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,

-Courtney