#PitDark on May 25, 2023

The next #PitDark will take place on May 25, 2023.

This is an event for literature of a darker nature.

The contest will happen on Twitter under a common hashtag (#PitDark). During a 12-hour window on the chosen day, authors with completed manuscripts who are seeking representation or publication can tweet a pitch for their books (at most, once per hour).

Agents and publishers will make requests by marking pitches as a like on Twitter. If your tweet is liked, please follow the agent or publisher’s submission guidelines.

For more information on specifics, check out this page.

Interview With Citizen Orlov Author, Jonathan Payne 

In an unnamed central European country after the Great War, a humble fishmonger gets caught up in a world of espionage and intrigue when he answers the wrong phone call.

This thriller meets absurd comedy of errors is currently on Apple Book’s Best Books of May list. They call it “the most fun spy thriller we’ve read in ages.” And Publishers Weekly calls it “a stellar debut.”

I had the pleasure of discussing this novel with the author himself and have included our chat below. Not only did we talk about the book, but we also discussed the process of writing and publishing with an independent publisher.

Jessica: What inspired you to write Citizen Orlov?

Jonathan: I caught COVID-19 and had some weird fever dreams. In one dream, I was back in my government days and they sent me on an assignment to a strange, foreign country. Somehow I managed to get there without knowing where I was. Anything is possible in dreams, of course. As soon as I arrived, someone started shooting at me. I remember a sense of indignation about this. I was only following orders. Who was trying to kill me and why? In the morning, I wrote down the dream and it became the kernel of CITIZEN ORLOV.

Jessica: What is your process as a writer? When do you find time to write? How long did it take you to write the novel? What was your editing process like?

Jonathan: I’m not an x-words-every-single-day sort of writer. I do a lot of pondering and planning before I get into drafting. On my masters course they called this pre-writing. I like that concept. Once I get into the first draft, then I write every day, but I need to know where I’m going first. CITIZEN ORLOV began life as a novella, but my writing group encouraged me to expand it into a novel. So, the writing process was a little on and off, over about a year.

I was nervous about the editing process because I thought: what if my editor doesn’t ‘get it’? What if they don’t understand what I’m trying to do? Luckily, my editor, Elana Gibson, absolutely got it. It was clear to me in our first meeting that she understood what I was going for and could help me get there. On that first call we spent ages talking about Wes Anderson and Coen Brothers movies and I immediately relaxed. After that, the process was a pleasure. Elana had some great ideas for drawing out and clarifying the themes and tone of the story.

Jessica: Describe the experience of publishing a book through an independent publisher. What made you decide to go indie? How do you think the process might have been different than publishing with one of the big 5 publishers?

Jonathan: I started out pitching agents for a few months but I was getting no feedback aside from some rote rejections. I still don’t know if any of those agents read a single word of my work versus my query letter. So, I switched to pitching small presses and got an offer almost immediately from CamCat Books, an independent publisher based in Nashville, TN.

I was drawn to CamCat because their submission process was way more onerous than most; it was like an exam. I really liked that because I thought: at last, there’s a chance someone is actually going to read my stuff. They loved it and made me an offer. It was an easy decision, because they were so enthusiastic about the novel.

This is my debut novel, so I don’t really know how to compare my experience with the Big 5 process. Of course if you go via an agent there’s an extra step where the book is out on submission. I imagine the editing process is similar, but the marketing process is probably different, given that the Big 5 have bigger budgets.

Jessica: What were some of your favorite moments?

Jonathan: Honestly, the process has mostly been a pleasure. I’m learning new things about publishing every day. Although CamCat is a small team, they have a ton of experience in publishing and so it’s been like a crash course for me in how the industry works.

Jessica: What have been some of your challenges in this process?

Jonathan: One of the most nerve-wracking moments was when they sent me five cover concepts and asked me to make detailed comments about them. I’m not really a visual person, but luckily I’m married to a professional artist and former graphic designer, so I asked my wife to take a look and that was a big help. The concepts were all so different and it felt like a big decision.

Jessica: What was the marketing process like for your book?

Jonathan: Well, the marketing process is still ongoing. I’ve been working with CamCat’s marketing team and also an external publicist. I think the most important part of that process has been the team sending the book out for reviews, which mostly hasn’t involved me as the author. My inputs have been doing interviews with magazines and in some cases writing articles about the books that have influenced my work, and so on.

My publicist is going to continue working with me for about a month after publication, and we’re expecting reviews to keep coming in over that period.

I’m also looking forward to attending ThrillerFest in NYC for the first time. I’m in the International Thriller Writers debut authors program, which means I’ll get the chance to pitch my book to the whole conference, just a week after it’s published.

Jessica: What did you learn in this process of publishing your first book?

Jonathan: The biggest single lesson I’ve learned so far is that publishing a book is a team sport. Writing often feels solitary, but publishing is definitely not. I can’t count the number of people who’ve had a hand in bringing CITIZEN ORLOV to the market, but the process has involved lawyers, finance folks, editors, designers, marketeers, a production coordinator, a publicist, a printing company and a distribution company, as well as reviewers, and the bookstore that’s agreed to host the launch event.

Jessica: What advice would you give other people looking to publish a book?

Jonathan: For those looking to get traditionally published, my advice is: make your work stand out. Find ways to make your work different. And, of course, make sure the quality is good enough to publish. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that everyone in the publishing industry is awash with manuscripts. No surprise there. So, there’s not much point in pitching work that’s not ready for prime time or—dare I say it—work that’s boring. Publishing folks are run off their feet. Send them something that will stop them in their tracks and make them take notice.

Jessica: Thanks for your time, Jonathan Payne! I highly appreciate your deep dive into the process of publishing with an independent publisher.

For the rest of you, be sure to check out CITIZEN ORLOV. It’s a fun novel and a page turner to be sure.

It is available for pre-order on Amazon right now, and will be published May 23rd.

Citizen Orlov Links:

Order Citizen Orlov on Amazon

Order Citizen Orlov on Barnes and Noble

Citizen Orlov on Good Reads

Citizen Orlov on Book Bub

Absurdist Spy Thriller Giveaway

Camcat Books

Related Content:

Mango Publishing Interview – Starting an Independent Book Publisher

Interview with Tannhauser Press – How to Start an Independent Book Publisher?

Interview with Space Squid – How to Start a Fiction Magazine

Avatar The Way of Fire (Fan Art)

Above is a fan art concept I generated for Varang, the female leader of the Volcanic Na’vi clan of ash people.

After seeing Avatar The Way of Water in 2022, I wondered what other kind of Na’vi lived on the moon Pandora. And my next thought was Fire Na’vi, Desert Na’vi and a Subterranean Na’vi who live in a fungal biome. Above you can see a gallery of fan art based on the fire concept.

I produced the art with Lexica, an AI art generator. See more fan art for Volcanic Na’vi here.

Apparently two of my three Na’vi predictions were correct. According to the Avatar Wiki, there are plans in the works for the third movie to focus on the element of fire. The Na’vi in this movie are supposed to be “ash people,” or an aggressive volcanic clan led by a female Na’vi known as Varang. And unlike the first two movies where the Na’vi are portrayed in a positive light, Avatar 3 will show the opposite.

There are also plans for an additional culture known as the Windtraders who come from the desert and trade items.

See Avatar 3 Wiki for more information.

Plot Holes in Season 3 of The Mandalorian Explained by ScreenCrush [Spoilers]

Some of you may have noticed several plot holes in the most recent season of The Mandalorian.

ScreenCrush on YouTube does a great job of explaining possible answers to these plot holes. For the video, watch here. There’s also the bonus of seeing a cute dog.

I wrote down some of what was said below for those who don’t feel like watching a video.

SPOILER ALERT! If you do not want to see spoilers. Leave this page now.

  • Plot Hole #1: How did Grogu catch up and rescue Din Djarin in the final episode of the season?
  • Answer: It’s possible that Grogu fled to safety with the other Mandalorians, but then turned around and went looking for Din. And how did he find him? It has been established in Star Wars that one can use the force to find people, especially if they have a strong connection. Princess Leia used the force to find Luke at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. So it’s possible that Grogu used the force to find Din Djarin.

  • Plot Hole #2: How did a piece of glass prevent Grogu from using the force to save Din when he was captured? When Din was captured, we see Grogu behind glass trying to save him but unable to do so.
  • Answer: One theory is that it might be more difficult to connect to the force through objects. Another point connected to this one, is the following: How come a piece of glass blocks Grogu’s connection to the force, but he is powerful enough to use the force to protect himself, along with Din Djarin and Bo-Katan from a powerful, fiery explosion? A possible answer to this is that Grogu did spend time with Luke learning how to use the force. But it seems like Grogu mainly knows how to use the force for defensive, rather than offensive capabilities. In the battle scenes we see Grogu using the force to knock sabers out of the way, rather than using them for harm. That may be how Luke taught him.

  • Plot Hole #3: Why was Moff Gideon so ridiculously strong in the final battle scene? He was even able to crush the dark saber, the hilt of which is made out of high quality beskar armor.
  • Answer: One potential answer is that Moff Gideon’s armor is also made out of beskar. And not only is it beskar, but if you listen to him walking, the suit itself sounds robotic, as if he is wearing the equivalent of an Iron Man suit made out of beskar. The suit probably augments Moff Gideon’s strength.

  • Plot Hole #4: How did Axe Woves have enough fuel in his jet pack to blast into space, when a crux of a previous episode (The Foundling) is that the Mandalorians couldn’t pursue the child stolen by the pterodactyl-like-alien-thing because they ran out of jet fuel?
  • Answer: We don’t know how long the Mandalorians were actually pursuing the pterodactyl-like-alien-thing before they ran out of fuel. They could have been pursuing this creature for hundreds of miles before they ran out. Granted, the lowest satellites in orbit above the Earth are 160 km above the surface. However, when we see Axe Woves on the bridge of the ship, we can also see the planet’s atmosphere. So it’s likely that the ship is at the distance of an airplane, which is about 6 miles above the surface. It’s conceivable that Axe Woves would have enough jet fuel for 6 miles.

  • Plot Hole #5: It’s been established that Mandalorian second names are surnames, like Kryze, Fett, and Vizla. So why is Grogu named Din Grogu and not Grogu Djarin?
  • Answer: On one hand, it could be a silly mistake made by the writers. But on the other hand, Din Djarin is possibly not a native Mandalorian name. Din is from a planet called Aq Vetina. It is possible that when Death Watch took him in, he kept his original name, and his people may have a different naming convention.

For more season 3 plot holes and answers, check out Screen Crush’s video.

The art on this page was made by kikishiomi.

Feel free to comment on any other plot holes you may have noticed, or react to some of these answers.

Upcoming Utopia and Climate Conference for Creatives – 2023

Explore and learn with paradigm shifting CliFi authors, artists, film makers, and world-builders.

The 2nd annual Utopia Awards will highlight and honor authors, artists, and other creators producing works focused on hopeful outlooks, solutions to climate change and related social problems, and building a better future.

The Climate Fiction Conference will host panel discussions and workshops on a range of related topics, including but not necessarily limited to

  • climate fiction (as well as poetry, nonfiction, art, games, and film)
  • writing craft development
  • climate change, climate tech, and climate solutions
  • sci-fi punk genres such as solarpunk, hopepunk, ecopunk, biopunk, cyberpunk, and steampunk

Conference Website

Why Good Stories Still Get Rejected – Fusion Fragment Magazine

Writing is a field where you can do everything right and still (most likely) get rejected. Even having a well written character, setting, and plot is not always enough.

Many writers are aware of why bad stories get rejected: grammatical errors, boring, cliche, weak passive language, confusing plot, too much or too little description.

But why does a good story get rejected?

The Sci-fi magazine, Fusion Fragment, has a really helpful twitter thread on this topic.

I’ll summarize their reasons here:

  • Not a good fit for the particular publication: This is the “It’s not you, it’s me,” of publishing. But it is true. Someone can submit a really well written story that just doesn’t fit in to a particular publication, whether due to style, tone, humor, or other reasons. That’s why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the style of a particular publication before you submit your work.
  • Controversial Content: There are certain topics that some publishers are hesitant to handle. This can include suicide, bigotry, sexual assault, etc. If you are writing about a touchy subject, proceed with caution. Certain publishers are edgier than others. So if you want to be edgy, do your research.
  • Topic Frequency: You may have written an excellent story about alien abduction, for example. But the problem is that the magazine may have already accepted a bunch of stories on this topic and is looking for something else. This is why it’s a good idea to study what particular publishers are looking for, or what they would like more of. Also be aware of what topics have been done so much that editors are sick of reading about them. As far as I am aware, zombies, vampires, and young adult dystopia can be a hard sell for this reason.

Aside from the reasons Fusion Fragment gave, I’ll also add a few of my own.

  • Luck: Luck unfortunately is a component of publishing. It’s not everything, but it is a factor. And this factor is out of your control (unless you have a magical lamp somewhere).
  • Timing: Your submission may have arrived at a time when perhaps the editor wasn’t in the best mood, or doesn’t like your topic because of something else they recently read that left a sour taste in their mouth. Who knows? But much like luck, you can’t control this.

I hope this was helpful for you. Remember. You can’t control the outcome of who publishes your work. But you can commit to the process. If you commit to getting better and submitting content on a regular basis, you will increase your chances of success.

If you have any comments on this topic, feel free to leave them here.


Fusion Fragment Magazine

What I Learned in Dan Brown’s Masterclass (Stories From Tomorrow)

Color Coding Rejection (Stories From Tomorrow)