It’s here! That’s right, Murder of Crows: The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Book Two is now an audiobook. The kick-ass Folly Blaine continues as narrator, bringing Jade and her world to life.
I’m doing a little experiment, with some help from a bookstore called Powell’s Books. They are the largest independent bookstore in the country and totally awesome.
So here is how it works. The Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing is carrying some of my books (after a very successful signing back in November) and I made a trip in to sign them. So there are a very limited number of copies available, signed, right now. If this works and people want more signed books, Powell’s and I can coordinate more orders and I’ll make another trip to get stuff signed.
Below I’ve put book covers for the books that are available. Each cover links to the Powell’s website. Click the link of the book you want a signed copy of, and buy it! Powell’s ships pretty much everywhere, I think. Here is the slightly tricky part: you want to check the sale page and make sure the book is still listed as in stock at Beaverton, or your copy will be shipped from the warehouse and won’t be signed. So make sure it says in stock. Quantities are limited as this is an experiment.
Here are the books you can choose from:
I’m super busy, as evidenced by my total neglect of my blog. I figured I should show a little love here and offer up something new to look at.
Here’s a map of the world of the Gryphonpike Chronicles, as drawn for me by Jared Blando:
I started outlining The Raven King, the sequel to A Heart in Sun & Shadow, and started thinking about fantasy novels in general and why these books are the ones I’m choosing to share with the world right now. As the title of this post hints at, Fantasy was my first love, starting way back when I was eight.
My love affair didn’t start where you might think, however. Many of the people I know got their introduction to fantasy via Tolkien, but that isn’t where mine began. It began with four women.
The first was my mother. This was probably an accident on her part, since she used to tell me all the time that the genre fiction I read would rot my brain and was popcorn for the mind. Yet she read us Mrs. Pigglewiggle, books by CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander, and kept giving me money for whatever I wanted to buy at Powell’s each time we went (anything under four dollars, she’d say). She did her best to put literature in front of me, but she didn’t start early enough, I suppose. Now, mind you, she’s a dedicated George RR Martin fan and even read Juliet Marillier’s fantasy books on my recommendation.
Una was my teacher sixth through eighth grade, but she helped out sometimes with the fourth and fifth graders at the tiny private school I was banished to after being kicked out of the Public School system. Una encouraged me in crazy ways. She didn’t mind when I snuck fiction books inside my school books or when I wrote stories about ancient Sumer instead of research essays. She taught me Irish and introduced me to the Dewey decimal system. But the most important thing she ever did for me was tell me that it was okay to write fiction, to “make stuff up”. She gave my very young mind the permission I craved to dream, to wonder, to explore, and to live inside my head. Without her encouragement and teaching, I don’t think I’d be a writer today nor as educated or curious about the world around me.
My mother read aloud to us as kids, and between CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander, I had a preliminary introduction to the fantastical, but it wasn’t until I started reading on my own that my love affair turned serious. When I was nine or ten, I really wanted to read something that didn’t look adult and boring, but all the books on the shelves at home were either kids books I’d read or boring looking. All except one. It had a blue cover and a woman riding a pretty horse (and I was as horse-crazy then as now). The title was The Mists of Avalon. I pulled the huge book down from the fourth shelf (the highest I could reach on the wall) and started reading. Soon I was buried in Arthurian myth. It was the most amazing book I’d ever read. When my mother next dropped me off at Powell’s, I went to the Gold Room (the F&SF section to this day) and looked up that amazing author, Marion Zimmer Bradley.
And I discovered the Sword & Sorceress anthologies. In the front were always these scathing, insightful, amazing introductions by Marion Zimmer Bradley that I would read and reread, amazed that real people wrote these stories and that writers weren’t just names on books. In the back were writer’s guidelines. MZB died before I could ever get up the courage to send in a single story, but to this day, I see those S&S books as the earth my little creative seed buried itself in. I wrote story after story, all horrible (I was 11 when I started, after all), but all trying to capture the wonder I found inside those pages. MZB and the anthologies made writing fantastical stories seem like more than a dream and lit the fire that started everything.
Then, just to toss a little oil on my love affair with Fantasy, my mother came home from a trip to Canada with a giant book for me. It, like Mists of Avalon, had a blue cover and was super thick. The woman on this cover was also riding a horse, but in full armor, fighting a couple of giant white wolves. Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion took everything I’d thought about fantasy and pushed it further, opening up an entire world for me. I fell in love with Paks and her adventures. I cried when she was tortured or when characters I loved died, I literally cheered when she triumphed over adversity, I memorized the map and the currencies and started looking into the SCA to see if I could become a knight, too, because I wanted to be just like Paks. When I was 12 and home alone, I cut my heel badly (right down to the bone). I stayed calm because I asked myself, I kid you not, “what would Paks do?” and I cleaned the wound with alcohol pads and bandaged it up until it could be stitched properly later that night when my dad got home.
The Deed of Paksenarrion made me fall in love with Fantasy even deeper because the characters were so real, so fallible but heroic in their humanity and because the world was so detailed that I felt I could almost just pack a bag and move to Brewersbridge. I started to see the possibilities within the genre, even at that young age, and started working those things into my own writing. I still re-read The Deed of Paksenarrion at least once a year and have for the last 19 years.
There are other authors, other people, other books, that influenced my long affair with the genre, but these women stick out in my mind as the main early influences. It was a long road to writing A Heart in Sun & Shadow, but I see the start of the path back there, in my youth, curled up with a giant book with a pale blue cover and a woman on horseback, a book full of sword fights and magic where flawed, interesting people chose to make heroic or destructive decisions.
That’s how a good fantasy novel will always be for me. Opening the book is like returning home to my first love, her arms open, waiting to embrace me.
Had a rough patch or three in the last couple weeks with my crazy novel project, but I’m in the home stretch on one novel at least. I had set it aside to work on the one I really wanted to workshop, but realized after a few thousand words that TVMoSS is going to be a lot more complex as a novel than I originally thought. While I think I could probably still write it (at least a passable for workshop draft of it) in a couple weeks, I’m not sure I want to.
So I switched back to my thriller. And hit the great swampy middle. The last novel I wrote (my second ever) I took an eight month break in that swampy middle. And I swore never again. No more breaks. But the middle is still not fun. There comes a time when I’m writing and I can’t tell if what is falling out onto the page makes any sense at all. I was so worried about this novel never making it to 80k words, then I solved a problem and added a POV. Which is great for adding words, but suddenly I had a character with a whole storyline show up a third of the way into the book. Is this done?I wondered, and can this work? Am I screwing it all up?
I don’t know. I still don’t know. So I guess in the end I am glad I’m taking this book to the workshop. DWS will tell me if he thinks it is broken. And the others will all let me know if they’d even want to read past the first 50 pages. So we’ll see. But it’ll be done at least. And I’ll have written my first thriller ever. I keep wanting to have a character fireball something or whip out a sword or teleport. I miss you, speculative fiction! I also miss short stories. So very much. I haven’t written a short story in like two months. I will soon. After Sept. 10th. I’ve still got WotF to win, right? *grin*
These are the days, however, when I’m glad I have a super supportive spouse. He went on a long walk with me this afternoon and I told him all about my detective (the POV I’m working into the story). My husband is psyched to read this novel now, when he was lukewarm about it in the beginning. His excitement helps me. He thinks the story sounds better, more complex than it originally did. He loves the idea of the character and the motivations behind him.
As writers, we are so often alone. No one can write for us. It just can’t be done. If someone is writing for you, then they are the writer. Bouncing ideas off people is good, but at the end (or beginning) of the day, we just have to sit down and do the work. All on our own. And what we do is subjective. We can’t ever know if it’s really any good, because “good” varies with the subject offering the opinion. But when I say “hey, listen to this idea” or “hey, does this work, do you think?” to a responsive, interested ear (like my husband), it helps with the isolation and quell that feeling of insanely typing away into the dark nothing.
So even though I have to wade into the swamp each day by myself and try to kill a middle, I’m not truly alone. I’m fortified by all the people that support me, and by the brave souls who have gone before and those who are wading into their own swamps alongside me. We’ll slog through. And we’ll get there.
Back to the swamp now. I’ve got a novel to slay.