*UPDATE: The panel Rethinking the Dangerous Victim, originally scheduled for Friday at 10am, has been moved to Saturday night at 8pm. I will still be there, and I hope you will too!


Hey, are you going to Readercon this year? What if I told you that the first night is free?

Yes, indeed! This lovely con runs from Thursday, July 12 through Sunday the 15th in Quincy, MA, and if you’re interested but unable to spend the whole weekend/registration fee, you can check it out for free on the evening of the 12th! You can even (gasp) come hear me read from my books!

I’ve been scheduled for a half-hour solo reading at 9pm on the free night, Thursday the 12th, and for two absolutely fascinating panels later in the con:

On Friday the 13th at 10am, I have Rethinking the Dangerous Victim 
Panel Description:
“Many SF stories hinge on distress calls that turn out to be scams. In the real world, under 10% of felony reports are false; the number is even lower for false reports of general distress. Why do we return to the dangerous victim story—the story in which the person who claims to need help is not only lying but actively malicious—again and again? What exciting adventure stories can we tell about helping those who are genuinely in need?”

Then on Sunday the 15th at 1pm, there’s Our Bodies, Our Elves: Sexual Awakenings in Epic Fantasy
Starting in the later 20th century, the bildungsromans of epic fantasy began to include sexual awakenings. Some are raunchy, some are awkward, and almost all are self-directed; the wise elders of the genre are mysteriously silent on this crucial topic. When authors can imagine elves and dragons, why is it so hard to also imagine decent fantastical sex ed? How do today’s writers and readers approach this aspect of adolescent self-discovery stories?

These panels are going to be great, and so is the whole convention. We’ve been going to Readercon ever since our daughter was born, as our weekend off for child-free intellectual conversation. It’s a great, thoughtful convention full of great, thoughtful people, no costumes required (or even expected). Come check it out!

Note: If you’re looking for me on the program and can’t find me, it’s because they have me listed under my real last name, Beit-Aharon.

Book Giveaway!

In honor of my birthday later this week, I’m doing another giveaway for a copy of Silent Hall! Enter any time between now and Thursday the 8th, for a chance to have a free signed copy mailed to your door. DOOOOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTT!!!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart

Silent Hall

by N.S. Dolkart

Giveaway ends September 08, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Excerpt and Review!

What an exciting day this is! Silent Hall has just received its first review, and what a review! I’m extremely flattered, and look forward to everyone getting a chance to read it!

Speaking of which…the Civilian Reader has kindly agreed to post an excerpt! If you want to read the first two chapters, which introduce two of my five main characters, you can do so here!

Seriously, it’s been a great day.

Cover Reveal at B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog!

It’s an exciting day: my publisher has teamed up with Barnes and Noble to reveal the gorgeous book cover of Silent Hall!

I love what cover artist Andreas Rocha has done here. This cover really captures the essence of my book: the scenery is majestic, and there is plenty of action to be hinted at, but at its core it is a story about five people with nothing to return to, who don’t know what to expect from the road ahead. I think it will draw people in – it’s certainly drawn ME in!

Anyway, check out the big reveal on the B&N blog. As a bonus, it includes a longer, more thorough explanation of the story behind my pen name! I’ll give you a little thumbnail teaser below, but seriously, check it out!


Why Has This Blog Been So Quiet Recently?

Because I’ve been writing. A lot.

My publishing contract states that I’ll have the final draft of CHARIOTS OF LAARNA, the sequel to SILENT HALL, by July. Now, I take that timeline with a big grain of salt, because the contract also said I’d have the final draft of SILENT HALL ready by September. Well, it’s February now, the book is at the proofreading stage, and my editor tells me we’re ahead of schedule. So nobody’s going to be holding me to that July deadline.

Still, I realized a while ago that July is a pretty good first-draft deadline. It’s the month after SILENT HALL comes out, so it’s probably a month at best before my editor starts pointedly asking me how that sequel is coming along. So I’m aiming to have a draft done by then.

How fast does that mean I have to write? Really, really fast. The sequel was only 18,000 words long at the end of January, whereas SILENT HALL clocks in at 152,000 words. At least sequels are generally shorter than debut novels, right?

That was a joke.

Anyway, that means hitting my July deadline will requires me to write about 30,000 words a month. A thousand words a day. These have to be words that I like and want to keep, mind you. Have I mentioned that I work full time and have two children under the age of four? My writing night has only begun before 11pm twice so far.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging much, and why I haven’t spent much time on social media either besides the occasional re-post. My progress so far hasn’t been too bad: I’ve probably averaged 750 words a night rather than 1000, but that’s still about twice my pace for writing SILENT HALL. In any case, I’m still behind on my goal, so it’s back to writing for me. I’ll see you all when I resurface!


N.S. Dolkart is the author of Silent Hall, available for pre-order at any bookstore in the US, UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand. It’s coming out in June, and it’s really good. You should buy it.

About Those Gatekeepers…

These days it’s all the rage to talk about how the old gatekeepers are losing their stranglehold on publishing, how no mere agent or editor can stand between you and your dreams anymore. The corollary to this stance is that those of us who have decided to go the traditional route are making some kind of a mistake, that we are throwing precious creative energy and years of our lives at querying agents and submitting to publishers when we could be selling books.

To some degree, the first half is undeniable: you can now make your creative works available for purchase online without paying much of anything, except for the cut Amazon etc. take from your earnings. The corollary, though, is nonsense.

This is not to say that self-publishing, online or in print, cannot work. Obviously it can, and I have even met those online for whom it has worked extremely well. But for those arguing that the gatekeepers can (and ought to) be ignored, the question is not whether self-publishing can work; the question is whether it works better.

One of the first points people make in support of self-publishing online is that ebook sales now account for over half the market. But let me point out first of all that it’s the tougher half. In a bookstore (yes, they still exist), your book is competing against the other books in the store. Online, you’re now competing against every book ever written in your language, including those that will never make it into a store. Even if the majority of book sales are online, the average author is getting a much smaller cut of this massive windfall. The statistics I’ve heard about self-publishing are fairly grim: the average self-published book sells under 1000 copies. Those are not fame and fortune numbers.

Another point people make is that self-publishing gives you more creative control. To put it mildly, that’s a double-edged sword. Having your work edited by professionals can make a huge difference to its quality. I’ve gotten priceless advice from rejection letters. And there is a cultural assumption that editors know what they’re doing. Fair or not, people assume a higher quality from traditionally published books than they do from self-published ones. And this affects their spending habits! What proportion of ebook sales do you suppose come from traditionally published books in ebook form? I don’t have the stats on this, but I’m guessing it ain’t small.

And we have to talk about promotion. When you self-publish something, you need to do all the grunt work yourself. And a lot of this grunt work really can’t be done by an author with a day job. Researching and building relationships with, say, a couple hundred bloggers interested in your genre. Contacting newspapers, magazines, etc. You can do it, just not quickly and not easily unless you already work in a very convenient field. But you know who can help tremendously with this sort of thing? A publicist. Preferably one you don’t have to pay extra for, because you’re already under contract with their employer. So hey, if you have the time and the savvy, perhaps you really can make a better profit as a self-published author. But the ranks of people prepared for that kind of work aren’t any bigger than the ranks of those who are publishing with traditional publishing houses. Probably much smaller.

Lastly (not because this is the last thing one needs to consider, but because I don’t feel like spending all night on this post), let’s not miss the fact that there are still gatekeepers in the free online self-publishing world. Those gatekeepers are called algorithms, and they have great difficulty sorting books by quality. The closest they come is sorting them by popularity, which biases them against new books and especially new books by unknown authors.

Now again, I don’t mean to imply that self-publication is illegitimate or wrong, or even that it won’t get you where you want to be. There are plenty of contexts where self-publishing makes a good deal more sense than trying to go the traditional route. If you are trying to reach a small, specific audience rather than a wide one, self-publishing is probably the way to go. If you have no interest in developing a writing career, and feel that you have exactly this one story to tell, then querying agents and submitting to publishers is probably an inefficient use of your time.

I’ll grant you this: agents and publishers aren’t exactly gatekeepers anymore. They’re more like powerful allies that can only be won over through the long, often dispiriting process of proving yourself worthy. They’re like Ents, really. Don’t hate on the Ents.

Why N.S. Dolkart?

When we got married, Becky took my last name. It was a long negotiation, and I leveraged every ounce of male privilege to have it this way. I won’t repeat my various arguments here, but suffice it to say that despite being happy with the result, it’s not something I’m proud of. I took advantage of having tradition on my side, even though that tradition really has nothing but inertia going for it. So when I decided I wanted a pseudonym for my writing career, I felt I had the perfect opportunity to repay the debt I owed her. She took my last name for life in general; I’ll take hers for my artistic career, the dearest part of my identity. It feels right.

Why N.S., though? Why not Noah Saul Dolkart? There are a couple of reasons behind that too. First off, the initials draw more attention to the last name, which is a plus. I have no interest in hiding my actual identity, but the name on the cover is what everyone remembers, and that’s for the best. I mean, who remembers Lemony Snicket’s real name without having to google him? It’s not like he’s hiding who he is either, but “Lemony Snicket” is easy and memorable and fun.

There is also an old (and at this point hopefully obsolete) tradition of women writers hiding their gender identity behind initials. Again, I’m not hiding my identity, but it’s a tradition I like evoking as I take my wife’s name for my own.