I engage with readers a lot. I really enjoy the conversations we have. You may or may not be aware that I am very active on Twitter and happily answer questions there, but I can give more in depth answers to questions in my Facebook group called Speroancora Crew. Join us there if that sounds interesting to you!
Recently a crew member asked this question:
Here was my reply (written late late late at night…)
Apparently I don't see him [Alan] the way everyone else seems to perceive him. Huh. Where to start.
First of all, one of my favorite characters ever on television was Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis. I was definitely thinking about some of his traits when I created Alan. But Alan is NOT Rodney in disguise.
Second, NASA astronauts as a group are very homogeneous. That's problematic when you're writing a novel and need conflict and variety. I had people complain that Tom Compton and Ronald Gibbs were too similar. These two characters--and Ajaya Varma--were all based on typical NASA astronaut personalities.
These people don't get excited about anything. They are even tempered, methodical, cooperative. NASA very specifically LOOKS for these traits. There has been talk that maybe NASA should incorporate some other personality types for long flights because it might be a better group dynamic.
If I wrote a book about 5 of these people going to space…well…I didn't see how I could create much conflict between them.
So, WALSH was modeled after the early astronauts--the test pilots in the 50s that were the first to go into space. These guys were mavericks. I gave him a strong military background so he would be disciplined and good under pressure. But then I threw a fly in the ointment by having him be the FIRST to be affected by the nanites (which most people don't realize--and they think I was simply writing a stereotypical drill sergeant asshole. I wasn't. Jane describes Walsh as being fair but difficult to convince, but maybe people forget she says that and react emotionally to his irrational and bullheaded behavior that comes out under the influence of the nanites affecting his central nervous system.
And ALAN needed to break the mold as well. I needed him to be a foil. He was rejected for the astronaut program originally. He is only included on this journey because of his experience reverse engineering alien tech. He's the best and brightest. And sometimes the best and brightest have difficult personalities.
As for why he's so negative… This catches me off guard. Because I don't see him that way. He's a lot like ME. He grumbles about stuff in a snarky way. He calls people on their bullshit and he's right most of the time. It's not always easy being the smartest dude in the room (not saying THAT'S like me by a long shot!). But that's where he's coming from.
What does Jane see in him? He's REAL. He's always straight with her when her own ex was more of a obfuscator of facts. He's been vulnerable with her. They see and appreciate each other's ambition and drive. She knows he doesn't know what he's doing. He's never been in a serious relationship. She finds that endearing. She thinks he's funny. All that grumbling is cute to her. There are women who find this sort of thing attractive.
I've been accused of making Jane a Mary Sue. The truth is Alan is more like me than Jane ever was.
I've been accused of making them act like teenagers. Well, love does that to people. It puts them off kilter. It makes them act weird. Even grown-ass 30-somethings. I've seen it. I've experienced it as a 43 year old newly divorced woman.
I've been accused of man-bashing. Well, I don't know where that comes from and I can't even begin to address it. I wrote characters that felt like real people I've known. I love every single one of them. I don't hate any of them. And I don't believe I present any of them in an unfavorable light. Writing characters that have foibles and issues isn't bashing them.
Jane has issues too! Um. Commitment, much? ;D
And then another crew member made this comment which I felt was truly awesome and really articulated how I felt about it well (I'd been writing all day and it was late at night!):
Brilliant, right?! Way to out-author the author! I tend to be so close to my characters that it's hard even for me to describe them. So this was GREAT!
If you want to hang out and chat with me like this or about science, space, fandoms and general geekery, think about joining the crew or follow me on Twitter! Keep the conversation going! (And keep reading! It's good for you--you need vitamin R!)
Audio Book News...
The audio book production of REMANENCE is almost complete. I heard from Susanna Burney a few days ago. She's finishing up the last few chapters now. Then sicsound will master the audio and take out page turns and flubs etc. That will take some time. The audio book should be available by the end of this month! Yay!
What I'm Reading Now...
I've been devouring space opera audio books lately at quite an insane pace. I don't get a lot of time to read on my kindle much anymore but I listen to audio books when doing any kind of mundane chore like driving, folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, cooking etc.
You'd be surprised how fast you can read an audio book when you cram it into otherwise boring moments. Last night I was listening to an audio book while popping popcorn on the stove and I was so engrossed that I ended up standing in the kitchen eating said popcorn (and throwing a few kernels to Link because he's so adorable--he takes ONE piece and trots off to another room to chew on it then comes back for another) while listening.
Here's a list of the books I've been listening to lately (in case you're as hungry for great space opera as I am!)
The Expanse series by James SA Corey
The Legacy Fleet series by Nick Webb
Darkship series by Sarah Hoyt
The Aurora Rhapsody series by G.S. Jennsen
Armada by Ernie Cline
Hyperion Cantos books by Dan Simmons
The Paradox Series by Rachel Bach
Have you read any of these? How did you feel about them? Let's keep the discussion going!
This is just a quick post to let you know what's going on in my authorial life.
To start with, two upcoming events:
Marcon May 6-8, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio
I'll be speaking on panels and doing a signing and reading. I don't know why the programming isn't up on their website yet… This is my schedule:
BEA (Book Expo America) May 11-13 in Chicago, Illinois
I'll be floating in and out of this one because it's running concurrently with another con the same weekend (that I'm also attending). Not sure yet about the mega book signing. I'm having some trouble with book distribution at the moment. I'm not sure if my books will make it there on time. I'm not really going to be there in any official capacity, just networking. But if you're going to be there, get in touch. I might do a meetup.
SFWA Nebula Conference (Science Fiction Writers of America) May 12-15 Chicago, Illinois
This is a con for authors, mostly. For learning and networking and important stuff like that. The Nebula Awards will be announced at this gig. Since I went to the Hugos last year, I thought I'd give this a whirl. In addition, this conference traditionally holds a mass author signing every year. And there are some big names on this list. I'm hopeful that my paperback supply issues will be solved by this point and I'll be able to join in too. Here's the list of authors attending (you might want to sit down--there are some pretty big names on this list!):
In other news, there has been a resurgence in interest in Fluency after a week-long 99 cent sale which just concluded. Sales are up overall and both books are ranking well. Here are a few screenshots from my warm-fuzzy file in case you missed my shameless boasts on Twitter:
Lest you think I'm getting a swelled head, I did receive THIS review this week:
Well, some people like my writing anyway. I got two great interviews this week. If you didn't see them, check them out:
On the ALLi site (Alliance for Independent Authors) I was asked to Share the Secrets of My Success as an independent author.
And on Lawrence M Shoen's Eating Authors website I described my most memorable meal.
I launched REMANENCE!
Don't you just love that cover? I think it's amazing! Stephan Martiniere has done it again.
The launch was a little rockier than I intended. At the last minute I decided to employ a proofreader to give a new editor a try and that really pushed me up against the wire there at the end. I'm glad I did though, because I liked his work--he did a great job in a very short amount of time--and it never hurts to have another set of eyes looking for typos.
That meant that I had to format the ebook (easy) and paperback (excruciating, difficult, and far more time consuming than usual due to software problems) at the last minute. Next time I'll probably buy and learn InDesign and give myself weeks to do it in, rather than days or hours (I assumed it would only take a couple of hours to format the paperback when in reality it took something like forty nearly non-stop hours of wailing and gnashing of teeth.)
As a result the paperback lagged behind and is just now catching up with the ebook on the amazon page--but they're both on the same page now! I really wanted to upload everything early and give the system a chance to smooth everything out by March 13, but that simply was impossible. Next time it will go more smoothly.
Sales have been spectacular and the early reviews have been flattering. Middle books in trilogies are notoriously hard to pull off, but it seems like people are universally enjoying it and already asking for book three.
I appreciate each and every one of my readers and that's why I go out of my way to reply to questions and comments via social media and email. You guys rock!
The audio book is my next job. I'm planning to have Susanna Burney work on book two but contemplating hiring a male narrator to voice Ei'Brai's and Alan Bergen's chapters. Not sure how to work that out yet. I'm still exploring the possibilities. After that, I'll finish up my Druid (title not final yet) manuscript and begin work on CONVERGENCE (the third and final chapter in the Confluence trilogy.)
Just a quick note to let you know that I've set a date for the release of REMANENCE (Confluence Book 2): March 13, 2016.
The book is currently with my line editor getting that last minute comb-through. I'll have it back by the end of the week to make his suggested changes. That will take several days of feverish work. Then I'll format the ebook and the paperback and let my graphic designer know how many pages the book is so he can finalize the paperback cover. That process will take a few days.
Just to reiterate: There will be no pre-order. They don't work in my favor so I'm not doing it.
The audio book will go into production after the final draft is complete. I expect it will be ready by midsummer.
It's all coming together! Everyone is playing their part beautifully!
Other stuff going on:
1.) I have FLUENCY bonus materials if you're interested! You have to sign up for my email alerts to get it. Your privacy is important to me and I only send email a few times a year when I have something to say. Also, subscribers get perks like autographed copies and other giveaways.
2.) There is a Goodreads group called Space Opera Fans that is reading and discussing FLUENCY all month long. Check that out if you're interested! (And let them know that the sequel will arrive on March 13!)
It's been three months since my last update about the progress of REMANENCE, the sequel to FLUENCY, so I thought I'd check in briefly. If you scroll down to the previous post, you'll see the timeline I've set up. It's still 100% in play without any delays.
I'm still on target for a March release. The exact day is yet to be determined (possibly I'll be prepared to give one by late February or early March). I could give you an exact date now, but that would make life very uncomfortable for me, as I either push myself beyond my limits, or sit on my hands for a week after it's done, waiting for that date to arrive. I'd rather just publish it when it's done.
You want to know when that day arrives? Sign up for my newsletter (and get the bonus of a free story). I hate spam, so I don't send more than a few emails a year. Your email address is safe with me. I'll only send you mail when I have something important to say.
People are asking for pre-orders. I'm not going to do those. They actually work against indie authors and I don't want to promo something that's not ready for sale. I won't be having a book launch party or a cover release with a bunch of fanfare. That's not my style. I've participated (reluctantly) in some of these things for other authors or anthologies but I don't enjoy them and I don't think they help an author's career. I don't need to do an AMA because I'm always available to answer questions here, on Twitter, or Facebook. Okay, that's enough curmudgeon-Jen for today.
Here's what has happened so far:
I wrote a first draft of the novel: Remanence.
I did my own first revision of the novel.
I passed that novel on to my professional editor to do a developmental edit (this is story level editing) and simultaneously asked about ten people to read it. Those people include my IRL (in real life) writing group/critique partners, a NASA/JPL engineer, an independent aeronautic engineer, a theoretical physicist and a couple of general readers.
I am now scouring the notes I received and assessing each one with a good old fashioned gut check. If someone noted a blind spot and I think it's valid, I'm fixing it. If something was too hard to understand, I'm clarifying it. If a scene is missing, I'm adding it. And so on. It's tedious work, but also really rewarding, because a novel is taking shape that I am really proud of. I'm nearing the end of this process now. I've been working around the clock. No tv time for me. It's all work and very little play around here until this is done.
The next step starts in two weeks when my professional editor will take the manuscript and do a thorough line edit. That will look at the novel more at a sentence level than the story level. He'll be looking for homophones, grammar errors, typos--as well as redundancies in the narrative, overused words, poorly constructed sentences, unclear passages and so on. It's a critical step in making a book as clean and readable for you, the reader. I won't skip it.
While my editor has the book I will be finalizing the covers for the ebook and paperback and making up a glossary to tack on to the end. I'm also hoping to find time to set up a giveaway as a thank you for all my dedicated readers.
Once the editor gives me the manuscript back, I will make the corrections, then I publish. I'm predicting that will be the third week of March, but anything could happen. Stay tuned.
These are exciting times! Read on!
I get asked a lot when the sequel to Fluency is going to come out. I'm here to tell you today when that will be.
But before I do, allow me say:
1.) I'm relatively new to noveling. (READ: new=takes longer.)
2.) I've had a lot on my plate over the last year (those are personal details that I won't be sharing).
3.) Writing a sequel that lives up to a very successful first book is a lot of pressure.
4.) I've got two kids (anyone who has lived with children knows what this means.)
That said, I've been working hard on this book for about a year. Considering that it took me two years to write and revise Fluency, I think I'm gaining some speed here. I'm not interested in churning out books. I want them to be the best I can make them.
Remanence is near completion. I'll be finishing it up and doing my own revision through the end of the year.
I've commissioned the same cover artist to create the cover artwork that did the cover for Fluency and he's already turned it over to me. Stephan Martiniere works as a concept artist for film (Guardians of the Galaxy was one of his projects) and he had to finish work on a Spielberg film before he could work on this cover. It's SPECTACULAR. You won't be disappointed in this cover art.
I've hired a professional editor and scheduled him to work on the manuscript in early January. This will be a developmental edit. Story level--looking at story arc/character arcs/searching for plot holes. In general, this guy makes me look good. He's edited several of my short stories. We work well together. He'll turn the manuscript around in about a week and I'll take the rest of the month to complete that revision. Assuming there won't be a ton of rewriting to do, that should be just enough.
(Authors--if you want to know who I use for editing, please take a look at my author resources page.)
Also in January I'll be sending the manuscript to a few select expert beta readers--fans of Fluency who happen to be aeronautic engineers, physicists and so on. People who are essentially going to tell me if I've misunderstood or misrepresented the science in some way. There are a lot of technical details in this book. While they are a backdrop, they add a layer of realism that my readers enjoy. This is a step I can't skip.
In February I've got an editor lined up to do a line edit. This level of editing looks for grammar errors and typos. Some editors at this level also fact check. This is a time consuming process and will likely take all of February. My prose is pretty clean, but everyone makes typos or uses homophones on occasion.
In February, after looking at where I'm at, I will put the book up on pre-order for a March 2016 release. I won't name the date of the release until I'm sure I can do it. There are penalties associated with not making a pre-order happen on time. Remanence will be exclusive to Amazon for a while because Amazon has been very good to me.
More exciting news? As soon as the Remanence final manuscript is out of my hands, I'm planning to finish a partially completed novel that I started right after I finished Fluency (before I knew Fluency was going to sell the way it did.) That book is 50% complete and I'm planning to finish and release it in 2016 as well.
Druid (working title) is set in the same universe as Fluency with a new cast of characters and a different set of problems. It's a sort of superhero origin story.
Then I will return to Confluence series to complete that trilogy. (My plan has always been to go back and forth between the two series until both were complete.)
I'm sorry I couldn't bring you the book sooner. But I hope you enjoy it when it's ready. (And I'm really hoping the zombie apocalypse doesn't happen between now and then. What can I say? I'm a worrier.)
EDITED TO ADD: If you want to be the very first to know when I release ANYTHING, sign up for my newsletter. You'll find boxes to sign up all over this site. Notably, in the top menu bar, under the word: subscribe.
***Additional edit: The clock starts ticking on the audio book AFTER the book is complete and ready for sale. Production takes a few months. So I'm guessing we'll be looking at June or July for an audio version.
I get asked A LOT to recommend books. Last night on Twitter, someone asked me to recommend middle grade SFF books with a female protagonist. I didn't have any good answers so I turned around and posed the question to my own Twitter followers. Since this wasn't the first time I've been asked this particular question, and since I have a middle grade reader in my household, I thought I would compile a list of the books tweeted to me.
As usual, Twitter was very kind and dozens of people enthusiastically jumped into the fray, tweeting titles at me. I managed to keep up and have listed them here in the order I received them. I recognize some of these as being YA but some MG readers are ready for YA, especially if there's a dearth of MG stuff they enjoy reading. I have added links to Amazon for some of them. I'll try to update it in time. It's time consuming to add that many links! Based on what I've seen so far, most of these recommendations are excellent choices for children to read!
***Keep in mind--these have not been vetted for age-appropriateness. Do your due diligence and research the titles before you buy for your favorite Middle Grade or Young Adult aged kiddo. If you keep a keen eye out, many of the books have suggested reading ages right in the descriptions!***
The Alien Chronicles has been published on Amazon and the reception has been wonderful! It's currently poised at #8 in Science Fiction Anthologies with 12 5-star reviews. The early mentions of my story, The Grove have been positive, which is very exciting, because The Grove is a prequel to another novel I hope to publish in late 2015 or early 2016 (after the sequel to Fluency has been published).
I recently shipped off a bunch of Fluency paperbacks to my new publisher in Germany, where Fluency will be translated and traditionally published. I'm not sure yet when that will go to market. The book has also been sold in Russia. Very exciting!
In a recent blog post I told you about how I was diversifying and putting Fluency up across platforms--iTunes, Nook, Google Play etc. Well, that flopped. I've taken the book down from those vendors and reinvested in exclusivity with Amazon, the people who made my career happen. I may try to go wide again when Remenance comes out.
So, I now have a link to share:
This link to FLUENCY, which I've now engineered to take you to YOUR Amazon store in YOUR country. Technology is so cool!
I'm sorry if you're wanting to find links to other platforms, but I needed to make a business decision. I owe a lot to Amazon. It has been very good to me, as an organization. And I have my boys' college funds to save for and bills to pay just like everyone else.
In other news, IndieReader reviewed Fluency and gave it 5-stars! They said some lovely things like:
So that's been pretty exciting!
The Hugo Award Winning SFSignal podcast recently interviewed Rachel Aaron and she mentioned how much she loved reading Fluency. This is a podcast with some great timely info. I'm going to try to listen to it more often. I just happened to be listening because I love Rachel's book, Fortune's Pawn, when all of a sudden she just mentioned me and my book. My jaw dropped and I started to hyperventilate. What a crazy moment!
There's probably lots more I could say but my dance card is full. I need to get back to writing! Oh, and one more thing--I'm re-reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, probably for the first time since high school and LOVING IT. Read on!
"What might be the most impressive part of FLUENCY is the attention paid to each character, making them not one-note stock characters (there are no Red Shirts here!) but interesting, complicated individuals."
Jennifer Foehner Wells
I'm an author of the Space Opera variety.