Category Archives: Sword and Starship

September 2017 Updates, Goals

Hello again. This was quite an eventful month! I’ve been frantically trying to do everything possible to protect my credit in the wake of the Equifax hack, while also begging my senators not to jack up my health insurance and kill millions of Americans … again. And, as you see above, our construction adventures continue. When dealing with 70 year-old streets and 100 year-old plumbing, there are always surprises. For instance, did you know it was possible to shake a water main to death? Our water was shut off a few times as a result, but no big deal. The work is almost done, and it’s gonna be great when it’s finished.

Writing Updates:
Remy had some helpful notes regarding my outline for Book 3. There’s still parts that we’re both iffy on, but we agree pretty well on what should happen at the beginning.

So guess what? I’ve started drafting! :) It’s been slow to start—my inner editor pops up way too frequently—but I think it’ll be less of a problem once I settle into more of a word-churning groove.

Also, when drafting, I invariably put down my first ideas (usually not my best ideas), and then think of better ideas a few days later. It’s a bit of a dilemma: do I go back and rewrite, or keep plowing forward? While you always want to be making forward progress, I think there are times when you can or even should go back. If you have a good idea and the energy/will to implement it, why not?

Thus, slow going. But progress is being made.

Current Goals:
– Learning Italian. I’m a fan of the Fluent Forever approach, and am trying to follow that for the most part, which involves learning pronunciation and tons of vocabulary before looking at grammar. But I’m just not super-motivated to learn random words in this case. I find myself much more motivated to learn things I might need while traveling. Per favore? Grazie. Accettate carte di credito? and so on. Thankfully, there’s plenty that looks familiar from Latin and Spanish!

Learning Latin. I prefer my Latin study way more, to be honest. The dead language, of course! What can I say? I keep coming across  little surprises that keep it interesting. Plus, I can’t help but love that my book’s practice sentences aren’t so much The store is around the corner but rather more like He will pay the price for his lack of honor! It’s metal.

Updating website. I made good progress this month, but still have some testing to do. One big thing I’ve realized is that the home page should have pretty much everything on it that I want people to see. Based on Google Analytics reports of my current site, people do not like clicking hyperlinks or drilling down deep webpage hierarchies anymore.

Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018. My hope is to book travel and accommodations next month. Gotta research where we’d like to stay!

Later Goals:
– Ramp up selling/promotion
[[Not sure what else yet! Should start thinking about it.]]

August 2017 Updates, Goals

The eclipse wasn’t terribly dramatic in Pittsburgh. Even with 81% coverage, it just looked like heavy cloud cover (the Sun is kinda bright, who’da thunk it?). Still, the weather was great, and it was really nice how many people came outside to see it, passing around glasses and using telescopes and whatnot.

However, 2024 ought to be even more exciting for us! I might be persuaded to drive to a location with full totality. I just have to get over my utter loathing of traffic and crowds!

Updates:
I’ve been incorporating ideas from a failed short story idea to use at the end of Book 3. Some time ago, I found out the hard way that a short story in the Sword and Starship universe just isn’t feasible; there’s too much that has to be explained. Even with cutting things to the bone, my attempts have been more novella-length. At that point, it’s time to throw in the towel and write a whole book. (Oh hey, I did! Two of them, even! ::shamelessly plugs Blood’s Force and Harbingers::)

While my outline isn’t 100% rock-solid, I’ve pulled together enough ideas by this point to “pitch” them to Remy. He’s really good at taking ideas and adding twists, suggesting edits, and elevating premises to something really interesting. He’ll have 2 weeks off in September, during which he’ll work with me on those things. It’s very much appreciated!

Current Goals:
– Learning Italian. I’m just starting on Italian pronunciation and simple words! I have a feeling it will color my Latin, but that seems appropriate. Speaking of …

Learning Latin. This is still a lot of fun, especially with all the Latin still in common use that I now completely get (post hoc ergō propter hoc, in vitrō, etc.). There’s just a few frustrating aspects (aside from all the declension lol): first, there are no classical Latin words for modern things. Laptop? Microwave? Coffee? It makes coming up with simple sentences, or writing about your day, harder. Second, you can’t exactly chat with native speakers and study their pronunciation, inflection, and so on. We have some idea of how things were pronounced, but it’s by no means perfect, and there’s plenty of room for disagreement. You’re left to do your own thing, basically. But I wanna do it right! Argh. :)

Updating website. Still slow going, but mostly because I lack the motivation to do it. For one thing, web development can be incredibly frustrating; when Sisyphus finally got his boulder up that hill, the gods put him to work fixing broken CSS. Besides, I get what, maybe 100 visitors a year? LOL I will really try to buckle down and get this off my to-do list.

Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018. I checked into recommended immunizations for travel to Italy. I’m mostly in good shape, except I never got vaccinated for Hepatitis A. There’s not much need for it in the US, but abroad can be different. So I got one shot this month, and I’ll need a booster in February. Turns out it’s fully covered by my insurance. Thanks, Obama! :)

Later Goals:
– Ramp up selling/promotion
[[Not sure what else yet! Should start thinking about it.]]

That’s all for now. Let me know how you’re doing, if so inclined! :)

July 2017 Updates, Goals

Hello again! Another month has flown past—and as you might’ve guessed, that 1-month construction project outside my house has stretched into Month 3. They’ve had to cut into stuff that was finished years ago to lay pipe or whatever; that’s what you see depicted above. Unfortunately, they’ve also ripped out all the greenery that the fireflies used to hang out in. They’re supposed to put it back in and then some, so I’m hopeful for that.

Updates:
Still outlining book 3, working on new characters, character arcs, and what have you. When outlining, there’s so much work to do; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and sit there going, “What now?” I find it’s helpful to give myself at least 1 “assignment” every day. Look that up, figure this out, etc. Then I can at least feel like I’m moving in a positive direction.

Sometime soon, I’d also like to reread Blood’s Force and Harbingers to ensure I don’t leave out important details. I hope to minimize inconsistencies and loose ends between books as much as possible. It can be painful and occasionally mystifying to read my own stuff, though. “Ugh, did I really …?” I guess it’s a good reaction to have. It means I’m improving (or so I hope)!

Current Goals:
Updating website/blog. Slow going, but in progress. I found a Bootstrap template I like for the website, and now it’s a matter of tweaking it. I also found a prospective new blog template, but that changeover will be more difficult because WordPress doesn’t give you any way to fiddle with a template, fix all the bugs, then make it live. Nope, you gotta make the change live before you even know what fires will erupt! I may have to schedule some downtime for the blog when I get serious about updating it.

Learning how to roll Rs. I’m gonna call this one “done,” although I’m still practicing a little every day. My trilling remains inconsistent, but it’s way better than before I began trying! In case it may be useful to anyone, here are some things that helped me:

  • Hold your tongue in the position for saying S, then move it to the back of the alveolar ridge, close to the roof of your mouth. That’ll cut down on slushy, spitty noises when you start blowing air to flap the tongue.
  • Stay well hydrated, which also cuts down on spitty noises.
  • Relax the tongue. Now relax it some more. Lying on your back helps you figure it out.
  • Use the flap in the middle of the words “butter” and “ladder” to get an idea of what your tongue should be doing.
  • If you have a hard time with sustained trilling (like I do), practice with words instead. In Spanish for instance, there’s perro, erre, etc.

All this said, try not to think too hard about what you’re doing. Once you get the trill working, relax and let it happen.

Learning Latin. Still making interesting new discoveries all the time. For instance, in Sword and Starship, there’s a trade guild called Linum Dominorum: Flax (or Linen) of Lords. I came up with that name years before embarking on this Latin adventure, and did my best to get the translation right at the time using whatever resources I could google up. At this point, I’ve learned enough Latin to confirm that I did actually decline the phrase properly back when I had no idea what I was doing! LOL To be really pedantic, there are a couple of long vowels in there—Līnum Dominōrum—but many people don’t bother marking those. They really should, as there’s a difference between liber (book) and līber (free), for instance. However, I’m not going to worry about it going forward in Sword and Starship. In that case, consistency is more important than precision.

Later Goals:
– Learn Italian (at least enough to get around town with)
– Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018
– Ramp up selling/promotion

Feel free to let me know how you’re doing. Otherwise, see you next month! :)

June 2017 Updates, Goals

It’s been over 3 years since I left the rat-race behind and became a full-time writer! The time keeps flying past. I’m a much happier person overall, and I’ve never once entertained the idea of going back to the grind.

Income breakdown (just for fun, $$$ is never the goal):
– I’m still making about $300-$400/month writing and editing at The Daily WTF. (Feedspot recently ranked us #29 of their top 100 humor blogs, which is pretty neat!)
– My royalty income has been a bit higher with 2 books out. Books in a series help sell each other. Still, we’re talking maybe a few hundred a year across all venues, with the vast majority of that coming from Amazon. When I’m done with Book 3, I intend to get more aggressive about selling and promotion (although I think Sword and Starship has at least 4 books in it).

Updates:
– Still outlining Book 3, also getting into some high-level drafting of how I want scenes to play out. What has been abstract up to this point is getting a bit more concrete.
– The Sword and Starship books are now available through Playster! Here’s Blood’s Force, there’s Harbingers. It seems like an interesting platform, so check it out when you have a chance.
– Construction continues along my street. So far it’s taken double as long as we were told it would take. LOL So it goes! I’ve mostly gotten used to the noise since there’s been construction in my vicinity for years now. My next-door neighbor has a toddler who has grown up with this as his normal. She tells us that one of his first words was “dirt.”

Current Goals:
– Keeping up with these monthly blog updates, and maybe some advising/ranting if the mood strikes.
– Possibly updating the look of ellismorning.com and this blog, if I conclude it’s worth the trouble. Now that I have some exposure to Bootstrap, I’m tempted to go that route.
– Learning how to roll Rs. With a month of daily practice, I’m closer than I ever have been, but inconsistent. I have an easier time with Rs in the middle of a word (ex. cigarro) than at the front (ex. rápido). Another month of filling my house with annoying noises can only help!
– Learning Latin. I’ve kinda surprised myself with how motivated I am to do this. Unlike drawing, I don’t have to schedule a time and then force myself to actually abide by that commitment. I was expecting to work on Latin once a week, and it became a daily thing all by itself. There’s something to be said for pursuing what you really want, eh? My brain wants this, and it’s actually a lot of fun to translate dirty poems and old graffiti from Pompeii and realize that humanity has not changed for thousands of years.

Later Goals:
– Learn Italian (at least enough to get around town with)
– Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018
– Ramp up selling/promotion

Hope to check back in with you again next month! :)

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

EllisMorning_Harbingers_cover

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.

EllisMorningSwordAndStarshipBloodsForce

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.