Friday Link Pack 08/07/2015

Friday Link Pack 08/07/2015

Happy Friday folks. Here is today’s Friday Link Pack! Some of these links I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…


Here Are 5 Tips To Writing Better Query Letters
Ah, the dreaded query letter. If you’ve embarked down the traditional publishing path then you know how pesky these little letters can be. Thankfully the wise minds at The Writer’s Circle compiled a list of five handy tips for crafting the perfect letter. [Thanks to Will for sharing this.]

What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under A Male Name
I wish I could say this was surprising, but it really isn’t. There has long been a culture of sexism within the publishing industry. This despite the fact that women authors often outnumber men in the bestseller lists. [Thanks to Lola for point me in this direction.]

Cormac McCarthy’s Three Punctuation Rules
His writing style isn’t for everyone, but there is definitely something to be admired about how McCarthy tackles simplism in his prose. In this article, Open Culture breaks down his approach into three specific rules.

Western Lit, Shot To Death By ‘Trigger Warnings’
Politico explores this recent and disturbing trend among liberals encouraging the banning of fiction based on the troubling or disturbing content.

Business Musings: Price Wars And Victims
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an industry veteran and indie success story. I thought this post musing about the sudden rise in ebooks pricing and the sudden drop in hardcovers was fascinating. Especially when she breaks down the royalty costs that everyone faces.


Nathan Walsh’s Unusual Urban Landscapes
I found these hyper-realistic landscapes from realist British artist Nathan Walsh to be both fascinating and technically impressive.

War Photo Negatives Sunburned Onto Skin In ‘Illustrated People’
Good art challenges our perceptions, often taking what we perceive as ordinary and placing them somewhere outside of what we expect. Artist Thomas Mailaender does that with these negatives of war photos and the results are quite interesting.

Jason Parker, Paintings
These showed up in my feed this weekend and I found the work to be very engaging. I’ve always enjoyed rougher work, things like sketches and street art. I like seeing the construction of a piece of art and Parker’s work does a good job of not shying away from being a painting and reminding the viewer that it is, but in a way it still becomes something more.


Creepy Lullabies
“The hardship will teach you soon, while the day turns to night, that people feel love, loss, sadness and longing.” Iceland, you’re crazy. (And I cannot wait to visit you in a few weeks.)

Rosetta’s Philae Lander Discovers A Comet’s Organic Molecules
Despite it’s troubles, Rosetta is sending some interesting data. Organic molecules on a comet? That’s big news. Space is so cool, I have a feeling over the next few decades that things are going to get very very interesting.

There’s One Secret The Rick And Morty Guys Will Never Reveal
The Adult Swim hit, Rick and Morty might be the best show on television. The Onion’s AV Club interviews the creators and discuss why it works so well with today’s audience.

How the Earth Would Look Like Without Oceans
In this video, we get to see what the earth would look like without 71% of its surface covered in water. On some level, it reminds me of Monument Valley but on a titanic scale.


Sam Kee Building
“The Sam Kee Building, located at 8 West Pender Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is noteworthy for being the shallowest commercial building in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Sam Kee Company—one of the wealthiest firms in Chinatown—purchased a standard-sized lot in 1903. The basement extends beneath the sidewalk and originally housed public baths, while the ground floor was used for offices and shops and the top story for living quarters.”


Pickman’s Model
It’s strange that I haven’t featured yet. The story centers around the artist Richard Upton Pickman who paints art so terrifying that it gets him kicked out of Boston Art Club. But a question, however, remains… where did his ideas come from?


giphy[Thanks to Sky for submitting today’s terrifying gif]

Friday Link Pack 07/31/2015 - Dang, July is a long month.

Friday Link Pack 7/31/2015

After a week hiatus, we’re back! Here is today’s Friday Link Pack! Some of these links I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…


How To Deal With Harsh Criticism Of Your Writing
A great article from Charlie Jane Anders popped up on io9 this week. Criticism is hard, sometimes painfully so, but there are ways you can approach it. This is good advice.

Wake-Up Call: Amazon Serves Author Interests Better Than Publishers
Industry vet, Mike Shatzkin, breaks down Amazons recent innovative moves (like launching the follow button for readers) and how their success has translated into success for publishing and writing in general.

Ursula K. Le Guin Is Breathing Fire To Save American Literature
A great profile on badass Ursula K. Le Guin. (If you’re a follower of my blog it’s no secret how much I love her and her work.) Absolutely fantastic read, delving into her writing, her defense of sci-fi and fantasy (and books in general), and her activism work.

Why Horror Is Good For You (And Even Better For Your Kids)
Artist Greg Ruth gives us six fantastic reasons why we should all read horror.

Indie Or Traditional: The Cost Of Publishing
Creating a book always has a cost. It’s up to you as the writer to decide what that cost should be and how much you’re willing to pay.


Alicia Savage, Destinations
Stumbled across Alicia Savage’s ethereal photography work and knew I’d need to share it here. Obscured women float and drift through surreal glimpses of shattered Americana.

The Art Of Greg Ruth
He’s already told us why horror is good for us in the Writing section. Why not enjoy exploring some of his incredible work as well?

Artist Sam Van Aken’s Tree Grows 40 Different Kinds Of Fruit
Using grafting, Sam Van Aken grows some pretty incredible trees. [Big thanks to Ben for sharing this with me.]


Perfectly Timed Photos That Make Dogs Look Like Giants
Because you needed something like this right now.

Abandoned Indonesian Church Shaped Like a Massive Clucking Chicken
Some people do strange things to get messages from God, things like build a strangely shaped church in the middle of the jungle. Apparently the builder had intended it to look like a dove but it’s clearly a chicken.

Kowloon Walled City
I have mentioned before that Lovat, the megalopolis central in my Bell Forging Cycle, was heavily influenced by Kowloon Walled City. This multimedia project by the Wall Street Journal is an incredible way to explore the rich stories and dark streets of the legendary Hong Kong settlement.

A Renaissance Painting Reveals How Breeding Changed Watermelons
We’re in the throws of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Why not take some time to explore the horticultural history of one of summer’s greatest treats: the watermelon.


Aroma Of Tacoma

“Seattle! Seattle! Death Rattle, Death Rattle; Tacoma! Tacoma! Aroma, Aroma!”

George Francis Train

“The “Aroma of Tacoma” is a putrid and unpleasant odor associated with Tacoma, Washington. The smell has been described as similar to the odor of rotten eggs. The odor is not noticeable throughout the city, but is rather concentrated in the north end of Tacoma and is frequently smelled by motorists traveling that section of the Interstate 5 highway.”


The Night Ocean
This gloomy mood piece follows a melancholy artist who spends time alone in his cabin by the sea, and unlike most of Lovecraft’s protagonists he doesn’t throw himself into the way of terrifying monstrosities.


In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits...

Indie Or Traditional: The Cost Of Publishing

I’ve been going down the road of licensing the rights to print the lyrics to an old Louis Armstrong song from the 1920s. It’s an interesting set of hurdles, and if you ever want to use lyrics in your book I recommend starting with Helen Sedwick’s article How To Use Lyrics Without Paying A Fortune Or A Lawyer over on The Book Designer. Like most things in indie publishing, this will probably cost some money. That’s okay. That’s a part of indie publishing. It’s what I signed on for when I decided to publish my books this way.

I’ve noticed a theme in a lot of writing advice blogs. There seems to be some weird desire to encourage people to go into indie publishing with the assumption that there isn’t any overhead and that indie publishing is essentially cost-free. A vocal part of the community likes to rally behind the idea. I hate it when I see this. Not only is it an outright lie, it does a disservice to the whole idea of indie publishing. When an unfinished, poorly edited, or badly designed book goes to print it affects everyone. The lack of quality control is cited all the time as a major reason why so many readers are very hesitant to read indie titles.

Men with printing press, circa 1930

Doing It Right™ cost money. There is overhead in everything. When you become an indie writer you become a small business. You can’t do it alone. You need to hire an editor, you need to hire a designer, you need to hire an artist. You’re going to pay for ISBNs. You’re going to pay for marketing. You’re going to pay for print copies. Often, the publishing advice you read online skips over these details. But if you want to make a quality product (and you do) then you have to come to grips with the reality that it’ll cost money.

Traditional publishing does provide a way out. It doesn’t require much in the way out of pocket costs. But instead of money it takes a lot of your time and hard work. You need to write queries, polish synopsis, meet and greet with agents, and submit over and over and over again, and then weather the storm of rejections. It’s hard, but it’s (mostly) free.

Hoe’s six-cylinder rotary press from the 1860s

The choice for any writer is to decide which path they are interested in. Both provide ways to share your story with the world, but both are hard work and require different types of out of pocket expenses. It’s up to you to decide which path is right for you. For The Bell Forging Cycle, I chose to go the indie route. For me, it was a matter of control. I didn’t want to surrender the control of the cover design and interior layout to someone else. I have a very specific vision for my series from cover to cover and I wanted to see that through to the end.

So, what if you’re not willing to deal with traditional publishers (and there’s a whole slew of reasons why you’d want to go your own route) but the thought of putting down money is terrifying or out of the question? What options do you have? Why not consider one of the following:

  • Kickstarter

    Crowd funding through Kickstarter is a great option. There’re a lot of writers who have had great success kickstarting their project. If you have a decent social media presence this isn’t a bad way to go. In a lot of ways, you can use this to pre-sell your book, and pay for the necessaries, without a lot of out of pocket expenses. Make sure when you put together your Kickstarter pitch you put as much effort into the pitch as you do your book. People want to see you as excited and engaged as you want them to be, a good presentation is important to that end.

  • Partnerships

    This is another option. Instead of paying people up front, why not offer to split the profits with other professionals. So editors could get a percentage of your sales, as would the designers, and artists, and so on. This is a bit more difficult to manage as it requires a lot of transparency and trust, but it’s a good way to have everyone profit from a good book. You essentially build a team of people who want to see a successful book and the more folks you have to help you market your work the better.

  • Crowdsource

    I tend to shy away from crowdsourcing professionally, as it is essentially spec. work for no pay. (See No!Spec for why this is troublesome.) However, I feel like I’d be remiss not mentioning it here as there are a lot of authors who have found success thanks to crowdsourcing platforms like Wattpad, Worthy of Publishing, and Figment. It tends to be a long road, but if you’re willing to put yourself out there and allow a community to give you feedback as you write it’s a good way to work without a lot of out of pocket expense.

Indie or traditional, the choice ultimately is yours. Decide how you best want to represent your manuscript. Know the choices you have and be willing to understand and accept the costs be they financial, chronometric, or both. In the end, I encourage you to focus on quality. Quality matters and your readers will thank you.

NaNoWriMo Is Over, Now What?

NaNoWriMo Is Over, Now What?

So NaNoWriMo has come to a close. You did it! You bested the holiday and fought through the distractions and emerged victorious! You probably learned a lot in the process: how you work, what time is best for you to write, and what it takes for you to power through a challenge like NaNo. It’s a good exercise. Now you have 40k words sitting there, and it’s time to do something… but what exactly? Here’re six tips for moving forward:

1. Set Your Manuscript Aside

You just spent a solid month with your book. That’s a lot of time and often it’s difficult to pull away and see the whole picture. If you’re anything like me, odds are there’s a lot of work to go before your manuscript is ready to shop. Giving yourself time away from the manuscript will allow you to return with fresh eyes and a clear head. So what do you do in the interim? Start your next project (see point six), relax a bit, read someone you find inspiring: just get your mind off that manuscript so later you can give it a solid and honest revision.

2. Think About How You’re Going To Expand

Unless you’re writing middle-grade most publishers won’t want a 40k word novel. Even YA tends to be around 50-60k minimum. Adult novels range from 80k-90k words, and sci-fi and fantasy can get into the 100-110k word range. (Check out Chuck Sambuchino’s great post on word count here.) None of these are hard and fast rules, but it’s always good to shoot for the average range within the genre you’re targeting. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to expand, and I’ll cover some of that in point three. If you’re going to publish independently, you can ignore this completely. There are no set rules for independent publishing. Just make sure you’re telling the best damn story possible.

3. Revise, Revise, Revise

Stage one is done, you’ve let the manuscript rest for a time, and now you’re ready for revisions. It’s time to go through your manuscript and tackle all those things you ignored to hit that word count by the target date. Trust me, they’ll be there. I tend to find that as I revise, my book grows and shrinks. As I mentioned in point two, odds are you’re going to need to expand. So, if you’re worried about your overall length don’t worry. As Tolkien said, “this tale grew in the telling.” He’s not wrong. I find that there’s usually a lot I left out in that first draft, and I find it’s not difficult to find myself adding significant portions to a story. When you’re finished with your first revision, go through it again! There’s no set number of revisions, just make sure you get the book to a point where you’re comfortable sharing it with alpha/beta readers and eventually editors.

4. Get Some Eyes On That Thing!

Ask some friends who are willing to overlook your typos and grammatical errors to read your manuscript. This isn’t an edit pass. You want folks who can look past errors and focus on character development, plot, pacing, and world building. Listen to their feedback and incorporate or ignore it as you see fit. It’s good to gauge what works and what doesn’t. There’s a lot of good advice on finding and working with alpha/beta readers, three great posts I’d recommend:

and specifically for readers:

5. Think About Your Go-To-Market Strategy

The manuscript is finished; it’s time to consider your choices. You can shop the manuscript to publishers or take the self-publishing road. Neither are bad decisions, but you need to find what works for you.

  • Traditional Publishing

    You’ll need to find an agent, which means synopsis and query letters and rejections. Once that’s done the agent will need to find an editor which means more rejections until you find one. However, once you find a publisher willing to take you on they’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting. They’ll handle promotion and cover design and provide you with an editor. They’ll also throw an advance your way as well.

  • Independent Publishing

    To me, this is a lot more than just throwing your manuscript online and letting it go. I think doing independent publishing properly requires a small business mindset. You need to start thinking like a publisher. You need to be honest with yourself about your skillset. Most folks will need to hire an editor. You’ll also probably want to hire a designer for the cover and perhaps figure out how to do the layout for your printed publication. There’re some services to help you: Amazon’s CreateSpace has layout and cover design packages and recently Nook has launched their own line. It’ll require some initial investment, but your readers will appreciate the attention to detail. Once that’s decided you’ll need to consider marketing. With independent publishing, you’re essentially deciding to become a small business and that is daunting to some people. There’s a lot to that, but I think it’s best saved for a future blog post.

6. Start Your Next Project

If you want to be a writer you have to keep writing. So start your next story! Maybe it’s a sequel, perhaps it’s something completely different, maybe something you left out or something you didn’t have the ability to explore might work better as its own stand alone book. It’s important to keep working and honing those skills. Live every month like it’s National Novel Writing Month.

Finally, and most important, congrats on finishing. Forty-thousand words is an immense accomplishment, and you should be proud! You have done what a lot of people only dream of doing. You’re a writer! Now get out there and share your work with the world.

What advice would you give your fellow NaNoWriMo participants? Has anyone ever shared some advice that has stuck with you? Leave a comment and let us know!

Friday Link Pack 07/18/14

Happy Friday! It’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!


Interruptions Are Even Worse Than We Thought
We’ve suspected it for a while, but researchers are discovering proof that interruption is bad… and it’s especially bad for writers.

July 2014 Author Earnings Report
The always fascinating report from the crew over at AER. Worth a read. Loads of info: DRM vs. non-DRM titles, the myth of the bodice ripper, and more.

Are There Still Pros To Traditional Publishing?
Writing coach and author Brooke Warner discusses 5 pros for sticking with traditional publishing, everything from the partnership, to the end product’s quality, to distribution benefits.

Are There 5 Reasons To Stick With Major Publishers? No, There Are 0 Reasons
Ghost writer and author Michael Levin takes on the reasons laid out by Brooke Warner in the aforementioned article and makes his claim as to why there are actually zero reasons to stick with major publishers.

The Good Stuff Stays
In case you missed it make sure to check out this 2012 Q&A session with Stephen King. Some really good insight into his process, his ideas, screenwriting, Lovecraft, and a lot more.


You love the summer. You love monsters. Kaijuly is a month for monsters! All this month comic book artist Josh Montreuil and friends have been posting daily illustrations for a project they’re calling Kaijuly. Make sure you check out the tag on Tumblr and Twitter.

Kiddie Arts
Dutch muralist Telmo Pieper takes adorable drawings that he drew as a 4-year-old and recreates them. The results are equal parts fascinating, adorable, and terrifying.

Is Fan Art Illegal?
The short answer: yes, and comic book artists should be wary. However, we have seen time and again that brands that crack down on fan art actually hurt themselves in the long run. (When it comes to my own work, please fan art away. Make that Waldo Bell fan art. Sell it! I think it’d be awesome. I am totally 100% okay with it. I will never ask anyone to stop. Also, let me know when you do! I even highlight it on Pinterest!)


Buy A Lighthouse
Looking for a cheap getaway to avoid interruption and work on your book? Why not a Lighthouse!? (It might need a bit of work.)

The Cargo Ship Whose Hull Is A Giant Sail
A Norwegian engineer redesigns the cargo ship to utilize it’s hull as an aid to propulsion. The future is awesome.

The Lost City Of Heracleion
6.5 kilometres off Alexandria’s coastline lies the submerged Egyptian city of Heracleion. The Ancient Egyptian version of Venice perhaps?

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Colour Out Of Space
A meteorite crash lands in a rural Massachusetts farm. Shortly thereafter strange occurrences begin: vegetables grows to enormous sizes but are tasteless, animals are deformed into terrible shapes, and ever so slowly the residents go insane one by one.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Doin' The Pigeon

Barnes & Noble Closing 200+ Stores

Barnes & Noble to shut 200+ stores in the next 10 years

This link has been popping up everywhere, but I wanted to share it here as well. It seems Barnes & Noble will be closing 200+ stores over the next 10 years (Another link HERE in case you’re not a WSJ subscriber.) This is being reported as a strategic move, and they aren’t giving up, etc – still it’s an interesting development.

This isn’t necessarily bad news; book sales are up. What I’m wondering is with the closing of so many big box stores we couldn’t see a resurgence in independent booksellers stepping in to fill the gaps that a big box store has left. A small book shop can operate with significantly less overhead than bloated big box stores, and I’d imagine there is still and will continue to be a market for books sold via foot traffic. (Also, I love indie book shops and hope they never go away.)