Tag Archives: Lee French

#amreading: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

IndieGuideCoverOne aspect of an author’s career that we are often temperamentally unsuited for, is the book signing event. Many of us are, by nature, not outgoing or able to sell our own work. But the book signing event is crucial–it is is a way for you to meet with potential readers in person, and for them to develop a sense of connection to you and your work.

A book every indie author should have in their arsenal is Working the Table, by authors Lee French and Jeffrey Cook.  The advice within those pages will pay for the book many times over, because whether you are an indie or traditionally published, most likely you will have to sell your book, and a way to generate a little bit of a buzz is the good, old-fashioned book signing. You will also attract readers at conventions, if you are careful to select cons that play to your genre and your style.

I had the chance to speak to Lee and Jeffrey over the weekend about their book.

CJJ: Working the Table is a useful book in the indie author’s arsenal. What made you decide to embark on such an ambitious project?

Jeffrey: Honestly? Other authors were responsible. Take a look at the dedication page — the people named there were some of the primary culprits, but not the only ones. We’d do shows; people would see us putting up the table, arranging it, putting out set deals, and then handling customers, and tell us we needed to write a book.

For quite a while, we laughed at the suggestion. Then we got an ultimatum at Orycon last year — “You guys write it, or I will.”

We still laughed. Then, that same night, staying with Madison Keller in Portland, I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up until 3:30 AM jotting down notes and ideas. I didn’t know it, but Lee would be up not long after I finally went to bed.

We compared notes on the drive home and got started.

Lee: Even at that point, though, it wasn’t a done deal. The speed with which the book came together is what really made it happen. This project could easily have been one that festers and simmers and takes a while, especially with the demanding publishing schedule both Jeff and I maintain. But it took almost no time to write the first draft between us, and we did a few shows in the middle of the revision process where we turned to each other and said, “The thing that just happened needs to be in the book.” Two days later, it was in the book.

CJJ: Authors are by nature rather introverted. But you two both have a strong presence when you are behind the table at an event. How did you develop the persona you have for events?

Jeffrey: Frankly, I’m not an introvert. I’m not an extrovert either. I like my space and quiet time, but in this job, I have a reasonable amount of it. When convention or activity time rolls around, I’m pretty happy to talk to people.

As it notes in the book, that’s part of what I bring to the partnership. I like talking to people. I’ve traveled all over the US and Canada between moving and a lot of road trips when I was younger, and I’m fairly good at dealing with new people.

Part of the presence you mention also has to do with developing a coordinated plan based around our soft-sell approach. When people come up to the table, our primary aims are to make them feel comfortable there and to match them up with the book or books they want, instead of trying to push any particular thing.

Lee: While I’m on the introvert side of the scale, and I have some moderate social anxieties, I’ve found that being behind the table is a relatively comfortable place. There’s an expectation for behavior and interactions not present in other types of people encounters.

My job at the table is a known quantity, both to myself and to people who approach. When you walk up, I want to help you find a book, and you know that’s what I’m going to try to do. That makes the interaction much easier to pursue. No one walks up to an author table expecting to talk about anything other than books, writing, publishing, the surrounding environment, and whatever fandom is dearest to them. With those boundaries pre-established, and the subjects (mostly) ones I can speak on with a certain amount of expertise, the anxieties inherent in relating to strangers are significantly lessened.

CJJ: How do you select the convention with the right buyers for your work?

Jeffrey: Right now, we’re doing a lot of different conventions. Comic-cons, scifi/fantasy cons, street fairs, literary events, etc. Next year, we’re hoping to narrow down the field from about 32 planned events this year (for me, anyway, though most of those are working with Lee) down to about 18 of the best. Then maybe 12-15 in years beyond that.

We know that we both primarily write science fiction and fantasy, so we definitely favor events with a strong scifi/fantasy convention audience and tend to do the best at those. Thankfully, that’s a big market in the Pacific Northwest.

Lee: When I first started looking at picking conventions, my first question was, “Which conventions would I like to attend?” Like most writers, the things that interest me wind up in my writing, making my audience people who are, at least generally, like me. That means gaming conventions are high on my list, as are general fantasy and science fictions shows of all types. Then it comes to subgenre niche conventions, so long as one of us has something in that subgenre, we’ll try it. I actually do well at steampunk conventions despite not having steampunk books because I share a table with Jeff, who has some high quality steampunk. But I wouldn’t go to a steampunk convention by myself.

CJJ: What has been the largest hurdle for you in most dealers’ rooms?

Jeffrey: The unpredictability of some of these shows can be frustrating. We’re pretty good at selling books as long as there’s an audience. Sometimes there’s just not. The long, slow periods can be kind of difficult too, especially because you at least need someone at the table looking engaged and interested, no matter how long it’s been since someone came by.

Lee: Getting into them in the first place. Some conventions are very popular and getting in requires sacrificing your first born child under the full moon with a sprig of fresh mistletoe… Once you’re in, you’re usually in as long as you want to be, but jamming your foot in the door can be challenging. The best bet is usually to keep submitting and when you do get into something, be excellent to the volunteers and staff. Word about vendor behavior gets around.

CJJ: What advice do you have for the author just embarking on the roller-coaster ride that is the dealers’ room?

Jeffrey: Keep your expectations reasonable. When you’re just starting out, conventions aren’t going to be a big money-maker. You’re trying to get your book out there, but also start connecting with fans and potential fans. The investment of time and money can still be worth it in the long run, but you need to look at it as exactly that: an investment.

Lee: That’s also my number one piece of advice. The goal of working conventions is to break even, not to have fabulous financial windfalls. It’s not an end-all, be-all marketing tactic, it’s a piece of a larger picture. One of the most important things we do at conventions is hand out business cards and meet people. Selling books matters, because we have to make enough to afford to do this. Making connections matters more for the long term.

CJJ: If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently?

Jeffrey: In broad general terms, I’d have liked to have been better about listening to my editor and her general advice. She had a lot better perspective on some things early in my writing career, and I’d be better off and further ahead today if I’d been a better listener.

In terms of shows and conventions specifically: I’d have loved to have spent some serious time learning how to use media better. Press releases, getting newspaper attention, etc.  It’s important and helpful – and something I’m still not great at.

Lee: For the bigger picture of publishing, I’ve made a number of horrifying mistakes in my career that I wish I could go back and do right the first time. It would take to long to discuss them all. For those considering jumping into this madness that is writing novels, I definitely recommend getting your feet wet with short story publication before throwing your first novel out there. Short story writing teaches the art of brevity, a skill many novelists struggle with.

CJJ: Finally, where can the reader find you two this summer?

Jeffrey: In May, I’ll be at Lilac City Comiccon in Spokane with Lee (May 14th), then Gearcon Day Out in Portland (May 21).

In June, I’ll be at Oddmall in Everett from the 3rd through the 5th, working with Freevalley Publishing, then Maple Valley Days, all of 7 blocks from my home, from the 10th through the 12th. Our books will be at the Brass Screw Confederacy (also the 10th through the 12th), and then we’ll be at the Fremont Solstice Festival from the 17th through the 19th.

In July, we’ll be at Westercon in Portland from the 1st to the 4th. Then we’ll be running our own book fair at Evergreen State University in Olympia on the 16th. Then I’ll be on my own one more time at the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival in Bellingham on the 23rd as a guest of Village Books.

Finally, in August, we embark on the epic road trip — which we’ve kind of planned the year around. We’re still waiting on hearing about a show in Minnesota, but we’re confirmed for Gencon in Indianapolis from the 4th to the 7th, then Malcon in Denver from the 12th to the 14th, and finally, the long haul of Worldcon in Kansas City from the 17th to the 21st.

Lee: I don’t have any additional appearances beyond those Jeff listed scheduled at this point. I’ll just note the name of the book fair on July 16—CapitalIndieBookCon—for anyone interested in a book fair in Olympia.

CJJ: I will be at the CapitolIndieBookCon also, putting your wisdom to work! Thank you, Jeffrey and Lee, for taking the time to talk with me about Working the Table.  In my opinion, any author who intends to get out and do book signing events or work the dealer’s rooms at conventions should consider purchasing this book. The advice contained within was hard earned and is priceless. I have my copy and it is already looking a little well-used!

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Jeff1Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s the author of the Dawn of Steam trilogy of alternate-history/emergent Steampunk epistolary novels, the YA Sci-fi thriller Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, and the YA Fantasy novel Foul is Fair. He’s a founding contributing author of Writerpunk Press and has also contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle. He is part of a speculative-fiction authors’ co-op, Clockwork Dragon (www.clockworkdragon.net). When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.

You can find Jeffrey Cook’s books by visiting his author page at Amazon.com:

Jeffrey Cook on Amazon.com:

  • Dawn of Steam: First Light
  • Dawn of Steam: Gods of the Sun
  • Dawn of Steam: Rising Suns
  • Foul is Fair
  • Street Fair
  • A Fair Fight
  • Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk
  • Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk 2
  • Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk
  • Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets
  • Airs & Graces (Angel’s Grace 1)
  • There But for the Grace (Angel’s Grace 2)
  • Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

www.Authorjeffreycook.com

www.Clockworkdragon.net

Jeffrey Cook on Facebook

Dawn of Steam Trilogy on Facebook

Follow Jeff on twitter: @jeffreycook74

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Lee1Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending too much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.
You can find Lee French’s books by visiting her author page at Amazon.com:

Lee French on Amazon:

  • Maze Beset #1: Dragons In Pieces
  • Maze Beset #2: Dragons In Chains
  • Maze Beset #3: Dragons In Flight
  • The Greatest Sin #1: The Fallen
  • The Greatest Sin #2: Harbinger
  • The Greatest Sin #3: Moon Shades
  • The Greatest Sin #4: Illusive Echoes (coming soon)
  • Spirit Knights #1: Girls Can’t Be Knights
  • Spirit Knights #2: Backyard Dragons
  • Spirit Knights #3: Ethereal Entanglements (coming soon)
  • Damsel In Distress
  • Shadow & Spice (short story)
  • Al-Kabar
  • Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions
  • Into the Woods: a fantasy anthology
  • Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk
  • Missing Pieces VII: short stories from GenCon’s Author’s Avenue (coming in August)
  • Unnatural Dragons: a science fiction anthology (coming soon)

www.authorleefrench.com

www.Clockworkdragon.net

Lee French on Facebook

Clockwork Dragon on Facebook

Follow Lee on Twitter: @AuthorLeeFrench / @DragonClockwork

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Filed under Books, Publishing, Self Publishing, writer, writing

#amwriting: The Superhero

The_IncrediblesI just spent the weekend on grandma duty with a 3-yr old grandson. We did a lot of fun things, but when we needed some quiet time we watched The Incredibles…over and over….

It’s a great movie…honest…but now I know the dialogue by heart.

Superheroes are huge in our pop culture. I love them, and everyone loves them. So what is it that makes a story involving a superhero intriguing? First of all, this type of tale is speculative fiction. It is based on the power of “what if….”

When you open a book of speculative fiction, you will often find yourself reading a morality tale, a “there but for the grace of God” tale that keeps you thinking long after you have finished the book.

The main characters are usually flawed heroes, imperfect people who come through in the end, and win the day. Nowhere is the concept of the flawed hero more clearly drawn than in the sci-fi sub-genre of Superheroes. It is a branch of science fiction that has become a sub-culture.

Traditionally, science fiction involves the accurate portrayal of science as we know it, including the cutting edge of theoretic science. For the fans of this genre, plausible science is critical, along with a strong morality tale set in a futuristic setting.

“Superhero” stories take “what if” science speculation to an extreme: they tend to be a mix of known and as-yet-unknown science extrapolated out to the nth degree and heavily padded with uber-dramatic plots.

The spider bite that gave Peter Parker his powers. Amazing Fantasy #15, art by Steve Ditko.

The spider bite that gave Peter Parker his powers. Amazing Fantasy #15, art by Steve Ditko.

Mad science has free reign, threatening the citizens of a frequently unnamed metropolis. Sometimes, ordinary people are caught up in these experiments and granted super powers. Think about Spiderman: he is the victim of an experiment gone wrong. A bite from a radioactive spider triggers mutations in the teen-aged Peter Parker’s body, granting him superpowers.

The early series revolves around his maturing through teen-aged angst to married adulthood, while dealing with his super powers. He is one of the few working-class superheroes–he has no fortress of solitude from which he works, but he does live with his elderly aunt and attends high-school.

Sometimes their gifts are used for good (our superheroes) but more frequently the powers take away their “humanity” turning them evil (enter the supervillain).

It is the imbalance of evil super-ness to good that creates the never-ending string of villains for the superhero to battle.

Other superheroes have super technology.  Consider Batman: he possesses no superhuman powers. However, he has mastered the martial arts, developed espionage techniques, and understands everything from physics to forensics. What he lacks in super powers he makes up for in super-science.

Superheroes all have an exceptionally rigid, highly moral code of honor. They are eager to risk their lives in the service of humanity and expect no payment.

Batman by Jim Lee (2002) via WikipediaThey often work alone. The catch phrase “it’s complicated” completely defines the flawed superhero. Again, let’s look at Batman: he is dark, brooding. He is a man obsessed with the murder of his parents and is consumed with avenging them, taking to the streets to hunt down super-criminals. He is possessed of the money to enable him to fight evil with incredible technology, and he spends it like water.

All superheroes must have a fundamental motivation, a reason for their obsession. In many cases, it’s a sense of responsibility and guilt for a traumatic incident witnessed in their childhood.

Tales involving Superheroes are usually set in modern cities, and have a strong science theme, although the science is frequently fantasy-based. Magic is rarely used in western superhero stories, although Japan has a long tradition of combining science and magic in its manga (comic books).

Most superheroes and the supervillains they battle operate from a secret base or headquarters. These bases are usually equipped with state-of-the-art, highly advanced, and/or alien technologies. No amount of money is spared when it comes to designing a superhero’s (or villain’s) fortress. Let’s examine the Batcave: Batman’s secret headquarters, command center, and safe house. The cave’s beating heart is a supercomputer whose specs are on par with any of those used by our government. It’s capable of global surveillance and also connects to a massive information network including, but outside of, our usual internet.

Naturally, a computer of that size stores vast amounts of information, both on Batman’s foes and his allies. He even has satellite link-ups that allow easy access to his information network anywhere around the globe. No matter where he is, he is connected. Of course, the systems are highly protected against unauthorized access, and any attempt to breach their security is immediately made known to Batman.

dragons in piecesAs an added bonus, while the superhero is often dark and brooding, the evil he battles is outrageously megalomaniacal. The supervillain’s ego is as large as his fortress, and so is his disdain for humanity in general.

Be aware, the science in these stories is “squishy,” and requires the reader to set aside their inner skeptic. For this reason, the superhero is a sub-genre all its own.

There is a lot of room for imagination when writing about a superhero. Lean prose is required, and an almost comic-book style of plot. A plot should have all the elements of a thriller, with a certain amount of mad science thrown in. When done right, the superhero book can be quite a fun read.

For an excellent example of books in this genre, check out Lee French’s novel, Dragons in Pieces. It’s as perfect an example of work written in this sub-genre as I have read outside of a comic book. It has great characters who are complicated and slightly flawed, plenty of mad science, loads of evil henchmen, and an epic plot.

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Filed under Adventure, Fantasy, writing

#CoverReveal: Working the Table, by Lee French and Jeffrey Cook

IndieGuideCoverAs you know, I am a strong proponent of the indie movement in publishing. Indies have a hard road when it comes to getting their work noticed.

A useful new book for indie authors is due out on March 19, 2016: Working the Table–An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions. Well-travelled authors Lee French and Jeffrey Cook have put together this comprehensive how-to manual based on their own experiences.

The Blurb:

Because books won’t sell themselves.

In these times when it’s easy to self-publish but hard to get noticed, conventions offer a solid, feasible option for the independent author to start on a path to financial sustainability. But becoming a professional denizen of the dealer’s room has its challenges. In Working the Table, two veteran indie authors spill their secrets to help you not only survive, but thrive in the book-event environment.

I have shared a table with both Jeff and Lee, and they really do know what they are doing. They really love the convention atmosphere and they are building a solid fanbase with their personal appearances. I look forward to seeing what their secrets are.

Lee1Lee French lives in Olympia, WA, and is the author of several fantasy and science fiction books, most notably the Maze Beset Trilogy, The Greatest Sin series (co-authored with Erik Kort), and assorted tales in her fantasy setting, Ilauris. She’s an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she’s known for creative squirrel deployment. In addition to spending time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.

She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association and serves as the Municipal Liaison for the Olympia region of NaNoWriMo. Her appearances to date include GenCon, WorldCon, Norwescon, and several other Pacific Northwest sci-fi and fantasy conventions. You can find Lee’s books here: Lee French’s author page on amazon.com.

Jeff1Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s the author of the Dawn of Steam trilogy of alternate-history/emergent Steampunk epistolary novels, the YA urban fantasy series The Fair Folk Chronicles, and the YA Sci-fi thriller Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets. He’s a founding contributing author of Writerpunk Press and has also contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle. When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.
 –
You can find Jeff’s books here at: Jeffrey Cook’s author page on amazon.com.
 
Lee and Jeff will have a lot of good advice and information to offer in this book–they spent the entire summer on the road last year, and do at least 2 conventions a month during the off-season! I don’t have that kind of enthusiasm for living out of a suitcase, but they are making it work.

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Filed under Self Publishing, writer

#amwriting: Evoking Atmosphere and Place

Several indie books I’ve read lately impressed me with the sense of atmosphere the author managed to pack into their work, and the sense of place.

a girl called wolfThe book I am currently reading  is a contemporary novel,  “A Girl Called Wolf” by Stephen Swartz. In the opening chapters, Swartz’s Greenland has a harsh, ethereal quality. The environment is shown as unearthly, beautiful, and deadly, as are the people. The story of his protagonist Anuka (later called Anna) and her early life stands out sharply against the nearly cinematic backdrop, yet Swartz shows it with an economy of words.

Later, when Anuka is forcibly taken to civilization, that village and its poverty, as compared to her prior life, is clear in the reader’s head. It is seen through her eyes, although the villagers themselves don’t see themselves as poor in comparison–just the opposite. Swartz manages to get that across without overstating it: it simply is.

Conveying the mood of a piece and evoking a real sense of place is where artistry and skill on the part of the author comes into play. A book can be a simple recounting of events, or it can be an immersive experience. When a reader can see the world, feel the wind or sun, that author has created ‘place.’

In literature, ‘atmosphere’ has a broad meaning, covering both the overall emotional mood of a piece and the setting as described by the mention of objects and furnishings of a room, or the visual cues that fill the larger environment.

Think about the Harry Potter books: we know Hogwarts as well as we know our own home because J.K. Rowling not only showed us the furnishings and the building itself, she showed us the emotional mood of the residents. She did this through her protagonist’s eyes.

al-kabarA completely different kind of book from “A Girl Called Wolf,” is  “Al-Kabar” by Lee French. The tale is set in a mythical Persian-type of world, Ilauris.

“Al-Kabar” is unabashedly a fantasy, clearly a world of its own. As Stephen Swartz does with his work, Lee French conveys the world through her protagonists eyes. Fakhira’s world of Ilauris is harsh, and in this book, it is the characters that make it so. Fakhira experiences the world, and the reader does also, right alongside her.

What I like about Lee French’s approach in this tale is the way she conveys the environment: you the reader know this world because the protagonist knows it.

When it is done right, the emotional mood of the characters combines with the setting to create an atmosphere that pulls the reader in, making them forget they are reading. The trick is to dole out the scenery and the emotion as  needed. Treat them as you would the historical background information. If the character doesn’t need to know it at that moment, it probably does not belong in the scene.

the vision dean koontzDean Koontz is a master at this. Take this quote from “The Vision”published in 1986:

The woman raised her hands and stared at them; stared through them. Her voice was soft but tense. “Blood on his hands.” Her own hands were clean and pale.

Show us what the character sees, and feels. Show us only what needs to be there to advance the story. If the character doesn’t need to know it at that moment, it probably does not belong in the scene.

This aspect of the craft is what I am working on in my own writing.

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Filed under Self Publishing, writing

Into the Woods, a fantasy anthology

MyrddinAnthologyECoverWe at Myrddin Publishing Group are starting the new year with the launch of our anthology, Into the Woods. We’re even having an all-weekend-long Facebook party, with Myrddin Authors dropping in and out over the course of the next few days. There will be gifts, and prizes and just fun and games with the Myrddin crew. The online Facebook Party starts here, so stop on by and and hang out with us!

This collection of amazing tales came about almost by accident.

One day last summer I was looking through stock images I’d found for a cover I was designing for another author. I came across a wonderful image of a lonely house set in the woods. I’m not sure why, but suddenly, like the proverbial dog after a squirrel, I was off looking at images of houses in the woods–like that was going to get any work done.

Of course, my brain is hardwired to write stories, so I found myself imagining all sorts of scenarios and plots to go with these amazing images. Then, it occurred to me that if I was inspired to write by these images, my fellow authors here at Myrddin Publishing would also be.

I threw out a challenge to the group: Write a short story about a house in the woods. The only caveat was the tale had to fall under the genre of fantasy, and the theme was “a house in the woods.”

And wow! What a response– I received nine wildly different tales, ranging from humor to ghostly, to romantic, to horror. These ten tales are some of the best I have read.

In the first tale, “A Peculiar Symbiosis,” Alison DeLuca gives us a moving story of a man who discovers he loves his wife–but only after she is dead.

“The Forest House” is my own take on the Tam Lin tale. Tam Lin is a character in a legendary ballad originating from the Scottish Borders as collected by Francis Child, but there are many tales from all over northern Europe featuring variations on his name, and the story will have slight variations. It is also associated with a reel of the same name, also known as Glasgow Reel. I had always wondered if Tam Lin and the Faerie Queen had a child, and if they had, what would have happened to it when Janet rescued Tam?

In “A House in the Woods,” Stephen M. Swartz takes us back to the 1960s with this dark fantasy. Two boys playing in the woods come across an abandoned house, and discover a true ghost story.

Irene Roth Luvaul takes us deep into the forest in “The Guardian.” A woman discovers her family’s history, and the terrible secret a cabinet once held.

Ross M. Kitson offers up a A Matter of Faith.” In this dark prequel to Kitson’s epic Prism series, an uptight paladin must find a way to work with a free-thinking druid, if he is to be successful in finding and killing a demon.

In “If I Have to Spell it Out” Austin musician and author Marilyn Rucker lightens things up with her hilarious take on two cousins quarreling over the tenancy of their family home, via letters.

“A Haunted Castle” by Lisa Zhang Wharton shows us that a house can can also be a haunted castle in the Bavarian Forest, in her hilarious, hallucinogenic tale of ghosts, rottweilers, and a costume party.

Myrddin Publishing Group’s own master of horror, Shaun Allan, swings us back to the dark side with a horrifying twist on the Hansel and Gretel tale, with “Rose.” Told with his usual flair for words and style, this is a chilling story of demonic magic. Definitely not your mama’s Hansel and Gretel!

In “Hidden,” Carlie M.A. Cullen takes us deep into the woods, where two young women take shelter from a storm in an abandoned house, with terrible consequences.

For the final tale in this treasury, fantasy author Lee French presents us with a post-Civil War tale of star-crossed love, in her magical tale, “Forever.” Tara and Marcus share a forbidden love–and only one place is safe for them.

I am continually amazed and awed by the talent of the wonderful authors I am privileged to work with at Myrddin Publishing Group. You can purchase this wonderful collection of short stories at Amazon by clicking on the buy button below:

Into the Woods: a fantasy anthology

Amazon Buy Button PNG

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Filed under Books, Fantasy, Literature, writing

Yay! Its #friday

The Alehouse Door, by Henry Singleton via Wikimedia Commons

The Alehouse Door, by Henry Singleton via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote a lot of short stories last summer, which is good, because in short stories you have to be sparing with words.

This need for economy has really helped with my personal writing bugaboo, giving too much background info. When you are writing to a specific word limit, you have to choose your words carefully.

This means the only background that can remain in the tale is the minimum background that the reader must know for the tale to make any sense.

Some of what I wrote was a serial, for Edgewise Words Inn, a series of tales set in the village of Bleakbourne, on the Heath river. Bleakbourne is an unusual town, being the crossroads for the fae and mortal worlds. Many strange things happen there, and Leryn is the young bard who records it all.

Ralph_Allens_Castle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1762356Two installments have been posted, and several more are set to post as autumn progresses.

If you are curious, the link to chapter one is here: Bleakbourne on Heath: Tenneriff’s Curse and the link to chapter two, the Demon Knight is here.

That tale was inspired by a photo of a Castle Folly I saw on Pinterest. I love Pinterest, but I get most of my inspiration and ideas from Wikimedia Commons, just randomly searching the classical art there.

Socks and Sandals MemeI also find that lots and lots of time just sort of dissolves as I am doing that–perusing  the great art of the masters is as much of a time-eater as Facebook, but without the memes.

However, the temptation to turn them into memes is sometimes overwhelming. I look at them, and wonder what was going through their minds at the time the painter caught them. Probably it was “Please make him paint faster,” but you know I can just leave it at that.

Sometimes it’s hard to contain myself when these wonderful images give me so much food for thought.


If you happen to be at out and about Saturday the  10th of October, in the Renton area south of Seattle, stop in at the AFK E&E, and visit my friends who will be signing books and having a great time in general. They will be Reading in the Dark, and the event will run from 2:00pm to 9:00pm in the back left of the restaurant.

  • AFK Elixers & Eatery
  • 3750 E Valley Rd.
  • Renton, WA 98057

You will find these great authors: A.J. Downey, Jeffrey Cook, Lee French, Sechin Tower, Tina Shelton, and Shannon L. Reagan and several more. I can’t wait to see what they are offering us!

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Heading to Renton at AFK Elixers and Eatery #Booksigning

Destination StaycationOh, my gosh–I am getting so excited! The next event, Destination Staycation is happening in just 3 days, on Saturday the 27th of June.  Eight local, independent authors will be coming together for one event. We will be selling and signing books all afternoon and evening at AFK Elixirs & Eatery  in Renton, Washington, and I can hardly wait!

HTB Stamp copyWe will be offering reading-passports and stamping them with our book-related stamps.

Along with myself, AJ Downey, Sechin Tower, Lee French, Lindsay Schopfer, Stephen Matlock, David Moore, and Jeffrey Cook are the featured authors this time around.

And wow–what a fabulous venue–a gamer’s paradise!  AFK simply means Away From Keyboard. It’s commonly used in chatrooms and online games and it basically means that you won’t be available (Not at the keyboard = Not in front of your computer). But at AFK Elixers & Eatery you may be away from your computer, but you’re never far from gaming.

My friends and fellow gamers & book addicts in the western Washington/Seattle area are more than welcome to come on up (or down) and join us Saturday, between 2 and 9 pm.

Here are some samples of books being offered by the intrepid indie authors who will be joining me:

Girls Can't Be Knights KINDLEGirls Can’t be Knights, by Lee French

Portland has a ghost problem.

Sixteen-year-old Claire wants her father back. His death left her only memories and an empty locket. After six difficult years in foster care, her vocabulary no longer includes “hope” and “trust”.

Everything changes when Justin rides his magical horse into her path and takes her under his wing. Like the rest of the elite men who serve as Spirit Knights, he hunts restless ghosts that devour the living.

When an evil spirit threatens Claire’s life, she’ll need Justin’s help to survive. And how could she bear the Knights’ mark on her soul? Everybody knows Girls Can’t Be Knights.

Lost Under Two moons, Lindsay SchopferLost Under Two Moons, Lindsay Schopfer

Alone. Stranded. Richard finds himself on Other World, a place of fantasy and horror. With no companion but a makeshift journal, Richard must quickly learn the unfamiliar dangers around him as he struggles daily to survive. From the approach of winter to eerily intelligent packs of nightmarish creatures, each entry details another trial of life or death. But when Richard finds the remnants of an ancient civilization, he begins to wonder if he is truly alone, and whether or not the lost people of Other World still hold the secrets that could return him home to Earth.

Dawn of Steam First Light Jeffrey CookDawn of Steam, Jeffrey Cook

In 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, two of England’s wealthiest lords place a high-stakes wager on whether a popular set of books, which claim that the author has traveled to many unknown corners of the globe, are truth or, more likely, wild fiction. First Light is an epistolary novel, told primarily through the eyes of former aide-de-camp Gregory Conan Watts, describing the journeys of the airship Dame Fortuna and its crew through journals and letters to his beloved fiancee.
The first recruit is, necessarily, the airship’s owner: war hero, famed genius, and literal knight in steam-powered armor Sir James Coltrane. Persuading him to lend his talents and refitted airship to the venture requires bringing along his sister, his cousin, and the crew that flew with him during the Napoleonic Wars. Only with their aid can they track down a Scottish rifleman, a pair of shady carnies, and a guide with a strong personal investment in the stories.
When they set out, the wild places of the world, including the far American West, the Australian interior, darkest Africa, and other destinations are thought to be hostile enough. No one expects the trip to involve a legendary storm – or the Year Without a Summer of 1815-1816. The voyage is further complicated by the human element. Some parties are not at all happy with the post-war political map. Most problematic of all, the crew hired by the other side of the wager seem willing to win by any means necessary.

mad science institute Sechin TowerMad Science Institute, Sechin Tower

Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck is a girl genius with a knack for making robots—and for making robots explode. After her talents earn her admission into a secretive university institute, she is swiftly drawn into a conspiracy more than a century in the making. Meanwhile and without her knowledge, her cousin Dean wages a two-fisted war of vengeance against a villainous genius and his unwashed minions. Separately, the cousins must pit themselves against murderous thugs, experimental weaponry, lizard monsters, and a nefarious doomsday device. When their paths finally meet up, they will need to risk everything to prevent a mysterious technology from bringing civilization to a sudden and very messy end.

AJ Downey Shattered and ScarredShattered & Scarred: The Sacred Hearts MC, AJ Downey

She’s Shattered…

Ashton Granger is a perfect wife to her husband. She has to be, if she’s not, he will find a way to correct any perceived imperfections. Such is life, and so it has been for a very long time, eroding Ashton’s sense of self, cracking her sense of worth until she lays in a million pieces on the side of a stretch of lonely highway.

He’s Scarred…
Ethan “Trigger man” Howard is the Sergeant of Arms for The Sacred Hearts Motorcycle club. After several tours as a Marine Corps sniper overseas, he’s seen and done enough damage for a man three times his age. He’s out. Done. So over it, and home to nurse his wounds, physical, emotional and psychological with the help of his MC brothers. Now he simply deals with the scars that life handed him.

Was it more than just luck for he and Ashton both that he was the only other soul traveling that isolated stretch of highway that night?

**Mature Audiences Only (18+)**

 

Stars in the Texas Sky Stephen J. MatlockStars in the Texas Sky, Stephen J. Matlock

STARS IN THE TEXAS SKY is a story about 13-year-old Henry Valentine. He’s the school’s star pitcher, intoxicated by first love of a young girl, and all seems right with his world of 1952 racially separated East Texas. Then he is confronted by an unlikely antagonist, a colored boy who challenges him in his town, bests him in a pitching duel, and fights him in the vacant lot outside of town. A wary distance becomes an unexpected friendship when they discover a common love for Texas beauty. He is devastated when a corrupt congressman sacrifices Henry’s friend to win re-election, and receives no sympathy or help from his disapproving family, church, and town. His finds support in the feisty, independent-minded widow with a taste for liquor in her lemonade who helps him fight against the powerful using only the tools of an innocent and powerless boy. In the end he learns the value of standing for what he believes in face of opposition, and discovers that there is nothing more powerful than a boy – or a man – who knows who he is.

This book is a 2012 Amazon Breakout Novel Award (ABNA) quarter-finalist.

 

David Moore Light at end of trailThe Light at the End of the Trail, David G. Moore

This is a memoir of Moore’s early life–a life filled with equal parts light and darkness. Battling the neighborhood bullies, embracing the world of nature, surviving his mother’s depression, he finally descended into his own world of sadness. But the sadness was nothing compared to what awaited him at college. With the help of drugs and alcohol, a mysterious illness overtook him that baffled both him and the best of doctors. Meanwhile, the Moore family exploded. His parents separated, one sister joined a religious cult, the other buried herself in therapy, and his mother finally moved to the West Coast to escape it all. There were moments of bright light. At times, his illness vanished and during those reprieves he tried to live life to the fullest. But the quest for a life full of passion and joy pushed his mysterious psyche to the edge–then over the edge. It was time to enter the gates of hell.

>>><<<

And these are just the tip of the iceberg–the number of books my fellow authors and I will be offering is somewhat mind-boggling to me!

Check out the Destination Staycation Facebook Page!

I hope to see you at AFK E&E in Renton Wa on Saturday June 27th!

 

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Girls Can’t be Knights, Lee French cover reveal and interview

My good friend and fellow member of Myrddin Publishing Group, Lee French, has a new book coming out soon. The cover is gorgeous, in my opinion. I also love the title, Girls Can’t Be Knights.  This book is a young adult fantasy novel, championing Girl Power while exploring the world of a secret organization, the Spirit Knights. I can totally get behind that!

Set in Portland Oregon, Girls Can’t Be Knights is another in the long line of French’s impressive career, which includes nine books, one trilogy, one epic fantasy series and a short story. Her works are popular among fantasy and paranormal readers, with many re-reading books several times after purchase.

Lee has consented to answer a few questions for us:

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

Lee French's First Book

Lee French’s First Book

LF: I was a late reader, not really grasping the whole thing until 2nd grade. Once I did, I clung to books with both hands and a glare for anyone who dared to attempt prying one away. At that time, my school district ran an annual book fair, for which they encouraged students of all ages to submit “books” for “judging.” With my mom’s help, I self-published an epic six page volume about The Mean Old Man’s Backyard, which is to say that I cut all the paper, wrote all the words, drew all the pictures, and let her glue the fabric to the cardboard for the cover.

From that point on, I considered myself a “writer,” though I considered it a hobby for a long time.

CJJ: That is a cute book! Tell us about your most recent book. How did you come to write this novel?

LF:  Girls Can’t be Knights started as all my books do—with an idea that sounds brilliant but is ultimately kinda dumb. I wrote it for NaNoWriMo last year, which means it had curious ideas and plot points that had to be rewritten quite a bit. The primary idea comes from Les Miserables, specifically the idea of two men, eash the hero of his own story, striving against each other. The two main characters were Valjean and Javert, and elements of that remain. What happened is that Claire stepped in and demanded agency. The core ideas had to mutate to accommodate her.

CJJ: How does Girls Can’t be Knights differ from your other two series of books?

LF: This is my first foray into YA. The Maze Beset trilogy is similar to urban fantasy, though being about people with superpowers who got them through a genetic thingy, it’s technically science fiction. Like that trilogy, The Greatest Sin is generally suitable for teen readers, but wasn’t written with them in mind.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

LF:  When I first took the plunge into writing novel length work, I winged it. A lot. October 29, 2008, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time and had just a basic idea of where I’d go. I finished, but it was awful. The next year, I took outlining a little too far. Since then, I’ve found a happy medium that works for me, where I go back and forth between winging it and outlining. The first chapter of a book is usually off the cuff, then I outline a few chapters, then I work up to the outline and wing a bit, then go back to the outlining. It works for me, which is the most important part of any Process.

CJJ: What genre would you consider this book, and how does it differ from others of its genre?

LF: Girls Can’t Be Knights is Young Adult Urban Paranormal/Fantasy Adventure. This book is all about family issues. Justin has a happy traditional family, but he’s the only one, and he came to it by way of domestic abuse between his own parents. This story shows a number of characters in various stages of dealing with broken homes and lost family members, and for various reasons. I’m really looking forward to pursuing the theme further in the second book, which is untitled as yet and will probably be out in 2016.

CJJ: What sort of books do you read for pleasure?

LF: As a book blogger, I don’t really read for pleasure in the strictest sense anymore. My reading material is almost exclusively indies, because that’s who needs book reviews. I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of excellent indie authors, though, and their writing is mostly what I read, ensuring that steampunk, traditional fantasy, the occasional bit of space sci-fi, and some guilty pleasure smut fills my reading time slots.

CJJ: When you are not writing, what do you do for fun?

LF: Though writing is, admittedly, the most fun thing I do, I also enjoy baking, gardening, and cycling. Every year, I participate in Ragbrai, which is a lunatic pedal-powered festival across Iowa that attracts about 20,000 other cyclists for long days of torturous riding in abysmal heat punctuated by camping every night. It’s awesome.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

LF: At first, I chose it because the process of querying an agent or publisher made me freeze in panic. It also made my hideously impatient side cringe at the expectation of waiting months to get rejected. After pursuing it for almost two years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d probably be unhappy with a traditional publisher. I’m too impatient, I have too much need for control over the aspects, and I actually *gasp* enjoy formatting my own books. If someone took one of my books and gave me a cover that I didn’t like without letting me at least make suggestions, I’d probably punch them in the face.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

LF: Read everything you can about how it works and don’t discount one or the other because you’ve “heard” x or y thing. Independent publishing is now a major force in the market, but traditional publishing isn’t going to roll over and die. There are benefits and detriments to both paths, and every author has to decide what’s right for them. Investigate the market to discover who your audience is and where and how they shop. Get out and meet other authors in your area. Pay attention to the books you come across and how you came across them. All the information you need to make the best choice for you is out there.

CJJ: I always enjoy your POV, especially on the way the publishing industry works, and what indies need to take note of. And now, the blurb, and the the cover reveal for Lee’s new book:

>>><<<

GIRLS CAN’T BE KNIGHTS

by Lee French

release date June 12, 2015

Girls Can't Be Knights KINDLEPortland has a ghost problem.

Sixteen-year-old Claire wants her father back. His death left her only memories and an empty locket. After six difficult years in foster care, her vocabulary no longer includes “hope” and “trust”.

Everything changes when Justin rides his magical horse into her path and takes her under his wing. Like the rest of the elite men who serve as Spirit Knights, he hunts restless ghosts that devour the living.

When an evil spirit threatens Claire’s life, she’ll need Justin’s help to survive. And how could she bear the Knights’ mark on her soul? Everybody knows Girls Can’t Be Knights.

>>><<<

Lee French PhotoLee French lives in Olympia, WA, and is the author of several books, most notably the Maze Beset Trilogy, The Greatest Sin series (co-authored with Erik Kort), and assorted tales in her fantasy setting, Ilauris. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.


She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association and the Olympia Writer’s Coop, as well as serving as the co-Municipal Liaison for the NaNoWriMo Olympia Region.

 

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Book signing events, the art of Paul Cornoyer, and inspiration

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

The signing at Forever Knight Games in Olympia went well. I met several wonderful authors I hadn’t had a chance to meet in person: Sechin Tower, Jolene Loraine, Rachel E. Robinson (Maquel A. Jacob), and Erik Kort. We were joined my my good friends, authors Lee French, Lindsay Schopfer, and Jeffrey Cook. These wonderful people write great books, and I was privileged to be counted among them!

We had a great time, and it was a good first event at that venue. I want to thank all my friends for coming out and meeting my favorite local authors. Tower of Bones was my big seller–which makes me happy.

paul cornoyer rainy day in madison square

Rainy Day in Madison Square, Paul Cornoyer

But then, after the big party was over (and it was a party–believe me) I had to drag myself back to reality. As I said the other day, sometimes my head isn’t in the right place for reading. At the event this last weekend, a friend asked me how that inability to read without the editor in my head making noise affects my ability to write. I had to answer that it does affect it to a certain extent.

The reason being in an editing frame of mind affects my writing is that while I am creative, it is like my creativity has to go through a maze to get to the ends of my fingers and into written form.

It’s a sloooooow process.

Paul Cornoyer Winter twilight along Central Park

Winter Twilight Along Central Park, Paul Cornoyer

I do a lot of things to jumpstart that creativity. I  clean things I don’t really care about under normal circumstances.  Something about a really orderly environment gets my mind relaxed enough to work properly.

Sometimes I write flash-fiction, 100 to 1000 word short stories.

I find great art that really makes my mind click–Wikimedia Commons is awesome for that.  Today I came across a download of a picture that, two years ago, sparked a 250 word flash-fiction. That  image, which I will get to later, was painted around the year 1910 by an American artist, Paul Cornoyer.

Paul Cornoyer -Gloucester

Glouster, Paul Cornoyer

His work is quite intriguing, and much of is done in an impressionistic style.

According to the Fount of all Knowledge, Wikipedia, Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement. Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

The thing about the impressionists that so inspires my writing is that they don’t give you all the details–they give you what they saw including the mood of the piece.

Paul_Cornoyer_-_The_Plaza_After_Rain

The Plaza After Rain, Paul Cornoyer

In so many ways, good literature is like good art–all the important things are there, everything the eye needs to have a perfect vision of the mood, the setting, and characters–everything is there within the piece, but with economy. When you limit yourself to expressing the complete idea of the story in less than 300 words, you discover just how well (or how badly you can write.)

This last picture is the piece that inspired one of my better, short pieces of Flash Fiction, which will be featured later this month on Edgewise Words Inn. I will post links to that here when it goes up

It is called The Plaza After Rain. I love it because, even though it depicts New York City in a different time, it shows the way rain is in the springtime. The sky is dark, but the trees are just beginning to leaf out. The streets are wet with rain, but a hint of blue is showing through the dark sky. When you see this painting, you feel like sunshine could happen any minute.

That is what we try to convey in flash fiction, and that is why it’s so important to practice writing in short, complete bursts. You never know when one will become a longer tale, so you will have a backlog of  fodder to fuel your creativity when you need a good story idea. Being able to create an entire story in 3 paragraphs is an art. Sometimes I can do well at that, and sometimes not so much.

 

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When this job becomes work: the book signing event

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL AUTHORSI must admit, I am not really a people person. I’m a bit awkward, and not really sure of myself, and I have a sense of humor that is too off-the-wall for most people. That is one reason why being an author is such a good fit for me–I can work from home and most of my interactions are imaginary.

Nevertheless, there are times when I must put on the public persona of the Successful Author. I’m not really that good at this one-on-one public thing…yet. I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in multi-author events with other indie authors, with more experience at it, and I’ve been able to see how they approach the gig.

It’s tricky–you can’t just assault people, shouting “Buy my book!”

Walking the line between being obnoxious, and telling people what they want to know about the book is tricky. The minute someone asks me what Huw the Bard is all about, my mind grinds to a halt. It’s almost like I never even read it, although I do remember writing it.

My first public event was last month at NorWesCon, and that was interesting because I was a vendor, so I was there all four days, but in the vendors’ room. For me, that was a tee-shirt-and-jeans event, because I don’t own any costumes, or ren-fair clothes (yet).

My second public event was this last Saturday. Two other local indies, fantasy author Lee French, and steampunk author Jeffrey Cook joined me at the Two Sister’s Tea Room in downtown Olympia for a book signing. This was a very different situation, and was much more pleasant. This signing was timed for the middle of one of the largest festivals in the the city, the annual Procession of the Species, so we had many people stopping and conversing with us.

Dawn of Steam First LightSeveral people really stand out in my mind–I was moved to tears by one lady from Hawaii who bought Dawn of Steam, First Light, from Jeffrey.  She said she was a new reader, that she had come from a place where reading was not encouraged. She also said she was currently enjoying Charles Dickens’ classic novel,  The Pickwick Papers. I was awed by the absolute joy she took in the written word as she looked through Jeffrey’s book, and by how happy it made her that he signed it for her.

It was really brought home to me then that reading is still a privilege denied to many people of the world, often not by their wish, but by circumstances beyond their control.

dragons in pieces lee frenchThen there was the wonderful character who was absolutely crazy for dragons. He not only bought Lee’s book, Dragons in Pieces, but insisted on buying one of the little plastic Dragon heads she had created with her 3-d printer as decorations.

Lee was selling books like she owned the only snocone stand in the desert.

I wasn’t, but I had a great time anyway, and handed out a lot of book marks.

From left: Lee French, Jeffrey Cook, Connie Jasperson

From left: Lee French, Jeffrey Cook, Connie Jasperson

For that event, I went all out clothing-wise. I went to the Goodwill and shopped the fat-lady rack on senior citizens’ half-price day, and found what seemed like the perfect, brilliantly-garish, machine-washable, fancy-label jacket to wear with my rather boring black blouse and black trousers. It was only about twenty years out of style, and was the perfect price for my tapped out pocket-book: $3.99, with my old-peoples’ discount.

I am still looking for the right event-outfits. I want something a little wonderful, but with not quite as much purple as the flashy jacket. I love purple, but as an accent color.

Our next event is in three weeks, so that gives me a lot of time to find something suitable for the comfy grandma who writes RPG game-based hack-and-slash epic adventures, and also sometimes writes literary fantasy.

Maybe what I need is a green velvet renaissance faire dress, with Cloud’s buster-sword from Final Fantasy VII in a shoulder scabbard. That  should get my style of writing across well enough.

cloud strife and buster blade

 

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