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What's New:

The Neverland's Library Anthology is now on sale! With an introduction by Tad Williams and stories by Mark Lawrence, Marie Brennan, Jeff Salyards, Miles Cameron, Joseph R. Lallo, Mercedes M. Yardley, William Meikle, J.M. Martin, Teresa Frohock, and many more, the Neverland's Library Anthology is a collection of original works will take readers back to that moment when they first fell in love with the genre.

Miserere is now available at Audible.

My short story "Naked the Night Sings" is only one of the many fine stories in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, Angelic Knight Press, 2013.

Free!

 

Death comes for us all.

Keep her as your friend.

 Read "La Santisima"

Novels

"Filled with show me now and tell me later prose, [Miserere] was one of the finest debuts of 2011 and remains a novel that I remember details from nearly three years later." Justin Landon, Tor.com

Download an excerpt of Miserere here

Thursday
Jan232014

and now for a very teeny story--comes the night (#SFWApro)

And now for a very teeny story:

Comes the Night

Comes the night, thin fingers reach past broken glass and grit. Warm asphalt oozes open; weeds part like thin gray ribbons. Brown bottles litter the ground. The yeasty odor of old beer clings to the soil.

Skin-taker’s blind face rises up. The head weaves from side to side, then suddenly stops.

The scent of cheap perfume, more alcohol than flowers, wafts through the air.

Roses at Midnight

Skin-taker slithers through the grass, toward the scent.

Roses

Comes the night, Skin-taker creeps past the rusted trailers set all in a row. There are steps: one-two-three. At the door, thin fingers start rapping, tapping—way down low where the paint flakes across the threshold.

The door opens. A sliver of light leaks through. It’s not much, but it is enough. Skin-taker flies up. It has one chance. This time it is lucky. It catches the woman in her eye. Plunging into the soft tissue, Skin-taker finds the nerve and flows into her brain.

The woman notices nothing more than a sting in her eye.

From the kitchen, a man asks, Who is it?

Nobody.

The woman returns to the kitchen. The butcher knife is too heavy and will not do. She takes up the boning knife. Moonlight catches the cold, silver blade.

The man turns. Honey?

Skin-taker smiles with woman’s mouth but not with her eyes.

Comes the night, Skin-taker takes some skin.

Saturday
Jan182014

free short story & the value of critique partners (#SFWApro)

First, a brief message: Just a reminder that I have posted a free short story "La Santisima" for you. If you would prefer to download it to your device, you can get the epub and mobi versions at Smashwords. You can rate it on Goodreads if you like.

In other news, I spent some time with my critique partner yesterday. We usually do chapter critiques via email. That is so that we can spend our face-time brainstorming both characterization and plot issues.

Last week, I sat down and developed an bulleted outline for the last half of the book. This is a reference that I can scan prior to writing the chapter. It contains nothing more than a list of plot points.

However, when my partner and I met, I went through the entire outline. This turned into one of those dreaded forty minute speeches entitled "What My Novel is About." It was the type of blow-by-blow account that sends most professional authors and agents into glaze-eyed comas where they nod occasionally (note: the nodding isn't in agreement, or a social cue to continue, they are usually fighting sleep).

On the other hand, my partner, who is a professional author, listened attentively and interjected some helpful points of her own just as I do for her. That is what critique partners do. We know one another's novels as intimately as our own. Neither of us are looking for a pat on the back, more often than not, we're looking for weak spots in one another's work.

The "What My Novel is About" speech is one that I always save for my critique partner and no one else. When I am at cons or other events and someone asks me about my work, I usually have a tag-line prepared. Nothing that will take more than a minute or two to explain. If the author or editor wants to know more, they will ask. Otherwise, we can move the conversation on to more interesting topics.

I would much rather someone read my work than hear me tell them about it. I believe the power is in the characters' voices and the story.

I will have a blurb for Cygnet Moon soon. I want to you meet Makar, but I want you to hear his story through his words, not mine.

And don't forget to check out "La Santisima" if you have time. 

Friday
Jan102014

I wrote a story with a traditionally masculine character named Rachael

Paul S. Kemp wrote about why he writes masculine stories, which in turn generated two very thoughtful posts from Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes on what masculinity means both to them personally and within their fiction. I liked the manner and the respect with which both Chuck and Sam disagreed with Paul's definition of "traditionally masculine" behaviors. I enjoyed watching these men suss through society's perceived expectations in order to work toward a more universal definition of masculinity. 

Paul calls his stories "masculine stories," which are populated by men--manly men in the traditional sense of male-oriented behaviors such as: 

They answer violence with violence. They’re courageous in the face of danger. They’re stoic in the face of challenges/pain. They have their emotions mostly in check. And they act in accordance with a code of honor of some kind. Thematic elements in a lot of my work that square with this involve the obligations of fatherhood, the depths of friendship between men who’ve faced death together, the bonds of brotherhood (figuratively).

I read those qualities and thought to myself: My God, he has just described Rachael. Although readers didn't see it in Miserere, Rachael does tend to drink too much and though she doesn't womanize, she does the female equivalent and has had several lovers. We won't delve too deeply into those aspects of her character here. Instead, I want to talk about her nobler qualities--those aspects of her character that are "traditionally masculine."

I wrote Miserere like this on purpose. I wanted to flip the traditional themes that Paul talks about--you know, where the manly prince rides out and saves the princess from dire death and savage beasts. Only I wanted the princess to ride out and save the prince. Unfortunately, not many people picked up on Rachael--most were focused on twelve-year-old Lindsay. Lindsay is merely a hero in the making. Rachael is the real hero. 

Rachael is the grown-up and the more multifaceted character. She doesn't blame others for her condition. She is stoic in the face of challenges and death. It is Rachael who runs toward a charging horse and takes the animal down to unseat the rider; Rachael who struggles through the mud and reaches up to plunge her dagger into her enemy's throat. Rachael is the risk-taker, the leader, the warrior. Rachael fights the Wyrm to protect both Lucian and Lindsay, both of whom are too weak to fight. It is Rachael who closes the door on Caleb (one of my favorite scenes and her decision in that scene tells you everything you will ever need to know about Rachael's character).

Rachael rescues Lucian repeatedly all the way from Ierusal to the Citadel. As a matter of fact, it is only at the very end that Lucian finally stands up for himself in front of the congregation, because he knows that his silence will take Rachael down with him.

I thought a lot about traditionally masculine characteristics when I wrote Lucian's character. He is duty-bound, and that inflexibility within his personality almost kills him. His sister cripples him and essentially does everything in her power to emasculate him, but instead of weakening him, she forces him to re-examine those traditionally masculine characteristics that have led to his imprisonment. He sees himself differently and redefines his masculinity to mold himself into the man he is meant to be and not the man that others expect him to be.

Garden in Umber was an experiment for me. I wanted to examine male perceptions through men's eyes. I deliberately wrote Garden with only a couple of female characters. Guillermo is a manly man who would fit right into one of Paul's worlds, but he is also broken, both emotionally and spiritually, by the very traits that his society imposes on him. Guillermo doesn't revel in his hard-drinking, brotherhood oriented, soldierly life. It is a dangerous world in which he lives, and nonconformity can bring a man an ugly death.

And that, I suppose, is another issue that I have with Paul's essay. He glamorizes the brotherhood where my research showed me no such glamour existed. Human beings are pack animals, and the alpha man or woman can drag hundreds down with them. Men are especially brutal to one another.

Guillermo runs rather than face the horror of being punished for killing an officer. Guillermo argues that the officer gave the insult, so that he was justified in killing him. Tomás believes in the laws. He argues that Guillermo must return and accept his punishment like a man.

The penalty for killing an officer during a conflict meant that Guillermo would be shaved of his hair and beard, an act so vicious that it was compared to being scalped alive; he would submit himself to the lash; and pay off the monetary portion of his debt as a servant to the officer's family. Guillermo sees no honor in this punishment. He'd rather turn his back on everything and run.

Honor is a fickle code that is often defined by black and white. Motives, on the other hand, are colored in shades of gray.

As I worked on my research for the men in Garden, I realized that men spend a lot of time fighting society's perceived roles for them. Men, like women, want to be accepted for who they are, not squashed into a predefined box of personality traits.

While working on characters and characterization, I become more aware of the damage we inflict on men and women when we create unrealistic expectations for behavior. We are shaped by our culture.

Cygnet Moon is another gender flip that I want to explore. Too many fantasy novels produce loving mothers based on the "traditional feminine" aspect that women are nurturing. Makar's mother, Agata, is no such woman. She hates her spouse and her child and places her ambition over both. Were she male, I'd simply be playing into one of the "traditionally masculine" tropes. I want to see what happens when it is the queen who places her aspirations over family.

Makar is damaged too. After an altercation with a demon, Makar's bodyguard Ikal comments that "We are battle-scarred men now.” To which Makar replies, “I think we have always been battle-scarred. Our wounds are merely on the outside now.”

Like most young people, Makar is aware of his scars, but he is not sure how to heal himself. He believes that "the wounds of childhood never heal; we merely learn to control the bleeding."

Makar is young enough to still see the world in black and white. His adventures and subsequent brotherhood and bonding with his friends will lead him to view life in shades of gray. He will be forced to face his culture's expectations for male children and how those expectations impact who he is as a person.

As I write Makar, I'm keenly aware of the very gender assumptions that Paul wrote about in his essay. I'm glad he brought the issue forward; although like Chuck and Sam, I have to disagree with his premise. There is nothing wrong with writing adventure stories; however, I worry when we, as authors, feed into gender stereotypes by naming characteristics in terms of gender. Young people tend to gravitate toward genre fiction, and authors have an opportunity to help young people question the status quo.

I believe that is one reason why I love the comic Saga so much. A novel--a story--forces two young people on opposing sides of a conflict to re-examine their roles and to see one another as people. Superficially, Saga is about two young people on the run. At a much deeper level, Saga is about the power of stories, and how that power transcends masculine and feminine to become an entity unto itself.

I do want to thank Paul for his post. He made me think more deeply about gender roles and how I use them in my work. I also hope that his post generates more discussion about gender roles and how we perceive them, both in fiction and in our culture.

Friday
Jan102014

A Friday peek at Cygnet Moon (#SFWApro)

Every other Friday, my critique partner and I meet to go over our respective works and brainstorm the next step in our stories. We had to reschedule this week due to my cold, so I thought I'd share a little piece of the current work in progress:

Mother rose and looked down on me. Her ar’nel temporarily blinded my vision as she probed my mind for a lie. Without the drugs, I could have shielded my thoughts and memories from her, but whatever Sun had slipped into my food left me rotten and naked before her magic. She saw my inhibitions laid bare.

She finally announced, “We believe you, Makar.”

Before she could withdraw from my mind, my ar’nel rose up and vomited my animosity in her face. My darkness burned holes in the mists of her magic.

I struggled up through the narcotics and enunciated each word. “I. Hate. You.”

She turned her face from my rage. “Take care, Makar.”

“Father loved you, and you ran him away too,” I said with tears in my eyes. “You made him hate us.”

Her open palm struck my cheek so hard I felt the sting of her blow in spite of the narcotics. I pursed my lips and tried to spit at her but my mouth was too dry.

She flinched anyway. I’d taken her by surprise. She expected my tears, my sorrow, but she had not anticipated my rage.

When she looked at me again, her glare had turned diamond sharp.

We became enemies that night.

I'll be back on Monday. I've got a contest coming up soon, so stay tuned for that. 2014 is going to rock. You just watch.

Wednesday
Jan012014

feeding the imagination (#SFWApro)

During 2013, I didn't have a lot of time to read due to writing and all the other things that I talked about in my year end wrap-up. I intend to rectify that in 2014. In addition to my annual business plan, I've decided to develop a definitive reading plan as well. Nonfiction is always a given for me due to the necessity for research; however, I think that having a good plan for reading fiction is just as vital.

More than once, I have arrived at plot or characterization solutions by allowing my imagination to free-roam through another's work, whether it be a short-story, a novel, or a movie. The experience is very difficult to explain, but often a word or a phrase will trigger the solution to an entirely different problem that I am having with my work. Fiction excites the imagination, and the old adage about drawing from an empty well is entirely apropos in any artistic endeavor.

Therefore, I will feed my imagination more this year. I've crafted a partial plan for 2014:

Colder Greyer Stones by Tanith Lee. I have long been a fan of Tanith Lee's works, especially her short stories. I am already halfway through this collection and I am savoring it to make it last. Lee's prose is haunting and lyrical and her imagery remains in my mind long after I've put her stories down.

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman. I'm in the dead middle of this novel now and I will finish it during the first part of the year. If you love knights, angelology, and horror, you are in for a major treat.

Tainted City by Courtney Schafer. I always try to keep up with my friends and their works, not just out of the feeling of mutual support, but also because I always find something to enjoy in their novels. Courtney has created two very memorable characters with Dev and Kiran, and she knows how to write an adventure novel. I absolutely loved The Whitefire Crossing, and I am really looking forward to digging into the sequel.

A Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman. This book has earned nothing but praise from the book bloggers who I trust, so this will be my starting point for C.S. Friedman's works.

The Tower Broken by Mazarkis Williams. Having already finished The Emperor's Knife and Knife Sworn, I can't wait to see how Williams ends the saga. This novel is already available in the U.K. I'm waiting for it to hit the U.S.

Iron Night by M.L. Brennan. Generation V was the last book that I finished in 2013, and if you're looking for a fun romp filled with vampires and kitsune and all kinds of yummy action, this is the book for you. Meanwhile, Brennan continues Fort's adventures with Iron Night, and I hear there are some really interesting plot developments in store for the vampires and kitsune alike.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. Here is another author whose work I've been dying to read. I just love Ilona's voice and the snippets she posts on her blog, so I have this as one of my must-reads for 2014. Everyone, absolutely everyone, seems to love this series, so I will finally meet Kate Daniels in 2014.

There is a mix here of horror, fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance, and there is a reason for that. For me, reading a diverse selection of literature helps me grow as a writer. I love seeing authors use different techniques and methods to tell their stories.

In addition to the books that I've listed here, I will probably read some thrillers and literary fiction and romances too. I'm also trolling other authors and bloggers to see what they're reading. Whenever one of our librarians comes to me and says, read this, you will love it, I don't question either of them. I read the book, because even if I don't love the book, I will have broadened my reading experience and fed my imagination a little more.

So if you have a minute, tell me what is on your to-read pile in 2014? How will you feed your imagination? And in what genres?

Friday
Dec272013

Miserere is now available on Audible (#SFWApro)

You can file this one under shameless self-promotion:

For those of you who might have missed it, Miserere: An Autumn Tale is now available at Audible. Narrated by Eileen Stevens, Miserere is described by one reviewer as "good, edgy fantasy."

"... Frohock creates a tale that is part horror, part fantasy, and completely engrossing ..."

Go on ... get your scary bits ... they're good for you ...

Thursday
Dec262013

Where I have been...visiting Mark Lawrence & SFSignal (#SFWApro)

Well, I didn't really go to the UK. It was more of a virtual thing.

I've been using my Tumblr to get word out lately, because my host provider suffered DDoS attacks over the last few weeks. Things seemed to have settled down now, so we'll see how it goes.

In case you missed the Tumblr links, here are a few things that went on in December:

Pat Rothfuss is hosting his annual fund drive for Worldbuilders, and I have donated a signed copy of Miserere and a signed copy of Manifesto: UF, which contains my short story, "Naked the Night Sings." Both of these items are in the Lottery Library. Pat talks about Worldbuilders and how you can donate at his blog.

I visited Mark Lawrence at his blog and talked about how women are marketed differently than men in addition to a lot of other things.

As an addendum to that interview: Someone compared the use of religious iconology in Miserere to Christopher Buehlman's Between Two Fires. Out of curiosity, I got my hands on a copy of Between Two Fires and I am currently reading it (for the record, I am enjoying it immensely). Oddly enough, Buehlman has a child character in his novel and I don't see any YA comparisons being made.

Personally, I think that Buehlman's work is more comparable to my Garden in Umber in respect to the time period, knights, and the use of angelology as a backdrop for the story. Now I'm more convinced than ever that women are expected to write within certain themes and not move outside the YA/PNR spectrum without forfeiting their "marketability."

Speaking of marketability ... my short story "La Santisima" is still free and is now on Goodreads if you want to read it, comment, or rate it. I warn you, though, "La Santisima" is very different than some of my other short stories, so your mileage might vary significantly as to whether or not you like it. It was an interesting exercise for me and I learned a lot by working on it.

The most amazing Sarah Chorn, who hosts the blog Bookworm Blues, also writes a series of posts for SF Signal. Sarah and I traded emails for several weeks and you can see the results of our discussion at her on-going series, Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

I talk about why Glokta is one of my favorite characters and the importance of portraying disabilities realistically in my own stories. It was a fun interview and Sarah is a skilled interviewer.

I'm spending my "vacation" fine-tuning the first part of Cygnet Moon and outlining the last half of the story. The novel is coming along very nicely, and I'm pleased with the tone.

That is all that I have for you now. There will be more fun and games in the New Year, so stay tuned.

Sunday
Dec152013

Year end wrap-up (#SFWApro)

A look back on 2013

I read a lot of novels by men during 2012 and 2013, because I wanted to analyze the differences between male and female authors. The Gender Bending post of late 2012, early 2013 was one of my most popular posts ever; although, I hesitate to call it mine. Several wonderful authors contributed to that project in late December 2012 through early January 2013, so in many ways it belongs to all of us. Thank you again to everyone who contributed their time and energy to make that project work, especially to the fans who guessed and commented.

What we found out was what we already knew: unless the name automatically indicated a gender, there was approximately a 50/50 chance that the participants would guess wrong.

My writing

Dolorosa (Book 2 of the Katharoi series). I completed a solid first chapter to Miserere's sequel, Dolorosa. I had just started work on the synopsis when Night Shade Books initiated the sale of the company to Skyhorse/Start. For a variety of reasons, Dolorosa was put on hold.

Given the time limitations that I have for writing, I have to focus on projects that have a chance of selling. I spent most of April and May trying to work out a feasible schedule for the project and finally decided that anything with the Katharoi series had to be placed on hold for the duration of one year at the very least.

Miserere: An Autumn Tale. Is now available at Audible where it is drawing some very nice reviews.

In other good news, Miserere has officially earned out on the Skyhorse side of the debit sheet. For that little miracle, I owe all of my thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy of Miserere, either ebook, print, or audio. You have my deepest gratitude.

Miserere also took a major shout-out on Tor.com in the Under the Radar series. Check out the Under the Radar series for more great books that you might have missed.

Short Stories. Given all of the upheaval going on around me in April/May, I concentrated on short stories:

  • "La Santisima" is an original short story that is here on the blog and you can read it for free.
  • "Naked the Night Sings," is merely one of the many fine stories featured in Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, Angelic Knight Press, 2013.
  • "Love, Crystal and Stone," will appear in Neverland's Library Fantasy Anthology, edited by Roger Bellini, Neverland Books, March 2014. You can read an exclusive excerpt from "Love, Crystal and Stone" at Fantasy Book Critic.

I also wrote two more short stories that will be going on submission after the first of the year:

  • "Down to the River" a coming of age story about a young sin-eater.
  • "White like Snow" a story about two brothers who find a haunted castle.

Cygnet Moon. I have a synopsis and almost 50,000 words on this novel. I'm really pleased with both the story and the characterization so far.

General observations

In spite of all of the set-backs, I don't feel too bad about 2013. I wrote over 30,000 words on short stories and 50,000 words on a new novel. That figure doesn't include word counts from submission packages, blog posts, interviews, etc.

Not bad. In 2014, I will finish Cygnet Moon and begin work on Dolorosa. More and more people are asking for Miserere's sequel and in every review people mention that they would like to revisit Woerld. I hope to make that possible for you.

To all of the awesome people who have been so kind as to read Miserere and give the book a shout-out whenever and where ever you can. Thank you!

Celebrate the season in whatever way you see fit. I'll be with the most tolerant people in the world ... my lovely family.

I'll see you again in 2014.

Watch for me.

Monday
Dec092013

Author chat, Round Three: books we love & cons & fans (#SFWApro)

ML Brennan had a really cool idea to have an online author chat and I was lucky enough to get invited to the party! She talks about the author chats in round one on her blog. Essentially, for those of you who are just tuning in, there are four authors involved with these little chats and we each came up with two questions for each round. We answer the questions in a group email, then each of us will post a chat to one of our blogs.

So if you're here now, you're reading Author Chat, Round Three. The fun part of this is that you don't have to read the chats in order, and you can bounce around at your leisure.

Author Chat, Round One: Unicorns, Highlanders, and the Characters We Kill is with ML Brennan.

Author Chat, Round Two: Worldbuilding and Things We Put in Our Books Just Because They’re Cool is at Django Wexler's blog.

Author Chat, Round Four: ALL THE LIES! is over at Leigh Bardugo's blog.

Check them all out when you can.

And now ... Author Chat, Round Three:

Tell us about one novel that you wish you had written.

Teresa: All the good ones. No, really, I do have several novels that I wish I'd written, but for the sake of discussion here I'll narrow it down to just two:

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip. I just love the entire story of a prince who is so sad that he is willing to give his heart to a witch. His wife and son have died and he believes that he will never love again. He no longer needs a heart. There is a princess who is forced to marry the prince. Yet she stands up and says that she will not marry a prince without a heart, so she sets out to restore the prince to his heart. Of course, this is McKillip, so there is a wizard and a witch and a haunted forest. I think this is one of my favorite McKillip stories. The beauty of the tale lies in its simplicity and McKillip’s elegant prose. It’s just perfect.

The other story I wish I’d written isn't a novel, but a short story "Bite-Me-Not or, Fleur De Feu" by Tanith Lee. I read this story and immediately wished I'd written it. It's about a woman who falls in love with a vampire, but nothing is quite as it seems. Lee's prose is absolutely lyrical and the ending is so very sweet. If I ever taught a class on how to write a perfect story, this would be mandatory reading.

Leigh: Lawd, I never know what to make of this question, but I'm going with Glen David Gold's Carter Beats the Devil. It's one of the most perfectly plotted books I've read, and it also strikes this tone of possibility that I haven't encountered many other places. It's an intimate story, but it has grand scale. It's historical fiction, but there's an element of magical realism. It's whimsical and improbable, but grounded in something sinister, and heartbreaking, and absurdist. After I read it, I started trying to write a literary novel set in early 1900s Los Angeles. I never got past chapter two. At the same time, I'd hate to have written Carter because then I'd be deprived of the pleasure of simply reading it.

ML: This is a really interesting question, because I think how we respond says something about our own writing styles, or what we see ourselves as potentially capable of. For example, I’m a huge fan of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and its utterly dreamy, beautifully rendered prose, but every time I read it I’m impressed again at her tight cross-cutting between the times, and the way Morgenstern was able to really build up the mystery of certain events that are eluded to as in the past (or sometimes the future), before later pacing out the scene. But I’m a pretty methodical A to B plotter (at least at this point in my writing career), and while I admire that book greatly, I’m just not sure that that style of writing is in my wheelhouse. That leads to me admiring it, but not being jealous of it. I think the “I wish I’d written that” emerges from that little itching of where admiration meets jealousy.

So with that rather long-winded caveat – Wrapt In Crystal by Sharon Shinn. On the surface it’s a sci-fi mystery, but it has so many layers pondering that nature of religion, of guilt, of survival, and how people interact with each other. It’s not a book that would make my Top 50 books of all time, but it’s a book that every time I go back and re-read it, I feel like I learn something new from it.

Django: When I was in college, I wrote (or started writing) a novel about gods in the modern day. It was something about the old god-archetypes had been forgotten and neglected, and the new god-archetypes had been created by TV, movies, and popular culture.  It wasn’t very good, and I eventually gave up on it in frustration. Some years later, I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and I had this moment of, “Oh, that’s what I was trying to do! I’m glad someone who could actually do it gave it a shot!”

The novel that I wish I had the skill to write is probably Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, not coincidentally one of my all-time favorites. It’s not a perfect book – it wanders, plot-wise, and the ending is a bit anti-climactic – but there’s so much wonderful prose in there that every time I read I find myself constantly wanting to bookmark bits to show other people how amazingly clever they are. So maybe not that specific book, but I would love to write something that gives the reader that feeling.

How do you maintain your audience/reader connection between novels? With Blog posts? Short stories? What is your favorite way to interact with fans?

Teresa: I love cons, but due to my inability to hear, cons can be more stressful than helpful for me sometimes. Also, cons are expensive. Very expensive. So I've been sticking to the local scene these last two years.

Twitter is my favorite way to interact. Blog posts can take more time than I like sometimes, because I want the post to be entertaining and factual. Writing whatever comes straight out of my head is never good. It's very easy to forget that when I'm online, people can't hear the tone of my voice or see if I'm smiling, and my writing style can be somewhat sharp from time to time. When in doubt about my own tone, I usually don't air the post. I can't tell you how many opinion pieces I've written only to delete them.

So I've shifted course a little this year and put my writing focus on short stories. I've really enjoyed writing them and have even sold a couple. I enjoy the short stories, because I can experiment with different characters and techniques without the time investment of a novel.

Leigh: I used to be a really sporadic blogger. It just doesn't come naturally to me and I had to drop out of a group blog that I loved because I would get so stressed out over posting. Then I discovered tumblr (cue trumpets) and everything changed. I think I'm at ease there because I don't just have to be an author, I can also be a fan. I can get excited or irate over the things I love. I can wax shamelessly about my favorite ships and shows. 

As far as connecting with readers between books, I honestly feel like it's the readers themselves who do the heavy lifting—through fanart and graphics, fanmixes, fic. I love seeing it and reblogging it. I do my best to answer asks as frequently as I can. I try to keep up with my twitter feed. But it's the readers who are really generating content and connection. They're the ones who speak up when someone says, "Should I give this book a try?" They're the ones who bring the characters to life beyond the pages of the series. And I happen to have lucked into a particularly generous and talented group of readers. 

The best thing is when I'm on tour and I get to meet people I know from twitter and tumblr. It makes me feel like I have friends in every city, and as a secretly shy person, that's really comforting.

ML: I feel like everything that’s happened since May, which was when Generation V (cheap plug! everyone drink!) debuted, has been a crash course into how to build a readership in the first place. I’m kind of in a bit of a head-scratching phase right now, because everything was so focused on the first book, but Iron Night comes out next month and it feels like a completely different setup. Can I get an extension on this question until next August? I feel like I’ll have a better answer then. :)

I find blogging to be a special kind of painful. It can be really useful, but at the same time I always feel weirdly resentful when I post a 500-word blog post – it’s like, that could’ve been 500 words in a book! Which is funny, because I love reading other people’s blogs, and I see a lot of people who are extremely good in that format. I think I just don’t quite have the right skillset. Cons, however, I love (though Teresa is right – expensive! plus there are only a few a year within easy traveling distance), but I have actually had the most fun with Twitter. I feel like it’s really easy for someone who has just picked up one of the books to tweet at me, and a conversation can start. Plus comments can go back and forth at a pace that is much more like a regular conversation, which can be lost on other platforms or email. The only challenge has been learning how to hone down my responses to 150 characters. So many of my best jokes are wordy!

Django: I’m sort of in the same position that ML is, since my first book came out this year. My first con as an author was San Diego Comic-Con, a week after the release – talk about in at the deep end. I did a few more over the summer, at that was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure it was terribly useful in connecting with readers.  (It was great in terms of connecting and making friends with other authors and industry people though!)

I used to do a fair bit of blogging, but it dried up when I acquired a public persona, because it was mostly on politics and other contentious subjects. I just recently started writing a column on “anime for SFF fans” over at SF Signal, and also doing some podcasts there, which has been a lot of fun. Project like this Q&A are helpful too!

My next experiment is an urban fantasy novella I’m going to release for Kindle, hopefully sometime this month. It’s not something I’ve ever done before, so we’ll see if people dig it!

* * *

If you enjoyed reading our conversation, you can check out more about each author right here:

Leigh Bardugo: The bestselling Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm can be bought now. The conclusion of the Grisha trilogy, Ruin and Rising will be published June 3, 2014. Learn more at http://www.leighbardugo.com.

M. L. Brennan: Generation V is in stores now, and its sequel Iron Night will be published January 7, 2014. Learn more by clicking any above links.

Django Wexler: The Thousand Names is in stores now. The second in The Shadow Campaign series, The Shadow Throne will be published July 1, 2014, and Wexler’s middle-grade fantasyThe Forbidden Library will be published April 15, 2014. Learn more at http://djangowexler.com/.

And, of course, you always know where to find me.

Wednesday
Dec042013

Unicorns, Highlanders, & the characters we kill! (#SFWApro)

I know that a lot of you enjoy going to cons, and I also know a lot you cannot attend cons due to financial reasons or because there simply aren't that many cons in your area. ML Brennan had a cool idea ... why not bring the con to the fans by creating an online author panel?

Please join me, Leigh BardugoML Brennan, and Django Wexler, for an informal author chat. The best part? You can read it at your leisure.

So here we are in Round 1 talking about Unicorns, Highlanders, and the characters that we kill!

Wait, you say [because I just know you say things in your head while reading these posts--don't you?]. I love interacting with the authors!

Got a question or a comment? Leave it in the comments for us and we'll answer you. So what are you waiting for? We're hanging out at ML Brennan's place. Go check us out.