What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Waterworld Mermaids LogoWhen it rains it pours. I should know by now that the minute I get home and prepped for NaNoWriMo, I suddenly find myself with multiple meetings and podcast interviews and guest blogs to share. Apres moi, le deluge!

Today, for example, two of my fabulous essays have gone live. The first: My now-infamous monthly blog post on the Waterworld Mermaids. This November me and a bunch of other fabulous author guests are discussing “What’s one thing you cannot write without?” My answer: LOVE.

That’s right. CLICK HERE and see what the tree-hugging hipy-dippy princess is on about now.

My second post is live at Apex Magazine — Apex is hosting their grand yearly subscription drive, and in honor of that they have asked some celebrity guests to stop by and chat about Short Stories. Of course, I jumped at the chance to talk about how I got hooked…and how that contributed to my juvenile life of crime.

Stop by, leave a comment or two, and above all — enjoy yourselves.

Happy November! xox

The post What’s Love Got to Do With It? appeared first on AletheaKontis.com.

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

NirvanaIn the not too distant future, the world is in chaos. The Extinction of the bees has sent the majority of civilization reeling backward, wiping out most of the natural food supply and sending societies spiraling out of control. Those who live in the bubble go on pretending, losing themselves in virtual reality and glutting on laboratory-forged foodstuffs while the rest of the world struggles to survive. Larissa Kenders is one of the lucky ones… sort of. The love of her life signed onto the Hexagon team before the world fell apart, keeping them safe at the barracks and thrusting Kenders into a rigorous and thankless career as one of the soldiers who keeps civilization safe from those who’d see the last threads of it fall into the fire and burn.

See, that was the first hook. Every day we catch frantic tidbits of news about the declining bee population, and what its extinction will mean for our world. We want to believe there are scientists out there searching for solutions, but this book took it one step further, instead giving us scientists that used the Extinction to profit in the most horrendous way imaginable.

Kenders’ husband, Andrew, is a brilliant scientist, but he doesn’t talk much about the work that takes him away on dangerous missions and leaves his wife feeling hopeless back at the Barracks. She wants a family, one last shot at some semblance of a normal life, but then Andrew mysteriously disappears and Hexagon keeps telling her to move on, he’s dead, and they need her to sign off on it or she’ll have to face the tribunal.

The thing is, Kenders doesn’t believe Andrew is dead. She’s spent time with him in Nirvana since he disappeared, the virtual reality engine owned and run by Hexagon. Everyone keeps telling her it isn’t really him, just a program wrapped in layers of grief and wishful thinking, but he’s said things to her, told her things only the real Andrew would know. She refuses to give up, will not sign off on his death, no matter how hard Hexagon’s psychologist pushes her. When he sends her away to the Bubble, a prescription designed to guide her toward moving on, Kenders sees it as her one and only chance to prove that she’s right, Andrew is out there, trapped in the virtual world somehow, and she has to find him.

This book wasn’t bad. It was a quick, interesting read, but at times it felt overly simple as the author veered off course to give us sneak peeks inside the heads of characters other than Kenders to show the seedy, underhandedness behind the true conspiracy. A part of me would have liked to see Kenders spend more time digging to uncover the actual conspiracy, than have it just handed over to me behind the main character’s back, mostly because her digging puts her in grave danger. She doesn’t really do much digging, though, doesn’t uncover the greater conspiracy other than to keep reaffirming to herself that Andrew is still out there. It would have made an interesting story more engaging, and I might have found myself more drawn to her crusade, wanting to find out what was going on behind the scenes. Instead, I figured out the bulk of the plot very early on, so I wasn’t surprised by the ending. I was also a little put off by the narrative style, which waffled back and forth between present and past tense. I do like a good present tense narrative, but it has to be well done, and this book seemed to rely heavily on leaping backward and driving us through things that already happened in a past tense fashion, then diving headlong into present tense again. At times it was jarring, and I found myself skimming back over the last paragraph again to put myself into the moment properly before reading on.

I received an advanced reader copy of Nirvana from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m giving it three out of five stars. The story was engaging enough that it held my interest, and I am intrigued enough with the plot that I will definitely check out the second book in the series.

Nirvana releases on November 10, 2015, from Blue Moon Voices.


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Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

World Building at ZappCon!

helpful tips

I had a little adventure this weekend! I had the awesome opportunity to fly out to Fresno, CA for a great little convention called ZappCon. I’m still working through some of the awesome of the trip, but I’m feeling over my jet lag enough to address one of the happenings today.

On Sunday, I had a Q&A session with a small group of folks about world building in fiction. At first, I wasn’t really sure I was overly qualified to speak on such a topic (or anything, really, LOL), but there were some excellent questions raised that maybe others are curious about, in as far as my opinion on them exists.

The description of the panel was mostly to do with details in fiction, like how much is too much, when to give a little more, etc, but the discussion itself ranged more widely, which was a good thing, I think. I talked a little about some tips and tricks I use that other writers might find helpful, and I tried to be encouraging to the budding creatives that had come to hear what I had to say. So now, I’d like to pass some of that on to you.

To address the main question (how much is too much detail?), I gave a sort of non-answer answer. The question of how much detail a fictional world needs is very often defined by genre. For example: High Fantasy and hard Science Fiction readers are likely to expect a massive amount of world detail, thanks to expectations set by the likes of Tolkien, BUT, there’s another reason for needing a little more there. When you’re writing in a non-contemporary setting, you face the challenge of introducing the world as you would a character. In contemporary works, there’s no need to describe how humans came to be or various technology, because readers are already familiar with them. Cell phones, cars, air conditioning, heated water… these are all things readers know and take as given. So, say you’re talking about exploring an alien planet, that requires at least some level of explanation about the environment and the equipment needed for going there. Does the atmosphere contain oxygen? Is the gravity different? Can you eat the plants and drink the water? Is there a need for weapons? These are all basic questions that you, as the writer, should know the answer to, but whether or not you address them in the prose is another matter entirely. To help with figuring that out, I offer this…

Show the world through a character’s eyes. Presenting readers with a laundry list of descriptions will result in skimming on the reader’s part. Explaining things as a character takes note of them, interacts with them, reacts to them… those are ways to express to the audience how they should feel about the world they’re reading about and the things in it, rather than just throwing it all up there for interpretation. Readers become more engaged with emotion than with nebulous detail. A brief example of what I mean:

“Thick curtains enclosed the room in darkness.”

instead, try

“The drawn curtains immediately set Jack on edge. Every deep shadow held the threat of something lurking within, ready to strike.”

So, what tells you more about the room? Saying the room is dark leaves the reader open to feel about it any way they want. Perhaps closed curtains give a sense of safety, or reprieve, or calm, or of hiding away. By showing the setting through a character’s eyes, the reader knows how to feel about where Jack is and what might be coming. Not only does it describe the world, but also sets the tone…

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World Building at ZappCon!

Wynn In Doubt by Emily Hemmer

Wynn in DoubtWynn Jeffries has been standing still too long, every day of her life passing uneventfully by as she uses the need of her family as an excuse to avoid following her dreams. At twenty-eight, she’s spent the last few years substitute teaching when she gets the call, but the majority of her income is earned as a bartender in a local dive bar. Everything she ever wanted is gone, including Oliver, the boy she hopelessly crushed on all throughout high school. Oliver never knew she was there, at least she thought he didn’t, but then he kissed her in the parking lot one night, turning her entire world upside down before he took to the road and answered the call of the music swelling inside him. Now her only access to the boy who stole her heart are the articles and interviews she reads in magazines, the videos she catches on TV, and the rumors she hears floating through her little town.

Shortly after the death of Wynn’s beloved grandmother, Elizabeth, Oliver returns to town and takes a job in the bar where Wynn works. He’s as gorgeous as she remembers, impetuous and fleeting as the wind, and when he starts asking her whatever became of the girl she once knew, Wynn’s forced to face the fact that nothing became of her. She is nothing, her life is meaningless, and everything she ever thought she wanted was put on hold, the excuse of her family needing her ever ready for the grabbing whenever her own wants were called into question.

Unearthing a strange article tucked into one of her grandmother’s books, Wynn discovers a secret Elizabeth held close to her heart. She told the entire family her mother died when she was a little girl, but the article in Wynn’s hand suggests otherwise. Lola was alive and well four years after her supposed death, and taken into custody with a band of bootleggers. When she brings it to her family, none of them want to find out more. A woman selfish enough to leave her little girl behind and allow her family to pretend she was dead doesn’t deserve to be resurrected, but Wynn can’t let it go. She doesn’t just want to know what happened to Lola, she needs to find out the truth.

With Oliver’s urging, Wynn takes a chance, embarking on an adventure to find out what happened to her great-grandmother, even though she knows it’s hurting her family to dig into something her grandmother clearly never wanted them to know. The exhilaration of listening to her heart and falling in love with Oliver along the way lead her to a truth she never expected about a woman she can’t help feel is a little too much like herself. As the story of Lola and Michael evolves, Wynn can’t help but feel her own story with Oliver is coming into light as well.

But only Wynn can take control of her life and become the woman she knows she’s meant to be, and if that means letting go of all the things she’s allowed to hold her back over years, including Oliver, she will find her courage and do what it takes.

I absolutely loved this book. Wynn is charming and relative. There were so many times I knew exactly how she felt, and I found myself living vicariously through her for a time, hoping that like her I could find the strength to be myself before it was too late. Highly recommended, I gave Wynn in Doubt by Emily Hemmer 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of Wynn in Doubt from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wynn In Doubt by Emily Hemmer

Publishing Industry News

This week’s publishing news and industry blogs post covers 9/25/15-10/10/15… and is a bit late. Uh. Sorry. It was a long work week. Whoops!

Publishing News

Michael Glickstein put in a bid last year (on behalf of his investment firm) to purchase majority stakes Barnes in Nobles, but did not have the financing to do so; as such, he was charged with fraud. A settlement has now been reached.

A class action case against educational textbook publisher Pearson has been approved, for now, on the allegation of failure to pay proper royalties.

Industry Blogs

Agent Nephele Tempest posts writing-related links for 10/2 (and have you set your writing goals for this year?) and 10/9.

Agent Jessica Faust explains that when an agent is looking for something in particular, that doesn’t mean they won’t accept something else from their already-established clients. Also, why agents don’t sign non-disclosure agreements before reading submissions. Also, start your query with “haves,” not “have nots”–don’t start off talking about what you haven’t done.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice and answers questions. She explains how to evaluate a small publisher. Should an author looking to drastically change genres with a new pen name go ahead and create the new persona, or wait until query success has been reached? (Yes, start now.) She gives examples of questions to ask potential agents if they offer a chance to ask questions. What if your current agent hates your newest book and won’t try to sell it? (Talk to your agent, see if you need to part ways, know that you shouldn’t “shop around” until you’ve ended your previous contract.)

Reid answers more questions and gives more advice. If you’ve posted parts of a story on a writing website, is there a way to know when that will affect your ability to get a contract with a publisher? (It’s up to the publishers whether to accept these or not; digital-first/only publishers will probably be the most affected by this.) Can you use citations from works in the public domain without permission? (You need permission if the copyright is still in effect, and you still need to cite your sources even if it isn’t.) In nonfiction, what is considered platform?

In Shelf Awareness’ latest issue, Simon & Schuster CEO’s keynote address to the Book Industry Study Group is summed up, with some pretty big looks at the recent changes the publishing industry is taking into account, including the power of metadata and the desire for print books.

Author Hugh Howey releases another set of author earnings’ reports.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch analyzes S&S’s CEO’s keynote for what it means for authors, and how “frontlist” and “backlist” are now outdated terms when what really matters is “accessible or not.” She also analyzes the Author Earnings reports, for both their weaknesses and what she has gleaned from them.

Agent Kristin Nelson shares 3 tips for improving your manuscript gleaned from a recent conference discovery: less is more, don’t try to get too fancy too often with language, and anchor the reader in the setting during dialogue.

On The Editor’s Blog, how to properly capitalize holidays, and their greetings.

Cover designer Fiona Jayde talks about cover designs and reminds authors that they’re to give the reader the gist, not the exact details.

Twilight author Stephanie Meyer publishes a gender-swapped version of Twilight. (link goes to video of interview/announcement)

On the Simply Novel Teachers Blog, an infographic on challenged and banned books.

In T-Magazine, an infographic of Penguin Books’ 80 years of business.

The employees at Amazon selected their Top 100 Sci-Fi & Fantasy novels (link to GalleyCat as it’s easier to read the list than Amazon’s, which is in browse-buy format).

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

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Publishing Industry News

Albatross, Silveo Portrait, New Covers, Facebook, Comic – Episode 137

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Here is the Raven and the Writing Desk Podcast by Chris Lester. Also, here is the free ebook of Hunters Unlucky, Book 1 Storm. If you are able to download that (for free) and leave a review, it would be most helpful. Here’s the Comic, and here’s the Patreon if you want to see the Silveo portrait. :)

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Albatross, Silveo Portrait, New Covers, Facebook, Comic – Episode 137

Counting Stars by Kathleen Long

Counting StarsBernie hasn’t truly faced the fact that her older brother Mark is dead. She knows he’s gone. She feels his absence and her guilt over the distance between them is so heavy it weighs on her like nothing else, but it hasn’t truly hit her yet, and she’s never let herself cry. When her sister-in-law, Jenny, discovers a journal of World’s Largest Attractions Mark began keeping as a little boy, she passes it on to Bernie, knowing he would want his sister to have it. Mark gave up that dream for Jenny, for reality and adulthood and his family, tucking it away in a drawer and leaving the daydreams of his childhood behind, but as Bernie begins flipping through the pages she realized Mark never gave up the dream. He simply kept it to himself, occasionally sharing it with his children like a bedtime story, and always adding new facts, new attractions he hoped to one day see.

When the idea to make a seven-thousand mile trip around the country to visit some of the major attractions in Mark’s ledger strikes her, Bernie can’t help but feel it isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do to pay tribute to her brother. Convincing her mother, her sister-in-law and her best friend to make the journey with her isn’t easy, and in the end her best friend bails out, substituting her seventeen year old daughter, Ashley, instead, but armed with Jenny’s rigid schedule, carefully packed crates of supplies and a borrowed RV named Georgie, the final wrench is thrown into the cogs when Bernie’s boyfriend, Aidan, tells her he needs some time and he won’t be taking care of her dog while she’s gone.

Four women of varying ages, at staggered stages in life trapped in an RV for three weeks straight promises to be absolute mayhem, and nothing short of just that ensues…

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Counting Stars by Kathleen Long