Category Archives: Sword and Starship

Introducing swordandstarship.com

New month, new website! :D

I’ve spent the past few weeks learning and tinkering with Bootstrap in order to bring swordandstarship.com online. It’s dedicated exclusively to the Sword and Starship series. I plan to eventually include “fun stuff” there (like artwork and device backgrounds), and possibly a store where people can order bundles and/or signed copies of books.

If you have any ideas of what you’d like to see there, leave a comment or send me an email!

In the relatively near future, I hope to update the look of ellismorning.com as well as this blog. Keep your eyes peeled!

Book 3 Update + Other News

Say hello to Book 3 so far! :)

I’m experimenting with storyboarding for the first time. It’s a little tough because my computer notes change a lot faster than I can keep up with on paper, but I like this exercise because it helps me realize when my ideas don’t have enough “oomph”—too little emotional content, too little conflict. I’ve saved myself several rewrites already. (As a general note, folks: the more you kick your characters in their metaphorical nuts, the better the story will be!)

I’m not sure how much longer outlining will take. I have 5 “sequences” I want to include in Book 3 (only 3 of which are in storyboard form; the rest are in Scrivener for now). Some are no more detailed than “They go to X and do Y.” Those have to get fleshed out in more detail before I proceed with drafting. I also want to develop at least some idea of what Book 4 will contain, so if there’s any groundwork or foreshadowing that must be set up in Book 3, I can do that.

My concentration has not been what it could be of late, because of this going on right outside my front door …

They’re digging up our street to lay new sewer lines for the town homes that will eventually be built next door. This has been going on for about 1.5 months now. The excavators are doing everything they can to minimize the inconvenience to us—we were even given a parking pass for a private lot close to our house—but still, I’ll be glad when they finish and the City repaves the street!

Otherwise, on the personal front, I might have gone just a tad insane: deciding I want to learn classical Latin, then maybe take a trip to Rome next year—which means learning some Italian, too! Guess what both of these languages have? Trilled Rs. And guess who can’t trill Rs with her tongue? Yup. It’s plagued me ever since introductory Spanish in middle school. I can trill Rs in my throat, but that’s not the proper sound needed here. Instead of trying to rely on Youtube how-to videos (normally so useful, but completely maddening and misleading when it comes to trilling Rs), I’ve purchased a video course prepared by a Russian speech pathologist. Tongue exercises are now part of my daily routine. I hope to conquer this stumbling block once and for all!

Harbingers Blog Tour – May 1-12

Starting today, Harbingers is touring the blogosphere!

The tour will run from May 1 through 12, weekends excluded. Each day’s post(s) will contain a guest blog I’ve written or an interview with yours truly. I discuss influences, characters, stuff about me and Sword and Starship, you name it. I’ve worked hard to ensure that each post contains at least some unique information, so it’s not the same exact thing every day. (Which is tough, since there are some questions that tend to get asked a lot!)

While the tour is active, you’ll also have the chance to win a $20 USD gift card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble (your choice)! Each post will contain a Rafflecopter widget that you can use to enter the drawing. The more times you enter, the more chances you have to win! The prize will be awarded at the end of the tour.

Below is the full tour. As it progresses, I’ll updating this post with direct links to each stop. I’ll also be visiting each blog to field comments and questions. Feel free to drop by and say hello! :)


May 1 – Interview at T’s Stuff

May 2Interview at Rogue’s Angels

May 2Interview at The Kronicles of Korthlundia

May 3Interview at Sharing Links and Wisdom

May 4Guest post at Long And Short Reviews

May 5Guest post at Mixed Book Bag

May 8Guest post at Book Lover Promo

May 8Interview at Lampshade Reader

May 9Guest post at It’s Raining Books

May 9Interview at Books, Dreams, Life

May 10Interview at The Avid Reader

May 11Interview at This and That Book Blog

May 12Interview at BooksChatter

May 12Interview at EskieMama and Dragon Lady Reads

I’ve Finished 2 Novels. Here’s What I’ve Learned.

With the release of Harbingers, the story I began working on in 2009 with the hazy goal of finishing a single novel has now materialized into 2 published books. Hooray!

But something looks a little off there. 8 years to finish 2 books? Lots of authors publish novels on a yearly basis.

I’ll tell you right now: I’m not “lots of authors.” I haven’t distilled novel-writing down to a crank-’em-out science. But, I also don’t think it’ll take 4 years to outline, draft, and finish Sword and Starship Book 3. Here are some factors that should aid my turnaround time.

1. I’m more disciplined about writing now. This is the big one. From 2009 to 2014, I was only writing once a week or less, flying by the seat of my pants with no outline. Quitting my day-job allowed me to make writing my full-time focus. Once I got connected with an editor who could guide me in the ways of book-planning, things really started falling into place.

All planning and good intentions aside, the book only gets written if I sit down to write it. I’m blessed to be able to do that every single day. (Though I do take breaks on weekends. Breaks are necessary.)

2. I’m more informed about the novel-writing process. Novels are a LOT more complicated than short stories, which I was more accustomed to prior to starting this project. My first draft of Blood’s Force (which was later expanded into Blood’s Force and Harbingers) was only about 80K words, and performed a breakneck speed-run through the plot without pausing to build up suspense, relationships, or other really important stuff.

A ton of prep work has to happen before any writing starts: figuring out character goals, constructing an outline, mapping character arcs and relationships. They won’t be set in stone—while drafting, surprises always happen that force you to change course—but working in the mid-draft revelation is much better than petering out after 80 pages because you have no idea what happens next.

3. I know to finish the first draft before doing any editing. Long before a first draft of Blood’s Force was done, I was taking chapters to critique groups, obsessing over word choices, etc. This is a HUGE waste of time. Surprises happen constantly while you’re drafting. You don’t want to know how many really polished scenes I ended up cutting as my outline changed, and how much I was tempted not to cut only because I’d spent so much time on it. This time around, I know not to start rewriting or soliciting critique in earnest until I have a complete story done.

4. I’m letting myself be OK with imperfection. This is hard, because it goes against the grain of my upbringing. “Make all As!” “Always give 110%!” The demands of perfectionism are like a harsh spotlight blaring over everything I do. When writing, I pause constantly in search of the right word or turn of phrase. A voice in my skull tells me I need to be funnier, more clever, more profound. Get it right, or else!

Then a whole morning passes, and I only have three sentences written.

It helps to remember that the writing process isn’t a one-time orchestral performance in front of a huge audience. It’s more like sculpting alone in a studio. I can start rough where no one will see, then chisel out something more beautiful while editing.

Eventually, though, I have to stop chiseling and release my work into the world as-is. There are always parts I think are still unacceptably weak, but they’re probably not as bad as I fear.

5. I’ve learned to prize clarity and simplicity. As a younger writer, I wanted my prose to be profound and complex and thought-provoking. Now, I just want to communicate clearly, which should make drafting easier. I don’t need the fancy $10 thesaurus word when the first word off the top of my head will do—especially in a first-person narrative where the main character is talking informally to her audience.

6. I know how to leverage the strengths of my reviewers. I’ve learned my husband is great for taking a pitch and improving it. “Why don’t you do X instead?” where X is something so much cooler than what I thought of. What he’s not so good at is at challenging me on the weak points in my writing—pointing out awkward phrases, noting where I could include more emotion and reflection, etc. My editor is much better at this. So I’ll keep these things in mind when seeking critique.

All that said, I’m now outlining what I’d like to have happen in future Sword and Starship books! Wish me luck! :)

Harbingers Ebook Now Available!

Harbingers, the highly anticipated sequel to Blood’s Force, is now available in ebook format! :D

You can find it at:

I’m still working on the paperback. It takes a lot longer to get the layout and cover just right, order and approve proofs, and so on. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Also, FWIW, I’ve been trying for over a year to get into Google Play, but they’re still not accepting new signups. I’ll keep checking back!

Sword and Starship’s Having A Good Month

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A small update on Harbingers: I have the first 1/3 of feedback notes from my editor, so my last editing pass has begun in earnest! There are 30-ish chapters to review, some of which need more work than others. Sometimes it’s just a matter of fixing a comma or plugging in a better word. Other times, I gotta tear down what’s there and start over from scratch. If you’re curious about the details of my last-pass editing process, I’ve written more about it here and here.

I still hope to publish Harbingers by the end of 2016, but if the book needs more time to be amazing, then so be it.

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In other news, Blood’s Force was selected as Her Story Arc’s Book of the Month this August! How cool is that? :D Here’s a quote from the review:

“I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy genre blending. I absolutely loved the interplay between ‘magic’ and misunderstood science. The way Jess manipulates ignorance in others to accomplish logical goals was engaging to read. I am definitely reading book two when it is finished!”

You can read the full review here.

Harbingers Cover Reveal And Progress Report

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You guys! Sword and Starship Book 2: Harbingers is making progress toward being a thing you can read! :D

This beautiful cover, just like the last one, was done for me by Chris Howard. Here’s the full-wrap version that will be used to make the paperback cover:

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And here’s the current draft of the back cover blurb, something I’ll  continue to chisel at right up until publication:

The Quest Continues To Stop A Killer “Curse!”

Dame Jessamine is a woman of science in a galaxy rife with superstition. The knight errant with a spaceship for a steed continues her mission for truth within the barony of Nidaros!

A mysterious crop-withering blight spreads through the barony’s soil. The court magicians have blamed two siblings of spawning the crisis through witchcraft. Convinced of their innocence, Jessamine has rescued and now secretly harbors Verahl Naustvik aboard her spaceship. Meanwhile, his sister Thordia flees to the Harbinger, a crashed space station from the distant and more enlightened past.

Approaching the Harbinger is an act punishable by death, but Jessamine won’t let that stand in the way of a second rescue. Thordia, and the Harbinger’s surviving technological secrets, may be Nidaros’ only hope against the blight. Jessamine prepares to embark—only to be betrayed and set upon by vengeful court magicians.

Now, one wrong word or gesture will lead to deadly charges of witchcraft. Jessamine must protect the Naustviks and brave the Harbinger, all while striking a balance between ritual and reason. If she can’t maintain the peace long enough to discover a cure for the blight, the entire barony will starve—unless its far-off masters decide to “restore order” with military action first!

The book is still a draft right now, but it’s a complete draft of about 136K words, which is 50% longer than the final draft of Blood’s Force. Yeah, a lot happens in this one!

As of this week, I’ve submitted the draft to my editor. In the next few weeks and months, she’ll do her final read-through and provide comments for improvement. I’ll then need a couple of months to make one or two more editing passes on my own, both for incorporating her comments and applying some spit-polish. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to publish! My goal is to finish before the end of 2016, but that’s not a hard deadline. If it takes a little longer to put forth the best version of the book possible, then so be it.

I’ll continue to keep you posted as things happen! Trust me, I’m as excited for this release as you are! :)


The Grand Experiment: What I’ve Learned From 2 Years of Self-Employment

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Two years? Really? Wow, that flew.

Thanks to hedonic adaptation, everything becomes mundane after a while, even kicking the 9-5 rat race routine to the curb. But this is still the best mundane ever. No regrets. I haven’t spent a weekend in fear of Monday morning for two whole years now! I love what I do, even when I get temporarily sick of certain tasks (editing, barf).

What’s New

My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, which is also a “Whoa, already?” sort of experience. We’re quite pleased with how far we’ve progressed in a decade. Transitioning to self-employment has been a welcome part of that progress.

When there haven’t been holidays, birthdays, and weddings to attend, I’ve had my head down working on Book 2 of the Sword and Starship series, entitled Harbingers. I’m very close to handing the manuscript to my editor for her final read, and very excited over that fact!

While she does her review, I’ll work on outlining Book 3. Unlike Harbingers, which was a mostly mature draft when it broke off to be its own thing, Book 3 will have to be built up from nothing. I hope to leverage all I’ve learned about novel writing to get from start to finish in a reasonable amount of time.

Also, a local book club is going to read my book later this year, and wants me to attend their discussion meeting! This’ll be the first time I speak about Blood’s Force in a public forum, which makes me a little nervous, but it’s exciting, too. Since I have Harbingers on the brain, I hope I don’t give away any spoilers by accident!

What Hasn’t Changed

Setting realistic deadlines, accepting setbacks, and treating myself with compassion. I had a bad bout with the flu a few months ago, and had to accept the fact that I was no good for anything for a solid 2+ weeks. Several projects got derailed. I feared I’d never get my brain back, but sure enough, it returned. And I’m still right around where I hoped I’d be regarding my progress on Harbingers.

Still, every now and then, I run into a novel situation where the old nagging voice inside my head takes over. “You should’ve done better, you idiot!” All I can do is recognize when it happens, and remind myself to be at least as kind and understanding with myself as I would be toward someone else in the same position.

Income Breakdown

Again, just for the hell of it. Money was never the goal of this transition.

  • The Daily WTF. I still make about $300-400/month as an editor.
  • Royalties. Hey, I got a published book now! Let’s watch the money roll in …! Or not? ;) I’ve earned a little over $250 total from all sources since Blood’s Force came out in September last year. Sales were higher when the book came out, and when I did things like giveaways and the blog tour. Now, about 1 ebook a month is where things stand. I expect it to jump again when Harbingers comes out, and I’m back to active promotion.

Hope you’ve been doing well in all your endeavors! And I hope to blog more often as interesting stuff happens! :)


2015 Goal Review, And New Goals For 2016

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Let’s pretend it’s not February already, you guys. Let’s pretend this is completely timely and topical. Last year, I posted a list of my goals for 2015. Let’s see how well I actually did!

* The novel, duh.

“The novel,” Blood’s Force, did indeed become a thing by the end of the year. Hooray!! :D It’s available in 2 formats and 4 platforms. In the process of getting it ready for prime-time, I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses in writing. I also learned a lot about ebook and paperback creation, which will help me on the next go-round.

* A promotional, free-to-read short story that takes place before the events of Blood’s Force.

This is not on my plate anymore! I’ve learned, after several tries, that there’s just no way I can do the Sword and Starship universe justice within a short story. The ideas I had all quickly ballooned to novella length, 20K to 40K words as opposed to the 10K or under I’d been hoping for. At that length and degree of effort, I’d be taking serious time away from novel-writing, and it’d be harder to justify giving the end result away for free. So, no prequel—at least not right now—because I’d rather get the next novel done as soon as possible!

* At least 1 more short story for Retiring The Gods, hopefully 2.

I’ve got 2 drafted that I’m hoping to release in another month or so. If you don’t have a copy of this series yet, go get one! It’s free! :)

* Start outlining and drafting the next Sword and Starship book. In the process, pick up skills and tricks to make eventual ebook conversion easier.

This was before I knew I’d be splitting my original manuscript into two parts. So I’m already editing and revising the second book, called Harbingers. I intend for there to be a third book, but that’s well off my radar at this point (though I do have some ideas of how to structure it).

As for making ebook conversion easier, I’m experimenting with some tricks. If they do indeed help streamline the HTML conversion process, there’ll be a blog post on that later.

* Keep writing monthly articles and screening submissions for The Daily WTF.

Yep, kept up with this as well, and earned a promotion to Editor, so I’m also supervising some of the other writers. My income went up a little bit in the process, which I can’t complain about!

* Keep up with weekly blogging.

Admittedly, I’ve been worse about this. When I got close to publishing Blood’s Force, it fell by the wayside, and I’ve found all kinds of reasons to keep putting it off since. Part of it is that I’m not sure what I want to blog about. I’ve done about all the writing advice I’ve got in me. I think in the future, I’ll focus more on what’s on my plate or on my mind, and also give the occasional update on where I stand as a self-employed person.

* Continue improving my blog and website as much as I can.

This remains a continuous process. Why, just this past week, I spent several hours fighting to fix CSS changes that WordPress pushed on me without notice or consent. If you happened to witness my blog turn black and green for a little while? Yeah. Thanks, WordPress! Gotta keep those mad skillz fresh somehow, I suppose! :D

* Keep up with other interests- which is hard when I’m trying to cram so much writing in.

YES. Yes it is. I still struggle with this, and with knowing whether I even really want to do all that other stuff anymore. Part of me does, but whenever I have time, I too often think Eh … I should really clean up around here, or something like that.

* Think about travel. If not going somewhere, at least plan something for 2016.

My husband and I went to breathtaking London in December! :D

OK, so not bad overall! I’m really happy with what I managed to accomplish in 2015, and I’m hoping 2016 will prove similarly productive. Without further ado, here are my Goals for 2016:

* Finish and publish Harbingers.

This is THE BIG ONE. I’m not sure whether I’ll actually get it done this year, but it’s what I’m putting my full-time energy toward.

* Release 2 new Retiring The Gods stories, draft 1 or 2 more.

I’m planning for the release to take place in a month or two here. I’ll send out the update through my mailing list, so if you’re not already on-board, click here to sign up!

* Keep writing features and editing at The Daily WTF.

There may be additional WTF projects in the pipeline this year, and I may be helping out with them. We’ll see!

* Find new kitties. Maybe.

I can’t believe it’s been 6 months since my cats passed away. Even now, sometimes the pain is just as sharp as the week it happened. There are still, still, parts of my house I haven’t cleaned because they were the last places my boy Rochester camped out. If you know how much of a neat-freak I am, you know how insane this is.

I’m having a hard time moving on, but at the same time, I miss having floofs to cuddle. I’m slowly opening to the idea of another pair of cats, once we’re done taking care of a few things around the house that go much better without cats. Replacing all our carpet, for instance.

* Find a real-life girlfriend.

This is a task my therapist has given me. I’ve never had super-close female friends as an adult, and have trouble even fathoming such a thing, but I’m playing along for now. Hilariously, the search has all the ups and downs of dating … which makes me think that giving less of a damn will aid me over the long run. Seriously, I never had luck finding men who were interested in dating me until I said “Screw it, I’m done looking and I don’t care anymore.”

* Figure out what The Deal is with the hobbies I’m having trouble following.

Is it time for us to part ways? Or am I just not being disciplined enough?

* Blog regularly enough for what it is I want to be blogging about.

Again, think I’ve built up my treasure trove of writing advice pretty well. Hopefully it’s helpful to someone. I hope to move forward with more stuff about me, my work/progress, and my books.

That’s all for now. Best of luck with all your 2016 goals! :D


Blood’s Force Blog Tour – January 11-22

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I’ve been kinda quiet here lately, but that’s because I’ve been blogging almost nonstop behind your backs. Don’t worry, it’s not a betrayal. It’s a blog tour!

Starting next Monday and continuing for 2 weeks (minus weekends), I’ll have guests posts and interviews up at 11 different blogs to get the word out about Blood’s Force. Follow the tour every day to learn all kinds of stuff about me, ancient history, the origin of the Sword and Starship series, and what Dame Jessamine would do if she ever won the lottery! (In the hopes of keeping things fresh and fun, I got desperate.)

There’ll also be a giveaway for a $20 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Every time you visit a new blog post, you have a new chance to enter the drawing!

Below is the full tour schedule, which links to the participating blogs for now. As the tour progresses, I’ll be updating this post with direct links to my own posts. I’ll also be visiting each blog to field comments and questions. Feel free to drop by and say hello! :)


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January 12Reviews By Crystal – Interview (click here)

January 13Rogue’s Angels – Interview (click here)

January 14Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews – Character Interview (click here)

January 15The Reading Addict – Guest Post (click here)


January 18Long and Short Reviews – Guest Post (click here)

January 19It’s Raining Books – Guest Post (click here)

January 20White Sky Project – Interview (click here)

January 20Welcome to My World of Dreams – Guest Post (click here)

January 21The Avid Reader – Guest Post (click here)

January 22Kit ‘N Kabookle – Interview (click here)

January 22Where The Story Comes First – Interview (click here)

Hope to see you on the tour! :)