Guest Post: Introducing BREAKSHIELD by J.B. Rockwell

J.B. Rockwell is one of the members of my online writing group, the Inkbots. She’s recently sold her debut to Zharmae, and so I invited her here to show off her cover and blurb and a bit about the book. Take a look! 

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When Laura Lam offered me some space on her website to show off the cover of my upcoming novel Breakshield, I jumped at the opportunity.  After all, who wouldn’t want a shout out from someone who writes such wonderful and truly amazing stories as Pantomime and Shadowplay?  So thank you, Laura, for hosting me in your virtual home!

As for Breakshield, it hits the shelves on March 27, 2014.  I was beyond excited to get the official okay to post the cover art, and here she be:

breakshieldFound at the intersection of life and the afterlife, the Between is a place where science and reason are replaced by magic and violence. It is a place where Typhon and his Huntsmen of the Dark Waste spread like a plague and where Talents go to die. 

The only thing standing in Typhon’s way is Morgan Quendalen and the people of the Shining Lands. They are sworn to protect the last remaining Talents, a precious few who teeter at the edge of extinction.  Morgan valiantly fights, protecting these last remnants of magic in a war he’s not sure he can actually win. 

When Jamie Aster, a mortal Talent with undiscovered powers, is put under his charge, Morgan weighs his oath against a desire to save the Shining Lands. Could he kill a Talent if it meant saving his people?

Breakshield is my debut novel and the first in a series of three that I’ve signed with Zharmae.  As for the cover, well I absolutely love it.  Love-love-love it.  It’s pretty and badass all at the same time and – really – what else could I ask for?  The artist is an up-and-comer named Yanmo Zhang and he’ll be doing the cover art for the other two books in the series as well.  The man on the cover is Morgan Quendalen, the protagonist of this story, and he’s looking pretty badass as well.  I can’t wait until Breakshield  comes out because I think you’re gonna love it as much as I love the cover.  After all, it’s got everything a good fantasy story needs: swords and sorcery, evil beasties with long claws and sharp teeth, and it’s even got a fox familiar named Kitsune. 

Find out more about me at my author site, and follow me on Twitter if you like what you see.  Oh yeah, Breakshield is up on Goodreads if you’re interested, and check out these sites for cover reveals:

Guest Post: Mike Stewart on Adding a Dash of Transmedia to your Writing

Today on the blog I have my fellow Inkbot, Mike Stewart. The Inkbots are an online writing group from the people who made it to the later rounds of Angry Robot’s two Open Door months. Mike has just self-published his short YA novel, Assured Destruction, and it’s an ambitious experiment on transmedia. It’s a lot of work, and it’s really interesting to see all the various outlets he’s creating for people to interact with him, his characters, and his story, and I hope it pays off.  Here’s Mike!

MikesHeadDo you want to separate your writing from the pack? To rise above the noise? Why not employ a methodology used by major Hollywood Studios, from the creators of SUPERNATURALS to HEROES, to many major films and gaming franchises like Assassin’s Creed? It’s called transmedia!

So … Transmedia … WTF is it? The best definition I’ve ever seen is, Transmedia=Storyworld.

It’s every entry point for your readers to your story. I’m not talking where they can buy your book, or your Facebook fan page, those are marketing channels, not story … channels. Are your characters on twitter? Do they Facebook or create videos on Vimeo or YouTube? Maybe there’s a puzzle in your novel that readers can solve on an iPad app which unlocks back story? These are story extensions. Transmedia creates opportunities for readers to discover your book, to continue the story, and creates a feedback loop between fan and author.

Here’s an example, this is the Storyverse for my novel ASSURED DESTRUCTION.

The company in the book has a website, the protagonist has a blog, there’s a secret website to discover, a Facebook page and every character has a Twitter feed that reflects their personalities.

So, for example, if you follow @Heckleena, you’ll gain access to her graphic novel origin story. If you tweet at her, she’ll identify something about you to make fun of. She knows your location, whether you used an iPhone to tweet, what time of day you’re tweeting, where you live, and how many followers you have. All things she can mock, just like her character in the book. I also personally monitor all the Twitter feeds and respond where appropriate.

Transmedia is about collapsing the distance between the book and the reader. It also serves to reduce the distance to the author, so the writer can identify areas of particular interest and develop them further.

Wanna try it? Here are a few tips.

• Plan for it from the start. Should Moby Dick be a Facebook app? Should Shakespeare tweet? Maybe, but we can do better than gimmicks.
• Keep the book standalone. Don’t mess with the fictional dream. Have all content be additive to the overall experience, but not entirely necessary for a compelling story.
• Leverage existing platforms. Don’t make your readers have to find and sign into a new platform or forum. Develop content where the audience is (Hint: they’re on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube).
• This isn’t marketing, it’s storytelling.

If you want to learn more about transmedia and whether it’s working for me, like my Facebook page and you can keep track. Interested in ASSURED DESTRUCTION? See some reviews on Goodreads, or learn more on my website.

Have questions? Ask away!

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About Assured Destruction

You can learn a lot about someone looking through their hard drive…Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.

Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They’re stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose its livelihood.

When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.

“A fun, fast-paced thriller guaranteed to distract teens from Facebook for at least a little while.” –Kirkus Reviews

Find Mike elsewhere:
Website
Twitter
Facebook

About the Book:
Assured Destruction Series
Assured Destruction on Goodreads
Trailer

Get the Book:
Itunes, Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Guest Post: Andrea Stewart: Submitting Stories Again, and Again, and Again…

I’m thrilled to welcome Andrea Stewart to the blog today. We met via AbsoluteWrite, as she was a hopeful through this year’s Angry Robot Open Door month, and so she joined our online writing group. I’m even more thrilled to say that Andrea has just won FIRST PLACE in the quarter finals of this year’s Writers of the Future contest, having her work judged anonymously by the likes of Time Powers & Larry Niven. Please welcome Andrea to the blog as she discusses perseverance.

Sometimes I think you have to be a little bit crazy to want to be a writer. Instead of spending your spare time playing video games, running around parks, or going out with friends, you type words on a keyboard. These words, taken together, may or may not be any good. And even if they’re good, they may not reach the level of great, and may or may not ever get published. Or read. It’s a lot of time and emotion to invest in something that might not pan out.

I ended up trunking my first manuscript, after a long period of querying. About a year ago, as I was working on my second manuscript (about a young woman who must balance her addiction to blood magic with saving a country and the people that she loves), I came up with an ill-conceived plan.

I like to write epic fantasy, and I like the sweeping, globe-trotting aspect of it, which means I tend to write long. Although I got partial and full requests for my first manuscript, agents expressed misgivings about the length. I thought if I could sell a couple short stories to pro markets before I started submitting my second manuscript, then I could put those credits on my query letter and ease those misgivings. It made sense to me at the time!

What I didn’t realize was that there aren’t a lot of professional markets out there for short speculative fiction. And since I was writing stories that stretched past the 5,000 word mark, I had even fewer to submit to.

I tried them anyways and was summarily rejected. Each time I wrote a new story, I thought it would be the one to get published, only to be proven wrong. And then I wrote The Story—the one that my writers’ group loved, the one that just seemed to have the right flow and rhythm. I submitted it to F&SF, and received a kind personal rejection. Clarkesworld: form reject, two days. Daily Science Fiction: another kind personal rejection, expressing that it was a hard decision.

The Writers of the Future contest was always on my peripherals, but I never submitted there. There was something intimidating about the contest aspect of it. But I submitted the story in June, not expecting much after the prior rejections, and resolved to self-publish it if I didn’t hear back.

In November, I got the call that my story was a finalist. On December 10, I got the call that my story had won first place.

I can’t completely express how overwhelmingly exciting this is for me (so exciting that I’m abusing adverbs!). This is the first time something I’ve written will be available in bookstores. It will be published this summer. It will be read.

So maybe writers are just a little bit crazy. The kind of crazy that doesn’t care as much about the piles of unread writing, about the time and the emotional investment, the long nights and frenzied drafting. Because getting that one “yes” can make it all worth it. It did for me.

Andrea is by day a contract specialist for California and by night a speculative fiction writer. We haven’t bullied her into getting a Twitter (yet), but you can find out more about her and her writing on her website. I have no doubt we’ll see plenty more from Andrea in the future!

Guest Post: Dulcimers & Draughtsmen: Misconceptions of 18th Century Technology

Today I’m pleased to welcome to the blog a member of my online writing group, Rob Haines. He’s a veteran of last year’s Angry Robot Open Door month and wrote a book about warring chefs in an alternate Paris, which has some amazingly cool steampunk technology. Here, he discusses his research for writing his novel.

When I sat down to write a novel set in an alternate early-19th Century Paris, I thought I had a good idea of the level of technology available in Western Europe at the time: simple windup toys, tinny music-boxes, clocks with big swinging pendulums, that sort of thing. So I wrote a first draft based on my assumptions and a quick scan of the internet, exaggerating the level of clockwork technology available in line with the alternate history I was creating.

But once the draft was done and I buried myself in researching clockwork and automata in more depth, I rapidly discovered how wrong my assumptions had been. Even prior to the onset of the steam age, inventors and artisans the world over were no stranger to mechanisms so complex they can seem totally anachronistic to us, and suddenly the advanced technology I’d introduced in my draft seemed rather tame compared to reality.

As far back as the 12th Century, the Islamic scholar al-Jazari was renowned for his Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, a handbook on the construction of machines from complex astronomical clocks to hand-washing automata, providing soap and towels to the user at pre-defined points in the process. So if simple robotics were already well-known mid-way through the Crusades, what technological advances would the next seven-hundred years bring?

Flashing forward to the 1700s, French clockmakers were pushing forward the art of automata. Jacques de Vaucanson, a glove-maker’s son, built a life-size robotic flute-player which genuinely played the instrument, blowing air between articulated lips, modulated with a metal tongue, the airholes obstructed by its fingers – gloved in skin, after Vaucanson realised wooden fingers lacked the proper acoustics. It’s hardly surprising that when he created a set of automata to serve dinner for the visiting head of a religious order, the visitor declared Vaucanson’s creations to be profane, and ordered that his workshop be destroyed.

More impressive – and a little less creepy – is Henri Maillardet’s Draughtsman-Writer, the inspiration for the film Hugo:

 

When this marvellous device was rediscovered in 1928, its origins were unknown, but within its century-old memory – movements enscribed in the undulations of the cams beneath its feet – this writer held seven drawings and poetry, which it was designed to write on command. Once repaired, the automaton raised its pen and spelled out the name of its creator.

By this point it was clear I’d vastly underestimated the technology of the time, even if it was mostly employed in toys and amusements for the wealthiest members of society. I’d definitely be ramping up the complexity of automata and clockwork in my next draft. But even as I sat down to write, I encountered one last astounding automaton, far removed from my stereotypical ideas of toys and music-boxes; a beautiful German gift for the French Queen, Marie Antoinette:

 

Rob Haines is a writer, podcaster and ex-turtle biologist. His work can be found at www.generationminusone.com

Congratulations to Wesley Chu, the Lives of Tao, and Angry Robot Books!

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome to the blog today one of my closest friends, Wesley Chu, who has just signed a deal with Angry Robot Books for his debut, The Lives of Tao. We both submitted to the Angry Robot Open Door Month in March, 2011. When we both learned we had gone to editorial, we started chatting first on the AbsoluteWrite forums and then on gchat. We now pretty much chat every day, egging each other on and setting writing goals, angsting at each other and how marvelous and strange it is to transition from aspiring to professional author. I’ll even be crashing at his pad this summer for Worldcon, so I’m reasonably certain he’s not an axe-murderer.

I’m so happy that his wonderful, funny, action-packed sci fi book (think Chuck with aliens) has found a perfect home with the loveable but cross Angry Robots, and that we’re now colleagues and stablemates as well as best buds. So here’s Wes with a little more about The Lives of Tao.

Today is an important day. Alongside other momentous events such as my birth, my first back flip, and the first time Eva the Airedale Terrier learned to shake her head on command, I became a published author. This morning, Angry Robot Books announced a two book deal for my The Lives of Tao series.

Laura Lam, my literary partner-in-crime and future New York Times bestselling author, asked me to guest blog on her site. This is a first as well (today’s full of them!) and I’m not sure where to start.

For the first time, humanity will finally learn the truth about the alien puppet masters that have been living on our planet, and how their civil war caused some of the greatest wars this planet has ever seen. For years, I told everyone within hearing distance about these aliens who were manipulating mankind’s evolution by inhabiting our greatest historical figures. Most people just smiled and asked me if I ever met Tom Cruise at a Scientology meeting.

How else do you warn a civilization with the attention span of drunken hamsters about the impending destruction of Earth by aliens no one can see? A person can’t just go to the local authorities and report the danger. We all saw how that worked with Kyle Reese. All it got was everyone at the police station killed.

So I did what any righteous freedom loving citizen of the United States would do if they wanted to be heard and respected. I tried to get on reality TV. When that didn’t pan out (Why didn’t you turn around, Ceelo!), I opted for the next best thing. I wrote a book. Labeling it as a fiction wasn’t a mistake. I do want people to read it after all. But make no mistake. This series will be the most important set of books you will ever read! Learn about how a silly Mongol conquered the known world. Discover the real cause of the Spanish Inquisition.

The first book in the Lives of Tao trilogy will be released April 2013 by Angry Robot Books. People say the Angry Robots are just mad and want to take over the world. I call them Earth patriots.

Congrats, Wes! You can find out more about Wes and the hidden war among us at his blog and on Twitter.

Guest Post: Leading my Double Life – Amy McCulloch

I’m delighted to welcome Amy McCulloch to my blog today. Now, she says that she is no superhero, but do not be fooled–this is a woman who edits, writes, and runs very long distances clad in spandex. Sounds like a superhero to me! 

Amy is a fellow member of Team Mushens–we both have Juliet Mushens of PFD as our agent. Just yesterday she posted a great interview with Juliet here

This past week I (and it appears most of the world) saw Marvel Avengers Assemble at the cinema. I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the superheroes because alas I too live a double life… Okay, I’m no superhero (trust me, an editor’s outfit is much more boring than a skin-tight catsuit ala Black Widow) but I do take on dual roles in the publishing world as both editor and author!

Getting to see both sides of the publishing business has been a really fascinating – and sometimes painful – experience. When I first went out ‘on submission’ to agents, I made sure to use a pseudonym as I didn’t want the association to be immediately obvious, and I wanted to make sure agents felt comfortable giving their honest opinion without worrying about it affecting a professional relationship. Juliet Mushens (my agent), however, learned I was submitting from Twitter and asked me to submit to her directly – so there was no need to obfuscate my identity there!

When The Oathbreaker’s Shadow went out to editors, we made the decision to stick with my real name. Knowing what goes on the other side of the commissioning desk, as it were, both helped and hindered me – I didn’t stress as much about timings (boy do I know how slow editors can be!) but once I heard my manuscript was going into the meetings stage at a few different publishing houses, I was desperate to know more. Was it just the editorial meeting, or was it going to acquisitions? Were they circulating the manuscript or still just reading solo? Were they talking money yet or just debating the merits? I wanted to dissect the goings on so badly, but trust me – it’s pretty much impossible to really know what’s happening at that stage until it’s happened.

Now that my book is going through the various preparation stages for publication, I find my editor hat can be helpful, but surprisingly not in the ways you might think. It doesn’t help me at all when it comes to editing the book. Once I get past a certain point, my writer brain just will not switch off enough for me to be objective about my own work, which I think is pretty natural. It does mean however that I am very receptive to editing (at least I hope so). I know what an important part of the publishing process it is, and I’m not precious about my work. I know that when an editor takes on a book, it becomes as much theirs as it is mine – and it is their championing of it in-house that can make such a huge difference to the success of its publication.

I’m also really lucky to have some great role models, in whose footsteps I would be beyond happy to tread. Jane Johnson, my boss at HarperVoyager, is a brilliant editor (she was up for editor of the year at the Bookseller awards last night) and she also writes gorgeous books for Penguin, including the recently published The Sultan’s Wife. Nick Lake, the editorial director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, is another stellar editor/author package – his latest In Darkness is one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read. So really whenever I think it might be hard to juggle both full-time jobs, I take inspiration from my coworkers who are doing it with brilliant success. Luckily, the thing that editors and authors have in common is a love of books, so I can’t complain on that front – I get to work in a field I love either way!

Amy McCulloch is a commissioning editor at HarperVoyager, where she works on books by George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Raymond E. Feist, and edits new upcoming stars of SF/F like Blake Charlton, James Smythe and Janet Edwards. Her debut YA fantasy novel The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is coming from Random House Children’s Publishers in Spring 2013. Follow her on Twitter @amymcculloch or visit her at her website: http://amymcculloch.wordpress.com/.

Guest Post: A Day in the Life of my agent, Juliet Mushens!

I’ve asked my fantabulous agent extraordinaire, Juliet Mushens of Peters Fraser & Dunlop, to share a day in her life on the blog today.  I know when I was hunting for agents, I was really curious as to what it was like on the other side of the desk. Juliet draws back the curtain and shows you the madness and wonder of being a literary agent. 

I check my email before I even get out of bed. According to friends I am surgically attached to my iPhone/iPad which I think is probably true: I have a terrible habit of checking it during lunch, at the cinema… Anywhere and everywhere. I flag any submissions and have a quick check to make sure there is nothing so uber-urgent that I need to deal with it right now. Sometimes there is, which makes for an interesting morning!

Once I’m actually in the office and caffeinated I properly go through my emails to make sure I’m on top of things. These emails can be about anything: an author struggling with a plot point, an author chasing up money, a publisher asking me my thoughts on a cover/publicity campaign/marketing campaign, submissions, queries from our foreign rights team or foreign publishers about rights, contractual negotiations, editorial notes on contracted manuscripts and anything and everything in between.

I always start the day with a very efficiently drawn up to-do list with ticky boxes next to everything but sometimes item 1 can take four hours… Or suddenly an urgent call comes in, or a really hot manuscript, or an editor pre-empts a book, or I have to leave now to go to an unexpected meeting. It can be a constant juggling act which is why I tend to read most submissions in evenings or on weekends as I want to give them proper time and consideration.

I represent an equal mix of fiction and non-fiction and a key part of my job is finding new non-fiction clients. I come up with a list of ideas every week that I want to follow up so one day a week I do my best to track down contact details, arrange meetings and find out if there’s a book there. Recently I sold two inspirational memoirs that came out of these brainstorms so it can be very rewarding albeit something that sends me all over the country – Northampton, Manchester and Somerset in one week was a record for me. With fiction authors I want to sign I will always come armed with a list of comments and notes on their manuscript, to make sure we are on the same page editorially. Sometimes a manuscript will keep me up all night reading it and I know I’m desperate to sign them so I’ll need to move quickly. I read Pantomime overnight and I had butterflies in my stomach as I knew that it was very special and I had to persuade Laura that I was the uber-enthusiastic agent for her!

I am passionate about editing with my authors and I will typically have one manuscript open in the background of my computer at most times as I structurally edit their work. Some authors go through one draft and some go through four or more – there’s no right or wrong way to draft and I love teasing out a tricky strand and the satisfaction when you both have that ‘aha!’ moment. A book called Held Up by Christopher Radmann comes out from Headline in July and we worked hard on it together and when I sold it it was intensely satisfying (it’s an amazing book). My acknowledgement in the book is so nice it made me cry at my desk, and it’s such a wonderful moment when you feel like you’ve contributed to the creative process in a positive way.

I also spend a lot of time at meetings. Sometimes with prospective clients, sometimes with existing clients, with publishers, foreign publishers, literary scouts, film scouts, celebrities, production companies… The list goes on. It’s a business built on personal relationships and I think that nothing beats making a connection with someone where you can find out what really makes them tick and the book they’d love to publish. And then I can try and find it for them! It’s also always a treat to see a book launched, or to get to have a gossip with my authors. I’m conscious that writing can be quite solitary so it’s nice to sit down and discuss next steps with books, or just celebrate a big deal.

I spend a few evenings a week socialising with editors, or at launch parties, at Creative Writing MA launches, or with my authors. And when I’m not working, or reading my authors’ books, I tend to have my head stuck in another book (I’m going through a gory crime phase at the moment). I’m very lucky to do a job I’m so passionate about: I love people, and I love writing, and the two of them combine to make my job very enjoyable… Even if it is sending me grey before my time.

So if you needed proof that agents are superhuman…there you go! Juliet is open to queries. To read more about what Juliet represents and her submissions guidelines, please go here. A huge thank you to Juliet for taking the time for this post.