My New York Adventure

If you’ve been following me on social media, you know that I recently visited New York for ComicCon. Since I’d never been to New York before, that was a little nuts (in a great way). I’d only ever seen the city in television and the movies, and it was both more and less than I was expecting.

I landed in JFK, because what do I know and the flight was cheaper. Then I take a taxi to Times Square. My hotel was supposedly the Times Square South location. One would think it was at Times Square, right? Actually, no, it was ten blocks south in 36th, but that’s another story. So, first foot set in New York, in the middle of the hubbub of Times Square, culture shock in all its loud glory. I get lost. Three times. I finally only make it due to the kindness of a random doorman. (“Are you lost, honey? Can I help you find it?”) Then I make it to the hotel, but it’s the wrong hotel. Time for good directions, deep breathing, and a stop at Olive Garden because they’d actually let me sit down. Then a ten block trek south before I finally find it.

Then ComicCon. With 150,000 people. You know, like this.

ComicCon at the Javits Center. With a LOT of people.

 

That was early on Saturday. Later the mound of people (seen at the back) covered the entire floor. It was overwhelming. Truly, truly overwhelming. Getting lunch was a little like scaling a high mountain in a thunderstorm. You needed a sherpa to get anywhere in good time.

I was amazed at how friendly the New York geeks were. People would actually talk to you about your favorite fandom in line for coffee, sitting in rest places, even in line for panels. They showed up in costume, they had joyous opinions, and when they heard you didn’t know about the Favorite Thing they were there for, they’d share all the details with you so you could love it too. If New Yorkers are as rude as advertised, I didn’t see it at ComicCon. In fact, they were very warm.

I was on the Doctor Who panel with some amazing folks, and the audience was wonderful too. (You can listen to it in all its glory here at the 6:00 mark thanks to the amazing Anton Strout.) I was also lucky enough to make it to other panels that made me squee in fangirl glee. Also-NASA. And companies in space. In space!

After collapsing into a small puddle at the end of the weekend, I was lucky enough to have lunch with my amazing editor, Rebecca Brewer, who I had also able to hang out with during the con. Rebecca is from Texas, and a total nerd, and it was such a joy to meet her in person. (I will admit to having knit her a hat.) She was kind enough to get me sorted on the subway, otherwise known as the most confusing place in the world, and I was off to see more of New York.

I saw Mood, the Project Runway store that was *way* bigger and more cramped than I ever expected.

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Look at all the fabric. In piles. It takes up FAR more room than walking. Who needs walking?

Also, I went to see The Last Ship, which was really great. Broadway type musical! With cool choreography and a totally unexpected feel. LOVED. My writer brain wants to rewrite the ending though :)

The_Last_Ship_Musical

I met up with friend A.E. Decker to do the grand tour of the city on Tuesday. (9.5 miles of walking. I know because pedometer.) We visited the Obscura shop from Oddities, had astonishing bagels and scones, and saw the Fashion District, the Village, a really cool comic shop with Planet in its title, and many other areas that made me happy. I love that you can walk everywhere in New York, but I dislike that you aren’t really allowed to sit down. Ever. Considering I was toting a 30-pound bag (because visitor), the not sitting thing became a problem!

My all time favorite stop? The amazingness that was Chocolate Moderne, a place on the fifth floor of a nondescript building where you have to tap on an unmarked door to get in. Their chocolate is a spiritual experience.

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Then off to Pennsylvania with my friend, a knitting shop, a vinegar store, and brainstorming for more amazing stories. Then the plane home, happy and exhausted from all the people and all the sights. A wonderful week, but tiring! I needed two days to recover from introvert burnout. So happy though. :)

 

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Too Many Choices

There are two great truths in any life:

  1. Given enough time, resources, and energy, you can do anything.
  2. There will never be enough time, resources, and energy to do everything.

I am running up against the second rule like crazy right now. I have literally a pile of “Someday/Maybe” work and an even bigger pile of work I’d like to do reasonably soon. At last count, I had six projects thought out enough to become good novels, maybe four more still thinking through, an idea for a play, a video game, and a host of short stories, not to mention old projects I could revise and/or finish. The more I train my brain to come up with good stories, the more I come up with good stories. This is a lovely problem to have! But sometimes it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose. A great novel takes time and focused attention, meaning I have to actively choose not to work on All the Other Things, sigh.

Of course writing isn’t all I do. I’m going to New York ComicCon at the end of the week (if you’re around there, do drop by my Dr. Who panel Sunday to say hi) I’m also working on classes I’ll be teaching in the next few months, and all the host of little business decisions that go along with writing professionally. I’d like to get back to writing short shorts for the email newsletter, for example, and I have a book launch coming up. Not to mention email, which seems to breed like rabbits whenever I leave it alone for very long.

When I worked in marketing, it was a point of professional pride that nothing I was in charge of ever got dropped. I worked in a team of at least four people to make sure that was always true. Now that I’m the one running my own working life, I’m finding out it’s not so easy. For every Thing I choose to do, there is another Thing (or five) that I cannot. Those decisions were always handled by the executive types, or the manager types above me, and I’m starting to appreciate how hard they worked to say no. It is a skill I must master this year, I think. Right now it feels like that impossible yoga pose where you balance on one leg with your knee over your shoulder, but I’ve seen people do that, too. It is not impossible! Or so I tell myself. I can do this.

So, time to stretch out the mental skills. Time to learn priorities, and do deep thinking about the novel I’ll be drafting in NaNo this year. And time, most of all, to accept that All the Things will not happen at once.

I feel very old, and very limited, all at once.

What about you guys? How do you cope with difficult decisions and juggling too many things? I’d love to hear any tips and tricks you have.

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Great News for My Audiobook Listeners

Most of you already know that my first three Mindspace novels, Clean, Sharp, and Marked, are available as audiobooks through Audible.com. The amazing Daniel May is the narrator, and I couldn’t be more happy with the way he brings Adam to life as a character through his words. There are samples you can play at all three pages–the one for Clean in particular puts chills up my spine. (The links above are affiliate links; if this bothers you just search on Audible directly.) I’m a huge fan of Daniel May’s work, and I keep getting great comments from readers who love the audio just as much as I do.

Audible will also be producing Vacant, Mindspace #4, hopefully to be released on the same day as the print book, and I’m excited to see what they do. Even better, I’m thrilled to announce we’ve just come to an agreement about the two shorter pieces in the world, Rabbit Trick and Payoff. This means that the audio folks will be able to listen to everything that’s out so far in your preferred format. I’ll let you know release dates when I have them, but if everything goes well, we’re hoping to have one of the shorter pieces out before Vacant. Fingers crossed!

Thanks again to all you guys who read (and listen). You guys rock.

Alex

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My DragonCon Schedule

Hi all,

I’m looking forward to seeing you guys at DragonCon this upcoming weekend on Labor Day! For those who are interested, here’s the stuff I’ll be speaking at. Come say hi! :)

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Title: Protagonist Professions in UF

Description: Authors share how the daytime/mundane jobs their characters hold impact their supernatural existence.

Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

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Title: Science Fiction 101

Description: A discussion of books and stories that can make for a good grounding in the genre.

Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

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Title: Reading: Alex Hughes

Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Edgewood – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

(Tentative Panelists: Alex Hughes)

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Title: After the Post-Apocalypse

Description: Post-apocalyptic fiction is popular, but what comes next?

Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

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Title: Autograph Sessions

Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: International Hall South – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

(Tentative Panelists: Travis Walton, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Milton J Davis, Laurell K. Hamilton, Alex Hughes)

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Title: Supernatural Thrillers: Mystery & Suspense in UF

Description: Authors discuss the importance of the elements of mystery and suspense in their work.

Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

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Traveling

“We need stories. Stories help us make sense of the world.” – Stephanie, the amazing Sunday lunch speaker at Willamette Writers Convention this year.

 

So I’ve been traveling. Not the simple A to B traveling—no, that would be far too simple. I’ve been traveling between cities for awhile now, short stops with big things happening. First San Diego Comic Con with panels and signings (oh my!), then home for a day or two, then Willamette Writers Convention where I taught a class on POV. Then, of course, a stop with my aunt and uncle, and now in St. Louis for the annual writers retreat I do with my Odyssey folks, the Even Odders. It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. But some cool stuff sticks out in my mind.

The dinosaurs at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry—the museum had both bones and life-sized moving models that roared and had feathers. Yes, feathers on a dinosaur. Because science and why the hell not.

Thai food for lunch with my uncle, and another Thai lunch with writer friends. Apparently Thai is big in Portland. Also, happy conversations.

Brainstorming sessions galore with writer friends of every stripe. Thrillers and science fiction and writing ideas all alike. Solving creative problems—and I have many.

A kid with a boat in the OMSI boat-building interactive area. He’s going to be an engineer someday, you can tell.

Teaching my first big class to a large audience at Willamette. Got a lot of great feedback and wonderful questions asked of me. Will be doing that again.

Staying up way too late at night getting my handouts done.

Sitting in the exit seat on the airplane with extra legroom reading an Agatha Christie novel.

Sitting in front of a line of people there to get my book at San Diego Comic Con. Blown away to find a fan came out specifically to ask me a question about the series. I’m a real person! I have fans. I must giggle now.

Standing in line to see the Mythbusters’s panel, and finding they were exactly the same in person as they were on TV. A ton of fun in all accounts.

Emailing with my editor from the airport on public WiFi—so totally not a thing in Atlanta.

Meeting so many cool industry people at Willamette, and finding them incredibly helpful and kind. So kind.

Fighting jet lag as a constant companion. Having no solid idea what time it is.

Calls to Sam at strange hours because of the time change.

Talking to writer friends about crazy projects while eating amazing food we cooked ourselves. Wondering what ideas will make it past the chrysalis to the full-blown adult stage. Feeding them good research while I chip away at more creative problems with the help of friends.

Critiquing other writers’ works. Giving feedback.

Sleeping. Thinking and reading. More sleeping. Petting my aunt and uncle’s cats. Riding on airplane after airplane, and sleeping some more.

Typing on the computer, words and more words, and more words. Because being a writer is writing, in the end. Words and more words.

Our lives are diffuse, but our stories are finite. It’s the details we choose to tell ourselves and the meaning that makes the story. For me, today, that’s St. Louis and friends. Tomorrow—or next week, or whenever the story turns—it will be Atlanta and everyday life. At least until DragonCon.

In the meantime, I do need to get my words written.

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Rabbit Trick now $0.99

Hi All,

RabbitTrickCover
Just to let everyone know, I’ve lowered the price of Rabbit Trick, my short story in the Mindspace Investigations series, to just $0.99 on Amazon and Smashwords. The other retailers are in process, but should be at the same level within the week.

Here’s all the info:

 

Synopsis:

OPEN MIND

When the cops call me in the middle of the night, I know it’s bad. One of their own is dead, strangled in her car by a professional killer, and it’s up to me, telepath consultant extraordinaire, to pull the rabbit out of my hat and solve the case. Only this time I’m not so sure I can.

Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino is breathing down my neck. The dead cop’s partner is too. And now, the worst—there was a five-year-old kid in the car, a kid no one can find.

Reviews:

“Great urban fantasy crime story.” Sharon Stogner, I Smell Sheep book blogger

“I love Mindspace–the stories are fantastically fun to read, well-crafted, and well-plotted. They pull you in and keep you engaged from start to finish.” Book Person reviewer

Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1qRLaem

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/415753

Thanks for reading!

Alex

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I’m going to San Diego ComicCon

Hi all,

I have just confirmed my travel plans for San Diego ComicCon at the end of the month! I will be there on Friday and Saturday (July 26th and 27th) and am looking forward to the awesome geekdom, fun costumes, and amazing experience of it all.

I am tentatively scheduled for a panel on Friday (I’ll let you know more details when I can) and will for sure be having a signing at the Penguin Booth (#1028) at 4:00 pm on Saturday. Did I mention there will be copies of Clean available? Rumor is a few might be free, so stop by and send your friends.

This is my very first ComicCon in San Diego, and I’m told it’s a huge one. I’m nervous and excited all at once. Any advice from those who have been before?

Alex

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So I Asked My Readers for Three Words

Early last week, I asked my readers for three words via my email newsletter list. I knew that I owed them short stories, you see, but all of my ideas were turning into longer pieces. What was a girl to do? Well, ask for help of course!

The email newsletter folks responded with over 35 sets of three words for me to play with, and in return I’ll be sending out a new flash short story every Friday for the next two months or so based on those three words. It will be epic.

(If you want to get a copy of the stories, you have to join the newsletter! Either put your information in the form on the right or go here.)

But in the meantime, I had to brag on my newsletter readers. They picked some amazing words. Not to mention sending me to the dictionary! My readers are obviously smart people.

Here’s some words I had to look up:

  • Moribund
  • Psychobabble
  • Perspicacious
  • Omicron
  • Polymorphic
  • Calliope
  • Elephantine
  • Punctilious

Some of my favorites from the rest of the list:

  • Dour
  • Revenge
  • Pineapple
  • Crow’s feather
  • Stave
  • Explosion
  • Hellfire
  • Epiphany
  • Ticklish
  • Ferret
  • Sorcery
  • Laudanum

And the big winner, a word that was not only new to me, but not in the dictionary: amplituhedron, which reader Marcin K. sent. According to him (and Wikipedia), it’s basically a theory of the underlying structure of the quantum universe, a shape to define it like the string in string theory. Quantum physics! I am delighted. Hopefully I can figure out a way to use it in a story.

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Cover Reveal

Well, it looks like I got scooped by a few bloggers (and Amazon) with the cover of Book Four. But! For those who haven’t seen it yet, here is the amazing cover of Vacant, due out first week of December this year.

Isn’t it gorgeous? You’ll notice the buildings and cobblestone streets are from River Street in Savannah, GA.

Vacant cover

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Trading Questions with Rachel Aaron (Bach)

Hi all,

Recently I asked Rachel Aaron (penname: Rachel Bach) to stop by my blog for an interview. Instead, she offered to trade questions so we’d both stop by each others’ blogs for an awesome event. Of course, I agreed. My questions on her site are here (oops! Link added). Hers on mine are below.

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Fortune's Pawn CoverA: Hi Rachel, thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

R: Thank you so much for having me! Let’s answer some questions :D

A:  I *love* your Paradox trilogy starring Devi Morris. She’s such an active character, and there are so many secrets and threads running throughout the trilogy. How did you build Devi’s character? What’s her biggest strength and weakness? How much would you say you have in common with her?

R: Thank you! Devi has been my most popular character by far, which was a lucky break for me because she’s also the easiest for me to write (we think a lot alike). Just like Eli Monpress before her, there wasn’t much development on my end with Devi. She just walked into my head one day and was like “LET’S ROCK” and I was like “OKAY!” Honestly, the biggest challenge of the series was structuring the plot so that she couldn’t just shoot her way through every problem.

Really, though, I think me writing Devi was inevitable. As a kid, I used to get so frustrated with all the self sacrificing nice girls in fiction. Why did she have to be nice? Why couldn’t she just punch the bad guy and take the power?! That’s what I would do. I also really wanted my chance to play Space Marine like all the action heroes I saw in movies. This combination of longings is the primordial soup that produced Devi Morris. She’s pretty much my FU to the idea that leading ladies in fiction can’t be angry or violent or assertive if they want to be heroines worthy of our admiration. Devi is a deeply flawed character. She’s impulsive and stubborn and makes snap judgments and has serious anger management and trust issues, but she’s also loyal, highly skilled, incredibly brave, and the sort of person you can count on to do the right thing no matter the cost. I think there’s something very noble in that.

A:  Your space armor kicks ass. Tell me more about it, and how you built its capabilities into the culture and world.

R: I have always been in love with the idea of powered armor. Who wouldn’t want an amazing suit that basically makes you super human, a la Iron Man? That said, I actually wrote Fortune’s Pawn before I became aware of Iron Man (I was a DC girl growing up and didn’t really get into the Marvel movies until Thor), but if you’ve seen the Iron Man movies, Devi’s Verdemont Armor is a lot like a space age version Stark’s powered armor without the repulsors in the hands and feet (so no flight or laser palms). That said, the Paradox armor was actually inspired by the armor in the Star Craft video game series, the Starship Troopers movie, Aliens, and the Battle Angel Alita manga series (which is totally awesome, btw).

When I was designing Devi’s armor, my #1 priority was that this must be a professional’s suit. Paradox is a planet that’s obsessed with powered armor. All of their sports are armor based from racing to the gladiatorial games, and their military (which every Paradoxian is required to serve at least 2 years in) is entirely armor based. Because of this emphasis, there are tons of different kinds of suits available. Devi could have had armor nothing could crush, or a suit that could punch through ship hulls. But for all her bluster, Devi isn’t a brute force kind of girl. She’s a smart, clever fighter who loves her tools and tricks, and her armor needed to reflect that. I put a high emphasis on mobility and powerful cooldowns, to use a video game term. I also wanted to make sure her suit had plenty of limitations, because super powers without flaws are dull dull dull. With all this in mind, I built the Lady Grey to be Devi’s partner. A suit of powered armor full of features that other mercs might scratch their heads at, but Devi could use in new and clever ways to devastating advantage. Most important of all, though, I wanted the fights to be interesting and fun, and a lot of Devi’s tools were chosen just for coolness factor.

A:  And they are super cool! Thanks for sharing. In your book 2k to 10k, you talked about the experience of writing the trilogy, which was very different from writing your Eli books. Now that you have a little distance from both, what were some of the joys and challenges involved in writing this series specifically? How have other projects gone since?

R: Writing Devi herself was easy and an absolute joy. Writing her story was another matter entirely. From the very beginning of the Paradox series, I’d set myself the challenge of writing a story with no villain. Everyone in the books thinks they’re the good guys, and the question of who is or isn’t right really depends on perspective, just like in real life. This was a very delicate balance to write that required a lot of thought in terms of how and when information is revealed. Reveal too much and you give the game away, reveal too little and readers can’t see the subtle shades of gray that make this balance work. It was a tricky, delicate card-house of a meta plot right from the get go, and into this delicate balance, I drop the charging bull known as Devi Morris.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge of the series was structuring the plot so Devi couldn’t just bust her way through. HONOR’S KNIGHT (book 2) was particularly difficult. I actually rewrote the second half 3 times before I was satisfied with the overall tone and pacing. I was sure people would hate it, but most of my reviewers say HONOR’S KNIGHT was the strongest of the series, so what do I know? (For the record, the final book, HEAVEN’S QUEEN, is my favorite because I finally got to let Devi run wild and bust up all the secrets, though FORTUNE’S PAWN was the easiest and most fun to write.)

I finished the Paradox series last year. Since then, projects have been hit or miss. On the hit side, I’ve got NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST, an urban fantasy about dragons in the same vein as my Eli Monpress fantasy series, which I’m going to be self publishing in July under my Rachel Aaron name. On the miss side, I’ve got a few failed attempts to write a full blown Romance. I’m an avid Romance reader and I’ve got several great ideas, but I just can’t seem to make the genre work for me. All my Romances balloon out into Fantasies or UF or SF or whatever, and the main couple gets lost in the shuffle. I’ve tried and flopped three times now to write one, and I think it’s time to throw in the towel. I’m just going to stick to romantic elements in my genre books from now on.

For the record, that last paragraph is an excellent example of the less rosy side of life as a full time writer. Sometimes you work for months on a book that just doesn’t work. When that happens, you have to make a decision: do I put out something I’m not proud of, or do I take the loss, trunk the book, and chalk up those months to a learning experience? Personally, I always take the loss. My quality is my brand, and I’d rather eat the lost time than put out something I can’t stand behind. That really sucks in the short term because I don’t get paid for the months I spend on projects I can’t sell. But writing is a long game, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in this business is that you always have to keep the bigger picture in mind.

A: That’s wise advice. In a recent interview, you talked about how you deliberately put a romantic thread into the series, and that some of your readers have reacted negatively to Devi’s perceived weakness as a result. (For the record, I enjoyed the messy romance very much, especially as it changed characters’ loyalties.) What do you feel the romantic thread gained you in the trilogy? Will you be adding romantic threads to future series as well? Why or why not?

R: I’m so glad you enjoyed the love story! I absolutely adored it. Devi and Rupert’s scenes were some of my personal favorites in the whole series. That said, the romantic issue was a tricky one for me. As I mentioned just above, I really like Romance, but writing it seems to be a real challenge for me. Also, there are people who really dislike it. Part of the challenge of straddling genres (in this case, SF and Romance) is that you’re going to get people from one side who can’t stand elements of the other. But on the other hand, there are plenty of people like myself who love mixing it up, and that audience was very happy with the books. A lot of people actually told me that FORTUNE’S PAWN was their first Science Fiction book, which is super exciting. I’m always thrilled to hook more people into a genre I love!

As for if I’ll be doing this again, Devi is by far the most romantic story I’ve ever attempted, and it was a definite learning curve for me as a writer. So many people brush off Romance as formulaic, but it’s actually really hard to create honest, believable romantic tension between two characters, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for the writers who excel at it. Given my recent troubles, I don’t have plans to write anything as overtly romantic as Paradox in the near future (at least, not until my next Paradox series, which I will totally be writing), but that’s not to say there won’t be romantic subplots in future books. I still like Romance, and stuff I like always worms its way into my novels. Some kissing, at least, seems inevitable.

A: (Does happy dance for additional Paradox series. With armor, hopefully!) I’m going to shamelessly steal this last question from the ones you sent me: It’s not exactly a radical statement to put forth that the publishing world has changed dramatically over the last few years. If you were starting fresh as a new author today, would you do anything differently? And on that note, do you have any advice for someone just beginning the publishing process?

R: I sold my first book to Orbit back in 2008. That was six years ago, and a LOT has changed since then. Even so, if I was starting fresh today, I would probably still do what I did then. As much as I disagree with some of the tenants of traditional publishing–the archaic accounting schemes, reserve against returns, world rights, basket accounting and so forth–the feedback I got from my editor and agent on those early books was absolutely priceless. You simply can not buy that level of investment from an editor you hire, and I would not be the writer I am today without it. Also, the platform I got from being traditionally published first can not be discounted.

That said, however, my situation is unique. As you said in your answer to this question, every writer is their own CEO. What works for me, my career, and my brand might not work for yours, and that’s okay. Just as every writer writes differently, we all publish differently as well. The most important thing is to always keep your eyes on your long term career goals, whatever you decide they are. For me right now, that means being a hybrid author. For others, it might mean going full on Indie, or publishing through a major house. All I can say is that you should do your own research, apply your own values to what you find, and make the decision that will you the most happy. I know that seems like a cop out answer, but when every writer’s career is so different, it’s the only truthful one I can give.

A: Thanks again for coming on the blog :)

_____________

Rachel’s Bio

Rachel Bach author photoRachel Bach is the author of FORTUNE’S PAWN, a fast paced, romantic adventure starring Devi Morris, a powered armor mercenary who signs on with the galaxy’s most trouble-prone space freighter in an attempt to jumpstart her career. But while Devi expected the firefights and aliens, this ship holds secrets she never could have imagined, and the greatest danger for this ship guard might just be the very people she was hired to protect.

Other books by Rachel include The Legend of Eli Monpress fantasy series (under the name Rachel Aaron) and the bestselling fast writing guide, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. You can find out more about Rachel, her multiple pen names, and read samples of all her books at www.rachelaaron.net!

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