The Next Big Thing – The Weeping of the Willows

There’s this meme post going around called "The Next Big Thing" where new authors answer questions about the books they’re working on. I’ve been tagged by Sofia Samatar back in October, and then tagged again by my VPXV classmate Blair MacGregor in December. So I am really, really late on this. But never late than never, hey?

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The Weeping of the Willows.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Different elements of the story came from different parts of my life.

When I was in college, I had a friend who had kept swords in his dorm room. Sometimes, we would stage  fake fights. From that, I got the idea of a black girl assassin.

Because of my Christian charismatic background, I wanted to write a world that explored the nature of prophecy. I combined that with the madness of the Greek oracles to come up with the concept of voices in my story. I also love growing herbs, and that’s where I got the idea of herbmasters instead of doctors.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Epic fantasy.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I doubt it would ever get turned into a movie, but I think an older version of the girl who played Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild would be perfect as my main character, Coren.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A black female assassin is assigned to kill a herbmaster, but becomes a bodyguard to his son, the prophesied destroyer of the world.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

When I finish it (and by God, it will get finished), I plan to send it to agents, but also to publishers. We’ll see what happens then.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Officially, I started writing this in 1992 and made it up to 15 chapters before I stopped in 1997. I picked it up again in 2004, decided I had no clue what I was doing, threw all those chapters out, and started rewriting from scratch. I finished the first draft in July 2007 and saw that I had enough for two books. So I broke them in half, and I’ve been in rewrites since.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hm…probably the closest would be the Sun Sword series by Michelle West.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Over time, the story evolved to the theme of identity. What is identity? How can you claim identity when it’s been taken from you without your knowledge? What must you sacrifice to forge your own identity? In a way, the book mirrors my own journey as I wrestle with these questions.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Swordfights! Plagues! Talking trees! Politics! Meddling aunts! And lots of swears and oaths…

To be honest, I’m still in the revision stage, but I’m always posting updates here at the Café in the Woods. Feel free to follow me here, or on Facebook and Twitter if you want more timely updates.

Include the person who tagged you, and add other people if you like:

As I said, I was tagged by both Sofia Samatar and Blair MacGregor. I’m going to return the favor and tag my other VPXV classmate Veronica Henry, as well as fellow Madisonite Monica Valentinelli, and David Steffen who is one of the masterminds behind The (Submission) Grinder, an alternative to Duotrope.

New Poetry in Stone Telling and Dark Faith! Also, Willow Progress Update

This year seems to be the year of publishing poetry. I got two new poems out, and how fitting that both are released this week during Worldcon!

The first, “I Will Keep the Color of Your Eyes When No Other in the World Remembers Your Name” can now be read for free in issue 8 of Stone Telling magazine (you can listen to me reading it, too!). Arguably, this is the loooongest title I’ve ever had of any story. It’s one of my favorite lines from “The Last Unicorn”, spoken by the tree ensorcelled to life by Schmendrick. I wanted to see what that scene looked like in a science fiction setting, so this prose poem came out. There’s a very interesting story behind this poem which I don’t have time to relate right now, but if you’re at Worldcon, ask me about it and I’ll tell you.

I’m joined by a stellar group of poets: Amal El-Mohtar, Sofia Samatar, Alex Dally McFarlane, Julia Rios…in fact, just check out the entire issue. It’s deep, dark, and at times a little disturbing, but also thought-provoking. I’m honored to be included with them.

* * *

My other poem is no secret if you’ve been keeping tabs on Facebook and Twitter. “All This Pure Light Leaking In” will be appearing in the anthology Dark Faith: Invocations, set to debut at Worldcon this week! (Update: Just received word that it won’t be released at Worldcon after all. Publisher is running ten days behind schedule. It will be orderable through Apex website). The poem is an answer to the question, “As a Christian, what scares me the most about my faith?”

This highly anticipated sequel to the first anthology repeats the exploration of faith through a horror lens. And man, what a lineup! Jay Lake, Lavie Tidhar, Tim Pratt, Mike Resnick, K. Tempest Bradford, Nisi Shawl. To tell the truth, I’m a bit intimidated to be included here, but also deeply honored!

Dark Faith: Invocations

You can pre-order Dark Faith of the Apex’s website, and if you use the code “DFWanak”, you get 10% off the cover price! That’s right, I have my very own discount code. Eeee!!! UPDATE: And as stated above, copies won’t be sold at Worldcon, but in about ten days, you’ll be able to order it off the website, and they’re offering free shipping. Plus, you can buy Dark Faith 1 and 2 for $25.

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Feels like I need to end on the Willow novel note. As of today, 1/3 of Willow has been fully edited with the word count at 50,000. I had made a vow earlier in the year saying that I wanted the book to be completed edited by the time Worldcon rolled around, but it didn’t work out that way. However, I’m not depressed that I missed my goal.

When I started the re-re-re-reedits of Willow back in March, I wanted something to toot if an agent or publisher asked me about it at Worldcon. Granted, first I need to work on actually making those contacts, but for the first time, I feel like I’m at a really good place that I actually can give a good pitch. And though the story edits aren’t finished, I am comfortable enough with the first 50 pages that if someone asks me to send it in, I can.

As for the edits themselves, I’m feeling very good about them. Not doing much adding, but more cutting out what I don’t need. And as I cut, the easier to see what needs revamping and what can stay as is. I’m feeling optimistic. I just need to keep plugging away.

So Worldcon is going to be a huge networking deal for me. If you’re the praying sort, pray that I’ll be able to make good contacts and not make an idiot of myself. And, if you’re coming to Worldcon, I would love to say hi!

Lavender & Chamomile Reprint, Wiscon 36 Schedule and Chicon 7

Way…way too much has been happening in my life. Suffice it to say, I finished my short story Sun-Touched and sending it out to markets, and I’m putting all my energy into editing Willow.  I’ll post more on that, but for now, I have a couple of announcements:

LAVENDER & CHAMOMILE REPRINTED IN A RUSTLE OF LEAVES ANTHOLOGY

I’m pleased to announce that my short story "Lavender and Chamomile" has been reprinted in the anthology A Rustle of Dark Leaves: Tales for the Shadows of the Forest, edited by Inanna Gabriel and published by Misanthrope Press. From the website:

Step among the trees and discover the tales that lurk within the shadows that fall across the forest floor. From the words of the Forest himself to the ancient gods who defend him, from those who dwell within to those who merely wander, these fifteen tales of the forest will intrigue, inspire, terrify, and enchant.

Includes stories by Alexis A. Hunter, Gerri Leen, LaShawn M. Wanak, Jenni Wiltz, Seth Drake, and many more, with an introduction by Cory Thomas Hutcheson. A Rustle of Dark Leaves: Tales from the Shadows of the Forest is sure to leave you with the camping lantern on and the tent zipped tight.

You can get the print version from their website or the ebook at Smashwords. You can also order both versions at Amazon. And when you do read it, send a review to Goodreads!

MY WISCON 36 SCHEDULE

This year’s Wiscon will be a little busy for me since I am this year’s liaison for one of the Guests of Honor at Wiscon 36: Andrea Hairston,  author of Mindscape and the 2011 Tiptree winner Redwood and Wildfire. Because of this, I’m keeping my schedule pretty light:

Friday, May 26, I’ll be moderating the Religious Agenda in SF panel in Conference 4 at 4pm. We will discuss such works as The Chronicles of Narnia, Left Behind, Battlefield Earth and other stories that have a clear religious bias.

Then, on Saturday, May 27 I’m part of the Exotic Worlds reading group at Michelangelo’s at 1pm. I’ll be reading an excerpt from the short story I just finished, "Sun-Touched". Even if you aren’t going to Wiscon, stop on by!

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Finally, just a brief, brief note that I’m going to Chicon this year! More info on that in a later post, but they just announced that the opening night will be held at the Adler Planetarium. Can you say SQUEE!!!! I knew you could.

Story Calendar Now 99 Cents!

Tis the season…tis the season indeed.

As you drink your eggnog and wrap your presents, you may say, "I want to give an ebook as a gift. What ebook should I give?"

You’re in luck, because I’m dropping the price of my short story and poetry collection Into the Mist-Stained Woods: A Calendar of Tales to only 99 cents!

Mist Stained4 [Converted]

 

Think of it as my Christmas present to you…except, well, you’re buying it from me, so really, it’s actually a present to me…meh, don’t think about it so hard. BUY IT!

I do plan for this to be the last month the story calendar to be up. After that, I will take it down. So this is your last chance. Buy one for yourself, buy one for your friend. And then pass the word around. Twitter, Facebook, Stumblr, you name it.

And then, enjoy!

Weeping of the Willow Update: Resetting the Counter Back to 1

Well, I can’t put it off any longer.

The main reason I went to Viable Paradise was to get help for my work-in-process, The Weeping of the Willows. I had reached a point where I was in revision hell, and I needed clear eyes to get myself out of it.

What I learned there was that 1) everyone goes through this, 2) I got a good complex story, and 3) I need to CUT THINGS DOWN. Right now, I have so much happening and so many characters, trying to juggle it all wore me down.

I’ve looked over my outline and cut out some stuff. Some storylines can wait until the next book. I’ve combined some characters into the main characters, making the latter stronger. And ::deep breath:: I’m starting all over again.

So you see the Willow in progress counter to the right? It’s back to zero.

That was probably the most painful part of this whole process.

But…in theory…this revision would go faster. I no longer have 60 chapters to wade through. It’s been streamlined to 45 chapters. We’ll see how this works.

Last night, I edited the first page. Only a kazillion more to go. It’s a start.

Story Calendar Price Drop! (or…ohai all you cracked.com visitors!)

So last night, I was checking the blog stats for the Cafe, and I was startled to see that blog hits over my normal amount. Turns out, Cracked.com has linked my blog post about the American Gods Gathering at the House of the Rock last year in their article “5 Halloween Parties Too Badass to be Real (that totally are)“. Our little gathering made the list at #3.

Well, dang.

I need to respond to that. And what better way to respond than to DROP THE PRICE OF MY STORY CALENDAR TO $2.99!

That’s right folks. You can get my short story/poetry collection “Into the Mist-Stained Woods: a Calendar of Tales” for the low, low price of $2.99. That’s the price of a decent app. A good cup of coffee. Portabella mushrooms on sale at your local grocery store. A danish. (Huh. This is what happens when you write a blog post before breakfast.) But it’s a good deal. And if you can’t buy, then spread the word. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, you name it.

So click on the link above or the Paypal button in the right hand column. And enjoy!

Story Calendar is UP! Go Buy! Go Buy Now!

It’s done! My story calendar is done!

Mist Stained4 [Converted]

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you know that yesterday was an absolute bear. I had the ebook ready, but getting PayPal to give me a button proved to be a nightmare. But I finally wrestled one out, and the story calendar is ready for purchase!

Click on the book cover above or if you look at the top of the screen, click on the menu item "Story Calendar Page".  Or heck, if you’re one of those people who are impatient, and you just got to have the calendar NOW NOW NOW NOW. Well, dang, click the "Buy Now" button on the sidebar to the right. I got you covered.

How much, you ask? Well, for this month, I am selling the story calendar for $10. That’s less than a dollar for each story/poem in the book. Now, the more astute among you may ask why so much when I can get an ordinary ebook for 99 cents?  Well, when I conceived the story calendar, I saw it more as a fundraising tool for my Viable Paradise trip, which will be NEXT WEEK! ::insert panicked breathing here:: So in essence, it’s me going around knocking on doors, saying, "Hey, I got a great opportunity to go to this awesome workshop. Will you buy this popcorn/chocolate/taffy apples/Girl Scout Cookies/rancid piece of beef to help fund me going?" The difference is I don’t come knocking on your door at an inconvenient time, and the story calendar will last much, much longer. (And chances are, if I show up at your door selling a rancid piece of beef, the chances of me selling that will be higher than me donning a Girl Scout uniform to sell cookies. And by the way, No.)

Ten bucks too much for you? No prob. The best way is to help me out is boost the signal. Tell your family. Tell your friends. See the buttons below this post? Stumble, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus the heck out of this page. The more people who know about this project, the more it will help me. And heck, tell them about the freebie story they can get. That’s right. I’ve made the January story free of charge. Just go to the story calendar page to check it out.

Thanks so much for sticking with me throughout this crazy ride of making my first ebook. It’s been a blast, and for those of you who encouraged me through the process, I really appreciated it. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to take a well-earned nap. Then I got some packing to do. I hear if you don’t like what they serve for dinner, you have to forage in the wilds of Martha’s Vineyard with nothing but a butterknife.

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