Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm a Special Snowflake! And so are you, and you!

I'm sure there will be plenty of occasions for me to get into my feelings about the publishing industry, and the current Amazon-Hachette dispute in particular. But for now I'll share something fun that appeared in the comments on the terrific blog Passive Voice, where a saint named "Smart Debut Author" posted a link to the following video.

I'd been a fan of My Chemical Romance (from my native New Jersey!) since about 10 years ago, but I had no idea they'd ever appeared on a Nickelodeon show called Yo Gabba Gabba and done this song. It is one of the greatest songs in the history of western civilization...wait, why only western, ALL civilization. Including New Jersey!

Hope it brings you as many smiles and even laughs as it did for me on this Monday morning :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Every fantasy book needs a map!

Well, maybe that's not entirely true; you could certainly read my book series without a map, though it does help you see where everybody's coming from. Literally.

This is the map I created for The Queenschair series, over the span of about 3 years.

Because nothing screams "epic" like homemade parchment

The border lines were drawn in Photoshop using anchor points, which means it's a pretty painstaking and tedious process but comes out looking fairly clean. Then I took up my trusty Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet (got it for $80 about 5 years ago) and drew the little mountains. I drew the inspiration for how to shade them from Christopher Paolini's map for his Inheritance series.

Then I added the text in Photoshop, which is nice and simple; I played with lots of fonts and layer effects before I found the look I wanted, though.

Oh, and the texture of the background! That might have been the most fun part of all. I wanted it to look like parchment and initially considered buying a parchment texture off the internet, but after Googling "how to make your own parchment", I realized I could make my own. So I got a normal white piece of paper, put in on an oven baking sheet, and soaked it in some weak coffee. Then I baked that sheet of paper to a nice golden brown (well, a soft beige-brown at least), and voila - scan it in and there's my parchment texure!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How a book was born

It was about 3 years ago when I sat down and began putting together ideas for a new novel. I'd started writing books before, and some of those had even gotten past the first few chapters, but I'd never gotten more than halfway through any of them. The impetus to reach the finish line just wasn't there, and the motivation would just fizzle out eventually.

This time would be different, I told myself. This time I'd try something new: a grand new scheme they called NaNoWriMo! For those of you who haven't heard of it, that's the National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November. The idea is simple - start a new novel on November 1 and keep writing until you have at least 50,000 words by November 30. Sometime around August, I decided I'd take the challenge and then spent the next 2 months or so prepping to write a new book. Outlines, character profiles, pages and pages of mostly incoherent notes, spreadsheets with character data, all that good stuff.

But before all that, I had to know what book I was going to write! That idea was born when I thought about the medieval fantasy world I'd written most of my other stories in; I'd been building that world, mostly inside my own head, since 7th grade or so. So I had lots of stories and adventures lined up all over the map, and I started going through each of those ideas to see if it was the Right One for Right Now.

And what I settled on was actually nothing I'd thought of before. I wanted to write something Game of Thrones-esque, since I'd enjoyed the 1st season of that show earlier that year. You know, lots of perspective characters with multiple storylines meshing together in one gigantic web of holy-crap-this-is-epic. I also wanted the basic plotline to involve a love triangle where the romantic choices would have far-ranging repercussions. And those inspirations led me to the story of Ebreyon Marin, the young King of Yenmas who has won his wars...and now must secure his reign by finding a suitable Queen.

Ebreyon didn't materialize out of nowhere in August 2011; I'd actually written a fairly lengthy story about his mother, Erinya, who was born on the Yenmarian Prairie and became a footsoldier in the capital, which then led to her chance encounter with the youngest Prince of Yenmas, Tensarus...her eventual husband. That story, which was far from complete when I set it aside in 2001 or so, ended with Yenmas falling to the Empire of Xades. One of the only survivors from the Royal family was Erinya, who gave birth to twins at the very end (in a very Luke and Leia New Hope kind of way).

So Ebreyon and his twin sister Selana had existed for a while in the giant twisting M.C. Escher sketch of my mind. I'd always known how they came to exist and how they factored into some of the other stories I was planning to write, but I'd never sat down and thought about their adult lives as Ebreyon took the throne and Selana became his closest adviser. Now I did.

And, like the Big Bang, the world exploded out from there. A vast majority of the characters of The Queenschair were born in September and October 2011; some of the most significant ones even arrived on the scene after the outlining and writing were well under way. That's the way it goes sometimes - you don't see everything from the beginning, no matter how meticulously you might prepare. And I'd say it's better that you don't, or else there's no spontaneity in it!

An early version of the logo for The Queenschair

In November 2011, I ran the NaNoWriMo gauntlet and wrote a shade over 57,000 words...and the book wasn't even half done. For once I kept at it and didn't abandon it; it never became stale or boring to me. And in June 2012 I had a complete 1st 160,000 words. I'd finished my first book, EVER!

The 2 years since that day have seen a lot of editing, revising, and general angsting about how to make the book better, how to touch up the language, and then how to package the whole thing so it not only reads well but catches the eye. The finished product is what (I hope) you'll be reading in early October 2014.

And then you can tell me if my time was well spent :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Welcome to the official Queenschair blog!

Well, here we go! The first post on this blog, and my first blog post in a very long time (exactly how long, nobody knows). I'm guessing anyone who's actually reading this has seen the last page of my book, The Queenschair, which is the only place where this blog is mentioned. And seeing as how I won't be releasing that book until October 1 or so, I'm basically shouting out to empty seats right now. Not a problem! Complete and utter silence can be pretty cozy sometimes. And since I expect it'll take some time for my books to gather an audience, that silence might last a while. And that's just fine.

I'd like to start by introducing the books that made this blog possible (and necessary, to borrow from the late great Victor Borge). The Queenschair is the first book in a planned 5-volume series. The rest of the series is in good shape, with Volumes 2 and 3 completely written (now in the editing stages) and Volume 4 about 70% done. Volume 5 hasn't been written at all, but don't worry, I actually have the endgame solidly established. I won't be tacking on a crappy non-ending that betrays everything that came before and makes a mockery out of the die-hard fans. Yeah, Lost, I'm lookin at you.

Ugh, I just lost 25 morale points by thinking about the travesty that was Lost. Back to my book! The Queenschair is a different brand of epic fantasy; it's incredibly unique. Well, sure, every author thinks his or her work is a special snowflake, so take my self-assessment with a grain of salt. But it is an odd mix of old-school tales about kings and princesses and dashing knights...and the more modern narrative styles that delve into the human psyche and really get into characters' heads. The Queenschair isn't Disney, but it sure doesn't have the grit of a Game of Thrones either. The heroes and heroines are largely of noble birth, as opposed to the current trend toward rogues and other folks who exist on the fringes of society.

And rather than being an adventure tale about a world-saving quest, The Queenschair series follows several characters as they navigate a deteriorating political situation and try to keep their country from falling apart. The first book, due in early October, focuses on the young King of Yenmas, Ebreyon Marin, as he is pressured to choose a Queen.

The primary candidates for the Queenschair have their own ambitions and motivations; the series focuses on them as much as it does on Ebreyon, perhaps even more so. I won't harp on buzzwords like "female-oriented" or catchphrases like "finally, a book that isn't about men or about a woman who only thinks about men!" I'll let the books speak for themselves. What I can say is that the characters of The Queenschair are fully-realized people (in my own head, anyway, and hopefully on the page). I don't hold anyone above the others, I respect them all, and honestly I love them all. Here's to hoping you'll enjoy meeting them!

Next time I'll blog about how I came up with the idea of The Queenschair and how that seed germinated into the book that some of you are now holding (or at least have on your computer, Kindle, iPad, phone, or...however else you can read a book these days). For now, I'm super excited that I'll be self-publishing my first book in a few weeks (I'll eventually talk about how I arrived at that decision, too), and I can't wait for people to read it. And by "people", I mean YOU :)