Confluence schedule

This weekend I will be at Confluence, Pittsburgh’s science fiction/fantasy/horror literary conference!

My schedule:

Friday, July 24:

6 PM: Panel on Work-Life Balance for Freelance Writers: House, family, food on the table – and writing the Next Big Thing. How to make it work

7 PM: Joint reading with Dog Star Books authors J.L. Gribble (STEEL VICTORY) and Albert Wendland (THE MAN WHO LOVED ALIEN LANDSCAPES)

11 PM: Kaffeeklatsch on Genre Bending with authors from Raw Dog Screaming Press (J.L. Gribble, Albert Wendland, and K. Ceres Wright)

Saturday, July 25:

2 PM: Signing STEEL VICTORY (I will have copies to sell or bring your own!)

7 PM: Panel on The Manuscript on the Doorstep: Successful relationships between writers and editors

9 PM: Panel on Disability in SF and Fantasy: Nature, nurture, and happenstance – some human beings have to climb mountains just to make it through the day. How have these struggles been incorporated into speculative fiction? Are there topics still to be explored?

Sunday, July 26:

10 AM: Panel on Agents: To Have, or Have Not?: Is that fifteen percent or so really worth it?

Let me know if you’ll also be at Confluence so I get a chance to meet you!

Review: THE EMPRESS GAME by Rhonda Mason

The Empress Game, by Rhonda Mason
The Empress Game, by Rhonda Mason

Disclaimer: I attended Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program with the author and consider her a friend. I purchased this book for full price, though I had the luck to snag it at a book signing a few days before the official release.

I read space opera, but I mostly read space opera by one particular author (Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series), because I measure all else by that standard.

Now I read space opera by two authors.

Despite the use of “game” in the title and the tournament mentioned on the back cover, this book is nothing like THE HUNGER GAMES, so that’s not even a conversation worth having. What THE EMPRESS GAME is instead is a space opera that accomplishes something even missing from the Skolian Empire books: space empires that are real empires, rather than a blatant good versus evil match-up where you are obviously rooting for one side.

It is this level of depth that really drew me into Mason’s story. There are deliciously villainous characters aplenty (each who have their own layered motivations), but I appreciated the fact that I couldn’t point to one political faction and say, “These people are right and should get their own way.”

Every space opera should have a little bit of romance, and this book definitely checks that box. But again, it’s a realistic romance that doesn’t overwhelm the plot. While it’s obvious from the beginning which two characters are the intended romantic pairing, the situation develops organically and without unnecessary fanfare. I also appreciate that it is a partnership first and foremost.

The science fiction tech is not as detailed as I might otherwise like, but that probably has more to do with me as a reader who likes to geek out rather than any failing on the author’s part. On the other hand, her fight scenes are as dramatic, detailed, and REALISTIC as I could have hoped. This includes everything from hand-to-hand combat, knife and sword fights, to urban stealth assaults.

I highly recommend this debut novel to all space opera fans, and even all science fiction and contemporary thriller fans.

Rating: 5 stars

(Cross-posted to GoodReads and Amazon.)

Monday bits and bobs

I have a bunch of smaller tidbits for you today, so I figured I’d just combine them into one post.

Last Friday, the lovely Shara White was nice enough to give STEEL VICTORY a belated shout-out on her blog over at Calico Writes. She was a fellow student during my time in the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction (SHUWPF) program, and I know she’s been excited to see my book in print for a long time. Thanks for being one of my earliest and best supporters, Shara!

It was very last minute, but I was able to participate in the Barnes & Noble TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD read-a-thon at my local store in Ellicott City this morning! I’ve been lucky enough to do readings of my own work at venues such as conventions, writing retreats, and art galleries, but it was very, very cool to finally be reading in an actual, real-life bookstore. Hopefully someday soon I will be back there reading from my own novel!

And finally, though I haven’t been shouting it from the rooftops, I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I’m in a cabin with a bunch of SHUWPF friends, and it’s a lot of fun to reach my own goals while cheering everyone else on as well. My target was minimal this month: Full scene-by-scene outline of book 3 (tentatively called STEEL BLOOD) and finish the re-write of the first STEEL VICTORY prequel story, “Peacekeeping.” I spent the first 10 days of July doing book promo and catching up on editing projects, but this past weekend I was finally able to launch into my own work. I’d forgotten just how much I love plotting and scheming with my characters.

So far I have the overarching plot and a few delicious subplots for book 3, and I’ve outlined the first 28 scenes. As long as nothing crazy happens this week, I should be able to finish the outline and initial character development by Friday or Saturday.

I have probably just jinxed myself terribly.

STEEL VICTORY now available on Kindle

I am incredibly honored by the number of people who have already supported my debut novel by purchasing a copy. But I am also aware and completely understand that many people these days prefer the ebook format, for everything from ease of reading, to space concerns, to the (usually) cheaper price.

The wait is over: STEEL VICTORY is now available on Kindle!

Something to keep in mind, however, is that (like with all RDSP titles), you get the ebook for FREE if you buy the hardcopy!

And hey, the book is at #126 in the SF&F/Fantasy/Alternative History category right now. Let’s see if we can’t crank that higher.

Launch pictures at Dog Star Books blog

Are you tired of seeing pictures from my book launch yet?

Of course you’re not.

The Dog Star Books blog just put up a bunch here.

You mean you haven’t visited the Dog Star Books blog yet? The science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press? That my wonky urban fantasy/alternate history sneaked its way into?

How very silly. You absolutely must visit it.

In Your Write Mind 2015 recap

Now that I’ve been home a week and have pretended to catch up on sleep, I figured I should recap my experiences at Seton Hill University’s In Your Write Mind for 2015. I had a great time catching up with old friends, meeting new ones (both current students and new workshop attendees), and just generally being with my people.

I drove from Maryland to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday morning. Four hours goes by pretty quickly with copious amounts of coffee and Pandora streaming music. Driving up the final hill to campus always takes my breath away, and it occurred to me that it had been 10 years since I’d made the drive for my first residency in June 2005. Then I promptly felt old and resolved not to think of such things.

Photo credit: U.S. News & World Report
Photo credit: U.S. News & World Report. I’ve never actually been on campus in the fall, so I’ve only ever seen those trees in full greenery or completely bare.

I gathered up the raffle basket I’d created in honor of STEEL VICTORY (didn’t want the chocolate to melt in the car) and headed toward registration. After a meandering path through the main Hogwarts-style building, a detour to an entirely different building based on bad information, and finally ending up where I’d intended to go first, I dropped off the basket, signed in, and collected my information packet and dorm key. (With one person, it was more cost-efficient to stay in the dorms on campus than get a hotel room. Plus, the dorms are more fun at 3 AM.)

Photo Credit: Deanna Sjolander. Included tawny port, port glasses, chocolate, a signed copy of SV, and a certificate for a free critique.
Photo Credit: Deanna Sjolander. Included tawny port, port glasses, chocolate, a signed copy of SV, and a certificate for a free critique.

I got my pilgrimage to Steak ‘n Shake out of the way early and met some friends there for lunch. Then we headed back to campus and I changed into more professional clothes for the panel I moderated on freelance editing (the image was slightly ruined when Deanna, Chris, and I walked on stage with beer bottles). (IYWM is only a real writing conference until you remember that it was established by a bunch of writers who basically just wanted an excuse to come back to SHU every summer. So we put on an awesome program while still retaining our sense of the ridiculous.) The panel was well-attended and well-received. Guests asked all the questions, and I didn’t even have to refer to the backup list I’d prepared in case the audience just stared at us!

The rest of the evening was spent on dinner and catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a year or longer. I went to bed relatively early (around 2 AM) (which is early compared with the rest of the weekend) and woke up to a ringing phone the next morning (my mom forgot that I wasn’t at work).

IT WAS HERE.

BOOK LAUNCH DAY.

CUE ALL THE PANIC.

There was not actually that much panicking, mostly because my friends are amazing and kept me on a relatively even keel. In the morning, I attended a workshop on book promotion by Jen Brooks and got a lot of great ideas (keep an eye out, because you’ll hear about them here first).

There was a teeny bit of emotional outburst because after this workshop I heard about the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling. I was thrilled to get the good news, and I loved the cosmic irony since one of the major critiques STEEL VICTORY had received so far was that it was too “on point” with current political events (which is hilarious because I wrote it almost 10 years ago).

I had a great lunch with all the folks associated with my publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press (you can see their recap and photos here). The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the beautiful campus and then getting ready for the mass book signing (my full recap of that is here).

My beautiful table!
My beautiful table!

Once again, the best part of the day was my parents driving from Dayton, Ohio, to surprise me. The also spent the night in Greensburg, so I met them for breakfast the next morning before they headed home. The rest of the day was spent setting up and decorating for the costume ball. This involved broken black lights, florescent paint splatters, and me wussing out to take a two hour nap in the afternoon (the dorm we stayed in was relatively new, and all the gunk still in the air system was destroying my sinuses).

I dressed up as Antonia Stark, genius billionaire sex goddess philanthropist, since the theme this year was comic books. Mostly my costume consisted of the cool light-up T-shirt that I found online and a wine glass labeled “A. Stark” (because it turns out alcohol is essential to the character). I found a current student who was dressed up as Pepper Potts and posed with her for a lot of pictures. To my surprise, we won the costume award for Dynamic Duo! (100% of the credit goes to my Pepper, who looked fantastic.)

Pepper and Toni.
Pepper and Toni.

I’d bought a bunch of Marvel toys earlier in the day, and as the evening progressed, I slowly turned into all of the Avengers at once.

I am worthy.
I am worthy.

After the ball came a midnight trip to Steak ‘n Shake for fries and ice cream, and bedtime was a rousing 5 AM.

I slept in the next day, attended the alumni luncheon to welcome the new graduates to our ranks, and then attended the graduation ceremony for the new class of SHU’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. I was especially happy to be there to support K. W. Taylor, who’s become a great friend over the past year, and Carrie Gessner, who has done a lot to support online promotion for STEEL VICTORY.

I drove home that evening, this time buoyed by coffee and a great traveling companion (a current student who needed a ride back to my neck of the woods in Maryland). It was a fantastic four days, and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.

Alex-cat was happy for his mom to be home.
Alex-cat was happy for his mom to be home. (Also, I am bad at selfies.)

STEEL MAGIC update

Mission accomplished! I just sent the full manuscript of STEEL MAGIC, the direct sequel to STEEL VICTORY, to my editor!

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I like this book even more than I do the first. 😉

Final word count was 78k.

I’m going to spend the rest of this week finishing up an editing project. The rest of July will be dedicated to doing research and creating a scene-by-scene outline for book 3, along with finishing rewrites on the first STEEL VICTORY short story prequel.

No rest for the wicked.

Guest Post: STEEL VICTORY + Stargate?

Diana Dru Botsford, author of the Stargate SG-1 novels FOUR DRAGONS and THE DRIFT, was awesome enough to both provide a fantastic back-cover blurb for my book and host me on her blog yesterday! Go here to find out how my love of Stargate influenced aspects of STEEL VICTORY.

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Successful book launch!

The official book launch of STEEL VICTORY at Seton Hill University’s In Your Write Mind retreat was amazing. The mass book signing on Friday night is always a great event for authors and readers to interact. One of the measures of an in-person book sale event is not necessarily how many books you sell, but how many you sell to people who aren’t already your friends. I’m proud to say that while many of my friends did purchase my book, a significant number of books I signed were for people I had not met before that weekend.

(Even better is the number of people who mentioned on Saturday and Sunday that they had already started the novel and were enjoying it!)

A special shout out goes to my friends Chris and Jo for both keeping me from stressing out during the day and helping me set up my beautiful table. Chris gets extra credit for fetching me a napkin when the most amazing part of the night happened: My parents drove 5 hours from Dayton, Ohio, to surprise me! (The napkin was necessary for happy tears.) My father is also a published author and so knew the importance of the occasion and wanted to be there to support me.

So now my baby is off into the world. Part 1 of this journey is complete.

Part 2 of this journey has a few more hours of editing to do before I can send it to my editor.

Part 3 is going to get a full scene-by-scene outline in July.

(I saw a meme a few months ago that being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. SO TRUE.)

I hope you will all be there to continue this journey with me in the years to come.