Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Second chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame is up

Hope those of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving! Mine was not exactly relaxing, mostly thanks to an annoyingly persistent cold and a lot of solo parenting.  (I took my son to visit relatives in Huntsville, Alabama, while my husband enjoyed a week of blissful solitude, in reparation for the cons I attended the month prior.)  But my son had such a great time at places like the Space & Rocket center in Huntsville that I couldn't help but have fun despite exhaustion.  

Now life's about to get really hectic, as I'm staring down the barrel of some serious day job deadlines. But for those of you who read the first chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame last month, I didn't want to leave you hanging.  Here's Chapter 2 in its entirety!  (As opposed to just the first scene, which I read at World Fantasy.)

Third chapter will be posted in January, as I gear up for the kickstarter in February.  On a final note, though I didn't get much revising done while traveling this past week, I did seize the chance to read.  Here's a quickie run-down of the books I liked best, in case anyone's looking for recs:

To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts) - a standalone fantasy from one of the genre's greats. Interesting characters, nail-biting action, and one hell of an epic wilderness trip.  

The Crow (Alison Croggon) - third of her Pellinor epic fantasy series, and my favorite so far. Love Croggon's introspective writing and flair for poetic description.

The Darwin Elevator (Jason Hough) - fast, fun, SF adventure set in a post-apocalyptic Australia. Looking forward to reading the next installment once my husband is done with it.

Zero Sum Game (S.L. Huang) - contemporary SF with a badass heroine whose superpowers are based on her talent for math, which is fun. But it's the odd relationship between the heroine and her sociopathic best friend that really piqued my interest; I have a theory, but I don't know if it's right.  Looking forward to finding out in the next installment.

Mare's War (Tanita S. Davis) - half-historical, half-contemporary YA (not SFF) about two girls taking a reluctant trip with their grandmother, who served in the African-American battalion of the Women's Army Corps during World War II.  I read this on a recommendation from author Kate Elliott and found the story moving and the historical parts fascinating.

M.L. Brennan's Tainted Blood - third in her Generation V urban fantasy series. Yes, they are vampire books, but it just goes to show that in the hands of a talented author, the trope is not yet played out.  I enjoyed this one just as thoroughly as I did the first two, thanks to the engaging characters.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

World Fantasy Convention wrap-up

So World Fantasy was a lot of fun. It really is my favorite convention. Big enough that I get to see folks I never would otherwise, yet small enough it's not overwhelming.  It's got a mellow, relaxed feel that I just love (as I am in sore need of relaxation these days!).  This year the venue was excellent, too.  The hotel was easy to navigate and had a nice central bar & lounge area with tons of comfy couches - essential for World Fantasy, where the experience is often far more about the socializing than the programming. 

Not that the programming isn't cool too!  I won't do a total rehash of everything I enjoyed, but here are a few highlights:

1) Pre-convention crowdfunding workshop with Ron Garner of Silence in the Library: I'm so glad I went to this.  Ron shared a wealth of tips and advice about kickstarter that I found very helpful.  Talking with him afterward also sparked some ideas for my Labyrinth of Flame kickstarter that I'm pretty excited about (can't share them yet, but I really hope they work out!).  Robin Sullivan and Brad Beaulieu were also extremely generous in sharing their kickstarter experience and advice with me, for which I can't thank them enough.  Publishing is such a crazy business and yet it is full of really wonderful people. 

2) Kaffeeklatsch with Michael Whelan (aka 15 lucky people sitting around a table chatting with Michael Whelan): this was a huge highlight for me because Michael Whelan has been one of my favorite SFF artists since I was a kid.  I used to buy books solely because of his covers.  One of the first gifts my husband ever got me was an art book of his, and we have prints from several of his covers (The Stone of Farewell, The Snow Queen, The Summer Queen) on our walls.  I thought I wasn't going to get into the kaffeeklatsch - the signup was only for 15 people, and I didn't make it to registration in time, so was on the wait list.  I showed up anyway, in case a spot opened up last minute.  None did, but then the organizer asked Michael if it was okay for those few of us who'd come from the wait list to join in, and he said "Sure, the more the merrier."  Hooray!  It was a wonderful hour; he had tons of interesting stories from his career to share in response to questions, and overall it was just really neat to get a view into the man behind the art I've loved for so long.

3) The mass autographing on Friday night. This is where every author at the con (and there are MANY of them) sits down in one big room and signs books for anyone who comes by.  I never expect to sign many books (though I'm always delighted when somebody asks me), but I always end up having some really great conversations, and this year was no exception.  Evie Manieri and Doug Hulick and I shared a table, and it was lovely chatting with them and the folks that stopped by.

Me, Evie Manieri, and Doug Hulick, ready to autograph

4) My reading! My awesome brother brought many donuts, and my critique group and roommate and various friends and even a few people I didn't know showed up despite the early hour (THANK YOU all!), so I'm totally calling it a win.  I read the first scene from Ch 2 of Labyrinth of Flame, and gave away a signed set of Whitefire Crossing and Tainted City.     

Reading from The Labyrinth of Flame
5) Other people's readings! Attending readings is one of my favorite parts of World Fantasy. I'm a sucker for getting sneak peeks of what people are working on.  This year I got to hear the first part of Carol Berg's Valen story for Ragnarok's Blackguards anthology (we hadn't seen it in critique group so I was very eager!) - she of course stopped at a point that left us all dying for the rest.  Brenda Carre read an excellent short story that I hope sees publication very soon.  Patricia McKillip (a long-time favorite author of mine) read from a forthcoming novel she said she just turned in to her editor - don't know when it'll be out, but I'll be snapping it up the moment it releases. 

Patricia McKillip reading from her forthcoming novel, which is a contemporary take on Grail mythology, set (it would seem) in the Pacific northwest
Doug Hulick read from his upcoming 3rd novel of the Kin, Brad Beaulieu read from his upcoming Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Evie Manieri read from her debut Blood's Pride, Shaun Duke read a short story that was accompanied by an interpretative dance from Michael Underwood (sadly not in person), Heidi Ruby Miller had a fun reading where she had friends act out the character voices, Leah Petersen read from an SF tale with some cool near-future biotech...oh, I had so much fun.

6) Hanging out with friends - I'm not even going to attempt to list off all the people whose company I enjoyed, because they were both awesome and legion.  The parties were good too - had some great conversations at Ragnarok's party, and Laurey (L.F.) Patten's launch party for her new novel The Talent Sinistral (a great book, by the way).  A special shout-out to my wonderful roommate Karen Bovenmyer, because WFC just wouldn't be the same without her, and my fractionally-Hugo-nominated brother, Matt Hilliard, whom I don't get to spend enough time with.  Oh, and Megan O'Keefe and Joey Hewitt, who introduced me to a whole host of fascinating folks from Codex.

The only downside to all the fun is that after my lovely little 5 day vacation, I am SLAMMED with day job work.  But I am soldiering on in my revision of The Labyrinth of Flame as best I can, pushing ever closer toward the finish.  I'll reappear here in December to post the second chapter. 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Read the first chapter of The Labyrinth of Flame

Happy November, everyone!  Good luck to those of you doing NaNoWriMo.  On Nov 1, 2007 I sat down to write the very first line of the first draft of The Whitefire  Crossing.  Now here I am, seven years and many, many words later, closing in on the end of Dev and Kiran's story.  (Seven years.  Good God.  Doesn't feel that long at all!  You might think I'd be bored with my characters by now, but nope.  Think I have even more fun writing them these days than I did in book 1.)

In celebration of my writing anniversary - and excitement over nearing the homestretch of my revision! - I'm offering up a first look at The Labyrinth of Flame.  The first chapter is up on my website: hope you enjoy.

The 2nd and 3rd chapters will follow in Dec & Jan.  Hey, and if you're going to World Fantasy, you won't even have to wait for Dec for Ch 2.  I'll likely share the first scene of Ch 2 at my reading, which is at 10am on Sun the 9th.

And now, back to picking out which books I'll get to read while traveling to WFC (yay for airports and reading time!)...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Next up: World Fantasy!

I had a wonderful time at MileHiCon last weekend.  My panels were fun, particularly the "bad geology" one - I've got a whole new list of mockworthy movies now, thanks to my fellow panelists.  Such as Asteroid vs. Earth, which is a strong contender for Worst Geophysics Ever.  (We had a geophysicist on the panel who worked out calculations to show exactly how moronic the movie's "science" is.  His combo of dry wit and mathematical savaging of the premise had the audience rolling with laughter.)  Ring of Fire is another gem of stupidity that sounds like it deserves the MST3K treatment.  However, Pompeii got the geologist stamp of approval...sort of.  Except for the pyroclastic flow that put the brakes on to allow a melodramatic scene between lovers ("Are you done now?  Okay, I can start destroying things again!"), and the size of the tsunami.  And the terrible plot before the volcano started erupting...the panel recommends you fast-forward to the part where everybody starts dying.

My week since returning from MileHiCon has been less fun.  I threw out my back (OUCH) and my day job's workload abruptly increased to insane levels.  A temporary thing, brought on by end-of-year deadlines.  But during the next month or so it'll be more difficult than ever for me to carve out writing time, which leaves me a frustrated, unhappy, advil-chowing camper.

But!  All is not sadness.  Next week I'm off to the World Fantasy Convention in DC, a trip I'm eagerly anticipating.  I love the laid-back "family reunion" feel of WFC, and hanging out with friends is just what I need right now.  (That, and sleep, and writing time, all of which I shall have.  Yay for WFC!)

I've got a reading slot at 10am on Sunday Nov 9, so if you'll be at WFC, please come!  Otherwise, I'll have to eat all the donuts I bring myself.  Wait.  That doesn't sound so bad...except for the part where I can't exercise them off until my back is better.  Darn.

Oh, and in sympathy for those of you who've been waiting ages for The Labyrinth of Flame but can't come to the con to hear me read a scene or two, before I leave I'll be posting the first chapter of the book.  Just in case you're like me and enjoy a taste of what's coming.  (I know, I know, some of you prefer to wait until the book's complete and in your hands.  I admire your self-control.  As a reader, I have none.)


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kickstarter Resources

As I get ready to kickstart The Labyrinth of Flame in February, I've been asking author-friends who've successfully crowd-sourced projects for advice and lessons learned.  Many people have been very generous in sharing their experience and knowledge, which I am hugely grateful for.  Both for my own reference and that of others, I thought I'd start a post here collecting links to useful information as well as some examples of author kickstarters.  I'll add to this as I discover new posts - and after my own kickstarter is done, write up what I learned as well. 

How Kickstarter is replacing the traditional publisher (Michael J. Sullivan)
Judging your novel's Kickstarter chances (Matt Forbeck)
How to run a successful Kickstarter, Part 1 (Brad Beaulieu)
How to run a successful Kickstarter, Part 2 (Brad Beaulieu)
One weird trick for a successful kickstarter project (The  Doubleclicks)
A Warts-and-All Guide to Kickstarter: What Works and What Doesn't (Plus Where We Royally Screwed Up) (Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant)
How I Planned My Kickstarter And Why I Think It Worked Out So Well (Harry Connolly)
How to Use Kickstarter to Fund a Self-Published Book (Mur Lafferty)
Kickstarter - What does it all mean (Lee Moyer)
Kickstarter White Paper part 1 (Lee Moyer)
Kickstarter White Paper part 2 (Lee Moyer)
The SF Signal Podcast Episode 206 - John Joseph Adams, Mary Robinette Kowal, Matt Forbeck, and Tobias Buckell on Kickstarters and the new Anthology Project - HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY
Episode 68 of Speculate! - The State of the Field (Kickstarter Edition), with special guests Matt Forbeck and Lee Moyer

Author Kickstarters:
Michael J. Sullivan's Hollow World Kickstarter
Bradley P. Beaulieu's Flames of Shadam Khoreh Kickstarter
Bradley P. Beaulieu's Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten Kickstarter
Tim Pratt's Lady of Misrule Kickstarter
Tim Pratt's Grim Tides Kickstarter
Tim Pratt's Bride of Death Kickstarter
Harry Connolly's The Great Way Kickstarter
Mur Lafferty's The Afterlife Series Kickstarter
Kerry Schafer's The Nothing Kickstarter

Small Press Kickstarters
J.M. Martin (Ragnarok Publications)'s Blackguards Anthology Kickstarter
J.M. Martin (Ragnarok Publications)'s Kaiju Rising Anthology Kickstarter
Silence in the Library's Icarus: A Graphic Novel Kickstarter

Friday, October 17, 2014

MileHiCon 2014 Schedule

Next weekend I'll be taking a brief break from revision to attend MileHiCon in Denver.  Actually, not really a break...I'm bringing my laptop and will continue to work furiously whenever I get the chance.  (One and a half chapters left that need a full white-page rewrite! Then I will be in the homestretch - the last few chapters only need adjusting, not complete rewriting.)

This year for the first time I'm staying at the con rather than driving down every day, so I'm pretty darn excited about the chance for extra sleep and writing time.  Oh yes, and also seeing friends, meeting new people, and all the usual fun con activities.  (Haha, I think I must be one of the few people whose first thought upon contemplating a weekend at a con is "Hell yeah, I'm gonna get some SLEEP.")

Here's my panel schedule - notice how none of my panels are before noon?  This is going to be an excellent con. But seriously, if you're attending, please come and say hi! I promise I enjoy interacting just as much as I do sleeping. And if my last-minute rush print job gets shipped in time, I will have lovely Labyrinth of Flame postcards to hand out.  

Saturday, Oct 25:

2pm: Kickstarter & Beyond: Successful Crowd-Sourcing

7pm: Worst Tropes EVER: 10 We'd Like to Ban from Books & Film

Sunday, Oct 26:

2pm: Rocks In Their Heads: Stupid Geology

3pm: Writing That is Adored/Obsessed Over

Thursday, October 2, 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.


Friday, September 5, 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.

Thursday, July 31, 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!


Friday, July 11, 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...

Wednesday, June 18, 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.

Monday, June 2, 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)

Wednesday, May 21, 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.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Tainted City (a.k.a. Stadt der Magier) releases in Germany

Die Chroniken von Ninavel continues in Germany, hooray!  Today's the release date for Stadt der Magier ("City of Mages"), the German edition of The Tainted City.  Hope German readers enjoy it as much as they seem to have Die Blutmagier ("The Bloodmages") / The Whitefire Crossing.  I'll admit I have fun practicing my (rusty) German by reading the occasional blog reviews auf Deutsch that Google alerts sends to me.

In other news, Reddit's r/Fantasy forum put together a 225-book ranked list of "Under-read and under-rated fantasy", which also got featured on Tor.com - and The Whitefire Crossing is #3.  Sweet!  Seriously, it's great to know that those who've read my book feel strongly that more people should read it. Whitefire is in some pretty stellar company there, too. If you're looking for great fantasy to read, the list is a terrific resource.  My own TBR pile has sure gotten a heck of a lot longer.

In other other news, I'll be making an announcement soon about plans for The Labyrinth of Flame's release (at long last!) - so stay tuned.  And now, back to revision I go...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

New Releases I'm Dying to Read, May 2014 Edition (plus, revision update!)

Labyrinth of Flame revision update: Between the need to address some behind-the-scenes business stuff plus running into a few scenes that needed a LOT of work, I didn't make as much forward progress in revision as I was hoping for in April.  That said, I'm nearly at 80K now, closing in on the halfway point, so progress was still made.  Also, the book now has a back-cover description, which I've put up on Labyrinth's Goodreads page and my website.  (Description is very spoilery for previous book Tainted City, but hopefully not very spoilery for Labyrinth!)

Haha, and in the classic authorial rite of passage, I noticed that the book already has two ratings, even though I'm not done writing it. A 4-star, and a 1-star.  The 4-star actually cracks me up the most.  Most times you see people either rating unreleased books as 5-star ("OMG I can't wait!") or 1-star ("The existence of further books in this series offends me.")  But when I see 2-4 star advance ratings, I can't help but wonder...does it mean, "I'm sort of excited about this book, but not really"?  Or did the person just poke the wrong part of their phone touchscreen?  Ah, the mysteries of authorhood that will never be answered....

And now, onward to the books I'm excited about in May:

1. Jeff Salyards's Veil of the Deserters (ebook release May 19, print release June 3)

I thought the first novel in Jeff Salyards's Bloodsounders Arc (Scourge of the Betrayer) was pretty darn great; needless to say, when offered the chance to read an ARC version of Veil, I didn't hesitate. I liked it just as much (maybe even more) than the Scourge, so I happily blurbed it: "Veil of the Deserters builds upon the promise of Scourge of the Betrayer, continuing Salyards's unique blend of gritty realism, brutal action, and thoughtful introspection even as the story deepens with a host of intriguing revelations.  If you've any taste for military fantasy, read these books."  I mean that last line, by the way, so don't miss out.  I myself will be heading for the bookstore to snag a hardback copy when release day comes.

2. Douglas Hulick's Sworn in Steel, release date May 6

This one I haven't read yet, but I've been waiting eagerly for it ever since finishing Hulick's debut novel Among Thieves way back in 2011.  I'm a sucker for a sardonic, streetwise first-person protagonist of dubious morality, and Hulick's protagonist Drothe is that in spades.  Can't wait to read his next adventure at long last!

3. Stephanie Saulter's Gemsigns, release date May 6

I've seen some glowing reviews of this one from bloggers whose taste often aligns with mine, so my interest is piqued. Looking forward to reading Saulter's take on genetically engineered humans and the ethics thereof.  

4. Merrie Haskell's The Castle Behind Thorns, release date May 27

I've heard great things about this middle grade reworking of Sleeping Beauty; I'll be interested to see how it compares to Helen Lowe's excellent Thornspell.  I love it when authors can take a seemingly familiar story and put their own unique spin on it such that the tale speaks in a whole different way to the reader.

Others releasing in May that I'm adding to the TBR pile: Trudi Canavan's Thief's Magic, Michael J. Martinez's The Enceladus Crisis, Brian McClellan's The Crimson Campaign, and Will McIntosh's Defenders.

Monday, March 31, 2014

New Releases I'm Dying to Read: March/April edition

On the authorial front, it's the same song, same verse: Still revising The Labyrinth of Flame (just passed the 60K mark). Still no news yet on an official release date.  (Sorry, everyone! Publishing is sloooooow.)  I'm going to make a big push on the revision during April, which means I'll be around even less than usual.  I'll still respond to emails and @-replies on twitter, but other than that, it's gonna be all crickets all the time.

But before I vanish into the wilds of revision, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the books releasing this year that I'm really excited about.  Mostly because half the novels I'm dying to read never seem to show up on the lists I see at high-traffic sites (like this Buzzfeed one, which covers a disappointingly narrow slice of fantasy).  In my small way, I want to give the books I'm anticipating some more love.  Originally I thought I'd do my own version of a full "books of 2014" list.  Then I started writing down all the novels I'm looking forward to, and realized the list was so long it'd take me days to write the post - days I'd much rather be spending on revision right now.  Instead, I decided to only post about novels releasing in the next month (or in this case, novels from both March and April), and just make it a recurring monthly feature.

So! What books releasing in March and April had I already pre-ordered and am using as rewards when I meet revision goals? 

1. Catherine Fisher's The Slanted Worlds (Chronoptika #2), release date March 18

The first in the series, Obsidian Mirror, was one of my favorite reads last year. Wildly imaginative YA that mixes tropes from science fiction (time travel! dystopian futures!) with fantasy (faeries and changelings!), and includes a whole range of characters who distrust each other yet are forced to make alliances - yeah, sign me up.  I pretty much devoured Slanted Worlds the moment it released (see my Goodreads review here). 

2. Elspeth Cooper's The Raven's Shadow (Wild Hunt #3), US release date March 11


I love epic fantasy, so Cooper's Wild Hunt series sits firmly in my sweet spot as a reader.  Lovely prose, diverse characters, plenty of magic - bring it on, I say.  First book is Songs of the Earth. 

3. Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, release date April 1

Addison is a pen name for fantasy author Sarah Monette.  I've enjoyed what I've read of Monette's work, so I was already interested upon hearing she had a new novel coming out - and my interest has only grown after seeing several glowing reviews for the book.  I'm looking forward to seeing if I am as enraptured by it as others have been.

4. Elizabeth Bear's Steles of the Sky (Eternal Sky #3), release date April 8

The first two books in this epic fantasy series - Range of Ghosts and Shattered Pillars - were right up at the top of my favorite reads of the last two years, so it's no surpise I'm salivating for the conclusion to the trilogy.  Love the characters, love the Mongolian-inspired setting, and Bear has a deft hand with plot that keeps me guessing every time.  It kills me that this series hasn't gotten the massive level of attention it deserves.  Read it!  Read it now!     

That's it for my March/April pre-orders, though a few other books have also caught my eye: Glenda Larke's The Lascar's Dagger, Mark Smylie's The Barrow, and Jon Sprunk's Blood and Iron.  They've gone on the TBR list for the day I finish my revision and can indulge in a month-long reading binge. May that day come soon!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Holding Pattern

Yeah, it's been quiet around here.  Very, very quiet.  Revising Labyrinth of Flame remains my top priority, which doesn't leave much chance for blogging.  In case anyone wonders why the heck revision takes me so long, here's an sample of my process:

1) Take messy first-draft version of chapter and rewrite it to the point I'm willing to let my critique group read it.  This means cleaning up prose, but also rethinking action, character reactions, dialogue flow, sometimes even a blank-page rewrite if something's changed significantly in the story after rewrites of previous chapters.

2) Hand out chapter to critique group.  Get feedback pointing out issues (often relating to tension, pacing, or depth of emotional interaction).

3) Tear hair and gnash teeth trying to figure out a way to address problems.  Think of an idea, get halfway through rewriting scene, realize it still doesn't help.  Think more.  Despair.  Eat cupcake, or (preferably) do something outdoors.  A-ha!  Sugar or adrenaline rush leads to way better idea, one I can see immediately will address issues and make story 100% better.

4) Realize brilliant new idea means rewriting entire chapter from scratch (and maybe the one before it, too).  Weep copiously.  Save old scenes to "deleted scenes" file and go back to step 1.

Outdoor exercise and plenty of sleep do much to speed up steps 1 and 3.  Sadly, as a parent I don't get the chance for nearly as much as I'd like of either.  But: good news!  This weekend, I'll be enjoying both.  My awesome boss invited me and some other friends up to her house in ski country for a little "ladies ski weekend," and my equally awesome husband agreed to take off work and wrangle our son solo so I can spend Thurs-Sat in mountain heaven.  I don't know what's more exciting: the idea of skiing hard all day long in chutes and trees, or the idea of sleeping an entire night through without a little voice going "Mommy, I'm scared..." at 3am.  And yes, I'm bringing the ol' laptop and plan on getting some quality revising time in addition to the other fun.

The best aid to revision ever.  As long as you ski wearing a helmet (which I do). 
So wish me much powder and much progress, and may your weekend be as fun as mine promises to be!        


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

So you think not many women write epic fantasy/sword & sorcery?

I've been busy busy busy with revisions on The Labyrinth of Flame (now approaching the 50K revised mark!), a big day job project, and yes, more than a little skiing.  Yet amid all that, I haven't been ignoring the internet entirely.  So when Teresa Frohock posted on her blog about the challenges she's faced as a female author of SFF, and then Mark Lawrence ran a poll asking his readers whether their decision to buy his book would've been different if it'd said Mary Lawrence on the cover, not Mark, and then on Reddit's r/Fantasy forum a huge discussion sprang up about Mark's poll...I followed the conversation.  And after I saw about the fifth instance of someone saying, "Well, but not many women write epic fantasy..."  I couldn't take it anymore. 

I marched over to my bookshelves and scribbled down 40 books written by 40 different female authors that could be categorized as either epic fantasy or sword and sorcery, and posted the list in a thread on Reddit.  (Note: since people on Reddit appeared to be using a fairly broad definition of  "epic fantasy," so did I.  I included alternate histories with significant magical elements, though I did NOT include sword-and-planet SF, or dark/mythic fantasy, or YA fantasy). 

I was delighted at the response!  Hundreds of commenters added more names and said how excited they were to have new books to try.  I know it's a drop in the bucket of this weird invisibility that female-authored novels seem to have in online fandom, but it's a drop that makes me happy and renews my hope that things are changing. 

And speaking of reviews and visibility, my absolute favorite kind of reviews are long, detailed, thoughtful ones.  Like this one Tainted City recently got from Renay of Lady Business.  (The hilarious GIFs are just the icing on the cake!  Also, I am totally using the pull quote "Courtney Schafer is THE WORST." :D) The best part of all is that the comments continued the discussion.  It is surreal but also 100% awesome to see people analyzing my characters and story and discussing their reactions, no matter whether those reactions are positive or negative.)

And now, back to radio silence and revisions...


Friday, January 31, 2014

Thursday Adventure: Routeburn Track (Southern Alps, New Zealand)

The last weeks have been a bit difficult around here, thanks to illness and other trials.  The saddest thing was the death of my last remaining grandparent, my father's mother.  She was 91 and hadn't been in the best of health (she'd been suffering dementia for years) so it wasn't unexpected; but still.  I treasure my memories of summer weeks with her and my grandfather in their home in the Appalachian Mountains.  I adored my grandmother: she made terrific pancakes, let me watch whatever I wanted (I first saw Star Wars, The Black Stallion, and many other great movies at her house), and let me explore the woods behind their home with no companion but their Australian Shepherd (a dog that I fiercely loved, especially since my parents wouldn't let me have pets).  Scrambling around the steep, heavily forested valley behind their house was my first experience of exploring wilderness, and it was the foundation for my lifelong love of the mountains.

So in honor of my grandmother and the love she instilled in me, today I share one of my favorite mountain adventures of the last decade: walking the Routeburn Track over New Zealand's Southern Alps.  The Routeburn Track is a 32km trail that starts near the end of Lake Wakatipu, crosses a high saddle, and drops down the range's other side to end not far from Milford Sound.  My husband and I decided to do the Routeburn instead of its more famous cousin the Milford Track on our trip to New Zealand in 2006 because we'd heard the views were better and the track spends far more time in high alpine terrain (always a plus in our book).  Also, no sandflies: even bigger plus!

Robert and I and our good friend Catherine took a bus from Queenstown to the start of the track, enjoying gorgeous views of Lake Wakatipu along the way.

Lake Wakatipu
At the start of the track: Catherine, Robert, and me
The track starts in mossy forest, crossing a stream by means of a swing bridge.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Podcast fun, a revision update, and a taste of New Zealand

Happy 2014 to all! Hope the new year is going well.  It's been a bit stressful here, since mid-January is the deadline for Boulder's "open enrollment" lottery for the upcoming school year.  Like many other Boulder parents with a kindergartener-to-be, I've been going on countless school tours, fretting over enrollment lottery statistics, and spending way too much brainpower agonizing over what elementary school would be best for my son.  Choice is a wonderful thing - we're blessed to have so many excellent schools, both public and private, here - but boy, sometimes it's overwhelming.    

I haven't spent all my time fretting, though! My son just started his first real ski class (a season-long program at a local ski area), and I don't know who's more excited, him or me.  After all, while he's in his class, I get to ski trees and moguls to my heart's content.  I can't even tell you how wonderful that is after 4 years of barely skiing at all.  And after I ski my heart out on the steeps, I get to come back and ski green runs with my kiddo, and share in his excitement.  I tell you, there's no better way to spend a day.

My revision of The Labyrinth of Flame is chugging along - I've got 30K revised so far, probably about 1/5 of the book.  I'm still having a ton of fun doing it, too.  Revising may be challenging but it's oh so satisfying.

And I'm psyched to say that the podcast I recorded late last year with Renay of Lady Business is now live!  Renay was a great host; I had so much fun discussing all things SFF with her, from conventions to agents & publishing to gender and genre divides.  I also talk a bit about The Labyrinth of Flame, share some mountain stories, answer some reader questions, and recommend a whole lot of great books.  (I will apologize however for sounding like a valley girl on speed.  I blame the rather potent cough medicine I was taking.  I swear that on prior podcasts I didn't say "like" and "whatever" every third word.)

I know it's been ages since I did a Thursday Adventure post here on the blog, but after seeing all that gorgeous New Zealand scenery in the second Hobbit movie, I've been re-inspired.  Especially since I realized I never did an adventure post for the Routeburn Track, which was one of my favorite experiences on my own New Zealand trip.  So expect a post chock full of NZ mountain pics coming soon - in the meantime, have a little taste!

Mountain views on the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Last but not least, you have got to check out this long and wonderful list of female SFF authors & their novels, by Andrea K. Höst at the BookSmugglers.  Looking through it, I spotted so many old favorites I haven't thought of in years - Ann Maxwell, anyone? - along with plenty of authors I've never heard of, and am excited to try.