SPFBO9 Cartoons, #2: Michael Roberti

Mike was the second person to send me a drawing. It was this.

I burst out laughing. Then I wiped the coffee droplets off my screen, and googled his name. On his website, I found this:

The question I get asked the most is, “What gave you the idea to write about a world where writing disappears when someone dies?”

That’s tough to answer. I remember when the idea occurred to me, and I think there are two parts to it. The first is that history is already manipulated by the “winners” and those that write it down. How much of what we “know” is actually true?

The other thought was that there is already so much lost knowledge in our world. How much more would be lost if we lived on a world like Aithe? Even small wonders of technology would seem like magic if they had been lost for centuries. The words themselves would become the real magic.

And I thought, oh, wow. I need to read this book. So I went and bought it…

There’s a whole freaking lot to like about it. The pacing is delicious, the story told in patiently crafted glimpses of various people’s lives, perceived through their eyes as the POV shifts from chapter to chapter, giving each of the main protagonists a chance to reveal their inner thoughts and emotions to the reader. Some scenes are told twice from different views, pitting what one person thought had happened against what really happened. The world is rich and immersive and the author moves about in it as if he felt at home there (which he probably does, according to his website he used it for roleplaying sessions, so he’s bound to know every nook and cranny). Mike also, obviously, loves his characters (even if it’s tough love for some), and he manages to make a reader care about them, too, and deeply. The term “emotional rollercoaster” comes to mind. Take for instance the disappearing writing: Many of the characters carry scraps of paper with signatures of their loved ones. Now imagine the moment they realize that one of those scraps is blank, the frantic shuffling as they decipher name after name to figure out which one is missing… I could gush on, but I’m nearing spoiler territory, so I won’t. You’ll just have to trust me that the story is brilliant.

I had my tiny little beefs with one aspect as regards use of language – did you have to use terminology from modern day psychology to describe your medieval-style characters’ state of mind? – but that probably won’t matter to many readers. And while I’m being honest… the editing/proofreading… Sorry, Mike. I read the reviews on Goodreads, to see if the issue comes up anywhere, but it doesn’t, so either I’m a pedantic nerd, or no one else cares anymore (and I literally send friend requests to people who point out spelling mistakes in memes, so… make up your own mind). Also, this is a debut novel, and we all have a long way to go before we find our editor feet. My first ever book was an absolute mess, and I’m still grateful to the girl who had the guts to tell me. Which means, yes, I was annoying enough to actually message Mike about it. He didn’t ignore or downright hate me for my unsolicited criticism, so here’s hoping he’ll sit down for a round of polishing. Long story short, give him a few weeks, and then get yourself the book. I’d heartily recommend it either way.

Oh, the title is – you may have already guessed it from the drawing – The Traitors We Are. Here’s where you can get it.

Find more SPFBO9 books here.

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SPFBO9 Cartoons, #1: M.T. Zimmy

And so it begins. As announced, I issued a challenge to my fellow SPFBO9 contestants. Draw me a picture, a cartoon of your book, no matter how poorly done, I’ll take it and use it to tell the world (or the handful of people who actually read my blog entries) about you.

The first one to respond to my challenge did so with something along the shy lines of “Um. I already have something like that.” to which I of course said, that’s fine, you don’t have to draw anything new, send it over.

She did. My jaw hit my keyboard. It’s an entire comic strip explaining some of her book’s back story. The author in question is M.T. Zimmy (look here for her website), and the book is BETA, the first book in the Apex Cycle (two and three are out and available, too).

After having read the cartoon, I wanted to read the book. You will want so, too, and I’m here to tell you to go with that gut notion. Why? Because it’s amazing. When I picked it up, my first thought upon reading the blurb was, yeah, okay, this is going to be another of those YA stories featuring a “chosen one”. I’m not overly fond of chosen ones. Sammy moves to a new town that’s apparently brimming with people with superhero abilities. She herself is supposed to have none. Now how likely is that for the main character? Surely she’ll discover some hitherto unknown mega talent by the third chapter…

What happened is that I got totally engrossed. The book is a definite page turner, with a cast of complex characters that feel, well, like real people, with all their doubts and mixed emotions and stupid decisions. There’s a certain amount of, let’s say classic YA stuff, like people keeping secrets and the truth from the main character, and parts of the plot are pretty predictable, but here’s the thing: It did not make me roll my eyes because the story is written in such a way, you’ll want to know why things are going to turn out the way you are sure they’re going to turn out and…

And then it all twists and turns and slaps you in the face because, wow, you did not see that coming. Also, I tend to judge the quality of a book by how long it manages to stay with me. This one still keeps popping up in my mind a week after I’ve finished reading it, despite the fact that I’m already reading a completely different one. I’ll have to get me the sequels.

Here’s the Goodreads link, where you can enjoy some enthusiastic reviews, mine among them, and this link will lead you to the respective Amazon page.

Now lean back and let M.T. entertain you…

I told you you’ll want to read the book. Here are the links again, in case you don’t want to scroll back up: Goodreads, Amazon.

Until the next cartoon. Take care!

Find more SPFBO9 books here.

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SPFBO9 – Collect Them All

I know, I know. We’re talking about 300 books here. That’s quite the TBR pile. At an average 2 centimeters (0.787 inches) per book, that would be the impressive figure of 6 meters (19.685 feet) on your bedside table. How tall is your ceiling? Thank heaven for e-readers, is all I’m saying.

Either way, even if all this sounds a little overwhelming, you may want to dip at least a toe into SPFBO waters to see what all the fuss is about. For that purpose, one of my fellow contestants put up a page where everybody who felt like it could drop a link to their entry. So far, that’s “only” something about 60 books, all neatly lined up with their cover for you to idly scroll and check out whichever book strikes your fancy at first (or second) sight. This little promo thing lasts from June 1st to July 31st. Some of the books are on sale for that period of time (mine for instance), others might even be completely free.

So go pick your favorites, share this link with your friends and enemies, and have fun reading!

Oh, and watch this space. From tomorrow on, there’ll be cartoons…

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May Wrap-Up

Just a brief summary, typed between the dishes and getting the kid to football (and I mean soccer) training. In other words, my apologies in advance for possible randomness.

As already mentioned, I got A Tree’s Heart into the SPFBO contest. No, I’m not obsessively, aggressively refreshing all the pertinent websites. Nope. Not one bit.

Of course I am. Send patience. Or chocolate. Or both.

One former finalist granted me some space on their website for an interview, so if you want to read me rambling about all sorts of stuff (again), here’s your chance.

I got an enthusiastic review for A Tree’s Heart, too, by a book blogger not related to the contest. They used the term debut novel, which made me giggle a bit, but somehow it’s very fitting. After all, it’s my first ever foray into epic fantasy, so it’s a debut of sorts. Either way, they called it “such a cool novel”, which put me into total happy bunny mode.

That aside, I spent the month fading most of my books out of KU. You can still get them on Amazon, but also from all the other cool stores and a couple of libraries, too. I’ve put the respective universal links on each book’s page. The Resident Witch series is the only one (or six) still exclusive to Amazon, but will go wide, too, sometime in June.

I finally got to re-read Ego & Endurance, a science fiction novel by Karen Eisenbrey. I say re-read because I played the beta reader for her at some early stage, and now it was nice to dive into the final version, which is even better than the draft (which was already amazing). Go get it now, even if you don’t care for sci-fi, you won’t be disappointed. It has robots beeping in harmony, and Zero-G basketball. Check out the reviews on Goodreads (mine among them).

What else did May bring? Better weather, luckily, fewer headaches, and a LARP for the family. Three days of battling bandits for the kids, and working in the tavern for my husband and me. I’d show you pictures, but all I have so far are images showing loads of people who never agreed to me posting their faces all over the web, so this one has to do. It’s a bag I sewed for my daughter, originally intended to hold bandages and other healing supplies, but eventually used to cunningly hide a few daggers.

That’s all, have fun xx

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SPFBO, or Why Life Is Weird Right Now

When I published A Tree’s Heart, I had this crazy notion that I might try a little marketing again. I hadn’t done that in ages, because… oh, let’s be honest. It’s freaking boring to trawl the web for sites where you might get a free spotlight, or work your way through all those never-quite-up-to-date lists of book bloggers who may or may not accept indie books. On the other hand, contrary to popular opinion, a good book will not sell itself, so I pulled myself together and did all the aforementioned trawling until my husband voluntarily went to the office on home office days because he couldn’t stand the cursing anymore.

On one of those book blogger pages, I found a note saying that the respective team wouldn’t read self-published books unless they came via SPFBO.

I had no clue what that meant.

It wasn’t hard to find out, though, that those letters stand for Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, an annual contest exclusively for indie fantasy books. No entry fee, the first 300 entrants are in, those books will be handed over to 10 blogs who each pick a favorite, and from those 10 favorites a winner is chosen who gets all the glory and attention and maybe even corresponding sales figures. Tempting, right? I set an alarm on my phone so I wouldn’t miss it.

Last year, it took 9 hours for those 300 slots to fill. This year, it took 41 minutes.

I submitted A Tree’s Heart somewhere between the third and the fourth minute. I’m in.

Life’s been a bit weird ever since.

Now, I don’t know about authors of other genres, obviously, but fantasy authors are by and large a lovely bunch. While we, in theory, are competitors, I have yet to meet someone who acts that way. So far, the absolute opposite is going on. There’s a ton of mutual support, of showcasing each other, of checking out each other’s work, and I guess I may have once again found my tribe. I spent the past days stalking the blog I was assigned to along with the main SPFBO page, answering interview questions, having fun in the SPFBO Facebook group, and trying not to freak out. All that on top of the normal family madness, going LARPing (with the adults in our family in the NPC camp this time around, as a very busy tavern crew) and celebrating my boy’s fifteenth birthday (how has it been fifteen years already!?), I should probably take a step back and breathe a bit.

Yeah, right.

I went and issued a challenge to my fellow contestants. Draw a picture, I told them. Make a cartoon of your book. A single image, an entire comic strip, whatever you want, no matter how poorly executed. If you do that, I’ll blog about you. The response has been overwhelming. Some can just about draw a mean stick man (my level of talent), others have sent drawings that made me gulp and swoon in awe (definitely not my level of talent). From June 1st on, I’ll show you those pieces of art, introduce you to the person behind it, and tell you what I can find out about the book they entered into the contest. Which means I’ll dial down most everything else for a while, like my silly German language cartoons or my ridiculous attempts of trying to interest folks in my own work, but I don’t suppose anyone will miss those much anyway.

That’s it, have a brilliant day, and maybe wish me a little luck.

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April Wrap-Up

Another month almost done, and spring is hitting us full force. The latter, I deduce from three facts: One, flowers. They’re everywhere. Two, there’s a gang of pigeons performing unspeakable acts in the sandpit in our garden. They’re driving our cats absolutely mad. Three, I consist mainly of headaches, and little else, what with the weather switching back and forth between brilliant sunshine and oppressive thunderclouds. I honestly can’t wait for it to finally get decided one way or the other. I don’t even care anymore which (though I’d prefer the warmer variety.)

Having published two books this year already, and in desperate need of a break, I’m currently not writing at all. Which is a state that, knowing me, won’t last – I’m already busy piling up random ideas and dialogue snippets at the back of my head – so I need to seize the moment to get other things done while I can. Once the writing starts again, everything else will go on the back burner.

My main April project was to revisit all my books, fix any vexatious formatting issues and… fade them out of Kindle Unlimited.

Yes, after ten years, I’ve finally decided to spread myself beyond Amazon. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to get my books via Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and all those other stores. I’m starting with e-books only, to get a feeling for the whole thing and see if it’s worth the effort, and then I’ll probably do paperbacks as well. I might even consider audiobooks, but right now, that feels like a giant leap I’m not yet ready for. We’ll see.

I’m also trying to plant tomatoes, but seeing how I let the neighbor’s kid water them (and, guess what, watering isn’t the same as drowning) they may not survive.

That’s it, I’m off to fix myself another coffee in the vain hope of keeping the headaches at bay. Have fun out there, seize the sunshine. Here’s a pic of two snuggly cats on my lap, for once not fighting each other over who gets the comfy space.

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German Lesson XII

The word this time around is Happen.

You can rhyme it with schnappen (to snatch, to grab), or Lappen (rag, cloth).

Either way, have fun with it.

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Ten years

It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since I sold my sanity…

No. It’s been ten years. Ten years since I embarked on this being-a-writer journey. Ten years since I uploaded my first ever book on a forum full of other aspiring writers, expecting to be torn apart. I found support instead, helpful critique, and friends.

That first book was Ratpaths, a story the main character of which had been haunting me since I was about 14 years old. It took me one and a half decades to come up with a decent story for him, and a few more years to whittle that story into something credible, translate it into English, whittle some more, and finally publish it.

I thought that would be all. I would never write another book.

That didn’t work out as expected either.

Either way, I thought maybe I should, if not exactly celebrate, then at least note it somehow, which is why I made this. My first book, and its sequels, in one combined edition. I priced it so that you’ll pay for the complete trilogy what you’d under normal circumstances, i.e. if you bought each book on its own, would pay for two of them. Sort of a buy two, get the third for free. No strings attached.

That’s all, happy Easter or whatever you choose to celebrate.

Edit: What I completely forgot to mention is, I of course seized the opportunity to revisit those old books and fix the formatting issues people spent the past years notifying me of and which I kept ignoring because there was always something more interesting to do… Sorry not entirely sorry.

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This Is Not A Joke

One of my latest, my epic fantasy tale A Tree’s Heart, will be discounted all through April. That’s right, between today and April 30 you’ll pay only 0.99 instead of 4.49 for a story that will keep you busy for at least a few days (and kept me busy for two years). For a little more information, look here, and for a brief excerpt look here.

The first in my YA urban fantasy series, My Name is not Alice, will be completely free April 7 through April 2. My urban fantasy novella Downtown Selkie will be completely free April 14 through April 18. And the first in my mafia fantasy series, Ratpaths, will be completely free April 28 through May 2.

I know it’s the first of April. But this is still not a joke.

Now don’t say I never give you anything.

Have a wonderful April, and don’t let anyone fool you.

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March Wrap-Up

The third month of the year down. Bad jokes incoming in two days… I remember the year when my husband woke us all up on April 1 yelling, “Look outside! There’s snow!” and my daughter mumbled a sleepy, “Yeah, right. It’s 1st of April, nice try,” only to find out a second later that it hadn’t been a joke. We’ve been betting on snow on that particular day of the year ever since.

March started out weird, with me stumbling through the park on my usual morning walk with the dog, in my usual semi-somnolent state, and – not usual at all – tripping over a huge dead frog. It had disappeared by the next day. I don’t know what became of it, but either it ended up as some wild animal’s breakfast, or someone took pity on the poor thing and buried it. Or flung it into the nearest bush.

What to do with a month that starts like that? Good thing I’m not prone to believing in omens or portents or stuff like that. I continued on as normal…

I published another book. The sixth in my Resident Witch series. To think that something which began as a short story is now a six-book series… And I already have a vague idea for book #7.

I finished this year’s spring cleaning… Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. I finished all I’m willing to do on my lonesome. I’m not cleaning up the kids’ rooms without their assistance. Which means, those rooms aren’t quite finished yet, but it’s only a matter of time. I guess. Or hope. We’ve already managed to get rid of a few things no one wants anymore. In my daughter’s case, that included, to my shock and horror, a bag full of stuffed toys. Teddy bears and other fluffy creatures. One-time favorites. Are you sure, I asked her. You used to love these. Mom, she replied. I’ve grown out of them, now stop crying.

She’s 12. Her brother is 14, and he keeps favorite picture books. Of course he doesn’t read them anymore, but they carry huge sentimental value. He’ll probably keep them until he finds someone to pass them on to, he’s kept a lot more old toys, too, and he cares a lot less whether that’s “cool” or not. Which confirms my theory that girls are much more drastic than boys when it comes to saying goodbye to their childhood and embracing their teenage self, much more inclined to not just draw a line but burn that freaking bridge and dance on its ashes. I remember moving, at a point somewhere between 13 and 14, from Enid Blyton to Fjodor Dostojewski within a day and never looking back. There’s regret down that type of path.

Are you really sure, I asked again, with Tori Amos playing at the back of my mind…

You don’t have to throw it away
Throw being a kid away
Just because you’re growing up
Faster everyday
You don’t have to throw it all away

The toys are in the basement now. She can visit them anytime she wants, or fetch them back up.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

I took her to the city administration office a few days later, to get her passport renewed. I’ll leave you with the sign we stumbled upon there, which serves as not-quite-living proof that there’s nothing wrong with being a big child, or acting on impulses someone else might perceive as silly.

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