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ULTRA SWAG

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of book swag. Mostly at conventions, piled deep on freebie tables: catalogs, postcards, bookmarks, magnets, book plates, samplers.

Some of this stuff is given out at book signings, or it’s used for giveaways. I’ve seen a lot of promotion going on. Trading cards. Pens and pencils. Little LED lights. Stress balls. Buttons. Rubber wrist bands. Stickers. Keychains. Calendars. Chapsticks. (Yes, I’ve seen chapsticks!) Miniature book charms. One romance author I saw online gave out nail polish in the same shade as her book cover.

UTM bookmarkHonestly. How much of this stuff do readers keep? How much does it help the author by giving it away to people? Authors new and old have passed me those postcards and trading cards. At the end of a busy convention, at the end of a signing, I often find myself recycling most of these things. Even business cards. I keep only those I know I’ll want to contact, or remember to search for something online. Now, bookmarks, at least, have a somewhat related purpose. I’m more likely to keep a promotional bookmark, particularly if I have a book I’ve been reading and my place is being kept by a pen, or my own business card.

I ask again: How much of this stuff do you keep?

Next month, The Ultra Thin Man comes out. What to do about swag? I’ve had business cards for a few months now. And in last week’s mail I received bookmarks that I designed. Anything else? I doubt I will. I did design and order a decent-sized vinyl banner of the book cover that looks great. But I’m not giving it away. Because of my own small press, I’ve got several stands that will fit the banner. A nice extra to take to a reading when appropriate, and later I’ll probably find a good wall to put it on.

For my release party on the 12th after my first signing, there will be cake swag. Um. That’s right, win them over with food.

But seriously, maybe I should create some plush Helk aliens with T-shirts bearing my book cover. Or miniature black Conduit tower erasers. Or how about drink coasters featuring the eight planets of the Union of Worlds?

Okay. Well. I’ve got my bookmarks ready.

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REVIEWS & CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT

Actually, the whole chapter 1 is up! I’ve put it as an extra on the novel information page on this site:  Chapter One   It also appeared today on Tor.com.  (Along with bonus chapter, Chapter Two!)

What else? Well how about the book being selected as a “Fantastic First” and a staff pick over at Mysterious Galaxy? And while I’m at it, because I’m all about these “firsts” in the publication adventure, the very first rating over at Goodreads was 5-star, and a nice little review to go with it.

I caught wind of another review from Booklist, and although I can’t get to an online link that I can read, my publicist sent along the review. Pasted below:

“Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos are former private investigators, now contractors with the Network Intelligence Organization and assigned to investigate the terrorist Movement of Worlds organization. The investigation that begins it all centers on the death of a woman who is suspected of being involved with the Movement’s leader, Terl Plenko; Crowell sends Brindos alone to the planet Ribon to work that angle. Meanwhile, Crowell ends up embroiled in an elaborate frame-up and conspiracy that threatens to shatter the security of the Union. They are separated, mostly unable to communicate, questioning their allies and everything they thought they knew. Nothing—and no one—is what they seem. The characterization and world building start off a little rough, but the thriller pacing carries the story along until the structure of the conspiracy becomes clear. By the epic finale, the universe is fleshed out enough to make the ultimate question—Who is behind this chain of events?—one worth answering. All in all, an entertaining piece of storytelling.”  — Regina Schroeder, Booklist

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BLOGGING THE BLOG TOUR

Even five years ago, a lot of folks would have heard the phrase “blog tour” and gone….”Whaaa?”  But it’s one of the newer ways to promote a writer’s work, thanks to the advent of blogs and social media.

So I have a blog tour! Tor Books (thanks very much to my publicist) has lined up some nice venues for me around the time of The Ultra Thin Man‘s publication date. Here’s a list of the blogs, with links, in case you’d like to get a preview of what they’re like. Also, I’ll add a little commentary about each, including topics if they’ve been given.

 

Book Banter / Guest post, August 8th  (No topic was given, but I’ve already started working on this one, which is a rundown on the strange and winding road to publication for this book.)

Forces of Geek / Guest post, August 10th  (The folks at Forces want to know a little bit about the pop culture influences in my work (tv, movie, books, comics, etc) or maybe the influence of a particular movie, or book)

Geek and Sundry / Guest post. August 12th  (They’d like me to give my quintessential survey of science fiction mysteries. Looking forward to writing this one. The blog’s tag line: Your Daily Dose of Geekiness.)

The Quillery / Interview, August 12 (They’ve asked questions about the novel, including fun ones such as describing the book in 140 characters or less, or asking about my favorite lines, favorite character.)

Optionated.com / Guest post, August 13th  (Note that’s OPTION- and not OPINION-ated. I made that mistake when checking it out for the first time! Topic’s wide open.)

My Bookish Ways / Interview, August 14th  (I’ve not seen the questions yet for this interview. But I’ll get ’em, answer ’em, and pass ’em on.)

Speculative Book Review / Guest post, August 15th  (Open topic. They do lots of book reviews and have quite an interesting rating system. And they have guest posts.)

Books and Things / Guest post, August 17th  (Also open topic. The URL is the proprieter’s blog address, so it doesn’t come up easily in a search. So good thing I have a good link to it!)

A Dream Within a Dream / Guest post, August 21st  (A late addition to the tour on 7/21! Open topic. Looks like it focuses a lot on fantasy, so I’ll have to win them over!)

SF Signal / Guest post, August 27th  (This Hugo Award-winning blog and fanzine is one of the best for SF/Fantasy out there. I’ll be talking on that guest post about works that influenced my book.

(There might be one more, depending on confirmation)

There will also be the the Twitter interview at @sffwrtcht on Aug 13
and Publishers Weekly Radio interview airing on Aug 22nd.

JAZZED ABOUT DUST JACKETS

Some copies of the dust jackets for the book arrived via UPS today from Tor. They look great! Couldn’t pass up throwing a few pictures here, of course.

And for that 3rd pic….I couldn’t resist! I found a book the size mine will be and wrapped my dust jacket around it to see what it would like on the shelf (situated on the bookshelf of Fairwood Press stock). And it looks damn good.

I’m such a nerd.

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dust jacket hide

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THE ULTRA THIN TOUR

The tour is shaping up, and it’s anything but thin! The Ultra Thin Man launches on August 12, and I’ll be making a number of appearances at bookstores from then on throughout the month and into September. This schedule is on my Appearances page, but I thought I’d break them down a little bit here with this post.

When Words Collide, Calgary AB, August 8-10. I love this little convention, which is in its fourth year and growing. It’s a multi-genre convention, so it’s not just SF/Fantasy, but Mystery, Romance, YA, Childrens, and so on. It’s run by great people, and I’ve made a lot of friends here. Unfortunately, this is the weekend before the book release and getting books up to Calgary in time just isn’t possible. But I can really push the book there, and who knows? I might have a few of my own contributor copies there to show off.

The University Bookstore, Seattle WA, August 12, 7 p.m. My favorite Pacific Northwest bookstore, and it has one of the largest SF sections in the country. Also, one of the most knowledgeable SF booksellers in the personage of Duane Wilkins. This is the big launch event.

sffwrtcht Interview on Twitter, 9 p.m. Should be fun! If you’re on Twitter, look it up live, but the transcript of the interview will post later. It’s hosted by writer/editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Third Place Books, Seattle WA, August 14, 7 p.m. Another great Seattle bookstore. Third Place has two locations. This is the larger store in Lake Forest Park, on Bothell Way.

Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton OR, August 20, 7 p.m. In a suburb just west of Portland, this is the branch of the famous Powell’s chain that caters to the SF/Fantasy crowd with lots of great author signings. The metropolitan Portland area is fabulous, and I hope a lot of the folks I know in that area come visit for this one!

Publishers Weekly Radio, August 22. This was just added! Hosts Rose Fox and Mark Rotella will chat with me the day before, Aug 21, for fifteen or twenty minutes about the book, and about writing and publishing. The interview itself will go live on their site on the 22nd. Quite pumped up about this. They do 4-5 interviews a month, and only rarely with SF/Fantasy authors. You might recall The Ultra Thin Man received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego CA, August 28, 7 p.m. This is one of the top independent SF/Fantasy bookstores in the country. Independent bookstores like Mysterious Galaxy really help a debut author like myself, for they can promote and reach out to their customers in a way the big chains can not. I always hear about writers signing here. Although I’ve been to San Diego a few times, and even met a few of their store gods in person at conventions, I’ve never been to the bookstore, so I’m excited to do this one!

Borderlands Books & SF in SF Reading Series, San Francisco CA, August 30, 3 p.m. Honestly. Ditto what I just said about Mysterious Galaxy. Great independent. Great people I’ve met at conventions. Been to the city (but not in a looong while), but never to the bookstore. AND….I’m reading with author Brian Herbert, co-author of the Dune book prequels. This event is a combined event with the SF in SF reading series, long on my radar of wanting to do some day. The excitement continues!

SFWA Reading Series, Kirkland WA, Sept 9, 7 p.m. This is held at the Wilde Rover in Kirkland. Good grub and drink. Multiple author readings. Books available for sale courtesy The University Bookstore. I’ll be reading with the fabulous writers Eileen Gunn and Darragh Metzger.

SFWA Reading Series, Portland OR, Sept 10, 7 p.m. The next night I do it all over again down in Portland at McMenamin’s Kennedy School, books sold there by Jacobsen’s Books. I’ll be reading with the same writers I did in Kirkland, plus the wonderful Wendy Wagner as an added bonus.

The Good Book Cafe, Sumner WA  Sept 13, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. This is my local bookstore. (Close to it. It’s about ten minutes from where I live in Bonney Lake.) It has used and new books both, and sits on the quaint main street of Sumner. And guess what? It’s Sumner’s annual “Wine Walk.” I’m told an extra thousand people storm small town Sumner for this event. So I’ll be sitting in the store signing books, along with author Mark Teppo, as folks come in to get their wine and browse.

Well that’s it! Stay tuned for the possibility of some sort of release party in August, if I’m not totally burned out. Because I love a good release party. Time, date, venue to be decided.

I’ll be at VCon in Vancouver in October, and World Fantasy in Washington DC in November, and that will round out my year pretty nicely.

I hope to see you at one of these venues!

LESS THAN TWO MONTHS CHECKLIST

Since the middle of this month, there have been fun developments in the quest for a real live novel.

The biggest was the STARRED! Publishers Weekly review. Link is right here. Starred PW reviews are hard to come by. If you really don’t want spoilers (yes, I feel the review had a couple crucial ones), only read the first two sentences and the last one.

My publisher put five ARCs up for grabs in a Goodreads contest. You’ve got until July 11th to enter. It prompted me to actually put some stuff ON my Goodreads page, and now I’m settled there as a Goodreads author.

I have some more tour dates scheduled, including a couple of events in San Francisco: Borderlands Books and the SF in SF event on August 30.

Just today, Tor.com announced another sweepstakes for more ARCs. Very nice gesture on the part of Tor, but of course you should also buy a finished copy! Right?

What’s next? Well, I suspect more reviews will pop up, including not-so-glowing ones (nature of the beast). I’ve got a couple conventions and workshops I’m attending before the pub date. Meanwhile I’m doing my best to put in work on book two.

August 12 will be here before I know it.

WRITER & FRIEND JAY LAKE PASSES

I’ve known two writers very well that I’ve worked closely with and become good friends with who have been taken from the world all too soon. One was Ken Rand, an amazing writer, teacher, and friend, who passed away in 2009.

Today, I say goodbye to Jay Lake, who passed away this morning at 5:45. I’d not been online until a bit ago, and didn’t find out until good friend John Pitts texted and let me know. It was a blow, even though I’ve known it was coming. It is hard to put into words everything that Jay was to me. I worked with Jay, through Fairwood, to publish his first novel Rocket Science. We also put out a chapbook called Green Grow the Rushes-O. And finally, his metafiction novelette The Specific Gravity of Grief, where he talked about his cancer. Proceeds from this book go to the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund (you can still make donations there in his name).

He was a Talebones alum, a frequent guest at conventions, and of course he attended some of the earliest Rainforest retreats, including the very first one in 2007, where he infamously “walked on water,” due to the constant rainfall during the weekend flooding the lower area of the resort. He made the trek to his last retreat a few years back, even though his health was deteriorating.

I will miss you, Jay. We all will. Miss your self-assured, fight-and-take-no-prisoners mentality, your gregarious spirit, your wild, thoughtful writing, your steadfast friendship, and your commitment to LIFE. Even in death, you’ve inspired us to be kinder to one another, to love better, to write more, and to dream big.

Fuck cancer.

Jay has passed away. Long live Jay Lake.

 

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Jay Lake at the first Rainforest Writers Village, 2007. Photo courtesy Bob Brown.

ARC ADVENTURES

Advance Reading Copy. Aka “ARC.” Also known as Advance Uncorrected Proof. Not to be confused with ABMs, Advance Bound Manuscripts….

Well, whatever you call them, at whatever point that they are created, they have one sole purpose, and that is to generate possible buzz from reviewers who might give the book a literary “thumbs up,” as well as give some booksellers or book buyers an early look. Sometimes, too, other authors receive them for the purpose of giving advance publicity quotes.

They are printed with a paper cover. Sometimes they have the cover image, sometimes in color. Sometimes a publisher prints tons of them, but the reality is that they are expensive, and not that many are printed for most authors.

I awaited my copies with the excitement of a kid at Christmas. It would be the first time to see the book in some sort of bound form, closely resembling (at least on the interior) the final book. I received word that author Nancy Kress had received a copy so she could read it and possibly blurb it (she did, and gave a fabulous blurb at that!), but I had still not seen mine. Every day after work, I’d crane my neck to glance at my porch, hoping to see a box sitting there. The annual local convention, Norwescon, came and went. I still checked my porch.

The Monday after the convention, I let my editor know I was still patiently awaiting my copies of the ARC. I received an email right away telling me that UPS tracking showed that the box had been delivered to my house the previous Thursday! This was the first day of Norwescon, and I remember coming home Thursday night and seeing nothing on the porch.

So it was either stolen from my porch, or UPS delivered it to the wrong place. I never did find out where it ended up. They’re building new townhouses in my development, including a two-unit building right next to me. If workers decided to grab it hoping for something valuable, they were most likely disappointed by a box with six ARCs inside. But who knows? Maybe they decided to read the book and liked it and will tell all the fellow thieves in their crime ring and it’ll become a massive bestseller. Maybe not!

I told my editor about all this, and luckily, he shipped me the last of what he had, four copies, fastest possible method, and I had them a few days later. It was still a thrill to open the package and find them inside. No spendy color ARCs for this debut author; instead, they used the title page image, along with information on how to contact my publicist, and, on the back, marketing stuff. It was still the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a long, long while. Maybe ever. I figure when the final books arrive, I’m likely to break down and sob.

Since receiving them, I may have read the book in this form a couple of times, and none of it in any order whatsoever. I’ll open the book up to a certain page and start reading, thinking: “Does this hold up?” Or “What was I thinking when I wrote THIS passage?” Or “Oh, man, that’s still kick-ass.” Or “Oh-oh, did I mark this typo on the final page proofs?” And so on. Chapter 29, then Chapter 2, then Chapter 11…

I still pick the ARC up and glance through it. This is my book, for god’s sake, I think.  On a couple of occasions I have indeed found a few typos that were missed, and I forward those to Tor. If I find anything now, it may be too late, but it won’t hurt to try sending.

For now, I revel in the experience of having a physical, bound representation of my novel, with just three months to go before the real thing hits the shelves. I thumb through it, and the other three copies sit there neatly and unused on my desk.

I don’t expect to give those four copies to anyone.

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THE PR PROCESS PROCEEDS

My first official book signing has been arranged. It will happen on the actual publication date of the novel, August 12, at the University Bookstore in Seattle, at 7 p.m. I’d talked to the SF book buyer (and good friend) Duane Wilkins a while back, and in fact he reached out to the publicist assigned to me by Tor. Which was great, considering I’d not been aware who that would be before then. Almost immediately, my publicist contacted me to confirm the date, time and place.

So it begins. A debut novel needs a good start out of the gate, so early promotion is crucial. I’m already at work thinking about what else needs to happen, including, I very much hope, a small tour of the Northwest, and on down into California and some of the better known specialty independent bookstores.

There will be interviews. One such will be coming up with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat (also known as #sffwrtcht because it has traditionally been a live interview on Twitter).  That will happen the day after my pub date, on August 13.

I suspect there will also be some type of “blog tour.” Between myself and publicist, we will find some blogs in the field that might best connect with the book, and hopefully  I can do guest posts.

There’s also talk of a little road trip earlier in the summer to some other bookstores, traveling with a couple other writers in an effort to increase visibility of our respective projects.

And … a release party? I’m sure there will be something along those lines. It’s not every day you release your first novel, so might as well do it up big! And of course there will be business cards, postcards, bookmarks, posters to think about.

Although I won’t be going to Worldcon in London this year, I’ll be at a few other conventions, including World Fantasy in Washington, D.C., although that isn’t until November. Of course, I’ll also be promoting books from my own small press, Fairwood, and I’ll hopefully have a table in the dealer room.

Here we go!

 

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THE PROOF IS IN THE PDF

A few days ago, I received the page proofs for The Ultra Thin Man from my publisher. These include the interior pages and how they’ll look in the finished product. This was the first time I saw the interior design concept and the extra accents, as well as headers and page numbers and copyright information.  (Below is the title page from the file.)

Proofs often come to writers electronically now, and in this case, a PDF file. Not all writers receive electronic proofs, but it’s becoming more and more common. I’ll admit that I thought I was going to get printed proofs. (My FAQ section about proofs said as much.) Instead, I get to make my corrections on the PDF, using the Acrobat Reader tools to insert, overwrite, and delete text to make corrections to the interior text. These corrections have to happen pretty quickly, usually in two weeks or less.

I must do my best to only take care of typos and make small corrections when necessary. I’m to avoid any major alterations, or put in anything new that might cause the text to reflow into other pages. That will be a challenge in itself. I’ve already seen things—even at this late date—I want to add or change that I just won’t be able to. The book is what it is now! I found a typo in the 2nd paragraph of the first chapter, and yes, something like this is a must-fix. This is why the proof process is in place.

Meanwhile, Tor is taking this page proof document and creating the advance reading copies (or uncorrected proofs) to send out for reviews and blurbs.

I’ve been asked how many times I’ve read this book now, and I’m not sure I know how to answer that question. It’s true that by the time the book comes out in August, I’ll have read it for sure at least a half dozen times. But that doesn’t count the times I’ve read chapters over and over, here, there, back and forth, while writing, while editing…

I’m more than halfway through writing book two, and that’s the story that’s in my brain right now. For you, the reader, you’ll experience this book for the first time, fresh and new, and hopefully all the kinks will be worked out, and you’ll enjoy the experience.

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