Cover Reveal: Fresh Re-Imagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder is a driven, fantastical, lyrical retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in a world just adjacent of our own.

People have been wondering what my “SUPER SECRET” project has been lately, and I’m proud to tell you all about it!

Five or so years ago, Alyson Grauer (Aly) came and stayed with me and my family. This was a fortuitous meeting for both of us, and it felt strange that two people could be so similar yet live thousands of miles apart. This was close to the same time her book On the Isle of Sound and Wonder would be released.

The beautiful book was released in 2014 to tumultuous applause, but with the passing of time has been slowly quieted by the ever drowning sea of books. This little book was all but forgotten until a small conversation this summer planted the seeds of a much bigger adventure.

After some simmering on the idea, Aly messaged me and said she was all in; she wanted her book to get new breath. We worked on it secretly trying to iron out details, giving smallish hints of the rumbles going on. When I spontaneously hopped on a plane to Florida to help her attack some of the critical steps in finalizing everything, I think people started to suspect something was up. Finally, we are in a place to share what we’ve been working on.

Several may recall that I received my publishing rights in January of this year, re-releasing my books under my own indie press. This experience taught me a lot, I mean A LOT, and helped me gain confidence that I can do about anything and ignited my desire to help others with all the things I had learned. On the Isle of Sound and Wonder is Shadesilk’s first adventure in Indie press from an author.

With the independent spirit in mind, I wanted Aly to retain as much integrity with her book as possible. Shadesilk was used as a guiding hand and a launch pad for this magical book to reach a new audience, and hopefully rebuild confidence and renew the beauty it once had.

I thought I would send Aly some questions to help you know more about her and this incredible book. Here are her heartfelt answers.

How do you feel about relaunching your book? 
I am so excited to bring this book back in a new way. On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that it was first published, but on the other, so much has changed since then, and there were things I had taken for granted in my manuscript that I really, really wanted to change. I didn’t do a complete rewrite and overhaul of the novel, but I made some well-needed adjustments and I am so pleased with how it fit together. I can’t wait to share this stronger, updated version with the world.

What does this story mean to you? 
In many ways, Sound and Wonder was a surprise to me. I had the idea during National Novel Writing Month 2013 to do a rewrite or retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and I kind of just let my imagination run wild with it. Then, in reworking and revising it for publication, I learned so many things about how complicated and challenging I had made it for myself in retrospect. I had never written anything like it: large cast, complex backstories, vengeance and dark magic and a lot of hard emotions woven throughout. Oh wait. Actually. The first long-form work I had ever drafted in high school was a historical fiction pirate story with a large cast, complex backstories, and vengeance charged with difficult emotions. No magic in that one, just a lot of cruel twists of fate. I’ve never realized this parallel before! 

What are some changes we can see in this version?
No spoilers, but there was a specific moment late in the story cut from the original version by editors that has been rightfully restored.
Also, what was I thinking, writing a 25 page prologue that was a flashback-within-a-flashback??? I’ve restructured the opening chapters more sensibly and smoothed out the distribution of flashbacks across the board. 

How has your writing changed over the years?
In the NaNoWriMo community people refer to ‘pantsers’ and ‘plotters’ – that is to say, people who write by the seat of their pants, and people who plot until they can’t anymore and then they start writing. For my whole life I was a pantser, and a lot of Sound and Wonder’s original drafts were pantsed, to a degree. But the thing I forgot was that I wasn’t truly pantsing — I was using Shakspeare’s dramatic structure from The Tempest to guide me. So I was pantsing-with-a-plot? It’s a mess in my head. 
Since the original release of this book, I have read much more widely in fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction, and done a lot more research on how other successful authors hone their crafts. I read a lot of Brandon Sanderson, too, which changed the way I viewed epic fantasy.

Oh, and I married a plotter. So I became one too, much to my chagrin. 

What projects are you most excited by?
I like stories that have high emotional value, stories that connect with people and move them – whether it’s drama or comedy, romance or mystery. I love a sense of wonder and whimsy – magic that isn’t quite what you think it is, or unusual, silly twists on traditional archetypes or tropes. I see things in cinematic scale, and sometimes I have a hard time giving myself permission to zoom in or zoom out to find the right balance for a story, but I love when the action, the feeling, and the characters all join together.

You can find Aly’s book for Pre-Order at the Shadesilk Webstore here! And follow all the @dreamstobecome media on Twitter and Instagram!

Project Conjectrix – Journey of the Misprinted Misfits

Conjectrix:

In Latin it means: diviner, female soothsayer, female dream interpreter.

I used this word in my second novel for all three definitions. But, I added that this magical item, called the Conjectrix, traveled around to different locations. How appropriate for the adventure it is about to embark on.

I’m sure authors know what I’m talking about when I say MISFITS. It’s not a regular term that we use, but there are always mistakes that happen when printing books, it’s a hazard of the trade. The printing is too dark, the numbers are wrong, the cover is misaligned, I’ve heard of a different book actually being printed under the wrong cover, misspellings, formatting goofs… you name it, it happens, especially in the world of fast printing jobs and POD. I have a lot of these misfits hanging around my garage. I bet many authors do too.

But what do we do with these misfits? Burning them sometimes feels appropriate. Tearing out pages to use as craft projects, I’ve actually done that. They hang around in our basements like gremlins, knowing exactly that they are not sell-able and how costly the error is. It’s so much money wasted.

People may think they might be of value some day, you know, when you become famous. That’s why they creep around for so long. With my first printing of Vivatera that I yanked from Amazon a few months after publication, I found one listed as a “rare” book, which in truth I guess it was, since I only printed very few of them. The copy listed on Amazon for $865. I laughed. WOW! No one is going to buy that.

My misfits have grown fewer as I grow more established, more smart about my purchasing, more and more willing to pitch the trash. My newest misfit though is not something I’m willing to just toss. A couple of problems: I love this book. It was my favorite to write. Not many have read it. It’s the second in the series, and I’m having an internal struggle with what I should do with them, something rather than just let them sit in my garage. They are screaming to be read.

Here is the problem.

Now that my publisher has finished my series, it was discussed to make a box set and redo the first cover and update the second. I really like how Conjectrix looks. It was a fine cover before, but it wasn’t outstanding like my first book.

The covers are very new. I hadn’t seen them in print yet. I have a book signing coming up that I prepared as my box set release. I ordered my new books and received them on Saturday.

It’s always a thrill when you get new books, so I opened them right when they arrived. My new Vivatera cover is a little on the dark side, but I can handle that. My Conjectrix, however, has a misprint on the cover involving the font.

My series is known for its font, it’s nearly an identifiable trademark. So, when I look at Conjectrix both the font on the spine and the back are wrong. My heart sank. I can’t sell this as part of a box set, it doesn’t match. That’s what people look for, all the matching covers. I contacted my publisher and they were quick to fix it.

But the question remains, what do I do with these misfits?

We live so globally. And we are all so connected. Nothing seems small anymore. Back in September, I tagged one of my favorite authors on Twitter, knowing she would be at Salt Lake Comic Con. When I came over, dressed as one of her characters, she knew EXACTLY who I was and we struck up a quick friendship. The weaving of connectivity is astonishing. I’ve always wished I could be more connected with readers and I feel this mistake might be my chance.

I have always wanted to leave a book on a train, letting it fall in the hands of a random reader. Like in the movie Orange County, a random encounter with a book could change your life. This is exactly what I am preparing to do with my misfit copies of Conjectrix.

In the book, the heroine Naomi uses the Conjectrix to see where her friends are. I’d like to do the same here. In these misfit copies I have placed a little note with a QR code linking to my website. Here you can share where it has been and how you came across it. Naomi also uses it to travel across her world. This is also a goal. I’d like to see where these books go, like wheresgeorge.com. If you decide to keep it as a treasure, I can’t blame you, but the intent is to share.

The downside to a lot of this, Conjectrix is the second in the series. Though it is good on its own, it is better as a companion. If you do find one of these books, I’ve kinda handled the problem within the note. 😉

I plan on posting where I will drop a few of them. One I know will land in Kansas, one will most likely be heading to Florida, one might even travel to Argentina. Who knows where these little books might go. I feel like I did in third grade when I launched a balloon in the air with a note attached to it, hoping to hear from some stranger far away. I’m fascinated by life beyond my sight, and how others discover imagination. What a beautiful idea, this experimental extension of human connection.

God speed my little Conjectrix. May all those who you touch ride on the wings of dragons.

Follow my Instagram (candacejthomas) to see where I will be making the drops.

Vampire-ish Cover Reveal – Hypochondria and a Hybrid Author

Big News! I Got Rejected!

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Monica is amazing. Ampersand Book Covers

Before you all start crying for me, don’t. Rejection happens a LOT as a writer. And it’s something you truly never get over. Artists tend to be protective of their creations, and it takes a lot of bravery to release it – every single time. So, to be knocked down and kicked in the stomach repeatedly starts to ware on the spirit.

But, there is a point when you need to come to grips with the rejections you get. Each one you can learn from, so there is a process of improvement, but sometimes, it has nothing to do with your writing, and everything to do with personal preference.

I submitted to an open submission in January. In March, they requested the entire manuscript. Then June 1st, I received their polite rejection and how it doesn’t fit with their current readership.

In my current case, it comes down to genre. And let’s be specific. . . VAMPIRES.

People hear Vampire and automatically turn away. “I don’t read Vampire fiction.” “I’m not into Twilight.” “Vampires. Why are you writing about vampires? That’s ten years ago.” I get rejections from agents strictly because of this. So, I researched who would want vampire fiction. And you know what I heard back? “This is not a vampire story. This is a story that happens to be about a vampire.”

Yep. All true. And I won’t lie, I’m not a vampire reader either. So, why did I write a story about a vampire? Well, sit down and let me tell you a story about me, and also, introduce you to Oliver Brixby.

Stories have origins from someplace. Right? That’s why I always carry a notebook, because I never know when I’ll be inspired. I got the idea of Oliver when, in my day job at the time, a co-worker got splashed in the mouth with platelets.

What in the world kind of job is this? Well, I have spent the last several years working IN a Blood Bank. Who better qualified to write vampire fiction then a vampire.

“Oh, are you a nurse?” No. I work in a laboratory.

“Do you draw blood?” Nope, that’s a phlebotomist.

The short of it, I prepare blood for the nurses and doctors to transfuse. It’s not like the medical dramas that you see stream. Blood is a tricky and highly regulated substance. I understand the mechanics that go into saving a live. It’s really a rewarding and unusual job.

So, going back to my friend and being splashed. Platelets are the white cells that swim in plasma that initiate clotting (oh no, big words). The bag of platelets had ripped during transport and somehow (still don’t know how) splashed him. We all gagged at the thought. But he smiled and said, “Actually, it wasn’t so bad. It tasted like condensed milk.” And me being a total smarty pants commented, “Oh, if vampires only knew.” We giggle at the thought of high society vamps with swirling platelets in their champagne flutes (because they need to be continually moving, eh? Blood Bankers, anyone?) And this single idea led me to Oliver Brixby, the world’s worst vampire.

Socrates once stated,

“No human condition is ever permanent.”

I never comprehended these words. I figured he talked about death or about the improvement of one’s self, but now, I consider an alternative, he actually knew something the rest of us didn’t.

My love for the philosophies of life, which I’ve studied over my epigrammatic college career, led me to a new conclusion, “Socrates must have known about vampires.”

I began writing Vampire-ish 5 or so years ago. The idea of a hypochondriac getting bit by a vampire and learning how to deal with his everyday existence, when squeamish at the sight of blood, absolutely delighted me. I thought for sure it would get picked up. During that time my fantasy series DID get picked up and has since sent me head first into a writer’s life. I remembered Oliver every so often, and sent him off to see if he could do anything good in the world, but as I stated before, no one was interested in vampire fiction.

On June 1st, after another disappointing rejection, something inside me snapped. Several things collided at the same time, my third in the Everstar series had been sent to the editor, as well as a new collaboration with a talented writer, so I really didn’t have time to focus on Ollie and his band of NY vamps. But, I couldn’t leave my disappointment alone. This story needed to be out. Every time I talked about it, people would say, “Oh, I’d totally read that.” So, then the thought came to me even stronger than before – why wait? Oliver’s story needs to be read. And the best publisher is me.

I quickly contacted some of my self-published friends about what I needed to do – cover artists, ISBNs, formatters, marketing. By noon, I had already talked to someone about a cover (Ampersands Book Covers), I had set up a self-publishing profile, I had figured out my marketing strategy, a possible formatter lined up, and I felt encouraged by other writers around me that I was doing the right thing. This was really going to happen. But, now…. I had to actually READ it and see if it was as funny as I remember.

I hadn’t touched this thing in years, so I really needed to do some serious editing. I laughed out loud at some of the things that happen. It plays out in moments, like a situational comedy. And what a tremendous joy I felt when I read THE END. Oliver is coming, and I couldn’t be happier.

Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale will be released at the 8th Annual Northwest Book Festival in Portland, Oregon July 30th. You will find it on Amazon and coming to Salt Lake Comic Con Sept. 1. If anyone is willing to do a book review on Amazon or Goodreads, or even a blogpost – fill out the form below. ARCs will be available shortly.

The world needs to know Oliver Brixby. He needs to know you. And I’m ready to share him with you.

Rejection – not such a bad thing sometimes.