Tuesday, 24 March 2015

PRETTY PRETTY PICTURE POST!

Hello, my angel delights! Happy Tuesday, and I hope you're having a lovely week so far.

Today I thought I'd share the contents of two beeeeautiful packages that I received late last week. Can you guess what was in them? Here's a hint: it was books. OK, that was just the answer, but honestly I'm impatient to get onto the pretty part. So first up, I want to share the Polish translation of The Swan Kingdom, published by Egmont Poland:



Now, I had to work to get my hands on this. Technically when translations are made I'm supposed to get two or three copies, but even though I'd chased this up several times, years had gone by and clearly it was just not happening. So I went online and searched around and found a single copy for sale through Amazon. I felt a bit silly ordering it (yes, that is my own name on the cover there, Amazon employees, keep moving on) but I'm so incredibly glad that I did because just as with the Egmont Poland version of Shadows on the Moon, this book is an object of transcendent loveliness.


It has the same unique supersoft velvet finish to the cover, the same flippy cream paper that makes it possible to bend the book completely in half, the delicate traceries of spot UV on the title and the details of leafy spiny branches (on Shadows, these were bamboo branches, here they seem to be hawthorn, if I'm any judge WHICH IS PERFECT) and my absolute favourite: French flaps. IT IS GORGEOUS.


So this is mine, my own, my precious, but something else came unexpectedly before the weekend and this bounty I'm willing to share, after a fashion. It was my Candlewick Press editions of THINGS I'LL NEVER SAY, the anthology to which I contributed my very first short story written as a professional writer:



It, too, is replete with loveliness. The colour hasn't come out brilliantly in these pictures, but writing on the spine is blue and the endpapers are leaf green. The cover itself is taken from a piece of vibrant collage artwork which was specifically created for the book - and it's incredibly gratifying to see my name there on the inside flap, and a quote from my story on the back, too (the third one down). 



My story in this anthology, 'Storm Clouds Fleeing from the Wind', is effectively a short prequel to Shadows on the Moon, and is the story of how Akira came to dance at the Shadow Ball years before she ever met Yue, and how she was chosen as Kage no Hime. I've talked before about how special this story is to me - it's not only the first short story I've ever had published, it's also a story that my father encouraged me to write, and which I completed shortly after his death in order to fulfil my promise to him to keep writing.

When my two author copies of this book arrived, the temptation to flick through and find my own story and reread it before doing anything else it was irresistible - and I was thrilled and surprised to find that it literally brought up the short hairs on the back of my neck and completely arrested my attention. I was spellbound by it. And I wrote it! I think it may be the best thing I've written to date, and I don't say that lightly.

A lot of people want to know more about Akira and see more stories in the world of the Moonlit Lands (and I am working on that last one, too) but although US readers will be able to buy this book for themselves or borrow it from the library come the end of the month, there's no word yet on when or if Walker Books will bring out a UK version. And it doesn't seem fair that US readers can get more of the stuff everyone's asking for but UK ones can't.

I wish I could offer up one or both of my author copies, but my mother stole one when she dropped by to see me on Friday (curses!) and, you know, I do want one for myself.

Luckily, I've discovered that this book, too, can be had through Amazon for a reasonable-ish sort of price, although still not until the end of March. So I'm going to order two copies, sign 'em, and give them away to two UK readers when they're available. How does that sound? Good? More details when I have the books in my hot little hands.

Read you later my lovelies!

Monday, 16 March 2015

BABBOOK SNIPPET & PLAYLIST

Hello, Dear Readers! Welcome back!

Over the weekend (despite taking regular breaks to stick my head over a bowl of hot water and Olbus Oil and steam my sinuses in order to prevent my eyes from exploding) I broke 50,000 words on BaBBook! Now, I'm very, very (very) bad at estimating how long my novels will end up being - but with the way the story is shaping up, I'm pretty sure I can state that I'm now in the final third of the book, which means all Hell is breaking loose in the story and things are metaphorically blowing up all over the place. My favourite part of any story!

Given all this, it seemed like a good time to share a snippet of BaBBook and the main playlist that I've been writing to. And as snippets go, I don't think there's a better one to offer than the first page of the book. So... here we go: 

* * * *

There is a monster in the forest, whispered the trees.

“I know, Obasan.” I patted the vast trunk of an ancient cedar with one sun-browned hand as I passed. “I know.”

The tree shuddered a little. I turned away to crouch by the body of the shaggy coated serow I had just brought down. Its thrashing and struggling had already stopped. My fingers sank into the soft, greyish fur as I turned it over, and looking down into the animal’s swiftly clouding eyes, I felt deeply grateful.

It was a clean kill. All living creatures struggled for survival, and so death was always painful. But the arrow was embedded deeply in the mountain antelope’s heart. It had only suffered for a moment in its passing. That was the best I could do.

The antelope’s pelt would make a warm blanket and perhaps mittens for the coming winter. Its meat, hung and cured, would feed us for many days. The horns and bones would become a multitude of useful tools. The animal’s death had been necessary to our survival – for I had seen little game today, and I was already perilously close to the edge of the dark woods. The trees were anxious, shivering and creaking around me, warning me from wandering deeper. We had needed this.

“Thank you,” I said quietly.

Digging my knee into the crisp fallen leaves, I pulled the arrow free from the serow’s body, examined the horn arrowhead for damage, then wiped it off and placed it back in the quiver strapped to my back. My bow, swiftly unstrung, slid into the quiver beside it, done for the day. I would barely be able to carry what I had caught as it was.

I lifted the serow with a grunt of effort, draping its weight across both my shoulders so I could hold its hindquarters in place with one hand and grasp its front legs with the other. Glancing down to make sure that the brace of small birds I had collected from my snares was still securely attached to the cord holding up my rough leather leggings – they were – I turned and made for home. Around me, the trees sighed with relief, leaves shaking gently as I moved away from the edge of the dark woods.

There is a monster in the forest, the trees murmured gently. 


“No need to worry.” I wove swiftly between their trunks. There was no need for stealth now, but my bare feet, tanned as tough as leather, made little noise. “I’m going.”

* * * *

And now for my primary BaBBook playlist, courtesy of Spotify:


The best track to listen to while reading that snippet is probably Evensong, by the way - it's usually the first one I put on when I start work in the morning. But I tweeted the other day that BaBBook is simultaneously the sweetest, fluffiest book I've ever written and ALSO one of the darkest and most twisted, and this is reflected in the fact that my playlist go-to track (the one I slap on when I'm stuck and need to reconnect with the mood of the thing) has been Rains of Castamere, much to my surprise.

This book has been a lot of fun to write so far - despite the usual sporadic episodes of ugly emo weeping - which surprised me because usually when you've been desperately looking forward to writing something for ages it turns out to be a complete b*st*rd (ie., Shadows on the Moon). But it's definitely a strange book. Not just strange in terms of content, but in the way it's unfolded for me. I'll probably talk more about that when I've finished this baby and sent it off to Wonder Editor and Super Agent.

Read you later, lovelies!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

#ZOLAHPALOOZA WINNERS!

Happy Thursday, oh darling duckies! Just a quick post today to share two items.

The first is a link to my Wednesday post on the Author Allsorts about how to write a great opening. Check it out if that's your thing.

The second, of course, is the names of the winners for #Zolahpalooza. My thanks to everyone who entered, commented, and spread the word - you're all my precccioussesss.

Our prizes were as follows: Two US prize packs which will each contain US hardbacks of THE NAME OF THE BLADE and the US ARCS of DARKNESS HIDDEN. These will, of course, be signed - and dedicated, if requested. Also signed bookplates and other mysterious goodies. The international prize pack will have UK paperbacks of both books, also signed and dedicated, as well as the same bookplates and swag. Basically, this stuff:



So who are the lucky winners? Drumroll please!


*


*


*


*


*



SHANNON ROCKS,


ASTRI LUNDBERG 

&

DONNA SIMMONDS!


a Rafflecopter giveaway I have your email addresses and I'll be contacting you really soon to get the postal addresses where you would like your prizes shipped, and your dedication requests. Assuming I get them by Saturday the prize packs will be posted then. If not, I'll send them out whenever I DO get them.

My deepest sympathies to those of you who entered but did not win - I know it's a bummer. But worry not! In upcoming months there will be an even bigger giveaway connected to the release of Frail Human Heart - I mean it, it's going to be stupidly megahuge, so you have a decent chance of winning then if you didn't now.

That's all for this week, Dear Readers. Back with you next week, probably posting a snippet from #BaBBook and my writing playlist (if nothing else comes up between now and then). Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

TITLE CHANGE ANNOUNCEMENT

Hello and - ack - happy Monday, my cinnamon rolls! I know a Monday post is unexpected, but don't worry, I'll still be posting on Thursday to announce the winners of #Zolahpalooza (and if you haven't entered yet...er...why not? Get on that!). I've burst onto cyberspace today to break some news which I hadn't planned to share until next week but... well, an Amazon listing intervened, and I'd rather you hear it from me first.

So, a few weeks ago I had an email from Candlewick Press - Walker Books' American sister company and the US publisher of The Name of the Blade trilogy. They wanted to talk about the title of the third book in the trilogy. You see, although FRAIL MORTAL HEART had always been the name of the book (literally since I came up with the idea for the series in 2010, as the titles were one of the first things I thought of) and everyone liked it a lot... history, in the form of two other recently published or upcoming books, had overtaken us.

Screenshot of OneNote page from 2010 showing the haiku that inspired the titles
Those other books were, of course, MORTAL HEART, the third book in Robin LaFever's His Fair Assassin Trilogy, and THE MORTAL HEART, a Beautiful Creatures novella by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. These authors are all NYT Bestsellers and their books are huge, especially in the US. I, on the other hand, am only a bestselling author in Germany (Hallo, schön Deutsch Leser!) and otherwise my books are sort of... let's say... petite in sales terms. And thus, this strong similarity in titles was a problem. Not for them, so much - but definitely for me.



It is a fact universally acknowledged that in the world of publishing sometimes there are strange coincidences which seem to spring from the shared zeitgeist of creative energy that most writers swim around in on Twitter and Facebook and the blogosphere all the time. There's no connection between Robin LaFevers or Margaret Stohl or Kami Garcia and me, and obviously none of us knew that we were busily writing books or novellas with startlingly similar titles until it was kind of too late (for me, anyway).

I admit that when I saw the announcement of the title of Robin's book my heart sank a bit. When, just under a year later, the cover for FRAIL MORTAL HEART was released, several US blogs picked it up and made fairly stinging comments on the fact that I'd apparently been too stupid to realise 'That title's taken!' I even had a couple of not very delightful Goodreads messages about it. By the time I saw the Beautiful Creatures one, it kind of felt like the universe was trying to tell me something. So the email from my US publisher was not out of the blue.

They had a suggestion of what the name could be changed to, and it was a good suggestion - but because the title was part of the haiku (which is in the book) and also quite a significant line of the heroine's internal dialogue, it didn't really work. Plus, I already had a new title in mind, which would scan as part of the poem and convey the same idea within the book. And that title was:

FRAIL HUMAN HEART

Not that much of a change at all, really. I confess I do feel a pang for the word 'mortal', but I think this works equally well *and* it has alliteration going for it. In order to keep things tidy, it's been agreed that this shall be the final title for both the UK and US version of the book, which obviously necessitated some quick work on the part of Delightful Designer on the previously released UK cover (we don't have artwork for the US one yet, so nothing has to be messed with there). Here is the amended cover for the Walker Books UK paperback:


AND - which is what prompted this post to be written today in the first place - Amazon pre-orders for FRAIL HUMAN HEART are now live! So if pre-orders are your thing, have at it.

Read you later, darlinks!
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