Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why I Support E-publishing

I consider myself a greeny wannabe, and when it came right down to it, when I was sending my first novel, Chasing The Trickster, out to agents, I had visions in my head of advances not earned out and my book with it's cover ripped off filling some warehouse in New Jersey.

Eventually the feeling got so strong that I sent my novel to an e-publisher and was delighted to be accepted. With e-pub it can stay in cyberspace a very long time, which meant working with a publisher willing to return those rights became very important. I am very happy with my e-publishing contract.

Which brings me to Gordon Dahlquist. You may have never heard of him, but he has written the best steampunk literature that I have read. Based on his works I consider myself a lover of steampunk, yet, I often find myself disappointed when I read other steampunk because nothing seems to match the sheer joy I had when tearing through the first two volumes of his Glass Books of the Dream Eaters.

Maybe you have heard of him. He was the guy who got a $2 million dollar advance and only earned back $800,000. Oh, yeah...

Well, he's coming out with The Chemickal Marriage, a third book. [Depending on how you count - the first book The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters was divided into two volumes (over 400 pages each), and the follow up was called The Dark Volume (500 pages). So it's the fourth book in the series and perhaps the last if this is indeed a trilogy.]

The Dark Volume left the reader dangling. I'd say to my husband, who has no choice but to at least pretend to be listening, "Mr. Dahlquist doesn't know how to end a book."  But I'd say that still craving the next one. I really want to get my hands on this new book, still not quite believing that the story will ever end.

Here it is end of July and its publication date was at the beginning of this month. Penguin UK has it listed, it's published by their imprint Viking but Penguin doesn't even have it listed on its American website.

Furthermore, this book is only available in hardcover. And the hardcover wasn't available at my local Barnes and Noble yesterday. Barnes and Noble on-line lists his other books and an upcoming book, The Different Girl, but no mention of The Chemickal Marriage. Why don't they just sow the ground with salt?

Amazon is better. The hardcover is available, with the paperback coming out Jan. 31st of next year. At 528 pages, I don't look forward to owning the hardback copy and lugging it around.  So, as much as I am aching to read this book, I'll probably wait.

And that is another reason why I love e-pubs. It's lightweight and I can usually get it immediately.

If anyone has any info to add it about getting a kindle copy of The Chemickal Marriage it would be great to hear from you. Also, I do have an announcement to make, but I have to put it off until the right time, which I hope will be soon.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Change of Pace

As a writer, I exercise two sets of muscles. One is the crazy, creative, write-as-quickly-as-I-can part, and the other is my editorial side.  As much as I love writing, very often the hypercritical, perfectionista editor in me gives me a PITA.

That's why I love arts and crafts.  My grandfather was actually a well-known and respected artist in Holland. When I told my dad that I'd like to take art classes his attitude was that my grandfather was never without a pencil and pad of paper in his hand. Was that what I really wanted?

That turned me off. I couldn't ever be that determined to draw.  What was ever present in my hand was--a book! I was constantly reading and you can't really spend all your time drawing if you spend all your time reading.  And for the first 20 years of adulthood I was working as a theatre person and a paralegal. I got to read in my spare time, so making art got short shrift.

But I've always loved Art, with a capital A. Theatre and the visual arts mostly. Just like I've studied a lot of foreign languages and realized it's not my forte, I also tried to become proficient in several musical instruments: piana, guitar, violin.  I think I do okay on the Jew's harp and enjoy little ditties on my penny whistle, but I'm just not talented at music or languages. Writing, reading, theatre, and the visual arts make me smile and give me the warm fuzzies.

Getting to the point: I spent this past weekend at Create NJ, a mixed media retreat. I got to be with two of my former teachers from the City Quilter - Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and Jane Davila. I also had the pleasure of being with two new teachers. What I learn everytime I go to an arts/crafts workshop is to relax and play. I'm not doing this for money or to be a professional. I'm just having fun. Which is so refreshing since the fun part of writing is often overshadowed by the editorial or business aspects of the profession.

So, I kicked back for the past 3 days with other women (mostly) and made stuff. I learned how to carve stamps, make ATCs, put paperclay faces on canvas and decorated them, and made collage pendants.  What a hoot!

I feel refreshed and relaxed and ready to face another week of teaching ESL, and working on my writing.

How do you feel about doing multiple arts? Are you a Jack of all Trades, King of None? Or do they all feed into each other. Please leave a comment and let me know.

Also, I might have some surprise info for you all next week (or not)!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Weekend at Connecticon

As I might have mentioned, I have a teenager.  He likes gaming and at almost all our cons he spends his time in the gaming rooms.  Connecticon is all about that, anime and cosplay. It's a energetic and youthful con. And there are little corners tucked away where you see the parents, patiently doing their thing--waiting for their children to be done.

It's not a literature heavy con like Philcon or Lunacon so I make a point of checking the panel listings when I get there, attempting to get in as many writers panels as possible.

This year, however, I missed CJ Henderson's panel because we were checking into our hotel.  Rats. I did drop a bundle on buying anthologies at his seller's table, though.

And I did make it to a couple of panels:

I was in the audience at three panels with Michele Lang, (I think I was on a panel with her at Lunacon.)  She was kind enough to do a reading from her book, Lady Lazarus, and to give away copies of the next book in the series, Dark Victory. Thanks, Michele, you are next on my reading list. She also read one of her short stories at another panel.

Finally she was on a Copyright and Creation panel with Margaret Killjoy (not a kill joy at all). 

Margaret is absolutely the cat's meow when it comes to anarchy and steampunk. He's the author of A Steampunk's Guide to the Apocalypse, which I plan to read ASAP, and the current editor of SteamPunk Magazine.

Finally, I sat in on an inspirational panel by Oscar Rios and Mike Tresca called Maintaining Motivation in Writing. This was worth the price of admission as I felt instantly determined to get my projects (way too many I'm sorry to say) done, done, done.  While I have no problem getting through a first draft, it's the second through final which feels like slow torture. They had an excellent explanation for this: in a nutshell you are not the same person who wrote that first draft and so as you change so does your perspective. Now we all know to put a story or novel in the drawer to get some perspective. Their point was to take a break, celebrate your success in finishing that first draft, and then get back to it.  Hmmm. Worth a try I think.

So it was a terrific weekend, and though we are all exhausted now, tomorrow we will be refreshed and ready to face a new week.

Were you at Connecticon?  How about some of the other cons last weekend. What was the best con you were ever at and why? Leave a comment.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Rose is a Rose: What's in a name?

When creating names for my characters I sometimes just "know" what the character's name is. It pops into my head with no effort on my part. I'll then check through baby name sites for the meanings of the names. Just for fun? Hmmm.

Looking up the meaning of names might be a colossal time waster; however, for me the name's meaning gives me additional information about the character and even inspiration.

In Chasing the Trickster:
  • Jeanine Weaver, Jeanine means God is Gracious and Weaver represents the tale of Arachne, a young woman transformed. 
  • Pascal Guzman, Pascal is for Easter child and Guzman is "good man." French and Latino, just like Pascal.
  • His sister is Rose White because she is larger than life with lots of thorns, but has a petal soft side.
  • Kate Wainwright was originally an Elizabeth, but being best friends with Linda Brockhurst the L-L thing might have become annoying. So I didn’t' stay with the original name.  Maybe she's actually Katherine Elizabeth Wainwright. Her last name came to be because her parents run Wainwright Reality and it felt like a tongue twister. I laugh whenever I try to say it out loud. Katherine means "pure" but it can also mean "magic." Wainwright means "wagon builder."  It told me a lot about her personality.
  • Linda Brockhurst - Linda "pretty" and Brockhurst, "badger woods." 
  • Linda's daughter Amanda is "worthy of love" and is named after her step-grandmother.
  • Joe is from Joseph, a Biblical name and it means "he will enlarge." I guess that's a good thing. But Joseph was also the husband of Mary, so a father figure to Jesus. Joe, the self-given name of an ancient pagan fertility god also considers himself a father to Pascal.
  • Linda's hubby is Andrew Brockhurst, and Andrew means warrior. I recounted his last name above. "Woods of the Badger-Warrior" Cool
These names all popping out of nowhere is weird I guess, but I have a thing for names. That Andrew is the father of Amanda, pleased me no end since it would be Andy and Mandy for their knick names.

But to get a bit weirder, when I went to my high school reunion last year it sudden hit home that many of the names I had used for my characters came from kids I had gone to school with. The characters were nothing like the kids, but somehow these names had stuck with me for all these years and were leaping out upon the page without my conscious awareness.

Many authors show amazing creativity and playfulness when naming their characters. One only has to look to the books of Harry Potter to see an ironic and eclectic use of names, not just for her character alone but in place names, spells and all sorts of items.

What authors have you found to use great imagination with names? Or if you are a writer, could you share with us how some of your characters came to be named?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Of Gods and Things that Go Bump in the Night

Urban fantasy can be said to be made up of two elements: the urban and the fantastic. Well, yeah, it's much, much more. It's almost synonymous with paranormal romance, but it's a darker shade, grittier, in my opinion. Yet we've come to expect the supernatural elements to be either hunky vampires or even hunkier werewolves. Hunky gods? Not so often.

My intro to urban fantasy was through the works of Charles De Lint. He had Old World Fairy living in Canada mixing with Native American spirits. I loved the gentle whimsy streaked with violence in his work. It all sparkled with magic, in a good way.

When I decided to write Chasing the Trickster I was also inspired by Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume wherein Pan complains how he is depleted by the lack of people's belief since so many switched to Christianity. That aggrievement is at the core of Joe Cernunnus' character. He's an old world god of the Celts who has tried to adapt to Christianity but finds himself playing the buffoon to St. Nickolas as the Krampus, and then as a mortal's captive. To make things worse, the Trickster god of the Southwest is highly territorial, he understands that power comes from worship, and as Coyote he is worshipped. He sees Joe start a power base in Sante Fe and takes action working with the Web of Fate to change things more to his liking.

Little is known of the Celts. Mostly we associate them with the people of Ireland and to a lesser extend Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany (the six Celtic Nations). These are all that remain of a language and culture belonging to pre-Roman Europe going back in places to the Bronze Age. The Celts had no written language (this is argued as there are some ancient inscriptions extant) and so most of what we know of them come from artifacts and the writings of the Greeks and Romans. As the Roman and Germanic migrations grew, the Celtic people were pushed back to the few areas we see them today. I'm tempted to say they were absorbed by these two cultural groups, but there is so little to be seen of them, it's hard to say. The name Cernunnos is from the Latin for "horned one" and is an inscription for an image of the god with stag horns (on the Boatman Pillar).

When sitting in a college course on early European Religion I expected to learn more about Cernunnos, but really there is little. I wondered how could Christianity, only adopted by the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century, so quickly push out the older religions. Was it the idea of accepting a symbolic sacrifice instead of the human or animal ones declared by those older religions that was so appealing? We know that many of the pre-Christian religions of the area demanded the death of a human being. Could the pain of such cruel practices have lead entire peoples to embrace a kinder, gentler religion?

And what of poor Cernunnos and his followers? The image of Satan comes complete with horns. Demons have horns. Has our stag god (and Pan) been vilified by the followers of a new religion? Many would agree.  Furthermore we have the demonic follower of St. Nicholas from Austria, Krampus. He's hairy and horny (pun intended). I introduced the Krampus into my novel, as a strategy taken by Cernunnos so at least he'll have some attention, some worship.

As a child I had a keen sense of the numinous (sublime). I grew up on 3.5 acres of land in Westchester County. There were ancient willow trees surrounding a pond, and there was an area of pine trees behind the pond. And the house I lived in was built in 1756. There was a strong sense of history and mystery. It probably helped that I was in love with books from an early age and devoured Andre Norton and Madeleine L'Engle when young, and then later Hawthorne, James and Poe (and let's not forget C.S. Lewis and Tolkien).

In many religions, we learn that God or Spirit is all around us. We can connect with this feeling whenever we choose. Even atheists will agree to a sense of the numinous can be found in nature, science or the arts. However, I love the idea of spirits, whatever names you give them, including the Holy Ghost, surrounding us. In writing about gods, I hope to connect with numinousity, a sense of sublime, and perhaps lead others to experience that when reading my work.

As a Fourth of July special, if you will promise to write a review of Chasing the Trickster (leave it at Goodreads, Eternal Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon or your own blog) I will send you a free reviewers PDF of my novel.

Hope you take advantage of the offer.