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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Readers Are Cool!

If you love something, set it free. Or give it away. And when it comes back it's wrapped up in glitter paper and tied with a satin bow, and it pops with confetti and sings a tune.

That's what I feel like is happening with Marking Time. Giving the kindle book away for free on amazon has brought me amazing gifts - totally unexpected and way better than Christmas! Who knew?

It all started with an e-mail to a friend who teaches English at a high school up the hill. I told her about the free promo days for my YA urban fantasy book and wondered if she'd be willing to let her classes know about it. If anyone was interested, I'd be very happy to come in and talk about books and writing, etc. Lara very generously invited me to come and talk to her Juniors and Seniors.

The night before I went back to high school, after I'd mentally planned an outfit that hopefully didn't provoke ridicule or head-shaking (I dreaded the "what-was-she-thinking" look of pity), I started thinking about what to say. Pretty much the last thing I wanted to do was "sell" my book. It's the part of self-marketing that gives me stomach cramps. I knew I'd talk about writing Marking Time, but that's also a fairly personal thing for writers - everyone has their own process, and what I do, with my 4am, coffee-slugging, before-the-chickens-wake-up writing might be the stuff of nightmares and completely unrelatable to someone else.

I realized that the thing I'd always been most enthusiastic about, and the thing that inspired me to write my book in the first place, was READING. I love to read. I have a passion for books, especially fantasy, which I've been reading obsessively since college (with short breaks for mysteries, espionage, adventures, the occasional time travel romance, and pretty much anything young adult). So I gathered whatever paperback copies of my favorite fantasy books I could find - which wasn't all of them as I'm a major book-loaner who buys extra copies of my favorites from Better World Books just to hand off to friends who "must read" them - and several paperbacks of Marking Time to donate to the classroom in case anyone wanted to read the paperback instead of the free kindle download, and headed off to school.

To borrow a phrase from Saira, I pretty much had butterflies the size of pterodactyls when the first class came in. But then I started talking about books - other people's books: Patrick Rothfuss' fantasy masterpiece The Name of the Wind, the first Robin Hobb book I ever read, Ship of Magic, the out-of-print inspiration for my time-travel rules, The Ivanhoe Gambit by Simon Hawke, On a Pale Horse, which inspired the "death as an immortal" idea, and the pantheons of Historical Romance and Sci-Fi, Outlander and Ender's Game respectively.

And suddenly the pterodactyls went away, and I was just sharing my passions for reading and writing with a group of people who read and write. And then those students and every subsequent class gave me the most amazing gift when they started asking questions - about these books, my book, writing in general, and publishing. Their generosity and enthusiasm were truly phenomenal, and I was very honored and humbled by them. Incredibly, there were students who came up afterwards to take down the titles of books I'd talked about, and who described some of the things they were writing. Even more incredibly, I was invited to go back two days later and speak to another English teacher's classes. I walked out of all of those classrooms feeling like they'd completely inspired me.

And now I feel like I'm on an incredible journey of connecting with readers. Readers of all kinds of books, of every genre, of every age and demographic - readers.

And readers are just... cool!