Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Meet Emily and Dave Butler

Once again, Callihoo Publishing is very pleased to have a guest blog.  This time it's the husband-and-wife writing team of Emily and Dave Butler.  They don't publish through Callihoo Publishing, but have written some rather amazing novels which we at Callihoo Publishing enjoy, so we asked them to introduce themselves on our blog.  We're sure you'll be seeing more of these names out there in the big world of publishing soon!

Hello, Callihoo Publishing!

We write.

What do we write?  Between us, a surprisingly broad range.

We've co-written a YA novel, an adventure romance about time traveling art thieves, fallen angels, John Dee, and the fabled Crown of Adam.  You can't read this book yet, but you'll be able to soon--we've recently acquired literary representation for the series, and it should be going to editors' desks in September.

We have more YA and middle reader stories already in the hopper behind this one.  By "in the hopper" we mean, already written, ready to polish and send out.  If our agent likes them, we'll get them out to editors in due time.  And if he doesn't, this year Dave has learned how to self-publish, so, sooner or later, they'll be coming your way.

Our self-publishing odd-yssey began with Rock Band Fights Evil, a pulp fiction action horror serial about a band of damned men fighting to recover their souls.  As of this writing, there are five RBFE stories available as ebooks from all the usual outlets.  The first three--Hellhound on My Trail, Snake Handlin' Man, and Crow Jane--are also available in a paperback omnibus called Rock Band Fights Evil Volume One.  More soon.

Our other serial is City of the Saints, a gonzo action steampunk adventure tale set in the Kingdom of Deseret in the year 1859.  Can Sam Clemens of the U.S. Army get Brigham Young and his air-ships to enter the looming war on the side of the northern states?  Will Richard Burton, special envoy of Queen Victoria, sabotage Sam's amphibious steam-truck the Jim Smiley and stop him?  And where is the agent of the clandestine confederate leadership, the master of disguise Edgar Allan Poe?  The four parts of CotS are Liahona, Deseret, Timpanogos, and Teancum; the entire thing will be published as a paperback this fall.

That's not all: Dave writes filk songs.  Last year he timidly offered his homage to Robert E. Howard, "The Gift of Solomon Kane," at CONduit, and was pleasantly surprised that no one laughed at him.  He now has a YouTube channel where he posts good recordings when he has them, and makes it a point to play at every con he attends.

That's still not all.  As D. John Butler, Dave has even written a radical non-fiction essay on The Book of Mormon.  It's called Plain and Precious Things: The Temple Religion of the Book of Mormon's Visionary Men.  In a nutshell, Dave argues that The Book of Mormon is the record of religious visionaries whose practices were all rooted in the temple, and recorded, in visionary form, in their book.  More soon on this front, too!

We have war stories to share, and maybe even wisdom to impart, and since we're in the thick of it, we expect to have more over time.  In addition to the links below, City of the Saints, Rock Band Fights Evil, and Plain and Precious Things each has a Facebook page you can like and follow for developments.  Also, look for us on Amazon, Smashwords, at your local convention, and, hopefully soon, your local bookstore.

Thanks again,

Emily and Dave (D.J.) Butler

A Few Links:

Emily's site:

Dave's site (see the right margin for links to Rock Band Fights Evil and City of the Saints books):

Plain and Precious Things

The Gift of Solomon Kane:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Covers are Important

Callihoo Publishing enjoys hearing from people in the science fiction community, no matter their areas of interest or expertise.  Remember, writers, it's the people who read your stories who are paying you.  So pay attention to their opinions!  Callihoo Publishing's guest blogger today is Mike Morgan, who is an illustrator and avid science fiction reader.

I'm here today to talk to you about the possibly unappreciated art of the cover to your book/short story/novella/fanfic.  I say possibly unappreciated because I know there are some writers out there who painstakingly choose who works with them to create the covers of their books.  For every one of those writers there are a dozen more who don't fully appreciate what a book cover can do for their audience and what it could mean for their sales.

Time was, in the long, long ago, before time, pulp writers had to match their stories to illustrations provided to them by their publishers.  Can you imagine having to do that day in and day out?  You should.  Sometimes it is a great way to draw inspiration, and it's surprising to find how many different stories can come out of a single picture.  These days, however, it's the opposite of the pulp era.  Covers are designed (well, good covers) with elements of the story in mind, or with an overall concept that can become iconic.  I am going to highlight to you what I, as an illustrator, find important.

First off, Twilight.  I don't like the movies, the story or the implications contained in the dang series.  But here's the rub: it is not a bad cover.  This illustration allows your imagination to fill in more of the blanks, the many many blanks, that are provided in the story.  There are no overt references to vampires or the undead or teen angst in this cover. Hands giving an apple, a promise of a gift.  It's symbolic, no doubt, and that is a dangerous path, certainly not one that everyone should take.  Had the cover designer decided to showcase something from the story, say an emaciated sparkly stalker, it's possible that the Twilight series would have been an entirely different phenomenon.  Maybe people wouldn't have cared about this story and we wouldn't be facing down an immortal Kristen Stewart today.

Take a look at and let me know when you are back.  Done?  Okay.  The lesson there can probably be broken down into a few "Don't" bullet points.
   ·    Excessive use of photoshop.
   ·    Disconnected imagery.
   ·    Way too busy to get the point across.
   ·    Illustration doesn't match the book in any way.
Romance novels seem to be guilty of the first point, but their cover art does a fine job of telling you in no uncertain terms what the story is about.  A lot of 70s sci-fi stories are guilty of the second, third, and fourth points, so you have no stinking idea what the cover is trying to convey.  As a reader, casual or die hard, those details can make a big difference.  A person can be easily turned away by a cover that is just chaos or by something that looks just the same as the dozen or so books surrounding it.

There is a lesson here:  pay attention to the important visual or emotional elements in your book.  If you are going to have a cover created, have a clear idea of what the heart of your story is.  That way when an artist or designer is working on your cover you can tell them what fits and what doesn't. Don't be afraid of such elements as bared chests if you are making a pure cheese-ball romance, or swords or magic for fantasy, but try to make sure that each cover is relevant to the heart of your story.

Something else to keep in mind:  don't bog down your designer with minute details, like a character's collection of sunglasses, or so-and-so wouldn't have that expression on her face.  Let your designer stretch their creative legs a bit in your world.  Take their input to heart, but always keep your target in sight.  Between the two of you, there is a much better chance of finding what works for your story. If it doesn't come off as iconic and is just all right, that's okay.  If the story sells, that means people like your story for your story, and that is the goal.

* * * * *

Mike Morgan is an occasional dabbler in finer arts but prefers to create webcomics.  To date he has sold one drawing for the whopping sum of twenty dollars, but hopes one day to double or even triple that amount.  He can be found on Twitter @KiltyAsCharged

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What does it take to be a writer?

Often when I tell people I'm a writer, their first question is, for reasons I cannot comprehend, "Oh, have you sold anything?" I've gotten quite good at working my way around that question, because as of right now, the answer is still no. So it becomes, "No, but I have a blog you can follow", or, more often, "No, but I'm really busy with school right now." I figure it's not worth the effort to explain even as much as "No, but I've finished three novels", or "No, but I just sent a bunch of stories off", and especially not "No, but I just got my 20th rejection letter, so I'm treating myself!"

I've always thought it's a rather odd situation. If I told people I work at a restaurant, or an accounting firm, they wouldn't ask if I've been paid yet. It gets to the point where I'd rather tell someone about my day job than my real passion, just to avoid awkward questions. And yet, the day job is only there to support my favorite activity: spending hours sequestered off in my own little worlds, exhausting myself (or at least my brain and fingers) on something that may or may not one day give me some money.  Writing's not exactly something a person commits their time to unless they're passionate about it.Why then does it seem so hard to feel justified in claiming the title of 'writer'?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Writing has Changed (For Me) Since the 1970s--Part Three

In Which I Join the Working World and (Much Later) the Computer Age

Here's a page from "All My Crewmen." You'll note it was printed in good ol' 'dirty purple.'
Two pages from "In Memorium."  These are scanned from the master, which I still own.
When I dropped out of college, moved away from home, and got a job, I discovered that I didn't have nearly as much time to write as I had when I was in college.  Part of it was the fact that I had discovered science fiction fandom and become very active in a Star Trek fan club.  Even there I used my writing--I helped publish a newsletter, and dabbled in writing Star Trek fan fiction with my roommate (All My Crewmen).  I also wrote a Star Trek play--which is odd, for I've never really wanted to write scripts.  In Memorium was performed, at a local science fiction convention, in 1976.  (I obviously wasn't nearly as curmudgeonly about spelling back then, as I never bothered to look up the spelling of 'memoriam.')

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Writing has Changed (For Me) Since the 1970s--Part Two

These are two covers I actually remember from when I was a child.
Science Fiction Fans, Science Fiction Writing Class, and Dirty Purple

From the time I was six years old, I read science fiction and fantasy without knowing anyone besides my dad and my aunt (his sister) who also read books in those genres.  My dad had boxes of magazines with colorful, fascinating covers--robots and spaceships and aliens--in the basement.  So I devoured Galaxy and Astounding Science Fiction magazines from the 1950s, not really understanding a lot of what happened in the stories, but captivated by them nonetheless.  My dad read A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, to me at bed time.  Then my aunt gave me some paperback novels--a few of the Witch World series by Andre Norton.  I wanted more!  I searched the school library and found books by Robert Heinlein and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How Writing has Changed (For Me) Since the 1970s--Part One

1970s:  Handwriting a Novel and Typing it on a Manual Typewriter

Throughout my childhood I was a voracious reader, and also loved playing make believe and making up stories.  I remember lying on my bed one day (I was probably in my early teens) reading a book I was dissatisfied with.  I thought, "I could write better than this!"  Shortly after that, I started brainstorming stories I could write.  I carried a small writing notebook around with me, and wrote down ideas and scenes.

Then, as now, I loved science fiction and fantasy, so my first novel was science fiction.  I brainstormed it after dark with my younger sister (who slept in the lower bunk bed while I slept in the upper bunk).  When I started writing it, I was in high school.  Since I used lined paper in a three-ring binder at school, that's how I wrote my novel:  in pencil, double-spaced, on college-rule binder paper.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Micro Short Short Stories

For nearly two decades, I’ve helped judge a writing contest at CONduit, the science fiction/fantasy convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It’s called “Micro Short Short Stories.”

The rules are simple.

1.  Each story can have no more than three sentences.
2.  It should be a complete story, with beginning, middle, and end.
3.  It should be grammatically correct, and have correct punctuation (we take off points if we have to fix punctuation and grammar to make the story work).
4. The title can help tell the story.
5.  We give a story extra points if it contains foreshadowing, characterization, and/or subplots. (Amazingly, this can be done in only three sentences, although it's difficult.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

There Is No Such Thing as an Original Idea in Art

There is no such thing as an original idea in art. Or so my husband keeps telling me (he is an artist). He tells me this when I struggle to come up with a new story, a new world, even a new name for an unknown cousin of the main character. This got me thinking, where do I draw inspiration from? And how original, really, are the elements of my story?

 Many ideas are reused over time. There are a huge number of stories involving the main character coming of age, the epic journey, the predestined hero, basic human emotion stories (love, revenge), and the telling of fairy tales and fables. These stories pop up all the time, not because they are easy to tell, but because they are easy to relate to. A story is a success when the readers identify with the events and/or characters. One example is the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, a coming of age story with a hero that was chosen by events outside of his control, and over the course of the story he grows into his role. Or another series (which shall not be named) where both vampires and werewolves have been tamed and sexualized to appeal to young readers. Many stories are also retold in new ways, such as Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, a retelling of The Odyssey.

So. Is there such a thing as originality in writing? Yes! But there is a caveat: your story needs to draw from reality, and that necessitates a bit of borrowing.

Monday, May 28, 2012

CONduit 22: Time-Lords of CONduit

CONduit is Salt Lake City's annual science-fiction/fantasy convention, and it's something I look forward to every year. This year was especially dear to my heart, as a Doctor Who fan: the plethora of Doctor Who costumed people (I was dressed as Amy Pond, companion to the 11th Doctor), props (like the plywood TARDIS for photo-ops), panels (my favorite being the Kid Con Sonic Screwdriver Panel), etc., made me very happy.

Beyond that, what made this year special to me was Tamora Pierce as Guest of Honor, and the profusion of YA panels, both for readers and for writers. Last year, on my own blog, I did a three-post series, discussing the panels I went to on each of the three days. I'll do a shorter version of that here that I think I'll call The Good, The Bad & The Awesome*.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Play Headlines


We'd like to clear up some possible confusion.  For nearly twenty years, there has been a science fiction and fantasy writing critique group in the Salt Lake City area called CALLIHOO.  There are various versions of what the letters in CALLIHOO mean.  Someday, we might tell you. . . .  When Callihoo Publishing was born, it was staffed by so many members of CALLIHOO, that we decided to use the writers' group's name for the company.  However, the two entities are completely separate.  Yes, Callihoo Publishing publishes stories by members of CALLIHOO.  But being a member of CALLIHOO doesn't automatically mean your stories will be published, nor does Callihoo Publishing only use work (stories and art) by members of the writers' group.  The publishing company did adopt the CALLIHOO gosling when it was first formed and needed a logo.  This might change . . . or it might not.  The Logo Contest, coming soon, will establish that!

With that taken care of, we come to the fun part of this blog post.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why a Gosling?

When you visit our blog or our website, you might find yourself curious about the omnipresence of a single figure. It's the Callihoo gosling. He's hanging out on our wallpaper, he's nabbed the title of the blog, and he's
even filling in as logo until our upcoming logo contest in June. When not online, the gosling is generally to be found displayed near someone's writing space, a box of commas strung helpfully around his neck. All of which begs the question: how did a bunch of writers wind up adopting a gosling as their mascot?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Meet the Grammar Curmudgeon

Hello!  I'm the Grammar Curmudgeon.  Sometimes I find examples, out in the wild, of blatantly incorrect use of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  Since complaining about them in public is quite curmudgeonly, I shall do so here.  Of course, even the most curmudgeonly can make mistakes, so if anyone wishes to pick apart my spelling, grammar, or punctuation, I'm more than willing to hear your views.  I might disagree . . . or you might convert me.

Today's example was in a local newspaper, but I've seen this problem many places.  What is the problem?  The difference between "every day" and "everyday."  (Yes, I am aware that the last sentence is a fragment.  It was done intentionally.)

"Everyday" means normal, common, or ordinary.  So, does this ad mean "an ordinary, common, normal party in May"?  Or does it, perhaps, mean "A party every day in May"?  In other words, a party that happens daily.  The latter is what I believe was meant.  It's unfortunate that whoever designed this ad didn't know the difference between "everyday" and "every day."

There's my sample for today.  Check back to enjoy others as I find them.

(A note on the picture.  It was taken from a rather fuzzy newspaper with my cell phone camera, so the quality is not high.  But it should get the point across.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Welcome to our blog!

Hello, readers!  Callihoo Publishing not only wants to provide you with the finest in science fiction and fantasy reading, but also to give you food for thought.  Thus was the Callihoo Publishing blog born.  We'll talk about writing, reading, science fiction, fantasy, and related subjects.  We might be serious, and we might be silly.  But we hope we're never boring.

Check back often for our newest blog post.

And in the meantime . . . read one of our stories!