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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Worldbuilders Auction

It's Worldbuilders time again.

Between the edit of Cheating Death and the aftermath of the election, I've had my head down for a couple of weeks. That's how I missed the fact that the Worldbuilders auction for my Tuckerization went live.

Here is a fun fact you may not have known. The character of Tam, the mixed-blood captive and green-haired "Leprechaun" that Ava can See in her mind, who was trapped in the tunnel with Archer after the explosion in the ghost station in Waging War - you remember the guy? He was the result of a Worldbuilders Tuckerization auction. The winner of the auction gave me his name, and a couple of characteristics, and then Tam took on a life of his own.

There's also a Tuckerization character in Cheating Death from last year's auction, and he was A LOT of fun to create. Here's a hint - he's a Clocker/Monger mix, and boy, is he in trouble.

This year, I'm out of Immortal Descendant books to write. Wait, what? Yeah, really. Five books, that's it. There may be some short stories and novellas to play around with from their world, but the series arc is done at five. So, this year's Tuckerization auction is for a character in my new series. It spins off of this one, so there will be some familiar faces, and if you click on the auction link, you can read the description. WARNING - the description does contain a couple of small spoilers about some characters in Cheating Death, so if you don't want to know, don't read the description.

But bid on the auction even if you don't read the description. Here is the pertinent text:

The winning bidder of this Tuckerization auction will have the honor of naming a character (and providing an identifying characteristic or two) in book one of the new series. In the event the winning bid is higher than $250, that character will have a significant interaction with the main character. If it goes higher than $400, that character will become a major contributor to the story.

So, that's the fun stuff (and believe me, it's fun knowing there's a character in a book that you had a hand in creating). Here's the real stuff. Giving to Worldbuilders is one of the right things to do.

We have a lot of choices in life. Every day is full of choices - little ones, big ones, choices for yourself, or your family. Getting out of bed when you'd rather be reading, going to work or school when you'd rather be sleeping - those are right choices. Bullying or  belittling someone - not so much. It's a choice to spread gossip, or speak badly about someone else, just like it's a choice to sit next to a lonely person and strike up a conversation. Our choices affect us and sometimes they even define us. 

I teach my kinds that the best part about Christmas is finding the perfect gift to give someone else, and as they've gotten older, they're taking that part of the Holidays really seriously. For the people Worldbuilders helps, the perfect gift is clean water, or a goat, or a flock of chickens, and every year my kids decide what we're going to give with our donations. 

I believe that what Worldbuilders does is right - it's why I give signed books to their lottery every year, and why I do Tuckerizations. But naming a character in one of my books is only valuable to my readers - which means bidding on this item and raising this money for Worldbuilders will only be done by you.

No pressure.
Just hopefulness.

Please consider bidding on my auction, and poking around the Worldbuilders auction list (there's great stuff on it), and even if you don't buy anything, consider donating directly to Worldbuilders through their website. Each $10 you donate gets matched, and it gets your name entered into the lottery one time. I've been donating to Worldbuilders for four years, and I've won lottery things twice. The odds are definitely in your favor - just look at this one section of the donations wall...

So, that's my annual pitch. Thanks for reading, thanks for considering, thanks for clicking links and poking around the Worldbuilders stuff, and above all, thanks for being awesome.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Building an author website

Being an independent author is not only writing books I hope will appeal to my readers. I'm actually running a business. There's marketing and promotions, strategy and speculation, market analysis, and a whole lot of seat-of-my-trousers guessing. (I spent a summer among Brits. I struggle to say "pants" now without thinking of underwear.) I have also discovered a huge network of authors/business-owners who are incredibly generous with information-sharing and very helpful advice, some of which I've been acting on for the past couple of days.

I've been doing a little author housekeeping, if you will, and the following post is probably only useful to other authors and maybe a couple of small-business owners. Fair warning.

I signed up for the Amazon Affiliates program back in February. I got the cool little stripe on top of every Amazon page that I visit, and I immediately changed all by book links on my blogspot pages to Affiliate links. (For anyone who doesn't know about Amazon Affiliates, any products someone buys through an affiliate link registered to me nets me fractions of a cent. Some people actually make enough to cover their whole advertising budget from the affiliates program, which is awesome. I am very selective about what I recommend, so I don't really generate a lot of affiliate income). Recently I actually read the Affiliates rules and realized that I can only use those links from active websites, as opposed to static pages, which means I can't send affiliate links in an e-mail, or attach them to the back-matter of any of my kindle books, primarily because Amazon can't track where they came from. It does make me wonder how BookBub can do their affiliate links from their daily e-mail, but I digress.

Because it makes sense to use affiliate links to my own books in the back matter of my kindle books, I needed a way to do that which didn't break the affiliates program rules. My solution is to send potential book-buyers through my website to Amazon. It adds an extra click to their purchase efforts, and certainly might turn people off, but I'll take that risk. So, it seemed like a good time to build a proper website instead of the blogspot pages I've been using. There are several website builders on the market, some easier and better than others, but researching that can suck up days of writing time, so I picked a convenient one, roped a friend of mine in to help me set up content, and started building.

My goal with a website was to build something decent and professional-looking, with a "books" page that has affiliate links to Amazon, and a newsletter sign-up page to which I could entice readers. New readers don't usually troll the internet looking for author's websites, so I'm not going to attract them. But readers who find me on Amazon (where my books have the most reviews) or after a book promotion are only going to want to know more when they've read the first book. So those are the people I'm trying to target with my website.

Knowing my target audience is vital to building a useful website. They've already read at least one book, and have liked it enough to want to know more. That means I can direct people to different landing pages within the website, according to their interests. For people who want the next book in the series, I linked the "books" page to several places in the back matter of Immortal Descendants book. For people who've reached the end of book four and want news about the release date for book five, get in line. No, sorry, that was rude - I linked my newsletter sign-up page at the end of a new book five teaser that I just added to Waging War.

Newsletter sign ups are vital to authors. Those are readers who already know they want more, which makes them a target market. It's vital to keep them intrigued with just enough information to make them pay attention but not oversaturated to the point that they don't open your newsletters when they land in their inbox. Newsletters are the best place to put new release information, and a way to reward newsletter recipients with exclusive clips of new works. I say this all in theory, mind you, because as of now I've sent out exactly two newsletters. I do finally have a template, and I have grand plans for being organized enough to get serious about once-a-month newsletters, but as of now, I still feel too guilty every minute I'm not writing Cheating Death (this is me, writhing in guilt at the moment. I'll make it up to myself with an earlier morning tomorrow).

This has turned into a very long post about a thing that could probably be summarized thus:

Become an Amazon Affiliate.
Build a website.
Put pictures of your book covers on it.
Attach affiliate links to your books.
Add a newsletter sign-up (I use Mailchimp, which requires form-building and HTML code insertion, and is much easier and less painful than it sounds).
Add other things to entice, educate, and entertain visitors (sounds like a Paris salon)
Dress it up in a pretty design (I'm still working on that)
Add hyperlinks to the newsletter sign-up and your books page to the back-matter of your books.

Optional: blog about it. Post links to the new website on all your social media groups. Actually send an entertaining, enticing, and educational newsletter to the people who signed up. 

Required: Then get back to the business of writing.

Oh, and if you've made it this far without your eyeballs rolling back in your head, and you actually want to see what I've been working on, here's the new site.
It's subject to change without notice as I figure out more ways to use it.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

A Month in the Yukon

I’ve been in Canada for a month – specifically, the Yukon Territory – even more specifically, my family and I have been dividing our time between the town of Dawson City and a mining camp two hours on dirt roads away.

It’s been a good month, even great sometimes. The best moments have generally involved good friends, campfires, fascinating conversations, coffee-in-bed mornings, long walks, and the ever-amazing, always-changing Yukon skies.

Every photo I’ve taken this month has featured the sky. It is unavoidable and magnificent, and is in a state of constant change. When we arrived at the end of June, there were about two hours of dimness between 2-4am. Now, at the end of July, it’s almost dark by midnight, and in a couple of weeks, the Northern Lights might even be visible.

We’ll be gone then. Gone back to the land of Pokemon Go, which, in this country where our cell phones don’t work, has been fabulously impossible. Gone back to the world of effortless internet, where streaming political speeches compete with streaming YouTube videos for airtime in our house. Gone away from moose sightings at the pond, daily rainstorms, unguarded cook shack conversations about politics with like-minded Canadians and British, long walks with bear-spray in hand, the ever-present noise of a generator just down the hill from the four-wall tent we call home, and from the Yukon sky.

I carry my cell phone in my back pocket even on walks from the tent to the toilets because of that sky. My husband despairs of my paparazzi-like phone-whip - out of the pocket, held up vertically because it’s always on “square,” and click. Done. He’s a proper photographer, with the right camera and a great eye. I’m a photographer who knows how to crop, and I delight in the “drama” feature of Snapseed to add a little silver gelatin look to that sky.

Because it’s truly all about the sky in the Yukon.

The mountains here are old and the trees are young. Gold mining scars the landscape for a year or two before spruce and birch trees reclaim the topsoil, and settling ponds become new habitats for beaver, ducks, and the occasional moose. Annual lightning-strike fires turn hillsides into fields of blackened twigs through which bear sometimes wander, and fireweed splashes the landscape with glorious hot pink flowers.

The mountains here aren’t majestic like the ones in Alaska: the bear are harder to spot, the eagles fly higher, and the ravens scavenge the town of Dawson like ominous portends of the winter to come. Mammoths once lived here, and their bones and tusks are unearthed by gold miners more often than by archeologists. Whole, undamaged tusks are rare in this place where excavators carve the permafrost, and bulldozers push the earth to reveal the gold-rich bedrock below. Evidence of mining is everywhere, but in this land of midnight sun and afternoon rain, life returns to the landscape in years rather than decades to transform the earth, just like the cloud patterns alter the sky.

Our weekends have been spent in Dawson City, the tiny town at the convergence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, where 30,000 people once lived in a swampy tent camp, fevered by gold. The highway that skirts the river ends at a ferry boat where cars line up to cross the Yukon River eight at a time to continue their journey to the Top of the World Highway on the other side. All other streets in Dawson are made of dirt, and get slick with greasy mud after heavy rains. There are some wooden sidewalks, but they must be rebuilt every few years after minus forty degree winters freeze and shift the ground beneath them.

Nothing feels permanent in this town where 3,000 people spend summers lit by the midnight sun – where a music festival draws thousands of visitors, an arts festival and a literary contest draw hundreds, and a photo contest with the hashtag #ilovedawson highlights the beauty and fun of living here.

Only 1,800 or so people remain after the first ice on the river to endure dark and frozen winters. Survivalists like Caveman Bill in his cave, and the residents of West Dawson in their off-grid houses are trapped on the other side of the Yukon River for weeks each year until the ice is thick enough traverse, while the Dawsonites can spend $3,000 a month in electricity, and keep block heaters in their engine compartments to withstand the brutal cold. It’s a place where Winter Pretty is when twos turn into tens, Spring Break-up doesn’t always refer to the river ice, and some relationships can be made or broken by available reading material or a taste in movies.

In our Dawson City, Saturday dinner is at the Drunken Goat with calamari, lamb, and a Greek Salad, and Sunday is spent eating schnitzel at the Aurora. A person can easily be found by their drinking habits, and the midnight show at Gerties is almost always a sure bet. There are nearly as many gold shops as there are restaurants, but the best finds are always at the thrift store.

The summer farmer’s market by the river yields stunning vegetables every Saturday, while the produce in the grocery stores can be anemic and limp by the time it makes the journey this far north. Cheechako’s Bake Shop makes amazing slow-cooked pork and onion jam sandwiches, and their chocolate brownie has crack in the recipe, I’m sure of it.

There is a play structure in Dawson City that my boys have dubbed The Portal. In their perfect world, the tire tunnel between the second and third floors is really a teleportation device, and would allow us regular Sunday roasts with Ed when he works in the Yukon. We could also invite their friends to come to the Moosehide Festival with us, and to help us invent new hiding places for the Parks Canada geocaches that are tucked into historical landmarks around town. It takes us two days and three flights to travel here from Los Angeles, but if the portal worked, we could bring our dog, Natasha, to play with Rio and Finley in camp.

I have written here – a short story for the Authors on Eighth contest, some pitches for programming at NerdCon: Stories, and some work on Cheating Death. I told the story of the Yukon legend, Joe Boyle, to his gravedigger, through the eyes of the people who mourned him, and spent a week digging for quotes of his lover’s letters. I pitched a panel called “Writing Geek Girls in a Genre Rife with Mary Sue Stereotypes,” and spent a day researching Mary Sues. I’ve re-read my notebooks for Cheating Death, edited the parts I have notes for, and I’ve given myself permission to just recharge.
That’s what this trip has been: a chance to recharge myself, my family, and my creativity.

There’s inspiration here, and a person seeking creativity can find it in the stories, the scenery, the history, the wildlife, and the people who make art.

The sky is the limit in the Yukon.

And have you seen that sky?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Update to the Tearjerkers list - A Man Called Ove

It happens sometimes that your heart fills so full that it spills down your face and steals your breath and sounds like sobs. And sometimes tears fill your throat and prickle your nose as you lie in the dark long after the story is done. And the tears are made of joy and hope and love and family, and they leave you feeling full instead of empty - that happens sometimes too.

It happened this time.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Book Recommendations - Tearjerkers and Romance

I was at an author's conference recently where a very high-powered film producer said, during a conversation about a book-pitch, "never, ever call a book a romance." Every timeless story has romantic elements, he said, but if you call a story a romance, even a story in which the central theme is the relationship between two people in love, you will effectively kill all its credibility.

Kill all its credibility. Huh.

(Insert rant here. It will be the subject of another post.)

My book club read Me Before You this month. Now, to be perfectly fair to the book itself, I did read it in a day, I did shed a tear, and it was written well. My primary criticism of the book itself was that I didn't particularly like either of the two main characters (or anyone else in it for that matter) and didn't really care enough about them to heavily invest my emotions in their story. That's a personal opinion and feel free to yell about how much you loved the book. It won't affect my belief in you and your worth, just as I hope my opinion doesn't affect your thoughts about my worth.

I had a big-picture issue with the book too, though - and it became the topic of a book club conversation about tearjerkers in general, and romance in particular. My issue was with this book's marketing. The publisher of Me Before You, The Penguin Group (who, incidentally, decided it was okay to charge $9.99 for the kindle version when the paperback is $6.40 on Amazon - don't get me started), made a deliberate choice to market the book primarily as women's fiction rather than romance.
Me Before You has all the classic hallmarks of a romance - a central relationship between a man and a woman, the growth of their attraction to each other (complete with sexual tension - you can't tell me the shave and haircut scene wasn't FULL of it), that thing that drives them apart, and ultimately, the reconciliation that brings closure to the relationship upon which the plot was built. Now, the publishers may be tricky, listing the book in women's fiction, but they're not stupid. Romance readers are some of the most voracious readers in the book-buying world. More romance authors are making six-figure incomes than any other genre, and the market is positively flooded with romance novels (good, bad, mediocre, sexy, funny, flirty, dark, thrilling, mysterious, sweet, paranormal, western, military, historical - name a genre and it's a romance sub-genre), primarily because readers are hungry for them.

This is what the Amazon rankings of Me Before You look like today (which, by the way, are very impressive):
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Women's Fiction
#1 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Women's Fiction > Domestic Life
#1 in Books > Romance > Contemporary

See - not stupid. By listing Me Before You as a Romance, Contemporary, it does make it onto the romance lists and in front of all those hungry romance readers. But Contemporary Fiction and Women's Fiction also put it on lists for people who "don't read romance," because... (fill in the blank. Usually something to do with the assumption of poor writing or the stigma still attached to romance as a genre).  There were women in my book club last night who declared, "Oh, I don't read romance," - except they read and enjoyed Me Before You, which isn't packaged (the cover) or marketed as a romance (except to romance readers). I'm clear it's brilliance on the part of the publisher, and I certainly give them credit for bringing the book to the widest possible audience. But as long as the prejudice against romance exits, as long as romance in the pitch kills a book's (or reader's or author's) credibility, I'm going to have a problem with the subterfuge.

Okay, rant over. For now.
I promised the wonderful women of my book club a list of my recommendations in both the romance and tearjerker categories, so here they are, complete with links to Amazon and the current price for a kindle book.

In the Tearjerkers category (some are romance, some are war stories, all made me ugly-cry, and all got five-star reviews from me on Goodreads):


And these are some of my favorite romance novels (comedy, paranormal, time-travel, fantasy, young adult, historical):


So, that's it for today - a book review, a mini-rant, and some recommendations.
I hope you stumble upon a genre you "don't read," and suddenly discover that when the story is great and the characters are interesting, you do.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Show me, don't tell me.

I don't own this picture, but there's a whole story written in those shoes.

I was an English major in college, but I actually suck at punctuation. My editor has taught me more about the rules for punctuation than any teacher in sixteen years of education ever did.

Screenwriting taught me how to pare things down to their most visual elements, and to write action scenes with active words. There's a set up to every scene, just so we know who's there and what they're doing, but the story is told through the dialogue between characters. Time spent a character's head does NOT translate into something visible on screen.

In my books, its my job to paint the visual picture with words. I need to show readers what my characters see and do with active words that allow the reader to be there with them, and then whenever possible, let interactions with other characters give voice to the narrator's observations. For example, in an early (unedited) scene from Cheating Death:

I was coated in a thick layer of brick dust, but I’d forgotten about the blood until someone shone a flashlight into my face and screamed, “He’s hurt!”

Revelations about the world around my characters are also best done through direct interaction with their environment. And even better when they can unfold bit by bit. It allows the reader to experience the truth alongside the character:

“I’m fine,” I tried to croak, but the dust choked my voice. Another good Samaritan joined the first and tried to hand me water. I pushed it away, and I was vaguely aware of someone holding their mobile phone up as a torch.
A mobile phone.
This wasn’t 1944.

I try to describe a character to the reader fairly early in their intro, but it can be tricky, especially in a first-person narrative. Honest self-assessments can become lawn furniture (the kind that clutters a yard and gets stumbled over) unless they're blended with something appropriate to the action:

I realized I was in London, my London, where mobile phones recorded images of people who shouldn’t be here, and a bloody, dust-covered, dark-skinned young man garnered too much attention on a pre-dawn city street.

My chest heaved with barely suppressed panic as I tucked myself around a corner, out of sight of the well-meaning Londoners. What had they seen? I looked down at myself, barely visible in the still black sky of early morning. I was filthy and covered in blood, but my clothes weren’t obviously anachronistic in this age of vintage-is-cool, and outwardly, I probably still looked like the eighteen-year-old guy I physically was. I felt my chest, my torso, and my face where I’d been slammed against a wall in the blast. I was battered, but I’d heal after a day’s sleep.
My body would heal anyway.

I doubted the same could be said for anything else.

A challenge in series-writing is to remind the reader about a character's backstory without a full recap. Again, it's tricky in first-person narrative to give historical information that doesn't sound like an info-dump, so I try to tie it to an action or emotion whenever possible:


I stiffened and my fingers curled reflexively into weapons.

“Tom, it’s Ava.”

Ava. Her voice was a sound from a time when love and laughter had blended with the ever-present pain, and happiness had given it texture and light. It was a time before I knew what true pain was, a time before inky blackness had replaced happiness, and hope had fled in tears.

Ava’s voice was quiet and hesitant … and coming closer. She was in the alley with me. I felt panic rise up again like a vise that squeezed my throat until my heart threatened to pound its way out of my chest. And then I remembered who I was and what I’d done. I wasn’t her poor little cousin, Tom, with an emotionally abusive father, and a mother who hated the sight of me because I reminded her of him and what he had done to her. I wasn’t anything weak or frail or good or right. There was nothing to care about and everything to fear in me. My heart was a dead thing that merely pumped blood through my veins. In fact, I thought dispassionately, I could kill my cousin now and then disappear as if I’d never been here at all. 

More backstory reminders are wrapped around dialogue with another character, with more character reveal about Tom's state of mind:

She stopped moving. Maybe she heard my thoughts. I took a step forward. “Ava?” My voice was definitely not my own, and I decided to use the croaking to sound helpless. “Is that really you?”

I sensed her hesitation in the dark. I looked for her, but couldn’t see her outline – she was still too far away. I took another step forward.

“Adam was in the tunnels when the bomb exploded. I can’t See him.” There was a soft desperation in Ava’s voice and I froze in place. “I can’t See anyone underground – not Archer, not Tam, not … my twin.”

Her twin. My cousin and best friend, Adam. I couldn't let him see me. He would know in an instant who I was - what I'd become, and he would hate me too. I should wrap my hands around Ava's throat and squeeze until she broke, and then I should find a spiral and just ... go.

I try to eliminate as many passive verbs (ending in "ing") as I can. I'd rather have short, simple, active sentences - they keep the tension higher. For example, "I sensed her hesitation in the dark. I looked for her, but couldn't see her outline..." If I'd written, "Sensing her hesitation in the dark, I looked for her..." Tom would sound too self-aware, and not in the moment.

Another word I've tried to eliminate almost completely is "Suddenly." It's one of those words I tell people to search, and then remove 90%. "Very" is another one, and adjectives ending in "ly" should only be used as truly necessary. If a word can be made active, or removed entirely without changing the meaning of the sentence, do it. It propels the reader along with the action, and makes the scene feel immediate, rather than something that's been reflected upon by the narrator.

I'm certainly not a writing expert by any stretch of the imagination. I am, however, an inhaler of books. When I delve into a world that an author has created, I want to be drawn into the action and carried alongside the characters as their story unfolds. I want to be shown the world, the people who inhabit it, and the experiences they're having. Only then am I invested enough to feel the emotions the author intends the characters to feel. 

Tell me what happens and I'll listen, but show me what happens and I'll experience.

Friday, 25 March 2016

A Q&A about Writing

I was interviewed recently for a blog about writing and editing, and because the blogger, who is also an author, took so much time coming up with thoughtful questions, I spent a day writing my answers.

It's a good Q&A about the series, my writing habits, and writing in general, so I wanted to share it here for anyone who doesn't already follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks, Rachelle - this was a lot of fun!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Andy Weir

There is nothing better in the world (okay, maybe one or two things) than starting a book at 5am, getting hooked in three lines - yes, three lines - and then not even feeling a little bit guilty for reading until it's done.

The Martian is that book. And I'm a fantasy reader, not science fiction.

Seriously. Ender's Game is as close to sci fi as I get, but my friend, Roxi, who must love me very much, gave me The Martian for Christmas, and then I read Nathan Van Koop's fairly spectacular review, so I figured I could always go back to sleep if it didn't hook me.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

This is not a funny book. The guy gets stranded on Mars - how is that funny? Except, Mark's voice (that's the guy) has exactly the wry snark I hear in my own head, and his irreverent comic timing is perfect while mine is about twenty minutes after the moment of perfection.

The crazy thing is, I didn't stop laughing, even when an entire planet of crap could go wrong - and did - with alarming frequency. 

This book, with its perfect storm of nerd humor, scientific MacGyver brilliance, and sharp, dry, self-deprecating wit is truly one of the most excellent stories I've ever read.

So, when I had the chance to take my family to hear Andy Weir speak, I jumped at it! My husband had listened to The Martian while driving on snowy mountain roads in the Yukon, and my older son had inhaled the book after hearing me laugh out loud for hours while I read. My younger son was along for the ride, but was as engaged as the rest of us were as Andy spoke.

Things I learned:
Andy Weir self-published The Martian, but 300-500 downloads a day got the notice of a literary agent who made a deal with a publisher in the same week the film rights were optioned.

The one unrealistic part of The Martian is the storm that starts it all. Andy knew that storm couldn't have happened like he wrote it, but because it's a story of Man vs. Nature, he used it anyway. Since then, he has learned that Mars does have lightening strikes, and would definitely have used a lightning storm to strand Mark Watney if he'd known about them then.

The Planet Venus has a thing called "standing lightning," and the atmosphere is 90 times more dense than Earth's. "Don't go to Venus," Andy said. "It's hell."

Andy Weir has absolutely no interest in going to space. Zero. None. He writes about brave people, he isn't necessarily one of them.

Mark Watney is cooler and more resourceful than Andy is, because most authors "write main characters they either want to be, or want to have sex with." On a side note, the hero of Andy's next book, due out in early 2017, is a woman. Just saying.

My younger son did ask to borrow a notebook and a pencil while we waited, and doodled this masterpiece as Andy spoke.

Which Andy very generously signed for him.

Afterwards, Andy very generously stayed to sign books and talk to fans. As my son always remarks, I am far more likely to fangirl over authors whose books I love than over celebrities (unless they have odd names like Hiddleston or Cumberbatch), so this happened too.

It was a really excellent event, Andy Weir is a genuinely smart, funny, well-spoken guy, and I got to share my passion for a great book, written by a fascinating author, with my family.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Cheating Death Inspiration

Just so we're clear, I don't own ANY of these images - well, except for the cover model photos, which I have a license to use. But I finally finished my notebook cover for book five - Cheating Death - and it's my visual inspiration pin board for the story. 

If anyone's interested, you can follow me on Pinterest for more book-inspired images, or on Instagram (I'm AprilWhiteBooks) for life-inspired ones.

The enterprising among you might begin to glean a little of the adventures I'm planning for Saira, or you could just wait and be surprised, as I'm sure I will be along the way. The Cheating Death notebook is full of notes, mind you, and I'm already writing, but until now, it was a sad, plain black Moleskine. 

Now it's fancy, and I can get back to work.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Books to Read After Harry Potter

Image Credit to Duet Designs
The Harry Potter series was a phenomenon that every author covets, and ever reader seeks - pure, magical storytelling. We feel like we know those characters, like we care what happened to Harry, Ron, and Hermione after the books ended (witness the pure excitement over the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play and book). The stories that JK Rowling created are accessible and captivating to audiences young and old, male and female, of all education levels, and from all walks of life. They are the books people can recommend over and over, to anyone who likes a little magic with their storytelling, and they are utterly timeless.

There are other books, some well-known, some obscure, that can capture imaginations and offer readers a world of escapism, magic, adventure, laughter, tears, and joy. Everyone has a list of books like that - the ones that create common ground among readers, the ones that make you say, "You read that book, too? Wasn't it amazing?" and with those words you feel like you know that person a little better. My neighbor became one of my best friends when she walked into my house, looked at my bookshelves, and declared, "I know you."

And in the interest of getting to know people just a little bit better, here are a few of those books I consider worthy to follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter. Read what sounds interesting (I'll provide as many links as I can find, but the library is always a great source), and then if you're inspired, let me know what you think.
“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” 
― Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone

“... I wanted Ambiades to understand that I considered myself a hierarchy of one.” 
― Megan Whalen Turner, The Thief

“Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along―the same person that I am today.” 

― Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

“He had noticed that events were cowards: they didn't occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.” 
― Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

“You put a spell on the dog," I said as we left the house.
"Just a small one," said Nightingale.
"So magic is real," I said. "Which makes you a...what?"
"A wizard."
"Like Harry Potter?"
Nightingale sighed. "No," he said. "Not like Harry Potter."
"In what way?"
"I'm not a fictional character," said Nightingale.” 
― Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.” 
― Andy Weir, The Martian

“The saddest thing is there won’t be anyone to miss us when we’re gone. No family, no friends, no one waiting at home.”
“It’s better that way,” I said. “It’ll be easier for me, knowing my death doesn’t add to anyone’s pain.”
“If you can’t give anyone pain, then you can’t give them joy either.” 
― Jennifer A. Nielsen, The False Prince

“Without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” 
― Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go

“It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” 
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” 
― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.” 
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“Man is the one creature on Earth who knows he will die, and that is an appalling intellectual burden.” 
― Piers Anthony, On A Pale Horse

“He felt around desperately for a weapon. What did he have? Diapers? Cookies? Oh, why hadn't they given him a sword? He was the stupid warrior, wasn't he? His fingers dug in the leather bag and closed around the root beer can. Root beer! He yanked out the can shaking it with all his might. "Attack! Attack!" he yelled.” 
― Suzanne Collins, Gregor the Overlander

“I became, in other words, more like Holmes than the man himself: brilliant, driven to a point of obsession, careless of myself, mindless of others, but without the passion and the deep-down, inbred love for the good in humanity that was the basis of his entire career. He loved the humanity that could not understand or fully accept him; I, in the midst of the same human race, became a thinking machine.” 
― Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper's Apprentice

“Somehow," she said coldly, "you have confused profitable and not profitable for right and wrong. I, however, have not.” 
― Robin Hobb, Ship of Magic

 If you have suggestions for other books to read after Harry Potter, leave those in the comments, too. Because I ALWAYS love a little magic with my storytelling.