Saturday, November 21, 2015

Update on Labyrinth of Flame's Release

I love ebooks, but speaking as an author, there's nothing quite like holding the physical edition of your book in your hands. For me, that's when it really hits home that the story is no longer a work in progress, but a real, honest-to-gosh book. Something that people can put on their shelves and share with their friends and curl up in a favorite chair with and lose themselves in, the way I've done with so many books in my life. In this case, the realization is particularly weighty, as it's not just this one book finished and ready for readers. The entire Shattered Sigil trilogy is complete--something I can still hardly believe, after so many years spent with Dev and Kiran!

But here is the proof (in more ways than one, heh):

One lovely copy of The Labyrinth of Flame! This after three rounds of proofs and a whole lot of emails with the printing company--turns out illustrations make the printing process a lot more complicated, plus there were some issues with spine width and cover font transparency that had to be fixed. But I'm very happy with the final product! I ended up having the illustrations printed on special insert paper, and they look great:

Books for my Kickstarter backers are being printed now, and should be shipped to me after Thanksgiving. Soon as I get them I'll be signing and mailing them out. It's my hope that all the books will be in backers' hands before Christmas.

If you missed the Kickstarter, Dec 1 is the release date on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other online retailers for the ebook of The Labyrinth of Flame. Pre-order links are live on Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks, and should soon be live at Barnes & Noble.

Due to the delay from getting print issues sorted out, it'll be a few weeks after Dec 1 before a physical edition becomes available to the general public. As soon as I have a firm date, I'll announce it here.

In the meantime, I'm off to celebrate Thanksgiving properly: by spending the week in the wilds of Utah, scrambling over the slickrock that inspired the scenery of The Labyrinth of Flame. Talk about a perfect way to mark the book's completion. May you have an equally excellent end to your November!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Labyrinth of Flame's Illustrations

Sigh, I heard from the printing company that there's been a delay and it'll be a few more days before I get my hardcopy proof of The Labyrinth of Flame. It's so hard to wait! I'm really eager to get the books printed, but I've got to check that proof first to make sure the cover and illustrations and everything look just right.

In the meantime, some folks have asked if I could put up the images of the illustrations so they can look at them properly instead of on a tiny e-reader screen. I am happy to oblige! So here are the five illustrations that the talented Kristina Carroll did for the book, complete with a few words from me about each one. (Kristina was wonderful to work with, by the way. Organized, responsive, and patient when I dithered over which of her concept sketches to choose for an illustration!)

If you haven't read the book yet, beware spoilers... 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MileHiCon schedule

So, the life craziness continues...but one thing that has done wonders for my stress is getting emails from various readers telling me how much they're enjoying The Labyrinth of Flame. (Thank you thank you thank you!!! There is no better way to cheer up an author.)  Plus soon I'll have the joy of holding the book in my hands - the files are at the printing company, and they tell me a hardcopy proof should arrive mid next week. YAY.

But I've been so busy with day job and everything that I only today realized that MileHiCon is THIS WEEKEND, holy hell, where did this month go? So now I'm scrambling to prepare for panels - I've got three this year, and they all sound fun:

Friday Oct 23, 2pm: Ten Mistakes Writers Make

A look at some common mistakes writers make, and perhaps some ways to prevent them… or at least stop making them more quickly!

(My take: I'm not sure if this panel is supposed to be about craft mistakes or business mistakes or both, but I've certainly made enough mistakes to have plenty of advice to share.)

Friday Oct 23, 4pm: Five Fantasy Worlds You Wouldn't Want to Visit

The Shire might be nice (but does Bag End have flush toilets?), but lots of fantasy worlds would be no fun to be in. Our panelists count down the five fantasy worlds they’d least like to visit … let alone set up house in.

(My take: Oh yeah, I can think of plenty of awful worlds, especially among the modern grimdark novels. I'll try and go some fun/unusual ones.)

Saturday Oct 24, 10am: SF Primer: From Isaac Asimov to Timothy Zahn

If someone is just getting into reading science fiction, what books do you recommend and why?

(My take: I LOVE recommending books! And you can bet I'll be including plenty of the awesome female authors I loved growing up - ladies who cemented my love for SF, who nobody seems to talk about anymore. The trouble will be in limiting myself so I don't try to mention 300 names at once!)

I'm only at the con on Friday and Saturday, since I promised my husband I wouldn't stick him with solo parent duty for yet another entire weekend. For anyone else attending, I hope you'll say hello! Panels are fun, but talking to fellow readers and fans is even more so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Labyrinth of Flame is out in the world!

The Labyrinth of Flame is really, finally, completely, utterly done - and in readers' hands! I sent out ebooks and maps to Kickstarter backers on Sunday night. (This after a week that involved my son getting sick, me getting sick, and then a tree falling on our neighborhood power lines right when I was trying to do final ebook conversions - gaaaah!)

Honestly I still can't quite believe the book is done. I don't think it'll sink in until the physical copies arrive and I hold one in my hands (which should be in another 2 weeks or so). I've been working on the story for so long that my brain hasn't quite adjusted to the idea that not only is The Labyrinth of Flame done, but other people can now READ IT. (Oh gosh. That's somewhat terrifying, but mostly I can't wait to see what people think of the book.)

Of course, I'm not yet done with the Shattered Sigil world and characters. I still have four short stories to write for Kickstarter backers. I'm looking forward to working on those! And I still have plenty of production and Kickstarter-related tasks to handle. But the biggest part of the mountain has been climbed, and once I come out of my hypoxic daze, I'll be jumping about with joy.

For anyone who missed the Kickstarter, fear not! I'll be doing a general release of the book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc in both ebook and print on Dec 1. (I just today set up the Amazon preorder page. I think as a self-pub person, Amazon only allows me to set up a pre-order for ebooks, not print, but rest assured the book will be available in both when the time comes.)

Oh yes, and while I was in my final push to the finish, Grimdark Magazine reviewed The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City, and posted an interview with me (in which I share my favorite grimdark author, among other things.)

And now, it is a beautiful day, and I am going to the mountains!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Larry's Excellent Adventure: Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge

So you may remember that near the end of my Kickstarter for The Labyrinth of Flame, I ran a raffle here on the blog to upgrade one backer's reward to the "Ultimate Fan" level, which includes all kinds of goodies - like the choice of a climbing lesson, figure skating lesson, or guided peak ascent. Larry Tipperreiter was the lucky winner of the raffle, and I was delighted to find he was eager to take me up on the climbing! He had plenty of experience hiking, but none with technical rock climbing or peaks above a few thousand feet. I suggested that if he wanted to combine a little climbing with a peak ascent, we could try an old favorite of mine: 14,267-ft Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge.

By the standard trail, both Torreys and its close neighbor Grays Peak are an excellent, easy introduction to 14er hiking. (You can hike both peaks in a couple hours.)  Scrambling up Kelso Ridge instead of tromping up the standard trail makes the ascent a little more exciting.  Kelso is designated Class 3, which means it requires no rope or technical climbing gear to ascend, but several sections are comparable to climbing a high ladder: handholds and footholds are plentiful, but you really don't want to fall. I thought Kelso could give a fit hiker like Larry a little taste of the more adventurous side of peak climbing, without the need for worrying over ropes and technical gear. 

We chose a "weather window," Larry came out to Colorado and did a few acclimatization hikes to help his lungs adjust to the altitude, and then at dawn on a Sunday morning at the end of August, Larry and I and my hiking partner Dustin Putnam started out from the Stevens Gulch trailhead.

Dawn's light 

Larry ready to tackle Torreys Peak (in background)
14er climbing is not exactly a solitary pursuit; we had plenty of other people with us on the trail, though the crowds thinned a bit once we left the main trail to head for Kelso Ridge.
Heading off the main trail toward Kelso Ridge (a spur trail climbs to the low point on the saddle)
Helmets on! (A lot of climbers don't bother with helmets on Class 3 routes like Kelso, but on a busy weekend with lots of other parties on the route, it's easy for rocks to get knocked loose onto lower climbers. Always better to be safe than sorry. That said, I only had 2 helmets, so Larry and Dustin got the protection while I just used a hat.)
Larry tackles the first short Class 3 section (Dustin at top)
Larry and Dustin enjoying a snack break
Nothing like a beautiful day in the mountains
Larry and I working our way up the ridge. 
Some sections of Kelso are fairly easy (if steep) walking, some are fun scrambling, and some are steep, slanted, slippery/slidy dirt (not so fun). There's usually a little routefinding and backtracking, too - it's easy to get off track, especially with all the "climber trails" where people have tried to bypass various obstacles on the ridge. If the difficulty starts getting to the point where a rope would be a good idea, that means you're off route, and the safest thing to do is backtrack and look for another option.

Traversing along the ridge
Larry did great, handling both rock and steep dirt with aplomb, and patiently obeying my directions when we needed to backtrack. As we got above 12,000 feet, the altitude started to kick in; most people find themselves gasping for air even on a trail, let alone climbing steep rock, and some suffer headaches and nausea. But Larry had taken care to do a few hikes up to 10,000 in the days before the ascent, which always helps a lot. We took it slow and steady and he never got sick.

Moving up the ridge
View of Grays Peak from the ridge (regular trail visible switchbacking up the peak)
Getting higher
The last major obstacle before the summit is a section known as the "Knife Edge" - a very short knife edge compared to the far more exciting one on Capitol Peak, but still, a fun little scramble. Best way across for a newbie is to straddle the rock and inch your way along the knife edge - and if you're afraid of heights, don't look down at the thousand foot drop on the left!

Climbers on the knife edge
Higher view of the knife edge (the gray section of rock behind the lumpy white block)
Larry had said that the Knife Edge was the one part of the route he was a little nervous about, but once again, he did awesome! He scrambled right across with no trouble at all.
Crossing the Knife Edge
Straddle that ridge! (A climber who crossed right after us said, "I feel like I've just made sweet, sweet love to the mountain.")
Larry climbs around the white block that finishes the Knife Edge
We did it! Larry at the summit.
Hooray for Larry! It takes a real badass to tackle a Class 3 route on his first ascent of a 14er (especially given that he comes from a flatland state!). Not only did he succeed, he still had enough energy left to trek over to 14,278-ft Grays Peak and bag a second summit. We really lucked out with the weather - though it took us 5 hours to do Kelso Ridge, no thunderstorms were in sight when we topped out. So we had plenty of time left in the day to mosey on over to Grays, enjoying the views all the way.

View from Torreys' summit
Grays Peak, as seen from Torreys summit. It's close, but you still have to trek down to the saddle and then pant your way back up another 600 feet or so. 
View of the valley we hiked up from - if only we had a hang glider or a zipline!

Second summit of the day! On top of Grays Peak
Then comes the long hike down...but it doesn't feel so long when you've got great company on the way! Had a great discussion about books, and conventions, and all kinds of things. (Downhill is social time in the mountains. It's a lot easier to hold a conversation when nobody is panting for breath.)
Looking back at Torreys - Kelso Ridge is the long ridge forming the right side of the peak
Already a hint of fall color in the valley
Made it! End of the trail.
A terrific day in the mountains! I hope Larry enjoyed his introduction to 14er climbing as much I did giving it. I'm looking forward to taking another backer up Uncompahgre in the San Juan Mountains in the near future - cross your fingers for good weather, and hopefully I can bring back a bunch more beautiful pics.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Last call for Labyrinth of Flame pre-orders (the book is in copy edits!)

So yesterday I sent The Labyrinth of Flame to the copy editor, after spending the last few weeks entering all the line edit fixes and rewriting some scenes. (Which I did in between day job deadlines, a family trip to Moab, presenting a workshop at the RMFW Colorado Gold writing conference, and taking the winner of my Ultimate Fan reward raffle up two 14K peaks. That ascent was awesome, by the way. I'll be sharing tons of pics this Thursday.)

Going to copy edits means The Labyrinth of Flame is almost done. ALMOST. Hopefully just typos and other small errors left to fix. (Oh, how I hope!) I can't quite believe the story is really all there on the page. I've been working on this book for so long it's hard to imagine not working on it! But that day is coming soon. As is the day when all you lovely patient people will at last have the chance to read it. (The closer that day comes, the more my excitement grows...and yes, so do my nerves! I love this book so much. I know it's statistically impossible for everyone to love it. But I hope a whole lot of you do.)

I've been letting people who missed the Kickstarter do "late pledges" for either ebooks or signed trade paperbacks, but now the book is so close to production, I'm going to have to cut those off. Deadline for pre-orders/late pledges is this Friday, September 18th. After that point, anyone who'd like the book will have to wait for the general release at online retailers, which will happen after I ship all the Kickstarter rewards.

And now, I'm going to collapse. (Sleep has not been a priority the last month or so. Or actually, the last six years.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Worldcon (Sasquan) in Pictures

I know everyone else is busy talking about the Great Hugo Drama, but for me, that's not what Worldcon was about. For me, Worldcon means the chance to hang out with friends and meet interesting new people and hear my favorite authors read from books I can't wait to see released. So I am not kidding at all when I say I had an absolute blast in Spokane last weekend.

Originally I was going to do this lovingly detailed post discussing everything I did at the con and everyone I met. But I've got line edits in hand for Labyrinth of Flame, and I'm pushing hard to get all the prose-level fixes done so I can hand off the book to the copy editor. That doesn't leave me time to write long blog posts. But I can share pictures that capture a few of my con highlights:

I got to meet veteran fantasy author Kate Elliott! I read her recently-released YA novel Court of Fives on the plane to Spokane and loved it. I wanted to steal her Black Wolves ARC - that's her latest adult epic fantasy, coming out this fall. But she only had one ARC with her, so I restrained myself (with difficulty). 
Meeting Kate Elliott was extra-special because she (along with the also-awesome Alison Croggon) helped motivate me to keep plowing through Labyrinth of Flame's first draft, at a time when I was struggling to balance writing and work and life and feeling like I was failing on all fronts. I can't thank her and Alison enough, and it was lovely to meet Kate in person at last. (One day I hope to thank Alison in person, too!) 

The r/Fantasy fan table! Awesome mod Melissa is on the left, while Kate Elliott (right) types away for her AMA.
Another highlight was hanging out with folks from r/Fantasy, both at the fan table and the excellent Drinks With Authors party. Huge thanks to moderator Melissa Shumake and author Megan O'Keefe, who did a fantastic job of organizing on short notice! 

Giveaway table at the Drinks With Authors party
One of the best moments at the party was running into a friend from Caltech I hadn't seen in twenty years - Divya is a fellow mole from Blacker Hovse, and she's also an SF writer, how cool is that! We had no idea we were both authors. Can't wait to check out her work.

Moles reunited after 20 years! Me and S.B. Divya

Similarly, I was delighted to meet up with a friend I first met years ago when we were both skating at the U.S. Adult National Championships. Sharon's not only a figure skater and SF fan, but a mountaineer/climber - we joke that we were separated at birth. I hadn't seen Sharon in ages, so it was great to catch up.

Figure skaters for the win: Sharon Reynolds and me
I also got to see a former member of my critique group: Catherine Montrose (who writes as Catherine Cooke) moved from Denver to Seattle a while ago, and we still miss her lots! 

Without Catherine's insightful critique, the Shattered Sigil books wouldn't be half as good
Lots more awesome folks I didn't get pictures of (like Karen Bovenmyer, and Joel Pearson, and Luke Matthews, and Lyndsey Zusi!) Amid all the socializing, I did go to some actual programming at the con.

Martha Wells reading from the 2nd of her upcoming new Raksura duology. Cannot wait for these books!

Jo Walton, Jack Campbell, Chip Hitchcock, and Ann Leckie discuss the work of C.J. Cherryh (my all-time favorite science fiction writer)
Plus I did a signing, and a pop AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on r/Fantasy, and hung out with my book reviewer brother Matt Hilliard and his girlfriend Rachel. Oh yes, and managed two separate trips to the local climbing gym! Once to take Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter backer Melissa climbing, and once with anyone I could drag away from the con.  

Climbing with Joey Hewitt and Alex Ristea
Alex posted a few more pics of our climbing fun on twitter:

My one comment on the Hugos is that I did go to as many WSFS business meetings as possible, so I could support the E Pluribus Hugo proposal for changing the method of tallying nominations to a system that will be better representative of fandom's broad range of tastes. 

I was disappointed my flight left too early on Sunday for me to participate in the final vote on the proposal (though I convinced a friend to go and vote for EPH, so at least the proposal didn't lose a vote!). At the airport I was glued to my smartphone, hitting refresh on Rachael Acks's liveblog of the business meeting, hoping to see if EPH passed. Which it did, hooray! The proposal still has to be ratified at next year's Worldcon in Kansas City before it can take effect, but I hope that by 2017, the new (and better) system will be in place. 

Even before then, this next year I encourage everyone - regardless of political persuasion or taste in SFF - to nominate whatever 2015 books you've read and loved. I think a lot of Worldcon members are scared to nominate because they feel they haven't read widely enough in the field, or if they are voracious readers, it's too hard to winnow their list down to only a few choices. (I've certainly been guilty of that last.) Heck with that! Get out there and nominate, even if you have to throw a dart to choose between your favorites. The more people participate, the more likely it is the Hugos will have a shortlist of great reads from all over the SFF spectrum.

And now, back to line edits...