It’s only been a couple of months since my self-publishing début, but I’m never one to let the grass grow under my feet (unless it comes to actually mowing the lawn, at which I’m very lazy…). ‘Star of the Everlasting’ started life as a short story back in December of last year. However, I have a real problem writing short stories, in that I continually try to cram too much plot in. By the time this particular story was at 12k words, I had to admit it really wasn’t going to be ‘short’ at all, and that to make it work, it needed a bit more room to breathe.
And the result is here! That unnamed short story became ‘Star of the Everlasting’, the first novella in my Ark & Fable series. It’s got gun fights and ancient magic and a city built on colossal stone pillars. It’s also got Ark and Fable themselves, the titular characters, a pair of ‘middlemen’ who negotiate between criminals and the city’s highest echelons, always in the name of profit. Well, perhaps not always, as you’ll discover if you read the novella…
So, on to the cover!
I think my partner as excelled himself this time, and I absolutely adore this cover. It’s dark and moody, and really sets the tone for the setting as a whole. It also shows a key scene from the story… and that’s as much as I’m going to say about that! However, you might have noticed the little logo in the middle of the cover, which – close up – looks something like this:
This was my partner’s idea, much as I’d like to take credit for it, and a version will appear on each novella in the series, tying the covers together.
Finally, it’s time for the blurb (not necessarily the final blurb that’ll make its way into the ebook, but it’s close enough):
In the cliff-top city of Ardom Wave, there are the nobles, the criminals – and those in between. As middlemen – or middlewomen, in their case – Ark and her partner Fable tread the fine line between those in power and those most definitely not, all while keeping their heads down, staying one step ahead of the law, and always turning a profit.
A fine line that comes under threat when they’re faced with conflicting requests from two equally wealthy clients, either one of whom could cause serious trouble if they don’t get their way.
The way out requires breaking Ark’s three cardinal rules. The first: never let a job turn personal, even when a face from your past comes knocking. Vesper might tug at Ark’s heart-strings, but as a noblewoman with a string of dead husbands, she’s a dangerous woman to get close to.
Except Vesper has changed her ways and is looking for a way out of the city – a way Ark wouldn’t mind providing, if it wasn’t for rule number two: never get involved in magic.
Because Vesper is up to her elbows in the artefact trade, and if Ark is going to dig her way out, she’s going to have to break the most important rule of all, the one that separates the middlemen from everyone else. She’s going to have to get her hands dirty.
You might have guessed that ‘Star of the Everlasting’ is rather different from my last self-published book. Whilst ‘Sanguine’ was a YA novel, this is firmly in adult territory (although, in all honesty, I don’t write huge amounts of sex, graphic violence or swearing in anything), set in a very different world. It’s also the first in a series, and I’m going to be trying a few different things when it comes to publication. For the first few months, at least, it’s going to be an Amazon exclusive, so I can gauge if that makes any difference to initial sales (I’ll say more about this when I do a more general self-publishing post). I’ll also be trying to get the next couple of novellas out as quickly as possible, with a novel-length omnibus to come later.
So, there you have it: ‘Star of the Everlasting’, coming soon to Amazon, and setting in motion events for a whole string of stories. I’ll have more release details soon, but for now, enjoy the cover, and let me know what you think!
Over on Fantasy Faction today, there’s a very interesting link to a document put together by Sonika Balyan, which is essentially an extensive list of women fantasy authors, going back to the 1930s. Obviously, as a female writer myself I found this interesting, but I’ve also been drawn to fantasy books by women ever since I was a teenager. Overall, I’d say my reading habits are split roughly 50/50 when it comes to the author’s gender, though there may be a slight skew towards women. However, out of my favourite authors, those whose works I return to repeatedly and whose books I automatically pre-order, the vast majority are women. I’m actually struggling to think of any who aren’t.
I decided, then, to work out what percentage of the authors on that list I’d read at least one book by. The answer: 53 out of 312, which comes out at a shade under 17%. I’ll admit to being a little disappointed by that – I’d expected it to be far higher.
There are a few caveats to be made, of course. There are a handful of urban fantasy and paranormal writers listed, genres I read only occasionally. I’m also not sure how many of the American authors listed have been published in the UK, and whilst it’s easy enough to import books these days, I first read many of these authors in my teens, when I was relying solely on British bookshops. Having said that, though, 17% is still much lower than I’d like.
I’m not trying to make a point here, incidentally, other than that this is a useful resource. I’d like to see more women in fantasy, of course, both as writers and readers. I’d like to see more diversity of every stripe, in fact, just part of the reason I make a habit of promoting my favourite authors. I also wish misguided comments like, ‘Oh, I don’t read books by women’ could become a thing of the past. (Seriously, if this applies to you, you’re never going to get anything other than merciless laughter from me.) Mostly, though, I just wanted to share this fascinating and incredibly useful list. I’ll be returning to it whenever I’m in need of something new to read – and if you’re at all interested in the fantasy genre, I highly recommend you check it out.
It’s over a month now since I self-published my YA fantasy novel Sanguine (which you can read all about here). I might, at some point, do a post on my experiences of self-publishing and whether or not it’s been a success (short answer: a hesitant ‘yes’, but I think it’s incredibly difficult to do well in the short-term via self-publishing – being successful in the longer term, and building slowly up to it, is much more achievable).
It’s fair to say that I haven’t done everything I could to promote Sanguine, mostly because I haven’t exactly had a surfeit of time (see my last post for details of that). However, I’d really like to get Sanguine out there a bit more. More than that, I’d really, really like to start seeing some reviews. This, then, is my offer to my lovely readers:
I am giving away free copies of SANGUINE, in your choice of digital format. All I ask is that you post an honest review after you’ve read it.
And yes, it really is honest reviews I’m most interested in, though of course I hope no-one hates the book enough to throw their electronic device of choice across the room.
At this stage, I’ve keeping the giveaway fairly open. I don’t have a limited number of copies to give away (although if I get an absolute deluge of requests, I may cap the number). There’s no time limit on the giveaway. You can live in any country, and you certainly don’t have to be a professional reviewer or blogger. As for the reviewing: of course I can’t force anyone to read the book, let alone review it. However, if you read Sanguine and feel compelled to write a few short lines, on Amazon, Goodreads or your blog (or all three!), I will be hugely grateful. You’ll also go to the top of my list for free copies next time I release a book (and I hope to have at least one more novel and a novella out this year).
Interested? Leave a comment here or on Goodreads (where this post will also be going up), or send me an email at amy[dot]sanderson42[at]gmail[dot]com (replace the square brackets with the appropriate symbols, of course). I can’t promise I’ll get back to everyone immediately, as I’ll be absorbed in cooking breakfasts and making beds for at least the next few days, but I’ll do my best to reply as promptly as I can.
A few months ago (more than I care to count, actually), I posted here about what I was up to when I wasn’t writing. It’s fair to say that, over the last two weeks especially, ‘not-writing’ has taken up far too much of my time, and will probably continue to do so for another week at least. This is bad news, obviously, but there’s always a silver lining, and today’s is HERE.
If you follow that link – and I hope you will – you can read all about the guest house my partner and I have just opened, here in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside. There are even pictures! Of sheep! (Okay, the sheep pictures may be placeholders until web designer a.k.a. boyfriend finds something more suitable, but they’re rather cute anyway.)
All joking aside, getting this business venture off the ground has taken nearly a year, now. It’s been draining, utterly exhausting, and there have been times when I wished I’d just stayed in the city and worked for peanuts for the rest of my life (I really enjoyed my last job, and the people I worked with were truly fabulous, but it’s fair to say that the pay was… mediocre). However, making any kind of big change is always tough, and I’m glad we did it for the much-improved lifestyle it’s given us – although the prospect of actually opening our doors to guests is both imminent and terrifying!
When will my writing be back on track? Er… Still working on that one. The really difficult renovation work is behind us, but running a business of any kind is stressful, and that doesn’t always incline me to write. However, I’m hoping for a little more time over the coming weeks, which will be a blessed relief and should allow me to get a few more words down, both here and in my WIP.
I’m also hoping for a chance to get my next ebook up on Amazon, so keep an eye out for that. ‘Star of the Everlasting’ is on its way!
I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on Twitter recently, in an effort to chat to other writers and keep up to date with publishing news. It’s working, for the most part, but I’ve also noticed a rather vocal sub-set of authors who never have anything positive to say about writing. At all. This ranges from continually complaining – in a rather passive-aggressive manner – that no-one ever reads their work (these are traditionally-published-by-a-large-press authors, I should point out), to grousing about how much hard work promoting themselves is and warning that publishing in general is doomed. I even followed a link to an article, published in a major online short story venue, about how dire every single aspect of a writing career – from just starting out to becoming a genuine celebrity – is.
Now, I know all these tweets and posts have a point. Being a writer, or indeed a creator of any variety, is hard; publishing, as we know it today, may well be doomed; promoting yourself online is a thankless task. I also understand that some of these authors are genuinely trying to help, by letting idealistic new writers know what the publishing industry is really like and what they should expect if they enter it. I’m glad, too, that writers who encounter racism, sexism, homophobia or any other prejudice are speaking out about it, no matter how depressing it may be to read. However, no matter how bad my day becomes, I just can’t bring myself to join these sometimes whiny, often disheartening, usually negative ranks.
Everyone has bad days, bad weeks, months or years. Ranting about it on the internet, though? I don’t know how much that helps. And whilst I can’t always promise to be a shining beacon of light, I’m pretty good at keeping my neuroses off-line these days, rather than opening them up to the world. I’ve talked before on this blog about how I prefer to keep my posts positive and that’s a personal guideline I’m sticking to, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I don’t think online whinging helps me, let alone anyone else. Dwelling on personal misfortune doesn’t accomplish much, other than making me miserable. I become less creative, less willing to engage with the world. Focusing on positivity is, therefore, a personal defence mechanism before anything else.
Secondly, though, I don’t believe dwelling on negativity really achieves anything on a wider scale. Pointing out a hateful post, then countering it with your own positive one and going on to promote something you love? That achieves something. Pointing out that hateful post, then listing every example of internet unpleasantness you can possibly dig out? What does that get you, other than a headache?
I realise this has turned out similar to another post I wrote recently, and that I’ve focused on internet negativity rather than general writing adversity. However, I find this is a subject close to my heart at the moment, and that however naive it sounds, I really wish more people online would spread a little positivity rather than constantly wallowing in the mire.
Earlier today, I saw a Twitter discussion of the recent increase in ‘Silk Road fantasy’ novels, or fantasy that is set outside the Western Europe-influenced settings that so dominate the genre. This is a topic I find dear to my heart – it’s a section of the genre that I’ve been continually searching out for a number of years, and which I find tends to draw together better-developed fantastic worlds, poetic writing, and – surprisingly frequently – more compelling female characters than is unusual in fantasy.
I can’t exactly put my finger on what drew me to non-European fantasy, particularly as it was authors like Tolkien and Terry Brooks who inspired me to write fantasy at all. The third novel I wrote, aged 18, was set in a decidedly non-European desert city, but I don’t remember anything specific at the time spurring me to choose that setting. I’ve moved onto a range of non-European worlds in my writing over the years, both because I was reading so many excellent similar books, and because fantasy set in yet another version of Western Europe was ceasing to feel ‘fantastic’ at all.
This isn’t a post about me, though, but rather a celebration of a whole host of writers and novels I adore. I want to share a couple of links to sites mentioned in that Twitter discussion. In the first, Saladin Ahmed has compiled a list of his ‘Top Ten Epic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery Novels set in ‘Nonwestern’ Worlds’, and there are some excellent choices. ‘A Shadow in Summer’ and ‘Range of Ghosts’ both featured in my last reading update, whilst I read ‘Acacia’ when it first came out; N.K. Jemisin and Amanda Downum, meanwhile, are two of my favourite authors in any genre. Ahmed’s own novel, alongside ‘The Desert of Souls’ are both on my ‘to be read’ list, whilst ‘The Scrolls of Years’ is new to me, but looks to be exactly the sort of novel I’d love.
The second link is to this post by Paul Weimer over on SF Signal, and is where I first saw the term ‘Silk Road fantasy’. He mentions an excellent selection of authors, with a fair bit of overlap with Ahmed’s post – the comments are also a goldmine. Chris Wooding! Mazarkis Williams! Aliette de Bodard! These are all authors I’ve read and enjoyed, and there are many more to discover in those comments. I am heartened both by how many of these excellent books I’ve already read (or at least have waiting to be read), and by how many more there are out there waiting for me.
Do I wish there were more? Of course. Could I happily read two or three non-European fantasies for every European fantasy? Absolutely, if not more! Still, if you’re a fantasy reader who’s been looking for a way to expand their reading horizons, I can highly recommend every single author I’ve mentioned in this post – and now I hope your ‘to be read’ list is starting to look as monumental as mine!
This post is going to be a seriously geeky one when it comes to the nuts and bolts of writing, or rather how I function as a writer. I make no apologies for that. I’m a very methodical person, you see, and keeping spreadsheets (amongst other forms of records) is genuinely one of the ways I keep individual novels, my reading schedule and my entire writing progress on track. Do I use spreadsheets to their full mathematical potential? Not in the slightest. Do I have one for every subject I can conceivably put a number into (and a few I can’t)? Yes, absolutely.
First up is the most obvious one: keeping track of word counts. Now, there will be writers out there who don’t use word counts – some prefer pages, for example (useless to me, as I write in Scrivener and that doesn’t separate pages the way Word does) – but for many, word counts are the best way of keeping track of progress. I don’t keep charts for individual novels; instead, out of sheer curiosity as to how well my writing year is going, I track the number of words I’ve written in total.
This is one of those times when I could become infinitely finicky about keeping perfect statistics: I could record exactly how many words on each project, how many on blog posts, what time of day I wrote etc. etc. Instead, to stop myself falling into a black hole of numbers that won’t really help me, I simply write down the date, number of words written, the name of the project(s) and quick notes when I start or finish something – and at the bottom, a running total. It’s pretty basic stuff, but I can tell you that I’ve written 61019 words of fiction so far this year, and that’s the sort of heartening statistic that keeps me motivated.
My second big spreadsheet is my reading record. I’ve been keeping this since before I knew sites like Goodreads and Librarything existed, and again it’s fairly basic. However, not only does this allow me to keep track of where I’ve got to in various series (I frequently leave it years between volumes in long fantasy series, simply because there’s so much new stuff I want to read), but it’s a valuable place for me to jot down mini-reviews. Forcing myself to think about what I like and dislike about every single book I read, and then write that down in just a couple of sentences, has been invaluable in forming ideas about what I want my own fiction to be.
Finally, I’m going to share a picture I posted some time ago, when I was editing my last novel:
Here, I was keeping track of five different POV characters and their respective arcs; chapter numbers are down the left-hand side, and character names – although not visible in this screenshot – are at the top. Blue boxes denote whose POV each chapter is, whereas anything in white describes events happening to other characters in chapters not their own.
That sounds complicated, I know, but this was a complicated novel. Putting character arcs into neat lists like this, so I could see the events of the entire novel within just a few pages, was key to my edits running smoothly, and to being able to make sure each character evolved properly (without going backwards. as happened in the first draft!) over the course of the story.
As I said at the start of this post, many of my spreadsheets having nothing to do with numbers. Many of their functions could be achieved in other ways, too, possibly with all sorts of fancier software. However, these little beauties have helped me keep my writing on track, quickly and simply, in so many ways – and whether you’re already very organised or your filing system is basically ‘the floor’, I hope they can do the same for you!