Monday, December 29, 2014

Reminiscing on 2014

While time in general always seems to fly by, December, in particular, zips past in a blur. As always, when I reach December, I look back on the year and what I've accomplished. Back in January, I set myself a couple of writing goals. One was to complete two novels. I did that, by the skin of my teeth. The other was to write twelve short stories. Again, skin of teeth. For 2015 I'm not putting a set number on completing stories. Next year will be the year of earnest yet relaxed writing, if that makes any sense.

So here's what all happened this year:

1) I published my first pro-level short story, "Extraction," in Nature Futures.

2) I self published two novels, The Graveyard Girl and the follow up to that, The Necromancer's Return. It was both terrifying and fun, and I learned quite a bit.

3) I ran my first (and second) 5K race. I'm currently training to run a 10K. I'm sort of curious about how far I can run, and how fast I can run. Yes, I know I'm a little crazy.

4) I read 60 books, which doesn't include the handful I began reading and quit, or those I began reading and skimmed to the end because I couldn't get into the story. My favorites of the year included Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, The Martian by Andy Weir, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and The Seat of Magic by J. Kathleen Cheney. They're all fabulous, and even if you're not a runner, Born to Run is a great story.

I ended up selling more short stories this year than ever before, and more of my short stories came out than ever before. I already have a short-short slated to come out in January. It's one of my favorites, and I can't wait to see it out in the world. Here's to a prosperous and happy new year for all of us!

Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 Report

Despite the wine bottle pictured, I was not baking & boozing
I wasn't sure this year is I would do NaNoWriMo or not. But as the first of November approached, I realized that I had to, yet again, restart my current novel. No matter how much I've written, if there's a huge problem with the beginning, I must go back and restart it. I have to get the beginning right in order for the rest to follow. If I just kept on writing with the idea that I'd fix it later, the rest of the story would turn out awful. So I needed something to motivate me, and keeping apace of the word count during NaNo seemed like the trick.

I told hardly anyone this year that I was doing NaNo because, based on how many times I've started this novel, I wasn't sure I'd reach fifty thousand words, and also, I was pretty frustrated with this novel when I started this draft on November 1. I was angry with it, and angry with myself. The last novel I wrote came out so easily. This one has more than made up for that.

Soon to be individual pie cookies
In past years I've written fifty thousand words of short stories and/or novelettes. That was a fun experience. This year, I had a hard time getting the words down, mostly because I'd written the beginning of this novel so many damn times already. But when I hit the fifty thousand mark with one day to spare, I was at the beginning of the novel final act. Pushing through and finishing should be much easier compared to writing the rest of this beast. The book will still require quite a bit of work when I'm through, but holy cow, at least I'll have a rough draft to work with.

I could hardly wait for them to cool!
To celebrate breaking through with this novel and getting most of it written, I made some apple pie cookies. I heard about these cookies on the online writing forum I belong to, Codex. I've been dying to make them ever since. They just looked so perfect, like you could hold a cookie pie thingie in one hand and a cup of coffee or glass of milk in the other and just shovel it in your mouth. Sweet, delicious pie in the shape of a cookie! What a brilliant idea.

I followed the recipe exactly. I made a thin layer of apple pie filling, but I think in future attempts I'll thin it even more. It was a lot of filling for the poor pie pastry to hold when I lifted a 'cookie.' But oh, so delicious! You can take a bowl of ice cream and sit two warm cookies on top. Or put the warm cookies in the bottom of a bowl and scoop the ice cream on top to melt over them.

I would love to hear how you celebrate your writing victories!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Version Four Point Oh

Little me. Notice Star Trek on TV. I had nerd creds even back then.
I just hit the big four oh. So far (knock on wood) it hasn't hit me back. It's funny how many momentous birthdays a person has when they're little. The first birthday is a huge one. Actually, it's more for the parents than the kid. It's a way of celebrating the fact that you haven't screwed up and accidentally killed the little human being you're responsible for.

Five seems to be a big one, too. Kids are usually in kindergarten, they're soaking up every single bit of information and experience, and they're charging full steam ahead into childhood. Ten is big because you've reached the double digits. Then there's thirteen and the official start of adolescence. Some people celebrate sixteen with a huge party, while others celebrate fifteen. And of course, eighteen is huge. You're officially an adult! You can vote! Join the military! Move out of your parents' house! In the U.S., twenty-one is a big deal because it's the official drinking age. Then there's twenty-five, which is a nice, round number, and also marks the quarter century mark. Not that any twenty-five year old thinks of it that way. They're too busy being fabulous.

From then on, the big birthdays come by the decade. For a while, anyway. Forty is pretty much the halfway point. If you're lucky, you'll live to eighty and maybe a little beyond, and hopefully with your mind intact and your bladder and, oh heck, the rest of your body, too. Funny thing is, birthdays start to become a big deal more often again. Seventy-five is a pretty big deal. So is eighty-five. And any year you blow out the candles beyond ninety is a downright miracle. If you live to a hundred, you get to be on the local news, telling people your advice for living that long, and secretly hoping your dentures don't come flying out while you're talking.

I wondered what I could do to celebrate my milestone birthday. Then it hit me. I'm supposed to be wise now. Or well on my way to wisdom. So I thought I'd share some of the things that have stuck with me over the years. Some of it is based on personal experience. Other bits are based on what I've seen while treating patients for fifteen years (dang, that makes me feel older than forty candles on a birthday cake does).

Take care of your body or else this happens!
1. Take really good care of your body. Find some sort of exercise you enjoy, and do it often. I'm talking at least three times a week, and possibly more. A variety of exercise is best, but if yoga is the only thing you can stand, then do yoga at least three times a week. Trust me, one of these days you'll go to reach into a cabinet or bend down to pick something up, and after years of doing no exercise and sitting at a desk for forty hours a week, something will give in a spectacularly painful fashion. Keep moving.

2. Here's one I only recently learned. You can choose to be happy. You choose to be happy. You don't have to wait for the perfect person, or the perfect moment, or the perfect whatever for happiness. You can choose to be happy right this moment. You control your thoughts, you control your emotions. Nobody else. Be happy.

3. What's that thing you've always wanted to do? What are your dreams? Not anybody else's dreams for you, but your dreams. Start working on one today. As soon as you're done reading this blog post, take step number one. Then take step number two. When I started writing in earnest, I approached a couple of professionally published writers and (politely) asked their advice. I'm an introvert, and I'm shy, so this was a huge step for me. One writer in particular pointed me in the right direction. It took all of maybe five minutes of her time and some bravery on my part. Then I took the next step. And the next. Go follow your dreams today.

Wondering where the road leads next
4. Sometimes I think of the world as a balance of positive and negative. You can put something positive into the world's net balance, or you can put something negative into the balance. Be kind, courteous, and helpful. Be like Mr. Rogers. Be like Mother Teresa. Make the world better one moment or one person at a time.

It'll take me another decade to come up with number five. Just kidding! I could probably go on, but I think four major insights is enough for one post.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Krampusnacht, Twelve Nights of Krampus

Santa always seemed like an ominous old man to me, watching people all the time to see if they behaved, so I love the idea of Krampus. Read on to find out a little more about Krampus, the anthology Krampusnacht, edited by Kate Wolford, and a short interview by two of the contributing authors.


The joy and terror of the season. For bad children, a lump of coal from Santa is positively light punishment when Krampus is ready and waiting to beat them with a stick, wrap them in chains, and drag them down to hell--all with St. Nick's encouragement and approval. Krampusnacht holds within its pages twelve tales of Krampus triumphant, usurped, befriended, and much more. From evil children (and adults) who get their due, to those who pull one over on the ancient "Christmas Devil." From historic Europe, to the North Pole, to present day American suburbia, these all new stories embark on a revitalization of the Krampus tradition. Whether you choose to read Krampusnacht over twelve dark and scary nights or devour it in one nacht of joy and terror, these stories are sure to add chills and magic to any winter's reading.

***

Nothing to Dread by Jeff Provine

1) What about the Krampus myth inspired you?

Krampus inspires me as the idea of a punishment figure. Here in the States, we have such a positive sense of Christmas, practically even to the point of being spoiled. Even if kids are bad, they get coal, which may be burned to help keep the family warm. The idea of St. Nick going around giving reward to the good kids is easily familiar. The idea that someone is out there counting you on their "naughty" list to come beat you or even haul you away is such a foreign idea that it took some creative thinking just to wrap my mind around it. Maybe it is a good idea to punish the wicked.

2) Why do you think Krampus is of increasing interest outside of Germany nowadays?

I think a lot of other people share my thoughts on the aspect of punishing the wicked as a foreign concept. Another reason Krampus appeals is because he's so out there. A goat man with a wicker basket beating and kidnapping kids? That's crazy! Crazy fascinating.

3) What was the most challenging aspect of writing your story?

The most challenging aspect of writing the story was getting the historical setting right. I'd traveled through Austria and southern Germany where Krampus is said to roam years ago, so I had a feeling for the setting. But it needed to fit exactly into place and time to put naughty little Adolf in a position where he would get away with not doing his studies.

A Visit by Lissa Sloan

1) What about the Krampus myth inspired you?

 I am captivated by the art of the old Krampus cards.  The humor and horror of this terrifying beast-man menacing well-fed, rosy-cheeked Victorian children is deliciously creepy.  I also love learning about old winter holiday traditions, the wilder and closer to nature the better.  Krampus feels very far removed from Black Friday madness, all-holiday-music radio stations, and artificial Christmas trees.  He is fierce, uncompromising, and definitely uncivilized.  This wildness, along with the gleefully twisted art, made Krampus an irresistible story subject.

2) Why do you think Krampus is of increasing interest outside of Germany nowadays?

 The world is an unjust place.  Many people follow the rules.  They work, struggle, and do what they can to get by, rarely getting what they deserve, while others lie, cheat, and take advantage, also rarely getting what they deserve.  So even during the season of the Christmas spirit, peace, and good will towards all, I think many of us find enormous appeal in thinking there’s someone (or something) out there breaking into the houses of wrong-doers and dealing out “just deserts”.  And I’m not talking about fruitcake.

3) What was the most challenging aspect of writing your story?

I am bothered by cautionary tales.  The punishments are ridiculously extreme.  “Stay on the path or you’ll be eaten by a wolf.”  “Don’t unlock this door or your husband will cut you into bits and put you in a cauldron with his other curious wives.”  Krampus is the same.  “Do as you’re told or a savage goat-man will take you away in a giant basket, beat you with a birch rod, and lick you with his nasty long tongue.”  I had to come up with a premise that appealed to my own sense of justice.  Eventually I thought up a character who truly deserved a visit from Krampus.  At that point, I had almost as good a time writing about him as Krampus did visiting him.

***

With new stories from Cheresse Burke, Guy Burtenshaw, Jill Corddry, Elise Forier Edie, Patrick Evans, Scott Farrell, Caren Gussoff, Mark Mills, Jeff Provine, Colleen H. Robbins, Lissa Sloan, and Elizabeth Twist.

Krampusnacht is available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, WorldWeaverPress.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Krampusnacht on Goodreads.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Guest Post with Jenn Lyons

Today I'd like to welcome Jenn Lyons to the blog. Jenn recently released the second book in her series, Blood Sin. That cover is smokin' hot! You can find Blood Sin on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and at worldweaverpress.com. And without further ado, here is Jenn:

When the first book in this series, Blood Chimera, was released, I remember discussing how we’d
categorize these books, what we’d call them. Labels and all that. I had assumed the books would be called urban fantasies, because they conformed to the main tropes in all the basic ways.

Werewolves? Sure. Vampires? You betcha! Alien cybertech fairies? Uh…what? Million-year-old global dinosaur conspiracies? Wait…I don’t know... Extra-dimensional Cthulian angels? WHAT?

Okay, yes. I guess that is a little weird.

(Hey, I watched a lot of X-Files when I was younger.)

But no! my editor said. These are paranormal mysteries.

My editor is wise. She realized what I hadn’t quite put my finger on even though I wrote the books -- at heart, these stories are mysteries, whodunit tales, filled with greed, revenge, and harsh vigilante justice.  Grudges and feuds going back centuries shape current events as individuals with lifespans stretching back millennia don't overlook the opportunity to get a little sweet, sweet retribution against their enemies.

Once my editor pointed it out, I realized just how deeply I’d embedded this idea of mystery into the series (I know, I know, since I wrote it, surely I’d have gotten the idea prior to finishing several books, right? But no…) On it’s most basic level, the Blood Chimera series operates on a tenet of ambiguity, on the idea that no mythology or folklore in human history will ever be completely accurate. You can’t visit a bookstore, read up on a particular culture’s mythology, and expect to understand the supernatural beings that inspired those mythologies or religions in the Blood Chimera universe.

Balor was never going to be a monster who literally had one eye, one arm, and one leg, no more than the Furies would literally be born of the blood spilled from castrated Uranus. In both cases, however, there are figures who really exist who could be said to have inspired these tales. Sometimes, in fact, a single figure is responsible for multiple mythologies in multiple cultures, such as is the case with Raven, who (in the Blood Chimera series anyway) frolics at the core of myths involving the Norse god Loki (hey, come on, you knew Loki HAD to be maran, right?)

What I like best about this situation is it means that characters can be mistaken. People can believe something because it’s in their cultural background to do so, rather than because it is in fact the truth. Faith, belief, and superstition all have a place in this universe.

Everything is allowed. Nothing is forbidden. And most of all, nothing is what it seems.

***

Everything is permitted… and everyone has their price. Zander Sin is the bad boy of rock-n-roll, known for his wealth, his temper tantrums, and his love of hedonism, but to K&R expert and newly born maran vampire Jackson Pastor, Zander Sin is something else: murderer, monster, and kidnapper. After Zander’s Whore of Babylon tour comes to Los Angeles, Jackson also learns that Zander Sin has a grudge with Jackson’s family that goes way beyond money or power, and stretches all the way back to ancient Rome.

Zander may be on everyone’s hit list, human and supernatural alike, but when Jackson learns that Zander’s keeping his younger sister Monika prisoner, he finds himself face-to-face with the most objectionable of outcomes: being forced to help Zander Sin get what he wants. Even if it means Jackson may have to betray everyone he loves to do it.

***

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, she can be found debating the Oxford comma and Joss Whedon’s oeuvre at various local coffee shops.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Mid-Life Crisis

My view of the starting line
This past Sunday I ran my first race, a 5K as part of the Duke City Marathon. When I played sports in high school, I never enjoyed running. I tried it a couple of times as an adult and hated it both times. So what changed? Why take it up now?

I keep joking that I took up running as part of a mid-life crisis. I turn 40 next month, and that's the sort of landmark age that gets you thinking. What do I want out of the next ten years, twenty, forty? How do I want to feel during those years? As a physical therapist, I work with 80 year old patients who could run laps around me, and I also work with people my age who are a complete wreck. Those in the former group tend to have one thing in common: they take really good care of themselves.

Before June, I wasn't doing much in the way of exercising except to walk a couple of times around the block, once or twice a week. I wanted to do more. I wanted to feel good about my health by the time my fortieth birthday came around. I wanted to enjoy playing with my son, running after him and playing games without getting tired. So on the first of June, I joined a gym and started working out. After a couple of weeks, I wanted to really challenge my cardiovascular system, so I started running. Then I figured I needed a more structured plan than, "Well, I guess I'll run a minute, then walk a couple, then run if I feel like it, then walk some more." So I downloaded the Couch to 5K app because people had talked about it on a writing forum I belong to. Then I figured I should have a race goal to work toward, because what's the point of using this app and then letting all of that hard work fizzle away? So I signed up for the 5K.

The morning of the race was a little surreal. I've volunteered at races before, but I've never run one. I've never run as far as I did that day. All together, my running app showed that I ran 3 and a quarter miles. And I ran all of that, with the exception of walking at the water table. I could barely run a minute at a time when I started training, but when I finished this race, I had run for 41 minutes and some change. I could hardly believe it. I had worked hard for three months, and then it all paid off on Sunday morning.

Ready to run
I don't think this is a mid-life crisis so much as I didn't have the necessary patience before now. So yeah, age has something to do with it insofar as I now realize that a lot of time, practice, and energy goes into building up to the final product, whether it's running a race, writing a book, or getting a degree. A dear friend of mine told me about Road ID, which is a way of wearing your pertinent contact and medical information in case you're out running or biking and have an accident or a medical emergency and can't communicate. I got a little pouch that goes onto my running shoes, and I added a saying: Slow And Steady Wins. It's a reminder because I often have a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning of an endeavor, but I sometimes lose steam along the way. It's a reminder that I need to look at the big picture and my goals and take my training one day at a time. It's a reminder that setting a goal, working toward it, and achieving it is winning, no matter where I am in the pack. So this past Sunday, I'm happy to say, I was a winner.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hold on Loosely

I've been working on the third book in The Necromancer's Inheritance trilogy. And working on it. And working on it. This book has been a bear. And not just any bear. It's a hungry bear woken early from hibernation. It's been the hardest to wrangle out of any other book I've written. The bad news is, I'm far from done. The good news is, I think I realized what's gone wrong and what I need to do to fix it.

Before I started writing this book, I had a couple of great scenes in my head. I was excited when I finally got to write them. But what I figured out shortly afterwards was that they didn't work. Both of them took my story in the wrong direction, added little to the plot, and introduced way too many characters. There was a lack of depth in my work. It's taken me a couple of months to realize this, and it's quite frustrating. I need to cut the scenes and cut several characters. I need to streamline. Trust me, when I figured this out a couple of days ago, I was ready to pull my hair out. But the most important thing to me is to make a story as good as possible before launching it into the world. So out came the scissors, and those scenes and characters are gone.

Of course, when you're up this high, don't let go of anything
This has dramatically changed the story, which has already dramatically changed since I started on it. I've had trouble finding the true beginning. I just rewrote the first scene again. I've done it I don't know how many times. But this time, it feels intimate, and I slipped right into the main character's head. I think I'm on the right track.

So the big takeaway is that it can hurt you to hold onto things too tightly when you're going into a new project. That shiny idea or scene or character you've been dying to write is probably just fine. But it might not work for the story you want to tell. I tried forcing my two scenes into the story, and it weakened the entire thing. So I pulled back, reminded myself of the three main plot lines of the story as well as the themes, outlined the first chapter yet again, and started over. Sometimes you've just got to let go.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Lifelong Obsession With Ghosts

It's almost October, which means it's almost Halloween, which means I'm thinking about spooky things, like ghosts, for example. I love a good ghost story. I love the gooseflesh that breaks out when someone tells a story that scares me. As a kid, I believed absolutely in ghosts, and I wanted to see one and speak with it. I felt it was only a matter of time before I stumbled across a ghost. After all, a lot of people had lived and died before I ever came along, so somebody's spirit was bound to be hanging around.

The Stanley Hotel, which inspired the Shining
Over the years, people have told me their personal experiences with ghosts, or with unexplained phenomenon that they attributed to ghosts. I found this exciting, and further proof that ghosts exist. I was going to see one any day. I grew up in an old house, I went to undergraduate school on the grounds (and in the buildings) of an old fort, and I even hung out with dead bodies my entire first semester of graduate school.

But I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even an inkling of being watched. I began to think that either ghosts didn't exist at all, or they didn't like me. After all, being super eager to speak with ghosts could very well be off-putting to them.

So I decided to write about ghosts in The Necromancer's Inheritance series. Or rather, I decided to write about a person who can see and talk to spirits. In a way, it's me working out my idea of what the afterlife might be like, if an afterlife exists. Does everybody really zip right on to the next place, or do some people hang around for various reasons, and what would those reasons be? Do ghosts really exist, or do people see things they interpret as ghosts because of the power of suggestion or the random firing of synapses in their brains?

At this point in my life, I've pretty much given up on seeing a ghost. I'm not sure I would want to. I'd be as likely to have a heart attack as to strike up a conversation with it. But I still love a good ghost story and the chills that come along with it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

On Banning Books

This week is Banned Book week. Every year around this time, I find more books to read thanks to this list. The ones that end up on this list are typically raw and honest, and even if they fall flat for me, I can usually appreciate the truth in the work. Although I have to admit, E. L. James's 50 Shades of Grey is on the list for 2013, and while I sampled the first few pages, I couldn't find anything deeply honest about it, the writing was mediocre, and I didn't care for the main character. But that doesn't mean I think the book should be banned. People should have the right to sample a book and decide for themselves.

I've only read a couple of the books from the top ten of 2013, but one interesting trend I noticed is that seven of the ten books were banned due to being "unsuitable for age group." Now, there might be books I would steer my child away from because I might think he's not mature enough to handle it yet, but I wouldn't want that book taken out of the library or made unavailable to the public in any way, so when people do this, it leaves me flabbergasted. You could pick a dozen thirteen year olds at random, and all of them will have vastly different maturity levels. Some might be able to handle, for example, The Hunger Games, while it would give nightmares to others. But just because my child can't handle, let's say, jumping from a four foot perch on the playground equipment to the ground doesn't mean I think all kids his age should automatically be banned from doing so. There are plenty who could handle it, and some, like him, who couldn't.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of hearing Sherman Alexie speak at The University of New Mexico. His book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of my favorite books of all time, and it's also been banned. A lot. He seemed to take some pride in this. He also found the humor in it. The main character is a fourteen year old boy who… wait for it… masturbates. Shocking, right? It's the main reason people want the book banned, along with the depicted alcoholism and language, and I'm sure there are some other things that got people's knickers in a twist. But think about a teenager picking up the book and thinking, Hey, yeah, I'm not the only one going through this whole weird thing with my body and my family and my community! What a great feeling. Adolescence is so damn lonely to begin with that any little gesture that reaches out to someone should be encouraged, including reading a book that a person might identify with.

I find that as I strive to write more honestly, I delve deeper into things that make me uncomfortable, which might make readers uncomfortable. I think it's good to face one's discomfort and fears, loves and hates. But sometimes readers don't want to be uncomfortable. They don't want to look at the truth, and when you show it to them, they flip out. It's actually one of my dreams that someday I write something so profoundly honest and disturbing that people try to ban it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Amalia Dillin on Beyond Fate & Wrapping Up a Trilogy

I'd like to welcome Amalia Dillin back to the blog. Today she's celebrating the release of the final book in her Fate of the Gods trilogy. Read on to find out how it feels to finish a huge project and what you can expect in Beyond Fate:

Sometimes I wonder if Trilogy was a misnomer for Fate of the Gods. There are absolutely only three main novels – FORGED BY FATE, FATE FORGOTTEN, and now, BEYOND FATE – but the story potential of this series was always and still is rather unlimited. There are so many pockets of time that one could sink into and explore, like the 15th Century setting of TAMING FATE. Events that happen off page that could be fleshed out and made into their own smaller story, like the events of TEMPTING FATE, which explore Mia’s meeting and marriage to Adam.

But at the same time, I always knew what the overarching story was meant to be, and where it was meant to end – I always knew that Adam and Eve and Thor’s struggles would ultimately come to a conclusion, and in BEYOND FATE, I’ve definitely reached that end point. The Trilogy is Complete.

So what does that mean?

I don’t feel like it means I have to say goodbye to this world. I don’t feel like ALL the stories have been told that could have been. There are definitely characters I’d like to explore more fully who are twisted up in Adam and Eve and Thor’s narratives, as short side stories or novellas. Ra, for one, and Athena, too, maybe even Gabriel and Lucifer. I’ve written pages and pages and pages about Eve’s time in the ward – only a handful of which made it into FATE FORGOTTEN – and I’m sure if I wanted to dig deeper into that lifetime, there would be pages and pages left to write. (The details I know already don’t make me want to, necessarily; it was an awful life for Eve, and as such, it’s an awfully upsetting story to write.) I’m sure I could write a novel about Odin’s adventures before he arrived with Thor – it’s certain to be rich with conflict! Or even the adventures of some characters following the end of this particular Trilogy. (What are the Olympian gods up to over in their new world, anyway?)

But it does mean, I think, that there isn’t much left to write about Eve going forward. The story isn’t hers anymore, and if I wrote another book, she’d likely only be a tertiary presence. As for Adam and Thor, though, well…

I guess you’ll just have to read BEYOND FATE to find out how finished their stories are.

***

The epic conclusion to the Fate of the Gods trilogy. When Adam left Eve, abandoning his wife and their newborn daughter Elah, he thought he was saving the world. But he hadn't counted on the influence of Michael, twisting Elah's love for her parents into paranoia, or the slow, leaching death of the world she rules. Even with the help of Raphael, Elah is becoming her father's daughter, a master manipulator, and she's determined to have her way, even if it means betraying her own mother's trust.

With Loki and the Aesir gone, Thor thinks he’s protected Eve from the ravages of Ragnarok, but there are forces in play even the gods can’t see. When Thor arrives in Eve's next life, offering her everything she ever wanted from Adam, and more -- eternity without death or rebirth, and the freedom to live outside of her daughter's reach -- Eve is more than tempted. But can the world survive with only Adam to protect it?

Beyond Fate will be available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, WorldWeaverPress.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Beyond Fate on Goodreads.

***

Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn't stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. Her short stories have been published by Daily Science Fiction and Birdville magazine, and she's also the author of the “Fate of the Gods” series and Honor Among Orcs, the first book in the Orc Saga. Amalia lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats — to pull her chariot through the sky, of course.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Cookies and Cream Cookies

Please join me in welcoming a guest on the blog today to talk about her novel and also about yummy, delicious cookies. Without further ado, here's Beth:

Hi! I'm Beth Cato. I'm here to share some chocolaty delight and to introduce you to my book.

My debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, comes out September 16th from Harper Voyager. It's a steampunk novel with airships, espionage, and a world tree that seriously plays favorites. Here's the back cover summary:

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

You can also read the full first chapter over at Tor.com. It can be found at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most any independent bookstore.

Now, on to the cookies!

I'm an author, but I'm also somewhat infamous for my baking. Every Wednesday over at my site, I post a new recipe in my Bready or Not series.

I modified this recipe by using Mint Oreos, which added a lovely fresh taste. Really, though, Oreos are like ninjas in these cookies. You can't see them since they are finely ground, but they really deepen the chocolate flavor.

Cookies and Cream Cookies
modified from Picky Palate

2 sticks softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips [I mixed mini semi-sweet and white chips]
1 cup cocoa powder
15 whole Oreo Cookies (mint, normal, or double-stuff), finely ground

1. In a mixer, beat butter and sugars until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat again.

2. Place flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add to wet ingredients along with cocoa powder, and chocolate chips, slowly mixing until just combined. Chill the dough for at least one hour, or your cookies will be very flat.

3. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease or line a large baking sheet.

4. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart from each other. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

OM NOM NOM.

---
Beth Cato's the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She's a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

When A Non-Morning Person Decides to Get Up Early

Posts have been few and far between because my schedule has been off, and I've felt like I was floundering. And when I feel like I'm floundering, there's no organizing the thoughts in my head. What it comes down to lately is that there's just never enough time to do all the things I want to do, and every time I think I have a day to do something, a problem pops up, like the plumbing or the car or a billion other things. It's made me really grumpy lately. Well, grumpier than usual.

One of the biggest problems is that I've had trouble finding time to write. All work and no writing makes Rebecca a dull girl. And fidgety. And it puts me in a bad mood, as my co-workers and family can attest.

But I think I've stumbled onto a solution. It's called Getting Up Early to Write. This has been a problem in the past because (1) I'm not a morning person. If you think I'm grumpy now, you should see me if I have to get up at 5:00 am for anything. Grumpola. And (2) every time I tried it over the past couple of years, the kiddo would get up super early that day. He might have been getting up at six thirty or later, but the day I decided to get up early and write, he decided to wake up at 5:45 or even earlier. But lately (excuse me while I knock on wood) he's been holding off until close to 7:00 to rise and shine. Which means, I can get up, shoot back some coffee, and tap-tap-tap at the keyboard for a while. Then when I get home from the day job, the complete opposite of bright eyed and bushy tailed, I can just be a lazy bum and hang out on the couch without feeling compelled to type anything except witty responses on Facebook and Twitter.

So I'm going to try this next week and let you know how it goes. I won't start tomorrow because I'm flying back to Texas to visit with family, and I'd rather have a nice stretch of week ahead of me to try to make it a habit. I figure, why not? I'm grumpy all the time already at this point. A little more grumpiness probably won't make a difference.

And just to inspire me to get up early, I'm posting a link to Maya Lassiter's blog in which she talks about getting up early to write.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Introducing The Necromancer's Return

Hey, kids, guess what's coming out soon! That's right, the sequel to The Graveyard Girl! I'm pleased to announce the impending release of The Necromancer's Return, not only because it continues Rose's story, but because it was immensely fun to write, and I think it's my best book yet. I can't wait to share it with everybody! Here's the blurb:

Rose has sworn off necromancy until a college statistics assignment sends her to a graveyard. Her entire grade depends on the assignment, so she uses her magic to convince the slackers in her group to help. When her powers don't work like they should, Rose discovers that there's another necromancer in Albuquerque whose inexperienced magic is affecting hers. Worse, she discovers there's a being called the Phantom who is devouring spirits and gunning for her and her powers. As if statistics isn't hard enough already, Rose has to track down this other necromancer and keep herself and her family safe from the Phantom.

Stay tuned for news on the release!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Introducing "Blood Chimera" by Jenn Lyons

I catch myself gushing often about my publisher, World Weaver Press, because they put out some really wonderful books. Their latest release is Blood Chimera by Jenn Lyons. The cover is just spot-on, and the blurb leaves me dying to read it. Speaking of blurbs...

Some ransoms aren’t meant to be paid. Kidnap and Ransom negotiation used to be straightforward. The bad guys kidnap someone, and K&R expert Jackson Pastor negotiates their release, skillfully traversing a maze of bloodthirsty monsters: criminals, terrorists, police, and especially the FBI. But that was before he met real bloodthirsty monsters.

When Jackson Pastor arrives in Los Angeles to help a new client recover his kidnapped wife, he finds himself dropped in the middle of a 500-year-old war between rival European and Mexican vampire clans, a conflict that threatens to escalate into a full-on public gang war. Worse, Jackson hasn’t been brought to Los Angeles to be a negotiator. His new boss wants to turn him into an assassin. With Jackson about to be caught in the middle of a clan war, his only hope of escape may lie with a secret FBI monster-hunting task-force led by a very dangerous, eccentric wizard. Which could be a problem, since Jackson’s a monster himself.

And here's a sample from Blood Chimera:

“How are you feeling, Mr. Pastor?”

I looked down at myself. I seemed to be hale and hearty enough, with all the right number of limbs in all the right places. My ribs didn’t ache when I breathed and my arm wasn’t swollen. I felt great, but I looked ready to play one of the walking dead. “Like I need a bath,” I told him. “And clothes would be nice.” There’s nothing quite like being naked and filthy in front of a lot of people who aren’t, to make you all self-conscious about it.

He nodded. “You’ve looked better.”

“Why do you have me in a cage?” I shook my head. “What happened?”

“I would think the reasons for the cage would be obvious. You don’t remember?”

“No, of course I don’t remember. I was Tez’s prisoner and then--” I looked over at the carcass in the corner. I swallowed. “Who did that?”

“You did.” Darius said as he took a swig of his beer. “You also wrecked one of my vans.” He pointed to an unmarked black van over in the garage area. The back doors were hanging awkwardly and the metal was twisted. Great gouges had been raked into the door and sides as if something had tried to smash its way out with some kind of very sharp ram.

I blinked at that. “That--that couldn’t have been me. I didn’t--”

“Oh, you very much did. We had a hell of a time getting you back here. We were lucky you were stunned by the explosions, and even luckier that we had tranq darts. That--” he pointed to the rotting, fly-infested pile of flesh using the long black feather. “--used to be a pair of goats. Juan thought you might revert if we fed you something. As it happens, he was right.”

I felt sick to my stomach, and, although I certainly wasn’t going to mention it to Darius, a bit peckish.

Goat wasn’t as filling as human.

***

Blood Chimera is available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Blood Chimera on Goodreads.

***

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, she can be found debating the Oxford comma and Joss Whedon’s oeuvre at various local coffee shops.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bubonicon 2014 Report

Another Bubonicon has come and gone. This year the con was relatively quiet, probably mostly due to George R. R. Martin not being there. Since he's a local author, he's usually in attendance. Last year, the line for his signing was as long as the line for every other author combined. He might kind of be a big deal.

At any rate, I found some lovely artwork from Elizabeth Legget. Her work is fantastic, and I feel very fortunate to have picked up the piece I did. Her work has appeared in Lightspeed and in Women Destroy Science Fiction.

I went to a few good panels, including one given by Connie Willis on where she gets her ideas. It's a question every writer gets (and often) and it's actually one of the hardest questions for a writer to answer. Ideas come from everywhere, and they get all mashed up in our brains, and they eventually come out in a story filled with characters, plot, conflict, etc. It's a mysterious process (cue eerie music). She talked about one of her stories, "Even the Queen," and how multiple ideas converged into its creation.

I went to another panel in which the SFWA president, Steven Gould, gave a demonstration of Japanese swords. All I can say is… don't mess with the guy if there's a sharp object around.

Another panel, given primarily by Robert Vardeman, offered a lot of great information on self publishing. This link essentially has all the same information he gave at the panel.

I went to a couple of other panels, one on horror and one on YA dystopias. At the horror panel I discovered that an inordinately large number of people fear centipedes. The YA panel presented some good theories as to why there are so many YA dystopias right now, and why the pendulum might eventually swing back the other way.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest Post From The Contributors of Fae

I have some lovely guests on the blog today. I'd like to welcome several of the contributors to the anthology Fae, recently put out by World Weaver Press. Without further ado….

Laura VanArendonk Baugh author of “And Only the Eyes of Children”

Outside of your own writing, who is your favourite fairy character? (ie: Tinkerbell, Puck, etc.)

Ooh, a fun question! I’m not sure I can say she’s my favorite, because I don’t think I like her, but I’m fascinated by Jim Butcher’s take on Queen Mab in The Dresden Files. And of course I’m not alone in thinking of Disney’s Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty as an iconic and delightfully scary fairy.

What is your favourite type of fairy, and why?

If I may go back to the Japanese youkai, Eastern fae, there are a lot of fun creatures from which to choose, and most are so very different from our own fairies. (An enormous disembodied foot which falls through your ceiling in the middle of the night and demands to be washed? A friendly household spirit made entirely of cast-off kitchen utensils?) But one of the most popular, and a personal favorite as well, is the kitsune, a shape-shifting fox.

In western lore, the Other is usually easy to identify. But kitsune can take the form of a human, or even of a particular human you know well. And they may be benevolent or quite malicious, while they appear to be like us. So many possibilities!

Kristina Wojtaszek author of “Solomon’s Friend”

Outside of your own writing, who is your favorite fairy character? (ie: Tinkerbell, Puck, etc.)

Tom Thumb, if he can be counted as such, is my favorite fairy character.  Who doesn't love a little sprite-sized superhero who defeats giants and never waivers in his bravery?  He rivals Peter Pan with his forever youth, and he's even got an in with King Arthur and owes his very existence to Merlin-- doesn't get much cooler than that!

Do you believe in fairies?

In some ways, it's hard not to.  I'm a woman of science, eternally fascinated by biology and the natural world, and any scientist knows that every fact you uncover leads to a hundred more questions.  I can't imagine a time when we know everything there is to know about the natural world, let alone other dimensions or other universes.  Could there be another life form a dimension away that has tapped into our world and made an invisible presence we haven't yet discovered, but that people have noticed now and again from odd appearances throughout the centuries?  Could there be a species of insect left undiscovered in a remote patch of rainforest with unheard of intelligence, or some other striking resemblance to mankind?  I'm not one to say anything's impossible.

Kari Castor author of “The Price”

Outside of your own writing, who is your favourite fairy character? (ie: Tinkerbell, Puck, etc.)  What is it about them that makes them special?

I've always had a particular soft spot for Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  I actually auditioned for a role in The Tempest using Ariel's "All hail, great master! grave sir, hail!" entrance (reworked to be a monologue) during my freshman year of college.  (I did get cast, but as a general ensemble member, not as Ariel.)

I suppose I like Ariel because he is both so human and so inhuman.  He's clearly a powerful creature, yet he's bound to the service of human Prospero, and he chafes against the confinement.  He's capricious, tempestuous (ha!), at one moment recounting with glee how he burned the king's ship and terrified the sailors and at the next bemoaning the further work he is being commanded to do.
Largely unlike the fairies of legend, Ariel's motivations are eminently clear -- he wants to earn his freedom from Prospero.  And I've always felt that it is through the scenes with Ariel (along with Caliban) that we see the darker side of Prospero most clearly: his manipulativeness, his thoughtless cruelty, how the power he wields has perhaps corrupted him.

And yet Ariel is one of the primary driving forces behind the action in the play.  We're told that Prospero is a powerful magician, but it seems that often the magic we see or hear about is really Ariel's, not Prospero's.

Do you believe in fairies?


No, I don't believe in literal fairies.  I do believe, though, that it's important to keep an open mind and a sense of wonder about the world, and I think one way we do that in the modern world is by telling ourselves stories about magic and magical creatures.

***


 Meet Robin Goodfellow as you've never seen him before, watch damsels in distress rescue themselves, get swept away with the selkies and enjoy tales of hobs, green men, pixies and phookas. One thing is for certain, these are not your grandmother’s fairy tales. Fairies have been both mischievous and malignant creatures throughout history. They’ve dwelt in forests, collected teeth or crafted shoes. FAE is full of stories that honor that rich history while exploring new and interesting takes on the fair folk from castles to computer technologies to modern midwifing, the Old World to Indianapolis. FAE bridges traditional and modern styles, from the familiar feeling of a good old-fashioned fairy tale to urban fantasy and horror with a fae twist. This anthology covers a vast swath of the fairy story spectrum, making the old new and exploring lush settings with beautiful prose and complex characters.

With an introduction by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, and new stories from Sidney Blaylock Jr., Amanda Block, Kari Castor, Beth Cato, Liz Colter, Rhonda Eikamp, Lor Graham, Alexis A. Hunter, L.S. Johnson, Jon Arthur Kitson, Adria Laycraft, Lauren Liebowitz, Christine Morgan, Shannon Phillips, Sara Puls, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Kristina Wojtaszek.

FAE is available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Fae on Goodreads.

Anthologist Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for over five years now (which is like 25 years in internet time) and is the editor of the benefit anthology, Metastasis. In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Her website, updated weekly, is at rhondaparrish.com.

World Weaver Press is a publisher of fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction, dedicated to producing quality works. We believe in great storytelling.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Seven Ways Running is Like Writing

At the beginning of July, I joined the gym. I was woefully out of shape, so much so that thirty minutes of walking on the treadmill felt like an accomplishment. But after a couple of weeks, I couldn't get my heart rate up as high as I wanted it. So I sort of glanced around at the other people on the treadmills near me, all of us going nowhere fast (or in my case, slowish), and I started to lumber along in an ugly, slow jog. But hey, my heart rate went up to where I wanted it. This lasted about a minute, followed by walking to recover. Lather, rinse, repeat.

"Well," I thought to myself afterwards. "I might have to keep running in order to keep reaching my target heart rate. Maybe I should train for something so I'm not aimlessly running here and there with no end goal. Hey, look, there's a 5K in October. I think I can do that without dying."

Lo and behold, the running had begun.

That led me to a program called Couch to 5K, a training program designed to get even the most avid couch potato in shape to run 3.1 miles in nine weeks. I downloaded it to my phone, and I started this past week. Somehow I'm going to be ready to run about three miles in the month before my fortieth birthday. I feel a little insane. I've never run a race before.

But then again, at one point I'd never written a novel before either. Which brings me to the tie-in. There's nothing to do while running other than think (unless you obsessively watch the clock, waiting for the moment when DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, YOU MAY WALK NOW AND CATCH YOUR BREATH BEFORE YOU PASS OUT. HEY, THE DEFIBRILLATOR IS THAT WAY, TRY TO GO IN THAT DIRECTION WHILE GASPING TO OTHERS THAT YOU NEED HELP. Ahem. As I was saying, there are several ways in which running and writing are the same.

1. Both activities produce a lot of sweat and get my heart rate up. There might be some whimpering involved, too.

2. When I first start a running/writing session for the day, I tend to wonder why I want to torture myself so much. Am I really that much of a masochist? I must be.

3. About halfway through the running/writing session, I think, "This is the most brilliant idea I've had in a long time. This is why I do this on a regular basis!" It's either endorphins talking, or the headiness from being on the verge of passing out.

4. When I'm done, I feel accomplished and immediately want to reward myself with chocolate or a huge order of fries. You know, something to completely outdo all the good I just did.

5. Sometimes I accidentally hurt myself while running. This is no surprise, given how much of a klutz I am. But sometimes I hurt myself while writing. Sometimes I act out a fight scene with the furniture in my house. Sometimes the furniture wins.

6. I enjoy telling people I'm a writer/runner. But then I immediately panic that they're going to read my stuff/watch me shuffle down the street, and then they'll know that I should never quit my day job.

7. Prepping for a race is like writing a novel. You plan, you execute the plan, you put weeks or months of work into it. Then the Big Day comes and you wave your arms and tell people you did it, you finished, and all you get for your trouble is a breakfast burrito and a pat on the back. On second thought, breakfast burritos are pretty awesome.

The nice thing about running is that I've brought my resting heart rate down. This is quite useful for the days when the writing raises my blood pressure.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Time Off Means Things Are Back on Track

The Stanley Hotel, where stressed writers makes deals with the devil.
I haven't posted an update in a while. Life has been a little nuts, and I felt like I was floundering for a while and unable to organize my thoughts. I was in a funk, and I was trying to start a new project, but it wasn't going well. See, the last novel I wrote just flowed. I finished it in a little over a month. It was the easiest time writing I'd ever had. But this time, it was hard. I couldn't get the beginning quite right. The tone and voice were off. It was way too serious, and even though this is, at heart, a dark story, I wanted a lighter beginning. I wanted something mundane to balance out the darkness to come. And so I finally latched onto it, and I got to 20,000 words this week. Hurrah!

I've also been taking a class called Writing From the Heart. It's pushed me to delve into the things I hate, fear, love. Really, anything that makes me feel deeply. I've been wanting to take a course like this for some time. I feel like I hold back way too often when I write, and if I could just push through, I could create some really amazing stuff. This week I came up with an idea that excited me, and also scared the poop out of me. Horror story, here I come!

And as if that wasn't enough, I've begun final preparations for publishing the sequel to The Graveyard Girl. I'm looking forward to getting this story into the world. With all of this going on, is it any wonder that I had a hard time focusing? I guess not.

Run, little steer!
Sometimes the best thing to do when you're stuck is to take a break. So I went out of town with the family this weekend for Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It's a huge rodeo, or as they like to call it, "The Daddy of Them All." Being from Texas, I enjoy a good rodeo, and Frontier Days didn't let me down. I watched bull riding, bronc riding, roping. There were horses and steer, and cowboys and cowgirls everywhere. The one odd thing was, there was also a drone at the rodeo. It hovered over the field like a giant mosquito. I'm not sure what exactly it was doing, but it was creepy.


Cowboys prepare for competition
So this week I will slowly get back into the usual frantic pace. It's back to writing my latest novel, working on another to prep it for publication, and finishing up my class. It's back to work, and laundry, and errands, and preparing the kiddo for school. But I feel energized by my break and ready to tackle it all like a cowgirl bulldogging a steer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Visit to Tinkertown

The outside was fascinating in and of itself
I've talked before about Artist's Dates, and this past week I had the chance to go to a new and quirky place with my son on what amounted to a combined Artist Date and nice afternoon with him.

We visited Tinkertown in Sandia Crest, which is located on the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains, about 20 minutes outside Albuquerque. It's a museum filled with carvings by Ross Ward, collectibles from all over the world, and even a boat that's travelled around the world. The museum is surrounded by pine trees, and when we got out of the car, I could smell horses along with the forest's scent. Sure enough, there was a small paddock nearby where a couple of horses watched over us.
A wee little burial

There is a lot to see in every single bit of space in the museum. It's made of a couple dozen rooms linked by some crazy wooden walkways that were pretty steep in some areas, with old license plates and horseshoes embedded here and there and glass bottles in the walls.

There was an Old West village in miniature, and an entire circus in miniature. In the glass case called Boot Hill, you could watch God and the devil battle it out over one man's soul while skeletons danced at the top of a hill overlooking a tiny cemetery.
The art car

One of the things that touched me most, though, was when we stumbled across an art car. Ross Ward was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and eventually he got to the point where he figured he shouldn't drive his car anymore, but he didn't know what to do with it. A friend suggested he turn it into a piece of art. And so he did. He wasn't tempted to drive it anymore since it was a piece of art and no longer just his car. I found it an interesting and insightful solution into the problem of giving up one's car when the time as appropriate.

I find it remarkable that one person's passion grew so much and became popular enough to draw in thousands of visitors every year.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Remembering Art Class

I came across something the other day that gave me quite a shock. I found an old pencil drawing I had done sometime around the age of twenty. I'd bought a sketchpad and a book on drawing and had spent some time doodling and playing, much of it at the table in the back of our house (given some of the subject matter in the sketchpad, like an aluminum Jon boat and a duck) where I could look out the window and draw whatever I spotted.
One of my many masterpieces

It's no Michelangelo, and yet the first thing I thought when I saw it for the first time after many years was, "Hunh, that's not bad." But it did bring back memories, mostly of the elective art class I took in high school, and the teacher, Ms. Tarrant.

The high school I graduated from required two art classes. I'd already taken one at my old school, and the one I took at my new school was rather bland. But, the elective was exciting. We were the kids who really dug art, and Ms. Tarrant was about the nicest teacher you could ever imagine. I still remember how she always wore her red hair in the same bouffant every day. And one time she called in a substitute teacher because she lived near the zoo, and one of the lions had escaped and was somewhere in her neighborhood and she didn't want to leave the house. I couldn't really blame her for that one.

Anyway, she let us listen to whatever music we wanted, which usually ended up being The Ramones or heavy metal. She would tolerate a rather generous portion of time listening to it before she let us know she couldn't take it any more, and then she'd put on her own tape. She always put on Neil Diamond. When I hear Neil Diamond, I always go back to that room and the smell of paint and charcoal.

We worked with all sorts of media in that class. One time I made about ten or a dozen airbrushed prints using the same star-like shape over and over, just experimenting with colors and how I laid out the pattern. I entered the best piece and a couple of other pieces in an art show and, just for the heck of it, assigned prices to them in case anybody wanted to buy one. To my surprise, I sold that airbrush piece. Apparently a little girl saw it and loved it and wanted to put it up in her bedroom because she loved stars. I imagined my piece framed and hanging up in a room somewhere, maybe surrounded by teddy bears or unicorns, or lots of books. That was the best feeling, that I had made something I liked and that somebody else liked, too.

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Experience With Indie Publishing (Post 2)

If you missed my first post on indie publishing, you can find it here. This time around, I'll be talking about picking a cover, getting reviews, marketing, and writing the next book.

Initially I had grandiose ideas about creating my own cover. There are plenty of sites out there with stock photos, and people swear by Gimp for fiddling with images, font, etc. I know some people who have designed their own covers and do a fantastic job at it, Maya Lassiter being one. So I looked at stock images and started thinking about what I wanted the cover of The Graveyard Girl to look like. And I was overwhelmed with the choices. Choice paralysis is a real thing, and it was inhibiting my going forward with the cover.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not a self portrait.

I had already signed up with Smashwords, so I went to their list of cover designers and started looking through them. I had a few questions in mind as I searched. Who had made plenty of fantasy and/or young adult covers? Who fit into my budget? Who had a professional looking site? Did they have plenty of examples of covers so I could get a feel for what they were capable of? I settled onVila Design because (1) she'd done a lot of covers, (2), they looked good, (3) many were in the genre I wrote in, and (4) she fit my budget. She gave me about eight to ten images to consider, some of which were really good but I never would have thought to include in my search. She seemed like a mind reader when it came to presenting me with the final two cover choices (or maybe she's made a billion covers so she knows what to expect), and she was fast. My choice paralysis was gone, and I had a shiny new cover.

Reviews are important. They let people know that someone has read your book, and they give readers a better idea about whether or not they might enjoy a particular book. Honest reviews help make a book more noticeable. It's a good idea to ask people for honest reviews via social media, or by asking at the book's end, or by asking for reviews from those who do a bunch of them. There are plenty of people out there who love to read and want to be among the first to get their hands on a good book. One helpful site I found is The Indie Book Reviewers List. It can take a long time to wade through all of the reviewers out there, so it's something I end up doing in bits and pieces when I have time. Word of mouth is one of the most important ways of selling a book, and if you find some good folks willing to review yours and spread the news, then that will help your book start to build momentum.

Once you've got your book out and you've spread the word, the best thing you can do to market it is to write the next book. People enjoy binge watching TV, and they enjoy binge reading their favorite author and/or series. The more books you have out, the more you'll sell, and the happier you'll make your readers. When I decided to self-publish The Graveyard Girl, I waited until I had a rough draft of the second book in the series and had the third novel roughly outlined. Right now I'm working on edits for the second book and tentatively hope to have it out by September, and I hope to have the third one out about four to six months after that.

I'm constantly learning as I go along, and I'm constantly tweaking my plans. As I cross items off my to-do list, others sneak on. But for someone who is a control freak (like me), self-publishing is a great venue. I rely on others to help, but ultimately, I get to say when the book comes out, where, and what it looks like. I was scared when I began this process, but that quickly turned into absolute happiness as I realized just how much fun the process was.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

FAE Anthology Cover Reveal!

My publisher, World Weaver Press, is putting out a beautiful anthology, Fae, on July 22nd. The cover art is stunning, and the list of contributors is filled with some great authors. The synopsis:

Meet Robin Goodfellow as you’ve never seen him before, watch damsels in distress rescue themselves, Fae is full of stories that honor that rich history while exploring new and interesting takes on the fair folk from castles to computer technologies and modern midwifing, the Old World to Indianapolis. Fae covers a vast swath of the fairy story spectrum, making the old new and exploring lush settings with beautiful prose and complex characters. Enjoy the familiar feeling of a good old-fashioned fairy tale alongside urban fantasy and horror with a fae twist.
get swept away with the selkies and enjoy tales of hobs, green men, pixies and phookas. One thing is for certain, these are not your grandmother’s fairy tales. Fairies have been both mischievous and malignant creatures throughout history. They’ve dwelt in forests, collected teeth or crafted shoes.

With an introduction by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, and new stories from Sidney Blaylock Jr., Amanda Block, Kari Castor, Beth Cato, Liz Colter, Rhonda Eikamp, Lor Graham, Alexis A. Hunter, L.S. Johnson, Jon Arthur Kitson, Adria Laycraft, Lauren Liebowitz, Christine Morgan, Shannon Phillips, Sara Puls, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Kristina Wojtaszek.

There's a giveaway on Goodreads with six copies available. Enter to win, or spread the word!

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Experience With Indie Publishing (Post 1)

I celebrated my book's appearance on Amazon in style.
Things are winding down after a frantic few weeks. On May 1st, I released the first book in a series. It was my first foray into indie publishing, and it was as exciting and terrifying as releasing a book through a publisher, perhaps even more so because ultimately, the buck stops here, so I thought I'd share my experience.

First of all, I had this idea that I would have a 'release day' in which the book went live across all electronic platforms. Excuse me while I go laugh hysterically in the corner for a second. Ahem. So. I'm sure it can be done, but I have no idea how. Amazon took a few hours to have the book ready to sell. Barnes and Noble and Kobo had it ready in about a day. The iTunes store required an act of Congress, a small blood sacrifice, and about two weeks of time to have the book ready. In the future, if I want a 'release day,' I'll simply plan on a day about a month after I start publishing the book. But since I'm fairly lazy, I'll probably just do it the same way I did it this time--one venue per day.

One of the first things I did when I decided to self publish was read a couple of books on indie publishing. I read Indie And Small Press Book Marketing by William Hertling. It includes a convenient checklist for the time leading up to publication, during, and after. I made my own checklist based off his, and it helped immensely. Instead of flailing and wondering what to do when, I could just make my way down the list, feeling self-satisfied as I checked things off. I also read Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl. He focused most of his advice on making and using an email reader list, which is something I haven't gotten around to doing yet. And I read numerous blogs, trying to absorb every person's experience and decide what I wanted mine to be like, including Jeff Carlson's guest spot on SF Signal and these tips from M. Darusha Wehm.

I'm lazier than turtles sunning on a rock.
The next thing I did was make the book as polished as possible. After making changes based on reader feedback, I read it over. Then I let it rest and read it through again. Only when I was satisfied I'd done all I could on a macro and micro level did I bring in a professional freelance editor to look it over. I used E-Quality Press. Not only did they do a fantastic job, but the editor got what I was trying to do. He formatted the files for me in addition to editing (more on that in a bit), and when it came time to format the file for the print copy, he asked if I wanted the story to begin on page 13. I was amused that he had gotten to know me well enough in a short period of time (and through email, too) to even know to ask that.

A lot of authors format their files themselves. Initially I thought I'd go that direction, but when it came time, I simply had no desire to learn how to convert my Word document into the proper format (Do you see a pattern? Seriously, I'm the laziest person around. I'm worse than Garfield the cat). It was worth letting somebody else do that work while I panicked over other things, like the book's cover, which I will discuss in another post along with reviews and miscellaneous other items.

Until then, if you have any links or books or anything at all that you'd like to share when it comes to indie publishing, feel free to comment.