Tag Archives: Mary Pletsch

Book Launch: Fossil Lake

fossilDo you love the dark?

My latest short story release is in  Fossil Lake:  An Anthology of the Aberrant, out now from Daverana Press.  Mishipishu:  The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock is set in a place modeled after somewhere I know and love:  a summer camp I went to many times during my childhood.  It’s one of 37 stories and poems  in this anthology of the aberrant.

Penny has spent most of her summers at Camp Zaagaigan, a place that offers her refuge from the rest of her life, which seems to fall apart more every year–but next year she’ll be thirteen, and too old to come back.  Fearful that growing up is going to cost her everything she loves, she escapes into imagination, and she’s even got an imaginary friend to share her journey:  a fossilized creature she dredged up from the sediment at the bottom of Lake Mishipishu.  Mythology, though, is a double edged sword, and Penny may not be prepared for the consequences  if she follows her new friend too far into the lake.

Setting a story in a real-world place was a pleasure and a challenge.  On one hand, I didn’t need to spend a lot of time worldbuilding the setting:  I simply dredged my memories and had a full map of the camp, a ready-made stage on which to enact my story.  It was also very easy to add a lot of sensory description, because my memories are still very vivid:  the feeling of the sand on the beach, the smell of the campfire, the sound of the waves slapping against the dock.  On the other hand, the major change requested by my editor was to cut out some of the unnecessary description that wasn’t critical to understand the story.  I probably could have gone on for twice as long if I’d wanted to describe every aspect of the camp that I’d enjoyed as a kid; but bogging the story down in irrelevant details wasn’t doing it any favours.  The final version of Mishipishu is leaner, meaner, and ready to sink its fangs into you.

If you’d like to meet the lake monster of Camp Zaagaigan, and the other horrors that can be found in Fossil Lake, you can order your own copy of the ebook right here for only $2.99.

I loved going to summer camp each year.  But sometimes, what you love can be the death of you.


Networking: Friends with Benefits

In October during Marketing and Promotion month, we had a great post on networking by Kim May. There’s a lot of great advice here on how networking can help you reach and connect with your readers.

This month, I’d like to focus on how to network with industry professionals.

Few of us are lucky enough to have people in the entertainment industry – and yes, writing and publishing are part of the entertainment industry – as part of our circle of family and friends growing up, but it is possible.  Ironically, one of my friends-who-is-also-a-published-author started out as the roommate of another friend I met through my toy collecting hobby.  Looking back, I laugh at some of our earlier meetings when neither of us had any idea of the other’s interest in writing.

But let’s assume you don’t have a contact like that.  I didn’t for many years.  How do you meet people who are working where you would like to be someday?

You can read blogs, join newsgroups, “like” Facebook pages, and/or follow Twitter feeds.  The best part about these venues is that even if you live in an isolated rural area, and can’t afford to travel, as long as you have Internet access, you’ve got all you need.

First, reading blogs etc will give you a feel for what it’s like to work as a professional writer / in the entertainment industry.  You may find it’s not for you.  Or, when you reach that point yourself, you will have some idea of what to expect.  I’m eternally grateful for the advice from a writer, who is now also a friend, who put on her blog the importance of turning around correspondence for publishers as quickly as possible.  They’re people too, they’re on deadlines too, and keeping them waiting and wondering if they are going to hear from you or not is an undesirable situation.   As someone who used to submit things on the day they were due–and never before–I realized that holding on to my finished submission until the due date wasn’t doing me any favours.  And I would never have realized that without this advice.  It’s invaluable, and it’s free.

Comment when you have something useful to say.  Over time, people will recognize your name and, if applicable, your avatar.  Remember, though, that reputations can be bad as well as good – keep the drama off someone else’s site, or you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Conventions, seminars, launch parties and book signings are great in-person venues if you’re lucky enough to be able to travel or live near a city.  Authors and editors will give panels, readings, room parties, and book signings.  Attending panels and readings gives you conversation starters when you go to the parties and signings:  introduce yourself by name, then ask a question, comment on something, or give constructive feedback.  Don’t hog the person’s time – they’ll be meeting a lot of other people at the event.  At subsequent events, you can then re-introduce yourself (“we met at Ad Astra this past April”, “I came to your book signing last year in Toronto.”)  Faces become familiar very quickly.  And I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention Superstars Writing Seminars, where I received great advice from professional writers and also met a number of fellow newcomers just starting out in the field.  Look how far we’ve all come!

I’m very fortunate to have a friend who is a New York Times bestselling author–the person who first recommended Superstars to me, despite not being part of it herself.  It was her assurance that Superstars was worth the money and time that got me here today.  I’m not going to drop her name here, because the purpose of this post is not me showing off how special I am because of who I know.  I mention it to illustrate that unfortunately, the following paragraph contains advice that still needs to be shared:

Don’t expect professional authors to become your new best friends.  They’re busy people, on lots of deadlines.  They have private lives they aren’t going to share with people they’ve just met.  They are not going to drop everything to reply to you immediately, and they don’t owe you anything.  Be courteous, be respectful, be appreciative, and be professional.  These writers are active online and at conventions to connect with their audience and, if they are generous and have time, to share some insight on their profession.  You will not become friends with everyone you say hello to, and you will not stay friends (or even acquaintances) if your sole purpose of communicating is to “get stuff,” whether that “stuff” be attention, information, free swag, or “awesome inside sources”.   Treat industry professionals as people, not as means to your goals.

When you are at conventions, do attend public events (book signings, autograph sessions, panels, public room parties and launch parties).  Do not try to crash private functions (ie author-only parties), follow people into the restroom to strike up conversations, or loiter outside people’s hotel suites waiting to pounce on them.  As on the Internet, being loud, drunk, promiscuous, smelly, obnoxiously persistent or rude gives you the wrong reputation very quickly.  And remember that alcohol makes all sorts of things seem like A Good Idea At The Time.

As someone who rarely drinks alcohol in public I strongly recommend a glass of pop, soda or juice carried around a room party or nursed at a convention bar if you are a non-drinker or if you have reached your drinking limit.  People will think it is a drink (thereby saving yourself the need to constantly turn down offers of drinks) and you will both appear sociable and remain in control of how you are presenting yourself.  (I also note that if you are a non-drinker, after seven or eight Dr Peppers you will feel like bugs are crawling all over you, so go easy on the caffeine-as-alcohol-substitute.  Lessons from Ad Astra 2013–bad decisions made so you don’t have to!)

The best thing about networking is that it builds its own momentum.  Once you know one person, they will introduce you to other people.  Soon you’ll find yourself in contact with all kinds of people who are working in, or working towards, your chosen profession.

The Business of Promotion: When the Hero Comes Home 2

When-the-Hero-Comes-Home-2-coverDoing business requires a businessperson to give some attention to promotion.  If you’re a store, yes, you’ll get a few customers by hanging an open sign on your door – but not as many as you’ll get if you make sure to have an attractive display window, some enticing sales, an active social media presence and involvement in your local community.  If you’re a writer, yes, you may sell a few books by virtue of their presence on a bookstore shelf or convention table, but not as many as you’ll sell if you choose striking cover art, participate in convention panels, have an active social media presence, interact with your audience….

You’ve created something and brought it into the world.  You’re passionate and enthusiastic.  There are other people out there who are also passioniate and enthusiastic, about your subject.  All you need to do is let them know that your story exists.

Last month was Marketing and Promotion month here at The Fictorians.  The Fictorians and their guests contributed some excellent tips to let you know the best ways to spread the word and boost the signal:  you have a book for sale!

I have a book for sale.

Hook your readers’ attention.  Let them know, in a few short sentences, what your story (and, if applicable, the anthology it’s in) is about:

Everyone knows the archetype of the hero’s journey.  But do you know what happens after that journey ends?

When the Hero Comes Home 2 is a collection of short stories that begin where most stories end.  The hero who returns is different from the average guy who left–how does he readjust to his old life?   What advice does she give to the next generation of heroes?  What happens when the hero comes home in defeat?

Blood Runs Thicker is available in the ebook version of When the Hero Comes Home 2.  It’s the story of a young man named Jim and his personal hero, his best friend Al.  Against all odds, Al has been elevated to a decorated veteran of a galactic war, and Jim fears he barely recognizes his old friend.  He’s yet to learn that winning her medals has cost Al everything that ever mattered to her, and that a similar sacrifice looms on his own horizon as their destinies entangle.

Sometimes it’s fun to throw in a few “behind the scenes” details about writing the story.  Human interest bits are appealing and help whet readers’ curiosity:

The core idea for Blood Runs Thicker was inspired by a single line in a Blue Oyster Cult song:  Jim says some destinies should not be delivered.  I started thinking:  what is destiny?  Why should some of them not come to pass, and what happens when they do anyway?  Who is judging what “should” and “should not” be delivered?  From this line, I developed my main character–Jim, a shaman who works with tarot cards–and his best friend Al.  Jim’s cards foretell Al’s destiny:  to become a hero, at a terrible cost.  What Jim doesn’t recognize is that those cards predict the same fate for him.

If your audience is hooked, make it easy for them!  Make sure they know how and where to purchase:

You can get the ebook version of When the Hero Comes Home 2 here, on sale for a limited time, in either Kindle or Epub formats:


Or you can buy from Amazon:


So don’t just put that book on the shelf and hang the open sign on your door.  Make sure your product looks good, and most importantly, let people know it’s out there–and why they should care.

Horror Comes Creeping…

Dark_Bits_coverV3-208x300Happy Hallowe’en and Blessed Samhain!

Like many other people, I’ve read a few Stephen King novels, and watched a few scary movies, particularly around this time of year.  And yes, perhaps I have a greater appreciation for zombies than most of my co-workers.  And okay, I don’t flinch away from putting the darkness in dark fantasy, and I feel that no honest war story can fail to convey the horrors of warfare.

But I never considered myself a horror writer.

I knew, however, that even as a newly published author, I didn’t want to fall into a rut:  the same themes, the same settings, the same sorts of characters.  I decided that this year – the year after my first publication – I would challenge myself.  So in addition to the military science fiction that I love, I spread my wings and wrote some stories to submit to a few anthologies outside of that genre.

The first of those anthologies was Dark Bits by Apokrupha.  Dark Bits is an anthology of “52 + 1” flash fiction horror stories.  I thought that a word limit of less than 500 words was a good way to try a, er, “little” something new.

It turns out it took all weekend to craft those 500 words (from someone who can routinely crank out 2000 words/day), because flash fiction comes with its own inherit challenges:  you need to develop your character(s) and convey the story arc, beginning to end, in a very limited space.  My first draft was almost twice as long as it needed to be; my major editing challenge was to tighten the work into the word limit, making every word count.  The end result is a tiny taste of terror called The Long Haul.

The Long Haul is a story best described as “Emily Dickenson is a long-haul trucker.”  Hop into the cab of a cross-country delivery gone wrong, brush up on your poetry, and hold on tight.  The first few miles will be okay.  Just be aware, there’s a long…a very long…way to go.

You can order your own copy of Dark Bits here:  http://apokrupha.com/dark-bits/  Books are available in ebook, Kindle, paperback and hardcover formats.  There’s also a 2014 weekly planner which includes a flash fiction story for every week of the year!

Bolstered by the success of “The Long Haul,” when I found out an editor I know was accepting submissions to an anthology of horror stories, I tried my hand at a longer-length tale.  I’m pleased to announce that next year, you can find Mishipishu:  The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock in Fossil Lake:  An Anthology of the Aberrant, coming next year from Daverana Enterprises.  More gruesome details will be given closer to publication date…

If once is chance, and twice is coincidence, I’m not far away from “third is a pattern.”

I suppose that makes me a horror writer.  Among other things.