Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fifth Season--Cover Reveal with Special Guest Commentary

With today being the official last day of summer, it seems like a good time to welcome fall with a cover reveal for Fifth Season, Book Four of the Season Avatars. Each book in the series has a different point-of-view character, and in this book, it's the turn of Ysabel, the Fall Avatar. As with the other books in this series, Maria Zannini of Book Cover Diva did the cover. Thanks, Maria, for taking my ideas and combining them so quickly into a cover! This is the eBook version; I'm not done with layout for the print book yet, so she'll complete the back later. Enough suspense-building; here's the cover:

Since there's a T-rex skull on the cover, I had to bring in some special guests to get their opinion on the cover. If you know me on Facebook, you may have seen pictures of my son's stuffed animals: Stan (the T-rex), Rex (the Apatosaurus, who's named for Captain Rex from Star Wars: The Clone Wars), and Oscar (the orca). We bring them with us on trips so they can share funny lines and photos. Here's what they had to say about Maria's latest cover:

Stan: I'm in the book! I'm in Mom's book!
Rex: Uh, Stan, that's some other T-rex.
Oscar: A dead T-rex, Stan.
Stan: I don't care! It's me! (tries covering ears and fails)
Rex: Anyway, Mom wanted us to point out that this is her first cover to feature a brown-skinned woman.
Oscar: You mean, woman of color. Ysabel belongs to two different ethnic groups and has brown skin.
Rex: Isn't that what I said?
Oscar (ignoring him): But the most important part of the cover is the black-and-white cat she's holding. Ysabel obviously has fine taste in color combinations--
Rex and Oscar: STAN! CALM DOWN!

This is why I don't put the boys in charge of book promotion, though how can I go wrong with an endorsement from them? Anyway, pre-orders should be ready by next week; more information and buy links will be posted soon, so keep reading this blog.

Monday, September 19, 2016

From Summer to Fall

Thursday is supposed to be the first day of fall, but the extended forecast in my area calls for temperatures in the 80s that day. Even though we went apple picking this weekend, and I've already broken out the ankle boots, the weather still calls for T-shirts, not sweaters (unless I'm at work, in which case the heating/cooling system calls for the addition of a cardigan and a fleece). It seems as if summer doesn't want to cede pride of place to fall.

In the world of my Season Avatars, the seasons do fight with each other at equinoxes and solstices. These special days are called "soltranses," and the Season Avatars for the old and new seasons battle each other with staffs at the Temple in Wistica. Here's a few paragraphs of Jenna, Summer Avatar, and Ysabel, the Fall Avatar, preparing for the fall soltrans in my upcoming novel Fifth Season:

Jenna hadn’t participated in the summer solstice soltrans, but she handled the fighting sticks with confidence, weighing each one in her hands. The oak staffs, padded on both ends, probably still responded to her magic. Ysabel wished her animal magic was more useful for this ceremony. However, as she tested her own fighting stick, memories of previous duels returned. She advanced into the stone-paved area of the courtyard and lunged at an imaginary enemy a few times.

“Thank the Four we remember these skills.” Jenna combined blocks and stabs as she moved into position opposite Ysabel. “I didn’t get much chance to practice with fighting sticks when I was growing up. There were always too many chores to do. How about you?”

Ysabel shook her head, mindful of saving her breath.

“Of course,” Jenna continued cheerfully as she struck a blow directly on Ysabel, driving her backward, “being a farmer’s daughter does mean I know my way around tools. Especially wooden ones.”

“Freeze it, Jenna.” Ysabel attempted her own thrust, but Jenna blocked it with surprising strength. “You have to lose in the end.”

“Yes, but we have to put on a show first, don’t we?”

Neither of them spoke as they focused on the fight. Jenna continued to press her with three attacks for every one of Ysabel’s. Several of them got through her defenses, and Ysabel reminded herself to ask Gwen for healing before the bruises became obvious. Gradually, as she continued to handle the fighting stick, memories came back to her of previous sparring sessions in this same courtyard. The sun warmed her and released the scent of stubborn roses still clinging to their bushes. The weight of the fighting stick felt more familiar in her hands, and moves and different combinations of moves appeared in her mind. As each one appeared, she tried it out. Jenna countered each move easily, but fewer of her own attacks landed on Ysabel. Once Ysabel even drove Jenna back a couple of paces. When Jenna stepped on a loose cobblestone and struggled for balance, Ysabel instinctively pressed her attack, striking her in the shoulder before tapping her on the head.

Jenna let her fighting stick drop. “Enough! I yield!”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. More information about Fifth Season will be coming soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Blog or Story Block: Which is Worse?

I had some trouble deciding on a topic for today's posts. Although I did come up with several subjects, I rejected each of them for different reasons. Finally, I realized I was suffering from a blog block, so I decided to write about that.

For me, blog block and story block are caused by two separate issues. Blog block often happens when I don't have a subject for a post. Once I come up with one, I can generally outline the main points in my head before I write. The block/slow writing I'm going through for Summon the Seasons is different in that I know where I'm going with the story, but I don't always have the specifics of how I want to get there. It may be hard picking the right words for a specific line, or my idea for the immediate scene may change to something other that what I had originally intended. Little time and lack of sleep don't help either. I need more energy or brainpower to write fiction than I do for nonfiction.

If you blog, do you ever suffer from blog block? How do you think it compares to story block? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A 19th Century Book in a 21st Century Head

First of all, can anyone name the song that this blog title references? I remember hearing it on the radio, though I admit I had to Google the lyrics to come up with the title myself.

Anyway, this weekend I finished reading Adam Bede by George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans). If you're not familiar with this novel, it was published in 1859 and is considered a classic of 19th century British literature. Most of the book is set in a small English town and revolves around the relationships of four people: the titular Adam Bede, a carpenter; a local squire named Arthur Donnithorne and is Adam's old friend; Hetty Sorrel, a pretty but vain seventeen-year old whom both men are attracted to; and Dinah Morris, a Methodist preacher who is Hetty's cousin. Although the book has received lots of praise since its publication, I found it hard to get into because in many ways it's different from the more recent books I normally read. I'm not even sure a traditional publisher would accept it today. Here are some of the things that I noticed about this book:

1. Sentences tend to be longer and more complex than in modern books.
2. Compared to modern books, the pace is slow. Much space is devoted to description, daily life (which is actually a feature that draws praise from critics) and to characters who don't impact the main plot--or do much of anything.
3. Dialect is spelled out, which sometimes means it's difficult to decipher.
4. Head-hopping in a single scene is common.
5. Authorial/narrator asides are common and are frequently used to "preach" at the reader.

These writing practices can work under the right circumstances, but for me and my modern tastes, they weren't that interesting. There was also a lot of overt and covert sexism and classism in the book, which is to be expected given the era it was written in. I did care enough about the characters to push my way through that book, plus I wanted to finish it so it would count for my reading challenge.

I do think this book shows how much fiction has changed in over 150 years. Will my books be read 150 years from now? Probably not. It does make me wonder how storytelling will change. I don't think our species will ever give up stories, but the mode of storytelling may be through immersive technology or something else we haven't thought of yet. The past and present stories that future generations find valuable will be translated into new forms. Let's see if this book makes the cut.

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