Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Flashbacks--Alive and well?

I'm going to attempt a chapter flashback to get things moving in the opening scenes. My agent suggested it and I kind of went along with it. Flashbacks were really profuse 30 or so years ago. We were told to use them if absolutely needed and there's no way out of the jam but to use one as a last resort. I've had luck twice before using them. In fact the publisher of my sci-fi book asked for one and I guess I pulled it off.. I've always thought of them as adrenaline shots. Trouble is, that they are so damn obvious.

My 1rst chapter flashbacks are rather short and I only use them to get the steam up.  I'll go to an intriguing action scene somewhere in the book that shows some kind of obvious conflict, cut and past that over my old first chapter. I have to lead in and lead out, making sure my reader doesn't get confused. I like the "How in the hell did I ever get into this mess? opener because it belays a future scene. I then have to sew up or patch the gap I left which had the action. This wouldn't have been necessary if I hadn't had such a sluggish first act. Too much lead-up frustrates the reader--you know? Where nothing significant is really happening? I have to use a flashback because I've got three to four lethargic chapters that are clever, but contain too much dialog. If you have a slow first or even second chapter you can usually go in there and speed things up with a rewrite. You can also cut from the front, but how much are you taking away from the storyline?

Poul Anderson used an effective flashback in Virgin Planet that went straight to the problem, and then left it with a tease. It was a pretty nifty hook.

Have you ever tried a flashback, and how did it work or turn out for you?

I still believe there's some stigma or taboo attached to the flashback. I also know that a slow start out of the gate can be handled with a montage, but that requires really tight writing that covers a LOT of ground fast. Prologues also raise a lot of stink with editors and agents unless they are done very well. Two to three decades ago, prologues had their rightful place--not to sure about that today. 

This is one jam that always makes me nervous and ill at ease.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Again, sorry for the delay. I was terminally ill for a very long time and am now just starting to recover. I knew the consequences of having a pulmonary embolism which produced multiple clots in both lungs. But, shit, nobody warned me about being crippled or nearly bed-ridden. I even have memory loss and have to re-learn the keyboard. I'm making godawful mistakes with words and key positions. So, I'm typing this real slow.


Since 2001 the amount of Zombie books and films has doubled. It's still going incredibly strong with no letup.  I can't help thinking that this trend will continue or morph into something very similar. Plagues, bugs, viruses, strains, more of the same--pandemics. I guess we owe it all to Romero, although it was alive in culture thousands of years before that. I know some of the self-publishers who got on this trope years ago and are still profiting from it. Me? never wrote one. I just can't ascribe a thorough characterization to a foe/protag that either is fast or slow and eats flesh. Oh, and many of them need head-shots, fire or complete dismemberment. 

Zombies are so ill-struck, deteriorated, limited in agility and function, it's a wonder they're alive at all. They attack in shear numbers and are usually brought down by gunfire or other instruments of mayhem and destruction. For the life of me I can't see a complex plot in any of these movies. I'm sure some of the books (I haven't read yet) have a semblance of motivation and diversity--but I wonder what, other than wiping the hoard out, surviving or finding a cure, is the statement or solution to this. I mean, how much better could one Z flick be from the next? Do we add sparkles or really smart zombies who can mask their identities? Shape-shifting zombies--really pretty or handsome ones. We've got them on ships/boats, grocery stores, in the forest and in desolate cities and townships. Just keep changing the environments and locations?

I'm agog at running through the TV listings and finding Z movies in the droves. The science and nature channels are running series and special programs. I think the only Z movie that made me laugh and pay attention was Zombieland. That one had some personality.

What say you? Is this Zombie thing a tiresome, worked over trope or trend, or are we headed for more of this for the next couple years? I wish I had a crystal ball--As far as trends go--this one's got me stymied and a little bit fed up.

I had two editors tell me that Michael Crichtonish type strain and plague books were as dead as ever. This was four years ago. I'd like to ask them about that now and see what they're buying.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writer's Heath

Sorry it's been such a long time for a post but I do have a legit excuse. I've been in and out of three hospitals lately over a period of 2 months, plus. It took forever for a cardio specialist to find out why I was nearly suffocating. In short, A blood clot in my leg traveled up and plowed into my heart, nearly wrecking it and producing an A-fib condition. The clot exploded and traveled to both lungs, where it shut down my breathing. I'm currently on heavy and precise meds and oxygen, trying to recoup slowly every day. It's been a critical time for me to say the least. 

Warning to all writers out there: Get up out of that typing chair and exercise those legs. I'd been idle for the past eight years, ignoring cardio exercise. Now I'm paying the piper for it. Force yourself to take at least a swift 45-minute walk every day if you are shackled to a desk. 

I'm going to hang in there and obey the doc's commandments, hoping I pull through this or at least recovery enough to lead a normal life.

Love to all who have e-mailed on the social media sites. 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Well, It finally happened:

The Girl They Sold to the Moon is finally here in e-book format on Amazon for $2.99! Don’t miss this award-winner—it’s fast and furious—a dark and edgy Burlesque in space.
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Girl-They-Sold-Moon-ebook/dp/B00LDFLR0S/ref=s...

Eighteen-year-old Tilly Breedlove's father has just pawned his daughter for a huge cash advance to escape a penitentiary sentence. She’s whisked away to Luna-the Tranquility Harbor Mining Company, 240,000 miles from home. Family Trade and Loan, an unscrupulous company, is more than willing to take her on and exploit her talent. Forced to be an exotic dancer, she performs risqué shows for the filthy, but filthy rich ore miners--a far cry from her classical and modern dance training. If she isn't resisting obscene advances from bearded "Prairie Dogs", she's fending off jealous head-liner acts who view her as a threat to their status-and when those jealous showgirls say "break a leg", they aim to cause it.

The only reprieve she finds in this shop of horrors is a few close ward friends, a sympathetic dance coach/choreographer, and Buddy Gunner Bell, who just might become the love of her life. It's just enough to stem her psychological meltdown. A tragedy on the Moon base lands Tilly back on Earth. Tilly plots a daring escape plan with her friends. Their plan requires split-second timing and a daring dash. If she can just get past the corporation's airtight security.


5.0 out of 5 stars Great soft Science Fiction for those who like it easy over, June 19, 2014

Kindle Customer (okemos, mi United States) - See all my reviews

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The Girl They Sold to the Moon by Chris Stevenson

I wanted the ARC to this book but they never got back to me; so I had to buy a copy and wait patiently for it to arrive in the mail, which was all well and good because I had other things to do anyway. Finding myself with an extra day, where I wanted to read something just a bit on the light side, I picked it up and read the boldfaced type all the way from the front right through to the finish. This book reminded me some of the old science fiction I read some thirty years ago. Some of the Robert Heinlein juvenile Science Fiction series. I enjoyed reading it and I want to give it high marks, but I'm going to be brutally honest about a few things.

Chris Stevenson has created a sort of sassy character in Tilly Breedlove who is sold into a sort of slavery in order to keep her father out of prison. Her mother has some few years earlier passed away and without her influence her father has fallen prey to all his vices and she has no delusions, going into this whole arrangement, that he will change his ways. In this dystopic future that sounds like a throwback to the times Charles Dickens wrote of; we have a society that allows parents to sell their children into some sort of work camp slavery while parents try to pay off their debts to stay out of prison through a loan which they must then pay off before their children can be released.

That whole arraignment lends itself toward some real potential for failure.

The Girl They Sold to the Moon bears some strong resemblance to the one other book I have read by this author: The War Gate. By this I mean that it has several threads running through it that make up a whole bunch of mini plots that revolve around the main plot that seems to be a soft science fiction light weight which is why I call this light reading. It is a good Young Adult novel and it almost seems like a twisted merging of Dickens' David Copperfield and Oliver Twist and Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars staged in the environment of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But the whole thing diverges into it's own world because of that potential for the slave workers to become permanent property of the company when someone defaults on the loan.

Of The Girl They Sold to the Moon and The War Gate similarities there is that striking male character that is a magician. And both books delve into the world of entertainment while striking off in slightly divergent directions of Science Fiction in the one and Magic in the other. If I have any complaints at all it's that there sometime is a difficulty for me to zero in on which plot is the prime plot of the novel.

The most likely candidate is the dystopic society's inhumane treatment of these young family members who are traded off and sometimes left to pay their own way out of a system that seems to have the cards stacked against them. But I get confused about this very plot when the potential evil motives of the company are often glossed over too quickly in favor of the sub plot of the infighting between the chatteled entertainers vying for the top position; a position that only serves to make the company richer through their success. Then there is the moon-crossed love story hindered by the presence of rules prohibiting the girls from fraternizing with anyone in any close manner on or off work. Along with all of this we have a thread about Tilly's desire to be in the very work she is now in and the frustration in the knowledge that her unexpected success is all going to someone else benefit until she gets released.

This is a great light read of soft SFF with some romance and a couple of good cat-fights.

J.L. Dobias

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique idea!, June 12, 2014
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This is a well written, very unique book. I have never come across and idea like this in all my reading and I very much enjoyed it. The writer has given his heroine everything she needs to make it through the rough times in her life. You have great empathy for her and her friends.The writer also brings to life the places he takes his readers to, so you feel as if you are right at those locations.I would certainly recommend this book. It is a fast read and very enjoyable!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl They Sold To The Moon ARC copy review, June 10, 2014

The Girl They Sold To The Moon Review
Review by: Naila Gutierrez
Author: Chris Stevenson
Publisher: Intrigue Publishing
Rating: 5 Stars
*This book was given to me as an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review*
This book is basically about an 18 year old girl named Tilly Breedlove, her father sells her into a form of slavery on the Tranquility Harbor Mining Company located on the Moon. She is forced to be an exotic dancer for filthy rich ore miners. After a disastrous explosion on the Moon, they send her back to Earth, imprisoned to the Las Vegas-Henderson Gambling Complex. Her father fails to pay the loan and goes into hiding, exiling Tilly to be temporary property of FTAL. Tilly plots a rebellious escape plan with friend Fia, and also with the help of blossoming love Buddy Gunner Bell, to break out of FTAL.

To me this dystopian read was exuberant, imaginative and creative. From start to finish this book grabbed me in for one wild ride and didn’t let go, for such a short book it was certainly delightful and whimsical. The plot in this was very well put together and it flowed with the story quite nicely, from when her journey began in FTAL, to the meteor shower that hit the Moon base at Tranquility Harbor , to the very ending where she escaped and finally got to fulfill her friend’s wish as well as hers. From the beginning when her father turned her in for FTAL I could feel how scared Tilly’s character was towards the situation of leaving her home to work in an entertainment division for 6 consecutive months. But then you can really notice the change in her character as the story progresses, she becomes more confident in going through all these obstacles, I really admire her character. Although I really did feel connected to Tilly’s character the most I did however appreciate Buddy’s and Dorothy’s characters. I did quite enjoy the growing romance and feelings between Tilly and Buddy growing feelings and a relationship from friends to lovers, their romance was just right as to not be sappy and come off as a desperate and rushed romance, like you see in so many books. Their growing relationship blossomed in just the right way, starting off when they met in the book and started talking I could feel chemistry between them, and it left me wanting more of their romance.

In a way, I have to say there was a bit of suspense sprinkled within the many wonders of this book, for example; when you found out that Fia Bluestone, supposed friend of Tilly’s was actually her long lost birth mother. Also when Tilly stood there and had to witness the suicide of her best friend, Dorothy, I have to say that scene was so wickedly crafted that it got to me. Then there are those well thought out action scenes of Tilly and fellow refugees scrambling about to find shelter from the meteor shower, and also when Tilly, Buddy, and Fia were escaping the Vegas Gambling Complex in search of freedom from the so well manipulated form of slavery.

Overall, I gave this book 5 stars because I like the well written, professional use of vocabulary, well thought out and procedure that was this lovely book. I personally am a HUGE fan of dystopian and post-apocalyptic worlds and this was one of the best I have read so far. I’m not going to say it’s the best I have read because I still have a lot more to read, but I can safely say that this was an extraordinary book, it was refreshing, action-packed, suspenful, and not bad in the romance department either. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short yet giving book that hooks you in once you indulge in it and who enjoys books in the dystopian and apocalyptic category.
*thanks so much to the author for sending me an ARC*


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sinister Motives in Big Publishing?

Hello, writers, authors and fiends for punishment. I’m sorry I’ve been away for a long stint, but it was necessary to take immediate care of some major writing contracts and assignments. You know, really getting paid a lot of money to turn in work assignments for a change. I promise to finish and post a 2nd part to the previous post; The Hottest Promo/Marketing Tips I know (Part 1). So please forgive the slight derail and have mercy on me because I haven’t compiled my research notes yet on that topic. And it has to be accurate.

In one of our group writing discussions today, a poster offered some questions/theories about why Harper Collins and Random House seem to be driving deeper into the market share by producing new imprints that make submitting to the editors possible without agent rep. He wondered if there was any hidden or disguised motives for branching out like this. He proposed three basic questions:

1.      Is it possible these major houses are interested in re-branding their image, as well as marketing strategy, and that in doing so it allows them to open up more social media opportunities and gain a better footing with the reading public and writers alike.

2.      Could it be a response to the huge influx and success of self-publishing? And is it possible that they consider SP a serious threat and believe, like a wound, it must be staunched?

3.      Could it be an attempt to lessen the value and use of literary agents by offering all of these open call windows and direct submissions; hence opening up their doors for a more favorable and easier submission process?

I’ve included my answers to his questions in this blog post as well as responding on the writing site. Don’t hold back. I need your opinions about this subject and what’s on your mind about motivations and conspiracy theories.  

My response:

Well, dear writer, it isn't really ground breaking news that these imprints and open sub windows (calls) have suddenly sprang up out of nowhere. They began to show up in what, about the past three-four-five years or so? We've had a few threads on this very topic and we also have many of those imprints listed on watchdog and report status in our Bewares forum. I don't even remember which publisher started this new trend/paradigm, but it didn't take long for the other major houses to follow in lockstep with their own versions.

If a publishing juggernaut marketing manager told me that it wasn't a financial decision to start up these little sister imprints with lenient submission protocols (sans agents) I would have told them to slither back into their little offices (lairs) and practice lying better. But, hey, publishing is a business with precariously low profit margins and laborious spreadsheets that outline how they're going to keep the lights on, pay the rent, staff, writers and everybody else in sundry.

Since the ease and accessibility of self-publishing has come into play, the major houses, slowly at first, had to devise a way of capturing a piece of that market. I've heard via the Kindle Boards that self-publishing really started to get its wings around 2009, (the original indie crew call themselves the O-Niners) and that's when some major notoriety became evident with some of the breakout indie books and a new author cheering section reared its head (WatPad and Booksie, to name a few).


 Self-publishing through Amazon or any other similar platform = a substantial amount of sales that do not belong to any of the trade publishers. Not only that, the likes of Harper C. Penguin-Random, S & S, Little Brown and others could ill afford their cash cow celeb writers going off into independent land in search of better royalties and complete product control. The major publishers are not panicking or beset with fear--they're really in need of adapting to the changing publishing environment and they know this all too well.

So what had to be done? Make publishing with a large trade publisher more attractive, easy, safe, dignified and accessible. I also had a gut feeling that the so-called large, mean, greedy, imperialistic Big Five/Six wanted to change their image and soften their stance. Hey, we're for the little guy writer, dontcha know. Please don't call us Gatekeepers, we hate that. Sure, in the beginning these little sister imprints, most of them e-book platforms, had some predatory contracts--rights grabs, no advance, reduced royalties and other snafus. The writing community at large cried foul and many writer's orgs went on the defensive--The Bewares board of the SFWA right out in front. Things have nearly straightened out in that sense.

I don't think the major houses believe that agents are passe or a dying breed or they're trying to bury them. Agents are the BEST go-between sources for major editors and writers. An inconsiderate writer can really phuck up an editor's day with phone calls and non-stop emails. A writer couldn't negotiate his own contract if his/her life dependend on it, sans a little legal advice and help. Is it part of their strategy to cleave off a couple hundred or thousand agent subs to stick it to the writers for contract deals that MIGHT be nonnegotiable or certainly less beneficial to writers?--we're talking about business here again and it could be part of it, but I don't think it would make a major dent in profits.

I think the majors want to fish the ocean for some potential, already talented authors who might be thinking about self-publishing or have landed there due to frustration and staked out a nice claim for themselves. So if you think this might be a media ploy you could be right. Partially. I don't think chicanery is involved.

So truth be told, I think the majors had some legitimate reasons for offering these new, innovative (or nonstandard) imprints and opportunities. Just another form of branching out to deal with the competition; there is competition for readers and book dollars. Make no mistake about that.

But I must say, it's a little queer that these imprints starting really showing up when major self-publishing stars began popping out of the woodwork. And Gawd help me, I think I might have forgiven Twilight, but I'll never concede that 50 Shades deserved print in the first place. It makes me ill when publishers become ambulance chasers, picking up prepackaged stars and giving them new brand and legitimacy. I think I have an old post about ambulance chasing in a “Publishing Fraud” post.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Hottest Promo/Marketing Tips I Know (Part 1)

You’ve  probably heard of some of these. Some are obvious. Others might be hidden gems, ready for your experimentation.

I'm hooked up with some best-selling authors and they're giving up some tips and strategies. One, who is selling part of a dark fantasy series right now hit five top-ten spots on Amazon through Amazon's Daily Deal campaign that went on for a couple days (it's still bearing fruit after a month). His four e-books, which are part of a six-book series, were reduced from $4.95 and up to .99 and $1.99 as an intro special. To get a book on Amazon's Daily Deal roster, a publisher has to continually request it from Amazon and push, push, push. It's arduous, but the rewards are some of the largest instant sales, and continued residual sales. It’s resulted in hundreds and hundreds of both paperback and e-book sales.

Book of the Month pulls in great sales too, but I think that Amazon picks those spots. Not sure of the source that determines it. If you’re lucky enough to get on it, you’re a star and Amazon customers will flock to that special listing page.  

For publisher acquisitions of new authors and books, announcing it on Publisher's Market Place reaches a huge audience. Ask your publisher if they list with PM. Encourage participation. Publishers would do well to join up to this service because it is an industry barometer on all that is happening and will happen in the publishing industry. The huge book retailers, wholesalers and libraries watch this source with hawk eyes. So does the film industry. Intrigued? Join up for the free edition of PM. It will keep you abreast of the most recent news.  

Surprising tip: Authors should visit  YouTube and look up their favorite videos that cover their genre (fantasy, mystery, YA, SF etc), genre readers, celebrity genre interviews, genre trailers, genre best-sellers, genre trends (next big thing), or any instructional writing sites and other related topics. Now, here's the thing, authors should comment intelligently on all videos, coming from a fan perspective, but most importantly as an expert in their writing field. With EVERY comment, they can drop down a space and manually include their name and title of book. For instance:

Comment: (A couple of great paragraphs)

Chris Stevenson--Author--The Girl They Sold to the Moon

I wouldn't put in any links—it could be perceived as spamming. I haven’t had any problems with this from the site masters. The results = curious and admiring contributors will Google your name or title. I've sold this way--it's just another form of exposure you might be overlooking. 

And, pardon me for saying this, but I slammed Twilight and 50 Shades on some huge video channels and drew some flak. I also drew tons of +Points and support. I wrote from a moralistic and professional literary stance and let 'em have it. My FB account got hacked the next day, probably by a rabid fan.. But my comments were apparently so well taken with endearment that some defenders went and pre-ordered my book. Shocker. Controversy, good or bad, sells! It was an experiment as well as a mission. I don't recommend you ever trash somebody or their work. But never hesitate to stand up against the multitudes when you believe your cause is just. Spar; don't insult or humiliate like I did. Perry every negative barb directed at you with sound logic, righteous intent and irrefutable evidence. The detractors will grow weak in the knees and fade away. 

seems to rank the highest for book promo/sales response. You write a teaser (blurb) or mystery sentence (question) tied to your book, plus a link. That’s the subtle way and works best. It’s a curiosity driver. You know how to hook, don'tcha?  It departs from “BUY MY BOOK ‘CAUSE IT’S AWESEOM”, which is blatant and tiresome. Also, spammy.

For any authors who intend to invest in ads, BookBub looks like the popular  leader for turn-around investment and reader audience. Great sales results but the ad can be a little expensive. Return on investments (says the majority) are positive for almost all participants. It requires approval to enlist your book and there is a waiting list due to its popularity.  

A $75.00 ad on the KBoards can possibly get you into the (general) 5,000 to 8,000 rank area, but you’ll have to keep that momentum by using your social media campaign (all your sources) really hard and often. The ad will give you a nice shove, and it's certainly dependent upon circumstances such as genre, cover art appeal and review numbers. Notice I didn’t say review comments like those pesky 1 and 2s. Most times those are crap and you can always tell if the contributor is making a dirty little drive-by. Don’t pay attention to them, anyway. It’s a road to madness when you fret over ANY comments.

Sales Rank 1: 3,000 to 5,000 sales per day. Please Note: On Launch Days this can be a LOT more.
Sales Rank 5: 2,000 to 3,000 sales per day.
Sales Rank 10: 1,500 to 2,500 sales per day.
Sales Rank 25: 1,000 to 2,000 sales per day.
Sales Rank 50: 800 to 1,000 sales per day.
Sales Rank 100: 700 to 800 sales per day.
Sales Rank 150: 400 to 500 sales per day.
Sales Rank 200: 300 to 400 sales per day.
Sales Rank 500: 100 to 150 sales per day.
Sales Rank 1,000 – 50 to 100 sales per day.
Sales Rank 5,000 – 25 to 50 sales per day.
If you have better figures or better estimates – please let me know. This sampling was pulled from an industry professional’s blog post.

Another shocker: Watpad and Booksie have produced som best-selling authors. And quite a few midlist hotshots. By publishing first chapters of any of your books on these sites, you can gain members and readers. The more books or short stories you list will attract more and more fans. Once you publish there, announce all new material to the database membership. It’s better to break it up and publish periodically rather than dump your entire book/story inventory.  You want to draw and build a following; not choke them out and let them vanish. Any of your awards should be mentioned somewhere in the text block. IF IT'S A PUBLISHED PIECE--Interested Watpad and Booksie participants must check first with their publisher for the okay so you don't trample on reprint rights. Generally, 10% of a book's content is justifiably permitted. This might allow two or three small separate chapters in sequence. Any and all non-published material is allowed, like published interviews, book reviews, articles and book release stories. Short stories seem to pull in the highest reader hits—but they must be un-published or returned rights material. Ask your publisher's policy on this. They might let a tie-in short story to your novel go up in it's entirety. The free excerpts work just as well on your website or blog. 

Of course, joining every free display site and writing group in the world will get your name and book out there too. I know, it’s a hassle and a time sink. Most of the display (YADS) are a waste of time. Problem is, you don't really know which ones unless you research. The popular writing sites are much more worth the time and investment. Contributing to each and every site is the key to illuminating and widening your brand. It only requires one day (or even hours) out of the week to make a full promotion and marketing push to update all of them. Stay current; stay vigilant and authoritative on all of them. I belong to 45 writing/reading--related sites.

For the sake of all that is holy and decent, join Stage 32. This is where all the world's B-list producers, directors, screenwriters, actors, talent and film scouts congregate. There is a BOOKS AND PUBLISHING department for all non-fiction and fiction authors. Get in there. You may be offered film options and screenplay novelizations by foreign, domestic or local professionals, like I have. You and other writers can have your own mash-up there and create your own group topics. Pop into the Producers, Directors and Screewriting threads and comment frequently—those individuals wield  decision powers. List any awards you may have garnered in your signature or profile. Writers will need to emphasize and slant the "imagery" and unique "scenes" inherent in their books. Remember, this is a visual media industry. 

You can't break down the doors of Hollywood at any time and snag the attention of a director or producer. They use heavy screening tactics to keep you out.  At Stage 32, you can slip through the door crack easily.

On a side note of the film industry:  All authors who have agents should ask them if they wouldn't mind pitching a specific director or producer. This abides by the film industry policy and is the proper way to approach the Big Film and TV Gods. I did this and got my book Dinothon read by the Cohen Brothers (producers) and the director John Badham. You must align your book's genre and style with what these film moguls have produced currently and in the past. You wouldn't submit a romance to James Cameron or a contemporary YA to John Carpenter or Wes Craven. Go for the most popular B-list producers and directors for a fast and likely response. Most A-listers, who are understandably absent from Stage 32, have in-house staff and contractors (including writers) who they assign projects to, which makes contact with them impregnable.

BTW: If  any of you have any surefire tips or ploys that have paid off big time...baste me; I'm a roast. We'll never nail this puppy, but our combined experience and data can come damn close to catching lightning in a bottle.

Happy Hunting--Get out there and sell some books!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Bright Light In China—Xiaoduo Media

One of our newer paying markets in our AbsoluteWrite forum, Xiaoduo Media, is open for submissions for capable freelance writers who wouldn’t mind writing for a worthy cause, in addition to some lucrative compensation. Xiaoduo Media is five years-old now. Conny, the main contact liaison and editor can explain it better than I can. 

Conny: Xiaoduo Median, a publisher based in both New York and Beijing is looking for children’s authors. We currently publish three monthly magazines and an assortment of book series for ages 6 to 14. The literary magazine “Red Squirrel” publishes high quality licensed work from world famous authors and original stories, poems, articles from all over the world; the science magazine “Ask You Ask Me” publishes feature articles, science fiction, and scientific activities.

Our mission is to make available world-class, quality content to children in China to foster a love of learning, develop critical thinking skills and mold global citizens.

We welcome writers, artists, illustrators and the people who are interested in writing for children to submit your articles or works.

If your work meets our requirements, we will be happy to publish it along with your brief profile and photos. Please note that not all submissions will be published; however, we urge you to submit your work again in the future.

For the magazine "Red Squirrel": 

Categories: realistic contemporary fiction, historical fiction, humor, mysteries, fantasy, science fiction, folk tales, fairy tales, legends and myths. 

Length: 500 to 6,000 words 

An exact word count should be noted on each manuscript submitted. Word count includes every word, but does not include the title of the manuscript or the author's name.

Rates: up to 15¢ per word (price differs in length, type of rights, etc.)

We also buy previously published stories for which the authors own the rights.

For the magazine "Ask You Ask Me":

We are interested in articles rich in scientific accuracy and lively approaches to the subject at hand. The inclusion of primary research (interviews with scientists focusing on current research) is of primary interest to the magazine.

Feature Articles: Up to 1500 words

Includes: in-depth nonfiction articles. (An interactive approach is a definite plus!) Q & A interviews, plays, and biographies are of interest as well 

Fiction: Up to 1,500 words

Includes: science-related stories, science fiction on a believable scientific basis, relating to the theme. 

Rates: up to 250 USD per article (We purchase all rights to material)

Activities: Up to 750 words

Includes: critical thinking activities, experiments, models, science fair projects, astrophotography projects, and any other science projects that can either be done by children alone, with adult supervision or in a classroom setting. Query should be accompanied by sketches and description of how activity relates to theme.

The payment is upon publication at latest within 6 months, via PayPal. We purchase all rights, unless prior negotiations and special circumstances are requested.

Queries and questions should be directed to Conny, editor at Xiaoduo Media. Contact link is at the bottom or our submission. Go there and scroll down: http://www.xiaoduo.com.cn/news/index.php?action-viewnews-itemid-18882-php-1

Chris:  That about sums it up. Great pay—magazine placement with title credit. Target demographic: young readers, 6 to 14 years-old. These articles and stories will be translated primarily into Chinese for the foreign market. Although there may be other foreign translations in the works as we speak. Participating authors are reporting very good editing skills and structural revision comments, along with superb and timely payment (upon publication). All correspondence comes with patient guidance. I’ve been there, and I must say that it took me three full-length science articles to adapt to the specific style they’re after. That would tabulate to about nine or 10 revisions. It wasn’t that hard; I was just dense and used to writing science material for the adult, academic crowd. If you’ve written and/or published Young Reader or Middle Grade, you’ll feel right at home here. 

In a nutshell, fiction and non-fiction are best served in a story format.


Fiction will have a beginning, middle and end, with an important science topic used as a backdrop to teach, reveal and entertain in equal measures. Xiaoduo Media favors character-driven all the way. Always. It’s always about people, then the discovery woven into a tight plot. Don’t forget that. And make it accessible to the young reader—keep the highbrow words, theories and author intrusion at arm’s length. Humor and irony is fine, but there is an emphasis on the struggle, with roadblocks and inner turmoil aplenty. People suffer turmoil and conflict. Machines don’t. And space is a boring unless people populate it.

Now, fantasy doesn’t really have the science core that science fiction has, but it is there if you stop and think about it (especially in urban fantasy or steampunk). Time machines, invisibility, sword and scocery-metalergy, historic or cultural folklore, alchemy, ghost detection, DNA mutations, herbs and spell-casting, dimensional portals and other fringe science areas. Horror is ripe for science slants—think of “The Happening”, “The Fly” or any of Stephen King’s books that used science in piggyback form. If the reader can learn something while being entertained, all the better.


Non-fiction articles and features: Pay attention to the assignment’s list. Once you get a roster of assignments to pick from, organize the suggested topics into cohesive order; sub-title them and draft a quick but thorough outline of each topic and what it will cover. Send the outline in for approval first. It might come back with some notes. Again, it’s all about people; the scientists, astronomers and physicists. Tell their story about how they dreamed, worked and conceived of the invention, theory, adventure or discovery. Keep it light, use some interactive “audience speak.” Show by example. Be creative and exciting when striving toward the reveal. In short, these articles are fictionalized non-fiction, straight through.

These science articles will be true life stories and experiences, with feeling, failure and eventually victory. A few opening sentences about the person’s origin, education and eventual participation in the project is fine. They don’t need E = Mc2 as much as they need Albert fooling around with some equations and breaking chalk, then finding out the theory, but in a simplified form so a kid could understand it. Try and keep it under 1,500 words—lean and trimmed. Any article that screams for a picture or small graph, find a good one and then include the link to it in your article submission (try for public domain free-stock stuff). For instance, my next assignment involves “Cosmic Microwave Background” and the big bang noise. So I’ll be hunting down a photo of the old horn receiver that was first used.

Now, I don’t know if I’ve described the style, tone, pace and voice, but that’s what I’ve learned. You will find Conny insufferably understanding and attentive to your questions. Email me if you have any structural questions or need a Beta read. I’ll do my best.

I asked Conny a few questions and the answers were kindly submitted:

Chris: Conny, China is fast becoming a recognized industrial nation with the development in new and advanced technologies. Did Xiaoduo Media have this fact in mind when it decided to reach out to the younger reading public and offer informative and entertaining science stories and articles?

Chris: Conny, Has the youth in China become more involved and interested in science vocations in the last decade? How so, and do you expect to make a future impact on them, if you haven't already?

Conny: I will try to answer your first two questions together.

In the science area, China is not in any position as a leader, maybe in some advanced research areas which are very few, considering its capacities and population. For many generations, science was not considered an important subject in school.

China has just started to recruit and train elementary teachers in science in the recent years. Children have more imported science books to read now but the reach for the critical mass is far less than what it should be. Xiaoduo wants to timely introduce what the world scientists are doing and how developed science and technology has been and will be so as to open eyes for the young readers. We hope that some of our readers, when they grow up, can participate in science and technology developments with their global peers and at least appreciate the beauty and magic of science in life.

Chris: Where can we find Xiaoduo media publications? I expect that English speaking countries will be able to locate them and perhaps translate the stories into readable formats?

Conny: We will have electronic copies of our publications available both in English and Chinese this year.

Thank you so much! Things look promising and wonderful at the moment for the young readers. I’m sure the contributions you, your staff and writers impart will have a lasting and positive effect on China and the global community at large.

I just wanted to note that The Girl They Sold to the Moon is now available on pre-order on Amazon. The paperback price is especially affordable at $11.33, undoubtedly one of the lowest out there. You can find it here:



Or Intrigue Publishing:  Sandra Bowman at: 
Intrigue is proud to announce our latest author acquisition; Chris Stevenson, author of the YA Dystopian and Science Fiction novel The Girl They Sold to the Moon. Eighteen-year-old Tilly Breedlove’s father has pawned her to a ruthless company called Family Trade and Loan, who sells her into a form of modern day slavery on Luna—the Tranquility Harbor Mining Company, 240,000 miles from home. Forced to be an exotic dancer, she performs risqué shows for the filthy and filthy rich ore miners--a far cry from her classical and modern dance training. If she isn't resisting obscene advances from bearded “Prairie Dogs”, she's fending off jealous head-liner acts who view her as a threat to their status—and when those jealous showgirls say “break a leg”, they aim to cause it. The only reprieve she finds in this shop of horrors is a few close ward friends, a sympathetic dance coach/choreographer, and Buddy Gunner Bell, who just might become the love of her life. It's just enough to stem her psychological meltdown. Find out what happens to Tilly and her friends in this fast-paced, fun ride.
Chris Stevenson , originally born and raised on the beaches of southern California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009 and settled in with his twin sister. His occupations have included newspaper reporter, front-line mechanic and federal police officer. He has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988.