Interviewed by SF Signal

I was recently interviewed by SF Signal, a Hugo award winning magazine. It was a fun interview, which you can probably tell from the length. The interviewer, Carl, was great and I’m proud to say he was rather taken with The Forgotten. He and I talk about how I got published, and some deeper points to my novels you might not know. It’s definitely worth checking out. While you’re there, browse around, you don’t win Hugo awards for having a mediocre magazine. Among other things, you can read some of the other interviews Carl has done

[GUEST INTERVIEW] Bishop O’Connell (AN AMERICAN FAERIE TALE) on Compelling Characters, Publishing and (of Course) Faerie Tales

Meet Wraith and How to Get Something Cool

I am not a skilled artist. By that I mean that my talents do not lay in painting, drawing, or the like. In fact, I’m pretty terrible. To me, people who can sit down and create a visual image are like wizards, especially the really gifted artists. I’m a writer, and I think a good one, but my ability to draw rests in words. But I’m a visual person and long to see my characters come to life visually. And so I hired an artist (Cindy Diamond, who is also a writer) I met when I was at CondorCon last year to do some character portraits for me. I shared the results here. I think she did a great job, but for The Forgotten I decided to hire a professional artist. As I’ve grown increasingly fond of Wraith as a character, I settled on her to be the subject. Kirbi Fagan is incredibly talented, and I found her through a friend who handles the art acquisitions for Lightspeed Magazine. I shared my thoughts on Wraith, gave some basics of her physical description, and left it to Kirbi to do her magic. She did not disappoint.

Wraith-Hi-Res

I think this captures both Wraith’s energy, and her weariness. I could tell you that Wraith is a homeless teen who uses quantum theory to create magic, but with this picture, I don’t think I have to. Awesomeness achieved.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve used the hi-res version of this image to create some exclusive post cards (the reverse side of which is a secret). So how do you get one of these super cool, ultra awesome cards? Well the first way is to find me at one of the conventions I’ll be attending this year. But fear not. If you can’t make it to a convention, or I won’t be going to one near you, you can still get one. All you have to do is buy any of my books from The Fountain Bookstore. If you can’t make it into the shop, they’ll ship anywhere in the world.

But wait, I hear you say. A signed book and an exclusive postcard of Wraith? This seems to good to be true!

Rest assured, it isn’t! But like all good things, this won’t last forever. When the cards run out, they’re done and I won’t be making anymore. That is not to say there won’t be future cards featuring other characters, but not this card. Act now and be the envy of everyone you know!

Award Season or Watch Me Beg Ever So Humbly

It’s award season, and no I don’t mean the Academy Awards. I’m talking about the really important awards. At least to science fiction and fantasy writers: The Nebula and The Hugo Awards. This is rather a big year for me, not least of which because my fourth book comes out this summer but also because I have four works eligible for each award. Yes four. And yes, I am humbly asking (read: begging), if you’re able to nominate/vote for either of these awards, for your consideration.

The Forgotten is eligible for best novel.

In addition, each of the four stories in Three Promises is eligible in various categories.

A Promise of Three Parts: Past, Present, and Future for best Novelette.

The Legacy of Past Promises, The Promise of New Beginnings, and The Legion of Solomon are each eligible for best short story.

The Nebula awards are nominated and voted on by active members in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This means not everyone can participate, though I’m thrilled to get to this year. The Hugo awards however only require that you buy a membership for Worldcon. If you don’t plan to attend, you can purchase a supporting membership for $50 here (which allows you to nominate and vote, just not attend the convention) or $185 if you do want to attend.

I can imagine someone out there asking: “isn’t this just shameless begging?”

Why yes, yes it is. But I’m okay with that. Part of being an author, especially a new one who’s trying to build a fan base, is getting out there and being shameless about self-promotion. Within reason of course; I never want to cross the line and become completely obnoxious. Besides, these are good stories, really good in my opinion, and I have no issue letting people know that they exist, and asking them to check the books out. So do I think my work is award worthy? Honestly, I don’t know. I won’t be nominating myself for any Nebula awards, mostly because that just doesn’t seem right, and also because I’m not entirely sure it’s allowed. But these awards, much like my stories themselves, aren’t about me, not after I publish them. They’re about you and everyone else who reads them. To some they might be the best thing. Others might think the only value my books possess is as kindling. Awards are ultimately subjective. Sure, some people might have more understanding of the technical side of things, but in the end it’s about what stories you loved so much that they stand above and apart from all the others. Who cares what anyone else thinks? If you’re able to vote, I urge you to do so. And while I’d be overjoyed to see any of my works make it on the nomination list of either award, and I might literally collapse from a heart attack* if I won, if my stories aren’t to your liking vote for something that is, something you loved. Just let your voice be heard.

*Please don’t let the fear of giving me a heart attack stop you from nominating me. I mean it. I have every faith in our medical system, and I have insurance for just this sort of thing. I specially looked for “nomination induced cardiac arrest” is the list of items covered, so you’re good.

Signing/Reading with Harry Heckel!

Do you live in the Richmond Virginia area? If not, do you have access to transportation? Then you have no excuse not to be at The Fountain Bookstore this Tuesday at 4pm. I’ll be there with Harry Heckel (half of the infamous Jack Heckel). We’ll be signing books, maybe doing readings, and talking with the audience. Stop in, say hi, get books signed! I’ll even sign other author’s books! Seriously, I don’t care! Give me a pen and put a book in front of me!

For those of you who do not have access to transportation, and don’t live in the Richmond VA area, you can order signed copies of any of my books (and preorder Three Promises in paperback which will net you an EXCLUSIVE gift, did I mention it was exclusive?) and I’ll sign them and personalize them, if you wish. Just call into the store and they’ll take care of it for you. They’re very cool that way. So now you have no more excuses. Books make awesome gifts, and nothing says “insert appropriate message here” like a signed copy of The Stolen, The Forgotten, and/or (really just and) Three Promises, as well as a signed copy of Fairytale Ending (Jack Heckel). Yes, I know he misspelled “Fairy” but he’s a decent guy (or guys really) so I’m letting it slide.

Three Promises Now Available! (Really This Time!)

It’s here! Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection is now available as an ebook! For $0.99, no less! I’m still a little blown away that this is my third book (and second this year). Three Promises was a new adventure for me. It’s a collection of short stories—technically three short stories and a novella—and I’ve always struggled with short fiction. It’s never come as naturally to me as novel-length fiction, but that wasn’t the case here. These stories seemed to write themselves, and the characters truly shine. In my previous books, The Stolen & The Forgotten, the story drove the characters. In Three Promises, the opposite is true. There’s no child in danger, no looming shadowy enemy snatching kids off the street, and you get to see the characters for who they are. I was worried they wouldn’t stand on their own, but I think they didn’t just stand, they soared. I really liked them before; now, I love them. I hope you will, too.

As a reminder, if you preorder the paperback (releases 1/8/16 and is only $3.99) from The Fountain Bookstore, not only will it be signed, but you’ll get an exclusive gift, too (and it will be awesome). As a nice bonus, you can also order signed copies of The Stolen and The Forgotten while you’re there, and don’t worry, they ship worldwide.

World Builders Charity Auction

World Builders is a great charity started by Patrick Rothfuss that helps in the fight against hunger and poverty. They have a ton of cool stuff up for auction. You can get a signed first edition, have a professional editor, author, or agent review your manuscript, or get a character named after you in a novel. I’m offering the latter for an upcoming AFT book, and I’ll mention you in my acknowledgments. But you should really check it out for yourself and check back regularly as new stuff come up. There are a lot of great items and it all supports a great cause. This is the time of year to be thankful for what you have, and also to think of those who don’t have as much to be thankful for.

World Builders Auction
My specific auction item

Exclusive Giveaway For Pre-Orders

On 12/8 Three Promises comes out in ebook.  It’s the third book in the American Faerie Tale series (technically book 2.5) and among other things, you’ll finally get to see what happened after the events of The Stolen. Now if this wasn’t enough, I’ve got a special treat for you. With the help of the wonderful people at The Fountain Bookstore, I’m doing a special, exclusive giveaway for pre-orders of the paperback version of Three Promises (which is released 1/5/16). If you pre-order the book from them, not only will you get the book signed (and personalized if you so choose) but you’ll also get an exclusive character drawing I commissioned. These won’t be available anywhere else, and at $4 (technically $3.99) how can you not buy it? I know what you’re saying.

“But, Bishop, I don’t live anywhere near Richmond VA. How will I get my book?”

I’m glad you asked. As it happens, The Fountain will ship the book. Anywhere. In the freaking world! Just get in touch with them (phone or email) and they’ll set you up. Be the first person in your city with a signed copy, and one of the select (and super cool) people who has the exclusive character drawing.

If you do happen to live in or around Richmond, stop by The Fountain on Black Friday, or Small Business Saturday. I’ll be there signing books. And I’ll have a special treat with me.

News, Events, and a Treat

One of the (many) things beyond your control when you get published is often when the information on your books gets released. When your publisher registers an ISBN number, it usually gets flagged on Amazon and GoodReads. If you’ve ever seen “UNTL” or something like it (I honestly can’t remember exactly, it means the book doesn’t have a title but it’s ISBN is registered. I recently saw Harper registered the ISBN for book four in the AFT series (third full novel). I had grand plans to announce the title, to great fanfare because I know you’re all waiting with bated breath. The time, it seems, is now. Book four in the American Faerie Tale series will be….

The Returned

*release confetti and balloons*

So, there you have it. You’ll just have to wait to hear what it’s about. However, I’ll say that like the previous books, this one takes place in a new city. This time, it’s New Orleans. Let your imaginations run wild!


This is also a good time to say my events/appearances page has been updated. I’m delighted to say I’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) in Seattle WA. This is exciting since The Forgotten was set there. I might even stop by and say hi to Freemont while I’m there (read the book).

I’m also excited to have been invited to attend RavenCon in Williamsburg VA along with my friend and fellow Harper author, Harry Heckel (one half of the notorious Jack Heckel).

I don’t know yet what I’ll be attending at either con yet, they are a ways off still, but when I do I’ll update the page accordingly. So, if you’re in or around Seattle or Williamsburg, stop by and say hi. I promise I’ll be entertaining.


 

Lastly, in honor of Halloween, I’ve decided to share a treat with my readers. When I was at CondorCon, there was an author/artist working a booth near the bookseller I had camped at with. I ended up commissioning her, Cindy Diamond, to do character portraits for the main cast of The Stolen. I think she did a great job. For me, it’s how the characters would look in an animated movie of the book, along the lines of: The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down, etc.

Caitlin_SmallFiona_SmallEdward_SmallBrendan_SmallDante_Small

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

Happy Birthday to The Stolen!

It was one year ago that my first book, The Stolen, was published. It was a momentous event for me, marking my entrance into the world of being a published author. At times it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already, and at others, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. It’s been a remarkable ride, with some remarkable moments. Winning the cover of the year on The Qwillery was exceedingly cool. Getting a slot on John Scalzi’s blog (Big Idea) is still very cool to think about. The Forgotten got a spot too, so I suppose I’m becoming an old hand at it, and I’m safe in saying Scalzi and I are total BFFs now (I’m kidding, John, don’t release the hounds!).

I’ve covered a lot of my journey in my “Adventures in Being a New Author” posts, so I won’t rehash that here. I’ll simply say this:
Thank you, fans and readers, for buying the book. Thank you for reading it, for reviewing it, and possibly even for telling others about it. I hope this is the first of many years as a writer, and I hope you enjoy the other books yet to come.
Now, have some cake (Scalzi, you can have pie, of course) and if you haven’t yet, buy a copy of The Stolen! In fact, celebrate and buy two or three copies! And if you’ve bought one already, buy another! You deserve it!