Williamsburg Book Festival 2022 Appearance!

Come see me at the Williamsburg Book Festival in Williamsburg, VA on October 1! I’ll have an outdoor booth and, depending on the weather forecast, maybe a DOG WITH ME!!! Come see a dog! If I can have a dog with me, weather permitting, it will likely be Aggie The Fierce Rottweiler, the cover dog of First Watch! Maybe she’ll even paw-tograph your copy of First Watch that you buy at the Williamsburg Book Festival!?!!

No promises. Many possibilities. You’ll have to attend to find out!


On To the Next!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve started drafting the third book in the Civil Dusk series already! In this story, tentatively called “By Appointment Only,” Hugh meets with the spirits of Skara Brae to get his dian-stane fixed. They tell him to journey to New Hampshire in the USA, where descendants of theirs journeyed and built a settlement 4000 years ago. But how will he find it in a country to which he’s never been? Perhaps a local guide can assist!

Stay tuned for a completely unique story that’s already a page-turner! And in the meantime, get your copies of Civil Dusk and First Watch; links in the Buy My Books link above!


When I’m writing, I commonly leave myself brackets around words that I either need to go back in the typed document to fact check, or that I need to find a synonym for. In the pictured case below, it’s a fact check. I hand write my drafts and my first line of editing is when I type my written sections up, usually a chapter at a time. Do you do this? If not, it might help! For me, it gives me permission to keep writing and not stall my progress with a word check.

Author Interview: Civil Dusk

Okay, yes, I lied to you in the previous post. I said I’d do a spotlight on The Loyalty of Dew next, but you know what, this is my blog and I’m gonna talk about Civil Dusk now. Because it’s BETTER.

Civil Dusk is technically my first novella. Delightful. It can be found at its amazon.com listing https://www.amazon.com/Civil-Dusk-Nicole-R-Ordway/dp/0578485044 .

Civil Dusk is set MOSTLY on the island of Rousay in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. It goes other places too, like the underwater palace of Finfolkaheem and the vanished island of Hether Blether. This novella utilizes many of the stories which are a uniquely Orcadian blend of Norse and Celtic/Pictish folklore in a wondrous romp of magic and finding one’s self and waterhorses and selkies and witches and trows and you probably have NO CLUE what I’m talking about anymore so let me let the professionals ramp it up for you.


To quote that review directly, AHEM:

“An Orkney Islands fisherman with a hidden past encounters magic in Ordway’s fantasy novel.

This fast-moving work, shaped by Norse and Celtic mythology, opens by defining the term that gives the book its name: “The time of evening when the sun is six degrees below the horizon, when the light is still enough for you to see things…and for things to see you.” What protagonist Hugh Reid sees upends his life forever. After struggling to control his fishing boat during a storm at sea in 2018, he returns to his home on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, wondering at the unusual violence of the waves and the haunting song that he heard in the sound of the rain. But although the islands are steeped in tales of the supernatural, Hugh is impatient with people who believe in them—until he’s visited by a trow, “an ugly, stunted thing with pale, wrinkled flesh and gleaming, yellow eyes,” who guides him to a buried object of power, which the trow says he will need in a world-threatening conflict to come. Ordway cleverly draws on Orkney’s many traditional legends as she catapults Hugh into an epic adventure. The story involves a titanic struggle for dominance between the summer goddess, known as the Mither o’ the Sea, and the demonic winter spirit, Teran. A seaweed-maned water horse called a Nuggle, a goddess-channeling witch, selkies, and sorcerous Finmen make appearances, as do hidden places reached via a mysterious fog, an undersea kingdom, and a magical stone; the story also reveals the secrets of Hugh’s origins. The interplay between the various characters doesn’t always match the quality of the story; for example, the number of times that characters “smirk” becomes distracting. However, the author’s vivid depiction of otherworldly elements, the sea itself, and Hugh’s gradual acceptance of his true identity make for a rollicking read. At the conclusion, Hugh has an encounter with one-eyed Norse god Odin that teases a potential sequel.

An often clever mix of myth and legend in a contemporary setting, featuring a relatable protagonist.”

Check it out at https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/nicole-r-ordway/civil-dusk/ . Or don’t, because I literally just copied the whole thing over here. Check out the book instead. 😉

So, Civil Dusk is the story that I WANTED to write. Hollow Thunder was my proving ground to see whether I could write, get edited, and publish a novel. Box checked. The Loyalty of Dew threw a few more ideas on the tail of that and wrapped up some questions left hanging in HT. It’s the story I was obliged to write. But Civil Dusk is the one I’ve wanted to write for soooo loooong and I’m so very pleased with it. It’s about 187 pages, which means it’s about half the length of HT, which means I told the story that wanted to be told – and I told it WELL, thank you, just look at that Kirkus Review – and nothing more. No fluff in Civil Dusk. It’s Insulation Free.

I’m presently in the final stages of working on its sequel, which will be called First Watch and which should be released in Spring 2021 if everything continues going to plan. And we’re not gonna stop there. I already have ideas brewing for a third book in this series, with all the potential for more.

I’m gonna shut up now and leave you with the purchase link again, because you have reading to do!

First Watch update!

I am officially past the halfway marker in writing First Watch… I’ve got 21k words typed! My goal is around 40k like the first book in its series, Civil Dusk. Appropriately, the plot is coming to the big climax and I just drafted the big reveal. I’m so excited! Publishing goal for First Watch is Spring 2021.


When you publish through the traditional method (ie: you get an agent, the agent sells your project to a publisher for a cut of sales, and the publisher does everything else for a cut of sales) there are major aspects of publishing that are done for you. These include marketing your finished project and finishing the project. An editor is assigned to you. An illustrator is hired for the cover work. The cover is designed; the dimensions are decided upon; potentially the title even changes. A lot of things go out of the author’s hands to a large degree.

When you publish with an small, independent press (like HCS Publishing!) or when you self-publish, you the author become responsible for all of these things. This is both great, and not so great: great because you retain all control over how things look, what they’re called, and so forth. It gets not so great if you don’t have the industry contacts for marketing, for finding an artist, and for connecting with a worthwhile editor.

I covered flags to look for when asking people you’re close with to edit for you, and vice versa, in a previous post. Ideally, you’ll want to select a professional editor that you don’t have a history with as this will give the editor the best chance to read through with an impartial voice. Your independent house will likely have recommendations. If you’re self-publishing, you will have to look a little harder. An editor, though, is absolutely something you should spend money on as it will make your finished product that much more effective.

Similarly, cover work is critical to the success of a book. Everyone is familiar with the idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but any book-fiend will tell you straight up that they ABSOLUTELY DO. If your eye and your interest are not caught by the cover art, the text, the cleverly positioned blocks of weird colors, then you’re not going to pick up the book to check the back or flip through the first few chapters. It’s as simple as that. Just like with an editor, make sure your selected designer/illustrator has a contract at the ready. Read this contract. Make sure the pricing (and potential royalty chart) is something you agree with and that their style matches the voice of your book.

In my case, HCS Publishing has deals with professional editors, so that part was simple for me. Finding an artist was a little trickier, but I scored mine (Lin Hsiang) through a gallery site called deviantART. I posted in the message boards with a description of what I was looking for, and his art samples jumped out as a perfect match for my story. He was just getting started in major projects back then and cut me an excellent deal on pricing, and when I contacted him this year for Civil Dusk his prices had changed. This is to be anticipated, and to be respected. Expect to pay AT MINIMUM $350-400 for a professionally designed cover, especially if you’re approaching artists on your own. This is reasonable, especially if they do not expect to receive royalties. This is a one-and-done job which you (the commissioner) will continue to use to lure people into buying your book. If you can’t afford to pay that range for something that will ideally represent your project, you may want to exercise some patience and save up until you can. Because cutting corners for this book that you’ve spent so much time to write is just doing yourself a disservice.


The Elusive Agent

Two more rejections down for Civil Dusk! With one more agent on my list to query, and the ever-persistent form letter quasi-reassurance of “This doesn’t fit what I’m looking for, but keep trying, you never know!” haunting my short term memory, I’ve got to stop and wonder: am I doing enough?

And is it worth it?

Why am I seeking external representation for Civil Dusk? Well, to be perfectly blunt about it, it’s because I feel that I don’t have enough time or know-how to properly market my own books. Dave Lee and the rest at HCS Publishing do a fantastic job with what they have, but we’re just a small publishing house. All of us have full time day jobs, and some of them have kids, which counts as a whole other job. We do what we can with conventions, and with distribution as allowed by the Createspace/Amazon/KDP platform, but I can’t shake this fear that there is a much bigger world out there that we just don’t have the ability to access.

And that’s why I want an agent: someone who spends their days and probably lives in that bigger world. I want to break that horizon, but I don’t have a goddamn ship. Or a compass.

How do I find representation? For me, the hunt starts and ends with Writers Digest and Publishing Market. But is that enough? Are the people on those sites too exposed, too busy, too swamped by slush piles?

So I’ve started reaching out to the agents of authors whose work I admire and emulate. But somehow, this story I’ve written that mirrors aspects of those authors’ works in my own style and way; SOMEHOW this “doesn’t fit what I’m looking for.” I need more than that. WHY doesn’t it fit? Where does it fall away? Does my query letter just suck that badly that you didn’t read the obligatory 15-page insert following it? IT’S WORTH IT.

Friends and followers, help! Where do you look to find agents that you can query? Please comment!

What happens if I don’t find representation? Well, lucky for me, HCS Publishing is circling this novella like a whole friggin FLEET of sharks. It WILL be published, and proudly so with that brilliant emblazon in the front cover. And I have two shops locally that expressed interest in having a look and potentially stocking the title. So we’re not down and out by any means. But what that WILL mean is that I need to learn more about book marketing.

SO, friends and followers, what are your strategies? How do you get the word out? Where’s the rabbit hole that I keep tripping over but can’t seem to find? Please comment!



Author Interview Series – Dave Lee

This is the first in what will be a monthly installment series. I seek to interview independently published authors regarding their debut novels and the process they followed to bring them to life.

We start with Dave Lee, of HCS Publishing, whose debut novel “Country in Ruin: 1865” was published on March 1, 2013. His responses are marked with D. Any comments I had to add are in italics.

N) How long did it take you to finish your first book? 

D: It took roughly a year to write and about three months worth of editing. Just to write that seems impressive to me as I’ve been writing the sequel for nearly 4 years now. I should probably omit that but at least folks will know that these things are a serious labor of love.

Not omitted, because it’s true! You might have a book that takes an eon to complete compared to another. But never give up.

N) How long did it take you to publish your first book?
D: I had already developed our process for publishing during the process of getting my daughter’s books out there so my book only took about 2 weeks. During the course of writing the book, I imagined the cover so when it came down to doing it, I had a good idea already.
N) Did you consider trying the traditional route? Why, or why not?
D: I did actually and had little to no success. I did receive one offer from a traditional publisher but it was pretty terrible so we decided to go the self publish route. As for why, I don’t think it was because no one wanted it but rather that no one was willing to gamble on a Steampunk book. Traditional publishers are struggling with the changing world and therefore I decided to take advantage of that and the opportunities self publishing offer. There were still gaps though, which is what led us to establishing HCS Publishing.
N) If so, why did you change your mind and independently publish?
D: I really wanted to do things our way and I really wanted to establish a business model for HCS Publishing that was, to my knowledge, extremely rare. HCS Publishing is a non-profit publisher where the authors keep all of their sales profits. This should show that we value our authors more than anything else and that what we publish is truly something that we love and believe in. Why else go through the work when you aren’t getting paid?
N) Do you formally outline?
D: I didn’t in the first book but am doing so in the second. Perhaps this is why the story is still being written three years after starting while the first only took 1. I see value in it, especially with a complicated plot and global scope but it is easy to get lost in the organization. I assume that I’ll get better as time goes on but that remains to be seen.
N) The bit about “the popcorn,” did you know that would happen? 
D: The scene, much like the majority of the book, happened organically. It was more silly fun than anything. Some time later, while at a convention, a notable author suggested that I come up with an inside joke for signing books as it would hopefully spark interest in the reader and provide an “ah ha” moment when they got to it. I thought this was a good idea and chose to use the popcorn scene as my inside joke. So, consequently I sign all books with “I hope you like popcorn”.
N) Do you like your antagonist? As in, would you hang out with them?
D: Normally I favor antagonists that blur the lines between good and bad. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a Vader fanatic. In this story though, I chose to keep him as despicable as possible. There are parts where you sympathize with his family and those that care about him and try to steer him in better directions but I’m a firm believer in consequences of one’s actions. Regardless of how noble he thinks his intentions are, things rarely go as we plan and his actions compound on themselves, keeping him an antagonist that I’d rather punch in the face than hang out with.
There is a literary theory that claims strong antagonists also need to be sympathetic to the reader to some degree, hence my question. Dave Lee has truly mastered this dichotomy of love and hate in Country in Ruin!
N) Is this the story you Wanted to tell, or the one that Needed to be told?
D: I suppose it is the story that I wanted to tell rather than anything else. It started as back stories for props I made and then grew a life of its own. I’m pretty stubborn as my wife would tell you so if I determine it is something I want, it becomes something I need and consequently something that I will do. So in summation, to answer your question: both. 😊
N) Any last words?
D: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about myself. Certainly a topic I like talking about. 😊 For more information, I’d ask folks to check out HCS Publishing at www.hcspublishing.com There is no shortage of great stories for people to check out, this book being only one of many.
Curious? You can purchase “Country in Ruin: 1865” at AMAZON.COM in Kindle and Paperback versions. And be sure to visit HCS Publishing’s website above for more great titles as well as how to invite Dave Lee to present at your next event.