Wednesday, May 29, 2019

World Building: You've Got the Whole World in Your Hands

The world and what it has to offer
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
In case you missed it, you can find a summary of what to expect during this blog series here. The most important thing you need to start world building is, well, the world itself. You need to know what kinds of things your people will face to know how they’d develop as a society, and it goes on and on and on.
Getting Started
“Where do I start?” you might ask. Well...honestly, it’s hard to know where to start. Everything bleeds into everything. Each decision you make when you start will affect something six decisions down the road before you even realize it. I want to start with what I think are the three most important basics before you dive further into your world.
In my opinion, the first step is figuring out what year your story is going to be set in and how old that makes your world. I’ll use our recorded history as an example. The current year is 2019, but time has been recorded ever since the Sumerians invented cuneiform about 5,000 years ago in 2900 BC—or BCE for you youngsters who went to school after it became “before common era.” So, if you were to go solely on recorded history, we’d be writing our checks as May 29, 5019 in our fantasy world. Or, it could be broken into eras by dynasties, and we could say it’s May 29, 649 AHE (After Hadrian Era, because you can call your eras whatever the heck you want). We’ll get into this a little bit more for a little later in this blog post.
Second, whether or not there will be magic in your world. There are several reasons to have magic—you want to have mythical races in your world, or you want to have witches and wizards, or just, in general, you plain ol’ want to. There are also reasons to not have magic in your world—you want to have it closer to our own world, or you want to make it strictly a SciFi where technology rather than magic reigns supreme, or you don’t want to bother with setting up the rules of magic in your world. This pairs with and leads into your third basic for your world.
Third, will there be any religion? Religion and magic can go hand in hand or be diametrically opposed, depending on what you choose. There are so many options for this one that it’s going to be its own blog post later in this series. However, it’s very important to mention up front because it will shape a lot of other decisions that will make your world what is it. For now, I’ll start with the simplest of options: Monotheism or polytheism. With monotheism, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the Christian God most think of; it could be an entirely made up deity for your purposes. Polytheism can mimic any of the houses of gods, whether its Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Polynesian, etc. etc. With the latter, however, it is easier to tie in magic, but it also isn’t impossible to use it in a monotheistic religion without it being considered heretical.
To Earth, or Not to Earth?
This boils down to do you want your story to be on Earth as we know it with or without the same name as our current countries, or if you want to have something entirely different. This would also include our solar system—if you have a story set on Mars, it’s still going to be a familiar red planet for us. There is a lot more to this, but for now, I’m just going to stick with familiar versus unfamiliar. I’m going to be getting more into the physical features of your world in another blog post.
Having a fantasy world based on Earth doesn’t mean everything is going to be exactly the same. You can easily have different names for your countries and cities, but your plant life, fauna, and natural laws will follow what it’s like on Earth. I’ll use founder B. C. Marine’s A Seer’s Daughter as an example here: her world of Carum Sound has different names for countries, mountains, forests, etc. but it’s all based in her home state of Washington. So you’ll see very familiar things like a rain forest, cedar wood being prominently used, and a distinct lack of horses in her book because she’s following the natural order of things where she is.  
Not Earth
Now this one you get to really play around with a lot. Will you have totally foreign plants that are semi-sentient and can uproot themselves when the soil no longer holds the correct amount of nutrients the plant needs? Could this be an interesting plight on crop yield to play with? Maybe. Could it be a bad idea? Also maybe. The point is to play with things that are different and unfamiliar. With a non-Earthlike world, you’ll also need to think of things like how gravity or the seasons work. You don’t have to make up every single law of nature for your world, but you do need to figure out the ones that will affect the world and people the most.
I’ve Got Time on My Hands
Earlier, we talked about how old your world is going to be. I want to tie that in with the calendar that’s going to be set up in your word. This is going to include anything from whether or not you want to have the same names for the days of the week, and how long your week is going to be. This will also tie into whether you’re basing your story on Earth and Earth time, or if you’re creating your own planet it with its own unique way of keeping track of time.
Not to worry, if you want to have your world based on Earth but still use a different calendar than the Gregorian calendar we currently use, there are plenty of examples throughout history ranging anywhere from the Mayan calendar to the Islamic Hijri calendar.
We The People
This is going to cover everything from how many people there will be to the kind of people there will be. This will affect commerce, trade, traditions, etc. which will be covered in later blog posts.
The first thing you need to decide with your people is, are they going to be human or non-human or a mixture? If they are human, you need to decide what to name the races of people, whether it's after the name of their country as we do in our world, or if they will be named something totally unique.
If they will be non-human, what will they be? You have your classic fantasy races—elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, goblins, etc—that you can use, or you can make up your own non-human races. Maybe you’ll have an aquatic being with webbed hands and feet, can breathe in and out of water, and has a mouth that can articulate words but prefers to stay in the water because its skin will dry out, but if it does need to trade with other cultures, they cover themselves from head to toe with a super absorbent cloth that holds water longer than any other fabric.
Maybe you won’t. You just have to make sure you know what you want your people to be before you get too far into your work.

Join me next week for next week’s world building installment on the physical features of your world.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Why World Build?

Making sure your novel is vivid
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
What is world building? Why is it important? Well...I’m going to tell you. Grab your snacks, go to the bathroom, and buckle up because it’s going to be a very, very long series. From now until the middle of October—yes, October, but don’t worry, there will be author interviews with our amazing A4A authors to break it up—I’ll be going more in-depth with each of these subjects. For now, though, we’ll start with a very brief summary of what I’ll be covering.

Starting Your World (You’ve Got the Whole World in Your Hands)

The first thing you need to do when starting your world building is in the name: the world. There are a couple of things that are important to establish right off the bat: what year your story will be set in, if there’s going to be magic or not, and whether there will be any sort of religion. These three are what I think is most important to establish first, but there are others that important as well: what will your world be, how time works, and what kind of people you’ll have. All six of these decisions will affect every other decision you’ll make for your world.
The Land and its resources (This Land is My Land)
One important factor of world building is your geography, climate, and how they affect the local people, plants, and animals. If you’re living somewhere in the mountains, your resources and climate will not be the same as if you were living near an ocean or a desert. Knowing what your people will have to face will help you shape what your people will want, need, and thrive with.
The history of your world ties so intimately with the basis for your story. It gives the why of your people, and the why of the story. This will cover everything from knowing how your people came to be to the kind of social hierarchy will affect your people.
Our whole lives revolve around our cultures whether we realize it or not. We have rituals for births and deaths, and everything in between. We also have customs for how we generally treat people—everyone’s heard of Southern Hospitality—to how we greet them, and even how we visit with each other. For every decision you make when it comes to daily customs and rituals, makes sure that it fits the narrative of the culture that you want. You would not have a particularly aggressive culture doing dainty little rituals and vice versa, more subdued cultures having particularly brutal rituals.
Language is how we communicate with each other, and sometimes that can be difficult depending on what languages you have in your world. I’m going to be talking about the different kinds of languages you can have, and even give you a tool in how to create your own.

Religion (Are You There, God? It’s Me, Writer.)

Religion is a complicated and diverse subject that can take years of discussion without getting all the fine points hammered out. In this post, I want to talk about the kinds of religions, how many there are, what kind of tensions you can have, how magic fits in with your religion, and lastly, ethics and values. Your hackles might be rising at the last saying, “You don’t have to be religious to have ethics and values!” You’re right, you don’t. However, oftentimes they go hand in hand.

Government (Big Brother’s Watching)

In this section, I’ll be talking about the seven types of government and what that could mean for your world (with examples of countries you could research to see what that government means in the real world, and sometimes, book examples of authors using that system), what kind of services your government could provide the people, and what kind of legal systems you might want to think about having in place.

Politics (Your Obedient Servant)

Government and politics go hand in hand. What I want to cover in this blog post is how your leaders and chosen, how long they stay, and what kind of political parties that you have in your world as well as the kind of foreign relations there. I’ll also touch briefly on what political marriage can accomplish in your world based on historical examples.

Defense (This Means War!)

In this post, I’m going to be talking about what kind of militaries you can have, how historical wars can change the way your world works, what kinds of wars there are, why they’re fought, and tactics that can be used during it as well as talking about the kinds of weaponry that you can have in your world.

Magic (Do You Believe in Magic?)

Magic is an important part of your world if you decide to have it in the story. Some of the things that you’ll need to think about while building this world is who gets to use it, and why. You’ll also need to know how it’s taught, if it can be used by non-magic users, how it fits in to the religion of your world, if there are any magical animals, and what the consequences of using magic are.

Education (Don’t Need No Education...Right?)

Education is an important part of society as a whole—it’s how we make advancements, and the more people who have knowledge readily available, the quicker that happens. In this blog post, I want to go over what kind of educations are available, who in your world can have an education, and what types of schools there are.

Advancement (Mr. Ford, Start the Conveyor Belt)

In this post, I want to talk about the advancement of your society in terms of technology, science, and medicine. Each develop at a different pace and simultaneously, so you’ll need to figure out what setting your world is taking place, and what time period it will be in because those will both affect the decision making process.

Commerce (We Will Take Our Business Elsewhere)

Commerce and trade are intrinsically woven into our everyday lives whether we realize it or not, and it affects our decision making in a big way. What you might not think about while building your world is how trade and industry have also developed how we communicate, and how we travel.

Food (Get In My Belly!)

In this post, I want to talk about farming for your country, the type of diet that your people will have, what they hunt for, and if they have any feasting days. I also want to talk very briefly about the history of utensils and what kind of options your people could have based on the setting of your story.

Construction (What Do You Mean I’m Going to Live in A Hut?)

In this post, I want to talk a little bit about what it would be like to live both in a city and less populous areas, talk about how things are built, who builds them, and what kind of amenities will be available based on the type construction within your cities and elsewhere. Not all of these will be necessary for you to think about, depending on the year that your story takes place, but are still things that should be on your radar if the need arises.

The Arts (It’s The Arts, Darling)

Art isn’t just painting a canvas. It’s making people feel a certain way, and there’s more than one way to do it. In this post, I want to talk about several different forms of art, as well as entertainment that even the layman can enjoy.

Fashion (Why Don’t You Have On Any Pants?)

For my final post in the series, I want to talk about the clothing that your characters will wear. Clothes are often ignored within a work because authors want to focus more on the plot than the ruffles, but clothes give us insight into what’s going on in the mind of the character, their socioeconomic status, and traditions of their culture.

Please bear in mind that there are so many aspects to world building that I may not be able to cover every single subject, or even in extreme detail for the ones that I do cover. I also in no way claim to be an expert in any of these subjects and am only trying to make sure you have a good foundation for what you need to think about while building your world. This blog series is going to be a jumping off point for what you need to think about in your world building journey.

Join me next week where I talk about setting up your world.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Author Interview: Judy Lynn

Join us today as we interview Judy Lynn, author of our newest book: Veil of Deceit
Judy, thanks for joining us today! Why don’t we dive right in? What inspired you to write Veil of Deceit?

Some writers can give you some long flowery description of why they write and why they chose a particular story...I’m not one of them. This is a question I’ve been dreading since I sent the story to publication, because I really don’t have an answer except to say that it’s the story that came into my head, so it’s the story I wrote...and rewrote...and in the case of some chapters, rewrote again.

Don’t worry, I’m sure a lot of people dread being asked that question, as well as this next one: are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story?

I guess you could say the theme of rooting out corruption is there. But please, don’t look for any connection to real life. It is a purely fictional story in a fictional future world.
I’ve never been big on symbolism (you can ask my high school English teacher if you have any doubt of that). Everything is as it’s described. No deeper meanings.

I would say that getting justice is a big them for you. I’ve got my own, but tell me, who is your favorite character?

Either Craig or Ethan. Both are honorable men who do what needs to be done. Both are dating strong women, and neither are intimidated by them. They care enough to protect, without being overbearing. My goodness, did I write the same character twice? *sigh* Well, there’s always Book Two, right?
It is really important in fiction to see strong female characters with men who appreciate their strength rather than resent it. Your world is set partially in space and partially on Earth, so how did you craft your world as a whole?

I made it up as I went along. I’m not one for planning ahead (at least not for my writing). It requires more editing to make sure things remain consistent, and I’ll need beta readers for the next one who have read Veil of Deceit to make sure I stay consistent. But the world develops as  the characters encounter problems and need solutions to those problems (or to make things more interesting for the reader, more obstacles to turn little problems into big ones).

Ah, you’re a pantser, then. A lot of great authors are, though. How did you decide on a setting? Is it based off of anywhere you’ve been in real life?

Every city visited in Veil of Deceit that is on earth is a real city, though not all the military bases are. Some of the cities I’ve been to, some I haven’t. But even those I have, there is very little that I pictured as a real place. The one exception would be seeing Alcatraz in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  There are certainly some very real environments that I enjoy, however. I love camping, and Lake Tahoe is beautiful for it. I love the west coast, and I think my love for the outdoors is reflected in Jayla, even though it’s not a prominent theme.
The only off-world city that’s named has a significance to the name. I’m wondering if any readers will pick up on it.

I’m sure they’ll keep an eye out for it after that answer! Were there any SciFi writers whoinspired your desire to write in the genre?

I love Star Trek. Not every incarnation of it, mind you, but I’ve seen every episode of TNG, DS9, and Voyager. I think that’s where my love for SciFi started. Any space stories, most tech stories. It’s too many to narrow it down to say what specifically sparked the desire to write it.

Funny thing, the first novel I finished writing was fantasy, without much of a SciFi aspect. Yet, when I finished Veil of Deceit, it just “felt right” that my debut novel should be science fiction.

Star Trek has inspired a lot of people, not only in writing science fiction, but making futuristic technology a reality. I’m sure a lot of people will want to know: Who are your favorite authors?

UGH! Not a fair question! If I named one or two today, tomorrow I’d have a different answer for you. I loved the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne MacCaffery. I also love the literary fiction of Francine Rivers. It’s too hard to pick a favorite.

It is hard to pick a favorite, especially when you’re asked! Once the readers finish Veil of Deceit, I have no doubt they’ll be dying to get their hands on more of your fiction. What can we expect next from you?

I’ve finished the first book in the fantasy series Tribes of Chalent. Book two is going through a spit polish. Then I’ll be ready to focus on book three, which currently has a rough draft but has yet to see the light of day (by “light of day,” I mean wonderful critiquers for whom I’m so grateful).

Will Veil of Deceit have a sequel? You bet. It’s not nearing completion just yet, but it’s in the works.

Veil of Deceit
By Judy Lynn

Prisoner 7578359, Commander Jayla Sans, is innocent. Framed by her own godfather and convicted of treason, she’ll spend the rest of her days on the prison spaceship Tarsha—however few she has left. During her last investigation for the military, she found a vast and insidious conspiracy, and now various factions will kill to acquire or destroy the information in her head. Jayla must protect the truth at costs, even if that means severing ties with her loved ones. But is Jayla truly alone?

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Accepting Rejection Gracefully

Rejection is rough, but your attitude doesn’t need to be.
Our goal as a company, first and foremost, is making sure that authors succeed, and sometimes that means that they won’t be publishing with us because we know we can’t do their work justice. In our final post for our publishing series, we want to talk about how to take rejection and what things you shouldn’t do when you get a no.

They rejected ME! And my WONDERFUL, GROUND-BREAKING WORK! What’s WRONG with them?!?!?

Stop right now.
If you decide that going with a publisher (whether Big 5 or a small press) is right for you, rejection is part of the game. You cannot take a rejection personally.
  • JK Rowling was rejected twelve times for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was rejected twenty-seven times for Green Eggs and Ham.
  • Margaret Mitchell was rejected thirty-eight times for Gone with the Wind.
These books are some of the most popular books ever published—and yet publishers and literary agents rejected them. Rejection can happen for lots of reasons. Getting upset is just a waste of your time and a sign that you might be difficult to work with. Reaching out to the publisher or agent who rejected you with a less than pleasant response is career suicide.

But I’m upset! Can’t I let the agent know I’m upset? The publisher owes me an explanation for why they rejected me!

No. No one owes you a thing. As a small press, we get dozens of submissions per quarter. Larger literary agents get hundreds, maybe even thousands. There simply isn’t enough time to give everyone personal treatment. Does this mean the agent may have “gotten it wrong”? Absolutely. Should you be indignant about it? No.
Here are some examples of what NOT to do when you receive a rejection:
Complain online
We get many of our submissions from Twitter pitch events, with some from our writing group website, Scribophile. If we approach you and ask you for a submission (Twitter) or are active in the community where you talk about writing (both), please do not vilify on a public forum those who rejected you because you’re upset your word-baby has been told no. Not only will it make you look less desirable for future agents or editors, it will make publishers less willing to give you a second chance.
After taking hours to review a submission and provide editing notes, we had an author complain on a public forum about how “we didn’t understand his work.” No, we understood it fine—and it wasn’t commercial as written.
As professionals, we’ve seen a lot of works cross our desks, some being fantastic and some being not so fantastic. And when a publisher or agent takes the time to tell you what they found that doesn’t work in your manuscript and also lets you know how they think you can improve it, don’t take it as an insult to your creative genius. Take it as a publisher or agent taking time out of their busy day to help an author they think can succeed in the future, whether it’s with or without them.
Send a snarky reply
We received a submission that, after reading a few chapters, was obviously a first draft. It was soon after a NaNoWriMo event, and hey, we’re all learning together. We asked the author for some changes, and to resubmit. The author refused, and even admitted that he killed off a bunch of characters just to avoid naming them.
You may think your response is good, or even polite. It probably isn’t. In this example, the author showed us that he:
  • Was lazy (the whole killing to avoid names thing compounded with the obvious lack of basic editing)
  • Was not a team player (instead of thanking us for the feedback, he basically told us his work was good enough and didn’t need any work… Sorry, EVERY piece needs edits)
As a rule of thumb, don’t send any response to a rejection that isn’t a “thank you” for the reader’s time. Asking a question (what could I improve on? Do you have any feedback for me?) is usually fine, provided there wasn’t already feedback provided in the rejection. If we’ve already taken the time to give you information, be happy you got it, and move on.
Send a venomous reply
This is the worst option that you can go with, full stop. This kind of response will you get you automatically blacklisted from our company, and we will refuse to work with you in the future and perhaps be not so nice upon another submission telling you no. No doubt, other companies employ a similar policy.
As authors ourselves, we know how difficult it is to hear that someone doesn’t really like your work and then, on top of that, criticize it. But, as authors, we need to develop a thick skin because writing is a subjective art, much the same way as physicals arts like paintings or sculptures are. You are never going to please everyone, and attacking people who tell you no with emails such as “Do you know how many times I’ve been published?” or, better yet, calling us names, are not going to work in your favor of looking like a professional or encourage future supportive relationships.

No doesn’t always mean no forever

A fair amount of time, when we send out a rejection, it comes with the line, “Please resubmit to us after fixing x, y, and z.”
This isn’t just a nice thing that we say to people. We aren’t going to waste our time just to hand-hold people. That might sound a little bit callous, but to do a proper job in editing, proofreading, and covering a book will take around a year. Even books that are in really great condition when we get them will still take at least half that time. The time that we devote to our authors is precious to us, and if we don’t think we can serve your needs well enough in the time that we have, we’re going to say no for now.
But we do want you to come back, and we have pursued authors for a second submission when they’ve taken the time to listen to what we have to say to help them improve.

So what SHOULD I do when I receive a rejection?

Always thank the reader for their time, even if all you received was a form rejection. Keep it classy! The good karma is worth it.
If the reader took time to give you feedback, thank them for the time. If you have a specific question about the feedback (for example, you were told that you needed to make the characters more dynamic, clarifying what dynamic means to the reader) you can ask it, but ONLY ask to clarify.
If you didn’t get feedback, you can politely request it. Ask what you could do to improve your story, and if the reader takes time to respond, thank them profusely. Send ONLY ONE request for feedback. Do not stalk your reader.

Join us next week for an author interview with A4A Author Judy Lynn and her debut novel, Veil of Deceit.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Your Publishing Path: Self Publishing

We're almost done with our series on publishing! Let's take a look at an option we haven't talked about yet: self publishing.
Give me freedom, or give me death!
Okay, forgive my dramatics. But there is a strong polarization in the writing community surrounding self publishing. To help explain that, let's look at the history of publishing, and some of what we've learned so far about the industry.
For a long time, the publishing industry was seen as the gatekeepers of the book industry. If you remember from our earlier post about the Big 5 Publishers, there's a LOT of hoops to jump through to get published.

For a while, this worked because publishing was EXPENSIVE. No one would print and bind just one book because of the exorbitant cost involved. So unless someone had a LOT of money lying around, you really couldn't just publish your book. You also would have to try to sell it to the bookstores, and ain't NOBODY got time for that!

The debut of ebooks and ereaders changed all that. Just about anyone with a computer and Internet access could format what they'd written into an ebook. However, the stigma of publishing your own work has persisted somewhat.

And now, with advances like Print on Demand, a self publisher can also sell physical books in addition to ebooks. There are also ways for self publishers to find an actor to record their work as an audiobook.
Vanity Presses
Why the stigma? Let's look at that history above. Remember how before your options were pass the gatekeepers or pay for your own? If you did manage to pay for your publishing costs, that was called using a vanity press—working with a company that would "publish" your book in exchange for the production costs. Since these books didn't pass through the gatekeepers, they were viewed as inferior to a "real" book.

And in many cases they were. There were also cookbooks, memoirs, and other pieces published that were very niche, where they just weren't comparable to a mass market book. Overall, it meant that something done by a vanity press just wasn't as polished or professional as a real book.

Many writers feel that self publishing is little more than a cheaper version of a vanity press—and that an author hasn't really succeeded until they've been chosen by a publisher.
Wait—it sounds like self publishing is BAD!
No—quite the opposite.

Authors who choose to self publish do so for many reasons. And while there is no longer a gatekeeper in place to guarantee the quality of the product (something many of us have learned when browsing on our Kindle), there are plenty of fantastic books that are professionally published by the authors. And it's allowed a greater variety of books on the market—especially books targeting niche audiences, using more diverse characters, and expanding and mixing genres.
Self Publishing gives authors more freedom and control
If you self publish, you can choose your own cover, or even help design it. You can set the price point for your book, promote it like you want, and publish when you want.

Traditional publishers usually like to schedule books at least a year apart, so that they don't compete with each other for sales. Some prolific self publishers release a book each month, or prepare and publish an entire trilogy or series at once. This makes sense in the world of Netflix, where entire television series are released at once and we (the consumers) binge content.
Self Publishers can make more money on their book
Let me qualify that: the ability to make more money when self publishing does exist, but is not what happens to everyone.

Basically, when you self publish, you get just about all the profit from the sales. For most distributors, that's 60-70 percent of the list price of the book.

However, you also take on the publishing costs of the book—and also have to plan for any litigation expenses (such as protecting your copyright) as well as marketing costs.

And with how easy it is to self publish, the market is oversaturated, making it difficult to get your book to stand out.

However, the control and improved revenue really appeals to some authors.
And if I want to try self do I get started?
Research, research, research. Learn as much as you can before you take the plunge. I say this because unless you're successful, most publishers aren't interested in republishing a self published book (or author, sadly).

Save and plan ahead—you should be ready to pay for at least one (if not two or three) rounds of editing and a proofreading pass as well as a cover artist.

Make friends with a lawyer who can help you with any legal questions (or, if not friends, be ready to pay for one if necessary).

Thanks for joining us for our publishing series! Join us next week when we go over how to accept a rejection professionally, the last post in this series.

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