For our second author feature, I am delighted to welcome Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Read onwards, learn a bit more about Robin, As the Crow Flies, and upcoming works! (And then, if you have decided that it has been too long since you’ve read an awesome epic fantasy story with thievery and plenty of twists and turns, I encourage you to snap up As the Crow Flies today, while it’s on sale!)
When I decided that I wanted to feature other authors on the website, Alexes Razevich came to mind at once. At that point, we had never talked, but I had just picked up her debut novel, Khe, and I was impressed by the immersive writing and the incredibly detailed world! Alexes kindly agreed to be the very first featured author – and today I am pleased to present you with some details about Khe, Alexes’ next work, and her life outside of writing!
I loved the world and immersive quality of Khe. Can you tell us a little bit about where the story began for you?
This sounds almost silly, but Khe popped into my head fully formed with red skin and emotion spots, bald and earless, at work on the commune. Developing her world was a slower process. The greatest challenge was working with no human characters. Not only did the entire world—society, family relations, methods of reproduction, foods eaten—have to be developed solely from imagination, but the two sets of alien species had to be distinct and unique, yet close enough to us that the reader could relate. Once that was done, it was a matter of letting Khe and the others live in their world. It was such fun to discover how clever and determined Khe was, and to watch her come into her own.
Which of your secondary characters has been your favorite to write?
Marnka, without a doubt. She’s completely unfiltered. I keep wondering what happened to her. I’m planning to start the second Khe book next month, and hope to find out.
Tell us a little bit about your next work!
“Shadowline Drift” is a sort of paranormal tale set in the Amazonian rainforest. The main character, Jake Kendrick, is sent to negotiate with a local tribe for benesha—a mineral that holds the potential to end world hunger. He’s chosen not only because he’s good at his job, but because he and the tribe’s chief are both three and a half feet tall. He soon realizes that benesha is not the salvation of humanity, but a threat to its very existence. Blocking his escape to warn civilization are the dangerous jungle, a mysterious group of indigenous people, a teenage sorceress, a beautiful anthropologist – and madness. “Shadowline Drift” will be released in December.
What is the book you buy extra copies of to give away to friends?
It varies by the friend. I like to give books that fit someone’s preferences or is maybe just a little outside.
Who do you see as influences on your writing?
Tough question. Rather than a person, I think I’m influenced by originality and craft. When I read a great book, hear a wonderful piece of music, see great art, read about a scientist or someone working in his or her garage who’s made an amazing breakthrough or discovery, I think, Wow! I want to be that good at what I do. I’ll keep working and working until I get there.
What do you do to unwind and relax, aside from writing?
Read, of course. I love ice and roller hockey and play on several teams. During the professional season, days are spent writing and nights either playing or watching the pros, though I play all year round. I like to crochet, and usually have a project or two under construction.
What’s one thing about you that people might not guess from your writing?
That I’m in my sixties.
What was the last book you bought?
“Self-editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Brown.
Motivated by a combination of Don Maass’s “Writing the Breakout Novel” (a million thanks to Tammy Salyer for recommending it), recent and well-publicized kerfluffles in the community, and some recent reading about personal accountability and perfection, I present you with The Author’s Pledge – just in time for NaNoWriMo!
The Author’s Pledge
I, [author name], pledge that I will support the writing and reading community, both by emphasizing quality in all aspects of my own work, and by supporting writers, readers, and industry professionals. This means that…
- I will be vocal in my support of a reader’s right to dislike any book, in my support of authors whose books and personal characters have been unfairly targeted, and in my opposition to the concept of banning books
- I will not leap to conclusions in internet kerfluffles. Instead I will weigh the evidence and if necessary make a carefully-worded statement
- I will remember why I love books, and why books are important to society. Because of this, I will thank the authors whose work has challenged me, inspired me, and gotten me through really tough times in my life – and if I am lucky enough to have fans who tell me the same things about my books, I will make time to listen to them and thank them for reading
- I will pay it forward by sharing my hard-won knowledge with other authors, without fear that their books will surpass my own
- I will remember that authors are not in direct competition with each other, and I will promote deserving work without fear for my own sales
- I will remember that we are all here because we love books, and I will therefore judge other authors and publishing professionals by the quality of their work, by their comportment as an individual, and by nothing else
- I will remember that just because my name is on the cover, the book was not produced by me alone, because no book is. I will acknowledge and thank everyone whose work has gone into my books: my editors, copy-editors, formatters, cover artists, agents, publicists, lawyers, friends who got me coffee and listened while I sobbed about my work, fans, beta readers, book bloggers, and anyone else whose effort has contributed to the final product
- I will understand that writing is an art I can always hone but never master, and I will strive to make my work better by writing, reading, and accepting criticism
- Before I send a book to my editor, beta reader, or agent, I will not accept a single word, phrase, paragraph, or plot point that is “good enough.” So help me, I will beat my head against that piece until it as perfect as I can make it on my own
- I will edit my work with increasing ruthlessness every book, and I will also admit that I alone cannot be responsible for editing my own work. Then I will seek editing help*
- I will put my readers first by emphasizing quality in all things: writing, editing, cover art, formatting, and any other facet of book publishing that may exist in the future. If I cannot complete a task on my own, I will find someone who can, because that is what my readers deserve
- I will take final responsibility for the work that comes out under my name
May your NaNoWriMo (or November, if every month is NaNoWriMo for you) be fruitful and illuminating!
* Seriously, people, I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT make the mistakes I have made. Get editing help. This is a piece of hard-won knowledge that I hope you spread as much as possible.
Hello, Gentle Readers!
The weather continues to yo-yo between a crisp autumn and a few last, raucous bursts of summer. I have been so focused on Shadow’s Reach and the SciFi piece that I have wished for a few more cold, fall-ish days so that I could snuggle up beside the fire – but I suppose I should savor the warmth while it’s here! Winter is coming, and all that.
- As you can see above, the Shadow’s Reach cover is coming right along! I hope to be able to show it off soon, and not only because I am impatient by nature – the proofs are wonderful.
- I have been dabbling in the worlds of Unbound and Kickstarter. That is all about that for now. (Although I encourage you to check out the projects that are currently listed. There are some pretty incredible ones out there! On Kickstarter, Acadia, in particular, looks quite excellent…although more than fully-funded already.)
- I have started reading Wool, at long last. I’m captivated; I wish the story would linger a little sometimes, but I really am enjoying it. I can’t stand Bernard, though.
- Speaking of Wool, any authors in the audience may be interested by the recent pieces about Hugh Howey and Michael Wallace.
- The SciFi project is coming along, and I am so excited to share this new world with you! Stay tuned for updates!
The internet is a pretty cool place to be this week, with all sorts of delightful things going on!
- Zezhou is hard at work on the cover for Shadow’s Reach, and I am looking forward to doing a cover reveal! Mailing list subscribers will get the first peek, so if you haven’t signed up yet, I encourage you to do so! You can enter your email over on the sidebar!
- The giveaway books will be winging their way off shortly – congratulations again to everyone who won, and I’d like to say yet another thank you for making Shadowborn #1!
- The Light & Shadow short stories are in beta, some in the first round, some in the second. Thank you to Gayle, Erin, Claire, Lannie, and Carol for volunteering to be beta readers! (If would like to be considered for beta reading in the future, feel free to contact me!)
- If you’re looking for book recommendations for your fall reading, I recommend checking out any of the options listed my my Where to Discover Books blog post. If you’re looking for personalized recommendations, and you have a bent towards YA, I heartily recommend Papercuts Blog. Rachel has an interview, a review, or a giveaway going on every day – I don’t know how she does it!
- There’s an intriguing project going on over at this blog. Audiomachine, a trailer music group, has partnered with the author to provide a serialized story. The first post is here, and that’s not even all of the coolness! There’s also a flash fiction contest going on. Want to try your hand at a 150-word short story? Give it a go!
- My writing projects right now include the short stories, the Mahalia sequel and prequel, a SciFi novella, an epic SciFi trilogy, and laying the groundwork for a cowriting piece about Joan of Arc! I am deeply, deeply excited about all of them, and am planning to consume large amounts of coffee to get them out to you in a reasonable amount of time.
How is your week going, readers?
Hello, and welcome to the Parajunkee Indie Summer Blog Tour! The blog tour is close to the end, but there’s still time to complete the treasure hunt and win a Kindle Fire! (Whee!) You can find the earlier blog tour stops here, and I encourage you to check them out. There are multiple genres being featured, and you may find some new favorites!
As you will certainly know if you’ve been following along thus far, the theme of the scavenger hunt is travel – where would I like to travel? Where would my characters like to travel?
I myself have always wanted to see Iceland. I cannot think of a landscape that is more wildly evocative than the glaciers, volcanoes, barren isolation and unexpected beauty of the island. Like the burren in Ireland, Iceland is a place where life triumphs in unexpected ways: tiny, exquisite flowers blooming in crevasses, lichen and moss gaining a foothold on a seemingly desolate expanse of rock. In the winters, the long nights bring the aurora to life, and the crispness of winter is offset by yuletide festivity.
It may seem odd to you if you’ve just begun reading the Light & Shadow books, but I very much think that Miriel and Catwin would enjoy a sojourn to Iceland as well. Catwin, of course, would be only too happy to escape the court, and Miriel, however much she might seem to thrive in her pursuit of the king, is not so simple a character as she might appear…
Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to check out the other two Shadowborn blog stops, on Papercuts Blog and Erzabet’s Enchantments! There are giveaways for e-copies of the entire Light & Shadow series (because who wants to have to stop reading to download another book? Honestly), and both blogs feature reviews of other delightful indie books!
Gentle Readers –
This weekend is vacation, but with a few exciting details scattered within…!
- The Light & Shadow short stories are close to completion! I am setting myself the goal of completing them by the end of September, and releasing them by mid-October!
- While visiting my hometown, I was able to reconnect with an old friend who is also writing! Her first book was The Power of Poppy Pendle, and I am beyond excited to crack it open on this trip! (Also, it’s worth noting that the recipe for shortbread on her website is GOLD. Gold, ladies and gentlemen. Shortbread to make you weep.)
- I continue to beat my head against this new SciFi piece. That’s not exactly an exciting detail. Whoops.
- The Parajunkee Summer Blog Tour is winding onwards, and I am very excited for my tour stop on September 12th! As a reminder, the tour is a scavenger hunt, paired with a giveaway for a Kindle Fire – answer a question about each author, and you’ll be entered to win! You can find the tour here.
I hope your summers are going well, gentle readers!
Hello, Gentle Readers!
A brief note: my website was apparently targeted by a brute-force attack sometime yesterday. InMotion shut down access to the site, and the hackers do not appear to have been successful. Hopefully this will not happen again!
After the flurry of activity that was importing all current works into Scrivener, I have begun to wade into writing again. Heaven, Purity, and the Light & Shadow short story set are all seeing modest progress! This morning began early, sending my husband off to a business trip, and I have been writing as the sky got lighter. Now I am all ready for my first nap of the day…
As a note to other indie authors out there, I have just finished beta-reading a lovely short story by Scott Zachary, and I am once again free to be beta-reading or reviewing indie books! If you have questions as to what I read, head on over to my Contact page!
Hopefully, everyone’s weekend is going well!
P.S. If you’ve read any great indie books lately, please think of leaving a review. Reviews, positive or negative, are invaluable to authors and readers alike! As always, if you have any feedback on my works, you can feel free either to leave a review or send me feedback directly!
One hot topic that comes up on the author forums is how to cope with bad reviews? There have been a range of responses over the years, from the fine strategy of making no public comment, to the less fine strategy of exhorting one’s loyal fans to harass the reviewer (hint: don’t do that). Authors, who have have poured their heart and soul into their works, struggle to be okay with bad reviews. But the thing is, bad reviews actually aren’t as horrible as we generally feel.
Here are some reasons to let go of your fear when facing a bad review:
- Not every reader has the same taste. One reviewer may pan your work for exactly the same reasons that another reader gives it five stars. Therefore, a one-star review that says that a book has too many action sequences, or too much of a romantic sub-plot, or not enough magic, might be a review that actually entices another reader.
- Negative reviews show readers that real people are reading these books. A range of opinions is to be expected if enough people read your books, and people will be wary if they see a sea of five-star, glowing reviews, with nary a criticism in sight. No book is universally beloved, and readers know that. Leading into that …
- People are generally reasonable. If the average person reads a review that starts out, “I got one paragraph into this book and hated it,” that average person is smart enough to take the review with a grain of salt. Readers are not delicate flowers who must be shielded from the slightest hint of a whisper that our work is not perfect – instead, they are reasonable people with a wide range of opinions (see #1), who are perfectly capable of making a decision to buy our books, even in the face of vitriolic dislike from other readers.
- They reviews are right. Yes, ouch. On the one hand, many poor reviews have bizarre reasons (too many Es! I hate books that feature horses in any capacity! The author’s pen name reminds me of my least favorite cousin!), but a lot of brutal reviews highlight areas for improvement in your writing. A lot of people say that you should ignore reviews, but I’m actually of the opinion that you should swallow your pride and read the bad ones. You might discover a massive plot hole, a really bad typo, or a systematic issue in your writing that (when fixed) will make you a better author.
- You love writing. Wait, what? The reviews of my first book were … well, mostly, they weren’t. No one was interested in reviewing it. One person did review it, and they didn’t like it very much. And you know what? I kept writing, because I love writing. And the next books were better. Trust me when I say that I know how much this bad review hurts, and trust me, also, when I say that even if your book is being panned across the board, that in NO way means you should stop writing.
Of course, these reviews will still hurt. You will still be tempted to tell the reviewer that they are wrong. If I might offer some suggestions, however …
- Expect the bad reviews. Every book, no matter how good, has bad reviews. You will get them.
- Have someone to vent to in person. Not online, in person. You need a friend who will sit sagely through a rant about how wrong your reviewer is (or your tearful rant about how right they are), and then pour you another martini, or cup of tea, or whatever it is, and then tell you that you have an incandescent talent and you should go write more things. Because you do. And you should!
- Do not engage your reviewers … as this almost invariably goes poorly. The rule is, there is no classy way to tell a reviewer that they are wrong. The one exception to “don’t engage” is bullet point #4.
- …unless they mentioned typos and you are writing to ask them for any egregious ones they found. This is acceptable. Use discretion. Have a friend oversee the email before you send it. And thank both the friend and the reviewer for their time!
- Know what constitutes slander and harassment. Slander is not disliking the book, such as, “this book had no redeeming qualities and I hated it.” Slander is an attack on the author, such as, “I have determined that this author runs an illegal drug-running business and routinely murders kittens.” Harassment is not, “I do not recommend this book.” Harassment is, “here is the author’s address, I recommend that people go to their house and heckle them.” If people are slandering and harassing you, absolutely contact the host site about the review. If they just really, really hated the book? Let it go.
- Have a plan for when a bad review comes in. This plan is a collection of things that help relax you. Tea? Running? Baking? Meditation? Hanging out with friends? Just know what will help you calm down, and be ready to do that in case the bad review really throws you for a loop.
Authors, do you have anything to add? Any tips and tricks?
This week’s blog post is short and sweet, although a little punch-y! Let me just say in advance that this advice is hard-learned by yours truly, and those of you who have gotten the hang of this down should absolutely leave comments sharing their tips and tricks. -M
If any other authors out there are like me (and evidence suggests that there are at least a few), they are fairly introverted, A-type people given to prattling on about writing at the drop of a hat, getting up in the middle of the night to write, daydreaming about writing while not writing, and wandering around with their nose stuck in a book. We love books: writing them, reading them, smelling them, and crying on them when sad things happen. Furthermore, the outside world often seems unnecessarily loud, and – in any case – we feel better when we’re accomplishing things. Like writing books.
The thing is, as much as authors talk up writing and discuss the necessity of spending X much time writing and Y much time reading…in the grander scheme of things, you need more than that in your life. Oh, I’m not saying that you won’t spend weeks (sometimes months) in a haze of sleep-work-writing-sleep-writing-sleep-work-reading… But when you view the larger picture, remember to have a slightly wider focus! That’s ridiculous, you say. There are hardly enough hours in a day to write, you say (let alone read). I have a job, you say. So how am I supposed to fit more in? Well, all I can say is: please try. Find your Other Thing(s).
You see, as an author, you are trying to describe, distill, drop your readers into an incredibly lifelike experience. You are doing very focused, consistent output of information, and that means that you need plenty of input to go with it, and you need some relaxation, some time when you’re either allowing your mind to drift to things-that-are-not-writing, or, if you have trouble getting out of writing mode, some time when you are actively distracting yourself.
Just like you’d be worried if one of your close friends started working 95 hours per week at their job, and showed up only occasionally to social events with shadowed eyes and the chihuahua-like disposition of the caffeine-addicted, so you must be vigilant to your own behavior. Make sure you’re seeing sunlight. Make sure you’re moving about on a regular basis. Cultivate interests from the serious to the ridiculous – whatever it is that feeds you as a person!
For instance: I have running, home brewing, gardening, and video gaming. Each of these Other Things gives something back to me: perseverance, discipline, attention to detail, relaxation, ridiculousness, sensory input that I can describe later. And because those things feed me as a person, they feed my writing. Remember, it is not laziness to spend your free time doing something other than writing. You’re a very driven person, and you want to succeed. I empathize!
But, seriously. Have you considered going outside and wandering around the neighborhood with an iced-tea? (Or a hot tea, if you’re in a winter-y climate right about now.) Don’t worry. You can write about that walk when you get back. I promise.