Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Still busy, but far happier

After a solid month of horrible gray rainy days, I can't even tell you how happy I am that Colorado has finally stopped pretending it is the Pacific Northwest. We're still getting thunderstorms every day, but hey, at least the sun shows in between the storms now!

Sun on the Flatirons - at last!
Seriously, I would never survive in Seattle. It's truly amazing how much happier and energetic I am on sunny days compared to rainy ones. (Snow is okay. Snow means skiing and sledding and fun. Rain just means dampness, dreariness, and flooding. Also, my son's school constantly cancelling all their afterschool activities, because in Colorado people think children will melt if they get wet.)

So my life remains crazy busy, but now the sun has returned my stress levels have gone way down. I'm chunking along on my structural edits for Labyrinth of Flame - only a few weeks more work, and the book will be ready for line editing. One big step closer to publication, which is exciting and nervewracking all at once. But mostly exciting! My goodness, I've been working on this book for so long it's hard to imagine a day when it'll finally be finished and in readers' hands. But that day gets closer all the time.

In other news, registration for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold conference is now open. I'm teaming up with fellow fantasy author Kerry Schafer (no relation, believe it or not!) to present a workshop on our experience with Kickstarter, sharing lessons learned, tips, and advice. This is my first time presenting but my sixth time attending; I highly recommend the conference to any writers in the area if you have the cash. It's where I first met my agent and joined my critique group, both of which have been absolutely invaluable. The conference sold out last year, so if you're interested, don't wait.

And now, back to edits! I'm so close to the finish line. (Or one of them, anyway. But this one's a big one.) See you in June...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Not dead, just busy

I realized it's been over a month since I last posted here.  Quite a change from the "all posts all the time" frenzy during Labyrinth of Flame's Kickstarter, huh?  But I swear, my silence has been for good reason. I've been working like crazy on structural edits for the book.  18 chapters edited, 16 to go!  Plus I've been sending ebooks of the first two novels out to the (rather large) number of people who chose the "ebook trilogy" reward for the Kickstarter, and setting up contracts with editors and illustrators, and critiquing pages for people who chose the "writer's special" reward, and about a million other tasks.

(On tonight's task list: prepare list of scenes to be illustrated and send the artist the first half of the book.  Speaking of tasks, if you're curious what a typical "workday" looks like for me as an author, I wrote up a short description for this German blog - in English, not Deutsch.)

Once I'm done with structural edits, the next big step along the production path is line editing.  Labyrinth of Flame's line editor will be Marty Halpern (who came highly recommended to me by several author-friends).  He's got a post on his blog about the Shattered Sigil books - he's currently reading the The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City in preparation for me sending him The Labyrinth of Flame.  

Heh, and in other news, I turned 40 this month (something I was amused to see celebrated on this German SFF blog).  Some of my non-Colorado friends seem to think a 40th birthday requires some kind of despairing freak-out.  I just laugh; here in Boulder, people still run marathons when they're 90.  Granted, not everyone is so lucky to have their health and bodies hold out.  But so long as mine does, I'm gonna keep right on playing as hard as I ever have in the mountains.  Warren Miller may say, "Anyone who says they're a better skier in their 40s than they were in their 20s...wasn't a very good skier in their 20s."  But I say that's the beauty of coming to skiing late. :)

Oh, and just in case you're saying, "Gosh, I wish I had another fantasy featuring lots of magic and a young blood mage with a mysterious past to read while I wait for The Labyrinth of Flame..."  - I've got the perfect rec for you!  While suffering from a horrible cold a few weeks back, I read V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic and LOVED it.  One of those books that hit all my personal buttons just right as a reader.  Nifty magic, a great use of a parallel world concept, some great characters I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with (including the aforementioned young blood mage!), and a well-crafted story that kept me zipping through the pages (or hitting "next" on my Kindle, anyway).  The story works pretty well as a standalone but leaves enough threads open that I cannot wait for the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows.  (It releases next year. Thankfully I am so busy I know the time will go fast.)


Friday, March 20, 2015

Ultimate Fan Reward Winner, and The Big List of Under-Read Books

Thank you so much to all of you who entered the Ultimate Fan reward raffle  - especially you determined souls who soldiered on despite blogger eating your comments (so sorry for the trouble!). I really appreciate you sharing so many wonderful book recommendations.  I've collated the recs into an alphabetized list, but first, the lucky winner of the random draw is...

Moonlightower (a.k.a. Larry), who recommended Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (excellent choice, by the way!)

Congratulations, Larry! I'll contact you through Kickstarter to confirm your upgraded reward status. While you're waiting for The Labyrinth of Flame, you can start dreaming up what short story you might like me to write for you (plus look forward to all the other goodies included!).

Now for the giant list o' recommendations, which has an excellent selection of books for whenever you're next looking for a good read.  I've read a fair number of these myself, so I put stars by the ones I can also recommend.  I look forward to trying the others!

I've also put together a Goodreads version of the list, where you're welcome to vote for those books you'd recommend and add new titles to the pile.

And Eternity, Piers Anthony
Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb*
Babylon 5: Centauri Prime trilogy, Peter David
Babylon 5: The Passing of the Techno-Mages trilogy, Jeanne Cavelos
The Changeling Prince, Vivian Vande Valde
The Cloud Roads, Martha Wells
Codex Alera, Jim Butcher*
Covenants, Lorna Freeman
Curse of the Mistwraith, Janny Wurts*
The Dawnhawk trilogy, Jonathon Burgess
The Death of the Necromancer, Martha Wells*
Dogsland trilogy, J.M. McDermott*
The Door into Fire, Diane Duane*
The Eye of Night, Pauline Alama
Lighthouse Duet (Flesh and Sprit, Breath and Bone), Carol Berg*
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes*
Forever War, Joe Haldeman*
Galveston, Sean Stewart
Gentlemen Bastards series, Scott Lynch*
Golden Fool, Robin Hobb*
Grass, Sheri S. Tepper*
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, Mike Brown
The Icarus Hunt, Timothy Zahn
Job: A Comedy of Justice, Robert Heinlein
Locke & Key, Joe Hill*
Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett*
Matthew Swift series, Kate Griffin
The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley*
Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Teresa Frohock*
Moon's Artifice, Tom Lloyd
Of Blood and Honey, Stina Leicht*
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Andrew Peterson
Paradox trilogy, Rachel Bach*
Red Devil, Kyell Gold
Red Sky at Morning, Richard Bradford
Resurrection Man, Sean Stewart
Riddle in Stone, Robert Evert
The Silvered, Tanya Huff
Sparrows Flight, Curtis Craddock*
The Sundering duology (Banewreaker and Godslayer), Jacqueline Carey
The Thousand Names, Django Wexler*
To Ride Hell's Chasm, Janny Wurts*
vN, Madeline Ashby
Warchild, Karin Lowachee*
Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor*
The Wizard Hunters, Martha Wells*
The Wolf of Winter, Paula Volsky*
Zones of Thought series, Vernor Vinge*

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kickstarter Aftermath: in which I celebrate with pics from my favorite 14er

The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter has officially concluded! Final stats are $11,368 pledged from 323 backers. I still stare at those numbers and boggle.  In a good way! When I launched, I was hopeful about the KS making the basic goal but at the same time totally nervous that it wouldn't.  I was both thrilled and relieved when The Labyrinth of Flame funded.  But for the KS to go so high that I can pay for interior art as well as book production...oh goodness, I hardly dared dream of that.

Yet here we are!  I'm excited to roll up my sleeves and dig into edits.  Even more excited to see illustrations and maps when they're ready.  Most excited of all for the day when the book will be all polished and shiny and beautiful and on its way to you...but there's a lot of work to do before then over the next few weeks and months, both on the production and administrative side.

So, I'll once again be posting infrequently here - which will feel weird at first after a month of posting every single day!  But I'll be around on twitter, and I'll announce production milestones and other news here as well as in updates to backers.  (First up will be the announcement of the Ultimate Fan Reward Raffle winner on Friday. I'm going to include a collated list of the backer book recommendations, too.  It's been really fun reading them, and I've already added a few new titles to my own TBR pile.)

In closing, I leave you with a few last mountain pictures from a trip that's a very happy memory: my first ascent of Mt. Sneffels, my favorite 14er in Colorado.  A fitting way to celebrate a joyful publication milestone!

Morning light on Sneffels's lower slopes

View from the ascent ridge
I love southwestern Colorado's San Juan Mountains because they are far more rugged than the peaks near Boulder

Looking back down the ascent couloir

Scrambling up a v-notch at the top of the couloir

Looking down at Blue Lakes Basin (I bet you can guess how it got the name)

WOO HOO!  This is just how I feel whenever I look at the completed Kickstarter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kickstarter Day 29: THE LAST DAY

Mere hours left to go on The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter!  Last night the KS zoomed right past what I had assumed would be the final stretch goal.  I was seriously so stunned (and delighted!) my brain was nothing but fireworks - I had to wait until this morning before I could settle on a final FINAL stretch goal.  Haha, and this time I decided to go for one that's a little different than the others.  (Thanks to faithful blog reader Steve MC, who last night sent me a joking suggestion that I decided to take in earnest!  Because why not get a little silly on the last day?)

Whether or not you're a backer, be sure to check out all the awesome book recommendations that backers are leaving on yesterday's post as part of the Ultimate Fan Reward Raffle! I'm busy taking notes on the recs I haven't yet read.

If you missed it on twitter yesterday, I've got a guest post over at A Dribble Of Ink talking about how my years in the Colorado Mountain Club and my love of the Sierra Nevada influenced the Shattered Sigil books.

On this final day of the Kickstarter, when I'm celebrating reaching a goal even higher than I dared to dream, I thought I'd share pics of the view from the highest real-world summit I've yet stood upon: 14,505-ft Mt. Whitney in my beloved eastern Sierra Nevada.  I've shared pics before on this blog from a climb of Whitney, but at that time I hadn't scanned in my old pics of the incredible view from the top.  I only wish I could show you what the stars look like from the summit!  Most incredible stargazing I've ever had.  But I can at least provide you the daytime view from a place that few get to visit:

Mt. Whitney (center of pic) as seen from the Owens Valley.  This is the sort of view that inspired Ninavel, the Painted Valley, and the Whitefire Mountains!  Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous US.  (Lone Pine Peak, the pointy one at the left, looks higher because it's closer, but is actually only 12,944 ft.)
My husband and I on Mt. Whitney's summit, with Owens Valley and the White Mountains in the background

Looking southwest from Whitney's summit over the Sierra's peaks and plateaus

Looking straight down at the Owens Valley, 10,000 feet below to the east!  The town of Lone Pine is the green blotch on the valley floor.
Looking straight west into the heart of the Sierra
Looking north along the Sierra's crest (smoke from a distant forest fire is hazing the air)
For my final book rec, I'm choosing a title from an author who's who's been hugely supportive of the Shattered Sigil series for years, tirelessly recommending my books to his readers and on online forums, over and over again.  I can't even tell you how helpful that kind of sustained word of mouth is.  But don't read Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools because he's been so supportive.  Read it because Mark is an incredible writer.  Dark and compelling and sharply witty - that last especially shines through in Prince of Fools.  Mark's prior Broken Empire trilogy is too dark and brutal for some, but if you avoided Prince of Thorns because you weren't sure you could stomach a sociopathic main character, give Prince of Fools a try.  Protagonist Jalan isn't half so vicious as Jorg, and he's far funnier in his dedicated cowardice that keeps getting mistaken for heroism.  Plus, this is Mark's take on a buddy adventure, and Jalan's adventuring partner Snorri has all the heroism that Jalan lacks.  (But Snorri isn't just a Viking badass; he's got more depth than that.  He's my favorite character so far.) Book 2 of the Red Queen's War, The Liar's Key, is one of my most anticipated releases this year.

So there you have it.  Only hours to go now - thank you so much for coming on this journey with me! Can't believe it's almost over! But I am so looking forward to sharing The Labyrinth of Flame with you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kickstarter Day 28 (1 day left!): Interior art and Ultimate Fan Reward Raffle

Big news: The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter passed the interior art goal!!!!  I WOW.  I keep staring at the project page in dazed delight.  I really was not sure if we'd make it.  But now, to think the book is going to have Kristina Carroll's amazing art in it...oh goodness, I can't stop smiling.

That's not all I'm excited about, either! I know some of the biggest fans of the Shattered Sigil series don't have $900 to plunk down for the Ultimate Fan reward.  So starting today I'm running a drawing for interested backers, where one person will get their reward upgraded to Ultimate Fan level.  Rules are simple: comment here with your backer name and the name of a book you wish more people would read.  One entry allowed per backer; drawing is open until midnight MDT Thursday Mar 19.   On Fri the 20th I'll randomly choose one commenter for the reward upgrade.  Notification of winner will happen here on the blog and via Kickstarter message and update.

(What is the Ultimate Fan reward?  Here's the description from my KS page: "I'll write a short story set in the Shattered Sigil world featuring the characters of your choice (and I'll name a new character after you if you like!). Plus you get a signed set of trade paperbacks of the entire series, DRM-free ebook of The Labyrinth of Flame (and ebooks of the first two novels if you don't have them already), hi-res image of series map, 18x24 poster of the cover art for Labyrinth of Flame, your name in the acknowledgments, and your choice of a peak climb, skating lesson, climbing lesson, or lunch with me at a convention.")    

Good luck to all!  Looking forward to seeing what books you recommend.  In closing, I offer pics from Kit Carson Peak  in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo range, because Kit Carson is top of my list for "14ers I want to try again."  The Sangre de Cristo loom high over Great Sand Dunes National Park in a way that reminds me happily of the Owens Valley and eastern Sierra:

Sand dunes to the left, Sangre de Cristo in background

After playing about on the dunes for a while, my husband and I backpacked into Willow Lake on the peak's western side.  Willow Lake is one of the most scenic places I've camped in Colorado - the lake itself is beautiful, and the ridges around it have all kinds of fascinatingly odd rock formations.  Plus there's a local herd of bighorn sheep that wander about the lakeshore, displaying very little fear of humans.    

Willow Lake
Knobby ridge
I could spend weeks here scrambling up all the side peaks
Bighorn sheep visiting our campsite
On the day we had planned to climb Kit Carson, the weather did not cooperate.  Heavy fog blanketed the mountain (complete with graupel and sleet).  We started up the class 3 route but the rocks were icy and our visibility nil; we couldn't be sure of staying on safe terrain, so we turned around.  So it goes, in Colorado! But I was not sad. Turning back just meant I had the perfect excuse to return to Willow Lake some day.  And if you win the Ultimate Fan raffle, maybe you can even come with me.  (But it's okay if you just prefer to have a nice sedate lunch. :)    

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kickstarter Day 27 (2 to go): Spearhead and a classic sword-and-planet tale

Two days left on The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter! So close to the end that the Kickstarter page has started counting down in hours, not days.  As I write this, 59 left until 9pm MDT Tuesday!  We continue to inch ever closer to that interior art goal...I'm trying not to look at the page too many times. ;)

Today's pics feature an area I've visited many times: Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I've done the hike up to Black Lake and beyond in every season of the year; the trailhead is only an hour's drive from my house.  Yet I still haven't climbed Spearhead, the massive rock formation that dominates the upper gorge.  It's pretty high on my wish list; and now that my son's getting older, the time to start knocking items off that wish list is coming soon.  Even if you don't climb, the basin is lovely.  Particularly in fall, when the aspens are gold.

Hiking near Black Lake in Glacier Gorge
Spearhead.  Just look at that rock face! There's also a class 3 scrambling route to the summit (the route is used as a descent by climbers)
Fall colors 
Much as I love fantasy, I have to admit that I miss one thing about the days when SF was the more popular genre: all the sword-and-planet tales of SF adventure.  Sure, lots of them were thinly disguised fantasy - the author wanted to write a fantasy story, but needed to sell it as SF, so they set the tale on a "lost colony" planet where civilization has reverted to pre-technological status.  But at the same time, authors felt free to use SF tropes; their settings had alien races and flora and fauna, and they didn't hesitate to mix magic and "ancient" technology.  That was really fun to read, and I think it's a shame there aren't more sword-and-planet novels these days.

Today's rec is for one such book I really enjoyed back in the day: Marcia J. Bennett's Where the Ni-Lach.  The protagonist is a young man who has thought all his life he's human, only to discover he's in truth one of the feared Ni-Lach, a race that was exterminated by the human colonists.  An unscrupulous man seeks to force him to find the Ni-Lach's long-lost treasure, and adventure ensues.  It's a solidly enjoyable story with engaging characters, and is the first in a similarly enjoyable series.  Bennett's books are out of print and sadly unavailable in electronic form, but I still mention the series because I loved it too much to have it vanish, forgotten by modern readers, as so many other books I loved as a child seem to have.  (Thank goodness for libraries! Books like Bennett's can still be found through the Prospector system and other inter-library loan programs.)