Advance Reading Copy of Rethana’s Surrender!

Cover art by the cramazingly talented Adele Lorienne

NOTE: Some of you have been expecting this book to come out under the title Schism or Schism’s Daughter. After much debate and debacle, my publisher, our marketing director, and I have finalized the title as Rethana’s Surrender. But it’s still the same story, I promise! : )

Dearest readers!

As you might already know, my newest novel is coming out within the next two weeks! This one is epic fantasy: another world, magic, intrigue, danger, swords, and fantastical creatures. I’ve been writing stories in this universe for twenty years, and this particular novel has been in the works since 2003.

So you can probably imagine how close this story is to my tender little writer’s heart. ; )

But in spite of my possessiveness, I am excited to let you read it. Early. As in, before it’s published.

That’s right, dear inklings! I have Advance Reading Copies available!

If you’d like to get an ARC of Rethana’s Surrender, leave a comment (with a valid email address) on this post before the end of the day Wednesday, June 20th. You don’t need to say anything besides, “Me too, please!” in your comment — unless, of course, you want to tell me how excited you are to get your ARC. : )

I only have digital copies available, but they should be readable on whatever you’re using to read this blog post. On Thursday, I’ll send review copies to the first hundred people who comment below. All I’d ask in return is that you write me a review at the digital vendor(s) of your choice. Blog posts are welcome too, of course.

Aaron is going to send his horde of fantasy readers over here to get their ARCs from me, so get your bid in early!

For those of you who want to know a little more about the novel:

Legends of the Light-Walkers: Rethana’s Surrender is the story of 20-year-old Rethana Chosardal who can use fun and visually cool magic, but she’s not supposed to use it. For one thing, it freaks the natives out. For another, her family has spent the last ten years in hiding from the ruling class of magic-wielding clerics.

When the magic-wielding clerics show up and take Rethana and her sister captive, this is not a good thing.

Also, Aaron recommends that I tell you: In grand The Princess Bride tradition, *this is a kissing book*.

Finally, a shout-out to Adele Lorienne for the lovely cover art that completely blows my mind every time I look at it. Adele, thank you for your stunning work!

UPDATE: The ARC request deadline has passed. But if you want to get your hands on a copy of Rethana’s Surrender, it is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can also post your reviews at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

To those who have already read and reviewed the novel: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I very much appreciate all of your positive feedback so far. It’s encouraging to hear that so many of you connect with Rethana as deeply as I do. : )

The One Where I Paint Dragons

This is not a dragon. This is a smoked turkey. If you can roll it, you can smoke it.

Hiya inklings! I’d intended to post this before I left town for Thanksgiving, but what with last-minute arrangements for household felines as well as the babying of a raw turkey, said intended blogpost did not happen.

(By the way, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration took place at a KOA Campground in Lubbock, Texas. Ed smoked the turkey, and the rest of the meal prep happened on the stove and 1ft² countertop in an RV. We washed the dishes in two pans of hot water on a picnic table. My Thanksgiving in an Army mess hall has now been bumped from 1st place to 2nd in the Most Unique Thanksgiving Memory category.)

It’s worth noting that I had three posts in mind to write before I left. As you might have noticed, none of them happened. So you’ll be hearing from me several times this week. This might or might not flip your bangerang switch. If it does, please do let me know. I get excited about people getting excited about my blog.

If it doesn’t, just don’t bogart my bangerang. We’ll all be happier.

So. The one post I wanted to write concerns this:

The Dragonswarm by Courtney Cantrell, design by Aaron Pogue.

This, my lovelies, is the cover art I painted for Aaron Pogue‘s upcoming fantasy novel The Dragonswarm (December 2011!). If you wanna know what the title refers to, all you gotta do is click the image to embiggen.

To date, this is the best dragon painting I’ve ever done. It’s water-miscible* oils on canvas, 30in. x 40in. I should’ve counted my hours; I forgot to. But I worked on this for the better part of 6 weeks.

If you were guessing, you might guess that the crimson dragon was my greatest challenge. Indeed, that dude was not easy. He started life as the outline of a dragon flying in at a completely different angle…and, because I didn’t have time to paint for a week or so, he dried that way. When I came back to him and decided I’d done him all wrong**, I had to paint over the part I’d messed up. Which meant mixing paint to match the background. Which wasn’t easy. And blerg.

But.

If you were guessing, you’d be wrong. Because the teensy dragons were actually the greater challenge. Do you have any idea how hard it is to render dozens of tiny little dragons in variegated flying formations with oil paint? I’m willing to bet you don’t. Because I didn’t. Strangling Aaron ; ) wasn’t an option, so I girded up my loins (ooh la la) and got ‘er done.

When done, I sat back and heaved many sighs of relief and hmmm’d much satisfaction to myself. Accepting the challenge had me fluttery with nerves. Meeting the challenge had me from warm-fuzzy to hot-glowy. This painting was FUN. And the best part is that once I was finished, I didn’t want to strangle Aaron anymore.*** Yay, everybody wins!

Amy of Amy Nickerson Design is working on the trade dress. She did the trade dress for my novels, too. She pretty much rocks.

Another of my dragon paintings adorns Aaron’s first fantasy novel, Taming Fire. Taming Fire is a bestseller at Amazon, having sold 30,000 copies since its June 2011 release. It’s spent over 100 days on the Top 100 Best Sellers in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I like to think my art had even just a little something to do with that. ; )

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*Water-miscible oils are oil paints (and linseed oil) that have been chemically altered to bond with water. Regular oils require me to use more toxic stuff like turpentine or turpenoid. I *like* not breathing toxins. Oxygen is kinda my friend.

**TWSS. *gigglesnort*

***Concerning the strangling-of-Aaron desire, I might be exaggerating for dramatic blogging purposes.

Okay, Scifi & Fantasy Fans, This One’s for You


Ladies and gentlehobbits, I present to you:

A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (Fall Issue)

This is the first issue of the new Consortium Books quarterly, speculative fiction, short story e-magazine for Kindle and Nook. If you don’t know what spec fic is, just think sci-fi and fantasy with, in our case, a little dash of steampunk and mythology thrown in. It’s a yummy stew of otherwordly writerliness, and, as you might have guessed, I highly recommend a generous helping!

Buy A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (Fall Issue) for $2.99 on Kindle!

Buy it here for $2.99 on Nook!

My ingredient for this recipe comes in the form of a high fantasy short story, “Dead Reconning.” I’ve set it in what’s known anecdotally in Consortium circles as my “Triad universe.” You’ll find out more about the Triad universe in Fall 2012, when Consortium Books publishes my first epic fantasy novel, Legend’s Artisans: Schism (working title).

But. “Dead Reconning.” In this story, Wolf Dornsson and Lendry Bersallir, his lady fair, are trying to escape both Lendry’s disapproving father and the general, countrywide menace of undead elven soldiers. There’s adventure, romance, heroicness, argument, grotesqueness, grossness, and sword-fighting. It’s a light-hearted romp with a backdrop of darkness, and I kinda like it. I hope you will, too!

My fellow cooks in the Consortium of Worlds kitchen are:

Buy A Consortium of Worlds for Kindle or for Nook. Happy reading!

Cover art: Image by Yours Writerly Drawingly; trade dress by Amy Nickerson Design.

Get Shorty

So, in case you haven’t seen me mention it on Twitter, I’m tickled pink to be involved in The Consortium‘s upcoming short story magazine publication.

In fact, I’ve been so tickled pink about it, I dug out the former prologue to one of my high fantasy novels, intending to use said former prologue as my short story submission. After a fair bit of clean-up, you understand.

But.

After some pondering and some hob-nobbing with fellow writerly types, I’ve come to the conclusion that said former prologue does not best serve my needs at this time.

I.e., as a “short story,” said former prologue sucks.

Dash it all.

So. There was only one solution.

Like Aaron recommended in his blog just last week, I cut the prologue. Again.

Instead of using the former-prologue-now-turned-former-short-story, I’m now writing a real, honest-to-goodness, gen-yoo-wine short story. For the first time ever.

Yeah, I’ve written “short stories” before — but they were more like interesting scenes instead of narratives with definite, short-story-like structure. In my previously penned short fiction, I have never practiced what I’ve preached, namely the principle of Learn The Rules First And Only Then Break Them.

In my short fiction, I’ve never bothered with the rules until now.

So, what rules am I following?

Well, first off, I’m obeying KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I’m sticking to one genre — high fantasy — instead of writing the kind of horror-fantasy-scifi-thriller-literary-fiction mish-mash for which I have a penchant.

Blast those penchants. They get me every time.

Where was I? Oh. KISS. Right. *mwah*

I’m also leaning heavily on the following structure, gleaned mostly from stuff Aaron recommends and stuff one of his master’s degree profs recommends:

  • Scene (1,500 – 2,000 words): protagonist in direct conflict with antagonist; protagonist sort of gets what s/he wants, but there’s a loose end or two
  • Sequel (500 – 1,000 words): protagonist reflects on emotional impact of what’s happened; this is also a good place for limited info dump; protagonist communicates the stakes to the reader
  • Climax (2,500 words): runs the gamut of protagonist’s Choice, Decision, Action, Dark Moment (in which all seems lost), Reversal (in which most [but not all] is regained), and Reward.

I started the story on Sunday, and I finished it this afternoon. The first draft clocks in at right around 4,300 words. It’s about 1,500 words shorter than I thought it would be when I started — but my hero kind of moved faster than I’d anticipated. Ah well. We’ll see if the next draft brings along more wordage.

This is a very new sort of writing adventure for me — one of which I’ve always been leery. I’ve never delved deep into short fiction because most of the time, my short stories go from cute little hatchlings to massive, epic, flyings beasts in the space of about two days. At least in my head.

So, come to think of it, I don’t need this new story to have a wordage growth spurt. It’s pretty fine and dandy at 4,300 words, thank ye kindly.

Part of this new adventure will be to write *more* short stories over the course of the next month or so. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

*sigh* What have I gotten myself into?

_____________________

What about you, dear inklings? Got a short story fetish? Got some short story fears? Let’s hear ’em! I’d love to know I’m not the only one with this weird hang-up. ; )

How My Bachelor’s in Writing Didn’t Prepare Me for Writerhood

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

~Henry Ford

In December 1999, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English/Writing and thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing books.

Why, yes — I am waiting for your laughter to subside.

Okay, okay, calm yourselves, please. What do you think this is, a late-night comedy club?

Sheesh.

😉

Idealist Writer Changes World — Details at 11

So. Here I am, 22 years old with all of three-and-a-half years of higher education under my belt. I’m off to former East Germany as soon as possible. I shall change the world one relationship at a time and write books while I do it. I am Tawanda, Queen of the Amazons. Hear me roar.

For my senior project, I’d completed a Monster Epic Fantasy Novel (aka MEFaN), which I’ve previously mentioned here. My profs approved it. Their praise wasn’t exactly glowing, but it was shiny, at least. I thought my novel was ready to shop to publishers.

Um. No.

If you click through, you’ll see that the MEFaN in question was a first draft. I’d heard my creative writing prof mention such hideous things as re-write and edit and multiple drafts

— but I was 22 and brilliant. What need I with multiple drafts?

*sigh*

Ow, My Aching Ego

I learned. I learned that I was good for a 22-year-old straight outta college. I learned that I was not as good as what editing, rewriting, and plain ol’ life experience could make me. I learned that my profs’ shiny-almost-glowing praise was for how far I’d come by then.

But good grades, I finally realized, were not the final measurement of my skills. I realized that my writing degree was my starting point. My writing degree prepared me to begin.

And I’ve spent the last 14 years doing the work.

But here’s what my degree did not prepare me for.

Money, Money, Money

As part of my general education in college, I was required to take an economics class. I ended up in a course called Free Enterprise System.

Sadly, this had nothing to do with liberated starships.

Sadly, I learned exactly two things in this course:

  1. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Booya.
  2. When one member of the project team doesn’t do his job, the economics prof doesn’t care that the rest of the team does theirs. Everybody gets penalized a letter grade because of the one lazy slob.
  3. Yay teamwork! I love teamwork!

Also sadly, I was not required to take any courses in personal finance (i.e. how-to-budget, etc.) or in finances for writers.

So, years later, when the husband and I got into serious trouble over self-employment taxes, my reaction was as follows:


 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing Homework

Let me be clear: I blame no one for this but myself.

I shoulda done my homework. After all, there is such a thing as thinking for oneself.

In the meantime, I’ve figured things out a little. I now understand things about withholding. I now understand that calculating my taxes myself is a rather dumb thing for me to do (especially when my info conflicts with that of the IRS). I now know to keep track of expenses like the ones listed in this article.

The business-sensible thing for me to do with this post would be to provide you with a list of such resources as that one. But I’m not writing this to be business-sensible.

I’m writing this to emphasize that even after getting our educations — whether that’s at the collegiate level or simply through life experience and trial-and-error — we writers still have to do our homework.

Yeah, we gotta research stuff for our writing. We read novels, articles, and papers. We drive to remote locations to get the feel and flavor of a place or to take pictures for cover art. We interview people. We visit museums. We sit in coffee shops, pondering and muttering to ourselves.

But we also have to research for our business.

It might be the most important thing I’ve learned about writing since graduation:

Writing is a business.

And the writer is CEO, VP, treasurer, secretary, and go-fer.

And this is every writer. Not just the self-published ones.

Writers, we must learn to think of ourselves this way.

If somebody had taught me this in college and forced me to sit down and learn the non-creative, non-artsy, non-inspiring, soul-sucking side of writing, it could’ve saved me a lot of trouble. And a lot of heartache.

So, do your homework, writers. Nobody’s gonna make you learn this stuff. You’ve gotta take responsibility (do as I say, not as I do) and do your research.

And for the love of all that’s good, true, and writerly in this world, keep track of your gas mileage.

__________________________

What financial education did you get along the way?

What’s been your experience with self-employment?

What’s been your experience thinking of yourself as a business — or not thinking of yourself that way?

If you’re more into the business side than the creative writing side, what one thing do you think writers need to be aware of?

The Grooming Habits of Agents

Or: A Brief History of My Journey to Indie Authordom

Photo by Julie V. Photography


Once upon a two-years-ago, I met a real live acquisitions editor.

I’d let my mother talk me into attending an Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. Conference at a hotel in south OKC. Introvert and publishing world n00b that I was, I required a lot of convincing. The carrot that got me was Mama’s offer to pay for the whole thing. So, off I went to the writers’ conference.

After I got over myself, I had fun. Some neat people talked to me, so I tagged along with them all three days of the conference. One of them had published a few novels with a Christian publishing company, and he introduced me to his acquisitions editor.

My face was all polite smiles and wittiness. Inside, I was thinking,

“Hmm. Acquisitions editor? Foot in door? Is this it?!?”

Eventually, during a break between lectures, there was a little circle of conversation at the hotel coffee shop. I don’t recall how it happened, but something I said about my in-progress novel led to this editor’s turning to me and asking, “So, Courtney, what is your book about?”

Inside, I said, “Um.”

Back Story

Before the conference, I’d signed up to pitch my epic high fantasy novel Triad to one of the agents who’d be at the conference. Now, I had with me a carefully crafted cover letter and the painstakingly polished first three chapters of said high fantasy novel.

I had not come to this conference prepared to talk to anyone about my Christian fantasy novel, Colors of Deception, which was then in first draft stage.

Fast-Forward

So, when Acquisitions Editor Attached To Christian Publisher asked me what my in-progress novel was about, I had about half a second to come up with a pitch.

Inside, I thought, “Um.”

And then, I thought, “This IS it!!!

Outside, I said, “My novel’s about a group of Christian college students who are being stalked by demons.”

To which Editor Attached To Christian Publisher replied, “I’d like to see that.” And she gave me her business card.

Outside, I said, “Great! I can have the first three chapters ready for you in a few weeks.”

Inside, I said,


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happened Next

Not long after that conference — and with manic re-writing in-between — I sent Benevolent Acquisitions Editor an email, asking in what form she’d like the first three chapters. She replied with instructions to mail her a hard copy.

I did that.

I waited two months.

Then, I received her email thanking me for my submission and stating that my story was not what her publisher was looking for at this time.


 

 

 

 

 

Turning the Beat Around

I felt crushed. Beaten. I didn’t understand. Why would she show such interest in my story, if it wasn’t the kind of story her publisher was interested in? Why did she get my hopes up like that? Shouldn’t she know better than to treat a fragile, sensitive writer’s heart this way?!

Of course, with hindsight and a bit more education about the publishing world, I now understand it was nothing personal. Either my writing style wasn’t what she was looking for, or my story really wasn’t the kind of story her company was interested in, after all.

Of course, the notion that my writing was, at that point, simply not good enough is completely preposterous.

*ahem*

Anyway, by now it was fall of ’09, so I made an early resolution: 2010 would be The Year I Found An Agent.

A flurry of agent-y research ensued. There was intense poring-over of submission guidelines. There was much flipping through of novels to see which authors credited their agents. By February 2010, I’d compiled a database of 35 agents, their preferences, their guidelines, their faves, their published authors, their grooming habits, and their agencies. All I needed was to re-visit my query letter, perfect it, and start sending it out.

If You Need Something Done Right…

Then, in March 2010, my friend Aaron approached me about founding a non-profit organization to support the arts. How he talked me into it and how The Consortium came to be is another story and shall be told another time…

…but the end of the matter is that instead of getting an agent, I got an indie publisher. I got a published novel. Colors of Deception, that story about Christian college students stalked by demons, is in the hands of readers who, by all reports, are enjoying the heck out of it.

Maybe I coulda been traditionally published. Instead, I’m indie published. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

________________________

My most darlingest inklings! Are you agent-hunting? What’s your process?

Are you querying? What’s your greatest query letter challenge?

How do you deal with rejection letters from editors or agents?

If you’ve gone indie or self-pub — what was the legacy-pub straw that broke your writing camel’s back?

Let’s talk. : )