Friday, January 30, 2015

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry blogs for 1/10-1/30.

Publishing News

Apple says its iBookstore now has 1 million users each week.

A new company offers an alternative book discovery tool.

Harry Potter's on Oyster.

In China, authors will be forced to abandon the practice of online pen names.

The Canadian Competition Bureau asks Kobo and Indigo Books and Music to turn over records. Kobo states that the request is unfair.

Simon & Schuster debuts a new marketing unit to help authors build audiences.

Amazon unveils a new tool for self-publishing textbooks.

HarperCollins starts selling books through social media.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for

Agent Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware explains two problematic lines to watch out for in contracts, and why they're problematic. Also, she inquires Author Translation for more about their services, but check out their communications with Strauss (she posts their responses to her questions verbatim... not really a team I'd be wanting to work with).

Agent Nephele Tempest explains how referrals work. She also posts interesting literary links, for 1/23 and 1/16.

Agent Kristin Nelson shares her 2014 year-end stats. And her tales from the submission inbox.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice and answers questions. Publishing credits do have expiration dates--don't reach for things you published as a kid. Are print-only deals a dream? (For agents, yes, but it's possible with editors... just be careful and don't pin your hopes on old data.) If an agent once passed on a work but invited you to query with future works, how do you do so? And the dangers of trying to write and publish material reused in a collaborative roleplay (don't do it; or for roleplays in general... the legal issues are too great with multiple rights holders).

Reid answers more questions and gives more advice. Self-published some of your short stories; can you reuse them? (Yes, in certain ways.) And don't be afraid of "wasting" an agent's time--you're not. Writers are how they make their money. How many clients are too many for an agent? (There's no set limit to the numbers of clients an agent can successfully handle; don't let a long list put you off.) And what if your agent is quitting agenting, but wants to keep your book and keep agenting it anyway? (No. Flattering as it may be, it's not best for you.)

And more from Reid: Is 1st/3rd POV okay? (Do what works for the story.) After how many query rejections should you call it quits on a manuscript? (Seriously, don't count your rejections.) How do you introduce new characters' names and nicknames? (It depends on the tone of the story, but whatever fits.) If you offer a .mobi file to your beta readers and your betas put it on their personal Kindles, does that count as published? (No; published refers to having an ISBN and available sale, but you might want make sure the file is labeled as a draft.) Do agents who are authors hire other agents? (Yes. They don't rep their own books.)

Kristin Kaythrn Rusch, author and book business blogger, takes a look at the data behind Digital Book World's numbers on how digital book sales have impacted print book sales... and finds the numbers deserve a good, hard look. And the rise of the backlist is, in part, related to the changing ways of reporting book sales.

Agent Rachelle Gardener on whether or not you should consider quitting your dayjob yet.

Agent Jessica Faust tells us to make the most of publicity... and how to do so.

On the Editor's Blog, how do you make a manuscript sound like a published novel?

On QueryTracker, dealing with the publishing blues. And some tools for book promotion (though I'm not much for paying for a blog tour). And don't forget to exercise--just stand up every hour or so, at least. (Try finding a way to make yourself an standing desk if you can--I find it helps, at least, even if it's juryrigged.)

Wouldn't you love to be on Zuckerberg's book club list? Talk about nice sales!

Virginia Woolf's advice for writers (an infographic from EssayMama).

ADDED LATE: Fellow NC author Fraser Sherman posts a great set of writing related links.

What publishing news have you encountered in the past three weeks?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tea Review: Four Seasons Oolong

Four Seasons Oolong

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

Oolong, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Where I got it


$17.98/ 2oz
How I brewed it

1.5 tsp in 20-oz teapot, boiled water with 1 ice cube melted in, steeped for 2.5 minutes
Rebrewing notes

Like most oolongs, rebrews well at least a second time. Haven't tried a third yet, but I see no reason why it wouldn't go for at least 3-4 brews. It's an oolong, after all.

It's a decent oolong. I recommend using more tea to water than I've noted for brewing here--I like my tea on stronger side, and 1.5 tsp for 20 oz is a bit weak for my tastes. I've made it stronger before, however, and it was good. There are other oolongs I love more, but this one is definitely good, a solid and well-flavored brew with a nice, earthy oolong scent. It's got a light taste, but you can definitely smell the tea.

Cooled to room temperature (such as by forgetting the mug at hand while browsing on FB for too long...), and I can't even taste it, just smell it. It's got the taste of good water with a nice scent, so if you're not a huge tea drinker but want the benefits of tea, I'd suggest this tea, room temperature or even cooled. If you're a huge tea-lover, then keep it warm, or else you won't be able to taste your tea!

Really, I can't think of anything particular to say about this oolong. It's good, and good quality, but not as spectacular as Osmanthus or High Mountain (for an unflavored oolong) to my tastebuds. It's a bit on the pricey side, so if you have a choice, just go for a real Taiwanese oolong. If you have trouble getting your hands on one of those, or are at Teavana with a gift certificate and want something more on the earthy side than the grassy side, this is a good choice. If you're more on the slightly closer to green side of oolongs, and don't mind paying a bit more, monkey-picked oolong is your best bet.

Long story short: Quite good, but not great; brew strong for best results.
From Teavana

Friday, January 23, 2015

Limits of Magic

(Publishing news will be up for next Friday, as I am without Internet most of this week--yes, this was a prescheduled blog!)

Magic in fantasy can be big or small; it can be the point of the novel, or just a setting; it can be something desired--or something hated. Sometimes it's hidden, sometimes it's something that has always been there for everyone. Sometimes you're born with, and sometimes it's Maybelline created with carefully studied spells and ingredients.

How available is magic in your world? How powerful is it? What can it not do? Who can get it?

In stories, you may not have limits on the magic at all beyond the horrific consequences of using it, or of prohibiting it. Or, magic may be limited to only a few people, and the consequences of elitism. It really depends on the focus of the story.

Determining limits on magic in a book comes down to a game of imagining consequences.

Step 1: What is the message of the story?

Step 2: What limits on the magic will best get that message across? (Only a few people lave it; it's more annoying than helpful; it can't be used without consequences)

Step 3: What are the consequences of those limits? Create limits to prevent undesirable outcomes: (If only a few people have it, it could become an elitist society ruled by the magical. LIMIT: Those with magic can't be in charge; LIMIT: those who abuse magic are hunted down and punished)

Step 4: Create social, physical, or legal supports for the limits that prevent the undesirable outcomes: (If those with magic can't be in charge, they could end up as social pariahs or feared by people: LEGAL SUPPORT: they have a few representatives in the government; SOCIAL SUPPORT: they have a government agency that acts a little bit as union; SOCIAL SUPPORT: to prevent society from fearing them, and to prevent others from policing them, they strictly enforce the rules themselves and provide frequent charity work)

Step 5: Decide if any of your supports affect your worldbuilding. Adjust the world or the support accordingly: (Because magic is used for charity work on such a frequent basis, it doesn't pay as well as regular, non-magical skills.)

Step 5: Continue until your magic system is in the shape you want.

I created the Broken Powers world's magic system with the goal of making magic undesirable. Not taboo, not reviled and thought of as evil, but rather a system where the extraordinary was a part of banal existence, undesirable mostly because it acts as a social handicap. That meant it couldn't be super-powerful, needed limitations to keep it in control, and had to have practical applications.

Thus I created a life-limit of magic: where it is affected by will, and most people who have it cannot do impressive things with it. Only the very, very strongest of magics can kill a person directly; it's difficult to even affect people without their agreement. However, nonliving objects are easier to manipulate, which allows magic to have a practical effect. 

But I did want it to be occasionally impressive and capable of great devastation. Therefore, I decided that some people have more magic than others, and genetics is what determines who has how much. Thus I set up a limit--how many people have it--and a second limit--how it can be obtained.

I needed to control it, so the social limits became cultural mores and taboos, including government bodies focused on hunting down rogues. Because so few people have it, I made it an anti-elitism system: those who have it are excluded from power. And I added the taboo that it shouldn't be used as a weapon, except in war, because even I wouldn't believe a world where people didn't use magic in war. But there I gave the limit that the most dangerous magics were shared by all countries, so even in war, magic fights magic, and the non-magical have a chance at survival.

Limits are parameters you use to define not just the magic, but how the world reacts to magic. It's a fun exercise to create what-ifs and find ways to shape the world to your story need. 

What are some of the more interesting magic limits you've seen in books you've read?

Monday, January 19, 2015


I have finally joined the legion of smartphone minions. So, naturally, I spent the time I should have been writing a blog post playing with my new phone.
Accurate picture of me after 2 weeks with a Smartphone.

What advice do you have for Smartphone newbie? What's something I must get, and something I should stay away from?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Abandoned building photography

Old, abandoned buildings are beautiful. There's so much personality in them. I find the stories they hide to be fascinating, beautiful, inspiring. Well, inspires me to write, anyway, because it totally reminds me of the world of Into the Tides... But I'd enjoy the pictures anyway.

One Pinterest board I enjoy following is Carol Ballard's abandoned houses in North Carolina.

The trees are coming for us!
Then there's Michelle Bowers' Abandoned Homes of North Carolina on Facebook.

Matthew Christopher's made a living from it, with his Abandoned America series.

There's entire flickr galleries set up for pictures of abandoned buildings, like greensh's collection, including a set of the Blakely House in SC.

Do you find abandoned places beautiful, or just creepy? Have you ever imagined the stories behind a particular place?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Art

On the Internet Archive Book Images project, where millions of images on copyright-expired books have been uploaded, there's a multitude of page artwork. (Note: not all the artwork is appropriate for all audiences, as I've seen graphic images from medical and surgical texts on some pages, and I would not suggest letting kids browse through it.)

The ones on the Flickr still have the page backgrounds visible, but like the Photoshop addict I am, I've played around with taking the backgrounds out from a couple (you can see them better on the Pinterest page below; sorry, didn't think about the dark background of the blog at first!). Most of the ones I found were from The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1904).

They're now public domain images (at least in the US), so they're useable in your own works, or just as a page decoration on some fancy stationary. Go on... you know you want to snag a few...

These are the ones I've played with so far. Probably add more to a Pinterest board over time.

If you want to take a crack at Photoshopping some yourself into better condition, I found it helped to add darken the image a bit first, and slightly up the contrast. Then background-eraser was more effective and left less behind while not taking out as much of the ink, after adjusting for a higher tolerance level.  I did this for the two above; the flower to the right was done without, and as you can see the flower came out rougher (though to be fair, it started out in rougher condition, too). You'll still need to do a bit of final clean-up with an eraser, and I suggest zooming out to check if any of the white spots look like more like a case of faded ink, or ink bubbles when it was printed. There were a couple I filled in. I also smoothed out a couple of bumpy lines from the flower drawing to the right, though I left most alone to preserve the hand-drawn look.

(Edit: added new images below) Pixlr also does a pretty decent job, though it's a little rougher. It does have a smaller size requirement, so it's best if you plan to use the images small. The bottom was done first, and the top is an inversion of the bottom image so you can see it against a dark background.

Do you ever look through old books? What were some of things that used to be done for books that you wish we still did?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing and industry blogs post covers 12/29/14-1/10/15. What happened in the first two weeks of the new year?

Publishing News

After the tragic terrorist attack on satirical Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the publishing community unites to mourn and condemn the attacks against free speech.

The Authors Guild drops the HathiTrust case. HathriTrust, a Google company, scanned books in libraries to preserve them and keeps the books still under copyright behind firewalls. The release of "orphan works" has been stopped (voluntarily discontinued by HathiTrust over the course of the court case), and HathiTrust will for a five-year period notify the Authors' Guild if it changes business practices (as part of the final compromise). The main suit against Google was not dropped.
In the Georgia State University court case, in which GSU was sued for storing and distributing e-copies of copyrighted works to students (and which is considered a fair-use defining case), the courts deny the publishers' request for a new trial (the request was made after the publishers had been handed a technical victory in a lower court with which they were not fully satisfied).

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse

Agent Nephele Tempest shares a link digest of literary links. Particularly recommend Publication Opportunities for January and February. She also puts together an editorial cheat-sheet for polishing your prose.

It's been a quiet couple weeks on Writer Beware (always a good thing!), but Victoria Strauss puts together a highlight list of 2014 posts.

Agent Jessica Faust at Bookends Literary Agency describes a query management system, and why it's not really worth your time (because it's not worth the agent's). She also explains the problem with a too-short query, and why (and how) it needs more.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. She doesn't like large pieces of text done in italics, such as backstories, and discourages authors from including them in manuscripts. In a two-book set, should you wait until book 2 is done before querying book 1? (No, go ahead and query book 1.) Would she read a book with a plot best described as "twisted"? (No. She would send a "not for me" reply, and writers with books that have "twisted" scenes might want to underplay those parts in queries to not scare off agents.) And just because you're a well-known published author doesn't mean you shouldn't still follow the rules.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes a business reflections post on what she learned in 2014.

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker reflects on 2014 in Smashwords self-publishing, and offers hints of what's to come in 2015.

Author Jim C. Hines posts his publishing income for 2014.

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

Xia: Legends of a Drift System board game review

From my "How to Play Caverna" post, you might surmise I like board games. I hereby officially confirm this. Also, I've (okay, the fiance) found another winner.

More on BoardGameGeek
Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a board game featuring space battles, space exploration, and the ever-looming possibility of foolishly jumping into the galaxy's sun (or wisely, depending on when you do it...)

It features an exploration-based world, where you reveal new places to go by flying off the map and flipping tiles (think Betrayal at House on the Hill, where you discover new rooms as you go). Exploration isn't strictly necessary, at least not after you've discovered a planet, but it's fun, and it allows you to complete missions and sell and trade cargo.

Oh, yes, there are missions. These range from Assassin, where you can murder your fellow players and/or one of the 3 NPCs, to Thief, a bloodless robbery that gets you money, to Research and Shuttle missions, which are perfectly legal ways to get cash. That's important, because outlaws get hunted by the enforcer NPC and are lucrative sources of income for other players who kill them (there's always a bounty on outlaws!). Yep, you totally get into space fights.

The goal of the game is to get famous. Yep, you're taunting death for a chance of fame and glory. You win by gaining "fame points," which are like victory points. The length of the game varies based on where you set the goal--you can play to 5, 10, 15, or 20 FP, as you want.

The game itself is a whole level of awesome on its own. It features metal currency chips and tiny painted ship figurines. This explains the fairly hefty price: $90 (ouch). But if you can afford the investment, the game is a ton fun, and has enough built-in variety that you could play for years without getting bored.

That said, the rules are pretty complicated. Really. It's a twenty-page rule book, with pages 2-16 containing relevant info. It is, however, well-written and easy enough to follow. And once you've read through the rules once, it's not terribly difficult to put them into practice. Still, if you can get someone to show you how to play, you'll be glad to have skipped the lengthy rule-reading.

You'll need a lot of space, too. Our standard folding table didn't cut it (while exploring, we kept running out of room for our player boards), so we play at the dining room table for the extra space.

This is one game I'd love to see on TableTop, but it's still really new, so I'm not going to hold my breath. Instead, I'll be playing Ghoststalker, slipping past planetary borders to scoop of loads of smuggled goods and selling them to the authorities on Kemplar II.

Did I mention the Firefly vibe? Yeah, that happens. Somewhere between hiding from the Enforcer's missiles in a debris field and tractor-beaming the outlaw NPC to shoot him in his fleeing back for the bounty, you definitely start feeling a bit Wild-Wild-West-Space. Mwahaha...

(Like all my reviews thus far, nobody has paid me for this review or given me anything. I just played the game and liked it.)

Friday, January 2, 2015


A new year, a new resolution.

(I resolve to bring back the dinosaurs! And train a legion of laser-wielding cougars to attack scions of evil on sight.)

But I'm a fan of practical resolutions. So something I can accomplish.

(Drat. There goes the resolution of stealing an alien spaceship, too.)

Indeed. The first step is to look at my goals.

(Oh! I resolve to make the best-sellers list!)

...And then to choose one I have complete control over.

(...To brainwash readers everywhere? To become a super-known celebrity?)

Preferably something simple and reasonable, that I can break into small steps.

(...To write every single day, without fail!)

And then I take into account whether or not something works for me, historically. I'm not going to resolve to something I already know I can't accomplish. If I make a promise to myself and don't keep it, how will I continue to have faith in myself?

(Fine. I resolve to write frequently, and to write what I enjoy.)

Excellent. Yes, that will do.

I hereby resolve to write a story I want to read, to write frequently, and to try to continue improving my storytelling skills.

Happy New Year! What's your resolution for 2015?