Tag Archives: books

New and Upcoming Books I’m Excited About: February 2014 Edition

So I’ve got to share some news. Not Turtleduck Press news — these are other people’s books I’m talking about. I’m excited about them and hope you will be, too.

First up, a new release by YA author Megan Crewe:

The Worlds We Make by Megan Crewe

Out now. This is the third book in her YA apocalyptic trilogy. In her world, society is brought to its knees by an influenza epidemic, leaving Kaelyn struggling to do the right thing, or even to know what the right thing is. It’s a quieter, more reflective series than is usual in this genre. I’ve read the first two books and can’t wait to read the finale.

Second, an adult fantasy novel by Katherine Addison, otherwise known as Sarah Monette:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Out in April. Monette is one of my very favourite authors. Last year I read a book she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear, and loved it so much that I promptly flipped back to the beginning and read it again. The Goblin Emperor has been listed on her Wikipedia page as “forthcoming” for years. I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally (almost) here.

Speaking of Elizabeth Bear, she writes a lot and, much as I love her, I have trouble keeping up, but this spring will see the conclusion of her current fantasy series:

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Out in April. It’s an epic fantasy trilogy set on a world inspired by the Asian Steppes. Need I say more? (The first book is called Range of Ghosts. You’re welcome.)

Finally, Suzanne Collins doesn’t really need my help with promotion, but I’m sharing anyway: Mockingjay is finally out in paperback as of next week! (Which may also mean the ebook will drop in price.)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Your turn! What recent or upcoming books are you excited about?

Blogiversary the Second

This week marks the second anniversary of this blog. I know, I know, I’m a toddler in the world of blogging, but I’m still excited. So here are some things I’ve learned from being a toddler:

Blogging regularly is good discipline. I’ve managed a regular schedule for pretty much two years now. Given how my fiction writing schedule goes (or doesn’t), that’s not peanuts.

I can’t think short. Blogging is time-consuming, and depending on who you listen to, it might be time better spent working on fiction. I’ve tried to write shorter posts to decrease the time commitment while maintaining the same schedule, and it just doesn’t work. I think long, and that’s all there is to it.

Comments make all the difference. Blogging can sometimes feel like shouting into the ether. It’s a relief when someone steps up to say “Hey, I hear you!” — either in so many words, or with a simple “like”. Thank you all for being here!

This blog is all over the place. Travel blog? Geekery, feminism, and the intersection of the two? Personal journey and mental health? Writing? Yes! (And more.) It may not be the best for platform or building a coherent audience, but it does keep me entertained.

Just to reinforce that last point, here are the ten most popular posts from the last two years:

10. Book Nostalgia: Trixie Belden. Trixie was one of my favourite characters growing up, but I worried when I wrote this post that she would be too niche to garner any interest. Guess I was wrong!

9. Into the Jungle at Taman Negara. A travel post about Malaysia. In this case, I think the popularity stems from the relative lack of other posts on the topic…but I hope the enthusiasm of the writing (it was my first time in a jungle!) and photography encourage readers to look around a bit while they’re here.

8. If You Liked…A Game of Thrones. TV series + bestselling fantasy author + algorithm from online retail giant = win! But more than that, I put a lot of thought into not just “if you liked…” but “if you liked X aspect of…”, and I think it shows. I’ve also done “If You Liked…Temeraire.”

7. Book Nostalgia: The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle. Here’s another “book nostalgia” post about a series that was one of my very favourites growing up.

6. Book Nostalgia: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. And another one! I haven’t done any Nostalgia posts lately because I haven’t been rereading, and it’s difficult to blog coherently about books I haven’t read in years. But their popularity has me thinking maybe I should revisit the topic….

5. Pacific Rim Analysis: Is Mako a Strong Female Character? Like I said, feminism and geekery are topics that fascinate me, and clearly I’m far from the only one. This is the most recent post on the Top 10 list, from August 2013.

4. Exploring the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. This is my only other travel post to have hit the Top 10 so far (though “Guide to Train Travel in India” is sitting at #11), which is funny because I feel like the travel posts are often my strongest. If you liked this one and/or #9, have a peek at some of the others!

3. Defining Steampunk. Clearly a lot of people are not sure what steampunk is all about. Or at least, they weren’t when this was written two years ago — it doesn’t get a lot of hits these days. Regardless, I love steampunk, so I’m happy to be a resource. (I’ve written more about it here.)

2. Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games. Again, super-popular film and super-popular book made for a lot of hits…which made me happy because I really enjoyed unleashing my (not-so-inner) geek to write this. I wrote one for Catching Fire too, but for whatever reason, not as many people are Googling that.

And the number one blog post, with over twice as many hits as #2…

1. 7 Writing Lessons from George R.R. Martin. To be fair, this one gets a fair number of false positives — hits from people looking for writing advice from GRRM, or writing lessons given by GRRM. Be that as it may, I’m still pretty proud of how it turned out.

The first two years have been a journey for sure. Hope you’ll join me as we enter the Terrible Twos and beyond!

Your turn! If you track your blog stats, what have you learned from them? Or do you deliberately avoid looking at them?

Reading Recap 2013

A Companion to Wolves coverWelcome back to the blog! I hope you had a lovely holiday season and are getting back to real life with renewed vigour, or at least looking forward to the return of light and warmth. I know I am!

It’s time again to look back on a year of reading. Today I’m sharing the best books I read in 2013, and looking back on my reading and buying habits over the year. Because who says writers can’t also be numbers geeks?

Best Books in 2013

Disclaimer: I’m always playing catch-up in my reading, so these aren’t the best books published in 2013, just the best I read that year. For SF&F “best of” round-ups that are more current, check out Tor.com or io9.com.

And now, in no particular order, my top 7 books of 2013:

1. The Hair Wreath and Other Stories by Halli Villegas. Short story collection. My review is here.

2. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. My response from a writerly perspective is here.

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I never did blog about it, but this literary fantasy novel was popular enough when it came out that it probably needs no explanation.

4. Cripple Poetics by Petra Kuppers and Neil Marcus. Poetry chapbook co-written by two disabled people as they fall in love.

5. A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. My review is here.

6. XKCD by Randall Munroe. Yes, I follow the webcomic, so I’d read all the strips before, but it’s still awesome to have and read in book form. And it hits all my geek buttons.

7. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. My analysis of the book versus the movie is here.

What I loved about these:

  • the numinous in unexpected places
  • sense of wonder in settings or concepts (e.g., a circus full of wonderful things)
  • sophisticated worldbuilding (e.g., fantasy politics in GRRM; wolf psychology in A Companion to Wolves)
  • psychological depth (e.g., the Girl on Fire coping with life after survival; poetry; the boy bonded to a she-wolf and facing the consequences)
  • sense of surprise – whether a really big twist or something that made me laugh

Catching Fire book cover

Reading Habits in 2013

And now, on to the stats…

Genres

I read 31 books over the course of the year — about 10 more than in each of the previous three years, thanks to having a six-month sabbatical from work. I expect that number to drop back down to normal levels in 2014, alas.

  • 9 were adult fantasy (4 last year) and 5 were adult SF (4 last year)
  • 1 was non-genre adult fiction (3 last year)
  • 2 were YA fantasy (0 last year), 2 were YA SF (3 last year), and 1 was non-genre YA fiction (0 last year)
  • 5 were non-fiction (1 last year)
  • 1 was an anthology or collection of short stories (3 last year)
  • 1 was poetry (0 last year)
  • 3 were “other”, in this case graphic novels or webcomics (0 last year)

14 of the books were from my to-read list (8 last year).

13 of the books were part of series (consistent with the numbers from last two year, though not the proportions, since I read so much more this year).

Authors

I read books by 23 different authors (not counting collaborations or travel guides), of whom 12 were new to me this year (6 last year) and 11 were new-to-me books by previously read authors (7 last year).

9 of the authors were male, 14 female. Last year was a 6/9 split – almost identical proportions.

To my knowledge, only 2 authors were persons of colour (both women). I keep resolving to do better in this regard and falling short.

Publishing

Of all 31 books, 14 were published in 2008 or later (last year, 12 were published in 2007 or later).

The only self-published books I read were the two Turtleduck Press novels and a webcomic anthology or two.

Buying

5 of the books were gifts, 2 were secondhand, 2 were borrowed. None of these were ebooks, obviously.

10/31 of the books were ebooks, including 4 travel guides and 2 from TDP. (The other four included one big fat fantasy novel that I didn’t want to lug around, two novels that I bought to bring with me while travelling, and one that I bought in ebook form for no particular reason.) Last year 5/21 were ebooks, so the proportion has gone up from about 25% to 33%, but the travel is skewing the numbers. We’ll see how it goes this year, especially since I now have a smartphone as well as a dedicated Kobo ereader.

Other Reading Recaps

If you’re the curious type and/or need more book recommendations to add to your list (excuse me while I die laughing…), here are some other bloggers’ reflections on their year in books:

And looking ahead:

Your turn! How did your reading go this past year? What were your favourite books in 2013?

A Tradition of Books for Christmas

Christmas with bookIn my family, we have a long tradition of giving each other books as gifts. I can’t remember a single Christmas where no-one has gotten or given a book.

Some years I’ve ended up with a big, delicious stack; other years, one or two volumes, or even none, as I’ve been a giver instead of a receiver of books. They’ve ranged from secondhand paperbacks to quality editions, from literary classics to Star Trek tie-in novels to the latest in whatever SF or fantasy or historical series I was obsessed with that year.

My family first discovered Harry Potter through a holiday catalogue put out by a local bookstore, the dearly departed and sorely missed Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe. That year, I read the description of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — I’d never heard of it, nobody had back then — and decided to buy it for my brother, who was just the right age. He loved it. I might have loved it even more than he did.

Speaking of Star Trek tie-ins, I discovered Star Trek in 1992, just at the beginning of my teens. At that time Star Trek: The Next Generation was on its first run, so that’s what I watched, and initially what I read, borrowing all the tie-in books from my Trekkie aunt. But she was also an avid fan of the original series (TOS). For Christmas that year she gave me a copy of her favourite TOS novel, Uhura’s Song – getting me hooked on a whole new series.

More recently, my mom started giving my siblings and me books she hoped would serve us well as new adults heading off on our own — books of recipes, books on decorating your first apartment.

My immediate family doesn’t have any young children in it right now, but you can bet that if and when it does, I’ll be buying kids’ books for Christmas, and I’ll do it with glee.

Your turn! Do you buy books as holiday gifts? Have you noticed a theme or themes to your buying over the years?

If you liked this post, you might also like The Best Christmas Stories Ever, featuring my favourite seasonal books, movies, TV specials, and even a radio show.

Christmas Gift Ideas from Turtleduck Press

You knew I was obliged to do one of these, right? *winks* Don’t worry, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled non-promotional content on Wednesday.

Turtleduck Press has been working hard at putting out good stories for the past three years, and we’ve amassed a variety of books designed to appeal to a range of SF&F and romance readers.

(All but one of them are available in your choice of ebook or print. Click on the covers below for more info!)

If you like…

…season-themed SF&F anthologies: you might like Winter’s Night (a variety of winter-themed stories and a poem) or Seasons Eternal (one longish short story for each season, set in a world where the seasons have stopped changing), edited by me and contributed to by all the members of Turtleduck Press.

Winter's Night anthology cover

…urban fantasy, paranormal romance, banter, or modern takes on mythology: then you might like Shards by Kit Campbell.

Shards by Kit Campbell

…science fiction set in space but with a focus on character, banter, or m/m (gay) romance: then you might like Knight Errant, His Faithful Squire, Queen’s Man, or Captain’s Boy by KD Sarge.

Knight Errant by KD Sarge

…science fantasy, genetic tinkering, or paranormal romance: then you might like Fey Touched by Erin Zarro (and watch for the sequel, Grave Touched, coming in April!).

Cover of Fey Touched by Erin Zarro

…poetry about broken love or about living with disability: then you might like Without Wings or Life as a Moving Target by Erin Zarro.

Without Wings by Erin Zarro

…YA novels about stepping through a portal into a magical universe: then you might like Hidden Worlds by Kit Campbell.

Hidden Worlds by Kit Campbell

We also have lots of SF&F short stories available to sample for free on our website, but if you’d like to support the authors and get your own copy (ebook only), we’ve collected our favourites in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Volume 1.

Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. 1

And finally, if you’re not inclined or not in a position to buy one of these yourself this Christmas, but would like to support Turtleduck Press, you can still help by:

  • spreading the word — the biggest barrier to success in publishing (after quality, of course!) is getting noticed, and word of mouth is super important
  • leaving reviews – again, reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, or LibraryThing, or your own blog if you have one, help authors get noticed
  • letting us know how we’re doing — if you want to see us do more of something in particular, or just want to send encouragement, we’d love to hear from you in the comments
  • buying or recommending another author’s book – Sure, we’re technically competitors, but really, the more people read, the better it is for all authors and the publishing industry as a whole…so go out and buy someone’s — anyone’s — books this Christmas!

Toddlers and Writing: Like Oil and Water – Guest Post by Kit Campbell

Kit Campbell author photoToday I’m thrilled to introduce a special guest blogger. Kit Campbell is the brains behind the business end of Turtleduck Press, and she’s also the author of our newest novel, Shards.

And? She’s doing all that around a small child. Here she is to explain how.

I think most people who are not parents don’t really think about what it’s like to have children. That’s not a dig or anything like that, but why should they? Children are something in the future or something that you occasionally see at holidays and then can return to their respective parental units.

Even parents don’t really think about what it’ll be like in the future. It’s hard, when you have an infant, to picture what he’ll be like as a toddler, a preschooler, a teenager, an adult. So, while I knew when I had children that I would have less time to work on my stories, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was getting into.

I should probably preface this by saying that I’m fairly new to this whole parenting thing; my only child will be a year and half just after the new year. I have, in this last year, managed to partially rewrite and completely edit my debut novel Shards, which was just released this past Sunday.

How did I manage this? Very carefully. And by “very carefully,” I mean by careful use of what little free time I have left. I like to imagine that, as the small, mobile one gets older, I’ll get some free time back, either by him learning to concentrate on things or by eventually sending him off to school. I may be deluding myself, however.

Right now, I have to do all my work while he’s sleeping. And I do mean all—not only my fiction work, but also my normal, daytime job, which I do from my home office. I also need to do some things around the house or yard while he’s asleep too, usually things that involve dangerous chemicals or sharp implements.

I’ll tell you one thing. I have learned to focus like nobody’s business.

Sometimes I can get some work done while he’s up, usually things that I can be interrupted during and not lose my train of thought. But he’s at this stage where he wants to know what I’m doing at all times and, if at all possible, also do what I’m doing. Or steal what I’m doing and run off with it. (He also wants to eat all my food. Anything I don’t want to share has to be relegated to nap time.)

He can occasionally be distracted by being turned loose in the backyard, though if he notices the laptop within range, he’ll be back. Sometimes he can be distracted if I give him whatever food item he’s been coveting and stay where he can see me. (But hide the laptop behind a plant. Or a stack of dishes.) He is, however, never distracted when I ask his father to watch him and then hole up in the office. He will stick his face up against the glass door and run his tongue along it until I let him in.

I once wrote 50,000 words in a month while working full-time and taking graduate-level engineering classes. Who would have thought that one toddler would prove more time-consuming than that? But it’s probably good for me to have the structure, and despite the decrease in productivity, I wouldn’t go back to the way it was before. Life’s a little more interesting through all the chaos.

About Shards

Shards by Kit CampbellEva Martinez is just trying to finish her religious studies degree before her mom guilts her into coming home, when Michael saves her life. There’s definitely a spark between them, but Eva needs to focus on her studies and upcoming trip. Turns out Michael knows a lot about her major, but there’s a lot he’s not telling her too. Will Eva discover the truth about herself before it’s too late?

Kit Campbell has never met a mythology she hasn’t liked. This sometimes leads to issues, such as the occasional Norse God of Thunder showing up in the Garden of Eden. She adores weaving in the possibilities forgotten magic can bring to a story, and enjoys making up new creatures, such as large, venomous monsters that hunt in packs.

Kit’s stories have been published in half-a-dozen anthologies, and her YA novella, Hidden Worlds, was released by Turtleduck Press in 2010. Shards is her first full-length novel.

Kit lives in Colorado in a house of ever-increasing chaos. She can be found around the internet at kitcampbellbooks.com, @KitCampbell, and on Goodreads.

More Reading

Kit’s doing a blog tour this week — if you’d like to read more about Shards, all the links can be found at Kit’s website here.

And, in totally unrelated news, I’m blogging at Turtleduck Press about being addicted to stress.

 

NaNoWriMo: The Final Stretch

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re into the last few days, the time of reckoning. You have one weekend day left, and two weekdays.

How are you doing?

If you’ve already hit 50,000 words (or whatever your personal goal may be), congratulations! You can coast for the rest of the month and, if you’re American, enjoy your Thanksgiving / turkey dinner / Black Friday / etc.

If you’re still short of the goal, don’t despair! Great things happen every year in the last few days of NaNoWriMo. People pull off superhuman feats to win. Sit down, glue your pants to your desk chair (or a chair at the coffee shop, if that’s more your style), and try a few of these methods to keep you focused

But what if you know you physically can’t make 50,000 words? Or you’re not willing to write complete and utter crap to get to that magical but arbitrary number?

Take heart. You may have written more this month than you do in other months. You’ve probably written more than you would have if you hadn’t attempted NaNo. You may have been able to jump on that wave of NaNo energy. You’ve almost certainly learned some valuable lessons about yourself as a writer — even if it’s just a realization that NaNo doesn’t fit your writing process, or that you need to find a way to make more room for writing in your life than you did this month. Maybe you’ve even developed some good habits that will serve you well going forward.

(Full disclosure: I’m in that last camp. I’m participating as a NaNo Rebel, editing instead of first-drafting. My initial goal was 50 hours, but I’m sitting at around 25 and I’ll be lucky to hit 30 by the end of the month. But that’s an hour a day, better than most months, and it’s gotten me back into the habit again. And, unlike NaNo, it’s a pace that I think I can sustain.)

So what’s next?

Don’t send out your freshly minted novel into the world yet!

December is unofficially National Novel Finishing Month — since you may not have hit the end of your story even if you hit 50,000 words, and most published adult novels are quite a bit longer than that anyway. (How much longer depends strongly on genre.)

March is unofficially National Novel Editing Month…and if your editing process is anything like mine, a month may be just the beginning. Don’t even think about publishing until you’ve edited — and that means the big stuff like plot, pacing, and characters, not just fixing your grammar and typos.

But don’t think about that yet. For now, celebrate, type like a crazy person, or look back on the month and figure out what you’ve learned.

And know that, no matter what you have or have not accomplished this month, you rock.

*cue Chariots of Fire theme*

Your turn! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? If not, how has your November been?