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Deviants in Print: Jae Waller

Fri Jul 20, 2018, 5:00 AM by Memnalar:iconmemnalar:
:iconprojecteducate:
:iconprojecteducate:


Publishing Week


Jaewaller1 by Memnalar

Jae Waller aka akrasiel - dedicated Community Volunteer and a familiar and helpful presence around DA’s Literature world - grew up in a lumber town in northern British Columbia. She has a joint B.F.A. in creative writing and fine art from the University of Northern British Columbia and Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Now living in Melbourne, Australia, she works as a novelist and freelance artist.

Today I’m talking with Jae about her recently-published debut fantasy novel The Call of the Rift: FLIGHT, on sale now from ECW Press. From the ECW website’s synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Kateiko doesn’t want to be Rin anymore — not if it means sacrificing lives to protect the dead. Her only way out is to join another tribe, a one-way trek through the coastal rainforest. Killing a colonial soldier in the woods isn’t part of the plan. Neither is spending the winter with Tiernan, an immigrant who keeps a sword with his carpentry tools. His log cabin leaks and his stories about other worlds raise more questions than they answer.

Then the air spirit Suriel, long thought dormant, resurrects a war. For Kateiko, protecting other tribes in her confederacy is atonement. For Tiernan, war is a return to the military life he’s desperate to forget.

Leaving Tiernan means losing the one man Kateiko trusts. Staying with him means abandoning colonists to a death sentence. In a region tainted by prejudice and on the brink of civil war, she has to decide what’s worth dying — or killing — for.
9781770413542 1024x1024 by Memnalar


So, you just published the book, completed a literal worldwide launch tour complete with interviews and signings, and now you’re moving house. My first question for you is this: Are you, you know, okay?  
:iconakrasiel:

Ahahaha, I have good days and bad days, but I’m surprisingly okay. It’s stress I’ve chosen, you know? It’s all leading toward something good.



FLIGHT is noted as Book One. Of how many books? What can you tell us about the series?
:iconakrasiel:

This is book 1 of 5. It’s an epic series in every sense – it covers several years, huge distances, dozens of characters, and multiple wars – but at the core, it’s the story of one girl swept up in it all.
The structure of the series is also rather unique. All I’ll say for now is that it’s not totally linear. I don’t think I’ve ever read a series that works quite like it, so I’m excited to see how readers react.



For those reading this who have never been through it before, how did you get connected with your publisher? Talk us through that process. (NOTE: Look for Jae’s article on the novel publishing process this week, which provides much more detail!)
:iconakrasiel:

My case was unorthodox. While I was working on my pitch, my aunt-by-marriage passed my contact info to a niece from her side of the family, Lynn Gammie. Lynn worked at a publishing house across the country. We’d never heard of each other, but she kindly offered to read my novel. I expected nothing, maybe advice on my pitch at best, so in the meantime I began querying literary agents.

Turns out, Lynn liked the novel enough to pass it onto her boss, who made an offer! I was lucky to get one from the first and only publisher I submitted to. It was a fluke of the right book meeting the right people at the right time. (Not that the whole process was rainbows and unicorns… I got rejected from every literary agent I queried, which is normal.)



The Regret of Things Done by akrasiel   Okoreni-Rin by akrasiel


Reading FLIGHT, I was immediately impressed with its immersiveness, drawing as it does on indigenous cultures of the Canadian Northwest as its inspiration, from tattoos to food to magic to funeral practices. How did you come by that inspiration, and go about your research?
:iconakrasiel:

The idea began while I was in university. My alma mater is at the forefront of Canadian indigenous studies. In 2009 my Canadian Literature (CanLit) professor had us read Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations, which was the first time I’d read a novel set in my province. It was revelatory – so much that I didn’t know what to do with it at first.

A few years later, I studied under two indigenous artists who taught me about combining historic and contemporary art forms. Lots of awesome work was happening around me, from my classmates carving a traditional dugout canoe to my friend’s friend in a metal band who sung in their native language. I was fascinated by things like tattoos and drumming that have incredible heritage, yet are familiar to modern audiences.

Soon after, I moved around the world, so my research capacity was limited. Nevertheless I had lots of sources: personal experience growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the work of First Nations creators and scholars, speaking with Australian Aboriginals (the colonial story is pretty similar worldwide), and of course the internet.

That said, while the technology of the novel is fairly accurate because it sources heavily from the coastal rainforest, the cultural practices are almost all made-up. It’s not my business to share someone else’s culture or religion, so I balanced authenticity with a respectful distance from reality.



The colonial cultures in the book are just as richly defined. From where was your inspiration drawn for them, and how did you go about drawing it?
:iconakrasiel:

Some time ago I started researching Canadian history and was fascinated by what I found. Apparently Vikings landed in the east circa 1000 (centuries before Columbus) and Norwegians settled the west in the 1800s. Spanish conquistadors explored western Canada maybe as early as the 1500s. That’s never taught in school! All we learn about is the English and French.

Naturally I had to share this knowledge. One culture I developed was Vikings who conquered northern Europe and adopted Christian practices (the inverse of Scandinavian Christians adopting pagan practices.) Their overseas reach mirrors the 17th-century Dutch naval empire. I found info in surprising places, like discovering that my neighbour did battle re-enactments in Norway.

The other major colonial culture is pan-Mediterranean, the Roman empire reborn in the role of the British empire. My inspiration there has been everything from Marco Polo’s adventures to Spanish food to Arabic music… and a big serving of English prudishness.



Your novel features mages who control, summon and manipulate water and fire in imaginative and vivid ways, and powerful spirits of air and other elements figure prominently. I’m just going to say it. You watched a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender, didn’t you?
:iconakrasiel:

Ha! I love AtLA, but believe it or not, I didn’t see it until after finishing Flight. The novel’s elemental magic dates back to an obscure computer game from the late 90s, which my friends and I wrote fanfic of years before AtLA aired.

It does seem that the concept of four or five natural elements is pretty pervasive. I’ve seen a lot of variations of it ranging from Sailor Moon to John Peel’s Diadem books, which I loved as a kid. So I’m okay with the comparison. It taps into something essential, yet there’s a lot of freedom to make it unique to a series.



So I’m going to walk up to the elephant in the room and poke it with a stick. You deal heavily with indigenous cultures in your novel, and head-on with issues and conflicts of colonialism. You’ve taken criticism along that front for doing so while not coming from an indigenous heritage yourself. How do you address those concerns, or how have you worked through the writing process with those sensitivities in mind?
:iconakrasiel:

It’s a never-ending dichotomy. There’s no way to accurately write about Canada without acknowledging First Nations peoples, but there’s no way for a white author to accurately write about them. No matter how much research I do, I’m bound to get something wrong because I haven’t lived it.
One of my favourite essayists, Alicia Elliott of the Haudenosaunee, wrote about exactly this. “To truly write from another experience in an authentic way, you need more than empathy. You need to write with love.” That standard keeps me going. I write with love for Canada and all the people in it, including my Native friends, classmates, teachers, and colleagues. I can’t ignore my country’s problems. It literally puts lives at stake.

The most fundamental part of writing respectfully about another group is listening to them. So I consistently read fiction and non-fiction by indigenous authors, and when I get feedback on my work, I take it seriously. On the flip side, sometimes in order to alleviate concerns I need to pass on what I’ve learned, especially to people outside Canada who aren’t familiar with our circumstances.



Guard Duty by akrasiel   Call of the Rift: Flight, Chapter 1
“Ouch!” I cursed under my breath and sucked on the line of blood that appeared across my thumb.
“You’re doing it wrong.” Fendul took my hunting knife and peeled a curl of dark wood from the palm-sized figurine. “Hold it like this. You’ll stab yourself in the gut otherwise.”
“Nei. It doesn’t work that way.” I yanked it back from him.
We sat cross-legged on the rocky beach of Kotula Huin, a still, glacial lake. Drifts of fog surrounded us. Colossal hills loomed over the valley, its dense layer of trees barely visible against the dark sky. A dull pink glow silhouetted the jagged peaks to our right. Behind us, the forest dripped. My fingers were too damp to grip the rawhide cord wrapped around my bone knife.
Voices drifted down the shoreline. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I asked.
Fendul shrugged. “Not until the ceremony starts.”
“So you’re up this early for the fun of it.”
  The Call of the Rift: NPC designs by akrasiel


Tell us a little more about your Sensitivity Readers. How did you meet and involve them? Describe the process of threading their feedback into the writing.
:iconakrasiel:

I put feelers out in several places: the humanities department of my alma mater, the Native Friendship Centre in my hometown, literary contacts, and so on. Eventually my former CanLit professor put me in touch with one of his previous grad students, a Haida scholar and former chief of his band council. I couldn’t have asked for anyone more qualified.

I asked my sensitivity reader to point out any problems with my representation of indigenous culture. Amazingly, his only changes were typo corrections! Goes to show that hard work and caution pay off. I’d already done the heavy lifting before presenting it to him.



Throughout the novel, you navigate your characters through some pretty sensitive topics. Just a few examples: racism and violence of colonialism, the passions versus the realities of sex, alcohol abuse, and a stark, unromantic view of people headed toward war, or the trauma faced by those who have been through it. How did you and your publisher thread these topics through the needle of a Young Adult audience?  
:iconakrasiel:

I’m blessed to be with a publisher who prides themselves on being cutting-edge. Most of the topics you mention never came up as potential issues. My editor considered cutting some sexual content, and we did make one change in that area, but most ot it stayed intact. We agreed that it didn’t feel honest to censor it. Teens aren’t as naive as many adults think.

Some critics say the novel feels too complex and mature for YA. I’d reply that most YA doesn’t feel like my youth. I ran with the disillusioned punk/metal crowd, so none of that – from politics to trauma to substance abuse – was foreign. I warn people that the novel has mature content, but I have no regrets about writing it. All teenagers deserve to see themselves in fiction.



Kateiko’s adventures are certainly the stuff of fantasy on one hand, but also down to earth, intimate and familiar. How much of her was drawn from your own life, or her surroundings and people in her life from yours? Is her early desire to leave her tribe autobiographical in any way?
:iconakrasiel:

A lot of her story is autobiographical. Northern Canada is tough if you don’t fit in. There’s no one else around and no easy way out. I used to rely on inter-city buses, which have recently been cancelled and will result in a lot of hitchhiking on an infamously dangerous route. That could’ve been me. My parents thought I ran away from home at 17, just like Kateiko at that age.

That said, I don’t see her as a mirror of me. She’s like a close friend who grew up in the same place. Being indigenous comes with pros and cons: she has an unbreakable tie to her homeland, but she experiences racism that I never have or will. Her friends are loosely based on mine, both Native and non-Native. You could map our social circles as a Venn diagram.



One of your novel’s critics had some things to say about what he considered too many romantic interests on Kateiko’s part. How do you respond to that?
:iconakrasiel:

Utter disregard.

Magic aside, the novel is realistic. It covers a full year, during which Kateiko develops feelings for two guys, which is normal for that timeline. It happens. I’ve been a teenage girl. She mentions a couple past romances (oh no, a female protagonist who’s not naive and unkissed?) and interacts with a few guys in ways that could be seen as romantic if you squint, but they’re passing notes in the scope of the whole story.

It’s aggravating because it’s veiled slut-shaming. Male characters have always been allowed to have multiple love interests. Cowboys ride into town, save the damsel, and earn a kiss. Sheesh, James Bond gets a new Bond girl every movie or two.  Of course a girl going through war and trauma will have complex feelings about the men she’s near. Let her have those feelings.



I understand the book will be available in audio form soon? Who is reading it? Can you tell us about that process?
:iconakrasiel:

Yes! I’m super excited. My publisher decided to find an indigenous Canadian to narrate the audiobook, which I’m 200% on board with. I want Kateiko’s voice to be as authentic as possible. Hollywood often makes the excuse of “it’s hard to get non-white actors,” but that’s BS. They exist.

I heard test recordings from two actresses, and we went with Sera-Lys McArthur, who’s mixed-race Nakota. I sent her a bunch of notes and we video-chatted to go over pronunciation. That was cool. I’ve modelled the novel’s indigenous language off Japanese because the phonetics are straightforward, and Sera-Lys was like “yeah, that’s fine, it’s similar to Nakota.” It’s awesome working with people who know linguistics better than me. She nailed almost everything first try.

I haven’t heard recordings since then, but I visited my publisher’s Toronto office during my launch tour, and one employee mentioned she’d been to the recording studio and everything sounded great. So I’m really looking forward to it.



Finally, the question I always ask: Any advice for new writers?
:iconakrasiel:

Read widely.

Write what you’re passionate about, because you have to spend more time on it than anyone else.

Build a support network of writer friends. Value your mental health.

Everyone writes crap at first.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Samuel Beckett



Thanks very much to Jae Waller for taking the time!

The Call of the Rift: FLIGHT - ECW Press


Activity


Deviants in Print: Jae Waller

Fri Jul 20, 2018, 5:00 AM by Memnalar:iconmemnalar:
:iconprojecteducate:
:iconprojecteducate:


Publishing Week


Jaewaller1 by Memnalar

Jae Waller aka akrasiel - dedicated Community Volunteer and a familiar and helpful presence around DA’s Literature world - grew up in a lumber town in northern British Columbia. She has a joint B.F.A. in creative writing and fine art from the University of Northern British Columbia and Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Now living in Melbourne, Australia, she works as a novelist and freelance artist.

Today I’m talking with Jae about her recently-published debut fantasy novel The Call of the Rift: FLIGHT, on sale now from ECW Press. From the ECW website’s synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Kateiko doesn’t want to be Rin anymore — not if it means sacrificing lives to protect the dead. Her only way out is to join another tribe, a one-way trek through the coastal rainforest. Killing a colonial soldier in the woods isn’t part of the plan. Neither is spending the winter with Tiernan, an immigrant who keeps a sword with his carpentry tools. His log cabin leaks and his stories about other worlds raise more questions than they answer.

Then the air spirit Suriel, long thought dormant, resurrects a war. For Kateiko, protecting other tribes in her confederacy is atonement. For Tiernan, war is a return to the military life he’s desperate to forget.

Leaving Tiernan means losing the one man Kateiko trusts. Staying with him means abandoning colonists to a death sentence. In a region tainted by prejudice and on the brink of civil war, she has to decide what’s worth dying — or killing — for.
9781770413542 1024x1024 by Memnalar


So, you just published the book, completed a literal worldwide launch tour complete with interviews and signings, and now you’re moving house. My first question for you is this: Are you, you know, okay?  
:iconakrasiel:

Ahahaha, I have good days and bad days, but I’m surprisingly okay. It’s stress I’ve chosen, you know? It’s all leading toward something good.



FLIGHT is noted as Book One. Of how many books? What can you tell us about the series?
:iconakrasiel:

This is book 1 of 5. It’s an epic series in every sense – it covers several years, huge distances, dozens of characters, and multiple wars – but at the core, it’s the story of one girl swept up in it all.
The structure of the series is also rather unique. All I’ll say for now is that it’s not totally linear. I don’t think I’ve ever read a series that works quite like it, so I’m excited to see how readers react.



For those reading this who have never been through it before, how did you get connected with your publisher? Talk us through that process. (NOTE: Look for Jae’s article on the novel publishing process this week, which provides much more detail!)
:iconakrasiel:

My case was unorthodox. While I was working on my pitch, my aunt-by-marriage passed my contact info to a niece from her side of the family, Lynn Gammie. Lynn worked at a publishing house across the country. We’d never heard of each other, but she kindly offered to read my novel. I expected nothing, maybe advice on my pitch at best, so in the meantime I began querying literary agents.

Turns out, Lynn liked the novel enough to pass it onto her boss, who made an offer! I was lucky to get one from the first and only publisher I submitted to. It was a fluke of the right book meeting the right people at the right time. (Not that the whole process was rainbows and unicorns… I got rejected from every literary agent I queried, which is normal.)



The Regret of Things Done by akrasiel   Okoreni-Rin by akrasiel


Reading FLIGHT, I was immediately impressed with its immersiveness, drawing as it does on indigenous cultures of the Canadian Northwest as its inspiration, from tattoos to food to magic to funeral practices. How did you come by that inspiration, and go about your research?
:iconakrasiel:

The idea began while I was in university. My alma mater is at the forefront of Canadian indigenous studies. In 2009 my Canadian Literature (CanLit) professor had us read Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations, which was the first time I’d read a novel set in my province. It was revelatory – so much that I didn’t know what to do with it at first.

A few years later, I studied under two indigenous artists who taught me about combining historic and contemporary art forms. Lots of awesome work was happening around me, from my classmates carving a traditional dugout canoe to my friend’s friend in a metal band who sung in their native language. I was fascinated by things like tattoos and drumming that have incredible heritage, yet are familiar to modern audiences.

Soon after, I moved around the world, so my research capacity was limited. Nevertheless I had lots of sources: personal experience growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the work of First Nations creators and scholars, speaking with Australian Aboriginals (the colonial story is pretty similar worldwide), and of course the internet.

That said, while the technology of the novel is fairly accurate because it sources heavily from the coastal rainforest, the cultural practices are almost all made-up. It’s not my business to share someone else’s culture or religion, so I balanced authenticity with a respectful distance from reality.



The colonial cultures in the book are just as richly defined. From where was your inspiration drawn for them, and how did you go about drawing it?
:iconakrasiel:

Some time ago I started researching Canadian history and was fascinated by what I found. Apparently Vikings landed in the east circa 1000 (centuries before Columbus) and Norwegians settled the west in the 1800s. Spanish conquistadors explored western Canada maybe as early as the 1500s. That’s never taught in school! All we learn about is the English and French.

Naturally I had to share this knowledge. One culture I developed was Vikings who conquered northern Europe and adopted Christian practices (the inverse of Scandinavian Christians adopting pagan practices.) Their overseas reach mirrors the 17th-century Dutch naval empire. I found info in surprising places, like discovering that my neighbour did battle re-enactments in Norway.

The other major colonial culture is pan-Mediterranean, the Roman empire reborn in the role of the British empire. My inspiration there has been everything from Marco Polo’s adventures to Spanish food to Arabic music… and a big serving of English prudishness.



Your novel features mages who control, summon and manipulate water and fire in imaginative and vivid ways, and powerful spirits of air and other elements figure prominently. I’m just going to say it. You watched a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender, didn’t you?
:iconakrasiel:

Ha! I love AtLA, but believe it or not, I didn’t see it until after finishing Flight. The novel’s elemental magic dates back to an obscure computer game from the late 90s, which my friends and I wrote fanfic of years before AtLA aired.

It does seem that the concept of four or five natural elements is pretty pervasive. I’ve seen a lot of variations of it ranging from Sailor Moon to John Peel’s Diadem books, which I loved as a kid. So I’m okay with the comparison. It taps into something essential, yet there’s a lot of freedom to make it unique to a series.



So I’m going to walk up to the elephant in the room and poke it with a stick. You deal heavily with indigenous cultures in your novel, and head-on with issues and conflicts of colonialism. You’ve taken criticism along that front for doing so while not coming from an indigenous heritage yourself. How do you address those concerns, or how have you worked through the writing process with those sensitivities in mind?
:iconakrasiel:

It’s a never-ending dichotomy. There’s no way to accurately write about Canada without acknowledging First Nations peoples, but there’s no way for a white author to accurately write about them. No matter how much research I do, I’m bound to get something wrong because I haven’t lived it.
One of my favourite essayists, Alicia Elliott of the Haudenosaunee, wrote about exactly this. “To truly write from another experience in an authentic way, you need more than empathy. You need to write with love.” That standard keeps me going. I write with love for Canada and all the people in it, including my Native friends, classmates, teachers, and colleagues. I can’t ignore my country’s problems. It literally puts lives at stake.

The most fundamental part of writing respectfully about another group is listening to them. So I consistently read fiction and non-fiction by indigenous authors, and when I get feedback on my work, I take it seriously. On the flip side, sometimes in order to alleviate concerns I need to pass on what I’ve learned, especially to people outside Canada who aren’t familiar with our circumstances.



Guard Duty by akrasiel   Call of the Rift: Flight, Chapter 1
“Ouch!” I cursed under my breath and sucked on the line of blood that appeared across my thumb.
“You’re doing it wrong.” Fendul took my hunting knife and peeled a curl of dark wood from the palm-sized figurine. “Hold it like this. You’ll stab yourself in the gut otherwise.”
“Nei. It doesn’t work that way.” I yanked it back from him.
We sat cross-legged on the rocky beach of Kotula Huin, a still, glacial lake. Drifts of fog surrounded us. Colossal hills loomed over the valley, its dense layer of trees barely visible against the dark sky. A dull pink glow silhouetted the jagged peaks to our right. Behind us, the forest dripped. My fingers were too damp to grip the rawhide cord wrapped around my bone knife.
Voices drifted down the shoreline. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I asked.
Fendul shrugged. “Not until the ceremony starts.”
“So you’re up this early for the fun of it.”
  The Call of the Rift: NPC designs by akrasiel


Tell us a little more about your Sensitivity Readers. How did you meet and involve them? Describe the process of threading their feedback into the writing.
:iconakrasiel:

I put feelers out in several places: the humanities department of my alma mater, the Native Friendship Centre in my hometown, literary contacts, and so on. Eventually my former CanLit professor put me in touch with one of his previous grad students, a Haida scholar and former chief of his band council. I couldn’t have asked for anyone more qualified.

I asked my sensitivity reader to point out any problems with my representation of indigenous culture. Amazingly, his only changes were typo corrections! Goes to show that hard work and caution pay off. I’d already done the heavy lifting before presenting it to him.



Throughout the novel, you navigate your characters through some pretty sensitive topics. Just a few examples: racism and violence of colonialism, the passions versus the realities of sex, alcohol abuse, and a stark, unromantic view of people headed toward war, or the trauma faced by those who have been through it. How did you and your publisher thread these topics through the needle of a Young Adult audience?  
:iconakrasiel:

I’m blessed to be with a publisher who prides themselves on being cutting-edge. Most of the topics you mention never came up as potential issues. My editor considered cutting some sexual content, and we did make one change in that area, but most ot it stayed intact. We agreed that it didn’t feel honest to censor it. Teens aren’t as naive as many adults think.

Some critics say the novel feels too complex and mature for YA. I’d reply that most YA doesn’t feel like my youth. I ran with the disillusioned punk/metal crowd, so none of that – from politics to trauma to substance abuse – was foreign. I warn people that the novel has mature content, but I have no regrets about writing it. All teenagers deserve to see themselves in fiction.



Kateiko’s adventures are certainly the stuff of fantasy on one hand, but also down to earth, intimate and familiar. How much of her was drawn from your own life, or her surroundings and people in her life from yours? Is her early desire to leave her tribe autobiographical in any way?
:iconakrasiel:

A lot of her story is autobiographical. Northern Canada is tough if you don’t fit in. There’s no one else around and no easy way out. I used to rely on inter-city buses, which have recently been cancelled and will result in a lot of hitchhiking on an infamously dangerous route. That could’ve been me. My parents thought I ran away from home at 17, just like Kateiko at that age.

That said, I don’t see her as a mirror of me. She’s like a close friend who grew up in the same place. Being indigenous comes with pros and cons: she has an unbreakable tie to her homeland, but she experiences racism that I never have or will. Her friends are loosely based on mine, both Native and non-Native. You could map our social circles as a Venn diagram.



One of your novel’s critics had some things to say about what he considered too many romantic interests on Kateiko’s part. How do you respond to that?
:iconakrasiel:

Utter disregard.

Magic aside, the novel is realistic. It covers a full year, during which Kateiko develops feelings for two guys, which is normal for that timeline. It happens. I’ve been a teenage girl. She mentions a couple past romances (oh no, a female protagonist who’s not naive and unkissed?) and interacts with a few guys in ways that could be seen as romantic if you squint, but they’re passing notes in the scope of the whole story.

It’s aggravating because it’s veiled slut-shaming. Male characters have always been allowed to have multiple love interests. Cowboys ride into town, save the damsel, and earn a kiss. Sheesh, James Bond gets a new Bond girl every movie or two.  Of course a girl going through war and trauma will have complex feelings about the men she’s near. Let her have those feelings.



I understand the book will be available in audio form soon? Who is reading it? Can you tell us about that process?
:iconakrasiel:

Yes! I’m super excited. My publisher decided to find an indigenous Canadian to narrate the audiobook, which I’m 200% on board with. I want Kateiko’s voice to be as authentic as possible. Hollywood often makes the excuse of “it’s hard to get non-white actors,” but that’s BS. They exist.

I heard test recordings from two actresses, and we went with Sera-Lys McArthur, who’s mixed-race Nakota. I sent her a bunch of notes and we video-chatted to go over pronunciation. That was cool. I’ve modelled the novel’s indigenous language off Japanese because the phonetics are straightforward, and Sera-Lys was like “yeah, that’s fine, it’s similar to Nakota.” It’s awesome working with people who know linguistics better than me. She nailed almost everything first try.

I haven’t heard recordings since then, but I visited my publisher’s Toronto office during my launch tour, and one employee mentioned she’d been to the recording studio and everything sounded great. So I’m really looking forward to it.



Finally, the question I always ask: Any advice for new writers?
:iconakrasiel:

Read widely.

Write what you’re passionate about, because you have to spend more time on it than anyone else.

Build a support network of writer friends. Value your mental health.

Everyone writes crap at first.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Samuel Beckett



Thanks very much to Jae Waller for taking the time!

The Call of the Rift: FLIGHT - ECW Press


Deviants in Print: Connor Peterson

Thu Jul 19, 2018, 5:00 AM by Memnalar:iconmemnalar:
:iconprojecteducate:
:iconprojecteducate:


Publishing Week



19029706 10209593674058843 8862198236886823949 N by Memnalar

Connor Peterson
, (WriterOfStuff) writing as Peter Dawes, the USA Today bestselling author of The Vampire Flynn Series and Deathspell, published through Crimson Melodies Publishing, LLC., of which he is one of two founding members. He is a Philadelphia Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and an assistant for the Philadelphia Free Writers Association.

When not writing and revising, rewriting and revising again, Connor spends his time on the road showing off Crimson Melodies wares at conventions in the Northeastern U.S., moderating or participating in panel discussions about the LGBT+ writing community, LGBT+ themes in comics and fiction writing, and fiction writing in general. While doing all of that, he’s also trying to keep up with his four children. My first question is obvious…

Connor, how do you do it all?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Ha! To be honest, it’s lots of planning, lots of patience and understanding from the people around me, and lots of sleep deprivation. I coordinate get-togethers weeks in advance even for social stuff. Makes me feel more important than I actually am.



You’re coming up on Crimson Melodies’ tenth anniversary. Any events planned? How did all this get started in 2009, and why?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Yes, we’re in the process of a Kickstarter campaign to expand our operations. Our next plan in world domination is creating a Pop-Up Bookstore we can take with us to conventions, so we can feature not just our work, but eventually the work of other indie authors.

We created Crimson Melodies on a lark. J. R. and I met in a collaborative writing venue and started to exchange pieces we’d done individually. J. R. discovered a natural knack for editing and from there, we’ve been running forward.



Can you please talk a bit about Crimson Melodies’ operation? How does it work? What roles do you and J.R. Wesley play?
:iconwriterofstuff:

J. R. maintains the largest parts of our operations. She oversees not just the website and our financials, but is also our primary editor. Besides writing with her and working on my own, individual projects, I’m in charge of in-person sales. Which is so baffling to me because I’m an introvert that’s discovered an extrovert switch I can flip on in public venues.

We both have a hand in our marketing and trade-off looking for new ways of expanding our reach. It’s been a lot of fun, because we’re both simpatico and get to explore our passion for independent publishing together. We’ve roped our friend, Elaine, into the mix and are slowly acquiring people into a small, close-knit community. For Keystone Comic-Con, we’re having the pleasure of working with fellow author, Wendy Gold, for instance, as a test-run of the pop-up bookstore concept.

Mostly, though? We’re executing a cautious and well-researched form of ‘winging it’.


TVF1-webimage by Memnalar

What are the advantages of forming your own independent publishing house as opposed to working through traditional methods to get published (finding an agent, querying larger publishers, etc.)? How are the challenges different?
:iconwriterofstuff:

The advantages have a lot to do with personal control. Most traditional presses purchase an astronomical amount of rights from you, some without the intention of ever using unless you become successful. This includes translation rights, audiobook rights, sometimes even film and television rights. You have to be careful before signing a contract. You also need to pay attention to the length of the contract. Copyright, these days, is the life of the author plus as many as 70 years and require buyouts if you want those rights back.

On top of it, traditionally published authors don’t make as much in royalties. With Crimson Melodies, it’s been our goal to sign authors for limited run contracts, with them keeping most of their royalties. Many other smaller, independent presses have the same ideal. The challenge, however, is establishing the marketing reach that traditional presses have. They have more money to back their favorite projects than any independent press has.




How are Crimson Melodies’ books sold, and in what formats? Which of these methods produces the most sales, and is this a surprise?
:iconwriterofstuff:

So, the amusing thing about platforms is that each book demonstrates varying strength. I say amusing, because the data nerd in me digs watching this organic sorting that our fans seem to do. We’re available on electronic platforms – Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc. – and bookstores have the option of purchasing our books, too. We also attend events like comic and anime conventions, and renaissance faires. Events like those are, by far, where we sell the most print books. (As opposed to online or in traditional bookstores.)

But to illustrate my point quickly, my historical fantasy book Deathspell doesn’t sell well as an ebook, but it’s my best seller at in-person events. Something about it speaks to people who read print books, for some reason. The Vampire Flynn sells equally as ebooks and print books, and any of my Romance books sell better as ebooks.



mini-NocturnalEmbers1 frontcover by Memnalar

Crimson Melodies has also published Nocturnal Embers, an anthology of work by a group of writers. Will there be more in the future? Are those writers chosen by invitation, or is there a submission process?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Oh yes, absolutely. We’re working on plans for the next Nocturnal Embers as we speak. Anthologies seem to be popular in the indie world right now, because they’re a great way to reach an audience you wouldn’t reach otherwise and doing the first anthology was both challenging and a lot of fun.

We’ll be releasing details about the next Nocturnal Embers either later this year or early next year. Some of the initial authors will be chosen by invitation, but it’s our goal to have at least a couple of fresh voices in each book. If you sign up for the mailing list on our Crimson Melodies website, you’ll be kept up-to-date.



What lessons have you learned over the last nine years? What do you know now that you wish you’d known before establishing Crimson Melodies?
:iconwriterofstuff:

How to be more brazen about getting your name out there. We’ve always defaulted toward wanting to be reserved and professional, and ensure we are in spaces where we’ve belonged, but in the last couple of years, we’ve been taking more risks. And it’s worked out. Not every risk is guaranteed to be a success, and some of them haven’t been, but we’ve discovered some amazing things in the process. Those lessons have allowed us to refine our marketing.

I also, personally, wish I had been more diligent about setting deadlines and goals which were more challenging. This year has been my most ambitious one, but it’s stretched me as a writer.



Shifting focus a bit. You are asked to appear on panels regarding the LGBT+ writing community as well as themes relevant to LGBT+ in fiction and comics writing. What are the most important issues on the table again and again at these panels?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Representation is a huge, and widely discussed/debated topic that comes up at these panels. One panel explored the concept of tokenism and how it both differs from representation and doesn’t present an excuse not to include more diverse casts. We’ve discussed things like fetishizing, and how it demonstrates one of the downsides to representation from cisgender or heterosexual authors, and how those authors can avoid themes and tropes which seek to fetishize the LGBTQIA+ community.



What in the fiction and/or publishing world would you like to see evolve from both the broader LGBT+ perspective, and from the trans perspective specifically? What would it take for that to happen?
:iconwriterofstuff:

This is going to sound both brutal and obvious, but the concept that we’re people. Most of the problem I ever have with representation from non-queer authors has been that we often exist in their media to appeal to their eye alone. And by that, I mean something like how women are depicted in media for the sake of the ‘male gaze’. We become paper dolls that non-marginalized authors dress up to their liking instead of being multi-faceted beings. To move away from that, non-marginalized authors need to recognize and accept that it is a thing that happens, first. Then, they need to get better at asking for our help to give more honest depictions.


mini-Deathspell1 frontcover by Memnalar

I’d now like to ask about your own writing. You focus on urban or historical fantasy and mystery with a distinctive darker tone and strong erotic themes, and the vampire is your trademark. How did you come to choose these as your primary genres and themes? Are you writing toward an audience, or is the audience coming to you?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Largely the latter, though there are times I do write more commercially-structured stories. I love vampires. Throughout history, they’ve represented the subversive side of culture and you can track what thing was considered taboo in what era purely by exploring its vampire, or vampire-esque, mythology.

I wandered into it not knowing that I needed that outlet at first. When I’ve looked back at the Vampire Flynn books, however, the largest antagonist which emerges isn’t the vampires themselves, but the organization of hunters who track down the more destructive vampires and kill them. They themselves have a lot of great things they do, on paper, but become so blinded by their own self-importance, it gives way to prejudices and abuses of power. It took a while for me to realize I was writing about my experiences in organized religion.

Something about the darker and more erotic tone speaks to me, but I haven’t fully deconstructed that yet. I’ve just accepted it’s a thing that I do.



How much of your time is divided among the writing task (including revisions and redrafts) and things like marketing, travel to conventions for appearances or sales, social media related to your books or Crimson Melodies, etc.? Do you think it’s a fair balance?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Most of the split really does favor my time spent writing and editing, though there are never enough hours in the day for anything. Appearances and conventions are huge monopolies of time when they happen, but the fortunate thing is that we have our plan of attack down seamlessly and don’t have to devote as much time now to preparation. Social media happens during the writing breaks.

Or, you know, when I’m procrastinating.



Finally, the question everyone gets asked: Any advice for new writers, or in this case, anyone new to independent publishing?
:iconwriterofstuff:

Okay, so if you’re seeking to publish independently, I’m going to assume you have your reasons for deciding not to be published by one of the larger houses. And the good news is that it’s so much easier these days to take control of your own art like this. There are so many options available to you. My recommendations are:

Make friends in the industry. And by that, I mean, real friends who are not a drain on you personally. Don’t be afraid to eschew drama and it’s not disingenuous to make friends who benefit you in some manner if you’re willing to help them, too.

Do research. And as part of that, don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. There are so many Facebook groups dedicated toward helping new authors navigate the truck load of options and flotsam that exists nowadays for us. Join them. Lurk a little. Read the threads. And ask questions. Pursue the leads they give you. And rejoin the ecosystem to offer suggestions when another newbie asks something that you can answer.

Don’t overcommit. It’s going to be tempting. Learn how to say no, nicely. You’ll thank yourself later.

Accept that this market is saturated with authors. Saturated. Your art has a place in it and will find an audience if you look for it, but the moment you look at other authors as competition, you’re going to start giving in to anger and jealousy. Make your art. Put it out there. And search for the people looking for your art.




Thanks very much to Connor Peterson for taking the time!  
Crimson Melodies Publishing, LLC

297 deviations

"You wanna see something cool, Peter?"

Marnie's hair was long, shaggy. She peered at me through it. Shy. Brown eyes behind black curtains.

Every time she said that, it was an adventure. Danny'd snicker at me. "Where'd she drag you off to this time, Pete? Catch a chicken and kill it? Pull the wings off butterflies?"

The whole town thought Marnie and her family were strange. Marnie was bullied at school. One time Danny shoved a cup of worms into her locker. Everybody thought that was real funny.

I didn’t. It was stupid. Marnie was just quiet. Her mom drank a lot, didn’t leave the house much. Her dad, well. He wasn't around.

Marnie drummed threadbare sneakers on my porch. One of her knees was scabbed.

"Sure," I said. We grabbed our bikes.

--

Marnie led me down a dirt road. She stopped, skidded up dust. I did the same. "There," she said, "We're going under the fence." She slipped her thumbs under the barbed wire and scooted under it like a raccoon. She held the wire up for me. I followed.

The mesquite trees were thick and brushy. Marnie hopped and dodged her way over and around everything like she'd lived here all her life.

The trees emptied out and we stood in front of still water. Probably a stock tank at some point.

There was a car under the water. I couldn't tell what kind. Covered with that green stuff that covers everything under water long enough.

"Damn." I said. "Did it crash?"

Marnie smirked at me. "You see any roads running through here? Somebody hid it there."

"Why?"

"You’ll find out."

"Huh?"

"I asked if you wanted to see something cool. Let's go back in the trees a while. Be dark soon."

We shared an apple and a Coke that Marnie stashed in her bag. Marnie smiled at the way I peeled it with my Scout knife. I felt myself blush.

It was dark. I mean, dark dark. Stars like you only get in the country, reflecting off the water.

"You ready?"

"Yeah, I guess."

Marnie lit a huge flashlight, one of those red ones that uses the big, square batteries.

She trained it on the car in the water. The beam played across the eerie green of the thing.   

She handed me the light. "Take it."

I took it. Pointed it at the car.

"Driver's seat."

I pointed the beam where the driver would sit.

Someone was there! Couldn’t see much, looked like someone or some thing sitting in the front seat, green moss or whatever waving from it.

“Marnie! Is that really a dead guy?”

She took the flashlight and lit up her face in that creepy-storyteller way. 

“Yeah. Cool, huh?”

“Marnie, who is it? How did it, you know, get there?”

“He’s my Dad,” Marnie said. “I put him there.”

I stared at her, my mouth hanging open. “Your…Dad?”

“Yeah. I killed him.”

I blinked.

“He was a bastard. He’s why my sister is in the state hospital. He used to visit her at night. Every night. Mom tried to get in his way. He hurt her so bad she won’t even leave the house.”

I looked around. “Why here?”

“My family owns the land.”

“Owns it?” I look around at the black pool, the gnarled trees in shadow around us. “So this is all…yours?”

“When Mom’s gone, it’ll be mine.”

 

“What did you do?” I whispered.

“The women in my family have always known how to…do…certain things. Not my Mom so much, but we have my Grandmother’s books. I sneak into the attic and read them.”

“What kinda things?”

“You know,” she said. “Powerful things. This one thing I found. Pretty simple. I just needed a graveyard. One that ain’t been blessed. Like this one.”

“What graveyard?”

“All around here. The water covers most of it up now, but my family’s been burying our dead here a long time. Preacher won't do it.”

She flashed the light around the trees. I saw them. Makeshift markers on rocks, Weathered wooden signs.

No crosses.

“Are you Devil worshippers?” I hissed it.

Marnie snickered. “You’re funny.” She put down the light and dug into her bag again, brought out a half-empty whiskey bottle. She emptied it into the lake. Then a sandwich bag, pulled out a long, slick earthworm. She dropped this in, too.

I was mystified.

“Danny Callahan, right?” She said. She’d picked up the flashlight again and was pointing it at me.

“What?” I held my hand up to the light.

“That’s his name, right? He your friend or what?”

“Uh, yeah, that’s his name. We hang out sometimes. Not really friends.”

But she wasn’t listening She was whispering.

DannyCallahanDannyCallahanDannyCallahan. Swaying back and forth. Holding the flashlight like a candle.

The she hocked and spat into the pond.

Marnie turned suddenly. “Let’s go,” she said. “We’re done.”

“Wait,” I said. “We’re done? What did we…what did you do?”

Marnie didn’t answer. She packed up supplies, turned the flashlight on the thin path, and started back to the fence. I half-ran after her.

“Marnie! What was that? What did you do? Was that magic?”

She still didn’t answer. Finally, I grabbed her shoulder. “Marnie!”

She whirled, light in my face.

“Never touch me.”

I backed away. “I’m sorry. That was dumb. But you’re being really weird.”

“I asked you if you wanted to see something cool. That was cool, right?”

“Yeah. I guess. Scared the shit out of me.”

“Yeah,” Marnie grumbled. “It’s magic.”

“Like for real? What’s going to happen to Danny? Why did you do that?”

She was shaking. The flashlight beam shook with her. Finally, she stomped off, growling her words.

“You want to know what’ll happen? Nothing. Nothing will happen. I’ve tried so many things in those damn books, and nothing ever happens. It’s all bullshit. I just do it to make myself feel better.”

“Huh? If it doesn’t work, then how did your Dad…”

“I poisoned his drink, Peter. Recipe’s in one of my Grandma’s books. That worked. Then me and Mom tied him down inside that stupid car of his and rolled him into the pond.”

She was crying.  We were at the fence. She put one hand on the wire.

“I just want it to stop. The staring. Everyone talking about me. The laughing. I know what you all say about me, about my Mom, my whole family. I’m tired of getting beaten up at school, head dunked in the toilet, my bike stolen and thrown on the roof. And then the other day, Danny put the worms in my locker. Everybody saw it! Everybody laughed! Those fucking worms!”

I just stood there. She sat down, I sat next to her while she cried.

I hated that she was in pain, and yet, I would have given anything to stay like that forever.

--

I hadn’t seen Marnie in days, but I expected her soon. Now, she was knocking at my bedroom door. I was surprised Mom let her in.

“Hey.”

Marnie looked confused. “Have you been here the whole time? What are you doing?”

I shrugged. “Finishing up homework.  Come on in.”

“Why is it so dark?”

“I like the desk lamp. Overhead lights give me headaches.”

“Oh. Look, I need to tell you. Um. Danny’s dead.”

“What? Danny?”

“Yeah. Danny Callahan.”

“He’s dead? When? How?”

“Couple hours ago. They said he was beaten to death. And Peter, his mouth was full of worms!”

Earthworms? You mean just like…”

“Yes, Peter. Just like the…thing we did. That I did.” She hugged herself, looked away.

“Hey,” I said, holding her shoulder until she looked back at me, “Isn’t this good, though? Isn’t this what you wanted?”

“That I wanted?” She looked confused. “I don’t know…I…”

“Your magic worked, Marnie!” I said. “You’re powerful. No one will ever laugh at you again!”

“My magic…worked?” Her eyes got wide.  

I smiled.  “Are you okay now?”

Marnie held her fingers to her chin. “Yeah. I think so.” Then, she smiled. “Thanks, Peter.”

I smiled back.

“I’d better go. Mom might need me.”

“Should I come with you?”

“No. But I’ll call you later on. Maybe we can go back to the pond.”

“I’d like that,” I said.

Marnie turned to leave. She stopped halfway out the door. Without turning, she asked, “Peter?”

“Yeah?”

“Those pictures all over your walls. Are they all of me?”

I smiled and looked at the ground, embarrassed. I’d hoped the lights were too dim, but. “You noticed, huh? Yeah, pretty much.”

“Cool.” She said, and closed my door behind her as she left.

I reached my hand under my mattress. I drew out the baseball bat, inspected the layers of Saran-Wrap to make sure none had come undone, and shoved it into my duffel bag. Good thing I saved my paper route money, I thought to myself, I’ll need a new bat soon.

After all, who knew when Marnie would need to use her magic again?

Damned Kids
Nasty bit of business.  When did I stop writing in paragraphs? Weird.

It's for Game of Genres, Week 1. 20th Century Horror.

EDIT: 1500 words on the nose.
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:iconphantasien:
Phantasien Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for your fave, dear! Much appreciated! :heart:

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Phantasien
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:iconmemnalar:
Memnalar Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2018
Of course!  It's awesome, and that goes for your other work, too!
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner May 29, 2018   Writer
Hello! I thought to write you a note, but maybe it fits here. I've felt so busy I now feel behind on a lot of things. But I do read literature DDs and enjoy them. I miss you, though; comments on any of my work you may have read, comments in general! So I visit your page and hope to see what you're up to. Ah hell. I have another hope; that you'd someday lit crit a recent piece I wrote. Um. But honestly there haven't been many lately. Dither....
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:iconmemnalar:
Memnalar Featured By Owner May 29, 2018
You know, it's funny you stopped by and said this, because I did read The Hostile Takeover recently. I liked that very much, but I rarely say anything about political pieces because I just get angry and start ranting and raving. That shouldn't be your problem, though. I'm very sorry I didn't comment, and even more so that I've been so bad about reading stuff around here. Not just yours, but that of others, too. You've certainly been a lot more attentive to my writing than I've been to yours, certainly. I apologize for that, and I'll try to be better.

In the meantime, is there anything specific you'd like thoughts on?
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Edited May 29, 2018   Writer
Oh, my dear. You shouldn't have asked that question (nor should you feel bad for any length of time!). I have several pieces I'd like you to read. OR you could choose the one I mention last. Here they are, all non-fic stories about one relationship in particular: fav.me/dbgrcxz and fav.me/dbhiszy and fav.me/dbiSsgf and fav.me/dbs5ogq and the last is: fav.me/dc9vg97 ...If you just want to do one, I think fav.me/dbs5ogq is the one I'd prefer. They're all pretty short, but I ask too much, most likely, to answer your perfectly innocent question! lol Do exactly what you want and no more. I'll still read your work and comment, no matter what. Plenty of folks don't read my work, but are read by me. I'm not angry or put-out by any of them, you included. (:

Oh, and I'm so glad you like The Hostile Takeover. Politics is driving me up the wall lately. I also rant and rave, and try to not become too obsessed. :shrug:
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:iconmemnalar:
Memnalar Featured By Owner May 30, 2018
Happily reading these, but that third link is coming up broken.  :(
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(1 Reply)
:iconlipsterleo:
LipsterLeo Featured By Owner May 27, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for favoring my FF piece, the Town Clock. I'm honored.
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:iconmemnalar:
Memnalar Featured By Owner May 29, 2018
Most welcome!
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:icondoolhoofd:
doolhoofd Featured By Owner May 18, 2018
I sent you a note.
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:iconmemnalar:
Memnalar Featured By Owner May 18, 2018
Yep, I got it.  Haven't had a chance yet to give your piece a thorough read, but I will.  :)   I appreciate your patience.
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