Book Club Visit + Harbingers Update

BookClub1

What a great group! I’m second from the right, desperately skimming my manuscript for an answer to someone’s question.

Taking a brief break from Harbingers edits (I’m still working on it, promise!), I headed south to Washington, PA to meet up with a book club who chose to read Blood’s Force for the month of October.

My very first book-related event! How exciting—but you bet I was nervous! Fortunately, this was a great group of ladies to cut my teeth on, so to speak. They were very sweet and asked wonderful questions, especially about science fiction and my research process (which I’ve written about here). I enjoyed sharing my rationale for different things, as well as hearing their feedback. (Like, “I’m glad you gave Ingvar to Jess! She deserved it.” LOL)

I also signed some books while I was at it!

BookClub2

And now back to Harbingers editing and rewrites! :) I have all my notes back from my editor, and am 2/3 done with my current pass. After this, I anticipate one more pass over everything to make sure it gels, which should go quick. I’m not sure whether I’ll finish this year, or if it’ll bleed into 2017. Rest assured, I’m doing my best to get it right and get it out the door in a timely manner! :)

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.

Harbingers Cover Reveal And Progress Report

EllisMorning_Harbingers_cover

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:

EllisMorning_Harbingers_fullwrap

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

amesjump

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

resolutions

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! :)


VBT_BloodsForce_Banner copy

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! :)


I’ve Gone From Escapes To Breaks, And That’s OK With Me (Plus Paperback Giveaway!)

HamptonCourtPalaceHampton Court Palace, a fascinating destination for history buffs.

In early 2013, my husband and I planned our first trip to Europe together. I’d skipped around The Continent before, but my husband hadn’t, so we aimed for a place that was new to both of us, where we wouldn’t have much trouble easing in culturally. London seemed like the best of all possible worlds. I’d only ever flown through London, never visited. And since the UK was full of English speakers, we wouldn’t have any trouble making our way.

I booked our travel and lodging about 6 months ahead of the trip. For the rest of those 6 months, the anticipation all but killed me. I read up on English culture and etiquette. I studied all the things we could see and do, and how to do them best. I spent hours daydreaming about the trip from my drab little cubicle at work, and as it got down to the wire, I was going out of my mind with excitement. I even started tracking the weather in every city we’d fly through, just to make sure everything would go well.

So we flew to London for a week, and had an insanely magical time there. I left feeling like we were parting ways too soon, that there was still so much left to see and explore. We both agreed it’d be great to go back one day. A couple years later, in 2015, we arranged for that return trip. It was my reward for completing Blood’s Force.

This time around, for some reason, I didn’t spend as much time in the run-up planning and daydreaming. Instead, the trip kept sneaking up on me. “Oh yeah, we’re going overseas in a few weeks!” I didn’t obsess over what we’d see and do; it was something we could figure out once we were there. I didn’t check the weather in Newark (the city where we caught our international flight) once.

We got back from London a week ago. It was a fun time, to be sure … but the thrill was gone. I even felt that way while in London, and felt guilty about it. Why isn’t this mind-blowingly fun?

There are some quick, obvious answers. This was no longer our first time there. Also, London on Saturday in December is like Black Friday everywhere, and if there’s one thing I don’t tolerate well for long, it’s gigantic crowds.

But there’s actually something more profound to it. At the time of our first trip, my husband and I were working full-time jobs we didn’t care for. London wasn’t just vacation, it was an escape. It was an eye-opening, holy-shit, look-at-how-much-better-life-can-be experience that was subconsciously telling us, You’re leading the wrong lives right now.

Sure enough, we took that trip in September 2013 … and within 2 or 3 months, we were plotting our escape to self-employment. May 2014 is when we actually left our jobs to go off on our own. So maybe our first London trip was the kick in the ass we sorely needed.

The self-employment arrangement has been much better for us in every way possible. Chores and other obligations aside, we spend each day doing what we want to be doing. There’s no longer the unnecessary stress of commutes, difficult coworkers, nonsensical corporate culture, and the like. Not once have either of us ever thought, Man, I miss the old office.

We’re leading the right lives now. There’s no longer that burning need for escape. So when we go on vacation, it’s no longer earth-shattering. It’s just a nice break away from the usual routine. And I’m OK with that.

Hey!! What about the Paperback Giveaway? Oh yeah, I don’t wanna forget that. I’m running another Blood’s Force paperback giveaway via Goodreads. Want a chance to win your very own physical copy? Use the fancy widget below to enter! :)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood's Force by Ellis Morning

Blood’s Force

by Ellis Morning

Giveaway ends December 19, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


What’s On The Calendar – Late 2015 to 2016

february-calendarHey all! I wanted to talk about the important stuff on my workdesk and radar for the next few months. Without further ado …

* Working on Harbingers (Sword and Starship Book 2) *
Hey look, it’s my life for the foreseeable future! To make this a standalone, I’ve had to completely change the beginning, so I’ve been drafting more than editing thus far. I’m almost at the point where I get back to editing existing content. I’m hoping I don’t succumb too much to the feeling of “Oh FSM this all sucks I have to tear it up and start over.” :)

* Working on Retiring the Gods short stories *
After the whirlwind of publishing Blood’s Force, I took a month’s break to clear my head. In that time, I worked on 2 more short stories for this collection. They need a little more polish before I’m ready to call them done; I’ll probably release them in another few months. Something to tide everyone over while I’m toiling on the next novel!

By the way, this is a short story collection that’s exclusive to my mailing list. If you want a copy, feel free to sign up! I’ll send you the current version, then the new one whenever it’s updated.

* London trip *
My husband and I are going to London the first week of December! Yaaay! This’ll be our first vacation since escaping the corporate world, and is kind of a celebration of publishing Blood’s Force. It’s our second trip to London, because we loved it so much the first time.

Hilariously, I keep forgetting about it, only to panic a little when I see how much closer it’s getting. I swear, I might actually forget to go to the airport the day of. This is totally opposite from the last trip. Back then, I made plans 6-8 months in advance, and daydreamed and obsessed over the trip practically every day.

I think the difference is that I was still working my corporate job last time we went. Back then, the trip was a welcome and much-needed escape. Now I spend every day doing the work I want to be doing. There’s nothing I’m desperate to get away from.

* Future Goodreads giveaway(s) *
Not 100% sure yet when, but I’ve got December 12-19 penciled in. Stay tuned!

* January blog tour *
I’m also arranging for a 2-week blog tour in January. Every weekday, there’ll be a different post about Blood’s Force at a different blog. It should be a good way to get more word out about the book. More details to follow once they’re solidified!

Take care and have a great Thanksgiving! I’ll be back in December! :)


Ellis’ Writing and Publishing Toolbox

office 2Powered by coffee, Hello Kitty, and Left 4 Dead.

Hey again! I thought I’d give you a behind-the-scenes peek at everything that contributes to my production process, from draft to finished book/story.

HARDWARE
A room in my house serves as my dedicated office. Up there you see my desk: MacBook Air, laptop stand, cheap mouse, expensive keyboard that makes neat clicky sounds. And omg COFFEE, two mugs a day. Next to the desk is my laser printer, which comes in handy for printing off drafts and review copies. In the drawers, you’ll find things like staples, envelopes, and oodles of pencils (mostly mechanical) and pens (ballpoint and felt-tip). I also draw with these on occasion.

SOFTWARE
Most of the magic happens on my computer. Here are the programs I use from start to finish. With the exception of Scrivener, these apps are all free to download and use:

Scrivener – This program has spoiled me to the point that I can’t draft things anywhere else. The way it lets me split up, organize, and notate things is unparalleled. Plus it lets me save snapshots of old drafts, which I fall back on from time to time.

OpenOffice – I use this to take my Scrivener draft and create PDFs for paperback interiors and free ebooks. While Scrivener has its own conversion tools, I trust myself more. This program performs really well, and lets you do just about everything Microsoft Word can do. That’s way more than I can say for Pages, which I find unacceptably slow and hobbled.

MacDown – I’m currently experimenting with Markdown to see how well it streamlines my conversion from draft to HTML, important for making ebook files. MacDown happens to be one of many free apps out there for Markdown editing.

Komodo – If I need to do heavy-duty HTML editing, I do it here. This is also the program I use to maintain my website.

Sigil – Great tool for creating EPUB files, once you get past its learning curve. I make ebook files manually because (a) I have a good understanding of CSS and HTML, and (b) I can ensure they’ll come out exactly the way I want at the smallest file size possible. I don’t like crossing my fingers and hoping a compile or conversion will work out. I also don’t trust the cruft that gets added to files in that process.

Epubcheck – Lets me validate my EPUB files. Was quite a helpful troubleshooting tool in the past when I couldn’t figure out why my conversion from EPUB to MOBI was failing.

KindleGen – Lets me convert my EPUB into a MOBI that Amazon will accept. It also gives you compression options to ensure the file size is as small as possible. This is important because Amazon charges you delivery fees every time someone buys your ebook. These fees are dependent on your ebook file size, and can eat into your royalties if you’re not careful!

GIMP – This is what I use for designing paperback and free ebook covers. I have experience with Photoshop and InDesign, so I don’t have much trouble using GIMP. Plus, there are tons of tutorials and docs online in case you’re ever not sure how to do something.

 

If anyone has suggestions of things I should be using, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Sword and Starship Book 2: Rewrites Begin This Week

Ellis_EditingSo for those who may or may not know: this little adventure started with a manuscript I finished—after many years of hemming, hawing, temporarily quitting, doubling back, and tail-chasing—in early 2014. I hired a lovely editor and passed it her way, thinking it’d need only a few tweaks to be ready for prime-time.

Wrong! I hadn’t given the story enough room to breathe. My editor suggested sweeping edits that took me a while to get through, but they were completely and totally for the best. By the time I was done, I had double the number of words as when I started.

The first 97k words became Book 1, Blood’s Force.

The remaining 99k words will comprise Book 2, which I’m calling Harbingers for now. It’ll pick up right where Blood’s Force left off, but I’m modifying it so that it’s capable of being a standalone read.

I have a ridiculously good starting point for this book. It’s already drafted, and that draft still needs work, but not nearly as much as previous incarnations. Cover art is also in the works, once more in the hands of wonderfully talented Chris Howard.

This week, I’m starting on edits. Then another editorial pass will be in order, then another revision pass or two to firm up. I dislike setting hard deadlines, but my personal goal is to finish and release Harbingers sometime in 2016. Keep tuning in for updates! :)