The Dark Lord and the Seamstress

Off To The Races… er… Printers!

Just a quick update this time around, everyone.

Jennifer Vendrig, Hard At Work

Jennifer Vendrig, Hard At Work

The money has arrived in my account and I will spend today sending it out to all the people and places it needs to go. (Huzzah!)

I also received 99% of the survey responses. (Luckily, those of you who didn’t fill out the survey are related to me, and I do, actually, know where you live!)

Lastly, we uploaded the finished book to the printer’s site last night. I’ll be doing final reviews and tweaks today, and then checking the proofs, and then… printing! How exciting.

Brienne E. Wright hard at work finalizing the cover.

Brienne E. Wright finalizing the cover.

Some bad news, though. The publisher tells me that it may take 6-8 weeks for the ebook to be formatted after I upload the print version.  I’ve got the files so I can do it myself instead of waiting for the printers to do it, so hopefully it’ll be available sooner than that! So, for those of you who chose to get just the e-book copies, apologies. I will do my best to ensure that it’s available before Halloween, but I hope you’ll forgive me if it’s not.

Thank you for your support, again.


JM FreyOff To The Races… er… Printers!
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New Backer Perk for The Dark Lord and the Seamstress


Ladies And Gents, Devils and Angels, Cosplayers and Con-Goers; 

The very talented people at Kelly-Francis Costuming got in contact with me to tell me that they’re so enamored with THE DARK LORD AND THE SEAMSTRESS that they’re willing to help us reach our goal!

Kelly-Francis Costuming is a company that provides costumes to film, television, theatre, circus, ren faires and for custom individual creations. They’ve worked on Hannibal, Pacific Rim, Hemlock Grove, The Shaw Festival, Resident Evil, The Stratford Festival, The Strain, The Baker Street Carollers, and Zero Gravity Circus, among others.

For a $100 donation, you’ll get:

A personal thank you tweet from me -Your name listed on the backers page in the book -ebooks of THE DARK LORD AND THE SEAMSTRESS, and my short story anthology HERO IS A FOUR LETTER WORD -A paperback edition of THE DARK LORD AND THE SEAMSTRESS, signed by me -$50 from Kelly-Francis Costuming to use on their products or services.

Thanks, Richard!

JM FreyNew Backer Perk for The Dark Lord and the Seamstress
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WORDS FOR WRITERS – Things I Am Learning As My Own Publisher

Week number five billion (it seems) of my Self -Publishing Adventure is here, and my Kickstarter Campaign  has launched. I don’t think I’ve slept in that time, although I’m certain I’ve stared at my bed longingly.

There’s been a lot of tea, a little wine, and lots of learning moments guided by friends and mentors, and my own small mistakes.

If you’re thinking of self-pubbing, here are the four most important things I’ve learned so far:

#1 – Have  A Deadline

… and give yourself an extra two weeks of wiggle room, just in case.

Like with NaNoWriMo, the pressure of a real live, actual and professional deadline will not only help you plow through your To Do list, but will make certain that everyone else working with you knows exactly what is due when, and to meet their own deadlines.

This also helps to avoid confusion regarding what’s due when, and how long it actually takes to do everything. Do lots of research into how long it takes for the books to get printed, the files to be approved by the printer, for the books to be shipped to you, etc. Also, confirm with your team what their realistic goals are, and then drop an extra few days onto it, just to be safe.

It’s always much better to deliver early than to be scrambling at the last minute.

#2 – Have A Contract

… and make sure it’s clear.

Contracts should be  easy to read, straightforward contract that outlines copyright (who owns what), delivery schedule, payment terms and schedule, and any other expectations. If you’re running a crowdfunding campaign, be sure to include what payment or percentage your team can expect, and what other extra work it may cause for them. (For example, my illustrator has agreed to donate some sketches and original art from our book as perks for the campaign.)

Contracts might seem scary and big, and perhaps unnecessary between friends. However, I’ve found the best way to keep friends is to make the contract, and be as non-confrontational about it as possible. Usually I say something like, “Hey, I don’t plan on suing you and you probably don’t plan on suing me (I hope), but just in case, I don’t know, I die horribly in a moped-and-gelato accident, why don’t we get it all laid out in black and white? Deadlines, payment, royalties, all of it, and that way it’s clear, and off our minds, and we all know where we stand? That good?”

And if someone really, really resists a contract, then I really, really rethink working with them. If they’re not cool signing a contract, then what are they planning to do that’s so unprofessional and terrible that they think having a contract will screw them? If they’re claiming it’s because we’re friends, then I for the sake of our friendship, I’ll insist.

You can find templates for contracts for just about anything online.   If a contract really does scare you, then if nothing else put together a very clear, bullet-pointed list of expectations, deadlines, work division, delivery dates, etc. and have everyone on the team print it out and sign it and scan it to you. That way it’s guaranteed that they’ve read it.

And that way, everyone is starting from the same place.

#3 – Have a Budget Plan

…  and be realistic about it. Budget as if you’re paying your creatives full professional rates.

Figure out where the money is coming from – and if you’re doing a crowdfunding campaign, figure out how you’re going to pay for everything if it fails. Will you continue and publish, perhaps with a delayed timeline, or just let the whole project be put to bed?

And if you are crowdfunding, you’ll have to share your budget with your backers, so be very honest with it, too.

Lastly, find a way to pay yourself, too. Generally speaking, as the writer/publisher, you’re the one who collects and keeps the royalties, so that’s your cheque there. If you’re not planning on keeping the royalties, then be realistic about how much of your own money you can throw into the project without going into debt or endangering your own finances. And also be realistic about what happens to you, financially, if the project comes to fruition but nobody buys it.

If you’re extra-counting on that royalty cheque, you may want to do some rebalancing.

#4 – Hire a Professional

… and pay them at professional rates. You plan to make money on your book, so share the wealth with the people on your team.  I’m not saying you have to cut them in on the royalties or back ends (unless that’s the agreement that you come to); paying a fee is just fine, too.

What I am saying is discuss and provide a fair and reasonable rate for the professional work that the other members of your team are providing. If possible, get as close to professional rates as you’re able. When you pay people as professionals, they provide professional work.

So why hire a professional? Well, in terms of editors, they can always catch mistakes that you didn’t see. In terms of cover artists, interior designers, and cover designers, it just makes sense. Why not hire the people who have the expertise, the experience, and the tools (do you know how much InDesign costs?)  to do the job well, on time, and in good order. Learn from them as they do the job, so next time you can maybe do some of it yourself, or at least set things up so it’s easier for them the second them you work together.

It will make your product look polished, professional, and more importantly, formatted correctly.

Nothing kills a self-published book faster than sloppy design, poor editing, and incorrect formatting.

#5 – Have a Mentor

If you’ve never done this before, talk to other self-pubbers (preferably ones with well-reviewed books) and discuss earnestly the pitfalls, research, and hard work that goes into publishing a book for yourself. Try to walk into the project with no illusions about how much the marketing is going to cost, in both time and finances, and also the expectations of the emotional rollercoasters and pitfalls. Try to have a support group, if you can, and be honest with yourself about why you’re publishing and what your realistic goals are.

A mentor can help you navigate schedules, websites, and rules that you’re encountering for the first time, but they can also help you sail smoothly over the waves of being an author before, during, and post-publication, too.

And a bonus point:


Do all the research, know all the things, and THEN jump into the doing of the things.

Best of luck with your books, everyone!


JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS – Things I Am Learning As My Own Publisher
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And more tDLatS Questions!

Q: Your books are for a grown up audience, I was wondering what inspired you to do a children’s picture book?

Is it still a children’s book if it takes place in Hell? :3

While I do generally write for the adult market, with the occasional forays into YA or NA, I have always wanted to write for kids, too. Picture books are so fun, aren’t they? I’ve always wanted to write comics or a graphic novel, as well. Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to do that.

And as hokey as it sounds, I don’t begin a writing process with saying “I’m going to write a story for __________ market.”  I let the story dictate the audience. Usually when I’m done writing a story I step back and evaluate it and say, “Okay, so what market does this fit in? What’s the demographic? Does it need tweaking to fit into that market better?”

And when I wrote the poem that comprises the book, I was working in a primary school library, so there was a lot of kid lit around me, influencing the story. It was also before I actually began to write novels for the adult market, so perhaps I, myself, was youthful, too!

Q: How did you and the artist find each other?

Jennifer and I were introduced in… uuuuhm… 1996? Yeah, Wiki tells me that DBZ aired on YTV in 96.

Anyway, I had become enamored of Sailor Moon in 1995 when it aired on YTV (and lucky me, later I got to work with one of the voice directors and take some voice acting workshops from directors and talent alike), and followed that into DBZ. From DBZ I found fanfiction, and in fanfiction I found author Ruthanne Reid.

(Although, at the time, she had her fanfic pseudonym and so did I.)

Ruthanne introduced me to fanartist Jennifer, and we all chatted. I stayed in touch with Jennifer through university, where she sent me fan art and did a poster for my first play, and did some art based on the novel I was writing at the time.

In 2002, when I wrote the poem that comprises the book, Jennifer and I noodled around with the idea of doing some sort of illustrated version of it, but a webcomic was too involved for both of us (being, as we were, in school and part time jobs), and frankly self-publishing as we know it now hadn’t been invented yet.

We lot touch after Jennifer got married and began a family, but a few years later I had the opportunity to offer up the poem to a morbid little poetry chap book. The publisher and I discussed having all the poems illustrated, and I remembered the doodles Jennifer had already conceived. I got back in touch with Jennifer, and we had some discussions. She mocked up some thumbnails, but then unfortunately the publishing house collapsed and the project was cancelled.

Several more years passed, and I forgot about the poem. Eventually I was interviewed by Arial Burnz of ParaNormalRadio, and she reminded me that the poem existed. I discussed it with my agent, and we agreed that it would be a fun project for me to selfpub the poem as a picture book, and I got back in contact with Jennifer again! I figured there was no point in going elsewhere when Jennifer and I had already done so much work on the book.

And here we are!

Q: How do you choose which images to illustrate for the book?

I mentioned in a previous answer that illustrator Jennifer Vendrig and I had had the opportunity to talk a lot about the poem before we came to project, so that was very helpful. We already had a “look” established, and we already knew what the characters looked like through a few weeks of trial-and-error pencil sketches where she mostly said “Well, what about this, this and this?” and I said, “Yes! I love that, that, but maybe make that like this?” and she said “Yes! And–” (You get the point.)

When I reapproached Jennifer about doing the picture book, one of the first contractual items we discussed was how much drawing she would be doing. We agreed on the number of illustrations – one for every two stanzas – and Jennifer broke the whole thing down into a sort of a story board.

She provided me with three doodles for each stanza to choose from, and when I made my choices we discussed why I thought those were best, and what she wanted to do with it. The nice thing is, I really like Jennifer’s art, and I’ve known her as an artist for so long that in commissioning her to illustrate the book, I knew exactly what to expect. I wasn’t disappointing – I love the work!

Once we had the doodle-thumbnails locked down, Jennifer began doing pencil sketches of each illustration. She sends them to me in batches, and we discuss little changes or additions as needed. Then I sign off on the pictures. Once I’ve signed off on all of them, she’ll begin the inking process and creating the illustration for the cover.

In the meantime, Jennifer is drawing to a size spec, and the interior designer and I are working together to get the draft-layout together so that when Jennifer provides the final inked pictures, we can just drop them into place and go!

Jennifer also illustrated the announcement picture! Isn’t it cute?


Have a question you want to ask about the book or the process? Ask in the comments below, on my Tumblr, on Goodreads, or via Twitter.

JM FreyAnd more tDLatS Questions!
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More tDLatS Q&A

I opened my inbox to questions about The Dark Lord and the Seamstress, and here are the questions I received, and my answers!


Q: About how many drafts of TDL&TS did you have to go through before you got to the finished product? And what’s your process there, do you write everything and then edit, edit as you go, or shoot the first draft to a beta and go from there?

Strangely enough, there weren’t actually a lot of drafts of The Dark Lord and The Seamstress. How it looks now is essentially how it was when it came out.

At this point, I think it’s on draft three or so.

I’ve had 12 years to tweak it, and I added about three stanzas to make the store run smoother, but beyond swapping out words to make lines scan better, I’ve changed practically nothing.

I think it helps that the story itself is very straight forward and simple, with a happy ending. There’s no editing required to clarify, or rewrite, or to address B plot, or to remove/add/merge characters. It doesn’t require all of the Hard Thinking And Mapping that a novel might.

Usually when I write a story, I write the whole thing all at once. Not usually in order, I jump around and lay, as I call them, paving-stone-scenes all along the narrative path. Eventually I get them all to join up, and then I do a top-to-bottom-read-and-edit. From there the story goes to a group of beta readers, comes back to me with feedback and suggestions and I  edit it. Then it goes to a different group of beta readers (or the same, if some of the readers really wanted it back), and I edit it again. Usually at that point I give it to a professional editor to give it a polish, I get it back and edit it, and then it’s off to my agent. She gives feedback, I edit again, and then it goes on submission. The acquiring editor gives feedback, I edit, and off it goes to be made into a book!

Sometimes this process is only four or five drafts. Sometimes, like the one book I’m working on, it can get to upwards of seventy passes between my hands and someone else’s in order to get it settled and tweaked just right.

Q: Where do you get your inspirations for stories from? Or, more properly, where do you USUALLY get your ideas – I know sometimes they just pop up out of nowhere. Share your brainworkings, please!?

Some ideas I’ve gotten from dreams. I had a recurring nightmare as a teenager that I dwelt on and let expand, and it just filled up my imagination. Eventually I started writing it, and though I’d like to share it one day, it’s just not good enough right now.

Some ideas I’ve gotten based on prompts, writing challenges, or story requests for anthologies. I’ve written a few shorts where I’ve later gone back and asked permission from the editors to expand the story into a novel.

Some ideas I get from conversations or arguments with friends. I had a very frustrating conversation with someone once and I was so angry that I immediately went to my desk and began pounding out a diatribe on my laptop. That eventually became a scene, and when I had the time to calm down and reread what I’d written, that scene eventually became a book.

Most ideas I get from a sentence. Triptych came from the sentence “There was a UFO in my strawberries.” Oh, I thought. That’s an intriguing image. How did the UFO get there? And why?

Some sentences are things I’ve overheard on the street, or are misheard lyrics, or some strange arrangement of words that have rattled themselves into a plausible, grammatically correct arrangement in my brain. Then I usually ask myself, Is there possibly a story here? If so, what format is it? And how can I tell it in a way that’s different from other tellings of similar stories? Whose POV will be refreshing? What would I want to discuss with this story? Is there something viable in this?

If there isn’t, I usually just write the sentence down on a scrap of paper or in a notebook to get it out of my head and away from my imagination.

One of these days I’m going to publish a book of these sentences-that-went-nowhere, I think! My little collection of not-novels.

Q: I was going to ask about how you decided on the artwork, but someone else already did (thanks for answering that, btw!), so I’ll ask my second-choice question: Do you think you’d like to do more stories like The Dark Lord and the Seamstress?

I absolutely would! We’ll see how this one goes, and then I might consider writing another fun, epic poem. It depends on if an idea-sentence rattles into my brain!

Q: What would be your dream novel to write/publish? What genre, what kind of protagonist(s), lots of world-building or minimal?

Oh, that one’s easy!

My dream novel would be the full-length version of The Maddening Science!  It is such an involved manuscript though, that just the research alone is taking me years. I wish I had the time and the freedom to do nothing but work on this book for a year.

It would be a fiction-memoir, but also filled with lots of “found artifacts” that, when slotted in between the pages of the memoir and red between the chapters, tell a secondary story simultaneously that intertwines with the narrator’s memoir. Sort of like The Watchmen, but revealing a whole B-plot of action going on with the memoir’s transcriber character outside of the transcript of the memoir she’s transcribing. If that makes any sense at all!

And there is a metric ton of worldbuilding that has to happen, which is why it is taking me so long and why I wish I had the chance to do nothing BUT this book and just focus for such a long stretch of time.

I will continue to hope that one day I will have the ability to write full time!

Q: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about writing scenes involving sex?

That they’re about sex.

Unless one is writing pornography simply for pornography’s sake (like some titillating erotic scenes or some lovely PWP slash fanfic), then like every other bit of writing, the scene should only exist to either:

a) further the plot,
b) further understanding of or provide development for a character,
c) or, ideally, all of the above.

If the sex scene is literally only in the book to titillate, then usually it’s a plot-interrupter and frankly, can be skipped. It’s more appreciative to your audience and less boring to just say “they had sex”. (I have literally flipped past sex scenes in books because there’s no reason for them to be there. Like, excuse me, get your sweaty bum out of the way of the story I was reading, thank you.)

Of course, that is to say that the sex scenes can’t be well written and titillating and make you want to go tickle the pope. Like a book that makes you laugh out loud, or sob in public, a well written sex scene should have people who feel sexual attraction squirming in a good way.

Do I think non-erotica books should have sex scenes in them? Well, that depends entirely on the book, the protagonists, the situation, their lives, the culture in which they live, and what putting the sex scene in will do for the plot and people.

And I have all the respect for well written erotica, because it is not easy to make porn the plot and write a damn good novel to support the fun times.

Q: Do you plan on doing more stories like The Dark Lord and The Seamstress, or is this just an experimental step?

This was a bit of an accident, really! I forgot I’d even written the poem, and had sort of discussed illustrating it with Jennifer, until Arial Burnz reminded me it existed after our interview.

If things go well with this picture book, and everything comes out and the process doesn’t make me fall over Teh Deadz, then I think I absolutely would consider writing more poetry-picture-books.


If you have questions for me, please feel free to ask them below, or via Tumblr!

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