Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Revision Update, and two awesome August books

After a good start, July turned out to be a rough month, writing-wise.  I ran into some tricky scenes, had some day job and life distractions, all the usual things that make writing hard when you're a parent with little free time.  I made some progress, but nowhere near what I was hoping.  So!  For August, the plan is to buckle down.  I can't control day job fire drills or other wackiness, but there are distractions I can block out.  Like, Ye Olde Internet.  If I've got even 5 spare minutes, I want to spend them working on Labyrinth of Flame.  Not deciding to take a "brain break" by idly checking Reddit's r/Fantasy forum, and then getting sucked into a discussion of the visibility of female authors in epic fantasy, as happened today (oops).

As of now, I've got 14 chapters left to revise (yes, this is a long freaking book).  Some need a lot of revision, some less.  I'm going to see how far I can get in August, and then make a decision about whether to run a kickstarter in mid-October, or wait until after the holidays.

(By the way, I've had some emails from German fans recently, worried that my self-publishing Labyrinth of Flame means it may not come out in Germany.  While I don't yet have a contract with Bastei Lübbe for Labyrinth, they've been asking when the manuscript will be ready, so I'm certainly hopeful they will buy the book and you won't be left hanging.)

Anyway, starting Aug 1, I'm going dark for a while.  If there's any nifty book-related news, I'll reappear to share it.  (One cool thing about August is that the cover artist, Dave Palumbo, is starting work on the cover for Labyrinth of Flame.  I'm so excited to see what he does!)  Other than that, I'm going to do my best to stay off the web & spend every spare second on finishing the book.

But before I vanish, there are two novels coming out in August that I wanted to highlight here.  They're very different in style and tone, but both writers are amazing.

1. Dust and Light (Sanctuary Duet #1), by Carol Berg (August 5)

Carol Berg is one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors.  She consistently produces one excellent novel after another, full of magic and adventure and incredibly well-drawn characters.  This new series takes place in the same world as her previous Lighthouse Duet, which I adored.  You don't have to have read the previous books to enjoy these; either series can be read first, as they take place concurrently.  I read Dust and Light in draft form, and thought it was terrific - I'm a sucker for reluctant friendships between two very different characters, and D&L has a wonderful example of that between the mage Lucian and the abrasive coroner he ends up working for.  It's epic fantasy crossed with a detective story, and the plot's got plenty of delicious twists and turns to keep you guessing.  For all her many devoted fans, Carol deserves even more - so go on, give Dust and Light a try!

2. The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker #1), by Kameron Hurley (August 26)

I read this one in ARC form, and gave it this blurb: "Bold, merciless, and wildly inventive, Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire begins an epic tale of worlds at war that will linger long in readers' imaginations.  If you're looking for original and challenging fantasy, this is definitely the series for you."  I mean every word of it, too.  Kameron's work here is hugely ambitious, and her imagination nothing short of incredible.  Don't go in expecting a comfort read; this is grimdark-style fantasy, where the characters are interesting rather than likable.  The book will challenge you, make you think, perhaps make you uncomfortable.  (There were certainly parts it did me.)  But that's part of what fantasy is for: to stretch our horizons and our imaginations, and Kameron does that with gusto.  If that appeals to you at all, you must try this book.

And now, commence vanishing act.  At least until I've got cover art or other good news to share!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thursday Adventure (and a revision update): Telluride, Colorado

I started July by taking a few days off work to concentrate on revising The Labyrinth of Flame, which was both wonderful and frustrating.  Why frustrating?  Because I saw just how productive I could be with entire day-long chunks of time.  I tell you, if I could take a month off work I'd have this revision finished, bam.  Alas, I must return to snatching scraps of time whenever I can, making progress in inches instead of bounds.  But I've passed 100K - always a big psychological milestone for me - and once I get the rest of the midsection of the book properly fixed up (darn those pesky logistical and inter-character details I skimmed over in the first draft!), the climax should require far less work. I hope.

After my 3-day book-writing vacation, we took a real vacation - our annual 4th of July trip to Telluride down in southwestern Colorado.  I could go on for hours about how much I love Telluride....but I figured since I haven't done a Thursday Adventure post in forever, I'll just show some of the pics from this year's trip, and let you see for yourself how gorgeous the San Juan Mountains are.

The town of Telluride, nestled in a box canyon deep in the San Juan Mountains.  The ski runs above town are some of the best and steepest mogul slopes in Colorado.
View from our condo.  The town's small enough you don't need a car - everyone bikes and walks everywhere.
My son indicates Telluride's airport, visible on the mesa in the distance.  We've never flown to Telluride (we just drive), but I hear it's a hell of a landing.  At 9,070 ft, it's North America's highest commercial airport.
My husband and I got married in Telluride, and we return at least once every year.  Visiting over the 4th of July is always great - the town has a fun little parade, followed by fireworks at night that are truly spectacular. (Nothing beats fireworks in a box canyon - the echoes roll on forever.)

My son and my husband, ready to watch the parade
The parade involves plenty of cowboys...
Yetis and climbers doing crazy things (yes, the guys dangling off the truck are in skydiving wing suits)...
And plenty of people being silly.
This year was extra fun because my son is finally old enough to do some actual hikes and bike rides instead of just toddling along beside the creek.  The weather was lovely, though in typical Colorado fashion, a thunderstorm rolled in every afternoon at 2pm.  You want to hike in Colorado, you've got to do it early.

Ready to hike!

The views are always amazing
I love me some spiky ridges
The San Juans are much wetter than the mountains near Denver, and as such, far greener and chock full of wildflowers
Lizard Head (the little rock formation poking up on the left) and the Wilson group of peaks, which includes several 14ers (El Diente and the less imaginatively named Wilson Peak and Mt. Wilson) 

The waterfalls are pretty awesome, too.
Checking out Cornet Creek Falls
Looking toward the head of the box canyon. 
The aspen are large and plentiful, which makes for beautiful fall color displays
The key to hiking with a 5 year old is to keep things silly
It was a great trip.  I read some excellent books during the 6+ hour drive back, including Mazarkis Williams's The Tower Broken, M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts, and Jim Butcher's Skin Game.  Just to cap it all off, when I got back to Boulder I discovered people saying very nice things about my books on Reddit's r/Fantasy  - talk about a good homecoming!

I'll do a post next week on July's new releases I'm excited about reading, but other than that, it's back to the revision cave for me.  Until next time...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Whitefire Crossing is on sale for $1.99 today!

Super quick post to share that The Whitefire Crossing's ebook is on sale today for $1.99 on US Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo (plus you can get Audible audiobook for only $3.99 more through Amazon's Whispersync program).  Sale is one day only, ends at midnight (eastern time, I assume!).  Regular ebook price is $9.99 (set by publisher, not me) so it's a pretty significant discount.  I figure most of you who see this post have already read the book, but if you've friends who might be interested, spread the word!  I'm guessing this is the one chance this year to get the book for a sale price.

And just in case your friends need convincing, check out this terrific blurb I recently got from New York Times bestselling author Jason M. Hough (unsolicited, because he is just that awesome): "Enthralling from the very first page, Schafer's novel lavishes rich characters and refined narrative on to a story of intensely personal scope. Refreshing and brilliant."  When my agent forwarded me Jason's email with the blurb, I was walking on the air for the rest of the day. Thanks, Jason!

Best of all, today I look forward to 6 whole hours of writing time on The Labyrinth of Flame - the longest chunk I've had in months.  I signed my son up for an extra day in preschool thinking it was necessary for my day job, but then it turned out I didn't need to come into work: WRITING TIME AHOY!!!  As someone used to writing in snatches of time here and there, usually while exhausted, the idea of an entire day to focus on the book is pretty much the Best Thing Ever.  Now I just need to unplug my internet cable.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

New Releases I'm Dying to Read, June 2014 Edition

Every time I finish revising a chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame, I let myself buy & read a book.  Makes for great motivation - something I need if I'm going to finish this draft in time to run a Kickstarter in October!  My poor five year old has been hit hard by seasonal allergies this spring, which means a lot of 3am weeping because his nose is all blocked up and he can't sleep.  Needless to say, that means I'm not getting much sleep either. It's hard to sit down at the keyboard and force myself to work when I'm exhausted.  Thank goodness, the lure of a potentially awesome new read is strong enough that I can usually manage some progress each night.  And June is bringing a whole host of new releases that I can't wait to read - enough to keep me motivated for many more chapters!  Check 'em out:

1. Prince of Fools (Mark Lawrence), release date June 3

I was hugely impressed by Lawrence's previous trilogy (the Broken Empire books).  It's damn hard to write a protagonist so viciously amoral as Jorg and make him so compelling, but Lawrence pulled it off in grand style, wasting not a word in his brutally elegant prose.  I hear Prince of Fools is awesome in a whole different way, featuring a protagonist that's quite different in character and containing a lot more humor. Can't wait to see for myself; I've little doubt that Lawrence will keep me riveted to the page once again.      

2. The Tower Broken (Mazarkis Williams), release date June 3

Third in Williams's excellent Tower and Knife trilogy.  I've been waiting for this one for AGES (it's been out in the UK for months now).  The first two novels were bleak but hauntingly beautiful; subtle and absorbing. I'm really excited to see how Williams ends the story.

3. Essence (Lisa Ann O'Kane), release date June 3

What's that you say?  Essence is a dystopian YA thriller featuring a cult of adrenaline junkies living in Yosemite, written by someone who spent an entire summer camping in the park?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

4. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (Genevieve Valentine), release date June 3

The description of this one wouldn't necessarily have caught my interest ("a re-imagining of the fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan..."), but I was blown away by Genevieve Valentine's previous novel Mechanique.  To the point where I'm ready to insta-buy no matter what the story's about, and trust that it will be awesome.

5. Shield and Crocus (Michael R. Underwood), release date June 10

Epic fantasy with superheroes! Sounds like a cool mash-up to me.  I haven't read anything by Underwood before but I'm eager to give this one a go.

6. We Leave Together (J.M. McDermott), releasing sometime in June

Third in McDermott's Dogsland trilogy. I can't even tell you how glad I am this book will be published (the series was one of those caught up in the whole Night Shade Books mess).  The Dogsland books are dark, literary, and refreshingly different from anything else on the fantasy shelf; it's a crime the series hasn't yet been discovered by more readers.          

Other June books I've added to my TBR list: The Leopard (K.V. Johansen), California Bones (Greg van Eekhout), Cibola Burn (James S.A. Corey), Written in my Own Heart's Blood (Diana Gabaldon)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

News on the release of The Labyrinth of Flame

A lot of you have been waiting a long time for news about the release of the third and final book in my Shattered Sigil trilogy, The Labyrinth of Flame.  Ever since Night Shade Books (publisher of the first two novels) nearly went bankrupt last year and got bought out, I've had people asking about the book's status and my plans for release. Finally, I've got something to share.

On the advice of my agent, I've decided to put out The Labyrinth of Flame myself rather than seeking traditional publication for it.  This isn't for monetary reasons.  I'm lucky in having a day job that I love, so I don't care much about my royalty percentage or anything like that.  Ordinarily I'm all about traditional publishing, because I'd rather write (or skate, or ski, or climb mountains) than do book production.  But in this particular case, when my agent and I reviewed options, I ended up deciding that self-publication was the better path for Labyrinth.  Why?

1) I can get the book out to you faster.  Traditional publishing has long, looooong lead times.  This book's taken me long enough to write; I don't want you to have to wait another year or more to read it after I finish revising it.

2) I can make sure the look and quality of the book matches the first two.  I know those of you who buy physical books often prefer to have books in a series be a "matched set."  I've already talked to the cover artist for the first two novels (David Palumbo) and one of the previous cover designers (Martha Wade), and they are willing and able to do cover work for Labyrinth.  Similarly, I intend to hire an interior designer, editor, copyeditor, etc, so that the quality of this third book will be equal to the beautiful editions that Night Shade put out for the first two.

3) I plan on doing a Kickstarter to fund the production work, which means I can potentially offer all sorts of fun bonuses.  Related short stories! Interior art! Maps! (Not sure what a Kickstarter is?  Check out these examples from fellow authors Brad Beaulieu and Michael J. Sullivan.)

"Okay, okay," you may be saying.  "You're going to self-pub, I get it.  But WHEN?"

The plan: first and foremost, I've got to finish my revision. At my current rate of progress, I'm hoping to have the book done by summer's end.  Assuming that happens, I'll run a Kickstarter in the fall, probably mid-October.  Ebook versions of Labyrinth would be sent to backers as soon as the editing and file conversion process is complete - say, a month or so after the Kickstarter finishes.  Print editions will take a little longer to produce and ship.  (How long depends on printer scheduling, whether or not interior art is added, etc - but say on the order of 2-3 months after the Kickstarter finishes.)  After all the print copies are shipped, I will officially release the book on the various online retailer websites (Amazon, B&N, etc).

So. Sometime this winter, I hope you'll be enjoying the conclusion of Dev and Kiran's story at long last.  Oh gosh, I'm so excited about this book, you all.  If you get even half as much entertainment out of reading it as I have in writing it, that's all the success I could ever want as an author.

In the meantime, if you want to stay updated on the book's release - see the cover art when it's ready, get notified when the Kickstarter begins, stuff like that - be sure and shoot me an email at courtney (at) courtneyschafer (dot) com, and I'll put you on my Labyrinth of Flame mailing list.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Tainted City (a.k.a. Stadt der Magier) releases in Germany

Die Chroniken von Ninavel continues in Germany, hooray!  Today's the release date for Stadt der Magier ("City of Mages"), the German edition of The Tainted City.  Hope German readers enjoy it as much as they seem to have Die Blutmagier ("The Bloodmages") / The Whitefire Crossing.  I'll admit I have fun practicing my (rusty) German by reading the occasional blog reviews auf Deutsch that Google alerts sends to me.

In other news, Reddit's r/Fantasy forum put together a 225-book ranked list of "Under-read and under-rated fantasy", which also got featured on - and The Whitefire Crossing is #3.  Sweet!  Seriously, it's great to know that those who've read my book feel strongly that more people should read it. Whitefire is in some pretty stellar company there, too. If you're looking for great fantasy to read, the list is a terrific resource.  My own TBR pile has sure gotten a heck of a lot longer.

In other other news, I'll be making an announcement soon about plans for The Labyrinth of Flame's release (at long last!) - so stay tuned.  And now, back to revision I go...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Releases I'm Dying to Read, May 2014 Edition (plus, revision update!)

Labyrinth of Flame revision update: Between the need to address some behind-the-scenes business stuff plus running into a few scenes that needed a LOT of work, I didn't make as much forward progress in revision as I was hoping for in April.  That said, I'm nearly at 80K now, closing in on the halfway point, so progress was still made.  Also, the book now has a back-cover description, which I've put up on Labyrinth's Goodreads page and my website.  (Description is very spoilery for previous book Tainted City, but hopefully not very spoilery for Labyrinth!)

Haha, and in the classic authorial rite of passage, I noticed that the book already has two ratings, even though I'm not done writing it. A 4-star, and a 1-star.  The 4-star actually cracks me up the most.  Most times you see people either rating unreleased books as 5-star ("OMG I can't wait!") or 1-star ("The existence of further books in this series offends me.")  But when I see 2-4 star advance ratings, I can't help but wonder...does it mean, "I'm sort of excited about this book, but not really"?  Or did the person just poke the wrong part of their phone touchscreen?  Ah, the mysteries of authorhood that will never be answered....

And now, onward to the books I'm excited about in May:

1. Jeff Salyards's Veil of the Deserters (ebook release May 19, print release June 3)

I thought the first novel in Jeff Salyards's Bloodsounders Arc (Scourge of the Betrayer) was pretty darn great; needless to say, when offered the chance to read an ARC version of Veil, I didn't hesitate. I liked it just as much (maybe even more) than the Scourge, so I happily blurbed it: "Veil of the Deserters builds upon the promise of Scourge of the Betrayer, continuing Salyards's unique blend of gritty realism, brutal action, and thoughtful introspection even as the story deepens with a host of intriguing revelations.  If you've any taste for military fantasy, read these books."  I mean that last line, by the way, so don't miss out.  I myself will be heading for the bookstore to snag a hardback copy when release day comes.

2. Douglas Hulick's Sworn in Steel, release date May 6

This one I haven't read yet, but I've been waiting eagerly for it ever since finishing Hulick's debut novel Among Thieves way back in 2011.  I'm a sucker for a sardonic, streetwise first-person protagonist of dubious morality, and Hulick's protagonist Drothe is that in spades.  Can't wait to read his next adventure at long last!

3. Stephanie Saulter's Gemsigns, release date May 6

I've seen some glowing reviews of this one from bloggers whose taste often aligns with mine, so my interest is piqued. Looking forward to reading Saulter's take on genetically engineered humans and the ethics thereof.  

4. Merrie Haskell's The Castle Behind Thorns, release date May 27

I've heard great things about this middle grade reworking of Sleeping Beauty; I'll be interested to see how it compares to Helen Lowe's excellent Thornspell.  I love it when authors can take a seemingly familiar story and put their own unique spin on it such that the tale speaks in a whole different way to the reader.

Others releasing in May that I'm adding to the TBR pile: Trudi Canavan's Thief's Magic, Michael J. Martinez's The Enceladus Crisis, Brian McClellan's The Crimson Campaign, and Will McIntosh's Defenders.