Best of Kindle Unlimited: Meg Elison

While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Meg Elison is one author offering her work through Kindle Unlimited and winning the game.  

Elison is an essayist whose debut novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a Philip K. Dick award winner.  In terms of quality, it’s hard to aspire for more within the science fiction genre.  Her stories are griping, emotional, and intellectual.  I love the questions her works pose and the journey her stories take me on.  Her presence on Kindle Unlimited helps to elevate the whole platform.  

Take Aways from Meg Elison’s Success:

1.  The female perspective and discussion of traditionally female centered issues have an audience.  While I’d argue “women’s’ issues” ARE human issues and everyone should listen and discuss them as they affect every man and woman, Elison does a beautiful job portraying that point within her fictional world.  She posits what would happen if women and children were rare commodities.  She explores several manners of extremism and different responses.

2.  LGTQ+ or GRSM (gender, romantic, and sexual minorities) as I prefer to group (it’s more inclusive and less letters to get there) and other controversial issues can be highly palatable and enjoyable in fiction.  Elison uses a fictional vehicle to explore core issues of identity and expression.  Self expression isn’t a minority issue, it’s a human one and this kind of exploration is compelling to a larger reading audience than a writer may assume.

3.  Don’t flinch from controversial subjects period.  Elison’s politics are all over her books and the view point creates a more interesting compelling narrative (even when one doesn’t agree with her take).  Perhaps the controversy even helps selling books?  I don’t know if Elison succeeds in spite of or because of the controversy in her books, but I know writers can take her success as a sign they don’t have to self censor to find a market.  We should write fearlessly and explore any theme we find compelling without angst.

4.  Play with different lengths and styles of writing.  Elison has a background as an essayist, if she’d stuck to that format she wouldn’t have an award-winning novel and a widely read series.  And who knows how much her essayist background helped form her style/craft to where she could pull together a thoughtful, griping, and lean manuscript.

5. Whatever you write and whatever your goals are, pursue them with a single minded passion.  When reading Elison’s book, it’s clear she cares about all the subjects she introduces to her manuscripts.  She’s invested in her writing and making her point and readers can see that level of commitment and will respond  

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. BartolSara C. Roethle,  T. A. White, or Charlie N. Holmberg.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Or consider 9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me)7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

Best of Kindle Unlimited: Charlie N. Holmberg

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet cover from Goodreads.com

While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Charlie N. Holmberg is one author offering her work through Kindle Unlimited and winning the game.  

I found Holmberg through Followed by Frost a take on the Ice Queen fairy tale that borrows elements of the original fairy tale while creating a new story.  Her lyric descriptive writing and the characters she explores through her writing drew me in.  

Later that year I read Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet and thought to myself “this style is a lot. it reminds me of Followed by Frost.”  Turns out Charlie N. Holmberg wrote both.  Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is my favorite of all of her works to date.  It takes the fun elements and themes in Followed by Frost and brings them to their largest showcase.  There are several fairy tale character references.  Marie explores some same territory Smitha did, though the characters approach the themes from two different personalities.  At the core of all the action is an emotional and ethically based.  

This year I’ve returned to Holmberg’s work and read Smoke and Summons and Myths and Mortals.  Her writing continues to grow and evolve in ways I appreciate.  These worlds hold the same completing characters but the live in a unique imaginary world that’s well thought out.  Holmberg fleshes out the world and magical system in a way that feels seemless and effortless to readers (though the writer in me knows how hard it is not to shove in an exposition dump).  Myth and Mortals ends with a cliff hanger I did not appreciate, but I enjoyed the whole so much, I’m looking forward to Siege and Sacrifice

Holmberg is a fantasy writer to keep an eye on and I’m not the only one who appreciates everything her stories offer.  Disney picked up the rights to Paper Magicians.

Unlike other pics for my Kindle Unlimited Series, Holmberg has her share of attention and some may ask why I highlight her.  Truly, I enjoy her work and perspective.  I see a lot of what I’d like to do in what she’s doing and I think our writing goals are similar.  It’s hard not to look at someone succeeding in a way I want to and not mention her.

Take Aways from Charlie N. Holmberg’s Success:

1.  Pretty and descriptive elements of a work can be a successful stylistic choice.  Often readers and writer discuss how today’s market is over-saturated and we need to jump into the action right away.  This suggests short prose that lack a singing quality, but Holmberg balances movement and description.  Write out the description for the first draft and look to the second draft to balance pacing.  The market doesn’t require brusque hops from action to action for success.

2.  Traditionally “feminine” characteristics and emotional story lines work in fantasy writing.  When readers/writers think “fantasy” genre we often think an epic scale battle and escapism.  Holmberg’s works create personal emotional investment and often lack an epic “world in peril” element.  The characters’ worlds are at risk, but the universe will be fine if these characters die or fail.  There’s a market for emotional small scale fantasy, there may even be a demand for it.

3.  Everything doesn’t have to be “sexy” or sexual in someway to create tension.  Something I love regarding Homberg’s works is the way she can build tension without ever resorting to sexual tension.  Yes some of her characters fall in love and face the traditional “do they love me back” dilemma but it’s never overblown.  The characters set this controversy aside when mortal peril intervenes.  They confront attraction when it keeps them from meeting their goals and they either embrace a relationship or move past rejection.  Relationships in her books feel real, organic, and warm, not an element existing to drag out the plot.

4.  Using fairy tale references in a work appears to either be popular or to help bolster a works attention or not hinder the work’s ability to reach a large audience.  As a writer who uses a lot of myth and legend in my writing, this encourages me.

5. Take your time and perfect your story.  Holmberg is very open regarding how many stories she queried before getting traction with “Paper Magicians.”  The first or second book you write might not be the one, if you publish traditionally.  For indie authors it’s more a message of “don’t be disappointed if your debut novel doesn’t break records.”  

6. Have a posse of like-minded writers to bounce ideas off of. Holmberg is part of a Deep Magic e-zine that looks to create “clean fantasy.”  Working together with other writers to keep your themes out in the public eye will help find like audience and also is a great service to other writers in the same genre.  If you’re an Alabaman local, might I suggest our North Alabama Writers’ Group Meeting?

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. BartolSara C. Roethle, or T. A. White.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Or consider 9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me)7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2018

2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read.  For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.

image from Goodreads.com

5. Traitorborn–  Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way.  My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective).  Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem.  It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times.  Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency.   For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

Image from Goodreads.com


4. Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written.  There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough.  Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters.  It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

image from Goodreads.com


3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”.  Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us.  I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list.  Still both books are wonderful.  Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.  

image from Goodreads.com


2. Card of Chaos–  Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore.  It begins with humor and ends in affection.  I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world.  Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language.  It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.

image from Goodreads.com


1. The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second.  I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things.  The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect  often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world.  Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment.  We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture.  Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful.  Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words.  I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta.  I knew Flora and have been her too.  Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her.  The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person.  Everyone will have a different time reading it.  But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.  


Happy New Year!  What were your five favorite reads of 2018?  Was your reading list similar?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What are your reading goals for 2019?   

Best of “Kindle Unlimited” T. A. White “Dragon Ridden Chronicles”



Cover from goodreads.com

 

I am always skeptical when I pick up a book.  There are too many deceiving summaries and too many bad books with high reviews.  To make matters worse, I’m someone who has to finish a book once it’s started.  Because there are so many unpleasant tropes in high fantasy, the books are often long and lack resolution.  I HAVE to see things to the end, so I avoid reading them, even though I like fantasy.  

Despite all my hesitation, Dragon Ridden drew me in and left me charmed.  The first book is a perfect story.  Tate is loud, sassy, and smart.  I love following her around.  Her best traits: intelligence and suspicion are also the traits that get her most in trouble.  She’s inquisitive, loyal, and never gives up.

The world T. A. White depicts is familiar but different.  In many aspects, it reminds me of a scifi/fantasy crossover like Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonriders of Pern.  Humans exist, but it divorces them from the history and geography of our world.  Also, there are other species we associate as “magical” that these works frame as science born.  Ancient lost technology and knowledge pepper the Dragon Ridden series and speaks to the inner seeker in all readers.

Can I gush “girl power” for a moment and just say how amazing it feels to read a strong female lead who doesn’t ooze femininity?  Tate is what I’d consider a “brawler” type character.  She lets her mouth run away with her and finds herself in fights.  Tate can’t take two steps without finding herself in some kind of trouble.  I love there is no moment where we have to hear about how Tate is “not ladylike” or where she’s “not like other women”.  The others tease her for what a trouble magnet she is, but that’s who she is not what her gender prescribes.

I love she never uses her “feminine wiles” to get information, sneak into places, or gain allies.  I love she never looks at a dive bar and thinks “I have to be careful cause I’m a girl and men are drunk and rape-y in there”.  I love she expects equal treatment from captains, kings, negotiating delegations, and barkeeps and they treat her the same as her male compatriots.  And all this happens without us ever enduring a scene about Tate being “unusual” for a woman “more level headed” or whatever that sets her apart and lets her be one of the guys.  T. A. White just writes her in as an equal and lets us enjoy that without feeling compelled to justify it.

To be fair, there are few other female characters surrounding Tate.  Their lack implies something “special” about Tate (at least in the human side other races have powerful female players).  But it’s so refreshing that no male character addresses how “improper” Tate is that I don’t care if other human women are more “traditional”.  The closest anyone comes to telling Tate to “fem it up” is when she’s going to formal events, they shove her in a dress.  Truthfully, I could do without the “women clothes are uncomfortable and restrictive” bit but when that’s the most bullshit your character gets for being a woman in what seems like a male dominated world, I’m in.  Aspiring writers, do you want to know what you do when you’re writing a female character in a man’s world?  Do this, don’t address it, act like her presence is normal and accepted.  Don’t make her some special snowflake we have to keep addressing in the narrative, just make everyone accept her without blinking.

Beyond world building and character building, the plot pacing in these stories is perfect.  There are not parts in any of these books I skimmed, looking to pull through to something interesting.  Everything T. A. White includes feels important to the narrative and engaging to the reader.  She often has multiple mysteries and sub plots going on in a single story and she adds red herrings along with peppering character development in across the books. I read during my breaks at work, and this series became difficult to read during those times because I wanted to sit in the break room and keep reading.  It was one of those books I’d take home and read instead of coming home and writing as I’d planned.  

Even better than perfect pacing, each book comes to a conclusive ending.  While I tore through the series, it is because I wanted more delightful writing.  I couldn’t get enough of what T. A. White was doing, not because I NEEDED to know the ending.  For the record, the third book in the Dragon Ridden Chronicles has such a conclusive ending, I had to go online to see if there are plans for a fourth book.  Amazing news: T. A. White plans to write a 4th book!  

Take Aways from T. A. White’s Success:

1. Women have a place in “high fantasy” and you do not have to make them special or otherwise justify their presence.  Let male and female characters exist as they are without an exposition dump. (this applies to any “minority” character in any genre) 

2. Sprinkle in world and character building across the series.  I need not know everything all at once.

3. Give characters nicknames if they are catchy and encapsulate an element of the character.  This is the one series where giving the same character multiple names didn’t confuse me, and it worked because we all call the character one name and that nickname is based on their attributes.

4. Mix fantasy and scifi elements together.  Tech and magic are not exclusive.  

5. Write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and an ending.  Be confident in your characters and larger world building.  People will read more because they like what you wrote not because you left them on a cliffhanger.

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. Bartol or Sara C. Roethle.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Or consider 9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me), 7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

September Call For Submissions Round Up

image from optnclipart.org by Firkin

 

We’re really getting into crunch time for horror, fantasy, and science fiction writers.  Calls for submissions are coming in by the dozens.  Hope you have game face on for these next two months.

 

September 14th

Thug Itch: 1,000-5,000 words horror, scifi, or speculative fiction centered around one of the listed scientific concepts (they will read five stories from each concept and choose one to be in the final anthology) pay is $5 for under 2,000 words and $10 for about 2,000 words

 

September 15th 

Corpus Press: 2,500-4,500 words Non-themed horror stories pays $.03 a word

18th Wall: 4,000-20,000 word on finding/interacting/discovering a lost book or lost books.  There is a TON of prompts, suggestions, extra information in the post go there for more.  It seems like such a cool idea to me  The pay structure is strange.

Dead Man Tome: 5,000-7,000 words theme is Bikers vs the undead pays a $10 token and 60% net earnings

Scifi Monkeys Seasons She’s an Elf: 2,000-7,000 words must have a female elf be the lead character all genres EXCEPT horror welcome there’s a % scale for pay

Zimmel House November Falls: 4,000-25,000 want a story that takes place in the fictional town called November Falls and they want the place to feel like a community, this is a romance publication but nowhere in the request does it demand a romance story no pay

Arsenika: under 1,000 words flash fiction or poetry all genres pays $30 for poems and $60 for flash

Gehenna &Hinnom: 250-3000 word or 3001-5000 looking for weird and cosmic fiction if fantasy must be dark.  $30 for short story $55 per longer story

September 19th 

Do Not Go Quietly Into The Night from Apex Publishing: up to 7,500 words stories about resistance and revolution set in scifi/fantasy setting pays $.06/word minimum $60

 

September 20th

Enchanted Conversations: Under the Hunter’s Moon: 700-2,000 words 1,500 words is ideal theme is spook, spellbinding, or creepy in a fairy tale, folktale, or mythic settings “Absolutely none of the following: Sci-fi, dystopian, erotica, high fantasy, excessive world building, time-travel, futuristic or space travel.”   pays $10

September 21st

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores: 1,000 words and up but short fiction is preferred.  Science fiction in all forms pays $.06/word

September 30th

Bumble off Plumb Anthology: 1,000-5,000 words on “something not quite right” all genres looking for weird, strange, stories with lots of twists. pays $.03/word

Not Just a Pretty Face bar Dead Light Publishing: 2,000-5,000 *female authors only* words about a female character who’s more than just a pretty face seems to be looking for a scheming or violent character flat rate $25

Grim Grit & Gasoline: put to 7,500 words it’s complicated but it appears like they are looking for fantasy/scifi/steampunk fiction that takes place in WWI with fairy tale elements interspersed sounds very cool pays $.01/word

Excession Press: 30,000-60,000 words  horror, science fiction, weird western, or dark fantasy they response time is 3-6 months pay $300 advance with 40% royalties afterward

Consequence:up to 5,000 words no genre and while they state they pay writers, I didn’t see prices listed for short stories, perhaps prose? $10?

Nashville Review: up to 8,000 words welcomes poems, fiction, and novel excerpts of all kinds pay is $25 per poem and $100 for everything else

 

October 1st

Red Room Press: 3,500-5,500 words the theme is American Psycho Serial Killers so looking for dark horror fiction about killers response time is 4-8 weeks and the pay is $100

Cherry Tree: didn’t see a word count?  Looking for literary fiction pay is $20