Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adventures in Audio

So a few weeks ago when the audiobook of The Whitefire Crossing first came out, I said I'd do a post about what it was like for me as the author to listen to the audio version.  I got a bit overtaken by events as The Tainted City hit bookstore shelves a little earlier than I was expecting, but now at last, the time for that post has come.

But first, allow me the chance to celebrate (because if you can't share your glee on your own blog, then where can you?): the last few days have brought three lovely new reviews for The Tainted City.  (All of them pretty much spoiler-free, assuming you've read The Whitefire Crossing.)

You guys, I can't even tell you how happy it makes me to see people enjoying The Tainted City! I wish I could go back in time and tell my stressed little author self of a few months ago that it was All Going To Be Okay. The book will get done, the story will work, and all the long nights are worth it.

Whew, okay. Back to talking about audiobooks!  I'll be the first to admit I haven't listened to very many.  Mostly because I have a very short commute, and I prefer to exercise outdoors rather than on treadmills and such, so I don't often experience the circumstances that make them so valuable.  Also because I'm a very fast reader, and in comparison, audio narration feels insanely slow in pace.  Though that can be a good thing...I remember listening to the audio version of Dorothy Dunnett's Queen's Play, and catching all kinds of humor that I'd missed during multiple reads of the novel in print.  Part of it was that the narrator did an excellent job at portraying the different accents and imbuing Lymond's dialogue with the perfect lurking edge of sarcasm.  But a significant part was that I couldn't just zip along to the next line; I had all this time as the narrator spoke to think about the multiple layers of the conversation (and realize exactly how cutting Thady Boy's seemingly drunken observations are).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday Adventure: Longs Peak (Keyhole Route), Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park

The RMNP rangers want to make sure newbies know what they're in for
Today a co-worker and I took the day off work and climbed 14,259 ft. Longs Peak, the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Longs's proximity to the Denver area (the trailhead is only an hour's drive from Boulder) and imposing domination of the front range skyline make it a magnet for local hikers.  There are many ways to ascend Longs (including a host of "big wall" alpine rock climbs up the famous Diamond east face), but the most popular (and easiest - if any route up Longs can be called "easy") is the "Keyhole Route."  16 miles round trip, 5100 ft elevation gain, and the entire upper section of the route is one long class 2/3 scramble over steep, airy ledges and granite slabs.  It's a beautiful, spectacular climb - and horrendously popular on summer weekends.  I'd done Longs via the Keyhole 6 times in the past, all on weekend days, and one time I estimated from the trail register that upwards of 800 people attempted the trail that day.  Basically, there's a solid line of people all the way from the trailhead up to the summit - not exactly a wilderness experience!

But my co-worker told me that Longs on a weekday is an entirely different, better experience - and I'm delighted to report he was right!  We only passed three other parties on our way up.  As is normal for a Longs Peak climb, we started on the trail before dawn (which meant a 4AM wake-up, ugh, but the trail is so long and arduous you've got to start early).  Headlamps are a must for the first, forested section as you hike up in the dark.  But we enjoyed a lovely sunrise after reaching timberline about 3 miles up the trail:

Sunrise on the Longs Peak trail

We even saw a hint of alpenglow on the Diamond - not nearly so much as usual, though, thanks to the all the haze from Wyoming wildfires that's currently clogging Colorado's air.

Alpenglow turns the great east face of Longs Peak pink
 At about 4 miles up the trail, a side trail splits off toward Chasm Lake.  I did a Thursday Adventure post on Chasm Lake a while back - it's a lovely lake tucked right beneath Longs's east face, and the surrounding scenery is absolutely stunning.
Me at the Chasm Lake trail junction (Longs Peak visible behind).  
 Instead of heading straight for Longs, the Keyhole trail veers north and circles around Mt. Lady Washington to reach a vast open bowl of talus called the Boulderfield.  The Keyhole for which the route is named is a distinctive notch in the ridge high above the Boulderfield.  Climbers must ascend steep talus to the Keyhole, then cross through to reach an improbable system of ledges that runs along the peak's west face.

Ascending toward the Boulderfield.  The little notch on the far right of the ridge in the picture is the Keyhole.

Ascending talus toward the Keyhole. (Climber visible at lefthand side of notch.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh Frabjous Day

If only all Mondays were like this one.  First off, look what I saw on the new release shelf at the Boulder Barnes and Noble yesterday:

Nothing like seeing your book "in the wild" for the very first time!  (I'm still pinching myself.  I totally didn't expect it to be on shelves this early - B&N's website actually says the book can't be picked up in store until the official release date of Oct 2.  Or not! Thanks a million to the eagle-eyed friend who spotted it while browsing in Boulder and fired off an email to me, so I could rush over after my son's nap to oooh and ahhh over the the sight.  (Briefly. My son has little patience for his mommy admiring her book.  I'll have to go back later sans toddler to sign the store copies.)

But that's not all.  Head on over to my Night Bazaar post today to see another reason why I'm pretty much walking on air, and enjoying every minute of the high. Oh, and I also share my two foolproof methods of finding inspiration, that work even when I'm at the lowest points of the publishing/writing rollercoaster.  (It's easy to be inspired on days like today, but a writer needs to be able to find the spark no matter what!) 

And last but not least, I'll add a brief book rec: I've recently been reading the omnibus The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, and enjoying the heck out of it.  Fun, fast-paced fantasy that's intelligently written, with a healthy dose of humor and some very memorable characters.  I'm told the series gets more serious/darker in the later novels, which I'm quite interested to see.  (I like light-hearted fantasy just fine, but I really love it when things get gut-wrenching for the characters.)  Besides, $9.99 for three ebooks in one?  That's a heck of a deal. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday Adventure: The Subway (Zion National Park)

In the fall, my thoughts always turn to canyoneering. Crisp desert air, golden-leafed cottonwood trees lining the washes, azure sky without a single lurking thunderstorm to trouble the would-be canyoneer...ahhh.  This fall I'm particularly caught up in dreams of Utah's red-rock desert, as I gear up to start work on the third book of the Shattered Sigil series.  As you might guess from my working title (The Labyrinth of Flame), I'm planning a little canyon fun for Dev and Kiran this time around.

I've shared some canyoneering pics here before, but mostly from dry desert slots.  Zion National Park features a different style of canyoneering than much of the rest of Utah.  Zion's canyons feature full-flowing streams, and require a lot more swimming and wading in addition to scrambling and rappelling.  Some experienced canyoneers scoff at Zion's popular routes as being "kiddie rap-n-swim canyoneering," since most of the major canyons have bolts placed in the rock at all the rappel points, and require little in the way of anchor-setting skills.  (In the rest of Utah, canyoneers hold to a "no bolt" ethic, to maintain the wilderness feel of the canyons.)  But Zion's canyons are so beautiful, I don't see how anyone can possibly sneer at them.  To prove it, here are some pics from a trip I did through one of Zion's most popular canyoneering routes: the Subway (a.k.a the Left Fork of North Creek).

Swirling slickrock on the hike to the canyon

Walking down the slickrock

Fall colors in the canyon

Preparing to negotiate a drop. (I'm the one in front, my husband Robert behind, followed by two other friends.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The First Review

So a little while ago I linked to Nathan Bransford's awesome GIF-illustrated post on the process of publishing, and said I was in the "waiting for reviews" stage represented by the unsuspecting guy walking down the hallway with a reviewer about to drop on his head...

Except in my case that's not quite the right analogy, because like many an author before me, I crave reviews. Seriously, they are the crack of authorhood.  Jaded (and no doubt wiser) authors say you shouldn't read them - good reviews will puff up your ego to the size of Jupiter and you'll stop listening to honest feedback, until your writing starts sucking bricks through a garden hose; while bad reviews will crush your spirit and leave you a sniveling mess afraid to ever touch your keyboard again. 

Maybe so, but heck if I can stay away. The whole point of seeking publication is to share your stories with other people - and reviews are precious proof that all the craziness of the publishing process isn't for nothing.  That somebody read your work, and reacted to it; you're not just tossing your book out into a void, never to get a response.  Monologuing is all very well, but that's interesting.  (Even if it's a necessarily limited conversation on the author's end - I hold to the policy that reviews are for readers, not the author, and so refrain from ever commenting except to send thank-you emails to the reviewers for their time and effort.  Though in other venues I am delighted to discuss my books ad nauseum. :)

My goal for publication has always been to have one single stranger enjoy my book.  And so, just as I did last year for The Whitefire Crossing, I've been waiting for The Tainted City's first review with a combination of seething nerves and hopeful anticipation: will my goal be met? 

Well, the first review is now in...and yes. Yes! The reviewer enjoyed it. Haha, and this time it's better yet: the reviewer enjoyed it despite a) primarily being an urban fantasy reader, and b) not having read The Whitefire Crossing.  (Kudos to them for forging on with The Tainted City anyway once they realized it was book 2 of a series!)  Fangs for the Fantasy says: "I love the characters in this book...even though I rarely read high fantasy now, I'm sorely tempted to track down the first book so I can fill in the gaps and the background of this story - I already know I will be checking book 3."  (You can read the full review here.  Though be warned, it does contain some spoilers.  But also a very welcome discussion of gender and LGBT issues.  I love detailed, thought-provoking reviews like this.)

So. I go to sleep tonight knowing my goal for The Tainted City is met - anything else from now on is icing on the cake. And damn, that's a great feeling.   

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RMFW Conference Wrap-up, and Tainted City news

Before anything else I just have to share: as of today, The Tainted City is in stock on Amazon!  Yes, that's right, IN STOCK. Now. RIGHT NOW. Holy crap! I mean, the early ship date isn't totally I recall, last year The Whitefire Crossing shipped from Amazon about 2 weeks early...but still. Yow.  I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that the book I spent so many late nights writing this past year is heading out to readers' hands at last.  (You guys, I am *dying* to know what you think, whether good or bad!)

(Just to clarify, it's only the print version of Tainted City that's going to be available so early.  For whatever reason, Amazon ships print books the minute they hit their warehouses, but the ebooks never become available until the official release date.  Don't ask me why this is.  The ways of publishing are byzantine and mysterious.)

Of course, this past weekend some folks got their hands on copies even earlier...because I attended the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers "Colorado Gold" conference, and participated in the conference book sale.  (I brought about ten copies of The Tainted City and sold all of 'em.  Including one to a very kind, very well-meaning gentleman who first bought The Whitefire Crossing for his fantasy-loving wife and had me sign it to her...only to call her later that evening proud of his purchase, and find out that he'd already bought a signed copy of Whitefire for her at the conference last year, and she wanted the sequel!  I signed the sequel for him and promised his wife in the message that I'd make sure not to sell another copy of Tainted City to him next year, haha.)

I owe a lot to RMFW. I met my agent-to-be at the very first RMFW conference I attended (back in 2008), and got invited to join a critique group that made a world of difference to my writing.  (Thanks to what I learned from their critique of Whitefire's original draft, I was able to rewrite it to publishable quality and get my book deal.)  I can't say enough about how wonderful an organization RMFW is, full of helpful, kind, generous people who bend over backward to help new writers. 

Group shot of my critique group (all 6 of us attended this year's RMFW conference). Front row: me, Catherine Montrose (a.k.a. Catherine Cooke), Carol Berg.  Back row: Curt Craddock, Susan Smith (a.k.a. Mackay Wood), Brian Tobias.  Without these people, The Whitefire Crossing would never have gotten published.
This was my fifth year in a row attending the RMFW conference, and I had just as good a time as ever.  I'll confess I spent much of the time in the hotel lobby bar hanging out and talking to fellow writers as opposed to attending workshops (though I did attend some, I swear!).  These days as a parent I get so few opportunities for uninterrupted adult conversation that I snatch at the chance whenever I can, heh!  And in truth I find talking to other writers about craft and story ideas just as inspiring as attending formal workshops.  When I ran out of social steam (as often happens during a conference, since I'm an introvert), I happily took myself off to a secluded corner of the hotel and did some plot noodling for The Labyrinth of Flame (the third and final book in the Shattered Sigil series, which I'm about to start work on.) 

At a conference dinner with Susan Smith, Curt Craddock, and Carol Berg.  Note the evil little smile on Curt's face. He is making up yet another horrendously groan-inducing, insanely clever simile to reclaim his title as champion of the RMFW simile contest.
This year was extra fun since those of us in my critique group got to cheer on one of our members: Carol Berg, who was voted RMFW's Writer of the Year for 2012.  (Carol's been one of my writer-heroines ever since I first stumbled across a copy of one of her novels in the library, many years ago.  She writes absolutely terrific epic fantasy - if you haven't tried her work, you are totally missing out.  Still can't believe how lucky I am to be in a critique group with her!)  Carol gave a lovely speech at the opening dinner - and later, on her Writer of the Year panel, she Told All in response to the moderator's questions, including 'fessing up to the TV show that is her guiltiest pleasure.  (Which turned out to be quite a few other writers' guilty pleasure as well!  What is it?  My lips are sealed...) 

Carol giving the conference's opening speech
Oh yes, and while driving to and from the conference, I took the chance to check out the brand-new audiobook version of The Whitefire Crossing.  I'm gonna do a post later this week talking in more detail about the audiobook experience, but the short version is: hearing my book read aloud was both utterly cool and extremely weird, all at the same time!  (The narrator, Andy Caploe, does a great job.  Especially with Dev.) 

So all in all, a lovely weekend, and now I get a break before heading back out on the con circuit in late October for MileHiCon and World Fantasy.  Time to plan a peak climb, I think...September is a gorgeous month for the mountains in Colorado.  And in the meantime, I'll be holding my breath as The Tainted City makes its way into the big wide world.  Will you like it?  I'm anxious to find out!   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ebook sale, and WHITEFIRE now available in audiobook!

Sorry for no Thursday Adventure post this week - it's been a whirlwind of recovering from WorldCon and getting ready for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold conference (which starts today!).  I am in fact about to run off to said conference (with shiny new copies of The Tainted City in hand, ready for the book sale!), but I have a bunch of news too good not to share:

1. The Whitefire Crossing's ebook is on sale for $3.99 at Amazon! Tell your friends (and neighbors, and random strangers, and....:)   Not sure how long exactly this will last, so snap it up while you can.

2. Audible released the audio version of The Whitefire Crossing yesterday - yay!  (I myself plan on listening to the narration on my drive down to the conference today...I am so curious to see how it turned out.  I tell you, this is one of those moments as an author that feels so beautifully surreal.  Your very own book, read aloud by someone else...whoa.)  

3. There's a new short excerpt from The Tainted City up on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.  This excerpt comes from the start of chapter 8, so a little ways into the book...the scene doesn't have any huge spoilers, but if you want to avoid any hint of the book's events then I suppose you should steer clear.  (I'm not the sort of person who minds, but I know some people like to stay completely spoiler-free.)

4. This week at the Night Bazaar, I share the one thing I'd change about the publishing industry.

And now, onward to the RMFW conference!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WorldCon in Pictures

I'm back from WorldCon, and wow, what a great con. My panels were all a lot of fun - including the "Develop Your Story Idea" one, in which we started off with a group improv story based on elements suggested by the audience.  I'd been a bit nervous about that one, since I don't think well on my feet, but it turned out to be a blast!  I got to meet some author-friends for the first time, like Teresa Frohock, Mazarkis Williams, Anne Lyle, E. J. Swift, and Doug Hulick - all of which were even more awesome in person than they are online.  Others, I was delighted to reunite with (folks like Kameron Hurley, Stina Leicht, Brad Beaulieu, Katy Stauber and her husband Chet Hoster, Martha Wells, Ian Tregillis, Corry Lee, my wonderful roommate Karen Bovenmyer - and my brother Matt Hilliard, book blogger and Strange Horizons reviewer extraordinare, who was attending his very first Worldcon).

The Night Bazaar party was a hit - we must've had something like 100 books to give away between the lot of us.  We stuck to last year's giveaway plan: "Eat a bug, get a book."  Enough intrepid folks chowed down on cheddar crickets and sour cream-n-onion worms to carry off every single one of those books by the night's end.  (Nobody was brave enough to try the scorpion taffy, though, to our amusement.)  My editor Jeremy Lassen even brought a few hot-off-the-press final copies of The Tainted City for me to give away!  A few lucky bug-chomping partygoers managed to pry those from my hands, once I finished bouncing up and down and admiring them.  Sometime later this week I might try to make a more coherent con report, but with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' conference coming up this weekend and a ton of catching up at work and home to do before then, right now I'll stick to showing off pictures.  Sadly, I don't have nearly as many pics as I'd like - I was too busy talking instead of picture-snapping! - but here's a few postcards from WorldCon:
Part of the Night Bazaar & Authorpalooza gang - back row: Katy Stauber, Brad Beaulieu, Teresa Frohock, Stina Leicht, Doug Hulick.  Front row: Anne Lyle, Martha Wells, Courtney Schafer, and half of E.J. Swift.  (Not at all in view: Betsy Dornbusch, Mazarkis Williams)

Bugs on the left, Scotch on the right: Chet Hoster sets up the bar for the Night Bazaar party

Jeremy Lassen (in his inimitable sartorial style) and I show off copies of The Tainted City 

Kameron Hurley (center) and E. J. Swift (right), chatting to a few early partygoers

Partygoers Don Hunt and Josh Vogt - Josh was one of the original reviewers for The Whitefire Crossing, which he liked enough to chow down on a bug to get one of our few precious copies of The Tainted City. What a guy!

E. J. Swift (author of Osiris) and me, hanging out on the party couch

Teresa Frohock and the elusive Mazarkis Williams, captured on film for the very first time

Me and Dave Palumbo, the cover artist for both The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City

Doug Hulick and Brad Beaulieu (and Mazarkis Williams, horning in on the picture...what a camera hog! :)

Jeremy Lassen using his sales skills to convince innocent partygoers to snarf bugs in exchange for books

Corry Lee and I snuck out for a little rock climbing at a gym near the hotel.  We soon discovered that Chicago routesetters are on crack and humidity makes chalk-coated holds quite slimy (ew!), but we had fun nevertheless!

Me playing on the rock wall - felt good to get off my butt after a few days of sitting on panels!

Jeremy Lassen at the "Forthcoming from Night Shade" panel

Filing into the ballroom for the Hugo awards
And look what was waiting for me when I came home:

A happy three-year-old and a box of author copies: yay!!!