The Arcana

FAQs: The Left-Handed Fate and Bluecrowne

As of today, 35 DAYS TO THE LAUNCH OF THE LEFT-HANDED FATE!

9780805098006_FCAnd, predictably, I still keep forgetting to post here. On the other hand, I do have at least one good reason: I’m working like crazy to get The Illustrated Bluecrowne PDF ready for release before the LHF launch at the end of August. And since Bluecrowne is so closely related to The Left-Handed Fate (and since a forthcoming review actually refers to LHF as a sequel to Bluecrowne), I thought it would be good to talk a little about these two books and how they’re related.

Bluecrowne_Cover2Bluecrowne is part of an endeavor I call the Arcana Project, which is a series of short novels set in the same world as The Boneshaker, The Broken Lands, Greenglass House, and The Left-Handed Fate—all of which are related to one degree or another, but all of which are stand-alone tales that can be read independently of the others. The Arcana books are meant to provide additional tales and, in some cases, show how certain books are related to others. I don’t publicize them heavily because I imagine them kind of like Easter eggs—if you find them, good for you! Enjoy. If not, no big deal. I had fun writing them. So far, there are two books, The Kairos Mechanism and Bluecrowne. The Kairos Mechanism takes place after the events of The Boneshaker; Bluecrowne takes place before the events of The Left-Handed Fate. Here are some FAQs I get about how these books are all connected.

Q: I see that some of the characters in The Left-Handed Fate appear in an earlier book, Bluecrowne. Is The Left-Handed Fate a sequel? Do I need to read Bluecrowne first?

A: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO READ BLUECROWNE FIRST. The events of Bluecrowne take place first; however, both are truly standalone stories. (Bluecrowne is also the backstory of the building of Greenglass House, for instance, and explains the origins of two key clues to the mysteries Milo and Meddy solve, but I am completely certain that most people who read Greenglass House are entirely unaware of Bluecrowne‘s existence.) If you have (or do) read Bluecrowne before The Left-Handed Fate, hooray! You’ll definitely have insider information, including insight into Liao’s pyrotechnical gifts and the reason Lucy and her father aren’t excited to return to Nagspeake. But if you haven’t or choose not to read it, no big deal.

Q: Ok, cool. How do I get Bluecrowne if I want it?

A: You have three options.

  • You can get the ebook right now in the format of your choice from any of the usual ebook retailers. You’ll see that there are two versions, and one is more expensive than the other. The more expensive version is called the Kickstarter Edition, and it includes a bonus story from The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book (which you will know of if you’ve read Greenglass House).
  • You can get the paperback very rapidly (how fast depends on your shipping preferences) from McNally Jackson Books, where the books are printed using the Espresso Book Machine. If you want your copy signed or personalized, there is a field in the online order form where you can request that (note that I’m only there once a week, so signed copies might be delayed until I’m next in). Order here, or you can call the store directly to order by phone (212-274-1160). Bonus: on most Saturdays, if you call between 10 and 6, there’s a high probability I’ll be the one answering the phone! Hi!
  • You can read it free (or pay what you choose) starting sometime in August when The Illustrated Bluecrowne ebook is released. Right now I’m waiting for the last few pieces of original art from the young illustrators, but I expect to have it finished and available for download by mid-August or thereabouts. It’ll be a PDF, so it should work for you whatever kind of reader you use, and I’ll add a link here as soon as it’s ready. The art, by the way, is really outstanding. I can’t wait to share it with you. Preorder here.

Q: A free illustrated version? What’s that about?

A: As part of the Kickstarter-funded publication budget of the Arcana books, I included funds for a digital edition that would be illustrated by young reader artists and offered free or pay whatever, with the idea that I wanted the artists to be able to share their work at no cost to their friends and families. (Any money contributed by readers who do choose to pay goes into the pot for the next book’s illustrators.) The artists are between 11 and 21, and each used a style of his/her own choosing. It is, hands down, my favorite part of the project.

Q: I see the Bluecrowne paperback says “Arcana, Volume 2” on the spine. Do I have to read The Kairos Mechanism first? WHY IS THIS SO CONFUSING, KATE?

It was odd because they were strangers, and because they came in on foot. It was odd because of what they carried.

A: You do not need to read The Kairos Mechanism before Bluecrowne (although if you want to, you can follow all the same info above to get it in ebook or paperback (order the paperback here, and the free-or-pay-whatever illustrated version is here). Like Bluecrowne, it’s a standalone story, although it is definitely more closely tied to The Boneshaker. As for why it’s so confusing: I overcomplicate things. There. I said it. It’s just who I am.

Q: I’ve read the Arcana books and I was really hoping you’d have one coming out this year, but I haven’t heard anything. Are you doing another Arcana book?

A: Yes. Two more at least. But not this year. I have discovered to my shock that my ability to turn out three thousand words a day disappeared the day I had a kid. So here’s what’s coming down the pike: hopefully first, possibly as early as next fall, will be The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book. Additionally, I have an as-yet-untitled adventure featuring Sam and Jin from The Broken Lands. Kickstarter backers of Bluecrowne will get an advance peek and free digital copies, because this book arose from a short story I promised as a bonus reward during the Bluecrowne campaign that turned out not to be a short story at all.

Here’s hoping that clears up the relationship between Bluecrowne and The Left-Handed Fate. Any other questions you have, pop them into the comments!

 

Countdown to the Release of Bluecrowne

BluecrowneCoverWrongSizeSuddenly it’s June, and I really don’t know where May went. But this weekend I’ve been running QA on the Bluecrowne ebooks, and within the next week we’ll go to press with the paperbacks (which clocked in at 279 pages long!), so I wanted to leave a quick note here for those who are wondering how to get their hands on the book.

The ebook should launch by the end of this week, available in all formats (DRM-free) including PDF, and retailing for $5.99. The paperback should (crossing my fingers that what I say is true, but I do believe that it is) be available and shipping by the end of next week. It will retail for $16.99*, although, as with The Kairos Mechanism, I will have a bundled book+PDF+media rate shipping package available as well.

So, how do you get your copy?

READERS-IN-GENERAL:

At special early-bird prices, you can pre-order the PDF here and the paperback+PDF+domestic media rate shipping here. Fancier/international shipping are also available at cost–just drop me an email and let me know where you are and how fast you’d like your book to arrive. The pre-order prices will last through July 3.

The ebook will be available through all the major channels, but for extra points I encourage you to purchase through Vook, because it’s a better deal for me as the author (you still get your choice of DRM-free formats for iBooks, Nook, Kindle, or Kobo). The PDF will remain available through Gumroad. I’ll add relevant links as soon as they’re live.

The paperback will be available either through me (bundled with PDF, domestic media-rate shipping included) or through McNally Jackson Books (book only, shipping according to store policy). Again, links forthcoming.

TEACHERS/LIBRARIANS/BOOKSTORES:

I have a very limited supply of books from the print run paid for by Kickstarter that I can make available to you for use in your schools, libraries, and student book clubs, but when the first printing runs out, sadly, that’s the end of that. Retailers, same thing goes.

*You may be thinking, that looks a lot more like the price for an adult paperback than for a juvenile paperback, and you’re right. The higher cost is due to the higher cost of printing on McNally Jackson’s Espresso Book Machine, which I chose to do for two reasons: 1) It’s a way I can support my favorite independent bookstore; and 2) It prints far more beautiful books than most POD services do. I don’t make much money on the deal, but you get a really gorgeous book and we both get to support a really wonderful and (I think) important store. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Novellablog: Final Cover Time!

Without further ado:

Bluecrowne_Cover2

Isn’t it beautiful? As she did with The Kairos Mechanism, Andrea Offermann used hand-cut paper for the silhouetted “ironwork.” Miwako Feuer hand-drafted the title. I sat back and watched them work, because I am useless when it comes to visual arts and design. Thanks to historian and author David Antscherl for making sure we had the correct type, size, and rigging for the cutter in the center image.

Time’s running out for Bluecrowne, though. Only 10 days are left as of this writing (Monday), and we’re only at 50%. Remember that the bulk of the budget goes to hiring young reader artists to create art for the illustrated digital edition. Without the success of the Kickstarter campaign, that won’t happen. So if you’re a fan of fantasy or a fan of kids participating in storytelling, get on over to the Bluecrowne Kickstarter page and do what you can!

 

Novellablog: On Remembering; or, The Care and Feeding of People and Places You’ve Invented

I replied to an email from a reader about a week ago and for one reason or another, in that email I included a list of the notebooks that were in my work bag at that precise time. There were eleven in the bag that day. Here’s the list:

  • 1 for lists and general notes (write blog post today, buy paper towels, pick up laundry, that kind of thing)
  • 3 notebooks with notes for a new project called Border Saints (1 for general ideas and 1 for notes from a certain book I’m using for research and 1 that’s redundant but fits in a pocket)
  • 5 notebooks for Bluecrowne, the next short novel, which I just finished and am revising (1 has notes on every year between 1764 and 1817, 1 has notes on the crews of two different ships, 1 has historical notes and ideas and 2 have general revision notes)
  • 1 notebook I use to track how many new words I’ve written every day
  • 1 blank notebook, in case I get an idea for a brand new project or something

Now, admittedly, eleven notebooks is a little excessive even for me. And to be fair, all of the Bluecrowne-related notebooks are also Left-Handed Fate notebooks (although those aren’t even the complete set of Left-Handed Fate notebooks). And about half of what’s listed there are Field Notes books, so they’re little (thank god for my Field Notes subscription).

But on any given day, I am likely to be carrying at least one notebook for anything I’m actively or even kinda-sorta working on, which always equals at least three projects. Today, for instance, when I went to my branch office (aka my local diner) to work for a few Griffin-free hours, I had three projects represented in my bag: Greenglass House, since I’m working on the first pass; The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book, which is a book of folklore referenced in Greenglass House; and Border Saints, the new thing, which I was be allowed to mess with only while taking a break to order and eat a sandwich.

And yet, all those notebooks, all the notes I make and research I do and keep–I am discovering that none of it keeps me from having to re-do a certain amount of work each time I start working on a new project. Because I can’t keep everything in my head, and because up until now, every project among the seven manuscripts I’ve finished and the eight I consider to be on my active-but-unfinished roster is related to the rest–with the exception of only two. (Those two, in case you’re curious, are Border Saints and a thing called Greensward.) So almost every time, I wind up revisiting something from a previous book.

Now, they’re not all directly related. Not all have to do with Natalie, Sam, Jin, and Jack Hellcoal. But they are all set in a world I have begun to call in my own mind the Walking World, a place peopled with uncanny itinerants called roamers, who include everyone from the denizens of traveling medicine shows to those who’ve faced the Devil in competition to the strange beings called Jumpers to those, like The Broken Lands‘ Sam Noctiluca, who have what the card sharp Al Tesserian refers to as dust on the soles of their shoes.

When you get to know a world through and through, it’s hard not to want to return to it. When you fall in love with your characters–and when they’re characters with long histories–it’s hard not to want to tell as many of their adventures as you possibly can. But that means always being able to bring them back to life as fully as you did the first time. And it means making sure what you’re resurrecting is the same character as before, adjusted for differences in age and circumstance. A lot of this is voice, but it’s way more than voice alone. And I don’t know about anybody else, but I find this very difficult. The first time I had to do this was when Tom Guyot strolled into the Reverend Dram in The Broken Lands. Since then, I’ve had to do it with Natalie (and everybody else in Arcane, including Tom again), Jack, Liao, Liao’s sister Lucy, Liao again, Lucy again…I don’t know, maybe it’s me. I love doing it, but it’s never easy.

There’s also the matter of more simple, everyday consistency between the books. In which leg was Tom Guyot wounded? In which battle did that happen? Does Doc Fitzwater’s cane have an alligator head or a crocodile head? Who’s the purser of The Left-Handed Fate? As I’m typing this, I found an example of what I’m talking about, and I only found it because I just checked to be sure I was quoting Tesserian correctly when I mentioned dust on the soles of one’s shoes. In The Broken Lands, when the term “roamer” is used by Tesserian, it isn’t capitalized. I’m pretty sure we capitalized it in Greenglass House. I will now have to make a note to go back through and check that. 

Then there’s the matter of the stuff I learned for whatever reason and suddenly have to re-learn again. I don’t have the bandwidth to retain for four years everything I learned about waidan and fireworks when I was writing The Broken Lands, but I needed it for Bluecrowne. (This is why I hoard books, I tell myself. At least I know when I suddenly need them years after the project I initially got them for, I’ll still have them.)

So I keep these notebooks. I keep notebooks for every project, and sometimes even for specific ideas if I think I need to devote more space to them than just a few pages in a notebook dedicated to something else. I should really have done that for my notes on the waidan of Liao and Jin, for instance. Live and learn. But even more than that, I’ve started to keep a universal set of notes. It’s not world-building stuff or history. It’s mostly the details: what kind of head tops Doc’s cane; in which leg Tom took a bullet; when I think Jake Limberleg was born, in order to calculate his likely age in 1821. (Yes, Limberleg fans. I know you’re out there. More to come.)

Still, half the time I don’t know what I need to know until I’m knee-deep in a New Thing, so heck if I know if trying to anticipate the kinds of questions that New Thing will require me to remember the answers to will actually help at all. And it certainly won’t help with replicating a character’s voice, or any of the extrapolation that goes into figuring out how Tom Guyot of 1877 is subtly different from Tom Guyot of 1913. But I’ll give it a try. It’s gotta be good for something.

Plus, you know, that’s one more notebook I get to maintain, and I like me a good notebook.

 

It’s Alive! Introducing Bluecrowne.

At last, at long last, Bluecrowne is live on Kickstarter! 

Let me tell you about this story. I’m super-excited about it. I hope you will be, too.

It’s September when the sutler Foulk Trigemine walks into the year 1810 and the Sovereign City of Nagspeake. His mission is twofold: to acquire a particular knife in the shape of an albatross from the a legendary weapons-maker known as the Ironmonger; and, with the help of a peddler called Blister, to locate a special kind of pyrotechnical prodigy known as a conflagrationeer.

Meanwhile, in a brand-new house full of stained glass, Lucy Bluecrowne is about to be marooned. That’s how it feels, at least. Thanks to the threat of war with America on top of the ongoing war with Napoleon, her privateer father has decided it’s time for his family–Lucy, her half-brother Liao, and Liao’s mother, Xiaoming–to live ashore like a pack of landlubbers. And Lucy has never handled being ashore well. 

Then Liao’s genius for fireworks brings him to the attention of Trigemine and Blister, who waste no time in identifying the boy as the conflagrationeer they’ve been seeking. Neither party can afford to lose. With her old life aboard a private ship-of-war about to be gone for good, Lucy has nothing left to fight for but her family. As for Trigemine–not only does his boss, the merchant Morvengarde, not handle failure well, but nobody wants to disappoint the client who’s ordered up the conflagrationeer from him. Morvengarde might be scary, but according to the rumors, not even the Devil wants to tangle with the client.

 

One short novel. 30 days.

Read the first chapter here.

Back the campaign here.

Follow my attempts not to have a nervous breakdown right here at The Clockwork Foundry, and on Twitter.

Bluecrowne in 5…4…3…2…

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m really, really, really nervous. It doesn’t help that the Kairos campaign went so well, because what if, you know? It doesn’t matter that I love Bluecrowne desperately, that the cover is going to be beautiful, that every time I get to return to this world I’m overcome with joy. Because I’m neurotic as hell, I worry about everything, and there is nothing that’s going to make this easy.

Terrified as I am, though, I believe it’s going to be awesome.

Details coming in (checking watch and Kickstarter FAQ page) 48-72 hours.

So…

Watch this space. 

Well, Hey There, September!

I’m not even going to look at when my last blog post was. But three months ago I had a kid, and they were right (because they all told me I would get negative-everything done). I have been getting nothing done.

Except I have been getting some stuff done. Since June 12th, I have done the following, in the following order:

1) Had a baby.

2) Completed my first round of offical Greenglass House edits.

3) Nearly finished Bluecrowne. And by “nearly,” I mean I hit page 155 of what was supposed to stay (for budgeting purposes) under 120, which was roughly the length of The Kairos Mechanism.

4) Conferred with my ace Kid Editors about Greenglass House in preparation for the next round of edits, which I expect to receive this week or beginning of next. Once again, they delivered. These young readers are AWESOME and thoroughly deserve having their praises sung in capital letters.

5) Read the following approximately a hundred times each in the last week alone: 

  • Red Truck
  • Orange Pear Apple Bear
  • Polar Bear Night
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You
  • Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? 
  • If You Want to See a Whale

I have also done the dishes several times.

You’ll shortly be hearing more about Greenglass House. Among other things, Ana and Thea, the fabulous ladies at Book Smugglers, have offered to do a reveal for the cover, so there’ll be that excitement. And the cover is amazing, folks. Jaime Zollars is the artist, and although I’m fairly certain she’s never been to Nagspeake, she managed to capture my beloved home-away-from-home perfectly. (Greenglass House comes out in August of next year, but it’s already available to preorder here and there around the interwebs.)

But since I had initially thought I’d be releasing the next Arcana Project novella this summer and clearly that’s not happening, let’s talk Bluecrowne.

Thing number one: I don’t think I can reasonably call it a novella anymore, since by my best guess it’s going to come in around 175 pages. Thing number two: this throws all my previous calculations out the window. And by “all my previous calculations” I mean my budget. Which is fine, considering I haven’t put together anything in the way of a crowdfunding campaign yet. My initial reluctance to do that before now was due to the fact that I didn’t feel right somehow putting up a campaign when the book wasn’t done. I now see how very pragmatic I was being, even though at the time I thought I was just being paranoid.

There’s also the fact that my slower post-baby writing pace has implications for everyone else involved with this book, including (but not limited to) the wonderful Andrea Offermann, who’s returning for the Bluecrowne cover. 

So here’s the new plan: I’d like to have Bluecrowne to you for the holidays. This still depends on a lot of factors, but I think it’s doable.

I would like not to depend on crowdfunding at some point, but as you see from the progress bar on the right-hand sidebar, I’m nowhere close to having enough in the bank for my original budget yet. Since Bluecrowne’s going to come in so much longer, I’ll be printing fewer paperbacks to start with, but other things like the costs of paying the editor and the reader artists will go up. So there will be a Bluecrowne Kickstarter campaign, I suspect in mid-October, or whenever I get the next Greenglass House edits turned in. And once again there will be a whole bazaar of fun rewards, including another previously-unseen story from The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book in the ebook for Kickstarter backers. (What’s The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book? You’ll have to wait for Greenglass House for the answer to that.) And once again the fundraising will include money to commission a dozen or so young artists to illustrate a special edition. (Don’t want to wait until October to help out? You rock. Click here.)

What will you encounter in Bluecrowne? Well, you’ll meet some new friends and those of you who haven’t yet visited the Sovereign City of Nagspeake will get your first glimpse. But some old friends from all three of my previous books will be returning, too. No, I won’t say who. Not yet, anyway. 🙂 So ends this status report from Milford Command Central. Comments? Questions? No? Great. Here. Have a picture of a few of the research books involved in Bluecrowne, Greenglass House, and The Left-Handed Fate.

20130126_102920

That’s right. I said “a few.”

At Long Last, It’s Time: Introducing The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism

It was the final piece of my original plan for The Kairos Mechanism: a digital edition illustrated by reader artists, one per chapter, each of whom would be paid for his or her work. I was excited about the whole project, but this particular piece–the illustrated edition–was the most special piece of all.

Everybody who got involved with The Kairos Mechanism was excited about the illustrated edition. Several of the co-conspirators donated their (meager) compensation in order to bring additional artists on board. With the help of an amazing group of Kickstarter backers, we were able to raise the amount each artist made per illustration from the originally-budgeted $100 to $125. Meanwhile, with the help of friends, colleagues, a few teachers and librarians and one fairly amazing counselor, I found twelve artists ranging in age from 11 to 20 years of age.

We all worked together to make sure that each artist was assigned the chapter he or she was most excited about (and some lobbied hard to be allowed to illustrate more than one). Beyond making sure that each chapter was covered, I gave no instructions, except where I was asked directly for input. And in September, the finished artwork began to arrive by mail and email. As I mentioned in my previous post, the final piece was hand-delivered to me by my cousin Annie on Christmas Day, the work of 12 year-old Hassan Davenport of Baltimore. Best present ever.

Because I wanted to offer the final edition free or pay-what-you like, I opted to rely on a PDF edition for this version, and last week I turned everything over to Allie Tova Hirsch, a literary designer recommended to me by the good folks at Vook. Allie took my files and created an interactive PDF (correcting more than one of my own formatting errors along the way). And here it is, at long last, complete with not thirteen but eighteen original illustrations.

Please enjoy this book. It is absolutely free if you would like it to be; follow the link and you can decide for yourself whether you’d like it to be complimentary (in which case, leave the dollar amount at zero). However, all proceeds from The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism go toward this summer’s release of Bluecrowne, so if you’d like to become a backer, just enter the amount you’d like to contribute in the dollar field. The artists have also decided to offer prints to help raise the cost of paying the next group of young illustrators for their work, which you can purchase here.

Last of all, please remember that although The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism is offered as a PDF and that you don’t necessarily have to pay for it, the text and all the images are copyright-protected and the rights belong respectively to myself and to the individual artists. If you would like to reproduce anything, please contact me directly about permissions. And if you read the book and would like to share it, please share the download link rather than sharing by any other means. Your friends can still have the book free if they’d like, but I’ll be able to get excited about every copy that’s circulating, which is helpful, and your friends might just contribute a buck or two, which is wicked helpful.

And I guess that’s–oh, right, you want to know where to get that book thing I’ve been talking about this whole time. Click here, and enjoy, with all our thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

Aidan, Candice, Emma, Hassan, Lily, Maeve, Maud, Natalia, Shannon, Reed, Tanner, Victoria, and Kate