Release Day for “Romulus Buckle & the Luminiferous Aether”

So, here we are at last! Release Day for Romulus Buckle and the Luminiferous Aether has arrived and I am thrilled with the support I’ve received from family, fellow authors and readers. I hope everyone enjoys the book, and the paperback version will be available mid-January. Thank you!

Also, please remember there are a couple of Giveaways for free Kindle copies out there, attached to my first three chapter sneak peek at SFSignal and my character art reveal at The Qwillery! You can check both articles out further in the blog posts preceding this one.

Romulus Buckle III Final Luminiferous Aether


Guest Posting Down Under

I’m jazzed to be able to guest post on the blog of awesome author and pal Australian Mark T. Barnes where I talk about why I chose the steampunk genre for my novel series, what the heck steampunk actually is and how the series got published. And other stuff too. Click on image to follow the link to Mark’s Blog.



Author Angela D. Mitchell Interview & Her New Novella, “Dancing Days”

It’s my honor and privilege to welcome author Angela D. Mitchell as a guest on my Bag of Good Writing Blog today. She is an accomplished author and she’s here to talk writing, author PR, “Falada,” fairy tales and her new novella, “Dancing Days.” Let’s get to it!

Q: Welcome to the blog, Angela!
A: Thank you! It’s great to be here.

Q: First things first, so please introduce us to your new fantasy novella, “Dancing Days,” and perhaps let us in on the genesis of your story idea.IMG_2027A: My novella Dancing Days was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Red Shoes.” The original story is about vanity and punishment (especially female vanity) – Karen, a little girl, lies and schemes for the beautiful red shoes, and eventually finds that she can’t remove them – and that wearing them, she is cursed to dance without stopping, leading her to a brutal repentance.

In my own take, I wanted to go beyond the cautionary fairy tale and its spoiled little Karen and bring it into today’s world, to the urban fantasy niche, telling the story of a girl who is so warped by her own poverty and need that there is no price she won’t pay to escape them.

Enter the red shoes. But they come with a heavy price. And she continues to pay that price right into adulthood, hiding the curse of the red shoes because she loves them just as much as she hates them, and they have blessed her life just as greatly as they’ve cursed it. I also wanted to let her tell her story herself, in the first person, so that it reads almost like a confessional.

I was really excited by the possibilities of my new take on the story – I’d originally written it as a short story that was published in Fables Magazine years back, where I was very proud that it won the Reader’s Choice Award for that year, but the idea never left me, and over the last few years I kept thinking of my Karen, and I felt there was more to say. So I decided to really tell the story I wanted to tell, and expanded that original short into a full-length novella. I loved the idea that vanity and greed weren’t just there to curse Karen, but also to empower and drive her in her struggle to escape extreme poverty. Being able to explore those ideas in a novella allowed me to develop Karen as a complex and eventually sympathetic character, and her will, relentlessness, and yearning became the foundation for “Dancing Days.”

It’s a tragic and very gothic take on the story, but there’s also suspense, romance, and unexpected magic, and I really hope people enjoy it.

Q: ‘Gothic’ is always up my alley. You have also recently released another novella, titled “Falada.” Can you tell us a bit about that story as well?

FaladaA: Falada is directly inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “The Goose Girl.” In that story, the heroine is set up to marry a distant king, but is victimized almost immediately by an evil maid. Everything that follows happens because she is unable to (or afraid to) speak up. I always loved the story (and especially the character of Falada, the talking horse), but I was frustrated with the heroine’s passivity.

So as with “Dancing Days,” I wanted to use some of the original story’s major elements, but spin them to create what I felt might be richer and more complex motivations for everyone from the heroine (named Géanna in my story, from the Irish for ‘goose’), to her mother (a powerful witch-queen), to the maid Marah, and to Falada himself. And most especially, to turn the original idea of simple cruelty and betrayal on its head, so that in fact it is actually ultimately a story of love and sacrifice.

Q: You certainly seem to feel comfortable in the wild, wooly and weird realms of fairy tales. Which fairy tales are your favorites and how did those lead to Dancing Days and Falada?

A: I was always inspired by fairy tales as a child, and alongside Tolkien and Lewis, they were my first real exposure to fantasy as a genre. I especially loved the combination of savagery and innocence, the idea of going into the forest to find the magic, and that a happy ending wasn’t a guarantee. I also loved that fairy tales are predominantly about girls and women, as heroines and as villains. As a little girl who loved Tolkien’s Eowyn and who kept looking for more fantasy heroines, fairy tales provided an unexpected glimpse of girls and women who faced danger and found strength and empowerment.
My favorite fairy tales tended to be the darker ones – in addition to “The Red Shoes” and “The Goose Girl,” I especially loved “Allerleirauh” (and the Perrault take on this same motif in “Donkeyskin”) “The Wild Swans,” “King Thrushbeard,” and “The Snow Queen.”

Q: As writers we all have our imaginary environments which haunt us and continually seem to demand that our story appear within their snowglobes. For you, what is the great attraction of writing inside the fairy tale realm, and have you written other stories in other genres?

Betrayals of WomenA: My primary genre is fantasy, but I’ve also written some darker, horror-tinged pieces like “The Bridge,” (a gothic, twisted “Beauty and the Beast” exploration with a female troll at the center) or the story “Safe,” from my short story collection The Betrayals of Women., in which a little girl chooses to knowingly get in the car with a predator rather than sit there one more hour alone and waiting in the rain.

For me, the power of a myth or fairy tale archetype is the excitement of exploring why a certain aspect has remained so fascinating or powerful through the ages. It’s not so much wanting to retell a story we already know, as it is about my becoming inspired by a particular idea and then wanting to spin that idea into something new and original.
For instance, I was always frustrated by the common trope of the woman who is forbidden like a child from doing something (usually one specific thing), but who then always cracks, often leading to the ruin of herself and even of mankind as a whole. These kinds of tales include Eve and the apple, Pandora and the box, Bluebeard’s bride, Psyche and Cupid, and others.

The BridgeSo I began to think about these ‘betrayals’ of women, and what they were actually saying, and thought it would be interesting to weave them all together into my own tapestry, in which I gave the women what I felt might be more understandable motivations than sudden impulse – and that became the title story for my short story collection. In my take, Eve isn’t weak when she eats the apple, she’s actively choosing knowledge over innocence, and when Pandora opens the box, she does so in knowing retribution against those who shun and fear her. Meanwhile, in my version, Bluebeard’s bride never opens the door of the bloody chamber at all. He asked her for one thing, she agreed, and she sticks to the bargain (and so she never finds out who or what her husband may be capable of).

What’s great about these kinds of explorations is that they have become a whole subgenre in fantasy fiction now. So I was exhilarated when I reached adolescence and discovered wonderful authors like Angela Carter and Robin McKinley, who used some of those classic motifs to create brand-new stories, villains and brave heroines, and complex worlds. Carter brought a grown-up sensuality and horror to the fairy tale universe, while McKinley showed me complex and powerful yet vulnerable heroines who inhabited those worlds in brand-new ways, in gorgeous books like The Hero and the Crown, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End, Sunshine, and others. McKinley also did a gorgeous novel based on the “Donkeyskin” fable in her story Deerskin, and as with Sunshine, it’s a great example of a fantasy story that’s as much horror tale as it is fairy tale.

Even just this year, Naomi Novik made the New York Times bestseller list by exploring a host of classic fairy tale elements (especially “Beauty and the Beast”) in her wonderful fantasy novel Uprooted.

So there’s always a new way to explore those old archetypes and ideas – they persist for a reason. While I do occasionally branch out into urban fantasy and horror, I’ll probably always sneak in a fairy tale or classical myth reference here or there.

Q: You have written a lot of plays. What is the biggest difference, as you first sit down to write your story, between attacking a play format and that of a novel/novella?

A: With me, I always know right away if it’s going to be a play because I’ll just hear the dialogue, the rhythmic back-and-forth cadence between specific voices. I’ll get the idea shakespeare-spoilersfor the first scene or two simply because I can already hear the conversation in my head. I wrote my two-act comedy Aggro, for instance, because I could already hear the first conversation in my head – the one in which a woman tells her husband she’s just lost her job.

Plays are typically about revealing story and motivation through a kind of pure dance of dialogue, while fiction is really about getting that big idea and wanting to move in, explore it, paint the world, describe it, and bring it to life. And then live there awhile.

Q: As a full-time publicist and media expert, I’d like to zero in on a topic close to the heart of many indie writers: in this day and age of our indie-book-saturated internet, could you tell us a self-PR book strategy (outside of hiring you to do it, of course) that seems to be working well for indie authors an perhaps another one which is proving to be an ineffective waste of energy and time?

A: First off, one of the ironies of my 15 years as an independent publicist is that despite my experiences promoting wonderful creatives, artists, studios, festivals, photographers and musicians, I’m just really getting a feel for the world of literary and book publicity over the past year, so I’m not as much of an expert as I’d like to be. It’s incredibly complex and challenging, but also very exciting right now, because there are so many new opportunities for authors to simply get their work seen on their own terms.

I think the biggest challenge for most authors today – especially for indie authors – is that self-promotion can be a massive undertaking – it’s exhaustive and can easily become a full-time job that overtakes your writing time if you let it. But on the other hand, it’s so crucial – promoting your work is the only thing that’s going to build your audience and get you that readership that will continue to grow as your body of work does. Unfortunately, day by day, with the constant white noise of the web, all that self-promotion work is more important than ever, from blog tours, giveaways, and discounts, to social media and maintaining those constant review submissions. They’re all are just as important as that wonderful story or that perfect line of beautiful prose.

With that said, in terms of PR tools that can’t go wrong? Be prepared. You may not be a New York Times bestseller yet, but you ought to look like you are. This means that you should have a press kit that you keep up to date on a constant basis, and that includes one-page promotional pieces on each book or major work you’ve published. Spotlight the great reviews, promote accolades and awards, and use social media in a way that makes readers feel appreciated. Maintain connections with past and potential reviewers, and be respectful and appreciative of their time and attention. Promote each positive review you get on social media, and make sure you add mentions of them to the appropriate areas on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, etc.

In addition, it’s vital to have a clean, attractive and easy to navigate website (even better if you’re blogging about your work, or even generally about the kind of fiction you yourself like to write), and most of all, make sure your site, materials and releases always include a way for editors and reporters to reach you quickly and easily, even if it’s just via a dedicated Gmail address.

It’s always invaluable to quantify where you fit. Which authors would your book most likely sit beside on a shelf? And it goes beyond the literary — is there a television show, movie franchise, or band that has the same sensibilities, style, or storytelling approach? You can use that knowledge in so many ways to expand your own readership and fanbase.

Meanwhile, although I’m a big PR fan over advertising, I do think that savvy advertising can be useful and powerful, even on a budget, but you just want to be careful that you’re not preaching to the choir. Thus far, I’ve found that some indie ad promotions and services aren’t as useful as they might be because they’re really focused on reaching writers, not readers. This isn’t everyone, but it is a fair number, so it’s always best to really do your research, check out stats, and when in doubt, go with avenues that are dedicated to reaching wide reader bases, alongside very focused and keyword-centric Facebook and Twitter campaigns.

Q: Which social media platform do you think is working best for indie authors right now? Twitter? Facebook?

A: I think Twitter is incredibly valuable for staying in touch with your readership and for keeping the information flowing. But I actually think Facebook is more powerful for finding new readers and audiences overall. Facebook is a slower and more thoughtful environment that’s all about reading, scrolling, posting, etc., while Twitter is more brief and of the moment. We don’t tend to leisure over Twitter the way we might over Facebook.

Both Twitter and Facebook are great places to get your readers excited about helping get the word out about your work, so giveaways, special promotions and discounts always work especially well on those platforms too. The main thing is to build your brand while encouraging interaction and sharing – each share gets you in front of a new potential audience, a new potential reader.

Q: You (and I) are both fully participating in a new (2014) author publishing collective called Westmarch publishing. How would you describe your experiences with Westmarch so far?

A: Really remarkable – the best of all worlds. It’s a tremendous mix of writing, editing, and creative talent, and I’ve found it to be one of the richest and most rewarding WestmarchFinal_greenexperiences of my life as a writer. It’s been such a treat to work alongside some of the best and most dedicated authors I know (yourself included!), and to exchange ideas, strategies, support, appreciation, and more.

I think the best aspect of Westmarch for me is not only the continuous source of joy, fellowship and encouragement I’ve received, but also the ongoing and continuous exchange of ideas and strategies in today’s ever-changing world, on everything from literary sales, marketing, and promotion, to audience and readership development, and more.

Q: Thanks, Angela–it has been wonderful to get to work with you as well! Now, just a few of my Actor’s Studio questions you need to answer, and then you may escape back to your writing desk.

1) What is your favorite restaurant? Either Antoine’s in New Orleans, Agnanti in Astoria, New York, or Les Halles in NYC.

2) If you could be reincarnated as an animal, which one would you choose? A wild orca. Seeing them in the wild is one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had while living in the Pacific Northwest, and they’re magnificent creatures. And they’re so connected – there’s such a sense of life, vitality, language, and connectedness among the wild orca families, it’s a really special thing. So yeah, that’s what I’d come back as.

3) If you could pick one line from one of your novels as your tombstone epitaph, what would it be? From Falada: “I was free—a creature of the wide world—and I could only be what I was.”

Richard: I learned a lot today–this was great! Thanks so much, Angela D. Mitchell!

Angela: Thank you – it was a pleasure and a privilege.


Angela D MitchellAngela Mitchell is a writer, columnist and playwright whose stories have appeared in FABLES MAGAZINE, ANOTHEREALM, TERROR TALES, and more. Her story “Until My Dancing Days Are Done,” received the Reader’s Choice Award from FABLES MAGAZINE and will soon be released as the expanded novella DANCING DAYS. Her book of short stories THE BETRAYALS OF WOMEN is available now, along with her story THE BRIDGE, and her just-released novella FALADA.

Angela has always been inspired by fairy tales and legends, as well as by authors like Robin McKinley, Angela Carter, Gregory Maguire, Peter S. Beagle, and others who found new magic in the oldest of stories. She brings to her worlds a delicate sense of dread and enchantment, and of beauty and beastliness around every corner.

Other works soon to be released by Angela via Westmarch Publishing include the novella DANCING DAYS, the novel VAN GOGH SKY, and a memoir of her childhood experiences in crossing the Atlantic Basin, entitled 1001 POTENTIAL CATASTROPHES AT SEA. Her plays include AGGRO, BETWEEN THE WISH AND THE THING LIFE, and MISSING THE COMET.

Author Robert Kroese on his successful DIS Trilogy Kickstarter and new novel City of Sand

Author Rob Kroese is a prolific novelist who operates in both the independent and traditional publishing worlds. Today I’ll ask him about his recent DIS trilogy Kickstarter (it was fully funded in a lightning flash but ongoing so you can still support it and get free copies of his novels and other cool rewards!) and his latest novel City of Sand, which is something of a genre-departure for him.

Richard: Welcome to the blog, Rob! First I’d like to discuss your latest Kickstarter project which has already topped its funding goal but is active with reward goodies through Thursday, April 9th, 2015. Please tell us a bit about the DIS Trilogy, which your kickstarter is fueling.

65b573b5c3247db1671cbf49545af0a8_originalRob: Thanks, Richard! In 2012, my satirical epic fantasy novel Disenchanted was published by 47North, Amazon’s sci-fi/fantasy imprint. It was a lot of fun to write, and it was well received by readers and reviewers. I’ve been meaning to publish more adventures set in the land of Dis for a while, and finally decided it was time. I’m doing two sequels, Disillusioned and Distopia. Both books will be independently published, which means I’ve got to handle the editing, cover design, marketing, etc. all myself.

The Dis trilogy is made up of three vaguely related novels that take place in the mythical land of Dis. Disenchanted tells the story of Boric the Implacable, an undead king who must travel across Dis to rid himself of an enchanted sword and finally get some peace. I’ll be following up Disenchanted with Disillusioned, which tells the tale of Wyngalf the Bold, a young missionary who realizes that he is the only one who can save the land of Dis from the scourge of dragons. Distopia, which completes the trilogy, follows a knight named Vergil who wishes he had been born during Dis’s heroic age, when men fought monsters and dragons–but soon has more adventure than he ever wanted.

53fc8c371a1ee5d9e89690fd5781ab2c_originalRichard: The speed of your DIS Trilogy kickstarter funding was blinding—fulfilled in what, three days? How do you explain such quick success?

Rob: Honestly, I’m a little shocked myself. It took just over three days to meet my goal of $3,000. Currently the project is just over $3,500, and we might actually hit $4,000 by the target date of April 9. Maybe the recent death of Terry Pratchett has left people craving more humorous fantasy? Whatever the explanation, it’s very gratifying to see this level of support for a project.

Richard: R.I.P Terry Pratchett. As an aside, a number of my readers have compared my writing (in a small way) to Terry’s over the years and I’ve quietly worn that as a little badge of honor. It’s tough to lose him so early. But enough about my ego and back to our discussion at hand. If you had an advice for Kickstarter project newbies, what would that be? What elements of your project were fails, in your opinion, and which elements proved the biggest successes? *(By the way, Rob’s DIS Kickstarter is still running and you can check it out by clicking on the graphic link just below.)

DisBooks-300x211Rob: Beyond the basics of making a clear, convincing pitch for your project, I’d say it’s Cover_Kindle-267x400very important to offer compelling rewards to backers. I don’t necessarily mean expensive rewards; often the best rewards are intangible. For example, with the Dis Trilogy, I’m giving higher-level supporters the chance to have a geographic feature in the mythical land of Dis named after them. Ideally, you want each level to seem like a slightly better value than the one below it. For example, at the $5 level, the supporter gets a single ebook. At the $10 level, they get not two, but three ebooks (the two Dis books and an additional bonus book). So a $5 pledge is a reasonably good value, but the $10 pledge seems more attractive. And the higher you go, the more you get for your money.

Richard: Last but not least, let’s discuss your latest novel, CITY OF SAND (disclaimer: I was one of the development editors on the manuscript and I think it’s great, so there) from indie author collective Westmarch Publishing. It’s a mix of old gumshoe noir (Chinatown) and mind-bending Philip K. Dick, as you have described it. Can you give us a brief introduction to the novel?

City of Sand Cover - KindleRob: As you mentioned, the idea behind City of Sand was “Chinatown as told by Philip Dick.” I’ve always loved stories where the protagonist’s own perceptions and memories of reality are called into doubt. I worked for several years in Silicon Valley, and I only found out afterwards how badly the groundwater is has been polluted in that area by tech companies. It was a disturbing sort of realization, that this supposedly “clean” industry is responsible for some of the most polluted groundwater in the country. It reminded me of the insidious corruption that characterizes noir movies like Chinatown. I thought it would be interesting to combine those two elements: a detective is trying to solve a conventional murder, but the truth is more horrifying than he can even imagine.

Richard: City of Sand is very different from your previous books – such as the humorous Mercury series – what was it like for you playing in this new ‘sandbox?” (canned laughter, applause)

StarshipGriftersCover600x900-266x400Rob: To be honest, it was HARD. I like writing fast-paced, silly novels with a lot of explosions and jokes. Writing a novel like City of Sand is almost like work. I think it turned out pretty well, but I’m going to stick to jokes and explosions for a while.

Richard: You (and I) are both participating in a new (2014) author publishing collective called Westmarch Publishing. How would you describe your experiences with Westmarch so far, as compared to your fully independent and traditional publishing house (47North) projects?

Rob: There are advantages and disadvantages so independent publishing. The advantages are mainly that you have more control over the product and you net a higher percentage of the sales price on your books. One of the big disadvantages is that publishing a book is a lot of work, and requires several different skillsets, such as developmental editing, WestmarchFinal_greenproofreading, and graphic design. Most people don’t possess all these skills, and it’s always a bad idea to try to edit or proofread your own book. A collective like Westmarch ameliorates those disadvantages by allowing us to take advantage of other authors’ talents and abilities. I’ve done two books with Westmarch so far, and both Dis books will be release as Westmarch titles as well. I think it’s a fantastic way to publish.

Richard: Now, just a few of my Actor’s Studio questions you need to answer, and then you may escape back to your writing desk. 1) What is your favorite restaurant? 2) If you could be reincarnated as an animal, which one would you choose? 3) If you could pick one line from one of your novels as your tombstone epitaph, what would it be?

cover1-266x400Rob: 1) Waffle House. Well, maybe not my favorite, but it did sustain me on a motorcycle trip across the country last year.
2) Is this like on The Wire, McNulty’s boss asks him where he doesn’t want to be transferred, so he can screw him by putting him on harbor patrol? I don’t think I’m going to answer this one, because I’m afraid you’ll pull some strings and prevent me from being a fox. I mean ostrich. I want to be an ostrich. Not a fox.
3) “So it turns out my linoleum installer is in league with Satan.”

LOL! Thanks, Rob Kroese!

Author BIO and Contact Information

Author Rob KroeseRobert Kroese’s sense of irony was honed growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan – home of the Amway Corporation and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, and the first city in the United States to fluoridate its water supply. In second grade, he wrote his first novel, the saga of Captain Bill and his spaceship Thee Eagle. This turned out to be the high point of his academic career. After barely graduating from Calvin College in 1992 with a philosophy degree, he was fired from a variety of jobs before moving to California, where he stumbled into software development. As this job required neither punctuality nor a sense of direction, he excelled at it. In 2009, he called upon his extensive knowledge of useless information and love of explosions to write his first novel, Mercury Falls. Since then, he has three more books in the Mercury series; a humorous epic fantasy, Disenchanted; and a quantum physics noir thriller, Schrodinger’s Gat. His latest book is Starship Grifters.

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