Tag Archives: Aphra Behn

Cover reveal for Island of Glass and progress report

I have my final cover for Island of Glass. Now all I have to do is revise, send it off to beta readers, find an available editor, revise again, format, and publish …

Right. Anyway, here’s the amazing cover by Rachel Cole:

If anyone is inclined to be a beta reader for a fantasy novella set in an alternate seventeenth century Venice and revolving around the glassmakers of Murano, please let me know! Right now, it’s in dormancy, an important step in my creative process, but I think after about another month, I’ll be ready to revise and then send off to my first readers.

Progress on Chameleon in a Mirror: I’ve completed revisions through chapter 13, of 31, which means I’m almost halfway through. Aphra Behn has just experienced the slave rebellion in Surinam that was the basis of her short novel Oroonoko, and is on her way back to England. My critique partner won’t have time to read it until April, but I still want to finish it as soon as possible, so that I have the whole book in mind while I do this pass.

The group promo this week was a lot more successful than the last one, but I’m not seeing much of a post-promo sales bump. At least I finally had some sales on Kobo and B&N. At some point, I will probably have some thoughts on things that could contribute to a successful group promo, but not today. 🙂

Revising the Aphra Behn time travel

After completing the first draft of Island of Glass, I started on revisions of Chameleon in a Mirror, my popular literature homage to Aphra Behn. Commercially, this one will probably be a washout, since it’s balancing on so many chairs, and none of them comfortably. The subject matter is literary history, but the approach is conventional, accessible, with nothing much innovative to challenge the reader. I certainly don’t have anything against innovation — I’ve written hyperfiction, after all, and the single Nebula nomination I’ve garnered was for a short story told in a series of computer database entries.

But the thing is, even though she was revolutionary, the first professional woman writer in the English language, Aphra Behn was nothing if not accessible. Her plays drew large crowds. Certainly, she messed with the conventions of her male contemporaries, she did wonderful things with the trope of the innocent heroine, and she made the bad-girl whore so sympathetic, it makes it hard to root whole-heartedly for the spunky heroine. But while she wrote the first epistolary novel in the English language, she wasn’t experimenting for experiment’s sake, she was venturing in to a new medium, the long prose narrative, and trying to find an effective way to tell a story.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I regard Aphra Behn as the Steven Spielberg of her era. So while some might think a “literary figure” like Aphra would deserve a “literary” treatment, I think she deserves a gripping plot with lots of twists and turns and surprises, just as she once delivered to the Restoration audience of the Duke’s Company. I doubt if my time travel will do her justice, and it will probably suffer just as much from too much Literature as it will from not enough Literariness. As if that weren’t enough, it’s undeniably a stand-alone novel — there is no way I can turn it into a series. Which is the form which seems to be most likely to lead to success in this brave new publshing world.

But it’s important for me to finally finish this project of my heart, and I’m glad to be working on it again.

I did lose a day with a stupid mistake — the version I started editing at first was an older version that apparently I had open to consult while I wrote the new version last year. It took a couple of hours of frustration with myself at the writing being so much less polished than I’d expected before I checked the directory again and found the REAL new version. Sigh. I must find a better method of naming my files, obviously. But at least now I’m a little more inclined to believe that I really am still capable of learning as a writer and haven’t hit some kind of wall where I can’t see my own mistakes. 🙂

Despite the false start, I’ve managed to revise 70 pages of 350 this week (a manuscript of 110,000 words total). I’m good with that. I’ve also been working on the next group promo, which I will officially announce tomorrow. Watch this space!

I also spent most of a day creating a new page on my blog for my books. If you have time, please check it out and tell me what you think!

Wishing everyone a very productive and successful week. 🙂

First draft of Island of Glass finished!

This incarnation of Island of Glass is finished!

But very definitely a first draft, so there is still work to do. In its present state, it is coming in at just over 16,000 words, so not quite novella length yet, but this version still has several “placeholders” — notes to myself where I need more description or whatever. So I am reasonably confident that the final draft will at least make it to the SFWA definition of novella (17,500 words).

Just for fun, I’ll share the beginning:

Chiara wiped her hands on her apron and lifted the goblet up to the light, inspecting her work critically. The fluted glass flared out like a lily beginning to bloom, and as hard as she tried, she could find no discoloring or bubbles. She breathed a sigh of relief; a nearly perfect piece. It would command a high price among the nobles of Venice. The work of the Murano glassmakers was in great demand throughout the world. It was the basis of their riches — and their curse. The laws of La Serenissima decreed that the glassmakers of Murano were never to leave the few islands that comprised the small city-state. Murano glass was more precious than gold. Anyone who knew the recipe of the alchemists could make gold, but only the artisans of Murano could make glass so fine, one could nearly touch one’s fingers together on either side; cristallo without an imperfection or blemish, clear as the sky, with a sparkle to rival that of diamonds.

Anyway, besides organizing the next group promo, that’s what I’ve been doing the last few days. Speaking of which, this is the LAST DAY of the Dollar Daze group promo! Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter for lots of cool prizes. 🙂

Now that Island of Glass is done, I will set it aside for a while and do revisions on Chameleon in a Mirror, the time travel based on the life of Aphra Behn that I was working on last year. Then off that one goes to first readers, and I can get back to Island of Glass and polish it for external eyes.

I sincerely doubt if I will ever run out of projects. It’s more like — no way I will ever finish them all before I die. Every time someone asks me if I’m working on something new, what I really want to say is, “Duh!” But I’m too polite for that. 🙂

Wishing everyone a wonderful week and great progress on whatever you’re working on!

The Next Big Thing: Musing on my time travel with Aphra Behn

I was tagged by Renata Barcelos to explain why my novel is going to be the Next Big Thing. *g* But seriously, the blog hop is more about stopping by different blogs to discover new writers, or maybe a great read down the road somewhere. A lot of us are talking about books that have yet to be finished, but maybe our WIPs will make people curious about the books we’ve already published!

On to the questions:

What is the working title of your latest book?

Chameleon in a Mirror

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The historical figure of Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in English. From the moment I read about Behn in graduate school, she fascinated me. I knew I had to do something with her beyond academic articles.

What genre does your book fall under?

That’s a very good question. It’s a time travel fantasy involving magic mirrors and literary history with a romance that doesn’t end happily. I think I can safely say it falls between lots of genre chairs.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m really bad at casting my novels. I know what all my characters look like, but I can never think of any actors who fit my ideas.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Billie Armstrong has always dreamed of traveling back to the English Restoration to meet her idol, Aphra Behn, but when she accidentally activates the magical properties of a baroque mirror, she discovers that a dream come true can get complicated, not to mention dirty.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year and a half.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hm. I can’t offhand think of any other books with the same weird combination of genres. There are plenty of time travel books out there, but my novel definitely isn’t a science fiction TT, nor is it a romance like Outlander, or a literary TT like The Time Traveler’s Wife, despite the subject matter. I will definitely have to think on that a bit!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The answer to that one is the same as the second question: Aphra Behn. She deserves to have more people know about her, and who knows, maybe I can help with this book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s part self-discovery, part vindication, part love story, part secret history, part historical novel, and (hopefully) all fun! Billie’s journey to the past turns into an unwilling masquerade in a tale of literary politics and passion, a high-spirited Restoration romp, as Billie does her best to survive in a strange era and ensure Aphra’s literary survival in the future. The subject matter is serious, but first and foremost, I hope people will find the novel entertaining. Aphra was a great entertainer herself, and she deserves nothing less.

Now to tag 5 fellow authors, who will share something about their own books next Wednesday on their blogs, if they choose to do so. 🙂

Widdershins

Shah Wharton

Maya Lassiter

Luc Reid

Aliette de Bodard

New draft of Chameleon in a Mirror finished! (And various other writing news)

Chameleon in a Mirror, my literary time travel fantasy to the era of Aphra Behn, is now done in the new version, coming in at 110,000 words. This is not DONE done, just a completed draft. I still need to do a revision pass, taking notes on motives, plot threads, and characters in Scrivener as I go. I’m hoping that will help me make the plot more cohesive before I send it to my critique partner.

I continue to track hours and activities, but I don’t know yet if it’s making me more productive, although it’s certainly looking good. In addition to getting this draft of CIAM finished this week, I’ve started brainstorming both the short story for the Kindle Boards anthology and the novel for NaNo (working title, Ygerna, a new novel in the series The Pendragon Chronicles).

My flash fiction piece “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey” got a nice mention on another blog. Check it out!

I wish everyone a happy and productive week!

A New Round of Goals

For a year now, I’ve been participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days, and it’s been amazing. I’ve published half-a-dozen ebooks, sold several stories to traditional markets, and made enough money off my writing (after a big dip in writing fortunes last year), to once again dream that I might yet be able to make it as a full-time writer. One of the sticky note on my monitor is a wonderfully practical quote from James Lee Burke to keep me grounded: “One of the things an author can always rely upon is that if he has success, it will go away from him again. When you have some success, put it in the bank because you will need it.”

Although in this day and age, who knows if the bank will still be there when you need it …

Anyway, my goals for the next 80 days:

– FINISH the new version of Chameleon in a Mirror, my Aphra Behn time travel. I’m 40,000 words in, so I think it’s doable. Yes, I thought so in the last round, but getting Shadow of Stone ready for publication took a lot more time than I expected. I don’t have any other projects that big slotted for this round, so I hope finishing CIAM and getting it off to my critique partner is fairly realistic.

– Do a new cover for The Future, Imperfect. The sales for this collection are way below that of all my other ebooks, and when I recently ran it through “Why Isn’t My Book Selling?” almost everyone said the cover was a problem — looked too much like litfic. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much …

– Get the next installment of Looking Through Lace up as ebook and brainstorm further episodes. My sf novella Looking Through Lace is one of my most popular titles, and one of the comments that frequently pops up in reviews is that readers wish there were more. Well, I have more. I once envisioned writing a series of novellas in the same world, and have quite a bit of material already. And now in this brave new world of indie publishing, I can return to it and maybe make a bit more out of all the work I put into those conlangs way back when. 🙂

– Release at least one more mini story collection of previously published fiction at 99c. The more the merrier, and the more books I have, the more often I can have a free promotion to get my name out there among the indie-reading-public.

– Revise and submit at least three short stories to traditional publications. I have too many stories I never got around to polishing and submitting, something I used to be so good about before I sold my first novel. But in the epub-world, the value of various lengths is shifting dramatically, and there is now a lot more potential income for novelette and novella-length fiction.

Good luck to all on their goals, whatever they may be!

Summer Solstice Free Fantasy (and various other updates)

As you can see from the badge off to the right there, I will be participating in a group giveaway next week, Summer Solstice Free Fantasy, with 28 fantasy novels for folks to chose from! Please pass the word along. 🙂 In addition, I will also be having a single free day for Shadow of Stone tomorrow, to try to get things moving a bit. As a result, however, in the last couple of days I’ve been spending more time on marketing again, announcing the freebies with all the usual suspects.

In anticipation of the Summer Solstice event, I have also finally updated by blog to include all of the ebooks I have available until now. If you check the sidebar, you will see that there are a lot more books than there used to be! One thing I can cross off my to-do list. I still have to do the same thing on my web page proper, however.

I’m also working on a guest blog about my sources and research methods for a German site, Verlorene Werke (“Lost works”). That should be finished and off today. I will announce it here once it goes up, for my readers who know German. If there’s interest, I could translate it somewhere down the line and post it to this site as well.

I have made some progress on my fiction, however. Rereading / revising Chameleon in a Mirror, I am up to page 74. And I had a fabulous research epiphany regarding an anonymous Restoration play that is often attributed to Aphra Behn, The Woman Turned Bully, which just might be perfect for some of the complications I wanted to add to the novel. I so love it when that happens!

Shooting for May 25th publication date for Shadow of Stone!

I’m happy to say I can now announce a publication date for Shadow of Stone. I’ve gone through the edits I got back from the copy editor, and I have a nearly final version of the cover:

STONESfinalA

While going through the edits, I noticed a couple of typos the copy editor didn’t catch, so I’m also going to try and do one more read-through. Then I will need to do the formatting and send it out to the readers who volunteered to write reviews.

I also need to work on the blurb and product description. This is what I’ve come up with until now:

There was once a woman, fair as the moon, who lived most of her life beyond the realm of legend. As she stood beside the grave of her lover, the legend that ended with his death was far from her mind. Her soul felt as dark as the shadow cast by Drystan’s standing stone, dark and barren. Love was over, but life was not; she would have to find a way to go on, for the sake of their son.
This is the story of how Yseult outlived the legend that had been her life.

***

For over ten years, there had been peace in Britain under the rule of Arthur, Dux Bellorum. Now, after a series of hard winters and famine, an alliance of dissatisfied northern kings and Pictish tribes begin to attack the rich cities of Dumnonia. Cador, king of Dortrig, must go to war again, while Yseult does everything she can to defend her son Kustennin’s heritage. But in the years of peace, Arthur’s army has grown soft, Myrddin is on the brink of abandoning the Dux Bellorum, and jealousies personal and political rip once strong alliances apart. Who will survive the upheavals to come? Will Britain rally once again behind a common leader to fight off the common threat?

What do you guys think? Does that make you curious to read more or just bore you to death? Any and all comments welcome!

As a promo for Shadow of Stone, I’ve reduced the price of Yseult to 99 cents for the remainder of the month. Please pass the word along!

Now that I’m through the edits, I’ve also gotten back to Chameleon in a Mirror. It’s nice to be writing again! I’m not up to the speed I want to be yet, but I did get another 1400 words written on the Aphra Behn novel so far this week.

Hope everyone’s writing is going well!

Interview, plunging ahead with Aphra, and using up my free days on Never Ever After

Great Minds Think Aloud posted an interview with me today:

http://www.greatmindsthinkaloud.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=interviews&thread=1329

They are also hosting a contest to win a copy of Yseult, which you can access here:

http://www.greatmindsthinkaloud.proboards.com/index.cgi

The new version of Chameleon in a Mirror from scratch is going very well. It’s great fun to get back to Aphra Behn, who has been my idol since I first read about her decades ago. I’ve upped my target word count to 1500 words a day; here’s hoping I can maintain it.

In sales news, Looking Through Lace is still doing pretty well since its freebie:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,864 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#15 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Short Stories
#24 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Anthologies

Earlier in the day today, it was in the top ten in the categories for short fiction, but it’s slipping now. At least I got another 5 star review out of the freebie. 🙂

Starting tomorrow, April 18, I have another free promotion scheduled: my revisionist fairy tale collection Never Ever After will be free for Kindle for 48 hours. Once again, I am using up my free days before I take the ebook out of KDP Select, so get it while you can! And please, pass the word along. The monetary reimbursement for freebies has let up drastically since I first released Yseult in January, but it’s still one of the most effective ways for indie authors to get potential readers to notice their fiction.

Aphra Behn: Dec. 1640 (?) – April 16, 1689

I want to thank my blog visitor e a m harris for reminding me that today is the anniversary of Aphra Behn’s death.

Aphra Behn's gravestone

The inscription: “Here lies proof that wit can never be, defense enough against mortality.”

I think the words of Virginia Woolf are also in order here:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she–shady and amorous as she was–who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

The last scene of my novel Chameleon in a Mirror takes place at Aphra’s grave, and so, in honor of the occasion, I thought I would share it with you, even in its ancient, soon to be revised state:

She opened the door on the opposite side of the church from Ben Jonson’s memorial, entered the cloisters and stopped. Sunlight flooded the courtyard, making her squint. There were more tourists in here, examining the commemorative stones to soldiers and priests on the walls. Billie ignored them and headed for the corner with the actors and actresses; Aphra had ended with the players rather than the poets. Billie wondered briefly what she would have thought about that.
The nasal tones of a southern drawl grated her ears. “Here’s Anne Bracegirdle, dear,” a chunky blond informed her male companion. “What was she, a royal mistress?”
The man, loaded with camera equipment, leafed through the guidebook. “Only an actress, it says here.”
The woman turned away in disappointment, her camera-toting better-half trotting behind her. Billie wandered around looking at the plaques, waiting for them to leave. When the door closed behind them, she went back down the aisle to a stone on the floor near Anne Bracegirdle’s. She knelt down next to the dark tombstone and traced the date with her fingers. April 16 1689. Over three hundred years ago now. Three hundred years, and not nearly as far away as they should have been.
The engravings on the stone were clear and legible, not like many of the others she had just tried to read. It appeared that there were still some people who remembered Aphra Behn.
She unzipped her pack and pulled out a copy of the paper she had given with Aileen. “This is for you, Aphra,” she said, looking quickly both ways and laying the pages on the cold stone. She picked up a small rock and placed it on the sheets of paper to keep them in place until someone kicked them aside or a janitor threw them out.
“I may not be able to compete with Virginia Woolf in most things–neither could you, for that matter–but I still think it’s better than flowers.”
Billie got up quickly, feeling much too close to tears for comfort. She shoved her fists into the pockets of the silver brocade jacket, and her left hand brushed a folded piece of paper. With a wry smile, she pulled the letter out of her pocket, bent over and tucked it into the sheets of the manuscript.
The heavy door closed behind her with a thunk. A draft created by the movement joined forces with the breeze and teased the pages into motion, dislodging the pebble.
Freed, the sheets scattered leisurely across the flagstones.

Thank you, Aphra. And thank you, Marie de France. And Christine de Pizan and Hildegard von Bingen and Ann Radcliffe and Jane Austen and George Eliot and Virginia Woolf and all the many, many women who have made it so much easier in this day and age for us to speak our minds.