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.
      



      

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Update on The Labyrinth of Flame

Sometimes I think the universe particularly enjoys messing with a writer trying to finish a book.  I'd intended to make a really big push in August so I could finish my revision of The Labyrinth of Flame by summer's end...only to get a nasty flare-up of carpal tunnel syndrome that meant I had to limit my hours at the keyboard.  Thankfully, a week away from the computer for a family vacation to the Tetons & Yellowstone was a huge help for my wrists, plus my company fixed up my office workstation and bought me a spiffy new chair so I can be properly ergonomic at the day job.  I'm still typing with wrist braces but I think (I hope!) I've got the carpal tunnel under control.

So. I'm not done with the revision yet, but I'm pushing ever closer.  My son just started kindergarten, which gives me two new 5-hour chunks of writing time every week (since I told my boss I wasn't increasing my day job hours until I finish the book).  I can't even tell you how wonderful it is to have solid chunks of time like that.  It's so much easier to be productive when I can really dig into writing rather than doing it in stolen snatches of time.  As an extra bonus, I'm not exhausted like I am when I write at night after my son goes to bed!

Best of all, I'm close enough to finishing to firm up my plans for publication.  The Labyrinth of Flame kickstarter will happen in mid-February.  That'll give me time to finish the revision and get feedback on the completed book from beta-readers, so I can have it as close to publication-ready as possible before the kickstarter begins.

In even more exciting news, artist David Palumbo finished the cover art for the book, and I love it!  Think it might be my favorite of the series.  Designer Martha Wade is working on the cover now, adding title and cover copy and all that good stuff.  As soon as she's done, I'll be stampeding to the internet to show off Labyrinth's awesome cover - so stay tuned for that later this month.

The one sad piece of news is that I won't be attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold conference this weekend.  I need that time for working on revision.  I'm pretty bummed, since I adore this conference (it's where I first met my agent and critique group).  I've gone every year since my first time in 2008, and I always have a wonderful time.  But I tell myself I will have an even more wonderful time next year with the Shattered Sigil trilogy fully complete and in readers' hands.

I will still be attending MileHiCon in Denver on Oct 24-26, and World Fantasy in DC on Nov 6-9.  (If I'm lucky, I'll even have the revision done before WFC.  Fingers crossed!)

Edited to add: I decided to give those of you on my Labyrinth of Flame mailing list a sneak preview of the cover art, as a thanks for your interest and support.  If you haven't signed up for the mailing list and would like to, email me at courtney (at) courtneyschafer (dot) com.
            

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.