Category Archives: Science Fiction

A Better Beta Read: Guest Post by Ev Maroon!

Since today is my birthday, I’m taking my Weekly Writing Workout day off. Everett Maroon has stepped up to put a post in my place.

I had the pleasure of working on Ev’s book The Unintentional Time Traveler, which is set to be released at the end of this month. It’s the story of an epileptic boy who begins to travel through time via his seizures, only to find himself in a completely different body—a girl, Jacqueline, who “defies the expectations of her era.” There’s some serious trouble brewing, and when he, as Jacqueline, falls unexpectedly in love with a boy in that past, Jack/Jacqueline is caught between two lives and epochs.

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I really enjoyed working with Ev on his book and invited him to post in my absence. Have a great week!  

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A Better Beta Read by Everett Maroon

There’s a moment in every long form writing project of mine when words transform into vines, twirling around my thoughts like malevolent beanstalks. They obscure everything in the manuscript except the tiniest of details. Suddenly all I can take on is “How does this sentence sound? This syllable? Is this paragraph conveying the tension between these two characters?”

Although we must immerse ourselves in the universes we’ve built, as we drop further and further into our own creations we may stop asking the bigger questions that readers will ultimately require we answer as writers. While we’re parsing through the various nuances of using “threadbare,” “frayed,” or “worn,” and wondering how each conveys its own sense of mood and narration, the reader may be ready for the next plot point and frustrated that we’re dwelling on someone’s dress quality.

Beta readers are great for keeping us honest. If writing is about providing enough detail to sustain interest and leaving enough in the way of gaps for readers to fill in with their active imaginations, then beta reading helps ensure balance. Whatever grand plan we have for the Next Amazing Novel, if we’re losing our audience on the level of readability, none of our intelligence matters, nor the innovative characters, fresh word choice, nor witty banter between characters. Beta reading can tell us if the protagonist is likeable enough, even the flawed protagonist with an Achilles heel the size of Atlanta. Outside readers, at specific points in the revision process, can give us a 30,000-foot reaction to our work.

Framing what we need from them as writers of not-yet-completed manuscripts helps readers give us targeted feedback. I ask beta readers a series of questions that are of particular concern to me, but other authors may have their own preferences for these:

•    Was it interesting? Did you like the voice, the characters, the plot?

•    Does it slow down or move too fast?

•    Did any part of it kick you out of the book—awkward language, a scene you didn’t like, a character who wasn’t believable?

•    Did it have you on the edge of your seat at any point? Did you care about anyone in particular in the story?

•    Did it start fast enough? Did you like the ending, and if so/not, why/why not? Did it resolve enough details in the story for you?

•    Did it ever sound preachy?

•    Did it remind you of anything else you read, and if so, did it live up to that other book?

•    What would you tell me to work on and improve?

Reviews can be framed in any number of ways, but I use a question format because I find that they open up discussion rather than close down what kind of feedback beta readers can provide. They also hint at the writer’s priorities—it’s okay to know one’s strengths and weaknesses, writers—and where one thinks they could use the most help. Beta readers are happy to get a chance to roll these diamonds in the rough between their fingers, but they’re also combing through manuscripts because they’re interested in giving useful advice and responses. Helping readers hone in on what aspects of feedback to provide will help them have a good experience, and get writers the best content in response.

Other things to remember:

•    Give beta readers a reminder, about a week beforehand, when you’ll be sending out the manuscript for review. Don’t get fancy with the font or styles—keep it easy to read and in a format everyone is familiar with.

•    Keep a long window—like a month or so—for them to get back with their feedback. Life happens, and people are busy. Don’t expect to hear back in five hours or a week.

•    Don’t pester them while they’re reading. First, it’s annoying, and second, you don’t want to negatively bias your readers. Also remember that reading to give advice is a slower process than just reading, so they need more time than usual.

•    Thank the beta readers profusely for their time and attention. It’s a great service they’re providing.

Beta readers will likely come back with different, sometimes conflicting advice. If that’s the case, check out this post of mine for filtering through all of the responses.

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5759590Everett Maroon is a memoirist, pop culture commentator, and speculative fiction writer. His first book, Bumbling into Body Hair (Booktrope Editions), is a “comical memoir about a klutz’s sex change” and was a finalist in the 2010 PNWA literary contest for memoir. Everett has written for Bitch Magazine, GayYA.org, RH RealityCheck, Original Plumbing, and Remedy Quarterly. He has had short stories published by SPLIT Quarterly and Twisted Dreams Magazine, and has a short story, “Cursed” in The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, from Topside Press. You can find him at trans/plant/portation.

 

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Filed under behind the scenes, on my bookshelf, Rewriting, Science Fiction

Bitten by Books Editor/Author Chat and Giveaway

No Middle Grade Monday post for me today. If you want to get your MG fix for the week, visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog for today’s posts.

but I have this announcement:

Bitten by Books is offering an online chat between authors and readers tomorrow. The dialogue is ALSO a contest, a chance to win one of TWO $20 Amazon Gift Certificates.

If you RSVP TODAY to enter the contest you get a 25 point BONUS:
http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=62201

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HOW IT WORKS

Tomorrow, Bitten by Books will put up a short blog post by the editors. Then readers post questions in the comments over a 24 hour period and they/we answer those questions, creating an online conversation between editors/authors and readers.

There are two $20 gift cards from Amazon.com. For every post, readers acquire points and the two readers with the most points win. Earn 25 extra points by RSVPing to the event (you only get the points if you go back and comment tomorrow, though).

We’d love to have you there! If you’d like to help spread the word, here’s the info you need to know:

ONLINE CHAT WITH FUTUREDAZE EDITORS AND AUTHORS
Hosted by: Bitten by Books
Event Date:  Tuesday, March 12th.
Start Time: 12:00 Central Time (US)
RSVP TODAY!:  http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=62201
Contest Open: Worldwide
Prize:  Two  $20.00 Amazon Gift Cards (two winners)

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Filed under contests, Science Fiction, short fiction, YA literature

Interview… Giveaway… Futuredaze!

~~CYNTHIA HEINRICHS is our WINNER~~

It’s overwhelm-mode here at Writing to Support My Teaching Habit (I need a good acronym! How about WritSMyTH?), and I won’t bore you with the details. It has to do with the sound of deadlines swooshing by and juggling the universe with my fingernails and valentines (or lack of time for) and 10th wedding anniversaries and 45th birthdays…

And, I’m off to Seattle for FaerieCon in a week. Wheee!

What do you do when you go into overwhelm? Eat sugar? Go on a crying rampage? Stay in your pajamas for a week? Or are you more of a take-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of person?

One thing I suggest for anyone like me who flits from one task to another with no time between work and domestic responsibilities – take time to celebrate your accomplishments. You are DOING IT! You are having the writing life. I know it doesn’t look so glamorous from the inside, so enjoy it wherever you can.

This week I’m celebrating the launch of FUTUREDAZE: an anthology of YA science fiction by giving away a copy of the book. My short story “String Theory” appears along with work by Jack McDevitt, Nancy Holder, Gregory Frost, Lavie Tidhar, Sandra McDonald, Brittany Warman, Stephen Covey, and many more.

Win a copy of:

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If you’d like to be entered to WIN a COPY of FUTUREDAZE (an ebook if you’re outside of North America), all you have to do is tell us what you’re celebrating this week and you’ll be added in the drawing.

Also, Underwords Press recently moved over from the Underwords Blog to a separate press website, so I’ll give you a bonus entry into the drawing if you GO HERE and give some love (or at least some like). Just tell me in your comment that you did.

Deadline for entries into the drawing is Friday, Feb 22.

And now, without further ado:

Interview with Erin Underwood, Futurdaze co-editor

Underwords transitioned to a small press in 2012, specializing in new short science fiction for Young Adults. What initiated this change and why this particular niche?

This is really a multi-part question for me. I used to enjoy reading when I was a kid, but there wasn’t a very strong YA presence in my local bookstore in the 1970-80s. Fast-forward 20 years later and I’m assisting bestselling young adult author Nancy Holder. That’s when my love for YA fiction rekindled. Around the same time, I also started the Underwords blog and realized how much I enjoyed working with writers to create new content for readers.

However, the true decision to begin a small press came when I realized how few science fiction anthologies for young adults were being published compared to YA anthologies for other genres. It was a moment in which I realized I could bring together my professional YA experience with my personal experience as a writer and my love of science fiction. Really, it was the “perfect storm” of opportunity.

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It’s true . . . there’s far more YA urban fantasy and paranormal short fiction out there. I hadn’t really thought about that before.

So, Futuredaze is the debut anthology from the Underwords Press, what surprised you the most about this project?

Yes, Futuredaze is the first official publication from Underwords Press, and there were a number of things that surprised me ranging from the amount of time it takes to set up the text to all of the nitty gritty details associated with selling a book…things that you don’t even know you need to do until it’s time to do them. However, the biggest surprise, or perhaps the most rewarding surprise, was having the first hand experience associated with seeing how an anthology’s character and its themes shift with the inclusion or removal of just one story. I guess this is my way of saying, “When dealing with an anthology, every story makes a big difference. Every piece counts.”

That’s really interesting. I’ve edited a few anthologies and one of my favourite things is ordering everything to create the dynamic (although I’ve recently been told that the majority of people don’t read anthologies in order – haha).

Okay, so I’m not going to make you pick favourites . . . but how about – which story affected you the most?

Thank you. It really would be impossible to pick my favorite because they are all my favorite story…for different reasons. That said, when I read “The Cleansing” by Mark Smith-Briggs I remember being really tired, and I had gone through a bunch of pieces that weren’t working out for the anthology. The next thing I knew, Mark’s story was in my hands and I had tears in my eyes.

However, every piece affected me in some way, which is exactly what I look for in a story. After all, during the editing process you have to read a story, over and over again, and again, and again. So, every story you choose has to be able to stand up against that kind of repetitive scrutiny without getting old or stale. I am glad to say that I still enjoy reading these pieces.

Are you working with schools at all to use the stories in high school English classes? 

I would personally love to see kids reading stories and poetry from Futuredaze in their high school English classes or library book clubs. However, we haven’t set up anything with schools or libraries yet. That is one of our next steps. We’re a very small, emerging publisher. There is so much to do and never enough time. If only time travel were possible!

If there are any schools or libraries that would like to contact us, we’d love to hear from you.

Do you hear that everyone? You never know, Erin, I have a lot of teacher/librarian types who read my blog.

Are you going to do more specifically themed anthologies like time travel or dystopian or steampunk or do you like the open call aspect?

I’ve been considering a few different options for the future. The beauty of science fiction is that there are so many rich and creatively flexible subgenres to choose from. Right now, I’m thinking primarily of themes that would focus the content a little more than we did with Futuredaze, but nothing has been decided yet. We’re hoping to make an announcement this spring that will answer this question and others…so stay tuned!

So, I’m guessing that means we’ll have to wait for a deadline for next anthology? (because after this, everyone will want to be in the next one!)

I would love to know this date, too! Again, we have some ideas for where we want to go with the next anthology, but nothing has been decided. However, we’re hoping to make some sort of announcement this spring. We’ll definitely let you know as soon as we have something to share.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about the anthology?

I think the most important thing to share is that Futuredaze is written for teens, but good storytelling goes beyond simple age requirements. So, while teens will feel like this anthology was made for them, adults will also enjoy it as well. A well-written YA book really can be for people of all ages.

Also, for people who live outside of the US, we have distribution agreements in Canada, the UK and Australia. So, you should be able to find either a printed edition or an eBook in any of those countries. The Kindle edition is available at all of the country specific Amazon web sites.

Thank you so much for the chance to do this interview.

Thanks, Erin!

Underwords Press publishes anthologies with a special focus on young adult science fiction and also features a literary blog that explores a wider variety of genres.

Underwords was originally founded in 2010 as a popular fiction blog that specialized in author interviews, book reviews, and all manner of fun literary exploits. Then in 2012, Underwords transitioned into a small press, changing its name to Underwords Press in order to find and publish new short science fiction for young adults. Our first title, Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, is due out in February 2013 and has received considerable praise from the literary community. Underwords Press will publish one title per year in the Futuredaze series and is looking into expanding to add additional titles in 2013.

Our books are available through the standard publishing channels including brick and mortar bookstores and the major online retailers.

For more information, please contact Erin Underwood.

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Filed under Science Fiction, YA literature

Futuredaze Launches Tomorrow (or MGMless in MGM Land)

futuredaze-cover-finalThe print edition of FUTUREDAZE: an Anthology of YA Science Fiction launches tomorrow (Feb 12) and I am over the moon to be included in this book. Seriously, the whole experience has been a treat.

The ebooks have already been internationally launched and may be purchased HERE.

You can read the reviewer praise for the creative work HERE, but I would like to “big up” the editors themselves.

Erin Underwood was my main contact, but I’m sure co-editor Hannah Strom-Martin is just as professional and personable as Erin. Futuredaze is the first of an annual anthology series of YA Science Fiction (I will keep you posted on future deadlines), and I think this series will garner respect from the sci fi community.

The Underwords Press folks were timely, communicative, professional, and enthusiastic to deal with. I appreciated how they kept all the authors informed along the way, from sending advance reviews to sharing the cover with us before it went public. They are also distribution savvy, something a lot of small presses struggle with. They sent out copies of the books and checks when they said they would, and then emailed to confirm.

Really, every small press should be as pleasant to deal with. I’m hoping to post an interview with Erin Underwood this week, but she’s a bit busy.

I have no Middle Grade Monday post of my own today, but please do visit the folks below who do:

(MGM list from author Shannon Messenger’s blog)

– Mark Baker joins the MMGM fun with two features: THE BRONZE BOW, click HERE. And to see his review on THE DEAD MAN’S MINE, click HERE.
– Andrea Mack has chills for MAKING BOMBS FOR HITLER. Click HERE .
– Flash, the Feline Extraordinaire, (and Professional Mews to Cindy Strandvold) recommends THE ELLIE MCDOODLE series. Click HERE to see what that’s all about.
– Brennan and Meyrick Murphy are cheering for BUNNICULA. Click HERE to see what these two middle grade readers thought of it.
– Janet Smart is spotlighting THe WHIPPING BOY.  Click HERE to see why.
– Katie Fitzgerald sings praises for A SONG FOR BIJOU. Click HERE.
– Dorine White is raves about THE MAGICIAN’S TOWER. Click HERE.
– Michael Gettel-Gilmarten reminds us of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. Click HERE to see why he thinks this classic still holds up.
– Laurisa White Reyes is taking her turn at WONDER. Click HERE for her review.
– Barbara Watson highlights SUMMER AT FORSAKEN LAKE. Click HERE.
– Rosi Hollinbeck is featuring DESTINY, REWRITTEN–plus an ARC GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details.
– Pam Torres: Click HERE.
– Michelle Isenhoff: Click HERE.
– Joanne Fritz: Click HERE.
– Karen Yingling: Click HERE to which ones she picked this week .
– The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations.
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Filed under Science Fiction, short fiction, YA literature