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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Allllmossst here...

As the days of December rush past, I'm beginning to believe The Soul Mirror is on its way to release. I'm setting up launch events (check the website if you're anywhere near Colorado this coming January.) And I'm starting to see reviews. Publisher's Weekly gives it a starred review, saying:

Berg refreshes and reinvigorates the familiar trappings of epic fantasy, shaping a novel that rings true both linguistically and imaginatively. This is one to savor.

Needless to say I'm delighted with that. Many authors claim reviews shouldn't matter, but of course they do!

You can find the opening chapter at Soul Mirror Opening on my website.

So what else goes on in the month before release?

  • Distributing fliers and postcards to bookstores (I've been slack on this).

  • Giving away ARCS and copies - see the website for details.

  • Scheduling conventions and appearances for all of next year.

And most importantly, writing the next book, the third and last in the Collegia Magica series: The Daemon Prism.
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

And another giveaway - short deadline!

My most excellent friend, the Vampire Shrink Lynda Hilburn, has posted an excerpt of Flesh and Spirit as a part of her series of Excerpt Mondays blogposts. to win an autographed copy of Flesh and Spirit...

...just visit Lynda's Paranormality Universe blog and comment on my excerpt.

DEADLINE: this Tuesday, November 9.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

ARC Giveaway!

I am giving away an ARC of The Soul Mirror. I told people I'd draw in a week, but as I got delayed posting it around (due to two conventions and a cold) I'm extending the deadline. I'll give you an extra entry, if you can answer the following question:

What was Portier's mother's favorite scent?

To enter:

Send me an email with "Drawing" in the subject line.

If you want a double entry, put the answer in the body of the email.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Mystery on an Autumn Night

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night
Point, the first. It wasn't the candy. Honest. I liked the candy, yes, and our neighbors were generous. (Though I was never a popcorn ball fan. Yes, those were the days when some people actually made Halloween treats and gave them away.)

Point, the second. It wasn't the dressing up. We dressed up all the time to play. And by the time I lusted after the long, gorgeous blue mantilla that a friend of the family had brought from Mexico, my elder sisters were too old for Halloween and my younger sister too little to wear the mantilla, so I pretty much got it whenever I wanted to be a princess or a dancer or a fairy queen. And, oh yes, I wanted.

Point, the third. It wasn't the tricks. Please! I was a good girl with three sisters. We never played tricks (except on each other). Besides, see point, the first, above.

Then why, you ask, was Halloween second only to Christmas Eve in dreamy deliciousness to this girl who never imagined she would become a fantasy author?

It was the dark, of course. Early sunset. And even the night's magical lights, the stars and moon, could hardly push the weight of it aside. Our flashlights and lanterns certainly couldn't. We would run down the street through the piles of oak leaves, our steps pushed just a little faster by the pooled shadows just beyond the light beams. Why does darkness cause those delicious shivers?

Vincent Van Gogh said that "the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day."

Uh-huh. He knew. There's a reason I love his "Starry Night" better than his "Sunflowers."

Certainly marvelous things can happen after sunset. Unexpected visitors. Romance. Fireworks. Escapes. Rendezvous. Kisses at the front door. Or in the garden. Or while floating down the Thames. Danae dance under the autumn moon.

But, of course, the dark can hide dangers, too. Thieves. Potholes. Spiders. How often do you read about "the Light Forest?" Ghosts, invisible in the daylight, take shape against the dark. Whispers and rustling are lost in the noisy business of day, but not in the night.

And the highwayman comes riding, riding... Wouldn't have been the same if it was noon and the road was a ribbon of asphalt.

Shapes blur. Endless possibility. Uncertainty blooms...

Ah, there it is. Uncertainty and possibility create tension, the magic ingredient in any story. It's what keeps us hooked, peeking around that next corner...or page. Night's essence is mystery.

Or perhaps Lemony Snicket said it best: "It is one of life's bitterest truths that bedtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting."

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the air at Colorado Gold

A great first day at the Colorado Gold Writers Conference in Denver. I love doing writers conferences, which are multi-genre,rather than fantasy/sf specific, and intensely educational in nature. It's a change of pace from sf/fantasy conventions, which are networking, celebratory, and lighter weight. So how did the day unfold?

Breakfast with writer friends.
Sat in the lobby watching people as they arrived, excited, nervous, curious. Three hundred writers in one place means an explosion of words. Awesome.

My first workshop - Communicating Character. A great audience, but, as usual, I talked too much and ran out of time. Thus I had to rush the end and skip some cool examples and exercises. I do dry runs, but they are...dry. I should always double the time allowance!

Listened to the incomparable Connie Willis talk about Mushy Middles - and realized I DID a lot of the things she suggested. Her delivery is so delightful and her examples so good and so varied and so clear, I just wanted to scoop it all up to savor later. Hmm, I COULD buy the CD...

A strawberry margerita in the bar while enjoying the company of some of my critique partner/friends and the incomparable Connie.

Hosted a table of aspiring fantasy and sf writers along with Roc sf writer, Laura Reeve. The food was good and the company enjoyable, though it is impossible to talk with the people across the table, as it is just TOO noisy with 300 verbal people in the same room.

Listened to RMFW Writer of the Year (and conference chair) Pam Nowak talk about her poignant and inspiring story of learning to write.

Book sale - talked to readers - because writers are ALL readers - and signed books for a couple of hours, before retiring to a quite conversation group.

And then a dash up to the roaring hospitality suite to talk more (not quietly) and get silly before crashing.

I love this job!
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Soul Mirror - in revision

What a hectic spring! The last few months have just been a blur. Writing, writing, writing. So I turned in The Soul Mirror on May 12, big and rough and raw. Only now am I feeling it tightening into shape. I've two weeks left in the revision cycle and hope to have a tight, taut story by then.

So how does the second novel of the Collegia Magica relate to The Spirit Lens?

The story begins four years after the conspirators' trial. No further attempts have been made on King Philippe's life, but all is not well in his city, his house, or his marriage...

Superstition is rife throughout Merona and the royal court. Our friend Portier is laying low, working as the queen's household administrator. Watching. But he doesn't tell this story. Our narrator is Anne de Vernase, a witness in the trial that culminated The Spirit Lens.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Consumed by the Soul Mirror

Here is a new interview with a freshly scrubbed book review site Speculative Book Reviews.

If you are wondering where I've been, I am in Deadline Hell. I got an extension on the Soul Mirror deadline to April 30 - thank you, dead editor. So I am determined to make it. The Soul Mirror is complicated...surprise!!...and unfolding at a steady, but stately pace. That is, I am really poky.

I feel extremely guilty when taking time out to write a lovely, articulate blog post, while my heroine languishes in indecision or mortal peril. My outside writing activities have been pretty much limited to Spirit Lens appearances, readings, and Norwescon (a delightfully fun convention) and the occasional Facebook status update (join me there - Carol Berg, Northern Colorado). I promise to return here soon.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interesting survey

A month or two ago author Jim Hines invited published authors to participate in a survey that would look at how people broke into publishing. (I participated.) After approximately 250 responses, he has just published the first part of
his results.

I really like his approach to a subject that is fraught with rumor and recycled opinion. There is so much he said/she said that floats around the pub-o-sphere, I was happy to see something halfway scientific. Jim explains his methods which are certainly not Gallup quality, but certainly informative.

My take?

So far, the results meet my expectations. As one who finds it tough to capture the rhythm and pacing of short stories, I was very happy I could break in without writing them! (I am one of those data points.) And the Eragon story is not exactly an everyman kind of story.

There are some interesting comments after the posting as well.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

The Business of Titles

On one of my local writing organization forums, an aspiring writer, ready to start submitting his work, got worried when he discovered that the title he'd chosen was already in use. He immediately started trying to come up with a new one. I threw in my two cents, of course, and thought it might be useful to summarize my contribution.

Titles definitely matter. Titles set reader expectations. A title might be totally cool and unique, and yet totally wrong for YOUR book. Titles speak about genre and scope and epoch and most certainly the kind of read one might anticipate - humorous, serious, mythic, adventurous, fast, slow... Think Nymphos of Rocky Flats vs Ysabel vs Blood Drive vs Breath and Bone vs The Bell at Sealy Head vs The Fellowship of the Ring. All are fantasy. All very different.

Should I panic if my title has been used?

No. A quick check at an online bookseller (yeah, Amazon is really good for this) can tell you if the exact title or close variants have been used and how frequently. You can also get an idea of how relevant that usage is. That is, who wrote the books, when were they published and by whom (a publisher you would target?). Are they in the same genre as yours, and are they still in print? (If the works are not being sold "new" by Amazon, it likely means that edition is out of print.) If you're not familiar with the author, look him or her up. You can figure out pretty easily if this is a conflict that's going to bother an agent or editor. An older book or a book by an obscure author, especially in a different genre, likely poses no conflict IF yours is the perfect title for your work.

On the other hand, if the books are fairly recent, in your genre, and by a prominent author from a publisher you might target, there might be some merit in changing the title. Yep, avoid Carrie or The Da Vinci Codex. If you can think of something better...and by better I mean more original and more evocative - giving a better feel for the theme of your work - it would behoove you to do so.

You should always reconsider your title when you finish a book. That's when you actually know what the book is about. That's when you really know whether the book you started as a comic myth turned out to be an angst-filled, serious adventure. (Mine always do that!)

Bottom line - think, don't panic. If you can come up with something better, great. If not, it's not the end of the world and you can work with your acquiring editor to create something better.

Does the title make a difference when submitting a book to an agent or editor?

Well, sure! A good, evocative title can pique the interest of an agent or editor in the same way an excellent log line can, so definitely spend the time to come up with a good one. A good title shows that the author has a handle on both the marketing world and what the story is really about. Both are good signs when you are selling yourself as well as the book.

Will my editor change the title?

Maybe. Some editors will encourage you to rework a weak or conflicting title on your own. Some will suggest alternatives right away or will pass on suggestions from the marketing department. Titles are hard and some people are good at writing them and some aren't! In a big house, you can be sure that a book won't be published without a title that the marketing department approves, because titles ARE marketing. If you sell to a small press it will behoove you to make sure the research and "marketing think" that a marketing department might supply gets done. This might mean ditching your beloved title for something that sets the right reader expectations.

Historical note: Out of my 13 (11 published, two forthcoming) books, I've been asked to consider a different title for only two of them. In the first case, my UK editor thought the original title was more evocative of horror than fantasy. A moment's reflection told me he was right. In the second case, the original title was very close to that of another book already on the schedule from my same publisher. In both cases, being forced to THINK about it, gave me much, much better titles. The resulting titles were Revelation (the first case) and Breath and Bone (the second), two of my favorite titles.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Events and Deadlines and the Partridge in the Writing Tree

A nice crowd at the Boulder Book Store
Hello, hello. anybody there? Yep, I'm alive. Poking my head up from the hole like the February groundhog after a seriously overwhelming few weeks. Last night I was feeling pretty awful about having written so little (deadline for The Soul Mirror 4/30) and blogged even less over the past six weeks, but then I started counting. Over the past seven weeks, I've done:

  1. Nine bookstore events - two of them here my own town, one in San Diego, the other six elsewhere in Colorado. Each involved program preparation - whether it is readings or coordination with a couple of fellow authors who shared a few of the events - as well as email, snailmail, forum and facebook notifications, and coordination with the bookstore involved. Thank goodness for Shannon Baker and Janet Fogg, two author friends who shared the coordination of our four-stop Three Adventures Tour and made gorgeous posters, and launch party invitations, and to Karen and Julie, who organized the most fabulous launch parties in Boulder and Denver.

  2. My first podcast reading for Broad Universe, a great organization that supports women writing fantasy and sf. This involved...

    ... downloading recording software, preparing a five minute reading - which is not simple - setting up microphone, learning to use the software, test reading, paring out words, more test readings, getting Exceptional Spouse help with setting up an amplifier so one could hear the reading, more test recording, paring out more words, editing out hiccups, etc. Now that I've done it all, it should only take a short time for the next one in April. Yeah, uh-huh.
    Flanked by fellow Adventurers Shannon Baker and Janet Fogg

  3. A five-day writing retreat in Fairplay. OK, I did get good writing done those days.

  4. Three critique group meetings with associated reading, of course.With Blythe and Kate in San Diego

  5. One extensive written critique I had donated as a prize to a writing organization.

  6. Travel planning for two convention trips.
  7. Planning for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers March workshop, called Words Words Words, to be presented with my most excellent fellow writer Susan Smith (aka Mackay Wood.)

  8. An extensive written interview for The Dallas Examiner and a shorter one for the Denver Examiner.

  9. Writing up proposed back copy (one of the most difficult tasks for this writer) and cover ideas for The Soul Mirror, due to my editor for a cover conference.
  10. Writing up workshop proposals for two writers conferences.
  11. Four doctors' appointments, three days working on income tax, two screening procedures (all is well), and a partridge in a ...

Yeah, they are taller!
Well, no wonder this felt like a fragmented season. That doesn't even count watching for reviews and references to the new book, and all those other things one should not fret about (but only non-humans could ignore).

So, with the schedule clearer for March, I hope to get back to regular blogging. In April, panic mode sets in with book deadline, Norwescon - doing not only the program of one of my favorite conventions but the Fairwood Writers Workshop, a terrific opportunity for new writers to get pro critiques - and the Pikes Peak Writers Conference - speaking at one of my favorite conferences.


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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Release Day!

So the day has come. The Spirit Lens is released to the world. (Well, OK, some bookstores and online sellers have leaked it early. Lest you have mistaken me, I'm not JK Rowling, whose publisher enforces strict on sale dates so they know how many million copies a minute she sells.)

So how does it feel?

Scary. Exciting. A relief. A deep and lasting satisfaction, especially for a person who never in the world imagined she could produce a whole book, much less eleven of them. I wrote for a number of years just for myself, and that was fine. But knowing that other people will now meet the characters who live in my head is just excellent. Portier, Ilario, and Dante are out there.

For those of you who have followed the crumbs these past two years, thanks! It has been fun to share the development of the story with you. I hope to get back on track with the second novel of the Collegia Magica.

For those who have read and critiqued - you know who you are - and encouraged and spread the word, thanks so much!

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