Tag Archives: Tales from Far Beyond North

“Degrees of Separation” up on Abyss and Apex

My short story “Degrees of Separation” was published on Abyss & Apex today. You can read it here:


It is one of the stories in my series “Tales from Far Beyond North” set in fictional Rolynka, Alaska. I’ve published three of the short stories so far for ebook: “The Leaving Sweater,” “In the Middle of Nowhere With Company” and “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife”:


Many words, a story sale, and then off to France!

The word production has been going quite well since I decided to do Nano again. Last week, I got 13,000 words written, and so far this week it’s another 5400. Doing word sprints has been helping a LOT (thank you, sprint pals!) No writing so far today, though — I’ve been packing and setting up my little netbook for the trip. Tomorrow I fly to Paris for the next Villa Diodati workshop. We won’t actually be in Paris, though. This is where we’ll be:

Three days and four night of writing talk and good food and critiquing great fiction (which I finally have to make a bit more progress on! I’ve been concentrating too much on word production lately.)

I also have some good news: I sold another short story the traditional way, with payment on publication, to the online zine Abyss and Apex. It’s another one of my Alaska stories in the Tales From Far Beyond North series, “Degrees of Separation.”

Finally, I’m going to be giving away another book next week, Almost all the Way Home From the Stars, a collection of stories I wrote with the late great Jay Lake. So far this year it’s sold a handful of copies, so I pulled it from other venues and put it in KDP Select so that I would be able to at least push it with free runs. Although I published it over a year ago, it still doesn’t have any reviews. Of course, the people who pick up a book during free runs may not be my target audience (I’ve gotten a lot of negative reviews for short story collections that way), but with at most 1 sale a month, even some reviews complaining about the short stories being short would be an improvement. So mark your calendars for Nov. 17 – 21, and grab yourself a copy sometime next week!

Now we come to WIPpet Wednesday! Math is fast and dirty today: 12 sentences for the 12th of the month from Facets of Glass — plus 2 to end the scene. 🙂 The Evil Dowager Princess is planning some nasty stuff involving a glass apple:

The dowager princess lifted the apple of glass up from the table next to the raised chair where she sat and handed it down to the witch. “I was wondering if there were some enchantment you could give to this apple to create the illusion of illness in someone.”
Vanna turned the apple over in her hands. “Create the illusion of illness?” she repeated.
Zilia shrugged. “I am not the wielder of magic, so I do not know what is possible.”
She noticed the precise moment when the witch found the clever wormhole in the glass apple. Her hands stilled, and she gazed at the spot, her forehead creasing in lines of thought. The dowager princess was struck once again by how few wrinkles lined Vanna’s face, given her silver-white hair. It made it very difficult to guess her age.
Vanna looked up form her contemplation of the apple, and her eyes met those of the dowager princess. “I believe I could insert a spell in this apple through the wormhole that might, under the right circumstances, seduce a soul to leave its body and be one with the enchanted apple.”
Zilia found herself — totally against her inclination and training — wanting to clap her hands in glee at the witch’s suggestion.
If it worked, it would be perfect.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Happy Halloween — and a free Halloween story for the occasion!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

When I first came to Germany, many decades ago, there was no such thing as Halloween. All Hallows, the first of November, is a religious holiday here, and those with regular jobs get the day off. But the evening before All Hallows, the night when the door between the worlds of the living and the dead is open a bit wider than usual — that seems to have it’s roots in the Irish Celtic festival of Samhain. Immigrants brought Halloween to the US, where it eventually became the second biggest money-making holiday after Christmas.

Here in Germany, though, there isn’t much left of the Celts who once dominated most of northern Europe. Halloween is an import on the part of clever marketing folks who wanted to sell costumes left over from Fasching — otherwise known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. That is still the big dress up and get crazy party here in Germany, at least for adults. But in the last decade or so, Halloween has become a big event for the younger ones.

Halloween in Germany
My favorite witches

To celebrate witches and pumpkins and the cracked-open door between the living and the dead, I would like to offer you my Halloween short story, “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife” free through Nov. 3:

Misty Mankin hated Halloween. She hated ghosts and princesses and black and orange. Especially orange. She hated frozen pumpkin pie, the most common kind in Rolynka, Alaska. She hated witches and masks and what qualified as seasonal office parties near the Arctic Circle. She hated all the interruptions of her evening accompanied by screaming and giggling and variations from innocent to profane on the three words “trick or treat.”
She particularly hated the pumpkin knife — and the fact that it contained the ghost of her mother…

Halloween story

If you don’t have a copy yet, do please be my guest and grab one!

And enjoy all the ghosts and witches out there on the streets. 🙂

“The Leaving Sweater” finally free on Amazon!

After repeated attempts, my short story “The Leaving Sweater” is now finally free on Amazon!

The Leaving Sweater: Tales from far Beyond North

The description:

So you think magic isn’t necessary in order to leave? Think again …

Victoria Askew doesn’t want to leave remote Rolynka, Alaska when she finishes high school; it’s all she’s ever known. At least not until her mother knits her the most beautiful sweater she’s ever seen, a sweater imbued with magic — a leaving sweater…

Even if you’ve already read “The Leaving Sweater” on Strange Horizons, where it was originally published, do please download the ebook! I’m hoping that with a permafree story in the series “Tales From Far Beyond North” I might be able to sell a few more tales in the series, which in turn just might inspire to me to write more about the oddball community in Rolynka, Alaska near the Bering Strait, with its strange forms of everyday magic.

The stories were inspired by a combination of my mother’s background in Nome, Alaska, and my love of the brilliant TV series, Northern Exposure. So I guess the stories are a sort of fanfic, even if several of them have been published in professional publications already. 🙂

Trailer for Tales From Far Beyond North

And if you are so inclined, please tell your friends to download too!

A new book trailer, and a request for help in making books free

As I mentioned in my last post, I got my Aphra Behn time travel, Chameleon in a Mirror, off to my critique partner on Monday, so that’s a big chunk out of my to-do list. Now that CIAM’s off, I’ve returned to Island of Glass, and am trying to address a number of critique points in the rewrite.

On the marketing front, I’ve taken advantage of my Animoto subscription to make another book trailer, this time for my short story series, Tales From Far Beyond North:

Let me know what you think!

And, yes, several people have already told me I need to find different music. In my own defense, I was looking for something reminiscent of the old cult series Northern Exposure, which was my inspiration for these stories. For those who don’t know it, here’s a still with the intro music:

Anyway, fiddling with my Alaska stories reminded me that I have long wanted to enlist help in making The Leaving Sweater free on Amazon. It’s available on Strange Horizons (for free, of course), and I never meant to make money off the ebook version, but Amazon still hasn’t price-matched iTunes or Kobo. From what I’ve learned on the Kindle Boards and elsewhere, Amazon doesn’t care much about Kobo, but they will (maybe) respond to lower prices on the Apple bookstore.

So if anyone who reads this would be so kind, could you please go to The Leaving Sweater on Amazon, and click on the link “Tell us about a lower price” in the Product Details. A box will open, asking where you saw the lower price. Click on “Website” and enter the following URL from the iTunes store, with 0.00 for the price and shipping cost:


I’ve also been trying to make Never Ever After free on Amazon, so for anyone who would be inclined to do me an additional favor, here are the appropriate links:

Never Ever After on Amazon

Never Ever After on iTunes

Thanks in advance for your help! Hope everyone has a great rest of the week. 🙂

Book in a Week, or rather two (or more) — and finding the WOW

This is my attempt to recreate the blog post I lost a couple of days back, with updates and some tentative conclusions, a few more days into the experiment. And this time, I am not writing the original post directly in WordPress. 🙂 Luckily — since I wrote it Sunday evening, and while I was working on it, our Internet connection gave up the ghost!

After my Fast Draft fail a while back, I still hadn’t given up on finding a way to write faster more consistently. I once had a 5,000 word day, many years back. That was towards the end of Yseult. I’d been working on the novel off and on for years, but had finally committed to finishing it. I don’t want to give away too much plot-wise for those reading this who might not have read the novel, but it was a very emotion and action-packed scene, and in many ways it surprised me, not the least of which was the way it seemed to write itself.

When I transferred the text from my little Jornada to my desktop at the end of the day and did a word count, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Over 5,000 words. I’ve been chasing that elusive ideal writing day ever since.

I’ve had plenty of friends who are more prolific than I give me brilliant advice like “just write!” or “open a vein” or “how many words can you type in an hour?” None of that was very helpful. While I still have not recreated that 5,000 word day, I am mildly hopeful that April Kihlstrom’s “Book in a Week” class might show me the way to hit that benchmark again someday. (You can sign up for her list where she announces upcoming classes here.) And even though I hit a wall a couple of days ago, and I had two days of my old average of 500 words, followed by a day that was so full of life stuff that I didn’t get any writing done, I’ve managed to do over 9,000 words for the week on A Wasted Land.

I think the important thing about April’s class compared to others is her emphasis on fun and experimentation. Here a short excerpt from her lesson on THE WOW (one of my favorites):

I want you to look at these two writing weeks as a chance to discover amazing things about yourself and your writing and the world in which you go through your day. This is NOT just an exercise in trying to write quickly. It’s an exercise in discovering what happens when you step outside your comfort zone and try new things, take chances, risk making mistakes and try something wonderful and amazing.

I want you to look at the whole experience as a chance to play with all your assumptions about what you can and cannot do—and throw out the ones that no longer serve you.

I hope you rub your hands together with glee every time you sit down to look over a class lesson or an assignment and–from now on–every time you sit down to write.

April is amazingly supportive. Rather than telling participants, THERE ARE NO EXCUSES!, she tells us we’re doing great, and the main thing is to learn the way each one of us can be more productive.

After I hit the wall, where I realized I hadn’t done enough research in the brainstorming phase — mistakenly thinking I knew everything, since I’d already written two books in this world — I took a step back, and tried to figure out what I needed. I realized soon enough that I’d killed off too many characters in Shadow of Stone to be able to pull off the big picture background without some extra work. These books are set in the Dark Ages, which is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, I can’t just look things up in history books, but on the other, I have the freedom to pick and choose from legendary and semi-historical figures. But then there’s my own Ph.D.-trained-self getting in the way, who wants to come as close to sixth century reality as possible.

So I just have to go for the WOW. And for former professor, research-addicted me, the WOW just happens to do with all kinds of nifty potential connections between Dark Age figures that I could try to explain fictionally. Ok, as a result of my weakness, I stalled out for a couple of days, but Sunday, after a couple more hours of research, I hit the point where I could take off, and I wrote 1300 words.

I know 1300 words would make a lot of writers only go pphth!, but I’ve reached the point where I realize the only writer I should compare myself to is myself. Yes, I want to increase my daily word count, but the surest way for me to want to jump off a cliff is for me to compare my 500 words a day to someone else’s 10,000. So I will celebrate my 1300, play around with my plot and my characters, and continue to try and find a way to create more using the WOW factor — and my own perfectionist research tendencies. 🙂

Before I forget again, (which I have been doing all year now!) my story “The Shadow Artist” is available on Abyss & Apex. It’s another story in the Tales From Far Beyond North series.

Luck and skill to all!

Real life distractions and a bunch of unannounced freebies

I have a translation deadline for 10 am tomorrow, and seeing that I’m a night owl and that’s about the time I get up in the morning (one of the joys of being a freelancer), I had to finish tonight. It’s now off, and I can finally get around to an update.

Given the developments of the last few days, I really will be eating my words and keeping Shadow of Stone in KDP Select for another round. In the last three days, I’ve made nearly as much in borrows on SoS as I made on Yseult in all other venues in the last two months since I took it out of KDP Select. And that’s not counting the additional sales of Yseult in the last few days on Amazon.

While I understand the haters being against Amazon’s dominance of the market, this is a purely self-centered, marketing decision on my part, based on my own sales data.

At the same time, while it might possibly be more lucrative for me to put Yseult back into KDP Select, I won’t. From what I’ve heard and read, the other ebook markets out there need a lot longer to take off, but the reward is more staying power. I haven’t been in the alternate markets long enough to confirm that, but I think it’s worth it to stick around a bit longer to see if it will work.

Just for the fun, and to reward my blog readers, I set up a bunch of spontaneous freebies that I’m not going to announce anywhere else:

Free from March 4-6, The Future, Imperfect: Six Dystopian Short Stories

Free from March 6-7, Beyond the Waters of the World

Free from March 4-6, Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife

Free from March 5-6, In the Middle of Nowhere With Company

And please note my new ebook short story, “The Leaving Sweater,” which is free on Kobo but has yet to be price-matched on Amazon:

The Leaving Sweater

In other news, I finished this revision pass of Chameleon in a Mirror. Since my critique partner doesn’t have time to read it until April, I’d like to still do another fast read-through before I send it along.

Wow, what a week. I think I need a break. 🙂

Luck and skill to everyone!

A new round of goals for the new year

I have to admit, this year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions, not a one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have goals. I have plenty, and with a new Round of Words, it’s time to organize them a bit.

As usual, I’m not quite sure what I will be able to accomplish in the next 80 days, or even what will work for me going ahead, so my goals are sure to see some revising in the weeks to come. But one thing I have decided on, given my recent Fast Draft Fail — I’m returning to lower word count goals. And I am going to try to get my word count in first during my allocated writing time. Once I have my modest 500 words a day completed, then and only then will I allow myself to tackle my (horrendously) long list of business / publishing goals. (An alternate daily revision page count is still TBD.)

On to the specific goals and projects. Writing:

– Finish the novella version of “City of Glass” (Alternate history Venice / Murano with magic)

– Revise Chameleon in a Mirror and send it to my critique partner (in February!)

– Finish Ygerna

– If I suddenly transform into a writing machine and get all those projects finished, write another “Looking Through Lace” novella, rewrite my Rhodes novel, get back to Fragments of Legend and / or my alchemy novels, start brainstorming Kustennin’s story … (fat chance)

Writing business:

– Publish “The Leaving Sweater” (another story in Tales From Far Beyond North) and make it permafree

– Figure out a way to publish to the iTunes store (I don’t have a Mac that’s new enough to handle the software); upload my Mars story as a freebie; publish to Kindle and get them to price match so I’ll have a permafree story there

– Get Yseult up for Createspace so that those who want it will finally be able to buy hard copy (ditto Shadow of Stone)

– Edit web page and add links to my ebooks

– Make a book page for my blog

– Publish my “Story Hunger” collection

– Put together a collection (or two) of my stories co-written with Jay Lake

– Finish cover and publish my mini story collection “Oregon Elsewise”

Whew! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s clear I won’t be suffering from boredom any time soon. (I think I’ve said that before … I can’t remember the last time I was bored … )

Good luck to everyone on their goals in the new year!

Author spotlight with me on OWW, the usefulness of writing workshops, and another ebook up

In the last post, I forgot to mention (because I forgot about it in the first place *g*), that the October newsletter of the Online Writing Workshop did their spotlight with yours truly. You can read it here.

I was a member of OWW for many years, and I’m sure I learned at least as much in that workshop as I did at Clarion West. My most successful short stories (in terms of award nominations), Looking Through Lace and Mars: A Traveler’s Guide, both went though OWW. Although I have to admit, the Mars story got some very strange critiques, but I was expecting that, since it’s a very strange story. My favorite was the comment that the story flatly didn’t work, because there were no characters. 🙂 Bingo!

But one of the wonderful things about participating in a workshop is learning how to take critique, learning to distinguish when it’s meaningful for your own vision of the story, and when you can just shrug and say — okay, obviously not my target reader. (If you think everyone who critiques your story is not your target audience, you might want to think again …) Or on yet another level, when you see that the critiques indicate you have a specific problem, but you realize you need to tackle it in a completely different way than your critters suggest. Learning to analyze the effectiveness of plot, characterization, setting, and description when writing critiques of others’ works is also very educational. All these things are important tools for a writer’s toolbox, and I think participating in a peer workshop is one of the best ways to learn them. I know there are a lot of authorities out there who claim participating in workshops is a waste of time and can even be harmful, since it will lead writers away from their own original voice. But what if a writer’s original voice tends to include a lot of head-hopping in terms of pov, or doesn’t sufficiently ground the reader in the setting? I know that’s the way I wrote before I went to Clarion West or started participating in OWW, and I don’t know how I would have developed a voice anyone would have cared to read for more than a few pages without those workshops.

These days, the only workshop I participate in regularly is Villa Diodati, the face-to-face workshop I founded for writers in Europe, which only meets twice a year. So obviously I seem to be of the opinion that with time and experience, workshops become less important for a writer. Nonetheless, I think it’s silly for published writers to warn those less experienced than themselves of the dangers of workshops, without admitting that a writer can learn a lot from the feedback of other writers. Yes, if I had taken the critique seriously that Mars: A Traveler’s Guide needed some characters, I would have turned it into a completely average story about a stranded space tourist. But I wouldn’t have been skilled enough to write a Nebula-award nominated short story without everything I learned from workshops — and by that time, I also knew which advice to take and which advice to toss.

I wasn’t really intending to get into a long essay about the usefulness of workshops. Call it my homage to OWW. 🙂

Anyway, I didn’t get a lot of writing done this week, but I do have the first completed goal to cross off my to-do list for the last quarter of the year: I got my short story, “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife” uploaded to Amazon:

Once again, I wimped out on the description. This time, I just quoted the first paragraph of the story:

Misty Mankin hated Halloween. She hated ghosts and princesses and black and orange. Especially orange. She hated frozen pumpkin pie, the most common kind in Rolynka, Alaska. She hated witches and masks and what qualified as seasonal office parties near the Arctic Circle. She hated all the interruptions of her evening accompanied by screaming and giggling and variations from innocent to profane on the three words “trick or treat.”
She particularly hated the pumpkin knife — and the fact that it contained the ghost of her mother…

“Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife” is a short story of approximately 5,000 words (20 pages), a new installment in the series “Tales From Far Beyond North.”

Comments and suggestions welcome, as usual. Hope everyone had a great week!

Over 2,000 sales (and other self-pub news)

Sometime the end of last month, I passed the 2,000 sales mark for my ebooks. Even though I knew I was getting close, I don’t know exactly when I hit the second thousand, since I wasn’t adding up totals daily. It might be slow progress, but it’s still progress. It took me about five months to make the first thousand, and less than four months for the second thousand. While I am uploading new ebooks on a fairly regular basis, which of course helps with the increased sales, those four months also covered summer, notoriously bad for ebook sales (at least according to all the savvy folks on the Kindle Boards, who have way more experience than me). Even though I make a fair amount of money with the borrows, I don’t include that in the sales figures. (If anyone is curious, I’ll be happy to share some more specific numbers at some point.)

The other day, I also finally got the first short story in my Alaska series up (my Northern Exposure fanfic *g*):

This is the first time I’m publishing a short story individually rather than in a collection, so I will be quite curious to see how it goes — and how many negative reviews I get because it’s short. *g* If this works, my idea is to get at least one short in this world up a month, and once I have several published, start bundling them. For the collections I can then ask 2.99, so I can get the 70% royalties rather than only 35%. Once I have a couple of Alaska stories up, I also intend to make at least one of them permanently free, to hopefully generate some interest in the series.

When I wrote the book description, my creativity was waning, and I would be happy to hear any thoughts anyone might have:

Jordyn has brought the birds of sorrow with her to Rolynka, Alaska, where she hopes to start over after a tragic accident.

But in Rolynka, nothing is quite the way it seems, and the help of neighbors takes very strange forms.

“In the Middle of Nowhere with Company” is a short story of about 5000 words, or 20 pages. It is the first in the series “Tales From Far Beyond North.”

On the weekend, my daughter and I also worked on a new cover for the next story in the series, “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife”:

Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife

Thoughts? Reactions? Suggestions?

Wishing everyone a lovely October!