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It’s Official We’re One

It’s Official We’re One

The New England Speculative Writers has officially survived its first year. We’ve been so busy we almost forgot our inception on July 2nd, in 2017. It’s hard to believe a year (14 months, but who’s counting) ago we decided to put together a group for New England’s Fantasy & Sci-Fi author community. It has been a wild ride since we started, so why not spend a blog post recapping the fun? In one year we have:

  • Changed our name from Massachusetts Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors to the New England Speculative Writers.
  • Reaching 150+ members (almost 200) between the website and the Facebook group.
  • Had weekly posts from New England area authors on a variety of topics being read by nearly 10,000 individuals.
  • Hosted a cover contest.
  • Successfully held our first anthology open call.
  • Announced a networking conference.
  • Put together a Science Fiction and Fantasy preview book delivered to individuals signing up for our mailing list.

The brain child of Jeremy Flagg and Cristina Alden was dreamt up, created with a dash of this and that and heavy splashes of ideals, goals, dreams, wishes, and sprinkled with a little fairy dust for luck. Then it was carefully and lovingly incubated until it hatched and was shared with the world. Now, with an awesome collection of authors collaborating and exchanging ideas and information it has taken on a life of its own.

This has been the warm-up year as we test the waters. There are plenty of ideas that have been shelved, some just waiting for the right time. It’s been a great first year, but it’s not going to be the best.

The Final Summons Artist Open Call

The Final Summons Artist Open Call

Accepting Cover Submissions
“The Final Summons” Anthology!

Theme The Final Summons
Description

A final call to action for our characters.

What does the “Final Summons” mean? Is it the end of a world? The end of a long war? The changing hands of a political hierarchy? The promise of only one more spell? The handing down of a death sentence or banishment? The possibilities are endless.

Whether by magic or science and anything in-between, we want to see artwork that tells its own narrative that bridges the gap between science fiction and fantasy. We are open to styles ranging from oil paintings and illustration to photo manipulation and everything in between. Ultimately, we want original artwork that acts as an attention getting representation of the theme “The Final Summons” while telling its own story.

Samples
That Inspire Us

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What We Don’t Want We will not accept artwork that promotes racism, sexism, or imagery of hate. We will not accept Fan Fiction. In fact, we strongly urge bold representations of diversity.
Deadline March 27, 2018, 11:59PM EST
Restrictions Must be a resident of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont.
Pay $300 (USD), 1 Physical Copy, 1 Digital File
Rights Accepted work will grant New England Speculative Writers first exclusive  rights for one (1) year and non-exclusive rights in perpetuity for digital, print, and audio formats. The artist will retain the copyright to their respective work.
Multiple Submissions No multiple submissions.
Publication Date February 2019
How to Submit We understand that art takes time and that submitting spec work is daunting. To save you time we are asking for the following:

  • A comp sketch (near completed rough) so that we can see the narrative and approach the artist is going to use in their work. These do not need to be completed works. Sketch must be scanned or photograph as a High-Res .JPG/.PDF.
  • A link to your existing portfolio. If your style varies wildly from project to project, please indicate pieces similar to what you are intending to do for the final draft.
  • Email to authors@newenglandspeculativewriters.com

New England Speculative Women

New England Speculative Women

It is with great pleasure that the New England Speculative Writers recognize the contributions of women writers in Fiction. Despite making up 50% of the world’s population, a study in 2010 by Vida (an organization for women in literary arts) showed that women are less likely to be reviewed, obtain awards or be the story focus in literature. An informal survey by Tramp Press showed that authors only listed female writers as inspiration 22% of the time. But despite this, women have and will continue to produce amazing Science Fiction & Fantasy. For the month of March, the New England Speculative Writers’ blog will be dedicated to providing an unhindered space for women to speak about topics pertaining to the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Chris Duryea: Curator of “The Final Summons”

Chris Duryea: Curator of “The Final Summons”

The New England Speculative Writers is putting together its first anthology. The theme, “The Final Summons.” Submissions by members are due January 31st. More details about the submission can be found here. Three curators will be reading through the slush and putting together the best stories. We thought it’d be good to interview each of the curators and give a little background about who they are and what they’re looking for in this anthology. Chris Duryea is a member of the Metrowest Writers and has a background in English and education.

What is your background in literature?

I’ve been a lifelong fan for fantasy and science fiction, from the original Star Trek on television, to appropriating by dad’s copies of Frank Herbert and Tolkien. These original influences guided me into the world of ideas, and ideas of other worlds. Since then I had always been spinning ideas for stories and spent years developing my voice as a writer. I taught high school English for 14 years and during that time I did not write a single creative word. Recently, I left the classroom and have been channeling my creative energy back into my imaginative works. I have sold three short stories since I began writing again and currently have two novels in progress.

What are some of your favorite Fantasy and Sci-Fi novels?

My favorites include the Lensman series, the Stainless Steel Rat series, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the Amber series. I also enjoy almost anything by Greg Bear, John Varley, Robert Heinlein, David Brin and Spider Robinson.

What excites you about the upcoming anthology?

I’m thrilled to be asked to participate in editing this anthology. I’m really looking forward to seeing the different approaches to the “final summons” idea. It’s a wide open, yet perennial storytelling trope, and I’m sure I’m going to read interpretations that I would never have thought of myself.

Is there anything you’re specifically looking for?

I addition to interesting and unexpected approaches to the theme, I’m also interested in seeing how writers from a variety of backgrounds approach short-form storytelling. I don’t have a checklist for what I’m looking for other than creativity and authenticity. If it transports me, moves me, surprises or challenges me–that’s what I want to see.

Instafreebie Tutorial

Instafreebie Tutorial

This is a sample of an Instafreebie Giveaway Page. Readers click on the cover image and then if they want the “freebie” they supply their email address.

An authors most useful tool is without a doubt their mailing list. Whether you’re a traditionally published or self-published author, this list belongs to you. These are people who have shown an interest in you and have the potential to become lifelong fans. Everybody’s list starts somewhere, but it’s great to start building it up (even before you publish) and continue adding names throughout your career. Mailing lists are the universal truth for all authors.

How does this work?

To participate, you will need to have an Instafreebie Plus account and mail service such as Mailerlite (I highly recommend Mailerlite over Mailchimp.) Instafreebie is a service specific to authors that allows you to upload a story (a whole story OR a few sample chapters of a book) and for readers to get their free copy, they must supply their email address. At the end of the promotion, you will have the email of every person who downloaded your book.

Get Mailerlite (or Mailchimp)

  1. It’s free if you have under 2,000 people. Mailerlite I find is the better option if you’re going to choose one (I’ve tested them both now.) You must have at least ONE subscriber list for this process.
  2. Click Subscribers.
  3. Create Add New Group. Unless you’re a pro with mailing lists, I’m going to help you avoid some heartache later. Create a group JUST for Instafreebie promotions. Label it something obvious: Instafreebie Purgatory is my list for all promotions done in this manner. If you follow this, I’ll walk you through another tutorial on how to vet your emails and avoid getting those pesky readers who just want free material and will NEVER buy your book.
  4. Once it’s made, you’re ready to hop over to Instafreebie.

Integrate MailerLite (or Mailchimp) to Instafreebie

  1. Click your name in the top right and go to “settings.”
  2. Click “Mail Service Integration.”
  3. Click Connect to Mailerlite or Connect to MailChimp.
  4. Walk through the connection process.

Steps to Add Book to Instafreebie

  1. Click your name in the top right and go to “Dashboard.”
  2. Click Add Book.
  3. Upload your book. You will need an ePub file to upload. You can get this by using Scrivener, Pages, inDesign or the conversion feature in Calibre)
    1. If your book is in Kindle Unlimited, you can only upload 10% of your book, so it’s the first few chapters.
    2. At the end of your sample, you could include links to your books on Amazon or to your website.
    3. Make sure if you’re uploading a sample, you are adjusting your table of contents accordingly.
  4. Cover. This is what people will see when they go to click on your book so make it count. You can use royalty free stock imagery to make a quick cover. Just remember, readers do indeed judge a book by its cover.
  5. Put in a compelling description. This is your hook and what will compel people to download your book.
  6. Once you’ve filled in everything: Add Book.

Steps to Add your First Giveaway

  1. Click your name in the top right and go to “Dashboard.”
  2. Click the book you want to give away for this promotion.
  3. Click New Giveaway.
  4. Click “Reach New Readers.”
  5. Give the name, “XYZ Giveaway,” Click the Mailing list you created for this (I use Instafreebie Purgatory,) Click Instafreebie Exclusive (unless you’re giving this book away elsewhere) and you MUST click Mandatory Opt-In.

How to Join a NESW Giveaway with your Book

  1. You must have the link (supplied by the admin) to join a NESW giveaway. You can find this in the FB Group or in the Mailing lists. If you have any questions, please email us.

You set up your first promotion with Instafreebie!

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Cristina Alden: Curator of “The Final Summons”

Cristina Alden: Curator of “The Final Summons”

The New England Speculative Writers is putting together its first anthology. The theme, “The Final Summons.” Submissions by members are due January 31st. More details about the submission can be found here. Three curators will be reading through the slush and putting together the best stories. We thought it’d be good to interview each of the curators and give a little background about who they are and what they’re looking for in this anthology. Cristina is one of the co-founders of NESW.

What is your background in literature?

I’ve always loved writing stories, and have kept a journal on and off since I was a kid. I have a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. In college I concentrated mainly on fiction writing, and dabbled in screenwriting and playwriting, all of which I really enjoyed. I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2012 and published my first novel in January 2017. The genre of the story is “rural” urban fantasy with paranormal elements. My writing has always leaned toward fantasy and science fiction.

What are some of your favorite fantasy & sci-fi novels?

I’m an omnivore when it comes to reading. I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, historical novels, adventure stories… I’ve enjoyed stories from authors that range from Douglas Adams to Jean M. Auel. Novels that influenced me the most creatively were probably ones I read at an early age, like the Madeline L’Engle’s “Wrinkle In Time” series, C.S. Lewis “Chronicles of Narnia” series, Frank Herbert’s “Dune” Series, Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series.

What excites you most for the upcoming anthology?

I’m excited to see the interpretation of what the “The Final Summons” means to writers. I think the title leaves the interpretation wide open to possibilities. The danger in a topic like this is finding the right place in the adventure to start telling the story. When I think of a final summons, I think of an epic journey. In a short story you don’t have the luxury of really deep world building, which means the characters need to stand out and be unique and the story idea needs to be tight. I love character driven stories, so I’m excited to see who I meet.

Is there anything you’re specifically looking for?

I’m looking for unique story settings and interesting, well developed characters. I’m not looking for stereotypical “types” of characters, or quirkiness just for the sake of being quirky, but character traits and flaws that add flavor to the journey of the story. I don’t have to necessarily like the characters, but I want them to be developed enough that I’m interested or intrigued enough by them to care what happens.

Jeremy Flagg: Curator of “The Final Summons”

Jeremy Flagg: Curator of “The Final Summons”

The New England Speculative Writers is putting together its first anthology. The theme, “The Final Summons.” Submissions by members are due January 31st. More details about the submission can be found here. Three curators will be reading through the slush and putting together the best stories. We thought it’d be good to interview each of the curators and give a little background about who they are and what they’re looking for in this anthology. Jeremy Flagg is one of the co-founders of NESW and he’s on the hunt for diverse authors and equally diverse characters.

What is your background in literature?

I’ve been writing since 2006 and in 2009 I self-published my first novel. In 2015 I landed my first publisher for my sci-fi superhero series. I’ve published two non-fiction, six fiction books, and been part of five anthologies. My own writing ranges from young adult to superhero science fiction depending on my mood at the time. For my short stories, I find myself compelled to write horror, a genre I’ve always loved. In 2011 I became the Municipal Liaison for the Massachusetts Metrowest region of National Novel Writing Month and started the Metrowest Writers with some other excellent authors.

What are some of your favorite fantasy & sci-fi novels?

I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. In fantasy, I always found myself moved by Lynn Flewelling’s “Luck in the Shadows.” Her attention to Seregil and Alec’s emotional and social turmoil, brought them to life. She also created a realistic romantic relationship between the male leads that took center stage for one character but not the other. This struggle resonated with my own experience in the LGBT+ community.

I also find myself fascinated by R.A. Salvatore’s “Demon Wars Saga,” which focuses on Jilseponie, an amazing female lead. Salvatore’s departure from traditional magic systems is paired beautifully with a lead character who is thrust into an impossible position when all she wants is to survive in peace. Her determination in the face of world gone mad tugged at my heart-strings. I enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster.

Nightwatch and Daywatch wetted my love of dark fantasy. Not quite horror, but always with dark air about it, Kuyanenko Sergei knows how to set a tone. Introducing me to the wonders of Russian story telling, he captivated me by reinventing the noir detective as a misguided do-gooder vampire. Sergei strips away the pop culture associated with vampires and witches and creates a fresh modern tale woven with classic themes.

My favorite science fiction book is Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. His ability to take technologies just beyond our current grasp and infuse them with religion had me reeling. I also appreciated the fantastical element of the metaverse with sword wielding hackers. There is something amazing about this idea of being able to jack into another world and be another version of yourself. I wanted to be Hiro Protagonist growing up.

What excites you most for the upcoming anthology?

I’m thrilled to see the many interpretations of “The Final Summons.” But more than that, I’m excited to step into another character’s world. I have no idea where each story will take me. I am looking forward to feeling, seeing, and doing as this character does. I also wants to see what amazing scenarios and worlds each author can develop in a short space. I don’t know if I’ll be an elf, a teen wizard, or a rogue fighter pilot in outerspace. The mystery has me eager to read.

I’m also interested to see how the idea of “summons” works into the plot. I don’t know where it’ll take me as a reader, but I want to immersed in a unique world and without chapter after chapter to give this information, I’m excited to see how the author will weave it into their story.

Is there anything you’re specifically looking for?

Diversity. I want characters unlike myself. I want to see the rainbow of gender expressions that avoid clichés. I want people of color who bring their culture into the character’s history and experiences. I want ethnicities I’ve never encountered and have a chance to step outside my own experiences. I want characters who have more than one emotional setting. I like them to be strong and weak, brave and fearful. I love the flaws in our humanity and believe these make for memorable characters.

NESW Open Call for Anthology Submissions

NESW Open Call for Anthology Submissions

Accepting submissions to
“The Final Summons” Anthology!

New England Speculative Writers is proud to announce we are accepting submissions to our first Science Fiction & Fantasy anthology until January 31st, 2018. We’ve thought long and hard about the themes, terms, and how we plan to promote it.

Theme  The Final Summons
Description

A final call to action for our characters.

What does the “Final Summons” mean? Is it the end of a world? The end of a long war? The changing hands of a political hierarchy? The promise of only one more spell? The handing down of a death sentence or banishment? The possibilities are endless.

Whether by magic or science and anything in-between, we want to see character driven stories in unique and original settings that answer this question. The stories can be in any fantasy, sci-fi, or overlapping genre. But most of all, we want stories that will immerse the reader in a journey that will answer in some way, “What is the final summons?”

The New England Speculative Writer’s anthology is looking for fifteen (15) stories written by New England authors that speak to an adult audience in a serious manner. We want new worlds, new foes, and creative lead characters. We want to avoid falling back on exhausted tropes or established worlds by genre leaders. We want your voice to shine as you summon this tale.

What We Don’t Want We want to avoid erotica and explicit sex as well as romance as central themes. Please do not include any stories with animal cruelty, child abuse or gratuitous violence (we’re okay with violence to move the story along, but make sure it’s necessary.) We will not accept stories that promote racism, sexism, or messages of hate. We will not accept Fan Fiction.
Deadline January 31, 2018, 11:59PM EST
Restrictions Must be a resident of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont. Must be member of New England Speculative Writers (Can Join for Free below)
Word Limit 4000 – 7000 words.
Pay $50 (USD), 1 Contributor Copy, 1 Digital File
Genres Science Fiction & Fantasy
Language English
Rights Accepted works will grant New England Speculative Writers first exclusive English-language rights for one (1) year and non-exclusive English-language in perpetuity for digital, print, and audio formats. The author of each short story will retain the copyright to their respective work.
Simultaneous & Multiple Submissions No simultaneous submissions will be accepted. Multiple submissions from the same author will be considered but please note that only one story per author will be accepted to allow for variety and diversity. Previously unpublished stories only, no reprints unless requested.
Funding We plan to fund the cost of the honorariums, editor, cover artist, and layout, via a New England Speculative Writers Kickstarter campaign that we will launch in 2018. Any costs not met by the Kickstarter will be funded by the editors.
Publication Date February 2019
How to Submit Register or Sign In for how to submit.

To join, sign up for free using the register link below. Once you’ve registered, all submission details are located under the member area.

Register | Sign In

Behind the Winners of the Cover Design Contest

Behind the Winners of the Cover Design Contest

MASFFA held it’s first ever cover contest and we were impressed, not only with the covers representing, but with the amazing turn out in voters. It was an awesome opportunity to showcase local talent and we intend to turn this into an annual event. However, it is not enough to simply have a winner, we decided to showcase the dynamic duo; author Chris Philbrook and artist Alan MacRaffen, who brought our winning cover to life.

Available on Amazon

 


Author Chris Philbrook

http://www.thechrisphilbrook.com

Tell us a little about your novel…

Fyelrath is the 3rd novel in the urban fantasy Reemergence series. Tesser: A Dragon Among Us is about a dragon that wakes up beneath the city of Boston, and adapts to modern life by watching Kevin Smith movies in a pizzeria. Fyelrath is another dragon, one who is responsible for managing the water of Earth. She’s brought to the UK when a bizarre infection begins to mutate humans into aquatic monsters.

What was the idea behind your cover?

The series has a distinct graphical cover design. I didn’t want to use the same designs everyone else wanted, and my designer Alan MacRaffen excels at this kind of cover art. Each book in the series is tied together by the silhouette of the dragon at the center, and the skyline of the city the novel takes place in along the bottom. Each novel looks unique with its own colors and dragon design, but they are all clearly the same series.

How does your cover reflect your novel?

It’s perfect. The dragon is an excellent representation of what she looks like in the book, the skyline of London is accurate and stylized at the same time, and the background reflects some of the… goings-on as well.

How did you originally discover Alan MacRaffen?

I think it might’ve been on a school bus in 8th grade. No but seriously we went to high school together. There’s no one I trust more than him to listen to my ideas, and see them through. He’s a professional; everything is decided on, nothing is left to random chance or laziness. When you combine that level of attention to detail with a relationship like we’ve had (20+ years and 13+ novels) you get award winning covers and layouts.

What suggestion would you give to new authors about choosing cover art?

Find an artist with a resume you appreciate. Talk to them. Give them your idea and allow them to be creative. If you don’t let them run with your idea, you’ll never get their own personal muse; you’ll only get their interpretation of your rote idea. Be flexible, have high standards, and hire a professional.



Artist Alan MacRaffen

http://www.macraffen.com

How did you get into designing covers for authors?

I’ve always been an artist. I even went to art school, but I’d never really made a living from it. It was more of a recreational pursuit. Then I wrote my first novel, Carnival of Time. After sitting on the finished manuscript for a few years, I finally decided to self-publish. It was a real learning experience. Writing a book is a huge undertaking. But learning that I couldn’t just submit my raw Word file—that I actually had to create a marketable cover, find a way to format and generate a whole new kind of file I was totally unfamiliar with, then another file for the ebook version—that was truly daunting. Almost to the point of giving up. But I had gotten so close, I couldn’t let it go. I channeled my stubbornness into determination and learned all I could about book design, interior formatting, and how to compile all of that into a professional-looking file ready for publishing. I won’t lie: it was a huge slog, but eventually I got everything to come out exactly the way I wanted it. When Chris finished his first book, he remembered that I had figured all of that out, and offered to pay me to do the same work for him. I’ve worked on every book he’s done since, and eventually branched out to other clients as well.

What was the inspiration behind designing the Reemergence series?

I love drawing creatures: dragons, monsters, animals. My preferred method is to sketch them in pencil or pen, but while that might serve well as an interior illustration, it makes for a poor book cover. However, I was also really taken with a lot of the graphical covers I’d been seeing on bookshelves recently. Clean, dynamic and eye-catching designs with sharp-edged silhouettes and relatively simple planes of flat color. For Tesser, the first book in Chris’s Reemergenceseries, I decided to combine the two, using a hand-drawn illustration of Chris’s main dragon protagonist, then converting it into a crisp graphic silhouette. I included the Boston skyline to show where the story takes place, and added in a background of glyphs and symbols to evoke the theme of magic that runs heavily throughout the first book. Chris has an array of important dragon characters in his series, each physically distinct and with their own themes and qualities. By changing only the colors and details of each cover, they keep a consistency of design that ties them together as a series, while still standing out from each other. Each one tells you what the main dragon character is like, physically. The skyline shows you where the story takes place, and the background symbols give you hints about the book’s theme and additional characters.

Can you describe the how the back and forth works with an author?

Chris and I have known each other since high school, so our dynamic is much more familiar than with the usual artist/client relationship. I’ve even written a novella that takes place in one of his worlds. But whether I’m working with Chris or another author, the process can vary a lot from book to book. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for an image, other times they’ll suggest a great concept right off the bat and all I have to do is find a way to make it happen. Other times the author might suggest something cool, but then I’ll counter with one of my own ideas, and if it’s right for the book, they give me the go-ahead. There are stumbling blocks sometimes. I’m not perfect, and now and then I have to tell a client that I don’t have the right kind of technique or resources to pull off a particular image. But I can always suggest an alternative, and if that doesn’t work for them, I’ll try another, and another, until we find something that fits the author’s vision. It’s their book, and ultimately the cover has to serve the author’s needs, not mine.

What should authors be on the lookout for when choosing designers?

My biggest suggestion for authors would be to keep an artist’s style in mind. Look at their other work before getting your expectations up about what they can create for you. If you approach a cover designer who always uses dark, edgy photo-manipulations, and then ask them to do a really cheerful, colorful painting, it’s not likely to end well. Either they’ll just say no, because they know that you’re asking for something far outside their skill set. Or—worse yet—they’ll say yes, and you’ll end up with a hot mess of a cover that neither of you are happy with. So always look at an illustrator’s portfolio and consider how your book would look dressed up in that same style.

What suggestion would you give to new authors about illustrating cover art?

If you don’t have a really strong background in art and design, hire a professional. It will cost money, but you get what you pay for. Cliché or not, people really do judge books by their covers. You’ve already put so much time and effort into writing your book; you want to make sure your cover reflects that same level of quality.

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