Book Review – Ardulum: Second Don

Ardulum: Second DonArdulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second book was just as good as the first, and I am very thankful I was able to get a free digital ARC.

The characters were constantly growing and being pushed to evolve. They were all flawed in ways that made me want to root for them. The obstacles thrown at them were believable enough to accept but big enough to pose a significant challenged.

The romance subplot is is picking up a bit, though it is still going at an incredibly slow, frustrating pace. This really puts the slow in slow burn. However, the romance really is a subplot, and there is so much more to this book.

The main plot was faster than the romance. I was reading on my kindle. One minute I was at 54%. The next time I looked at my progress, I was 77%, 95% and then I was done. It flew by, and I really wish book 3 was already out. The little teaser at the end of this made me want to read it now!

I may have already said this in the first review, but I loved how different pronouns were used for different species who had members that were neither male nor female, but while the idea of a true third gender was awesome, it wasn’t with the humans.

I have no complaints about this book. I had been reading more fantasy than science fiction, but the authors and editors at NineStar press, with books like the Ardulum series, Dalí, and Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, are reminding me how powerful science fiction can be when it involves complex characters and issues.

Ardulum was entertaining. It kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and got me through a bad day, but it also made me think. It made me think about gender and sexuality, about human rights, religion, faith, diversity and where technology and advancement can build society up and break it down. Second Don was a little darker than First Don, but it wasn’t bleak and hopeless. Yes, it exposed some nasty flaws, but also offered hope that they might begin to heal in Third Don.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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ISWSP October Question: #ownvoices?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeOctober 4 question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

My answer:

Yes, but sometimes it is more intentional than others

While none of my characters are directly based off of my self, many of them share my non-binary gender identity. They struggle with similar mental health issues, like anxiety triggered by crowds or touch. Occasionally, they even like the same things as me, like Star Wars and vegetable gardens.

Of course, there are instances where I write characters that are opposite of me and have almost nothing in common. Sometimes I need to escape my world and truely become someone else while I am writing.

Yet more often than not, it’s hard to fully filter myself from my creations, and when the ones with bits and pieces of me sewn through are more authentic, why bother filtering?

Authenticity is important. Representation is important. My experience with mental health and gender may not quite be like someone else’s, but that is kind of the point, isn’t it?

People do read for entertainment, but they also read for education. Ideally, both happen at the same time. If my book can keep people entertained, make them feel things, keep them turning pages and teach them a little something at the same time, then it was success.

Celebrate Every Victory, No Matter How Small

NSP-Halloween2017-HalfBreeds-f500.jpgIn an industry full of rejection, it is important for writers to celebrate every victory, large or small. Today, I’m celebrating because my novelette, Half Breeds, is available for pre-order.

It may not really be a “book” or full-length novel, it may not even be available in print, but it is a standalone piece. It’s not me and twenty other authors sharing a virtual container. It’s my story, carefully edited, polished, and proof read, by the editorial team at NineStar Press and myself.

It’s the first time one of my stories has ever been for sale by itself, and I am ecstatic! I’m posting it all over social media, emailing my critiques groups and trying very hard not to dance around the tutoring center at work. I’m eating ALL THE COOKIES!

Some people might look at me think, “What’s the big deal, it’s not really much longer than your short stories, and it’s only $.99. You aren’t exactly going to make much money off of it.”

They wouldn’t be wrong. The piece is short. It’s not expensive. I’d have to sell hundreds of copies to make the $.08 or $.10 a word I got for some of my best short story sales. But what if I do sell that many copies? What if, a couple years down the road, when I’ve published more books, people come back and buy this one too?

While I eventually need to make more money of writing if I want it to be my job, not my hobby, right now, its not so much about making quick money as it is about getting my name out there and building up my list of published works.

Publishing is a slow thing.

Writing becomes a career when an author continuously publishes books. It takes time, patience, and persistence.

This little Halloween novelette isn’t going to make or break my career, and it doesn’t have a ton of monetary value, but it is a start. It’s a story that found a good home with a good publisher, and that makes it a success worth celebrating.

Today, I’m not going to worry about the rejections that have come and will come. I’m going to focus on this victory and know that one day, it will be a novel up I’m announcing.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36308341-half-breeds

https://ninestarpress.com/product/half-breeds/

©2017 Sara Codair

Guest Post: Six Local Writing Centers and Events By Artemis Savory

My friend and critique partner, Artemis Savory, compiled a list of writing centers and events in the New England area and asked me to share it on this blog. If you are local and interested in writing, these events are definitely worth checking out! 

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Like dogs, writers need to get away from the humans and just play with each other.

 

Six Local Writing Centers and Events

By Artemis Savory

  1. (Writing Center) Grubstreet is a truly amazing place for writers. They offer classes, workshops, and free brown bag lunch and Happy Hour Writing sessions. In fact, this month on Friday, September 29th they have an evening writing session—for free! They have another next month. In the heart of Boston, getting there can be a little tricky for us out-of-towners, and the parking garage isn’t cheap, although I think you get a discount if you are going to Grubstreet events. They also run the amazing Muse & The Marketplace. https://grubstreet.org/findaclass/#/events
  2. (Event) Muse & The Marketplace is a fantastic weekend event taking place in this really tiny, but beautiful hotel in Boston. Run by Grubstreet, the workshops are interesting and everyone is extremely kind and understanding. It’s expensive, but if you’re a volunteering kind of person, you could work your way in if you play your cards right. This is definitely a great place to learn more about writing, meet other writers, and pick up further inspiration from people who are going through similar things that you might be. Next year it runs April 6-8. http://museandthemarketplace.com/
  3. (Event) Boston Book Festival is a free event happening on Oct. 28th in Copley Square. I’ve only been to one of their classes, and it was really more of an author discussion about writing YA books. It was interesting, if very full with people, and the Boston Public Library was breathtaking. There is food and lots of booths at this event, as well as discussions and I’m assuming signings. My favorite part of this event is the booths, where you can chat with other writers and learn about all the writing- and reading-related things happening in our area. https://bostonbookfest.org/
  4. (Event) Arisia takes place every January, and this year it’s January 12-15 in Boston. The entry fee is not a lot (it’s usually around $60 for the whole weekend) and the offerings vary from dancing (blues, fusion, swing, etc.), to writing classes, to geeky classes about Star Wars and how things work, to making your own costumes and more. It’s an amazing place filled with creatives—there is no way that you will ever suffer writer’s block at Arisia, although you might be so busy taking notes or socializing that you’ll never get really anything done. http://www.arisia.org/
  5. (Writing Center) New Hampshire Writers’ Project sounds like a really awesome place. They have a ton of writing groups and workshops, and they also have writer meet-ups on the first Monday of every month in various towns throughout New Hampshire: Portsmouth, Derry, Concord, Nashua, and more. They have a calendar that is up-to-date and looks very official. I’m really excited to engage in some of their events and start getting to know other local writers. http://www.nhwritersproject.org/content/events-0
  6. (Writing Center) International Women’s Writing Guild sounds like they’re in western Mass, but offer some retreats and workshops throughout the country—in New Mexico, Niagara Falls, New York and beyond. They seem to have day-long as well as week-long courses and workshops, and some of the offerings aren’t wicked expensive. On April 28th they’re having a “Boston Writing from your Life Retreat” with workshops in Metrowest, Ma. I have no idea how much it costs, but it’s worth looking into, and it sounds like one day, so it shouldn’t cost too much…I hope. http://www.iwwg.org/events/

Book Review: Phaethon

PhaethonPhaethon by Rachel Sharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Holly Black to Jim Butcher, I read a lot of books that involve Faeries of one kind or another. Still, this one felt fresh. It had the folklore grounding of a Holly Black novel, but a tone and humor more likely to appeal to Butcher fan’s.

The characters were cute and believable – people I could picture myself being friends with.

The plot was fast paced, and for the most part, I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride.

As far as flaws go, sometimes things seemed a little too easy. I laughed a little when one of the characters said humans were fixing Earth, but reminded myself that the political climate may have been more…optimistic…when this book began.

The rest of the story was fun and well thought out, so I can forgive those flaws.

If you like a good blend of science and fantasy, then you will enjoy Phaethon.

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Bailing Boats and Books

Yesterday, as rain poured out of cumulonimbus, thunder rumbled, and lightening compensated for a lack of sunlight, I realized my bilge pump wasn’t working.

I spent the morning indoors, editing, tweeting, and exchanging feedback on #preDV tweets. When the rain let up and I went outside, there was about a foot of water in my old Boston Whaler.20170906_164649

Swamped boat + broken bilge pump +broken hand pump = bailing boat out with a bucket.

Bailing a boat with a bucket is tedious. You scoop the bucket, dump it out, and repeat.

After the first few dumps, the water level hadn’t changed. I was damp. The dog had slid off the dock while barking at ducks and was staring at me, all scruffy, wet and smelly. I couldn’t tell if he was going to jump on me or back in the lake. I wanted to chuck the bucket out to the water.

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I took a deep breath, tied the dog to his run in the yard, away from the dock and the lake, and then I went back to bailing.

Eventually, I did notice the water level going down. Before I knew it, there wasn’t enough water left to scoop with my bucket. The boat was as empty as it was going to get.

After the first few tries, I wanted to give up, but I kept going even though it was damp, cold and I was being eaten alive by bugs, and eventually, I achieved my goal.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to bail this boat out by hand, and I doubt it will be the last. Every time it happens, it makes me think of my barely existent writing career.

Whenever I start a new book, I feel like I am never going to finish it. I switch back and forth from being super excited to so overwhelmed I want to chuck my draft across the lake, but I don’t chuck the draft. I keep writing.

This cycle of excitement, frustration and despair repeats through each revision and edit, but I always keep going, and I always finish the damned the book.

The same goes for publishing the book. Right now, I’m in the despair phase. One novel has gotten about 110 agent rejections and a handful from small publishers too. However, whenever I seriously feel like scrapping it, I think of the boat.

No matter how much rain gets in it, and no matter how broken it is, I never let it sink. I bail it out, and make sure what is broken gets fixed, usually via unspoken trade offs with my dad (i.e. pet sitting in exchange for replacing my spark plugs). Afterwards, when I’m speeding across the lake feeling the wind blow what’s left of my hair, I know it was worth the hard work.

The same goes for my books. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep revising. I’ll keep submitting.

I’m not one of the those fluke success stories who gets their first book agented and published right away, but I will get published, and eventually, I will get agented, and published by bigger houses that get can my books to more people.

I will never let my writing career sink.

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A Review of Wings Unseen

Wings UnseenWings Unseen by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an early copy from NetGalley for a fair, honest, review.

Wings Unseen got off to a slow start with a first chapter that almost made me put the book down. However, I am glad I kept reading. I loved watching how a character that repulsed me on the first page transformed into someone I was rooting for, and she was just one of many fascinating characters.

Characters were one of many things I liked about this book.

The juxtaposition of two opposite realms was a fascinating way to explore gender roles, the relationship between the people and the government, and what people can come to accept as normal.

The world was exquisitely developed and describe with language that was beautiful and readable.

Once I got past the first quarter of the book, the pace picked up and suspense made me want to keep reading. The romance subplot was not what I expected, and near the middle of the book, when combined with the pacing the way the writer alternated between pov’s, made me want to cry, yell, or throw the book across the room.

Even though I wanted the characters to take different paths, but the end, the author convinced me they had made the right choice, and the emotions I experienced mid book were probably just a smidgen of what the characters would feel were this real.

Overall, it was worth read, and I would reccomend it to anyone who likes epic fantasy and has patience for a book that burns slowly.

View all my reviews

Professional Reader

Problems with Word Count Quotas

While writing my first two books, I didn’t pay too much attention to my word count until after I finished the first draft. My first draft of Song of the Forest came close to 200,000 words and my first draft of Power Surge was around 130,000. When I revised, I went through a cycle of cutting and adding. By the time I got to my final drafts, they were 83,000 and 78,000 words.

My third book, Like Birds Under the City Sky, was different. It was national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo), so I had set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. I successfully added 50,000 words to a document that started the month off as a 4,000 word short story. As I revised, I cut and added a few thousand words, but the changes were not as drastic as they had been for my first two books.

Initially, I didn’t see this as a problem. It was my third book, and in between it and my other books, I had written dozens of short stories and flash fictions. I polished the book up, and sent it out to agents and a couple publishers. I got about 20 rejections, but one publisher suggested I give the book a complete overhaul and resubmit. Afraid to make that drastic of a change based on one editors opinion, I sought out feedback from another beta reader and heard the same thing.

When time came to start Community Magic, a novel I had been dreaming for nearly a year, I thought Camp NaNoWriMo would be the perfect way to get it done, but instead of motivating me, the word count quote actually made anxious, and made me feel guilty about not writing. This would have been okay if the guilt motivated me, and/or it was the only problem.

The guilt made me write less. I also noticed other issues.

I was overwriting. I sent chapters out to a critique partner, and she kept pointing out all kinds of things that were not necessary and were just filling space – things I may not have written had I not been rushing to meet my quota of words for the day.

The word count was a distraction. Instead of living the story as I was writing it, my eyes kept drifting down the little numbers at the bottom of my document telling me how many words I had written. I was not as immersed in the world as I should’ve been, and as a result, the plot was rambling, the characters were a little flat, and the world contained inconsistencies. I decided that book wasn’t mean to be NaNoWriMo’ed and switched to a different work in progress – Earth Reclaimed – the story I just ran a rather unsuccessful Publishizer campaign for.

I’m waiting until I have a complete draft to start seeking feedback, but I can feel myself doing some of the same things – almost mindless typing to my word count gets closer to the one my campaign said it should be when the word count. At this point, I should be focused on building the word and getting to know my characters. If my word count falls short, I can expand the draft in revision. If it to high, then I can have a party cutting words while I edited.

Word count goals are great, but when they start to detract from the quality of the writing, then I know I need to revisit how and when I use them.

Flash Fiction:The Purrrfect Crime

Generally, when I write cat stories for Cracked Flash Fiction Competition, they don’t win. Sometimes, I write cat stories anyways.

The Purrrfect Crime

By Sara Codair

“I taught you to pick locks and this is how you use that skill?” Grandma gaped at me, gourd-shaped eyes enlarged by her glasses.

I shrugged.

“Our family has a reputation to uphold!”

My cheeks burned. I relinquished eye contact and stared at my sneakers. There was a hole in the tongue, and a piece of sole peeped out from under my toes.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?”

“She was cold and hungry.”

“A lot of people are cold and hungry,” spat Grandma.

“But she was so skinny, like her kittens were sucking the life right out of her!”

Grandma shook her head. “You could have at least taken something useful while you were in there. They have to keep all their donations somewhere.”

“But they need those.” The locked cashbox had been tempting. I’d even picked it up and gotten halfway to the door before a black tom ghosted out of the shadows and sliced my calf open with his claws. I stared into his yellow eyes forever before placing the metal box back on the ground. He nudged my hand once then purred over to the hungry mother and kittens I’d snuck into the shelter.

I left the cash box where it was, and placed a few coins and note on top of it, asking them to use my small donation to help the new mom and her kittens.

Grandma glared at the post on FriendlyFelineFriday. It read “You’ll Never Believe What Happened on this Break-in!”

“Your mom was the best jewel thief in the country,” muttered Grandma, “And you use the family trade to sneak cats into shelters.”

“Yup.”

Grandma continued to rant, and I endured it. Our reputation in the underworld could go to hell. I saved a family of cats.

FAQ’s About my Publishizer Campaign

Family, friends, and online acquaintances have been asking some questions about my Publishizer campaign,  so I put together some questions and answers that might help you understand what I am trying to do.

If you get enough preorders, it gets…queried? What does that mean?

 Each time I hit a pre-order threshold (100, 250, 500, 1000), my book gets queried to publishers. The more queries I get, the better the publishers it is queried to. 100 gets my proposal sent to hybrid publishers, 250 gets it sent to small indie publisher, 500 gets it sent to small, traditional publishers, and if I get 1,000 pre-orders, it will get sent to “Big 5” publishers.

What happens to my money if I pre-order your book, but it doesn’t get picked up by a publisher?

 Thanks to the Internet, Amazon, and Createspace, I don’t technically need a publisher. If I don’t get an offer I want to accept, I can use Createspace to self publish. In fact, unless I get an really good offer, I probably will self-publish.

Why? Because self-publishing will give me full control over the project. I can use the funds raised to hire a designer who will make me a beautiful cover and an editor I am confortable working with. Self-publishing will allow me to make this really be the book I want it to be, not the book someone else wants it to be.

What if you don’t get an offer and decide not to self-publish?

That would only happen if my campaign went really bad. If I have less than 50 pre-orders, don’t get an offer I am willing to accept and decide not to self-publish, then you will get a full refund.

What, exactly, will my money be used for?

If I choose to self publish, your money will go towards the production costs, professional editing, design and marketing.

If I get picked up by a small publisher, they will be doing the editing, design, and some marketing, so I will use the money to supplement their marketing.

Editing can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and if you know me, you know how important it is for me to have someone edit my work before I self publish, or before I even let a potential publisher look at it. I may have the knowledge to edit, but I have reading problems that make it very difficult for me to catch my own errors.

What if I order a print copy and the publisher decides to publish it as an e-book only?

I will only sign with a publisher if they will make both print and e-books. If you pre-order a print book, you will get a print book.

What if the list price ends up being lower than the preorder price?

 Even on amazon and in a bookstore, prices fluctuate. I don’t know what the list price will be. It might be more than what you pay, but it could also be less.

By pre-ordering now, you are not just buying the book but also supporting my creative journey. You will also be among the first people to get the book.

When do I get charged? Is the print copy hardback or paperback?

You get charged right away. Whether it is hardback or a paperback will be determined by the kind of publisher I go with. 

Are you actually going to sign 5000 books if you get 5000 orders?

Yes, though I’m not expecting to get that many pre-orders for print books. I suspect most of my pre-orders will be e-books.

Who do I contact if any of the above doesn’t happen as advertised?

You can contact Publishizer and ask for a refund through this form: https://publishizer.com/about/contact/. You can schedule a phone call with them. You can direct message me on facebook or twitter.

But remember — writing is like breathing for me. I need to write, and I really want to share my stories with the world. If you pre-order, you will get your book. I might take a year, but you will get it.

I hope these answers help.

If you haven’t yet, please check out Earth Reclaimed!

Earth Reclaimed.

In a future where magic has replaced technology, 17-year-old Serena McIntyre must represent her people’s interest at a conference that is forming a new North East American constitution.

17-year-old Serena McIntyre grew up in a future where Mother Earth had purged most technology from the planet and crippled civilization. The surviving humans are reorganizing. Some want to live a simple life in harmony with earth while others, like the New Neo Nazis have darker plans for a new society.

When a conference is called to choose leaders and laws for the Newly Unified New England States (NUNES), Serena must travel inland to represent her people and their way of life: equality, earth magic, and harmony with Mother Earth. The opposing factions will do anything to stop her. TheNew Neo Nazis want to purge the region of impurities and make themselves kings. A secretive faction of scientists want to “take back the earth” with new technology.

Can Serena convince the people of NUNES to live in harmony with Mother Earth? If she fails, Earth will purge humans from her surface.