Three New Treasures For Your Reading Self

I’m neck-deep in coordinating author events (maybe even a mini-tour!) and working on a new novel right now, and honestly, all I’m listening to these days is the Hamilton soundtrack, so the Monday Earworms are a little thin on the ground. Sorry about that — we’ll get back to them soon, I promise. In the meantime, what are you listening to? Tell us in the comments!

I want to take a moment to highlight three exceptionally worthy projects just made available. Give them some love, won’t you? I think they’re great.

(And stay tuned to the end of this post for a few more exciting newsy bits.)

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TWO BLOCKS FROM EMANCIPATION by Casey Fleming

This new blog project by essayist Casey Fleming bravely addresses emancipation in many forms, including on the subject of race. Casey is one of the most compelling essay writers I’ve ever read; she even did an outstanding guest post here years ago for the Fashion Friday series. Here is a brief excerpt from her site about the nature of this new project itself:

To live two blocks from something as wonderful as emancipation–as an ideal, a psychological space, a lived reality–is to live in the border between what’s possible and what’s yet to manifest, between what America aspires to be and what it is. Living on the border is always disquieting and dangerous. Some of us take up permanent residence there, and we must risk speaking from that painful proximity to liberation.

I encourage you to check out Casey’s essays and follow this new project.

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UNDER THE FLICKERING LIGHT by Russ Linton

Russ Linton hit the scene a number of years ago with his sci-fi debut Crimson Son, a book which defied typical conventions of the sci-fi/super-hero genre and gave us not just an endearing snarkster extraordinaire in its young adult protagonist Spencer, but also a series set in a compelling literary universe.  This new book stands alone but jumps far forward in time to the year 2300 in Spencer’s world, when AI overlords have made some…modifications to our human landscape. Russ has also written some really original fantasy as well. Check out his website for more about his books and his current entertaining and meaningful nomadic adventures in the real world.

I’m a big fan of Russ’ work and hope you’ll give it some attention, too.

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THE SOUL SNATCHERS by Richard Sanford

Richard Sanford is one of the fiction authors over at Odeon Press, which is how I know of him, and his new book sounds really exciting! Here’s the blurb about it:

The Soul Snatchers is a sci-fi thriller about social media addiction and cyber derangement. There’s also a love story, a secret code hidden in a mesmerizing mandala, and Svetla, the Bulgarian rideshare driver.

Tzaro Janssen, a seismologist in a next-gen lab in the San Juan Islands, sees his girlfriend Therica become … not herself. Stories like hers are lighting up media around the globe—psychotic breaks, social isolation, explosive violence. And no known cause. At the center is Therica’s obsession, the mega networking platform Wundrus.

From early reviews:

“The Soul Snatchers is an energetic and entertaining romp through Cascadia … a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches.”

“I thought that The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford was a fascinating and fast-paced read. There was no good reason to put the book down … I am usually pretty good at solving mysteries, but was blown away by this one.”

And here’s a statement about the book from Richard himself:

I wrote The Soul Snatchers to be entertaining, but it also has a point to make about something we’re seeing everywhere—isolation, among ourselves and our kids. Everybody’s hyperconnected, but nobody’s talking.

That sounds both topical and timely, doesn’t it?

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Now for the promised newsy bits:

I may be adding another reading to my slate for Houston in early March. Stay tuned for details.

I’ve just settled another event in Austin for next month. I’ll be reading at Malvern Books at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 16th. Come join us! Bring friends! Bring acquaintances and other people you want to impress! Or, you know, just bring yourself, and I’ll be thrilled with that.

I’m also looking at doing an event or two in the area of Blacksburg, Virginia. Drop me a line if you’re out that way and want to come do some booksy, writingsy things with me!

More exciting details about these events will be posted on my website as they become available.

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Interview with Russ Linton, Author of CRIMSON SON

So this week I’m reading Crimson Son by Russ Linton. It’s funny and poignant, about the teenage son of a super hero. And even though this novel would be classified as “genre fiction,” it so far has the hallmarks of good literary fiction: tight writing, solid story, layered characters, excellent pace. (We can get into why I think “lit-fic” and “genre-fic” should come out of their respective fabricated corners and start kissing and making up at a later date.)

Russ generously accepted my request for an interview, so here you are, dear readers. Enjoy. (Oh, and you might notice a tidbit or two about his next novel buried in his comments, too.)

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Describe Crimson Son in 15 words or fewer.
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The powerless son of a superhero’s emotional journey through his father’s secret world.
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All genres have conventions and tropes which, when handled with finesse, can be executed beautifully even though they’re familiar.  What was the most interesting thing you learned about your genre while working on Crimson Son?
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I embraced tropes in Crimson Son. Since the focus was on the powerless, the superheroes and villains are exactly what they always are — bigger than life, quasi-celebrity, borderline stereotypical personas. Almost like a pantheon of greek gods, they are forces of nature or perhaps, part of the setting. The POV is zoomed in on the real, and fragile people that get mixed up in this world. As a genre, I learned that superhero fiction has no genre! I’ve seen it under science fiction, I’ve seen it under fantasy and even urban fantasy at that. On Amazon, superhero lists as a category for paperback books but not eBooks. It is a very much a cross-genre topic and that’s one thing that drew me to it.
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What’s your favorite aspect of your protagonist’s personality?
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He’s a bit like me. A smart ass with an occasionally colorful vocabulary and a love for geekery. I wasn’t interested in delving too far into “the other” with my first novel. My next novel though, well, I go to a bit of an extreme.
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Describe your writing process and/or your day-to-day writing life.
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I’m a pantser. I sit down and type and see what happens. As the story develops, I do get a sense for the direction I want it to go (or it wants me to go, not sure which) but even then, I let spur of the moment decisions surprise me. I keep writing and taking in sections to my crit group each week until I get a first draft under my belt. I’m usually shooting for 1000 words a day so I get pretty far ahead of the weekly crit group. Once I feel I’ve completed a draft, I take a bit of a break, rope some people into reading it, and then tear things apart based on my own reflections and their critique. After draft 2 or 3, I round up some beta readers and depending on their feedback, dive in again.
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With the release of Crimson Son, I find my daily writing life is out of whack as I navigate marketing and other unfamiliar territory. However, I’m still plugging away at my current novel and hope to be done by the end of this year.
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Authors usually have lots of influences that inspire them. What book or author have you found to be most influential. Why do you choose that one out of all you could pick from?
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The first books I ever read that left a lasting impression were Lewis’ Narnia series, especially The Magician’s Nephew. I was so entranced by Lewis’ style, imagery and even the British spelling of things, it sunk deep into my subconscious.
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I didn’t realize how deeply that story affected me until I launched this full time writing journey and sat down to re-read that book. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I got a bit misty-eyed when I read the description of the Wood Between the Worlds after so many years. When the children surface in a new world, you realize that they came from a single pool and the wood they left behind is filled with more and more pools and the possibilities are endless. He created a place where every writer stops before picking a pool and jumping in head first.
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I have a few nods to this book in my current fantasy piece which has the working title, First Song.
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You’ve elected to go the self-publishing route with Crimson Son. What’s been the most rewarding part of this process? What’s been the most frustrating?
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Most rewarding is hearing people’s reviews of my book and seeing that my work has affected them in some way or that they clearly understood the ideas and themes I was trying to convey. As a writer, your work always sounds good to you (or terrible for that matter) so having the connection between written word and reader affirmed is the the most rewarding thing I can imagine. Of course, this happens with traditional authors as well, but in the self-publishing process there is no giant corporation between myself and the reader. I can’t sit back and wait for a marketing machine to make something of my book, I have to be in the trenches every day and talk directly to the reviewers and readers who have connected with my novel.
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Most frustrating is the snobbery I’ve encountered for traditionally published works. Many reviewers are reluctant to even look at self-pubs. I get it, I’m sure they’ve been burned many times by poorly edited, poorly written stories that were rushed to press simply because the author “could.” However I have put much effort into making Crimson Son as professional as possible. The quality, I feel, could rival many traditionally published works — from the meticulously edited manuscript down to the professional cover and quality paper the text is printed on. Overall though, it makes me want to work harder to share this story with the world and prove that I can hang with the best of them.
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What three pieces of advice would you give to writers interested in publishing?
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One — Don’t rush the process. Way too often people hit “publish” before the book is ready. Professional editing, line and copy, is essential (developmental you can perhaps handle with a solid crit group). Keep editing until you get to the point where you think “oh, I need to do this” and when you check, you find you’ve already done it. You owe it to your potential reader to provide a solid story.
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Two — Whatever you do, don’t design your own cover. Find a pro, preferably someone who has designed book covers before. The old “don’t judge a book by its cover” is perhaps the most oft-ignored piece of advice in the online marketplace. If a cover looks cheap or is unreadable at the tiny thumbnail size, your potential customer will ignore the book.
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Three — Never assume you are going to upload to Amazon or B&N or whatever retailer and then sit back and collect royalties. This is equivalent to tossing your book in the ocean and assuming it will wash up on a shore and someone will read it. You have to hustle that book DAILY to make even a few sales and every sale counts. Building momentum for a book is tough and keeping it going, even harder. If you don’t plan to devote some time every day to selling your book, don’t bother placing it online.
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It’s summer, and everyone and their hamster are doing “You Must Read This” book lists. What’s the #1 pick — other than Crimson Son, of course — that you think people should read this summer?
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I’m reading the Bhagavad Gita to provide some inspiration for my current fantasy novel. I recommend picking up something outside of fiction and grounding your work a bit with it. On the fictional front, I plan to chase down some Ursula K. LeGuin this summer, particularly her Earthsea series which I have sadly never read.  I enjoyed the subtlety of her Tales from Earthsea and hope to write quietly epic fantasy like that someday.
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In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time.
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Russ creates fiction in many genres. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.
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Thanks again to Russ for sharing his expertise and experiences with us. Check out his blog here, where he has detailed more episodes on his journey to self-publication. You can find Crimson Son in most distribution channels, which are listed on his blog.

What You Can Look Forward To In The Coming Weeks…

Hey there, all.  Sorry for the little hiatus. It seems like this summer so far has consisted mainly of driving my kids to their camps. Getting quality writing time in has been a challenge. But progress is being made, and I wanted to give you a heads-up as to what you can look forward to (not necessarily in this order) over the next few weeks!

*  another Electric Car Diary

*  a book review from Marie Marshall

*  an interview with Russ Linton, author of the just-released Crimson Son

*  more information about my upcoming e-book release, Finis.

*  another Fashion Friday (costumed freaks edition)

Till then, be well, and maybe I’ll see you around on Facebook and Twitter.