Send Love & Sunshine
The question every writer is probably asked the most (by non-writing people): Where do you get all these ideas? The answer is never easy, because, well – everything is an inspiration. Writers are observers, and even the most mundane thing can become the spark for a story, a character trait, a scene…
Let’s take the Christmas Story, for example. The little cottage was heavily inspired by a house in the swiss alps, where I spent a weekend a few years ago. It had lots of snow there, it was really cold and it had an oven you could climb on. Bliss for a perpetually cold person like me. The glass peacock ornaments were inspired by actual peacock ornaments my mother has:
They are very old and very precious, but of course they don’t have the romantic background as in the story. The recipe for the tea Adelie has in the thermos flask is one my mother made all the time when I was a kid. I make it now all the time too. The whole story itself came from my wish for a picture perfect, “like in the movies” Christmas – only that I then had to spoil the fun for Nate and Adelie too. At least they had snow.
It is impossible to write in a vacuum, even when you write about made-up worlds, alternate universes and space ships with gravity generators. When I scroll through Ember I see quotes, designer dresses, landscapes, night skies, obscure scientific morsels like the fact that salmon semen can be used to pull rare earth elements out of waste, artefacts and art installations, pictures of people that look interesting… the list goes on and on. Everything that tickles my fancy goes in there. Of course I have to keep myself on a steady diet of interesting things in the first place – my main source for that is Tumblr at the moment. There are lots and lots of well curated blogs about everything under the sky, which is very convenient. And then there’s my notebook that serves as the catch-all for all the things that my brains cooks up out of the stuff I feed it. I still have to get better at actually writing everything down though, because it’s bit tedious to get it out. Maybe I should get a smaller one that fits into my coat pocket.
So this is a small glimpse in how I get my ideas, I hope you enjoyed the peek behind the scenes.Send Love & Sunshine
They used to sit on the stoop of Building 503. From there one had an almost perfect view of the airbase and the runway. During training weeks, they liked to sit there and watch the Camaros taking off, one after the other while eating Mac Corman’s Candy Balls. The sun would set behind the airstrip, bathing everything in a fiery red glow. There were four types of candy balls: red, orange, blue and green. He preferred the blue and green ones, while she liked the red and orange ones best. The roar of the engines would be so deafening that no conversation was possible, so they came up with their own signed rating system for the starts and landings. The yellow and red bag with the blue logo would sit between them, and now and then their hands would touch as they fished for a new candy ball. Even years later, every time she’d see a red and yellow bag with the familiar logo sitting on the shelf of a murky spaceport corner store, she could smell the scent of the burnt fuel, hear the roar of the engines heading for the red ball in the sky, and taste the sweet and sour candy balls on her tongue. She’d always end up buying a bag, stashing it in the console of her ratty Clipper, wondering what ever had become of him.Send Love & Sunshine
It was just a matter of time until I would find flaws with my initial branding. Too big. Too colourful. Too dominant. Yadda yadda yadda. Doing stuff for yourself is always tricky, because you’re the only one responsible – there’s nobody to bounce around ideas or to brainstorm with. Luckily I don’t put anything into print at the moment… Anyhoo, I redid it and incorporated the (awesome) wings I once did for a United Space Force Badge.
Here’s the logo, all bare-bones and nekkid:
It also looks quite nice as outlines:
And because I needed a cover for the upcoming short story anyway, I tested the whole design immediately. I decided to ditch the traditional “sci-fi” look (1) and also go for a more minimalistic approach this time. The story plays in huge Hunter class space ship under attack, meaning lots and lots of dark corridors and without giving away too much, it’s nothing like the fluffy stuff I’ve published before. It’s grim. Gory. I’m actually a bit scared to write it, because I fear I’m going to give myself nightmares. I wanted that mood on the cover – tell me if I succeeded?
By the way, it still weirds me out to see my name on the cover.
(1) Thing is – I’d love to have elaborate illustrations with futuristic cities and space ships and everything on the cover, but I don’t have the funds to pay an artist. So I have to find a workaround.1 One Person has send Love & Sunshine
The Science Fiction Romance Brigade is a collective of SFR writers and recently published their first Anthology ebook. I’ve never read an Anthology before. But I don’t regret it, as it introduced me to some fabulous new writers, and that’s the point of it, isn’t it? Also, being a collection of shorter stories and novellas/novelettes, I had high hopes of not being glued to my ereader for a whole weekend. Well… that only worked partially. It certainly is easier to stop though.
I actually read all stories except one, but I plan to read it later. It just wasn’t what I was looking for in that moment. My favourite stories where “Imprint” by Pippa Jay, who I recently met on Twitter and already adore, and “Whiskey and Starshine” by Erica Hayes. “Nobody’s Present” (Marcella Burnhard) was also very interesting.
If you never read Science Fiction Romance before and are eager to try it out, this free little Anthology is great to test the waters. Lots of interesting conflicts and angles, scorching hot heroes and feisty heroines. And space ships, and space stations and science and… guh. Try it. It’s free!Send Love & Sunshine
As I said before, I’m not particularly good in promoting my own stuff. I wonder if it’s the perfectionist part of me that keeps me being all hushed up because of course I’m never truly satisfied with what I put out. In the last few days I looked into the mechanics of building a fan base, and that was pretty interesting. With today’s social media you have a lot of useful tools and there are many interesting strategies to make yourself heard in the cacophony. One of the more useful things I found was the hint that you should build a fan base before you even have your first book out, as loyal fans will of course buy the book AND tell others about it. Second best thing I read: Imagine your ideal fan, i.e. the target group. Like really, imagine a person with a name and things she likes and does, and write it all down. So when you have to think about promoting, you can turn to that and taylor it accordingly. I guess the 20/80 rule is nothing I have to explicitly mention, but it’s still a good reminder. Be on social media, but only promote your own stuff 20% of the time and be yourself and interesting the other 80%.
I compared what I read to the authors I know and how and when they promote their stuff. There are those whose Twitter streams have developed into Retweet-fests of reviews (not recommended), some post a quote of their books every now and then with an Amazon link, and cute otter pictures in the mean time (highly recommended, otters are cute!), some have various blogs about various stuff that interests them and that sort of tie to their books, and some are just themselves and do not promote a whole lot at all. I do not know about selling figures though or how successful these strategies are, but I know what works with me as a potential buyer/fan and what doesn’t.
Getting your readers hooked sounds fairly logic to me, but how do you do it when the book is far from being published? A lot of tips said to publish shorter stuff for free and frequently. Like for example flash fiction every Friday. I have some silly and some serious ideas that I hope to implement soon-ish. (1) My only problem is, that the Meeting of Doom is at the end of April and things haven’t really slowed down at work so life will continue be quite stressful. The last thing I need on top of that is more stress. Gah. The worst thing is to want to produce stuff, having ideas for said stuff but simply no time and energy. *huff*
(1) This is the moment where I’m wishing I had not a day job clogging up all my time. And then I think how nice a steady paycheck is… oh well. You can’t have everything.Send Love & Sunshine
I sometimes wish books would come in uncut versions too – you know, just like director’s cuts for movies, or at least like the LOTR extended versions. Or with blooper reels – scenes that are not working, but are funny. I’m just writing this because I sometimes want more of certain characters than the author is giving me. And I’m a notoriously curious person and I want to know what got cut.Send Love & Sunshine
My recent strategy of first befriending other writers on Twitter and then (eventually) reading their books isn’t a bad one. Penny impressed me with her humour, her thoughtfulness and simply with being a mother of two, working full time in clinical research (like me!) and still finding the time to write. Not mention that she’s one of those self-publishers, and even designs her own book covers. Which are by the way totally beautiful and professional. I have absolutely no idea how she does all this without burning out. She’s also one who understands how social media marketing works, so go, follow her on Twitter, she’s no shouty, link-spamming person at all.
The Neanderthal books were on my reading list for quite some time now, but I never got around to actually read them. So yesterday, on a whim and at midnight, I started the first one, “Neanderthal seeks Human” – and of course, I couldn’t put it down. I read until three in the morning, going to bed after the first kiss. I basically read all of Sunday, until I finished the second book “Neanderthal marries Human” at half past eleven PM. Yes, besides sleeping and reading I didn’t do much else. Penny labeled the books “smart romance” and yes, it’s not quite the usual romance. Both books are peppered with random scientific facts, which a) make you smarter and b) must have been taken a lot of time to look up, because I can’t quite believe that Penny knows all this on top of her head. But then, Janie does, so maybe Penny does too. I also like that the protagonists, Janie and Quinn, don’t fall head over heels for each other – or, rather the romance between them unfolds over several weeks, there is stuff they have to get through together – it’s actually quite an adventure. I’m a sucker for adventures. The books are also not only heartbreakingly romantic (1) but also hilariously funny (2).
The protagonists, Janie and Quinn, are no cardboard cut-outs, but feel like real people. This is important to me, but might not be for you. They both have interesting and believable character development arcs. Janie also drove me quite crazy at some points, but never so far that I disliked her. She’s quirky. That can get on your nerves. Quinn, on the other hand… he’s an alpha male done right. Meaning he’s dominant, but not a jerky, scary asshole (3). He respects Janie as a person. I don’t know if he and I would go along well, being quite the alpha myself, and I wouldn’t have tolerated a lot of the stuff he just naturally does. Like ordering food for Janie. But I can’t deny that he’s a fascinating man. We don’t learn a lot about him in the first book, which is only written from Janie’s point of view, but the second book remedies that.
Being a writer myself I often get annoyed with romance books because they are so predictable. Of course, the recipe has to be always the same (4), but that doesn’t have to mean I can make check-marks on my imaginary plot point list. Penny manages to not walk into this trap. In fact there are some twists in there I absolutely didn’t see coming. Of course there’s a black point, but I didn’t expect it to be what it was. I also love that in the second book the focus is on the development and deepening of their relationship, not an encore of pulling them apart and getting them together again. And I love it, I absolutely love it that Penny gives us the chance to see what comes after the “happily ever after” ending of book one. That even perfect book couples have to learn to get along with each other. I wish more writers would do this.
So 5 stars from me, and I urge you all to read Penny!
(1) I cried, oh god, I cried. Especially at the end of book 2. And with that I don’t mean I had water in my eyes, no, I actually had to blow my nose because I was totally undone. So there.
(2) If I wasn’t crying, I was giggling, snorting, screaming with laughter. It’s a rollercoaster. An amazing rollercoaster.
(3) *cough* Christian Grey *cough*
(4) Get them together, get them apart, get them together again for good.