Monday, July 27, 2015

A Fleeting Flirtation with Fame

July 18 through 20, I did a giveaway of Unpredictable Worlds on Kindle as part of my publicity experimentation. Apparently, because I haven't set up a newsletter (yet), the best I could hope for with this is a few downloads, fewer reads, and vastly fewer new reviews.

During the free days, Unpredictable Worlds hovered around 113 in the Short Stories category most of the time. The number felt meant to be, containing as it does my husband's and my most romantic number, and I was happy with it, but if pressed, I would admit that I'd hoped to make it into the top 100 in at least one category.

After I made a Facebook plea (though I can't be sure that caused it), Unpredictable Worlds attained its highest rank on Monday at 9:44 pm: #67 in Short Stories!

And not only that, but I also happened to look at the section of the page that indicates "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed," and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. I'm beyond honored to have the slightest association with these fine books!

Although this giveaway didn't bring me much closer to literary stardom, I'm happy it resulted in a few more readers gaining awareness of Unpredictable Worlds. I hope they enjoy it!

Any other giveaways will be with different books, rest assured. They will be less last-minute and will involve a newsletter of some kind, because that's what the gurus are now preaching.

The big takeaway here is: thank you for your support from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma

I made a vague New Year's resolution to "read more." I thought that might look like reading ten novels over the course of the year. Either I underestimated myself, or that gift card I got at work really did help, because I've already exceeded that goal. The last book I was able to buy with the gift card was The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma.

This is the book I've been waiting for since I finished The Map of the Sky in 2012. When I saw that it would be available in July this year, I preordered the ebook without consideration for when it would arrive or how much it would cost. The years of yearning!

It all paid off. The Map of Chaos wraps up all the adventures from the first two books in the biggest way imaginable—by describing all the possible universes. How does all that fit into a single book? In the best way. For much of the book, it seems this final chapter will be quieter than world-destroying Martian invasion of The Map of the Sky. And then all the possible universes collide! The reader gets to feel the flash of recognition not only of characters from the previous books, but also of other personages from history. It would be difficult and pointless not to take pleasure in the overarching concept of this novel, which provides a unified theory to explain apparent time travel, ghostly visitations, and authorial inspiration.

Sound complex? It is, and I was often frustrated I hadn't purchased the print version because I wanted to page through what I'd already read in order to update my theory of what was really going on as I got more clues. But in the end, that's part of the fun, and I needn't have worried, anyway, as each element of the universe Palma has created gets its own capsule summary at the last possible important moment.

I mentioned in my review of The Map of the Sky that the characters weren't exactly prime examples of development (but that it didn't matter in the midst of so much action). As the reader witnesses the multiverse unfolding, the more meditative pace of some sections of this book allows for subtleties of character even between the different universes' "twins." Finally, The Map of Chaos is the crowning glory of an exploration of the meaning of love—true, complicated, ugly, and beautiful. Read the trilogy for the romance taken it to its furthest extreme if for no other reason. Above all, it is an ode to imagination and possibility.

The only question remaining is, when will they make the series based on this trilogy? Viewers love complicated plots and alternate history of the Victorian Age. It seems right that the BBC should produce the series, since the stories are so focused on London (in every possible universe). I'm ready, whenever they want to start. I've noticed that Eleanor & Park and Mermaids in Paradise are slated for movie versions. I'm sure it's because of my reviews ;) so let this serve as a stronger hint.

In short, there is no other trilogy like this one, which began with The Map of Time. The best books of the decade, and maybe of all possible decades.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Most Popular Book on Pluto—FREE Here on Earth!

Even from 476,00 miles above the surface, scientists have been able to learn fascinating facts about Pluto. Foremost among these is that the best selling book there is none other than Unpredictable Worlds—Plutonians like their fiction unusual. They love to read about Earth's warmth, its liquid water, and its rhinos. On their icy dwarf planet, this short story collection costs eight million plutons, which is the equivalent of a median year's salary there!

Here's the big news for us Terrans:

Unpredictable Worlds, a five-star-rated fresh release, normally $3.99 on Kindle, is now FREE this weekend! Saturday, July 18 through Monday, July 20, this collection with award-winning stories can be yours at no charge

A teacher controls her students with an edible microchip. A reporter turns into a rhinoceros. A couple’s efforts to eat local go frighteningly awry. If you’re looking to be surprised, puzzled, or just plain entertained, pick up this omnibus. There’s something for everyone! 

More than twenty years in the making, Unpredictable Worlds contains all of Jessica Knauss’s published and prize-winning short fiction as of March 2015 and a few of her best stories never before seen in print or ebook. Zany plots and outrageous characters will stretch your belief and tug at your heart. 

Reviewers have called Unpredictable Worlds “funny, touching, thought-provoking, anger-inducing, and faith-affirming.” You can’t regret spending $0 on this unique journey through worlds and words. 

Easy links to the sale, July 18 through July 20:
US | UK | Canada
Let those Plutonians know you have good taste, too, and download Unpredictable Worlds and tell other Earthlings about it. More news about this interplanetary success soon!

Monday, July 13, 2015

"To sell a lot of books, you have to give up on what you believe in."

In order to sell any books, do I have to sell my soul?
I've always been a dedicated writer. I mean always. Just ask my grade school teachers. But I've never sold a lot of books. My freelance editing business is picking up, so paying rent doesn't seem as daunting as it once did, but that glowing orb of idealism hangs around in the background, reminding me that what I'd really like is to get money for my writing.

It's such a cliché! "Every editor is a failed author." But I don't consider myself to have failed. I am, after all, an author, and people who read my work don't tell me to stop (as if I could). It's only the selling where I've fallen grievously short. One of my writing goals this month has been to dedicate serious consideration to what I could do to increase the likelihood that readers will discover my books and then proceed to buy them.

Sound hard? It's harder than you think! I'll just mention in passing, because so many others have said it already, that as soon as one method of book publicity works, every other author tries it and it becomes less and less effective. Normally, I'm not even aware of a particular method until it's run its course. So all you have to do is come up with your own totally new idea.

I've known this for a year or two, but totally new ideas don't just lie around waiting for anyone to pick them up and make millions with them. My husband knows this particular dilemma. When I told him I was hoping to come up with a doable game plan by the end of July, he responded with the title of this post.

"To sell a lot of books, you have to give up on what you believe in."
My husband, like me, is an irrepressible optimist, so the pronouncement was unexpected. He's come to this conclusion after years of watching two things: my anonymity, and a certain famous author doing TV ads and getting richer by the day without doing all his own writing.

I've never read any of that author's work, and he gives away significant chunks of his cash to literacy causes, so I've refrained from judging him in spite of how annoying those ads are. This author also has recently had a TV series made of one of his books, which does nothing to mend the antagonistic relationship humans have with other animals. From these unresearched pieces of evidence and his massive book sales, I gather that this author's writing appeals to the reading masses. Rather than challenging perceptions or cultural norms, this writing plays right into them.

It's only when thinking about commercial writing that I realize my own ideals for the author's profession. My method is to write about what I think is important or fascinating. There is no greater feeling in the world than having someone read my work, "get" it, and enjoy it! So it's not that I'm trying to alienate my potential readers. I'm looking for readers who want a challenge.

I'm a reader who seeks to experience other points of view and other worlds, which may not mesh with her own understanding, and I hope there are many other readers like me "out there." I was told at a young age that writing from my own inspiration would mean someone else would sympathize. It was good advice, but I may have taken it too literally.

Because, so far, there don't seem to be a whole lot of paying customers interested in what I have to say. Returning to the title of this post, my husband thinks the only way to sell a lot of books is to think about what people already believe and write something that confirms that belief—put my own beliefs and/or questions on a shelf and forget about challenging readers, because that's not profitable.

It's cynical, but it has a ring of truth for me. What do you think?

I'm hoping against hope that all of this is moot, that once you have some good writing, it's all about getting noticed. I mean, Suzanne Collins had something she really wanted to say, and it... well, it caught fire! This month, I'll still be working on publicity I can accomplish with my budget and personality. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

If I had known that each of these stories takes a different point of view on human relationships with animals, I would've picked up Love in Infant Monkeys sooner. Shocking and sensitive all at once, Lydia Millet delivers in a concentrated short story format all the impact of her novels. Each story is a memorable mixture of fact and fiction and each gives the reader something new to think about, some aspect of the way humans act in the world and how our behavior affects the other residents of this planet.

I was appalled to learn that the title story was inspired by a real-life study and intrigued by the possibilities of Edison's obsession with his film of an elephant execution (which is now digitized for anyone to view). A story about a Komodo dragon who attacked Sharon Stone's husband becomes a meditation on the meaning of celebrity and the relative value of life.

My favorite story is "Girl and Giraffe." Here Millet presents a realistic version of the humans who worked with the lions in Born Free and what they think and feel about the animals they work with, and then proceeds to bear witness to some lion behavior that no human can understand. For me, the behavior isn't below human experience, but transcends human comprehension.

Love in Infant Monkeys is not for faint-hearted readers, surely, but is an exquisite book. But everyone else knew that already!

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Third Five-Star Review of Unpredictable Worlds: Funny, Touching, Thought-Provoking, Anger-Inducing, and Faith-Affirming

Ask and you shall receive?

I placed Unpredictable Worlds on NetGalley for a significant fee. (Get it free for review there!) As you can see, I've got quite a few thumbs-up on the cover there, but it really started to pay off just after I point-blank asked for a review by someone I wasn't already acquainted with.

I received a great review at The Fish Place! She says, "This collection is by turns funny, touching, thought provoking, anger inducing, and faith affirming. It’s great." 

Wow! The real gobsmacker is that this reader, who has an honest review policy, also seems to get what I'm trying to do with these stories. She pays me the ultimate compliment when she singles out the rhino stories as her favorites and says I'm "the literary PR person for the species."

I'm so flattered all I can think to do is make it more true. I've been daunted lately about my rhino novel project. I hope this encouragement will help me blow past the mental block. The rhinos are certainly worth it!

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Unique Collaboration: Kristin Gleeson on The Imp of Eye

The Imp of Eye, released on June 25, was written by two amazing, talented author friends of mine. Any collaboration is special in the solitary business of writing, but today Kristin Gleeson explains how this collaboration is really a unique tribute.

TheImp of Eye didn’t begin its life as a collaboration. It started out as an idea my dear friend Moonyeen Blakey, a fellow author who’d published award-winning The Assassin’s Wife with Fireship Press in 2012. She had the idea after researching a previous novel on Jacquetta Woodville, King Edward IV’s mother-in-law. She had encountered a Marjory Jourdemayne, The Witch of Eye, who along with the Duchess of Gloucester and others, was accused of witchcraft. A perfect idea for a novel, she told me.

Moonyeen Blakey
The idea grew and became a novel from the viewpoint of a young lad, Barnabas, who worked in Marjory Jourdemayne’s household. We discussed Barnabas several times and how such a viewpoint would catch attention, and his age. I made suggestions. Gradually Barnabas emerged, a little older and full of mischief: 

Mistress Jourdemayne fetches me such a cuff round the head, I almost bites me tongue in two.
‘You little imp. Don’t try to cheat me again, Barnabas,’ she says, kicking the sticks I’ve collected for the fire. ‘I know what the fishmonger asks for broiled carp.’
‘It was only a groat’s worth of salt herring,’ I says. I sits, muttering by the hearth, nursing a bruised knee from the stumble I’ve taken against the hearth fender.

Over the next few years the novel began to take shape and changed direction occasionally. Moon shared her progress and ideas with me and I gave my enthusiastic feedback. Unfortunately, Moon fell ill with a second bout of cancer. She’d beaten cancer almost 20 years before and this time we thought it would be no different, but we were wrong. In March 2014, Moon died passed away.

Before she died, she asked me to take over her writings, including the many drafts of her novel about Barnabas, one of which was entitled The Imp of Eye. She told me to do what I thought best with it, because she trusted me and my writing quality. She knew I would honour her spirit and try to get the story out to the public.

Kristin Gleeson
I took the novel on and read through it. Moon’s amazingly creative mind never ceased to create characters and storylines that were lively and the novel was full of them. Some of them, though, deserved a book on their own and took the focus off the main element and characters of the story: The witchcraft accusations, Barnabas, and the Duchess of Gloucester.

I narrowed down the storylines to those two main characters, which I felt also improved the tension and pace of the story. With those two characters I was able to increase the attention and scenes for the Duchess of Gloucester to show the splendour and intrigue at court as well as develop the relationship between the Duchess and her husband.

Barnabas’s age always troubled me, because he seemed too young at ten to handle all the challenges that were thrown at him. I also wanted to hint at a growing attention to women. This seemed important to me because I was really starting to adore Barnabas and felt he could go on beyond this book. So I made him thirteen years old at the beginning and fourteen at the end of it.

I also introduced and changed a few characters to support the increasing number of plot twists better and also give Barnabas a future in other books. For instance a jolly large blackamoor that was shades of Ali Baba’s genie became an elegant scholar from the heart of African Timbuktu. Barnabas’s friend Amice became Alys, the Duchess’ servant.

Expanded scenes in the palace meant more research for the sake of accuracy, something I take seriously as a historian. I had Moon’s research books and my own, added to my prior knowledge which helped me in painting vivid scenes. One book I had a lot of fun with was a text on medieval feasts. I knew meals could be elaborate, but I was amazed at the extent of dishes and entertainments that were provided. I couldn’t resist to used it as a plot twist in the novel.

All the time I was writing I felt as though Moon were at my shoulder, debating, discussing and directing. It was a unique experience and in the end I have to say I fell in love with the novel and its characters. The Imp of Eye, Book One in the Renaissance Sojourner Series, was born. I think Moon would approve.

Look out for A Trick of Fate, soon to be a FREE novella ebook prequel on Amazon and other ebook venders. And if you’re up for more free books, sign up for my mailing list on my website and receive A Treasure Beyond Worth, a free novella ebook prequel of Along the Far Shores.