Archive for the 'Epic Fantasy' Category

25
Feb
10

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are GO!

It’s Launch Day! Launchy Launchy Launchy Launchy Launch!!!

I’m sorry. Here I am popping up after two months of silence, only to babble incoherently because HOLY CRAP MY BOOK IS OFFICIALLY OUT! I tried to think of something intelligent to post here, but my brain is pretty much full of WOO HOO WOO HOO right now.

So. Rather than try and rein in the Loony Tunes in my head, I will direct you toward a couple of posts over on my author blog that I think Magic Districtians might find interesting. The first is from a couple of days ago at the start of my Launch Week countdown, wherein I mention a few things that readers can do to help me out this week, if they feel so inclined:

  1. Buy the book.* (Please. Mama’s got student loans to pay.)
  2. Read the book. (This is kind of necessary for the next step.)
  3. If you like the book, tell everyone you know. This includes everyone on Goodreads, Library Thing, and all the retail bookseller sites, especially if they let you post reviews. (The Amazon “post your own review” feature is active now, BTW.)
  4. Under the category of “tell everyone you know”, blog about the book. You’d be surprised at how useful word-of-mouth is to authors.
  5. *If you cannot afford the book, that’s OK. Put in a request for it at your local library. Readers often think this won’t help authors, but it does! The more requests a library receives for a given book, the more likely that library is to order more copies of the book. More copies = sales for me, and you get to read it for free. Everyone wins! (Then please tell everyone about the book, blog about it, etc.)

To this I’ll add one more suggestion. I live in New York, as many of you know — and while I’m not doing a schmancy Big Name Author book tour or anything like that, I am willing to travel to places within a 2-3 hour drive to do readings, signings, etc. So if you’d like me to do a reading/signing in your town and you’re relatively close by, and you make the arrangements — no private homes, please; public places only — and you can promise me a crowd of 20 or more, then holla, and let’s see if we can work something out. (In fact I’m doing just such an event next week, at Flights of Fantasy up in Albany. If you’re in upstate NY or western MA, come by for a visit!)

The other post I’ll point you at is a thinky one on what constitutes epic fantasy — i.e., how should we define it? Some interesting answers there already.

Anyway, I’m off — got a launch party to prepare for, guests in town, guest blog posts to write, and miles to go before I sleep. But since you guys have been with me pretty much since we started this blog, I just wanted to pop in and share a little of the WOO HOO WOO HOO with you. WOO HOO!!

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22
Nov
09

Never assume you know your readers

Sorry about the Sunday post… AGAIN. Fridays keep blowing up in my face, mostly in good but terribly busy ways.

So the other night my husband and I went to a local place called Taco Stand which serves…. wait for it… tacos! Delicious tacos! It’s cheap, tasty, and very popular with families (what kid doesn’t like tacos?). This makes for a weird mix of townies and students, groups that are normally oil and water in our little University town, but it also means I run into people I don’t normally see. Unfortunately, this mixing has a bad habit of spawning the “what are you doing now, oh you have a book coming out!” conversation I thought (back before I was published) I would love having, but in reality is always pretty awkward given most people’s vague notions of fantasy and weird ideas about how authors spend their time.

This particular night I ran into a woman I used to work with at the church (my first job out of college as a designer/receptionist and, coincidentally, where I wrote my first novel), named Tami. Even though Tami was older than me and a mother with kids, we were cohorts in the trenches at our job, fighting against the pretty terrible decisions of those above us, and I always enjoyed her company. But, other than work stuff, I didn’t know her or her husband very well, always thought of them as a fairly conservative couple. So, while I was happy to see her looking so well, I was pretty anxious when she came up to say hello after four years and the “what are you doing now” conversation came up. I took the cheat way out and just told her I had a book coming out. Fortunately she had a tray full of tacos headed towards a table of hungry children, so the conversation was truncated and I fled to the other side of the room, safe (I thought) from having to explain yet again that no, my book was not Harry Potter or Twilight or Eragon.

Fifteen minutes later as my husband and I are walking out, Tami stops us. My heart sinks. Here it comes. I can almost see the Oprah question in her eyes. She asks what kind of book I wrote. I tell her fantasy, and to my utter amazement, Tami and her husband are immediately excited. What kind of fantasy? Epic like George R.R. Martin? Urban? Her husband lights up as he tells us how much he loves Joe Abercrombie and how upset he is that Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t put out a second book yet. Tami’s asks who I’m getting published by, and when I tell her Orbit she knows exactly who I’m talking about and tells me she loves their stuff.

At this point, my mind is blown. Here is this woman I worked with for a year, whom I thought I knew as a conservative small town lady with her husband who owns the local office furniture store, more likely (I thought) to read Rachael Ray than ever read Rachel Aaron, and they’re asking me what fantasy books mine is like. What new books can I recommend? Will my book be suitable for their 10 year old, who is already an avid fantasy fan? (My books are not YA, but they have no cussing or sex, just bloody swordfights, so I said maybe to that one. Tami assured me they’d both read it first, and I actually believe they will.)

In the end my husband had to pull me away from the conversation so we wouldn’t be late for our party. Still, I got a very valuable lesson about making assumptions about people, their reading habits, and my future audience. When I wrote my books, the reader I had in my head were people like myself and my husband – geeks, gamers, internet nerds, people who wrote fanfiction in highschool, etc., etc. But there are fantasy readers out there who never go to cons, get involved in geek culture, or even consider themselves geeks. They just like a good fantasy story.

Being so deeply involved in geek culture it’s easy to forget that there are people outside the bubble who buy the same books I do. Who may buy my book if they come across it. Fortunately, this encounter was a very gentle wakeup call and not the foot-in-mouth disaster it could have been. Still, lesson learned.

13
Aug
09

The Map Thing

Seeing this amusing example of “Geography Fail” triggered this post. What’s wrong with this picture?

ur doin it wrong

ur doin it wrong

So as we confront yet another example of how Americans can’t even manage to correctly render maps of our own, very real world, I find myself contemplating the nature of maps in fantasy.

They’ve become a staple of epic fantasy, particularly those of doorstopper size, to the point that Diana Wynne Jones ruthlessly skewered them as a cliche in her seminal The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. (Note: I haven’t seen the revised version, which I’m told has a different parody map; the original was Europe upside down, with names that are anagrams of Our World names.) TV Tropes has a few choice things to say about them too. (Warning — I have never managed to visit TV Tropes without losing several hours of time browsing and laughing my nether regions off. Here there be lulz; click at your peril.)

It’s easy to make fun of fantasy maps — and yet we continue to see them throughout the genre, even when authors don’t want them (e.g., Terry Goodkind). It’s gotten to the point that an epic fantasy sans map doesn’t actually feel like epic fantasy to some readers. I was at Worldcon this past weekend, schmoozing and doing all the usual stuff debut authors need to do to promote their book. I handed one of my Advanced Reader Copies to an author whose work I admired, in hopes that she would read it and offer a favorable review. She thumbed through it, looked impressed by the teaser blurb, but then frowned and said, “I thought this was epic fantasy? There’s no map.” At which point I was obliged to explain that it had all the other tropes of epic fantasy — world-spanning scale, one brave heroine fighting impossible odds, Fate Of The Universe At Stake, the usual. Just no map. She still looked a bit dubious, but said she’d read it. Here’s hoping.

I got anxious enough about this during the early production phase of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that I actually drew a map. This was a mistake, of course, because I know diddlysquat about cartography and plate tectonics and had probably put a continent in the way of some critical Gulf Streamlike current, thus making the whole planet uninhabitable by human beings. But I worried that readers would protest that the story wasn’t Epic enough, despite warring gods and exploding mountains and such, without a map to illustrate the epic-ness. So I finished the map, then asked my editor if she wanted it. Here’s proof of how good she is — she demurred, noting correctly that it’s a good thing not to adhere to the overdone cliches of the genre. Amazing that I needed a reminder of this, but that’s how deep the programming runs.

Because I didn’t really believe I needed one. I feel the same way about maps as I do about depictions of characters in novel cover art — I know they supposedly sell more books, but I hate it when my mental image of the story is messed with by someone else’s rendering. When I finished my crappy map, I didn’t actually like it. For one thing, the underlying story of the series spans thousands of years. Imagine how much human civilizations in our world have changed in, say, the last two millennia. Which era would you choose to map? How would you depict shifting national boundaries, cities destroyed and rebuilt, and so on? On top of this, I make a point in the series of noting that this world’s rulers routinely obliterate nations that annoy them, literally wiping them off the map. Even the gods get in on the planetary renovation act, sinking continents and boiling oceans now and again. The survivors move to an undamaged location, plant a flag and name the new territory after the old, and hope they’ll manage to last a few centuries before the next displacement.

Trying to map all this made the world, complex and dynamic in my imagination, look simple. Static. Small. Which is partly a testament to my mapmaking (non-)skill, but also partly the purpose of a map — to render something as vast as a landscape into a comprehensible, graspable, quantifiable representation. Necessary for explorers, but for readers? I think it actually diminishes the epic fantasy experience.

So here’s my question for all of you. Fantasy maps: necessary? Desirable? Or an evil that must be stopped? You’ve got my vote, obviously, but maybe I’m atypical. I’d like to know what some other fantasy readers think.