Guest Post – Dan Koboldt

Dan Koboldt is a scientist and author of The Rogue Retrieval, a brilliant fantasy/sci-fi story about a stage illusionist sent to a world where magic is real. The fact he’s also a fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author means he’s cool in addition to being a great writer. Him being a scientist and an author just means he’s showing off, but don’t hold that against him, like I said, he’s cool and a great writer.
One of the most common questions authors are asked is “where did the idea come from?” Well, Dan was brave enough to answer it, and do so here.

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What Inspired The Rogue Retrieval

By Dan Koboldt

When you write a book and manage to get it published, one of the most common questions you’re asked is “Where did you get that idea?” For me, there’s a short one-line answer that I hand out a lot: I got the idea for The Rogue Retrieval after reading an article about a Vegas illusionist. That’s only a partial truth. There were actually three sources of inspiration for the story that became my debut novel.

Epic Fantasy Classics

I first read The Lord of the Rings in the fourth grade. This wasn’t a school assignment; my parents had given me the trilogy after I’d finished reading The Hobbit. My 4th grade teacher, in fact, was not a fan of how much time I spent reading rather than paying attention to her. But Lord of the Rings drew me in, and sparked a love of epic fantasy that’s lasted more than two decades.
I went on to read other epic fantasy authors – Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks, Tad Williams. I spent almost as much time in Midkemia and Recluce as I did in the real world. When I started writing fiction of my own, I wanted to create secondary worlds that were just as engrossing. That was inspiration #1.

Hard Science

When I was in high school, I heard about this effort to map the human genetic code, something called the Human Genome Project. Part of the work was being done right in my hometown of St. Louis, at Washington University School of Medicine. I knew I’d probably enter a technical field, and I thought it would be so cool to join an effort like that. Fast forward about ten years, and I joined the Genome Sequencing Center at WashU as a genetics researcher.
I love cutting-edge science, and because of my profession, I’m exposed to it every day. Geeky futuristic tech is my bag, and I wanted that to become part of my writing, too. But this created a problem for me. There are epic fantasy books, and futuristic sci-fi books, but rarely books that incorporate both.

The Modern Illusionist

About four years ago, I read an article about Teller, the silent half of the famous magic act Penn & Teller.  The article – which I’ve long since lost track of – described his efforts to get patent/copyright protection for his illusions. Apparently, whenever he developed a new trick, these hacks would reverse-engineer it and run off to perform it in Europe or other places without even acknowledging him.
It got me thinking about how modern technologies –things like high-def video and the Internet – have changed even the field of performance magic. I wondered how a modern illusionist would fare in a world that hadn’t even invented electricity.
Barring time travel, the only way that could happen would be if we discovered another world. And I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if that discovery were made not by a gaggle of precocious children, but a large and powerful corporation. This became the unifying element that let me write epic fantasy themes, sci-fi tech, and a modern illusionist into a single book: the story of a Vegas illusionist who infiltrates a medieval world.


The Rogue Retrieval is available everywhere and you should really buy and read it right now.
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Harper Collins

 

Nebula Nomination and Facing the Green-Eyed Monster

Recently, The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced the nominees for the 2015 Nebula award here. For those who don’t know, the Nebula and Hugo awards are usually considered the most prestigious awards for writers of science fiction and fantasy. The Hugo is like the People’s Choice award, in that it’s nominated and voted on by anyone who purchases a membership to WorldCon. The Nebula awards are more like the Academy Awards (Oscars). It’s nominated, voted on, and presented by SFWA, an organization of professionals in the science fiction and fantasy world. The list of Nebula nominees this year is collection of incredible writing by a very diverse group of writers. It includes men, women, people of color, and LGBT authors. Check out the list, you’re sure to find some truly great reads there.I am not among the list of nominees, I had four pieces eligible which I talk about here. Do note however that the Hugo nomination process is open until 3/31. It goes without saying that I’m disappointed, but I’m not terribly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, I think my work was solid and I’m well and truly proud of what I produced last year. But considering the caliber of writers who get nominations, not to mention that I’m new to the writing world and still largely unknown, I knew the odds. That being said, I’m proud to say that a fellow Impulse author (and maker of evilly delicious treats), Beth Cato, was nominated for her novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone. I’m ridiculously happy for Beth and she absolutely deserves the nomination and, I believe, the award.This does however put me in a position I imagine a lot of people have been. I’m both happy for those who were nominated (yeah, Beth!) and also very jealous. Many people will say to get over it, that jealousy or envy is a terrible emotion and that you mustn’t let it consume you. While I agree with the latter part, I disagree about it being a terrible or negative emotion. I’m not sure there are purely negative or positive emotions. It’s really about what you do with them that defines not only them, but you. I could let my envy drive me to write a long and furious rant about how I was robbed, or snubbed for one reason or another, and deserve the nomination much more than so-and-so. But I don’t want to be that person. Really, does anyone? Okay, the internet is packed with people who clearly don’t mind, but I don’t want to be one of those people either.So what to do? For me, it’s simple. I’m going to use that emotion to become a better writer. One who writes better books, and try again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that if need be. If I want to win a Nebula or Hugo, then like getting published, all I can do is keep producing the best writing I can. Until then, I just need to remember that there are a lot of amazing writers who have never been nominated for a Nebula. So, I’m in good company. In the end, it isn’t what you feel about something that defines you, it’s how you react to it. You bet I’m jealous of the nominees, but I’m also happy for them because I know they are undoubtedly as excited about it as I would be if it were me. So I’ll cheer them all on, because if/when my time comes, I hope those who weren’t nominated will do that same for me.The lesson though isn’t just for me, or other writers. Everyone can relate to this. It might not be an award. Maybe someone else got a promotion you were hoping for. Or you didn’t get the job you really wanted. Or any one of a thousand other things where you didn’t get what you hoped for. You can envy those who did make it, but don’t let that green-eyed monster devour you. Put a saddle on that scaly beast and take it for a ride, cheering and applauding for those who did get a win. Be the person you hope others will be when it’s your turn.

Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Just do it.

It’s a common thing you hear from writers at all levels: if you liked a book, leave a review. In fact, this picture by a fellow Harper Voyager author has gotten around quite a bit on Twitter and Facebook.
Leave a Review
But what if you didn’t love the book? Or, even worse, what if you didn’t like it at all, or hated it? Well, I’m not going to tell you how to write a review or what you should put in it. That’s something for you to decide. Personally, I tend to keep my negative reviews (and I’ve done a few) straightforward. I just say what I didn’t like: I couldn’t connect with the characters, the story line didn’t hook me, I had trouble following the plot, etc. But even if you didn’t like the book, you should still leave a review.

Let me repeat that. Yes, you should leave a review, even if it’s going to be a bad one.
Now obviously there are people who have no problem doing that. Yes, some reviews can get ugly, and that’s just part of the business. I wrote about that here when an author on Goodreads replied to a review. No, this blog post isn’t for those people. They’re leaving reviews and for that, I sincerely thank them. Yes, I just thanked people for leaving ugly reviews.

Here’s why. All reviews help sell books. Yes, you read that right. Studies show that books with only positive reviews don’t always sell as well as books with mixed reviews (though usually with a positive average). Negative reviews show potential readers that real people (not bots, or just the author’s friends and family) have read the book. No one, not even us starry-eyed authors, expects everyone to like our stories. Of course we’d love it if they did, but we know that isn’t going to happen. So if you’re worried about hurting our feelings, thanks, but don’t be. I promise we’ll be okay. We have other writers, friends, family, beer, and chocolate to give us solace. If you’re worried about hurting sales, again, don’t be. As I said, you’ll actually help. Not to mention that most authors I know try to approach negative reviews as a chance to learn. Obviously we’d go insane (or more insane) if we tried to adjust our writing for every bad review, but if there’s a criticism that readers keep bringing up, it helps to shine a light on something specific we can reflect on and possibly use to help us grow as artists. I say this speaking from personal experience. Like I said in my last post, here, it wasn’t until my first book came out that I saw the tropes and stereotypes I was using. You can’t improve without seeing both what you’re doing well and not so well, and I know I always want to be improving my craft.

Here’s something else you might not know. Amazon.com, and probably Barnes and Noble as well, use an algorithm to look at how many reviews a book has. When it reaches a certain number (there is considerable debate over what that number is, and Amazon isn’t sharing) it starts showing up on the recommended books section of users’ screens. This is a HUGE benefit to authors and can mean the difference between drowning in a veritable sea of books or standing out enough that someone sees it and buys it.

Yes, I realize all this could come back to haunt me. It’s entirely possible that people who were holding off on bad reviews will suddenly come out of the woodwork and my book ratings will plummet. That’s okay, I’ll deal with it. Like wise, it’s entirely possible there is now a Kickstarter campaign with the sole purpose of hiring someone to kill me. Please don’t contribute to it. But, please, review the books you read. You don’t need to leave long reviews, and they don’t have to be glowing. In fact, the only thing a review should be is honest. You owe that to yourself, to other readers, and even to the author. Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, wherever, just please, pretty please (with sugar on top) leave a review.

Pwease

A New Author Retrospective

I know, I know. Just stay with me on this.
I’m a big fan of Mumford and Sons. I first heard them in an Irish pub somewhere—on the stereo, not live—and was immediately drawn in by their sound and lyrics. I recently picked up their third album, Wilder Minds, and I’ve really been enjoying it. Obviously I like some songs more than others; “Ditmas” is currently my favorite . If you’re not familiar with the band, they have a very cool sound: mostly acoustic, with a banjo and rarely anything more than a kick drum for percussion. That all changed in this new album, and based on some of the reviews I saw, some people weren’t happy about the change. The album definitely sounds more “rock” than the folksy style they had before, but I think you can still hear the soul of the band there. Apparently plenty of people disagree with me. At first, their unhappiness made me think of the stories about when Bob Dylan went electric. This got me thinking, though. As a fan, I completely understand wanting to hear more of the music you love from an artist. But expecting the same thing in perpetuity isn’t really fair or realistic. As people, we grow, we change, we mature, and our view of the world changes to reflect that. Since artists are ultimately expressing themselves, it’s only natural their art will change and grow with them. You might not be growing the same way, or in the same direction, or at the same speed. That means you might drift away from the artist, and that’s just part of the deal. It’s certainly happened to me. At the least, though, you always have the earlier works.

This also got me thinking about my own art (my books), since I’ve got a healthy ego and everything ultimately comes back to me. If you think you detected a bit of sarcasm in that last line, you’re right, there is just a touch of it. As some of you know, I’m working on the fourth book in the American Faerie Tale series. No, you don’t get to know the name or what it’s about. Not yet. If it goes out on schedule, I’ll have been a writer for just about two years. Now, I’m not noting that to brag. Okay, I’m not noting that JUST to brag. I’m now a little more than a year into this professional writer thing, which gives me some perspective. I also recently got another bad review—one which mentioned a criticism another review had noted—and these things together got me looking back. To summarize the criticism, it revolved around the lack of female characters in The Stolen, or the lack of agency with those it did have. And the truth is, that’s a fair criticism.

The Stolen was my first book. I finished the first draft for it about five years ago, give or take. Then I spent a few years editing to get it to where I was happy with it, and then it went to Harper Voyager for their open submission window. Up to that point, I’d pretty much been writing in a vacuum. I didn’t have beta readers. I wasn’t part of a writing group. I wasn’t into social media. My involvement in the world of books, and geekery in general, was me reading books (or rather listening, as I’ve been focused on audiobooks for a while now). It wasn’t until I started venturing out into the world, so to speak, that I saw the tropes and stereotypes that I’d taken as the norm. Kameron Hurley does an excellent job discussing these stereotypes here. More importantly, I saw why giving into these isn’t just bad (in many, many ways), but also limited me as a writer. This is where, for lack of a better term, I checked my privilege. I want my books to be filled with powerful characters (of all genders) that have agency and that readers will love. I looked back and, like many authors, saw all the things I could’ve done to improve my first book. By this time I’d heard from Harper and was preparing for the release of The Stolen. I should note that I’m very proud of The Stolen and its characters, I truly am. I believe it’s the best story I could’ve written at the time, but I also think it’s just a good story. I love the characters in it, with all their faults and flaws. But could I write a better story now? Better characters? Absolutely! And I think I have. But then, I’ve been writing much more intently since The Stolen was finished. So, since I can’t go back and change my first book—and frankly, I wouldn’t even if I could—I did the only thing I could do: I looked forward, took those lessons, and applied them to my next book. Isn’t that the goal of every artist, or really, every person: to grow, to learn, and to improve ourselves? I think I succeeded with The Forgotten and continued that progression with Three Promises. I’ve never made any secret of the fact I struggled with Caitlin in the first book. Looking back, I think I tried too hard. I was so focused on writing a (cringe warning) strong female character, that I lost sight of just making the best character I could. She doesn’t have much screen time in The Forgotten, but I think she’s improved in that story and even more so in Three Promises, as have all the characters. When I wrote Wraith, the protagonist in The Forgotten, she came to life for me, and all the hard lessons I learned from writing The Stolen paid off.

Lest you think I’m trying to dissuade you from picking up The Stolen, if you haven’t already, I’m not. As I said, I think it’s a good book and a good start to the series, with good characters. There are things in it I know some people won’t like that I’m entirely happy with. But anyone who really thinks they can write something everyone will love is deluding themselves. Even Harry Potter got one star reviews. That being said, I also recognize it’s my first book, and I’m a stronger writer now. I see the places I can improve and strive to do just that in the next book. I’m sure at some point I’ll look back on The Forgotten and Three Promises the same way. What’s more, that’s kind of the point of a first book in the series. And here’s why I wouldn’t change The Stolen even if I could. It isn’t just me that’s growing and changing, it’s the characters themselves. Caitlin isn’t the same in Three Promises as she was in The Stolen. None of the characters are from one book to the next, and neither am I.

All this brings me back to where I started this post. In the years since my first book, I’ve grown, as writer, as a person, and as an artist. Consequently, my books (and the characters in them) have changed to reflect the changes in me. So if you find yourself reading a book that you really don’t like, perhaps passionately, take note if it’s the author’s first book or the first in a series. As a writer, I ask you to give the next book a shot. We’re all of us ever changing, ever growing. You never know where the author might be when you pick up that next book. It might just turn out to be exactly what you were hoping to find, or never thought you would. If, however, you so passionately disliked the book that you refuse to ever touch another by the author, that’s your option and I respect that. If The Stolen was that book for you, or any of the subsequent books in the series, I humbly thank you for your time (and money) and wish you well on your journey to find a book you love. There are tons of them out there, and I’ll be noting some of them below.

I can’t speak for every writer, obviously, but when I sit down to write a story, I want it to be the best it can be. I want it to be the book you can’t wait to tell everyone you know about. For some people, I’ve done that (woo hoo!), for others, well, not so much. But I’ll keep trying. Some people will think I’ve succeeded, some will see it as an abysmal failure. And they’ll both be right.

As promised, here’s a list of some great books you can check out (in no particular order). These writers, like myself, are new and growing with each new word they type. You might not like them all, but then again, you might.

Darkhaven by AFE Smith
A Fairy-Tale Ending by Jack Heckel
Desert Rising & The Obsidian Temple by Kelley Grant
Grey by Christi J. Whitney
The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolan
Ignite the Shadows by Ingrid Seymour
Belt Three by John Ayliff
Unexpected Rain by Jason LaPier
Hero Born by Andy Livingstone
Stealing into Winter by Graeme K. Talboys
The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan
Supervision by Alison Stine
Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf by Terry Newman
The Day Before by Liana Brooks
The Brass Giant by Brooke Johnson
Dark Alchemy & Mercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle
Superheroes Anonymous & Supervillains Anonymous by Lexie Dunne
The Iron Ring & Iron and Blood by Auston Habershaw
The God Hunter & Devil in the Wires by Tim Lees
Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy
Among Wolves by Nancy K. Wallace
Graynelore by Stephen Moore
Thorn Jack & The Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour
Veiled Empire by Nathan Garrison

Adventures in Being a New Author: Hard Truths

As many of you may know, there was recently a massive level kerfuffle on GoodReads. I mean massive, as in, questioning if it was real or some strange performance art piece. It’s been covered all over, though I think it is most succinctly summarized by Brenna Clarke Gray at BookRiot. The short, short version is someone posted a one star review, the author replied asking the reviewer to remove the review lest they singlehandedly be responsible for destroying said writer’s career. It only gets worse from there. The writer, Dylan Saccoccio, was thusly banned from GoodReads, though his banning was likely also a result of him offering signed copies in exchange for 5 star reviews. I wasn’t going to add my voice to the massive choir of authors who are screaming “DON’T EVER DO THAT!” but as I read the various posts and blog pieces about it, I feel something was left out. For my part, I agree completely that a writer should never respond to a review, good or bad. They aren’t for the writer, they’re for other readers. Yes, bad reviews suck, and no matter how much the advice is given not to read bad reviews, just about every author I know does. This case was particularly nasty as the author accused anyone of leaving one or two star reviews as being moral bankrupt and the worst humanity has to offer. I can only assume the author has never read any history book, ever, or watched any news broadcast, ever.

But I digress. It should be obvious to everyone at this point that responding to reviews is bad for a myriad of reasons. One though that hasn’t come up and I think is worth noting is this: it isn’t your book anymore. Sure, as the author, you get royalties from sales, you get to hold and covet the beautiful, beautiful book in the quiet hours of the night when no one else is around…you get the idea. Yes, you’re the creator, but as soon as the book is published, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. And by published, I mean released to the public by any means: blog post, e book, paperback, hardcover, audio book, sky writing, text message, Twitter stream, Facebook post, etc. If you’ve put it out there, you’ve given it away. One of the few things Mr. Saccoccio says that I actually agree with is that art is important, it should be encouraged because it can change the world and impact people, sometimes powerfully. He’s right. It should be, because it can. But this is the underpants gnome business model of art. Namely, it’s missing a keep step. Part of producing art is releasing it to the world. That doesn’t mean you’re giving it away for free. But when someone experiences art, regardless of its form or format, it’s a deeply personal thing. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with me on this, but I firmly believe there is no wrong interpretation of art, or response to it. We, each one of us, brings our collective experiences, biases, values, judgments, tastes, etc. No two people will experience something the exact same way, because no two people have come the exact same path to that experience. I’ve received some very negative reviews of my book (and it’s key to note they are reviews of my book, not me as a person). Yes, reading them sucked. But the reviewer was absolutely correct in their review. Just like the people who’ve written glowing reviews are absolutely right. You, as the author, painter, poet, actor, musician, whathaveyou, only get to present the art to the world, and then your job is done. Step away, and let the world have it. As soon as you step back in to comment, even just to say thank you for a positive review, you’re trying to take it back. I’m not saying letting go is easy, in fact I wrote about it and how hard it is back in 2013.

So, here are some hard truths you need to accept when you delve into the world of artistic endeavors.

  1. Some people will not only dislike your work, they will despise it. They will loathe it as the worst thing to ever be belched up from the wretched, festering pits of hell.
  2. Some of those people will tell others via reviews, blog posts, interviews, or while standing on a soap box and shouting through a megaphone.
  3. Some will be laced with harsh, mean-spirited, brutal language.
  4. They are 100% correct in their opinion.
  5. You don’t get to say anything about. Not one word to contradict their claims, no matter how vicious or vitriolic.
    1. Side note: You can and should complain private to trusted friends and colleagues, but nothing whatsoever in public.
  6. No one, anywhere, owes you anything for your art, in whatever form it takes, beyond the monetary payment you ask for; paying for the book, print, song, etc.
    1. You are not owed good reviews, kind words, silence, or even constructive criticism.

Now, all that being said, it doesn’t mean someone is entitled to attack you personally, and some people might. However, you shouldn’t respond to that either. Despite how much it burns inside, you need to let it go. The simple truth is, people who attack the artist because they don’t like the art, aren’t worth the time an energy it would take to respond. Likewise, YOU are not entitled to attack someone personally because of their review. Be better than that.

Making art is hard, letting it go is harder. But the fact is, if this is what you want to do with your life, you need to get past it and figure out a way to deal with it. Without criticism, there is no impetus to change. Without change, there is no growth and no improvement. And we should all strive to always be improving our artistic skill. Which is why I look for anything useful in those negative reviews, and I might not find anything I think is valid. I might just disagree with the reviewer, in which case, my books aren’t for them. I’m genuinely sorry they didn’t like the book, but there are a lot of books out there and hopefully they’ll find another they do like.

Yes, you’ll get bad reviews. What you do with them and about is what truly defines you as an artist. Do you take them and see if there is anything in there that you can use to improve? Or do you have a complete meltdown and become a text book example of what not to do? Me? I find comfort in what inspired this series of posts in the first place: on the readers who did enjoy the book. They’re the ones I’m writing for after all. I owe it to them to produce the very best book I can, which means always looking for ways to better myself as a writer and my craft. For that, I need criticism.

Adventures in Being a New Author: Part 2

In my last post, Adventures in Being a New Author: Part 1, I talked about hearing from fans and politely begged you to spread the word when you like a book. Seriously, do it.

Okay, moving on. In this post, I want to talk about something else exceedingly cool about being a published author. Namely, getting to meet other authors. Sure, lots of people have met authors at a convention, or a literary event, etc. But it really is something different when you’re meeting them as a professional peer. Never mind the fact that actually being a professional peer is mind blowing in and of itself. For example *clear throat* Holy &#%, I’m published by the same publisher as George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Tolkien! So is it different meeting an author as a fellow author rather than as a fan. In short, yes, yes it is. That’s not to say that authors don’t sincerely enjoy meeting fans, I haven’t met one who doesn’t. But when you give that secret handshake—wait, did I say that? Why would I say that. There isn’t a secret author handshake. What? There isn’t, stop asking. I don’t care what you saw, I said there isn’t. Move on already!

Where was I? Oh, right. Meeting an author as an author is different. Call it professional courtesy, or just a sense of camaraderie. Sometimes it’s a matter of sitting on a panel with them, and then doing a signing afterwards. Except for the most popular authors, it’s rarely a long and constant line for the hour you’re sitting there. So you talk, and get to know people. Other times it’s crossing paths with another author at a event and just sharing a few minutes. And yes, there is a bit of being part of a club that isn’t easy to get into. I said there’s no secret handshake!

I’ve gotten to meet a number of great authors, and I have yet to meet one who isn’t down to earth, and nice as can be. I’m sure there are exceptions to that, but I haven’t met them yet. Obviously, not everyone is a published author, or can make it to an event to meet their favorite author, or find someone new. So, I’ve reached out to some of the authors I’ve met (and by that I mean in person) and see if they’d be willing to do an interview here. I haven’t heard back yet from all of the message I’ve put out, but I have had some. You might recognize some of the authors, and some might be new to you. Either way, I hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I did, and that you check out their book(s).

My first interview will be with an author I first met at the New York Comic Con, then again at C2E2. She’s also with Harper Voyager, and was selected via the open submission. Tune in sometime during the next week or so to check out my interview with Lexie Dunne.

Adventures in Being a New Author: Part 1

I’ve posted several things here about my journey to publication and my experiences after. I thought in my continuing efforts to share this rather remarkable journey, I thought I’d do a series about the things which are cool, and still a bit surreal. Attending conventions as a speaker is pretty high up there, but I’ve already posted about attending New York Comic Con last year and C2E2 a few weeks ago. I’ve also posted about doing signings/readings/meet & greets. A common factor those share is meeting fans. For the most part, the people I meet aren’t fans yet. They’re typically just people who attended the panel I was on, or stopped by the bookstore while I was there, either for an event or just stopping in. In short, they’re people who haven’t read the book yet, and I get the chance to interest them in reading it. Meeting these people is great, and I love the fact that more than a few have been genuinely interested in reading my books after meeting me.
Just recently though, I’ve started getting legitimate fan mail. As in emails or posts to Facebook from people I don’t know who just wanted to tell me they really enjoyed my book(s). This is rather surreal, but also exceedingly awesome! I don’t know as every author feels this way, and I’m sure the more popular authors can’t keep up with the inflow of messages, but as for me, it’s nice to get the positive feedback from readers. Please, feel free to drop me a line. I know from the other writers I’ve met and talked to, we all struggle sometimes, worried how our latest book will do, so if you’ve read something and you like it, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Send the author a note. Though as I said above, best seller author probably won’t be able to reply back, as much as they’d like to.
  2. Post a review. I know it seems straightforward, but posting a review on one of the various sites (Goodreads, Amazon,Barnes & Noble, etc) is helpful not just to tell others you enjoyed the book, but also to us authors. Despite what advice might be given, we read our reviews…all of them.
  3. Tell a friend. Let someone you know about this book you really liked. Better yet, if you really liked the book, pick up a copy and give it to them.

Writers write because it’s what we love to do, and in many cases, something we did before we were getting paid for, and would likely be doing even if we weren’t. That being said, the most common dream of a writer is to be able to earn enough from writing to make a living. Trust me when I tell you, having a “day job” and being a writer leads to some very exhausting days. Make no mistake though, it’s a labor of love, and hearing that someone really enjoyed something we wrote makes it all worth while.

So on behalf of writers everywhere (yes, it’s pretty damn presumptious, but what the hell). Thanks, please keep reading, and please, pretty please, with sugar and a cherry on top, review and spread the word.

Guest Post

So all this month I’ve been the featured author at Drey’s Library. She’s been a gracious host, and you should certainly check out the site as a whole. So far, she’s interviewed me here, I’ve talked about some of my favorite reads here, and she’s reviewed The Stolen here.

Now, as my time as her featured author comes to a close, I’ve written a piece about considering your audience in your writing. Have a look here, and be sure to peruse the rest of Drey’s site.

It’s Official!

The race is done, and The Stolen has won The Qwillery’s 2014 Debut Author Cover of the Year!

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From the first time I saw the cover art for The Stolen, I was blown away. I freely admit that I was worried I wouldn’t like the cover. This was after all my first book, and authors really don’t get much say in their cover art, and rarely a veto if they don’t like it. In short, the artists and designers at Harper Voyager (Tom Egner and Patricia Barrow) knocked it out of the park, and into low orbit! When it won the best debut author cover for July, I was ecstatic. Now, I’m almost speechless. Though I’m elated, I’m also keenly aware that The Stolen won because of my fans, whose energy and tenacity kept them voting until the very end. I’m well and truly humbled by the response this vote drew. The previous year’s challenge garnered a total of 396 votes. This year’s total was 2045! That is an incredible turnout! All of you have my deepest gratitude. Thank you, sincerely and truly, from the bottom of my heart for this.

The competition was incredibly stiff for this challenge, and in the end the win was by six votes. Yeah, six! For those curious, that’s .29 percent. Every author in that challenge deserves kudos and I’ll be picking up a copy of each of their books. Every author who was in this challenge was a debut author, and won best cover for the month their debut novel was released. As new authors, we’re all trying to establish ourselves, and I’m fairly certain getting published was a dream come true for all of us. I know it was for me. As I said, I’ll be picking up a copy of each of their books, I hope you will at least look them over, and pick up a few (if not all) of them. Amy Impellizzeri, author of Lemongrass Hope was the my closest competitor, and the results could’ve gone either way up until the end. Her book has some incredible reviews, and I’m looking forward to reading it. She and I exchanged some emails prior to the challenge’s completion, and she was a delight to talk to. I received her congratulations today, and I hope my reply was even half as gracious  as her message was. And yes, as promised in an earlier post, in the near future, I’ll be giving away three signed copies of The Stolen, which will be open to anyone, inside or outside the US.

I also want to thank The Qwillery, specifically Sally, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the New York ComicCon. The Qwillery is a fantastic site that supports debut authors and helps introduce them to the world. There are reviews, interviews, and cover challenges every month. Stop in regularly to see what’s new, and vote for authors who are just emerging into the published world. I’m sure you’ll find a book that you might not otherwise have found, and perhaps you’ll find a new favorite title and/or author.

So thank you, again, to everyone. Be you family, friends, colleagues, or complete strangers, it was your support that did this. Go raibh míle maith agat (thanks a million!).

Winners and Losers

Perhaps it says something about me (and if it does, I hope it’s good) that when the excitement from receiving the publishing offer from Harper Voyager wore off, I started to think about all those people who submitted their manuscripts but didn’t make the final cut. There were over 4500 submissions. It’s probably safe to say that close to half of those were cut after a short read. Perhaps the manuscript just wasn’t ready to be published; I certainly started submitting The Stolen before it was ready. But this post isn’t about that level of rejection. I covered that pretty thoroughly in here, and here. No, the people I thought about were the last hundred or so who made it to the final stage, waiting more than a year, only to get the dreaded “no thank you” email. I think as writers, after a while we start to expect rejections, but that really doesn’t help. It’s especially bad when you make it to that last step, only to have the door close in front of you. The Stolen was submitted to 118 different agents, and that’s after getting it edited. There were probably 40+ before that. Out of those 118, I received six requests to see the whole manuscript; on one occasion I even had two agents request it at the same time. I was sure that was a sign and that I’d get an offer of representation. Spoiler alert, they all passed. So I understand how that feels, to almost make it, but not. We all know the adages: there are no points for second place, second place is the first loser, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, etc. That’s when I saw a post on Absolute Write, on a thread tracking forum members’ progress in the submission process. I was lurking at the time, having been chided for a comment I posted announcing the publication offer before I was supposed to. The author of it put it in such perfect terms, I’m not even going to try to summarize. It deserves a direct quote (with permission granted from the author):

I was thinking about this last night. I always thought, back when the call started, that the saddest person was the one who would come in 13 out of 12. You know? The one who ran the whole race, who survived every cull, but still had no prize at the end. That’s probably going to be me and several other people here.

On the one hand, I’m sad that I basically did all the work and got none of the reward. On the other hand, it’s nice to remember that we clearly did something right with at least ONE editor in this process, or one assistant. At the very least, our work was probably considered publishable. In the end, it fell because of a matter of taste, not talent.

I sometimes think that the greatest moment of weakness that happens to an aspiring writer, when they’re most compelled to give it all up, is not when they get rejected, but when they almost succeed. It’s a long fall, and sometimes you don’t want to get up again. I’m sort of feeling that as I rush towards a probable rejection.

But if you do get up again, you can remember that at least one, probably several professional editors thought you had some real promise and ability. In my opinion, once you’re there, getting SOMEWHERE is only a matter of time and will.

So this is a long, drawn out way of saying that even though this is going to be kind of a crappy week, and we should all be allowed to go into our caves and sulk for a bit, that the bright side is really very…bright.

Anyway. Rant over.

You can find the original post here. I read that post knowing I’d made it, but seeing others languishing with no news. I felt for them, and I knew MerchantIV (the author of that post) was right: a number of people would make it right to the end only to fall all the way back down. It’s true that in life there are winners and losers, but it’s important to remember that losing doesn’t mean failing. Those Olympians who take home silver and bronze medals are understandably upset they didn’t win gold, but they still wear those silver and bronze medals with pride. Writing is about winning by inches, a slow progression. Sure, some people land publishing deals on their first tries, but they’re the exception not the rule. The rest of us make a long, hard slog to get to publication. It’s easy to feel like a failure and think about giving it up. The thing to remember is that you’re the only one who can decide if you’re a failure or not. So long as you get up and try again, you didn’t fail, you just lost one. It’s not fun or easy, but if it were, people wouldn’t react the way they do when you say you’re an author. Publishing a book happens with hard work, determination, talent, and more than a little luck. It’s brutal and not for everyone, but if it’s what you want, don’t ever let anyone tell you to give up. Besides, the victory is so much sweeter when you’ve had losses along the way. Just ask a Red Sox fan.