Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The World of Khantara

High fantasy, romance, quirky humor and writing that reminds of Jane Austen - all these you can find in Michelle Franklin's novel Khantara! It's my honor to welcome her to my blog today, where she stops by on her blog hop to celebrate the release of her novel.
I will tell you this much: my favorite character is "the wren".

If you like fantasy, and if you appreciate a good read, this is for you!

Remembering Kindness: Vyrdin’s Dream 

                Twenty minutes had gone since Vyrdin had left the farm, and he had not returned and closed the low gate when Mr. Carrighan came thundering toward him from the house. “Where you been, boy?” he growled, his good eye flaring, the veins in his forehead throbbing, his dry and crag-like mouth caught in a cracking flout. He grabbed Vyrdin by the collar and jerked him forward. “That kiln ain’t lit,” he hissed, giving his prey a fierce shake. “You’re gonna tell me where you been or I’m gonna take the hazel to you.”
                “The cleric, sir,” Vyrdin murmured, trying to maintain his balance as he was jerked about. “The cut on my arm wasn’t healing.”
                “You ask me if you could leave?”
                There was no answer.
                “You hear me, boy?” He jostled his captive, but Vyrdin remained silent, his eyes downcast and his head down in solemn contrition. “You’re askin’ for a birtchin’, boy,” he seethed, gripping the back of Vyrdin’s collar with the opposing hand and hurling him round.
                Vyrdin almost toppled over his own feet and regained his footing only to be met with the sight of his master’s free hand reaching into his overcoat pocket. He knew what was hiding there, was well aware of the pain he should be in a few hours hence from the sting of the delimbed shrags, and tensed his shoulders, tightened his fists, and winced in preparation of the anguish of what must follow.
                “Diathanes, Carrighan,” said a familiar voice.
                Vyrdin turned, and without looking up noted the brickmaker hastening toward them from the corner of his eye. Shame and indignation crimsoned his gaunt cheeks, and though he was not released, his master’s hold on him relented. 
                “Gearrog,” Carrighan exclaimed. He took his hand from his pocket and offered it to his visitor, eyeing him charily. “What brings you? You ain’t goin’ to Westren for the holiday?”
                “Can’t. Too much to do here.” Gearrog glanced at Vyrdin, whose face was turned to the side, and then at Old Carrighan, who seemed particularly discomfited by his sudden appearance. He seemed half a second away from doing something which he knew others might find intolerable, and though he appeared somewhat ashamed, he was hardly repentant: his hand was still grasping Vyrdin’s collar, the boy looked as though he were petrified, and altogether the brickmaker received the notion that he had interrupted something which he was certain of disapproving. “I just come by to see if you’re needin’ ‘nymore brick for your kiln. Saw the lad’s arm,” nodding to Vyrdin, “I says that need healin’, so I brought him to the cleric meself.”
                “That true, boy?” Mr. Carrighan said, in a heated tone.  
                Vyrdin looked away, his heart swelling with indignation, his eyes brimming with tears.
                “Practically had to drag the lad there,” said the brickmaker, with pointed circumspection. “Lad didn’t wanna leave.” He paused and gave Vyrdin a solicitous look. “Hope I didn’t cause no trouble.”
                “No trouble at all,” replied the feller, with marked coolness.
                A perfunctory grin on one side, a fleeting smirk on the other, and the brickmaker felt obliged to linger around the land, that he might assured of the boy’s safety. The manner in which the boy was being held, his refusal to turn around, the shifting looks of the feller, his vehement stares all suggested there being something amiss here, and Gearrog would see it if he could. He wanted there to be a something wrong that he might report it, but when Mr. Carrighan said his “Good night, Gearrog,” with stern finality, he was certain of observing nothing whilst he was around to witness. He must take his leave and pretend to go if he should catch him at doing something unwholesome. He nodded his goodbyes, hoped that Vyrdin was well, and turned toward town, looking over his shoulder as he went with marked concern.
                “It ain’t right when a lad’s ‘fraid to get his arm mended,” he murmured to himself, but he observed that the boy was being released, and his mind could not be easy.
                “Get back to work, boy,” said Mr. Carrighan, pointing Vyrdin toward the kiln. 
                Grateful that he had escaped what had promised to be a most brutal punishment, despite his humiliation, Vyrdin felt his fortune and began moving toward the far field. Pangs of intense hunger suddenly assailed him, and as the sensations of stiff fingers and cracking skin were once again upon him, he felt his spirits grow somnolent. “Sir?”  he asked, mortified and desperate, “I’m very hungry. May I have something to eat, sir?”
                “Somethin’ to eat?” Mr. Carrighan chuffed. “You think you deserve it, boy?”       
                Vyrdin knew the answer to this question: if he should say yes, he would be punished for insolence, and should he say no, he would be admitting his own folly at having asked at all. He remained silent therefore and left the fate of suppers and subordination to be determined. He felt the scowling countenance of disapproval and disgust bore through his curls. How disobedient and repugnant an object he was to have gone to the cleric that he might find some small measure of peace and care for an arm which he desperately needed for work. Should he have lost it, he dreaded to think of how vilely he would have been treated thence. A poor and famished orphan with only one arm was far worse than one with two, for as long as he proved his usefulness and asperity, he was given meals — when he deserved it — and shelter where he might otherwise have been forced to find both in a poor house. The Church could not want him any longer; he was too old to be taken in unless he meant to join the laity. Penance and privation must be his due, but he escaped both punishment and remonstrance here: Mr. Carrighan was in want of the plum pudding his sister had shoddily made and was therefore obliged to show his kindness on the holiday and forgive the boy for his lapse. Such a charitable act obliged Vyrdin to say his thanks, and as the master returned to the house, Vyrdin exhaled in relief, marveled at his fortune at having been spared two punishments in one day, and went to the far field, hoping to find the last remnants of a few dandelions about for grazing.
                Some of the kale, cabbage, and sunroot was still in the ground, and after eating a few of the tough leaves and exhuming some of the tubers, Vyrdin found himself able to continue with his work. He drew his scarf about him, tore through the sunroots, rallied his spirits, and with a few stalks of kale in his mouth, went to collect the wood for the fire.
                “Lad’s gonna freeze hisself to death,” said Gearrog, watching Vyrdin mechanically sift through fallen boughs of dried oak. A vicious glare toward the house, and the brickmaker was gone, hastening down the road with all the alacrity that his violent indignation could excite. He would not leave a boy to freeze in the cold, he would not leave him to go hungry when every other house was sitting down to table and delighting in all the revelry of the holiday’s first feast, and he would not leave him to feel wrong for doing what was right. 

See the entire blog hop here: 

Don't miss the next installment!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Author – To Be Or Not To Be

A friend in the publishing industry just posted this question on Facebook:

"Just curious ... has being an author turned out to be what you expected? Or something completely different?"

She caught me at just right time and mood for a crabby, tired and uninspired response. 

This is what I said: 

 “It's more, and less. There's a hell of a lot more work involved, with all the promoting and marketing that is expected (even though I'm traditionally published), and a lot less money than I thought. 
It takes a lot more patience and good will than I expected too.
To sum it up, it's a job like any other, with ups and downs, bad days and good days, some perks, and then there are those moments when you want to throw everything in a corner. 
But it's also living a dream.”

There's really very little to add to this.
And yes, the question made me feel strangely crabby.

During the past four days I've written exactly three sentences on the novel that is due for submission in July. I have 50K words written, which is a little more than a third of the book, and time is running. I'm not a fast writer; 2000 words a day is my limit.
So yes, I feel the pressure. And I'm one of those writers with a hint of OCD: I deliver on time, which, for me, means I deliver a month before the deadline. This is something I'm proud of. No publisher will ever have to remind me of my deadlines. This I promise.

But here's the thing, and this is what made me crabby just now.

Once you're an author, a writer who has signed a book deal, you're also someone who works for a company. Don't fool yourselves: it's just that. A book deal is nothing more but a work contract. The moment a publisher accepts your first book, everything changes, and this is something you have to realize
This isn't a hobby anymore. You now work for someone, and they want to see profits.

An author friend (pretty recently signed, I want to add) told me the other day, "All I want is to be published."

Really, dear heart?

I tried explaining to her that "just being published" is not how this thing works. That a publisher acquires manuscripts to sell them, and the more the better. They don't offer contracts because they "just" want to publish a pretty story. They want to make money, and preferably a lot. 
Things are harder for authors these days. With self-publishing swamping the market with cheap or free books, it's harder than ever for publishers to place their books so they'll be noticed.
I know, because I'm there.
Publishers expect authors to pull their own weight, and rightly so. The book we sold, it's our product, isn't it? We created it, and like an engineer who developed a new car or plane, or a rocket that will take tourists to Mars, we have to stand before the customers and sell our product.

It’s not just about the book anymore.
If you want to be successful as an author, you have to be a pop star.
Do you know Neil Gaiman?
Look at him, and you know what I mean. He’s a pop star among authors.
So if you want to be an author and not stay “just” a writer—which is totally fine–but if you aim to get your stuff published, move your butt. Leave your writer’s den and the cozy silence of your home and shine.
Make people notice you, and if you can, make them like you. Make them curious about you, and they’ll start reading your books, too.

So, back to the crabby.
Yes, I’m crabby.
I’m crabby because I’m not getting any writing done, when I should be writing, because…

Here’s another thing. 
As an author, you have to think corporate. 
It’s not just you and your publisher.
It’s you, and your editor, your copyeditor, your fellow authors at that publishing house, and dozens more people who depend on YOU. You’re part of a corporation. You’re making money for others, and they are making money for you. 
One of your fellow authors has a promotion running?
Get out and help! Use your network to help sell their book, and when it’s your turn, they’ll help you. Hopefully. If they have the right attitude.
I’m helping a fellow author right now. That’s why I’m not getting any writing done, and that makes me crabby.
But it’s a good kind of crabby, because I know tomorrow my own promotion begins, and my publisher, my editor, and afore-mentioned fellow author will work their butts off to support me.
We are not alone.
We don’t have to be alone.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest I’m going back to recruiting twitter friends. I’m asking them to help me spread the word tomorrow, when my own giveaway starts. So far, everyone I’ve asked has gladly offered help, and I’m deeply grateful to them.
I think we’ll have a blast. 
So see you tomorrow on twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook, where you can grab a pretty neat present from my publisher and me!I 

I mean - haven't you always wanted to read one of my books and just never got a chance? ;)