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.

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New Author Adventure – A New Kind of Giveaway!

It’s always a struggle for new authors to find creative ways to market our books without inundating people on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/etc. with BUY MY BOOK!!!! PLEASE!!!! IT’S AWESOME!!!! I think I’ve done pretty well in avoiding that. One common marketing ploy you’ll see repeated is the giveaway. Giveaways are a timed honored tradition in the publishing world, and it might surprise to know how many copies of their books publishers give out every year. I don’t know (well, it could surprise you) I’m guessing it’s a lot. I know copies are regularly sent out for reviewing, blurb requests, and of course to generate interest in the book. Who doesn’t like free stuff, right? Well, I’ve done giveaways for both books, and I’m not opposed to doing more, but I thought this time I’d do something different. I wanted to give something away that not only might generate some buzz, but also thanked my readers for their support. What is it I’m giving away?

*drumroll*

I’ll name a character after you! Yes, that’s right, you could have a character named after you in the book I’m currently working on (Book 3 in the series, due out next year sometime). But wait, there’s more! I’ll also mention you in the acknowledgments of the book. Become the envy of everyone you know! While it’s true this isn’t a truly unheard of giveaway—Chuck Wendig offered to name a murder victim after someone—I think it’s pretty cool. But, like all good things, there is a catch. You do not get to pick the character. Rest assured that it won’t be the literary equivalent of a walk on. While it won’t be a major character, neither will it be someone seen once and never heard from again. There is even the possibility of the character returning in future books. No, you do not have to use your real name, you can give me a nickname if you prefer (nothing obscene, please).

So what do you have to do to win this prestigious honor? Well, since I said this is a thank you for my readers, you’ll have to have read one or both of the books currently out there (or be sufficiently good at bluffing to fool me). But entry is simple, just post a comment to this piece and tell me who your favorite character is—and briefly—why. That’s it. I’ll even allow you two entries if you want to pick one character from each book. Or if you really like just one character, you can enter with them twice, but give me a different reason (presumably one for each book) with each entry. Make no mistake, I’m not asking for an essay, though if you’re feeling prolific, go for it! A line or two should be enough, though if you give specifics (show you’ve read the book) you’ll get bonus point.

One month from the day this is posted, I’ll close the comments and shortly thereafter, post the winner.

That’s it. Easy, right? Get to it then. Immortality awaits!

New Author Adventures – Guilty Pleasures

Auston Habershaw, despite how his name sounds, is not Benedict Cumberbatch’s distant cousin. His bio says that on the day he was born, Skylab fell from the heavens. This foretold two possible fates: supervillain or scifi/fantasy author. Fortunately he chose the latter, and spends his time imagining the could-be and the never-was rather than disintegrating the moon with his volcano laser. It should be noted I have been personally assured the aforementioned volcano laser is strictly for research purposes. He is also  a fellow Harper Voyager author and New Englander (Yankees suck). His first two books, The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood are both available, and as of yesterday are combined into a single volume called The Oldest Trick (various buy links below). Much like Tolkien, Auston had a single epic fantasy book that was so epic it had to be broken into pieces. Bonus points for doing a dualogy instead of the well trodden trilogy. But what do you expect from a winner of the Writers of the Future Award (Volume 31).

As part of his journey to get his book out to every single human being, and any literate animals who can pay, he’s stopped by to share with us his thoughts on guilty pleasures.


On Frivolity

By Auston Habershaw

It all starts in a tavern. All pointless stories start there, since that is the place we can easiest imagine meeting others and doing something interesting, despite the fact that meeting in taverns rarely leads to anything more interesting than intoxication. There’s an elf and a dwarf, and let’s say an orc. Or ork – whichever. Everybody’s drinking ale (which is more interesting than beer) and the barmaid has an irresponsibly plunging neckline. Let’s presume she works for tips.

This is the point in the story where somebody runs in from outside, breathless and bloody. Or where some loud-mouth starts spouting off about ‘the only good orc is a dead orc’ or whatever. Perhaps some lunk gets handsy with the barmaid. Maybe somebody mysterious posts a note on the bulletin board. It says the following:

DANGEROUS ADVENTURE!

Wanted: 1 Warrior, 1 Thief, 1 Wizard (Elves, Priests, and Dwarves optional)

REWARD!

Meet the Creepy Stranger in the Inexplicably Empty Back Room

Maybe all of these things happen. The point is this: what happens next is a bar fight.

Why? Evidently such things are fun. Heroic music plays, as is fitting for acts of criminal vandalism and assault. The fight rages on, and heroes emerge. Why are they heroes? Well, they’re winning the fight, of course. They find in each other a ready ally, a surprise to no one save themselves. Maybe, at the end of all this, they rescue a princess in disguise (she was slumming it, you know. Why drink in the palace when there’s a perfectly good dive down the road where you might get assaulted by a dwarf?). Whatever happens, the drunk under the table never notices; he rises, alone, and is delighted to find free beer.

I mean ale. Sorry.

So begins a tale of adventure. High drama. Endless banter. Derring do on every other page. Maybe, by the end, the elf and the dwarf and the orc become friends. A little tear forms in the corner of our eye, but we refuse to ever acknowledge its existence. The tear is undercover, you see. Top Secret. Hush-hush.

 

I bet you were rolling your eyes up there. Chuckling, perhaps? Sure, and why not – the cliché is so banal, it’s comedy. Then again, though, there’s something to be said for mindless fun. There is an article by Adam Sternbergh in the NYT magazine considering the worth of so-called ‘guilty pleasures’. I enjoyed it immensely and enjoin you to read it.

Done? Okay:

Why do we feel so bad about liking things considered low-brow? I mean, isn’t it okay to have fun – even dumb fun – on occasion? Must everything be so deep and serious all the time? I confess to feeling the pressure myself. As an academic (or pseudo-academic, given that my terminal degree is not a PhD but rather an MFA), there is a certain pressure to make what I write and what I enjoy somehow important. Not all of it is, though, no matter what I do to it. When I confess to liking Armageddon or Army of Darkness, there isn’t much that can be said to give such works merit. Likewise my hobbies: despite its sophistication, there is nothing truly artistically redeeming about Warhammer 40,000 unless you put far more effort into painting miniatures than I do. And even then it’s suspect.

So what, though? I think sometimes we spend too much time decrying the frivolous, forgetting just how important frivolity can be. As much as being serious adults is important, it isn’t the only game in town. We also need to have fun. We also need to do things that are easy. All work and no play makes Homer…something…something…

Right then – let’s go to the tavern. I’ll buy you an ale. Later, when we’re riding dragons to save the King of Thumbershire from the Daemon Princess of Xoon, you’ll thank me. Dwarf’s honor.


The Oldest Trick is just as much fun and worth picking up.

Tyvian Reldamar gets betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.

Revenge just got complicated.

On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless wizard Banric Sahand. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he learns to work with—and rely on—his motley crew of accomplices, including an adolescent pickpocket, an obese secret-monger, and a fearsome gnoll.

THE OLDEST TRICK_

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You can find Auston on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, or writing to his cousin.

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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!

Big Announcement

Well, I think it’s a big announcement.
The American Faerie Tale series has been cleared for two more books!

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I’ll be sharing more information as time goes on, but here is something to hold you over. The next book will be called…

Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection

Aside from a bonus story about a group introduced in The Forgotten, the unanswered question at the end of The Stolen will be answered! The current scheduled release date is December 2015. Stay tuned for more information, including cover reveals, perhaps some excerpts, and exclusive offers for pre-orders!

Happy 4th of July and a Guest Post!

Happy 4th of July! If you’re in the US, you’re probably eating hot dogs, hamburgers, bbq, or perhaps some soy impersonation of them with friends and family before enjoying a colorful display of high explosives. For those of you not in the US and might not be familiar, the 4th marks American independence from the British. And what finer way to celebrate than to invite a Brit into the pub? AFE Smith is one of my fellow Harper Voyager open submission selectees. In fact, it’s in no small part from her hard work that many of those selectees (most of whom you’ll see listed on my links list) are now friends. As such, it’s my pleasure to have AFE for a visit promoting her debut novel, Darkhaven. It’s a fantasy novel with shapeshifting, mystery, intrigue, AND flying unicorns. That’s right, I said flying unicorns. We shall not at this time however delve into whether they are pegacorns or unisuses. As part of this tour, she has a lot of giveaways happening. You can, and should, check out the tour here. And if you’d like to get a free copy of Darkhaven, as well as some other nifty stuff, here’s her Rafflecopter giveaway.

For her visit, AFE is here to talk about how she came to not only accept who she is (and what she loves) but to be proud of it, and frankly, that’s a story that can never be told enough.


Love what you love

Let me tell you a story.

Maybe 15 or 20 years ago, when I was a young teenager, I was … well, pretty much the same as I am now. Quiet*, shy, a voracious reader, into fantasy novels and sci-fi movies and going to the library on a Saturday morning. The only difference was, I was ashamed of being those things. I used to creep around the fantasy section of my local bookshop with one eye constantly on the door, just in case someone I knew came in and saw me. Yet now I’m a fantasy author who wrote a book about love and murder and flying unicorns, and I’m not in the least ashamed. Because it’s awesome.

So what changed?

Well, for me it was threefold. Partly it was getting a bit older, moving from school to university, and discovering that no one judged me anymore; the cool kids read fantasy too. Partly (though this may sound silly) it was the first Lord of the Rings movie, which came out around the same time – because it was a wild success, and everyone was watching it, and that meant it wasn’t weird to like fantasy after all. And partly, it was the internet.

I kind of wish the internet had already been mainstream when I was growing up, because one wonderful thing it does is allow people with similar interests to come together. I never even had an email address until I went to university. I’d barely ever used the internet before.** But once I found online communities, I suddenly had a way to know I wasn’t alone. Whatever you love, someone else loves it too.

(As an aside, if I’d had internet access in the 90s I would totally have been a fanfic writer. Actually, I was a fanfic writer – privately, on paper.*** But I’d already stopped writing fics by the time I got online. Which is a little bit sad, because I never got to experience that particular community.)

Then, of course, geeking out over stuff – being enthusiastic about something – became cool. But I’m happy to say that by that point, I no longer cared what anyone thought. Thank goodness. Took me long enough.

The point of this story, quite aside from don’t be as wimpy as me, is never let anyone make you feel ashamed of your passions. Love what you love, and be proud – whether it’s building robots or collecting obscure varieties of tea or dressing up as a different anime character every weekend. It took me maybe ten years to go from being ashamed of what I love to being proud of it (and, you know, even making a living out of it. Maybe. Fingers crossed. If this book takes off). It shouldn’t take that long. It shouldn’t take any time at all. Own it.

 

*If my best school friend is reading this, she’d probably argue with that assessment. But then, even the quietest person needs someone to be noisy with.

**Yes, at the turn of the century it was possible for someone to reach the age of 18 without knowing anything about the internet. Crazy, I know.

***I’m sure you’re longing to know what I wrote fics for, so I’ll tell you this: the first fic I ever wrote was for the Ace Ventura movies. Remember those, with Jim Carrey? And yes, I know that’s weird. And no, you can’t read it.


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Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

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A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

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New Author Adventures Interview: Lexie Dunne

Lexie Dunne is another author selected by Harper Voyager from its open submission window. I’ve met her at both the New York Comic Con and C2E2, and she is, without a doubt, the most serious, dour, person I’ve ever met in my life. As proof, her bio reads thusly:

Lexie Dunne is a woman of many masks, all of them stored neatly in a box under her bed. By day a mild-mannered technical writer and by night an adventuress and novelist, she keeps life interesting by ignoring it and writing instead. She hails from St. Louis, home of the world’s largest croquet game piece, and Superheroes Anonymous is her professional debut into the world of caped crusaders, a journey that started when her father took her and her brother to see The Rocketeer.
Getting her to return a phone call is impossible. You’d have better luck sticking a Dr. Pepper under a propped up box and waiting nearby, string in hand.

Hi, Lexie, welcome. We don’t often get kids in the pub. Would you like a bendy straw in your Dr. Pepper?
I drink my Dr Pepper like an adult, Bishop. LIKE AN ADULT. On the rocks, flavored with my own tears, and alone in a bar in west Texas somewhere.
…but if you have a pink bendy straw, I wouldn’t say no. It’s, uh, for a friend. *slurps*

Okay, let’s cut to the chase, you call yourself Lexie Dunne, but we all know that’s not your real name. Rumor has it your real name, when spoken aloud, has been known to summon any of the following at different times; the muffin man, the good humor man, Stan Lee, and the dark lord Cthulhu. Is it true? And what of the reports that Cthulhu appeared at an elementary school you were attending for second grade, moments after the teacher took attendance?
Ah, yes. Poor Mrs. Harris. You’d think a woman who deals with seven-year-olds that glue their fingers together with paste on a regular basis would be better equipped to handle an Elder God or two, but sadly, that proved not to be the case. She was a great teacher for all of the ten minutes that I had her on that first day.
Cthulhu and I have worked out a deal. My middle name also needs to be spoken aloud to summon him, but the Muffin Man is fair game at any time. Luckily, the only woman who knows that middle name is also way more terrifying than either of those monsters. Hi, Mom!
No comment on Stan Lee.

Nicely done on the mom shout out. Now, your first book revolves around a woman who is repeatedly taken hostage by various super powered criminals, and often injured when rescued by the superhero everyone thinks is her boyfriend. How much of this book is autobiographical?
Pretty much everything but Gail’s height. She’s 5’1, I’m 5’4. Other than that*, we’re practically separated at birth.
* And her muscles, sense of humor, sarcasm, wit, curly hair, having two very built dudes in love with her, and the ability to tuck away an entire Thanksgiving feast as a midmorning snack, that is.

What is it you love about superheroes and/or comics? Do you remember the first comic you read?
Superheroes, to me, have always been about hope. Usually they’re underdog stories, which I’m a sucker for (to the surprise of absolutely nobody), but going back to my very first superhero film, The Rocketeer, I like these stories of people who try to be good folk even while they have these crazy responsibilities and pretty nifty abilities. I’ve never been a big fan of the Alan Moore type stories that are grimdark and gritty; I like my stories brightly flavored and preferably in shiny colors (to keep me from getting distracted).
And my first comic that I ever read was Buffy Season Eight. I happened to be visiting NYC on a school trip the day it came out, so I went and found Forbidden Planet, bought my sister a Spider-Girl poster, and purchased my very first comic. I didn’t take to superhero comics until Captain Marvel in 2013.

And now that I feel really old, let’s move on. Are you in favor of the Oxford Comma, or are you one of the demented anarchists who, when not torturing puppies, oppose its use?
I am also a big fan of the vocative comma, too! No puppies are being tortured on my watch. I mean, mine might be overfed, but she’s currently being a cavetroll and breathing heavily behind me, but that might be the painkillers. The dentist told me there’s a 1 in 5000 chance that they’ll turn her into one of the ugly green gremlins.

Enough of the softball questions, let’s get serious. Marvel or DC?
Marvel for movies and comics, DC for select TV shows. Arrow doesn’t count because of what they did to Sara Lance. They’re still dead to me.

May God have mercy on their souls. How big of an influence would you say a love of comics has on your writing, not just storyline (that’s obvious), but tone, and style?
Less than you would think. I call Superheroes Anonymous a love letter to comic books, but the truth is, I didn’t actively start reading comics or set up a pull list or follow authors until several years after I wrote it. The second draft was written after I’d become a fan of the DeFractions and Marjorie Liu and G. Willow Wilson and Bendis, so I think I may have leaned a little more heavily on some comic book tropes in the final product? But the first draft, that was entirely my love of superhero movies and cartoons and osmosis from comics.

Interesting, really shows how far comic book tropes have spread into main stream media. While working on your second book did any of your characters surprise you? Or would you say when you start writing you have a pretty clear idea of how things will go?
I’m not one of those writers that says things like “The character told me this today!” because frankly, it all comes out of my head. But I think at times I was surprised by the twists my brain came up with and the direction the story took. I’m not a seat of the pants writer; generally before I kick off into a project, I have an idea of major scenes without any idea what connections will arise between them. The fun of writing, and the most frustrating part of writing, is that puzzle game you play when you try to take the ideas in your head and to figure out the pathways between them. Hopefully in a clear and coherent manner, but that’s not always necessary. Sometimes I just like making extra work for my editor.
But yes, there were definitely times during the writing process of this book—which I wrote very, very quickly—where I surprised myself in both good and bad ways. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well you seem to do well pulling those pieces together for the final product. Either that or your editor is amazing, and terribly underpaid. Lastly, since it’s likely getting close to your bed time, word has it that you enjoy ending your books on cliffhangers, what—
to be continued
Answer to be given next interview.


Thanks, Lexie, it’s been fun. *gives secret handshake* Good luck on your books and that whole Stan Lee/Cthulhu thing.
Lexie’s second book, Supervillains Anonymous will be available June 30th on ebook, and paperback shortly thereafter. If you enjoy comics, or just like action, sarcasm, or short women who can bench press small cars, you’ll love this book. You can also find out more about Lexie and send her adoring fan mail via her website http://www.dunnewriting.com/

Supervillains

New superhero Gail Godwin, the one and only Hostage Girl, is in big trouble: her nemesis Chelsea is loose, somebody close to her is dead, and everybody thinks Gail did it. To make matters worse, Davenport Industries has thrown her into a prison that just happens to be full of the very same supervillains who used to kidnap her on an almost daily basis.

Outside, things aren’t going all that great either. There’s a conspiracy that runs all the way to the bedrock of the superhero community, and it’s affecting everybody Gail loves. With her friends in the crosshairs, it’s up to her to escape and get to the bottom of things. Subterfuge, crime-fighting, and running away from everybody you know should be a cinch, right?

Wrong. Gail faces off against hero and villain alike just to stay alive, and you know what they say about supervillains. If you can’t beat them…join them.