[Guest Post] Why an “American” faerie tale? by Bishop O'Connell

Once more it is my pleasure to give over my blog to my friend Bishop O'Connell for a guest post. He is here to talk about his American Faerie Tale series and why he decided to make it American.

So Happy Publication Day to Bishop for the fourth book in his series, The Returned.

Almost a year after their wedding, and two since their daughter Fiona was rescued from a kidnapping by dark faeries, life has finally settled down for Caitlin and Edward. They maintain a facade of normalcy, but a family being watched over by the fae’s Rogue Court is far from ordinary. Still, it seems the perfect time to go on their long-awaited honeymoon, so they head to New Orleans.
Little do they know, New Orleans is at the center of a territory their Rogue Court guardians hold no sway in, so the Court sends in Wraith, a teenage spell slinger, to watch over them. It’s not long before they discover an otherworldly force is overtaking the city, raising the dead, and they’re drawn into a web of dark magic. At the same time, a secret government agency tasked with protecting the mortal world against the supernatural begins their own investigation of the case. But the culprit may not be the villain everyone expects. Can Wraith, Caitlin, and Edward stop whoever is bringing the vengeful dead back to life before another massacre, and before an innocent is punished for crimes beyond her control?

You can find The Returned at: 

Ebook: HarperCollinsAmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle PlayiTunesKobo

Print: HarperCollinsAmazonBarnes & Noble

Signed copies: The Fountain Bookstore

Why an "American" faerie tale?

The Returned is the fourth book in my series, An American Faerie Tale. The obvious question is, why the qualifier? Why an “American” faerie tale? Well, there isn’t much in the way of American myth, or legend, or faerie tales. Yes we have Ichabod Crane and the like, but most of our stories and legends came with the hopeful immigrants who carried them. I want America to have a mythology, a faerie tale that’s all its own. I want to write not “the great American novel,” but “the great American faerie tale.”

To do that, the stories have to reflect America. That means people from other nations should feel something familiar there. Have their own neighborhoods; a little Italy, Chinatown, little Havana, Irish district, or any other cultural neighborhood. Some might be just a block or two, and in this literary world I’ve formed it might be only a few pages, but I hope it’s something that feels like a warm and sincere welcome.

So how do I achieve that familiarity but keep the story “American?” It turns out the two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re one and the same. Just consider this simple phrase: e pluribus unum. Out of many, one. It’s the motto of the United States, and what the phrase embodies is what I love most about it. Originally it might have referred to the many states forming one nation, but I think it has come to mean so much more. It’s a cliché, but this nation really is a melting pot, a nation of immigrants. The United States’ culture is a collection and blending of countless other cultures. Most remarkably, none of them are diminished and the whole is made more with each addition. In short, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So to be an American faerie tale, I knew that’s what I have to achieve with my series. Each book is a snippet, a piece that adds to the whole. The Stolen, the first book, is set in New England, which has a large Irish influence, so that culture is what I focused on. I’m very proud of my Irish heritage. My family came to this country along with millions of other Irish and Scots, fleeing death during the Potato Famine. So, Celtic culture will continue to influence the series, but in keeping with the larger theme, it will blend into all the others as well. Just like the immigrants themselves did through the generations.

The Forgotten, the second book, is set in Seattle and includes the influence of Russian, German, and Native American mythologies. Three Promises, the third book, is a collection of short stories about characters from the first two books, so reflects both. Additionally, it has a short story about World War II, and the weight of those who fought tirelessly and valiantly, but always felt like could’ve done more.

The Returned, the fourth and latest book is set in New Orleans. There are Cajuns, Creoles, Native Americans, Haitian, French, and African mythologies at play. There is of course another history to the city, one that goes back to the days of slavery, and the implications such a history brings into the modern age. Like our country as a whole, it’s a city of complex history; some beautiful, some shameful. But I tried to capture the spirit of the city, embodied by its residents and best described by their official motto: laissez les bon temps rouler, let the good times roll.

In the natural world, diversity, genetically speaking, is what keeps a species relevant. I think culturally speaking, it’s what has made these United States relevant through history, and why I love it. Across the country there are endless stories and they all have their own magic and wonder. Some are terrifying, some heartbreaking, some beautiful, some truly hysterical, and still others all of the above. They’re told by the young and the old, the privileged and the disenfranchised, the hopeful and hopeless, the dreamers and cynics, those with long histories and those right off the boat. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m indecisive, but I don’t want to choose just one, I want them all! That probably says something about how long this series will continue if I get my way.

I want to write an “American” faerie tale because I want to reflect what I think makes America great. But, to truly be American, it must be a tale blending the cultures and heritages that define its citizenry. Individually we might be Irish American, Scots American, Russian American, Mexican American, African American, Native American, LGBTQ, straight, rich, poor, and countless combinations thereof, but together, we’re just Americans. I hope my series achieves this, but with stories. It might be lofty, but I’ve always believed there is no shame in failing if you’re reaching for the stars. 

* * *

Bishop O'Connell is the author of the American Faerie Tale series, a consultant, writer, blogger, and lover of kilts and beer, as well as a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Born in Naples, Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, CA where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. After wandering the country for work and school (absolutely not because he was in hiding from mind controlling bunnies), he settled Richmond, VA, where he writes, collects swords, revels in his immortality as a critically acclaimed "visionary" of the urban fantasy genre, and is regularly chastised for making up things for his bio. He can also be found online at A Quiet Pint, where he muses philosophical on life, the universe, and everything, as well as various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.

You can follow Bishop on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or at his Amazon Author Page, and he won't think that is creepy at all.

[Guest Post] But What About Your Second Novel? by Auston Habershaw

Payback can be tough, unless payback comes in the form of giving your friends a place to talk about writing. In that case, payback is both wonderful and informative. Today, my friend and fellow HVI author, Auston Habershaw is here to talk about writing his second book, No Good Deed, which releases today.

No Good Deed, is the second book in the Saga of the Redeemed trilogy.

Cursed with a magic ring that forbids skullduggery, Tyvian Reldamar’s life of crime is sadly behind him. Now reduced to fencing moldy relics and wheedling favors from petty nobility, he’s pretty sure his life can’t get any worse.
That is until he hears that his old nemesis, Myreon Alafarr, has been framed for a crime she didn’t commit and turned to stone in a penitentiary garden. Somebody is trying to get his attention, and that somebody is playing a very high-stakes game that will draw Tyvian and his friends back to the city of his birth and right under the noses of the Defenders he’s been dodging for so long. And that isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is that the person pulling all the strings is none other than the most powerful sorceress in the West: Lyrelle Reldamar. Tyvian’s own mother.

Buy it at: HarperCollins, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Apple

But What About Your Second Novel?

Auston Habershaw

For many young writers trying to break into the traditional publishing world, the primary focus is getting that first book deal, and with good reason—that deal represents the foot in the door, the start of the journey, the admission to the secret club with the secret handshakes and snake pit and what not. There’s a lot you learn while writing your first book (often the hard way), and there are huge amounts of good resources to advise you on what to expect on your way to that magical “yes” moment. I, however, want to spend some time talking to you about what comes after that.

Say you’ve gotten that book deal, published that first novel, and now your contract has you writing a second one for the same publisher. Or maybe your agent is there telling you what would be the best next move. Or maybe you’re just on your own again. The fact is, while everybody loves talking about how to deal with your first book, not at many people seem interested in telling you what goes on with your second. You’ve already got keys to the clubhouse, right? Why worry? Well, sadly it isn’t as easy as all that. Here’s a list of five things I learned while writing my second novel.

#1: Writing Every Novel Is Different

This is probably the worst thing I can tell you, but also what I think is the most true. The experience of writing one novel is not likely to be the same as writing any other. All that weeping and crying and grim determination you mustered in mastering that first book? Yeah, it’s coming back. Yes, you do learn from each book you write, and yes, you hopefully will improve as a writer, but you are almost guaranteed to get somewhere in the midst of your next book, face contorted in anguish, and yell KHAAAANNNN at the sky.

Thing is, though, that this is normal. It’s okay. I daresay it means you’re even doing it right. Novels are complicated beasts and, what’s more, they should be unique. You can’t and shouldn’t write the same book a million times in a row, so you shouldn’t expect the same experience every single time you do it.

#2: Editors Are Not Forever

If you’re anything like me, you expected your relationship with your editor to be something like when Butch met Sundance. “You and me,” the editor would say, with a steely glint in her eye, “are gonna take on the world, buddy!” and then we’d jump on our individual jet skis and fight ninjas with our laser axes.

Yeah. It ain’t like that.

My experience with my editors (note the plural) has been very good, mind you—no real complaints—but you are probably only one of their many, many authors all of whom they are trying desperately to give their attention to equally and all of whom are smothering them in a staggering workload. They are also human beings who have other things going on in their lives and sometimes that means leaving their job, or switching jobs, or going back to school, or whatever. And then there will be another editor there to take their place—hopefully every bit as professional and talented as the last one—and you will continue on with them. This is the nature of the business and it happens. It isn’t the end of the world.

#3: You Mean I Need To Worry About Word Count?!

When you are trying to get a book deal, you might think a bit about word count, but most of us probably just shrug and say “the story is going to be as long as it needs to be” and keep writing. In an ideal world, I suppose, this would be true—books should be as long or as short as prudent (assuming they’re well edited and not wasting our time or leaving us hanging). Unfortunately, once you’re under contract for another book, this isn’t the case anymore. The publisher wants a book that is between 90K and 100K words and no more and no less. That’s a binding document, buddy—a document you signed—so you’ve gotta do it now. And writing a novel with a word-count target is very hard. It’s a bit like shooting a tennis ball from a cannon and getting it to land in a trash barrel five miles away—it’s going to take a few tries.

The first draft of my second novel was 124,000 words. My editor needed it as far under 100K as possible, preferably closer to 90K. That meant I needed to cut 25-35 THOUSAND words from my complete, polished novel to make it fit. I lost a few years off my life there, let me tell you, but I did it (and am a much better editor of my own work as a result).

#4: Series Fatigue Is a Thing

When you start writing your series (and who doesn’t write a series these days, right?), you think you’re going to be writing that series forever and ever and ever. “It’ll have 9 books!” you’ll crow. Oh, my, what a glorious decade of book writing that will be! Ahahahahaha hahaha…hah..ha…heh…

Gulp.

Okay, so maybe that will happen—maybe the series will hit it big and you will write it forever and forever be known as the “space laser monkey lady” or whatever. Almost certainly not, though. And what’s more, you very probably will get tired of those same characters and that same world and that same story. I know it sounds crazy, but it is a very, very distinct possibility. Consider this: for every hour you spend reading your favorite series, the other probably spends a hundred hours writing it. Now, in a trilogy, that adds up to about three hundred hours of writing. Do you have many books that you would love to read for three hundred hours? Yeah, probably not. Sooner or later you, as a writer, will struggle with some heavy I’m-sick-of-this-shit-itis. You can get past it, but I’m telling you it’s coming.

#5: Writing Is a Calling, Not a Whim

For all the hard truths I’ve mentioned so far, though, there is one thing that is very, very worthwhile that you learn in that second book: writing is something that fulfills you on a level all other work does not. Even when it’s hard and you’re not making your word count and your editor has disappeared into the Sudan on a commando mission and you hate your stupid protagonist’s stupid face, you realize something: you’ve done this before, you can do it again, and, in the end, you will love having done it. That second book, and the conquest thereof, is a true rite of passage—plenty of people write one book, but authors write many. You are about to confirm what you’ve always known is true in your heart—you are an author, and this second book proves it wasn’t a fluke.

Press on. We’re with you. If you need me, I’ll be waiting by the snake pit.

* * *

On the day Auston Habershaw was born, Skylab fell from the heavens. This foretold two possible fates: supervillain or scifi/fantasy author. Fortunately he chose the latter, and spends his time imagining the could-be and the never-was rather than disintegrating the moon with his volcano laser. Auston is a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest and has had work published in Analog and Escape Pod, among other places. He lives and works in Boston, MA.

Want to keep up with Auston?

You can find him at his web site, Twitter, and Facebook.

[guest post] Wings of Sorrow and Bone by Beth Cato

Beth Cato is taking over my blog today to tell you about her newest novella in her Clockwork Dagger series, Wings of Sorrow and Bone. You can read an excerpt of the novella over at James Kendley's blog. Beth gives us a haunting new take on gremlins with gorgeous writing and great characters.

She is in the process of a blog tour, sharing excerpts and facts about her Clockwork Dagger world along the way. Don't miss it ... give her a follow so you can keep up with all of the good bits going on around this series!

Wings of Sorrow and Bone

How can two teenage girls defeat a man who is both a political powerhouse and a brilliant scientist, and save his laboratory gremlins from more foul experimentation?

That's the dilemma I faced as I started writing "Wings of Sorrow and Bone: a Clockwork Dagger Novella." My Clockwork Dagger books are filled with magic, ranging from the powerful healing gift of my heroine Octavia to aether-run airships to fire wielded on the field of war. But this novella, a follow-up to my second book The Clockwork Crown, features two girls who have no magical powers but are brilliant in different ways.

Rivka is a mechanist who daydreams of apprenticeship and endless inventions. She has only recently escaped a life of poverty and abuse, but by grit she's determined to make a new life for herself. When she stumbles upon Balthazar Cody's laboratory full of gremlins, she recognizes creatures who are caged and tormented, as she once was. She can't walk away. She must act.

Her ally is a not-so-good-guy from The Clockwork Crown. Tatiana Garret is Alonzo's little sister. She's intelligent, precocious, and manipulative to an extreme. She uses and disposes people like chess board pieces. Her interest in Mr. Cody's laboratory may not exactly be philanthropic, but Rivka is up against one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in all of Tamarania. She needs all the help she can get.

This is a novella about girl power and gremlins, and it's just 99-cents for the ebook!

Wings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella

A few months after the events of The Clockwork Crown ...

After being rescued by Octavia Leander from the slums of Caskentia, Rivka Stout is adjusting to her new life in Tamarania. But it’s hard for a blossoming machinist like herself to fit in with proper society, and she’d much rather be tinkering with her tools than at a hoity-toity party any day.

When Rivka stumbles into a laboratory run by the powerful Balthazar Cody, she also discovers a sinister plot involving chimera gremlins and the violent Arena game Warriors. The innocent creatures will end up hurt, or worse, if Rivka doesn’t find a way to stop Mr. Cody. And to do that means she will have to rely on some unexpected new friends.

Available for just 99-cents

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

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Google Play

iTunes

You can find the other great titles in Beth's Clockwork Dagger series at her website.

Follow Beth on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

[Guest Post] Why I love the darkness by A.F.E. Smith

[Guest Post] Why I love the darkness by A.F.E. Smith

The thing is, we all have a little bit of darkness inside us – and sometimes more than a little. Human nature is at once a wonderful and a terrifying thing, capable of both the most depraved atrocities and the most selfless acts of courage. That’s what it means to be human: we are demon and angel in one. And if everyone around you is behaving demonically, yet you can still listen to your angelic side … well, maybe that’s the true meaning of heroism. It is in the darkest night that the light shines most brightly.

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Disabilities and Strength in the Heart of a Warrior (#SFWApro)

I'm always excited when Sarah (Bookworm Blues) asks me for a post for her amazing SF Signal series, Special Needs in Strange Worlds. This week, my guest post is called Disabilities and Strength in the Heart of a Warrior, and you can read it at SF Signal's Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

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Alex Bledsoe and I talk about our novelette, Hisses and Wings, at SF Signal (#SFWApro)

This is just going to be a real short redirect post to let you know that Alex Bledsoe and I have an online conversation about our novelette, Hisses and Wings, over at SF Signal today. So if you're curious about how we came up with the story and characters, here's your chance to find out a little bit more. In other news ...

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The Character of Environment in Gothic Fiction

A few years back, just prior to a World Fantasy Con, a question was posited as to whether urban fantasy had become the new gothic horror due to the cityscapes taking the place of haunted houses and castles. It was an interesting idea, but one that I ultimately rejected. Urban fantasy has a texture that isn’t quite as dark as gothic horror; although, I will concede there are many elements that overlap (sorry, no Venn diagram is forthcoming from me).

However, the idea of a physical place, such as a house, a rural landscape, or a city, attaining the same characteristics as a person seems to be common to both urban fantasy and gothic horror. I recently read an NPR review for Lauren Beukes new novel, Broken Monsters, where Michael Schaub noted that Beukes renders Detroit as “… a major, tragic character in the novel.” Sarah Waters gives us a house in The Little Stranger that becomes haunted with a man’s desires.

Read the full post at Fantasy Book Critic

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Women Made of Chrome (a guest post)

I wish there were more Jane Navios in fantasy. Oh, you see them in science fiction and horror, but not in fantasy. There is an unwritten code that women in fantasy novels must not be older than thirty, or they’re all the grandmotherly types over sixty, but rarely are there any in the forty to fifty range. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but since the 1990s, female characters over forty seem to have faded into the background scenery, and very few are protagonists.

You can read the rest of this post over at the Hugo Award winning blog, A Dribble of Ink.

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writing contests and author photographs

Two cool things are going on around the interwebs this week:

A Writing Contest: Bloody Cake News is hosting a writing contest to help Mark Lawrence spread the good word about his newest novel, Prince of Fools.

Six authors will be judging the entries: Mark Lawrence, T.O. Munro, Snorri Kristjansson, Daniel Polansky, Luke Scull, and me. Entries have already begun to pour in, so go over to Bloody Cake News and see what the competition looks like. You have got until April 1, 2014 to give us your best three hundred words ... make them count.

[Edited to add: my flash fiction, Comes the Night, was only 231 words. You can do it!]

Authors on Author Photos: M.L. Brennan asked a bunch of us what we really thought about author photos. I'm over at her place this week along with authors Jason Hough, Delilah Dawson, Django Wexler, Elspeth Cooper, Stephen Blackmore, Mazarkis Williams, and Zachary Jernigan. We discuss the dreaded author photograph and what these pictures mean to us.

In other things, I'm busy with my latest work and will be around sporadically.

Stay out of trouble.

Yeah, I'm talking to you.

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.