Aug 222022

Goodness but we’ve been remiss in updating when and where we will be showing up. I have published what we have. I’ve only listed the shows we will likely be in. There will be others, but I don’t confirmation on some of the more unusual ones.

I’m sad to say that one of our staple conventions, OryCon, won’t be held this year. But I hope the convention committee comes back from this break refreshed and ready to tackle more lovely fun!

 August 22, 2022  Uncategorized No Responses »
Oct 072021

Any fans of TANSTAAFL Press will recognize our logo… Don Quixote holding his iconic M16 assault rifle. At conventions of late, Don hasn’t had his weapon. This isn’t because it has been banned (although TANSTAAFL Press has been removed from at least one convention because they wouldn’t remove it), but rather because his gun is broken.

Yes, you heard me right, his gun is broken. The M16 in the images is a plastic gun. The joint where the black handguard meets the silver main mechanism of the weapon is fragile as the entire structure is plastic and hollow. Don has gone through THREE copies of this gun at considerable expense for each one.

We’ve been working to make a broken version whole and more robust but it has been laborious and fraught with issues.

Recently, on our way back from GenCon, we caught a billboard sign that advertised an all-metal model of the AR-15 (the civilian variant of the M16) from With the appropriate amount of skepticism we investigated and were even more skeptical as the price for Goat Gun’s metal model of the gun is less than HALF what the plastic ones were. We ordered one. It was shipped the next day and arrived the day following.

The Goat Gun AR-15 is the bomb. No, it isn’t a bomb, but rather in the idiomatic term that it is exceptional! It looks incredible (see for yourself) There is a very small amount of assembly (no tools) but is solid! I no longer have to worry about someone hugging the bear and hearing the telltale “snap” of the plastic breaking again.

Because of the skill of the folks at Goat Guns, Don will resume his militant defense of the TANSTAAFL Press convention tables.

 October 7, 2021  Uncategorized No Responses »
Jul 052021

We’ve talked about the changes brought about by the C19 pandemic. We now have a much better view of what the rest of this year will hold for us at TANSTAAFL Press.

First, we have release updates. The sequel to The Faerie of Central Park, by Bruce Graw, The Gremlin of Morningside Heights, is on its way to the printers as I type this. We expect to have print books in hand by end of July. And, if that isn’t sweet enough, the sequel to Gremlin, The Djinn of the Upper East Side is in our hands and is going through edits. We are hoping to have this available before the end of the year.

Thomas Gondolfi has finished Courting Witchcraft, the sequel to Of Demons and Coal. It is in edit and beta reader’s hands at the moment. This should be available circa mid-August.

And now conventions! (and there was much rejoicing) I won’t lie and say everything is back to normal. Because of this, our convention schedule is rather weird. Here it is, in all it’s glory.

GenCon – Indianapolis, IN – 9/16 – 9/21
Lilac City Comic Con – Spokane, WA – 10/2 – 10/3
Grit City Comic Con – Tacoma, WA – 10/9
Spocon – Spokane, WA – 10/29 – 10/31
OryCon – Portland, WA – 11/14 – 11/14 (unconfirmed)

We feel fairly confident we will be in OryCon but less likely the three below. We have also inquired to RustyCon (Bellvue, WA), Gateway (Los Angeles, CA), and Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, WA).

Hope we see you there!

 July 5, 2021  Uncategorized No Responses »
Jan 242021

Well, the answer to this battle royale is quite simple – C19 wins every time. As much fun as conventions are, they don’t stack up to potential death and/or lifetime chronic illness.

Shows early in this year are pushing off to the fall, going virtual, or canceling.

We are looking at doing a couple of the virtual shows but nothing is confirmed as yet. The earliest possible in-person show I see is mid-May, however, we’re expecting that one to push out. That leaves a late June as the next. We think that is a coin-flip at this point.

From our vantage point, the most probable first show face-to-face show for TANSTAAFL Press will GenCon 8/5-8/8 in Indianapolis. We are actively lining up more in the fall but naturally, convention committees are reticent to make commitments. We are as much on edge as the rest of you. We will advise as more becomes known.

Hang in. Stay safe. Read more books.

 January 24, 2021  Uncategorized No Responses »
Jan 242021

It is with optimism and a sense of childlike wonder that TANSTAAFL Press flings open the door of 2021! With vaccinations on the horizon, it is looking like conventions will start up again sometime in the summer or fall. TANSTAAFL Press intends to be there to greet our long distanced friends, fans, and family! We miss you! And while we do miss you as customers, we care for you more as people and how you feed us with your enthusiasm! It is sometimes the only thing that pushes us through the tough days.

And, for those who are interested in our books, we have not been idle. Bruce Graw has The Gremlin of Morningside Heights, the sequel to Faerie of Central Park, almost complete. Thomas Gondolfi is well into the second book of the “Monarchy of America” steampunk series. We intend to have both of these at GenCon this year.

 January 24, 2021  Uncategorized No Responses »
Jan 242021

None of us is happy about how 2020 turned out. At TANSTAAFL Press we have another reason for this sadness. As of the end of 2020, we are separating business ways from Stephanie Weippert.

This isn’t like some of the screaming divorces you’ve seen in other industries. Stephanie and TANSTAAFL have been growing in different directions over the last couple of years. This isn’t recrimination or even necessarily a bad thing, only a statement of truth. In that vein, we’ve decided it best to make a clean break from one another.

TANSTAAFL Press has returned copyrights of both Sweet Secrets and Road to Chaos back to Stephanie so she can own her destiny. We have also provided such support as we could for taking them forward herself.

We wish Stephanie only the best with her future endeavors and hope you continue to support her as you have us. You can find her at

This brings our reduced author lineup to Bruce Graw and Thomas Gondolfi as authors. Our tightened author list allows us to focus on bringing their work to you at a faster pace.

 January 24, 2021  Uncategorized No Responses »
May 262020

Welcome back to my count up list of SciFi movies. I left off with some massive ties at #18. I’ve realized my rounding to a single decimal space is problematic and causing many ties. SOooooo, I’m going to make some minor tweaks to the numbers to put one over the other in the ties.

# 28 – Young Frankenstein – Rating 7.8

What can I say about this classic laughfest? It is a riot. “Walk this way.” “What nice knockers.” “You made a yummy sound.” “Be careful of the taffeta, darling.” The entire movie is a comedy gem!

#29 – 2001 & 2010 – Rating 7.8

I probably will be abused for this but I preferred 2010 to the original Stanley Kubrick film. The original seemed too psychedelic and pointless. The second one actually went somewhere while keeping the cannons of the first movie.  Standing ovation.

#30 – Omega Man – Rating 7.8

An old movie that most reading this have not seen. It is the movie that “I am Legend” is remade from. If you watch this movie, remember its timeframe. Yes, the special effects aren’t great, but the inner turmoil of the man is much clearer in this movie than its remake.

#31 – I am Legend – Rating 7.8

OK, the difference between them is small. I loved both movies.

#32 – 28 Days Later – Rating 7.8

Looks like I’ve lumped a bucketload of zombie movies (and I HATE zombie movies) in among the better movies I have. In fact the other one on my list isn’t that far down. I don’t know why this one seems better than others, but it felt more real to me.

#33 – Outland – Rating 7.8

Sean Connery as a cop in space. What more do you need to say? The setting was incredible and I loved how he used it to his advantage.  Wonderful watch.

#34 – Super 8 – Rating 7.8

I’m normally not a kid movie kind of person. They are always doing stupid stuff and somehow saving the day from their own idiocy. This one felt different as they didn’t spawn the problem but they helped solve it with empathy.

#35 – Robocop – Rating 7.7

Badass cyberpunk from the word go. Police departments being purchased like commodities. <cough> Not at all like us buying jail space from private contractors, is it? Ok, the acting is cartoonish but really speaks to me on an instinctual level.

#36 – I, Robot – Rating 7.6

Asimov translated to modern era. I had problems with some of the science and the drama wasn’t quite there. The movie really wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama. If they had taken out Will Smith (don’t get me wrong, I like him) but put in a more serious actor in his place then I think it would have been a better movie.

#37 – Apollo 13 – Rating 7.6

OK, the ONLY place this movie falls down is that you know the ending before you even see the movie. Every other category is spot on! Honestly, I didn’t know my history well enough to know the ending, so when I watched this for the first time I was glued to my seat.

#38 – Ready Player One – Rating 7.5

This movie gets and exceptional rating even after I read the book (which was fabulous)! It brought the visuals that the book lacked. It brought humanization (even in VR) to the main character that the book lacked. OK, the movie took some serious liberties with the book, but kept its essence.

#39 – Warm Bodies – Rating 7.5

Wow, a romantic comedy zombie movie. Who’da thunk it?  Loved it. While it falls down as horror, it certainly holds up everywhere else.

#40 – The Truman Show – Rating 7.5

I will say, despite Jim Carrey, I wasn’t expecting much of this movie when I saw it the first time. But it sucked me in like a vacuum cleaner on high. Couldn’t turn away. A single person as the focus of a 24/7 show just is brilliant. Reality TV at its finest.

#41 – Ender’s Game – Rating 7.5

A journeyman’s attempt at capturing the book.

#42 – John Wick – Rating 7.5

Loved the dark action scenes. Humor fell flat.

#43 – Altered States – Rating 7.5

A psychedelic attempt to find the meaning of life, and no, it’s not 42.

#44 – District 9 – Rating 7.5

Wanted to love this one more. I think the humor in it fell a bit flat.

#45 – Pixels – Rating 7.5

Again, loved the concept. Felt the execution didn’t quite make it.

#46 – War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise version) – Rating 7.5

#47 – Ex Machina – Rating 7.4

This movie tried to do too much and the horror portion of it fell flat.

#48 – Minority Report – Rating 7.4

Enjoy it as a fast action romp. Ignore anything that resembles science. Interesting twist on time travel.

#49 – Ghostbusters – Rating 7.3

Laugh your ass off with this mindless comedy!

#50 – Escape from New York (first movie only) – Rating 7.3

“Aren’t you dead?” First movie is this rating. The others all fell WAY down the board and.. frankly OFF the board.

#51 – Oblivion – Rating 7.3

Too many inconsistencies to make this a truly great movie.

#52 – Star Wars – Rating 7.2

Finally we reach one of the iconic movie franchises in the history of film making. If I rated ONLY the first movie (episode IV), it would be up around a 9, maybe even as high as a perfect 10 for its era. If I rated the first three movies (Episodes IV-VI) It would be maybe 8.5ish. But as a franchise it probably doesn’t even deserve 7.2. Consistency is a problem, as is reusing plots and plot devices. I stopped caring what happened to any of the characters.

#53 – Andromeda Strain – Rating 7.2

Bet you didn’t know there were three versions of this movie. The book is by far better than any of the three movies and they all had their good and bad points. Each of them hovered near this rating. Each different, not just a complete rehash.

#54 – Jericho – Rating 7.0

I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction/movies that are done right. I found this series really close. If they had left out the g’damned government conspiracy/spy crap it would have zoomed up the charts. Which reminds me, if you are a reader and like post-nuclear war stuff, try Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. You have to deal with the outdatedness of it, but it really works well.

#55 – Death Race and Death Race 2000 – Rating 7.0

I think I liked DR2000 a bit more for its camp value. Acting sucked, but I loved the dark humor.

#56 – Judge Dredd – Rating 7.0

#57 – Flash Gordon – Rating 7.0


#58 – Heavy Metal– Rating 7.0

#59 – The Last Starfighter– Rating 7.0

Everyone as a kid dreamed of this.

#60 – The Matrix– Rating 7.0

#61 – Total Recall– Rating 7.0

Still haven’t gotten to Star Trek or Dr. Who and we are down to #61. How disappointing, but I’ll describe details in a later version.

 May 26, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
May 132020

Welcome to the next installment of Tom’s greatest science fiction movies. Last week we talked about the BEST ten. Now let’s delve down a little deeper. I mean we haven’t even gotten to Star Trek or Star Wars, for goodness sake.

At #11 we have a six-way tie

#11 Children of Men – Rating 8.3

This is a dark as heck movie that creeped me out from beginning to end. It isn’t a movie I’d watch very often (despite constantly rewatching other movies) but the concept and execution on this one had me sitting on the edge of my seat.

#11 Handmaid’s Tale – Rating 8.3

NOTE: This is only about the movie, I never watched the series. This is one of the darkest, foulest movies I’ve ever had to privilege to watch. If you don’t mind the plug, I found the imagery similar to what I wrote in “Wayward School.” I did say, wrote (past tense). I wrote it long before Handmaid’s Tale but only published the book recently.
Enough about my book… This story envisions a future where women who can bear children are suborned as slaves and breeding cows for those of society who can. Definitely a movie you have to watch at least once.

#11 The Martian – Rating 8.3

I have to say I’d all but given up on HARD science fiction that was internally consistent, that wasn’t exaggerated for drama until I saw this movie. I, by temperament, find the things that don’t work rather than those that do. I find the bad, rather than the good. It is rare I see a movie and don’t find a dozen or many more errors, either technical or consistency. However, in The Martian I found only two.

#11 Sucker Punch – Rating 8.3

This visually evocative and emotional movie is both a rollercoaster action flick (with a nice anime crossover) but also a disturbing ride through the emotional troubles of anyone in such a situation. I love the nod to David Carradine as a key player in the dream sequences.  

#11 Yesterday – Rating 8.3

Many will question why I make this a science fiction movie but are talking about either alternate history or parallel universes. The basic premise (no spoiler really) is that a down on his luck musician gets injured. When he wakes he finds that the Beatles (and other things) have never existed… yet he remembers them. Great feel-good movie!

#11 Lord of the Rings – Rating 8.3

I’ll be surprised at anyone who hasn’t seen the movies. I will make a horrific admission that I’ve never read any of the books except the Hobbit. I didn’t care for the writing of Tolkein. The world he fashioned is incredible but not his prose (IMHO). The movies are a visual smorgasbord of scifi/fantasy love. The drama is over the top!  Gotta love it.

#17 The Stand – Rating 8.2

I love the combination of science, horror, and drama in this movie series. I would say that it is one of the best screen adaptations of a King original novel that I’ve seen. While not a fan of horror, this still brings it home in a way I can accept. Add the twists of the movie and you have a fan favorite!

Our next place has a ten-way tie.

#18 Predestination – Rating 8

One of the grandmasters of science fiction, Robert Heinlein wrote a short story called “All you Zombies.” This is an adaptation of that story. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it is one of the only adaptations of his works that is worth a flying fuck. Starship Troopers was a joke. Even Puppet Masters didn’t live up to anything worthwhile. This one is a fully-integrated, mind-bending time travel movie that is internally consistent with itself (very rare).

#18 Blade Runner – Rating 8

No greatest scifi list would be complete without this epic work. I, however, will break with the pack and say that my favorite version of this is the one WITH the voice-over. It gives so much depth that the other versions leave on the cutting room floor. I will also say I enjoyed the sequel.

#18 Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live, Die, Repeat) – Rating 8

More action than a basketful of kittens. More time travel fun than a basket of puppies. This future classic just makes one warm all over. The premise is awesome and deserves your attention

#18 Groundhog Day – Rating 8

Honestly the predecessor to Edge of Tomorrow. The scifi portion is never explained, but it is delightful. And with Bill Murray as our protagonist? Drop the mic.

#18 Mad Max – Rating 8

I love (good) post-apocalyptic movies. The original Road Warrior and its sequel must have been made on a shoestring budget but they told an exceptional story of the world going to hell and one man fighting against the tide before becoming swept up in it.

#18 Men in Black – Rating 8

A surprisingly high number on my list. The camp in this movie made it a delightful romp in hilarity. It abused many of our scifi tropes into humor. I will admit I’ve not seen the third movie so I can’t comment.

#18 Resident Evil – Rating 8

I DON’T LIKE ZOMBIE MOVIES! As they are written, most zombie apocs couldn’t have gotten beyond the initial presentation, much less take over the world. That being said, I liked the RE series as an action-adventure.. kind of like the second Alien movie, Aliens, is action-adventure rather than horror. This fills in the same spot. Besides, what isn’t to like about Milla Jovovich kicking ass and taking names.

#18 The Thing (John Carpenter’s version) – Rating 8

One of three movies that actually scared the shit out of me. Granted, Kurt Russell’s acting leaves much to be desired, but the movie played to his strengths, kind of like ST:TNG’s Riker plays to Jonathan Frake’s single strength as an actor. If the movie had enough horror to scare me (the horror rock), then it works! I found the remake a trite piece of trash.

#18 Unbreakable – Rating 8

Think Sixth Sense meets the Dark Knight. A dark superhero movie that doesn’t present as a superhero movie. When I saw it originally I had no idea what it was about but had recommendations to see it. How might a superhero find out he has powers?

#18 Transcendence – Rating 8

High-tech drama with many lovely twists and some good acting by Johnny Depp. Is technology evil? Be careful what you wish for.

Come back next time when I will start from my 28th favorite and continue to dip down. I STILL haven’t gotten to Star Wars or Star Trek.

 May 13, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
May 082020

I don’t know why, but recently I Googled “Best Science Fiction Movies.” I really wondered if I’d missed something. There are many folks out there who give us their views. I guess it is my turn.

This will be a multi-part post. This one will contain choices from 1 to 11.

Instead of counting toward the best, I’m going to change up and give you my favorite movies from the best down… at some point, I’ll just trail off. Note that I’ve lumped franchises together, so if I say, Terminator, for example, I mean all of the terminator movies unless I give some specific exceptions.

Rating system: I rate all movies on Science, Action, Humor, Horror, Drama, Twists, and Consistency. I average all of the pieces that are primarily being filmed and average them. All of my ratings will be on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the best.

Drumroll… My favorite science fiction movie of all time is (4-way tie for first place):

#1 A Man from Earth – Rating 9

This movie, which you probably have never even heard of, did so poorly at the box office that I never even heard of it until I stumbled upon it on Netflix (I don’t believe it is there any longer)
It has no special effects at all. It has no action. It isn’t set in the future. The entire movie two sets, and contains nothing more than people talking.
This is the epitome of a thinking person’s science fiction.

#1 Gattaca – Rating 9

This one’s rating surprised me. I rewatch movies often and pick movies other than this. But when I honestly filled in my numbers for each of the categories, I realized how much this film meant to me. It is an uncomfortable watch, like Schindler’s List. It may be awesome, but it doesn’t mean you want to batter yourself with that discomfort often.
The prejudice that could come, and is already coming, from our DNA is incredible. Prophetic Scifi at its best.

#1 The Sixth Sense – Rating 9

Anyone who knows me will know I don’t understand the horror genre. I do understand suspense, and this movie has it in bucketloads. I’m also a sucker for a twist ending.
While Bruce Willis isn’t known for his exceptional acting range, he stretched here and came away with a winner. That isn’t to take away from his costars. Everyone made this movie work.

#1 Wall-E – Rating 9

What can I say that you almost certainly don’t already know? The humor in this movie is top-notch. There were enough twists to make my heart sing, and it made me feel hope, even out of despair. My top feel-good film.

Coming in at #5 – (I sound like Casey Kasem “And here is a beauty that stayed at #5 for ten long weeks on our charts…”)

#5 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Rating 8.8

Wow, another surprise rating and for a movie that isn’t pure science fiction/fantasy by any stakes. It does blur the lines.
Scott Pilgrim is a fun romp that pokes fun at video games, dating, sexual preference, vegans, and more. During the whole time, it is wrapped in this joyful wrapper of youth.
Oh, don’t expect stellar acting, in fact, that would negate most of its charm, but the film is so fun that you can’t help but enjoy it.

There is a five-way tie for #6.

#6 Battle Los Angeles – Rating 8.5

While I’ve never served in our armed forces, I do know a number of people who have. This movie spoke to me like real combat. It also felt like what an alien invasion, if it didn’t completely overwhelm us from technology that is too advanced, would feel like.
Gritty. More action than you can pack into a claymore mine, and high stakes that didn’t feel like they were utterly overwhelming. And, as it was aliens, there were a number of tasty twists in there to keep me hooked for the whole movie. Might have gotten more if it wasn’t too sappy around the father and kid.

#6 Cloverfield – Rating 8.5

Like its counterpart above, this is an alien invasion that overwhelms our ability to respond. As a kaiju movie, I like the “Blair Witch Project” filming of the entire escape of the civilians. Action galore and wrapped up the horror of those unknowns.

#6 Jurassic Park – Rating 8.5

The entire franchise is a rollercoaster ride of action. I mean, you know you are going to get dinosaurs eating people, but why are the people so stupid (read that word as GREEDY) THIS time? The special effects are incredible. The science is there to back it up. And one of the best pieces is the consistency from movie to movie – not just in actors but in not tramping on the traditions previously created.

#6 The Thirteenth Floor – Rating 8.5

Another movie many people haven’t seen. This movie lives and dies on its twists and turns, so I can’t reveal too much without giving it away. Needless to say, once you see it, you will immediately compare it to a movie I have ranked down in the 50s or 60s. This one is a vastly superior breed. Get it. You won’t be disappointed.

#6 Next – Rating 8.5

I’m probably going to catch a great deal of heat on this one. I mean Nicholas Cage?  Really? But the movie itself is a masterpiece. What would a man’s life be like if he could see two minutes in the future, or more under certain circumstances? He would have to stay under the radar screen or be put into a government cell with doctors poking him with sharp needles – forever.

That concludes my top eleven choices. I’ll post later on more great movies and how I rank them. I’ve already thrown in a couple you probably never heard of, so who knows when I’ll throw more weirdness into the mix.

 May 8, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
May 072020

by Connie J. Jasperson

This is the final post in a six-week blog tour series by members of the Northwest Independent Writers Association. Find NIWA at

The world is full of good, responsible publishers, both indie and small presses, as well as larger companies. They want to see you succeed as an author and will help you develop the tools and skills to do so. However, there are horrific presses that not only take your money, time, and sometimes even copyright of your work. You must be aware of these potential pitfalls. I’m going to share with you some of my painful learnings with the predatory presses as well as other tidbits I’ve learned through experience.

The first piece of advice I have to offer is this: while most small presses are run by honest publishers, be wary. Sharks and publishing-world charlatans lurk in the depths, preying on the naïve.

In 2010, a small-press in Indianapolis who published thirty authors approached me, offering a contract. I took the plunge and signed with them. I learned many things from that bad experience.

If someone who claims to be a publisher has NOT read your work, but they offer you a contract, RUN far away.

Certain red flags should have warned me off, but I ignored them. In April of 2012, twenty-five authors and I severed ties with that publisher and formed an indie publishing group. Thanks to the help of a lawyer in our ranks, we regained the rights to our books. Going indie has been a good choice for me as an author.

If you have any doubts regarding going with a publisher, don’t do it. Your work is precious, and the relationship you have with your publisher must be one of mutual trust.

The second piece of advice is this: you must create your own brand to sell your work. While that publisher and I parted in a messy way, I learned one crucial thing besides not trusting charming salesmen: All authors, traditionally published or indie, are responsible for creating their own public presence.

This means you must get a website and regularly update the content of your author blog and make use of free social media.

At my former publisher’s behest, I created a free WordPress blog as my personal website. I got a twitter account and made a Facebook author page. I did this reluctantly, wondering why I was bothering as I had no followers.

What I know now is this: When it comes to both Twitter and blogging, you will gain followers, just not real rapidly, if you post regularly and follow other people in your chosen field.

For Facebook, people will look you up and like your page as they become familiar with you through Facebook book-reading groups and other forums.

Your author blog will gain followers if you blog frequently. Embed links to your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages to your author blog so people can follow your social media from there.

Do you think you have nothing to tweet or blog about? Look at what other authors post. Post snippets, tell silly stories about your dog or kids, post embarrassing pictures of your cat, or talk about your favorite books. Once in a while, slip in some stuff about your books but don’t spam people.

All it takes is 10 minutes, once a day, just long enough to post a tweet or add some odd thought to your Facebook author page. If you have a sense of humor, followers will come.

I regularly publish new content on my blog. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I talk about the craft of writing and my life experiences, good and bad. On Thursdays, I often host other authors and talk about their approaches to the craft.

Fridays are my favorite day of the blogging week. I am free to talk about my secret passion: Renaissance Art on #FineArtFriday.

A feature I like about WordPress is the option to automatically send links for each new post to both Twitter and my Facebook author page. The content in both those places updates with no effort on my part, and this is how I manage my social media with minimal stress.

Be diverse in what you discuss, and you will gain many new followers.

Another thing I wish I had known (but didn’t) was how important it is to find a competent editor to work with. My first novel has been sitting unpublished since parting ways with my former publisher because it was such a mess. I have completely rewritten it, had it professionally edited, and will be republishing it this next year with a new title.

We rarely start out on this journey with friends who are qualified to edit our work, and my first editor didn’t know his behind from a hole in the ground.

 In 2012, after reading the first chapter of my second novel, my first real editor asked me for a style sheet. I didn’t know what she meant.

Bad habits developed in writing my first novel had filtered into my second book, Huw the Bard. My work was uneven, and my made-up names were written inconsistently. This happens because fundamental things sometimes change as we are going along in our first draft:

  • Character names evolve.
  • Place names evolve.
  • Distances evolve

We make these adjustments because we realize something isn’t logical, make the changes, and move on.

Once my new editor pointed this out to me, I put together a comprehensive list of how I wanted to spell the names of every person, place, and creature in my novel. Even though I spent several days doing this, the editing process for Huw the Bard was slow and agonizing because I didn’t catch half of what I should have.

What the style sheet should cover:

  • All names, created or not: Aeos, Aeolyn, Beryl, Carl, Edwin, etc.
  • Real and created animal names: alligator, stinkbear, thunder-cow, waterdemon
  • Created words that are hyphenated: fire-mage, thunder-cow
  • All place names, real or created: Seattle, Chicago, Ragat, Wister, Sevya, Arlen, Neveyah

For me, it’s a simple thing to copy and paste my words into a spreadsheet or document. I label it with the book or series title and the words “style sheet,” like this: JulianLackland-style-sheet.xls. I keep a link to that document on my desktop, so it’s easy to locate and open when I need to add to it.

Something else I didn’t know then is this—indie or not, you must pay for some services. If you can, you must plan ahead and set aside money for editing services.

Other aspects of indie publishing are expensive, so keep setting money aside for them. Indies must either do it themselves or pay for book cover design and formatting services. They must also pay for professional review services like Kirkus and advertisements on Bookbub, neither of which is cheap.

The authors I know who are successfully selling their work through Amazon and other online vendors spend the money to get their work professionally reviewed before they publish it even though there is a chance the review won’t be positive.

Reviews by professional review services mean something to the reader because they are honest. If a review is bad, you don’t have to use it, and you have some idea of what you might have done wrong. If you sent them an ARC (advance reader’s copy), you still have time to make positive changes to your work.

The last thing I wish I’d known in 2011 is this—Join a local writer’s group. Even better, take the leap and join one of your region’s professional writers’ associations. Writers need to be a part of the larger writing community because it is through conversations with other authors that we will find the opportunities to get our books in front of readers.

My choice of going indie has been a good move for me. I love what I do, and have made many wonderful friends through attending conventions, workshops, and seminars. If you are a writer, I hope you find your path a little easier than mine was in the beginning.

I regret nothing. I hope others will gain knowledge from my struggle, and their path will be easier. Regardless of the rough beginning, I’m happy in my career. Every day is a joy, offering new ideas and opportunities.

My wish is for you to be as happy in your work as I am in mine. Happy writing!

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Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine fantasy novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group and member of SFWA, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

You can find her books on her Amazon author page:

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 May 7, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »