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Amy J. Murphy

Author of the Allies and Enemies series.

Category: indie publishing Page 1 of 3

Recap: DragonCon 2019

My “mid-list author” cosplay

Dragon Con 2019 has come and gone. This is the third year I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited as an “Attending Professional” to this intimate little gathering of over 80K humans. It’s likely the largest fandom gathering I’ll ever participate in. (I’ve been to a few world cons– but I can’t be sure what the average attendance is at one of those shindigs.)

This year, I was on four panels and a guest on the podcast, Technorama, Comedy4cast & Friends – LIVE!

Panels can be intimidating things, especially if you know the crowds is very likely there to see everyone else on the panel but you. (Especially, if one of your co-panelists is a big name when it comes to military sci-fi.) This was the case for me on the first “official” day of DragonCon for the “Media Military Sci-Fi Panel”. I did my best and hopefully added the valuable insights of an author that’s done not too shabbily in the genre regardless of my lack of actual military experience. No one threw things, at least. 🙂

The remaining panels went by in a blur. We talked about “Handwavium” and its impact on the story, saluted the recent 20th anniversary of Farscape and reflected on the Dragon Awards. The awards are a different creature than in the first 2 years that I was a finalist. For instance, there’s now a reception for the finalists and winners. (I’m bummed that I missed out on this. In 2016 and 2017, when I was a finalist, there was no reception. Or, at least, not one I was invited to.) The competition is steeper and now a larger proportion of my indie cohorts seem to know about it.

Where I once attended DragonCon as a “private citizen”, a large portion of my time was dedicated to hitting panels in the “Writing” track in an effort to absorb helpful insights from industry pros. Every chance encounter with another writer may be an important connection. You never know what may come from it. Plus, I just enjoy helping out other writers and hearing about their journey.

I’m definitely looking forward to DragonCon 2020.

Dragon Con 2019

Congrats to all the 2019 Dragon Award finalists! May the odds be ever in your favor.

If you’re going to Dragon Con in steamy Atlanta this year, please be sure to check out my panels. Be sure to say “hi”. Here’s the skinny on my schedule of appearances:

  • Military Sci-Fi Writers & Creators – Media Edition

Description: A roundtable of Military Science Fiction writers & artists–whether in tie-ins or independent worlds–discuss the genre, trends, real-world accuracy, & working within the complex worlds of Military Sci-Fi.

Time: Fri 05:30 pm Location: Chastain DE – Westin

(Tentative Panelists: David Weber, Van Allen Plexico, Marc Alan Edelheit, Amy J. Murphy, Chris Kennedy)

  • Handwavium: How Much Is Too Much?

Description: Handwavium or technobabble sounds great but doesn’t always mean anything in real-world terms. Our panelists discuss what goes into good & not-so-good handwavium.

Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt

(Tentative Panelists: Robert E. Hampson, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Quincy J Allen, Amy J. Murphy)

  • Farscape Anniversary Fan Panel

Description: Farscape was a monumental show for its weaving together of intricate stories, compelling characters, practical effects in puppetry, and strong visual storytelling. Come aboard Moya as we look back on 20 years of this fan favorite.

Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Chastain DE – Westin

(Tentative Panelists: Amy J. Murphy, Michael Falkner)

Description: This is a great way to see not one, but two podcasts do their shows live. We also adapt the shows to involve the audience in many of our favorite segments. They become an integral part of the fun.

Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: Galleria 6 – Hilton

(Tentative Panelists: Chuck Tomasi, Amy J. Murphy, Dr. Pamela L. Gay)

  • Meet the Dragon Awards

Description: We are going to have a mix of Award Winners & Finalists from this year & years past. So many good books, so many great authors!

Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Embassy EF – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

(Tentative Panelists: Amy J. Murphy, Russell Newquist, Christopher Woods, L. Jagi Lamplighter)

In the news


Recently, I was contacted by Ken Picard of Seven Days VT who asked my insights into the seedy underbelly of indie publishing. (Ok, there’s really nothing seedy or underbelly-ish about my gig. Unless you take into consideration the dust bunnies under the desk in my office.) Check out the article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What do you think of the article? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Allies and Enemies: Exiles – 2017 Dragon Award Finalist

320x320_Nominee_ClickSomething incredible has happened. Allies and Enemies: Exiles has been named a finalist for “Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel” for the 2017 Dragon Awards hosted by Dragon Con.

And you’re totally behind this!

You might remember that last year, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, had also made to the short list in the same category in the inaugural year of the awards. I’m flattered and deeply honored to end up a finalist again. I’ll be there to cheer on the winners at this year’s Dragon Awards ceremony on Sunday, September 3rd during Dragon Con in steamy Atlanta, GA. It may also interest you to learn that I’ll be on a panel at this year’s con. (The info is tentative so I won’t mention details just yet.) If you find yourself in Hotlanta this Labor Day holiday, drop by and say “hi”. (That is if you can find me in the ginormous crowd!)

If you’d like a chance to vote and see the other categories and finalists, there’s still time to register for a ballot. Click here to enter your info. The deadline is August 28th.

 

 


Why not join my email list if you’re in a form-filing out mood? You can keep up to date on news and other cool announcements about the Allies and Enemies universe.

Murderbots and Other Stuff You Should Read

Hey! This one goes out to indie authors. You’ve heard that advice to read a lot if you’re looking to up your game as an author. It’s a great way to learn your craft as you entertain your brain. (Not to mention support your brethren.) And, I don’t know about you, but I gain inspiration when I enjoy a well-written story. It’s some great advice. I read about 2-3 books a week. Not all of them are fiction. There’s some non-fiction writing craft stuff in there too.

Here’s a shout out to some books that I’ve recently “discovered” and don’t have enough good things to say about.

  • All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells – Refreshing POV narrator. Good world-building.
  • Disappearance At Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay – Fantastic style. Same author of A Head Full of Ghosts.
  • The Frozen Sky (the Europa Series Book 1) by Jeff Carlson – If Alien and The Expanse had a baby…
  • Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success (Helping Writers Become Authors Book 1) by K.M. Weiland – This writer’s energy and dedication to detail make we want to go take a nap.
  • How To Write A Novel The Easy Way Using The Pulp Fiction Method To Write Better Novels: Writing Skills by Jim Driver – Some good advice here.

Not all of them are science fiction. Reading outside of your customary genre is a great palate cleanser for the imagination. I hope you pick them up and enjoy them as much as I did.

And, just another mention in case you’ve not noticed or seen my earlier posts: Allies and Enemies is now available as a box set. This one includes exclusive content too!

Hey, Bub! Get a Book Bub!

I’ve become obsessed with landing a BookBub deal for  Allies and Enemies. At the time of this writing, I’m still waiting to hear about my latest deal submission. (So, fingers crossed on that, ok?) Anyway, I owe some of this obsession to the recent post over at Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur site. [Excellent place to check out info on self-publishing and run by a super nice dude, BTW.] I can’t be alone when I ponder the questions: who is/are Book Bub? Why are they so powerful?

So let’s unpack this. I’m going to preface this by saying, that I based this post off the bit of research I did online. According to their own site, Book Bub (founded in 2012 and based in the US) is ” a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Members receive a personalized daily email alerting them to the best free and deeply discounted titles matching their interests as selected by our editorial team. BookBub works with all major ebook retailers and devices, and is the industry’s leading ebook price promotion service.”

Their power comes from the ability to churn out quality recommendations on ebooks to its commanding number of subscribers (I’ve seen one reference that said it was 2 million and another that said 4 million.) The subscribers count on BookBub to pre-screen (through an increasingly arduous system) the books that they promote. This is admirable. No one wants to be spammed about book offers that don’t interest them and/or lack quality. So, from the avid ebook reader’s viewpoint, Book Bub is a great deal. You learn about great new books in exchange for BookBub knowing your email addy. BookBub earns its bread by charging publishers for access to a well-cultivated email marketing blast that translates to some pretty good sales numbers. The allure to the indie author is that getting a single BookBub promo can catapult your sales and shove you into some higher rankings on the ‘Zon. For an indie author, the prices of this service may seem steep, but the thought is that the results are truly worth it (cause we’re talking big sales numbers).

I’m not going to repeat the contents from the Kindlepreneur post. (You can visit the link above to check it out.) But I will say it’s all common sense. In order to get a BookBub for your book, you have to offer a quality product. Do you have a good cover? Is your book professionally edited? Those are just the basics. (There are a few more too.) The rest floats around in the realm of “stuff out of your control”. The folks at BookBub have to wade through a lot of other authors and publishers clamoring for their attention on a deal.

But there is one over-arching element to the whole process. Persistence. One indie author acquaintance whom I’ve chatted with suggests setting it up on your calendar “submit deal to BookBub”. If you have a quality book and you are honestly hitting all the “marks”, then it’s a question of patience.  Good luck. (And wish me luck too!) Maybe I’ll see you in a BookBub, bub. 🙂

Eating Your Young

 

Yesterday, I read a somewhat mean-spirited post by one of my favorite authors. Throughout his tirade, he maintains that he was speaking to a particular subset of independently published writers that release poorly written stories with zero editing and bad covers. He’s known for these spittle-flecked tirades laced with gruesome metaphor and massive doses of 6th-grade humor. I’m told that he’s actually a very nice guy in person. But posts like this are his shtick. It’s what he does. I get it.

This post struck a nerve with me, not just because he called out indie authors, but because he came off as a bit of a bully. I know one when I see one. Anyone that’s survived high school does.

There’s a phenomenon in nursing culture called “eating your young.” The older, more experienced nurses bully the new nurses. I’ve seen it and have been on the receiving end of it—quite recently, in fact. Some might consider it a traditional rite of passage, like hazing. (It’s ironic, really. An occupation that’s meant to foster healing and solace in the vulnerable allows a subculture of lateral violence amongst its own.) But it’s destructive and generally, makes people feel crappy.

I’m a newbie to indie authorship. In my journey, I’ve approached a lot of accomplished writers to ask them for guidance or advice. Not one of them has ever turned me away. The environment of the indie world has been in my experience a supportive one. We may be competing for the same audience of readers, but we recognize that in the Upsidedown of indie authorship that there are no hard and fast rules. And the ones that do exist seem to do so at the whim of capricious gods. Supporting each other goes a long way compared to going cannibal on our cohorts. There’s no room for bullies here.

I choose to believe that everyone has a story to tell. At the heart of every “book cover gone wrong,” there is an intent to bring that into the light. Every misplaced comma is a chance to learn from our mistakes and do better next time. Some might choose to pick apart these foibles of the indie world, but I won’t. I know they exist. No system is perfect.

Maybe as the indie authorship market evolves, this will change and turn on each other like the ravenous undead. Until then, I choose not to turn to cannibalization. Any younglings that approach me are not on the menu.

How would you like to start a war?

Good question.

But if Sela Tyron makes you that offer you should have an answer she’s gonna like.

Allies and Enemies: Exiles, the third book in the Allies and Enemies series is on sale now on Amazon. (FREE on Kindle Unlimited.)

 

 

Short Stories: Chihuahuas vs. Dire Wolves

Here’s a theory—Chihuahuas have the souls of larger dogs (most likely dire wolves) wedged into those tiny little bodies. It would explain why these tiny pups think they’re big enough to take on a cat twice their size or why they always seem to shake. (The shaking is actually their molecules vibrating with the effort to keep all that “big dog soul” energy contained in such a small package.) Like I said, a theory.

Consider short stories. You’re trying to package an entire universe, complete with exposition and world-building into this teeny weeny manuscript that shouldn’t be more than 30,000 words. Forget dire wolves, you need to build a Chihuahua with the soul of a great white shark. For someone that writes 90,000-word novels, keeping it under 30,000 is asking a lot. (Weird, right?)

If you follow me on Twitter (@selatyron), you might have seen my occasional tirade, joke or weakly veiled cry for help as I blunder through this process.

So, why am I trying to torture myself this way? I’ve been tapped to contribute for a sci-fi anthology coming out this summer. Cool, right? (I’d mention its name here, but I’m not sure if that’s ok or not. Suffice it to say, it’s got some really awesome authors in this group. I was very flattered when I was invited to join in.)

I had an idea already kicking around—a backstory of a minor character in the Allies and Enemies series. It’s not as dark as some of the military sci-fi I’ve put out. And, if a newcomer likes the story, they might want to further explore the series. Win-win.

And then I realized I had to actually write a short story, something I’d never really done before outside of the occasional middle school essay (and come to think of it, those were hella-long too).

My inner George McFly started to panic, so I sat down and researched how to write short stories. (Believe me, I realize how strange that sentence sounds.)

So, here are my top four takeaways from this surprisingly daunting process:

  1. Short stories don’t necessarily have to have a beginning, middle, and end. They can be the turning point or “moment of truth” for a character that’s part of a larger world. It’s this moment that is the meat of the story and not necessarily the rest of it.
  2. This is a chance to take risks. Change verb tenses. Write it from the antagonist’s perspective. Try a genre you wouldn’t normally consider. It’s a short story, so even if it flops, you haven’t actually lost too much of a time investment.
  3. This forced me to try to write in a less sprawling style. I learned to try to be succinct with my word choice.
  4. Telling is “ok” in a short story. (I know. I know. You’re supposed to “show not tell.”) But in this condensed universe, it saves time, words and page space. Just avoid too many info dumps because that can be confusing to readers.

To prep for this, I started listening to fiction podcasts that showcase authors who have mastered the art of the short story. (My fave is the one offered by Lightspeed Magazine on iTunes.) Listening as opposed to reading, helped me to develop an ear for pacing and tone. Not all the author’s voices are the same when you compare their styles and genres, but if you listen to them back to back, patterns start to emerge. It was a huge help in constructing my story’s road map.

[And you’ll be pleased to know that the ‘comments’ field has been re-activated. Take that, spam bots!]

Keeping it real

Recently, I was interviewed for the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast by the charming Simon Whistler. (The podcast should air on 3/30. I say should because I’d like to give Simon an easy out in case he realizes what a spaz I am.) This was a fantastic experience for me. Not only was it lots of fun chatting with Simon, but he asked some excellent questions. During the interview, I had the chance to discuss my personal philosophies on being an indie-author and ran through my Top 5 Elements of Middling Success or How to Fail Upwards. (I’m still working on the title.)

One of the elements on my list (#5) is “Don’t give up.” I think it goes hand-in-hand with the concept that you can’t judge your success by the what you see around you. Success is an internal measure. I think that’s where a lot of folks fall down. It’s easy to find reasons to give up when your self-pubbed book is not an overnight sensation like The Martian or Wool. Let’s get real. Before these two books became best sellers, they started out as ideas. They’re the result of a lot of hard work. They were not magically generated overnight. That’s crazy-think, right there. It’s pretty bricky to think right out of the gate you’re going to have a best seller on your hands without having to get those hands dirty.

You have set realistic goals. Ambition is great. It gets your motor running. But know where you’re motoring. If you continue to establish unrealistic goals, you’re heading for a cliff. So, there’s a method for figuring out your goals called the SMART technique. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for clever acronyms.)

  1. Specific – Be specific about your goal. If you’re never written and/or published a book, instead of saying “I’m going to become an author”, a more specific goal would be “I’m going to independently publish a science fiction novel by the end of the year.”
  2. Measurable – Decide on a way you can measure your success. For instance, “I’m going to write for 30 minutes a day.”
  3. Attainable – Here’s where you ask yourself what’s actually physically possible. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write 5,000 words a day when you know you struggle for the time to even write 500. Aim for what you know is possible for your steps along the way. Don’t say “I’m going to sell 100 books this week.” when you have no control over what other people will or won’t buy.
  4. Realistic – Be honest with yourself here. It’s easy to say something fantastical like, “I’ll write a book a month.” (OK, I know there are people that really do that, but I’m pretty sure they’re cyborgs or genetically enhanced.) Try saying, “I’m going to self-publish on Amazon at the end of October.”
  5. Timely – Making a deadline keeps it real. You’re making an appointment with yourself, be it 30 days or 300 days. Make yourself keep that appointment.

So, Murphy, you say, what’re your goals if you’re such an expert on this?

First of all, I’m many things, but not an expert. I only know what’s worked for me.

My goal is easy. Aim low. Well… not low, but I’m realistic. My motto: “Mid-list, at best.”

It was easy to get caught up in the excitement when my first book, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, caught some good traction. I never thought I’d be the next Weber or Scalzi. But my books have (temporarily) shown up on lists with their books which is/was pretty awesome. It’s also quite humbling. It made me realize how much harder you have to work to stay there.

And I’ll likely never receive a Nebula or a Hugo. But I am now a member of SFWA which was a goal I’ve had for quite some time.

Be real with yourself. Know what you can do to get to what you want to do. It’s not going to happen overnight. But, hang in there, kitten. It’ll happen.

 

 

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