Category Archives: About Me

Upcoming Appearances

  • June 10, 11am Almaden Library

Intolerance in Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts

  • June 15, 4pm Joyce Ellington Library

Newt Scamander’s Care of Magical Creatures

  • June 17-18: HydraCon, Santa Clara Convention Center

https://www.hydracomiccon.com

Promote Your Work! Saturday in Great America Meeting Room 1 from 10:30AM-11:30AM.

The Heroine’s Journey Saturday in Great America Meeting Room 1 from 3:30PM-4:30PM.

Steam and Dieselpunk Superheroes Sunday in Great America Ballroom K from 1:00PM-2:00PM.

  • July 22: Congregation Beth David, Saratoga, CA

Artists’ Club: Jewish Scifi Fantasy 130pm

CBD Artists Group Flyer 2017 07 22 Valerie Frankel

  • July 28 Fremont Library 12-1

Outlander, Myths and Symbols

Outlander is much more than a television romance about a World War II nurse and a Jacobite in a fetching kilt. The series has been categorized as a period drama, adventure saga, military history and fantasy epic. Inspired by the Irish legends of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the prophecies of Brahan Seer, the storyline is also filled with mythology and symbolism from around the world, from the Fair Folk and the Loch Ness monster to wendigos, ghosts, zombies and succubae. The series is also rich with its own symbolism: heather and white roses, the dragonfly in amber, Claire’s blue vase and wedding gown, her wedding rings and pearl necklace. This presentation by Valerie Estelle Frankel (author of five books about the Starz series and novels) untangles the myriad of myths, legends, symbols and literary references found within.

  • Aug 19, 330pm: Santa Teresa Library:
    Newt Scamander’s Care of Magical Creatures

All are invited to everything, though conventions have admission fees. Library and bookstore events are free.

Happy summer break, everyone!

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Call For Papers: Self Promo Stories

Call for Papers: SELF PROMO STORIES

Want to share your cleverest self-promotion gimmick? Was it your bookcover wrapped around candy? A costumed hero passing out fliers? Did you have success with a book fair? Or BookBub, Twitter, or Facebook? This anthology collects AUTHOR’S TRUE STORIES OF HOW THEY PROMOTE THEMSELVES. I’m thinking everyone writes one story, someone cute and memorable and original, something that ideally worked well. First person anecdote. You may use technical details from websites and social media and goodreads and so on if you like, but consider just saying “I went to this site and followed the directions.” This isn’t a technical book — it’s a clever ideas book. (Likewise, I’ll do a glossary at the back in case anyone doesn’t know what KDP free days or hashtags are. No need to explain the basic terminology).The audience is absolutely authors getting their start and looking for neat self-promo ideas. Ideally, this would be something other writers could replicate. If your experience was dependent on your particular genre or book subject, that’s still fine – there are many ways to adapt it. Authors writing about fiction/nonfiction/poetry/any genre/self pub/traditional pub/ebooks/audio books are welcome. Basically, tell me about your booth decorations, your free coloring books, your unusual chocolates, your custom sign, your party, your book fair event, your giveaway…whatever you did that was really neat.

I encourage you to describe your book IN A WAY THAT FITS YOUR STORY in order to slip in a sly promo, though everyone also gets a bio. See my example stories below to see how I got some description of my book in.

I’d like to get LOTS of these stories, say 50, so do pass on the information to other writers. 500-1500 words (not hard numbers, but I’m looking for short experiences after all). Since this is meant to be educational and also work as advertising, I plan to publish as free ebook only on Smashwords. Thus there will be no cash involved, but you and anyone you like may download infinite copies. The hope is that authors will not only benefit from your story but also be intrigued enough to track down your book or website. You’re welcome to give people a reason to go to your site – perhaps to see your sample press kit or social media links. And with 50 of us spreading the word and requesting it for libraries and so on, this anthology really might make an impression on the author community.

To submit, please send your complete story as well as a 100-150 word third person bio. I prefer that you paste it all in the body of the email. Email to Valerie @ calithwain.com, subject: SELF PROMO ANTHOLOGY. You may send 0-3 photos of yourself and your bookcovers (or you doing your self-promo) if you like. High quality jpgs preferred, though for the web, 72 dpi or so still works.  Deadline of Nov 10, 2016.

Two sample stories:

The Power of Silly Hats (600 words)

My Harry Potter parody has flying pigs in it.

Yep, that’s just the way it worked out. So when I was hat shopping online and the shop’s silly hat section had a flying pig hat, I shrugged and forked over the $9. It was my first book, published as self-publishing was gaining popularity and Harry Potter was losing it, so it felt like a good purchase. I could put it on my seller’s table with the sorting hat, sparkly cape tablecloth and other goodies.

At the big Harry Potter conventions that followed, everyone had a costume and most, a specific persona – someone would be Lord Voldemort or Tonks for all five days. On a whim, at the 2008 Harry Potter con in Dallas, I donned the hat. When people, expectedly enough, asked how the flying pig connected to Harry Potter, I handed them a bookmark (with my first and now second Potter parody on it as well as many flying pigs) and explained that they were in my own book — Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, in which flying pigs deliver the mail. Please take a bookmark, it’s on sale in the dealer’s room or Amazon.

To my delight, as I walked along, someone else stopped to ask me why the pig…but this was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Obviously, I gave my standard answer and followed with “And I’d love to tell you about the books…” They indeed wrote an article about me which I linked to on my website and quoted a short endorsement from. The pig had earned its $9 sales price.

By the 2010 con, the attendees greeted me delightedly as “flying pig hat girl”…even though I wasn’t wearing it at the time. Shrugging and mentally surrendering to the inevitable, I assumed the hat once more. It seemed I had my own con persona…at least it was tied to the books

At the same hat shop, I purchased “giant witch hat” — it’s five feet tall and now has a red blinky on top, thanks to my Silicon Valley dad. When I want attention, I wear it (and a witchy dress, but this part isn’t terribly memorable) and walk around more conventions, often tangling with my eternal nemesis, the doorway. When people say “nice hat” or point and laugh, I hand them a bookmark, sometimes without a word. Keeping them handy in a pouch or sticking out of my purse obviously matters, as I need them on the spot.

Flash forward several years to the San Mateo County Fair Author’s Day. By then I was writing academic nonfiction as well, but I wore my flying pig for the attention. In a room of authors, I wanted to stand out. Plus, I thought the parodies might be a good draw. The gracious lady in charge asked who wrote nonfiction and I raised my hand. Laughing that someone with a flying pig on her head did serious writing, she held out the mike and asked for my story. Seemed the hat still had its magic…

What’s the takeaway? At book sales all the authors have candy and bookmarks. At conventions, everyone has neat costumes. But if you can find the gag that’s just odd enough to make people ask questions, or the pun that needs explaining, or even just the ridiculous touch that makes everyone laugh, that’s far superior to the handcrafted costume that took weeks to make completely canon. Those are nice, but not as memorable.

I have also been Princess Leia with bagels over my ears. One guy I met at a con that way recalled me four years later. What’s a Jewish Alderanian Princess to do, but go with it…

 

 My KDP Experience (900 words)

As I write this, I just earned myself 4,700 downloads during my KDP free days (on a book with only one review). How did I manage it? Lots of work.

First I scheduled the promo of my Doctor-Who related book (Doctor Who: The What, Where, and How) to release a week before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (earlier would have been better and gotten me some reviews, but I just didn’t have the time). I scheduled a five-day giveaway beginning the day before the anniversary release and ending at the end of that weekend (five days at once allows more people to see all of your posts, of course).

Starting a few days before, I joined Doctor Who fan groups on Google Plus and Facebook, along with science fiction groups and author self-promo groups. I befriended top Doctor Who posters on Twitter, following them and sending them a message which many reposted. I began posting my messages on Goodreads (where they’d linger in their categories for a few days).

Goodreads and Facebook message:

Free Dr Who Guide Today!

Doctor Who: The What Where and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam To celebrate the 50th anniversary release this week, the book is FREE on Kindle TODAY-Monday. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

With optional book paragraph to follow. But a pitch where you can hook them in one sentence is best. Pasting the link ensured a picture would go up too.

Tumblr and Google Plus message: Same as above but with hashtagged keywords too.

Twitter message: Variations on the following:

Doctor Who: The What Where and How # free Nov 21-25 # freekindle http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Whereebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ # ebook # freeebook # DoctorWho # DoctorWho50th #movies

I didn’t like the look of tiny URLs, but that would’ve given me a few more characters. Varying the hashtags helps to reach more people. Don’t forget hashtags can be part of the information. #freekindle means the same as “free on kindle.”

Starting early the morning of my free promo, I went nuts. Basically, I posted my message on all the applicable Facebook pages. My tweets went to Facebook, and I individually tweeted book promo people and Doctor Who people, many of whom were kind enough to retweet (even without the RT request I likely should have included). Granted, Facebook will bar you if you look like you’re spamming (too many posts or posts on sites that don’t encourage it, I would think). On all the pages, I check what other people were doing. If the rules on the upper right said no self-promotion, I moved on. I never posted more than once a day on a site, or if my previous post was still visible. (There are so many sites to cover, after all). Obviously, a group or fan page with thousands of watchers is better than one with just a few. In a day I could go some Google Plus groups, some Facebook groups, some Goodreads groups, some tweets, some forum posts. Better than overwhelming the system.

For Doctor Who weekend, thousands of fans were posting with Doctor Who hashtages, and other similar hashtags, which I noted and copied. They were also publishing THOUGHTS on the anniversary special and original content, from reviews and blog posts to memes. I wrote several insightful blog posts, pasting my book link at the end with a note on where they could find similar material. Then I alternated posting my book ads with announcements about my blog.

#DayoftheDoctor In-Joke References List http://wp.me/p10chw-5y review of #dayofthedoctor and easteregg list of cool stuff at https://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com #DoctorWho50thAnniversary #DoctorWho50th #DoctorWho

Everyone was posting great websites and reviews. So I commented on these in their comments section on the bottom, generally including “I wrote a similar review available at…” I retweeted other people’s clever posts and announcements—I had many new Doctor-Who related Twitter followers, after all. Not all of my comments had my ad— only where applicable. But my picture was my book cover after all…

I put the prettiest pictures on Pinterest, which each were also posted to Twitter. Many new followers were repining and admiring the great pics in my Doctor Who Pinterest Gallery. My own book covers were there as well, with a comment on the website for purchase.

I attended several live Doctor Who parties (which I had planned to write reviews of for more content). I asked many friends to let THEIR friends know about my free guide, and I messaged them a copy of my ad when I got home. Many retweeted it, specifically tagging their friends who were Doctor Who lovers.

I did all this for British sites as well as American. If the page seemed British (co.uk) I used the British Amazon link.

Basically, I sent out messages for five days straight, on every place I could think of, particularly those where my potential readers hang out. It worked.

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Filed under About Me, and Publishing, Books, Call for Papers, Uncategorized, Writing

How Many Sales Should Successful Writers Have?

I have no idea. I just reposted an article saying self-pub books really aren’t selling in millions that got lots of Facebook responses. So I found myself thinking: How many am I really selling? I just finished doing taxes for the year and discover myself reasonably above the poverty line in the US (the poverty line is listed as 11,000 for a single person with no dependents apparently. That indeed would cover my food, rent, and utilities for a year, but I should add that I live in basically a writer’s garret. I’m sure many in pricey Silicon Valley who have homes and families could not manage on this.)

So I’m a working writer –as in 12-plus hours a day. With 12 books out a year, I’m certainly productive. A HARD-working writer. But I’m not paid by the hour or the word — only by royalties (ranging from 70% alleged gross to 8% net depending on publisher and type of book). And THAT depends on sales.

I’m the author of a whopping 45 books right now (yes, really, check ’em out on http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK), and part of me is wondering…so when do I hit the big time here? When do I get the wealth and recognition? Is there a point to writing another 45? (My genre is analysis on popular series like Sherlock, Doctor Who, Outlander, and Game of Thrones. Of course, they have built in fandoms already, which is awesome.) Of course, I’m discovering it’s not really about the number published, as 2-5 of them bring in far over half the sales (History, Homages and the Highlands: An Outlander Guide,the Hunger Games guide Katniss the Cattail, and sometimes a Game of Thrones guide or another tv/film related surge).

So basically, I sit here writing 12 books a year hoping ONE will catch fans’ eye (Predicting can be tough — I wrote another Outlander book and Katniss book, neither of which succeeded even half as much. Some series like Harry Potter and Marvel’s Avengers proved surprising duds. For my related books anyway.) And yes, sometimes I write whatever I feel like, with more eye to education or silly parodies and less to commercialism. Hence all my analysis on the Heroine’s Journey and vague plans for a free guide on the topic.

So today (admittedly wasting over an hour of my writing time) I decided to slow down and actually look at all these sales figures everyone sends over. What numbers am I really dealing with?

Self publishing: Here I have a lot. In fact, I have 24 on createspace/23 on Smashwords/25 on kdp/5 on ACX (most of these are the same, published in all three or maybe four mediums, but a few are exclusive.) There appear to be 27 unique titles, three of which are listed as free on Smashwords.

 

Kindle Direct sales (from Amazon publishing). 4552 copies sold this year. Kdp just sent me 13 tax forms from all the different countries. Goodness knows how many I’ll get next year.

 

Smashwords and the ebook companies they distribute to (Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony…): I sold 5169.9 copies (they’re counting people reading part of it, apparently) which made about $700. Total. All the sales coming in hundreds are, sadly, my free books. Two of these are “samplers” — a chapter each of already-published stuff, meant to boost sales. It only took me a few hours to put them together. No idea whether readers are then motivated to go purchase the full books.

 

Createspace (Amazon paperback publishing) 2616 books sold. 986 of those were my silly little Outlander guide. All right, seems the ebooks have beat the paper ones. Not a shock as my sales are online not bookstores. Publishing paperbacks is slightly more work, but I think it’s worth the effort. I like them, anyway.

 

ACX (amazon audio books): 5 published books (I can only give them self-pub, as otherwise publishers have the rights. Here I get 40% if I pay the recording artist upfront or 20% if I split the proceeds with them instead.) 865 sales – almost all Outlander or Game of Thrones related. Upon discovering this, I started auditioning another batch.

 

So that was 13,203 self-published books sold. Far far under a million, but a respectable number. Flattering in terms of people influenced, though I’m not a cat climbing into a box on YouTube. And…for them all I ended up making about 50 cents a book. (With thousands of my free and 99 cent books sold in comparison with smaller numbers of my $2.99 ebooks and 9.99 paperbacks, that isn’t the most logical calculation, but there it is).

By this point, I am thinking rude thoughts about royalty percentages. I might sit and calculate how much of Amazon’s 70% royalties I’m really getting, or consider raising prices (in fact, out of 45 books, only 3 are free and 1 is 99 cents). I could take my business elsewhere. But we all know the deal. I could sell them on my own website and keep 100% but no one would ever find them. And thus I’m forced to come back to my original premise that I’m going for fame not fortune…

Comparisons are odious as some famous person said. In fact, they’re illogical too since my traditionally published books have different content and sometimes audiences than the self-pub stuff. Certainly different math. But let me pop these up here too:

Traditional Publishers: (They mail me quarterly or biannual statements which I pull checks from then file carefully…in my desk clutter. Okay, that’s on me.) These are all small press or academic, admittedly. I have not broken into the Big Howevermanyareleft.

Zossima Press (half a year’s numbers): 3 published books. SALES: 24 paperback, 66 ebook (60 of those my Myths and Motifs in the Mortal Instruments thanks to the new TV show). Royalties: Around $1.50 per $15 book

McFarland: 4 books, 2 edited anthologies (3 more coming soon). SALES: 668 (paper and ebook in half a year). Around $1.75 per $35 book. Yep, $35. And that hurts the sales, of course.

Thought Catalog: 5 published books. SALES: By back-calculating sloppily my percentage of the royalties off the tax form…maybe 1500 copies. Around $1.50 per $5 book

Other Traditional Publishers: 4 published books that do rather badly: not enough pennies to worry about.

Traditional publishing is giving me steady numbers, while self-pub fluctuates wildly as I do page reads, free samples, free kindle five day giveaways, and other clever schemes which increase readership but not definitively sales. No shock there. For Doctor Who 50th anniversary weekend in 2013, I convinced 4500 people to download a free copy, but the Doctor Who book isn’t pulling amazing sales.

So where am I? 45 books published, with me convincing about 20,000 people this year to grab a copy of something and I’m making a living wage…but once again I’ll bring up the garret. I was a bit depressed upon looking at my tax forms, though not as much when I compared it to the previous year’s. 2013 to 2014 doubled, and 2014 to 2015 went up by a third. Things are indeed looking up…perhaps even toward a retirement plan (Plan: Do nothing and live on royalties or keep writing forever because now I’m addicted.) Is this the definition of “successful writer”? Seems so. And sure, I was hoping for more of a NY Times Bestseller profile with fabulous book promotion tours paid for by my royalties (sometimes I do this, but significant budgeting is involved). But I get to be a writer. And I’m making it work.

Well, enough of this — I really have to get back to writing now. Best wishes to everyone doing what I am, however successfully.

Do check the books out by the way — the list is up on http://vefrankel.com or http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK. Apparently I could use the paid sales.

 

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Call for Papers: The Future of Whedon

We all know and love Buffy, Firefly, Avengers, and the other big Whedon projects. But what’s on the horizon—giant Marvelverse movies and tie-in shows? What about the smaller, long-rumored projects like Doctor Horrible 2, Ripper, Wastelanders, The Serving Girl? Whedon just created Bellwether Studios to produce Much Ado About Nothing and In Your Eyes. Will he do more Shakespeares like Hamlet? Film his decades-old scripts like Afterlife? What of the beloved Wonder Woman?

This collection welcomes speculation on proposed projects like those above and analysis of the unmade movie scripts (Afterlife and Suspension are up on http://writetoreel.com and Wonder Woman has popped up in a few places like Scribd). There are many recent unexplored Whedon projects: his Equality Now skits on YouTube “Evil Robot,” “Zombie,” and “When I Speak.” There’s also the documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope and the Buffy Season Eight and Astonishing X-Men Motion Comics. The comic books themselves could use more analysis as Buffy, Angel, and Serenity continue.

Subtopics
While the collection will include analysis of recent projects, plenty for the big ones (Agents of SHIELD, Avengers, Much Ado, Cabin) have already been received. Likewise, no more analysis of old projects (Buffy, Firefly) is needed.

These areas could use more submissions: Any perspective (gender, race, literary, cultural, television or comics studies, etc.) is fine, including comparison to Whedon’s older shows:

1. New Spinoffs (comic continuations, other Whedon comics, computer games, and fan videos): Looking for Buffy seasons 8-10, Serenity comics, Agents of SHIELD TV-tie in comics, Spike Into the Light, Spike comics, Angel and Faith, Angel: After the Fall, Sugarshock, Myspace Dark Horse Presents Buffy shorts, etc. Likewise, older movies and comics in a post 2010-context (X-Men 3 vs Whedon’s X-Men Gifted), etc.) are welcome.
2. New Mediums (conferences, Browncoats, Serenity showings, web releases, Whedon’s blog and posting boards, social media): No one (possibly ever) has written on his new movie In Your Eyes or his Equality Now skits and “Whedon on Romney” (all on YouTube) or his Comic-Con Documentary. These are all released with unusual mediums, a topic worthy of exploration. He also wrote and directed The R. Tam Sessions (now on Youtube) as a promo before Serenity. I might take one or two on Doctor Horrible or Commentary The Musical as new mediums and/or Whedon’s relationship to other web shows like The Guild. Homages to Buffy or Firefly in recent television could fit here. Whedon also directed Glee and The Office, if anyone wants to analyze those.
3. The Future – what Whedon could/will/might/wants to do next. This includes unmade movie scripts Afterlife, Wonder Woman, Suspension, or others. Shows in preparation or rumored: Doctor Horrible 2, Avengers 3 or other Marvel, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, New Buffy movie or Spike movie, Firefly continuations, The Serving Girl, Goners, Wastelanders. (There are many interviews and leaked rumors about these available, and speculation is welcome.) Other speculative projects such as “What if Whedon had Written Agent Carter” are acceptable.

This is a friendly sounding (not academic) collection that will be published as an ebook for Whedon fans with short pieces to be written in the style of PopMatters, the publisher of this collection. (Samples are up athttp://www.popmatters.com/item/buffy-the-vampire-slayer1/) Final essays 2000-3000 words, MLA format. Proposals with optional bio or cover letter should be sent to valerie @ calithwain.com, subject THE FUTURE OF WHEDON by Feb 9. Finished papers due Mar 12. (and I’ll try to answer questions/comments below) Happy writing!

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So many new books!

Yes, I have two Doctor Who books out this week for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who (yay!)

ImageImage

Free from now through Monday on Kindle is 

Doctor Who: The What Where and How

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

Doctor Who is a show about books, TV, and science fiction for the fans within us all: The Tenth Doctor loves Harry Potter, the Eleventh Doctor wears costumes, Martha Jones wants to record Shakespeare’s lost play and sell it on the internet. As the characters gush over Agatha Christie or tangle with Men in Black, they enter a self-referential world of fiction about fiction, delighting in pure fandom. Producers Davies and Moffat nod to their other creations, from Sherlock to Casanova, and share their love for both the classic series and the larger world of Doctor Who novels, audio books, and comics. As the franchise riffs off Star Trek, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, and Hitchhiker’s Guide, it both celebrates the world’s most popular works and takes its place among them.

The other book, so new it’s just beginning to arrive, is

Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey

The Doctor is certainly the legend with untold faces, the mythic hero who dies to save mankind only to return, regenerated into an undying god with new wisdom of the ages. But his companions are journeying too. Rose Tyler and Donna Noble cross the TARDIS threshold and grow from ordinary women into goddesses of transcendent light, restoring the world with their golden auras. Martha learns faith and Amy, the power of imagination, until both can save the Doctor purely with the strength of their belief. By willing the world to reshape itself, they harness the power of the oldest goddesses who ruled with creation magic rather than conquest. River Song is the divine child of the TARDIS, magic itself, while Clara learns the heroine’s mythic power of spreading herself through eternity and thus reshaping reality as the Doctor’s world. United, they battle for the earth’s redemption by confronting the shadows within.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/book/doctor-who-and-the-heros-journey/

It’s available on

ALSO, my Hunger Games guide,

The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of The Hunger Games is only 99 cents right now on Amazon. http://t.co/6vxNIKUgvb Of course, my terribly popular

Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games is always 99 cents on Kindle and other ebook formats. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/130687 or http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne-ebook/dp/B0078EKMOU/

There are also paperbacks.  On with the promotions!

ManyFacesKatnissKatniss the Cattail

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WorldCon 2013 Report

LoneStarCon, the 71st World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention had a lower attendance than usual (3800, I heard, with an additional thousand who pre-supported or bought memberships but couldn’t attend)…this may have been competition with DragonCon—the two are usually the same weekend, but Worldcon isn’t usually as close as San Antonio, TX. On the upside, there was a massive group of first-time attendees, proudly wearing rainbow colored ribbons. Many were locals from San Antonio, and the long-term fans seemed enthusiastic about offering encouragement and insider knowledge. It’s a friendly convention, with as many females as males, eighty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds, and total strangers all acknowledging we’re part of the same fannish world. Those strangers were also kind enough to snap many photos of me on request, displayed here with grateful appreciation. I was also touched by the many people (some rather famous) who greeted me by name or asked “aren’t you the heroine’s journey author?”

 

For more, please visit http://thetemporaryescape.blogspot.com/ who will be hosting my guest post 🙂

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Filed under About Me, Convention Reports, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Uncategorized, Writing

I’m Back!

Okay, I realize I haven’t posted in quite some time…but I’ve been writing a book! I’ve been so busy writing, in fact, that I haven’t had time to write. Meanwhile, The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen should be out this summer (though it may have a title change)! It explores the main character and her trilogy across many genres, analyzing Katniss as a dystopian heroine, a warrior woman, a leader in kid power, a child soldier, a character on the heroine’s journey, and so forth. It’s been fun to write, and I’ve been reading tons, from all the popular dystopias, to Collins’s Gregor the Overlander series, to other teen favorites, like Cassandra Clare. Piling on the steampunk novels and fairytale retellings too, so my list is getting quite long.  Many I’ll include lists of all these in the appendix of the book…

Had three conferences in November (National Women’s Studies Conference, ConVolution, LosCon). In December I’ve had a California Writer’s Club one-day workshop and the delightful Steampunk invasion of Dickens Fair. Also fighting off a nasty ailment which is really slowing me down.  So keeping busy as always. Trying to sell books on Game of Thrones, Avengers, and any number of other topics. Meanwhile, my next book after Katniss should be The Heroine’s Journey for Young Readers (almost certainly not the real title). It’s under contract with a small press, and writing’s in progress. I’d also love to finish the Steampunk novel and maybe the fantasy novel that have been cooking on my back burners for FAR too long.

All that said, I want to post lots more on pop culture up here, so The Hobbit film seemed like a good place to start. I’ll be writing that review next. Good to be back…

 

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Asian-Inspired Fantasy Novels

I’m speaking at Mythcon about Asian-inspired fantasy novels, and I thought I’d post the ones I’ve been reading, along with a few of my comments:

  • Tiger Moon Antonia Michaelis
  • A fairytalelike Indian adventure of a hero boy sent by the gods to rescue a princess
  • Thirteen Orphans Jane Lindskold
  • Urban American fantasy with mah-jong magic
  • Fox Woman Kij Johnson
  • Sensual fairytale retelling from the fox wife’s point of view
  • Detective Inspector Chen novels Liz Williams
  • He battles demons and solves magical mysteries, freeing spirits and defending his demon bride in Singapore.
  • Under Heaven Guy Gavriel Kay
  • An epic struggle with amazing description and detail
  • Ladylord Sasha Miller
  • Sensual tale of magic and intrigue
  • Imperial Lady Andre Norton and Susan Shwartz
  • A girl-power fantasy like many of Norton’s as the bride seeks power and romance far from her native China.
  • Shwartz, Susan, Silk Roads and Shadows
  • Travels and ancient legends in a Byzantine quest.
  • Interesting Times Terry Pratchett
  • A Discworld novel follows Rincewind to ancient China, or close enough
  • A Heroine of the World Tanith Lee
  • Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox
  • A violent, fast-paced epic of the one boy who can tame the waking dragon
  • Lord of Light
  • On a futuristic world, characters reenact the Indian pantheon
  • Naamah’s Kiss and Naamah’s Curse Jacqueline Carey
  • One of Carey’s sensual heroines travels to China, Mongolia, and then India to rescue a dragon trapped in a princess and free her beloved from the power of love.
  • Tamora Pierce, Trickster’s Choice, Trickster’s Queen  (southeast asia)
  • A destined queen must discover her path, along with a raven-god and a thief’s daughter
  • The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander
  • A child’s fairytale as a prince trades six magical gifts for wisdom
  • Suzanne Fisher Staples, Shiva’s Fire
  • Pleasant tale of a girl who finds magic through dance
  • Tiger’s Curse Tiger’s Quest, Tiger’s Destiny Colleen Houck
  • A Twilight-style fantasy romance as an American teen quests to free her tiger-prince from his curse
  • Spirit’s Princess Esther Freisner
  • Following Helen of Troy and Nefertiti, Freisner writes a girl power tale of ancient Japan
  • Sandman: The Dream Hunters
  • A retold fairytale of a fox offering her life for the priest she loves, urged by the King of Dreams.
  • Across the Nightingale Floor Lian Hearn
  • A teen tale of revenge and intrigue blended with forbidden love.
  • Silver Phoenix
  • Lovely Chinese girl power fantasy
  • Shadows on the Moon Zoë Marriott
  • The Japanese Cinderella must choose between happiness and a powerful revenge
  • Cinder Marissa Meyer
  • Dystopian science fiction Cinderella featuring a metal-footed cyborg
  • Bound Donna Jo Napoli
  • Chinese Cinderella classic retelling
  • Cybele’s Secret
  • A fairytale of Anatolia/Turkey and sequel to the author’s Romanian 12 Dancing Princesses
  • Toads and Diamonds
  • Delightful version of the Grimms tale, set in mystical India
  • Additional Resources:
  • http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/306.Chinese_and_Japanese_Fantasy
  • http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/asian-fantasy
  • http://www.swantower.com/misc/settings.html.
  • http://moonsong.us/mythcon43/mc43panel.html

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Filed under About Me, Books, Pop Culture, Young Adult Fantasy

Travels in Florida: Manatee swim and more

Right before Ascendio, the big Harry Potter con, I visited Kennedy Space Center and took Florida Dolphin Tours to see the manatees and swim with them!

On my first day, I’d scheduled a very very early morning pickup at a hotel a mile from mine. I knew I’d be jetlagged the bad way, but was all packed and ready to go. However, I had hoped that the disgusting sauna weather wouldn’t strike that early and that if it did, the buses would be running first thing in the morning. I was wrong on both counts.  I arrived, hot and worn out but in plenty of time for my tour.

First we went and visited the manatees in Crystal River. At the last minute, I got a wetsuit, not because the water was cold, but to protect lots of exposed skin from the sun (my sunscreen, oddly, wasn’t waterproof. Perhaps because it had mosquito spray, meant for this very excursion). Of course, sitting on the boat in basically a black rubber turtleneck as we searched for elusive manatees was less than pleasant. By this point, I’d truly had it with the weather. After a long search (it was off season, but even our boat captain was getting frustrated) he spied a group swimming with a pair and we went in. The cold water was wonderful, and I found I could snorkel all right, even though I hadn’t tried since I was twelve.

I looked down and oh my! There was a giant brownish creature hovering maybe five feet below me! Manatee etiquette determined that we float on the surface and only touch when they bobbed up for air—no chasing, grabbing, or riding. I floated for some time, admiring the whiskery face and huge body. And yes I got to touch a few times—though he was completely coated in algae. After, I felt much cooler, and we headed for the state park and wildlife reserve. They had wolves, gators, and a host of other creatures, including more manatees, who adorably devoured about a barrelful of lettuce. They warned us that here we’d want mosquito spray, so I piled it on, unaware, that everywhere not covered by the wetsuit was already covered with bites from the first trip. Guess we took too long  to get in the water.

Halfway around the preserve, the heavens opened, and I discovered that my pretty sun parasol, black with sequins, embroidery, and glitter, makes a perfectly fine rain umbrella (I was reasonably far from the gift shop and it was really coming down). After, however, it was much cooler out. The tour had provided a breakfast buffet at Sizzler (about the last thing I wanted that morning) and a bag lunch. The ham and cheese was annoying for me (kosher) and others on the tour (vegetarian) and the cookies and chips included made for a pretty junky lunch. Of course, the park had food, so I settled things with an ice cream as big as I was. (no judgment please, but I have to wonder about the oblivious lunch providers).

Our third stop was an airboat ride into the swamp (again mosquito warnings). It was my first airboat ride with no gators, but pretty enough, and our captain enjoyed spinning the boat in surprising ways.  These excursions were a good distance from Orlando—we finished two annoying kiddie movies on the bus (though I also wrote a bit. The kids found my writing career and upcoming conference quite amusing, as did their mostly-British parents.) All in all, this trip managed three lovely excursions and I‘d definitely recommend it.

Though I didn’t take video or underwater photos, this promotional video covers my tour pretty well: http://www.floridadolphintours.com/sightseeing-tours/florida-wildlife-manatee-adventure-tour

I got back in time for many silly souvenir shops. Until midnight, everything’s open, and International drive had a carnival atmosphere, compete with midway, arcades, junk food, and even a few alligator petting zoos. Lots to see and do. At last I got back to my hotel and collapsed in a dead state, knowing that I had another early tour booked for morning.

The next day I had a bus tour to the Kennedy Space Center (perhaps 20 miles outside Orlando in an enormous wildlife preserve). This time I got to meet an astronaut (on my other  visit, I had missed this, probably because I didn’t know it was an option.) This time, Jim Reilly did a talk about his spacewalks and time in the space shuttle, going up to repair parts of Mir and the International Space Station. Day to day life in weightlessness was fascinating to hear about. Then there were the actual space shuttles and lots of posted history of the program. There were lots of videos of astronauts speaking, including the very famous ones. The Space Shuttles, in use since the eighties, are being retired now, in favor of a new international system. One of these, Atlantis, will be housed at Kennedy as a museum piece next year. One is going to LA—I must find out where.

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Filed under About Me, Convention Reports

Another New Book

Okay, it seems I haven’t posted in a while. That’s my problem…write or blog…

Seriously, I have a hot new ebook and it’s totally free!

Free Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Promotion: Inside Secrets from an Author Whose Self-Published Books Sold in Thousands

Cover for 'Free Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Promotion: Inside Secrets from an Author Whose Self-Published Books Sold in Thousands'

Wondering how to get published? Or how to self publish? Have an amazing book but no one’s reviewing it or hearing the buzz? Now award-winning author Valerie Estelle Frankel shares all her inside tips, from conferences to Facebook, Twitter to eBay, on how to make your book a success. With this guide, you’ll learn how to create a professional cover or find a cheap but brilliant cover artist. Build and distribute your ebook in every format, make bookmarks and handy cards, write and distribute your press release and get into the news. Every essential tip for new writers and experienced ones who want more exposure and sales. Complete with an appendix of successful query letters, press release, sell sheet, flyers and cards, step-by-step covers, and much more.
Now with a Bonus Essay on Creating Cover Art by Mary E. Lowd, author of Otters in Space.

Please come check it out at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/175520.

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Filed under About Me, and Publishing