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 just...I...wow. 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.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kickstarter Day 26 (3 to go): snowshoe fun and a fantasy adventure

3 days left on The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter!  We're still hovering near that interior art goal: so close but not quite over the mark.  Some backers have upped their pledges to help the KS reach it, and I want to say a huge THANK YOU for that.  You rock, and I am so, so grateful.

Today I took a much-needed break and headed out to the backcountry with a friend for some snowshoe fun.  We headed up toward Jasper Lake in the Indian Peaks, much of our path off-trail, and enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous day.  Eight miles of off-trail snowshoeing feels more like 16 - amazing how much harder you have to work in unpacked snow - but the effort was totally worth it.  Just look at these pics:

Indian Peaks vista

The snowfield beckons

After a strenuous yet lovely day in the mountains, when reccing a book I just have to go for a terrific wilderness adventure: Janny Wurts's To Ride Hell's Chasm. I've mentioned the book here before - it's a standalone novel that starts off with some interesting characters and political intrigue, then transitions into an epic, nail-biting flight through a treacherous mountain gorge (complete with vicious flying predators).  The action is intense, and the mountain travel handled with excellent realism.  A great, fast-paced read, with some amazing terrain I sure wish I could visit (if minus the deadly predators, that is.)  Also, Janny did the art shown on this British edition of the cover: how cool is that? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Kickstarter Day 25 (4 to go): Artist announcement and Zion canyoneering

Just 4 days left on The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter!  We're agonizingly close to the interior art goal, and I have some news I'm really excited about: should we make the goal, the extremely talented Kristina Carroll will be doing interior art for the book.

I first came across Kristina's work by seeing discussion of ArtOrder's INSPIRED, which is an art book containing a juried collection of works from more than 30 international artists. Kristina has a black and white illustration in INSPIRED that caught my eye, and when I went to her webpage, I found her portfolio even more impressive.  (I also read and enjoyed this Women in Fantasy Illustration interview with her on Kiri Leonard's site.) 

Several pieces in particular made me think Kristina would be a great fit for illustrating The Labyrinth of Flame.  Like this color piece that totally reminds me of Lizaveta (even if Lizaveta would have darker skin):
 
"Liliana Vess" by Kristina Carroll (c 2009 Wizards of the Coast)
and this black and white one (for reasons that would be spoilers to say, haha):

"Leviathan" by Kristina Carroll
 
Kristina and I have discussed the project - she's excited to work on The Labyrinth of Flame, and I'm even more excited to have her on board!  All I need is that last little bit of funds and I can be certain of commissioning art for three scenes (and if the KS goes past the goal, I can add more), so please -share the Kickstarter link with your friends, your neighbors, your twitter followers, random people on the street....okay, maybe not that last.  But still - we're so close.  Just a few more backers and this book can be something really special, so enormous thanks for any help in getting the word out to people who might not yet have heard about the Kickstarter or the series! 

Moving on from beautiful art to beautiful landscapes, today I thought I'd share what a day canyoneering in Zion National Park is like.  Most of the Utah canyons I've been showing off in these past weeks have been dry canyons.  The only time water flows through them is during a flash flood (though occasional pools of water may remain in "keeper potholes.")  The canyons in Zion National Park are different.  Many of them are wet canyons, formed by streams that flow year-round, and even those without a full-flowing stream often have deep pools and flooded passages.  Sheltered from the sun, the canyon water is frigid!  The air temp in the open desert above may be 100F, but within the canyon, you need a wetsuit or even a drysuit to stave off hypothermia. 

Today's pics come from a short but fun little slot in Zion called Keyhole.  A typical Zion canyoneering day starts with a hike to the head of the slot, which in Keyhole's case requires a steep, dusty scramble down a cliff:



Our group scrambling down to Keyhole's entrance
In many of Zion's canyons, a broader gorge will abruptly tighten up and drop off into a slot.  Once you reach that point, you set up a rappel:
 
My husband setting up an anchor while two other members of our group look on

Keyhole entrance: a drop into the dark!


Disengaging from a rappel while floating in a pool of murky, mucky water is a vital canyoneering skill

My husband on rappel


Looking up: Keyhole is a very tight slot!  This is about as open as it gets.

My husband sloshing out of a flooded passageway
 

Once done, it's back up to the car for another adventure! (Keyhole only takes a few hours, so we went on to do a different slot in the afternoon.)

And for today's book rec, I'm going with M.L. Brennan's Generation V books, which have quickly become one of my favorite currently-running urban fantasy series.  I said this about the first book on Goodreads: "Picked up Generation V after hearing lots of praise for it from both book bloggers and friends - and, yup. Praise was well deserved. I found the book's take on vampirism to be intriguing, and I loved the fraught, difficult relationship that protagonist Fort has with his family. Lots of great characters, an emphasis on family dynamics & friendship over romance, and an interesting plot...I liked the book so much I immediately bought & read the sequel."  Since then, I've read both Iron Night and Tainted Blood, and thoroughly enjoyed each one.  As with Holly Black's Coldest Girl in Coldtown, these books prove that even the most well-worn of tropes can still make for a great story in the hands of a talented author.