Child of Brii – The book that was

If you have been reading my stuff for a while, you may remember my first book.  Child of Brii was and is a new adult urban fantasy/romance book. It was my first book that I ever actually finished writing, if not the first book that I started, and it holds a special place in my heart. I took it off sale in February of 2016 and the decision was not necessarily a good one.

ajm-cob-cover-front-mid

There were a number of things going into that. First, Child of Brii was my first book, and you could tell. That in and of itself wasn’t a problem, but it was also the first book I self-published. Back in 2013, I really thought that self-publishing was easy. So many of my friends had talked about it that way, after all. They all made decent sales and I had it in my head that I could just toss a book up and people would buy it. Some people did.

But I didn’t do a good job with the editing and I didn’t understand the market. The book was riddled with typos and weird gaps, and while I love it, I didn’t want people to think that was my best work. It isn’t.

But Child of Brii is the work of my heart, and for all of the unexpected helicopters in it (sorry, folks, I know that’s jarring) it’s also been my best-received book. People really love these characters, probably because they’re incredibly lovable. And Amaya’s powers are still on my top list of super powers, honestly.

Writing is about being vulnerable. It’s about putting yourself out there and standing by the fact that you will grow and sometimes not be able to look at what came before the same way. I have grown as a writer, I hope. I’m not afraid of my mistakes anymore. It helps that I cleaned up some of the typos.

So Child of Brii is back online! Thank goodness. In honor of this event, there’s a Rafflecopter giveaway! This is my first time using this platform, and I’m excited.

Also good news – part of this republishing included a paperback print on demand book through the new KDP Select platform. If you’re the kind that loves paperback books, I have created a paperback which you can purchase through Amazon only. I’ll also have it available at the Roanoke Author Invasion in April! That’s a free event, so please come by, buy a book or twelve from some amazing authors, and enjoy the after party! I’ve heard there’s chocolate.

I fully intend to sweeten this situation further in the future. I’ve got a great idea for a spinoff story that will be more of the epic fantasy/romance variety – a prequel to the novel. It centers mostly around Brii and her girlhood, such as it was, as a near-deity to a lost and outcast people. I’m in the middle of another story/novelette now, and then I really need to buckle down on some Creation Saga edits, but my goal is to start on that project this year sometime. I’m super excited about it.

Thank you so much for loving this book as much as I do, and loving my work with all of its errors. Your support means more to me than you can know.

Advertisements

Inspiration – Movies

While I’m at MystiCon this weekend, you get this last inspiration post. The previous two on books and music can be found earlier on the blog. You also get the complete cover for Daughter of Madness in this post! It’s at the end, so if that’s what you’re clicking in for, scroll down until you get there. If you’d like to stick around and hear about some of my favorite movies, please do so!

So honestly I don’t watch a whole lot of movies. Some of my favorite ones are Japanese animation, which I’ve mostly left out of this list by dent of it being a bit of a different animal. I do love movies, and my tastes are pretty diverse, but lately it’s really hard for me to watch or read anything that I don’t mostly know is not going to treat women like objects. I’m sure someone will accuse me of being overly sensitive in that, but luckily I don’t care. The past two months have been mentally pretty stressful for women, I think most of us can admit, so exposing myself to more misogyny than required is not really on my list of things to do. That said, most of these movies are older.

This makes sense, you know, because it’s about inspiration that led me to write The Creation Saga.

Lord of the Rings

This is sort of cheating, because I read the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit  ages ago. When I was about five, actually. My dad read us the entirety of Tolkien’s work as soon as we could reliably communicate audibly. This was the origin of my fantasy bug.

The first LotR adaptations were animated. I remember being absolutely terrified by the goblins. There are no goblins in the world of The Creation Saga, which is just as well. People are brutal enough. As a child, though, you don’t think that people can be evil necessarily.

The Hobbit is actually my favorite of these stories. It’s a story about a person who comes into himself, not about a person who is broken by what happens to him, as in Frodo’s case. Bilbo finds camaraderie and learns about the darknesses of the world. In the end he experiences betrayal, too. The world of all stories is a vast one, complicated in its own way. The right and wrong of things seems simpler than it perhaps is. Gods walk among men, or something like them – wizards and elves with powers that can reshape rivers and mountains. Rocks move and trees talk. There is something appealing about all of that, and I don’t think any fantasy writer can quite escape that appeal.

eowyn

The movies, which most people are familiar with, contain much of that magic and mystery, but couch it also in blood and battle. Eowyn is one of my favorite characters, predictably. She wants so desperately to prove herself to her people, to save those that she cares for. She suffers so much loss and rises to fight despite it. She has a lot of rage, Eowyn. I was happy for her to find Faramir, but in some ways I think it did a disservice to her character to resolve her questioning so easily in the wake of her uncle’s death.

Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max is not a fantasy franchise. It is dystopian scifi, but it’s a very good example of some of the themes I was playing with in Daughter of Madness. Not the “who killed the world” refrain, though that speaks to me so well. Instead I think of Furiosa, of her sense of loss and the way that it moves her forward into rage and eventually into triumph. I think of the violence that she renders on others and which is rendered on her. I also love the vast landscapes of Fury Road, the reds and blues of the deserts. They don’t make it into Daughter of Madness exactly, but the austerity of that space was a place that provided me a lot of inspiration.

mad max.png

Star Wars!

How could Star Wars not be on this list? I mean talk about movies. These were my favorite movies for a long time and I still love them. And Luke and Leia are twins! With very different fates from Liana and Liander, of course, but nonetheless. Royal twins fighting for their birthrights….it’s hard not to see some thematic resemblance.

star-wars-7-trailer-luke-leia-han

Still, the person I think probably jives with Liana’s character the most in the Star Wars universe is probably Jyn Erso, at least in my head. I saw Rogue One well after I had finished most of the Daughter of Madness story arc, but I felt that kinship instantly. She has the same trust issues and rough and tumble edges.

Alright, dears, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! I will be at MystiCon this weekend, as mentioned earlier this week, so enjoy this while I’m gone! (And if you are at MystiCon, check out one of my events for cool free swag!)

dfw-am-dom-cover-small.jpg

 

Inspiration for THE CREATION SAGA: Books

So the draft of Daughter of Madness is done, and the edits continue. While we wait, here is the second piece of the cover reveal, and a list of some of the books that inspired The Creation Saga or which The Creation Saga might inspire you to read. You can find the first piece of the cover in this post about music.

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams

This book contains a lovely re-imagining of the immortal fairy. You will see some familiar elements that I didn’t intentionally mimic, I swear, but which creep in regardless: the twins as main characters and royal heirs, the king imprisoned, dark magics which undermine the self. It’s a lovely series from a writer who is praised as one of the foundational scribes of modern fantasy. You may be most familiar with Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, which I read as a wee lass of thirteen or somewhere around then.

shadowmarch-series_mini

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This book started a revolution in the fantasy genre, so it’s no surprise that it would inspire me and many other writers. One of the things I like the most about Martin’s writing is that his women are complex and just as terrible (sometimes more terrible) as the men they interact with. Melisandre comes to mind as a fiery lady you do not want to mess with, and Arya as a relatively sweet child who is twisted into a murderer. Cersei, who you can’t help but admire in a crazy, screwed up way, and Sansa, who you go from pitying to possibly fearing – these are the kinds of women that interest me the most. These evolutions definitely inspired some of the character arcs in The Creation Saga.

The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lyn Flewelling

Compared to the previous two series, this is a lesser known book. That said, it is probably the one that had the most overt influence over my writing. This book is messed up at best. It’s about a princess and prince who are born together –
problem being that the princess is set to inherit and will be murdered by her uncle if she survives. So her caretakers murder her brother and essentially pass her off as him. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but this book is definitely worth reading if you liked Mother of Creation.

 

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

hero-and-the-crown

Who, looking at the cover of this book, would not want to read it? I’ll confess that I read this book after I had written Mother of Creation, and while I was deep in the Daughter of Madness draft. It was so…echoing, to read this. Nostalgia, perhaps? I’m not sure, but the themes in this book are very much themes that come up in the Creation Saga, perhaps more than in the other books on this list in some ways. So if you are enjoying that, I recommend. Plus, there’s a dragon.

Okay, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Check out those eyes.

dfw-am-dom-cover-proof2-4

 

 

Daughter of Madness progress update

The subtitle of this blogpost should be: the good, the bad, the ugly, for reasons that will become apparent, but I didn’t want to bulk that up too much. Suffice to say, publishing a book, no matter how you go about it, is a complicated process. When you are self-publishing, that process becomes vastly more complicated.

I’ve talked on here previously about what exactly goes into publishing a book. This is a good chance to dig into some of that and really give you an idea of where I am and where I’m going. Stick to the end for a treat!

I started writing Daughter of Madness officially in August of 2015, so about a year and a half ago. In December, I printed out a zero draft when it became clear that, as written, DoM didn’t actually have an ending. With some major outlining and reworking, I was able to put together a functional blueprint, which I began writing to ASAP. On February 4th I finished what I would call the official rough or first draft of the long-awaited sequel to Mother of Creation. Over the next few days, I typed it up. Then I printed it off and cuddled it to my body.

This is where we take a moment to celebrate, because hell yeah. That’s right I finished that book. Damn straight.

celebration

At this point in time, DoM stands at around 93,000 words, 61 chapters, or roughly 270 pages (before formatting). That’s a lot of pages and a lot of chapters for something that is, at this moment in time, largely a labor of love. Once my euphoria wears off, it’s time to buckle down. There is still plenty of work to do.

While I’ve been rewriting the draft, I’ve also been working with my cover designer. Every good book needs a cover, and covers are not created in vacuum. I use Design for Writers for all of my novel covers, and they are absolute gems to work with. In order to create a good cover for my book, these folks sent me a giant questionnaire. I’m talking about fifty in depth questions, many of which require multiple paragraph answers. I worked on this through the month of December and have continued to work on it in January. Once I finished the questionnaire, Design for Writers used it to create the cover art for my book, giving me marketing material for its eventual release. The first part of the cover is at the bottom of this post!

In the interim, now that the book is finished it will need initial rewrites. Then it will need to sit, unseen by me, for a couple of weeks while I try to forget all about it. Think of this as a time to let the book cure, as it were. At this time, I will send it out to my alpha readers, the people who typically read something that is essentially hot off the press from me. They will tell me if the book is a hot mess or not. I will attempt to fix any glaring issues they point out after they have given me their initial critique. Alpha readers are mostly family and friends in my world, so this is not designed to be a deep edit necessarily, just a “wow that thing was a mess” read or “oh no, you’re on the right track!” Good times.

Next, I will read the book one more time to make sure it makes sense. I will do read-thrus for things like: word choice and anachronisms; setting/climate consistency; timing of various events; consistency with the previous book in terms of setting and characters and plot. That part is actually not terrible, though it’s not super fun. Meanwhile I will shop around for beta readers or an editor – someone who doesn’t love me who will lay the hammer down. This person or persons will read for decent writing and plot consistency, world-building, and all the good things that make a book. Different writers use different methods for this bit, so this is what works for me. So far I don’t have a dedicated editor or beta team that I use every time. No doubt this piece of my process will evolve. Once comments come back on the semi-final draft in terms of edits or issues, those will be incorporated, or not, at my discretion, because that is how this writing thing works.

The least fun part is my last editing pass. This pass is for typos. I have a particular thing I do for this pass – I read the manuscript backwards. Aloud. It takes forever and it is miserable. I usually catch a metric boatload of typos.

At this point I hate my book, and also feel quite accomplished. I format it (this is also hard and mind-numbing, but, as is not always the case with other tasks, at least has clear signs of completion). The formatted copy goes into various epub proofing programs, which I then glance over one last time to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. I fix any issues with the cover (not the copy, but the print cover measurements) with my cover folks if I need to. Then, at last, I have a book.

At some point during all of that magic, I am marketing in some fashion (perhaps a blog tour, Facebook event, or signing, for example). For Daughter of Madness I have some cool graphics planned for Twitter and Tumblr, but that’s a ways down the road still. Right now I’m aiming for June/July as a release date, though given the wedding that may get complicated.

Hopefully I’ll have a couple of other small projects to release this year as well to tide you over, but dates are hard to firm up at this point given the whole getting married thing. Just trust that I am working away on all the things and that as soon as I have a date, you will have a date.

In the interim, I’m excited to see you all over the next few months as I travel to conventions! And no, I haven’t forgotten that I promised you a bit of cover. Are you ready?

dfw-am-dom-cover-proof2-2

Ugh, I love it so much.

Tune in next week for part two!

Inspiration for THE CREATION SAGA: Music

Every writer has a playlist. Or twelve. I wrote Mother of Creation ages ago, so I can’t really tell you what I was listening to at the time. Probably a lot of Motion City Soundtrack, knowing me, but who knows. I did something a little different for Daughter of Madness and actually made a (couple) of playlists that were just for this book. So I thought I would post some of the songs that inspired me the most while writing the current draft, which is only some hard rewrites and two more chapters away from being done. This post will be part of a series on inspiration for The Creation Saga. It’s not going to be a consecutive series, per se, but you’ll be able to find the posts through The Creation Saga category, under Book Releases. They’ll also be tagged. Some other posts you’ll likely see will include discussion of books, movies or anime, history or mythology, and Pinterest boards (yes, I have those).

Oh, and stay tuned to the end of this blogpost for a quick summary of Daughter of Madness, as it will appear on the back cover of the book!

So without further ado, what music reminds me of The Creation Saga?

I have to start out by saying that 9 out of 10 songs are going to be centered around Liana. Most people who read the books find that their favorite character is the seer, Nicola. I love Nicola desperately, but Nicola is not the character I connect with the most. She is a witness to much of what is happening around her, and it changes her. But the stakes are not as high for her, in many ways. Witnessing – that’s something powerful. We’ll talk about that a bit more in a later post, but suffice to say the role of the witness is one that speaks to me.

The catalyst, the main protagonist, is Liana. She moves the story forward. The main plot is about a princess who is overthrown, and the vacuum of her absence. She is the fulcrum upon which the world turns, unfortunately for her. So the musical choices below largely reflect her perspective as the source of my inspiration. Here are five (because I had to stop somewhere) amazing songs that make me want to write my socks off.

I. “Which Witch,” Florence and the Machine

Just so you know, Florence is pretty much on every playlist I have, along with Grimes. Those two don’t sound like they go together, I know. Anyway, this song of all her songs is the most like Liana in Daughter of Madness. “Been in the dark since the day we met/Fire, help me to forget.” If you need proof that this is a Liana song, well, just consider the demo cover.

florence___the_machine___which_witch__demo__by_antoniomr-d8vimbp

II. “Yellow Flicker Beat,” Lorde

Yes, this song is already part of a soundtrack. It’s specifically from the soundtrack for on of the Hunger Games movies (I’m not sure which one, though it sounds like it should be from Catching Fire.) This to me speaks pretty strongly of the princess as rebel, the princess as exile. “They used to shout my name, now they whisper it.” The beat helps. Basically most of my writing music when I’m really trying to make wordcount is going to have a beat.

III. “Oblivion,” Bre-l and Grimes

This version of this song is not the most popular. It’s a pop-punk reimagining of Grimes’ trademark style. The pop-punk is like coming home for me honestly. That was about all I listened to for a long time. But I am a huge fan of this song in its original context as well. Grimes is currently one of my favorite artists. Sometime I’m actually going to make it to one of her shows.

IV. “Operator,” Vanessa Carlton

This song has a softer tension, and it honestly reminds me the most of Jessa. Jessa is actually one of my favorite characters who are non-viewpoint. She goes through an important transformation in Daughter of Madness. Because it reminds me of Jessa, it also reminds me a bit of Nicola as well. There are actually lines in this song that remind me of all of my characters in this book at points, which makes it a very good song to include on this short playlist.

V. “Blood on Me,” Sampha

There’s a lot of fear in this song. The atmospheric vocalizations, the sense of pursuit, the pattering of the drum like a panicked heart. There’s a lot of fear in Daughter of Madness, too, the kind that comes after terrible crimes have been done to you. Fear gives rise to courage, but it also gives rise to monstrousness.

sampha-blood-on-me-process-album-01

So that’s the end of my short list here. I hope you enjoy all the music and continue to look forward to Daughter of Madness, which will be out sometime this year, preferably before June because really. I’ll post a date on the website as soon as I have one! We’ll also have a cover reveal coming in the next blogpost!

Feel free to chime in with your favorite writing tunes, or the songs that remind you of your favorite characters! And now, without further ado:

dom-summary

Text for non-sighted persons:

Liana has lost much to Herka’s manipulations, though nothing so precious as her sanity. Emerging from her madness, she finds the world changed – her body wasted, her son gone, and her kingdom still beyond her reach. Only the fires of vengeance remain, and she will build the flames high.

Daughter of Madness tells the story of a princess and her twin, a soldier and his king, and an oracle who is more than she seems.

I am SO EXCITED.

Release day and the value of audiobooks

Today is the day! Celebrate with me the audio release of Mother of Creation, the first book of The Creation Saga, narrated by Michelle Marie. You can download it through Audible.

dfw-am-moc-cover-audio

In honor of this release, I want to take a moment to talk a little bit more about why I published an audiobook. Please bear with this. It’s important stuff.

My grandmother is blind. So was my great-grandmother. There’s a good chance my mother will be headed that way, once she hits seventy – that seems to be when the eyes go in our family. It’s hereditary. The condition is called macular degeneration. It is a deterioration of the retina, and currently there is no cure for it. You can read more about it at that link. What it boils down to is that my grandmother has never read any of my books, published or otherwise. That’s not to say she necessarily would want to read them, as I’m not sure fantasy writing is her thing. But the point is that the option is not even there.

Being blind has never been as scary for me as some things, because my great-grandmother was one of my primary caretakers growing up. Macular degeneration doesn’t happen all at once, and blindness, as with many disabilities, exists on a sliding scale. In the early years of her blindness, again probably in her seventies or so, she continued to live independently, landscaping her entire yard, keeping koi, making wine, and generally being a badass. We only moved her to assisted living when the other ravages of age started to pile on – she broke her hip, and started to forget things. It wasn’t about the fact that she couldn’t see much at all by then, but the other typical factors that put someone in a home. Honestly, if I have a hero, it is probably Lucille – not because of the blindness, mind, though that was cool, but for all the things she kept herself busy with that were just beautiful.

My great-grandmother listened to audiobooks pretty regularly. They came on these big bulky tape cartridges that you just slammed down into the player – I suspect they might have been 8 tracks. She also had this eyeglass she used to read things sometimes that magnified them exponentially, but that was only good for bills and the like. She never learned braille, so these were her only pathways to the written word. My grandmother is in a similar situation. It’s audiobooks or bust for her, and likely will be for both my mother and I if we fail to dodge this particular hereditary bullet.

Given all that, I think it’s pretty apparent where I stand on audiobook access. I can’t say I would be as aware of the need to record books if it weren’t for my family history. I like to say that I would be, but a lot of times we don’t think about the world from other perspectives until those perspectives are knocking at our door, demanding to be let in. But I am aware. And I’m lucky to be. There are so many people who deserve good stories, but don’t have the ability to access them. Oftentimes, these are the people who need those stories the most. Living with a disability in the United States is incredibly difficult. Our reliance on cars instead of other forms of public transportation is a huge barrier to people who, for one reason or another, cannot drive. Not being able to reliably get from one place to another means that people with disabilities often are isolated in their homes. Contact from the outside world comes in the form of family members, friends, and home health workers or other caretakers who come to pick them up and make sure they get groceries, perhaps take them to one or two events a week. It is definitely possible to build a healthy life in spite of these challenges, but it doesn’t change the fact that, systemically, the challenges are there. Us able-bodied folks (by society’s norms) don’t have to think about those challenges.When we go to the store to pick up a book, we don’t have to think about the guilt of asking our daughter or cousin to drive us.

Ebooks have been a great advantage, but for the visually impaired audiobooks are still incredibly important.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the audiobook if you haven’t read Mother of Creation in its print form already. And look forward to Daughter of Madness early next year. I’m almost done with the zero draft!

Some event updates

I’ve been playing a lot of catch up the past two weeks following my vacation and in advance of some upcoming deadlines. As you know, the audiobook for Mother of Creation is out October 1st. What you may not know is that I also am working against a deadline for the rough and first drafts of Daughter of Madness, the long awaited second book in the series. That deadline exists because the book needs a cover that I can use for marketing and promotional things, and also I need some time to do rewrites, etc, before an early 2017 release date. That date is To Be Determined at this point in time, but I promise to keep you updated.

In other news, given that schedule that I’m working towards I have decided to forgo World Fantasy Convention this year. WFC has in previous years been a lovely trip, and I’m going to greatly miss all of the people I usually see there, especially the Clarion West crowd. One of my great dreams is to give them my money and attend a Clarion West workshop, actually, but 6 weeks off is probably not something I’m going to have all in a row anytime soon. I generally have attended WFC previously as a way to connect with other writers and to pitch editors and agents for traditional publishing projects. I hope to attend larger conventions in the future to do just such activities, but right now I need to focus on the next step in my self-publishing career and also on my home life (i.e. remember that time I’m buying a house? Sometime soon? Whose idea was that?)

Anyway, no WFC this year. If anyone is interested in purchasing my membership before end of October, do let me know.

However, I have some exciting news! I have been notified by MystiCon that I will be a guest this year! MystiCon is held in early February in Roanoke, Virginia. If there is a panel topic you would like to see presented on, I encourage you to contact me, since I need to get some ideas together to pitch to the organizers pretty soon.

I will also be at Roanoke Author Invasion in April, as previously announced. So those on the east coast still have two chances to catch up with me and buy some books this spring!

I’m hoping to have an audiobook sample and some other fun stuff to post up here soon, so keep you eyes and ears open.