The best thing I learned at MystiCon

I go to conventions to spread the word about my existence, sure, but I also go to conventions to learn. (And to meet awesome people, but that is a side benefit to the utility, even if it is a very important one.) This year, I had a number of great experiences – being on an all woman panel was one, I enjoyed that immensely – but the most meaningful learning I did was as moderator on the very last panel of my time there, Epic Scale Fiction.

As might be imagined, I focused most of my questions on the “scale” piece of this topic – that is, how to expand a story. And the most obvious method of expanding a story that’s already out there is to write a new story (or a continuation of a story) in the same world. I’ll admit my bias – writing a sequel has been a totally different affair for me than writing an original story, with a whole new set of skills that I needed to acquire. Check on any of my posts which contain progress updates on Daughter of Madness and you will see what I’m talking about. But I didn’t have the language to articulate what, exactly, I’d done wrong with my second book in the Creation Saga the first time around, and what, exactly, I was doing right with the rewrites.

(As an aside, I have gotten deep into edits and heard back from beta readers and guys, I am very confident that you are going to love Daughter of Madness. I’m also very hopeful to have an official release date soon.)

I now have that language, thanks to the panelists. A sequel still involves changing the status quo. You sequel starts in that shift, just as your original novel did. It’s not just a continuation of the prior story. Something must change for each of your characters. So:

  • Change the status quo
  • Your sequel is not a continuation of the old story, it’s something new
  • Each book should be a story unto itself

When I started writing Daughter of Madness, I was trying to continue the story that I was telling in Mother of Creation. This is where I went wrong, and this is why two thirds of the book got chopped and rewritten. I had a solid thread on Liana’s story, with drastic changes to her new normal in the offing, but I just expected the other characters to keep doing what they had been doing and honestly? I was bored. I was bored writing it, and it showed, and it didn’t make any sense at all. Everything was bad.

Then I listened to Kameron Hurley talking about the need to throw out part of her book on her Twitter. I realized I could do that. And I started over. I started telling a new kind of story for each of my characters. One where the setting was more or less the same, often, but the stakes had changed, either internally or externally. I muddled towards the answer that the panelists so concisely gave me.

Everyone approaches sequels differently. The level of backstory required, the way that you orient the reader to the characters, changes from person to person. I very much want people to read the first book before they read the second. They are installments in the same broad arc. But they still should be able to stand on their own enough that if I as a reader came back to this series after a long time, I would be able to orient myself and still be engaged. And the only way that can happen is if the story in the second book is just as gripping and engaging, in its own way, as the story in the first. It can’t be a repetition of what has gone before, though some of the same themes and conflicts may be present.

In a way, I’m glad I had to learn things the hard way. Even if I had heard someone say those very words before, I don’t know that I would have recognized it in application to my own work. Even if I had, I don’t know that the book I would have written would have been as truthful as this one, because if I had finished Daughter of Madness sooner I would have lacked the experiences I needed to make it sing. But I am glad I know the lesson now, and I wanted to pass it on to you, in case you ever find yourself in the same boat.


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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.

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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.

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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!)

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MystiCon schedule

Hey everyone! Taking a brief break from cover reveal stuff for a special MystiCon Schedule post!! Check out the panels, readings and signings I will be doing below.

Reading – Friday at 4:30 pm, Room 533

If you want to hear an excerpt from the upcoming Daughter of Madness, check in here! I’ll post the excerpt up on the blog the following weekend for those who can’t make it.

Panel – “It’s the End of the World”, Friday at 6:00pm, Ballroom C

We’re going to talk about apocalypses! I’ve got some fun projects I’m querying in this vein, and I LOVE dystopias, so I am very, very excited.

Signing – Saturday at 11:00 am

I’ll be taking over one of the signing tables at eleven! Come out to get free swag, sign up for the newsletter, buy a book, or chat about your favorite characters!

Panel – “Epic Scale Fiction”, Saturday at 4:00pm, Dogwood 1

I’ll probably mostly talk up the Creation Saga and the epic fantasies I have loved that have inspired it. Maybe there will be some LotR and ASOIAF references!

Panel – “I Must Create a System”, Sunday at 9:00am, Ballroom C

I actually have no clue what this panel is about or how I got on it, since I intentionally was trying not to schedule things for the morning. Wee!

Panel – “The Last Race Benders/Gender Benders”, Sunday at 11:00am, Dogwood 1

I am ridiculously excited to talk about gender/race bending in ANYTHING.

Panel – “Viewer’s Guide to Anime”, Sunday at 2:00pm, Ballroom E

Anime is the best. I will probably talk about my pet peeve of how everyone assumes all anime characters are white and obviously they are Japanese???? Unless otherwise specified??? Otherwise mostly glorious anime goofiness and how I love reverse harems. Yep.

I hope to see you all there! If you need more information, you can check out their website.

 

 

 

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.

 

MystiCon

I attended MystiCon this weekend for the first time!

Technically, it was my second time registering for this event. The first time was last year, but because of school deadlines and such I couldn’t make it that weekend and ended up bowing out to work on papers. This was my first smaller, local fantasy convention, and it was definitely an interesting experience. I didn’t realize there was such a vibrant social group of local authors in my area! If you are one of those people interested in one day becoming a writer, I can’t recommend this kind of con enough. I learned a lot about what other authors of all stripes are doing in the area, especially in helping one another with marketing opportunities. Did you know that since last year, local authors have been coming together for what is called the Roanoke Author Invasion, a giant bookfair/signing event for regional authors of all kinds? I didn’t, but thank goodness I do now.

That was just one of the great things I learned about in the two days that I was able to attend MystiCon. I can’t wait for next year, when I will be applying to attend as an author and get a slot at one of the signing tables.

On the fan side, this year’s MystiCon was pretty big because the guest of honor was none other than George R.R. Martin himself. I am not going to lie, I was totally in line at 9:00 am Saturday morning for his 11:00 am event. He read two chapters of Winds of Winter that I hadn’t seen released elsewhere yet, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were no pictures allowed, but I sat right on the front row. He talked a lot about the burdens of fame, and how he wished he had become famous when he had more energy and could keep up with the demands of this new phase of his career.

Really, that brings me to what was, for me, the theme of the conference. What I kept hearing over and over was “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” This is something that keeps coming up in my life recently. I was inspired to see that most of the writers at this conference were also juggling day jobs, like me, and making that work. They spoke about how a writing career builds itself slowly, and no one is an overnight success. Even authors already living off their work said the same thing. One author, Liz Long, had a panel on marketing for writers, and she emphasized that pretty emphatically by talking about her own career. Liz has six books out, and a seventh on the way, all self-published. She told us that, as a self-published author, one couldn’t expect to make money back on the first or even second book. Any extra income should be reinvested in the next book, if the author did earn out. That was really important information that I wish I had heard when I was a younger author. Too often, it seems, self-publishing is talked up as a silver bullet approach to a writing career, as opposed to an alternate path that has just as many pitfalls as traditional publishing.

In any case, I have a lot to think about and work on in the wake of this conference. I’ll leave you, then, with the only picture I have (I know, that’s a bit of a fail) for you to enjoy. Behold, the Woman-King of Westeros.

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