Posted in books, Publishing, writing

Do Your Research

On Twitter this morning, an author I follow retweeted another author that he follows, who spake thusly:


Still looking for the right publisher for my newest #book . If anyone knows of a good publisher or agent, please let me know. No selfpub plz


And I thought, he’s kidding, right? There is no way anyone can answer this because the author in search of a publisher gave no info about the book he’s hoping to publish. Nada. This person has apparently already self-published one book, but didn’t specify if the new book is a sequel, in the same genre, or something completely different. Maybe some of his followers know more about the book, but retweeting it to people who don’t is pretty pointless. Frankly I wasn’t interested enough to even ask. Nor do I have any info on agents, but it’s not that hard to find.

Here’s the thing: Agents and publishers are very specialized. Writers need to do their own research and find an agent that handles the kind of material they write. An agent who reps (represents) Young Adult books may or may not also rep erotica (very likely not). Some will handle a variety of genres (mystery, historical fiction, women’s fiction), whereas some may have a much narrower focus. A poetry publisher will not be interested in a memoir of a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Newbies to the writing and publishing business have to understand that it IS a business, and they need to become as informed and in-touch as any business professional who hopes to succeed in their chosen career. And here’s the biggest thing: It is no one’s responsibility to do it for you. Even if someone does have a working relationship with an agent, that doesn’t mean it would be the right agent for this particular book. I thought we were past the time when writers thought all they needed to do was sit in a coffee shop typing out their masterpiece and then turn it over to a publisher who would instantly recognize their genius and deliver it to the world. Apparently not.

Agents are like anyone else, they have their likes and dislikes. This is why it’s so important to do research, see who else the agent has published, if they seem to be interested in what you’re offering. Just because that agent likes one writer doesn’t mean they’ll like what the next writer sends along. To use a dated analogy, they’re not like phone booths – “Oh look, there’s one.” Just wastes everyone’s time.

This kind of plea makes me wonder if this author also thinks signing a contract is the end of the work for the writer. Whether self-publishing or getting a contract with a publishing house, the bulk of marketing and advertising will still fall to the writer. Unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your publisher is not going to be taking out full page ads in the New York Times to advertise your book. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Do your homework. Read up on publishers and agents. They’re all online now so it’s much easier than it used to be. Back in the dim time writers had to head down to the library to read the mastheads of magazines for editors’ names and addresses, most of which would be out-of-date by the time you read it. I honestly don’t know how people found agents in those days. Probably going through the phone book.

Nowadays agents and publishers are all online. Try a quick Google search for “literary agents on Twitter” and follow the ones who rep what you write. Read their bios on their sites. They will spell out in glorious technicolor detail what they handle, and what they’re looking for. If you’re pitching a military steampunk novel to an agent who only reps childrens’ books, don’t be shocked when they don’t even respond to your query.

Follow the hashtag #MSWL (My Secret Wish List) on Twitter to see what agents are really looking for right now.

Pick up the Writer’s Digest “Writer’s Market” or “Fiction Market” or “Poet’s Market.” They even publish a separate “Guide to Literary Agents.” Writer’s Digest site is a great place for any writer to begin. There’s a wealth of information there no matter what you write. Check here. I’m not shilling for them, but I would have been lost without their magazine when I first started writing.

Read  Writer Beware, which will steer you clear of scams and shady publishers and agents.

That tweet this morning reminded me why I don’t hang out in writing chat groups online. They’re full of newbie, aspiring writers (which is fine in and of itself) who spend half the time begging other people for ideas. “I don’t know what my main character should do, can someone give me an idea?” Hand to god, I am not making this up. I feel a little bit like I’m channeling Harlan Ellison here, but if you have no ideas you should probably do something else. It’s the writer’s job to write the book, unless you plan to credit the person who supplies all your ideas as your co-author on the book.

I have no way of knowing how much info the tweeter this morning expected other people to provide since I didn’t respond, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was expecting other people to research agents for him and get back to him with the details. That could be a full time job. But I bet the pay is lousy.

UPDATE March 24: Here is a searchable database of agents


End rant. Here, have a pretty picture for reading all that.


Posted in authors, books, post-apocalypse, Publishing, science fiction

The Stars Seem So Far Away – Margrét Helgadóttir

I’d like to introduce you to Norwegian-Icelandic writer, Margét Helgadóttir, whose first book, The Stars Seem So Far Away, has just been released through Fox Spirit Books. Congratulations, Margét! Let’s talk about the book.


What is The Stars Seem So Far Away about?

The Stars Seem So Far Away is a story set in a distant future, where plagues, famine and wars rage across the dying Earth. The last shuttles to the space colonies are long gone. Fleeing the deadly sun, humans migrate farther and farther north. The story is told through the tales of five survivors: One girl who sails the Northern Sea, robbing other ships to survive; one girl who guards something on a distant island; one guerrilla soldier; and finally, two siblings who become separated when the plague hits Svalbard.

It’s not a novel, but it’s not a collection of stories either. It’s a hybrid, a fusion of linked tales that together tell a larger story.

What inspired you to write the book?

I think the idea of this alternative future for the northern parts of the world has been dormant in me for many years.I have long pictured a world where humans, due to climate changes, must flee to the northern world, and where places that today are sparsely populated could become covered with cities. I’ve had the image of the skyscraper city on Svalbard in my mind for many years. But mostly it’s the small details of this dark and apocalyptic world I have mulled over for a long time. I have for instance been fascinated by the doomsday vault, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, ever since it was built. Also, the image of the killer whale in Nuuk has stayed with me for a while.


It’s such a beautiful cover. Could you tell us a little about it?

The lovely cover is by the talented Sarah Anne Langton. I am very happy about it because I feel it reveals some of the atmosphere in the book like I picture it. The cover has ice, snow, ocean, a giant bear, a crashed Hercules, an apocalyptic city and the human who longs for the stars. Sarah even made sure it’s the correct star maps on the cover.


What is your relationship to the speculative genres?

It’s more about what mood particular books/stories put me in, rather than who wrote them or what genre they are within. I’m the same with movies. Fantasy and science fiction are always good choices when needing to escape real world and seek comfort.

But I also find that these genres challenge the readers/audience, force them to think in new ways, be it space exploring, new species, new ways of thinking, new technology. They turn the world as we know it upside down, and few things are impossible. I love this. There are of course often used tropes and clichés in these genres too, but still, now and then I can read something or watch something which is so challenging, so brilliant, I almost can feel my brain cells squeal in delight. I love the space opera subgenres and I adore the science fiction classics from 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, filled with optimism and confidence. But my favourite science fiction is the narratives close to contemporary fiction, often about power structures and dystopian societies. They are not new, but we have seen these stories more often the last decades. I am also increasingly fascinated by stories within ‘the weird’, twisted and dark stories, often very surreal and surprising.

Could you tell a little about your writing and other stories?

It was only two and half years ago that I found confidence enough to start writing fiction for publication. A few of the stories in the book are actually amongst the first stories that I wrote. I have chosen to write fiction in English, which is not my native tongue, so working on the book has also been part of a tough language-learning process. Today, when I read through the book, I can see clearly how I have developed as a writer; the later stories flow better and have a more sure voice.

I know my writing and language can’t compete with Hemingway or other great authors, but I’m very concerned about telling a good story, so I hope I have succeeded in this and that people will like the stories and the characters.

My stories have appeared in several magazines and journals, including Gone Lawn and Luna Station Quarterly. My fiction has also been or will be published in nine print anthologies, including Impossible Spaces, six volumes of Fox Pockets, and two more Fox Spirit publications. I am co-editor of the coffee table book European Monsters, a collection of fiction and art released from Fox Spirit Books in December 2014. It is the first of an annual monster series. In 2015 I will co-edit the second volume in this series, African Monsters, and I will also edit an anthology of winter tales. Hopefully there will be time to continue writing as well.


You have an unusual background, can you tell a little about yourself?

I’m born in East-Africa to a Norwegian mother and an Icelandic father. I grew up in East- and West-Africa and in Norway. On my webpage you can find small musings about different aspects of being a third culture and cross cultural child. I moved to Denmark two months ago, where I will stay for a few years due to work. I am a movie junkie and a book worm, and can often be found in the history museums and galleries in the weekends. Learn more about me at my webpage, or on Twitter, where I am @MaHelgad

Thanks so much, D.D., for inviting me to talk about my debut book.

The Stars Seem So Far Away was published by Fox Spirit Books and released on Valentine’s Day. It can be ordered as paperback and Kindle from Amazon. Epub is coming soon.

Amazon UK (paperback):

And Kindle:

Amazon US (paperback):

And Kindle:


Thanks so much, Margrét, and best wishes for the success of your book!

Posted in books, ebooks, fog, Oregon, photography, Publishing, Revenants Abroad, self-publishing, writing

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 26

Chapter 26 went live yesterday, sorry to be a day late with the notice! Only two more chapters to go after this so time is winding down to read it for free online. There have now been over 5000 reads of Revenants Abroad on Wattpad, so thank you everyone! 😀

Posted in autumn, fall, photography, self-publishing, writing

Edits and Evil Programs

Not much going on, either with pics or the book. I’m still immersed in final edits, and having fits with Word. It seems every time I close and reopen the file it runs words together, removing the spaces between them. I found three crunched together last night and Word didn’t even pick it up as a misspelling. Argh. Now I’m terrified that when I release the book it’s going to have all this funky spacing. I thought maybe it was because I was opening the file on both my home computer using Word 2007, and occasionally on my work computer in Word 2010, but I’ve never seen this before. If anyone else has run into this and knows a fix, please let me know.

Posted in art, books, fantasy, horror, Publishing, Vampires, writing

Cover Me



My time lately has been concentrated on researching book covers: designs, designers, how-to, software, stock photos, pre-made vs. commissioned. What I’ve decided is since I want to give the book its best chance possible I am going to commission cover art. My reasons are thus:

1. I want good art that will stand out, and won’t make me feel embarrassed to show someone, like these would. (Fair warning: you may need trauma counseling after viewing that site.)

2. The book is the first of what I hope will be a trilogy.  I want a cohesive look, rather than a mish-mash of different styles so I’m hoping to be able to have the same artist do the covers of the next books as well.

3. Design programs like PhotoShop or GIMP have a steep learning curve. If you don’t already know how to use them, it’s not likely to be something you can learn to do well in a weekend (unless you’re a whole lot smarter than I am). I suspect it would take years to achieve the level of mastery I’m after.  I got as far as downloading GIMP and was flummoxed. As much as I love playing around with it, I have no idea what I’m doing and the effort would be amateurish at best.  Again, the embarrassment factor.

4. I love really good cover art. Most of the pre-made covers are formulaic, or just not quite right and make me want to tweak the design this way or that, even if the art isn’t bad. I don’t want to settle for something that’s almost there.

5. I’m not an artist and know only the merest basics of design principles.

What can I say? Champagne taste on a beer budget.

It will cost more money, but people do judge books by their covers (I know I do) and those cheesey, bad CGI covers with ugly fonts are a turn-off to me, so probably are to most other people as well.  I’ve solicited information from three or four artists online (and dismissed others out of hand due to their prices) and am pretty well focused on one. It’s not that I begrudge these people their rates, god knows a real artist with real talent deserves to be compensated for their work. I simply can’t come up with that much money right now. And high prices are also no guarantee of talent, as you can quickly discover. I trolled the internet for a couple of weeks, looking up all kinds of artists, checking out the DIY options, pre-made offerings. This, I believe, is the best course.

The whole process is kind of taking my breath away, and my heart beat faster. This is really happening. Unless I chicken out and decide not to do it. I’ll probably just quietly put the book up on Amazon and hope no one notices…

Posted in books, fantasy, NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Vampires, writing

Say When

water overflowing

So, I quietly did Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I thought maybe without the fanfare of announcing I was doing it and worrying about write-ins and taking part in the community (although all those things are great, and a wonderful part of the experience of NaNoWriMo) I would be more focused on the writing and less on talking about it. It seems to a have worked.

What did I work on? The sequel to Revenants Abroad, tentatively titled The Age of Revenants. Is it finished? Hardly. Let’s call it a good start. It’s about as rough as you’d expect 50,000 words cranked out in haste over 30 days to be. But that’s all right, I needed to get some ideas down, and why not put them towards the goal? A couple of things are kind of going off on tangents so may get revised out later, or possibly saved for something else. But I’m pleased that I was able to get this much done. And let me tell you, it was not easy. It’s one reason I’ve been very quiet on Twitter over the last month. And I really had to make a push during the last weekend. So apologies for any crankiness. It’s an insane way to get some writing done, but I feel like I have no choice these days. Would that I could quit the dayjob and just write. I’m so close to handing in my notice I can’t even tell you.

It felt good to get some of this stuff down, but it seems like the more I write, the more ideas I get. I’ve become better about grabbing a pen and paper when I get those lines just as I’m drifting off to sleep, which seems to happen more and more. I suspect I’m not unique in this.

Now to finish RA, get a cover, and get it up at Amazon. I’ve decided to self-pub via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) as agents seem unanimous in their distaste for vampire stories these days. I think there’s still a market, so am taking it upon myself to publish it and see what happens. As I told my dear friend Bunny this morning, I’m taking steel wool to the last few pages, finishing up edits (caught a couple of doozy typos), then I’ll need to get a cover created, and maybe a couple more beta readers, and hopefully have it up for sale before the end of the summer. I have to be done with this so I can move on to the next one. I just haven’t figured out when to say “when.”

Posted in Angels, Tarot, writing

Weekly Card with the Fae

This week I busted out my Faeries Oracle, illustrated by Brian Froud with book by Jessica Macbeth. This is a 66-card oracle deck, not Tarot. I haven’t really worked much with it, but it called to me tonight.

Luathas the Wild

More fire. I keep pulling fire cards. Luathas is highly charged fae spirit associated with fire, bursting with energy and creative passion. He’s here to give us a boost, keep us fired up and working. The problem is, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word “STOP.” As I’ve mentioned before, fire unchecked will consume everything in its path. Be aware to take care of yourself and don’t push yourself too hard, but take advantage of the energy Luathas offers. Just remember to also take a break.

Now, as if that wasn’t enough, when I flipped the deck over and went to put it back in the box, this card was staring up at me. Somehow I couldn’t ignore it so I thought I’d go for a second card this week:

He of the Fiery Sword

Oh yeah. Even MOAR fire. This card is in the group of Faeries that Jessica Macbeth has dubbed “The Singers of the Realms.”  You could think of them as angels, Great Ones. Early on in the book Macbeth tells us there is no hierarchy among the Good People, but then describes this group as the ones who guide all the others, are constantly with us, and we can call on them for help whenever we need them. Just be sure to say “Thank you.” Etiquette is big with the Fae. This particular one is the primary active principle, the yang element, indicating action, movement, force and OF COURSE FIRE. The energy from this Singer will spur us on to greater things, give us the courage and force of will needed to move out of a bad pattern and on to more productive things. There’s something about this card I just like, feel drawn to.

I’ve finally been submitting my writing, hoping to get published. No acceptances yet, but just taking that step of sending it out was HORRIFYING. I practically had a panic attack. It’s not that I doubt my writing as much as I fear I’ll screw up the formatting or miss some crucial step in the submission guidelines that will make them hit the ‘delete’ button before reading it. Because editors do that. I can’t say I blame them, they’re trying to weed out the really unprofessional types who can’t be bothered reading their guidelines, and cut through the slush pile somehow. It’s just my fear that I will have forgotten or missed some crucial element and sabotaged myself that causes my heart to race as my finger hovers over the ‘send’ button. Well, I do the best I can, and will continue to do so.

So have a fiery creative week, and call on help if you need it.

Posted in books, Publishing, writing

Writer, Educate Thyself

I know there are scads of websites out there now with all kinds of advice for aspiring writers, but today I feel compelled to add my .02¢ to the fray. Plus it bears repeating.

This is due in large part to this post, and the explosion of e-publishing now, where anyone can set up  a publishing operation to sucker new writers who don’t know any better into publishing with terrible terms in their contracts. These outfits exist for one reason: to make money. And the easiest people to fleece are new writers who haven’t yet realized they have rights in a publishing contract (or rather, should have rights), or know who to ask about these things.

Writing is a business. You have to educate yourself on how that business runs,whisky so you know going in what a bad deal looks like, and what a good deal looks like. I know, it’s not fun. We just want to write and express ourselves and be artistic and sit around being moody and drinking coffee or scotch, or something. Well, there’s more to it than that. If you don’t want to get ripped off, that is.

A lot of these e-publishers fold as quickly as they start up, so it’s really important to read the contracts they offer. If the contract grants them all rights, you’ve still given up all rights EVEN IF THEY FOLD. So if they go belly-up, and you want to publish your book in print through someone else, you can’t. There is recourse, you may be able to get them to release the rights back to you, but it’s usually not easy. For this and so many other reasons it’s crucial to understand what you’re signing. And if you don’t understand it, get help before you do sign.

So herewith, a couple of the best sites for writers.

First and foremost, read Writer Beware. Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss ) and A.C. Crispin blog about scams and other situations unfriendly to writers. READ THEM. They have so much good information, and they constantly shine a light on shady publishers.  Victoria’s own site is here. A.C. Crispin’s is here. They don’t just write about scammers, they’ve filed suits against them. You can’t go wrong with their advice. The blog is also listed with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) here where they show a nice breakout of all the topics covered, including contests, recommended reading, the truth about literary agents’ fees, and lots more.

Secondly, read Behler Blog, written by Lynne Price of Behler Publications. Although they don’t publish fiction, it is still an invaluable resource for any writer on how publishing and writing work. Also, Lynne has a book out, The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box, that is full of fantastic advice. Also beagles. And margaritas. And beagles with margaritas.


If you read nothing else on writing and publishing, those two are probably enough to keep you out of trouble. Don’t jump at a contract; read and understand it first. If you don’t, you may find yourself in need of a couple of margaritas.

If anyone would like to suggest other sites they’ve found helpful, please do so in the comments below.

Now I’m thirsty…

Posted in books, fantasy, horror, Publishing, writing

Fun with Book Covers

Awhile back I started what was intended be a short story, and as usually happens it took on a life of its own. I couldn’t seem to find a way to wrap it up and keep it under 10k words, so at the urging of a couple of beta readers I’m pressing on and planning to go the distance and make it a novel.

I don’t actually have a title for it yet, but I threw these images together with a boring title just to play with some graphics. All images were harvested (i.e., rightfully stolen, a la Vezzini) from They’re free computer wallpapers, trimmed to approximate a bookcover. They’re rough, I know, but I don’t have any kind of graphics program like Photoshop, so I do what I can in MS Paint and Powerpoint.

Stolas cover 1  stolas3

Stolas2 Stolas Sadness

gothic dark stolas Lightning Stolas

Stolas girl

Honestly I could do this all day. There are so many ways to go with this. The guy with the torch on the first one looks something like the way I pictured one of the characters. I think my fave of this bunch is the horned devil, second row on the right. I even threw in the obligatory girl in the woods, but she’s fully-dressed, no sword in sight, and she’s not standing in some physically implausible position.

It just amazes me how many truly gifted artists there are, and the range of styles available, and yet publishers keep trotting out the same tired pictures and variations on a theme. Yanno, like this:


Granted, I’m not writing paranormal romance, so hopefully if I do get published my book would not be saddled with one of those covers.

Posted in Holidays, Publishing, Vampires, writing

I Resolve Not to Resolve

Much is made of whether or not one should make New Year’s resolutions. The prevailing fad these days seems to favor not making any, probably for good reason: They’re almost universally instantly forgotten.

But how to keep your focus? If I don’t make any resolutions, I feel like I’m drifting aimlessly from one year to the next, not really accomplishing much. It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. Most days I feel like I’m swimming in the ocean, caught by a sneaker-wave and repeatedly pulled under, being dragged further and further out to sea, no matter how hard I flail and kick. Who doesn’t have a ‘to-do’ list that’s longer than their expected life-span? Just getting through the basic daily grind of rising and preparing for and commuting to the job, only to reverse it all at the end of the day, and repeat it again the next four days of the week is almost more than I can manage at times. The futility of it feels paralyzing. It’s that whole ‘There has to be more to life than this.’

I think the only way for me to transcend the paralysis is to focus on things that actually matter to me. I need to list out what I want to have happen this year, and formulate plans to make it so (thank you, Jean-Luc Picard). I won’t call them ‘resolutions’, I will call them my goals for the year.

1. Finish revising Revenants Abroad, get it beta-read, and start querying.

2. Write and submit at least one short story to markets every quarter, and keep at it. Period.

There. That’s it. I think that’s enough with a full-time day job and house to look after. No ‘exercise more’ or ‘lose 20 pounds.’ If my greatest accomplishment at the end of my life is that I stuck to a diet or only weighed a certain amount, I would call my life a failure and a waste. Lots of books to read, but that’s perpetual.

The only thing meaningful enough to alter my life for (apart from my family) is my writing. This means less time on the internet. I’m a Twitter addict but I need to restrict my time there. It’s too easy to lose hours distracted by links and conversations. So back to the NaNoWriMo mindset of head down, blinders on, and type.

So let me leave you with this. Please click the photo below, courtesy of Jacquie Lawson. Let’s make those goals happen. Happy New Year, one and all!