Monday, December 1, 2014

Second chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame is up

Hope those of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving! Mine was not exactly relaxing, mostly thanks to an annoyingly persistent cold and a lot of solo parenting.  (I took my son to visit relatives in Huntsville, Alabama, while my husband enjoyed a week of blissful solitude, in reparation for the cons I attended the month prior.)  But my son had such a great time at places like the Space & Rocket center in Huntsville that I couldn't help but have fun despite exhaustion.  

Now life's about to get really hectic, as I'm staring down the barrel of some serious day job deadlines. But for those of you who read the first chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame last month, I didn't want to leave you hanging.  Here's Chapter 2 in its entirety!  (As opposed to just the first scene, which I read at World Fantasy.)

Third chapter will be posted in January, as I gear up for the kickstarter in February.  On a final note, though I didn't get much revising done while traveling this past week, I did seize the chance to read.  Here's a quickie run-down of the books I liked best, in case anyone's looking for recs:

To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts) - a standalone fantasy from one of the genre's greats. Interesting characters, nail-biting action, and one hell of an epic wilderness trip.  

The Crow (Alison Croggon) - third of her Pellinor epic fantasy series, and my favorite so far. Love Croggon's introspective writing and flair for poetic description.

The Darwin Elevator (Jason Hough) - fast, fun, SF adventure set in a post-apocalyptic Australia. Looking forward to reading the next installment once my husband is done with it.

Zero Sum Game (S.L. Huang) - contemporary SF with a badass heroine whose superpowers are based on her talent for math, which is fun. But it's the odd relationship between the heroine and her sociopathic best friend that really piqued my interest; I have a theory, but I don't know if it's right.  Looking forward to finding out in the next installment.

Mare's War (Tanita S. Davis) - half-historical, half-contemporary YA (not SFF) about two girls taking a reluctant trip with their grandmother, who served in the African-American battalion of the Women's Army Corps during World War II.  I read this on a recommendation from author Kate Elliott and found the story moving and the historical parts fascinating.

M.L. Brennan's Tainted Blood - third in her Generation V urban fantasy series. Yes, they are vampire books, but it just goes to show that in the hands of a talented author, the trope is not yet played out.  I enjoyed this one just as thoroughly as I did the first two, thanks to the engaging characters.

Friday, November 14, 2014

World Fantasy Convention wrap-up

So World Fantasy was a lot of fun. It really is my favorite convention. Big enough that I get to see folks I never would otherwise, yet small enough it's not overwhelming.  It's got a mellow, relaxed feel that I just love (as I am in sore need of relaxation these days!).  This year the venue was excellent, too.  The hotel was easy to navigate and had a nice central bar & lounge area with tons of comfy couches - essential for World Fantasy, where the experience is often far more about the socializing than the programming. 

Not that the programming isn't cool too!  I won't do a total rehash of everything I enjoyed, but here are a few highlights:

1) Pre-convention crowdfunding workshop with Ron Garner of Silence in the Library: I'm so glad I went to this.  Ron shared a wealth of tips and advice about kickstarter that I found very helpful.  Talking with him afterward also sparked some ideas for my Labyrinth of Flame kickstarter that I'm pretty excited about (can't share them yet, but I really hope they work out!).  Robin Sullivan and Brad Beaulieu were also extremely generous in sharing their kickstarter experience and advice with me, for which I can't thank them enough.  Publishing is such a crazy business and yet it is full of really wonderful people. 

2) Kaffeeklatsch with Michael Whelan (aka 15 lucky people sitting around a table chatting with Michael Whelan): this was a huge highlight for me because Michael Whelan has been one of my favorite SFF artists since I was a kid.  I used to buy books solely because of his covers.  One of the first gifts my husband ever got me was an art book of his, and we have prints from several of his covers (The Stone of Farewell, The Snow Queen, The Summer Queen) on our walls.  I thought I wasn't going to get into the kaffeeklatsch - the signup was only for 15 people, and I didn't make it to registration in time, so was on the wait list.  I showed up anyway, in case a spot opened up last minute.  None did, but then the organizer asked Michael if it was okay for those few of us who'd come from the wait list to join in, and he said "Sure, the more the merrier."  Hooray!  It was a wonderful hour; he had tons of interesting stories from his career to share in response to questions, and overall it was just really neat to get a view into the man behind the art I've loved for so long.

3) The mass autographing on Friday night. This is where every author at the con (and there are MANY of them) sits down in one big room and signs books for anyone who comes by.  I never expect to sign many books (though I'm always delighted when somebody asks me), but I always end up having some really great conversations, and this year was no exception.  Evie Manieri and Doug Hulick and I shared a table, and it was lovely chatting with them and the folks that stopped by.

Me, Evie Manieri, and Doug Hulick, ready to autograph

4) My reading! My awesome brother brought many donuts, and my critique group and roommate and various friends and even a few people I didn't know showed up despite the early hour (THANK YOU all!), so I'm totally calling it a win.  I read the first scene from Ch 2 of Labyrinth of Flame, and gave away a signed set of Whitefire Crossing and Tainted City.     

Reading from The Labyrinth of Flame
5) Other people's readings! Attending readings is one of my favorite parts of World Fantasy. I'm a sucker for getting sneak peeks of what people are working on.  This year I got to hear the first part of Carol Berg's Valen story for Ragnarok's Blackguards anthology (we hadn't seen it in critique group so I was very eager!) - she of course stopped at a point that left us all dying for the rest.  Brenda Carre read an excellent short story that I hope sees publication very soon.  Patricia McKillip (a long-time favorite author of mine) read from a forthcoming novel she said she just turned in to her editor - don't know when it'll be out, but I'll be snapping it up the moment it releases. 

Patricia McKillip reading from her forthcoming novel, which is a contemporary take on Grail mythology, set (it would seem) in the Pacific northwest
Doug Hulick read from his upcoming 3rd novel of the Kin, Brad Beaulieu read from his upcoming Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Evie Manieri read from her debut Blood's Pride, Shaun Duke read a short story that was accompanied by an interpretative dance from Michael Underwood (sadly not in person), Heidi Ruby Miller had a fun reading where she had friends act out the character voices, Leah Petersen read from an SF tale with some cool near-future biotech...oh, I had so much fun.

6) Hanging out with friends - I'm not even going to attempt to list off all the people whose company I enjoyed, because they were both awesome and legion.  The parties were good too - had some great conversations at Ragnarok's party, and Laurey (L.F.) Patten's launch party for her new novel The Talent Sinistral (a great book, by the way).  A special shout-out to my wonderful roommate Karen Bovenmyer, because WFC just wouldn't be the same without her, and my fractionally-Hugo-nominated brother, Matt Hilliard, whom I don't get to spend enough time with.  Oh, and Megan O'Keefe and Joey Hewitt, who introduced me to a whole host of fascinating folks from Codex.

The only downside to all the fun is that after my lovely little 5 day vacation, I am SLAMMED with day job work.  But I am soldiering on in my revision of The Labyrinth of Flame as best I can, pushing ever closer toward the finish.  I'll reappear here in December to post the second chapter. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

Read the first chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame

Happy November, everyone!  Good luck to those of you doing NaNoWriMo.  On Nov 1, 2007 I sat down to write the very first line of the first draft of The Whitefire  Crossing.  Now here I am, seven years and many, many words later, closing in on the end of Dev and Kiran's story.  (Seven years.  Good God.  Doesn't feel that long at all!  You might think I'd be bored with my characters by now, but nope.  Think I have even more fun writing them these days than I did in book 1.)

In celebration of my writing anniversary - and excitement over nearing the homestretch of my revision! - I'm offering up a first look at The Labyrinth of Flame.  The first chapter is up on my website: hope you enjoy.

The 2nd and 3rd chapters will follow in Dec & Jan.  Hey, and if you're going to World Fantasy, you won't even have to wait for Dec for Ch 2.  I'll likely share the first scene of Ch 2 at my reading, which is at 10am on Sun the 9th.

And now, back to picking out which books I'll get to read while traveling to WFC (yay for airports and reading time!)...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Next up: World Fantasy!

I had a wonderful time at MileHiCon last weekend.  My panels were fun, particularly the "bad geology" one - I've got a whole new list of mockworthy movies now, thanks to my fellow panelists.  Such as Asteroid vs. Earth, which is a strong contender for Worst Geophysics Ever.  (We had a geophysicist on the panel who worked out calculations to show exactly how moronic the movie's "science" is.  His combo of dry wit and mathematical savaging of the premise had the audience rolling with laughter.)  Ring of Fire is another gem of stupidity that sounds like it deserves the MST3K treatment.  However, Pompeii got the geologist stamp of approval...sort of.  Except for the pyroclastic flow that put the brakes on to allow a melodramatic scene between lovers ("Are you done now?  Okay, I can start destroying things again!"), and the size of the tsunami.  And the terrible plot before the volcano started erupting...the panel recommends you fast-forward to the part where everybody starts dying.

My week since returning from MileHiCon has been less fun.  I threw out my back (OUCH) and my day job's workload abruptly increased to insane levels.  A temporary thing, brought on by end-of-year deadlines.  But during the next month or so it'll be more difficult than ever for me to carve out writing time, which leaves me a frustrated, unhappy, advil-chowing camper.

But!  All is not sadness.  Next week I'm off to the World Fantasy Convention in DC, a trip I'm eagerly anticipating.  I love the laid-back "family reunion" feel of WFC, and hanging out with friends is just what I need right now.  (That, and sleep, and writing time, all of which I shall have.  Yay for WFC!)

I've got a reading slot at 10am on Sunday Nov 9, so if you'll be at WFC, please come!  Otherwise, I'll have to eat all the donuts I bring myself.  Wait.  That doesn't sound so bad...except for the part where I can't exercise them off until my back is better.  Darn.

Oh, and in sympathy for those of you who've been waiting ages for The Labyrinth of Flame but can't come to the con to hear me read a scene or two, before I leave I'll be posting the first chapter of the book.  Just in case you're like me and enjoy a taste of what's coming.  (I know, I know, some of you prefer to wait until the book's complete and in your hands.  I admire your self-control.  As a reader, I have none.)


Friday, October 24, 2014

Kickstarter Resources

As I get ready to kickstart The Labyrinth of Flame in February, I've been asking author-friends who've successfully crowd-sourced projects for advice and lessons learned.  Many people have been very generous in sharing their experience and knowledge, which I am hugely grateful for.  Both for my own reference and that of others, I thought I'd start a post here collecting links to useful information as well as some examples of author kickstarters.  I'll add to this as I discover new posts - and after my own kickstarter is done, write up what I learned as well. 

How Kickstarter is replacing the traditional publisher (Michael J. Sullivan)
Judging your novel's Kickstarter chances (Matt Forbeck)
How to run a successful Kickstarter, Part 1 (Brad Beaulieu)
How to run a successful Kickstarter, Part 2 (Brad Beaulieu)
One weird trick for a successful kickstarter project (The  Doubleclicks)
A Warts-and-All Guide to Kickstarter: What Works and What Doesn't (Plus Where We Royally Screwed Up) (Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant)
How I Planned My Kickstarter And Why I Think It Worked Out So Well (Harry Connolly)
How to Use Kickstarter to Fund a Self-Published Book (Mur Lafferty)
Kickstarter - What does it all mean (Lee Moyer)
Kickstarter White Paper part 1 (Lee Moyer)
Kickstarter White Paper part 2 (Lee Moyer)
The SF Signal Podcast Episode 206 - John Joseph Adams, Mary Robinette Kowal, Matt Forbeck, and Tobias Buckell on Kickstarters and the new Anthology Project - HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY
Episode 68 of Speculate! - The State of the Field (Kickstarter Edition), with special guests Matt Forbeck and Lee Moyer

Author Kickstarters:
Michael J. Sullivan's Hollow World Kickstarter
Bradley P. Beaulieu's Flames of Shadam Khoreh Kickstarter
Bradley P. Beaulieu's Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten Kickstarter
Tim Pratt's Lady of Misrule Kickstarter
Tim Pratt's Grim Tides Kickstarter
Tim Pratt's Bride of Death Kickstarter
Harry Connolly's The Great Way Kickstarter
Mur Lafferty's The Afterlife Series Kickstarter
Kerry Schafer's The Nothing Kickstarter

Small Press Kickstarters
J.M. Martin (Ragnarok Publications)'s Blackguards Anthology Kickstarter
J.M. Martin (Ragnarok Publications)'s Kaiju Rising Anthology Kickstarter
Silence in the Library's Icarus: A Graphic Novel Kickstarter

Thursday, October 16, 2014

MileHiCon 2014 Schedule

Next weekend I'll be taking a brief break from revision to attend MileHiCon in Denver.  Actually, not really a break...I'm bringing my laptop and will continue to work furiously whenever I get the chance.  (One and a half chapters left that need a full white-page rewrite! Then I will be in the homestretch - the last few chapters only need adjusting, not complete rewriting.)

This year for the first time I'm staying at the con rather than driving down every day, so I'm pretty darn excited about the chance for extra sleep and writing time.  Oh yes, and also seeing friends, meeting new people, and all the usual fun con activities.  (Haha, I think I must be one of the few people whose first thought upon contemplating a weekend at a con is "Hell yeah, I'm gonna get some SLEEP.")

Here's my panel schedule - notice how none of my panels are before noon?  This is going to be an excellent con. But seriously, if you're attending, please come and say hi! I promise I enjoy interacting just as much as I do sleeping. And if my last-minute rush print job gets shipped in time, I will have lovely Labyrinth of Flame postcards to hand out.  

Saturday, Oct 25:

2pm: Kickstarter & Beyond: Successful Crowd-Sourcing

7pm: Worst Tropes EVER: 10 We'd Like to Ban from Books & Film

Sunday, Oct 26:

2pm: Rocks In Their Heads: Stupid Geology

3pm: Writing That is Adored/Obsessed Over

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cover reveal for The Labyrinth of Flame

Those of you on my mailing list got a sneak peek of the cover art, but today I'm thrilled to announce that Fantasy Book Critic is revealing the full front cover of The Labyrinth of Flame.  (Complete with a lovely write-up about the Shattered Sigil series! I am so grateful for the support FBC and other bloggers have given my books.) 

I'm so freaking excited about the book and its cover that it's hard for me not to pounce on everyone I meet and be all, "LOOK! LOOK at the awesomeness!"  (My co-workers have already had to practice their patience.  "Yes, you already showed me the cover.  Twice.  Now can we please talk about something more important, like which couloirs to ski this year?")  Ah, the tribulations of authorhood...or really, the tribulations of knowing an author.

The cover artist is David Palumbo, who also did the covers for the first two novels in the series. 

Dave Palumbo and I at WorldCon in 2012
Dave's an incredible artist and an all-around great guy, so I was delighted he was able to do Labyrinth's cover for me.  It was extra fun this time around, as I got to see all the intermediate steps.  For the previous two books, one day I'd get an email from Night Shade saying, "Here's your cover, hope you like it!"  Now that I was the one hiring Dave, I got to choose between concept sketches, ask for adjustments, etc, so we worked far more closely together than before.  I have to admit, this is the part of self-publishing that's fun.

The cover designer is Martha Wade, who also did the cover design for Tainted City.  It's been great working with her as well.  We're still tweaking the back cover, but soon as that's ready I'll be showing that off too.

As far as revision goes, I'm continuing to plug along, slowly but surely.  A couple more tricky scenes have to be totally rewritten, and then I'll finally hit the ending section, where the chapters need adjustments/deepening but (hopefully!) not white-page rewrites.  My goal now is to finish before the ski season kicks into serious gear. 

As always, if you'd like to stay updated on the book, you can join the Labyrinth of Flame mailing list by emailing me at courtney (at) courtneyschafer (dot) com.