Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reading round-up, and a note for German Shattered Sigil fans

Upon hearing that a snowstorm was bearing down on Colorado, I made a cunning plan: I'd clear my schedule of all appointments/meetings/etc, beg my husband to do both drop-off and pick-up of 6yo from school, and take Tuesday as a powder day.

It was going to be EPIC. I was sure of it when I woke. Just look at all the snow that accumulated overnight! The ski slopes would have even more.

Then I realized I'd forgotten one very important fact: schools close when it snows this much. But in Colorado, workplaces do not, which means my husband must wallow his way to his office in the 4wd, and I'm on kid duty. Other skiers will understand the agony: there is epic powder, but I cannot ski it! (I considered taking the 6yo up for a ski day...but he can't ski more than blue runs yet. It'd be EXTRA torture to be on the slopes yet unable to ski the steep & deep.)

The agony won't last long. 6yo and I will have a blast sledding and snowball-fighting and building igloos. But in the meantime, while he and my husband shovel our walk (not our driveway; in Colorado nobody bothers with that--that's what a 4wd car is for), I'm catching up on my neglected little blog to post a few tidbits of news:

1) Reading Round-up: January was a crazy busy/stressful month (thanks mostly to day job), but I got some good reading in while on a business trip. On tumblr I posted a summary of my thoughts on my reads; my favorites were books from Janny Wurts and Ilana C. Myer. 

2) Note for German readers: a lot of folks have been asking via email when a German translation of The Labyrinth of Flame will be available. Sadly, a German translation is not yet in the works, but if you'd like to see Labyrinth of Flame auf Deutsch, the best way to get the wheels turning is for German readers to tell all their friends about the series and encourage them to buy Die Chroniken von Ninavel. Nothing gets a publisher's attention like sales!

3) Update on Labyrinth of Flame's print edition: good news! I've worked out a distribution agreement with the company that printed Labyrinth of Flame for the Kickstarter, so a general-relase print edition is coming soon! I will announce the release once it's ready to buy.

4) Note for Kickstarter backers: as I said in my recent update, if your reward included trade paperbacks and you have NOT received them, please contact me at courtney (at) courtneyschafer (dot) com. For those waiting on art prints, I'm hoping to start shipping them this week.

5) Podcast incoming: I had a great time on Saturday recording a podcast with fellow authors Kate Elliott, Helen Lowe, and our excellent host Paul Weimer of the Skiffy & Fanty show. We talked about worldbuilding and characters and the craft of writing series and it was so much fun. Not sure yet when the podcast will air, but I'll announce it here when it does. (By the way, the latest book in Helen Lowe's Wall of Night series, Daughter of Blood, just released--if you are not reading this series, you really really should be! It's epic fantasy with a terrific female lead (and some wonderful secondary characters), plus plenty of magic and wonder and action. Basically, everything I like best in fantasy!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Labyrinth of Flame wins an award! Plus a short update on print release

The combo of business trip and cold recovery made last week less than stellar, but I came home to some truly excellent news: The Labyrinth of Flame won the r/Fantasy "Stabby" award for Best Self-Published/Independent Novel of 2015! I’ve been hanging out in r/Fantasy for several years now–it’s a terrific community, thanks to the tireless efforts of the mod team and the many awesome folks that post there–but I never expected to win one of the awesome Stabby daggers when there are so many talented authors, both indie and trad-pub, in the community. Such a wonderful surprise; I've been dancing on air since getting the news. (It's a measure of how busy/crazy this January has been for me that it's only now, days later, that I've had the chance to post here about it!)

Fellow author Mark Lawrence posted the top 5 finishers in the three novel categories, and I'm going to repost them too, because all these books are well worth checking out. (Also check out the full list of nominations in the voting thread!)

Best Novel:
Shadows of Self - Brandon Sanderson
The Liar's Key -  Mark Lawrence
Fool's Quest - Robin Hobb
The Autumn Republic - Brian McClellan
The Fifth Season - N.K Jemisin

(In addition to the above I particularly recommend Carol Berg's Ash & Silver, V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic, and Kate Elliott's Black Wolves, among the many great books nominated. Also Teresa Frohock's Los Nefilim novellas, which were nominated in the Best Serialized Fiction category.)

Best Debut:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson
The Grace Of Kings - Ken Liu
Beyond Redemption - Michael R Fletcher
The Vagrant - Peter Newman
The Library At Mount Char - Scott Hawkins

Best Self-Published/Independent Novel:
The Labyrinth of Flame - Courtney Schafer
Forging Divinity - Andrew Rowe
Fae - The Sins of the Wyrde - Graham Austin-King
Bloodrush - Ben Galley
Malus Domestica - S.A Hunt

In other Labyrinth of Flame news, I've been getting emails from people wondering when the book will release to the general public in print. (It's already for sale in ebook on all the major retailers.) I'll be honest, the hold-up on the print version is that I'm still working to figure out a print & distribution option that will offer the same quality as the Kickstarter copies but not result in me coming out at a loss due to distributor fees. (I know everybody else just does CreateSpace or Ingram Spark, but I don't feel comfortable with their PoD print quality, especially for a book with illustrations.)

So I apologize that I don't have any definite print release date yet, but rest assured, I won't give up, and as soon as I decide on the best path and get a release date, I will announce it here. In the meantime, I do have a few extra copies from the Kickstarter print run that I'm willing to sell direct--contact me at courtney (at) courtneyschafer (dot) com if you're interested.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking back and looking forward

2016 is not exactly off to the greatest of starts for me. Woke up today with the sort of cold that makes you feel absolutely miserable from the neck up, which means I'm sitting here moping at home while my husband and son are off skiing. For extra fun, I have to leave for Albuquerque for a work trip on Monday, so I'm frantically chugging vitamin C and throat-soothing drops and praying I can get better before then.

On the up side, sitting around a silent house means I've had time to reflect a bit on 2015, which had more than enough high points to lift me right out of moping. First and foremost this one:

The full trilogy, together at last!
My biggest goal for the year was to finish The Labyrinth of Flame and get it out to readers, and no matter how sick I feel at the moment I still want to do a happy dance every time I think: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. There's still some work left to do on the Kickstarter--I need to mail out art prints, and finish the short stories, and I'm sure there'll be a few packages that forever vanish into the maw of the post office and need to be resent, and I still need to finish working out the arrangement for a general print release of the book...but the vast bulk of the work is done, and that feels awesome. Especially seeing reviews like these:

Bibliotropic: "The ending of The Labyrinth of Flame is quite possibly the most satisfying ending to a series I've ever read."

Nathan Barnhart at the Speculative Herald: "It is truly one of those series with a little something for everyone; a bloody dark setting, world shaking events driving the plot, and a whole lot of heart."

Paul Weimer at SF Signal: "Strong central characters, inventive worldbuilding, satisfying conclusion."

Plus the emails and tweets and such that readers have sent me to tell me how much they enjoyed the book--I can't even tell you how much that kind of thing means after pouring your heart and soul into a series. I know not everybody's going to like it, and that's okay--but it's absolutely wonderful to know that so many people do. Some authors hunger for sales and awards, but I will be dead honest, it's the intangibles that I yearn for--the knowledge that something I wrote gave someone else joy. So to me, in every way that matters, the Shattered Sigil series has been an enormous success, and I thank every one of you that loved the books for making it one.

2015 wasn't ALL about The Labyrinth of Flame, though, even if sometimes it felt that way. I managed to get away from the computer on occasion for some beautiful hikes:

Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness
Sharkstooth on the Andrews Glacier trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Negotiating Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak
My son was finally old enough to come along sometimes:

Hiking the Mt. Sanitas trail 
And we enjoyed some quality ski days together:

Skiing a little fresh powder at Telluride
Our ancient but faithful Subaru Outback died, leaving us awkwardly carless for a while, but then we got our very first real 4WD vehicle, which we promptly used on Utah adventures:

Driving the slickrock
We visited new trailheads:

Having fun at Tusher Tunnel near Moab
And took our son on his first trip to the San Rafael Swell for his first slot canyon adventure:

Little Wild Horse Canyon
Not to mention our first stint of sandboarding (at Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado):

Boy, it's windy on those sand dunes. We should have brought goggles.
The year wasn't all fun, though. I'd been so excited to start training seriously for figure skating again after finishing The Labyrinth of Flame, but my back had other ideas. After multiple doctor visits and x-rays and even a steroid shot to the piriformis muscle, I am still not sure if I will ever be able to jump again, or if my aging back simply is no longer capable of handling the intense forces of free skating. I have one last hope: I'm currently undergoing a grueling round of physical therapy in hopes I can get my core muscles strong enough to hold my sciatic vertebrae stable while landing. If this doesn't work, it's likely I'll give up skating. I could still ice dance, yes, but it's always the jumps and spins I loved best. I think it'd be too frustrating to be on the ice and unable to do what I truly love.

There were other low points: intensely stressful times at work, arguments at home, all the parts of life that you don't see on a "highlight" reel. But I'm intensely aware of how fortunate I am in so many ways. And going into 2016, my biggest goal is to take more time to appreciate all the little happinesses of life. A moment laughing with my husband, a beautiful flower beside the trail, the intense blue of a Colorado sky, a hug from my son, the pleasure of a good book, all the things I so often take for granted. (Speaking of good books, I read some great ones in December - check out my reading round-up over on tumblr if you're looking for new reads.)

And what lies ahead for me writing-wise in 2016? Well, first I'll finish the four short stories from the Kickstarter. I'm having so much fun with them that I even considered writing a couple more and eventually putting out a Shattered Sigil collection, but we'll see. Depends on how the writing goes, because I also want to start a wholly new book this year. It's both a heady and terrifying thought, to start all over from scratch after so long spent working with familiar characters! But I'm always game for a challenge (that's what keeps life fun).

So I'll take 2016 as it comes, trying to embrace every bit of joy, and I hope you all find many moments to savor in the coming year, too. Wishing you health and happiness and plenty of great reads,


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Labyrinth of Flame is out in ebook!

Today marks the release of The Labyrinth of Flame in ebook: it's now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Itunes, and more. If you're one of the Kickstarter backers patiently awaiting a trade paperback copy, I have more good news: I heard this morning from the printing company that the print run is complete and the books are shipping out to me today. Soon as I get them, I'll be signing and shipping as fast as I can!

In the meantime, if you're looking for more awesome books to read, here's a few other excellent choices that released today:

Carol Berg's Ash and Silver, 2nd in her Sanctuary duology. I read this book in draft form (Carol's a critique partner of mine) and I can assure you it is awesome. Tons of magic and action and plot twists combined with Carol's signature depth of characterization.

Ian Tregillis's The Rising, 2nd in his Alchemy Wars series. I haven't read this yet but based on the excellence of Ian's other books, I'm confident it's a great read.

Unbound anothology - short stories from an impressive lineup of fantasy authors, including Mazarkis Williams, Mark Lawrence, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Joe Abercrombie, Seanan McGuire, Brian Staveley, Tim Marquitz, and a whole lot more.

If that's not enough, over on my brand-new tumblr account I discuss the many good books I read in November. (So many good books! It was a great month.)

And for anybody who's been missing the wilderness pic posts here, I've got yet more good news: after a terrific Thanksgiving week spent scrambling through the slickrock canyons of Utah, I now have a ton of new pics to show off. I'm thinking I'll do a series of posts talking about Utah locations that inspired various spots in The Labyrinth of Flame...stay tuned.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Update on Labyrinth of Flame's Release

I love ebooks, but speaking as an author, there's nothing quite like holding the physical edition of your book in your hands. For me, that's when it really hits home that the story is no longer a work in progress, but a real, honest-to-gosh book. Something that people can put on their shelves and share with their friends and curl up in a favorite chair with and lose themselves in, the way I've done with so many books in my life. In this case, the realization is particularly weighty, as it's not just this one book finished and ready for readers. The entire Shattered Sigil trilogy is complete--something I can still hardly believe, after so many years spent with Dev and Kiran!

But here is the proof (in more ways than one, heh):

One lovely copy of The Labyrinth of Flame! This after three rounds of proofs and a whole lot of emails with the printing company--turns out illustrations make the printing process a lot more complicated, plus there were some issues with spine width and cover font transparency that had to be fixed. But I'm very happy with the final product! I ended up having the illustrations printed on special insert paper, and they look great:

Books for my Kickstarter backers are being printed now, and should be shipped to me after Thanksgiving. Soon as I get them I'll be signing and mailing them out. It's my hope that all the books will be in backers' hands before Christmas.

If you missed the Kickstarter, Dec 1 is the release date on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other online retailers for the ebook of The Labyrinth of Flame. Pre-order links are live on Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks, and should soon be live at Barnes & Noble.

Due to the delay from getting print issues sorted out, it'll be a few weeks after Dec 1 before a physical edition becomes available to the general public. As soon as I have a firm date, I'll announce it here.

In the meantime, I'm off to celebrate Thanksgiving properly: by spending the week in the wilds of Utah, scrambling over the slickrock that inspired the scenery of The Labyrinth of Flame. Talk about a perfect way to mark the book's completion. May you have an equally excellent end to your November!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Labyrinth of Flame's Illustrations

Sigh, I heard from the printing company that there's been a delay and it'll be a few more days before I get my hardcopy proof of The Labyrinth of Flame. It's so hard to wait! I'm really eager to get the books printed, but I've got to check that proof first to make sure the cover and illustrations and everything look just right.

In the meantime, some folks have asked if I could put up the images of the illustrations so they can look at them properly instead of on a tiny e-reader screen. I am happy to oblige! So here are the five illustrations that the talented Kristina Carroll did for the book, complete with a few words from me about each one. (Kristina was wonderful to work with, by the way. Organized, responsive, and patient when I dithered over which of her concept sketches to choose for an illustration!)

If you haven't read the book yet, beware spoilers... 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MileHiCon schedule

So, the life craziness continues...but one thing that has done wonders for my stress is getting emails from various readers telling me how much they're enjoying The Labyrinth of Flame. (Thank you thank you thank you!!! There is no better way to cheer up an author.)  Plus soon I'll have the joy of holding the book in my hands - the files are at the printing company, and they tell me a hardcopy proof should arrive mid next week. YAY.

But I've been so busy with day job and everything that I only today realized that MileHiCon is THIS WEEKEND, holy hell, where did this month go? So now I'm scrambling to prepare for panels - I've got three this year, and they all sound fun:

Friday Oct 23, 2pm: Ten Mistakes Writers Make

A look at some common mistakes writers make, and perhaps some ways to prevent them… or at least stop making them more quickly!

(My take: I'm not sure if this panel is supposed to be about craft mistakes or business mistakes or both, but I've certainly made enough mistakes to have plenty of advice to share.)

Friday Oct 23, 4pm: Five Fantasy Worlds You Wouldn't Want to Visit

The Shire might be nice (but does Bag End have flush toilets?), but lots of fantasy worlds would be no fun to be in. Our panelists count down the five fantasy worlds they’d least like to visit … let alone set up house in.

(My take: Oh yeah, I can think of plenty of awful worlds, especially among the modern grimdark novels. I'll try and go some fun/unusual ones.)

Saturday Oct 24, 10am: SF Primer: From Isaac Asimov to Timothy Zahn

If someone is just getting into reading science fiction, what books do you recommend and why?

(My take: I LOVE recommending books! And you can bet I'll be including plenty of the awesome female authors I loved growing up - ladies who cemented my love for SF, who nobody seems to talk about anymore. The trouble will be in limiting myself so I don't try to mention 300 names at once!)

I'm only at the con on Friday and Saturday, since I promised my husband I wouldn't stick him with solo parent duty for yet another entire weekend. For anyone else attending, I hope you'll say hello! Panels are fun, but talking to fellow readers and fans is even more so.