Harper Voyager Update for May

Hello, I’m back! Eurovision ended with a grand final competition on Saturday in Malmö, Sweden. Emmelie de Forest of Denmark won the top prize with her song “Only Teardrops.” Well done, Europe. This is a beautiful and haunting song, and Emmelie de Forest has a strong, impassioned voice. Take a look at her winning performance.

While I was busy (obsessed?) with Eurovision and my 12 Points To… blog, other things happened in the world. In particular, Harper Voyager came out with a new update. For those not in the know, back in October 2012 Harper Voyager opened a two week submission slot for unsolicited manuscripts. Those accepted would be published as part of a new digital imprint. If you are a speculative fiction author, this was a big deal.

Of course, they received thousands of submissions. They’ve been very good about keeping those authors updated via their website. Here is a quote from their latest update.

Another update on the digital submissions! As per the previous update post, we received 4500+ entries, and by early March we had responded to 2905 entries.

We have now reviewed all the submissions in our inbox and responded to 3595 submissions that were not right for our list. The remaining 948 are marked for further reading and consideration.

You can read the full update here.

I haven’t heard back yet, which means my novel “Fake” is one of those 948. This is very exciting and even flattering. Regardless of the outcome, I’m happy to be part of this group.

Submitting your manuscript is a nail chomping experience, but it is necessary if you want to be a professional writer. Even if you plan to go the indie route, it doesn’t hurt to submit a short story here and there. It gives you the experience of pulling together a professional manuscript. Rejections aren’t pleasant, but occasionally editors will include a nugget of invaluable critique.

If you are ready to submit a novel or short story, or even a piece of creative nonfiction, you really should subscribe to Cindi Myers’ Market News blog. It’s a (mostly) weekly blog that contains news on markets open to manuscript submission. Cindi has been doing this for years and she is a fabulous, generous person. While visiting her blog, you can check out her novels as well.

Hey readers, I haven’t forgotten about you. A tasty freebie by Neil Gaiman has been made available by HarperCollins. It can be downloaded for numerous eBook formats.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties By Neil Gaiman How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
A short story from New York Times bestselling author, Neil Gaiman. Plus an excerpt from his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Another Neil Gaiman freebie you can find online is his Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft mash-up, A Study in Emerald. It is available in PDF format and is a short, fun read. Enjoy!

Food and Writing

What a person eats reveals a great deal about them. This is probably why the TV show “Iron Chef” used a quote by French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

Food is also an important indicator of place, time and culture. Therefore, writers can’t afford to be sloppy when it comes to literary diet. Readers are ready to cry foul when they spot a food-based blunder. For example, a friend recently complained about a scene in a novel where the main character, supposedly a New Orleans native, prepared coffee. Herself a native, she claimed no one in the Big Easy would make coffee that way.

I recently went through a delightful BBC TV series called “Supersizers.” During the course of each episode, the hosts, Giles Coren and Sue Perkins, would spend a week living and dining according to the customs of a given time period. Done with tongue-in-cheek humor, the hosts were nonetheless quite serious about being authentic, particularly in terms of cuisine.

I highly recommend this series to readers and writers of historical fiction. It’s easy to glamorize the past, but it’s the elements of realism that make a story come to life. One awful reality the Supersizers had to face was not drinking water for a week. Instead, they had to subsist on wine and beer. Imagine that. Now, write about it.

“Supersizers” is available on Hulu Plus with a paid subscription. You can also find several episodes on the Supersizers YouTube Channel.

Today on Amazon, I found a free-for-now book about First Century food. It looks really interesting, great for readers and writers interested in that time period.

  At Table with the Lord – Foods of the First Century by E. G. Lewis
Relying upon the Bible and extensive research for his popular Seeds of Christianity™ Series, E. G. Lewis presents an interesting and informative study on foods, cooking and day-to-day life in the early Christian era. All major food groups are covered with specific chapters on Spices & Herbs, Fruits & Nuts, Grains, Vegetables, Salad Greens, Fish & Fowl, Meat, Milk & Cheese, Sweets and Sweeteners, and even one on What They Didn’t Have. Includes bonus chapters on Aviculture, Apiculture, Ancient Beers and Wines, Olive Oil, Manna, the Gladiator’s Diet and lots of Recipes you can try at home.

Description provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found this book via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

This freebie is a limited time offer and there is no guarantee it will still be free when you click on the link. Grab it sooner rather than later.

Travel Genre

I’m sorry to have neglected my blog for so long. I took a short trip that wound up being longer and involved business, pleasure and helping out a friend. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a bit about the travel genre.

Travel writing can be divided into two equal parts, travelogues and guidebooks.

A travelogue describes a person or persons’ adventures away from home. The best travelogues are written as creative nonfiction and read like a novel. This means the narrative should involve conflict and resolution as well as character development. The narrator who begins the journey should be changed by their experiences, just as one would expect from a character in a novel.

Examples of travelogues include “A Year in Provence,” “Into Thin Air,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” and “A Walk Across America.”

Guidebooks are pretty self-explanatory.  They are the what-when-where-why-how of travel. A good guidebook can spare you a lot of confusion and loss of time, whether you’re traveling to a nearby city or a distant continent. Guidebooks point out the major and minor attractions, as well as clue the reader in on culture, currency, nightlife, restaurants and hotels. Note: no book will be completely accurate on a currency’s rate of exchange. The XE Currency Converter is a good web resource for getting the latest rate of exchange.

Popular guidebooks include “Lonely Planet,” “Rough Guides,” “Fodor’s” and “Frommer’s.”

I highly recommend watching the TV show, “Globe Trekker.” It’s half-travelogue and half-guidebook as different narrators takes you on personal journeys to lesser-known worldwide destinations. It’s the one show that really gives me the travel bug.

Below I’ve listed some travelogues and guidebooks that are free-for-now on Amazon. Happy trails!

  Europe Essentials by Lonely Planet
Planning a trip to Europe? Know before you go! Download a free copy of Lonely Planet’s Europe Essentials and receive helpful tips on packing and planning, etiquette advice, transportation information, themed itineraries, and much more. It’s the perfect complement to Lonely Planet’s guidebooks and a great starting point to a dream vacation.

  5 of USA’s Best Trips by Lonely Planet
Whether you’re a local looking for a long weekend escape, or a visitor looking to explore, Lonely Planet’s TRIPS series offers the best itineraries – and makes it easy to plan the perfect trip time and again.

  Ye Olde Britain: Best Historical Experiences by Lonely Planet
Explore Britain’s rich and varied history with this ultimate guide to the best historical things to do throughout England, Scotland and Wales; includes author- recommended reviews and practical information on a wide-range of interesting options from fascinating pre-historic sites such as Avebury to excellent modern museums such as the Museum of London. This guide has been created by Lonely Planet’s dedicated authors and local experts who immersed themselves in England, Scotland and Wales, finding the best historical experiences and sharing practical and honest advice.

  Down Under All Over by Barbara Brewster
Down Under All Over is more than a travelogue. It is an account of Barbara Brewster’s very personal journey—one which entices us to follow along in her footsteps through that fascinating land of Australia. Her account of the adventures she and her husband, Sid, shared invites one to crawl under the skin of the land and to know its colloquialisms and people. Brewster’s enthusiasm for the place is contagious.

  Too Fat for Europe by Joe Leibovich
A hilarious travelogue through Europe featuring the adventures of two comedians, who happen to be married. Follow their whirlwind tour of London, Paris and Rome…all in about a week.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Graphic Novels

A graphic novel is a book length story or anthology told primarily with illustrations. The genre includes a number of different formats. A graphic novel can be a compilation of previously published comic books that contain a story arc. It can also be an anthology of complete or continuing stories. These stories can be original to the anthology or previously published in comic book or magazine form. A graphic novel can also be an original novel or series of novels that may or may not have been previously published in another form.

Some people believe graphic novels are glorified comic books and, in certain cases, they’re right. However, many graphic novels contain rich stories greatly enhanced by the use of illustration. Graphic novels aren’t just for people who want something easy to read with lots of pictures. The genre has gained respect over the years and graphic novels have won prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.

In terms of story, graphic novels tend toward speculative fiction. A fair number could be considered literary fiction. “Maus” by Art Spiegelman is a memoir of his parents, both Holocaust survivors, and his own youth as he struggles to understand them. In a whimsical yet controversial touch, Spiegelman portrayed Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs and Americans as dogs. “Maus” was first published in serial form in the underground comic magazine, “Raw.” It won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

Other graphic novels have been praised and awarded for literary as well as artistic achievements. “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi tells the author’s coming of age tale in revolutionary Iran. “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang uses myth and stereotypes to tell an outsider’s story. “Ghost World” by Daniel Clowes portrays the confusion and alienation of post-high school teens trying to find their way in the world.

Super hero-style comics are a popular genre for graphic novels. Go into any good comic bookstore and you’ll see multiple shelves of these books, which are often purchased by readers more interested in the story and the characters than in collecting individual comic books.  Well-known authors include Alan Moore (“Watchmen,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Batman: The Killing Joke”), Neil Gaiman (“The Sandman”) and Frank Miller (“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” “300” and “Sin City”).

Like regular novels, graphic novels have well-established publishing houses such as DC and Marvel. There is also a strong tradition of independent publishing known as underground comics. Edgy and unrestrained, these comics can occasionally gain wide audiences. Bryan Lee O’Malley published his “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels with Portland, Oregon-based Oni Press. The series gained a cult following, sold millions of copies and was adapted into a movie and a video game.

A growing number of graphic novels are being adapted into electronic format. In my opinion, these are better viewed on a tablet or computer screen rather than a conventional eReader such as the Kindle. Below, I’ve listed several free-for-now graphic novels available in the Kindle store.

  Twilight Lady #1 by Blake JK Chen
Introducing a unique new heroine to the world of illustrated fiction! Paranormal journalist and truthseeker Rona Eden has a close encounter with a mysterious hooded lady who appears to have killed several people in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood.

  Photo Booth by Lewis Helfand
He wanted to change the past, but first he would have to alter the future…A new deadly drug is about to flood the streets of New York City. The police have no leads on who is producing the drug, or where it is coming from. As far as Praveer Rajani, a wreckless Interpol agent, is concerned – the only way to prevent countless deaths lies in a handful of mysterious photographs.Within the photographs, Praveer can see images of places he has never known, and people he has long forgotten. But what are the photographs leading him to?

  Dead of Winter: A Comic Anthology
Horror Stories With The Setting of Winter.

  P.I. Jane; Volume One: Missions: Totally Do-Able by Lauren Burke
MEET JANE DAY. She’s a twenty-something temp-by-day, detective-by-night… and sometimes also by-day. Jane lives inside her head as much as outside of it. To fight the mundane (and even not so mundane), she retreats to a fantasy world in her mind wehre the pop-culture references are plentiful and comforting. Follow Jane in her private detective salad days surveilling Lindelof & Lindelof heir, Chad Lindelof, Jr. She’ll learn the ropes working undercover to bust the shady, bootlegging Li’l Susie Bees, and solving the mystery at the roller derby. Then she takes a breather and reads about her favorite comic strip, PIE V. CAKE.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Daily Boosts for Writers

So, let’s say you are a creative person with plenty of inspiration and original ideas. The words flow like a waterfall from your brain to your fingertips to the page, right?

Riiight.

Writing is hard, whether you’re full of ideas or struggling to come up with one. Writing is also a solitary endeavor. Even if you belong to critique and support groups, attend literary salons and poetry readings, and write in a café surrounded by other writers, the only person who can tell your story is you.

Writers need something to get them going besides caffeine. Daily encouragement can help and who better to give that boost than other writers? Which is why I am recommending a free-for-now book of daily affirmations, “Writing Conversations: Spend 365 Days with Your Favorite Authors Learning the Craft of Writing.”

For example, here is the affirmation for today.

April 5
FAILURE:
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.
Bill Cosby, humorist and author of “Fat Albert” and “The Cosby Show.”

If you’ve been in a critique group, you know how true that is. It’s good to be reminded as you write that what you write won’t be to everyone’s liking and that’s all right.

Other quoted writers include Michael Crichton, Julia Cameron and Anne Lamott. It’s free-for-now, so don’t miss out on these inspirational sparks.

  Writing Conversations: Spend 365 Days with Your Favorite Authors Learning the Craft of Writing by Cherie K. Miller
Writing Conversations is about the daily life of the writer. How do you keep motivated in your craft when it’s just you? Spend a moment of each day listening to the voices of your favorite connoisseur of the writing craft. Learn what they know about how to become a successful author. Whether it’s the first line, the last line, how to find an agent or how to publish, it’s all here. Learn how to launch the bestseller that’s been incubating inside of you for so long. Writing Conversations has just what you need!

Description provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found this book via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

This freebie is a limited time offer and there is no guarantee it will still be free when you click on the link. Grab it sooner rather than later.

Inspiration and Original Ideas

While I was researching my posts on fan fiction and derivative fiction, I came across two schools of thought.

  1. People writing fan and derivative fiction do so because they have no original ideas.
  2. People might as well write fan and derivative fiction because there are no original ideas.

The first thought is on the sour side. And does anyone really want to tell Neil Gaiman that his Doyle/Lovecraft pastiche, “A Study in Emerald” is the work of an uninspired mind?

Didn’t think so.

I prefer to concentrate on that second school of thought because it reminds of a certain trope: there are only seven basic plots in literature. If you’ve taken a creative writing class, you’ve probably heard some variation of this. I learned these seven, which are attributed to Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.

  1. Man against man
  2. Man against nature
  3. Man against himself
  4. Man against God
  5. Man against society
  6. Man caught in the middle
  7. Man and woman

However, there’s a new magnificent seven in town, according to Christopher Booker and his writing manual, “The Seven Basic Plots.”

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Rebirth
  6. Comedy
  7. Tragedy

If you’re feeling worried and/or smug that your plot doesn’t fit into either of these groups of seven, keep in mind that most stories use combinations of these plot elements. Here are some articles with more in-depth explanations.

So, do we throw away the idea there are any original ideas? Of course not. Every person has their own take on a given situation and their own stories to tell. You may have heard another trope: it’s impossible to create in a vacuum. In order to be creative, you need inspiration. What inspire us are our world and the stories we hear. We take what captures our imaginations and turn them into original stories.

For example, George R.R. Martin’s wildly successful series, “A Song of Fire and Ice” was inspired by the English civil war know as the War of the Roses. Lannister and Stark  = Lancaster and York. Students of history will see the similarities, yet the world Martin created is very different than that of medieval England.

The wacky, ultraviolent Japanese movie, “Sukiyaki Western Django” was also partly inspired by the War of the Roses, and in particular, Shakespeare’s “Henry the Fifth.” The world in the movie is also vastly different than medieval England, and nothing like “A Song of Fire and Ice.”

My novel, “Fake” was inspired by wuxia, the literature and cinema of Chinese martial arts. I incorporated some common elements of this genre, such as the Beggar Clan, and created some of my own. My love of Irish music led me to discover the world of Irish Travelers, a nomadic people who are not related to the Romany. I created my own nomadic people, Strowlers. While based on Travelers, there are also key differences. Putting the two worlds together makes for a unique combination that is all my own.

Neil Gaiman took Sherlock Holmes and put him in H.P. Lovecraft’s London. The movie, “The Banquet” took Hamlet and placed him in imperial China. As an exercise, think of a character or real person who captures your imagination and place her in another world. Be inspired, creative and make it your own.

“A Study in Emerald” is available online for free, formatted and illustrated in the style of an early 20th century newspaper.

Speculative fiction author David Drake took a familiar archetype, the grumpy old wizard, and placed him in post-Revolutionary War America. You can pick up the free-for-now eBook from Amazon.

  Old Nathan by David Drake
The forces of evil are poised to prey on the folk of the hamlets and hollows: witches, demons, and red-handed men—but first they’ll have to overcome Old Nathan the Wizard. He doesn’t claim much for his magical powers, but they’re real enough for what they are—and besides, he hasn’t forgotten how to use his long flintlock rifle… Enter the gritty, realistic world of Old Nathan, a backwoodsman who talks to animals and says he’ll face The Devil himself-and who in the end will have to face The Devil in very fact.

Lucinda Brant penned a Georgian romance novel inspired by the arranged marriage of the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Richmond. You can pick up the free-for-now eBook from Amazon.

  Midnight Marriage by Lucinda Brant
Set in the opulent world of the 18th century aristocracy and inspired by real events, Midnight Marriage is the standalone second book in the acclaimed Roxton family saga. Two noble teenagers are married against their will. Drugged, Deb has no recollection of events. Disgraced, Julian is banished to the Continent. Nine years later, Deb falls in love with a wounded duelist, only to later discover it is her husband returned incognito! Can Deb forgive his cruel deception? Can their marriage survive beyond seduction? Meanwhile, Julian’s nemesis plots to destroy them both…

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Derivative Fiction and Media Tie-ins

I wrote an earlier post about how fan fiction can’t get respect. However, this is only true of so-called amateur fiction written by unpublished writers. Once the work is professionally published, it gains instant respect. These works are considered either derivative fiction or media tie-ins.

For example, “The Green Blade” is a 15-chapter novel that resides in a fan fiction archive. “The House of Silk” is a novel published by Mulholland Books. Both are well-regarded stories about Sherlock Holmes, but only one is considered legitimate.

So, am I saying the only difference between fan fiction and derivative fiction is a publishing contract? Not exactly. Authors of derivative fiction and media tie-ins are usually skilled writers well enough established in their craft to be offered contracts by publishers. With the contract comes a professional editor to help polish their prose. Fan fiction writers may have a couple of beta readers, but those are usually fellow fans who aren’t real picky about incorrect comma usage.

You may wonder what the difference is between derivative fiction and media tie-ins, so let’s discuss that.

Derivative fiction is based on another piece of fiction. There’s a lot of it out there, some of it famous and critically acclaimed. Much of it comes from works that have passed into the public domain. For example, Jane Austen has become the darling of Chick Lit, as well as horror and mysteries. Novels based on her works include “Austenland,” “The Phantom of Pemberley,” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

Dracula is another good example of a derivative fiction subgenre. Bram Stoker’s version of the Count, who was actually a prince, has inspired numerous spin-offs, including “Dracula, My Love,” “The Historian,” and “Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula.”

Other authors whose work has become the subject of derivative fiction include L. Frank Baum, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, J. M. Barrie, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare.

Media tie-ins are novels and stories based on TV shows, movies and video games. This can be a novel based on a movie, as opposed to the other way around. Often, this is a shared world scenario, where authors spin-off from the original show. The original creators have tight control over this form of derived fiction and there is usually a bible and guidelines for a selected author to work from.

Media tie-ins have been created for “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Doctor Who,” “CSI,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “World of Warcraft,” and “Dungeons & Dragons.” It is a very successful and profitable genre, yet the authors don’t get a lot of respect, perhaps because they are writing what amounts to sanctioned fan fiction. For more information about the genre and the work it takes to write these novels, check out The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

In the end, the author of a serious literary novel based on “Hamlet” does not have the high ground over the author of a novel tied in to the TV series, “Supernatural.” Both are derivative and it’s possible the “Supernatural” novel is the better story. Neither should look down on fan fiction writers since they are often beginners learning their craft. We’ve all been there. Even if your first efforts weren’t fan fiction, chances are these were based on something you’d previously seen or read.

Interested in reading the original classics? Many are available in a variety of eBook formats for free on the Project Gutenberg website. Below, I have listed several Jane Austen spin-offs, free-for-now for the Kindle on Amazon.

  Charlotte ~ Pride and Prejudice Continues by Karen Aminadra
When Charlotte Lucas married Mr Collins, she did not love him but had at least secured her future. However, what price must she pay for that future? She once said she was not romantic, but how true is that now after almost one year of marriage? Mr Collins is submissive in the extreme to his patroness, and his constant simpering, fawning and deference to the overbearing and manipulative Lady Catherine de Bourgh is sure to try the patience of a saint, or at least of Charlotte.

  Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott
Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy’s fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana’s domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana’s fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart–and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.

  So Into You (The Jane Austen Academy Series) by Cecilia Gray
Sweet and sensible Ellie hasn’t met a problem her mom’s yoga mantras can’t fix. But when Ellie’s parents threaten to pull her from the Academy just as her flirtation with the cutest boy in school heats up, will Ellie be able to keep her cool?

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.