Monday, September 28, 2015

Ready for Launch!

The story of Seven Noble Knights was a "bestseller" in the
Middle Ages and Renaissance. Can it capture readers' hearts today? 
Seven Noble Knights has benefitted from programs at Grub Street already. Now it looks as if Grub Street could be the deciding factor in the success of its launch! I've been accepted into a program I heard about in 2014 and immediately filed away as something I would probably never get to do because it seemed so prestigious and because it's for authors with a book coming out.

I'm now an author with a book coming out! So of course I applied to the seminar of my dreams, the Launch Lab. Twelve authors with book releases in the next year (still hard to believe that's me!) get together with industry experts to plan a book launch that makes sense for their goals, personalities, books, and resources. While I've come up with a few random ideas for getting the word out about Seven Noble Knights, the number of books published each year means that someone trying to go it alone has zero chance of getting noticed. Launch Lab gives my book a fighting chance!

So I'll start now: please notice Seven Noble Knights, the best medieval epic set in Spain you will ever come across. Brave knights, beautiful ladies, and a bloody cucumber... (Maybe I'll find some people who'll commiserate with me about my struggles with using a bloody cucumber as a marketing tactic.)

I've put everything into Seven Noble Knights: blood, sweat, tears, time, international travel, vocabulary, research, sacrifice, and oh so much love. I guess it's time to put some domestic travel and money in, too. I'll be taking the train to the first meeting this very week.

Wish me luck! I'll report on what happens.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

World Rhino Day 2015

It's World Rhino Day! How are you celebrating rhinos and helping their cause?

All five species are beautiful examples of cornerstone species that mean the world to their environments. All five species are in trouble.

The smiling Javan rhino. About 60 individuals.
The uniquely harry Sumatran rhino. Fewer than 100.
The real-life unicorn, the Indian rhino. About 3000 individuals.
The beauty queen black rhino. About 4,500.
The gentle giant, the white rhino. About 19,000. 
In Africa, two or three rhinos are murdered every day for their horns, so these numbers, sadly, are only decreasing. I look forward to a World Rhino Day when we can celebrate without thinking about these insane facts, when humans will no longer harass rhinos, who never asked for anything from us.

Except maybe a little love.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A lovely surprise: Five-Star Review of Unpredictable Worlds

Well darn. I've had to modify the cover of Unpredictable Worlds. What terrible inconvenience has led to this drastic measure? A five-star review at Readers' Favorite (which, in truth, is the best thing in the world for a writer!).

Any review is a big deal for me. A five-star recommendation from this lovely institution includes a peachy-keen silvery sticker to put on the book's cover.

A wonderful alchemy of words and circumstances collided to find just the right reviewer. Amazingly, Carine Engelbrecht "got" the book. Read it in full here, and see two major highlights here:

For a collection of stories that stray delightfully off the beaten track of cookie cutter characters and plot lines without any roadside surprises, you can do a lot worse than venturing around inside Unpredictable Worlds: Stories by Jessica Knauss. While the stories are widely divergent, they are grouped around a series of themes that serve like hubs for the author's imagination to take off....

I enjoyed taking a trip through the author's imagination—that is exactly what Unpredictable Worlds: Stories by Jessica Knauss was, a journey of wonder. 

I'm impressed that the reviewer loves the rhino stories. I've started a rhino novel, but since I didn't know how I would find people who both love to read fiction and find out about rhinos, I abandoned that idea. This review gives me hope and the idea to maybe resurrect it as a shorter piece.

I get a particular frisson of authorial delight when the reviewer singles out some stories that never found a home before I published them in Unpredictable Worlds. Many of the stories in this book have been published elsewhere, and therefore had that outside validation any writer seeks. It's music to my heart that a reader I've never met is reading and enjoying stories that mean the world to me, but haven't made an obvious impression on anyone else before this point. Calling "Threads Woven" "a rich tapestry of creativity and character" when it's had no other feedback (other than form rejection letters)—I wonder if any reader knows how easy it is to give an author the ultimate gift. It goes to show: you never know who is going to respond to which story.

It's nothing short of wonderful that the reviewer points out the relationship between some of the stories. True interaction with my texts. I couldn't ask for more.

So here's that new cover, proudly displaying the shiny five-star badge. Plans to make the ebook available in venues other than Amazon have been in the works for a while now. Find your updates here!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Love in the Air

This weekend marked the sixth anniversary of my husband and me.

Time is such a bizarre construct. We're still newlyweds, and yet when we look at our wedding video, we appear to be children. Maybe it's because we had no idea of the adventures that awaited us. Maybe it's because our love has only grown. It seemed infinite on our wedding day, but our love is much bigger, wider, deeper, and stronger now.

True love grows and develops. It occupies the world without detracting from it.

Look out, world! One day, love will be so enormous, it will obliterate all the hate.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

I treated myself to The Price of Blood a few months ago. I say "treated" because I had high hopes and it met every one of them.

I was looking for a novel that immersed me in a time long past. You'll think your memories of this book really took place a thousand years ago.

I wanted specifically to know what it would have been like to be Queen Emma, faced with important men and Viking attacks. Bracewell's Emma is easy to sympathize with and the historical stakes are clear without it ever feeling like a textbook. I took away a vivid image of Emma and Athelstan looking out at London from the castle that I don't think comes from any film I've seen. It comes completely from Bracewell's evocative skill.

I wanted characters whose motives I could understand while the plot maintained historical authenticity. I didn't expect to be so disgusted by King Aethelred while still feeling the same political and family pressures that made him act in such outwardly bizarre ways. I didn't expect the Elgiva subplot to be so fascinating and to give the reader another female character possibly even more vibrant and true than Emma.

This novel exceeded any expectations I could have had in the way it keeps the suspense going even when the snippets from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle at the beginning of the section give away some of what's going to happen. I found Emma's big scene at the end of the novel, where she really comes into her own, so amazing as to make me want to recommend the book to every reader, everywhere. It's even more amazing now that I know the scene was the author's creation, an imagining of what must have happened in order to produce the results seen the history books.

The Price of Blood is all that I hoped a historical novel could be. It's even more impressive because it's the second in a trilogy.

Novels I've Read in 2015: 
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Along the Far Shores by Kristin Gleeson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A Kiss at Kihali by Ruth Harris

Mermaids in Paradise  by Lydia Millet

Raven Brought the Light by Kristin Gleeson

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wild About Harapan: Sumatran Rhino News

Last October, I was seized with a desire to go to Cincinnati. It's the site of the last Sumatran rhino in the Western Hemisphere, you see, so if I didn't drag my husband on an autumn road trip, neither of us would probably ever see a Sumatran rhino. I had a feeling he would be headed back to the nature reserve where all his living relatives reside. And now it appears I was right. It's the right decision for him. Such a sweet rhino shouldn't be alone. But oh, how we'll miss him. Safe travels, Harapan!

There was also bad news for Sumatran rhinos this week, the kind of news that shakes one's faith in humanity and makes on wonder what it's all about. Previously, we could say that Harapan's relatives had a small enclave in Malaysia as well as their main home in Indonesia. That spread is no more. The Sumatran rhinoceros has been declared extinct in Malaysia because of human greed. The species is utterly dependent on the population living in Indonesia now. It's hard to even say how many are left at this point.

On the brighter side, Harapan's new home hasn't had a poaching incident in years because of aggressive protections in place. He and his species have a fighting chance. It's far from time to give up.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How Not to Be a Potential Client

Now that I freelance for a living, my life depends on developing good relationships with clients. Far be it from me to complain about any potential client's behavior, but I need to share this one with the wider world because it's representative of what freelance editors encounter every day. I've changed some of the details to protect the identity of the person who sent me this message via one of the freelancing sites I belong to.
I am shopping around for an editor to go over the final draft of my [genre I work with] novel before I sent [sic] it to print. I need someone who is very detail-oriented to double check for typos, grammar mistakes, etc. Are you available to take on a project this week? My goal is to have the edits done by next Monday. Also, what do you typically charge for a project that is just under 100,000 words?

Let me dissect the flaws in this all too average message so that if you're ever in the market for an editor or proofreader, you can do better. Correspondence to potential editors is one more place you can make a good or bad impression, one more chance to put your best foot forward as a writer.

I am shopping around for an editor to go over the final draft of my [genre I work with] novel ...

The opening is off-putting because of the phrase "shopping around." Yes, freelancers are aware clients do this, but if this person had written something along the lines of "I saw that you like to edit novels in this genre," it would have been a point for them rather than against. It would have shown that the client had read my preferences and may also have done some (highly advisable) research into the books I've edited in the past. Such research benefits both of us because it makes it more likely that you'll find the right fit, which results in a good working relationship and satisfactory results.

I need someone who is very detail-oriented to double check for typos, grammar mistakes, etc. 

It's great that they give some sense of the work they'd like done, but the "double check" sentence makes me suspicious that this person doesn't really know what services they need, and the "etc" doesn't help that impression. Ideally, before you approach your researched editors, you need the following elements in place: 1. A completed book. 2. Someone (preferably many people) whose opinion you trust to read the book. 3. A list of issues your trusted readers found that you can't correct on your own. Editing the book as much as you can by yourself will save you time and money. Knowing the specifics of what you need will make for a better estimate process, saving time, money, and heartache.

Are you available to take on a project this week? My goal is to have the edits done by next Monday. 

What's the rush? Most editors have many projects going on at once and scheduling each project is a superhuman act to begin with. Much as we might like to help, we can't throw our other projects a week off schedule without serious consideration and, ideally, previous notice. It takes time to find tiny errors. This client was expecting someone to find all the needles in 100,000 bits of hay in just a little more than six days. Why the need to get the book to the printer so quickly? Please don't leave your copyediting and proofreading needs as the last hurried step in a production crunch. It stresses everyone out and creates opportunities for the mistakes we're all trying to avoid.

Also, what do you typically charge for a project that is just under 100,000 words?

The last question is inappropriate, since rates are explained on all the freelance sites I belong to. 100,000 words in a week would qualify as a rush job, which is far from typical. How can I know that I would charge typical rates for this book when I haven't seen a sample? A better approach would have been: "Please take a look at the attached sample and let me know your best quote for this last-minute rush job."

Every human interaction is an opportunity to prove you are a thoughtful, considerate human being as well as a professional. Remember that even when you reach out to someone online, there is a human being very similar to you, with their own issues and concerns, on the other end.