Sunday, May 1, 2016

Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway: The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier

Welcome to my stop in THE KEEPER OF THE MIST by Rachel Neumeier Blog Tour hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. Today on my stop we have a Guest Post + an awesome Tour-Wide Giveaway.




THE KEEPER OF THE MIST
Rachel Neumeier
Published: March 8th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

A lush new fantasy about finding the will to lead against all odds, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone.

Keri has been struggling to run her family bakery since her mother passed away. Now the father she barely knew—the Lord of Nimmira—has died, and ancient magic has decreed that she will take his place as the new Lady. The position has never been so dangerous: the mists that hide Nimmira from its vicious, land-hungry neighbors have failed, and Keri’s people are visible to strangers for the first time since the mists were put in place generations ago. At the same time, three half-brothers will their own eyes on the crown make life within the House just as dangerous as the world outside.

But Keri has three people to guide her: her mysterious Timekeeper, clever Bookkeeper, and steadfast Doorkeeper. Together they must find a way to repair the boundary before her neighbors realize just how vulnerable Nimmira is.

With a spunky main character, lyrical storytelling, and hidden romance, The Keeper of the Mist is an engrossing story that is full of adventure.

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GUEST POST:

Hi, Alicia – thanks for inviting me over to Addicted Readers!  You suggested a possible topic about the path to becoming an author, which is a great topic – first because nobody else has asked for a post like that on this tour, and second because it certainly does sometime seem like most readers . . . at least most reading addicts . . . are at least playing with writing.

Of course everyone’s path to becoming a successful author is different, and for that matter everyone’s definition of success is different, too.  I still think of myself as “On the way to becoming a successful author” even though The Keeper of the Mist is my fifth YA fantasy and my fifth adult fantasy will come out this November – and my sixth of each next year.  I guess I define success as “No financial concerns about quitting your day job.”  Or perhaps, “No concern about getting another solid book contract in the next year or so.”  Heaven knows when that will be true for me, but not yet. 

But, though everyone’s path will be different and the world of publishing is changing every year, let me see if I can’t offer a Top Ten list of things I’ve learned in the past ten or so years that I’m sure are nearly universally true.

1.  You learn to write by reading.  It helps if you pay enough attention to what you’re reading to learn to tell the difference between great writing, good writing, and mediocre writing.  Not everyone is aiming to write beautiful literary prose, and you can learn a lot from books that tell a great story without necessarily having great writing, but it’s still helpful to recognize the difference.  I think the greatest fantasy writer working today is Patricia McKillip.  Another great one is Guy Gavriel Kay.

When I sat down to write a publishable, short, fantasy novel, I first read every one of McKillip’s books, one after the other.  Then I wrote The City in the Lake.  Two months later, I had an agent, and two months after that, I had a book deal with Random House.

2.  You learn to write by reading widely.  It’s probably not ideal to read nothing but YA fantasy, even if that’s mostly what you’re interested in writing.  I read more widely now than I used to: fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, thrillers, historicals, contemporaries . . . even romances.  I never touched contemporary romances until I happened across some particularly well written romances a few years ago (Laura Florand). 

Nonfiction is good for worldbuilding and general believability.  Unless you know stuff, you can’t write a scene like this one from Greg Keye’s Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series:

        Sailors leapt to their tasks, pulling yards.  The boom swung around and the still-flaming sail filled with a faint puff of air.  It hardly seemed enough to move the ship, but the men all cheered.
        “It’s not much of a wind,” Cazio observed.
        “No, which makes it perfect for us.  We can run straight before it, and we’ll start out faster than her.”
        “I thought she was faster.”
        “Aye, in full wind.  But we’ll make speed faster in this, because we’re smaller.  By the time they start and turn again, we’ll have two leagues on them.”
        Once again, Cazio’s brother was right.  Even though they hardly seemed to be moving, the bigger ship wasn’t moving at all.

Of course there are an infinite number of topics to learn about.  But reading about stuff should be fun!  And you never know what you’ll use.  I drew very heavily on a book about materials science called Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by JE Gordon when I was writing The Land of Burning Sands.

3.  You learn to write by writing.  My first finished project wasn’t a short story; oh, no.  It was a 1500-page fantasy trilogy.  Quite a lot of it was pretty good, though it was a mess structurally.  It was not at all fit to be published.  But I learned a whole lot by writing it.  I learned how to handle dialogue – the basics about punctuating dialogue, and how to use movement tags instead of saying “he said” over and over.  I learned how and when to use adverbs.  I learned how to handle a scene where more than two characters are present (this is hard).  I learned how to do a “time has passed” transition if I needed to compress a month’s journey into a paragraph. 

Most important, I learned I could finish a novel.

4.  You learn to write by re-writing.  I am still in the process of cannibalizing my original 1500-page trilogy.  I’m using large swaths of it in two different forthcoming novels, set in two completely different worlds.  One of those is a YA novel, the other adult.  There are only tiny hints that both new novels have a common origin and I will be so interested to find out if anyone guesses the two stories have a common origin. 

It was honestly fascinating to take the trilogy apart and see things I didn’t know enough to see when I was writing it, like how I could write 100 pages without advancing the plot a bit.  I hope I am less likely to do things like that now.

This was a great (and profitable) project, but every book gets revised, sometimes significantly.  Revising is part of writing.

5.  A good beta reader can help you learn to write.  I have no idea how one finds a really good beta reader.  Luck, probably.  Some writers join critique groups; I never did and wouldn’t ever consider it (I’m VERY introverted).  Some hit it off with another writer and they exchange critiques; I never did that, either.  But my twin brother is widely read, analytical, and honest.  He had no trouble saying, “This character would never do that” or “I can’t believe your protagonist didn’t see this obvious way to solve the problem.”

6.  A good structural editor is not the same as a beta reader.  I know how to find a great structural editor – someone who can tell you where the pacing is off in your novel, where the scope gets so broad you’ve lost sight of your most important characters, big things like that.  You find that kind of editor by getting the right agent and then having her place your book with the right editor.  That’s definitely luck. 

The biggest re-write I’ve done so far is for my forthcoming adult fantasy, due out this November, The Mountain of Kept Memory.  I changed this from YA to adult (I’ve done that change in the other direction, too).  But I also removed one protagonist, promoted a secondary character into his role, altered the whole book to fit this change, and wrote about seven more chapters to give each protagonist an equivalent role.  All this, plus a myriad smaller re-writing tasks, was done under the guidance of my editor.  The end result is quite a bit tighter even though the book is significantly longer.

I know people offer their services as editors.  I don’t know how to find a good structural editor, if you don’t already have one.  If someone starts off by telling you about comma errors, though, they are probably not focused on structural editing. 

7.  Commas also matter.  The only tool you have as a writer is the English language.  (Or whatever language you are writing in, of course.)  It is perhaps unwise to expect to succeed as a writer unless you have a sound grasp of usage, grammar, and punctuation in your toolbox.  Agents, editors, and most of all readers will notice whether your sentences make sense or not.

8.  Being able to listen to an honest, accurate critique is essential.  When a gifted beta reader, writing partner, or editor tells you something isn’t working, it’s essential to be able to see that she or he is right and essential to be willing to re-write to fix problems.

9.  Being able to trust yourself and your own feelings about your novel is essential.  In my experience, a gifted beta reader or editor can accurately label a problem (These scenes are too repetitive; this travel scene needs more action; this character isn’t changing enough over the course of the story) without necessarily being able to pin down exactly what  to do about it.  You, as the author, must decide what will actually work to fix the problem.

10.  There are a lot more resources available now than there were ten years ago, if you’re ready to get into the how-to nuts-and-bolts of publishing.

You can write the most beautiful prose in the world and tell a wonderful, engaging story, but there’s not an agent in the world who will take on a 200,000 word debut YA novel.  You can push boundaries, but you probably won’t succeed if you explode right past them like they’re not there.  Even if you’re going the self-published route, you should be aware of what generally works before you decide you can be different.  But how can you tell what does generally work and what’s way over the line?

I’m so impressed with the wealth of good solid information available today.  I follow quite a few blogs that deal with writing and publishing.  For anybody ready to dip a toe into traditional publishing, a great resource is Janet Reid’s blog at jetreidliterary.blogspot.com.  For anyone wanting to seriously investigate the increasingly large ocean of self-publishing, a great resource is Jane Friedman at janefriedman.com.  These are just starting points!  There are many, many good blogs and no doubt even more not-so-great blogs on these topics. 



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Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

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