Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kickstarter Day 12 (17 to go): a Colorado classic and a novel that shouldn't be spoiled

The Labyrinth of Flame's Kickstarter continues its climb toward the interior art stretch goal (right now I'd say we've made it through the Khumbu Icefall and are heading up the Western Cwm toward the Lhotse Face...so still plenty of elevation to gain!).  Today's super busy for me - I'm finishing a day job report, running around getting supplies for my son's upcoming birthday party, writing a guest post, and recording a podcast tonight - so I'm just gonna jump straight to a pic of one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners, the lovely Snowmass Mountain in the Elk Range not far from Aspen:

Snowmass Mountain (the double-pointed peak at left) and surrounding summits
I took the pic while backpacking a 26-mile loop around Colorado's famous Maroon Bells.  The route crosses four passes and has a plethora of gorgeous scenery.  People training for adventure races and ultra-marathons run the route in a day; we spent several, so we could laze about enjoying all the terrific views. 

For today's book rec, being short on time, I'm going with M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts, because it's a book best read without knowing much about it.  (Seriously, if you haven't read it, DO NOT read reviews or discussion where you might stumble across spoilers! This is a book that deserves to be discovered without any preconceptions on the reader's part, for reasons that will soon become apparent when you read it.)  All I'm going to say is that I found it an intense and moving read, and I heartily recommend you give it a try. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Kickstarter Day 11 (18 to go): on lost friends and passages

Yesterday's high was wonderful, but today hasn't been so happy. After learning within the span of a few hours that the son of a family friend died and that one of our neighbors died, hearing that Leonard Nimoy also died just compounds the sense of loss.  I don't have pictures to honor the first two, so I wanted to dedicate today's post to another lost friend: Blair Halley, whom I met through the Colorado Mountain Club not long after I came to Colorado.  We climbed together for years, scaling cliffs and hiking 14ers and backpacking in the wilderness.  A lot of my Colorado "firsts" were on trips he organized - my first snowshoe trip, my first time seeing fireworks in Telluride, my first time ice climbing.  His energy was boundless and his enthusiasm and joy in the mountains a wonderful thing to behold.  He died some years ago and I miss him still.

Blair Halley and I at the end of a 10-day loop backpack that took us to the top of Mt Whitney and deep into the Sierra Nevada. 
I've read quite a few SFF novels that explore loss, but none that tackle mortality and death in quite so direct and unflinching fashion as Connie Willis's Passage.  The protagonist is a research psychologist struggling to understand the phenomenon of near-death experiences, and the novel focuses on the question of what exactly a dying mind experiences and why.  It's not a comforting read.  Some of Willis's ideas in this regard are horrifying, or at least I found them so, because they are so terribly plausible.  I read the book when my maternal grandfather was succumbing to the final stages of Parkinson's disease, and I remember sobbing my eyes out, because what Willis's characters discuss and experience wasn't some safely fictional tragedy, it was happening right here, right now, to someone I loved.  It's an unsettling book, and not without narrative flaws; but in the way of the best science fiction, Passage challenges the reader to examine assumptions, face difficult truths, and decide your own beliefs.  For that, I strongly recommend it.

And in closing, I leave you with this link to a performance of "Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras" from Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem.  The first part of the movement is one of the most powerful representations of death and mortality I know as a singer.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kickstarter Day 10 (19 left): Short story stretch goal unlocked!

I've been doing a Snoopy happy dance ever since I found out: The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter passed the first stretch goal!  (Special thanks to backer Leah Petersen, who put us over the top.  She's an author too; go check out her Physics of Falling trilogy!)

Happy face in Dang Canyon, Utah.  An accurate representation of my feelings today.

This means I'll be designing new bookmarks and writing a short story from the POV of one of the secondary characters in the series, as voted on by backers.  The poll's up and I'm very curious which character will win. Whichever character it is, their story will be a lot of fun to write.   I've spent so many years in Dev and Kiran's heads that it'll be quite interesting to get in someone else's!

And with one goal already passed, I've got another that I'm just as excited about: interior art for the book.  I always think it's a shame modern books don't often have interior illustrations, and I think it'd make for a really cool edition of the book to have certain scenes illustrated.  (I'm not telling which ones. No spoilers! :)  Should the Kickstarter make $9K, I'll commission 3 pieces of interior art.  Plus, because I know some of the biggest fans of my books don't have a lot of spare cash, I'll run a drawing for interested backers that'll let one lucky person get upgraded to the full-on "Ultimate Fan" reward, which includes a short story written just for you and your choice of peak climb or climbing lesson or skating lesson or lunch with me, along with a whole bunch of other goodies.

$9K really is a stretch, so we'll see.  My fingers are crossed!  In other news, the ever-excellent Paul Weimer interviewed me for SF Signal (thanks, Paul!).  And I've got another pic for you, from one of the canyons that inspired locations in The Labyrinth of Flame

Near the confluence of Buckskin and Paria Canyons
Today I rec a book that fits with my boisterously joyful mood: Diana Wynne Jones's Archers Goon.  Instead of blathering on about how much I love Jones's sharply witty humor and wild imagination and vivid characters, I'll let the book speak for itself.  Because how can you resist a book that promises to prove the following ten facts (quoted from Jones's "Author's Note" in the front):

1. A Goon is a being who melts into the foreground and sticks there.
2. Pigs have wings, making them hard to catch.
3. All power corrupts, but we need electricity.
4. When an irresistible force meets an unmovable object, the result is a family fight.
5. Music does not always soothe the troubled beast.
6. An Englishman's home is his castle.
7. The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
8. One black eye deserves another.
9. Space is the final frontier, and so is the sewage farm.
10. It pays to increase your word power.

Read it, and I promise you, you won't regret it.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kickstarter Day 9 (20 days left): Dachstein Alps and 4 great series endings

Day 9 of the Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter, and as of now there's only $200 left to go to hit the short story stretch goal! (Hard to believe it's only been 9 days.  Kinda feels like more, maybe because I'm not used to posting so much. :)  Yesterday's AMA on r/Fantasy was a lot of fun.  People asked some really great (and sometimes hard!) questions, and I talked about everything from my closest brush with death in the wilderness to theme songs for Shattered Sigil characters to the state of the US space industry. 

Today in lieu of a book rec here, I shall point you to my guest post on Fantasy Book Cafe, in which I answer a great question posed to me by a friend: which SF/Fantasy series not only have great endings, but the final book is my favorite of the set?  I share four such books and would love to hear about more.

Last but not least, today's mountain pic is from the Dachstein range of the Austrian Alps.  Yet another place I hope to return to one day, as the weather was not good enough for my husband and I to do any serious climbs when we were visiting.  Still had an excellent time trekking around on glaciers and admiring the views, though!  

Snow and rock on the Dachstein massif


 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kickstarter Day 8 (21 left): Elves Chasm, a spy thriller, and my r/Fantasy AMA

As I write this, the Kickstarter for The Labyrinth of Flame is at $5499.  I gotta say, as an engineer I twitch every time I look at that.  Must...round off...number!  High five to the next person that pledges and saves me from my mathematical agony.

Today I'm doing an AMA ("ask me anything") over at r/Fantasy - if you've got questions about the Shattered Sigil series (or mountains, or figure skating, or Colorado, or, well, anything), come on over & ask away!

For today's pic, I'm leaving the heights to plunge into the depths...of the Grand Canyon.  Elves Chasm is a gorgeous little grotto seen primarily by river runners or by those backpackers willing to tackle the strenuous Royal Arch Loop (the descent requires a rappel).  I regret to say I haven't yet done the latter, but I did do a 3-week "hiker's special" river rafting trip through the length of Grand Canyon.  The trip was incredible - Elves Chasm was one of many, many amazing spots we visited.

Climbing to the grotto behind the waterfall (there's an easier way up around the rocks to the right, but where's the fun in easy?).  Once up, the water's deep enough for jumping.
My husband watches as our friend Jim takes the leap of faith.


And for today's book rec, I'm varying off the beaten path of SF/Fantasy to rec one of my favorite spy thrillers: The Tango Briefing, part of Adam Hall's zillion-book Quiller series.  The Quiller series is to James Bond as Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire trilogy is to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.  Told in near-claustrophobic first person by a solitary, intelligent, deeply messed up (and aware of it) operative, the books are a grittily realistic master class in tension, tight plotting, and compelling character voice. (I once used a passage from The Tango Briefing to illustrate a post I wrote on pacing for a "Spec Fic 101" blog series over at 52 Book Reviews.)  The Tango Briefing isn't the first in the series, but it's an excellent entry point; Hall wrote the books to be (mostly) independent of each other, and by this fifth entry in the series he'd really hit his stride.  I don't read a lot in the thriller genre, but I own every single Quiller book and have re-read them all multiple times.  I think what I find so compelling about the series is that Hall treats the psychological aspects of Quiller's missions with equal (or greater) importance as the action.  The earlier books in the series were out of print for a long time, but recently they've been re-released as ebooks, so there's no better time to give them a try.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Kickstarter Day 7 (22 days left): Sawatch panorama and a disturbing YA trilogy

Yesterday the Kickstarter for The Labyrinth of Flame passed $5K.  This morning there's only $831 to go to reach the short story stretch goal, hooray!  I continue to be amazed and so, so thankful for everyone's support and enthusiasm.  I've got a bunch of stuff going on this week, including an AMA on r/Fantasy tomorrow (Tues) and a guest post on Fantasy Book Cafe, so I'm going to keep this post short.  Today's mountain pic is a view of the Sawatch Range in central Colorado, taken while I was climbing 14,067 ft. Missouri Mountain as part of doing three 14ers in a day, which was a heck of a hike

View of the Sawatch mountains from the ridge to Missouri Mountain's summit
In keeping with the "triple threat" theme, for today's book rec I chose Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy, which I read in omnibus form during my recent trip to Australia. 

 People who don't read much YA often have the misconception that YA novels have to be lighter in tone than adult novels, or deal with less difficult themes.  NO.  So not true. Ness's trilogy deals with war and prejudice and torture and collusion and examines in depth the question of how good people can slowly slide into doing terrible things.  All this is wrapped in a really fascinating take on the old science fictional standby of telepathy.  I can't talk too much about this without spoilers, but suffice it to say that when the book opens, we're in the head of a boy named Todd, the youngest of his village, where all the women are dead and every living thing constantly broadcasts their thoughts and emotions.  Todd thinks he knows the history of his village; he's wrong.  The first book deals with his journey out of innocence.  The second book is darker yet, so dark it is at times difficult to read.  The third book attempts to wrestle with issues of colonization, and here I feel the story gets away from Ness; but not to the point it stops me from recommending the trilogy as a whole.  My brother Matt Hilliard wrote an in-depth analysis of the trilogy that makes for great reading once you've finished the books. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kickstarter Day 6 (23 days left): dreaming of powder, and an elegaic fantasy favorite

While poor Boston has been turning into a winter wasteland, Colorado's front range has been dry and warm, to the dismay of every skier in Boulder.  Today at last we're getting our own little blizzard: 16 inches of snow and still falling.  Skiers rejoice!  I went to bed dreaming of my first powder day of the season.

Alas, my dreams were crushed this morning when I went into the garage and discovered a flat tire.  Tire stores here are closed on Sundays, so I can't even get up to the slopes for a short day.  If you're a skier, you'll understand my soul-crushing dismay.  Thankfully, I have only to look at The Labyrinth of Flame kickstarter to cheer myself up (this book is really going to happen! I cannot be sad!).  Plus, there's other fun to be had in the snow.  My five-year-old and I have regrouped with plans for some serious sledding and snow fort building.

But in the meantime, here's a pic to remind myself that there will be other powder days:

Enjoying a powder day at Telluride
And for today's book rec, I turn to another old favorite: C.J. Cherryh's celtic fantasy The Tree of Swords and Jewels.  Plenty of fantasy novels involve elves, but few make elven characters feel much different than pointy-eared humans.  One of Cherryh's greatest strengths as a writer has always been her ability to make aliens feel truly alien, and she applies it to great effect here.  The elf Arafel is the last of her kind, standing guard over a faerie wood even as magic fades and her realm diminishes.  Cherryh captures the sense of the weight of the years Arafel has lived and her loneliness and regret at the changing world in a way that makes her feel both very real and truly other.  The sense of loss that pervades the story is heartwrenching; yet there is hope, too.  The style is very formal, which I know puts some people off, but for me it works perfectly.  I love both Arafel and the human protagonist, Ciaran Cuilean, who is far less passive than is typical for Cherryh's male POV characters, and the magic, which feels wild and old and like a myth that is true.  Cherryh is one of my favorite writers, and this is one of my favorites of her work; it speaks to my heart in a way no other fantasy has yet matched.  Maybe it will speak to yours, too.


       

    

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kickstarter Day 5 (24 days left) Mountain Pic & Book Rec

The Kickstarter for The Labyrinth of Flame is humming along, heading toward the short story stretch goal.  Yesterday I let structural and line editors know that the project is a go, and this weekend I'm working on a sketch to give the map artist.  (A very rough sketch.  An artist I am not.)  Depending on how busy he is, I might even have a draft of the map to show off before the Kickstarter ends, which would be really cool.

For today's mountain pic, thought I'd go a little further afield to New Zealand, where the peaks are indeed just as impressive as they look in the Lord of the Rings movies:

Peak in the Darran Mountains near Milford Sound
I took this pic while heading back to Queenstown after kayaking Milford Sound. Just about killed me to drive past so many gorgeous mountains without climbing them.  I really need to go back to Fiordland!

Keeping with the New Zealand theme, for today's book rec I'll go with Karen Healey's YA novel The Shattering, which is set in a seaside town on the rugged and isolated west coast of New Zealand's South Island.  (Very disappointed with the publisher for not portraying this on the cover, especially as the notorious beauty of the town factors quite heavily into the story!  Obviously they should have catered to me, and not the desires of the vastly larger YA market. :)

I had some issues with various plot elements but those were well overshadowed by how compelling I found The Shattering's characters.  Their friendships and their emotional struggles are very well drawn; the book does an excellent job conveying the different ways people deal with grief and loss.  Healey also strikes the right note of creepiness in many of the scenes with supernatural elements.  If you enjoy fantasy with contemporary settings, give this one a go.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Kickstarter day 4 (25 days left) Mountain Pic & Book Rec

The Labyrinth of Flame's Kickstarter has funded!!!  I am so happy and grateful, I can't even find the words to tell you.  All I want to do is give everyone who's backed the book a huge hug (and likely sob all over your shoulders in a combo of delight and relief, so perhaps it's just as well we have a computer screen between us!).  It's so wonderful to know I can do this book just the way I hoped: with every bit of professional editing and design that went into the first two.  Plus a map!  Maybe even two maps, if the Kickstarter keeps going well.  I'd thought it could be cool to have one larger-scale map of the various countries, and another more detailed map of the areas Dev and Kiran travel in this third book...but we'll see.  Right now I'm just over the moon that the book will be a reality.

Speaking of the Kickstarter, I've heard from some people that they'd like to support it and get copies of The Labyrinth of Flame, but they don't have credit cards (which Kickstarter apparently requires now).  If that's true for you, please contact me at courtney (at) courtneyschafer (dot) com, and we'll work out a way for you to contribute and receive a KS-style reward without having to go through KS itself. 

Anyway! To celebrate such a big milestone, I'm going hog-wild with pictures of some of my favorite places in the Sierra Nevada (my favorite mountains!):

On top of Alpine Col

Deadman Canyon, deep in the Sierra - a great basecamp location for exploring unnamed cirques and scrambling up peaks


Pic from my very first trip to the Sierra, with friends Jason Hollinger and Ken Manatt. This is near the Mosquito Flat trailhead, which at 10,255 ft is the highest major trailhead in the Sierra
Third Recess Lake - the "recesses" (canyons) near Mono Pass are among my favorite spots to camp in the Sierra
My husband Robert on our way up Mt Whitney (visible at top right), tallest peak in the contiguous US

 

For today's book rec, I'll go with another favorite that hasn't gotten nearly as much recognition as I think it should: Martha Wells's City of Bones.  I love books that mix elements of SF and fantasy, and Wells writes a wonderful setting here: a post-apocalyptic stone desert populated by a bioengineered race, and a richly described and dangerous city whose laws are enforced by mages.  The part I love best, though, are Wells's characters.  Protagonist Khat (one of the bioengineered krismen) is smart, dryly sarcastic, and has a fascinating backstory (one I wish Wells would someday return to in a short story, perhaps!).  Co-protagonist Elen (one of the city's Warders) is equally engaging; she's smart, determined, and forthright in a way that plays very nicely off the more reserved Khat.  The story is standalone (though as I said, I sure wish there was more), and a great read, combining archaeological mystery with exciting action and magic.  It was originally published by Tor but has been republished in ebook form by Martha herself; if you like adventure SF/fantasy, you definitely should read it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kickstarter Day 3 (26 days left) Mountain Pic & Book Rec

So....close...! As I write this, The Labyrinth of Flame's Kickstarter is only $114 from funding.  Just a few more backers and we're there.  Heh, one reason I promised to share wilderness pics and book recs every day is so I could distract myself from refreshing my Kickstarter dashboard by sighing happily over my old backpacking and climbing trip pictures instead.  So many beautiful mountains and fun memories!

For today's pic, I chose one of Wyoming's Cirque of the Towers, located in the Wind River range.  Okay, two pics, because I can never resist the cirque's awe-inspiring scenery.  As I've said on the blog before, Cirque of the Towers is one of the three mountain places that inspired Tainted City's Cirque of the Knives.  I really, really need to go back and do some real climbing there (as opposed to just backpacking).

Looking through Jackass Pass to the Cirque of the Towers (yes, it really is called Jackass Pass. Perhaps because of mules, but perhaps also because it's a steep enough slog  to the pass that the folks who named it weren't feeling in a charitable mood)

Within the Cirque
And for today's book rec, I chose an old favorite of mine: Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea.  I recently read an excellent analysis of the book over at Black Gate by Matthew David Surridge which does the book far more justice than I have time for today.  Suffice it to say this is one of the novels I've re-read so many times I almost have it memorized.  Like much of McKillip's work, The Changeling Sea is beautifully crafted: short and yet satisfying, full of beautiful imagery and mythic magic.  It's also a comfort read in the best sense of the term - a story that never fails to lift my spirits when I'm stressed or upset.  Yet at the same time, it's quietly subversive, turning accepted fantasy tropes on their heads in a way that never feels forced or heavy-handed.  Just a wonderful book, and one I highly recommend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kickstarter Day 2 Mountain Pic & Book Rec

24 hours since I hit launch, and Labyrinth of Flame's kickstarter is at $3100: wow!!! Can't believe there's only $900 to go and this book can be a reality.  HUGE thanks to all of you who pledged so far - I am so grateful for your support.  Keep on spreading the word and you'll be sure to have the book in your hands! 

Also, artist Dave Palumbo gave me the okay to offer prints of Whitefire Crossing and Tainted City's cover art along with Labyrinth of Flame's - have I mentioned how awesome Dave is?  Anyway, for $5 each you can add prints onto any reward level and enjoy Dave's excellent art along with the book.

As promised, I'll be posting mountain pics and book recommendations every day until the Kickstarter ends.  For the first installment, I thought it'd be appropriate to choose a pic from the Sierra Nevada (the inspiration for the Whitefire Mountains of my series).  This one was taken during my 3-week backpacking trip doing part of Steve Roper's High Route, which travels along the crest of the range.

Evening light after a thunderstorm on the Sierra crest

For my first book recommendation, I'm doing not just one book but two: Alex Bledsoe's The Hum and the Shiver, and the related novella Hisses and Wings that he and Teresa Frohock wrote together.  I'd loved Teresa's work since I first read her debut Miserere: An Autumn Tale, so when I heard she and Alex had written a novella together I snapped it right up.  But since the novella is a melding of Teresa's Los Nefilim and Alex's Tufa worlds, I decided I first wanted to read one of his Tufa novels.  This isn't necessary - Teresa and Alex assured me the novella was written so it could be read independently, and they are right - but I do think it adds an extra layer of resonance to a shared-world work when you're familiar with the worlds involved. 

In any case, I'm very glad I did read The Hum and the Shiver.  It's a subtle, thoughtful book that explores the aftereffects of war and trauma in a way that few fantasy novels do.  I particularly liked the rural Appalachian setting and the lovely blend of the mundane and the magical.  Reminded me of one of my favorite fantasy series as a teen, Tom Deitz's David Sullivan series (first book Windmaster's Bane), which is set in rural Georgia and also combines faerie lore with modern dilemmas.

Which leads me to Hisses and Wings, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and left me wanting more of Teresa's Los Nefilim in particular.  (There are several Tufa novels out, but not yet a Los Nefilim book!)  The sense of history among her characters is so rich and deep that I am dying to find out more about them.  I also love the use of magic and music, and that the story doesn't end in the way a fantasy reader might be conditioned to expect.  The novella's only 99 cents on the Kindle, so if you've never read either author's work, it's a great way to get started.  Me, I'm looking forward to enjoying more Tufa novels, and hoping for more Los Nefilim stories from Teresa very soon! 



   

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Labyrinth of Flame Kickstarter is live!


Houston, we have go for launch: The Labyrinth of Flame kickstarter is live!  It's been a long and sometimes bumpy road to get here - I can hardly believe the day has come at last. (I feel somewhat like I'm poking my skis over the top of a steep couloir, about to drop in.  Kind of a combination of "WOOHOO!!!" and "YIKES.")



Head on over and check out the rewards and goals and video, and please share the word with anyone and everyone who might enjoy the Shattered Sigil series!  The Kickstarter will run for 28 days, ending at 9pm MST on Tues Mar 17.  I'll be counting down here on my blog with a wilderness picture and a book recommendation every day.  Plus doing various guest spots at other blogs and an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") over at r/Fantasy next Tues, Feb 24.  So, a busy, exciting month.  My fingers are crossed that at the end of it, The Labyrinth of Flame will be heading for publication, thanks to you!


      

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lessons learned from filming Labyrinth of Flame's Kickstarter video (one day until launch!)


T minus one day and counting…The Labyrinth of Flame's Kickstarter goes live tomorrow, Tues Feb 17!
Since I spent the last few days editing and preparing the project video – my first time video editing! – I thought I’d share some of the lessons I learned. 


Screencap from my video - filming made a great excuse to spend a day in the mountains!


1)      Mountains make for impressive background scenery, but it’s really damn hard to talk loud enough to be heard over howling wind.  My husband and I shot a bunch of video up at the ice-covered lake pictured above…and had to throw out half of the footage because of wind noise that couldn’t be filtered out.  I could’ve tried to overdub the audio, but that’s startlingly hard to get right – our brains are excellent at detecting a mismatch between lip movement and audio.

2)      If you ARE filming outdoors and need to have your speech clear, stand CLOSE to the camera.  Way closer than you think necessary or feel comfortable with!   

3)      Shoot LOTS of footage.  Thank God, in the mountains we did at least 3 takes of everything.  That meant I was able to use some of the footage, since the wind wasn’t constant.  We should have shot more, but we were limited on time - we had to get back to Boulder before my son got out of school for the day!

4)      Find video editing software that’s a) not so simple you can’t properly stitch clips together and record voiceover audio, and b) not so complex it’ll take you weeks to learn how to do anything with it.  After a few frustrating attempts with Windows Live Movie Maker, which I found too simple to allow proper editing, and an aborted attempt with Camtasia (which is powerful but designed more for business applications),  I settled on Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum, which worked great.   Not so complex that a newbie to video editing like me couldn’t jump in and use it, yet powerful enough to do what I wanted. 

5)      Trial versions of software are your friend.  (Sony Vegas Movie Studio allows a free 30-day trial. YAY.)

6)    Youtube tutorials on how to do specific tasks with software are even more your friend. (I found a great set of tutorials on youtube about how to use Movie Studio, and it was SO helpful.  Bless the tutorial makers, for they shall save you hours of time.)

7)    Check your format!  Your camera probably records in 16:9 aspect ratio.  Kickstarter requires 4:3.  Don’t be like me and edit up an entire draft of the video and ONLY THEN realize that it needs to be in 4:3.  (Changing the aspect ratio itself is no sweat in a video editor, but if you’ve overlaid text or used pan/zoom effects, they’re likely to look different than you wanted after the change.  Which means you’ll have to go back and re-do them all, arrrgh.)         

8)    Don't forget to have some fun!  If you’re a newbie to film editing like me, doesn't matter how good your editing software is, you’re not likely to produce some super-slick video that could’ve been made by a Hollywood pro.  Instead I did my best to show my very real enthusiasm for the Shattered Sigil series and have a good time filming.  That way, regardless of what happens with the Kickstarter, at least my husband and I can look back on an awesome day we spent in the mountains and giggle over the film outtakes.  Ha, and when the kickstarter goes live tomorrow, you can judge for yourself how well I did with my first-ever movie.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Draft 2 of The Labyrinth of Flame is DONE

I have a complete draft! That is 1000x better than the first draft! Which feels like:


And like:


Though after this week's revising marathon, also like:


But mostly like:

End of the trail 
I love this book so much, you all.  I hope you will love it too.  But even if you don't, I love this story so much that I can forever bask in the happy, satisfied glow of knowing I've written the tale I wanted so much to read, all those years ago when I first began The Whitefire Crossing.  It's been a hell of a ride with Dev and Kiran and I don't regret a single minute of the time I've spent at the keyboard.  

Granted, the book's not quite ready for you yet.  This 2nd draft is sitting at a whopping 194,301 words (yikes!).  For comparison, The Whitefire Crossing was ~135K as published and The Tainted City was ~176K.  The Labyrinth of Flame's first draft was actually only 126,277.  If you're wondering why the massive difference between drafts 1 and 2, it's because Labyrinth's first draft was pretty skeletal.  The 2nd draft is where I deepen character interaction & emotion and add all the really good stuff.  But sometimes I get a little carried away! There's gonna need to be some pruning and polishing as I incorporate editorial and critique group comments.  

But that's why I'm running a Kickstarter: I want to make this book the absolute best it can be.  I've already got some talented editorial and production folks lined up.  If the Kickstarter funds, I'll be able to hire them.  I'm hoping to launch the Kickstarter next week - just gotta finish the project video.  And thanks a million to everyone who took my Kickstarter survey! Got some really great suggestions I plan to incorporate.  But for tonight, I'm gonna kick back with my family and revel in the bittersweet joy of a long journey's completion.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Revision Update: Heading into the Homestretch

So the pesky day job derailed my Labyrinth of Flame revision plan again these last weeks. BUT. I am close to finishing the draft.  Close enough I'm taking this next week off from work for the big push to the end.  Which feels like:

Took this pic heading home from canyoneering in the Robbers Roost area of SE Utah.  The road is long, but the promised land is at last in sight...   
Best of all, my husband - who is once again even more desperate for this book to be done than I am - agreed to let me finish off the week by holing up in a hotel for a writing marathon, just like I did to finish The Tainted City.  (But hopefully without the late-night return home to take the kiddo to the ER.)  It is really amazing how much work I can get done when there's no little voice calling "Mommy!  Mommy, I need you..."

Assuming no illness or other disasters this next week, the kickstarter is still on for mid-Feb, likely Feb 17 or 18.  I've already been working on my project page a bit, and have roped a friend into helping me shoot some video in a nicely mountainous location (because hey, what better excuse for a little adventure?  Of course for Labyrinth I really ought to be be filming in Utah's canyon country, but alas, this is the wrong time of year - the weather is too iffy and the canyons too muddy.)

I've also got a little survey up polling what people would like to see as kickstarter rewards.  Many of you on my mailing list already responded - thanks so much for your time and your comments! Thought I'd toss up the link here too, in case anybody else wants to weigh in before I finalize reward levels.

And now, I go dark until I hit those glorious words THE END.  See you soon!