The Arcana

Shopping Today? I Have Some Ideas, Only One of Which is Self-Serving.

So it’s one of my twice-weekly bookstore days, and having just deleted eleven emails about Cyber Monday deals, it occurred to me that the world needed one more. Except this isn’t about Cyber Monday, except that I figure lots of you are shopping today and therefore this might be relevant. So without further ado, here’s some bookish shopping food for thought on this lovely Monday morning.

Great Idea #1: Help Victims of Sandy While You Shop. There are lots of ways to do this, but here are three I know of right off the top of my head.

1) Shop our Sandy Relief Table here at McNally Jackson. The magnificent Sarah Gerard and I had a lot of fun putting this table together, and we ordered so many titles they actually overflow onto the regular shelves where you can find tags like the one below here and there. There are books for all ages, some in paperback and some in hardcover. Can’t make it in? I made you a list for convenient interweb shopping. All proceeds from the titles below go to Sandy relief:

2) In six days on November 30th, YA for NJ is starting an amazing auction of young adult books, most of them signed, to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. Take a minute now to mark it on your calendar, then keep an eye on the event’s Facebook page for more info. See? Not everything has to get done today.

3) I don’t know if you’re as obsessed with Nautical Stuff as I am, but if you are, there are still a few of these gorgeous Sophie Blackall prints available on Etsy. Donate to the Red Cross and get art. Win/win. I can confirm that in real life, they are even more exquisite than this picture suggests.

 

 

 

 

 

Great Idea #2: Shop for Bluecrowne! All right, this is my admittedly totally, totally self-serving idea. You should probably shop for Sandy relief instead, but what the heck. Become a backer of Bluecrowne, the second volume of the Arcana Project Series and get cool stuff. Want your stuff signed, personalized, gift wrapped? Let me know and it will be done.

Happy shopping, friends!

 

Counting Down to the Illustrated Kairos

Over the course of the last few months, in between exclamations of joy at the release of The Broken Lands and exhalations of relief over finishing (at least until my editor weighs in) Greenglass House, I have occasionally had reason to shriek in delight at the progress of The Illustrated Kairos Mechanism. Twelve artists sent work in styles varying from digital to pen and ink to watercolor to cut paper to pencil.

I’m in the final stages of pulling it all together and should be able to announce its availability within the next couple of weeks, and I just can’t wait to share it. Earlier this fall I posted a video of Natalia Eldering’s painting of Tom Guyot; today I want to share one of the pieces I received this week: Tanner Hansen’s imagining of the stone hawk from Simon Coffrett’s garden. Enjoy!

 

 

 

I Have Pretty Things and You Can Have One Too: The Kairos Mechanism Pinned Edition

So a couple weeks back I got this giant box of gorgeousness from Hamburg, Germany.

One of the special things that was offered to Kickstarter backers of The Kairos Mechanism was a set of The Broken Lands, The Boneshaker, and The Kairos Mechanism signed by cover illustrator Andrea Offermann. In August I shipped these, plus some extras, out to Germany for Andrea to sign. And just look what came back to me (actually, these are the pictures Andrea sent me in August to taunt me with what was coming):

If you’re a Kickstarter backer who chose Andrea-signed books for your reward, one of these beauties is on its way to you, if it hasn’t already arrived. If you are now kicking yourself for not having done so, as of today you can officially become a backer of Bluecrowne, the second edition in the Arcana series, and get one mailed out to you this week. Here’s the link to purchase the pinned edition (which comes with the digital edition of your choice as well as a handwritten thank you card and a small but special gift related to the story); proceeds will go toward bringing Bluecrowne to you in the summer of 2013. You can also take a look at other ways to become a backer of Bluecrowne here.

Float a Bone in the River

Greenglass House deadline: T-13 days. The good news: I’m really close to done. The bad news (earmuffs, Lynne Polvino): some of what I have left, I simply haven’t figured out yet.

Except that this isn’t exactly bad news. Not to me, anyway. For me, part of the joy of finishing a book is seeing all the pieces come together, in much the same way that it’s part of the joy of reading. Part of the reason I like writing by the proverbial seat of my pants is that when I start out with a certain percentage (say, 50%) of the pieces in hand, I like the way the rest of the pieces find me. Or re-find me, by twisty turny means. Last week this happened to me not once, but twice. Since one of those happenings also included a friend and a very cool piece of art, I’m going to tell you about that one.

Exhibit Number One, because it’s the coolest exhibit:

Doodling tonight, remembered your “float a bone in the river” tidbit. -apq

 

The caption is the text of the email that accompanied the image. But let me back up.

Ashley Quach is an artist, screenwriter, and Twitter-turned-In-Real-Life friend who was first introduced to me when my husband, Nathan, found her blog post entitled A Tender Ode to Bloodsport. We also became crowdfunding buddies in a sense; my Kickstarter campaign for The Kairos Mechanism concluded just as her Indiegogo campaign to finance the short film Appleseeds began. (The first screening of the rough cut happens this month, by the way, and if you’re planning to be in Berkeley, CA, on October 14th, you should definitely consider attending the party.)

But to return to how pieces come together, here’s Exhibit Number Two:

One month ago exactly.

 

Now, if you’ve read The Boneshaker, you might remember a moment during the past of Dr. Jasper Bellinspire in which a woman hands him a small bone and tells him it’s the one that floated upriver. This is a piece of lore I came across somewhere: if you take a black cat, reduce it to bones, and set them in a moving river, one bone will float against the current. That one can be used to summon the Devil. So it’s something I already knew, something I had made use of. Maybe because of that, it lived in a different part of my head than the part that needed to find the remaining story pieces for Greenglass House. Until, that is, Ashley sent me her “doodle.”

Who knows why we compartmentalize the way we do? I can make a guess about myself in this case: Greenglass House isn’t about devil folklore the way The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands are–which is to say, it isn’t about devil folklore at all. But it is about folklore; specifically, the folklore of Nagspeake, which, fortunately, has an elasticity that allows me to manipulate it basically however I want. And I realized when I saw Ashley’s message sent picture I realized that Nagspeake needed this bit of lore. And not because it is devil lore or summoning lore, but because it is orphan lore, which my adopted protagonist Milo, who is deeply concerned about his heritage and identity, would be very interested in. Greenglass House isn’t a chosen one story. It is, in fact, an anti-chosen one story, if anything. Still, this piece, the story I wrote after receiving message sent is a critical part of Milo’s adventure.

Very little of this story will actually appear in Greenglass House–Milo encounters it in a book of Nagspeake folklore he’s reading, The Raconteur’s Common-Place Book. But because the grand plan is to release The Raconteur’s Common-Place Book as Volume 3 of The Arcana Project, I wrote the story. Here’s a bit of the first draft (a “doodle,” if you will), with thanks to Ashley Quach for giving me one of the missing pieces I was looking for.

From The Summons of the Bone

It took her a few days to find a black cat, another few after that to find enough wood to boil water. When all that was left of the cat were its bones, she made her way to the river’s edge and set the bones on the water. The frothing river took all but one. That one spun gently as if it were caught in the mildest of eddies. Then it slid against the plunging flow, upriver and out of sight.

             A moment later, the dark figure of a tall man appeared at the bend in the Skidwrack around which the single bone had disappeared. He strode upon the surface as if it were a road, with a long overcoat wrapped around him and a grey fedora keeping the rain from his head.

            Nell watched with her heart in her throat as he approached until the strange figure stood before her with his coat whipping about his ankles and rain dripping from his hat. “I received your message,” he said in a voice like thunder rolling far, far away. She couldn’t see his face, but she sensed that, in the shadows under the brim of the hat, a pair of searching eyes was considering her curiously. “Put forth your question.”

             She folded her shaking hands and cleared her throat, and she saw the dark man smile very slightly, as if there was something endearing about her fear. “I want you to stop the water rising.”

            The man put his hands into the pockets of his coat. “That isn’t a question.”

            “Please stop the water rising?”

            “That is still not a question. It’s a request with a question mark at the end of it.”

            “Well—can you stop the water rising?”

            He smiled more. “You called me all this way to ask me a question I can answer with a single word?”

            The girl realized her mistake and raised her hands quickly. “Wait. No. Let me think.” And as she thought about her question, she realized she had a problem. She had expected to be allowed to make a request, but what the dark man had offered was something different. She could perhaps ask, will you stop the water rising—but even if he answered yes, that didn’t mean he would stop it now, or at any time before her city would be wiped off the coast. She could not think of any way to ask him to solve the problem of the rising water.

            At last she asked the only question she’d come up with. It didn’t accomplish what she’d wanted to accomplish from this meeting, but it was the best she could think of to do. “How can I stop the water rising?”

            “Ah. Now that is a good question…

Novellablog: A Video Treat for a Special Day: Tom Guyot

Today I came home from seeing the first proofs of The Kairos Mechanism emerge warm out of the Espresso Book Machine to find a of The Broken Lands at my door–the first real-world, hardbound, this-is-what’s-gonna-be-on-the-bookshelves copy I’ve ever seen. It is beautiful. They both are.

Here’s another really beautiful thing. As many of you know that, in addition to the ebook and paperback editions of The Kairos Mechanism (which, of course, is the companion novella to both The Broken Lands and The Boneshaker), I’m putting together a reader-illustrated edition, with the help of thirteen amazing young artists. This is Natalia Eldering’s contribution to this very special edition. Enjoy!

Novellablog: Final Revision Stats, Briefly Stated in a Rambly Manner

This is not going to be my most elegant blog post. Mainly I want to write this down so that I can stare at it in an hour when Nathan gets home from work and I wake up from fugue state and wonder where the hell my day went.

I am surfacing only briefly; I have, however, wolfed down my late lunch (note: it’s after 6pm in Brooklyn) in ten minutes rather than the twenty minutes I promised myself I would take for a break after getting to the end of this draft of The Kairos Mechanism, so I get to relax for another ten minutes. TEN MINUTES. DON’T RUSH ME.

Kairos is going to print this week. Probably Thursday. I did a full read-and-revise about midmonth, then I did two more revisions (without reading through) based on notes from three critiquers and the copyeditor. Then I printed the draft out again. I started reading it on Sunday; you may have seen my picture of the first page with its makeup on, which I posted to Tumblr. I had intended to dog-ear the pages that needed touching up until I realized that I could reverse the strategy and dog-eared the ones that didn’t, and then I wouldn’t have to fold any pages at all.

That’s right. I ended with notes on every single page.

I finished reading and started editing last night. Four chapters in at 11pm I figured I was about halfway done and that I’d go to bed and get up early and finish in time to spend the afternoon writing new stuff. I failed to notice that it had taken me three hours to get four chapters done.

This morning I started at 9:30 a.m. and finished the line edits at 5:50. I have cut 6 pages, bringing the ms down to 149, but that’s without chapter breaks and without front and back matter. The copyeditor’s notes on this draft will arrive this evening. Presumably I have already fixed a lot of what she’ll tell me I screwed up. Definitely there will be work left to do. I also still have one scene yet to rewrite, which I saved until the end because it required going back to the history books. Gonna start that as soon as I finish typing this up. I also have to go back through and search for words and phrases I know I overuse. On the list I made today: strange, odd, little, uneasy, awkward, expression, glance(d), look(ed), turn(ed), “for a moment,” “something like,” seem(ed). I also have to look up what the style standard is for writing years out. Is it Nineteen Thirteen, or nineteen thirteen, or Nineteen-Thirteen, or nineteen-thirteen (which is what I’ve been using)?

One really wonderful thing, though (apart from cutting 6 pages, which is immensely satisfying) is that I managed to add, with only one paragraph, a really excellent moment I’d failed to notice I’d given myself the opportunity to write, and which not only really works well, but ties two other moments together and generally, I think, adds a lot. Go team.

Now I gotta go back and fix that other thing. Also this title is plainly a lie, because after fixing and cutting so much I’m obviously going to have to read it one more time. But if I think about that now, I might go out of what remains of my mind.

Go team.

 

Novellablog: It’s Time! PRE-ORDER THE KAIROS MECHANISM! And while you’re at it, PRE-ORDER THE BROKEN LANDS!

Boyohboy, guys, here we go! It’s time. It’s really, really time! It’s all over but the formatting, so I’m pleased to announce that The Kairos Mechanism will be available in paperback and your choice of digital formats created with Vook (PDF, iBooks-compatible, Kindle-compatible, and Nook-compatible) on Friday, September 7th, and you can preorder it right here, right now.

Because the paperback of The Kairos Mechanism winds up costing a bit more like what an “adult” pb costs than what a middle grade or teen pb does (the list price will be $12.99, due to the cost of printing on the EBM), every paperback copy of The Kairos Mechanism comes with a DRM-free Kairos digital edition in your choice of format. 

Possibly the coolest option for getting The Kairos Mechanism actually isn’t from me, and also involves getting it on the cheap. Between now and September 1, if you pre-order The Broken Lands in hardcover from one of the most excellent independent bookstores listed below, you can also pre-order The Kairos Mechanism from the same store for five bucks. (Shipping is subject to the individual bookstores’ policies.) Also, since The Broken Lands will be released on September 4th, Kairos will ship early with those orders. Want your copies signed and/or personalized? You got it.

Planning to get The Broken Lands from your local indie, so you just need The Kairos Mechanism? Not a problem.

Pre-order The Kairos Mechanism in paperback ($15.99, including shipping):

Pre-order The Kairos Mechanism in a digital edition ($3.99):

  • DRM-free PDF
  • DRM-free iBooks edition
  • DRM-free Kindle edition
  • DRM-free Nook edition

UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 2012): Digital editions are now available through Vook.com. Go here to purchase them.

Pre-orders handled through Clockworkfoundry.com are securely processed by Gumroad. Paperback pre-orders through Clockworkfoundry.com include domestic media mail shipping (international buyers, please add $10).

If you’d like to be put on the mailing list for the reader-illustrated edition, please email me directly at kate(at)clockworkfoundry(dot)com. Due to the involvement of 13 different artists with different schedules, the release date is TBD.

Want The Kairos Mechanism sooner, and you can come to New York for a party? Join me at McNally Jackson Books on Thursday, September 6th at 7pm for The Broken Lands’ launch party. You can hang out with lots of book-loving folks, hear me read from The Broken Lands, and see the EBM in actual real life. Hopefully I don’t need to remind you that The Broken Lands is the reason this novella exists, but just in case: The Broken Lands is 465 pages of awesomesauced historical fantasy full of horrifying and wondrous things, including (gasp) a love story (whether you classify that among the wondrous or the horrifying is entirely up to you). Kirkus has already raved about it; surely they won’t be alone in their applause. Come out and celebrate with us if you can! All ages are welcome.

Lastly, if I may, I’d like to leave you with some praise for The Kairos Mechanism from some really awesome folks who’ve given it an early read. I’ll sit quietly over here and blush until you’re done.

From Laurel Snyder, author of Bigger Than a Breadbox:

“A dark and wonderful machine, built of magic and history and held together with intricate prose. I loved this book.”

From Elizabeth Bird, NYPL youth collections specialist and author of A Fuse Eight Production blog:

“Youthful corpses, smooth talking villains, war, fate, and the occasional odd albatross. For readers left gasping and grasping after the marvelous The Boneshaker comes a sequel that’s every bit as crisp and scintillating as its predecessor, with marvelous prose and even better characters. I’m torn between wishing I lived in Arcane and offering thanks to every god in creation that I’m safe merely reading about it instead.”

From Rachel Swirsky, Nebula Award-winning author of The Lady Who Picked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window:
“Milford’s Arcane stands at the crossroads of eerieness and adventure. Every visit begins with the best kind of shivery dread and ends with the fun of watching Natalie gin up her courage to tackle whatever stands in her way.”
From Nathan Milford, long-suffering husband of Kate Milford:
“Yeah, I read it.”

Novellablog: May I Introduce the Gorgeousness that is The Kairos Mechanism’s Cover.

Credit goes here to the amazing and wonderful and brilliant team of Andrea Offermann and Lisa Amowitz. Here it is:

I’m nearly finished mailing out the July Kickstarter rewards (meaning, everything that doesn’t involve copies of The Broken Lands or The Kairos Mechanism, since I don’t have copies of those yet to send out), which has been a lot of fun. In the meantime, a copyeditor, a critiquer, and a beta-reading little brother are all giving the manuscript one final once-over before I start working on the digital editions. As soon as I have the final page-count on the paperback edition, I’ll be able to start taking pre-orders.

It’s really happening, guys. Thank you for all your help and support and cheering. But today–let’s all raise our glasses to brilliant artists and designers. Here’s to you.

Novellablog, the Toolkit Series: Outbrain, Part Two, in which Kate Gets Schooled in Bloggin’.

In my previous post about Outbrain, I talked about why I chose to use it, how the service I used worked and what the results were. I also mentioned that in my first meeting with Natalie Chan, the Self-Serve marketing manager, I got a bit of a tutorial on being a better blogger. I needed Outbrain because I needed more traffic to my website during the Kickstarter campaign to fund The Kairos Mechanism. But it turns out that nobody goes to your website if you aren’t putting compelling stuff up there on a regular basis. So before she let me sign up for the service, Natalie told me what I was going to need to do to get the best results from the program, and we made a plan I could stick to.

1) I needed to be adding new content two to three times per week. For contrast, up until that point I considered that I was doing pretty well if I managed to add a post a week, but a post every other week was much more likely.

Natalie suggested that I write ten blog posts in advance of launching (I planned to start my Outbrain campaign at the same time as I started the Kickstarter campaign). Writing that content would be easy; I would be learning lots during the Kickstarter campaign, but I had already written The Kairos Mechanism and done the research on things like the Espresso Book Machine and McNally’s pub services, and (as you know if you’ve read other Novellablog posts) I was already experiencing mild panic attacks about editing and formatting and so forth. I had plenty to draw on to start writing posts.

Natalie offered to look over the posts once I had them ready and offer suggestions on how I could improve them, which leads me to:

2) I needed to make sure my posts were more self-contained than I was accustomed to making them. For the past few years of blogging, about the only traffic I got was from people who already knew of me and of my writing, so I didn’t have to worry about making sure each post stood on its own. Plus, since I was writing a series on a specific project, I had the tendency to just assume that folks were going to have read previous posts. This may seem like an obvious fallacy–and if you had asked me if I thought this was a safe assumption, I would have said obviously not–and yet I had done just that in nearly every blog post I had written in advance.

3) I needed to cut just about every post in half and turn it into two posts. This is something my husband, who is a good blogger, has been yelling at me about for years. The good news is, once I faced the reality that I seem to write things more like articles than blog posts, cutting them in half meant I actually had more posts pre-written than I thought.

4) I needed to really give some thought to the titles of my posts. The more exciting and compelling the title, the better. Once again, this sounds obvious, and it was obvious to me even then, but I still had trouble with titles to start with. For one thing, the kinds of titles that generated a lot of traffic for me via Twitter and Facebook did not translate to traffic when the same titles were offered up to readers who didn’t know of me in advance. My campaign underperformed for the first week or so, and my titles were pretty much directly to blame.

Natalie explained that, taken on their own, the kinds of titles that work best and get high numbers of clicks tend to sound almost sensational, and that that would probably be the biggest thing I’d have to get used to. This turned out to be absolutely true. Titles were my biggest stumbling block.

Now, Outbrain’s customer service folks can re-title posts and articles at their end, so I had the option of using one title on my blog and have the same post offered under a different title through the Amplify service, but that turned out to be more trouble than I wanted to deal with–not because it was any trouble for anyone, but because it did require me to send an email asking for the title change, and as it happens I’m too lazy to be bothered to do that. So I started really trying to keep Natalie’s advice in mind as I chose my titles, and once I did, I started getting vastly improved results.

For instance, there was the post about how I completed the first draft of Kairos in under a month, which I titled “How to Write a Book in 30 Days.” Now, obviously there are many ways to do this, many ways do fail at doing this, many reasons to try anyway and learn to be disciplined about getting words on the page, and many reasons to spare yourself the stress and write at your own pace. But giving the post the simple, decisive how-to title (ignoring all the reasons why what I was about to say was completely subjective, might or might not work for you, etc. etc.) was the key to getting clicks from strangers. There was also the massively popular “Yes, You Can Edit Your Own Work, But You Will Probably Frack It Up.” Same idea. I don’t think I’m any kind of expert; I was just writing about my experiences. Still, titling the posts with authority got better results than ones I titled more humbly.

So those were the things I was tasked with keeping in mind as I wrote my posts. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I do think I was vastly more prepared than I would otherwise have been, and I certainly got better results in terms of clicks and also in terms of engagement with my new readers. Not only did people find my blog, they actually spent time reading it, and even clicked through to read more of what I’d written.

Now I just have to find some way to keep the momentum up now that the campaign’s finished. Which just might turn out to be the hardest thing of all.