Writer Wednesday – Emmie Mears

1. Who are you? I’m Emmie Mears! In theory, anyway. For now.

2. What type of stuff do you write? I like to have my fingers dipped into just about every SFF pie. Lately I’ve been tending toward more broad speculative fiction, second world alt history and second world in general, but I’m looking forward to digging into some science fantasy and more straight sci fi as well as epic fantasy soon. (I have a hankering to write a first contact story, but we’ll see.)

3. What do you want to pimp right now? I have a rather grueling release schedule lately. A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS just came out, which is a contemporary magical realism, and I’m certainly proud of that. LOOK TO THE SUN comes out 15 November and is available for preorder right now, and that is a book that feels almost too timely — I’ve pitched it as Les Miserables meets Shadow of the Wind. It’s a second world novel with a Gothic feel about generational tragedy, love, and fighting against fascism.

4. What’s your favorite book? This will likely come as no surprise if you read the preceding paragraph, but Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It is absolutely stunning, and the moment I finished it for the first time, I picked it up and read it again. A more recent read was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which was phenomenal (and, combined with a non-fiction thing I read recently, inspired my next project).

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I’ve been very privileged to be able to write full time for the past year. I have a part time job as a banquet server as well. Besides writing, though, the full-time-ness of that job encompasses PR, marketing, accounting, finance, and enough emails to form an avalanche. I also manage a small contingent of ninja cats in my home.

6. Where can we find you? I am virtually omnipresent on the internet, it feels. You can find me on Twitter @EmmieMears, or you can find me on the Book of Face. I’m also on Instagram if you like cat spam and a parade of homemade food. If you like short stories and want to help support my writing, you can find me on Patreon, and for the eminent pragmatists among you, my general home on the interwebz is simply emmiemears.com.



Expect the Unexpected – 5 Tips for Writers

By the time this goes live, I will have finished my twelfth full length manuscript. That’s some novels, and with seven-soon-to-be-eight in the wild, I’ve arrived at a point where I get emails from people asking me to kick them in the butt. “Kicking internet folks in the butt” was not something I was entirely prepared for when I went into this career with the idea that maybe one day I could make a living doing the only thing I think I’m good at, but it’s something I’m being asked to do.

In the spirit of sharing hard-won wisdom and lessons, here are five things I didn’t expect from writing when I started:

5. Writing books doesn’t really get easier.

It hasn’t. In fact, books 10 and 11 were some of the toughest things I’ve done. Writing is a constant evolution of figuring out exactly how much you know and don’t know. It’s about trying something that has worked for you before (or that has worked for someone not-you) and finding out that lo, suddenly it worketh not. That can be…frustrating.

I’ve heard it said that writers don’t know how to write books. We have to learn each time how to write this book. In my experience of the past decade of finishing books, that is very, very true.

4. Writing is a lot easier when you can leave the business out of it.

I think in a lot of our minds when we start out, writing is like that internet meme.

Step 1–Have idea
Step 2–Be said idea’s miraculous conduit onto the page
Step 3–???????
Step 4–PROFIT

Yeah, nah.

It doesn’t work like that. Whether you traditionally publish or do it independently (I’ve done both), two words will dictate much of your success: bottom and line.

In trade publishing, that bottom line can be the difference between your book getting acquired and your book getting trunked. (Or, as I have personally experienced, an entire imprint getting trunked and every book it publishes going down with it.) In indie publishing, it can mean you’re spending more on your packaging, marketing, editing, etc. than you are making. That is not sustainable unless you are one of the mythical humans for whom money is not the difference between your pet iguana starving to death or not.

Having to factor in making art with the reality of making money is not an easy web of tightropes to walk. But it can be done.

3. On that note, if you don’t have it, money can be a massive systemic barrier.

As in all careers, having money to start with means that you have access to networking opportunities, career development, and the more esoteric bits, like automatically being taken a bit more seriously. Conferences and conventions, where heaps of connections are made, are decidedly not cheap. Tax write off, yes, but you still have to spend the money up front.

The same goes for indie publishing–you have to put money in on the front end there, for a great cover if absolutely nothing else.

That said? Slush works. Both of my agents, I’ve gotten through the slush pile. I’m a hybrid author, which means I’ve had trade deals and have indie published both. If you are seeking to go the commercial trade publishing route, you don’t need to know anybody (and no matter how much your friends love you, even if you have connections, they are never a guarantee).

2. There is never Only One.

Books are not like Highlander. Sure, we see the highly publicised unicorns like Twilight and Wool, that One Book that propelled its author to fame and fortune. But we have to remember those stories are unicorns. There is an immense amount of luck in the writing business that boils down to this: the right eyes hitting your work at the right time.

It can happen on the first book you write (I suppose, since it has to very few folks). But more likely there will be many books. The first that you publish, whether trade or indie. The first that earns you a five star review–or the first that earns you one star. There will be a book that someone will email you to tell you they desperately needed. A book you look back on and cringe. Because for most of us, this career is about building a mountain, not about being airlifted to the top of it or shot out of a cannon.

Which brings me to the last tidbit…

1. Your craft is the barre.

In ballet, the barre is the place you turn to re-orient yourself. To find balance and return to the basics that make the pro jumps possible. That is craft to the writer, but you have to build it. There is a general mythos around writing that suggests that the ability to do it well is this ephemeral thing called “talent.” But the truth is, it’s something we have to learn and hone. Everyone can get better at it. Sometimes when we start out, our barre is crooked and falls off when we lean on it too hard. We have to bust out the level and learn some physics and engineering and figure out how it best works for us, and even then we have to replace the screws that fall out and the bits of mirror where the silver wears away.

It takes effort and practice, and there is never a guarantee of being that unicorn. There is just the story, just the barre that holds us up and directs the flow of our movements.

But here’s the other bit–you can surprise yourself. If you’d asked me when I was 20 how many books I thought I could write, I don’t know what my answer would have been. At nearly 32, I’ve written twelve. Everyone’s mountain looks different.

And I’m just getting started.

Book Review – Beowulf by Unkown

Title: Beowulf
Author: 
Unknown
Translator: 
Burton Raffel
Format: 
Paperback
Written: 
Unknown (pre-Henry the VIII), Translated 1963
Published (Republished):
1999

 

Beowulf is the classic English epic poem and a bloody tale of royalty, monsters, and royalty acting like monsters.  The hall of the Danish King is terrorized by the demonic monster Grendel who comes at night and makes meals of the good king’s servants.  Beowulf is a prince of the Geats (a Germanic Tribe which inhabited part of modern Sweden) who comes with men to kill Grendel or die trying.  Likely you’re familiar with that portion of the story, but there’s a bit more to it.  It’s also a mix of religious allegory, political commentary, and history lesson, covering a period where European history is so heavily blended with mythology it’s hard to separate the two.

We covered Beowulf in my high school English class but did so rather poorly.  I had been told it was incredibly long, and for a poem it is long.  But by prose standards it’s the length of a short novella.  So why we didn’t simply read it in English class boggles my mind.  It is very violent, but it’s also essentially a moral work.  Violence is glorified but only when used against enemies.  Beowulf has several passages that heavily criticizes the use of violence against peasants, kin, and neighboring kingdoms (unless they attacked first).

There’s no clear documentation on when or why Beowulf was written, so there’s lots of room for interpretation as to it’s purpose.  Those familiar with English history could easily interpret it as a sly rebuke of monarchy and nobility to use their wealth and might to good purpose, to defend lives and not take them.

While some elements are clearly fantastic, it’s also likely there is some root of truth to the myth.  Beowulf is very concerned with genealogy and history of those monarchs related to Beowulf in some way.

As a poem I feel unqualified to judge Beowulf.  The music of the words tends to get lost in translation, though I must say Raffel makes an effort and there’s some lovely phrasing and rhythm wherever the translator could work it in.

As a story, while the main thread of Beowulf’s life is told chronologically, there are a great number of side stories that are not, and it gets a little convoluted, trying to keep track of which king is currently being discussed.

As a historical piece, it’s unreliable but interesting, enlightening more on attitudes than details.  However, it struck me while reading what a strong influence Beowulf must have had on Tolkien’s work.  The greedy dragon, the noble warrior reluctant to become king, monsters born from spiritual origins.

All in all, it’s short and reasonably entertaining.  I give it 4/5.  I have to dock it a point for promoting revenge as a virtue and using female characters mainly as props to flatter the men.  It is gory, so I would not use it as an introduction to literature for a young child.  But it may help convince your teenage boy that not all old books are boring.  If you are a dungeon master, it’s a ready made D&D campaign.

Book Review–The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Daylight War
Author: 
Peter V. Brett
Format:  
Electronic–.mobi
Published: 2013

It is probably very appropriate that this third book in the fantastic Demon Trilogy Cycle ends with a cliffhanger.  The entire experience of reading the book was something like falling off a cliff.  For the first few moments you’re soaring at top speed.  Then you realise that you are falling–plummeting, actually–and then ::SPLAT:: you hit the ground and are shattered.   Yep, that’s what reading The Daylight War is definitely like.

The first two books in this series are fully incredible in ways that are hard to express without sounding like someone on speed.  “They’re soooo good! Really! Awesome! You have to read them!”   Whenever people ask me for my recommendations on Epic Fantasy the third spot on the list has always been held by Peter V. Brett.    After this book it will be Peter V. Brett (with an asterisk).  This book is, I’m hoping, the asterisk of the series.  The “go ahead and read the series but you could probably skim book three or even skip it as long as you read the last chapter” novel that many good series have.

I’ve said elsewhere that this book feels like it happened because HBO and Fifty Shades of Gray have made erotica and erotic sublpots in Epic Fantasy a new trend.   I say that because the first two books (The Warded Man; The Desert Spear) are about travelling deep into this awesome world where demons rule the night and man’s only hope lies in defensive runes inked on fences and doors to keep out the monsters.    Brett’s world is compellingly real and the magic system that drives the tension is magnificent.

Then you get to this book.  It opens with a mother and her two children weaving baskets and joking about the son’s attendance at a gay orgy later in the day. The boy’s younger sister turns out to be Inevera, a minor character from the other two books and the primary character of much of The Daylight War.   Because we clearly know from earlier books where Inevera’s path takes her, the end result of her long backstory is not in question.   Brett decided to spice up the story with a lot of lesbians, nearly-naked beautiful girls and a male sex toy eunuch.   The other two plotlines focus on the romantic and sexual exploits of The Warded Man and his lieutenants Rojer and Leesha.

I don’ t have enough words to stress to you how very dull all of this gets, and quickly.   It gets especially bad when the Warded Man–the badass hero of the first two books–gets into a long infatuation with what is possibly the worst character in Fantasy since Jar Jar Binks.

It makes me sad that a book I waited so long for and that I actually pre-ordered turned into such a mess.    I’m giving it two bookworms but I’m afraid that maybe the second one is mostly for nostalgia’s sake.

2bookworms

Writer Wednesday – Nichelle Rae

Let’s start with the basics.
Who are you?

 Nichelle Rae

 Tell us (briefly) about you and a bit about what you’ve written and what you’re working on right now.

 I’m a new independent/self-published author of the epic fantasy book called Only A Glow. Only A Glow is the first book in a 7 book series on its way out called The White Warrior. I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I spent a little over a year living in Tennessee before coming back home for family reasons. I loved the time I spent in Tennessee. My next move will be to California this coming summer with one of my best friends. I need to get out of these confounded New England winters. 🙂

 What are your earliest book-related memories?

 I read Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews when I was in 7th grade. Since that book I have read at least another thousand or more. I love to read. Wouldn’t you know it, epic fantasy is my favorite genre, but a great epic fantasy is hard to find. I also love mysteries and young adult books.

 What are your three favorite books?

 I have so many favorites. If I have to narrow it down I would have to say: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, and The Obsidian Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. (Other honorable mentions include Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordian, Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, and The Dark Elf Trilogy by R. A. Salvatore.)

 How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?

 I can only read one book at a time because when I read a story, I want my complete and utter attention on it. I want to get to know the characters, their story and really absorb what the author is saying. Lately though I haven’t had much time to read because I’ve been busy with getting my own series out and trying to promote it.

 Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I _________.

 …feel content and happy and love where my mind goes with the story.

 To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

 I usually don’t re read a book. The only book I have ever read twice is Wizard’s First rule. However I’m thinking about starting to re-read the Obsidian Trilogy soon.

 How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

 It depends on how enthusiastic the person telling me about the book is and if they tell me enough about it to spark my interest. If they’re jumping out of their skin excited as they tell me all about it, then it will be worth looking into. But if someone just tells me nonchalantly, “It’s a great book. Got great reviews too,” I mostly likely won’t look into it.

 How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?

 Very likely! If I love a book I’m one of those enthusiastic people I was talking about in the previous question. I go nuts over a book and tell people about it that want to listen. I’ve recommended hundreds of books that people have read and loved.

 What do you look for in a good book?

 That is a tough one. It has to be a combination of a few things. I need to have likeable and believable and interesting characters that I can relate to and empathize with. A good story with a few secrets to be revealed is always good, (I have no problem with unexpected twists and turns.) It needs to be well-paced so it’s not like pulling teeth to try and finish it.

 Why do you write?

 Oh there are so many reasons why I write; I love to write. I’m good at writing. Life doesn’t make sense if I’m not writing, but most of all, I want to touch people. I want to stir emotions in them and make them relate, fall in love with, empathize, and route for my characters. I want to take my readers to places that don’t exist and meet people that aren’t real just because I can, because that’s what books do. When readers love what I write, I feel like I’ve been a small part of their life and them a part of mine.

 If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

 I would be something fun and adventurous, like a tour guide through the Grand Canyon or the Application Mountains. Maybe even a white water rafting guide. I love the outdoors and fun and adventure.

 Where do you draw your inspiration from?

 I draw my inspiration from other fantasy authors and my own life experiences. My stories are sort of an emotional escape for me. Azrel, my main character in The White Warrior series, is me 10 years ago when I wrote her. The struggles she faced and the emotions she battled and the victory’s she won. Other fantasy authors inspire me because fantasy is a very hard genre to break into because there are so many out there, so those that have made it in the genre inspire me to keep going and plugging away to get my name out there.

 What has writing taught you about yourself?

 My writing and this self-publishing adventure so far has taught me that I do have a gift to offer people, and I didn’t think I had any gifts worth mentioning for most of my life. But based on reviews of Only A Glow from my growing fan base and my friends, I have come to realize, and have confidence in the belief that I have a true gift of storytelling and putting emotions into text. I suck at grammar still, but that’s what editors are for.

 How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?

 Everyone, my closest friends and family and a few of my biggest fans, they all swear up and down that I’m going to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. They say that because, according to them, my book had the rare ability (for them) to suck them into the story and stay sucked in. These people have all told me that they are not easily imprisoned by books, but my book hooked them, got inside them, and made them lose some serious sleep. Those are the best complements anyone can give me. The greatest thing any fan of mine can say to me is, “You’re book kept me up way too late at night. I could not put it down,” because that’s what great books do to me too. I am so honored and flattered when I get complements like that, and I can hardly believe someone is saying that about my work, about something that I created. It’s the best feeling ever.

 Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?

 I haven’t really been in the author world very long to make a call like that. I don’t know of any stereotypes that authors get labeled with because I don’t know very many authors.

 What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?

 Being heard! The hardest thing about writing is marketing your work alone because there are just so many authors out there with the self-publishing industry on a huge incline! It’s difficult to get the word out and have people listen to one person. Fellow authors are usually concerned with getting their own writing out so they can’t pay much attention to other authors, and the general public isn’t going to listen to a nobody debut novelist. It’s very hard to stand out and get noticed.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?

 I’m still too new at being an author to realize any mistakes I made. It is way too early in the process to learn from my mistakes, because it’s too soon for mistakes to be brought to my attention that need to be fixed.

 Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?

 Nothing that I can think of off the top of my head. Again, I blame being a rookie independent author.

 How do you deal with your fan base?

 With humility, gratefulness and kindness. I’m just a regular person like them. I love my fans and have become friends with a few of them. They are some of the greatest people I have met and they really love my book. One fan told me that he loved my book so much he feels like it’s his personal mission to get as many people to read it as he can. My fans are very passionate about my book and they go out of their way to tell me how much they love it, and they promote it to the best of their ability. I love my fans.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.

 HA! I’m not sure. I don’t really have any surprises up my sleeve that I can think of right now. I might have to get back to you on that.

 Anything else we should know?

 I have a book trailer for my book. It’s actually really beautiful! You can view it here: http://vimeo.com/51313772

 I want to connect with you! Let’s chat!  Find me on Facebook (where you can see the book covers of the next 4 novels, and there are 3 more book covers to be unveiled soon) here: http://www.facebook.com/TheWhiteWarriorSeries.com

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Nichelle_Writes

 

My website has more info about me and some fan art and some fun sound bites so you know how to pronounce the names, places, and things in my book. Visit my website here: http://www.thewhitewarriorseries.com

 

I’m currently working on book #2 in The White Warrior series called The Blaze Ignites and it is due to be release March 2013. 

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