Special Author Feature: Liz DeJesus

morganOne of the first books I ever read from Musa Publishing was First Frost by Liz DeJesus. I was thrilled to discover her unique twist on fairy tales and even more thrilled to interview her back in 2013.

Musa has now closed its doors, but the careers it started will continue for many years. Liz is one of many Musa authors who not only already had books published elsewhere, but has also found a home for the series she formerly published with Musa.

Today Liz has returned to share her accomplishments in the last two years and the lessons she’s learned as her writing career grew.

1. We last spoke in January 2013. Can you talk a little bit about where you were in your writing career at the time?

It’s hard for me to remember exactly where I was two years ago. But I believe I was working on the edits for Glass Frost and I remember being extremely excited for the sequel to be released. People were just starting to discover First Frost, it was getting positive reviews and people were enjoying the story.

2. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about writing since then?

Definitely write for yourself. I have to be sure I’m happy with the story and not focus so much on what everyone will think. I think that stops a lot of authors from moving forward with their work. Worrying about what other people will think, if it’s good enough or what people will say, all of that fear, anxiety and worry is a killer of creativity. So I ignore my inner critic and focus on what my heart is telling me. As long as I’m having fun writing the story that’s all that really matters to me. When I send it to my editor that’s when I worry, but by that point I’ve already worked on the story for a couple of years so it’s a matter of making sure everything makes sense.

3. How do you balance your schedule between writing/editing/marketing?

I have kids and a hectic family life so there really is no ‘schedule’ per se. I steal little pockets of time here and there and that’s how I get everything done. I write the old fashioned way, notebook and pen. That’s easier for me because all I have to do is throw my notebook in my purse and I can write anywhere which is especially helpful if you’re in the car waiting in the parking lot or at the doctor’s office. So I’ll transfer those notes when my kids are napping or I’ll wake up a little early in the morning and get some work done.

As far as marketing goes, I’m always promoting my books. When I pay my bills (I still write checks) I’ll stick one of my business cards in the envelope, I’ll post on facebook, twitter, Instagram and tumblr. I schedule book signings, go to comic conventions, book festivals and hand out bookmarks. There is a lot that goes into promoting a book.

I’m extremely lucky in the fact that I have a supportive family that understands that being a working author is my dream and they go out of their way to ensure I have the time to do what I need to do. It’s not always easy but knowing I have their support means the world to me.

4. What’s your favourite social media network and why?

Definitely Facebook. I’m on 24/7. I love interacting with my friends, family and fans. A close second is twitter.

5. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been most successful?

Purchasing ads at websites like bookbub.com and websites and blogs that are in the same theme as my books. I purchased an ad in Faerie Magazine’s website and that definitely boosted things for my books (specifically The Frost Series).

6. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?

I would like to be signed with a traditional publishing company, but so far I’m happy with independent publishers and I’m happy with where my career is at the moment.

7. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

That I’m thankful to Musa Publishing, Indie Gypsy, Arte Publico Press and every editor that has taken a chance on me and my work. I’m grateful to my fans for taking a chance on my books. To the bookstores that have accepted me with open arms and allowed me to have book signings in their stores. I’m thankful, and blessed to have the love and support of my family and I’m humbled by the fact that I get to write for a living.

I’m blessed in more ways that I can imagine.

Bonus Question: Would you like to share any last thoughts on Musa’s closure?

Musa Publishing has closed their doors. I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for me over the past 3 1/2 years. I am the author I am today because these incredible people believed in me and my work. I cannot forget to thank Kathy Calore Teel who was the Euterpe (YA) head editor at the time I submitted First Frost to Musa Publishing. So from the bottom of my heart thank you for seeing the magic and whimsy that so many others didn’t see at the time. And of course thank you to Celina Summers, Jeanne De Vita, Kerry Mand, Kelly Shorten, and Dominique Eastwick for all of their hard work and sacrifice in order to make Musa Publishing a success (because even though they are closing their doors they are doing it with grace and with their heads held high). So thank you so much for everything.

While I am heartbroken about Musa Publishing, I can’t help but be excited about the next chapter that’s opened up right now. My dear friends at Indie Gypsy have graciously accepted the Frost Series. So worry not, Bianca Frost fans, you will get to see what trouble she gets into next. They will release First Frost, Glass Frost and (the long awaited) Shattered Frost. Release dates, covers and other exciting news will be coming soon.

As one door closes another door opens…here’s to the next chapter for everyone. Looking forward to what the future will bring.

Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico.  She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 2011) First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 2012), Glass Frost (Musa Publishing, July 2013), Morgan (Indie Gypsy, July 2014) and The Laurel (Musa Publishing, November 2014). Her work has also appeared in Night Gypsy: Journey Into Darkness (Indie Gypsy, October 2012) and Someone Wicked (Smart Rhino Publications, Winter 2013).

Liz is currently working on a new novel and a comic book series titled Zombie Ever After (Emerald Star Comics, Fall 2014).

www.lizdejesus.com

Passion cannot sustain art

Writing2I’ve been planning to write this post for a while, but it became even more relevant to my life–and the lives of a few hundred other people–last week when my beloved publisher, Musa Publishing, announced that they are closing their doors. Despite publishing the highest quality books that earned four or five star ratings everywhere they went, over the last several months we’ve suffered from reduced sales.

Combined with the rising costs of doing business, this has brought about the end of an incredible publishing house devoted to empowering authors. Musa truly was a publishing house like no other, and everyone involved is mourning its early demise.

This is a common problem in arts-based businesses. With more and  more free content available, more distractions, and a higher number of people struggling to survive on crappy minimum-wage jobs, people simply aren’t spending the same amount of money on art as they used to. This causes arts based businesses of all kinds to fail.

Most people in the arts are struggling to make ends meet. And this isn’t necessarily limited to the artists themselves. Theatre directors, owners and editors of small publishers, pretty much anyone involved in a small arts-based business. I would argue that this problem is created by an increasingly popular belief that art isn’t essential.

Artists know the truth because to us, the arts are essential in a much bigger way. I write like I eat. I can’t imagine my life without writing. Well, actually, I can: I would be another soul drifting through life without any passion, working boring jobs I hated and wondering what the point of life is on a daily basis. My stories are a vital part of who I am, and any dedicated artist feels the same way about their art, whether they’re a painter, a custom jewelry artist, a photographer or another writer.

We work for almost nothing because we have boundless passion, but passion does not sustain art. A healthy human body and a clear mind sustain art. The freedom to stop worrying about whether you’ll be able to pay rent next month allows you to create art. The ability to take care of yourself and your family if you have one sustains your ability to create art, and in the end, artists sustain art. They can’t do that if they’re starving.

Have you ever stopped to think about what the world would look like without art? What if art simply ceased to exist a few hundred years ago because nobody could afford to create it? How would we connect with past generations? How different would our world look now? How dull would it be?

What about if you never had the opportunity to read a novel? Or a book of poetry? What if those things simply never existed? Books provide a crucial chance to either escape from reality or connect with another person’s reality. Can you imagine how boring life would be without them?

If you believe a world without art or books would be awful, take a moment to think about how you can support the arts. When was the last time you bought a book or an art piece? Even if you can’t afford to go out to buy some art today, there are always things you can do to help an author or artist you love sustain their career. You can review books you enjoy, share your favourite artists on social media, bookmark fantastic artists’ websites for when you do have money.

Here’s the thing about the arts: you might not see the arts as necessary, but your life without  them would be incredibly dull. And even the most talented, most passionate artists can only create top quality work for so long without making some kind of money from it. Sooner or later day jobs suck the creativity out of people and depression slips in. Seeing your friends’ careers advance around you and failing to see your own do the same is pretty soul crushing.

How do you support the arts? Can you do something–even something small–today to support an artist or author you love?

Author Spotlight: Keith Yatsuhashi

kojiki-200Today’s author happens to be one of my favourite people at Musa, and I’m thrilled to have Keith Yatsuhashi here to discuss his work. I haven’t actually read his novel, Kojiki, yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Please give Keith a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Kojiki?

Sure. Kojiki is the story of an eighteen-year-old Japanese girl named Keiko Yamada. Keiko lives in the US, but when her father dies unexpectedly, he leaves her with a mysterious note, telling her to go to Japan in his place and find ‘the Gate’. He gives no other explanation—just that her camera will show her the way. Not knowing what else to do, Keiko follows her father’s last wish and soon finds herself in the middle of a war between ancient gods and gigantic monsters. Even her own history isn’t what she believed it to be, and she soon learns her father kept a fairly significant secret from her. Battles ensue, the world stands on the edge of a knife, and a once noble god, now insane threatens to burn the world to cinders.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I’ve always enjoyed story-telling. The first inkling came in high school. I hated doing term papers, so whenever I had to write one, I entertained myself by writing as fluidly and vividly as I could. I continued that in college, and that’s where I started to gain confidence. My professors said I had a real flair with words. A few suggested I pursue a career as a journalist or editorial writer. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I actually started to write what would be Kojiki. The reason was ridiculously simple. I had the story rattling around in my head, and I wanted to see if I could turn it into a book. At the time, I was daydreaming about how I wanted Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series to end. I remember picturing the final scened in my head and , knowing it wouldn’t play out like I was imagining, thought, “hey, I might have a book here.” Not long after that, my father’s last remaining sibling died. She was a fun-loving if eccentric woman. At her funeral, her sister-in-law told me a wonderful story about my family’s history—the origin of the name Yatsuhashi, what it meant, and how my grandmother’s ancestors actually fought to repel the Mongols when the famous kamikaze typhoon wiped out their navy. That was enough to fire my imagination. From then on, I committed to writing my first book.

3. What modern author do you admire most and why? (Modern = still alive in this context)

I have tremendous respect for fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. Tor Books tasked him with the herculean task of completing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time Series, which he did. Spectacularly. Just before the release of his first book in that series, (I think it was book 12), he agreed to meet with me at Book Expo America and offered tips and encouragement. I was as yet unpublished. He was gracious and insightful. I asked for 15 minutes of his time. He gave me 45! Apart from being an author who likes to help other authors, he’s fantastic with his fans, and it just so happens he writes really good books. I’m amazed at how many worlds he’s created, and how they’re each unique. The POV voices too. His characters really pop from the page. You’ll never confuse one with another. What a gifted writer/storyteller and a very nice person.

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

I’m a big fan of Dragon Dictation software. We’re all stretched to the limit these days, and this software is a great help. I use it to get ideas down. I know this sounds like a commercial, but I like that the software transcribes recordings from about any source. I can dictate on my phone while driving, for instance, and Dragon will import it and convert it to text. Using it, halved the time it took me to write a first draft. I don’t use it for editing, though. There, you need to be precise. For me, the best way to do that is to upload my book to an e-reader and read a chapter as if it was any other book. No editing software, no opportunity to change anything. It’s just you and the book. You’d be amazed at how many errors you’ll find and how easy it is to see them. And not just the typos either. You’ll notice right away when the prose breaks down, when the flow stops, and when the story doesn’t make sense. I’ll highlight the rough spots then go back to my computer to dig into the edits. The beauty here is that you’ve highlighted what you need to work on. Once I’m done, I repeat the process until I can get through a chapter without feeling the urge to fix it.

5. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Waiting for the epiphany! I have this knee-jerk reaction to writing that “it’ll come to me” when I know that’s not true. You might get that flash of inspiration, but it’s never consistent. Sometimes, I have to force myself to sit at the keyboard and work through some really horrific writing until I get anything I can use. At first, it feels like a waste of time, but I always seem to get there.

6. What’s your take on writer’s block? Does it exist, and if it does, how can you cure it?

Because writer’s believe it exists then it does, right? My independent editor gave me the best take on this. She said writer’s block is your subconscious’s way of telling you something’s wrong with that part of the story. I think she’s right. Whenever I get stuck, it’s usually because something’s not working with that section. Her advice to me was to REALLY look at the preceding paragraphs. Once, she had me change an entire chapter to a different character’s POV. It was a good deal of work, but it broke the block and made the chapter so much stronger. So, when stuck, maybe you need to reconsider what’s on the page and overhaul it.

7. Why did you choose an ebook publisher over a print publisher?

I wish I could say I did a good deal of research, but the truth is Musa was the first publisher to make an offer. I didn’t sign right away, though. I weighed the pros and cons of going with an ebook publisher over continuing the agent search process. I was getting many agent requests for the full manuscript and was torn. In the end, I made my decision after reading about authors who signed with agents, but still couldn’t land a publisher. Just because you have n agent doesn’t mean you’ll land that deal. I figured, well, a publisher already wants me. Better to go with that then take the risk. I’m glad I did that too. I’ve found a lot to like about Musa. As a new publisher, I knew I wouldn’t get lost. That’s certainly been true. Musa’s been fantastic. They treat their authors like family and do what ever they can to help. They are also exceptionally well managed, which was one of the things I noticed right away. With the industry in flux, you want to be with a publisher that doesn’t over extend or try to do to much too soon. 

8. What was it like to work with an editor for the first time?

I was really nervous. After more rejections than I’d like to admit, I read an interview with author Steve Alten, who said hiring an independent editor was the difference that hooked an agent. I took that to heart and after attending a writers conference, I was lucky enough to find an incredible editor named Lorin Oberweger of Free-Expressions.com. Lorin went above and beyond our contract. She didn’t just edit my manuscript; she taught and mentored me. I give Lorin all the credit in the world. She took me from being a real amateur to where Musa took a chance on me.

Working with her was fantastic. She was always positive. Lorin has a way of looking at a very bad piece of prose and telling you its bad without hurting your feelings or shaking your confidence. I guess the best way of describing it is to call it a gentle touch. It’s like she was teaching me to walk one step at a time. Now, considering she has many clients, some pretty high profile, the fact that she took that much time with me was amazing.

My streak of good luck continued with Musa. My editors with Musa have a similar touch–that ability to say ‘this needs a little more work’ without being too…um…blunt about it.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Hire an independent editor. Seeing errors in a work you’re so invested in is very hard. Family and friends will couch their comments and not be entirely honest. An independent editor is skilled at finding deficiencies in your work. It’s an invaluable investment. A VERY good editor will also teach you and give advice on how to become a better writer. I was lucky to find Lorin, and I’m indebted to her. She took a very rough manuscript and helped me get it publication ready.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

I just finished a short story prequel to Kojiki called Torii. It came from some of the large backstory I had to delete. In Kojiki, those scenes slowed the book’s overall pace. I still liked them, because I saw them as intense battle scenes that really shows how the events in Kojiki came about. I’m also about 2/3 of the way through a follow-up to Kojiki. It’ll be a very different story. Kojiki’s character’s finished their arc. This is all new. After that, I have a YA apocalyptic romance/thriller in the works. I’ve been planning a murder thriller for some time now. It’s just a matter of getting to it.

Keith Yatsuhashi was born in 1965 in Boston, MA. He graduated from Northeastern University in 1989 and is currently the Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center in Providence, Rhode Island.Keith was a competitive figure skater for ten years, winning the U.S. National Junior Dance Championships in 1984, a bronze medal in the 1983 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and a silver medal in 1984.

In addition to his love of writing, Keith enjoys many hobbies such as golf, reading, and playing football and hockey with his sons. Keith currently lives in Norfolk, MA with his wife, Kathleen and three children.

Guess what? I’m a steampunk blogger

theglasssealingI’ll admit, there’s no interview here today because I got distracted doing about a thousand other things: preparing for three book releases in the next three months, celebrating the release of The Caelimane Operation, editing one of my own manuscripts, starting a column on The Oak Wheel and writing guest posts for multiple other blogs.

But none of those things, as exciting as they are, are what I really want to announce today. I’ve also been working hard to revive the blog associated with The Darkside Codex. I’ll be posting a weekly column called Steampunk Musings and sharing both my thoughts on steampunk and interviews with fantastic steampunk artists.

Today is also your last chance to win books from The Darkside Codex blog, so head on over and check it out!

Direct links to Steampunk Musings articles:

The True Appeal of Steampunk

Meeting The Tinker’s Daughter

Author Spotlight: Eric James Spannerman

One of the books I have on tour this month
One of the books I have on tour this month

January is the month of steampunk here at The Dabbler, and Eric James Spannerman is one of the Darkside Codex authors here to school us on steampunk and how exactly one goes about writing it.

Please give Eric a warm welcome and enjoy his thoughts on steampunk and writing. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page for a chance to win some amazing steampunk books!

  1. Can you tell us a bit about Applied Natural Magic?

Applied Natural Magic is the story of Charles Woodridge, a young professor in the city of Southwatch who hopes to improve the fortunes of the poor and secure his place among the elite by improving hydroponics. Of course, just because something is good and straightforward doesn’t mean it’s easy — reducing starvation and malnutrition proves to be surprisingly unpopular in some quarters. Along the way there are riots, financial scandals, magic-driven knife fights, murders and monocycle chases. And in the end, Charles has to face some unpleasant realities and make some tough choices.

  1. When did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

In a sense, I’ve been a professional writer for most of my working life.  My degree is in journalism, I was a Public Affairs Officer in the US Air Force, and worked as a technical writer or in jobs with a large technical writing component for over 20 years.

As for fiction, I worked on it pretty hard in college, but put it aside when I graduated. About five years ago, I made a serious effort, completed several stories and sent them out, but ultimately decided to concentrate on my day job instead. Finally, about two years ago, I came back to fiction writing with renewed focus and energy, and this time I’m definitely in for the long haul. Applied Natural Magic is the most significant result of that renewed commitment so far.

  1. Why steampunk?

Aesthetically, I’ve always found brass, leather, fine woods and intricate mechanisms attractive. However, in the case of Applied Natural Magic, I was grabbed more by the idea of Southwatch and The Darkside Codex than steampunk per se.

I like the opportunity to explore class relationships and economic issues from the standpoint of a place as starkly and obviously divided as Southwatch. I also like the sheer variety of characters and creatures available — light and dark fae, automatons with varying degrees of consciousness, and of course the whole gamut of human characters: devious aristocrats, men and women of science, and out and out criminals of various types. Not to mention lots of ordinary people trying to make their way as best they can.

  1. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

At the very, very beginning I have vague ideas about scenes and characters. Usually, I don’t know how they’ll be used or how they’re connected, but I record them in Evernote notekeeping software, along with any other scraps of information that seem interesting. When enough of this activity seems to be coalescing into a project, I open an Evernote folder for it and collect all the relevant notes there.

When I feel like I’ve done enough “composting,” I start in on Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake” method, which involves a great deal of prewriting – character biographies, a scene-by-scene spreadsheet, plot summaries of progressively-greater length and detail, and so on. So far, I haven’t completed the entire process, but I always end up wishing I’d gone further than I did before I start a first draft.

I did the drafts for Applied Natural Magic and my current project as part of NaNoWriMo. I crank out a rough, messy draft that’s heavy on dialog (because I like writing dialog) and light on description (because I have to really think about description). The draft also typically has some glaring plot holes and places where I changed my mind, despite the planning.

When the first draft is complete, I spend several months cleaning it up. Early rewrites fix glaring problems, iron out continuity issues, and ensure the story and character arcs all “work.” Later passes through the manuscript are often focused on a single issue, such as making sure each character has a consistent “voice” when speaking. The final passes are focused on the fine points of grammar and punctuation.

  1. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Line edits and proofreading. I make this easier for myself by doing it in short bursts, and doing tricks like reading the pages out of order, or working through chapters backwards to get my mind off story flow and on to the details of the wording.

  1. Your first novel is part of a shared world series. Are you interested in writing novels within worlds of your own creation as well?

Definitely. My current project is a near-future world where debt slavery has made a comeback and formal duels have replaced the courts for many types of disputes.

  1. What are the biggest limitations of your chosen genre?

Probably the most restrictive thing about steampunk is that the social mores and basic social relationships are set, as is the “look and feel” of the surroundings. However, restriction in these areas leaves the author with a lot of freedom to experiment in others.

  1. Can you recommend some other awesome steampunk stuff for people interested in the genre?

Although it’s been out there for about 25 years, I can’t over-recommend The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Considered one of the genre-defining steampunk novels, it’s an alternate-history story in which the information-technology revolution takes place in the 19th century, driven by steam-powered mechanical computing, and is lead by Great Britain rather than the United States. The results are fascinating. I read the book before I knew that steampunk was a thing, and I was totally captivated by it.

One of my other favorite steampunk works is Girl Genius comics. Agatha is an amazing character, and I love the idea of a Europe ruled by Mad Scientists.

  1. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Write a lot and get good feedback.

The former is mostly a matter of deciding that writing is more important than something that you’re doing now, and making that decision a habit. The latter is mostly a matter of “finding your tribe”— gathering with smart, compassionate, skilled people with similar goals who are willing to tell you the truth.

These aren’t complicated things to say, but they are hard to do.

  1. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

I’m planning some contributions to The Darkside Codex blog. I have some thoughts on a follow-up to Applied Natural Magic and on another TDC project involving airships and economic warfare with Atragon, but those are both definitely at the “composting” stage right now.

Eric James Spannerman has been a farmer’s son, a US Air Force officer, a technical writer, a computer support specialist and a business analyst, as well as being a writer of speculative fiction. Applied Natural Magic is his first published book. He and his wife live near Des Moines, Iowa.
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Author Spotlight: Chris Pavesic

The Caelimane Operation by Chris PavesicToday’s author, Chris Pavesic, is a very special lady. Not only has she published some excellent short fiction in her time, she’s also written a spectacular steampunk novel, The Caelimane Operation, the most recent novel in the Darkside Codex shared world series from Musa, to be released tomorrow.

Please give Chris a warm welcome and don’t forget to read until the end so you can enter to win some awesome books.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about The Caelimane Operation?

The Caelimane Operation is set in the shared world of the Darkside Codex. This world, which revolves around the city of Southwatch, was created by Celina Summers and Richard C. White. Stories in this world are based in the steampunk genre, but can have additional elements of science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, paranormal, and/or noir.

After reading the Darkside Codex bible (a text which provides authors the basic concepts of a shared world) I was drawn to the religious concepts outlined by Summers and White. The Caelimane Temple is a powerful organization in the world they created, but it has been gradually losing influence with the general population due to many factors, including the Temple’s inability to banish the dark cloud of pollution that plagues Southwatch. I found it interesting that the Temple elders routinely send out members of the clergy on secret missions, called penusms, to spy on both the human population and the fae. From this scenario my story began to develop.

In The Caelimane Operation, the Temples to the Goddess outside of Southwatch have been burned and human followers of Dione murdered. A seemingly unstoppable army of the undead ravages the countryside. Suspicion for these crimes falls on the fae. It is believed by the human population that only a fae sorcerer could control the amount of magic necessary to raise such abominations. The fae were also the first to worship Dione and there are those among both the Seelie and Unseelie courts who resent the usurpation of their religion by humans.

Catherine, a Hierocrat in the Caelimane Temple, is assigned to infiltrate an annual gathering of the fae that includes members of both courts, find those responsible for the murders, and bring them to justice. With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed. But with members of her own Temple and rogue members of the Seelie Court working against her, events do not unfold as planned.

  1. When did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I have written stories, poems, and novels since I can remember. I have several short stories and poems that have been published in small print local venues. Two years ago I started to pursue this a more than a hobby and, in 2013, I made my first professional sale to Penumbra eMag. “Going Home” was the featured story in the H.G. Wells-inspired issue. (Yes—another steampunk connection!)

  1. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?

The turning point in my writing came when I decided to write the type of novels and stories that I enjoyed reading. Speculative fiction, steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, young adult, and noir—these are the types of novels that fill my bookshelves. J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Agatha Christie, Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, H.G. Wells, and Stephen King—these are the authors who have created story worlds that I have inhabited in my imagination.

  1. The Darkside Codex books are written in a shared world. Have you ever considered writing books within a world of your own creation?

Yes–I have two novels right now that are in the outline stage that are set in my own story worlds. I hope to start writing one of them in the spring.

  1. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

My process differs between short stories and novels. For short stories, I envision the entire story before I start writing—almost like watching a movie in my thoughts. Then I try to capture it in words.

For novels I tend to start with an idea that grows into a story question. (The story question is a way to summarize the plot of the novel in two or three sentences.) This is an important step for me because it helps to capture the core ideas of the story. For The Caelimane Operation I wrote the following story question:

When the Temples to the Goddess north of Southwatch are burned and followers of Dione are murdered, Hierocrat Catherine, a bard of the Caelimane Temple, sets out to find those responsible and to bring them to justice.  With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed, but will she succeed when she finds herself pitted against members of her own Temple, rogue members of the Seelie Court, and a seemingly unstoppable army of undead?

I will then write a few chapters of the novel to get a “feel” for the story, and then develop an outline. I review the story question every time I sit down to write so that I can keep my focus on the core ideas and reference the outline for each chapter.

After completing a draft I ignore it for a few days. (This is generally hard!) I then start reading and revising.

  1. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The hardest part is taking time away from my family and friends to write. It used to seem selfish to sit in a room by myself and type words onto a glowing screen. Because of this, I tried to “force” writing into my schedule. I would stay up until the wee hours of the night, giving up sleep, in order to write. This was not the best idea for my health, wellbeing, or writing. (I never fell asleep at the keyboard, but it was close a few nights!) It took a while, but I did realize that writing can “fit” into my life. I schedule it into my day now, just like I would for any task I need to complete. I don’t feel guilty about working, gardening, or folding laundry. Why should I feel guilty about writing? Just because I enjoy it does not mean it is something I should omit from my schedule. Now if I stay up to the wee hours of the night, it is because I am reading a terrific book I just cannot put down.

  1. Steampunk is a relatively new genre to a lot of people. Can you recommend some good places for people interested in the genre to get started? 

Steampunk stories and novels have been part of speculative fiction for more than 100 years. Writers like H.G. Wells, Jules Vern, and Mary Shelly had steampunk elements in their writing.

In television, shows like The Wild Wild West (1965-1969), The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (1993), Legend (1995), Warehouse 13 (2009-2014), Dracula (2013), and the later seasons of Doctor Who (beginning in 2005 and continuing to the present) have steampunk influences. The Doctor Who Christmas Special, “A Christmas Carol “(2010), starring Matt Smith is an excellent example of the genre.

  1. Have you done any writing outside of the steampunk genre?

Yes—I enjoy speculative fiction of all types. I have written science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, young adult, paranormal, and noir. Fairy tales are a special favorite of mine.

  1. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would like to share a bit of advice from another writer. Jim Butcher wrote the following on his Goodreads blog, and it is advice that really stuck with me:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD WHO CAN KILL YOUR DREAM. *NO ONE* can make you quit. *NO ONE* can take your dream away. No one but you.” (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10746.Jim_Butcher/blog)

I found this inspirational, and I hope that my readers do too!

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

Along with several short stories, I currently am working on the sequel to The Caelimane Operation tentatively titled The Fae Accord. I also have outlines for two other novels, one in the urban fantasy and noir category and one young adult novel set in a steampunk story world.

Turns out, Chris is also a talented video editor. Check out her book trailer below:

 

ChrisauthorphotoChris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

You can contact Chris at chrispavesic@outlook.com

 Stay connected at my Blog Facebook and Twitter.
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Author Spotlight: Andrew Leon Hudson

theglasssealingAndrew Leon Hudson is the author of the third story in The Darkside Codex series, The Glass Sealing.

Please give him a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about The Glass Sealing?

The Glass Sealing is a revolutionary novel ­but only in the sense that it’s about a revolution, not that it’s going to change the world! It’s about one of the dominant conflicts of modern western society, between those who have everything they could want and likely always will, and those who can’t even be sure they will still have a job in the morning. I was inspired by the protests of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I wanted to transplant them to the time of the Industrial Revolution ­ and adding steampunk to the mix made for a bit more fun.

2. When did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I’ve been trying my hand at writing since I was five or six years old (I started out by plagiarizing comic strips) but I was always more a reader than a writer. After university I worked in the film industry for a while, got interested in screenwriting, and decided to try that as a career. Foolish. But I maintained the dream long enough to study a masters degree in the subject, and what I learned then has formed the foundation of my skill set as a writer of fiction generally.

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?

I’m too modest to consider myself a success. When I don’t have to worry about paying the bills because my writing has that covered, then I’ll change my tune. However, maybe the thing that has been most beneficial to my writing was the day my tutor criticized me as being “good at structure and description, bad at character and dialogue”. It challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and develop my weaknesses, and now I have no weaknesses, which is very convenient. That modesty is a major burden though.

4. The Darkside Codex books are written in a shared world. Do you think this made writing The Glass Sealing more difficult or less difficult?

I think it’s more difficult, because while you’re still free to tell your own story you’re also compelled to toe somebody else’s line on some of the details. It’s not always obvious when you’re breaking a rule, and nasty surprises can be lying in wait for you when you think you’re home free at the end. It does mean the wider world is already created for you, but world­building is half the fun, so if you ask me shared worlds have nothing going for them!

Apart from meeting interesting writers and contributing to the growth of something beautiful, of course…

5. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

Writers tend to label themselves as Planners or Seat­of­the­Pantsers, depending on their level of OCD or whatever helps them enjoy the process more. I’m a structuralist, in that when I have an idea the first thing I do is start plotting it out, so I’ll have the main characters and the story’s skeleton in place before I “really” start to write ­ but I’m not exactly a Planner, I like a bit of the unexpected too. Call me a seat­of­the­planner, then.

My most pleasing writing experience was with The Glass Sealing, as it happens. I planned the entire story in rough, then wrote a detailed, scene­ by ­scene breakdown of the first 50% or so. However, from that point on it became progressively less detailed, and the last chapter was barely a thumbnail saying “this, that and the other happen”. The result was I had a nice tight route to follow, up to a point, but it also allowed me more room to manoeuvre the further on I went, so if little ideas cropped up as I wrote I was able to adapt the original idea to include them. This is more or less my standard strategy for longer projects now.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

In the past, it’s been finishing things (or, rather, forcing myself not to start new ones before I finish the old, putting them on a never­ending back­burner). I work best when I impose some kind of routine on myself, which is pretty much against my nature, so I guess that’s my stumbling block. Nothing makes it easier to fight your genetic predisposition to kill. Time.

7. Steampunk is a relatively new genre to a lot of people. Can you recommend some good places for people interested in the genre to get started?

Poking your nose into the Steampunk Gazette is a great way to sample the breadth of the genre – it’s not just the archaic literary­ adventure style of the fiction, but the construction of fantastic devices and costumes (by skilled experts and enthusiastic amateurs alike) is lots of fun. Put a couple of people in steampunk garb together for five minutes, the next thing you know you’ve got strange varieties of Hip ­Hop and Rock ­and ­Roll on your hands, not to mention webseries and short films…

8. Have you done any writing outside of the steampunk genre?

I like to discover what I can achieve in different areas, so I change my focus like my socks: regularly. So far, selling the output has proved to be as easy as, er, selling my socks too: not very. However, my socks are, to labour the metaphor, all fairly dark in colour, so when people do sit up and take notice I’m hoping they’ll see this as marvellous variety rather than indecision.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

I think that writing is as much craft as art, and crafts need to be learned ­ but there were few great artists who simply grabbed a brush and started dispensing masterpieces. To me, the idea that you can just write every day and work really hard and never give up until you stumble onto greatness is like pointlessly tasking yourself to reinvent the wheel. For a start, you may never make a good wheel that way at all! Why not study under a wheelwright instead?

The book that gave me my foundation is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey – it’s superficially about screenwriting, but it’s mainly about how to tell a story that people will enjoy. So my advice would be, “Learn to write stories that readers will enjoy”, and if that sounds useless, read the book and take it from that guy who made all those great wheels before you.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

I’m releasing lots of ebooks this year which will include horror, dark fantasy and science fiction stories and novellas. The first, End Trails, is the start of a Weird Western series and is out now via Amazon and Smashwords (where it is available at 50% off if you use the code UW22V before January 19th). And there will be future bargains for everyone on my mailing list, starting with the second End Trails title in February…

­­­

Andrew Leon Hudson is an Englishman resident in Madrid, Spain, and has been writing full­ time since the beginning of 2012. In preparation for this he worked in fields as diverse as prosthetic makeup, teaching, contact lens retail, “intoxicant delivery” and the services (customer and military). He used to have his own company, but it died. His first novel, steampunk adventure The Glass Sealing, was published about ten minutes ago. All true.

Except his name isn’t really Andrew Leon Hudson.

Blog (for writing news and fun): andrewleonhudson.wordpress.com

Blog (for reviews and interviews and fun): cartesiantheatre.wordpress.com

Twitter (for very little fun): @AndLeoHud

Musa Publishing has closed, new links will be added when this book finds a new home.

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Author Spotlight: Daniel Ausema

theelectroaddictivemothflameToday’s author is something of a steampunk supreme. With quite a few short stories published in fantastic speculative fiction magazines and an ongoing steampunk serial called Spire City, Daniel Ausema has clearly been one busy writer.

But sticking with short fiction isn’t the easiest way to go, and sometimes the bug bites you with a bigger story. The Electro-Addictive Moth Flame is Daniel’s contribution to The Darkside Codex, a series of stand alone books in a shared world called Southwatch.

Today Daniel’s come to share how he’s gotten to this point in his career and where he’d like to go–oh, and Daniel and the other Darkside Codex authors have put together a giveaway for you, so don’t forget to enter before you leave!

Before Daniel gets started, take a moment to watch this amazing trailer for The Electro-Addictive Moth Flame, created by our very own Chris Pavesic:

1. Can you tell us a bit about The Electro-Addictive Moth Flame?

It’s a story of addiction and unscrupulous scientific experimentation. As a child, Mellia’s body was modified to make her immune to most electricity, but as a result she craves ever higher voltages that push the edge of her immunity and will probably one day kill her.

It’s also the story of Southwatch beneath the Dark Cloud, a dark and dirty city where only the ghostly memories of plants exist and where suspicion and crime are constant.

And despite that, it’s a story of hope, as Professor Thurston and his students work to breed plants that will not only survive beneath the Cloud but even clean the air around them.

2. When did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

It always felt like more than just a hobby…but until about ten years ago, it was a much lesser part of my life. That’s when I began staying home with my then-infant son (now oldest of three kids), and I started paying a lot more attention to what was out there, the markets and the discussions and debates all around.

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to one point. There have been many significant events that have shaped my approach to writing. But I guess one thing stands out, from just a few months after the time in my last answer. There was one critiquing friend I’d made who always impressed me with her ability to see down deep into a story and pick out both what was working and what wasn’t. At one point she sent me a link to the names of the winners for some award—I forget now if it was World Fantasy, Hugo, or Nebula, but one of those—and she said to read over them, get familiar with what they were writing, because she expected to see my name on that list someday. That was a big prodding for me to really work on my craft even more.

4. The Darkside Codex books are written in a shared world. Do you find it more difficult to work in a shared world or in one you’ve created alone?

I don’t know about more or less difficult, but different, certainly. One of my favorite things about writing is to create a wildly imaginative setting for the stories to take place. A shared world takes that away from me—though I can certainly still aim to evoke a place I didn’t invent with visceral images and scenes of wonder—but that just means I need to push myself in other ways. Sometimes something you’ve done in other stories, even something that was good in those other stories, can become a crutch you rely on too heavily in new writing. So I like to force myself to tackle new things and take new approaches to make sure I don’t fall into bad habits in my other writing.

5. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

It can vary quite a bit. But generally I let ideas just simmer in my head for a while before I ever start writing. I’ll jot down character and story ideas on the notecards I always carry with me. When I do get writing, I wouldn’t say I’m terribly fast, but I keep a steady pace and usually manage to push on through despite any doubts or second guesses. Usually… Since I’m always watching my kids, that means trying to find little snippets of time here and there, not being afraid to get as little as a single sentence or a single word when I do have that time. Recently I do most of my writing in Google docs so I can work on it no matter if I’m at the computer, elsewhere with my tablet, or even just on my phone somewhere (though that’s not really ideal). The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame was actually the first thing I wrote that way, doing most of it on the tablet when my youngest, then a newborn, was napping in my arms.

Once a draft is done, I’ll give it some time and try not to think about it. Sometimes that’s just for a few weeks, sometimes for months. Then I’ll go back and address any revisions that jump out at me and usually share it with some beta readers. Then go through that process all over again a few months later and try to get it all polished up and pretty for submission.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Probably keeping myself focused on revisions. There are always so many things I want to write, and I tend to get a bit antsy if I’m not writing something new. So I used to struggle a lot with forcing myself to really dig in and address the necessary revisions. That’s especially the case when I recognize that a scene or story has some real deep, structural problems that I need to address, rather than just some tweaking on the surface.

I have no advice on making it any easier. It’s just one of those things I have to make myself jump in and get over with. Once I’m in the process of revisions, it becomes a lot easier to keep at it.

 

7. Steampunk is a relatively new genre to a lot of people. Can you recommend some good places for people interested in the genre to get started?

The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers and The Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich are both great overviews of the whole steampunk movement, looking at everything from art to costumes to DIY construction to music. And otherwise just search around online, and you’ll discover so much. Whether it’s one area or another that draws you in, I don’t think there’s really any one best way.

 

8. Have you done any writing outside of the steampunk genre?

Definitely. I’ve written all sorts of things, from mainstream realism to high fantasy, horror to space opera. Often what draws me into a story I want to write is an imaginative setting, so a lot of what I write is set in a secondary, fantasy world. But…I generally shy away from the castles and knights and such, preferring to imagine other time periods. I’ve been inspired by ancient, Bronze Age societies and more recent peoples, as well as futuristic and dystopian ideas. So I have stories that might fall into a variety of other genres while all being fantasy in one way or another. But one of my favorites is the Industrial Revolution time period. For a variety of reasons that just seems like an especially rich era to draw from.

 

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Read a lot. Don’t limit yourself to a certain sub-genre or even a particular genre. Read widely and with an open mind toward enjoying whatever you’re reading. It’s not always easy to do, but as much as possible read as if you’re two people at once, one reading for enjoyment and one reading to understand why the writer chose this way to write it and why it appeals to its fans…but not the third person, the one reading to pick apart everything you think is wrong. There’s definitely a time for that person, but especially for aspiring writers, you need to keep that voice subordinate to the other two for now. And then write. Just get the words down on (imaginary) paper. You’ll be plagued by doubts and tempted by other things to occupy your time. But write anyway.

 

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

My ongoing serial fiction project, Spire City, is in its second season. Every three weeks, Musa publishes another episode of the story. There will be three seasons by the time the story is done. It’s another steampunk, secondary-world fantasy, so I think it should have a lot of cross appeal for The Darkside Codex fans. I’m also working on a new Darkside Codex novella. It had stalled out for a while in that letting-it-lie-fallow stage between first draft and first revisions, but now I’m working on it again. I also have various short stories and poems that will be published in the coming months.

Daniel Ausema’s short stories and poems have appeared in Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, and many other places. He has worked as a journalist and educator and is currently a stay-at-home dad. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
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Author Spotlight: LV Barat

eyeofthehawk-200Today’s author is a debut novelist whose first epic fantasy novel, Eye of the Hawk, will be released tomorrow by Musa Publishing. She’s a lovely lady whose novel I simply cannot wait to read.

Please give LV Barat a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Eye of the Hawk?

An island exists in the far north surrounded by an astral golden band, inhabited by Jaanaarians, a people descended from gods who possess unrivaled magical talent. They cannot leave the island because some of their people became corrupted, bidding themselves out to the highest bidder of the royal houses of Perthia.

A shapeshifter named Hawk is sent on a mission that is given to him in coded verses by a Jaanaarian druid. He must discover the meaning of these verses during the mission. He goes through an elemental portal to arrive at the correct destination.

In the Crystal Palace of Corvasa, the Fire Globe has been stolen. It is an ancient relic that controls elemental Fire. Each country holds an elemental globe and changes the element every twelve years. They were gifts from the gods at the beginning of time.

Sillisnae is an Adept’s Apprentice at the Crystal Palace who studies magic under the tutelage of Lord Korodale, the Daimon Direttore and head sorcerer to the King. After hearing of the Fire Globe’s disappearance, she decides to do a little investigating of her own.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I’ve always known I would be a writer. It was just a matter of acquiring enough self-discipline and that began to happen about five years ago.

3. What modern author do you admire most and why?

This is a difficult question to answer because I don’t really have a favorite author whose stories I admire over others. I tend to favor the works rather than the author. Some of my favorite books are Dune by Frank Herbert, The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King, especially “The Drawing of the Three”, “The Hellbound Heart” by Clive Barker. I read George R.R. Martin and Terry Goodkind as well. Whenever I’m engrossed in one of their stories, they are my favorite author at the time but then I move onto another novel by someone else and fall in love.

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

I write between three and four thousand words a day. The story streams into my consciousness and I just write whatever I am experiencing in my mind. It is like writing down a daydream. At this stage, I don’t bother with selecting interesting words or making notes about the story. For the second draft, I fill out the story with description, clean up any discrepancies, and link events on the timeline. The second draft takes much longer than the first. The third draft is to correct grammar and spelling and check for mistakes in story and character development.

I’m what is known as a ‘pantser’, meaning I fly by the seat of my pants while I write rather than a ‘planner’ who makes extensive notes and follows an outline. Sometimes I’ll begin a manuscript in the middle, go to the end, then back to the beginning. I just go where the inspiration takes me.

5. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The most difficult thing for me is writing every day. Sometimes I’m just not feeling it. When that happens, I write some poetry and it usually gets my thinking into a mystical mode and I can move forward.

6. What’s your take on writer’s block? Does it exist, and if it does, how can you cure it?

I think writer’s block exists but I’ve never had it. I know some people experience it. I believe one reason I’ve never had it is because I don’t try to think the story, I let the story ‘think’ me. Like I said before, it is more like following a daydream, something called ‘journeying’ in the shamanic community.

7. Why did you choose an ebook publisher over a traditional publisher?

This is my first novel and I do not have a book agent yet. The manuscript was rejected by TOR and it took six months to receive an answer. Ebooks are the future and the great thing with Musa is if an author sells well, they will publish in print.

8. What was it like to work with an editor for the first time?

It was a very pleasant experience. I really saw how my writing can improve. The editor revealed the immense value of limiting repetition, propositions, and filtered experiences of the characters.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice and only one, what would it be?

Only write what inspires you, not what you think you should be writing. What inspires you will give you energy, what bores you will drain you.

10. What are you working on that readers can look forward to?

Currently I’m writing the third novel in the “Tears of Gods and Dragons” trilogy. The second is finished and waiting for content edits.

LV BARATLV Barat has been writing fiction and non-fiction for twenty years. Epic fantasy is her genre of choice whilst some suspenseful mystery has managed to worm its way into her opus corpus.Jane Eyre was the first novel she read as a prepubescent. Its gray, mysterious moors and subdued emotions that raged under the surface of its characters called to her longingly, convincing something deep within her to become a writer.LV Barat lives in the Rocky Mountains, the spine of North America. An enchanted place of glistening pine needles, massive boulders, jutting gray crags, stealthy red foxes and antlered elk. You can find her at www.lvbarat.com.

You can purchase a copy of Eye of the Hawk here.

Musa Publishing’s Colossal Anniversary Contest

with Musa Publishing
Grand Prize
$15.00 Musa Gift Certificate
6 Paperback Books
Baiting the Hook by Mary Palmer & David Wilton
Brothers in Crime by KM Rockwood
Legends of the Timekeepers by Sharon Ledwith
Indian Shirt Story by Heather Lockman
Pantheon by Josh Strnad
Windy City Heat by Remi Hunter
1st Place Winner
$10.00 Musa Gift Certificate
6 Paperback Books
Baiting the Hook by Mary Palmer & David Wilton
Brothers in Crime by KM Rockwood
Legends of the Timekeepers by Sharon Ledwith
Indian Shirt Story by Heather Lockman
Pantheon by Josh Strnad
Windy City Heat by Remi Hunter
2nd Place Winner
$5.00 Musa Gift Certificate
5 Paperback Books
Cairo in White by Kelly Ann Jacobson
Chasing Athens by Marissa Tejada
First Frost by Liz DeJesus
Who Wacked Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf
Windy City Heat by Remi Hunter
3rd Place Winner
5 Paperback Books
Cairo in White by Kelly Ann Jacobson
Chasing Athens by Marissa Tejada
First Frost by Liz DeJesus
Who Wacked Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf
Windy City Heat by Remi Hunter
Plus
Beginning October 1, 2014 we draw 2 winners a day and they will each receive 3 books
And
All participants receive a download of Cooking with Musa.
All entrants are eligible for Grand Prize and Other Drawings October 15, 2014
Winners announced October 16, 2014
Enter daily to win!
No particular order to the daily drawings for the books below

Random Survival by Ray Wenck
TRUE blue by Susan Rae
Chasra: The Homecoming by Joanne Hirase

Drowning Cactus by Carrie Russell
To Catch A Fish by Mary Pamer & David Wilton
Lies in Wait by Donna Del Oro

Question of Time by Mary S. Palmer
Glass Frost by Liz DeJesus
The Andersen Ancestry by Addie J. King

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Contest begins October 1, 2014 and ends midnight CST October 14, 2014. All winners announced October 16, 2014.
Winners who reside outside the Continental United States will receive their prize in e-book format.
All prizes must be claimed by October 20, 2014 or they are forfeited. Prizes will be shipped October 22, 2014.
*This is an extra post added because I love you guys and I want you to win awesome books–oh, and because I love Musa and think you should be part of celebrating our third anniversary. Regular posts will go as scheduled next week.