Fortune’s Shadow – Cover Reveal!

Today’s a big day! (Well, at least for me.) I’m exactly two months away from publishing Fortune’s Shadow, and I couldn’t be more excited. My book baby will finally be out into the world on April 26th!

To celebrate, I’m sharing the absolutely stunning cover that Ravven has created for me. (If you ever need a book cover designed, I highly recommend her. She is amazing.)

Cover - Fortune's Shadow by Sue Archer

Isn’t it incredible? I’ve been telling my friends on Twitter that I’d better make sure my words live up to it. 🙂 So I’ve been focusing my efforts this month on working through the excellent feedback I’ve received from my talented and highly supportive fiction editor Maggie Morris.

What’s next?

As soon as the editing is done, I’ll be creating an electronic version of my book in ePub (Kobo) and mobi (Kindle) formats so I can share my story with advance reviewers before the final proofreading and distribution. If you’re interested in becoming one of my ARC readers (and receiving a free copy in consideration for an honest review), please reach out to me, either through my contact page or comments below. I’m planning on sending out a few advance copies in March.

Here’s the current blurb describing my book, so you can see if it’s for you:

“You thought you could live without me…”

Jocelyn “Jinxy” Lancaster is having a horrible week. Her dream of becoming a famous indie musician is going nowhere, her day job in her tourist-friendly hometown of Bridgepoint is in danger of disappearing, and to top it all off, it’s almost the ten-year anniversary of her Mom’s death.

When her best friend Grace gives her a wish keeper to help change her luck, she decides she’s got nothing left to lose.

She’s wrong.

At first it seems like she’s on her way to getting everything she desires. Then the people close to her begin acting very strangely. She’s having trouble remembering things, and at night, she’s being haunted by dreams she can’t explain.

Then the best night of her life happens—and all hell breaks loose.

Now it’s up to Jocelyn to try and undo what she’s created and save her hometown from chaos and destruction. And maybe, if she’s very lucky, she can even save herself…

I’ll be sharing more with you on my adventures in book formatting and distribution as I get closer to my preorder release date (in the hope that I can help others with this process), but in the meantime, thanks so much for reading my post and supporting me as I go through my self-publishing journey!

I’m so excited!

Sue

Doorway Between Worlds Publishing is Live!

Well, it’s official. I am now a publisher! I couldn’t wait to share this big news and reveal the title for my upcoming first book.

Doorway Between Worlds used to be a blog. Now it’s also the name of my publishing imprint. 🙂 I’ve registered it as a business name and I’ve also submitted my application to Library and Archives Canada as a Canadian publisher. This means I will have my own ISBN numbers that I can assign to my books when I self-publish through Kobo, Amazon and other distributors.

I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of working with the fabulous Chris Reddie, who designed the logo for my publishing brand. I have several versions that I can use for different purposes, but here’s what it’s going to look like on the spine of my books:

Doorway Between Worlds publishing logo

Of course, I’m not going to feel like a real publisher until I get my first novel out there. I’m nearly done working through the enormously helpful feedback from my beta readers, and then it’s off to my editor in February. Next step is cover design, and I can’t wait to see what comes back from my designer! It’s so exciting to think that soon I’ll be looking at a cover that’s been made just for my story.

I have also (finally) settled on a title, and you’re the first ones to hear it.

(drum roll)

Doorway Between Worlds is pleased to announce the upcoming launch of Sue Archer’s paranormal fantasy novel Fortune’s Shadow in May 2020!

Thanks to everyone who’s reached out to me and congratulated me on my book. It really means a lot to me. I’ll be back again soon, and certainly when I have my cover back, so you can see how it turned out.

Cheers,

Sue

 

P.S. What creative projects are you working on these days? I’d love to hear all about them!

Beta Readers Are the Best People

Hi everyone,

I can’t believe it’s been almost three months since I posted about finishing the draft of my first novel. There’s been a lot going on, but the most important experience for me has been working with beta readers for the first time.

As much as I looked forward to bringing more people into my story world, I made sure to set aside my story for about a month (so I could have some distance when I looked at it again) and then wrote some changes to fill in gaps and tighten my sentences. Finally, I sent the whole mess over the fence, because there comes a time when you can no longer see your story, and you need other people to tell you where you’ve gone wrong (and hopefully where you’ve gone right).

It was a nail-biting moment, because it was my precious book baby going out into the world, but I also knew I was going to get great feedback because I was fortunate to have so many lovely people volunteer to read it who could come at it from different perspectives. I had a mix of

  • Professional editors (I’m soooo glad right now to be a member of Editors Canada, where I have met so many fantastic editing peeps)
  • Readers who love urban fantasy (my target market)
  • Readers who could comment on the accuracy of my character portrayals
  • Readers whose first language is not English
  • Readers who are not my target market but love fiction

The feedback is still coming in, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far, in case anyone else is thinking of going through this process.

First off: Beta readers are the best people. Hands down. They are volunteering to take time out of their busy lives to read your work, not knowing if it’s going to be boring or poorly written, and then they are carefully writing diplomatic feedback on the places where they think you need to change your story. (There’s a reason why I didn’t ask for feedback from my family. Even if they could be thorough and objective and not just say “I love it,” I knew I wouldn’t find it easy to take any criticism from my folks, no matter how well intentioned.)

I knew it would help my readers if I was clear about what I was hoping to get out of this process. So I made sure to tell everyone that my story was going to be sent for a professional stylistic/copy edit in February, and that I was only looking for story feedback at this point. Otherwise I knew people might focus on typos and spelling and sentence construction and all of those other things I’ll be dealing with later. I also sent them some specific questions—the items I was the most interested in knowing about so I could improve my story:

  • What did you like best about the story?
  • Did the opening chapters intrigue you and make you want to keep reading? If not, why?
  • Who was your favourite character? Are there any characters who seemed flat or unrealistic? Why?
  • Is there anything you’d like to see changed about the dialogue of any of the characters?
  • Were there any places where the story felt slow or boring?
  • Did the plot make sense? Were there any places that could use more explanation?
  • Were there any words, phrases or scenes that pulled you out of the story?
  • Was there any place where you would have liked to see more description?
  • Did you like the ending?
  • Is there anything else that you think could help make this a better story?

I admit I was kind of sneaky when I made this list.

For one thing, I made sure my first question asked about what my readers liked best, partly because it’s good to know your strengths, but mostly because I would be able to bask in some kind words rather than inhaling chocolate after learning about all the changes I needed to make.

I also put my most important question in the middle—whether there was enough description.

I mentioned in my previous post that I write lean. I’m always worried that I’m not describing things enough, because I’m not a visual person. So I was bracing myself for lots of feedback on how I needed to add more words to character and setting descriptions. I figured that would be where most of my comments came from.

What actually happened?

I had one reader tell me she loved the words I used because they helped her see everything.

I had another reader tell me that I focus a lot on hair as an identifying characteristic and that I could maybe mix that up a little.

Everyone else (so far) has said they could picture everything just fine. People who have never experienced life in a Canadian lakeside town in late November said they felt the damp cold as they were reading.

It just goes to show we’re not very good at identifying where we need help, which is why we need beta readers before we send our stories to a wider audience.

The good news: So far, everyone loves my characters, the setting, and the overall plot. This is beyond excellent, because it means I don’t have to rip up all my pages in a dramatic gesture and lock myself in my basement.

Instead, I have received thoughtful and detailed comments on individual scenes, plot points, and character actions where things could be tightened, clarified, or made more real or exciting. Some of my readers have commented on the same things and some have not, but I can already see that even without a consensus at least 90% of this feedback is going to be used as I make changes to my story.

And I am thrilled! I find myself going “Yes!” and “Of course!” and “Why didn’t I see that?” and “Oooh…what if I also did X?” I’m not feeling negative about any of this in the least. Instead, I’m feeling energetic as I look at diving into some rewrites to make this the best story I can. So in between holidays and spending time with my family, I’ll be in front of my computer over the next two months honouring the feedback I have received.

Then we’ll see how much more my editor will catch. 😉

Cheers, and thanks for reading.

All of you.

Sue

 

P.S. Have any of you used beta readers or given feedback on someone else’s writing? What has been your experience? Did you enjoy it, or find it stressful?

My Novel Draft is Done! (Now What?)

Hi everyone,

In August, I talked about my progress in writing my urban fantasy novel and my plans to self-publish it by May 2020. At the time, I was at 46,000 words, and I was optimistic I’d get through my draft sometime in the fall, but I knew I’d need to carve out more time to focus on my writing.

Today, I am thrilled to be able to say I have already finished it! At 69,000 words, I have written my very first novel! I can’t believe it. (I’ve been doing happy dances all day.)

It helped me a lot to know that my alpha reader was patiently waiting to receive the final section of the manuscript after I’d mercilessly left her at a cliffhanger. (Sorry about that, Suzanne!)

For some reason, the last few chapters kept flowing—probably because there were exciting scenes for me to write, and I couldn’t wait to get into that desk chair so I could follow my characters to the final showdown.

Coming in at 69,000 words was also wonderful because I’d targeted for 70,000 words. So close! I’d like to have a final version that’s around 80,000, and that shouldn’t be a problem. One of my discoveries as I’ve gone through this process is that I write lean. Every time I tackle a new scene, I start with reviewing and editing the scene from my previous writing session, and every time I did this, I found I was adding more words rather than taking them away. This surprised me at first, because most of the writers I know tell me they have the opposite problem—they keep needing to cut things out. It turns out I have a tendency to focus on character, dialogue, and plot, while some of the nuances of setting and description are things I fill in later. (I know there will be some cutting during my self-edit, though—including all the flabby verbs and unnecessary words I have inevitably written. There’s a reason why Anne Lamott calls it the “shitty first draft” in her excellent book Bird by Bird.)

So…I’ve written a novel now. (And eaten some chocolate to celebrate, of course.) Now what?

It would be so lovely if writing a draft meant you were done. (Ha!) It’s only the beginning. I outlined this story fairly thoroughly, so I feel like it’s in relatively decent shape, but I want it to be the best I can make it rather than rushing it out the door. So I’m setting it aside for a little bit, and then I’m going to do some self-editing before sending it on to some beta readers sometime in November. I’ve already lined up a couple of folks who love the urban fantasy genre, but I’m hoping to get more readers, so I can get a broad set of opinions from my main target audience. I also have a sensitivity reader on board. My novel is set in a fictionalized Canadian lakeside town that’s modeled after the diverse communities I’ve lived in, and I want to make sure I’m doing a good job of representing some of the characters who have experiences that are different than mine.

Then it’s on to professional editing! One of the nice things about being a member of Editors Canada is that I already know a lot of super friendly, highly qualified editors, and I’ve already booked a stylistic/copy edit in February with someone I admire who edits a lot in this genre. I’ve also reached out to another of my fantastic colleagues (who is a Certified Professional Editor with the association) for final proofreading in April. The best editors have a tendency to get booked up, so I wanted to be sure to grab them early!

The other key action I’m working on is booking a cover designer, since it’s a critical aspect of a self-published book. It’s amazing to think about seeing my main character on a cover next year!

Is that all that’s left to do? Nope!

Sometime between now and when I publish, I’ll need to work out the logistical details, including setting up a publisher name, grabbing some ISBNs (which are free for Canadian publishers, hurrah!), figuring out distributors, and so on.

Oh, and I also need to settle on the final title!

Right now I’m not finding this intimidating at all. Well, except for maybe the title thing. (Although I may have changed my mind in a few months!) Instead, I’m looking forward to exploring the entire process and joining my indie clients and friends in self-publishing my work. I know this is the right approach for me, and I also think it will be a fantastic learning experience.

Thanks, everyone, for listening to me babble on about my book. I hope this summer has treated you well, and I wish you all the best on your personal projects, whatever they may be! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how things are going as I get further along. (And if you happen to feel like beta reading an urban fantasy set in a small lakeside town that features a musician and her best friend, family challenges, quirky local characters, Buffy-like banter, and a ton of magical mayhem, then just drop me a line!)

Cheers,

Sue

Thoughts on Writing My First Novel

It’s been well over a year since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Every time I felt the urge to write something, it seemed like the wrong time. I was too busy, or I’d stared at a computer all day and my eyes were tired, or I just didn’t have anything meaningful to say.

So my blog went dark.

But there’s another reason why I’ve been silent here. Whenever I actually managed to get into a writing mood, I made a deliberate decision to channel that creative energy into writing my first novel.

In my high school years, I played around with novel ideas and started a few chapters, but I don’t think I ever got past Chapter 5. Then life happened, and I left the dream behind.

This year, I decided I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from picking it up again. I didn’t care that I had a demanding day job and family obligations. I’d been carrying around an idea for an urban fantasy that was lighting up all the corners of my brain, and I needed to get it down before life happened again. The only question was whether I would have the staying power to achieve it. After all, I didn’t have a good track record.

It helped that I forced myself to set aside a weekly writing time. If I wasn’t going to be able to write during the week because my eyes were tired from all the computer work, then I was going to get my butt in the chair every Saturday morning and try to write one scene. One scene over the weekend, and I was off the hook.

So I wrote. And plotted. And bought Scrivener. And crossed my fingers that my idea wasn’t going to fizzle out. Was this a real book? Or was I just fooling myself? Had I lost any storytelling capability I’d ever had? Could I really fill a bunch of blank pages with 70,000 readable words?

When I reached 16,000 words, it hit me: This was turning into a real book. I started to get excited. But there was so much to still figure out. It helped that I’d come up with some plot milestones to write towards, based on Save the Cat. Without going from Point A to Point B and then to Point C, I don’t think I would have been able to make it. Even if things changed later, those story beats were beacons that helped illuminate my path forward. (Honestly, I have no idea how you pantsers do it.)

I kept writing. And reached 25,000. Then 35,000. I was at the midpoint! I had written half a novel!

Of course, then I had to figure out how to write the second half. Ha ha. The characters had changed the plot I had originally planned, and now I needed to adjust everything. My original ending wasn’t going to make sense. Now what? I started to be afraid again. Was this it? Was this all going to end up being a colossal waste of time?

Then the best thing happened. I went on vacation.

Suddenly my mind was freed up for two whole weeks. I had time to write, and think, and plan, and then came a wonderful moment. I thought of one idea, and then another, and then it all popcorned into a bunch of related ideas. Kernels of ideas everywhere! I scribbled everything down, and by the time I was done, I’d figured out the path for all the remaining chapters in my book. Hurrah!

Now I’m at 46,000 words, and I can say with confidence, enough to finally post this on my blog: I believe in this story. I LOVE this story. And I’m going to finish it. It’s happening.

And then I’m going to let it sit for a little bit. And then review and edit it. And get it beta read. And professionally edited. (Yes, I am an editor, but it’s a true fact that no one can edit their own work.)

I have a personal goal now to self-publish my first novel by May 2020. I can’t believe I just said that!

What I was realizing today is that I never would have made it this far without being part of this blogging community. Writing my creative communication posts was a labour of love that sparked the creativity in me, something that I had worried was dead. And reading all your comments gave me the courage to take this leap.

So thank you, everybody. I might be going dark again for a while, but I wanted you to know I’m still thinking of you. And I would like you to be the first to read the draft logline for my book, even though it won’t be out for a while:

On the verge of losing her day job, a grieving singer who desperately wants success makes a wish that magically turns her life around; but when the path to her dream gig goes horribly wrong, causing chaos in her hometown and hurting the ones she loves the most, she must face the truth of her family’s past before everything she cares about is destroyed – including herself.

Thanks again for being there for me. I wish you success in your writing, and I really hope to see you again sooner rather than later. (But not until I’ve finished this draft. Otherwise it will never get done!)

All the best,

Sue

What’s New for 2018?

Hi everyone,

In case any of you have been wondering what the heck happened to me, and whether this blog is still alive, I wanted to give you a bit of a personal update.

Since I last posted, I have been busy editing fantasy novels and novellas for some wonderful clients – so busy that I had absolutely zero time for writing. I also moved into a day job that has been personally rewarding but extremely busy, so that even finding time for editing has been a challenge.

I came to the realization that this isn’t a great way of balancing my life, particularly since one of my long-time personal goals has been getting back to my creative side. Editing is wonderful, and it’s always inspiring to read the works of others, but darn it, I want to write my own!

So as of 2018, I have decided to put editing on the back burner, and am now focusing on writing my first urban fantasy novel instead, with the hope of self-publishing it in 2019.

I also want to pick up posting here again, providing communication tips through the lens of sci-fi and fantasy, while taking more time to read the posts of all of my blogging friends!

I expect it will take some time for me to get back into regular posting, and that “regular” will probably mean something like monthly, but it’s a start (or shall we say, a return!).

For those reading this, thank you for all your past support of my blogging, and I look forward to chatting with you as we see what the year brings!

All the best,

Sue

Describing Setting Through Your Character’s Eyes

Hi everyone, it’s been a while! I hope all is well with you. For those of you who write fiction, you may be interested in this post I wrote for my editing blog today. I hope you find it useful!

Sue Archer

Think about one of your favourite fictional stories. Why did you like it so much?

I’ll bet a key reason you liked it is that the story had a character you cared about. Someone who felt real to you. Someone who drew you into their adventures and kept you captivated right to the very end of the plot.

It’s not easy to create a character who is consistently three-dimensional throughout a story. That’s why there are so many articles out there on strengthening the main character’s point of view.

woman's eyes Source: Wikimedia Commons

One item that is sometimes overlooked, though, is the relationship between character and setting. This is particularly important in stories that are intended to have a narrow narrative distance between the reader and the character.

When I edit scenes involving setting descriptions, a common piece of advice I give is to think about the scene from the character’s…

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