Warning: This Post Contains Shameless Self-Promotion

New Cover

Recently I finished editing the first draft of “Fire in the Ocean,” the sequel to “The Obsidian Mirror.” I sent it off to my alpha readers and editor, and I can finally relax and think about something else for a while.

Such as promoting “The Obsidian Mirror.” While I was in the throes of writing the sequel, I did next to nothing about promoting my published work. A writer’s work is never done, I guess.

Why should you read “The Obsidian Mirror”? Short answer: because it’s a fun read. I read largely for entertainment. I like books that take you away and let you live someone else’s life for a while. I wrote “Obsidian” to be that kind of book: a diversion, a book I would love reading myself. It’s probably not a coincidence that the second publisher of the book is Diversion Books—they specialize in just that kind of novel.

Another reason to read “Obsidian” is because it is based on the mythologies and folklore of the Americas, which makes it a bit different. The idea occurred to me after finishing one of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” novels. I loved the book, but started wondering why so much fantasy is based on proto-European, pre-Industrial Age tropes such as elves, faeries, dragons, and caped adventurers. The Americas have thousands of mythologies, folk tales and traditions that are largely ignored by fantasy writers.

I began writing “The Obsidian Mirror” as a kind of personal experiment. Meso-American gods and Coyote the Trickster, an Inuit ice demon and a mannegishi named Fred are some of the characters. What I did not anticipate is that I would fall in love with my characters and be driven to finish the book. Having done that, I felt compelled to get it published.

I don’t have much to brag about. I’m not a best-selling author. I have won no prestigious awards for my fiction writing. But I do have one thing that gives me modest bragging rights.

I have heard authors talk about receiving hundreds of rejection slips. One writer said he had a drawer filled with 450 rejection slips for his novel. That didn’t happen with “The Obsidian Mirror.” I approached perhaps 10 publishers and/or agents before AEC Stellar agreed to publish the book. When AEC Stellar bit the dust, I approached about five publishers before Diversion Books picked it up, re-published it and agreed to publish the sequel.

So I may not have sold a million copies, but I never had any problem finding a publisher. As a matter of fact, years after I originally submitted the manuscript to their slush pile, Baen Books got back to me and said they were interested in it. The early bird gets the book, Baen.

So why am I proud of this? Because I have some independent assessments that people will enjoy reading my novel. Add to that, the several four- and five-star reviews on Amazon, and you might conclude that you would enjoy it, too. To make it super-easy for you to find the book, here it is: http://amzn.to/1MQBvkd

I did warn you.

 

 

Diversion Books Announces Re-publication of “The Obsidian Mirror”

New Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DIVERSIONBOOKS

seth@diversionbooks.com

DIVERSION BOOKS RESCUES THE OBSIDIAN MIRROR, RELEASES NEW VERSION OF FANTASY NOVEL

May 15, 2015—Diversion Books today released The Obsidian Mirror, an inventive high tech-meets-Aztec fantasy novel by Silicon Valley public relations veteran K.D. Keenan, marking the second time the novel has been issued in less than a year.

Diversion Books, which publishes a number of classic fantasy authors—including Ursula K. Le Guin, M.K. Wren and Henry Kuttner—scooped up the title after its original publisher, AEC Stellar Publishing, went out of business.  “The Obsidian Mirror is a terrifically fun read,” said acquiring editor Laura Duane. “It recalls the wit and invention of Douglas Adams, and fits perfectly with many of our other fantasy titles.”

The Obsidian Mirror tells the story of Sierra Carter, an out-of-work PR executive who receives a call from Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent god of the Aztecs, and discovers that her former firm’s semiconductors are a means of spreading a deadly evil around the world.  Powering these nasty vibes is Necocyaotl, Aztec god of death and destruction, who has placed his essence in every device, causing people to place their self-interest and selfish desires above all else.

Carter, with the help of some paranormal pals—Chaco, a handsome young man when he isn’t being a coyote; Fred, the mannegishi with the ability to disappear at will; and Rose, a Native American shaman—learns how to develop her inner powers. She’ll need them, because Necocyaotl’s team is playing for keeps, and the evil god brings an ice demon, dark spirits, and assorted monsters into the game to bolster his more human henchmen.

The Obsidian Mirror is available as an eBook from Diversion Books, Amazon, Apple’s store, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Books.

ABOUT DIVERSION BOOKS:

Founded in 2010, Diversion Books has emerged as a premier digital publishing house, partnering with top literary agencies, media companies, and authors to build a rapidly -growing catalog across a range of genres. With its cutting-edge marketing and versatility in the changing landscape, Diversion proudly publishes top-tier authors old and new, building the next generation publishing company, one great book at a time.

FOR MEDIA QUESTIONS, PLEASE CONTACT:

Seth Kaufman, Sales & Media Strategist

seth@diversionbooks.com

 

 

Writing: The Never-Ending Journey

Photo by Bec Brown

Photo by Bec Brown

When I first started this blog, the subtitle was “A Blog about Writing a Novel.” I thought of it as a journal documenting the process of writing my first novel and trying to get it published. Of course, at the time, I had no idea whether I would get it published (or even finished).

Well, “The Obsidian Mirror” was finished and published, and now will be republished by Diversion Books. (They are giving it a new cover as well, which should be interesting. I can’t wait.) I have a contract for the sequel from Diversion, and I have written about 20% of the first draft.

So it’s no longer a blog about writing a novel. It’s about the journey I am on as an author. I have changed the subtitle to “The Journey to Authorship.”

Now, that sounds like I will be forever journeying toward a goal, but never reaching it. That would be exactly right.

I learned a huge amount about writing a novel when I wrote “The Obsidian Mirror.” I revised it eight times. I had many people read it and comment on it, including the wonderful Gail Z. Martin, who has authored numerous fantasy novels herself.

Now I am trying to put those lessons to good use in the sequel. I am also trying out new things. For example, the antagonist in “Fire in the Ocean” (working title) is not an evil god. He’s not even evil. As a reader, I am much more interested in complex characters than cardboard cutouts, but as a writer, it’s really easy to fall into the mistake of making evil characters 100% evil, twiddling their mustachios and laughing, “BWAHAHAHAH!” (Okay, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea.) So I am trying to create a more complex character, one who is human, with human strengths and weaknesses, whose actions are not motivated by pure nastiness.

I have to admit, this is a bit scary for me, and I am proceeding with this character in baby steps. But, as in “The Obsidian Mirror,” I am still trying to understand why perfectly normal people do massively destructive things to the environment—even though they have to live the consequences along with the rest of us.

Another challenge is the setting in Hawai’i. “The Obsidian Mirror” was set in Silicon Valley, where I lived and worked for more than 30 years, so I knew it very well. I have visited Hawai’i many times and love it, but I am not as intimately familiar with it as I am with Silicon Valley. I spent eight days on Moloka’i, where much of the novel takes place, but eight days doesn’t make me an expert. Fortunately, I made some friends in Moloka’i while I was there, and I am hoping they will help to correct any inaccuracies or general idiocies I may commit.

So I am still learning and stretching my authorial wings. I am on a journey I suspect I will never complete, because I hope always to be learning more about my craft and growing as a writer. If I stop doing that, I will stop writing.

As the Old Year Dies, My Publisher Goes with It

RIP, AEC Stellar Publishing

RIP, AEC Stellar Publishing

Well, I had a lot of plans for the New Year, including researching and writing a sequel to “The Obsidian Mirror.” That much hasn’t changed. What has changed is that my publisher, AEC Stellar Publishing, is no longer in existence. The publishing rights have reverted to me, and I am once again on the prowl for a publisher and/or a literary agent.

Wow. That was a real surprise. I hadn’t ever considered that AEC Stellar would not be the publisher of my next book. They took me on as a newbie author and gave me a lot of support. It was a small outfit, but they did as much as they could. And they had an unprecedented deal in the publishing industry: authors got 50% of the profits on their books. As a matter of fact, I just got my first royalty check, which was rather exciting, if small.

AEC didn’t go under because it was losing money, either. It was the brainchild of Ray Vogel, the owner, who wanted to create an authors’ community that would nurture and support new writers. And that’s just what they did. Unfortunately, Ray also has a fulltime job and two adorable little girls, and could no longer continue with the enormous demands on his time and energy. I was kind of amazed at everything he was doing, and I completely understand why he needed to get out from under.

So I and several other AEC authors are sadly contemplating our next steps. Amber Skye Forbes has three publishers in mind for her YA series, “When Stars Die.” Ryan Attard—author of the “Legacy” series and “The Pandora Chronicles—wants us to band together and start our own imprint. That’s an exciting—and terrifying—idea. It’s hard for me to imagine taking on more than I already have, and yet the idea is kind of thrilling. I don’t know what the others are thinking, but I suppose I’ll find out as things develop.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but they say that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” is the same as for “opportunity.” Maybe I’ll find a publisher with more resources. Maybe I’ll get an agent who can negotiate better deals. Maybe I’ll do something enormously challenging and quite possibly stupid, like starting a publishing company. As the old year winds down and a new year begins, I am certain of only one thing: I don’t know what’s to come.

Lost in the Fog at FogCon

Lost in the Fog

I attended FogCon a couple of weeks ago. I had only attended one other con, and that was several years ago when I went to WorldCon in San Jose, CA. WorldCon was huge, taking up much of the McEnry Convention Center. There were lots of cosplay people dressed as Galadriel or Romulans or as people/creatures/characters I didn’t even recognize. And I met Terry Pratchett.

Yes, I know I said I was going to talk about FogCon, but I have to stop and talk about my encounter with Mr. Pratchett, who is one of my VERY EXTREMELY MOST FAVORITE fantasy authors.

You see, I met Connie Willis first. I was in the vendors’ hall when I happened to glimpse her nametag. Connie Willis is also a favorite author, so I introduced myself—and proceeded to commit every rabid-fan sin it is possible to commit in attempting to praise her work. Even as I heard the vapid words burbling out of my mouth, I knew I was doomed. The expression of pain on Ms. Willis’ face only confirmed my gauche blundering. I attempted to extricate myself by saying, “Well, I’m starting to drool on you, so I guess I’d better go now.” Ms. Willis nodded mute agreement, and I slunk away with my tail between my legs, feeling like a complete moron.

I was standing at a vendor’s stall wondering if it is possible to actually die of embarrassment when a tidy gentleman with a gray beard and a black fedora walked up. I thought he looked familiar, but when the vendor called him “Mr. Pratchett,” my suspicions were confirmed. He stood right next to me as the vendor handed him a CD and said, “I’ve been saving this for you, but I was afraid I might come across as a rabid fan.” (Like me, I thought.)

Pratchett took the CD and said, “I adore rabid fans!”

I turned to him and said, “Well, then, would you mind if I drooled on your shoulder?”

Pratchett responded, “Not at all—but would you mind drooling on this shoulder”—he patted his right shoulder—“as the other one is already rather damp?”

Instantly, the oppressive cloud of feeling foolish lifted and disappeared. I will never forget how Terry Pratchett’s humor and kindness brightened my day and turned my embarrassment into laughter. (Not that I mean to say Connie Willis made me feel bad. I made myself feel bad. I should’ve kept my mouth shut.)

Okay, back to FogCon, which is a very different con. I thought the topics appeared geared more to writers than to fans (“How To Create a Magical System” is one example), but there were probably more fans than writers. The sessions were a combination of panel discussion and group discussion. I introduced myself to several people, and sometimes got into conversations, but most people seemed to be there with groups of like-minded friends, and they were more interested in hanging with their posses than mingling. No one was rude or even cold; I just never clicked with anyone. I asked several people why they came to FogCon, and the answers were all along the lines of “I enjoy the discussions. The topics are so interesting.” Perhaps other cons are not as participative? I don’t know yet.

I managed to miss all the good parties because I didn’t know about the con suite. I handed out a few cards about “The Obsidian Mirror,” but no one expressed much interest. I finally just left a stack on the literature table. When I tried to talk about the book to a bookseller (from whom I was purchasing three books at the time), he just looked bored and pointedly set the card aside without a word.

By the time the “Non-Awards Banquet” rolled around on Saturday night, I was kind of done. There was a party afterwards, but I was tired and didn’t feel like trying to push myself onto more indifferent people.

I’ve done a lot of successful networking in my time, but I felt like a complete tyro at FogCon. I suspect that I am on a learning curve here. I went to the con to learn more about how cons work, and from that perspective, I was successful. I think I need to attend more cons and pick up on the culture (which I think differs from con to con, based on my limited experience). If I continue to attend, I’ll probably get to know others who go to cons and vice versa. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll have my very own posse.

I Took My Skull Back to the Place It Came From (Almost)

When I turned six years old, my grandfather gave me a present. It wasn’t wrapped, as I recall, but just placed in a plain cardboard box. As it happened, it was my favorite gift that year: a genuine human skull.

My grandfather, Frank W. Moore, was an adventurous man. In the earlier days of the 20th century, he helled around California in a Model T, driving across the desert before there was such a thing as “off-road” driving. He had a sailboat called “Amy H” in which he explored the California coast and offshore islands. (My grandmother was not named Amy H. I think the boat came with the name and he never got around to changing it.) In those days, California was underpopulated and he had the freedom to go pretty much wherever he wanted to do whatever he felt like. One of the things he liked to do was go out with his buddy, Dr. Walter B. Power, and cut down billboards.

On one occasion in 1917, he landed on San Nicholas Island, later made famous by writer Scott O’Dell as “The Island of the Blue Dolphins.” On or near the beach, he saw a white dome poking up out of the sand. He uncovered it and found a skull with half of its lower mandible. The teeth (those that were left) were ground down quite smooth as a result of the inhabitants’ diet of shellfish which contained a lot of sand. My grandfather took the skull home, where it became an object of envy for my mother, who had ambitions of becoming an archeologist (and eventually did). Mom named it Yorick after the skull in “Hamlet.”

In those days, there was no Native American Repatriation Act, aimed at restoring the remains of Native Americans to their tribes and homelands. The battle of Wounded Knee was a mere 27 years in the past when my grandfather found the skull, and the term “Native American” hadn’t yet been coined. Indians, in short, were not highly regarded by the mainstream culture back then. No one thought twice about my grandfather taking Yorick from his resting place on San Nicholas Island.

In 1917, there were no inhabitants on the island. The Nicoleños (or Ghalas-at) had been almost exterminated by Russian fur-trappers. In 1835, the padres of the California mission system moved five of the six remaining inhabitants to the mainland. The one who stayed, Juana Maria, became known as “The Lone Woman.” She lived there, utterly alone, until her removal from the island in 1853. She died not long after.

My mother thought the skull was that of a young male in his 20’s, pointing to the supra-orbital ridges and cranial sutures, and we continued to refer to it as Yorick. Sensibilities toward Native Americans hadn’t improved too much by the time my childhood rolled around, so I happily took Yorick to show-and-tell sessions at school–and I have to tell you, he never failed to make a hit appearance. No one could top me when it came to show-and-tell; imagine following my human skull with your toy cap gun (also a perfectly acceptable show-and-tell item in the 1950’s).

I took as much care of Yorick as a small child might be expected to do, but one day, something heavy fell on him as he rested in my off-duty Easter basket. My mother undertook to glue him back together–and while she was engaged in this project, the chipmunk I had taken home for the weekend from my third grade classroom escaped in the family room and took up residence in the couch. Mom thought this would be a good way to start a book: “While I was glueing my daughter’s skull back together, the chipmunk got loose.” I thought this had promise, but she never did write the book.

When my own children were in elementary school, I let them take Yorick to their show-and-tell sessions. He was as much a hit as ever, but I heard back from one teacher that Yorick was an inappropriate show-and-tell subject. She mentioned the Native American Repatriation Act, and I realized with something of a shock that Yorick was, of course, subject to that law. That ended Yorick’s career in show-and-tell.

I suppose I should have realized earlier that Yorick had been a human being whose remains had been wrested from his native land in an insensitive and chauvinistic manner. But Yorick had been a fixture in my life, and I hadn’t really thought of him as such. He spent the next couple of decades in a cardboard box. Out of sight, out of mind.

When I finished “The Obsidian Mirror” and began to look for a publisher, I remembered my unfulfilled obligation. My novel is based on New World legends, myths, and folk tales, and I recognized my enormous debt to the Native Americans and their many cultures. I thought if I got published–by a real publisher, not self-published–the finest way to celebrate this would be to repatriate Yorick to whichever Native American tribe now held the responsibility for those long-dead people of San Nicholas Island. I thought the Chumash were the most likely, as they are the tribe that lives around Santa Barbara now. I pledged to Yorick and the Powers That Be that I would repatriate Yorick if my book were picked up by a publisher. (I planned to self-publish if I failed to find a publisher, but I didn’t even contemplate what I would do with Yorick in that case.)

Well, AEC Stellar Publishing is bringing out “The Obsidian Mirror” sometime this summer. So I had a promise to keep.

To be honest, I had never before investigated where San Nicholas Island was, precisely, or what had become of it. I had assumed, as the island is considered part of the Channel Islands group, it had been rid of its introduced species like rats and goats and made into a nature preserve like Anacapa. A group of us sat in our living room this past holiday season and did some research. Some of us (not me) were voluble in proposing that we hire a fishing boat and go out to San Nicholas to rebury Yorick ourselves.

It turned out that San Nicholas Island is considerably south of the other Channel Islands (except for Santa Catalina and San Clemente), and sits perhaps 100 miles out to sea from the Southern California coast.

The Channel Islands

The Channel Islands

It also turned out that the island is under the jurisdiction of the United States Navy, which uses it for weapons research. The occupants of a fishing boat that attempted to land would probably be arrested. Some of the group still wanted to do it. “We’ll just tell them we’re old and we got lost,” said my friend Meg. Nope. Nope. Nope. Not going there. I reserve my feckless adventuring for my fiction writing.

I contacted my cousin Sally, who lives near Santa Barbara. Sally suggested contacting Dr. John Johnson, an anthropologist specializing in the Channel Island Indians. Dr. Johnson, a very kind and knowledgeable man, explained that there was an investigation underway to try to determine who (if any) were the legitimate descendants of the Nicoleños. And the organization in charge of the investigation? The U.S. Navy. I don’t have a whole lot of faith that the U.S. Navy feels any urgency about resolving this problem, but according to Dr. Johnson, there isn’t any alternative. Repatriated remains go to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where Dr. Johnson works. He assured me that there is a special area where these remains are kept until they can be interred in an appropriate manner and place. Yorick would stay in the museum until the Navy decided where he belonged.

Well, Santa Barbara was at least closer to San Nicholas Island than Yorick has been in more than half a century. I made an appointment with Dr. Johnson to turn Yorick over.

When my husband and I went to Santa Barbara, Dr. Johnson spent some time examining the skull, then said, “I think what we have here is actually Yoricka.” He believes that the skull was that of an older woman, not a young man, and showed us why he thought so. (Sorry, Mom. I think he’s right.) He asked me details about my grandfather and mother and I filled out some paperwork. Then it was time to say goodbye. On the way out of the museum, my husband turned to me and asked, “Feeling a little sad?”

I said, “Yes.” I wish I had taken a picture of Yorick before we left. After all, he–she–was a member of my family for 97 years. I wish I had known who you really were, Yorika. I hope you find your way back to your Island of the Blue Dolphins.

The Final Concept (Cover Art)

Well, the publisher has approved final cover art for “The Obsidian Mirror.” As you can see below, not too different from the last one. We still don’t have the blurbs, publisher’s logo, etc., but that’s out of my hands for now. I like this one!

Cover Art 2b

The Coyote Didn’t Cut It

Sometimes I have to shake myself to see if I am dreaming. I am fulfilling a lifelong ambition: writing and publishing a novel. It has been a daydream so long that I had given up on it—until I actually wrote a book.

But now, I am listed as an author on the publisher’s website. I am working on the graphics. I am working on the marketing. I should be working on final-editing the manuscript, but haven’t quite gotten there yet. (Tomorrow. I promise!) Sometimes I wonder if this is real, or just an extended daydream—but then my publisher asks me to do something else, and I’m sure these tasks were not part of my original roseate dream, so I am becoming more convinced that this will really happen.

And then I go back to being amazed.

Well, anyway, here’s a mockup of my latest cover design, front, back and spine. I haven’t gotten feedback from the publisher yet, but I kind of like it. But no man/coyote graphic. <Sniff><Sob> I am very attached to the shape-changing coyote, but he just isn’t working out too well as a cover. I am sure I’ll continue to use him, but perhaps not on the book cover. If you were kind enough to weigh in on the graphic, thanks. I agree with the majority that the original one is the best.

Cover Art 2a

Tell Me What You Think. Please?

I’ve gone back and forth a couple of times with the publisher, AEC Stellar, and I think we’ve probably arrived at an agreement.

So now I get to do something fun: design my own cover art. AEC Stellar has people who will do this, but from my standpoint, one of the advantages of working with a small company is that they are willing to let me do my own cover design if I want (and it meets their standards). I realize that most people wouldn’t think this was fun, but I also paint in oils and design jewelry and I’m pretty good at Photoshop. You can purchase excellent photography and illustrations from an online stock provider for very reasonable prices and manipulate these images in Photoshop. I did a lot of this when I was working on marketing materials for Cisco, and I enjoy it.

Here’s my first concept. Do you like it? Dislike it? I’d love to know.

Obsidian Mirror cover3

The Contract

ContractThe book contract arrived. It seemed pretty straightforward to me, but I’ve never laid eyes on a book contract before, so what do I know? I followed the advice of my book consultant and shelled out some bucks to have someone knowledgeable review it.

I recognized that the contract was unusual. The publisher is unusual. It required some shared expenses. Having talked with the publisher, I was aware of this, and given that the author gets 50% of the net (as compared to maybe 12% from standard publishers), that didn’t seem unfair to me, especially as this is a new, startup publisher.

The reviewer sent the contract back with many, many comments. I looked at them all carefully. There were a few that I didn’t agree with, but some of the others seemed more than reasonable. For example, the contract specified that all rights to the work in other media such as TV, movies, audiobook, etc. would belong to the publisher. Now, the likelihood of my little novel being made into a movie is remote, but I didn’t see why I should give up the rights to my own work, even so. So I marked up the contract accordingly and returned it to the publisher with a polite note indicating that everything was up for discussion.

That was yesterday. No response so far. Of course, I reasoned, he needs time to look it over. I took my time, after all. But still. Is he pissed off? Insulted? Did he even see it yet? Am I stressing unnecessarily? Or is this an indication of thunderclouds on the horizon? Should I stop thinking about it? Should I call?

Or maybe I’ll just go for a walk on the beach and forget about it.