What it has enabled isn’t just evolutionary.  It’s equally revolutionary.

Technology has opened up a lot of festering sores, on traditional and Indie arms of the publishing industry.   Prior to Indie feasibility, authors felt the tightening throttle of narrow (and seemingly becoming even more narrow) opportunities to get their books in the hands of readers.

“So did everyone else in the business, including agents and editors and designers!”

“Yep, they did.  Stick with me, dude.  I’m focusing on writers at the moment.”

So, when technology made publishing feasible for the average individual, some authors decided to practice a publishing paradigm already established by predecessors like Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Wolff, to name just two.  Revolutions don’t always move forward.  Sometimes they move back to something that came before, something that was necessary at the time and may have succeeded to some degree.  In this case, a depressed traditional publishing environment, coupled with advances in technology, facilitated a move to a model that had worked in the past (though differently and some might say “improved” owing to the technology aspect, which Indie predecessors didn’t have at their disposal).

What makes the move revolutionary is the motivation of the authors.  Some embraced Indie publishing for monetary gains, including authors who saw a lucrative market and some authors who had published traditionally in the past and wanted to regain rights to out-of-print works.  Some embraced Indie publishing because they had become discouraged by rejections from the traditional arm of the business (agents, editors, publishers).  Some lost patience with or got pissed off at the traditional arm (in some cases justifiably, but not in every case).  But in all cases of going Indie, authors strayed from the pattern followed by the traditional wing of publishing.  That’s a break with what has been the status quo for a very long time.  Any break with the status quo is a revolution, no matter how minor or major in scale.

“Okay, so it’s a revolution.  What’s that got to do with your branding?”

“Great question!”

I’ve come to a decision about which path I’ll take with my work.  I started out the traditional way, feeling that no matter what happened, I’d learn something valuable, and I have!  Right now, though, the Indie route is the right one for my work, which doesn’t mean I won’t consider all options on an ongoing basis.  Status quos make me itchy, even my own.  Of late, my work has grown some tentacles that make Indie publishing something I want to do.  It will give me space to play (and to work like a mutha!).  And to satisfy my greed, it will afford me the opportunity to join not just one revolution, but at least one more that isn’t likely to be something the traditional publishing path would welcome in a debut author.

“What the hell, lady?  You’re all about revolutions.  Are you some kind of hippie?”

“Hmm.  I guess I am, but that’s not the point.  Or maybe it is.  Don’t confuse me.  I’m on a roll here.”

“Some roll.”

“Let me finish!”

“I wish like hell you would!”

*sigh*

A few brave souls have returned to their literary roots of late, two of which are John Scalzi and Hugh Howey.  Both of these authors are serializing their work to some degree.

Through traditional publisher Tor, Scalzi is releasing weekly ebook episodes of The Human Division (set in the Old Man’s War universe).  In and of itself, serialization is a revolution from the traditional approach to publishing a series (the status quo), and it’s a revolution that readers seem to welcome, as the episodes have garnered enthusiastic acclaim.  Scalzi’s writing is the draw, most certainly, but readers seem to have latched onto serialization, maybe because they’re revolting against the long waits that typically accompany a lengthy series or maybe because they prefer stories broken down into less daunting pieces.

Another reader favorite, Hugh Howey, has taken a similar approach.  In Howey’s case, he released Wool as an ebook novelette under his own imprint (Broad Reach Publishing).  Readers loved the story, and Howey went back to the creative well and wrote four more novelettes to accompany the first.  He published each separately in ebook format and then put all five together as an ebook collection (Wool Omnibus Edition).  In the U.K, Random House is publishing a hardcover version of the Omnibus (as per Howey’s  site).  What is revolutionary about Howey’s model is that he retained his ebook rights and the rights to continue publishing ebooks in the same series.  He’s now published Wool #6 in ebook format under the Broad Reach imprint, too, so he’s made it clear to readers that he will continue to do what they love, and he will continue to do it non-traditionally–at least in e-book format.  It will be interesting to see what he does with his next Wool omnibus.

An interesting note in this part of the current publishing (r)evolution: the traditional publishers working with both Howey and Scalzi are in the U.K.  I see that as a trend that shows U.K. publishers acknowledge, take seriously, and are responding to publishing revolutions—perhaps a bit gingerly, but most definitely dipping a toe in the water—to see what might evolve.  I eagerly await determination of the outcome(s).

“Okay, okay.  I got it.  Another couple of revolutions.  Epic?  Branding?  Get to the damned point, hippie lady.”

“Fine.”

Howey’s novelettes and Scalzi’s episodes are epic in scope.  So is my work.  I write speculative fiction, and my current work is an epic science fantasy series set in the Shifting Worlds universe.  The series begins with a trilogy collectively named The Staves of Warrant.  Each book in the trilogy will be released in parts and then, as with Howey’s Wool Omnibus, as a complete book.

So, in addition to joining the Indie revolution as an author and a publisher (under my own Bookmite Press imprint), I’m also joining the serialization revolution, but in my own way.  The first book in The Staves of Warrant is Incorrigible: Secrets Past & Present.  It has four parts, and each part builds on the next.  That means readers will get an unfolding story and, thus, need to read the parts sequentially.  All four parts are completed, so readers won’t have to wait long between parts.  I welcome reader commentary about timing the releases.  (Click the pale comment bubble at the top of this post and share your thoughts, please.)

“You’re only going to give me part of the story?”

“Yep.  Do television series writers give you parts of the story?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Okay.  That’s what I’m doing, but in print instead of on your television.”

“I like episodes in television, but I like my fiction in one chunk, thank you very much.”

“That’s okay.  I’ve got that covered, too.”

After all four parts are published (in ebook formats), a complete ebook version will be published, as well.  I have plans to publish a trade paperback version after that.

Books Two (Discordant: Kin Foreign & Familiar) and Three (Seditious: Promises Broken & Bound) of The Staves of Warrant will be released in the same way and in the same formats as Book One.

Another reason I chose Epic Revolutions as my brand was that the stories I tell are about revolutions.  I want readers to know that’s what they’ll get in my books.  Revolutions without and within.  Revolutions epic in scope.  My stories’ revolutions are battles that take time to win and are not always fought in traditional style, but they are battles worth fighting.

Yet another reason this brand works for me is the flexibility of the word “Revolutions.”  A revolution is not just about rebellion.  It’s also the complete turn of an object, a cycle, like a planet spinning on its axis and revolving around the sun.  In a sense, the serialization of The Staves of Warrant is a cycle, as well.

And finally, I chose Epic Revolutions as my brand, in part, because of its philosophical and creative associations with the concept behind the Shifting Worlds universe and with the title (and poem from which it comes) of this blog: World Enough and Time.  I aim to have fun and do some unorthodox and goofy things just to see what will happen while there is still World Enough and Time for me to do them.  My earnest hope is that readers will have some fun, too.

I invite you to join me on this journey.  Invite your friends to come along, too!   The more, the merrier.

Vive la Révolution!

“*snorts*  Shouldn’t that be Vive la Révolution Épique?”

“Good point.  Now, hush.  It’s time for you to sleep, muse.”

“Whoooooooooooa!  I have been patient beyond all measure.  I have a story to tell you.”

*sigh*

“Once upon a time, someone noticed the worlds were shifting . . .”

“You’re not going to shush, are you?”

“Nope.”

“I’m taking a shower and going to bed.”

“I’ll just follow you.”

“In your dreams.”

“*snorts*  Close, hippie lady.  In yours.”