The Boneshaker

FAQs: The Left-Handed Fate and Bluecrowne


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!


Novellablog: Bluecrowne At the One Week Marker

One week down. 30% in the coffers. This is where we are: 40 backers have pledged $2445 towards our goal of $8000. It’s all so exciting! And so many wonderful friends are helping to spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs. I can’t thank you all enough. Watching the numbers climb in these first days has been just amazing. You can take a look at the progress here at the Bluecrowne campaign page. As you’ll see, things are looking great, but we still have a long way to go. Original art is going fast, but there’s still time. There are also 3 copies remaining of Jaime Zollars’ signed Greenglass House cover prints. Remember how awesome the Greenglass House cover is? Here it is (picture it without my name and the title). Who doesn’t want that for their wall? I mean, really. I want one for my wall.

ggh__jkt_nospine (1)


So what am I, and the rest of the Bluecrowne team, up to during the campaign?

Well, I just turned in the first pass of Greenglass House. This was really exciting, because it’s the first set of editorial notes I’ve gotten since a pretty sizeable rewrite I did right before the Greenglass ARCs were printed. You might figure (and you’d be absolutely right) that my editor would never let ARCs go to press if she wasn’t happy with what I’d done. And yet it’s still an incredible relief to have the notes in your hand and see that they’re mostly about weird comma splices and places where you used the same word three times in two pages. Reviewing and approving and fixing all those edits took about a week and a half.

Meanwhile, Rachel is finishing up editing on Bluecrowne, and Miwako is finishing the titling for the cover, which she decided to hand-draft rather than use an existing font. It looks amazing, and I can’t wait to share the final front cover with you. My next task is to write the back text so that we can lock down the back cover; then it’ll be time to tackle Rachel’s notes and get the text locked, too. In the meantime, I have a few guest posts to tackle for blogs who are helping to pass the word about the Bluecrowne campaign.

I also have some prep to do for three upcoming appearances I couldn’t be more excited for.

On April 14 at McNally Jackson Books I’m honored to be helping, along with fellow author-booksellers Sarah Gerard, Carly Dashiell, Fiona Duncan, and Julie Carlisle, to launch Beth Steidle’s illustrated novel The Static Herd, which is being published this month by Calamari Press. Beth is an author, artist, and designer, and also one of the masterminds behind McNally Jackson’s Espresso Book Machine department. I couldn’t be more excited for Beth, or to be reading alongside the amazing women I’ll be joining. It’s going to be a totally varied group of readers–meaning, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s not a kids’ book event. (I, therefore, am going to have to really think about what I’m going to read. After all, as Madeleine L’Engle said, “If the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Maybe Walker’s first appearance in The Broken Lands? Everybody likes a villain. Thoughts?) 

In May, I’m joining Aaron Starmer and Laurel Snyder at NESCBWI for a panel on 5/3 called The Blurry Space of Thirteen. This one’s going to be great, and we all think this is a topic that really needs more discussing in the kidlit world. Many of us get our backs up when younger kids’ books get referred to as YA, as if bookstores were shelving Charlotte’s Web alongside The Hunger Games and teachers, librarians, or authors recommending or writing them for the same readers. But even among the books classified as MG, there’s still a huge age range represented. We serve readers as young as 7 and 8 up to 13 and 14, and while we call this entire range middle-grade, these are very different kinds of readers. We’ll be discussing the need for tackling truly thorny issues in MG. I have high hopes for a truly great discussion.

Lastly, on May 17th at 4pm, in honor of the ABA’s Indies First Storytime day, I’m joining a group of 12 middle-grade authors for a dramatic reading from The Phantom Tollbooth at McNally Jackson Books. This is going to be wicked fun, and I hope many of you will come out to join us. The cast includes such luminaries as Adam Gidwitz, Michael Northrop, Natalie Standiford, Matthew Cody, Jeffrey Salane, Courtney Sheinmel, Kekla Magoon, Sophie Blackall, Claire LeGrand. Barbara Marcus of Random House Children’s Books will be narrating as well as moderating a discussion afterwards. Then we’ll all hang around and sign books. It’s going to be great.

Oh, and this weekend my sister and I are running a ten-mile race neither of us precisely trained for. The heckling from our husbands has already begun.

So that’s the report from Milford Command Central! Basically, yay for a great start, but the heavy lifting’s far from over. Thanks to the early supporters! Keep spreading the word, and let’s make this happen!




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.

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.


That’s right. I said “a few.”

Novellablog: Holy Moly! Two Flipping Weeks Left to Become Part of the GREATEST PUBLISHING EXPERIMENT OF ALL TIME!*

Okay, so maybe I’m a bit biased in my assessment of this project’s relative importance in the world. Either that, or I’ve discovered that the more sensational the title, the more clicks my website gets. (Spoiler: it’s the latter.)

Either way, the objective truth is this: with fourteen days left to go, The Kairos Mechanism‘s Kickstarter campaign is sitting pretty at 102%. This is outrageously cool, and I’m hugely indebted to everyone who’s helped out.

In these last two weeks, I have a lot of web appearances set up in the hopes that with the help of the very generous folks who are hosting me, I can really make the most of what time I have left. Because it isn’t over until it’s over, and I still have really high hopes of being able to commit to a second volume in the Arcana series before the campaign ends. And I really, really, really want to start planning for Arcana #2, because (as I may have mentioned last week) my next two books have been scheduled for spring and fall of 2014. That leaves a year between The Broken Lands and the next traditionally-published title, which seems like a perfect excuse for another novella.

To commit to Arcana #2 now, I need to hit $9500, which will cover most of the paperback costs of that next novella. A much more modest stretch goal for these last two weeks is this: at $7500 I can bump up the paychecks of all of the young artists working on The Kairos Mechanism. I’d kinda really like to do that most of all.

So, to sweeten the deal: at $7500, as a thank you, I’ll post the complete text of The Devil and the Scavenger, a crossroads story I wrote for the students of Deer Hill School in Cohasset, where I spent this past Monday and Tuesday. It’s set in the world of The Boneshaker and it includes a character referenced for the first time in The Broken Lands, but who will return to play several very important parts in the books to come. It’s about 13 pages long, and I’ll send it as a PDF to every backer on the books when we hit $7500. Oh, and (Kate says with as much modesty as she can muster) it earned me the honor of being dubbed “the creepiest writer I’ve ever met,” in the words of one of the fifth graders to whom I told the story during my visit. If six classes of fifth graders thought it was awesome, don’t you think you’d better not miss out?

So, although the goal’s been met, I would still love your help. If you’d like to become a backer but haven’t yet, now’s the time! Follow this link to The Kairos Mechanism‘s Kickstarter page. It’s easy, you can pledge any amount you’re comfortable with, and there are all sorts of fun rewards for you, above and beyond the satisfaction of supporting (er…) literature and (very seriously) the young and eager artists who are going to illustrate it. Friends and family, if you feel comfortable forwarding this on to your friends and family, I will be forever grateful if you would pass the word.

One sad announcement: this weekend’s fundraiser at the Three Sisters Sanctuary has been cancelled due to technical difficulties and one sickly author, but I heartily encourage everyone to go and visit if you can. It is truly an amazing place, and if you’re lucky you can chat with Richard Richards and his daughter, Sara the Stove Princess, and have them tell you the story of the garden. You will not be disappointed.

Also, coming this week on the Novellablog, we’ll talk tools; specifically Outbrain, the service I’ve been using during this process to drive traffic to my previously-undervisited website, and McNally Jackson’s Espresso Book Machine self-publishing services. Should be fun!

Hope all is well where you are, and, as always, thank you.

*Another explosive title for Miss Natty Chan.

Novellablog: In Which Nathan Comes Up With New Kickstarter Rewards

I knew there was going to be a stagnant point in this campaign, and this is it: The Kairos Mechanism‘s Kickstarter effort has been languishing for about a week, painfully inching toward full funding with about 3 weeks left to go. I read lots of blogs by Kickstarter users that warned that this would happen, so I’m not entirely surprised. I am, however, massively twitchy. I want to know I’m in the clear, and then I want to blast the goal out of the water so I can bump up the kid artists’ checks and commit to Arcana #2.

So tonight, Nathan and I went out for burgers and did a little brainstorming.

I already have a fairly exhaustive menu of reward options on The Kairos Mechanism’s Kickstarter page, but Nathan felt they were somewhat lacking in…shall we call it whimsy? So here’s the custom menu we came up with tonight. Yes, I will honor them if you choose one.

  • $45: I will do 10 slo-mo jumping jacks, narrated by phone for you by Nathan.
  • $50: The Auntie Kate reward: a pair of socks or a tie.
  • $50: The Aunt Katie reward: a clever t-shirt.
  • $50: I’ll send you a birthday card. I will also call and sing you “Happy Birthday.”
  • $100: An original cocktail named after you. No vodka, please; I have to test this stuff to get it just right.
  • $100: I’ll write you the nicest rejection letter you’ll ever get. Stickers included.
  • $150: A critique and work-over of your query letter.
  • $200: I’ll knit you a scarf with an actual pattern!
  • $200: You and me: two person book club.
  • $250:  I will send you a cd of me singing sea chanties.
  • $300: A critique of your manuscript.
  • $300: You and I watch a movie of your choice together over Skype. I’ll treat for pizza.
  • $500: The Clockwork Foundry Subscription: one copy, print or digital, of everything I publish (self or traditional) until you get sick of me. This includes The Boneshaker, The Broken Lands, and The Kairos Mechanism (obviously).
  • $750: I will record for you an audio-novella in which you are a character.
  • $750: I will send you a serial novel, handwritten and delivered by US mail. You feature as a character.
  • $1,000: I’ll be your fake girlfriend for a month. This includes one text per day, one mix CD per week, two angsty phone calls, 3 handwritten letters, 4 poems, one piece of jewelry you will never be caught wearing, and a fiery breakup.
  • $2000: I’ll fly to you or fly you to me for a board game duel with a weapon of your choosing. Afterwards we will watch Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and get delivery food (my treat).
  • $2000: Did somebody say prom?
  • $2000: I’ll fly you to Newark Airport for an hour-long game of hide and seek, treat you to a splendid food court dinner, then fly you home.
  • $10,000: I will send you a check for $9,000. Spoiler: the check will be MASSIVELY post-dated.
  • $1,000,000: I’ll walk into Mordor and destroy the One Ring. Photographic evidence will be provided.

Just try and resist those. Gauntlet=thrown.

Novellablog: Halfway there on the Most Amazing Kickstarter Project Ever*–and it Still Needs You!

It’s May 12, a month after the Kickstarter campaign to fund The Kairos Mechanism started. With 29 days to go and the help of 110 backers and many others who’ve given time, blog space, and moral support, as of noon today, the campaign stands at 88%. (This excludes cash/check contributions made at Wednesday’s Happy Hour, which will be used in June to begin mailing out rewards, since Amazon holds backer contributions for two weeks after the close of the campaign.) Wow, guys. Thank you. Really, really, thank you. Now, time to get this project funded, so we can move on to the next phase.

As a quick reminder, the minimum amount that must be raised for The Kairos Mechanism to be funded is $6500. But what happens after that?

We keep going.

  • The next milestone will be the $7500 mark, at which point the thirteen reader artists’ compensation for their illustrations will be bumped up.
  • At $9500, I’ll be able to commit to a second volume of the Arcana series, and (unless someone backs the campaign at the $1000 level, at which point they earn the right to choose the next volume themselves) within the next few days I should be able to tell you what that book will be so that you can start getting excited about it.
  • At the unthinkable sum of $13000, I will be able to pay another group of reader-artists, and will be able to commit to an illustrated edition of Arcana #2.

With nearly a month left to go, I feel really good about our chances to accomplish all of these things. In order to shake things up at the midpoint, I’ve added new rewards to the Kickstarter menu, including:

  • Signed prints by Andrea Offermann
  • Original artwork by several of The Kairos Mechanism‘s reader artists
  • Advance copies of The Broken Lands
  • Kairos Mechanism-inspired jewelry made by the jewelry club at my high school, South River High in Edgewater, Maryland, from bits and bobs collected from my writing room. You can’t see it well, but the necklace I’m wearing in the Kickstarter video is one of their pieces. Not only do they make really lovely stuff, but part of your contribution at this level has gone (in advance) to the high school.
I also have a habit of making random additional reward offers on Twitter, so you should follow me there (I’m @katemilford). So far they’ve included cookies and poems, but goodness knows what oddball things I’ll come up with as we get closer to the point where I can commit to Arcana #2. Follow me and stay tuned.
You can also help the campaign in a couple other ways, if you’re so inclined.
  • You can grab The Kairos Mechanism’s Kickstarter widget for your own blog or website (if you do, be sure to let me know so I can send you a thank you). The embed code can be found on the project page, right under the video widget.
  • You can also invite me to your blog for an interview or a guest post. Just remember, the campaign ends June 9th, so time is of the essence.
  • You can also now find The Kairos Mechanism on Goodreads.
And…let’s see…oh, how was the Halfway Happy Hour? Well, as far as I’m concerned, the best moment by far was when second-youngest guest, four year-old Cate Cagnazzi, took the clock key I gave her as a party favor and immediately decided–with no prompting from me–that it meant her dad was a giant toy she had to test (repeatedly) by winding him up at the kidney. Sorry, everyone else who attended: Cate won. She gets me. None of the rest of you found the clock keys in the party favor bowl and tried to wind up a fellow guest.
That’s all I’ve got for you right now, except that, as always, I can’t thank you enough. I’ll keep trying, though.
Happy Friday!

*Sensationalist title chosen specifically with Natalie Chan in mind. She knows why.

Novellablog: A Kid Editor Interview with Mason, and My Thoughts on Reading Military History.

Ah, the Kid Editors. We’ve discussed that they’re brilliant. We’ve discussed that giving your book to a kid basically guarantees that you’re going to be given insights about your work, yourself, your talents and your shortcomings in completely unexpected ways. If a kid gets you, give yourself a pat on the back. If a kid tells you you got it wrong, FIX IT IMMEDIATELY.

Well, apart from getting some good story notes, I learned something about myself from the second Kid Editor to check in about The Kairos Mechanism.

Mason is who you want calling you after you get off the phone with Emma. First of all, you know Mason’s done reading because you get his phone call. He doesn’t mess around waiting for me to remember to get in touch with him. It’s fantastic. Secondly, Mason, as a critic, is sort of the opposite of Emma. It isn’t that Emma doesn’t tell me what she likes, or that Mason doesn’t tell me what he doesn’t like, but Mason (after two rounds of beta-reading, now), tends to focus more on what he wants more of, rather than what he wants fixed. Which, in a piece of short fiction, is very helpful. But before I tell you about our discussion about The Kairos Mechanism and what I learned about myself during our discussion, here’s Mason (now 13) on being a Kid Editor.

K: What do you like about being a beta-reader? 

M: I love being a beta-reader because for one thing I love reading, and because I think it’s fun and cool to be able to read something before it’s even really been printed.

K: Is it difficult to do? How is it different from just reading a book? 

M: It is difficult at some parts because sometimes you forget you’re looking for errors and stuff when you get caught up in the book.

K: What can a writer do to help you give her good feedback? Do you like to have questions in advance? Would you rather just read the book and have the writer send questions later, so they don’t influence your thoughts while you read the book?

M: I think it’s good when the writer sends at least an email every week and asks how you like the book, and then maybe she could send one or two questions a week.

K: What steps do you take after you’re finished reading a book–or while you’re reading it–to decide what you like and what you don’t, and what you think the writer still needs to work on?

M: I read the whole book and as I’m doing so, I take notes on each chapter and then go back and look at what I really liked and what I didn’t like as much.

K: Do you feel comfortable telling someone (for example, me 🙂 that you like or don’t like a particular aspect of a book? Is it hard to do? How can the writer make you more comfortable about giving negative feedback? 

M: It’s ok because you know that they want you to tell them what you don’t like as that is kind of the point of you reading it. 🙂

K: How do you involve your parents in your reading?

M: I would always tell my parents what was happening in the book and what I liked.

K: Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 

M: Just let me know when you need your next book read, or if any other authors want to use some beta-readers. I would love to help.

Here’s what we talked about regarding The Kairos Mechanism.

It seems that Mason would, if forced under thumbscrew torture to rate what I’ve written, file The Kairos Mechanism squarely between The Broken Lands (his favorite so far) and The Boneshaker (which loses to The Broken Lands because The Broken Lands has more action and also has lots of fireworks). On one level, there’s a place in the writer’s brain (I suspect–or is it just me?) that always wants to hear a reader say that what they’ve just read is the best thing you’ve ever done; on the other hand, it would be highly problematic if that hypothetical reader actually liked your self-published novella better than the more-than-400-page major hardcover release it’s supposed to be a companion to. So I’m okay with Mason’s ranking.

I could hear him flipping through the aforementioned notes as he told me things that he particularly liked: Miranda Porter, Natalie’s friend, who (in Mason’s opinion) is really turning into a great character; the mechanism of the title; the time spent in the mysterious garden behind Simon Coffrett’s mansion. (Sorry, Cyndy. The thirteen year-olds are outvoting you so far.) He felt I was managing some pretty good suspense. His answer to the question, how would you like me to spend five more pages, was helpful but would be a potential spoiler.

He gave me a few things to fix, all very astute and mostly right in line with what Emma had suggested, but here’s what I really want to talk about. He had high compliments for the historical elements, but he wasn’t talking about the fact that the book is set in 1913. There’s another era that’s invoked in the book, and part of it has to do with a war. And as Mason was talking (having just studied the war in question in school) about how he thought I’d done pretty well with all that stuff, I thought, when did I start wanting to write books that deal with war?

The answer is: never. That was never part of the plan, and it still isn’t. And yet, it snuck in.

Part of it is what I’ve been reading. I’ll admit that right now. Right now I’m finishing reading Bruce Catton’s Civil War trilogy. Last year, I went bonkers for Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August. Just before that, I was all about Six Frigates, Ian W. Toll’s history of the founding of the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812. Two years ago, if you’d suggested to me that I’d have spent the bigger part of my recreational reading on military history, I’d have laughed in your face. But the facts don’t lie, and there are at least seven more books on my TBR pile that follow the same trend.

I’d also have laughed if you’d have suggested that this reading would work its way into what I was writing. I have never enjoyed what I guess I think of as “war fiction,” and furthermore none of my books (so far) have actually been set during wartime, which I guess is why it took me so long to realize how much of its shadow had been sneaking into them.

On the other hand, I’ve either written or written proposals for four books that, in some way, touch upon the ways in which war and the memory of it linger for years afterward. I think it all started because I realized that since The Boneshaker took place in 1913, if I continued telling Natalie’s story I’d shortly have to deal with a world lurching toward the first World War. Not that the stories would suddenly have to be about war–but they’d have to address the reality of taking place in a world at war.

There’s also this, which is becoming more and more clear to me the more I read about different conflicts in different eras: whatever else a time of war is, it’s a time when strange things happen, and do I love reading about the strange quirks of history. That may be the thing that has kept me reading what I’ve been reading, and letting it influence what I’ve been writing.

All stuff I’ve been mulling over since getting off the phone with Mason, who thinks I do a good job with the historical war parts.


I’ll Be At Grey Dog Cafe Tonight With Party Favors. Where Will You Be?


Right now I’m writing notes and sealing special things into envelopes in preparation for The Kairos Mechanism’s Halfway Happy Hour. If you’re within reach of New York City, won’t you come out and celebrate?

For clarity, the celebration in question is TONIGHT. I may not have mentioned that.

This will be a very low-key celebration. Grey Dog is a cafe, not a bar, so all ages are welcome. Local backers, I hope you’ll come by so I can say thank you in person. If you haven’t become a backer and you’d like to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign while you’re there, awesome! I’ll have a secure computer or, for those who prefer, a snazzy jar, and I’ll have rewards with me. If you aren’t sure whether or not you want to contribute but want to hear more, I will happily talk to you for as long as you like about the project and what I’m up to. If you’d prefer simply to come by and offer good wishes and a hug, that’s fine, too!

A glass of wine will be my treat, but Grey Dog also has food, beer, desserts, coffee, you name it. (I apologize for not being able to treat to everything, but, you know, I’m saving up for this publishing thingy. Tell you all about it later.) And of course, party favors! Rewards!

Can you really think of a better way to spend Wednesday evening? By which I mean, a better way to spend TONIGHT?

Grey Dog Cafe, 244 Mulberry Street, between Spring Street and Prince Street, 5-7pm