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Friday, 28 November 2014

Worldbuilders Auction

It's no secret to anyone who's read my posts about books, or talked to me about my favorite authors, that I'm a giant fangirl about Patrick Rothfuss and his incredible stories.

Really, it's undignified.

But there it is - I'm a proper geek when it comes to Pat's overall coolness. His writing is in a class by itself and continually blows me away - whether a novel, a children's story, a blog post, or a review of someone else's book. His game recommendations always find their way into my son's ears. His blog posts often get read out loud when the laughter erupts within earshot of anyone in the family. And my best friend and I have traded Aolian pipe earrings for a signed and personalized copy of The Name of the Wind as favorite gifts. It's all her fault anyway - she's the one who first introduced me to Pat's books.

And then there's Worldbuilders. Because Pat wasn't cool enough.

He talks about his charity, and the donations to Heifer International far better than I ever could, so I'll leave that business to the master. You can find tons of information about the amazing things happening at Worldbuilders on Patrick Rothfuss' blog here, including a guest post from Vicki Clarke of Heifer International, describing their philosophy of making a difference. It's the basic "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime" approach to giving.

The first year of Worldbuilders I donated enough money to buy some chickens. I have chickens and the egg-collecting part of the day is THE BEST. Seriously, those creatures MAKE FOOD that feeds my family. Everyone needs chickens, so buying chickens was a no-brainer. I also sent a message to Pat through Goodreads offering to donate paperback copies of Marking Time to the lottery part of the charity. Everyone who donates to Worldbuilders gets their name entered into the lottery to win books and/or games which have been donated by publishers, authors, game designers, etc. The people at Worldbuilders were so generous with their thanks for the books and bookmarks I signed and shipped, and this year I was quite honored to be asked about donating again.

They've upped the ante though, and so I did, too. Besides books, I added a Victorian pin that had been inspiration for one worn by a Jack the Ripper victim in Marking Time, to go along with paperbacks of Marking Time and Tempting Fate. And when Maria, from Worldbuilders, asked whether there was something I'd be willing to auction, the only thing that came to mind is something I actually love to do - write a character whose name, at least, and usually some personality trait, is based on someone real.

Who knew there was a name for it? But Tuckerizations are a thing - named for Wilson Tucker, an American Science Fiction writer from the early twentieth century who made a habit of naming his characters after his friends.

My sons' names and quite a few of their characteristics are in my books. I needed a name for a random student at the school for Immortal Descendants, so I chose the name of one of my son's friends who had read book one and enjoyed it. His total delight at finding his name was a moment of pure joy for me.

So, this is why my picture's on ebay right now, and an auction for a Tuckerization is running for the next nine days. Because Changing Nature will be published in January, there's still time for me to slip the winning bidder's name into that book. They'll be an Immortal Descendant of some kind - not Monger, so don't bother giving me the name of an enemy - and I'm not doing a major rewrite on this book, so it'll just be a name. But the storyline associated with the name in Changing Nature will be continuing into Waging War, so that's where I can write a proper scene involving the Tuckerized Immortal Descendant.

I'm very excited about the research I'm doing for Waging War, and I'm looking forward to digging into the writing part. The scene will be fun, and the more information I get from the winning bidder about the person to whom the name belongs, the more I have to play with in their scene.

I'm going to assume, if you've found this blog, you might actually have read Marking Time, and maybe even Tempting Fate. Changing Nature is my favorite book yet, and Waging War is going to be a big, bold story. Please, consider putting a bid in on this Worldbuilders auction. ALL the money goes to Heifer International to buy livestock and seeds and trees for sustainable food sources to feed people in need, and someone gets the gift of immortalization in print - in TWO BOOKS of the Immortal Descendants series.

Here's the link to the ebay auction - please check it out, pass it around, and consider donating directly to Worldbuilders. Even ten dollars gets your name into the lottery to win books and games, and it's the kind of giving that continues to feed people long after the money is spent.

CLICK HERE to go to the ebay auction site for Worldbuilders. Check out all the items, and then scroll down the list for my picture. That's the auction for the Tuckerization in Changing Nature and Waging War. THANK YOU for looking, for reading, and for just generally putting up with all my Pat Rothfuss fangirling.

Seriously. Thank you.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Bilbo and Book Recommendations

Book recommendations are like pieces of advice - it's so satisfying to have exactly the right one to dispense to a person in need. There's approximately the same risk involved, too. Dislike the book I recommended and you might start to wonder about my reading tastes, and therefore, me as a person. Give bad advice, and, well... we all know how that ends. The reverse is also true. My friend, Angela became my friend because of books. She came into my house when we first met, saw my bookshelves, and said, "Oh, I know you."

It's true. I've been known to judge people by the books they like. I have an instant kinship, for example, with anyone who loves Ender's Game, Outlander, The Name of the Wind, Ship of Magic, and The Code Book. 

I know I can laugh and drink wine with friends who loved Neanderthal Seeks Human and any of the Charley Davidson series. And there are knowing nods and winks to be shared with readers of The Fever Series, The Elemental Mysteries, The Psy/Changling books, and the Shifter series by Patricia Briggs.

Then, of course, for the YA readers, it's all trilogies, with first books including: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Hunger Games, Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Thief, and City of Bones. The Graveyard Book stands in a category by itself, but so does everything else by Neil Gaiman.

And then there are the authors. Until I became one, authors were mystical, magical people who had access to impossible imaginations. Now, through the beautiful solidarity of writers, I actually know some, and through blogs, charities, and social media, have access to the everyday thoughts of others. Penny Reid is among the most generous and lovely of all writers I know, and the characters she creates would be my best friends if, you know, they were actual people. Patrick Rothfuss is a legend, a humanitarian, a giant geek, and so wryly funny in his blog postings it makes my son perk up as I'm laughing out loud, to declare, "Must be Patrick Rothfuss." And Neil Gaiman, like his books, is a category of human unto himself. Passionate, prolific, extraordinary, and a true gentleman. His advice tends toward fearless creativity, and his advocacy for childhood reading and libraries is inspiring.

Books and their authors, like the best advice-givers, also have a way of dispensing their truths in subtle and very effective ways. Ways that allow their readers to feel like they divined the truths for themselves through the characters and their stories.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 
― Neil GaimanCoraline

“We see the strengths and faults in others that we do not or cannot recognize in ourselves.” 
― Penny ReidNeanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance

“ The truth is that the world is full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks. But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up. “ — Patrick Rothfuss

I love the phrase, "Bilbo it up." It is such a part of our culture that a person doesn't even have to have read (or seen) The Hobbit to understand it. We instinctively know it means to pull ourselves up out of our cozy, comfortable lives, and just do whatever it is that confronts us.

The characters in my favorite books are always Bilboing it up. And just like my reading recommendations, it's the advice I most often give when someone asks, "How did you become an author?"

I read everything I could get my hands on, took off my shoes, and Bilbo'd it up.


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Throwback Thursday

I was talking to my editor today - she has a cold, so there was no wine involved. It was also 10am, so strike two for wine. She's reading the first two acts of Changing Nature while I sprint through the last chapters, and she had a couple of notes. When I'm done sprinting (which basically means writing my fingers off) - hopefully in about two weeks - I'll make some changes to the draft as a whole, then get the entire thing back to her by Halloween.

In my conversations with her I recognized a couple of things about my writing process, and this is where the Throwback Thursday part comes in. My first Marking Time notes were made in March, 2010, and I eventually published it in November, 2012. I was done sooner, but had to go through the whole agent-query process just to make sure my ego and confidence were firmly stuck around my ankles. The short answer to why did I publish Marking Time independently is that agents wouldn't look at a debut YA novel over 100k words long because publishers don't believe young adults would ever read something longer. The more honest answer is I had let the traditional publishing process steal my confidence. Actually, I'd just tied my self-confidence up in a nice package with a shiny red bow and handed it to strangers. With every form letter rejection the package got more battered and dirty - the paper tore, and the ribbon began to resemble something limp and dying.

A little background on me - I don't do insecure well. It's never pretty when it happens, and I learned early how painful it is, so I just don't do it. And yet, there I was, letting strangers decide if what I'd written was worth reading - not by reading it, but by reading a personalized form letter about it. A few were intrigued, a few even read the pages, but inevitably, the word count stopped them in their tracks. A very long and boring story short, the minute I remembered I'd written the book because it was time to put-up-or-shut-up, I learned everything I needed to know about formatting and cover design, and a month later, Marking Time was published.

So then began the year and a half-long process of writing book two. I have lots of excuses for the length of that one - marketing book one, kids, husband working out of town - you name it, I had an excuse like it. But the fact of the matter was I was scared. What if the lovely reviews I'd been getting for book one were a fluke? What if I hit a sophomore slump with book two? What if I'd used up all my wit and good dialogue with Marking Time and Saira was doomed to be boring? What if I was boring? I didn't say any of this out loud, of course, because that just looks like insecurity, which we've already established I don't do well. So I slogged along with what I thought was a good story, but was afraid to really test in case I was actually delusional and nobody had told me yet.

Enter Angela. My editor, who also happens to be my neighbor and one of my best friends in the world. She beta read Marking Time for me - probably every draft but the final one - and is a reader of the same books I read, so she clearly has good taste. She's also, I discovered, very, very meticulous. When she agreed to edit Tempting Fate for me, the insecurity didn't go away, but the fear of looking ridiculous with a badly-written second book did - because I knew Angela would never allow it. By that time I'd found additional support in the form of an amazing and wonderful online book club, where daily word counts made me accountable, and interesting paragraphs garnered praise. So at the end of the first draft of Tempting Fate I was sprinting. My goal was 10k words a week, and I finished that book breathless and proud.

So, book one - 2-plus years. Reasons for lollygagging - too numerous to count. Book two - 1.5 years. Reasons for delay - insecurity, uncertainty, and all the same reasons as book one. Book three - 3.5 months. Reasons for speed - the confidence that readers want this story, book two didn't disappoint, and the certainty of working with an editor who understands my characters, my style of writing, and my stories as if they were her own. And also a second book that was utterly clean and free from typos - a never-to-be-underrated thing in the world of independent publishing.

So how is this whole blog post relevant to Throwback Thursday? Because my evolution as an author is a little like looking back at the cringe-worthy photos on Facebook. The insecurity, the excuses for not writing - like the bad perm or the 80's wardrobe - are embarrassing, but they just aren't my style anymore.

Confidence in my story, my characters, and my ability to write a book I'd want to read are.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

What I'm Writing Wednesday

I still had one dagger left and Jehanne was focused on directing her remaining fighters like they were her own personal chess pieces. It would be so easy to bury the point between her shoulder blades, but even the fact that I had that thought sent a foreboding chill curling around my guts.

I was not a killer.

“Hey!” I yelled at her and she spun in surprise to face me.

She said something in French that didn’t sound like “it’s nice to see you, would you like some tea,” right before she lunged at me with her sword.

Well, crap. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. Apparently, she didn’t have the same aversion to killing that I did because she wasn’t kidding around with that sword-thrust.

I dove to the side to get out of range of Jehanne’s sword, and practically fell over Connor’s clothes. I heard my mom’s voice in my head yelling at him to pick up his stuff, and in the next moment I could have kissed him for leaving it lying around because his sword was part of the pile.

Jehanne was on me again, and Connor’s sword was weighted differently than mine. For the first minute or two with it, I could only block Jehanne’s attempts to skewer me.

The sounds of the fight around me changed slightly and I thought the tide must have turned against Jehanne’s fighters. It didn’t mean much for me unless I could keep the sharp edge of her battered sword away from my intestines, which is what I was using both dagger and sword to do at that moment.

The ringing of metal from swords clashing is a distinctive sound that’s been lost to history. It should stay lost, as far as I was concerned. It was loud and sharp and carried the promise of extreme pain.

I thought Jehanne might be close to Shifting, because the look on her face, as she tried again and again to bury her sword in my body, could only be described as feral. I got Connor’s sword up just in time to avoid a slash to the neck and was trying to use the dagger in my other hand as weapon rather than a puny little shield when Jehanne suddenly flung herself at me. Except not with her sword. With her body. And my dagger managed to clip her shoulder on her way down.


Connor’s Wolf had barreled into her from behind. He took her out at the knees and her impact with the ground knocked the wind out of her.

I stared at him, standing over her with a fierce growl that said, “move and I’ll rip your throat out.” Then I looked around to find Archer and Bas disarming a couple of French fighters and Ringo gathering weapons from the ones who had fallen.

Jehanne was struggling to sit while Connor’s Wolf hovered over her menacingly. I had enough presence of mind to kick her sword away, but I was still in a fog of disbelief that I didn’t have any fresh holes in my body.

“That girl tried to kill me.” I was breathing hard, and my voice was more of a shocked whisper than actual tone, but she heard me and glared like she’d like another shot at it.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What I'm Writing Wednesday - Changing Nature

Because Elizabeth Hunter is a genius who writes great books, and she borrowed this fantastic idea from Colleen Vanderlinden's blog, I'm going to do the same.

So, today is What I'm Writing Wednesday and I'm in the middle - literally the middle - of Changing Nature. I found this photo of sword fighting champion, Samantha Mott, and she has very definitely inspired my lead historical character.

     I looked away to find Jehanne watching me with open hostility. “What’s your problem?” It didn’t matter that she didn’t speak English, she knew from my tone what I’d just said.

     She spat on the ground and said something in French that made Connor scoff as he translated.

     “She said they burn women like you.”

     “She’s the one who has visions and I’m the witch?”

     Connor stifled a laugh and Jehanne spoke again.

     His mouth tightened into a grim line at her words, but he didn’t automatically translate for me. She just watched me with glittering eyes.

     “What? What did she say?”

     He finally answered. “Any woman who mates with a devil and consorts with a Wolf deserves to burn.”

If I stay on track with the writing, and nothing unexpected or crazy happens with my editor's schedule, I intend to publish Changing Nature by the end of January, 2015. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Because ... Outlander

I read Outlander in 1991, just after it was published. I'd wandered into a bookstore after reading Jack Finney's Time and Again, and asked the girl behind the counter about time travel books. She'd heard great things about Outlander, so I bought it. I was just out of college then, so buying a new paperback instead of trolling the used bookstores was a big deal. My bookshelves were full of mysteries and spy novels, fantasies with dragons and white gold rings, all with beaten spines and dog-eared pages.

So I took my sparkly new red paperback and I went home to read.

I didn't leave the couch. I read. I didn't answer the phone. I read. I didn't eat or sleep or sometimes even breathe. I read Outlander.

And then I recommended the book to anyone who would listen. Anyone looking for something to read. Never mind if they only read non-fiction, or espionage, or picture books, this book - THIS BOOK was amazing.

Impeccably researched. Beautifully written. Characters to love and hate and want to be friends with. Characters who inspire rage and joy and anguish.

And, you know, Jamie.

This book had everything that makes a person wonder, years later, if they read the book or saw the movie. The mental pictures are that clear, the scents and sounds are that vivid. Except, you know, Jamie.

Who could they possibly cast as Jamie? What living, breathing human man could ever be so full of life, so full of breath as to take yours away with a look or a smile.

Fast forward 23 years. Now I'm an author of two time travel books - the down payment on a five-book series. My fascination with time travel turned into a passion along the way, and just like my passion for passion, was fed and fostered by my love of Outlander.

So to stumble across this, to find Tempting Fate keeping company with Diana Gabaldon's amazing books on the day Outlander finally comes to visual life for the millions of readers who fell in love with it like I did - this takes my breath away.

Because ... Outlander.

Amazon / Hachette

I generally don't speak my politics out loud, especially as I live in an area of the country where my personal politics definitely don't match the vast majority of my neighbors, other parents at my childrens' schools, and even many of my friends. Political conflict just ends up being conflict, and frankly, life's too short to lose friends over their voting preference.

I do, however, have strong opinions. And when I'm asked about them, well, then, all bets are off.

Amazon recently sent an open letter to all the authors who publish through them, discussing the Amazon/Hachette Publishing conflict. I've been following it through the opinions of various authors I admire, and had formed my strong opinion well before I received the letter from Amazon asking for support.

But since they asked...

My letter to Hachette:

Dear Mr. Pietsch,

While I understand you’re in the business to make money for your investors and your parent company, I don’t appreciate the stand you’re taking on the backs of your authors.

I am an author of two novels that are beginning to do quite well with readers, PRIMARILY because of eBook sales. I find that readers will buy the paperback to keep because they’ve already bought, read and loved the eBook. I also recognize the research that has gone into eBook pricing, and agree with Amazon that books priced under $9.99 will sell considerably better than those priced higher.

Because I’m also a reader. I consume books of all genres, at a rate of 100-200 books a year. They’re all on my kindle or my iPad. I do not travel with books because I read too fast and would have 100 pounds of books in my luggage. I do not take books to the DMV or the post office or anywhere else I have to wait in line, I take an eReader. And I DO NOT buy kindle books priced higher than $9.99. Frankly, it’s offensive to me to pay so much for an eBook when I know exactly what it costs to produce them.

And it’s offensive to me that your authors are in the middle of a your contract negotiation. The reality is Amazon is the biggest distributor in town. They support readers – YOUR CUSTOMERS. You are not a distributor, you have not done the distribution homework. They understand their customers and they understand the marketplace. You do your job of putting out great books by amazing authors, and let them do theirs of selling those books.

April White
Author: Marking Time, Tempting Fate

Now, I recognize that this is an oversimplified argument. I'm absolutely clear that Amazon is not the good guy in this - they have definitely done their part by removing Hachette books from their shelves, and those authors are suffering. But to me, the removal of those books is the point. Amazon is a distributor. They choose what to sell, and they know what sells best and at what price. Their market research shows that for every 1 book sold at $14.99, 1.74 books will sell at $9.99. For those bestselling authors who sell 100,000 books a price drop would translate to 174,000 book sales. The math is this: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% bigger. But more importantly, the books are being read by an audience that is 74% larger. To top it off, Hachette is going to war over eBook sales that count for only 1% of Hachette's income. 

Really guys? 

They're going to battle over the illusion of being in control. But here's the thing. THE READERS are the ones in control. Clearly Amazon isn't concerned about the lost sales from the Hachette book readers if they're willing to take them off their shelves, yet those Hachette AUTHORS are losing thousands and thousands of book sales because their publisher isn't willing to let the distributor do their job.

Some of those Hachette authors, and traditionally published authors from other publishers are standing with Hachette on principle. I get principles, I really do. What I don't get is big business ignoring the marketplace is serves, at the cost to the author of thousands of prospective readers and thousands of dollars.

So, there it is - my political opinion. It won't make me popular with some people, but my political opinions rarely do. 

And they did ask...