Stains of Grace: Supermurgitroid Cover Art!

Hello, my dearest inklings!

Today, I start my final edits on Stains of Grace, the third and final novel in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch. To celebrate, I’m giving you lovelies a preview of the Stains cover art, with which I am beyond thrilled. So, without further ado or adon’t, here it is:

HUGEST thanks to Julie V. Photography for the incredible artwork.

Another HUGEST thanks to Amy Nickerson Design for — as always — the superb trade dress.

These artists have done cover art and trade dress for all three Saltmarch novels. Their work blows my mind every time, and I feel that they make me look a whole lot more professional than I really am. ; )

Special thanks to the lovely Shauna, who was good enough to pose as main character Anne Waylock.

Stains of Grace is now on Goodreads, if you’d like to add it to your to-read shelf!

Specific publication date will be forthcoming. It’ll be before the end of the month, so I will keep you posted!

Being an author is so supermurgitroid, I can’t stand it. : )

Click to embiggen the cramazingness!

In the Beginning (Consortium Roots)

Hile, inklings! I hope you’re all having a cramazing life today.
: )

At the end of a blog post on her Go To El, the fabulous El recently posed the following question:

Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?

I posted the following as my response, and I felt it worth sharing here (especially for the benefit of MY NEWEST READERS, WHOM I WELCOME WITH MOST HYPERACTIVE JOY!!!):

“Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?”

Yes. ; ) Here’s the story:

Shawn: Courtney, you know Aaron Pogue? He likes writing, you like writing, our friend JT likes writing, and I like writing — we should form a writers’ group!

Me: Um, sure!

Me: Hi, Aaron and JT. Shawn says we should form a writers’ group. What do you think?

Aaron, JT: Um, sure!

*many writers’ meetings happen*

Aaron: Hey, Courtney, we should start a nonprofit organization to support the arts, and you should be the head of our writing school.

Me: Um, sure!

*shortly thereafter*

Aaron, Hey, Courtney, part of this nonprofit should be an indie publishing house, and we should help each other and all of our writer friends self-publish our novels.

Me: Um, sure!

Aaron: And Carlos and Julie want to help us with cover art.

Carlos, Julie: Yay!

Me: So does Amy!

Amy: Yay!

Aaron: And Jessie wants to be our editor.

Jessie: Yay!

Aaron, Courtney: And here are all these other people who want to help and whom we can help in return!

Everybody: Yay!

18 months later, the Consortium has published 6 novels, 1 speculative fiction magazine, and a stand-alone short story.

It’s unimaginably more than I bargained for. And it is wonderful. : )

_________

And you, dear readers? When did you get more than you ever dreamed possible? Share in the comments!

Also, I know that when we get “more than we bargained for,” the “more” isn’t always good. Sometimes, it’s pretty bad. Please do share those times with us as well, if you’re so inclined.
After all…”shared pain is lessened” (Spider Robinson).

SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT live at Amazon!

Hello, my dears! I know it’s been a stupid long time since you’ve heard anything substantial from me here. I am so very sorry! But it’s because I’ve been working hard to get you this:

The paperback of SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT is now available at Amazon. Click here to buy your copy, and happy reading!

For those of you who want a little more detail:

Peter Townsend is not normal and doesn’t play well with normals. He belongs to the ancient line of auguren, demon hunters with only one goal: Protect ordinary humans from their demonic tempters.

But last year, protecting Holly Idaho shattered Peter’s world. When Dante Mullins, the demon hunting Holly, spirited her away to the infernal realm of Saltmarch, Peter went through hell to save her. Falling in love with her wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was leaving Dante alive.

Now Dante is back, and Holly is missing. Holly’s friends Anne and Owin insist on joining Peter in the furious search. But when a new demon enters the fray, one that makes Dante look angelic, its nightmarish power threatens to consume them all.

The loyalties of friendship might be more help than Peter can deal with. This time, saving Holly might just cost him his soul.

BUY NOW:
SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch 2)

Many thanks to Julie V. Photography, Amy Nickerson Design, and model Andy Sawatzky for the cramazing cover art!

And do click to embiggen. It’s way cool. : )

Demons, Daftness, and Deadlines — OH My

So, I’ve got two exciting things to tell you about. I’m gonna try to tell you these things coherently — but, alas and alack, the lovely storm that rolled in this evening has bequeathed upon me a vision-blurring, brain-mushing headache. Thus, if I don’t make sense or if everything I write comes out weird, I’ll have to ask you to bear with me.

But exciting things! The first one, my darlings, is that a few weeks back, Julie and Carlos Velez of Julie V. Photography shot the cover art photo for my SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch #2). And it was bonkers fabulous.

I know that after Book 1’s cover art shoot, I shared all manner of cool photos with you. Sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be doing that this time. For one thing, we shot our male model against a white backdrop, and the cool Saltmarch background will get Photoshopped in.

For another, I want to keep the appearance and identity of our male model a secret (though you already know who he is and what he looks like, if you’ve been paying attention on Twitter.) He’s gonna look cramazingly cool on the SHADOWS cover, and I want the whole thing to be a surprise.

In the meantime: MODEL! You know who you are! And I thank you once again for your fabulous work with our photographers!

I know so many cool, talented, and just plain nice people. : )

And that, my beloveds, was Exciting Thing One.

Exciting Thing Two is that I have officially completed my final draft of SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT and have submitted it to my editor for official, editor-ish “nurturing.” And as I peruse my Google Document, I see by her notes that the nurturing is already well underway.

Which, if you hadn’t guessed, gets me all kinds of nervous as well as giddy. I actually love getting edited, because it’s an honest joy to find out stuff I can do to make my story better.

The story in question, of course, is the sequel to COLORS OF DECEPTION. If you haven’t read COLORS, I won’t spoil it for you here. But. I will say that in this second book…

  • Peter takes center stage as main character,
  • we get to meet his auguren (read: demon-hunter) family, including his arrogant big bro Daniel (sibling rivalry! woot!),
  • Holly’s got a botheration of explaining to do,
  • seductive, craven, hungry Dante Mullins is up to his old tricks,
  • somebody gets whisked away to Saltmarch,
  • and demon cartoon bunnies are rather inconvenient.

Me, I am bouncing hither and yon, alternating between breathless excitement to get this book into your hands, my loves — and breathless terror that you won’t like it once you’ve got it. Welcome back to my Author’s Mild Manic Episodes. They might become more frequent until the first week of October (read: release of Book 2).

I hope you enjoy your stay. ; )

Taming Fire

Greetings, inklings! I hail you today from the great land of Moo Vingto House. I’m currently traveling through the province of Pain Ting Kit Chen, where blogging time is most horridly limited. So, instead of a blog post today, I give you an announcement:

Please do click to embiggen! It's really cool!

My friend Aaron Pogue’s first epic fantasy novel, Taming Fire, is now available for purchase on Kindle!!!

Taming Fire is the story of Daven Carrickson, this beggar kid who has finally found a good place in life. He’s got a home and friends and some pretty cool dreams. All is pretty much well with his world.

Then this somewhat bumbling wizard shows up and messes everything up.

From there, it’s magic and plots and irate kings and vengeful soldiers and, here and there, psychopaths. Lemme tell ya, psychopaths who can do magic are a pretty freaky lot. Oh, and to top it all off, there’s a ginormous black dragon who has it in for Daven. But you’ll have to read the book to get the hows and whys of that.

Aaron’s book is a fun, fast-paced read with a main character you can’t help but root for. I highly recommend it to any fan of epic or even just sword & sorcery fantasy. Aaron does the genre justice — and also plays with the conventions in some pretty interesting ways. But there again, you’ll have to read it to find out how. ; )

Oh, and one more thing.

You see the image of the cover up there? (I hope you clicked to embiggen it, because it’s made of awesome.)

The one with the two wizards and the dragon?

The freakishly scary black dragon?

Yeah.

I totally painted that.

Booya.

; )

So buy your Kindle version of Taming Fire now!

_________
Cover art trade dress by Amy Nickerson.
Thanks to Julie V. Photography and Simon Hurst Photography for providing a digital image of my oil painting.

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. : )

The Convergence of Rattlesnakes, Angels, and Corsets

Illuminated Van Gogh by Liz Cail McElroy

You might not know this, my dear inklings — but I am involved in a grand scheme to change the world.

I know. It’s hard to imagine that an artsy culture-geek such as I would be so idealistic as to want to alter even an iota of her environment. But, alas and alack, I’m too air-headed to leave well enough alone. Hence, just over a year ago, I embarked with fellow artsy geeks upon a quest to fiddle with reality until said reality suits us.

This quest, me hearties, operates under the name The Consortium, and I encourage you to read more about it here. The basic premise is that we, the Consortium, want to change the world by supporting artists. Supporting artists supports the arts. Supporting the arts changes the world. And there you have it. Egad, Brain.

A patron studies Forever In The Lion's Eye by Courtney Cantrell

Better Than GroupThink

The Consortium has officially existed since November 2010, and this past Saturday, we had our first official function: The First Annual Consortium Arts Fundraiser. This is important because it was the first time all of our artists came together to work on one gigantic project. Much firstness and officialdom!

Over the past year, two writers, an editor, two photographers, a graphic designer, and a project coordinator collaborated to publish three books (one of them is mine, hint hint). ; ) Our director of marketing got us an article in a newspaper. We have multiple other projects in development, involving musicians, computer programmers, copy writers, and voice actors.

We’ve got a passion for producing — everything.

The One Where I Sold Three Paintings

So, we’ve got our fingers in all these yummy, creative pies…but this past weekend was the first time we got into the same pie together. (Ooh La La; Or: This Is Getting Interesting.) We put on a fundraiser: an art contest and silent auction.

And it was CRAMAZING.

We had a life-size rattlesnake sculpture. We had a painting of a world-traveling octopus. The Craftivists, our artsy allies in Topeka, donated a purple lace window illustrating the dangers of corsets. Poetry submissions represented the written arts.

Bill Weger sings They Call the Wind Maria

Photographers extraordinaire Julie and Carlos Velez set aside their cameras and entertained us with song by means of ukulele and guitar. Two Consortium members elicited much laughter with a performance of the classic skit “Who’s on First?” And a professional opera singer, whose voice has entertained audiences as far away as Germany and the Philippines, regaled us with “They Call the Wind Maria.”

I don’t know the numbers of how many pieces sold at auction or how many votes were cast for the winning entries of the art contest. But I do know that three of my paintings sold for more than I’d ever hoped to get for any of my art.

(One painting was a portal into an otherworldly realm; another, a larger-than-life lion’s eye; and the third, a translucent angel. Seeing those pieces go to new homes has made my fingers itch without ceasing for my paintbrushes!)

Carlos and Julie Velez, lookin' artsy.

Why You Should Give a Small Rodent’s Posterior

Actually, scratch that. We don’t want donations of rat tushies. For one thing, it would leave too many rats in a rather awkward position. Also, we’re not into maiming animals. (Although there was that incident with the platypus–)

*ahem*

But seriously. Dudes. You should care about all of this because, if you’re reading my blog in the first place, you already have an interest in (the) art(/s). You already care about how art affects the world and how it affects your world.

And the Consortium, my lovely art-lover, is all about affecting your world in wondrous ways. The Consortium is all about enhancing your world, your culture, your life. Our fundraiser was our first collective step from the breathless, anticipatory shadows into the light.

We are here. We are visible. We’re ready to make something happen. We are making things happen. And if you’re reading this, then the ripples are already touching you.

There. You feel that? That’s the first tiny nudge.

Support the artists to support the arts. The Consortium is doing wonders, people — and lemme tell ya, these pies are finger-lickin’ good.

The Consortium in cramazing hats!

10 Free Blog Post Ideas to Use as Thou Wilt

Not only that, but I also got a great new profile pic from Julie V. Photography

Or: In Which I Have Way Too Much Fun Taking Screenshots of Twitter

Apparently, dear inklings, I am in listing mode. By which I do not mean that I am a boat. But I do mean that I’m currently (ha! ha!) about writing lists.

LISTS! YES! Give me list-ery, or give me death!

*ahem*

I don’t know what just happened.

Anyway. Last week, I listed 33 Questions. On Tuesday, I listed 10 Novel-Writing no-nos. (Don’t do those no-nos, or cute things all the way on the other side of the universe will die.) Yesterday on Unstressed Syllables, I listed a googolplex of writing inspirations.

Today, my luvs, I shall list 10 blog post titles. These titles are for you. You may use them however you like. It would mega-cramazing if, when you use them, you’d link back to me so I can come read what you wrote in response to my titles.

If you don’t link back to me, I will send my legion of Evil Elves to tattoo “I’m a nerd” on your forehead.

So here ya go. Have at it, and have fun!

10 Blog Post Ideas for My Readers

(That was the first one.)

The following two titles resulted from a Twittersation with one Dean Carlton (@DinoCarlton), which went something like this:

 
 
 
 
All of which inspired this post you’re reading right now and leads me to the next two blog post title ideas:

5 Ways to Edify the Twitter Kitchen

 

101 Ways to Wok the Twitter-Bird

 
Moving right along… 

The Blogging Habits of 13th-Century Monks

 

How to Please Everyone on the Internet (Even Your Mom)*

 

All Dressed Up and No Place to Blog

 

50 Ways to Leave Your Blogger

 

Why Grocery Shopping Is the 9th Circle of Hell

 

Fruit Flies Like a Banana

Subtitled: And Other Linguistic Shenanigans
 

When Good Velociraptors Go Bad

 

And there you got it, sugar. Ten blog post ideas to vex, befuddle, and inspire you. No substitutions, exchanges, or refunds. And please do let me know how you make use of these!

Ooooh! And if you have some fun blog post titles of your own to share, list ’em in the comments! ;oD

________________
*For the record, I don’t actually believe it’s possible to please everyone, on the Internet or otherwise. But I’d love to see a whopping sarcastic post to go with this title. ; )

Photo credit Julie V. Photography.

The One Where I Publish a Book

Or: My Second Video Blog Post

Did I get a book published?

Why yes. Yes, I did.

Colors of Deception is the story of Holly Idaho, a student at Oklahoma Christian University. She thought her sophomore year was starting out fairly normal. But her closest girlfriends, Anne and Celia, are hiding something. Peter, her only guy friend on campus, won’t tell her why he’s acting weirder than usual. Owin, who has been like a brother to her, issues cold demands about her faith.

Colors of Deception by Courtney Cantrell

Holly’s feeling rejected and isolated — and then the anonymous pranks start. Worse, an unseen intruder terrorizes her at her parents’ house. She finally realizes there’s something scarier going on than strained relationships and practical jokes.

Then Peter stuns her with the truth: a demon is stalking her, feeding her doubts and fears in a final play for her soul. It’s Peter’s God-given task to protect her — but he’s running out of options. As the demon closes in, Holly faces a horrible choice: a heaven she fears or a hell she never imagined possible.

“Like” Colors of Deception on Facebook here.

You can buy Colors of Deception for Kindle for 99 cents here.

You can buy it for Nook for 99 cents here.

You can also purchase the book at Smashwords.

The paperback version will be ready soon is now available here! Happy reading!

Colors of Deception is published by Consortium Books.

Colors of Deception cover art by Julie V. Photography and Amy Nickerson.

P.S. It’s henna, and it’s temporary. 😉

My 10-Hour Adrenaline Rush (Better Than Chocolate)

(Yes, I said that!)

So. Yesterday. Photographers, model, husband, and I drove 2 1/2 hours northwest of Oklahoma City to Great Salt Plains State Park.

Our goal: shooting the cover art for my novel Colors of Deception, due out in less than 4 weeks.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!

We had adventure, rain, mud, sunshine, laughter, singing, goosebumps, oooh-aaaah moments, adrenaline, and pesto. I don’t have time to give a full report right now — and even if I had time, I’m not sure I’d have the words to convey how cramazing it is to watch a scene from my novel come to life in reality right in front of my eyes and tangible.

All I can say is that Julie and Carlos (read: photographers) got Morgan (read: model) into a pose; Julie and Carlos stepped back; and suddenly, Morgan was Holly (read: novel’s main character).

It was breathtaking.

The images I took with my little digital point-‘n’-shoot don’t do the day justice and certainly don’t compare to the Velezes’ pro photos! But still, here are a few of my shots for you to peruse. Maybe they’ll give you a little taste of the magic I was privileged to witness yesterday. Enjoy! : )

Morgan turns the Velezmobile into her dressing room

Carlos engages in primitive caveman ritual arranges rocks and a small tree for props

Getting to watch all the prep stuff was kinda fun. Carlos fought with that dumb tree — and finally ended up digging a hole and filling it with rocks to anchor the the stubborn shrubbery.

Carlos gives up the caveman stuff in favor of funky tech!

Julie starts making magic

Of course the vegetation would look dead in a demon world. ;o)

The wide open landscape of the Salt Plains is perfect for Saltmarch!

Presto Pesto! Julie made it, and it was deeeeelish.

Morgan poses for some non-book-related shots

I'm keeping the cover art shots a surprise until the book comes out...but I *can* share some images that hint at the desolation of Saltmarch.

My favorite of my Saltmarch shots. (And yes, I know there's not supposed to be any water.) ;o)

My most heartfelt thanks go out to Morgan, who was a fantastic and gorgeous model; Julie and Carlos for their professionalism and fabulous creative skills; to Ed, my husband, for his support and for schlepping trees all over Oklahoma; to Becca for scouting the Salt Plains with me; and to Aaron for getting us all together.

You are all amazing people, and I am so very blessed to have you in my life!

Watch this blog for news and information on Colors of Deception, due for release next month!