The Author’s Pledge

The authors pledge

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!

-M

* 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.

 

Update: Novum, Indie Authors, and Shadow’s Reach!

Shadows Reach for Email

Hello, Gentle Readers!

I have a few absolutely wonderful updates for you!

  • Novum is beginning to get into gear: characters coming into focus, obsessive bolting awake at night to jot things down… I will be keeping you all up to date here, on Facebook, and over on twitter as well. You can follow the hashtag #NovumTrilogy if you want to see where I am in the story!
  • There will be a new feature coming up on the website shortly: indie author features! In the lull between Shadow’s Reach and the Novum Trilogy, I will be featuring other authors and their works, so that you hand-picked recommendations of things to read! I have three features lined up for the coming weeks, and if you have an author that you would like to see featured, let me know and I can reach out to them!
  • As you can see above, Zezhou has come up trump again on another beautiful cover, this time for Shadow’s Reach, a series of short stories set in the Light & Shadow universe!
  • Speaking of Shadow’s Reach, the tentative release date is October 21 – don’t worry, I’ll send an email! (This would be a good opportunity to sign up for the mailing list. I will absolutely only send you Cool Things.)

I hope your weeks are going well!

-M

 

Update-like Items

moira writes

Dear Readers,

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?

-M

 

Vacation!

French King Bridge

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!

-M

 

Review: Tigana

One sentence review: Tigana is a masterful work, a complex and character-driven epic.

What I liked: There is no element of carelessness to Kay’s writing. His sentences seem carefully crafted, and his worlds are well thought-out. Important elements of the world are by and large explained (I can only think of one major example, and that would be the disproportionate strength of Brandin’s sorcery), although exposition is kept to a minimum. The story rarely drags, and it is easy to get invested in the lives of the characters. Epics generally run the risk of being self-important or very dry, and Tigana does not fall into that trap.

What I liked somewhat less well: The ending. It wasn’t specifically the elements of the ending that fell flat (although there was one storyline that resolved in a less than satisfying way), it was just that the ending seemed so…quick. The setup for the ending was so exquisitely done, a slow build. There was a real sense of the wider pain caused by Brandin’s curse. But when the ending (final confrontation) came, it seemed oddly limited.

Things about which I am undecided: Dianora’s storyline. Kay has done a similar thing since, of course, in Under Heaven. He’s very good at allowing his stories not to wrap up neatly. However, since finishing the book, I have been stuck on Dianora.

In conclusion, Tigana is a book that has earned its reputation as classic epic fantasy. I highly recommend it, and feel free (in the comments now, or several months down the road) to tell me your own opinions on the ending!

-M

Guest Post: Anne Marie Stoddard

Hello, Gentle Readers! Today we have the treat of a guest post from A.M. Stoddard, author of Murder at Castle Rock, AND a chance to win a copy of the book! Enjoy! -M

Well, hello, fantasy readers! Fancy meeting you here 😉 Moira is taking a day off from her site today. Don’t worry, though! She’ll be back soon—she’s just over at my blog for a day, writing about why she writes fantasy and science fiction. In return, I’m going to tell all of you a little about why I write in the mystery genre. I guess you could say we’re playing a literary version of “Trading Spaces”.

I’m going to start with a confession: I didn’t start out to be a mystery writer. My first stories were fluffy little pieces about the Easter Bunny, way back in kindergarten. I was even my own illustrator, drawing Crayola masterpieces of Easter eggs and baskets to go with my little tales. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, that was before I discovered “Dracula”. I read Bram Stoker’s classic novel in first grade, and I remember closing the book and thinking, “I want to do this. I want to write horror stories for the rest of my life.” Blood-sucking vampires were way cooler than fluffy little bunnies. (This was before the time of emo vamps that glitter in the sun, of course). However, my venture into horror writing was cut short in third grade when I wrote a pretty gory piece called “The Headless Prankster” and gave it to my teacher to read out loud. I’ll save that story for another day, but suffice it to say that you should probably warn your teacher that a work contains decapitation before she reads it out loud to thirty 9 year-olds. (I still maintain that the content of the tale was pretty obvious based on the title.)

While I still enjoyed Stephen King and Dean Koontz, I started searching for a new genre for inspiration. That was when I discovered Nancy Drew. A young woman who solved mysteries and saved the day in every single book? Why, hello, new role model! After reading the entire series, I moved onto Agatha Christie books, and there was no looking back after that.

The thing about mysteries is, if you think about it, they’re in virtually every piece of fiction you read. Let’s face it: Even if you’re reading science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, romance, or horror—unless you’re a psychic, chances are you don’t know exactly how those stories are going to end. The mystery is in the details. The author paints a vivid picture with plenty of action, adventure, or romance to keep you interested, but there will always be that bit of mystery or intrigue to keep you reading until the very last page.

I suppose I find the mystery genre itself so addicting because, no matter what, things are always explained in the end. There are no loose ends. Everything is neatly tied up in a pretty, logical bow. Then there’s the thrill of solving the mystery before the protagonist. Mystery authors always leave clues—some subtle, some not-so-subtle—to give the reader some idea of whodunit (or who they want you to think did it). I live for pinpointing those teeny tiny little breadcrumbs that point you to who’s really responsible—a strange look here, a peculiar stain on a piece of clothing there. There’s just something so satisfying about getting to the big reveal and saying “I knew it! I knew he/she was the killer!”

On the other side of the token, I have the upmost respect for an author who can keep me guessing until the very end. That’s the kind of mystery writer I strive to be. Writing a mystery is like putting together a puzzle. I take all of the pieces and make sure that they fit together—even if it’s not the way you think they’re going to.

If you don’t already read mysteries, I hope you’ll give them a chance! Just in case, here are a few of my favorites:

For lighter reads: (“cozy” mysteries)

  • “Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye” by Victoria Laurie
  • The Harper Connelly Series from Charlaine Harris
  • “Heavy Mental” by P.J. Morse (a “rock n’ roll cozy” as she calls it)
  • “Head Case” & “Gloss” by Jennifer Oko

Somewhat darker:

  • “Sweet And Deadly” & “A Secret Rage”, also by Charlaine Harris
  • “The Bone Collector” by Jeffrey Deaver

And of course, a few classics:

  • “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
  • The Sherlock Holmes books (all of them!) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

amstoddard-1

Anne Marie Stoddard used to work in radio, and it rocked. She goes to concerts like it’s her job–because sometimes, it actually is. After studying Music Business at the University of Georgia, Anne Marie has worked for several music venues, radio stations, and large music festivals, and she currently creates promotional contests and writes music trivia for a media company. Aside from all things music, she loves college football, anything pumpkin-flavored, and a good mystery. Her debut full-length novel, “Murder At Castle Rock”, was the winner of the 2012 AJC Decatur Book Festival & BookLogix Publishing Services, Inc. Writing Contest. Anne Marie is currently working on her second novel from her home in Atlanta, GA.

You can find Anne Marie at Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and of course, on her own website!

I will be hosting a giveaway of Murder at Castle Rock! Simply leave a comment in the comments section below for a chance to win!  I’ll select a winner using Random.org on Monday, July 22nd and announce him/her in this post and on my social media accounts! (No purchase necessary, must be 18 years or older to win.  Winner grants permission for his or her name to be used on Moira Katson’s social media accounts and website for promotion of this sweepstakes.)

Review: The Pirate’s Wish

I was lucky to pick up The Assassin’s Curse so close to the release date for the sequel, The Pirate’s Wish – I didn’t have to wait to read the rest of Ananna’s adventures! So:

One sentence review: The Pirate’s Wish is an action-packed, funny, and sweet wrap-up to the story begun in The Assassin’s Curse.

What I liked: The plot moves along quite quickly in a way that is unpredictable, but always ties in to the larger plot arc. This meant that the story was an experience of discovery, plunging the reader into a multi-faceted world. I found the descriptions in this book far more vivid, and I enjoyed learning more about minor characters, seeing the different cultures (court, Confederation and non-Confederation ships, and even a peek into Naji’s world), and watching the relationship between Ananna and Naji. Speaking of this, the romance is definitely a driving force behind the book, but ties up in a satisfying way that leaves both major characters, well … in character.

What I would have liked to see: What was up with those Hariris? Seriously. They’re clearly Big Bads, dabbling in all sorts of illicit technology and magic, and we know from their attempted assassination of a sixteen-year-old that they’re fairly brutal. I could ramble on here, but mostly I was hoping for the villains to be fleshed out a bit more, both the Hariris and the one from the mists. Further, Naji expressed some serious doubts about the continued mission of the Jadorr’a, but later, at a relevant point in the story, those seem to have disappeared. While I understand that Ananna’s culture involves plenty of killing, and Clarke likely had no inclination to go into the rights and wrongs of assassins’ and pirates’ lives, I did feel that those things were glossed over somewhat. (But. This is YA.)

In short: If you enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse, this will be a satisfying conclusion to the story! If you have not yet read Curse, but like adventure and pirates and a fresh YA fantasy setting, for the love of little green apples, go get it! (After all, now we know that the story only gets better the second time around.) It’s on all platforms, but here’s the Amazon link: whee!

What are you reading? Is there a book you’d like me to review? Leave a comment to let me know!

-M

Review: Murder at Castle Rock

Oh, I do love finding novels from new authors – the love of writing is so apparent! There’s no routine feel. It’s lovely. So, without further ado, a review of Murder at Castle Rock by Anne Marie Stoddard.

One line review: Stoddard’s debut novel offers a fresh take on the murder mystery format, and promises a new heroine to join the ranks of the accidental detectives.

Slightly longer review: Speaking as someone who could quite happily spend days reading murder mysteries – you know, the kind set in rural English villages, where the enterprising protagonist lives in a cozy cottage with rose bushes and does a lot of tea-drinking – even I found the setting of Murder at Castle Rock to be refreshing. While the sleazy underbelly of the entertainment business has surely been overplayed, Anne Marie Stoddard does not give it undue page-time, instead portraying the darker, grittier side of the industry as only one facet – the other facet, on which she spends far more of her time, is that of a group of people who are passionate about music, work long hours, eat pizza at lunch, and have perfectly normal lives. (Except for the murders.)

To this end, Stoddard has created up Amelia Grace – a heroine who is similarly devoid of cliché. Grace’s genuine love of music is a defining trait, certainly, but what I found most refreshing was her lack of self-consciousness. Where were the body issues, the relentless self-comparison to other female characters, the cattiness solely devoted to frenemies? Mercifully, nowhere to be found. Female rivalry is matched by male rivalry. Sexual tension is only one of many motives for the murder. It was delightful.

This freshness persisted throughout other aspects of the novel. We’re all well acquainted with the format of mystery novels by this point, and introducing doubt into the proceedings takes a certain amount of skill. This, Stoddard has. She does an excellent job of showing us the unfolding story through Grace’s eyes – thus transporting us out of a mindset where multiple murders are expected, and into a place where the events take on a nightmarish quality. Our protagonist is quite clearly racing against the clock to prove her friends’ innocence (and stop further murders), and she knows it.

Strangely, it was Grace’s unswerving loyalty to her friends that struck me as one of the stranger points of the novel. While we knew from the start that the original suspects had no hand in the murder(s), they carried secrets and motives – I feel that some doubt on our heroine’s part might have amped up the tension. Further, however much I prefer conciseness to rambling (that would be infinitely), I felt that I could have luxuriated a little longer in the potential of each suspect’s guilt before moving on to the next. However, neither of these things should stop you from picking this one up. You’ll want to catch the first in what I hope will be a series of mysteries featuring Amelia Grace!

So. If you’re a mystery fan who is tired of middle-aged female detectives, or simply a summer reader looking for a fresh take on the murder mystery, I not only recommend Stoddard’s Murder at Castle Rock, but also her later novels in the series. She hasn’t released any yet, you see, but I have a sense that we’ll all want to stick around to see what she has in store!

-M

Review: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

I had seen the lovely book cover for The Assassin’s Curse, but what really got me interested was Tamora Pierce’s recommendation. Pierce wrote The Lioness Quartet, which is (for the record) one of my favorite sets of books ever. Ever. I bought them all again when they came out on Kindle. So I dove in…

What I liked: Ananna and Naji are engaging characters, each with motivations that seem realistic without being over-emphasized. Naji could easily have fallen into the cliche of the tortured male hero, angst-ridden and sulky, but Clarke managed to give him some real heart – not an easy task when dealing with an assassin! In addition, the plot moved ahead at a good pace, with a world that was clearly well-thought out, and Clarke, further, managed to pull off writing in the first person, in a dialect. There were quite a few lines that made me smile, a few more that sparked sadness, and there was a good deal of rapt reading as the story unfolded.

What I liked a little less: The plot moved forward in a few distinct chunks, with Ananna and Naji’s quest separated into different stages. The plot moved nicely, but given the outcome of the book, I didn’t get much of a sense of closure. Further, I would have appreciated a bit more description of the world – what description there was, was well done. But action scenes, in particular, could have been stretched a bit. One always knew when Ananna was walking into danger, but there was very little time for the crisis to build, and then it was all over.

Overall: If you grew up on the Lioness Quartet and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, if you like snappy dialogue and feisty characters, I recommend this book! It is a quick, engaging read, with a romance that is quite sweet without being saccharine.

Now, gentle readers, I am off to write!

-M

A Review and Related Musings

I finished up River of Stars last night. I highly recommend it to authors and readers both – Guy Gavriel Kay has a distinctive, and very well-crafted style, and I love to read the work of those who use language in new and interesting ways. I am in a strange subset of those who have not read a great part of GGK’s earlier works, so my review, unlike many others, will not focus on a comparison.

What I enjoyed: Without spoiling too much, the story focuses on the interweaving between past legends, current events, and future legends. Our main narrators are, by and large, figures whose stories will be written in legend, and they have a sense of this: they wonder how history will portray them, understand the larger moral implications of their actions, and, in a very human way, both believe passionately in their destinies and doubt themselves utterly. The narration follows the defining moments of their lives, both in terms of events and in terms of thoughts, and the writing style echoes this: lyrical, stream-of-consciousness. Kay does, in my opinion, an exquisite job of placing us in the viewpoint of the narrator. The book is worth reading for this alone.

Further, Kay has described the world of Kitai excellently through a patchwork of vignettes from the perspective of minor characters. With protagonists that are so influenced by the social norms of the world around them, this style of world-building is an elegant way to frame our heroes’ fears and motivations.

What I enjoyed less: Plot and pacing. If there is one flaw to River of Stars, it is the plot arc – and to be honest, I am not sure I can think of it, unequivocally, as a flaw (more on that in a moment). Kay speaks in the epilogue about the liberties he took with a particular set of historical events, compressing the stream of events and shifting things around somewhat, but the plot still meanders somewhat. In a very broad sense, it follows the traditional fight arc, but there are times when, chapter by chapter, it seems to be in a holding pattern. On the other hand, this wandering, this back and forth, this unclear path to success – all of it serves to provide doubt and fear to our heroes, and that is the piece of the book I most enjoyed.

Overall: I highly recommend this book. It is a true joy to read. More, I get the sense that the author truly loved this book. I can find no better way to describe it: he crafted every word of it. The whole book breathes love, as one might find with a little wood carving or a baby’s quilt. And that was beautiful to see.

And now, gentle readers, I am off to go running, and to think on what I have read. River of Stars. You should read it!

-M