Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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J. Kathleen Cheney’s second novel, THE SEAT OF MAGIC, came out last week.  It’s an amazing novel, sequel to THE GOLDEN CITY, which was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and received special acclaim as a best book of 2013 from Library Journal and Ranting Dragon!  She’s here today to talk about what she’s learned since then.

The Second Time Around… by J. Kathleen Cheney

For a bit of background, my novel The Seat of Magic debuted last week, right before the July 4th weekend, which was wonderful timing. The sequel to The Golden City, it’s a Historical Fantasy set in an alternate 1902 Portugal, with nonhumans and humans working together to stop two strings of murders in a city where the nonhumans have been banned.

Yes, my new book is a sequel. I’ve been through this book debut business before, and I learned some things from my first debut that have made this one much easier. So here are a few hints—for those aspiring writers out there—of what to expect when your turn comes around.

 

1) Reviews trickle in.

I don’t know why I had this perception before, but I believed (wrongly) that all the major outlets (Publisher’s Weekly, RT, Library Journal, Kirkus, etc.) would review my book months in advance.

Where I got that idea, I have no clue. They’re human, just like me, and they have to juggle a TBR pile far larger than mine. So this time around, I haven’t spent hours refreshing the webpages, wondering when they’ll get my review up. I’ve been more patient, and it’s been a less stressful experience for me. (The same goes for reader reviews, by the way. Not everyone will read your book the day it comes out…because hundreds of other books will come out on the same day!)

 

2) Things will go wrong, and it won’t be the end of the world.

Of the three signings I had set up for the debut of Book 1, two were hit by ice storms. Yes, even though you plan months in advance for everything to be perfect, things will happen that are simply beyond your control.

 

3) You don’t control those sales numbers either, so spend your time elsewhere.

As a brand-spanking-new writer, it’s easy to get hooked on refreshing Amazon every few minutes to see your author ranking change. (Going up, one hopes.) But knowing your sales figures doesn’t improve them. Concentrate on the things that you can affect to build readership instead, whether it’s blogging, making appearances, of writing something good. In fact, that has to be your first priority, because as a writer, you always need to be working on something new.

 

4) Expect a troll or two.

I’m a fairly inoffensive person online, so I was surprised to be hit by a troll reviewer within a day or two of my book’s debut. I couldn’t imagine why this reviewer was passionate enough about my book to write two full pages on why she didn’t like it, but she did. The truth is, someone is always going to dislike my writing, and they are going to talk about it online. I learned very quickly to spot that kind of reviews and walk away. It’s going to happen, but I don’t have to read them.

 

5) Enjoy where you are.

Not enjoying your novel debut is a bit like climbing to the top of Mt. Everest and not stopping to look around. Thousands of people would love to be where you are.

So expect a few things not to turn out like you’d hoped. That’s inevitable. Enjoy all the ones that do turn out the way you planned. Enjoy the signings and tweets from happy readers. Enjoy the blog posts and good reviews and friendly FB comments. Enjoy.

 

And then get back to writing…

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seatofmagic_100dpi BLURB for The Seat of Magic

Magical beings have been banned from the Golden City for decades, though many live there in secret. Now humans and nonhumans alike are in danger as evil stalks the streets, growing more powerful with every kill….

It’s been two weeks since Oriana Paredes was banished from the Golden City. Police consultant Duilio Ferreira, who himself has a talent he must keep secret, can’t escape the feeling that, though she’s supposedly returned home to her people, Oriana is in danger.

Adding to Duilio’s concerns is a string of recent murders in the city. Three victims have already been found, each without a mark upon her body. When a selkie under his brother’s protection goes missing, Duilio fears the killer is also targeting nonhuman prey.

To protect Oriana and uncover the truth, Duilio will have to risk revealing his own identity, put his trust in some unlikely allies, and consult a rare and malevolent text known as The Seat of Magic….

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Great Quotes for the Series

THE SEAT OF MAGIC

“[A] killer sequel…Intriguing and fun, the mystery unfolds like a socially conscious tour through a cabinet of curiosities.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[M]esmerizing.” —Publishers Weekly

“This second entry in the Golden City series is even better than its predecessor. Readers will be completely enthralled with the characters and the organic development of their relationship. It is a sheer delight to see more of Oriana and her people… Add to that an engaging world filled with selkies, sereia and the prohibition of magic and you won’t want to put The Seat of Magic down. This reviewer couldn’t help falling for the hot hero, whose banter with Oriana is awesome; their sweet romance is utterly charming.” —Romantic Times

goldencity_100dpi THE GOLDEN CITY

“VERDICT Cheney’s debut is a masterpiece of historical fantasy, set in early 1900s Portugal, a time and place rarely explored in English-language fiction. The fascinating mannerisms of the age and the extreme formality of two people growing fonder of each other add a charmingly fresh appeal that will cross over to romance fans as well as to period fantasy readers.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

“Cheney’s The Golden City pulls readers in right off the bat, as the story kicks off with our heroine in a desperate situation that will leave you rooting for her almost instantly. Oriana’s “extra” abilities are thoroughly intriguing and readers will love the crackling banter and working relationship between Oriana and Duilio.” —Romantic Times

“An ambitious debut from Cheney: part fantasy, part romance, part police procedural and part love letter to Lisbon in the early 1900s.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The Golden City is easily my vote for this year’s best debut novel, and Cheney has made her way to my must-read list.” —Ranting Dragon

“I honestly cannot wait to read what Cheney writes next.” – Bookworm Blues

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Author Bio

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, “The Golden City” is a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel).

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CheneyJKathleen

Twitter: @jkcheney

Website: http://www.jkathleencheney.com

Yesterday, Amy Christine Parker did a wonderful YA Rebels vlog about A Day in the Life of a Full-time Writer.  Too funny and waaaayyyy too accurate.  For your viewing pleasure:

 

A really fun, wonderful new book released yesterday – THE KLINGON ART OF WAR!  Please join me in wishing Keith R.A. DeCandido a happy book birthday!

klingonartofwar THE KLINGON ART OF WAR by Keith R.A. DeCandido (Pocket Books/Star Trek)

Passed down from the time of Kahless,ten precepts have shaped Klingon culture and indoctrinated Klingons in the Way of the Warrior. With this new translation, people from all walks of life—and all worlds—can harness the ancient Klingon wisdom and learn to embody courage, discipline, and honor.

• Choose your enemies well.

• Strike quickly or strike not.

• Always face your enemy.

• Seek adversity.

• Reveal your true self in combat.

• Destroy weakness.

• Leave nothing until tomorrow.

• Choose death over chains.

• Die standing up.

• Guard honor above all.

nexus Before I do anything at all, I want to wish a HUGE congratulations to Ramez Naam for making the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his debut science fiction novel NEXUS!  So proud!  So well deserved!

This past Saturday, the Florida chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Orlando Public Library teamed up to present a free half-day writers workshop featuring a panel and break-out sessions with  Jessica Khoury, Jessica Brody, Amy Christine Parker, Christina Farley, Vivi Barnes, J.A. Souders and Anna Banks.   I may be a bit biased, being one of the presenters myself, but it was a great day.

A few people asked about notes for my talk, and I promised to write them up for my blog, thus here they are.  Some of the information here I grabbed from previous posts I’ve done, so there might be parts here that are familiar to some viewers!

The Publishing Process: From Gaining our Attention through Publication

Of course, it all starts with your manuscript, so I want to talk a bit about standing out from the crowd.

First of all, don’t take the easy way out.  Don’t do what’s common or expected.  Don’t do something anyone else can do.  When you’re generating ideas, it’s often a good idea to throw out your first two or three thoughts.  They come quickly and easily because they’re rote.  You’ve seen them and heard them before.  They’ve been done, many times over.  Push yourself beyond those first few ideas.  Challenge yourself.

Come up with something unique, whether it be your character or storyline…or better yet both.  Just as you don’t want your storyline to be predictable or cookie-cutter, you don’t want to people your novel with stereotypes or cardboard characters.  You should know more about your people than ever make it onto the page.  If someone were to ask their favorite ice cream or how long they take in the bathroom, you should be able to answer without thought.

Don’t shy away from tension or true danger.  Your reader needs to truly fear for the emotional or physical wellbeing of your character.  Torture your characters/torture your reader.  It sounds cruel, but it’s honest.  Remember that in every scene there should be something at stake.

What often takes a novel from okay to amazing is the voice.  Your voice, your point of view character, is the lens through which we see the world.  Think of it this way—if you have two children and both told you about the same fight, would it sound the same?  No, it would have a slant…about who was at fault, who started things, who did what to whom.  Some details would make it in and others would be left out.  What words would be used?  Would they be uttered in anger?  In a rush, tumbling over each other?  What would the body language be?  Whoever’s POV we’re in should be distinctive and unique and they should have an angle on things. Everyone has an angle.  (Not necessarily a bad angle.  Someone might give too many chances or see the best in everyone rather than the worst, but his/her personality and experiences will lead him or her to treat an event or individual in a certain way.)

Okay, so we’ve got great stories and great characters.  What else?  Well, great writing, of course.  Your first draft is often just that…drafty.  It should never be the product that goes out the door.  Amy Christine Parker and I did a vlog for YA Rebels on Revisions, which I’ll post below, but here are some quick notes based on beginning mistakes I see time and again:

-Do your best to rid your manuscript of waffle words, like “just,” “only,” “seemed to”.  Also, “she decided,” “he thought,” “she mused”…that sort of thing. Thought tags like this are the equivalent of said-bookisms in dialogue.  (For example: “I hate you!” she shouted angrily.)  Some things are understood and telling them to us is redundant.  Show, don’t tell.  This will make your writing much more immediate.

-Avoid passive voice. For example: Passive: “The door opened to admit her;” Active: “Benny slammed the door open at her knock, shocking her back a step…”  As you can tell, the second option is much more effective.

-Go back over emotional scenes particularly.  Chances are you shied away from the true depth and these need to be further explored now that the full context surrounds them.

-Make sure you have sensory and physiological details where appropriate.  For example, if someone’s running for his/her life or being kissed for the first time, the body will react.  Blood flow will increase or rush to certain parts of the body.  Breathing will change…

-Make sure every scene is told in the right point of view, that of the participant, not the observer.

-If you’ve jigged when you should have jogged and gone down the wrong path with your novel, now is the chance to change that.  You’ll hear many professional writers say that they write two or three books for every one published.  That’s because of how much they throw out and start again or how much is rewritten beyond recognition.  I won’t say that first-drafting is easier, but revisions are where the real work comes in!  (At least for me.)

-Make sure that you’ve revised your work until you can’t stand to look at it anymore.  Then put it away for a few weeks to a month and look again with fresh eyes.  Readers and critique partners are invaluable in this process as well, because they don’t know what you meant to put down on the page.  They only know what’s there, and they can help you discover sections that came out differently than intended or plot points that didn’t come through at all.

-Mantra: Thou shalt send out no manuscript before it’s time.

Next, I discussed the querying process, what an agent does and what a publishing house does for you.  Since I’ve covered these things in previous posts, here are those links:

Finding an Agent

The Role of Agents in the Modern Publishing Landcape

Querying, Part 1

Querying, Part 2

Querying, Part 3

What a Publisher Does (aka It Takes a Village)

Other links you might find helpful that I offered in a hand-out:

My blog

My author website

Knight Agency website

TKA submission guidelines

Association of Authors’ Representatives

The SFWA Writer Beware site

Preditors & Editors

Worldbuilding

Characters

Defining Moments

Suspense/Tension

YA Rebels vlog on Revisions:

First off, I’m so excited that io9 has posted the first glimpse of Rachel Caine’s wonderful trailer for her even more amazing book PRINCE OF SHADOWS, coming in February 2014, but available now for preorder.

princeofshadows_lores

A thrilling retelling of the star-crossed tale of Romeo and Juliet, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series.

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

…And will rewrite all their fates, forever.

 

In other news, as kind of a part II to our NaNoWriMo tips of last week, Amy Christine Parker and I did our video for YA Rebels this week on the revision process.  I might brandish a sword.  (Not well, mind you, but still.)

goldencity_100dpi J. Kathleen Cheney’s debut fantasy novel THE GOLDEN CITY debuted yesterday to wonderful reviews (see below) and much fanfare.  She’s here today with a little insight into what it took to get there!

Quotes:

“Cheney’s The Golden City pulls readers in right off the bat, as the story kicks off with our heroine in a desperate situation that will leave you rooting for her almost instantly. Oriana’s “extra” abilities are thoroughly intriguing and readers will love the crackling banter and working relationship between Oriana and Duilio.” —Romantic Times

“An ambitious debut from Cheney: part fantasy, part romance, part police procedural and part love letter to Lisbon in the early 1900s.” —Kirkus Reviews

“I honestly cannot wait to read what Cheney writes next.” —Bookworm Blues

 

Kill Your Darlings (Not Starring Daniel Radcliffe) by J. Kathleen Cheney

Yes, we’ve all heard that saying–that a writer must be willing to give up that one sentence, idea, or plot point that they loved…for the greater good of their work.

When I was in second grade, my teacher, Miss Baeza, wanted to send one of my stories to Highlights to see if they would publish it.  Even then, I knew this was a Big Deal.  But there was a catch; she wanted me to change the ending.

In my story, a group of animals escape the zoo, only to end up being magically trapped as the animals in a carousel.  My teacher wanted a happy ending.  But in my second-grade wisdom, I felt that mine was the correct ending.  I hid the story in my father’s file cabinet and told her I couldn’t find it.  This, by the way, became the truth because I never did see that story again.

Now fast forward lots of years and I’m a professional writer.  (I have paperwork from both RWA and SFWA that say I am, so I know it’s true.)  At a workshop a few years ago, I learned a very important phrase from author Steven Savile: I can do that.

If you’re seeking traditional publication, that’s a useful sentence.  If your agent makes a suggestion, if your editor makes a suggestion, if your publisher makes a suggestion, they have a reason for doing so.  So when my agent or editor suggests I change something, I listen.  Then I usually say: I can do that.

Admittedly, I still go and hide my manuscript in the metaphorical file cabinet and sulk for a few hours.  How could they not appreciate my untrammeled genius???

But because I’m not in second grade any longer, the next morning I get that manuscript back out and start analyzing their suggestions.  No, I don’t slavishly obey those suggestions. The book I just turned back in to my editor?  I had some changes I considered but, for one reason or another, they didn’t work for me.  My editor will look at my edits and decide whether to press me on those things again or let it drop.  It is a give and take relationship.

Editors have given me some pretty awesome ideas.  My editor for “Iron Shoes” asked for me to add another scene with interaction between my heroine and the villain.  Once I’d wrapped my mind around it, not only did I get to add another historical character, I also found a chance to slip in some very pertinent plot information.  My editor for “The Golden City” suggested a huge change at one point, making one character not as villainous as I’d previously thought him.  Figuring out the logic behind that alteration opened up new avenues for me to explore in this setting, and it made that world more realistic.

So I’ve learned to be open to changes.  The truth is that a traditionally published book isn’t just mine.  There’s a team involved in producing the book.  There’s an agent who sold it, editors who’ve picked over every word, an art department that has produced a beautiful cover, a sales department, a publicity department…well, I could probably list more.

But if you’re hunting traditional publication, cooperation is a good thing.  If I’d known that in second grade, I might have been published decades ago!

First, three crazy-exciting new releases today: DAYLIGHTERS by Rachel Caine, the culmination of her Morganville Vampires series (15 books and all awesome – how does she do it?), a fabulous fantasy debut, THE GOLDEN CITY by J. Kathleen Cheney and TO DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, the latest Blood Singer novel from Cat Adams Here’s a little bit about each:

daylighters DAYLIGHTERS by Rachel Caine (hardcover and digital from Penguin)

(Amazon, B&N, Books-a-Million, Indiebound)

While Morganville, Texas, is often a troubled town, Claire Danvers and her friends are looking forward to coming home. But the Morganville they return to isn’t the one they know; it’s become a different place—a deadly one…

Something drastic has happened in Morganville while Claire and her friends were away. The town looks cleaner and happier than they’ve ever seen it before, but when their incoming group is arrested and separated—vampires from humans—they realize that the changes definitely aren’t for the better.

It seems that an organization called the Daylight Foundation has offered the population of Morganville something they’ve never had: hope of a vampire-free future. And while it sounds like salvation—even for the vampires themselves—the truth is far more sinister and deadly.

Now, Claire, Shane and Eve need to find a way to break their friends out of Daylighter custody, before the vampires of Morganville meet their untimely end…

goldencity_100dpi THE GOLDEN CITY by J. Kathleen Cheney (trade paperback and digital from Roc Books)

(Amazon, B&N, Books-a-Million, Indiebound)

For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….

When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.

Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….

to dance with the devil TO DANCE WITH THE DEVIL by Cat Adams (Tor Books)

(Amazon, B&N, Books-a-Million, Indiebound)

In To Dance with the Devil, the latest entry in Cat Adams’s Blood Singer series, Celia Graves’s newest client is one of the last surviving members of a magical family that is trapped in a generations-old feud with other magic-workers. She’s supposed to die at the next full moon unless Celia can broker peace between the clans or break the curse before it can take effect.

For the first time in a long while, Celia’s personal life is looking up. Her vampire abilities seem to be under control, her Siren abilities have gotten more reliable, and even though her office was blown up, her services are more in demand than ever now that she’s fought off terrorists and been part of the royal wedding of the year. Her friends all seem to be finding love and her grandmother has—finally—agreed to go to family therapy.

The only trouble spot is Celia’s love life. Not long ago, she had two boyfriends. Now she barely has one and she isn’t sure she wants him. But Bruno DeLuca is a powerful mage and Celia needs his help…especially after she’s attacked and her client is kidnapped.

In other news, Amy Christine Parker and I have our latest YA Rebels video up today with NaNoWriMo Tips.  Check it out!

In case anyone’s wondering – yes, the disembodied voice on tip #10 is that of my husband!

Just back from rounds of meetings in New York and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s annual reception (which was amazing) and so late posting up my new links.  This week I can be found at Magical Words talking about the Role of Agents in the Modern Publishing Landscape and over on the YA Rebels vlog talking about my writing process. Wait, I can embed the vlog right here (she says, fearfully, knowing that the world may not actually be ready for her morning face).  Anyway, if you’d like an overly honest look into my writing process, you can find it right here.

 

I seriously need Joan Jetson’s stylist for just such occasions.

Finally, since this is my blog and I’ll party if I want to, I want to celebrate this fantastic new review of BAD BLOOD from A Simple Love of Reading.  How can you not adore a review that starts out with, “I loved this book”?  So thrilled!