Sunday Surprise


And it’s a guest! And since we’re moving into the month of sci-fi, he’s a sci-fi writer! We met at a few Worldcons through the years as well as book fairs in Italy. He’s a great guy, great writer and great publisher! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Francesco Verso!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in Rome (Italy) since most of my time.

Why do you write?

I believe in the power of Science Fiction to shed some light on the future of mankind. I am convinced that literature can help to better understand the psychological and socials mechanics of the world we live in and, in particular, now that technology is playing an ever important role in our lives and relationship we can’t avoid its impact on our reality. Thus, my stories imagine what would be the short and long term consequences of our symbiosis with different kind of technologies ranging from prosthetics, to artificial intelligences, from 3D printed replaceable organs to DNA modifications and nanotech developments. All these anatomical augmentations will have a deep reflection on our identity and thus on our ethics and morals, both on an individual and social scale.

I feel there’s an urgency to update our dramaturgy to the technically accelerated times we live in, something that the mainstream genre is also starting to acknowledge, thanks to the popularity of TV Series like “Black Mirror”, “Westworld”, “Humans”, “Mr. Robot”, “Electric Dreams”.

When did you start writing?

During my University years, I’ve studied one year in Amsterdam for an Erasmus project and there – along the canals – I’ve found a little second hand shop run by an American guy who had opened a bookstore there specialized in SF. Down in the cellar he kept hundreds of SF classics, like Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, Ian McDonal’s “Desolation Road”, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, Ursula Le Guin “The Left Hand of Darkness”. I started from there, with the crazy ambition of imitating the writers that I now consider my teachers and sources of inspiration.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write Science Fiction, which means I set my stories in the near future and mostly on Earth. I can’t really write about other worlds as I believe there’s enough “alien realities” and “otherness” here on our planet, just around the corner of wherever we live, to light up any sense of wonder and walk into an “uncanny valley”. Lately I am interested in exploring the solarpunk and human augmentation subgenres – say sustainable energies and posthuman issues driven by technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 – as tools to analyze the biopolitical scenarios we’re heading to in the next years.

What does your writing routine consist of?

I used to have a routine of writing very early in the morning (from 6 to 8am). I’ve managed to write 4 novels and 7 short stories in this way, over the course of 6 years. But since I’ve opened a small press called Future Fiction dedicated to scouting, translating and publishing the best SF authors from every corner of the world, I have changed my schedule. Now I try to concentrate the first draft of my writings during some weeks where I focus all day long and then edit the material whenever I can find some spare time during the year. I became a full time writer 10 years ago, so I have plenty of time, but I need to organize it in a very efficient way, since Future Fiction is taking a lot of my time in reading other people’s stories, going to Book Fairs and SF Cons around the world. Lately I’ve turned also into a public speaker so the time for writing is getting smaller and smaller but more intense.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

Good question and not easy to answer. Let’s say I like to build an interesting plot. My stories are always driven by the actions and desires of the main characters because I think readers should always identify themselves with the themes at stake. Also I am a very curious researcher and careful editor, that means I work a lot on new, breakthrough ideas, or at least on innovative ways to retelling them as not to leave the feeling of “being there, done that”. For me, fiction is the best way to discover new realities through the eyes of someone who can make me believe he/she has been there.

Over the years, I’ve developed a great attention to “meaningful details” and to master the themes of the stories I write about. I need to know a lot more than what appears on paper (the famous “iceberg” approach) and not just in the first draft but also during the revision, which takes much more time and dedication than the first draft (approx. 3-4 times more). My latest novel – the Walkers – went through 9 different revisions and at least three editors looked at the story before I could consider it ready to be published.

So I’ve learned to wait, to have a discipline, not to rush to the end, and then to appreciate the process more than the finish. Maturity taught me that a writer’s biggest enemy is not sold book or selling charts but time; I write to win its favor.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I’m an outliner. I like to know where I am going and also where I am taking the readers. During the plotting, I sketch the course of actions and relationships between the main characters. Then of course I allow myself the freedom to wander around and take different directions if they are in line with the general path. I limit the improvisation to the writing phase, also because I believe in the value of content density, meaning that writing should embody the highest level of meaning in the shortest amount of words. To achieve this goal, I write brief summaries of every chapter as they – at least for me – should respect a sort of “opening-apex-hook” dramatic structure.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

There isn’t a specific goal: writing is already a kind of reward for me and the feeling that I am contributing with novels and short stories to a wider discussion (the future of mankind, the ever changing relationship between man and machine, the development of biopolitics) is a stimulating challenge for my mind. I enjoy the moment when a new idea crosses my thoughts, the very moment when a piece of dramatic information has the potential of turning into a full story, the craft of an interesting scenario that comes alive in front of your own eyes. In a way, it’s like playing God with possible futures, exploring the good and bad of mankind behavior… and that’s not a small thing for me. And then, most of all, when I go to SF Cons and Book Fairs around the world and I can share all these experiences and discussions with other fellow writers and readers, that’s when I truly feel happy and satisfied. It’s a difficult job in terms of money (small payments, no insurance about the future, no idea if your next book will be good as a previous one) with lots of personal disappointments, emotional failings and hard time but it’s also the only job I wouldn’t change with anything else.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

An editor once told me: “Furnish your plot, not your character’s thoughts,” meaning that actions should emerge from the character’s behaviour and not from his/her mumbling and concerns. Readers are best engaged by other people’s actions and reactions more than their thoughts and internal monologues. That doesn’t mean characters should be flat and simply driven by hectic actions like in a thriller movie, but that – on the contrary – all inside feelings and emotions should rise to the surface of behaviour during the course of events and physical actions. In other words, it simply means putting real life into fiction and not consider fiction as a literary world outside the real one. I’ve learned maybe a very simple thing: that fiction imitates life and life imitates fiction. That’s what makes Science Fiction plausible and move the readers mind in a wonderful direction: a story that keeps doing its job even when the book is over since a long time. The persistence of a book is the best measure of its quality.

I hear your novel “Nexhuman” has been translated from Italian into English and published by Apex books. Care to elaborate on that?

It took around 8 years to write the book, publish it on Delos Books in Italy, then have it translated in English and publish it in Australia with Xoum and then finally to arrive on the US market thanks to Jason Sizemore who liked it so much he decided to have a US edition of Nexhuman.

So I am very happy to see an Italian SF book published by an established and highly valued SF publishing house like Apex since a very long time. The US market is almost impossible to enter if you don’t write in English, which means the costs of translation are often on the shoulders of writers or the publishing house that decides to invest in it (except maybe for mainstream and literary books that have a slightly better treatment thanks to funds and grants). So paradoxically, in SF, where there should be more openness and desire to overcome boundaries and limitations than any other genre, we see a totally different picture: it’s been formally addressed as the “3% Problem”, meaning that only 3% of what is published in the US market comes from Non-English speaking countries and in that 3% are included all the languages of the World!

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I’ve just published in Italian on Future Fiction the first book of my latest novel called “The Walkers” which is made of two stories: “The Pulldogs” and “No/Mad/Land”. The first book has been already translated in English by Jennifer Delare and I hope to find a publisher for it outside of Italy.

Then on the editing side, I’ve worked with Bill Campbell, editor of Rosarium Publishing to publish an anthology called “Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International SF”, where we’ve selected stories from the best SF authors from the world coming also from Non-English speaking countries. And the same thing I’ve done China with Guangzhou Blue Ocean Press selecting SF stories for high-schools and universities students.

_____________________________________

Find Francesco online:

Web Page: www.futurefiction.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francesco.verso.31

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Francesco_Verso

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4817872.Francesco_Verso

Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Francesco-Verso/e/B005BOQNRY

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Writer Wednesday


I must say I’ve had a productive writing week, with 19K words written. I also wrapped draft zero of one novel (a little over 50K), now I’m working on its “companion” – it’s, like, three novels intertwined but that can be read as standalone, like the vampires novels, but I’ll be publishing them more or less together, or at least closer to each other than the vampires novels (one a year).

It’s another sub-series of Star Minds, in case you’re wondering, and I hope to have the first out in July to add it to the Sci-fi July Redux bundle, and then we’ll see for the other two. They might come out shorter, so I may combine them. I’ll definitely do a box set when the miniseries is complete! 😉

Speaking of bundles, Spring Surprise is on sale until the 28th! And more to come, so stay tuned! 🙂 It’s a seasonal bundle, so May is the last month to get it. Also, Vampires of the World will vanish in May and there will be a last week sale. More on that next week.

Mighty Zon strikes back! An author’s nightmare with Amazon… and if you like sci-fi, grab this World Sci-fi bundle before it’s gone. I’m still trudging through the bundles I’ve been part of at Bundle Rabbit last year… my TBR pile will never go down, sigh! 😦

In case you’re just starting and are wondering what’s best for you, here’s a very good article on publishing in 2018 – the pros and cons of trad pub vs self pub. I am mostly indie, but I am trying to sell short stories to traditional markets (one sold last year, still not out – being patient…).

And my Kindle Scout novel (15 days left to nominate it) is my attempt at being hybrid on a single project that is an outlier of my usual production. I may also send a rejected novella to another publisher, and in case he likes it, I’ll let him publish it, since it’s not related to any of the current series (except for being loosely part of Future Earth).

So, yeah, we’ll see. Now I shall go back to my writing cave… have a great week! 🙂

Writer Wednesday


cover art Cristina Fabris

And a “new” title is out, the collection of stories about the fall of the southern kingdoms of Silvery Earth. Please note that some of he older stories (previously included in Tales of the Southern Kingdoms) are adult-themed. I started writing clean fantasy later.

Which kinda leaves me in a conundrum with my two main series. Both Silvery Earth and Star Minds have adults-only books and “clean” books. No wonder I can’t find my readers, I guess. I displease both parties! 😉

Anyhow, the next sub-series will be clean, so you can wait for those to have a taste of those universes. Well, for Silvery Earth you can try the Quests books (Volume 1 and Volume 2 or as single ebooks). For Star Minds you’ll have to wait for the Lone Wolves (the first should come out this summer, with the second Heroines book – also a clean book of Silvery Earth).

Currently writing two Lone Wolves books at the same time and speedily. If all goes well, I’ll finish both by the end of the month and move on. March wordcount is 31500 (a couple of shorts, a shelved project + the current).

Writerly links: David Farland on the new world of publishing – what can be done now in 2018. Chuck Wendig on giving characters agency in narrative (caution – foul language as usual). On writing by Aaron Rosenberg and how to work with an editor by Joanna Penn.

I have my trusted proofreader and some betas that are more advisors on things I may not know enough about. I have given up on writers’ groups since I really can’t write by committee, but sometimes hearing a different opinion helps. Like someone pointing out that a certain story’s premise is totally absent and I clearly didn’t know what I was doing. Shelved project.

That’s all for today… have a great week! 🙂

Writer Wednesday


In case you didn’t notice, it’s Read an Ebook Week on Smashwords again! And for the first time in a few years, I have some books in the sale. So the new people can have a look and spend as little as one dollar to try my mighty prose.

Ahem! Just kidding. I don’t write enchanting (or purple) prose at all, so if that’s your thing, you’re on the wrong blog! 😀

Last week I wrapped two projects and this week I won’t be writing much. Busy putting together an anthology and traveling, so my wordcound is currently stopped. But if I manage to catch up and keep the 10K/week wordcount, I have 2 weeks to spare, LOL! Definitely not panicking yet – maybe in June or July if I’m still waaay behind…

Some promised writerly links: Nine years a Penmonkey and Five Things I Learned Writing which includes just write even if you don’t know the genre – or something. And if you can stand the F-word, the three truth about writing and how the writing gets done! 🙂 There is real wisdom in that post.

Now as someone who hates the sound of her own voice, I’m afraid that soon I won’t be able to do anything if it all gets voice-operated. What do you think about those voice apps? Should we start telling stories through them? Check this post at Joanna Penn’s blog.

For me, at this time, no thank you. I still feel like an innovator because I went the indie route. And I still don’t have anything in audio (I don’t seem to be able to go direct to Findaway Voices through D2D, but I’m not going to press the issue yet).

Last but not least, here’s an open invitation to interview your characters. I’m currently working for the first interview of a few I can think of, and I’ll keep you posted when my characters will go live! 🙂

That’s all for today! Have a great week! 🙂

Writer Wednesday


The past week there was very little writing, but I was busy setting up the anthology I announced on Sunday + doing online workshops + preparing all the uploads before the retailers shut down for the Holidays (see the box set page) + there was the small and medium publishers book fair in Rome, in a new location, so I did attend that one too.

During the weekend I managed to add some 3K to the latest sci-fi novel before sending it off to the proofreader and this week I’m finally getting to write that story I need to complete by the end of the month if I want to submit it to the market I wrote it for. It’s a Silvery Earth short story anyway, so it won’t be wasted, but I’d like to submit it first! 😉

And about the short story challenge… having more or less decided to write at least 10 novels in various series and maybe a couple of novellas, I don’t think I can also manage the 30 shorts in 60 days. It would take all the fun out of the writing. So I’ll still be writing short stories in January, as many as I can cram in, then I’ll move on to next year’s projects.

Now a short rant on the book fair, where I attended a couple of professional panels just to get a feel of how publishing is doing in Europe. It’s still stuck in the 20th century, trust me. Grants and prizes are only for traditional publishers. Translarions only through traditional publishers. And nobody mentions the indie revolution because we’re the shadow market nobody wants to think about, from Holland to Italy passing through France.

Italy is actually the worst. Now it has agents dealing with Italian authors (when I tried them in the 1990s, they dealt only with foreign publishers for translation rights). And they still put vanity publishing and self-publishing together. And the only way for an indie to sell paper books without a distributor is to attend these book fairs (that are totally indie-author-unfriendly) and share the table (otherwise it’s way too expensive).

I’m really considering starting some kind of indie authors’ guild, in Italy for now, but maybe it could be a good idea to have a European Indies Association/Federation/Guild/whatever you want to call it. We could book stands at book fairs and sell our books there. I personally hate it, but I’m afraid it’s the only way on this continent where traditional publishing ignores us.

Anyway, the only writerly link is about craft this week (might be also because I’ve been doing craft workshops, LOL!): Chekhov’s Gun: using story details strategically. Now if you’d like me to elaborate on the workshops – well, I’ve been taking the Writing Series and Writing Science Fiction workshops and I highly recommend them (like all the other workshops from WMG).

I still have the sci-fi assignments to do, but I’ll do them in January, writing the stories that spawn from them. After I finish the current short, I need to go back to my spy story. I even asked a few questions to the Italian police who had a stand at the book fair! It’s slowly becoming a novel, but you won’t be able to see it until next year.

Have a great week! 🙂

 

Writer Wednesday


Aaand… UPB has a new tagline, with special thanks to webmaster and illustrator Silvano Beltramo! Stay tuned for more changes on the publisher’s page

I might have to renew some of my own things soon, since the other day Open Office crashed without saving the few paragraphs of the new story… so I’m eyeing Netbooks, since they seem to be around again. When Techie Bro’s Netbook (a.k.a. the Writing Computer) broke, I was left without and after the other day I had gone back to write longhand for Draft Zero! I was so mad at the darn Laptop!

Still have to think if I want to move on to Windows 10 or get a Netbook with Ubuntu like Techie Bro’s. We’ll see. Might be an investment for next year. Just another thing to do on the To Do list, haha! But it’s not a “should” it’s a “want to” do thing, since it’s for the Writer.

Because yes, we need to have two hats. And I’m putting the publisher’s hat a little aside next year, because I want to write and find other income sources that don’t depend on me selling or not selling my writing. So, more submissions to traditional mags of short stories, and less of that darn publishing stuff.

Of course I’ll keep putting the works out, since it’s the only way to be discovered, but maybe at a less daunting pace (twice a month is a lot, even for a prolific writer like me). I’m going to try pre-orders in a different way from what I’ve done now, I’m going to try that branding thing with future titles and I’m going to keep experimenting and see what works for me.

And I must talk about bundles again because, guess what? SALES SALES SALES! 🙂

Da vampires bundle is discounted from tomorrow to Cyber Monday, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. And First Glimpse of Secondary Worlds is discounted until the end of the month, when it will be gone forever. So last chances to have a taste of 12 different fantasy worlds from 11 awesome authors and yours truly.

And in case you missed it, on the KWL blog I explain how to be a curator at BundleRabbit. Now I’m going to spend the weekend with online workshops so I can move on with my learning and write the next story! 🙂 Have a great week!

Writer Wednesday


So, wordcount for January was 40K, not bad considering that I’m only just now starting to take care of my health. I’m not aiming at 500K this year, unless the meds kick in and in the second half of the year I gain some momentum.

For now I’ll just do what I can and allow my thyroid to recover. I have a lot of compulsive reading to do this month, so I’m afraid I won’t have much time to write, but in March I hope to get back on track. I mean, I spent most of October and half of March NOT writing last year, and still had 470K words at the end of the year. So, not really worried here.

The publishing is also slowed down because I didn’t even have time (or energy) to translate something back in Italian (besides, Cinder Boy in Italian is still selling since December, so…)! 🙂 There will be a title out in February and maybe two in March – I’m also trying a new proofreader with stories I wrote last year and I’m currently expanding.

Some writerly links! The Data Divide! Which includes links to the Authors Earnings report and lots of other stuff. A great analysis of the world of publishing, as usual. And if you’re still afraid of something, keep an eye on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog.

—Do not make escaping your day job a goal for your writing.

I hear this all the time, but the pressure is too much on the writing because the day job, the “real job,” is what makes everything tick.

But don’t worry, if you keep the writing fun, keep your family supporting you, keep learning, eventually the money from the business side will overwhelm the day job money. And by then you will have gotten help to deal with it all mentally, right?

Just don’t make the writing so important, so special, that it threatens the “real job.” If it does, you will grind to a halt fairly quickly because how we were all raised doesn’t allow threats to what pays the bills.

Read that? I’ll have to paste it on my wall. This was on the post about the fear of a real paycheck. I’ll freely admit I’m scared to go freelance after having a steady job for almost thirty years. Unfortunately thirty years ago I wasn’t as strong as Dean was (and was too attached to my family still).

So I’m still considering alternatives (I’d consider publishing a job, not writing, but like he says somewhere else, I can’t just publish myself, I need to have other forms of revenue or it will take the fun out of writing, and I won’t let that happen ever again). Probably Patreon could help with a “steady” monthly income, if I figure out how to set it up well!

Sometime this year, when I recover some strength and feel less tired, though. Like I said, I’m taking it easy this year. I’m a fast writer anyway, and I bought in the rewriting myth once (I called it Rewriting Hell) and swore never again.

I was and will always be a one (maximum two) draft writer (sometimes I expand or rewrite the end because I wasn’t happy with it in the first place – I tend to want to wrap up too quickly and when I go back to it, I realize what’s missing), but then I don’t have an English teacher barking rules in my head, since I’m an ESL writer! 😉

kobo-promoBefore I forget! The Path of Water (Quests Book 1) should be at 99cents this weekend! And tomorrow is the last day for the Kobo UK promo – Norman Blood at 2£! Onward and have a great week! 😀

Writer Wednesday


Sooo, last assignment and checking those Star Minds Third Generation stories… should be ready to go soon, but I’m expanding a couple that badly needed it and adjusting the rest. Wait for them for sometime in March. I have only until the end of the month to finish editing them, since Feb.1 I need to start on the last Quests book! 😉

Some writerly links! 10 reasons why you should not write for fame and fortune – about #8, I don’t think I’d care, but anyway, I don’t write for fame and fortune, I only want people to read my stories and allow me to quit the Day Job that currently pays the bills!

Although going from steady job to freelance is a very big leap for me, and I’m a little scared of doing it. But if I find also alternative income sources besides the writing, I’ll definitely take the plunge! 😀 Now, I could try to combine my two passions and get back to the drawing board…

How much money do cartoonists make? I guess the same money writers make – some make a lot, some make none. And I’m afraid I don’t have the patience (and the eyes) to start another graphic novel. Even Da Strip is still only half-finished (more than half to be colored and a few things to be corrected)!

So no, art is not a good way to have an alternative income source for me. I have an idea or two, but they will take time to develop. Including that Patreon page. I better start curing that tired thyroid, so I can get back to my old efficient streak! 🙂

And the new Authors Earnings report is out! I will let you go through it and make up your mind about it… the market is shifting, my friends… welcome to the new world of publishing! 🙂 Or The World of Publishing like Kris Rusch says (I guess it’s not that “new” anymore, although it’s new to whoever is stuck in 20th century thinking)! 🙂

Please try to avoid excuses and the fine art of self-sabotage! Have a great week and happy writing!

Writer Wednesday


So, Quests 4 wrapped. Other stories good to go. Italian title published. Character interviews almost all ready to go. Monthly wordcount not checked yet, but I’m sure I’m on the roll! Phew, this writing business is stressing! 😉 Maybe I should take a break and study some.

Oh, and I was interviewed at the awesome Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar! A very funny and unusual interview… it was a pleasure to “talk” to Jessica! Now to some writerly links!

On Jeff Bezos’s birthday another non-fiction book came out! I read and enjoyed the first in the series and I’m really considering getting the rest of them… if I manage to take down my TBR pile a little bit! But I still have dozens of novels AND non-fiction books like this one to read on my Kindle, so… just adding it to the wishlist. Highly recommended author and series.

And more visions of the future by Kris Rusch, which actually gives me hope. If most people are falling off the grid because the gold rush is over, only the people who genuinely like to write and create stories will be left. Less competion, more chances for me! 😉

There’s still the discoverability problem in the English-speaking market. I sell 10-20 copies of new titles in Italian because there are so few indie authors in Italy. The English version usually sells 1 or 2 copies (and I’m on first-name-basis with those readers, haha!) because the market is cluttered.

But if the get-rich-quick writers go away, there will be more room for whoever has the stamina to stay. So it’s actually good news for me. Like I mentioned, I might write less, but I’ll keep writing and publishing. There are still plenty of stories that want to come out.

And there’s some that will remain in the drawer forever because either I don’t like them anymore or because I’m changing and I see all their flaws and I’m not excited enough about them to revive them with a redraft. I’ll keep them as background, worldbuilding, whatever, and keep going.

Next on the to-do list: check a few short stories I wrote last year and decide if they’re ready for the editor and the publisher or should just stay in the aforementioned drawer! 😉

Have a great week!

Writer Wednesday


And it’s another Kobo Promo! On the front page only this week, then it will rotate back untill the end of the month! Go grab it now! Doesn’t it look great? The cover is by awesome Shafali Anand… Go to this page now!

Kobo Next Promo

No writerly news, since I only revised Kaylyn while in London and I had another manuscript to read in Tuscany. I should be back to writing soon, maybe this afternoon itself, but I better reread where I was. Jumping from the past to the future takes some adjusting even for me! 😉

Besides I’m coming up with new vampires and I bought 3 non-fiction books in London for the next stories (more on that Friday), so… more notes that eventually will become the “Guide to Vampires Through the Centuries” – although I’m not sure yet if it should be a PDF or a web page. Both I can update whenever a new title comes out… we’ll see! 🙂

Oh, and I was interviewed! Check this chat with the wonderful Fiona McVie who was patient enough to wait for my return from my week off to receive my answers! Naming names, giving away tidbits and no spoilers ahead! 🙂

Now if you’re still thinking of going traditional with your novels, please check this article: Traditional Publishing Takes Less Time… NOT! And beware of agents. I mean really beware of agents. Now let me go back to my own writing and have a great week! 🙂

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