Lethal Lore Cover Reveal – Get Ready for a Spooky Read!

by Monica Shaughnessy

UPDATE: Lethal Lore is now live!!! You can buy it here just in time for Halloween.

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Just a quick note to share the cover of Lethal Lore: Four Twisted Myths. It’s not for sale yet, but I’m hoping to get it out ASAP — a week or two, tops. I’ve been working on these stories for awhile, and they’re different from anything I’ve published so far. But if you’re a fan of my work, know they’re written with the same attention to detail as my Cattarina books.

lethal lore

Here’s a breakdown of the stories inside:

Killer Jack

Hardy Thibault bags more than he bargained for during a jackalope hunt. (campy horror)

Simple Math

When William Roberson’s doppelgänger comes to town, his troubles double. (sci-fi suspense)

Hell Cent

See a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have murder and mayhem. (contemporary horror)

The Bells of Bury St. Edmunds

The Green Children of Woolpit are here. Lock your doors and hide your knives. (gothic horror)

Happy Halloween!

How to Create Your Own Anthology (without losing your mind)

by Monica Shaughnessy

FINAL Cover_no sixOn October 8th, the Space City Scribes released an anthology. In case we haven’t talked about it quite enough, here are the particulars. It’s a loose collection of stories about Houston, ranging from literary fiction to sci-fi to fantasy. The ebook sells for $2.99 at Amazon and other major etailers.

Okay? Okay.

Now on to the “how to” portion of my post…

How To Create Your Own Anthology

There are a lot of reasons to create an anthology. Chief among them is exposure. If someone already loves, say, Mandy Broughton and buys the anthology to read her story, then that same person may read my story, like it just as much, and go on to buy one of my books. It’s also a way to build excitement for local events – signings are always more fun and “busy” when you have a group of authors. Lastly, my friend Artemis Greenleaf likened the anthology to a super-deluxe business card, and she’s right. It’s a great way to get our content “sampled” by as many people possible, especially since we’re pricing it low. Visibility is an author’s greatest challenge, whether indie or trad published, and the more people who’ve heard of us, the better.

What follows below are my tips for creating a homegrown anthology with a group of friends – not the kind of anthology where you welcome submissions from strangers and pay them. Those are good, too, but outside the scope of my discussion.

Now on to the show…

1. Find Your Writers: If you’re in an author collective like me, then your circle is already formed. If not, you might be in a critique group or a professional writers’ organization. Ask around to see if anyone’s interested in putting an anthology together, but I strongly caution you to pick writers you know and trust. If you want to work with people you don’t know as well, be prepared to draft legal documents to protect yourself. Another reason to pick people you know: you can choose writers whose work you admire and whose publishing skills compliment and/or supplement your own. This becomes very important when the “easy” work of writing is done and the hard work of “book creation” begins.

2. Decide on a Cost/Payment Structure: Our anthology was a no-pay structure where individual writers submitted freely without expectation of royalty or advance. This is a little harder to pull off with “strangers.” We also decided to keep overhead low by designing the cover ourselves, formatting ourselves, etc. We are lucky enough to have two educators in our group who have a meticulous command of the English language (thanks, Ellen Leventhal and Ellen Rothberg!). They did all the proofreading for the project. As for payment, we decided to funnel any profits from group signings back to Space City Scribes. We’ll use the money to sign up for festival booths, book advertisements, etc. If, however, we buy and sell the books as individuals, then the profits are ours to keep.

3. Put Someone in Charge: Things run more smoothly when you have someone keeping the schedule, checking on work, and sending update emails. For this project, I acted as editor. I won’t lie. The anthology was a lot of work. But I’m really proud of it.

4. Decide on a Theme: Since we’re a diverse group of writers, we found a common core in our hometown: Houston. Using this as a starting point, we all wrote stories set in Space City, hence the title of the anthology. If you’ve assembled a genre-based group, then you’ve got a built in theme already, say, horror or middle grade. But go further… Do you want to do a middle-grade collection of holiday stories? A science fiction anthology of space opera? There are a lot of ways to segment your content.

5. Assign the Work Fairly: Some of our members are very tech-savvy. They took the project pieces that required certain skills, like ebook formatting and paperback creation. Some members are awesome editors and proofers, so they took these pieces. Or some, like K.C. Maguire, happened to have experience with certain kinds of blogging and promotion. That’s the beauty of working with a diverse team – we all bring something to the table. When you’re choosing writers, be thinking not just about the stories you’ll need but the skills you’ll need after the words are on paper.

6. Get ready for a ton of email. Just deciding on our cover? I think we sent and replied to around fifty or more emails. No joke. And this was just one small piece of the project.

7. Remember That Friendships Come Before Business: If things get a little crazy or if there are disagreements (think there won’t be? ha!), take a step back and remember that this is supposed to be FUN or, at the very least, a good use of your time. Not the gateway to an ulcer. With so many cooks in the kitchen, the final recipe may not turn out like the one in the cookbook – do they ever? – but you’ll end up with something new and exciting if you give in to the process.

8. Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor: When it’s all done, and your glorious new book is for sale, it will stand as a testament to your hard work and friendship. This, really, is what makes your anthology worthwhile.

You can also go a second route: assemble your friends and acquaintances, offer them exposure, do all the work yourself (ask nothing of anyone, except for a little social media at the end), and reap all the profits yourself. This would be a good choice if you have the skills you need to produce a book or if you’ve got a particular vision you want to see through (and like to be the only cook in the kitchen). But I would recommend drafting a content release form that gives you first printing rights and having your authors sign it. When money is involved, people get funny. And I don’t mean “funny ha, ha.” I mean “funny stark raving mad.”

However you decide to do it, creating an anthology is definitely time-consuming. But it’s also worthwhile. If you want to take a look at how ours turned out, visit the anthology page on this blog and read more about the book.

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How about you, dear authors? Every contemplated an anthology? I’d be happy to answer questions. And readers, what’s your opinion of anthologies? Do you enjoy reading them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Collaboration, Craziness, and Completion: Steps to an Awesome Anthology

 

MASTER Cover

 

by Ellen Leventhal

Introducing Space City 6: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful

According to Merriam-Webster, to collaborate means to work together with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. People have asked me how I can stand such a solitary endeavor as writing. The answer is that writing, and more specifically the production of a book, is not always solitary. It’s often collaborative.

Collaboration in writing takes many forms. It can mean actually writing a piece with someone else, it can mean working with an illustrator, or it can even mean taking part in critique groups where members help each other hone their stories. I’ve done it all.

But wait, there’s more! (Cue announcer on late night infomercial.) My newest collaboration has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding ones for me. As part of the Space City Scribes, I had the opportunity to work with five other women in order to achieve something of which we’d be proud. Although we wrote individually, it was still a team effort. Working towards producing the best anthology possible, we read, critiqued, and re-read each other’s pieces. We doled out advice that we felt would strengthen the stories without diluting the writer’s unique voice. We were each other’s cheerleaders, pushing towards a common goal. All summer long emails flew through cyberspace to places as varied as Texas, Vermont, and Vienna, Austria. Yes, it definitely got a little crazy. However, often the craziness of collaboration is the magic. People throwing out ideas, other people piggy backing on those ideas, and lots of discussion…that’s collaboration. After much revision, the stories were done. Whew. And then it got really hard. And crazier. It was time for us, as a writing collaborative, to decide on a cover, a title, and a way to sell the book. Every decision was made as a group. More emails, more discussion, more hard work, and ok, a little more crazy thrown in for good measure. But the good kind of crazy! The kind that makes you proud. The kind that you look back on and say, “We did it.”

So now here we are. We’ve reached the final C…COMPLETION. We are proud to announce that our collaborative effort, Space City 6: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful is now available on Amazon. We hope you check us out and let us know what you think. Feel free to do it alone or get a friend to look at it with you. After all, sometimes collaborations yield the best results.

 

 

 

I Can’t Say No To Books

by Monica Shaughnessy

Not My Kid – Someone Else’s

I buy very few things for my child with abandon. To look at her room, you’d call me a liar. It’s bulging with toys, stuffed animals, electronic gadgets, stuffed animals, craft supplies, dolls…and did I mention stuffed animals? But she acquired many of these things with her own allowance, by “earning them” through some task or another, or by receiving them on her birthday. Santa, too, is a generous guy and gives out his share. So when she asks me to buy her something out of the blue, my reply is usually “No, you have enough stuff.”

Except when it comes to books.

By the time she was old enough to read, I decided that one of my personal parental policies would be to NEVER SAY NO TO BOOKS. Now, I’m not talking about those funny quiz booklets or feather-strewn diaries. I’m talking honest to goodness sit down and read books. Basically, if we’re in a store, and she gets excited about the newest novel her classmates have been reading…cha-ching! The cash register rings.

Now, I can’t afford to do a lot of “cha-chinging” at my local Barnes and Noble. Sure, it happens occasionally. But I also get her a lot of books at Costco (they’re half price, people, half!), our local used book store (a novel for fifty cents? yes!), and the library. And let’s not forget about Scholastic Book Club during the school year. I don’t buy the cookie dough or the wrapping paper or the crappy tote bags. But give me one of those Scholastic leaflets, and I’m checking boxes left and right.

We’re working on ebooks. She certainly has enough gadgets to read electronically, but still prefers the “real thing.” I find this laughable since every other activity seems to be done virtually. Play dates? Face time. QQ? TXT. TV? Streaming. Reading? Books…made of paper…whaaat? And I don’t believe she’s alone in this desire. Take one look at the chart below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. (graph courtesy of the Author Earning’s Report)

 

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I have a feeling, though, that when she gets a little older, she’ll see the benefits of reading on a gadget. To be fair, paper books haven’t disappeared from my shelves altogether. But I buy a lot more electronically than I ever did before, and she sees me make those decisions. Anyway, ebooks aside, you get what you reward, folks. And for my time, effort, and money, I’ve got a life-long reader on my hands.

“No, you have enough books.” You will NEVER hear this in my house.

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How about you, parents? Do you limit the number of books you give to your kids? Or are you nutty like me and bend over backwards to give your kids more reading material? I’d love to start a discussion!

In Praise of Mistakes: Confessions of Recovering Perfectionist

by Monica Shaughnessy

pink-eraser-174736-mAs my daughter flipped through my sketch book the other day, she chided me for having so many “mess-ups.” “I’m not putting any scratchy doodles in my book,” she said. “I’m only putting in the stuff that’s perfect. The stuff you could frame.” I got all Yoda on her, and (gently) told her that it’s okay to make mistakes every now and then, because if you don’t, how will you ever arrive at the perfect stuff?

As a recovering perfectionist, that was an extremely hard thing for me to say, much less believe. But it’s advice that holds true for just about everyone but surgeons, nuclear engineers, and brake repairmen. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that anyone undertaking a creative endeavor, be it painting, composing music, or writing a book, should make mistakes. If you don’t, you’re not leaving the door open to true genius. But creative wisdom comes from knowing when your crazy, messy projects are ready for public consumptions and when they should be locked away.

During my years as a writer, I’ve seen two extremes: people who rush to show the world something that’s not ready and people who hang on to their projects for way too long. Usually, the dabblers and the hobbyists can’t wait to show everyone what they’ve done. (Look! Look! I just wrote a book on how to dye Easter eggs with onion skins and antifreeze! It’s three pages long and only $5.99!) One cursory glance at Smashwords* will tell you that. But the writers who are in it for the long-haul are the ones that tend to wait for perfection. Why? Because they care about the words and the story more than the fleeting thrill of the upload or submission. Yet perfectionism is counterproductive to growth.

I have a book in my published collection (I won’t tell you which one), that I rewrote for FIVE years. I added characters. I took them out. I revised the plot at least three times. I upped the age of the protagonist. I lowered it. Everyone I asked had an opinion, and they all got incorporated into my story. It never got published. Finally, I called B.S. on everything, got a clear vision of how the story should really go, and rewrote the darn thing one. last. time. I learned and re-learned on that manuscript. But it was only when I stopped intellectualizing the story and approached it with a gut feel that I arrived at that confident conclusion: I’m done. Had I not finished it–and I mean really finished it–I might still be stuck in neutral, chasing that unattainable goal of perfection.

If, like me, you struggle occasionally with perfectionism, here’s a checklist for how to know when to stop working on your project:

1. Each successive round of feedback doesn’t make your project better, it just makes it different.

2. Your peers are absolutely sick of this particular story/song/work of art and can no longer tell you what to change. (hint: because nothing needs to change)

3. When you look at your work, your gut reaction is pride or, at a minimum, a sense of completion. (I didn’t say your intellectual reaction)

4. Your mind has begun to drift to other things you could be working on because your subconscious has already worked out all the issues it could on your current WIP.

You’ll notice I didn’t say that your work is ready to sell or display. Because at the end of the creative process, you may still have something that’s altogether “messy” and unacceptable. And you may need to set it aside and work on something else. But understand that your effort was not wasted. The next project you undertake will be with a better sense of what works and what doesn’t, of which skills and competencies you possess and which ones you don’t. That’s growth.

Now go out there and make a huge mess of things. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

*I love Smashwords, okay? I think it’s a great platform and its publishing tools are superior, in many ways, to Amazon. And scads of serious writers use them as a sales outlet. But have you seen some of the stuff for sale on that site? I mean, come on.

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Your turn. Are you a perfectionist? Do you have any trusted methods for figuring out when to stop working on a project? Do you go with your head? Or your gut?