Archive for the 'Genre' Category

30
Sep
10

Glorious celebrations demand free books!

ETA: It’s now noon on Friday, and the giveaway contest is closed! Thank you to everyone who entered!! I am now putting all the emails and comments together in a big virtual hat. Since I love all the comments so much, I’ll be using a random number generator to make the hard choice of who gets free books for me. Winners should be notified today.  Again, thank you all so much for participating. Even if you didn’t win, I sincerely hope you’ll go to your local bookstore and give The Spirit Thief a try.

Sincerely,

Rachel Aaron

_______________________________________________________

So my first book, The Spirit Thief, comes out tomorrow! YAY!

To celebrate, I… wrote a guest blog post for Kalayna Price’s blog party about how we’re living in a golden age of publishing!

But wait, that is not NEARLY enough celebration! So, to reward all you loyal Magic District readers, I am going to celebrate my book’s release by GIVING AWAY 20 COPIES OF THE SPIRIT THIEF! These are not ARCs, they’re the real deal with lovely, glossy covers and beautiful embossed lettering! Total hotness.

Here’s what you’ll be getting:

The Spirit Thief

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? You want one, don’t you?! Well that’s good, because I want to give you one!! BUT, there is a catch! A catch, in fact, shamelessly stolen from our own Nora (because she has amazing ideas) when she did her Hundred Thousand Kingdoms ARC giveaway.  It goes like this: in order to get a free (autographed!) copy of the Spirit Thief, all you have to do is send me an email or reply to this post stating:

  1. That you will in fact read the book. Because, while I care deeply about your bookshelves, Orbit didn’t send me this lovely box of books just to have them be shelf decorations.
  2. That you promise to, once you’re done reading, leave me a review at the venue of your choice (Amazon, GoodReads, your own blog, wherever). If you don’t like the book, that’s fine, leave a review anyway! Of course, I hope you do like it, but reviews, good and bad, are vital.

That’s it, no contest, nothing but your desire to REEEEAD! That’s not too much for a free book, is it? This contest runs for 24 hours. At noon tomorrow I’ll randomly select 20 winners from the replies/emails, and those lucky people will  get free, autographed copies of The Spirit Thief shipped right to their door!

Now, I’ve got 20 copies, so your chances are pretty good! And if I don’t get 20 replies by noon tomorrow, I’ll just keep pushing the give away open until I do. So get those entries in, and good luck!!!

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24
May
10

keeping the balls in the air

A few days late, but I was overwhelmed this weekend launching my website! www.rachelaaron.net! This is also why my first three blog entries are magic district cross posts, no time to write three new ones! But I promise there will be new and unique content forthcoming. In the meanwhile, enjoy the pretty rollovers!

Everyone knows the famous Checkov quote, “If there are dueling pistols over the mantelpiece in the first act, they should be fired in the third.” It’s one of the best bits of writing advice I’ve ever heard, but in my line of work, writing adventure fantasy, I’ve had to make a few adjustments… “If there are dueling pistols over the mantelpiece in the first act, they should be fired in the third, then fired again in the fifth. By act 9 they should have morphed into cannons, and by act 13 the main character will be dual wielding them as planet destroying deathstars with hilts.”

Ok, that’s a little over the top, but hopefully you get my point. Lots of times my stories start with a magical system, some new and interesting way for the world to work. As soon as I have this in mind, I start working on a way to break it (or letting my husband break it for me). I think of this as player character testing. You know in role playing games how players will exploit every tiny trick of the system to get more power? I think this is the natural human reaction to constraints, which is what all systems are at their roots – power limitations. So when I get my characters and sit them down in a new world, the first thing I do is try to think how they will break the system, or at least abuse it horribly. It’s the best sign they’re acting like people and not like cardboard.

The down side of this is that with every new book, things get a little more out of hand. Characters need progression — new challenges, bigger stakes. Those secret power dueling pistols you showed in book 1 are old hat by book 3. You have to go bigger, cleverer, and the threat has to get bigger as well. And if you start big, like I did, then when you reach book 4, where I am now, things are REALLY big. That’s why I thank any power who’s listening that I made a plan at the start of this. So while things will get up to universe altering changes by book 5, hopefully they won’t get stupid.

That’s my biggest fear, really. I’ve seen so many series that start off amazing and just get stupid at the end, mostly because the characters have outgrown their world. They’re simply too powerful, nothing’s a challenge anymore. So I deliberately set my power scale at the very beginning in the hopes of avoiding this problem. I wanted big, dangerous, flashy, interesting, but not unbelievable. The important thing is that I haven’t left my main set of powers, my dueling pistols. Sure they’ve gotten bigger and crazier, but I haven’t had to change the rules of my world to accommodate my now very powerful, late series characters, and I never intend to.

Of course, we’ve still got 1 more book to go…

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.

06
Nov
09

On Batman

When I was a kid I was never really in to American comics or superheroes. That said, I LOVED Batman. I watched the animated series religiously every day after school (favorite episode: Harley and Ivy), and later I stole my boyfriend’s Frank Miller Batman comics (which are what I miss most about that relationship). I never really did become a comic reader. I couldn’t stand how convoluted and unending the stories were (they never END! No one stays dead! There’s never any closure!), but my love of Batman has never really let up. Conversely, I hate Superman with a burning passion.

Even though Bruce Wayne is handsome and impossibly rich, he’s still only human. Everything he uses to fight crime – the toys, his strength, his connections, he has to work for them. Superman was just born with his powers, and while he struggles nobly not to abuse them, he still has freaking eye lasers. Where Superman is treated as America’s weapon of mass destruction with a conscience,  Batman is a detective. Superman punches holes in walls, bounces bullets off his chest, then fries the Ant King with his laser vision. Batman follows clues, makes deductions, and then is waiting in the dark in the drug lord’s hideout before the evil doer even knows he’s been caught. Batman, SO COOL.

When I wrote my very first novel (which, thankfully, I never finished),  I had a main character who was the only one of her people born with great magical power. I wanted a heroine having to accept the greater destiny she was born to. Classic first novel stuff, I don’t have to tell you how bad it was. I worked and worked on this novel, but I could never get it right, and eventually I threw it away as a failure. Years later, while I was thinking about all the novels I’ve started and never finished (it’s a long list, folks), I found myself getting caught on this story again. I still like the magical system and the basic world premise I created, so why hadn’t it worked? I kept thinking on this question until, a few days ago in the shower, it came to me.

I’d written a novel with Superman, not Batman.

See, by giving my main character fantastic powers at birth and making her the only person to have them, she never had to do anything for herself.  Any challenge I made for her she could overcome by using her fantastic powers, and she never really had to suffer or fight for her choices. This isn’t to say there weren’t fights, the book was pretty much a running string of fights, but the MC was never pushed, never sent to the edge. She never had to think or grow, she wasn’t even a character really, more like a talking jar with generic humanist values I stuck super powers in. In short, boring.

Contrast this to the book that made it, The Spirit Thief. I’m not saying my main character, Eli Monpress, is Batman, but lets’ just say he would have had Batman pajamas as a kid.  Make no mistake, Eli is powerful, but he lives in a world full of powerful people, which means power is no longer enough. He has to use that power in new, clever ways which, by default, gives me, the author, conflict to play with right off the bat.  His power is not what makes him interesting, it’s how he uses, or doesn’t use, that power. In fantasy I think it’s very easy to fall into the trap of giving your characters too much power, of making them Superman. This can be done overtly, by just giving them super powers, or subtly, by giving them an inescapable destiny of victory.

This set up can work just fine (hell, it worked for Superman), but I prefer Batman stories where the power is in the person, not the magic or the sword or the alien artifact. After all, take away Superman’s powers and he’s just this guy. Take away Batman’s money and he’s still god damn Batman (which is why, whenever the Justice League travels into the dystopian future, Batman is always the only one still alive).  Like most authors, I’m a sum of all my influences, and I think there’s a little bit of Batman in all my main characters. If any one of my characters were stripped to their barest parts, they would still be themselves, still be dangerous, still be able to get things done.

At the end of the day, I’m happy with that. Batman for life!

30
Oct
09

a musical interlude

So this morning I was crusing my usual internet haunts and I saw this awesome video on Smart Bitches, which I will let speak for itself.

I promise this goes somewhere!

Continue reading ‘a musical interlude’

10
Oct
09

eavesdropping

So it’s that time of year again. I speak partially of National Novel Writing Month, but not really. The part of NaNoWriMo I love is actually October, the month before the legion scribblers begin to scribble, when they reset and reopen the forums. Friends, there is no greater, or more interesting, window into the aspiring writer’s soul.

Continue reading ‘eavesdropping’

09
Sep
09

Genre dilettante

Even though I’ve been out of it this last week (sorry about that), I’ve been thinking a lot about Nora’s and Rachel’s posts on the boom in urban fantasy and the benefits of Twilight’s or Harry Potter’s popularity.

Spiral Hunt is pretty solidly urban fantasy.  And, if I think about how it got started, there’s a very good case to be made that I was chasing a new boom in the genre.  I remember reading a few of the urban fantasy novels that were out a while back and thinking “huh, that was fun, I wonder if I can do something similar.”  Eventually, the setting and the characters came together, but I wonder if I’d have written it without that first reaction.

Did I write it hoping to cash in on a new fad?  No — not consciously, at least.  But that doesn’t make a difference once the book’s out, and if interest in urban fantasy suddenly dwindles, those intentions won’t matter.

However, when I write short stories, I write in a number of different subgenres, and I don’t think I can bring myself to settle down in just one.  I like writing high secondary-world fantasy, pseudo-science fiction, historical fantasy, fairy tales . . . and often, I’ll be interested in these styles because I’ve been reading a lot of them lately.  The boom triggers interest, which triggers an idea, which shapes the story, etc., etc.  And not all of those subgenres are the kind that stay popular for a long time.

So how do I know that when I’m dabbling in a new subgenre whether it’ll be worth it when I’m done?  Will the steampunk story be finished only after steampunk has burnt itself out?  At what point — if there is one –do I become an urban fantasy author and stop being a writer in many different genres (and if that happens, how easy is it to change?)?

(This is also something that I notice now more than usual, because I’ve hit the dark night of the revision again, and there’s a substantial part of my brain that wants to be working on something other than this novel. ANYTHING. And that’s when all those other, shiny subgenres start looking awfully fun to play in . . .)

If I look at it as a writer, the basic answer — just write — is helpful for the matters at hand, but as Nora pointed out, I do have to think about the greater implications.  If I think about it as a reader, though, a whole new array of questions comes up.  When I’m reading a book by an author I’m familiar with, I’ll inevitably have a preconception of what sort of book it’ll be. And sometimes that gets in the way — sometimes even before I pick up the new book.  (“What?  Author X has written a military science fiction epic?  But he writes fluffy fantasy!  Is this just going to be unicorns in space?” and so on.  No, I didn’t say this was a rational reaction.)

The thing is, at some point I can’t let myself worry about this. How an author perceives the genre of their work may be completely at odds with how either the reader or the publisher sees it. I might convince myself that I’m writing a noir pastiche, only to find that it’s read as high fantasy, or attempt to set a contemporary fantasy in a trailer park and discover later on that I’ve written horror. If my track record of judging my own work’s genre is anything to go by, then I shouldn’t worry about whether my maneating squid story will be too late for the SquidLit Manifesto, because chances are it’s actually a period romance.

I’m afraid this is a pretty disjointed post, but what I’m getting at (I think) is this: how much does an author’s prior work influence how you read their new work?  I know it’s possible to compartmentalize — I can’t think of The Curse of Chalion in the same headspace as Shards of Honor, much as I like both, and the same goes for “Sandkings” and A Game of Thrones.   But I also know that it does have an effect on how I buy books.

And is it possible to keep steampunk alive at least till I finish the girl-and-her-stamping-press story?