May 8, 2012 — 135 words
By 1889 Labs
1889 Labs has teamed up with BIG JUMP Productions to publish a series of teen novels entitled ASCENSION. The series will be written by debut author Yvonne Reid, with the first book scheduled for release this summer.
We can't give away too many spoilers just yet, but what we will say is that ASCENSION follows a teenage girl whose only hope of survival is winning a tournament she's never trained for... all the while keeping her identity secret. And if anyone discovers who she really is, she'll never make it home alive.
Think "Hunger Games meets robots". Then make it ten times cooler.
The first installment of ASCENSION is coming out this summer. Keep your eyes peeled.
May 8, 2012 — 295 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The first thought Tic had when he saw the cloud of red lasers erupting from the turrets of the Liberati ships was "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!"
His next thought, as the lasers raked across the Pelican's sides, making the freighter shake violently, was "EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!"
His third thought, upon realizing he was still alive, was "OOOOOOOHH..."
With his fourth thought, he mused that he had skipped a vowel.
"Excellent," grunted the curator, fiddling with his handset. "They only took down twenty percent of the force-shields. Gotta love those modular turrets, eh, Jeffries?"
"Love 'em like I love my own mother, sir," said Jeffries.
"Wait," said Tic. "Those turrets you installed generate force-shields, too?"
"Our museum displays the finest in twenty-year-old Entulovian military technology!" beamed the curator.
"Wow," said Tic. "So we might actually have a chance..."
The Pelican shook under another barrage.
"Not much of one, if we don't get crackin'!" snapped the curator. "Jeffries, man the vac gens. I'll control the turrets from my handset. Bolter, fly!"
"Yes, sir!" barked Jeffries.
"Er, okay," said Tic. He grabbed the controls. "Work with me, Pelly!"
"Yes, dear," responded the AI. "We're being flanked, by the way."
"Great..." said Tic. "So, uh, let's try this, then." He thrust the controls forward and put the Pelican into a steep dive, then pulled up and around in a tight arc. "Where are they now?"
"Directly behind us," said Pelly. The ship shook again, as if in confirmation.
The curator snarled, "We're at 55% shields! Gotta play some offense. Bolter, get one in front of us!"
Tic banked hard to the right and came around in a 180-degree turn. "Now?"
"One above us," said Pelly, "and one below."
"Uuurgh!" said Tic. "Okay, here goes nothing!"
May 7, 2012 — 420 words
By Greg X. Graves
I would make a terrible journalist.
Did you know that they're not allowed to lie? And if they lie, then there are consequences? Every time a journalist lies the moustache of a robber baron grows three inches and becomes three degrees curlier. A scummy crime boss grows another layer of grim. A corrupt politician crashes the first six miles of his Bentley into an orphanage and has time to finish his single-malt scotch before climbing into his auxiliary Cadillac and jettisoning before the passenger compartment comes within view of the wreckage.
The thought of responsibility makes me sweat. That's why I spend my writing time making up stuff.
Fact about me: facts don't work on me. I zone out and have flashbacks to my past life as a history student. Did you know that Caesar Augustus was not the final Roman Emperor to ride a Tyrannosaurus Rex into battle? That the Sack of Rome is not a lewd reference to Mark Antony? That everything that I know about the ancient world could be inscribed on a grain of rice with an extra-fat Sharpie?
Don't put the cap back on the marker. Take a few deep breaths, then open up Tacitus. You'll get an idea of how I understand history.
But sometimes I have to struggle with facts (ew), just like I have to struggle with transitions. Both hurdles have come up very recently.
I’ve been writing an alternate history novel for the past nine months. And it turns out that for it to be "alternate history" and not "mindfluff" then I have to put some actual history into it. World War I. Wireless telegraphy. Electrification, urban and rural. Tesla. The Curies. Nuclear weapons.
One of these things is totally like the other and you'd believe me if it wasn't for stupid facts.
History, granted, is not fact: history is by its very nature an interpretive act. Historians must choose what stories to tell and what stories go untold. They piece together stories and data into patterns that make or break a thesis. Historians combine fact with passion, intramural drama and incredible myopia to interpret the past.
These qualities are vital to wrest any sort of tangible, worthwhile product out of the howling mysteries of the past.
Wait. These qualities also make for great plots. Passion? Intramural drama? Myopia?
Maybe my next book should be about historians instead of history. Maybe I could ignore some of these facts.
Whoops. I said the f-word again. I have to go lie down.
May 5, 2012 — 374 words
By Terra Whiteman
When we first write something--a book, a short story, an article, whatever--we love it. We think it's the absolute best thing we've ever written. We sit there beaming at those clusters of words strewn into sentences strewn into paragraphs (sometimes) strewn into pages and think: "Yeah, it doesn't get any better than this."
Unfortunately, it does. And yes, I mean unfortunately.
Because like every other aspect in our lives, writing evolves.
The fourth book in a series I've been working on for over three years now has just been released, the fifth and last one due out this summer. Recently I picked up the first book and glanced over it.
... And then I cringed.
I skimmed through the draft of the final book that has yet to be released, and realized the writing is different. It's been nearly two years since I'd revised that first book, and back then I thought it was so completely filled with awesome that no one could have told me otherwise. Now I think it's utter crap. In fact, I'm currently in the process of producing an entirely rewritten second edition after begging 1889 Labs to let me go ahead with it.
But in a sense, it's a futile battle; I'm sure in another four years from now I'll look back on the rewritten edition and think it's crap as well. It seems like an endless process, and then I wonder if there is ever a point at which we achieve our apex of 'perfect' writing. Do we ever reach our maximum ability? Or perhaps we're not really getting 'better', but instead just writing differently?
Even with these dizzying thoughts, a rewrite would at least make the series more consistent, rather than having it seem as though two different authors had written it. Lately I've become so obsessed with trying to improve that I spend more time analyzing each sentence than focusing on the story. My husband finally told me that it'll never be perfect, and to just put it out and move on. It's what every author does, they move on. After this rewrite, so will I... albeit reluctantly.
I wonder how many other published authors look back on their earliest work and feel like burning it?
May 5, 2012 — 301 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Milly said, "I think that's everything, right guys?" She gave Haglyn and Overard pointed looks.
Haglyn raised her eyebrow in a "why-are-you-asking-me?" kind of way, but Overard caught on more quickly. "Right," he said, "no secrets here!"
"Hey," said Tic, "wait a minute. This is my ship. You can't just take over like this!"
The curator harrumphed. "Got a better solution? We're under attack! I need your ship, and you need my weaponry. If you had any real armaments, or even some specialized ammunition, I'd welcome you to have at it..."
Tic was about to retort, but another attack from the Liberati rocked the loading bay. "Urgh. Fine! But I'm taking copilot."
The curator acceded the claim, and Tic led him and a staffer—Jeffries, according to his name tag—into the cockpit. Jeffries took the pilot's seat and began acclimating himself to Pelly's controls. Another museum staffer bustled in and pulled Milly, Haglyn, and Overard off the ship into the loading bay.
As Pelly's sublight engine warmed up, Tic's hands started getting clammy. What was he doing!? He didn't rush into battles like some kind of hero...
The curator clapped him on the shoulder. "Let's get 'em, boys!" He held up a handset: "Got those turrets ready?" The staffers outside confirmed. The curator hit a button and the loading bay doors started opening.
"We're going to die, aren't we?" said Tic.
"Wouldn't be war if there wasn't a chance of dying!" grinned the curator.
Pelly, who had been quiet throughout the chaos and bustle, softly said, "Mr. Bolter, it has been an honour working with you." Then Jeffries hit the accelerator and they shot out into the open air.
Lasers instantly started to fly.
On the loading bay floor, Milly said, "Wait... Where's Dr. Fester?"
May 4, 2012 — 303 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
"We'd better let the curator in," said Milly. She and Overard hurried into the hold. Tic, still woozy, stumbled after them.
Overard hit the button and the door swished open to reveal the curator in mid-knock, along with half a dozen museum employees. They were all holding various intimidating weaponry.
The curator pushed his way into Pelly's hold. "Took you long enough... Now, what do we have here? Got that engine in yet?"
"Um," said Overard. "No, not yet."
"Gonna be a little while," chimed in Cogs, popping his head up from behind the Jitterdrive. "I'm doing what I can, sir."
"Prioritize the cloaking circuitry," barked the curator.
"Er..." said Cogs.
"Jenks, get in there and help him out."
One of the other museum staff dropped his blaster and hopped down with Cogs.
The curator looked at Overard. "What armaments does this old bucket have?"
"It's his ship, actually," said Overard. He pointed to Tic.
"Well?" said the curator.
Tic shook his head to clear away the cobwebs. "'Well' what? What's going on?"
"You tell me!" said the curator. "I dunno what these scum are after, but I'm guessing it has something to do with you folks. Y'all can explain later! Right now, we gotta fight. I'm commandeering your vessel. The Enemy hit our hangars, crippled us right off the hop. In three days we could construct half a fleet out of our spare parts, but there's no time. We've gotta do with what we've got, and right now, we've got your Galactic Pelican."
There was a pregnant pause.
"Huh?" said Tic.
"Pelly has vacuum generators," offered Haglyn.
"It's a start," mused the curator. "Jones, Jackson: wing-mount your turrets." Two staffers leapt into action. "Anything else I should know before we get this freighter in the air?"
May 3, 2012 — 879 words
By Letitia Coyne
Just lately people keep asking me the worst possible question. No, not questions about the motivating forces that apply to perambulating ducks, not ‘would you kill your child to save the world?’ not ‘do you want fries with that?’; worse.
What is your favourite book?
How does anyone ever answer that? At any given moment, it might be the book I am reading now or the one I wish I was reading. I do not have any exclusivity in genre preferences; I’ll read most things and enjoy many. There are too many variables that influence my choice.
There is the weather. Cold wet weather makes me want to read classics. If I can curl up in comfy chair with a hot Milo or Irish coffee, with a TimTam and a duvet, then I like to read old books and pretend it is a simpler time or the world is a different place. So I’d have to start with a list of classical Literature that I have enjoyed repeatedly. But to pick one?
Hot sunny weather is unlikely to bring on a reading binge, but if it did I would want something foreign. Living in Queensland all my life has never cured me of associating heat and humidity with pre-war Singapore, all white linen and broad-brimmed hats on ladies sipping G&Ts on rattan verandah chairs, or colonial African plains spreading out for ever with the threats of adventure, blood and riches. There are masses of those, too. Which one is best?
If, like me, you have had multitudes of sport-playing children to chauffer about on the weekends, you will know there is rarely time to watch any one of them compete. The schedule demands you drop one off with gear early, to get another to their venue just in time to head back across the endless suburbs to where another must be signed in, signed for, paid for, kitted out, fed, and photographed before the whole journey runs again backwards. Throughout that day you will have periods, however brief, where waiting in carparks reading is the only sane option. That book has to be light. That’s the time for chicklit or comedy or blissfully both! But not for Dostoyevsky. Or it's time for a great short story collection. Or even a comic. So – choose your favourite carpark book, I dare you to try.
Doctors’ waiting rooms. Yes, you’re groaning. It depends, doesn’t it? Do you want to flick through an eleven year old celebrity focused magazine with the crossword done in red biro and wrong? No. No one does, but they persevere because trying to choose a good doctors’ waiting room book is too hard. It’s fine if it is only a check up, or a non-life threatening complaint. But what if you can’t think straight because of the persistent burning? What if there is a lump or a discharge? What if it is a prenatal checkup and you are so excited you just cannot see the words?
Having a few different favourite books to take to the doctor is essential. I like books I can open at any page, and familiarity with them allows me to resume reading from any point. If there are really loud and fascinating social interactions going on around you, [as there often are at my doctor's surgery] you can relax knowing you won’t have to keep re reading a passage every time your attention is snagged away.
Can’t sleep and need to? Then something biographical. So many interesting people, fascinating people, who have had the day-to-day diarized for them just so you can read their tales as you try to nod off. Can’t sleep and don’t care? Then something really gripping; something to take your mind off lying on the bed as the time ticks by. A great thriller or adventure novel. Or truly beautiful poetry or poetic prose that lets your tired mind flow through washes and waves of thought and imagery.
I haven’t scratched the surface of times to read, and each one has a hundred books that would be the perfect choice for that moment in time. So for every hundred moments, there are a hundred wonderful books. For every emotional state or state of confusion or relaxation, there are another hundred that I might be thrilled to pick up over and over again.
I answered the question recently for Tonya Moore. I said, ‘Precious Bane’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, and ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ as a box set. On reading that, a friend said, “What? You didn’t even mention Douglas Adams?” No I didn’t. I wasn’t thinking of humour at that moment. I was thinking about loam and lovechildren. I didn’t mention Homer, or Terry Pratchett or PG Wodehouse either and every one of their books is a favourite. I might have alighted on ‘The Prophet’ or ‘Sacrament’ or ‘Titus Andronicus’.
I cannot choose. I cannot, ever, reliably choose my favourite book.
If you can, how? What is it and why is it so far above all the beauties of literature that it holds its place in every circumstance? How do you do it?
May 3, 2012 — 271 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Milly readied the Instawake syringe and looked back and forth between Tic and Dr. Fester. She made up her mind, lifted Tic's blanket, and jabbed the needle into his thigh.
"Yeeeeow!" Tic shot bolt upright and wrapped his head in his arms. "Uuuuuurgh... Where are my legs!? I can't find my legs!" He kicked his feet violently, knocking the blankets and the syringe onto the floor. "Oh, found them! Ow. Oooooh..."
"Are you okay?" said Milly.
"I think I need to puke..." Tic gagged, then swallowed. "False alarm. Hey: why is everything green and purple?"
Milly held up the packaging the Instawake had come in. Maybe she should've read the fine print.
"Oh," said Tic, "so this is what Instawake feels like. Crazy stuff. Why'd you use it on me?"
"We're under attack!"
"What? By who?"
"The Liberati!" Milly quickly explained the situation. "None of us are good enough pilots to get us out of here... We need you, Tic."
Tic rubbed his temples. "Great. Just great. Why me?"
"No time for that!" said Milly. "Come on!" She grabbed Tic by the sleeve and dragged him towards the cockpit.
Before they made it there, they heard a booming knock from the side door of the hold. "Open up, if you know what's good for you!" shouted a muffled voice.
Milly stopped. "Oh no! Did they break through into the loading bay already?"
Overard stuck his head out of the hold. "It's the curator!"
"The who?" said Tic.
"Oh, you're awake," said Overard. "The curator sold us the Jitterdrive. Should we let him in?"
May 2, 2012 — 294 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The force of the explosions knocked Milly off her feet. Her ears rang and she felt like she'd been run over by a truck. Blood trickled down into her eyes. She wiped it away. The police officers were scattered across the floor in front of her. Through the smoke, she could see the two white ships hovering outside. There was no mistaking it now: the pilots were clearly Liberati.
Glancing around in panic, Milly saw a way to at least buy some time: on the wall to her left, only 15 or 20 strides away, was the control panel for the loading bay doors. If she could only make it there...
Milly carefully rose to her feet, picking up the bottle of Gortinawa seeds. They might come in handy now. Then she spun quickly to her left and dashed towards the control panel on shaking legs. Ten more steps, five, three...
The floor beneath her exploded into dust as the lasers sent her flying. She hit the wall with her shoulder and crumpled, but through the pain she heard the heavy whirring of the bay doors closing. The Liberati were shut outside. For now. She felt the bombardment immediately as they tried to force passage, but the doors held.
Making sure none of the seeds had spilled, Milly limped back to the Pelican.
Overard helped her inside. "What's going on?"
"It's them," groaned Milly, "from Crux. We have to get out of here!"
Overard swore. "But the Jitterdrive isn't ready yet!"
Haglyn whirred into the hold. "If Bolter was awake, he could fly us out of here!"
Milly rushed into the passenger cabin, where Tic and Dr. Fester were both unconscious. Rummaging through the drawers, she found a single dose of Instawake.
May 1, 2012 — 1,163 words
By Guest Author
by Emily Devenport
I've had three pen names during my writing career, so, "Why did you change pen names so often?" is a question I've been asked a lot. People may assume an author would do that because her first books weren't successful, and she wanted another shot with a new name. That's not a bad assumption, but I changed my pen names for only one reason: my publisher wanted me to. And not because they were trying to fool readers -- at least, not at first.
My first six books sold pretty well. When I changed my pen name from Emily Devenport to Maggy Thomas, my publisher was actually trying to fool the book store chains. The chains had an unfortunate policy of ordering only as many copies of a midlist writer’s new title as they'd recently ordered of the last book. I don't mean total sales. I mean the last order. So even if they sold 30 copies of your title at a particular location, if they ordered one or two copies in the last few months before the new title was released, they would order one or two copies of the new one. Not only did that give you no opportunity to grow your audience, it actually caused your sales figures to shrink.
Despite this, the name change was not a casual decision. I knew I had fans who wouldn't know where to find me anymore. But I got the impression that refusing to change my pen name could be a deal breaker. So I became Maggy Thomas. My 7th title, Broken Time, was published under that name. It was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and it got some fabulous reviews. But it wasn't a “lead” title – it was just another midlist mass-market paperback release for that year. The sales figures weren't the worst, but they weren't the best, either.
Fortunately, my editor still believed in me. So when it came time to sell the next proposal (for Belarus), she had a new strategy to sell me to her bosses. She told them I could gain more readers if my name was "gender obscure," meaning that it could be a man’s name or a woman’s. The theory was that it would attract male readers as well as female. That’s how I became Lee Hogan.
Yes, that time around they were trying to fool the readers.
That strategy worked fairly well, at first. But the economy started to tank the year the next book, Enemies, was released. And then the 9/11 tragedy happened, striking right at the heart of the publishing industry. That industry was already in trouble, and in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crash, 80% of writers who were signed with various publishing companies (including me) were let go.
Understand: this doesn't mean we got pink slips. It's never that straight-forward in the entertainment industry. What happens is that people just stop returning your calls. My agent was very honest with me about what was happening, and she is still willing to vet any contracts I may receive. I have no idea whether that will ever happen again, given the changes in the publishing industry and the rise in ebooks.
But I don't feel bad about it. I actually managed to get nine titles published with NAL/Roc, and I got my professional credentials. I was privileged to work with great editors. Still, I have to admit, having three pen names was a pain in the neck. I made fans with all three names, and trying to direct them to my new titles, Spirits Of Glory and The Night Shifters (now using my original pen name, Emily Devenport) has been a real challenge.
Trying to attract old fans is not the biggest challenge facing an indie ebook author. It's daunting to swim in that electronic ocean -- professional writers are lost among the multitude of newbies, many of whom are publishing books that should never see the light of day (or of a reader screen). Even experienced writers are sometimes too delusional to hire a professional editor (many of whom work freelance these days). But I would still rather take charge of my own career and plot my own course through the ebook publishing scene than do what some professionals have contemplated -- adopt a pen name to fool the publishers.
This has actually worked for one or two people. But it's a terrible idea. Publishers don't like being deceived. I understand why authors would consider doing it -- the stigma attached to self-publishing seems especially poisonous to writers whose books were published in New York by “The Big Six.” It's a stamp of validation that doesn't currently exist in the world of indie e-publishing. But trying to fool publishers with a new pen name is an act of desperation, and decisions based on desperation seldom turn out well.
There are other reasons why some writers might consider using pen names, even when they've been self-publishing. Lack of success under your original pen name might cause you to try to reboot your career with a new one. But some writers adopt multiple pen names so they can venture into new genres. This happened under the old publishing model too -- book stores tended to put an author's works all in one section, regardless of the genre. Publishers wanted to make sure that an author's children's books would go in the Children's section, and mystery books would go in Mystery. How necessary that is for ebooks and web sites remains to be seen.
So -- will I ever adopt a new pen name? I doubt it. If I did, I'd just have to build my audience all over again, quite a bit of work in this age of social networking and book blog reviews. I'll take my chances as Emily Devenport. Patience, perseverance, and good work are the best strategies I can recommend for anyone these days, regardless of what name they decide to put on their books.
Nine of Emily Devenport's novels were published by NAL/Roc before she started publishing ebooks. She wrote under three pen names and was published in the US, the UK, Italy, and Israel. Her novel, Broken Time, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award. She has published three new ebooks: The Night Shifters, Spirits Of Glory, and Pale Lady.