Interview: Uniweb Productions with S.C. Jensen

Last week I was interviewed by Matt Whiteside of the UniWeb Interview Show about my novel The Timekeepers’ War, my publishing journey (so far), and my own creative process. It was a really fun time, if you can’t tell from all of the laughing. We had some technical difficulties and had to re-do sections of the interview a bunch of times, but Matt did a great job editing it into something cohesive.

Please click the link to view the video in YouTube. For some reason videos embedded into WordPress pages don’t count toward the channels views, and it would help Matt launch his UniWeb Productions channel to have more action over there. Don’t forget to like, share, and comment, especially if you have read The Timekeepers’ War and want to leave me some feedback!

Matt also has a ton of amazing content on his blog Seeking Purpose Today. I highly recommend following him and seeing what he’s up to: from motivational writing and discussion of addiction and recovery, to author interviews, dramatic readings of his own and other’s work, and an experimental “Choose Your Own Adventure” story that anyone can contribute to!

Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts right here on Sarah Does Sci-Fi, too!

Social Media is dead, long live Social Media

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Yesterday I deleted my personal and author Facebook accounts. Permanently.

This has nothing much to do with the current customer data scandal, though the timing makes it a specious notion. Actually, this is the culmination of years of frustration with the platform and a long on-again-off-again relationship that, for me, was ultimately toxic. I have put so much mental and emotional energy into Facebook over the years and, yes, there have been some good things born of that energy; friendships, collaborations, networks that may otherwise not have been possible.

But the cost is too high.

I don’t know what it is about Facebook, but no matter how I try to cultivate my experience into something that I want and can be happy with, it quickly becomes an overwhelming and negative space for me. All the cute memes, words of support, constructive feedback, and glimpses into people’s lives end up drowning in bitterness, cynicism, negativity, and anger. And I can’t stay away from it. The worse I feel, the more I want to jump in and immerse myself in it all. Misery loves company, I guess. But I realized that Facebook has become a catalyst for depression and anxiety for me.

Well, no more. I’ve tried limiting my hours per day, my days per week, and temporarily deactivating my account. Those brief unplugged interludes have been wonderful. I get more done, I feel better about myself, I feel more in control of my life. But I always get drawn back into the thick of it, and the cycle starts again.

So I went for the permanent delete. I know to some people this seems like an extreme step in the name of productivity. But I need it, and I feel like I’m ready for the next stage. Facebook is dead. It has been dead for a long time. I was stubbornly trying to breathe life into it at the expense of my own.

I know I’m not alone, either. I’ve talked to a lot of people with similar feelings, but for some reason admitting that it’s time to cut those ties is a really hard thing to do. I tried to plant enough breadcrumbs that friends and acquaintances can find me. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to everyone. While planning my Facebook exit did feel a bit like planning my own funeral, I’m still here. Please don’t be afraid to reach out if I missed you.

Already I feel a weight has lifted! I actually find myself baffled by the amount of suddenly free time I have without The Book. Maybe others will join me in stepping away, too, whether because of privacy concerns or because of similar emotional discontent. Facebook has had a good run, but isn’t it time for something new?

This is my plan:

I’d like to spend more time in the WordPress community, networking with other writers and artists. I still plan to keep my Instagram account active and stick to writing-related posts. And, of course, I’ll be writing more, whether that is book reviews, interviews, and blog articles, or my own fiction.

Mostly, I want to explore. I want to find things on my own, and form my own opinions on them without reading a hundred other people opinions first. I want to sort out my own world and where I fit into it, without that being filtered through a screen and the voices of everyone I know.

Wish me luck! And don’t be a stranger.

 

 

Hallowe’en Book Giveaway!

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Check it out on Amazon.com!
Check it out on Amazon.com!

Autumn is, hands down, my favourite time of year. Especially Hallowe’en. In honour of the season, I’m having another Goodreads Giveaway! Five copies of The Timekeepers’ War are up for grabs HERE. The Goodreads Giveaway will close at midnight on October 31, 2014, so get your entries in ASAP! Over 1200 people entered to win in the debut giveaway; let’s see how many entries we can round up this time!

Goodreads Giveaways are always fun. I’ve entered (and won!) my fair share. But I’d also like to offer something up to my fellow bloggers and blog followers. If you’d like to win a copy of The Timekeepers’ War, all you need to do is reblog this post and leave me a comment. If you are following me on Facebook, share and comment on this post. I’ll give away one copy for my WordPress bloggers and one for my Facebook fans. Contest closes at midnight on October 15th, 2014; that way you still have time to enter the Goodreads contest if you don’t win 😉 Good look, book lovers!

Dilemmas of the Small Press Author: Paying for Reviews

Does your book stand out in a crowd?
Does your book stand out in a crowd?

Another day, another way I realize I don’t know what I’m doing…

One of the (many, I’m sure) perks of signing with a big publishing house is that they have go-to people to write reviews of your novel before it is even released. These reviews can appear on your book jacket and in promotional material months before the first copy is in your hot little hands. It is an aspect of the publishing industry that I completely took for granted as a reader. I often browse the high-sung praises of a book by review agencies, other well-respected authors, magazine/newspaper editors, etc. before I purchase a book. There is no doubt that these reviewers are paid for their time in reading and reviewing the work, and soliciting professional reviews is one of the many jobs that a publisher takes on when they sign an author.

So what is one to do when one chooses to publish through small or independent presses? I knew that signing with a small press publisher would mean that I would be doing a lot of the marketing legwork on my own. But to be honest, I didn’t have a clear plan for what that might actually look like in practice. I was so focused on finding a publisher that I didn’t look too far into the murky future beyond. Now that I’m popping up on the other side I’m beginning to realize that this whole marketing thing is going to be an uphill battle!

One of the concepts that is new to me, but which has been around for decades, is the paid-review. There are companies out there who offer professional review services (here is a good link with some examples), similar to what the big publishing houses have access to, but which are geared towards small press and independent press authors. Now, I’m not talking about the shady business of paying for fake 5 star reviews on amazon.com or Goodreads, though there are certainly those kinds of ethically questionable companies out there. I’m talking about paying for a real objective, balanced review by a professional. Services range from about $150-$500 for a review and various marketing packages.

In theory, it seems like a sound investment, particularly as I am not footing the bill for any publication costs. If I’m going to spend money on my book, it might as well be in advertising, right? But the feedback I’ve come across is inconsistent. Some authors swear by these and similar marketing strategies, and some swear they’re nothing but a waste of money. The advice from my publisher is to avoid the higher priced ones as, in his experience, review services are more expensive than they are effective.

But there is a part of me that wants to believe that, if my book is good enough, a quality professional review or two may make the difference. Is this line of thinking over-simplified and naive? I don’t know. Do any of you have opinions or experiences to share? Please comment! Also, if there are any book bloggers out there who would like to take a stab at The Timekeepers’ War, please email me at sc.jensen[at]outlook[dot]com with a link to your blog. I can’t pay you, but I can promise a free review copy!

See here for a sneak peek of The Timekeepers’ War by S.C. Jensen, coming Summer 2014.

Publishing Update: Why there haven’t been more Publishing Updates…

When I first started this blog, I intended to use it to document the experience of writing and publishing a novel. I was frustrated at how difficult it is to find information on what this process looks like. I didn’t know what to expect and I knew there were a lot of writers out there who were equally discouraged by the lack of open communication on the subject.

I think I started off on the right track. I blogged about the endless querying, the nightmare of waiting, the inevitable rejections, the scraps of feedback… But as the process dragged on the time between my posts dragged out. I now realize why there is so little information out there about getting published. The experience is so draining, you lose the will continue. You begin to feel like you are just going to end up with a detailed account of your failure to be published, rather than a helpful how-to for other aspiring writers. It begins to feel like an exercise in soul-sucking futility. I admit it. I gave up. On the blogging, at least…

After breaking down and paying a professional editor to pick my manuscript apart, I underwent a heavy rewrite. I cut over 20,000 words, more than 50 pages; the surviving scenes were cut apart and reorganized to improve pacing. What I ended up with felt like a completely different novel. And I had to treat it as such. I had to start the whole querying process over again.

I would love to be able to say that the second time was easier. But it wasn’t. You think that the hard work is writing the novel itself. But the writing is the fun stuff. I know, I know. You’ve heard that before. But I don’t think anyone who is writing a book really takes the time to enjoy it. You’ve got your eye on the prize, the final product, the big shiny book deal. Maybe that’s part of the reason that the querying process is so disheartening. It’s like running a race; you see the finish line ahead and give it all you’ve got. But when you get there, you realize you still have another three laps to go and you just want to curl up in a ball and die. Or maybe that’s just me.

I sent my reworked manuscript out to the few agents who had shown some interested the first time around, letting them know I’d fixed the issues they’d had with the original. None of them responded. I realized that the pitiful one-liner “feedback” I’d received from each of them was likely just dressed-up rejection. Only one of my original queries had elicited real, concrete feedback. And that was the editor of a small science fiction imprint called Bedlam Press. It was actually his feedback that prompted me to hire an editor for my manuscript in the first place. So to hell with agents. I sent it back to Bedlam.

And they signed me! The Timekeepers’ War will be coming out this summer. I’m working with the artist on ideas for the cover and waiting for the final changes to be suggested by the editor. It’s going to be a lot of work getting my name out there and promoting my first novel, but I feel confident knowing I’ve got a great team behind me. Again, I find myself at the finish line only to discover that the race has only just begun.

SF Book Review: The Artemis Effect by Kasia James

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4/5 Stars

Science fiction can be an iffy genre to go exploring willy nilly. I usually like to stick to the beaten path (my own, anyways) rarely abandoning my tried and true authors. Most of my forays into the unknown (unless they’ve come recommended by a reliable source) have been disappointing. Sci-fi shelves seem to be a haven for poorly disguised political/religious allegories, plotless nerdier-than-thou techno-babble, and sagas of sexually liberated space sluts. Often some combination of the three. The trouble is, with such a vast world of possibilities before them, too many science fiction writers indulge in formulaic drivel.

That said, I’m glad I took a chance on Kasia James’ debut novel, The Artemis Effect. I was pleasantly surprised by James’ refreshingly different take on the post-apocalyptic theme (or should I say peri-apocalyptic?). Hers is the only novel I’ve read which actually looks at the breakdown of modern civilization as it’s happening, rather than simply assessing the aftermath. This is an interesting spin, as it allows for some truly interesting and engaging character development (all too neglected in many SF novels), as well as painting an almost intimate portrait of the individual lives that are affected during the crisis.

James’ characters are one of her strongest assets as a writer. She does a wonderful job of bringing Scott, Kimberley, Bryn and their circles of friends/family to life, drawing parallels across the globe as the story progresses in Australia, Wales, and the USA. The dynamics between the main characters and their cohorts are believable, entertaining, and often touching. Conversations actually read like conversations, rather than info dumps and uber-correct robotalk (another skill that many authors never master).

The only glitch for me, as a North American, was in the language used by Kimberley and Ray and the other Americans. James was born in Wales and currently lives in Australia, so I trust her use of idioms, etc. for the characters in these areas. But sometimes the Americans just “talked funny*”. Now, I’m Canadian, so I’m used to a bastardization of British and American English. These errors were very minor (we would never say ‘auto accident’, for example, but ‘car accident’ or ‘car crash’) and didn’t detract from the text at all. But it’s worth mentioning if you’re one of those colloquial-grammar-nazis (if there is such a thing). To be fair, this probably happens all the time with NA writers screwing up localized variants of English across the globe, and I don’t notice because I’m an ignorant North American. Maybe I should just shut up.

*Southern hick voice.

On with the review! The Artemis Effect has a unique and substantial plot to give a solid background for the character development. And I’ve gotta say, I had no idea where James was going with it until the very end, which is awesome! (I’d be curious to know if James is familiar with the novel Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, as one of James’ subplots can be strongly linked to themes in Griffith’s work) I love not being able to predict where a story is going, just being able to enjoy the flow. The pacing was great, there’s lots of action to keep you reading. The tri-part narrative was perfectly balanced so that each section had enough detail to give some insight but not so long that you forgot what was going on with the other characters.

Long story short, I recommend it. You can purchase Kasia James’ novel on Amazon, here. (Do it now!)

Note: I stubbornly refuse to convert to an e-reader and James was kind enough to humour me. She sent me a lovely paperback copy to review, for which I am eternally grateful. I promise, good customer service did not in any way affect my review. But I believe James deserves personal brownie points for being so accommodating. Also, check out her blog, Writer’s Block.

Collaborative Writing Opportunity for SF Lovers

Hi, all!

I just discovered a wonderful blog, and I wanted to share. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, but don’t have the time, or have a ton of great ideas and can’t find a way to bring them all together, you might want to check out The Stone Soup Novelist.

This blog is dedicated to writing a science fiction novel with the collaboration of as many SF readers and writers who are willing to share their ideas. Check out “The Story” page for some background on the backbone idea, and then start brainstorming!

Of course, there is no guarantee that your ideas will be used in the final product. The author is using a voting system to decide which ideas are best. Even if you don’t have an idea to share, you can still vote for your favourites. But don’t be shy! The more ideas are posted, the more conversation will be generated, and the more interesting the end work will be. I think this is a great idea, and I will be contributing. I think the more people who get involved, the better the novel will be (and I’m sure the Stone Soup Novelist would agree).

So if you have a few minutes to spare, jump in and start tossing some ideas around. This is a great opportunity for all of you creative people who are looking for an outlet. Focus that energy!