Sunday, February 26, 2012

Too good not to post everywhere

It is with great pleasure I take this moment to reveal to you the current object of my admiration. If I could play an antiphonal fanfare for double brass quintet as an introductory piece of music, I would.

Anyway, I have been waiting for weeks now to reveal to you the absolutely phenomenal cover art that will grace the front (and back) of my print version, volume I, of The Windrider Saga. So without further ado...

I want to thank the staggeringly talented Christina Hess for her inspired painting, and the always accommodating and gifted Jon Mills for his classic text layout. I am richly blessed to work with such gracious and artistic people.

And because you dropped by, I will also include an image of the full cover that will wrap the book. After all, the way Christina designed it to continue Majestrin's wing onto the back cover is way too cool to skip.

So keep an eye out! February 29th, the print compilation goes live. It will be available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so any of you who have been waiting for paper pages to turn, now is your chance. As always, I am deeply grateful to each one of you for your support.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nothing to See Here

As I read about people submitting their books for consideration for awards like the Nebula or the ACFW's Carol, I have come to realize something.

I don't take myself very seriously as a writer.

This is clearly going to be a stumbling block for me, because being a new author is almost as much about self-promotion as it is about writing, or so it seems. When your reach is in its developing stages, like mine is, you have to constantly remain on the lookout for new connections you can make. That becomes incredibly hard when you look at your work and question whether anyone would actually like it.

Now, there are people out there who are probably stamping their foot at me and saying "Don't be a ninny! You have two novellas out there and a novel under contract. Doesn't that tell you at least SOMETHING?"

The trouble is, I've been very good at ignoring real evidence for a very long time. For example, as a child, I lived life cringing in fear, fear that stemmed entirely from a sense of insignificance. I was always afraid I would slip through the gaps between the bars in the storm drain grate. I hated trash day, because I was sure the trash collection guys were going to mistake me for a blowing bit of paper and throw me into the truck with its crushing, iron maw. I always hid when my mom vacuumed, because I was sure I was next to end up in the bag. I was always afraid I would be lost, or forgotten, or even deliberately abandoned. None of these things ever happened. And yet, I continued to fear them.

Now, I think I've worked through most of that (my poor husband!), but the lingering effect remains that I find it physically painful to ask anything of anybody. The prospect of imposing fills me with chest-squeezing dread.

My goal for the second half of this year is to deal with some of this on a book level by engaging in some self-guided immersion therapy. I intend to get into some venues where I can talk to folks about my work and what matters to me, whether that manifests as formal speaking engagements, panel discussions, or attending sci-fi and fantasy conventions remains to be seen. It's my hope that eventually I will be able to work up the courage to actually utter the simple words, "You should buy my book."

OK, if I'm being realistic, I may never say that precise phrase. People don't like to be sold, after all. But while I'm explaining my work to a new listener, I do hope to one day to think to myself, "They would like my books" and really believe it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be...


That may seem like weird advice coming from me, the writer, animator, illustrator, choir member, ex-trombonist. But honestly. my husband and I talk about this every day. He teaches theater (among other things) and his personal dictum has always been to avoid encouraging young thespians to aspire after acting as a profession. We firmly believe, if there is anything else you can do--anything--you should choose that. There's a reason the cliche "starving artist" exists. The performing, visual, and literary arts live in the realm of feast or famine, and sadly, the famine is far more widespread than the feast.

Now, please understand me that I'm not saying this to rant or be negative or whatever other un-plasticChristian thing I shouldn't do. The core of what I'm saying here is that every person should pursue what they are passionate about, and if you aren't passionate enough about the arts to take it on the chin emotionally a lot of the time, there are so many other noble things to do in this life that don't require regular doses of sudden humility.

On the other hand, if making art is something you need to at least as much as you need to breathe, then there's really little point in my trying to convince you to count beans somewhere. After all, what the world really needs is more frustrated, misplaced people, right? But I do find that the folks who write, or sing, or paint, or weave, or dance do so because they lack wholeness when they don't. The trick is to be able to pursue those passions for the sake of pursuing them, without unrealistic expectations of fame or fortune. Sure, those things come to some. But even notoriety has its pitfalls. Commercial artmaking even more of them. (Not that it would be so horrible to navigate those pitfalls while also deciding the best way to use my five-figure royalty check from the last quarter. Ah, daydreams...)

So the best advice I can give to myself right now is to appreciate my art without weighing it down with expectations. Maybe then I'll be able to break out of this rubber room of writing scenes that go nowhere, because I will stop harboring the unconscious attitude that's what my life is doing as well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Fine Passel of Authors

Hey blog fans! Just wanted to let you know that today is my inaugural post over at the newly-established The Cheesecake Thickens. Like their namesake, posts here will pack a whole lot of richness into just a small slice (say, a 500 word or less slice, typically.)

Keven Newsome, Diane Graham, Kat Heckenbach, PA Baines and I would be very grateful if you'd give us a gander. Posts will come Monday-Wednesday-Friday, so hopefully that schedule will hit the sweet spot between often enough and manageable.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Did Somebody Say Cheesecake?

In this age of new authors struggling to rise above all the white noise out there and find a loyal readership, it only makes sense to band together with like-minded folks to increase one's volume. After all, if I'm in a crowd of people shouting "Read my book-blog-serial-whatever," won't a half dozen people saying "Read THIS!" together rise above the other single voices?

And so, let me introduce you to the new chorus of sorts in my life, The Cheesecake Thickens. The masterminds behind my previous blogging home, The New Authors Fellowship, have created a little place for those of us who have "graduated" NAF to continue blogging together. When I say "graduated," that means having gotten published. NAF was an awesome factor in helping those of us who blog there to gain industry visibility, and I'm convinced the unparalleled matriculation of its members into the world of the published is no coincidence.

So now that our vision no longer fits the NAF goal of publisher hunting, it's only logical that we should band together in a new place where we can embark on a new quest: the hunt for readership. To that end, we won't be writing about writing much, if at all. You'll see a lot more anecdotes, personal reflections, and whatever else we can estimate drives the interest of readers who exist outside our little circle of writer friends.

Now, to be clear, I'll still be blogging here, as the posts over at TCT won't be weekly like there were at NAF. But I will be linking to TCT fairly often, since the folks there are just plain geniuses and deserve all the exposure they can get, even from my little blog.

So join us over yonder for the ruminations, thrice weekly of
P.A. Baines
Keven Newsome
Kat Heckenbach
and yours truly.

You'll be glad you did!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hooray for Independent Bookstores

You hear it every day--people lamenting the fact that their little local bookstore has closed its doors. Between the economy in general and the business climate in the world of publishing and book retailing, it's no wonder the smaller chains have collapsed. Who is going to go to a store where the prices are higher and the selection is more limited when they can order on-line or go to a huge retailer and have a book either immediately or delivered to their porch in a couple days? The fact is, your average reader isn't thinking about how the author is making no money when he buys a book at a steep on-line discount. He's just excited to get a deal on the book he wants.

You can imagine how heartening it was to me to stop into the Towne Book Center, a local, Indy bookstore that is thriving despite the pall of deterioration that hangs heavy on so many other independent establishments. Their coffee area was full, both of people and conversation. Their shelves needed facing--which I consider a good thing, because it means enough people have been actually looking at the books to create some disorder, and the employees were busy enough with customers not to be milling around striaghtening books all day. It was a vibrant Sunday afternoon in the store, and it made me smile.

How are they doing it? I believe our little store, and the many others around the country that holding their own in the shadow of Barnes and Noble, are doing a few things to generate business.

They make themselves a social destination.
The indy book stores I've been may have coffee bars, but the atmosphere in these places is so different than other coffee chains, even just around the corner. People who love books seem to be heading to these bookstores to interact, not to pop their ear buds in and huddle down behind a screen. Sure, customers might have a book or ereader in one hand and a coffee in the other, but it seems to me folks are using the coffee shop zones of the indy books store as a place to meet and discuss. They seem as though they've become the readers modern-day tavern, if you will. I believe the smaller, more intimate setting of the indy store as opposed to your typical Barnes and Noble encourages connection with other people. In a huge store, you can drift in, remain anonymous, and drift out, much like you can when you go to a huge church. In the indy store, people see you are there, and it just seems to attract a customer with a different intent.

They appeal to folks who are advocates of the value of literature and reading
Indy book stores can--and must--be more selective about what they keep on the shelves, and the folks I've talked to who run them don't tend to give a hoot about what's big if it technically stinks. Sure, in the interest of staying afloat, they'll likely have a display of the latest big thing, but they don't seem to stack all their shelves deep with a gazillion copies of that book, bumping other lesser-known work into low-shelf oblivion.

It's Personal
As much as those who work for big corporations may honestly strive to hep customers feel like the company cares about each customer as an individual, there's a difference when you walk into a store with an inquiry and someone handles it personally, rather than passing the request into the machine. For example, I was heading into my local store to ask about book consignment (something big chains don't typically have the flexibility to do) and the manager said "I will look at your book and make sure it gets placed in the optimum spots to generate sales. We may move it around a bit." She didn't hand me a form. She didn't refer me to an on-line inquiry form. She sincerely seemed interested in making the realtionship benefit us both. (And it didn't hurt that she was into fantasy!)

From a customer standpoint, there's something of a "Cheers" factor to smaller businesses, where the employees learn who you are, what you like, and (if they are good business people) act happy to see you.

All in all, I am looking forward to developing a relationship with my local indy store. I'm not necessarily anti-corporation, but it does warm my heart to see small ventures succeed. For me, such success represents people pursuing their dreams and seeing them realized, and who can't get excited about that?