Press Kit

Table of Contents

Important note: full-resolution images for covers and headshots are available at the link below, which is a Google Drive folder. The publisher’s fact sheets are included, providing ISBN’s and other useful information, and a Word-format version of the information on this page is included. The provided images may be downloaded and used only for the purposes of publishing informational pieces about the works or the author, as part of book reviews, or in news pieces related to events connected with the works, such as readings, presentations, or author appearances. The blurbs, descriptions, and other text provided here may be copied and pasted from this website or from the docx provided in the Google Drive folder. (Note that the images on this web page are necessarily of lower resolution.)

Biographical Information

Basic Bio with Headshot

A White woman with long reddish-brown hair stands beside a bookshelf with photographs.

Vanessa MacLaren-Wray is a Stanford-trained Ph.D. engineer who writes speculative fiction about humans and other people making connections in a complex universe. She’s the author of the Patchwork Universe series, including All That Was Asked, Shadows of Insurrection, and Flames of Attrition. She hosts online open mics for the California Writers Club and guest-hosts for the podcast Small Publishing in a Big Universe.

Formal Bio (short)

Vanessa MacLaren-Wray (she/her) writes science fiction and fantasy about people—human and otherwise—making connections in this complex universe. She’s the author of the Patchwork Universe series, including All That Was Asked, Shadows of Insurrection, and Flames of Attrition. She also writes for the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy shared-universe consortium. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared with Dragon Gems and in the award-winning Fault Zone anthologies. She also hosts online open mics for the California Writers Club and guest-hosts for the podcast Small Publishing in a Big Universe.

Formal Bio (long)

Vanessa MacLaren-Wray (she/her) writes science fiction and fantasy about people—human and otherwise—making connections in this complex universe. She’s the author of the Patchwork Universe series, including All That Was Asked, Shadows of Insurrection, and Flames of Attrition. She also writes for the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy shared-universe consortium. Her short fiction has appeared with Dragon Gems and in the award-winning anthology Fault Zone: Reverse. Her poetry has appeared in speculative poetry magazines and in Fault Zone: Detachment.

Vanessa is an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) and supports local, regional, and international SFF conventions as a panelist, moderator, and tech-team volunteer. She is also active in the California Writers Club, hosting online open mics, supporting anthology development, and offering workshops in publishing skills. She also guest-hosts for the podcast Small Publishing in a Big Universe.

Vanessa holds a Stanford Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and economic systems, and has conducted a long career in modeling electric power operations, power system planning, and alternative energy and storage solutions. She has written extensively on alternative energy, changes in the electric power industry, and responding to the climate crisis.  

When not arguing with her cats, Vanessa works on new stories, her email journal Messages from the Oort Cloud, and her website, cometarytales.com. Her handle on social media is CometaryTales; she interacts on Facebook, Instagram, and Mastodon.

Return to Top

Contact Information

Direct Contacts

Concerning rights, review copies, appearances, media inquiries, event bookings, and related information requests, please email vmacwray (at) cometarytales.com

For information on available workshops for writer groups, book clubs, or others or to ask for editing assistance, please reach out to vanessa (at) cometarytales.com

Information concerning publisher-sponsored events, partnership opportunities, retail and wholesale sales, and access to review copies across the catalog may be obtained from Water Dragon Publishing: https://waterdragonpublishing.com/contact-us/

For a direct connection to Water Dragon’s managing editor or others on their editorial and production team, reach out to Vanessa at vmacwray (at) cometarytales.com

Social Media

Website

Cometary Tales: https://cometarytales.com

Links to works

All That Was Asked (2020, 2023)

Download a Sample: EPUB | MOBI | PDF

The Smugglers (2022)

Shadows of Insurrection (2023)

Download a Sample: EPUB | MOBI | PDF

Flames of Attrition (2023)

Download a Sample: EPUB | MOBI | PDF

Parrish Blue (2021)

Coke Machine (2022)

The True Son (2023)

Fault Zone: Reverse (2021)

Short stories: “Heart’s Delight” and “Reunion”

Dragon Gems: Spring 2023

Essay: “Afterword”

Fault Zone: Detachment (2023)

           Poems: “Cold Trap” and “My mother is not, and never was, a pine cone”

Return to Top

Cover Art, Blurbs, and Reviews

Reminder: full-resolution covers are available here, which is a Google Drive folder. Cover images may be downloaded and used only for the purposes of publishing informational pieces about the works or the author, as part of book reviews, or in news pieces related to events connected with the works, such as readings, presentations, or author appearances. The blurbs, descriptions, and other text provided here may be copied and pasted from this website; alternatively, the Google Drive folder contains the same information in docx format, ready for use. (Note that the images on this web page are necessarily of lower resolution.)

Please ask permission for any other use of this material; it is copyright-protected. If you use these materials, whenever feasible, please let us know of that use by emailing us vmacwray@cometarytales.com We’re happy to cross-post or send readers to your site.

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Coke Machine

Cover by Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs

Answers the time-honored question: does every truck stop have a Coke machine?  

Starship engineer Marichka Natalyovna is up to her elbows in broken alien tech and transdimensional aether, when an unexpected visitor pops in.

From reviewers:
“I’ll never look at a puddle of spilled Coke the same way ever again.” – Steven D. Brewer

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

The Smugglers

(Cover by Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs)

Middle-grade space adventure that’s safe for adults

Disguised as humans, a family of genderfluid aliens aims to deliver a dangerous pet … just as Boy begins an alien adolescence.

From reviewers:

“a coming of age story that explores a very human bond…aliens with a human heart as they traverse the inner terrain of the natural separation that comes with childhood maturity.” – Kate Farrell

The Patchwork Universe

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

All That Was Asked

(Cover by Kelley York, Sleepy Fox Studios)

A cozy first-contact adventure with a twist of humor.

A young poet on an alt-universe exploration trip adopts an alien into his (somewhat reformed) crime-syndicate family.    

From reviewers:

“I never re-read chapters, but this had been laid out so cunningly I couldn’t resist.” -Ryan Southwick

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

The True Son

(Cover by Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs)

A young swordsman faces his greatest challenge.

Swordfights, bullying, and a midnight escape as three teens compete to succeed the king.  

(This Dragon Gems special edition is a companion piece to Shadows of Insurrection and Flames of Attrition)

From reviewers:

“one of the most beautifully telegraphed swordplays I’ve read in ages” -Liminal Fiction    

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Shadows of Insurrection

(Cover by Kelley York, Sleepy Fox Studios)

Fake shamans, real sword-fights, and an interfering visitor from  another world.

This alt-universe novel weaves together humor, family dynamics, and military strategy as an up-and-coming soldier hunts down a plot to overthrow the matriarchy.   

From reviewers:

“I love the way Vanessa has channeled her hero’s voice, his convincing way of telling us what’s going on.” Tim Flood   

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Flames of Attrition

(Cover by Kelley York, Sleepy Fox Studios)

Modern military strategy in a swords-and-fake-sorcery world.

A newly-appointed king leverages his strategic genius, his dedicated soldiers, and other-world technology to battle invaders and rebels. 

Short Fiction

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

The True Son

Cover by Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs  

Art and fine cuisine foster romance on a climate-shifted Earth.

   A lonely waitress and a starry-eyed space traveler discover one another over an elaborate meal beneath the glow of a brilliant work of art.  

From reviewers:

“For ‘literary’ sci-fi, with an artfully detailed setting and no explosions, it keeps a traditional space opera flavor. Tropes of an interstellar distant future blend unobtrusively into the story.” – Steve Brady    

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Coke Machine

Cover by Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs

Answers the time-honored question: does every truck stop have a Coke machine?  

Starship engineer Marichka Natalyovna is up to her elbows in broken alien tech and transdimensional aether, when an unexpected visitor pops in.

From reviewers:
“I’ll never look at a puddle of spilled Coke the same way ever again.” – Steven D. Brewer

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

The True Son

(Cover by Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs)

A young swordsman faces his greatest challenge.

Swordfights, bullying, and a midnight escape as three teens compete to succeed the king.  

(This Dragon Gems special edition is a companion piece to Shadows of Insurrection and Flames of Attrition)

From reviewers:

“one of the most beautifully telegraphed swordplays I’ve read in ages” -Liminal Fiction    

Anthologies

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Fault Zone: Reverse

Cover design: Backspace Ink

Mind-pending poetry, stories, and real-life adventures

Short stories, poetry, and creative nonfiction from the California Writers Club. My contributions:

“Heart’s Delight,” nature revolts against invasive humans   “Reunion,” two people reconnect after a long separation

From reviewers:

“Heart’s Delight,” nature revolts against invasive humans   “Reunion,” two people reconnect after a long separation

From reviewers:

“fiercely-curated, expertly-edited anthology”  – Goodreads

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Dragon Gems: Spring 2023

Cover design: Niki Lenhart, Nikilen Designs

Mind-opening tales of fantasy and science fiction

A quarterly collection of short speculative fiction.

My contribution: Afterword,” an essay on the meaning and practice of short stories.      


From reviewers:

“enjoy the delights of a dozen amazing stories” – Steven D. Brewer

A golden hand rising from a shiny pool and dangling a key chain text: Coke Machine Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Fault Zone: Reverse

Cover by Laurel Anne Hill and Doug Baird, Baird Productions

Intriguing fiction, laugh-out-loud humor, thought-provoking memoir, and illuminating poetry

Short stories, poetry, and creative nonfiction from the California Writers Club. My contributions:  

structured speculative poetry “Cold Trap”  

free-form “My mother is not, and never has been, a pine cone”

From reviewers:

“too many good stories to pick an actual favorite”  – Goodreads

Return to Top

Services for Writers (and Readers)

Vanessa is available on a limited basis for other services in support of fellow writers. She offers two workshops, each of which may be conducted online or in-person. She currently limits in-person workshops to those within a reasonable driving distance of San Jose, California. She also offers one-to-one editing on a very limited basis, focusing on newer writers in need of support.

Workshops

Manuscript Bootcamp

A properly-done manuscript is a delight to the eye; its formatting and layout are not the show, they are the elements of style that allow the content—whether it’s a science paper or an original work of fiction—to shine through. Editors want to see your story; they don’t want to be distracted. This workshop gives writers the tools they need to make their manuscripts shine.

While most techniques apply equally well to nonfiction, we’ll use fiction markets to discuss the ins and outs of manuscript submission:  choosing who to submit to, understanding the submissions process, ensuring your manuscript meets requirements, and enduring the wait for acceptance.  For nonfiction authors, a side discussion addresses book proposal development. Attendees get hands-on help with individual issues and come away ready to enter the race for publication with a clearer understanding of the challenges editors face and what they need from writers.

Vanessa MacLaren-Wray is a stickler for style, form, and presentation. As a professional engineering writer specializing in preparing impactful white papers for industry leaders in her specialty, she has seen all the possible errors in manuscript development. As a sometime slush reader for Water Dragon Publishing, she’s seen barely the tip of the iceberg in fiction submission errors. In supporting the editors of the the Fault Zone series, she’s learned first-hand that many fabulous writers need help to bring their stories to light through clean presentation and formatting.

Disclaimer: No part of this workshop claims to guarantee acceptance of manuscripts. There is no such magic bullet. Selection of works for publication is a subjective process. The object of the workshop is to enable works to perform their best in this subjective environment, reducing distractions so that editors can see the works in their best light.

Love That Book? Do Tell!

Readers are the most important book reviewers, because their opinions influence other readers, feed into the algorithms that give (or deny) visibility to books in online marketplaces, and guide writers as to which elements of their stories are landing the best with current readers. However, many readers are reluctant to do reviews, because they’re unsure of what to say, how the mechanics of posting work, and how to be safe online when posting reviews. This workshop walks through the types of reviews in general, the crucial role that reader reviews play, and the mechanics of posting to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and other reader-friendly sites such as bibliocommons. This is a great workshop for libraries, book clubs, schools, and writers groups. By the end of the session, participants will have successfully posted a new review and be ready to add more to their collection.

Publishing Rights are IP Rights

The most-anticipated best-day-ever moment for an author is receiving that treasured item: a book publishing contract. It may also be an author’s worst moment, if they are unprepared to understand the content of that agreement, its ramifications, and its consequences. Authors of short fiction face this more frequently, and in even more fraught circumstances, as publishing agreements for literary magazines, online magazines, and contests vary widely … and may not even exist. Authors need to avoid signing away rights they should hold onto, and they need to understand these potential issues—before they even submit to a potential market.

This workshop helps all authors learn how to protect their intellectual property rights by understanding publishing agreements. They will come away unafraid of legalese like termination clauses and severability and confident that they can tap into the resources they need to evaluate, negotiate, and succeed in forming an agreement to let someone publish their work. They’ll be fired up to spot red flags to watch out for, to recognize potential scams and know when to move on. Questions addressed include: What’s the difference between a copyright and a grant of publishing rights? Which rights should you keep? Why do you need a contract, when you’re just putting together a book with friends? What can go wrong if you don’t form an agreement? Who can you turn to for advice when you are offered a contract? How can you recognize problems and work to solutions? Attendees learn—in an inclusive, entertaining way—the essential elements of an effective contract and leave prepared to protect their own—and their fellow writers’—publication rights.

Vanessa MacLaren-Wray worked as an independent engineering consultant for over forty years and prior to that worked as a lead consultant in a major engineering consulting firm, working directly with government, industry, and individual contracts. As a writer, her first experience with a book contract involved a problematic agreement—but an open-minded publisher who welcomed a cooperative discussion of terms.  She has served as publishing liaison for the CWC-SF Peninsula’s Fault Zone series, now published by Paper Angel Press, which involved developing individual contracts with each of the contributors and a coordinating contract between the writers club and the publisher.

Disclaimer: No part of this workshop should be construed as legal advice. It is designed to be informative and it includes information on how to connect with resources that include lawyers. The presenter does not claim to be a lawyer, just an individual with experience in the elements of publishing agreements.

Editing

Vanessa offers fee-based editing services, on a limited basis, to select clients. Her goal at present is to support struggling newer writers as they find their feet. While she is a speculative fiction author, she loves to work with literary fiction, memoir, romance, mystery, and other genres she reads and enjoys. She is not a fan of stories that delve into explicit sexual or physical violence and will not work with such stories.

Vanessa has been writing professionally in both technical and fiction arenas for decades. She is a stickler for style, form, and presentation but also understands the emotional weight of commentary to the individual storyteller. As a professional engineering writer specializing in preparing impactful white papers for industry leaders in her specialty and as a slush reader for a small press, she has seen a wide variety manuscript issues and can help authors avoid those and be more confident as they move a story from development to submission.

At present, she is limiting developmental editing and most line editing to short fiction. She may be open to copyediting for selected works.

Developmental editing

A developmental edit begins with a discussion with the author on their goal for the story, anticipated markets, and the style they are looking to represent. There are generally at least two rounds of editing. The first round presents broad comments on how the story structure might be adjusted to better serve the author’s goal, missing elements that could make the story more complete, suggested experiments to try in terms of point-of-view, setting, scene sequencing, and dialogue.  The second round helps the author assess how well those changes and experiments have served their overall goals and will yield additional suggestions for improvement, more within-scene than overall. Line editing and copyediting are recommended as follow-up.

Line editing

Line editing again begins with a check-in with the author on the style they are seeking to represent and their overall goals. A line edit aims to help the author by adjusting their use of language, such as grammar consistent with market demands, paragraph structure to suit modern readers, and dialogue style appropriate to current editorial requirements. Over-frequent use of “author favorite” words and phrases (which can be charming, but only to a point), spelling issues, and exceptions to accepted style (apart from usage specific to a region or community) are noted. Again, generally there are two rounds, as some issues may not be evident if many changes are needed—and new issues may arise in the course of revision.

Copyediting

A copy edit should address only issues that do not fall into developmental or line-editing needs. The goal is to catch typographical errors, misused or missing or repeated words, accidents of editing such as a stray sentence from a deleted or moved paragraph, and similar final-touch measures. Again, there will be two rounds, as a double-check. If a work is received that requires line editing, the author will be informed before proceeding.

Return to Top