Ungrateful God – Launch Day!

I’m really excited to share my latest book, Ungrateful God, with our Fictorians readers! AND I lucked out. March’s Fictorians theme is friendships in fiction, and the timing couldn’t have been better. When I set out to write a sequel to Unwilling Souls, one of my specific goals for the book was to have Ses Lucani, fresh from both stinging betrayal and soaring triumph at the end of the first book, assemble a ragtag band to help her stand against the entrenched cults of the imprisoned gods and their continued attempts to free their masters.

I felt this was an important step for Ses. Seemingly abandoned by her parents as an infant and mostly ignored by her guardian, she’s spent most of her youth a loner, never able to get close to others lest they discover either the truth about her parentage or the deformity of her mismatched eyes. Forced to flee her home and then to accept help wherever she can find it, she finds herself beginning to trust only to be utterly betrayed. As such, the start of Ungrateful God finds her understandably wary about ever trusting too much again.

After Ses finds herself alone in a city built into the husk of an immense crab where no one can remember what happens at night, she’ll discover that when the stakes are high enough, you can’t choose your friends any more than you can your family. Whether they be the secretive offspring of hellship pilots, a proven liar, or an actual demon-servant of one of the gods, fate (or me, rather) could not have handed her a group more perfectly attuned to her well-earned paranoia.

Fictional friendships that begin in conflict are often the most entertaining to read. I’ve only scratched the surface of this group’s potential. And much to Ses’s dismay, I will make no promises for their trustworthiness…

You can find Ungrateful God at the links below beginning TODAY, Friday the 24th of March.

ALSO, in celebration of the new book, Unwilling Souls will be on sale for just $0.99. How long will the sale last? Through launch day, certainly. After that, who knows? So don’t delay on the chance to get two great books for less than $6.00!

Amazon (Kindle) or Amazon (Paperback) separate links until Amazon links them up

Kobo

iBooks

Nook

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleheadshotRocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Crit Groups Suck I mean Rock

It was my turn. I passed out my thirty pages to the group to take home and love. I knew they would. They’d come back the next week and beg for more. The prose. The story. The insight. They’d share with their friends. The leader of the crit group (a group I paid $200 a month to be a part of) had been published—four times. She’d probably kick my submission over to her agent. I’d have publishers beating down my door, demanding I quit my day job and finish the book.

The next week I waited nervously as we went through the opening formalities. Then they pulled out their redlined thirty pages and looked at me. Not with eyes of amazement or envy, but…pity? Confusion?

“Well,” said the four-time published author, “where do I start?”

I learned a lot in the next twenty minutes. It was like prancing around the high school cafeteria, butt naked.

They wanted to know what happened to the peanuts. See, my character went on a road trip with his dad. He stopped in the gas station and bought peanuts. I never mentioned them again. They wanted to know what happened. The group leader suggested if I put it on the table, that I use it.

I sucked at POV. I hadn’t written a story but wrote about the scenes I would have watched on television, shifting camera angles back and forth. Good for television, bad for storytelling. This was the first time I learned about the concept known as Point of View.

“But beautiful imagery in the fire scene.” That coming from the four-time published author. I didn’t know what imagery was. But I had written something that I had experienced, building a campfire.

After the experience, my pride more than bruised, more like destroyed, and surprisingly with no agent deals, I about gave up writing.

Fast forward 10 years. Tonight, I just got off the phone with a phenomenal crit group. We submit1000 words each week and critique them. We probably overanalyze things, discuss word variations, plot structure, character development. The benefit of this group, hasn’t been the critiques, the multiple eyes and perceptions that catch inconsistencies or typos (like mine tonight where I wrote “her waste” instead of “her waist”).

No the greatest gift of this crit group has not been so apparent. In reading other writings as a fellow critiquer, I have to ask myself a number of questions: Why does this work or not work? Why did I misread this? What do they mean here? Why did they take it that direction? Why did they use that word? How might I have said that? Why do I love this character? Why do I enjoy this character? What made that piece great? And on and on and on.

Then, while asking the questions, developing a response that is constructive and then sharing that response with the author has helped me better understand my own writing weaknesses.

Robert Heinlein said, “When one teaches, two learn.” This my friends, is why you need a crit group. Because when all six of us teach, all six of us learn and we are getting better, I am getting better.

Here are some things crit groups have taught me.

  1. How you mention something in a story can add great significance to that something…like peanuts.
  2. If you put something on the table, use it.
  3. Good writers are not born. Everyone sucks as some stage in their writing career. If you want to be a good writer, persistence will help.
  4. DON’T PAY FOR CRIT GROUPS – even if they are a four-time published author.
  5. If you don’t like your crit group, find another. There are plenty. Maybe join two.
  6. If you’re the smartest guy in your crit group, maybe join a second (don’t necessarily quit your first because Robert Heinlein had a good point.
  7. Make the time to submit, attend, and offer feedback in your crit groups.
  8. Be consistent.
  9. Writing prompts, given by someone in the crit group is a waste of time. I’ve got plenty of ideas and too little time.
  10. Join a group that writes the same genre as you. It’s hard to get feedback on legal thrillers if everyone else is a fantasy guy.
  11. Be appreciative. They’re helping you and maybe you’re helping them.
  12. Take all feedback. If it helps, great. If not, throw it away quietly.

Three’s Company, But Six is a Crowd

Writing critique groups are like blogs. They both tend to start with vows of seriousness and dedication. They launch with vigor and excitement, but eventually slow and become work. Life gets complicated (as it always does) and priorities change. First one deadline is missed. Then two. Then all of them. Most often, people in the group wander away, and unless there is a constant flow of new blood, the collective falls apart. Though plentiful, most fail within a year.

However, decay and disbandment are not inevitable, just common. I’ve contributed to half a dozen blogs or critique groups over the years. Only two have continued to this day. First is the Fictorians. Second is my current critique group, which has been going strong for over two years and has helped us all grow as authors. So, what makes these two groups successful, whereas the others failed?

The key factor, I think, is ensuring the group is the right size for what it is trying to accomplish. Groups that are too small may fail to meet their goals because the work overwhelms the members. There are simply not enough people to carry the load. Another common pitfall that I’ve observed is the tendency of small groups to synchronize into a group think. There needs to be enough diversity of thought and experience to keep things interesting and productive. So why then not take a “the more, the merrier” approach? Wouldn’t a group open to the public be preferable?

Frankly not, in my experience. It’s a matter of the time and reliability of the individuals involved. Nobody’s time is infinite, so any meeting that is too large must inevitably splinter into smaller groups to allow for practical critique. Secondly, large groups inherently diffuse personal responsibility. Why, after all, does any one member need to meet their writing goals for the week or read the other members’ submissions? Surely someone else will do it. Finally, the larger the group, the more likely there will be conflicts of personality that sour the tone of the meetings. Writers put ourselves on display in our fiction. We must trust those we turn to for critique or we will not be open to their help.

Take as an example my first two critique groups. With seven and eight members respectively, reading everyone else’s submissions became a chore and seriously impinged on my writing time. The critique we offered was often superficial and therefore not terribly useful. The second major problem that killed these groups was that we were never able to meet face to face. We tried to use a private forum to bridge the gap, but that medium destroyed accountability and it wasn’t long before people stopped posting.

My current critique group calls ourselves “the League” and consists of three members. Though we may seem too small, our size makes us flexible and familiar. Though we live in different cities, we meet face to face each week via video conferencing. When one of us has something come up on the normal meeting date, we can usually find an alternative time. This maintains accountability, which has been my only reason for making keyboard time some weeks. Because we are friends, we trust and value one another. We understand each other well enough to know what our fellow authors are thinking and can therefore offer deep, constructive criticism. Furthermore, we are comfortable enough with one another to engage in productive conflict, pushing each other to be better.

Also key to the success of the League is that we have been able to adapt the group to our changing needs. We started by performing weekly writing challenges. At that point, we three needed something to get us writing consistently, and it worked. For a time. After a few months, we all grew bored and frustrated, yearning to get to actual fiction. We three are novelists at heart, after all, and 1,000 word challenges weren’t promoting our goals of becoming published authors. So one meeting we discussed the problem and decided to change our focus to be prewriting new books in tandem.

For a while, this vein worked for us. However, we eventually found ourselves bogged down and struggling with making consistent progress. Another discussion led us to take David Farland’s Story Puzzle class as a trio. The class was fantastic, but even better because we took it together.

We all received extremely positive feedback from Dave on our assignments. NOT because we were particularly brilliant, but rather because we discussed his lessons and workshopped the exercises before sending them to him. I firmly believe that we three got more out of the class because we took it with friends.

My critique group has found a size and a strategy that works for us. Though every writing journey is unique, none of us is in it alone. I would highly encourage any aspiring author to find a group of like minds to help them take their craft to the next level. Like writing itself, critique groups require dedication, time, trust, and most of all the ability to grow and change.

Cultivating Friendships Through Congeniality, Luck, and Coercion (If Necessary)

(Guest post by Alex P Berg)

Writing is kind of a lonely business. For those of us who are lucky enough to write full time, existence mostly consists of sitting in front of a keyboard, tapping away while sipping on caffeinated brews and drowning out whatever’s going on behind us with a pair of cheap headphones. While we may know oodles of people, most of them tend to be of the imaginary variety, and we can’t really call almost any of them friends. Not after what we’ve put them through.

I think this is one of the reasons depression tends to run high among authors. We isolate ourselves, keep everything bottled up inside until it eventually flows out through our brains and fingers and onto the page. This is one of the reasons having friendships is so important, to be able to share experiences and trials and tribulations with others, to give empathy and to receive sympathy—and for the record, only friendships with living, breathing individuals count.

But I’m a writer, you say. I burn when sunlight touches me, I prefer to cuddle with things made out of paper, and I’d rather hide in a closet than engage people in conversation. How do I cultivate productive friendships?

It’s difficult, to be sure. But one thing that helps is to engage with other writers. They’re not quite as scary as real people. You can find them in local writer’s groups, or if you’re feeling frisky, head to a writing conference. That’s how I met a number of the fine folks in the Fictorians, and through the magic of the internet, we can still communicate after the conference is but a distant memory.

Which brings me to point number two. Social media is a great way to cultivate friendships, and without getting within touching or sneezing range of people. Perfect! And while you might think that you need to leave the safety of your writing hovel to make those friends in the first place, au contraire! Sometimes a friend introduces you to another online friend. Sometimes an individual approaches you on social media out of the blue. If you’re congenial and chatty, sometimes those acquaintances turn into friends. I’ve made several that way who I’ve yet to meet in real life.

So friendships can be good for mental and emotional health, but let’s not forget that those same friendships can be lucrative, too. Those friends I’ve met at conferences and online have over time approached me about taking part in book bundles, boxed sets, book launch parties, blog tours, and more, and I’ve learned countless useful tidbits of information from them about everything from writing craft to marketing to web design.

Just remember that for any friendship to work, the benefit can’t be one sided. You have to give as good as you get, Not necessarily in terms of knowledge or financial opportunity but in terms of overall human value. Nobody likes a grouch! So be personable, be honest, be outgoing, be funny. Offer people help when you can, and when they offer it in return, thank them—a shocking concept, I know. But mostly, be friendly, and with luck, you’ll cultivate some great friendships that can help you both with your career and your daily life.

And if that fails, spy on them and blackmail them into doing your bidding.

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Bio: Alex P. Berg is a fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery writer, a nuclear engineer, and a heavy metal enthusiast. His best-selling Daggers & Steele series combines snappy homicide cops and snarky humor with mystery, intrigue, and a healthy dose of the supernatural. Connect with him at www.alexpberg.com.