hey ho, here we go ... just a spot of updates ...

hey ho, here we go ... just a spot of updates ...

Just a few things going on behind the scenes:

First up I join several other authors for a Mind Meld at the most excellent SF Signal on The Most Memorable Deaths in Science Fiction and Fantasy. That was a fun Mind Meld.

The next piece of news concerns the ebook Miserere, which is still on sale for $1.99 at most online retailers. How long this will last, I do not know, so if you haven't read it, and you want to read it, go out and get it, BUT ...

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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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family in Miserere--a question by ML Brennan (#SFWApro)

I have another question: this one comes from ML Brennan (whose books you should read ... just sayin'):

In Miserere a fundamental portion of the world construction was about a created sense of family between the foundlings and the adults who essentially became their new parents. Lucian and Rachael are estranged former lovers, but one of the primary things that brings them back together is the need of Lucian's newly-discovered foundling. For a book that features so many orphans who are building new identities in a new world, there's an amazing emphasis on bonds of a nuclear family (Rachael and Lucian also share the same foster parent, who with his wife also forms another nuclear family unit) -- what drove this theme?

Weird as this may sound, I didn't think too much about the nuclear aspect of the families when I wrote Miserere. I wanted to examine the nature vs. nurture aspect of childhood, and the best way to study this is through the adoption process.

I knew two things: both Rachael and Lucian came from damaged childhoods and in order to develop into reasonably healthy adults, they would need firm guidance while maturing. I gave them John and Tanith simply because that is the way in which they popped into my head.

Also, not all of the families were nuclear. Not everyone had a spouse. If you'll remember, Caleb raised Victor alone. Victor got into trouble, but only because he was curious and inexperienced. Victor wasn't malicious, and he suffered no ill effects from being raised by a single parent.

As for the John-Tanith/Rachael-Lucian paradigm, it just worked out that way in Miserere, and since most--almost all--of the action took place outside of the Citadel, I had very little room to give an overall picture of the social structure in Woerld. When I focused on the scenes between Lucian and Lindsay, I figured that his primary objective was in survival as well as keeping Lindsay from inadvertently killing them both with her undeveloped powers rather than delving too deeply into the Citadel's society and how it functioned.

The actual family units were constructs that I saved for Dolorosa. There are at least two same-sex couples within the Citadel. Unfortunately, I didn't get to put them Miserere, but Lindsay will question their presence at the Citadel at some point. She will be told that love between two people is a reflection of the divine.

So it wasn't so much of a theme for nuclear parents, but more of a theme of adoption. How does adoption affect children when they are taken from one set of parents and placed with another? In our society, we expect these children to adapt like puppies and kittens, but even infants have shown changes in their brain chemistry when they are taken from their birth parents and placed in a new home.

The child's sense of security is threatened; the world is suddenly a hostile place, sown with uncertainties. It's not a new theme. Disney has used it over and over.

Most YA literature is about youngsters searching for their identities. However, a person's identity doesn't magically stop evolving after age twenty.

I wanted to write about adults who utilized their past experiences to further develop their personalities. So with Miserere, I examined the adoption theme from the adult perspective. How did their removal from their respective homes affect them?

Rachael doesn't look back. There was nothing in her earthly life but abuse and horror. She left her father to drown in a well, and though the memory haunts her, she feels no remorse for his death. She accepts her place in Woerld and will eventually thrive in Woerld's environment.

Lucian, on the other hand, has intense memories and a longing for home. He can relate to Lindsay's desire to return to Earth, and her initial refusal to accept Woerld.

Lucian wants to protect Lindsay, she ignites his paternal instincts into overdrive. Rachael wants to protect Lindsay too, but there is a distinct difference in how they value the child. Lucian shifts his strong paternal instincts from Catarina, who has rejected him over and over, to Lindsay, who values him, and Rachael sees Lindsay as a valuable soldier in their war against the fallen.

Lucian wants to nurture Lindsay into becoming a good person, and Rachael sees a weapon to be honed against the Fallen. In spite of all of this, I never really saw Lindsay as being the unifying force between Rachael and Lucian. She is more of an observer, the reader's eye into the story.

In a lot of ways, Miserere is about families, but it wasn't the nuclear theme that I wanted to stress. I wanted to examine whether blood really is thicker than water.

Lucian finds the opposite is true.

Miserere ebook is on sale & Bloody Cakes ... (#SFWApro)

Big news hit this morning: the ebook of Miserere: An Autumn Tale is on sale at Amazon US for $2.99. This is a limited time offer that is so limited I don't even know how long it will last.

If you're not in the US and you'd like a lower price, try Baen Ebooks for $6.00.

[Special note: authors don't control prices, but when we see our stuff is on sale, we pass that info along to you.]

LINKS:

On Saturday, I visited Bloody Cake News for their Perilous Roses series. I answered their questions and if you have a question for me, drop it in the comments and I'll answer it for you. (Thanks to Mihir for supplying my bonus question!)

On Sunday, I returned to Bloody Cake News with a special recipe for red velvet cake sans the glass and blood. Add those at your own risk.

I received two more questions in response to my Facebook post, but those were more apropos for blog posts. I'll be around later this week to answer them.

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 ...

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.

hitting your target audience

Several people have remarked or asked why Lindsay, Lucian's twelve-year-old foundling, wasn't on the cover or mentioned in the blurb of Miserere. First of all, Miserere never got a catchy blurb, what you're seeing on the back of the book was the synopsis from my query letter. A teaser blurb and a query letter are two different animals; however in this instance one factor would have remained the same: Lindsay would not have been mentioned.

Both the query and the blurb had to be whittled down to the show the bare essence of the story, and while Lindsay plays a very important supporting role, the story isn't about her. The story is about Lucian and his relationships with his sister Catarina and his lover Rachael.

Likewise on the cover art, the publisher is looking at the target audience. I know from having spoken with the artist that he was told to put the three adults on the cover. This was a wise marketing decision, and I was behind it one hundred percent from the beginning.

When a publisher puts a twelve-year-old on the cover of a novel, it doesn't matter what lies between the pages, people see a twelve-year-old and their minds shift to young adult. If there is a woman's name on the cover AND a twelve-year-old, in most people's thinking, the story absolutely MUST be YA.

Miserere is an adult novel and contains a lot of scenes and issues that tend to turn YA readers off. My favorite review comment comes from a YA reader who called Catarina "yucky." The initial reviews for Miserere bounced around a bit and were quite conflicted with reviewers unable to get a fix on the story. I couldn't understand why people kept thinking that Miserere was YA until I realized that most readers were adding my name plus twelve-year-old in the story and just automatically coming to the YA conclusion. Reader expectations were obviously getting in the way of the story.

Men don't have this problem, by the way. John Saul wrote about children in a large number of his novels but no one ever called him anything other than a horror author. My publisher can't be blamed because they went over backwards to make sure that Lindsay wasn't pictured or mentioned on the cover.

Recently, Julie Crisp at Tor Books in the UK posted these enlightening statistics in her article Sexism in Genre Publishing: A Publisher's Perspective. According to her statistics, in the YA category, 68% of the submissions are by women. That means that a lot of women read and submit YA stories. I see a great deal of women talking online about YA and defending YA as being progressive because it deals with a lot of issues important to young adults.

Is this a bad thing?

No.

I have no problem with YA or with the fact that a majority of women write and submit YA literature to publishers. I occasionally read YA just to keep up with the various genres; there are some excellent stories out there, but it's not my genre of choice. All of these statistics and facts tell me that readers tend to associate women with writing YA simply because of the sheer number of women who associate themselves as either readers or writers of that genre.

Again, not a bad thing, but it does make it exceptionally difficult for debut authors who are attempting to break that mold. My own work is best described as urban fantasy/horror and was billed as such from the beginning. Even so, many people who read YA picked up Miserere and got a harsh, rude awakening that left them feeling yucky. They were most likely victims of their own expectations and misperceptions through no fault of their own. I'm guessing that was because there was a woman's name on the cover, a twelve-year-old in chapter two, hence in the reader's mind, the story must be YA.

Except that it is not.

There are quite a few women who write horror and urban fantasy with an edge--far too many to list here competently. Some have children in their novels as secondary characters, some don't. I know that according to Ms. Crisp's data only 17% of the Tor submissions in horror came from women, but still ... women write excellent horror stories.

Here is another thing that I've observed from reading reviews and online discussions about Miserere, something that intrigues me to no end: most women comment on Lindsay in very glowing terms. Very few women discuss Rachael, an extremely capable, emotionally strong woman. Rachael saves Lucian, not just with her strength but also with her compassion. Without her, he'd never make home. I find the lack of discussion about Rachael very interesting and wonder why. Women say that they want competent female protagonists who don't need to be saved by their male counterparts, yet I've heard very little about Rachael.

I'm not sure what to make of any of that. What I have learned is the importance of marketing and hitting a target audience. I've also learned that sometimes that audience gets missed in spite of everyone's best efforts.

I've revamped the web site a little this weekend with that target audience in mind. I loved my old header, which was created for me by a dear lady who has a great deal of talent in that area. However, I needed something that better reflected my stories, which are dark and for adults. Of the two short stories that will be published in upcoming anthologies, one is borderline horror, the other is a dark fantasy.

I hope you enjoy them both with that in mind. Meanwhile, on the web site, all that has changed is the colors and the headers. Everything else is right where you'd expect to find it.

And me.

I'm here too. I hope to see you around.