Video Saturday – #Diversity in #Writing and the Fear of Doing it Wrong, courtesy of the @YARebels

And the latest Video Saturday is something near and dear to my heart – Diversity. One of the biggest reasons authors say they don’t include diverse characters in so far as race, ethnicity, disability, lgbt status etc. is because they are afraid of getting it wrong. Although not perfect, this week’s video is a quick little pep talk urging folks to step up and go ahead and embrace diversity. It isn’t hard, and as people to whom creativity is the bread and butter of our work, this should be an integral part of our writing. After all, it is an integral part of the world, isn’t it?

Check out more from the YA Rebels at:

Guest Post: Tee Morris – Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

DEL-coverUnleaded: Fuel for Writers is pleased to host Tee Morris as our Guest Blogger for Monday, March 24th, 2014.  Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel will be released tomorrow!  Tee was kind enough to give us some great insight from his own painful lessons. Book tours always sound so glamorous and who doesn’t love attending conventions? Fun, camaraderie, and hey, this is my job!  Right? Tee has some pretty sober commentary on what it is really like, and some tips on other, less pricey, means of connecting. Stay tuned and check out the giveaways at the end. And because we couldn’t resist, we had to give you a taste of the book before his guest post.

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

Your Great Book Tour: It’s Gonna Cost You

We’re only in the third month of 2014 and I’m struggling to get back into a routine. This year is a not only a year of change, but of new books, new possibilities, and leaps of faith. Everyone around me is telling me to cut myself a break but the reality is, just like staying in shape, I have to keep at this.

Just in this month alone, my wife of infinite awesome and I release Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. Me. The Kiwi. Steampunk. The covers Ace created for the print and the audio are nothing short of beautiful. Then there is our appearance on James River Writers’ The Writing Show where we talk about being hybrid authors and how we get more estimated mileage out of our writing careers than some others. (See what I did there?) Then two days after that, Pip and I host a Master Class of Social Media for Writers.

All this is happening the week of Dawn’s Early Light’s release.

And did I mention that Pip and I launched a new business venture this month?

I need a nap.

2014 is a big step for me as a writer because I am dedicated to make this lifestyle a full-time one so I’m trying to take everything I have learned since 2002 when Morevi first rolled off the presses. One of the hardest lessons I learned over this decade-and-change of writing professionally is just how easy it is to find yourself in the red. Deep in the red. I’m not speaking of the red ink found in an editor’s pen, mind you, but the financial red of your bank account when it tells you in so many words that you—the professional author—are flat broke.

Between 2002 and 2004, I accrued over $30,000 of debt, and it took me just over five years to get myself out of that hole. An overwhelming majority of the debt was what I now look back on as a crazy gamble: book tours. I was, in those two years, averaging a convention appearance a month. This does not count the occasional bookstore and coffee shop signing. Some months, I stayed at home. Others, I had two cons back-to-back with one-night speaking events at libraries and colleges.

I am often reminded of just how tough it is to “give the people what they want” as tweets ask us when we would bring Eliza and Wellington to their neck of the woods. These tweets coming from the west (Washington), from the south (the Carolinas), and from points south AND west (Texas). We even have interest from across the Atlantic with WorldCon: London and EuroCon: Ireland.

But here’s the truth of it: Can we afford these trips? Right now, LonCon and Shamrokon are both uncertain.

With the hard financial lessons I’ve garnered over the years, I want to give new-and-upcoming authors and authors-to-be a realistic look at what taking Science Fiction and Fantasy on the road could cost you. The bills may vary based on who buys you lunch, how many visits you make to the bar (which for me is often), and how many rounds you feel like picking up at said bar. The costs for a book tour can quickly add up if you’re not paying attention.

The convention I’m using as the boilerplate is Philcon, Philadelphia’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, within driving distance of my home. Here is the breakdown of how much a weekend at Philcon costs:

    ▪       Gas: $38.00

    ▪       Tolls: $18.00

    ▪       Hotel: $273.70

    ▪       Food: $283.54

    ▪       Petty Cash: $60.00

    ▪       Grand Total: $673.24

Considering that Pip was with me, we ate in the hotel (with limited trips to the bar), and the hotel itself was reasonable. I’m sure we could have shaved off a few dollars here and there, but $600-700 for a con weekend within driving distance sounds about right. Factor in larger events (Balticon and Dragon*Con, for example) and you can easily tack on another $400-600 on that tab. Add in airfare ($225-500 per person) and now we’re doubling (or tripling) the amount.

Yes, I know—it’s a tax deduction, but that thinking contributed to serious financial trouble. While a book promotion is a deduction, I’m not getting all of it back. Only a piece of it.

I still believe that face time is extremely important to the author, especially those new to the market. However, it is more important to pay the bills, have a safety net in the bank, and make certain the roof you’re keeping over your head can be fixed at a moment’s notice.

Oh yeah, and writing. Writing is very important to the writer, last time I checked. And these appearances all have one thing in common: You’re not writing when you’re at a book signing.

With pop culture’s depiction of authors (see Murder She Wrote, any author character in a Stephen King adaptation), there is a common perception that this sort of marketing is the only option for promotion of your works. Since the advent of social media, authors have a variety of cost-effective ways and means to tour, all from the comforts of home.

Blogging. A blog tour, either organized by a third party or yourself, is when a series of blogs are networked and bloggers take turns providing content for one another’s sites. The topics can range from a casual topic that tickles the fancy to specific topics pertaining to a writer’s career. Blog tours can cover areas across your hometown, across the country, or even around the world, and in the end you find yourself with a healthy collection of evergreen content that can be used for your own blog.

Podcasting. Similar to a blog tour, a podcast tour can be arranged across different podcasts before and after a writer’s release. Your topics can range from a casual to specific with some discussion steering in or around your book. Podcasts can also be easily syndicated on your own blog and shared in your feed, introducing a new audience to your host podcasts after they have introduced yours to them.

Another promotional avenue that can be pursued through both blogging and podcasting is producing short stories set in your works’ universe. The content can be either created by yourself or other authors you invite into your world. Free short stories in either digital or audio formats are a fantastic way to introduce new readers to your worlds.

Social Media. Whether it is Facebook ads from your Page or running quality content from your Twitter, Instagram, a Google+ accounts, social media provides authors with a variety of channels not only with the ability to reach different audiences but to cast a wide net across the country and around the world. Promotions on these channels should not launch too early but can run throughout the month surrounding a major event or book release, ramping up the budget for dynamic social media ad space the closer a release or special event draws near. The content you push will not only be news pertinent to your own works but also other relevant links to your expertise. Aim for roughly three to five posts a week per platform, with that number doubling once we are two weeks out of the release date.

When it comes to promotion, whether it is a personal appearance or a podcast, authors must be economical. I look back on my schedule of 2002-2004 and understand why people described it as “aggressive” because a con a month was a gusty, rigorous, and risky move for a new author. I also shake my head because I could have — and should have — managed my finances with more scrutiny so I would have realized sooner rather than later the dangerous gamble I was taking…and losing. It was an education for me, a school of hard knocks that I would prefer not to attend again. Today, I pinch pennies, weigh the benefits, and make sound decisions. I have to use terms like ROI and USP. I have to stop being the artist and become a businessman. That is what this is, after all. The business of being a writer.

That doesn’t mean Pip and I won’t be at a con near you. You never know. A convention chair may be a huge fan of podcasting, or have a slight crush on Eliza Braun; and the numbers for Dawn’s Early Light might be enough for a committee to say “How about Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris? Do you think they are available?” And while we might not be able to come out to your part of the country (or the world), you could always brave the airports and come out to an event where we will be in attendance. Something I have noticed about the events we attend is an abundance of good times. So keep checking with us on my blog or Pip’s; and if fortune (or fandom) favors the steampunks, we might very well find ourselves announcing an update in our travel plans.

See you in the future? Anything’s possible.

Author Bio:Pip_Tee_byJRB

Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light. When Tee is not creating something on his Macintosh, he enjoys a good run, a good swim, and putting together new playlists to write by. His other hobbies include cigars and scotch, which he regards the same way as anime and graphic novels: “I don’t know everything about them, but I know what I like.” (And he likes Avo and Arturo Fuente for his smoke, Highland Park for his scotch!) He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

Dawn’s Early Light will be available at:




AND if you’ve stuck with us this long there is a GIVEAWAY:

These giveaways are open to both U.S. and Canadian readers. At the end of the tour, there will be three winners chosen from this one Rafflecopter.


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences


Just link to the code:


Photo by J.R. Blackwell

Last of the Geographic Descriptors for #Writers by Octoswan – Meadows and Mountains

Today is the last of the geographic descriptors from Carolyn/Octoswan. This Saturday – Meadows and Grasslands; Hills, Mountains, and Valleys. As always, you can check all of them out at her website here.

Geographic Descriptors TitleMeadows and Mountains

Writing Superstars


I recently had the great pleasure and fortune to attend the “Superstars Writing Seminar.” While many workshops teach various aspects of how to write and myriad issues involved in that craft, this one is unique. While the instructors are largely authors (and the majority of them New York Times bestsellers), this program focuses more on the business end of being a professional writer. While this can be touched on in different classes, this is the only one I am aware of that makes the business the main focus.

Among the instructors I listened to and learned from were: Kevin J Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Scott Boone, James Owen, David Farland (also known as David Wolverton), and Brandon Sanderson. If that array of names isn’t enough, there was Lisa Mangum, editor from Shadow Mountain, and Diana Gill of Harper-Voyager. There were other speakers, including special market research that broke down what length books are most profitable to write, and which prices work best to charge.

I’m not going to give specifics on what was said, that’s not what I’m writing this. I am going to say that it was a phenomenal amount of data to take in over three days. All the professionals there were friendly, approachable, took questions at the end of their presentations, and you could often find them after the day’s programming ended to ask more questions. I specifically want to praise Lisa Mangum here. After the third day was over, and the program technically finished, she spent a few hours (literally) in the hotel lobby, listening to the students pitch books or other projects, and giving feedback on how to strengthen the pitches. Where else could you get that kind of professional advice, and for free?

We didn’t just get a class about contracts, Eric Flint gave us each a copy of one of his actual contracts and walked us through the important sections, with pointers on what to look out for. James Owen and Brandon Sanderson told us how they got from where we are to where they are, best sellers and professional successes. James Owen was amazingly inspiring in his talk, and I’ll quote one of the things he said that resonated most strongly with me (and many others I heard discussing it): “Don’t give up what you want the most for what you want right now.” This came from a time in his own history when he was in a bad place and could have more or less sold out, or at least settled, and pressed on to his dream. It’s an amazing talk.

Kevin J Anderson is an amazingly successful writer of many series, both his own creations and other people’s. He shared tips for productivity, his philosophy for how to achieve success, and contributed on many other topics, as well as being one of the folks who run this program. He has learned a lot, and shares it with his students, of whom I am proud to be one.

While every speaker was impressive and informative (and entertaining), there’s more to this program than the classes. The students form a very tight community, helping each other out I have two examples that illustrate this point: the seminar is held in Colorado Springs, which is near both the Denver and Colorado Springs airports. The students among themselves banded together and arranged rides to the hotel from the airports. If you haven’t been to writing conferences before, you can take my word for it: that does not happen, especially with no direction from the people running the conference.

For my second point, while I was attending, by coincidence, I got three submission opportunities in my email. One was very specialized, and not in an area I tend to write, so I asked around during some breaks between presentations, and found several authors who loved the idea. I got to pass it along, which was gratifying on my part, but within an hour, I had several other people pass on opportunities to me, a few of which were things I am very interested in. The group has an active (closed) community on-line, and there’s a long record of them passing opportunities back and forth, supporting each other, and generally looking out for each other. For a beginning author, or even one with some success who isn’t up in the best-seller range yet, those kinds of things are invaluable.

I’ve been trying to find a way to sum all this up, and it finally came to me. I could go on about the opportunities this gives you, and that part is true. I could talk about how much I learned, and that’s certainly true. But if you want a little sound-bite, here’s what I think might motivate a lot of writers I know (and me, too): if you want to be one of the people up on the stage, instead of one of the many in the audience listening, you really need to go to this. That’s not an appeal to ego or vanity, but let’s face it, the people on stage at seminars, especially this one, make their living from writing. And that is something every writer I know, most definitely including me, wants.

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Geographic Descriptors for #Writers – Caves, Cliffs, and Rocks (#3 in the series) by Octoswan

When it comes to geographic descriptors from Carolyn/Octoswan, we’re still not done. This week – Caves, Cliffs, and Rocks. As always, you can check all of them out at her website here.

Geographic Descriptors TitleCaves Cliffs Rocks

Remembering Aaron Allston


Aaron Allston was a guy I’d kind of like to be, in a lot of ways. Our lives intersected several times, at first indirectly, and later, much more directly. He left an impact on me, personally, several different ways, and judging from the responses I’m seeing about his death, I’m far from the only one.

I started gaming when I was in high school, and got a lot more serious about it when I got to college. My sophomore year, I was introduced to a game called Champions, which let you make your own superheroes. I loved this concept, and have played the game off and on ever since. I also met some friends playing that game who I’m still writing and gaming with all these years (decades, even) later. Some of the best supplements for that game were written by a guy named Aaron Allston. His Ninja Hero sourcebook is a great tool for not only Champions Game Masters, but it’s a decent quick reference for martial arts, their styles and weapons, for any writer. It’s not in depth on anything, but if you want to see real quick the difference between Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu, it will give you some basic differences.

In addition to being a gamer, I’m a huge fan of Star Wars. When Timothy Zahn wrote his Thrawn trilogy, the expanded universe, stuff that’s outside the movies, started up (aside from some comic books). As the Star Wars novels kept coming, one series was not about the main characters like Luke, Han, Leia and company. It starred a minor character from the movies, Wedge Antilles, and built a new group of characters. These books, the X-Wing novels, were Michael Stackpoole and, later, Aaron Allston, who created Wraith Squadron, a group of fighter pilots/espionage agents. I really enjoyed those novels a lot, partially because they weren’t about Luke and the others, and let us see other bits of the Star Wars Universe.

Many years later, I started writing myself. I was initially sort of pushed into it by a friend. In fact, one of those friends I met playing Champions (thanks, Harry). Gradually, I started taking it more seriously. I went back to DragonCon, which I hadn’t done in many years, in part due to my interest in writing. There was a whole series of hour long seminars taught by Mike Stackpoole and Aaron Allston. They were on the best sellers’ list, they wrote stuff I liked, so of course I signed up to go. And I learned a lot.

I also very slightly got to know both of them. In addition to being good writers and knowledgeable teachers, they were good guys. I enjoyed talking with them. I helped Mr. Allston at one point when he got a bit turned around in all the habitrails that connect the various DragonCon hotels. Mr. Allston had health problems which, among other things, effected his eye sight. We walked together for a bit, and I had a very enjoyable conversation with him.

Last year, I didn’t get to take any of their classes, because I’d signed up for a lot of other things. But, I found Mr. Allston. I brought along my old, battered, copy of Ninja Hero, and got him to sign it. He eyed the book, and smiled, remarking both that he hadn’t seen that in quite a while, and that it was clearly “well-used and well-loved.” He really seemed pleased I had brought that to him.

That ended up being the last time I saw him. Earlier today as I write this, I learned that Mr. Allston died. Apparently, his health problems caught up with him. He suffered a massive heart attack while he was attending VisonCon in Springfield, Missouri. While 53 is far too young to die, especially in this day and age, I’m betting a lot of fantasy/sci fi writers would count that a good way to go.

Mr. Allston helped shape a game I loved, and later, a universe of books. I get most of my books from the library, as I read so many, but I still buy Star Wars novels, and have an overfull book case of them. I always enjoyed seeing his name on the cover, because I knew it would it would be a good story, with great action and humor, and because, even if just slightly, I knew him.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I have a few books to reread.

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