Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold and Three Questions about Writing “Penric’s Fox”

Exciting August news, all! Lois McMaster Bujold came out with a new Penric novella on August 8, 2017! Hang onto your time-travelling imagination caps: “Penric’s Fox” is actually book three, following “Penric and the Shaman” by about nine months, and before “Penric’s Mission” (NB: as of 2017 08 08. Your mileage and chronometer may vary).

"Penric's Fox" title cover with a castle, a fox and a ghostly young woman in elegant medieval robes.

“Penric’s Fox” follows further adventures of Learned Penric, court sorceror for the princess-archdivine. It’s about 37,400 words, so if you read “Penric’s Demon” and “Penric and the Shaman” as well, you’ll have a good chunk of fantasy to enjoy this weekend! Follow it up with the older Penric in “Penric’s Mission” and “Mira’s Last Dance”. (Image courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

“Whaaa?” Not to worry — all the stories can stand on their own, and who is going to quibble when we have the chance to see Penric in action again?

So, go. Make a liter of  something seasonal and delicious, find your favorite reading pillow, and download the book. When you’re done, come back here and see what Lois has to say about the process of writing things.

EMD: I suppose the first question is why did you write a follow-up to “Penric and the Shaman” (the second Penric novella) and not a follow-up to “Mira’s Last Dance”? I mean, I’m grateful for whatever you’ve got, but it is a question that comes up.

LMB: This was the story that wanted to be written first. I am considering a follow-up to “Mira”, yes, but those ideas were not ripe at the beginning of this year (2017), and then the key idea that this story was awaiting suddenly slotted in, so.

The delay proved to be, as is often the case, good for the other set of ideas as well, as a few more have joined that collection since January that I could not have foreseen. For me, a story in the process of assembling itself is like a box of loose objects rattling around aimlessly, till some connecting idea drops in and things suddenly get interesting. (Note that some of those pieces may also prove to be wrong ones, like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together. Sorting those out can also take some time.) Trust me, stories only look inevitable in retrospect.

Some of the ideas for “Penric’s Fox” had been kicking around ever since I was developing backstory prior to starting what became “Penric’s Mission”, but they weren’t necessarily stories yet. The seven years I jumped over to get to Penric at age 30 were full of experiences that were important to him but not necessarily story-like, though I needed to know roughly what they were before I could write him at that later stage. It was basically the same sort of task as developing any new character’s backstory before starting them off on a tale for the first time, even though the reader will never see most of it.

I should also note that one of the developments in the tale came from watching the family of foxes that denned under my garden shed earlier this year, not something I could have anticipated. There’s nothing like Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Marketing

publish_buttonYou’ve studied craft, developed a working relationship with your muses, written the book of your heart, and clicked Publish!  Congratulations, you’re a self-published author.

Now what?

Will readers flock out and buy your book, love it, and tell all their friends?  Probably not, unless you’ve spent a little time and effort on the marketing side of things.  As self-published author Molly Jameson confirmed during our recent interview with her, you don’t just hit “Publish” and experience phenomenal sales; promotion is a much more realistic way to sell a book.

At the most basic level, effective promotion means connecting with readers and cultivating an interest in what you’ve written / are writing, as well as maintaining that connection.

Great.  So how do you do that? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Platforms

publish_buttonKids are heading back to school, the leaves are starting to turn, and the local craft store has their shelves stocked for Christmas – obviously summer is drawing to a close.  Guess that means it’s time to put away those vacation pictures and get back to our discussion of self-publishing.

We’ve already talked about designing a cover, defining taglines and concepts, and the importance of editing.  We also got some good firsthand self-publishing knowledge over the past few weeks from Molly Jameson and author/editor Nan Reinhart.  Now it’s time to turn our attention to how to choose the appropriate self-publishing platform.

What is a self-publishing platform? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Author Interview

publish_buttonWe’ve been talking about self-publishing for the past several Wednesdays.  Today, we’re going to take a break from the nuts & bolts of the process and talk with someone who has some actual self-publishing experience.

Let’s give a big Eight Ladies Writing welcome to Molly Jameson.

                                    * * *

8LW:  You’ve currently got three books out in your Royal Romances series, what made you chose to self-publish them?

MJ:  Easy answer (though not a short answer because, as my university professors can attest, I can’t say “yes” or “no” in 100 words), agents kept refusing my first novel.  Harlequin kindly considered the entire manuscript, but said I would need to add “an explosive climactic sex scene” to make it saleable.  I took that to mean that my characters would go for coffee, the building would spontaneously explode, and they would somehow be inspired to hook up in the debris. No thanks.

Fortunately, a clever friend of mine had some success in self-publishing and convinced me that all the cool kids were doing it.

8LW:  How great that you had a friend with some experience.  So what was the best part of the whole self-publishing process, besides actually getting that first book out there? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Editing

publish_buttonSo far in our Self-Publishing series we’ve talked about the Benefits of Self-Publishing,  Book Covers  (the first and oftentimes only chance for a book to make an impression on a potential reader) and Taglines, Loglines and Concepts (those tantalizing bits that hint at what your story is all about).

Spending all that effort with an eye toward attracting readers will be for naught, however, if those readers give up on your book a few pages in due to grammatical errors, inconsistencies, uneven voice and the like.

Which brings us to today’s topic:  Editing. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Covers

publish_buttonLast Wednesday we kicked off our self-publishing series with an introduction, followed by Michaeline’s wonderful interview on Saturday with Lois McMaster-Bujold.

There are many things to consider when thinking about self-publishing.  Since the comments of Saturday’s post included a discussion of the importance of book covers, I thought that would be a good topic for us to address this week.

Books are often judged by their covers.  In many cases, the cover can be the first (and possibly only) chance for a book to make an impression on a potential reader.  For an interesting discussion about designing covers, check out Chip Kidd’s TED talk “Designing books is no laughing matter.  Ok, it is.”

“A cover is a book’s advertising – it functions to tell the prospective reader something about what is inside, with respect to both content and its place within the greater population of books.” ~ Theophania Elliott

A good cover evokes a response in the viewer – an emotional hit.  It draws the reader in and embodies the book, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s a big job for something that someone may only glance at for a second or two.


A strong cover is all about marketing; its job is to attract an audience.  Your audience.

So, how do you know what will attract your audience? Continue reading

Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three Questions about Self-Publishing

the author Lois McMaster Bujold signing at a glass table

Lois McMaster Bujold (Image courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

Today, we welcome to the blog Lois McMaster Bujold, whose new e-novella, “Penric and the Shaman” came out yesterday, June 24, 2016. (Her GoodReads blog announcement is here: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/13524143-penric-and-the-shaman-e-launches-today.) She’s a science fiction and fantasy legend who has won multiple Nebula, Locus and Hugo awards and written some of the best books in the universe. Thank you for agreeing to answer three questions about self-publishing for our blog. I sure hope I chose the right three questions!

MD: You have a long history of publishing. You were writing and assembling a fanzine with friends back in the 60s, you wrote short stories that were published in established magazines like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, then your novels were published by the well-known SF publisher, Baen Books, and two of your fantasy series were published by HarperCollins’ Eos Books (now rebranded as HarperVoyager)—(HarperCollins is one of the Big Five publishing houses). So, in some respects, you are returning to your roots with self-publishing the novellas, “Penric’s Demon” (July 6, 2015) and now “Penric and the Shaman”. Why? Continue reading