Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction!!!!

It’s worth the extra exclamation points!

I’ve actually been sitting on this piece of news since early June. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, one of the editors for Uncanny Magazine’s issue of DISABLED PEOPLE DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to write something for this, which is an amazing honor. I’ve loved all the DESTROY issues Uncanny Magazine has done and I’m very excited by who is involved in this project already.

To make this a reality we will need your help. Donate to the Kickstarter. Spread the word. Write and submit, especially if you are living with a disability of any kind. Cheer our editors and writers on.

When I was working on this I made the unfortunate mistake of looking up lists of disabled people in fiction. It’s a short list. And it’s a male-heavy list. And it’s a very limited list when it comes to what people choose to write about. Which I found very depressing.

Most the authors were themselves able bodied human beings (not all but most for the lists I found). There were very few #OwnVoices stories about disabilities, and when there were they tended to be either non-fiction (fine) or inspirational (Danger Ahead!). I had trouble finding women, in science fiction especially, who were disabled and stayed disabled.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I was born with it. I will die with it. There is no cure for the crippling genetic mutation that affects 90% of my body. This is a genetic defect found throughout the human race, in every country and genetic group, and it’s unlikely to self-select out of the population. Short of a terrifying eugenics campaign, Ehlers-Danlos is going with humanity to space. A lot of genetic diseases are.

Amputations, hearing loss, blindness, anxiety, depression… we’re probably going to take those to Mars, or the Moon, or Jupiter, or even right out of the solar system if we ever get that far. We need to see that in fiction.

I want to see people struggling with imperfect health in space, because – let’s face it – most of us get sick. The majority of humans are only temporarily abled. Age and accident will eventually changed 90% or more of the population into disabled people. And we need to stop seeing disability as the end.

There are things I can’t do as I get older and Ehlers-Danlos does more damage to my body. There are activities I’ve had to give up. My dreams of being a martial artist are probably shot. I’m not going to get a black belt. My body would take too much damage and I don’t want to go to the hospital. But that doesn’t mean I should dig a grave and jump in.

I’m alive, and while I’m alive I want to see more people like me in fiction. I want to see someone dealing with their advancing disease and not getting a cure, but finding the strength to keep moving on no matter how much their illness slows them down. I hope that’s what you want to see too.

Because, SPOILER ALERT! that’s what I’m writing. Check out the Kickstarter video and all the deets, then get back to me and tell me what disabilities you think we’ll see in space! <3

You can check out the Kickstarter video here. 

DETAILS:

Over the last three years, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas ran Kickstarters for the Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine Years OneTwo, and Three. We promised to bring you stunning cover art, passionate science fiction and fantasy fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, and provocative nonfiction by writers from every conceivable background. Not to mention a fantastic podcast featuring exclusive content. Through the hard work of our exceptional staff and contributors, Uncanny Magazine delivered on that promise. All that fantastic Uncanny Magazine content is freely available over the web and available as eBooks, thanks to your support. The Space Unicorn Ranger Corps, the Uncanny Magazine community, made it possible for our remarkable staff and contributors to create this wonderful art for all of our readers. THANK YOU, SPACE UNICORNS.

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to join or re-up with the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps, now’s your chance!

This year, we’re back with a new mission, passed along from Lightspeed Magazine.

It’s Uncanny‘s turn to Destroy Science Fiction.

Uncanny Magazine proudly presents a special issue: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction!

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction will be in the same vein as the previous Destroyspecial issues (Women Destroy Science FictionQueers Destroy Science Fiction, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction), featuring editors, writers (both solicited and unsolicited), and artists with representation from all across the sliding scale of disability. There is already a stellar team of guest editors in place for this special issue including:

  • Editor-in-Chief/Fiction Editor: Dominik Parisien
  • Editor-in-Chief/Nonfiction Editor: Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Reprint Editor: Judith Tarr
  • Poetry Editor: S. Qiouyi Lu
  • Personal Essays Editor: Nicolette Barischoff

From Guest Editors-in-Chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien: 

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction is a continuation of the Destroy series in which we, disabled members of the science fiction community, will put ourselves where we belong: at the center of the story. Often, disabled people are an afterthought, a punchline, or simply forgotten in the face of new horizons, scientific discovery, or magical invention. We intend to destroy ableism and bring forth voices, narratives, and truths most important to disabled writers, editors, and creators with this special issue.

 

GO SUPPORT THIS AWESOME PROJECT! 

Write For Love – Publish For Money

Start here with Derek Murphy’s wise words:

 

The number of times I’ve wanted to punch someone for implying that artists ought to starve to create, that our lives and time aren’t worth more than pennies, is a number higher than zero but not a number so high that you need to call the police. So put the phone down.

See that last sentence? “It’s also the reason we have an epidemic of authors who are feeding a billion dollar publishing industry by spending more than they make on their books.” That’s not a joke. That’s the very awful reality of many authors.

Because, somewhere out there in the web of crazy that is the internet, someone told a young author that giveaways and a pretty cover will sell books. The advice looks something like this…

“To throw a good launch you’ll need a great cover ($800), giveaways ($300 w/ shipping), a launch party ($50 for cake and plates), and don’t forget to send reviewers copies of your book ($7/book/reviewer going up to $500 to pay a big name publication to review your indie work)!”

That will generate a lot of buzz. But you’re spending up to $2000 out-of-pocket to promote the book and earning royalties of something like $0.30 to $3.00 per sale (depending on price and royalty rates). If your book is selling as a 99cent ebook (very popular for a time on Amazon) you need to sell close to 7000 copies of your book to break even.

The average book sells 250 copies per year.

At that rate, the author will earn back their money in 26.6 years.

BUT ONLY IF THEY KEEP SELLING.

This is where it all falls apart. People do these big launches, they maximize their newsletters, invest in their careers, and then launch a book into the world that is the what cat drool is to caviar. A poorly written book isn’t going to sell.

I mean, sure, you can buy 5000 copies of your own book and make it look great, but it won’t be a great book. You might get a buzz off of it. If it’s erotica you might get a few sales from hate reads. But a bad book isn’t going to sell 250 copies a year. It isn’t going to sell 7000 copies in 27 years. The idea that an author should write anything they want without thinking about market, audience, genre, or deadlines is absolute horse hockey. Telling writers to write in a vacuum, writing for passion rather than pay, destroys careers and leave authors broke and suffering.

Good authors write on deadlines with an audience in mind.

To quote a friend, “Shakespeare wrote to deadlines, with actors standing, handed out for the scripts he had written that day. Dickens wrote for a magazine with a deadline. If he didn’t write quickly, his story did not appear. Same for Conan Doyle.”

Good authors publish so they can get paid.

Writing is an intimate act. For some it’s therapeutic, for other people it’s a hobby. When you publish you are saying to the world, “I have this thing of value, that I have invested time, thought, and education into. It has worth. It will be good for you. It will sell.”

Never apologize for telling the world what you are worth.

There will always be people lining up to tell you that you, your time, your effort, your education, your intelligence, your talent isn’t worth paying for. Those people are liars and thieves who are hoping to take advantage of you. Ignore them. You have worth. Your work and your effort have worth. A year of your life writing and editing a novel has worth. Real, actual, measurable, pay-me-in-cash worth.

Authors as a collective group need to stop humbly accepting the push to starve authors, to make us work for free. A world without art is not one worth living in. Books are an affordable luxury, a vacation in 300 pages. Books are love, comfort, and family to the lonely. Books are happy memories for the sad. Books are magic. The world needs books, it needs authors, and it doesn’t need anyone to starve and suffer to make the world a better place (the whole There Must Be Poor! fallacy is something we can discuss another day).

Know your worth. Charge what you are worth, plus a little extra for inflation. And don’t apologize for getting paid.

 

 

 

How To be Successful

It’s been said before by far more brilliant people than me, but there is a single key to success in any creative field: DON’T QUIT.
The difference between every bestselling author and everyone out there who says they want to be those authors is one person hit that goal already and one person hasn’t yet.
People complain about mediocre writers and wonder why their amazing work isn’t getting published, and then they give up. And that’s the answer right there. The writers who give up because it’s too hard, or no one understands their genius, or they aren’t selling well, or they can’t find the market are giving up.
 
Stick with it. Keep publishing. Eventually your backlist will be “discovered” and you’ll sell.
 
People talk about GRRM, and Tolkien, and McCaffery like they always sold well. They didn’t. GRRM has a zillion books. Tolkien wrote short stories and essays on fables before Lord of the Rings. McCaffery has at least three series that only die-hard fans have even heard of.
 
Harry Potter wasn’t a phenomenon until Book 4.
 
Twilight wasn’t big until Book 3.
 
Harry Dresden took 5 books to become huge.
 
The authors people talk about being bestsellers don’t realize most those authors published 5-10 titles before they became recognized, and usually have 20 failed projects unpublished before that. Most of them have been doing this for 10 years before you even know their name.
 
If you quit because your first book was rejected, or you’ve only sold two and your agent can’t sell three, or because it just seems so hard you won’t succeed at publishing. You can’t. The odds are not in your favor.
 
What you have to do is roll with the rejection and write the next book. Find a new way to market. Maybe switch agents. Or genres. Or pen names.
 
Kim Harrison has a wildly successful career that most people say started with DEAD WITCH WALKING. Did you know she published two fantasy novels before DEAD WITCH WALKING and the publisher refused to buy the third? She could have quit writing and done something else, but she didn’t. She switched genres, switched pen names, rebranded herself and came out even stronger. I don’t know her personally, but I know there had to be tears and doubts. I know she was tempted to quit, but she didn’t. 
The path to success is littered with the people who fell down and quit.
If you want this: KEEP GOING.
Keep writing. Even if your progress is slow. Even if there are setbacks. KEEP WRITING. KEEP WORKING. KEEP GOING.

The Path To Failure

I have another secret to share, come here. Closer… closer… STOP! Right there.

Look around. Do you see everything around you? This, my friend, is the path to failure. This is where dreams are broken. This is where it all falls apart. We call it life, sometimes adulthood, but what it really is the graveyard of our hopes.

Okay, you can back up now.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Shake that negativity off. Take another deep breath and look around. You see this?

This is the path to success. This is where all your dreams come true. This is where everything works for you like you are a Cinderella whose fairy godmother took over the mob and took out those two step-sisters years before you ever had to scrub a floor.

Do you know what the difference is between the path to failure and the road to success? There is none.

There is only one road.

Some days it looks like you are careening towards failure. Everyone else took the express route and found their Prince Charming, their book deal, their million dollar dream and you are still scrubbing floors and writing books by candlelight as you weep into your ink-stained hands.

Suck it up, Buttercup, this is what success looks like before they photoshop it.

It’s hard work, long nights, gut checks, honest chats with friends, and getting knocked back on your butt ninety-nine times. And then you stand up for that hundreth time and punch back. Failure is success that quit. Failure is what happens when you stop standing up when you get punched down. Failure is a step on the long road to success.

Cry if you must. Take a deep breath, look out at the scenery. Take a detour and check out the little things. Then get back on the road and keep going because that’s what turns failure into Success.

If you quit because of a rejection letter, or because you didn’t get the job, or because you failed the first test in a class you aren’t giving yourself a chance to be brilliant. Believe in yourself a little bit longer. Stand back up. You’re getting there.

There Are Three Rules To Writing A Novel…

… and no one knows what they are. Or so says the infamous quote seen on mugs and hats everywhere people want to make money off of frustrated authors.
I’m not saying these are the missing three rules, but they’re my best guess for the time being.

1- Write it all down. Too many young authors dismiss an idea by saying “I’ll remember it later” or “it’s a stupid idea.” You won’t and it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfiction, or parody, or something you wrote just because it sounded funny – write it down. Write it, edit it, and polish it before you judge your work. As long as you agree to learn from your mistakes there is no wasted time, and more than one author has become famous writing “just for fun” while they waited for the perfect book to come along.

2 – Assume your reader is intelligent. They want to read your book, don’t they? That proves they’re intelligent. So trust your reader and don’t hammer them over the head with needless details. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and give your reader a minute description of a car unless this car is radically different than the common definition. And get so lost in your love of words that you alienate your reader. Yes, a book set in ancient Rome would be more accurate if you wrote it in Greek and Latin, but far fewer people would be able to enjoy your work. Your readers are intelligent, don’t make them jump through hoops to enjoy your writing.

3- Start editing at chapter three. After your first draft is finished reread starting with chapter three. Many authors use the first two chapters to set the stage and establish characters. If you can start reading at chapter three and enjoy the book the readers don’t need those first two chapters. You may need them as an author, but your audience doesn’t. Of course, if you read from chapter three and nothing makes sense pat yourself on the back, you started your story in the right place!

There, now when someone tells you that no one knows how to write the perfect novel you can smirk knowingly and say,”I do.”

What three rules do you believe every good book follows?

Previously Published June 2012

Finding Your Strengths

All writers are not created equal.

Some are gifted at world building, others excel at pacing, some write witty dialog without breaking a sweat (looking at you, Whedon). Whatever your skill, you should identify it and make the most of it?

Why?

Let’s pretend that your greatest strength is dialog. And then you write a book with a character that never speaks to anyone. Everything is description and inner monologue. Guess what? That book is not going to snap the way your previous books did.

Worse, your readers who come to you looking for a specific style of writing might be turned off.

Think of writing a book like you would plan to dress for a photo shoot; even if you’re changing the style of the clothes you still want to accentuate your best features.

So how do you find your strengths? Here’s four quick questions that will help you find your best angle…

1) What do you like writing best?
If you find the descriptive scenes just flow, you might have a knack for world building. If you always know where to end a scene for the right dramatic tension, congratulations, you’re one of the lucky few who has a talent for pacing.

2) What scenes do you think of first?
If the dialog comes before the character description, you probably have flair for dialog. If you know your characters better than you know your neighbor, you are a natural character builder, and I bet no one has ever called your characters “flat.”

3) What do your reviews say?
Look at your critiques and reviews say? Do they mention lush worlds, colorful characters, or snappy sass? That’s your talent!

4) What do people ask for your advice about?
When someone sends you a message and says, “How would you do this?” you know you’ve found your strength.

Previously Published January 2016

How To Be A Good Critique Partner (reprint)

Critique groups abound, especially as NaNoWriMo wraps up. The crisp, cold weather of winter combined with the frenzy of writing a novel in a month spawns writing groups like there is no tomorrow. New writing groups are wonderful, but not all critique partners are created equal.

The horror stories about bad critique partners turning a book into a chimera are all over the place. If you have nothing better to do one day, ask me about it on Twitter when I’m in a talkative mood. I have stories. But this post is about how to make yourself a better critique partner.

1) Know the Expectations
Before you start any editing project you need to know what the author wants. The wrong critique at the wrong time will kill many a good book before it’s finished. Ask the author before you start what they want. I offer levels…
— “Just a look” where I read it over and give a thumbs up or down. This is perfect for rough drafts and cheering on an author struggling to complete a project.
— “Look for plot holes” where I read and point out inconsistencies in the plot line, plot holes, and correct basic spelling and grammar errors with a note (ie – note: comma before proper names in DL)
— “Shred it” where you nitpick every single word and flaw. This is an edit for a final draft. Every word and movement is under the microscope for nuance and meaning, and I only do this with an author who is subbing the piece in the next 6 months. I wouldn’t attack a first draft like this ever.
— “Final Edits” reading the piece out loud and looking for grammar and spelling errors exclusively. This is for a clean copy that’s days away from being submitted. It’s not uncommon for authors to add a spelling error while editing.


2) Know the Audience
Before you can critique you need to know where the manuscript is headed. As a critique partner the book isn’t written for you, it’s written for a reader somewhere out in the great, big world. You need to be the reader’s advocate and make sure the book turns out well enough that someone who doesn’t know the author can enjoy it.

3) Know the Market
Fuss all you like about artistic rights. If an author wants to publish a book they need to know the market expectations (word count, content, common tropes, ect) and so does their critique partner. A good critique partner is going to red flag a mid-grade manuscript that goes over the 60,000 word limit. You also need to be familiar with the genre your partner writes in. What happens if you and your buddy both write horror and then, one day, your partner decides to write epic fantasy YA? You either start reading epic fantasy YA, or you find your buddy a new critique partner who knows the genre. Trust one who has been mismatched with critique partners before, it’s not pretty when someone edits a sci-fi manuscript with YA expectations. *shudder*


4) Trust The Author -or- Don’t Cut To Early
Never tell an author a scene doesn’t need to exist until you’ve finished the book. There’s a habit in writing groups to rip and shred before reading, and it doesn’t work. Yes, that opening line needs to be amazing, but the only legitimate comment you can give about the validity of an opening chapter is, “This works, I’m hooked.” or “I’m not hooked yet, I’ll keep reading and maybe there’s a better opening.” (Hint: check chapter 3)

5) Leave The Voice
The novice mistake of critiquing is to rewrite the book in your own words. Resist the urge. Every author has a unique voice, don’t squish it into oblivion because you’d compare love to a summer’s day and the author compares love to a rosy sunset.

6) React
Ninety percent of the notes on a good critique are reaction notes. “Oh My Gosh!!! I can’t believe Character just did that!” … “Love it!” … “I laughed here.” … “I’m picturing him naked, which I know is wrong. Rewrite.” Reactions let an author know if things are working. A large, and often overlooked, portion of editing is leading the reader down a path of emotions and reactions. If the author wanted a scene to be warm and cuddly and it’s coming off with a stalker vibe, the author needs to know. Don’t get caught up in the But-The-Author-Told-Me trap. Readers are not going to have a two hour conversation about this scene with the author. They won’t know that the author wanted the guy to be authoritative and demanding. The reader will see a stalker scene, not an authoritative male being Alphahole-ish but sweet.

Do you have anything to add? What makes a critique partner great? Hit the comments and tell me all about it.

Previously published December 2012 on www.lianabrooks.com

Dialog Choices and Slang – a writing post

Dialog choice, or the words your character uses to describe the world around them, is a major deal breaker for books. If all the characters sound the same they lose their individual personalities. One of the big places where you’ll see a variation in a shared language is in slang words. Slang changes much more rapidly than the rest of the language. It’s okay, sometimes encouraged, to create slang for your new world.

Negative slang usually reflects major religious beliefs and social fears (damn, hell, comparison to being a dog, or stupid). Positive and affirmative slang is less codified but usually comes a subculture of some form before being adopted and adapted by a wider group of language users (wicked, cool, hot, lit, ect).

Buzzfeed did a pretty decent video on the evolution of American slang. Keep in mind that what you’re writing isn’t 100% American culture so your subcultures are going to be different. Even within our culture slang can vary by family or friend group. They can come out inside jokes or even typos. So, while you’re writing, make sure the slang you use is appropriate for the time, venue, culture, and character using the language.

No Manuscript? No Problem! Carina Press is taking proposals!

LOVELIES! This fabulous announcement came across my Twitter feed this morning and I want to share so you can have a look. Being able to pitch a book on proposal, and sell it like that, is a great opportunity if you know you can write on a deadline and work better knowing someone is expecting your book. If that sounds like you, go check out Carina Press’s proposal and see if this is the lucky break you were looking for!

Confused about what the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy is? There’s a great break down HERE.


From April 13th to June 4th, Carina Press is accepting proposals for paranormal romance.

Maybe you’ve heard that no publishers want paranormal, that paranormal is dead or that readers aren’t buying paranormal romance? Wrong! Carina Press is actively acquiring and publishing paranormal romance—and readers are buying it. So bring us your shapeshifters, your vampires, your fae and demons and witches. We want to read your paranormal romance proposals, because we love this genre and readers do too!

Details on this limited-time-only proposal call can be found below. You can also keep an eye on our blog and Facebook and Twitter pages to stay up-to-date on all our submission calls.

Submission link: https://carinapress.submittable.com/submit/82046/paranormal-romance-proposal-call

Closing date: June 4th, 2017 (all submissions due by 11:59pm Eastern on this date)


Requirements for this proposal call:

  • Your book must fall within the paranormal romance subgenre, but can be of any heat level or pairing, including same-sex/multiples.
  • Paranormal elements should play an important role in story development, plot and characterization.
  • We will look at paranormal romances in different time periods and unique settings—they do not need to be contemporary or based in the US.
  • Your proposed book must be a completely new work and not have been previously published in any form, whether self-published or released via digital or traditional publisher. Only new material will be considered during this submission call.
  • You cannot submit a project you have submitted to Carina Press before.

Materials needed to participate:

  • A query letter with a 1-2 paragraph book description, plus an introduction of yourself as an author/your writing and publishing history.
  • Three complete, ready-to-send chapters of a WIP. If you have more than three chapters, you can certainly send more!
  • A thorough, well-thought-out synopsis that is at least 5 pages long. The synopsis is extra important with a proposal because we need to see progression of plot, character arc, storyline and, also really crucial—how it ends! See more about writing a synopsis here.
  • You may submit more than one project! However, please submit only one proposal per series.

How to submit:

  • If your book meets the guidelines above and all your material is ready and properly formatted, please use this link to submit.
  • Direct your submission to the editor who has advertised an interest in seeing manuscripts like yours! In doubt? Direct your submission to Editorial Director Angela James or Senior Editor Kerri Buckley.
  • We will consider all proposals that fulfill submission call requirements and are received by 11:59pm EST on June 4th, 2017.
  • All eligible proposals will receive a response within 12 weeks of submission.

Not going to be ready in time? Not to worry. We remain open to full manuscript submissions all year long via bit.ly/write4cp, and more submission and proposal opportunities are coming in 2017.

For questions about this call for submissions, please email us at submissions@carinapress.com.

For more information about Carina Press, and to read our submission guidelines, please visit bit.ly/write4cp.

 

Need help getting your proposal ready? Ask me about editing specials!

Mother of Teens: How To Write With Little Kids At Home

On one of the writing forums I belong to someone asked how anyone could possibly write with little kids around. What they really wanted to know was: CAN YOU WRITE WITHOUT PUTTING YOUR KIDS IN DAYCARE? Not everyone has a partner, nearby family, or the money needed to create a kid-free environment when they want to write.

There is a myth that you can’t write while you have little kids around. Or that you need to have a partner who will take care of the entire household while you sequester yourself with your muse to commune with pen and page.

And, like all other myths, it’s a big, fat lie told by some author desperate to get out of watching Frozen for the fifteen-millionth time.

You can write with kids at home. You can write with kids in the room. You can write with kids on your lap.

My first story (Even Villains Fall In Love) came out the same year my son was born. That means my two youngest kids have never known a time when Mommy wasn’t a published author. I wrote a trilogy between the time my daughter was born and the year she turned four. Four kids, three cross-country moves, and three books. If I can pull that off, so can you.

HOW TO WRITE WITH KIDS AT HOME
1 – Set reasonable goals and set acceptable reasons to miss writing. If you stress out because of impossible goals, or because you’re trying to write with a newborn, you’ll make yourself miserable. Don’t.

2 – Steal what time you can. When the baby naps, while CARS is playing for the 3rd time today… I’ve finished novels with babies nursing or a toddler on my lap. Use a boppy pillow and run spellcheck.

3 – As kids hit the Needy Years (3-5) where they nap less and need attention, make a writing space for them. My 5yo isn’t in school yet, but she’ll give me a quiet 30 minutes if I give her a dry erase board, markers, paper, and a place to sit near my desk. Thirty minutes usually means 500-1000 words. Thirty minutes daily means a novel is finished in 3 months.

4 – Prep to write so that when you sit down to type that is all you need to do. Outline, use note cards, use sticky notes, whatever… just make sure that computer time is spent writing, not trying to think. Check out the plotting session I did to get you started. 

5 – Give yourself 30 minutes a day. You might get 300 words, you might get 1000, but with 30 minutes a day (weekends off) you can write a novel in 6 months.