Tag Archives: self-publishing

CHECKMATE has a Due Date!

Checkmate_CVR_XSML

We have a due date! One for the newest book baby. No, it’s not a due-back-at-the-library date, it’s the day Checkmate is going to be officially released: February 19th!

That’s not much more than a week away. Are you excited? Yes, you are, very excited indeed. Because you can’t wait to read about the further adventures of Cat, Guy, and Bibby (who’s now called Bina, seeing as she’s no longer a little kid – if you haven’t yet read “Lavender’s Blue”, go over here to find out about it). And there’s this new kid, Rhitha – what’s going on with her and her family? Why is her sister being so mean to her? You’ll find out soon…

So mark it on your calendar: next week Friday you can go online and get your very own copy of Checkmate. Or, even better, you could hop over to Amazon or Smashwords right now and pre-order the ebook, then you’ll get it delivered the moment it’s released!

Just nine more days!

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Filed under books, Checkmate, The Septimus Series, writing

Cosy Fantasy – Or Is It Cozy?

SeventhSon_CVR_XSML I have a problem with my books: Seventh Son and Cat and Mouse, I don’t know what genre to stick them in.

People ask me what kind of books they are, and I usually say “fantasy” – but then I always feel compelled to qualify: “Well, it’s light fantasy,” or “It’s kind of a romance,” or “It doesn’t have any orcs in it.” Because, you see, when someone classifies a book or movie as “fantasy”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me, and I suspect for most people, it’s Tolkien. Well, he did start the whole thing, really. Yes, yes, I know about George Macdonald’s Phantastes and that there were other fantasy writers before Tolkien. But he is the one who made the genre popular and who is unfailingly copied. Fantasy fiction, for the most part, means pointy-eared elves, vicious-looking orcs, and pseudo-medieval knights in more-or-less-shiny armour. There has to be at least one sorcerer and plenty of swords, and a dragon or other mythical creature is pretty much mandatory – that’s the essence of “fantasy”.

But my stories haven’t got any of that. Not a single pointy-eared person in sight. To date, in Ruph nobody even owns a sword, let alone has drawn it; and as for dragons, they’re mentioned once, in Chapter 6 of Cat and Mouse, but only in passing, when Cat is wondering if they’re real or just as mythical as in our own world (the jury is still out – Nikor, the librarian, thinks they might exist, but he doesn’t really care, as long as he has a good way of shelving the books about them).

So, the Septimus series is definitely not classic fantasy (nor epic, nor high, nor whatever other flattering epithet one might bestow on Tolkienesque fiction). So what is it? Well, there’s romance, in the first couple of books at least. But, then again, the books aren’t “romances”, either. No ripped bodices, heaving bosoms, or lust in the dust (nor anywhere else, for that matter); no perpetual belly-aching about “he loves me, he loves me not”; not even the high-class tension-filled relationship dance of an Elizabeth and a Mr Darcy – this is not “boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy has to overcome obstacles to get girl, boy gets girl”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that storyline (I lurv me a good romance) – but Seventh Son and Cat and Mouse don’t really run along those tracks.

They aren’t fantasy. They aren’t romance. I’ve also had readers comment that Seventh Son feels like a Young Adult novel – but Cat is twenty-eight, hardly your typical YA teen protagonist. So, really, not YA either (which is at best a somewhat controversial category, anyway – is a YA a book for teens, or about teens? Just like the Ruphian dragons, the jury is still out on that one). And then there’s mystery in those stories, but nobody dies (or at least not mysteriously), and Cat is not a Ruphian equivalent of a gum-shoed, pipe-smoking and/or mustachioed sleuth who has to figure out whodunnit. So not mystery, either.

CatMouse_CVR_XSMLBut what to call them? Because really, the Septimus books are fantasy. And they are romance, and mystery. Just not your typical example of either of those genres. And when I thought about how to describe these stories, a term popped into my mind: Cosy Fantasy.

You see, one of my favourite genres to read is Cosy Mysteries. You know, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers (to name just three of the queens of the genre): mystery novels which usually deal with a limited cast of characters (often in the typical English country house setting), have very little violence (and what there is of it, usually happens off-stage), and above all, focus on people and their relationships.

And that’s exactly what the Septimus series is like – but in a fantasy setting. So I coined this phrase, Cosy Fantasy, to describe my books – and then I found out that I’m by no means the only one who has come up with that descriptor for this kind of stories. Goodreads, for one, has whole lists of books that fit into that category (which is exactly where I’m going to go next time I’m looking for a good new read).

But here’s another snag: how to spell it? Is is Cosy Fantasy, or Cozy Fantasy? Goodreads, again, has two lists, one under each spelling – and they’re different lists. I have a feeling the Cosy Fantasies are the British ones, and the Cozy ones the American-published. Yet another dilemma – I’m publishing my books in Canada, though US venues (Amazon, Createspace and Smashwords), with British spelling… Cosy, or Cozy?

I think for the time being, I’ll stick with Cosy, to go with the rest of my spelling. But if you would rather cosy up with Seventh Son and Cat and Mouse under the name of Cozy Fantasies, please do.

Life, the Universe, and Cosy Fantasies. All that matters is that you enjoy them.

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Filed under Cat and Mouse, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, writing

It’s Another Book!!

CatMouse_CVR_XSMLAnd here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for: IT’S ANOTHER BOOK! CAT AND MOUSE, Book 2 of The Septimus Series, featuring further adventures of Catriona, Guy, Bibby, and Sepp – and introducing Cat’s best friend Nicky! Also introducing a whole lot of mice, a number of cats (one of them with only three legs), and more people who are going to be pretty important – but I’m not telling you too much about them yet because that would be giving things away.

Here’s the official blurb:

A silent young boy, a man like a rat, and a plague of mice—Cat has her work cut out for her.

It’s hard enough for Catriona, an ordinary modern woman, to get used to living in a magical medieval world, even without having mice pop up at every turn. Good thing Cat isn’t as squeamish about rodents as her friend Nicky, who has her own issues to cope with back in the regular world. What does the man with the twitchy nose want with young Ben, Nicky’s ward? And does the mouse plague back in Ruph have anything to do with the new apprentice Cat’s husband has taken on—the boy who won’t speak?

This book is now available:

on Amazon.com and .de for Kindle and in print

Amazon.ca for Kindle (print hopefully coming soon)

Smashwords for all other ebook formats

Createspace in print

CAT AND MOUSE – go get it now!

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Filed under books, Cat and Mouse, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, writing

This & That & CAT AND MOUSE

I have things I was going to tell you about. Marmalade, and Charles Dickens, and watching the last episode of Season 1 of Once Upon a Time and what I think of it. But we’ll leave that for later, because right now the big excitement is that it’s only two more days until Cat and Mouse is available for actual sale in actual, um, virtual, um, online book stores.

Steve was complaining that he hadn’t had enough screen time recently, so I let him and Horatio model the print copy of Cat and Mouse. He was also complaining that there aren’t enough bears in my writing, and I’m sorry to say this book is no exception. Not a single bear in sight, in this or in Seventh Son. But of course, there’s cats, so that’s where Horatio comes in. Well, a tiger is a cat; so even though there are no tigers in Cat and Mouse, only domestic cats, I thought he’d be a suitable advertising model.

The picture also gives you an idea of the size of those two. Some friends who’ve met Steve in real life were surprised at how small he is. He’s a Gund, only 9″ (22cm) on his tippy-toes, 6″ (15cm) when he’s sitting – but I guess his screen persona comes across as much bigger. He’s a large bear on the inside.

So here they are. Doesn’t Cat and Mouse look lovely?

Steve, Horatio, Cat & Mouse

But there’s one more thing I had to share with you. I just got this awesome comment on my “Clean Air” post from the other day. You know the one where I rant about rude, inconsiderate, pushy salespeople with tunnel vision about their product? Here’s the comment, verbatim:

“it is great to see about air purifier . how many people know about air purifier we should know about air purifier this the mean thing so everybody should know about air purifier you can check about air purifier here [spam link]”.

I liked that comment so much, I left it up, with the guy’s name and links removed (wouldn’t want to risk even the slightest chance of giving him any business from his spam). Gotta love it when spammers make your point for you.

So, just a couple more days, and you can have Cat and Mouse in your sweaty little hands – umm, on your sweaty little Kindles and Kobos and iPhones and computer screens. The hardcopies will be a bit longer in coming; I’ll let you know when I’ve got some on hand for locals to buy from me directly, or you can order it yourself from Amazon US or Europe (Amazon Canada will take longer).

Life, the Universe, This and That and Cat and Mouse. Steve and Horatio say hello.

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Filed under blogging, books, Cat and Mouse, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, this and that

What SEVENTH SON Is Not

SeventhSon_CVR_XSMLThe other day someone asked me, once again: “Did you write Seventh Son?” Well, yes, yes I did. However, that’s actually not what they’re asking. They don’t want to know if I wrote a fantasy novel called Seventh Son; it’s something else they have in mind. And so, to answer that question, let me enlighten you about what my SEVENTH SON is NOT.

My novel is not the source text for the movie Seventh Son that is coming out next week (well, in North America it is; the release date is February 6th). The film has been several years in the making,  and stars Ben Barnes (heartthrob!) in the lead role. The source book (or, as they put it, “inspiration”) for that movie is actually not even called Seventh Son, but The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch (original UK title: The Spook’s Apprentice), and it’s written by Joseph Delaney.

Another book my Seventh Son is not is the 1987 novel of that title by the great Orson Scott Card. His book is the first in his series The Tales of Alvin Maker (which he still hasn’t finished, as far as I know).

Hmm, now that I look it up, it appears there’s another work called Seventh Son I was unaware of – a 1926 silent film from Germany. I’ll  have to check that out; maybe Youtube has it.

So, just for the record: none of these stories are mine. And I’m not ripping off any of their ideas, either. In fact, I had written the text and decided on the title of my book before the forthcoming movie was even filmed; and didn’t read the Card book until several years later. Really, what all these stories, mine included, have in common is the old folklore trope that the seventh son of a seventh son has special powers – magical ones, generally. And that’s about all that’s similar, other than the title.

My book is a light romantic fantasy (well, yes, they’re all fantasy stories) about a young woman named Catriona, who looks into a turquoise pottery bowl and suddenly finds herself whisked off to a magical medieval village called Ruph in which the – you guessed it – seventh son of the seventh son has just gone missing, and she has to figure out not only how she ended up where she is and how to get out of that predicament, but what’s been happening in this town. I call it a Cosy Fantasy – you know, like a Cosy Mystery, but in a fantasy environment.

Card’s and Delaney’s stories are much more classical fantasy. Delaney’s would probably classify as Sword and Sorcery – well, definitely the sorcery bit (there’s a very nasty witch); while Card’s is the alternative-history variety – a different 19th-century USA with magic. The stories are darker than anything I would ever write; actually, they get darker yet as the series progress – I gave up on Delaney with the second book, and on Card with about the third volume. They’re well-written books, but I don’t enjoy reading that sort of thing, let alone writing it.

However, “dark” is a matter of definition. Both Delaney’s and Card’s “Seventh Son” stories are also Young Adult novels, at least these first books in the series are, in that the protagonist, the seventh son of the seventh son, is a young boy – twelve years old in the case of Delaney’s Tom Ward, even younger in the case of Card’s Alvin Maker. So what I call “dark” here is really very mild, by fantasy standards – it probably wouldn’t even warrant the term for most readers (yeah, well, I’m super-sensitive. So sue me).

And that’s another thing my book is not: a YA novel. My Catriona is not a teenager, she’s twenty-eight; and the Seventh Son in question is not a twelve-year-old, but right around Cat’s age, too. But that’s not to say that YA readers wouldn’t enjoy the story; in fact, I have it on good authority (i.e. word of mouth/keyboard) that several of them already did.

Incidentally, the movie that’s coming out is not a YA, either. The screen version of Tom Ward is most emphatically not twelve years old – in fact, Ben Barnes is over thirty. I have a feeling the movie might not have a whole lot to do with Delaney’s book. But whether it’s dark or not, I’ll have to go see that film; gotta check out the competition, dontcha know. But more importantly, while I’m a big fan of BB’s, there’s another young actor in that movie I can’t wait to see on the big screen: Lilah Fitzgerald, who plays Tom’s little sister Cate – I’ve met her in real life, although she probably doesn’t remember it (she was quite small then). Her mother is a friend of mine.

When I first heard that a movie with the title Seventh Son was coming out, I seriously considered changing the title of my book (I was going to go back to Septimissimus, which was its working title). But then I thought, No. I picked it first. Actually, Orson Scott Card picked it first, and they didn’t ask his permission about the movie title, as far as I know. Titles aren’t copyrighted, you can use whatever you want. And the basic idea we’ve all named our stories for is something none of us can claim credit for – the originator of that trope is lost in the mists of folklore.

So there you have it: Life, the Universe, and What My Seventh Son Is Not.

Incidentally, speaking of BB – a little side-track-advertising here: there’s a Ben Bauer in Cat and Mouse, the sequel to Seventh Son.  You know, just sayin’ – book release is in just five days! You can pre-order the ebook right now!

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Is It A Book Review?

Wow. So here’s one of the biggest compliments I’ve received on my writing yet. Especially because it’s coming from Desi, who, in spite of the self-deprecating style in which she talks about her writing, is one of the best writers I know – I stand in awe of this woman, people. Of her academic work (she knew how to use “ontological” in a sentence years before I did, and can cite Foucault without batting an eyelash. ‘Stuffy academic bylines’, my foot!), her sheer bloody determination (check out her latest fiction project – it’s on her blog, in bits and pieces), and her incredible gift for Showing rather than Telling in her fiction (again, read her latest project – it’s called NP on her blog). To think that I had something to do with getting her back into the writing groove makes me feel incredibly proud. Yes, she’s a real-live writer, too, and it has been an incredible privilege to get to beta-read her work. (But just as an aside, it’s true, I do not have Viva Puffs and coffee for breakfast. We won’t talk about the snacks of ham-and-creamcheese rollups and the gallons of tea that get consumed during the course of my writing, though.)

[Addendum: 25/02/2015 – Desi took her blog offline temporarily, so I can’t link to it any more. But here’s her post the way it was on her website:)

Is It A Book Review?
Posted on January 25, 2015 by Desi Valentine under Writing 

I have friends who are writers. Like, real-live, actual writers whose publishing credits include real-live novels instead of stuffy academic by-lines and who do not have Viva Puffs and coffee for breakfast while caressing the covers of their brand-new notebooks. They tolerate me, these friends of mine. I would like to think that, when we see each other face to face, they will tell me if I have coffee breath or bits of chocolate showing at the corners of my mouth. Also, they send me their books to beta-read or soft-edit in advance of having a professional editor give it the ol’ fine tooth comb treatment.

I’m not sure there is a higher compliment.

And this is how I know these friends of mine are real-live writers. They take their work seriously enough to have it beta-read, and edited, and edited again before sending it out into the big wild world with professional cover design, registered ISBN, and probably a tear or two for the little bird all grown up. Unlike me, who (as you may have noticed) publicly slams out emotive quasi-gibberish before slipping down to the dungeon with a variety of chocolate products, a French press, a grinder, and a locally roasted case of black-and-tan coffee beans… and maybe a garden hose like that kid in the attic in Dirk Gently: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul…. I wonder if I could sell my husband on that.

Anyway, having talented, tolerant friends like these means that I get to read their books. And though I generally don’t do book reviews, and actually never give Goodreads ratings for books by friends for reasons having to do with ethics and the bizarre propensity for Goodreads’ users to rate books they haven’t actually read, I invite you to check out my friends’ work:

Angelika Offenwanger and I met in university, and she was instrumental in getting me writing again. I’d taken a two decade-long sabbatical after a bad experience with an unethical publishing house, and through chatting with her I sort of found my way home. She writes light fantasy that could also be called cozy mystery, and she’s really good at it. Her fun, fast, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny Seventh Son can be found at Amazon, SmashWords, Kobo and Scribd. The cover reveal for her new book, Cat and Mouse, was posted to her blog last week.

Angie West and I met through the We Blog blogging community. She was the first author to seek my opinion on her work, and the first to really open my eyes to the editorial freedom indie publishing makes possible. We lost touch while I was drowning in school and she was focused on a fast-growing list of new projects, but I have long regretted not mentioning her work to more people. She writes darker, more graphic, but still hilarious fantasy, horror and romantic mystery novels of which I’ve enjoyed Incubus, Shadow Cave, and The Fifth Hour.

There are a few other folks in my circle with novels-in-progress and new releases coming up. I’ll tell you about them once I’ve finished hammering out the draft of my WIP and emerged, pale-faced and trembling-limbed, from my chocolate-sticky and coffee-stale writing corner dungeon. In the mean time, do check out Angie’s books, and do get your hands on Seventh Son. I’m not a good enough friend to recommend them if I didn’t think they were worth reading.

Which means I shouldn’t expect them to tell me about the chocolate on my face, right?

Thanks for reading, everybody. I hope you’re having a great Sunday!

D.

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Filed under Cat and Mouse, Check It Out!, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, writing

Humility, Forests and Trees

I pride myself, in certain cases, on my perfectionism. Not always, by any means – there are lots of occasions where I’m not perfectionistic at all. House cleaning, for example. Or yard work. But when it comes to my writing, oh yes, the perfectionist in me is out in full force. As far as content of writing goes, you can’t really make it perfect, you can just make it as good as you can; the rest is a matter of opinion. But form, and formatting – well, there is such a thing as absolutely correct. Spelling, grammar, having everything look right, it matters.

So I released Seventh Son yesterday to great fanfare – drum rolls, fireworks, the lot. There it was, all neat and shiny, on Amazon and Smashwords and CreateSpace. My friends were all patting me on the back, and I felt so proud of myself.  And then, in the early afternoon, a friend messaged me on Facebook: “It might just be my ebook reader, but it looks like chapter 3 and 4 are identical.” WHAT?!? I grabbed the hardcopy I had sitting beside me on the kitchen table, flipped to chapter 3, then to chapter 4 – and said some swear words, loudly. Jumped up, clapped my hands to my face, swore again, frantically paced three steps back and forwards again, hyperventilated, clutched at my hair – you get the picture. Full-on panic mode.

I had, right at the base level, dropped out chapter 3, and instead put in a duplicate of chapter 4. Right in the base file, when I exported the text from Scrivener to a Word document – the file that I used to do all my formatting from, for print, Amazon, Smashwords, everything. And I never saw it. I went over those files over and over again. I had even noticed that it said “Chapter 4” twice, so I fixed the first one to say “Chapter 3”. But I never noticed that it was the wrong text in that chapter. I read over that file so many times since I wrote the story, over and over. It was a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees – so many chapters of text which I was so familiar with and had looked at so many times, I never saw the glaring error. And I blithely uploaded the file to all the ebook vendors, even had a couple of proof copies printed.

So here I put myself out there, telling the world how great I am and what a great thing I accomplished, and it’s got this big fat mistake in it. Talk about a humbling experience. I’m not perfect, not even where it matters, and now the whole world knows it.

My friend Lee Strauss, whose mentorship has been instrumental in getting Seventh Son off the ground, tells me that every self-published writer does something like this at least once. Phew – at least I’m not the only one. I guess you’re not a proper indie writer until you’ve screwed up for the first time; so I’m lucky I did it right on my first release date and got it over with.

And now that you all know I’m not perfect, I have nothing more to lose. I can just carry on being me; write my stories, drivel on in my blog posts, and you won’t expect me to never make mistakes. Which you probably never did anyway – the expectations were all in my own head – but now I know you won’t. And that’s a really freeing thought.

Life, the Universe, and Big Public Bloopers. The freedom of dispensing with illusions.

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