Wednesday, January 16, 2019

#Author Toolbox Bloghop Jan2019

I'm so excited to read a lot of great posts this week. This is my first time joining the Author Toolbox Bloghop. Much thanks to Raimey Gallant for hosting and organizing it.

I've been published by a small press for almost twelve years now. Much has changed since I first started writing. Back at the beginning, I was lucky enough to find a local chapter of RWA who holds monthly meetings. I learned tons about formatting, query letters, synopsis, and all those other things we have to learn that aren't writing the current WIP but that we need to do.

Eager for information that would help me get published, every year I would buy the latest version of Writer's Digest thick book of agents and publishers. It was also at that time that everything had to submitted by snail mail in hard copy to any of the Big Publishers. I wasn't published and had no budget. I look back at the records I kept then and am horrified at how much I spent on postage. I also remember the hours I spent perusing that Writer's Digest guide. I spent money every month buying writing magazines. Looking for the secret to breaking into the business. I had two shelves in my office filled with writing books.

I'm not sure I'm wiser now, and the industry has really changed. Submissions are digital. The savings in postage, paper, ink as well as avoiding the very slow local post office make me very happy. No reason to buy that thick Writers Digest Guide to Editors and Agents. All that information is online. The information I read all those magazines for is now free online. The Write Life website recently posted their annual list of 100 Best Writing Websites: 2019.

The Writer's Digest magazine still tempts me with special offers and I take them up on it now and then. One of the best issues they put out is their version of 100 best websites for writers. Again, everything we writers need is online and most of it is free.

Looking back, I know I was using reading those writing books and magazines was a form of procrastination for me. I still have a lot to learn and hopefully will continue learning throughout my writing career, but I know the most important thing I can do with my time is write. I've also learned that there is no secret hidden in those books. It's all about hard work and persistence.

"Luck is not chance, it's toil; fortune's expensive smile is earned." Emily Dickinson

Do you remember the days of snail mail submissions? Do you still purchase writing magazines or writing books? Thanks, everyone, for welcoming me to your group.

Monday, January 14, 2019

How To Build a Green Mars


 How Would A Settlement Be Built on Mars?

My novel – my very first published one! – is “The Bride From Dairapaska.” It is set on my vision of a terraformed Mars and incorporates a lot of what I’ve learned about soil building, resource management, colonization, infrastructure needs, and how to work without access to fossil fuels.
  
There is a story, I promise. But before I could write the first word, I had to build a green Mars, and that meant thinking about how it could be terraformed.
  
There was one problem: After a lot of reading and thinking, I concluded that it can’t work. It would be easier to turn the Gobi Desert into a green and pleasant land, well-watered, fertile, and rich in agricultural products of all kinds, than it would to grow a blade of grass on Mars.
  
For one thing, terraforming the Gobi Desert does not require 140-million-mile-long supply lines on average for your equipment. Earth has fossil fuels. There is soil. There are plenty of people to do the work. There are no problems with a breathable atmosphere. It has the gravity that the human body and every other critter evolved with. Earth has a magnetosphere which both holds in the atmosphere and repels the deadly, radiation-laden solar wind. Mars does not. There are difficulties in traveling through space, starting with outer space damaging the human body starting from the very first day.

So how do you build a green Mars? First, obtain a lot of Handwavium. This important element was discovered by the first science-fiction writers to explain faster-than-light travel, bug-eyed monsters, time travel, or any other concept that science couldn’t explain.
  
Next, work out the terraforming process. The number one issue in terraforming the planet is building soil so the colonists can feed themselves. I decided that Mars could be seeded with genetically-modified molds, algae, lichens, mosses, and fungi. Give them 100 million years to work, and you’ll have soil. For my purpose, I made them fast-growing to cut down the time!
  
Then I broke out the Handwavium to give Mars a magnetosphere — by creating machines to make the core of the planet spin — and give it a heat-trapping atmosphere.
  
The next problem was fossil fuels. It’s hard to imagine life without coal or oil, yet people managed. However, a high-tech civilization depends on coal and oil. Solar panels and wind turbines cannot be built without fossil fuels. Solar panels are made from plastics derived from oil. The metal needed for steel can be dug out by men with picks and shovels. It cannot be smelted without charcoal (made from trees), peat (compressed plant material that hasn’t turned into coal), coal, or oil. You can’t run a blast furnace on electricity even if you can generate the electricity with your nuclear power plant.
  
So, the colonists will make do with what they brought with them, and get real good at fixing broken equipment and clever at coming up with substitutes.
  
Once that was settled, it was time to figure out how the colonists would organize to settle the planet. I developed a feudal, agrarian culture built on the labor of peasants. I use men as draft animals, something many cultures have done. What is a coolie but a draft animal? You’re going to have people, you need people, they have to eat and so that muscle gets put to work.
  
But not all of Mars will be settled. After a couple hundred years, there’ll be enough people to cover less than half the surface, which leaves lots of space for people to form horse-riding tribes similar to Native Americans or Mongols. They’ll develop their own belief systems, customs, and family traditions.
  
Next, I considered the distribution of wealth. In many traditional empires, the closer you are to the capital, the more technology you have available. The richer you are, the more technology you can use. A Roman emperor could have ices in the summer; his lowliest subjects did not. Life in the capital of Barsoom on the equator will feel very different from life with the horse-riding barbarians in the northern and southern latitudes.
  
Relations with Earth also play a role in the stories. Immense amounts of wealth had to be poured into terraforming Mars. The investors expect a substantial return on their investment. All empires expect their colonies to generate wealth that is returned to the empire’s elite. This is called a “wealth pump.” The colonies of an empire are mined for their assets, and that wealth pours back into the center of the empire, leaving the colony increasingly stripped bare.

 The Spaniards did this to South America. The British did this to India. The Chinese are doing this right now in Africa.

 Do the residents of those colonies appreciate this? They do not, unless they personally benefit.

 When these questions were settled, I could begin “The BrideFrom Dairapaska.

 How would these elements play out with real people trapped in a world not of their own design? You can see this play out in the cover art, which demonstrates these contradictions so well. Who is the bride? That woman carrying a baby with two other kids? What is “Dairapaska”? Why is she green? Why are there two moons? Why are they in the middle of nowhere? What are they running from?
  
“The Bride From Dairapaska” gives you the answers, and introduces you to a Mars you’ve never seen before. I’m looking forward to exploring it in future books, and I hope you’ll come along for the journey.
  
For Writers

Writing is a business. If you aren’t getting paid, it’s a hobby. The IRS says so and they’re right. As a functioning business, it should provide you, the writer, with not just a current income (even if it’s only walking-around money), but a future income as well.

For Everyone

If you want to see something sad, ask a room full of freelance writers about their tax strategies. It’s like asking a pack of baby kittens about space travel.

 The Bride from Dairapaska  On Amazon

In a rural village on a terraformed Mars, a lonely young wife takes her children and dog and flees into the vast open steppes. Debbie only wanted to escape her abusive husband, but her encounter with the Steppes Riders, and especially Yannick of Kenyatta, unwittingly ignites changes that attract the attention of Mars’ ruling families. Left to her own resources, Debbie must adapt to her new life and figure out how to defend her adopted people.
  
“The Steppes of Mars” series imagines a transformed world where a disaster on Earth decades ago cut off all contact with its wealth and resources. Experience a Mars where its genetically modified inhabitants have developed their own cultures, beliefs, and religions. A semi-feudal world where ruling families control vast demesnes under a central government at Barsoom. A world of limited resources where train travel is possible but cars and planes are not. A world of free-cities — open and domed — villages, vast fields and steppes, and people banding together to survive and thrive in this harsh new world.
  

 About Odessa Moon

Odessa Moon has, at various times, painted, sewed, served in the Navy, worked as a sales clerk and cashier, taken care of her family, and gardened with enthusiasm. She reads extensively, especially about medieval history, the class struggle, colonization, and resource depletion. She read piles of science-fiction and fantasy in her youth and often wondered what the authors hand-waved away about how difficult it really would be to terraform another planet at the end of a 140-million-mile supply line. Her “The Steppes of Mars” series combines all those interests.

When Ms. Moon is not writing, she is working on improving the soil in her own garden and planting trees in Hershey, Pa., where the air really does smell of chocolate.

Visit her website at OdessaMoon

Do you think we'll ever build a settlement on Mars? Would you go? Do you think mankind would take all the social problems of Earth with them to Mars? Have you ever been to Hershey, PA and smelled the chocolate in the air?



Monday, January 7, 2019

Guest Rachel J. Good: Blessings in Disguise


Please welcome Rachel J. Good today as she shares her writing journey and many reasons not to give up when your publisher closes or changes their plans without consulting you. She is a prolific writer and is a skilled navigator of this tricky business of writing. Here's Rachel:

Life isn’t always easy, but sometimes the darkest times may turn out to be blessings. If I hadn’t lost my library job, I’d never have become a writer. Once I did start writing, I worked for years on
magazine articles and educational pieces before I had a book published. Looking back, I’m glad for that delay because I learned a lot about the craft and business of writing. After switching to fiction, signing with an agent, and getting my first three-book deal for the Amish Sisters & Friends series, I assumed the worst of my struggles were over.

I didn’t count on the publisher closing the fiction line and orphaning my third and fourth books, especially not after I’d just given my editor ideas for continuing the series. I’m grateful for my agent, who suggested I give those ideas a new spin and she’d send them out. Several days later, she had requests from three different publishers for a sample chapter. Two of them made an offer, so we went with Hachette/ Grand Central. And the Love & Promises series was born. TheAmish Midwife’s Secret (Nov. 2018) is the second book in that series. The Amish Teacher’s Gift (Apr. 2018) and The Amish Widow’s Rescue (May 2019) round out the series.

Although I was devastated by the closing, it turned out to be a major blessing because I moved from a mid-sized publisher to one of the Big 5. Had I stayed where I was, this new series wouldn’t have made the BookScan bestseller lists or be featured in USA Today. But that wasn’t the only blessing. A few months later, I received a message from Harlequin, and they contracted the orphaned books from the Sisters & Friends series. Gift from Above (Feb.) and Big-City Amish (June) will be part of their Wal-Mart exclusives program in 2019.

That experience taught me not to count on only one publisher or one genre. Lines close, editors leave, genres wane. So, although I recently signed a six-book contract with Kensington for more Amish romances, my agent is preparing to shop two other series proposals—inspirational Westerns and sweet romances. I’m also working on new MG and YA novels as well planning a mystery novella series. As I (and many of my writer friends) have discovered, it’s important to give yourself multiple options if you’re hoping for a lifelong career in writing.


An Amish midwife and an Englisch doctor must embrace their differences to rescue a baby in need in this uplifting romance that will “capture your heart and leave you smiling” (Amy Lillard, award-winning author).

Kyle Miller never planned on becoming a country doctor. But when he's offered a medical practice in his sleepy hometown, Kyle knows he must return... and face the painful past he left behind. Except
the Amish community isn't quite ready for Kyle. Especially the pretty midwife who refuses to compromise her traditions with his modern medicine...

The more Leah Stoltzfus works with the handsome Englisch doctor, the more she finds herself caught between the expectations of her family and her own hopes for the future. It will take one surprising revelation and one helpless baby in need of love to show Leah and Kyle that their bond may be greater than their differences... if Leah can find the courage to follow her heart.

The Amish Teacher's Gift might have been the first book I've read by Rachel J. Good, but it won't be my last.” - Shelley Shepard Gray, New York Times bestselling author

**The Amish Midwife’s Secret can be purchased at Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Meier’s, and other stores as well as online at these sellers and at ChristianBooks.com. For international readers, Book Depository offers free worldwide shipping.
** Readers can find out more about the hero, Kyle, by reading the first two books in the Sisters & Friends series, Change of Heart and Buried Secrets, although the midwife story stands alone.

About Rachel J. Good


Rachel’s Amish series include Sisters & Friends (Charisma House & Harlequin), Love & Promises (Hachette/Grand Central), Hearts of Amish Country (Annie’s Book Club), and the forthcoming Surprised by Love and Unexpected Amish Blessings (Kensington). She also has several anthologies in print as well as the Amish Quilts Coloring Book. To learn more about Rachel, you can visit her website and sign up for her newsletter.
If you enjoy learning about Amish life and want to follow along on her research trips to Amish country, you can join her private Facebook group, Rachel J. Good’s Hitching Post.
Rachel can also be found here, and she’d love to connect with you:


Thanks ever so much for having me, Susan! And many blessings on your writing journey!

I've known Rachel for many years. She continues to amaze me with her accomplishments. Have you ever visited Amish country? Did anything about it surprise you? Ever own an Amish quilt or eat some Amish baking? Did you know how big the inspirational romance market is?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IWSG: January 2019 Edition

Welcome to 2019. It seems like just last year when some people thought that the world's infrastructure would collapse when those clocks ticked around to 2000. A great way to celebrate the New Year is making my first blog post my contribution to IWSG. This amazing blogging group, and so much more, is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. Join us in supporting and helping each other in this crazy business of writing. Find the entire list of participants here.

The optional question this month:
What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

I guess my least favorite is people asking me if I've paid someone to publish my books. My favorite is when they ask me when my next book will be out. Nothing like a fan eager to read my books to make my day, week, and year.

2019 saw a lot of writers facing declining sales. The ebook market flooded with more books than there were readers to buy them. Marketing continued to be frustrating and ever-changing. What works with one book may miss totally with the next.

On the upside for me, I wrote four complete novels in 2018, completing the final edits for The Alien and the Engineer on Christmas Eve. I also outline the next three novels I'll be writing in 2019 and have started a longer outline for my next epic fantasy series. My first romance novel was published by New Concepts publishing in 2007. The Alien and the Engineer is the 26th novel of mine published by NCP.

A few things I'm looking forward to in 2019.

My new Old Farmer's Almanac Planner. I'll share lots of its wisdom with you starting today.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Unknown
Next week, the new show, The Passage, based on the book by Justin Cronin premiers on TV. Even though the third book in that series was an incredible let down, the show looks pretty good.
Of course, later in the year, we'll have the last season of Game of Thrones and End Game for the Avengers.
I recently watched three seasons of The Travelers on Netflix. I had started it a while ago but stopped for some reason after a few episodes. I'm really glad I dove back into it. The last episode of season 3 has one of the greatest twists in a series ever.

Happy New Year to you all. May 2019 be filled with joy, contentment, and adventure.

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." Charles Spurgeon

What are you looking forward to in 2019? Did you meet your 2018 goals? Do certain questions from readers bother you?