Attending a Book Launch Party

Went to my first book launch party last Friday. Not my book’s launch. I mentioned hearing Raven Oak read a passage from her recently released novella, Class-M Exile, last month at the Cascade Writers info session. Raven’s novella is “officially” launched (it was a sneak peek at the CW event), and I attended a launch party at the University Bookstore in Bellevue.

A small gathering, maybe a dozen or so in attendance. Not bad for 6:30pm on a Friday. Apparently some people complained about the venue being in Bellevue? Pfff. Parked in two seconds with plenty of space around and didn’t need to pay. Seattle’s hard-pressed to equal that in most places.

I’ve never been to that U Bookstore location before, and it was nice inside—café, UW themed stuff, large art supply selection, nice space by a fireplace (not that we needed it in June) for the reading/signing, and of course, a good selection of books. Considering that the floor space pales in comparison to a giant like B&N, I was pleasantly surprised by how many science fiction and fantasy books the U Bookstore had. Also had a long signing table with plenty of space, and a mix of folding plastic chairs and the more permanent comfy ones.

The U Bookstore staff were good hosts, and it was a nice gathering with wine and cheese. I liked how small it was because it was more intimate, not loud, not much in the way of a line, and conversations flowed more easily.

I’ve mentioned before that Raven’s reading with the southern accent is great. I’ll be hearing her voice when I read it. This is good, because otherwise I’m not sure how well the writing would come across for me, as it’s written to reflect the accent. Ex. “Hell, you could even buy yerself a gen-u-ine religion if you were so inclined.”

Aside from the usual reading and signing, Raven also had a short trivia game for us. She spent 20+ years in Texas before coming to the Pac Northwest, so we had fun playing a game of guessing headlines: Texas or The Onion. The number of times you wished the headline was from the Onion…

For swag, Raven had these cute stickers that are a nod to a line in the book. If you’re looking for fun ideas for a book launch or promotions, these were a nice alternative to bookplates. Cat tail not included.

Raven Oak sticker

Had a chance to chat with her while she signed my book, and spelled my name right! This sounds like a no-brainer, but the number of times someone has asked how to spell my name and still spells it incorrectly…*facepalm. Same thing where I point out how to spell it, or have it written/typed down in view. I hear people with unconventional spellings or ethnic spellings complain and I’m like, dude, people can’t spell my name right—y’all don’t have a chance. However, I do think there are instances where people consciously take better care if they see a name that they’re not familiar with. I need to start saying, “Jaime, like Jaime Lannister.” That presumes the person in question has read the book as opposed to only watching the show, but I’ll try it.

Signed Class M

Also chatted with Raven about some upcoming cons/events and the dilemma of selecting which stories to submit to writers’ workshops. More on that in future posts once I see the results of how it all worked out, but the gist of it was that it’s a tricky line between wanting to represent yourself well but also submit the piece that needs more work since you’re paying for a critique. Constructive criticism is a lot more useful than the ego-boosting of a line of comments just saying they liked it. We’ll see. I have two separate pieces with one going to a CW workshop in July and the other to Sasquan in August.

Closing thoughts on book launches: having snacks is nice. The trivia game was fun, but I can see that being harder to engage in if there are a lot of people in attendance. Small gatherings are nice for more intimate chats. Swag is cool.

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Two of Three Slices- Partial Book Review

Three Slices, 150 pages, May 2015

A Prelude to War, Kevin Hearne, Iron Druid Chronicles 7.5

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys, Delilah S. Dawson, Blud Novel Series 0.5

Interlude: Swallow, Chuck Wendig, Miriam Black 3.5

First off, there might be spoilers ahead. Two of these novellas come partway through their respective series. I’ll try not to so be spoiler-y, but if you’re worried then leave now. However, this is only a review for two of the three slices, as Kevin Hearne kindly recommended that I not start the IDC here. I was worried about Swallow, since it’s in between books 3 & 4, but Wendig commented on twitter that it would be fine so in I jumped.

Umm, three novellas incorporating tyromancy? I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical. Telling the future through cheese, seriously? But hey, these were authors I wanted to check out, novellas are a nice bite-sized intro, and Galen Dara is an amazing artist. The first thing that made me notice this project from the triumvirate of evil was the beautiful cover by Dara for NMC, NMM. What can I say, I’m a sucker for horses. Dara has prints (as well as the cover art for each individual slice) of her artwork available through her Etsy shop, but beware, because this could happen:

Galen Dara prints

Ok, people afraid of spoilers should be gone now. And honestly, I’m not sure how spoiler-y this will be because I didn’t read the IDC story. One day I’ll read Hounded and the rest of the IDC, but until then I was warned it would be confusing and spoiler-y to try and pop in between books 7 & 8.

 Buy the print here

So, Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys. Delilah S. Dawson is an author I’ve been following through social media, and have had her books in the queue of “I need to read this someday.” For my first time venturing into her world of Sang, I thought the tyromancy theme fit perfectly. Actually, it was kind of freaky how it played out because it felt so natural.

So, I went in with guarded expectations, and honestly thinking this wouldn’t be the book for me. Vampire/paranormal romance has been done a lot lately and it’s not really my thing, and I’m not all that fussed about circuses. But I love Dawson’s blog and the cover art pushed me over the edge. Because yes, I do judge books by their covers. I’m terrible.

Well, I walked out the other side of NMC, NMM having bought Wicked As They Come, the first novel in the Blud series. This slice prompted me to run off and join the circus, at least for now. NMC, NMM is the introduction to vampire magician Criminy Stain, and the tale of how he comes to acquire his own caravan.

Criminy (is it weird I read this as Crim-uh-knee instead of Cry-muh-knee?) is an interesting protag, a bit of a rake but with a romantic side. His dialogue is charming and witty. He can get a bit too lust-minded at times, but his charm and the plot kept things humming along. I’m intrigued by the circus world created for Sang, and Criminy’s ambitions for finding true love and a caravan of his own. I love the description of his magic and that he’s a vampire magician. That was fresh to me, though I admit I don’t read much vampire fiction.

The locket and Criminy’s “future” are a nice setup for the Blud novels to come, and leave me looking forward to more without feeling like the story didn’t have its own conclusion. The only part that seemed odd to me was that Criminy doesn’t seem to give much thought to the fact that his future love is a mortal woman.

 Buy the print here

Alright, Interlude: Swallow. This was my first introduction to Miriam Black, and I think it’s considered “3.5” in her series, falling in between Cormorant and Thunderbird. Chuck Wending gave it a nod when I asked if I should read it without having read the previous Miriam stories. Even though it falls a few books into her timeline it wasn’t difficult to grasp the big picture. At least, as I understood it, which could be completely wrong so apologies if this leads you astray.

The gist I got while reading Swallow, is that Miriam has a “curse” that enables her to see when and how someone will die if she touches them. I got the feeling that she doesn’t tend to see people dying peacefully in their sleep. Shocking, I know. In this slice, she’s looking for a person, Mary Stitch, in the hope that she can get rid of Miriam’s curse. Miriam has some whacked history with the Mockingbird Killer and his crazy ass family cult of killers. Something bad went down at the end of Cormorant in a river and Miriam thought the MK died, but no. That’s the summary I took away from Swallow, obviously missing some specifics that are in the books.

If you’ve read Wendig’s blog, terribleminds, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of how Miriam speaks. I got a Lisbeth Salander vibe from her, though more talkative. A lot more. Miriam is crude, darkly humorous, and might just punch you in the face because reasons. I’m not sure she can go much more than a couple of sentences without swearing. She has so much weird energy and a flawed personality that I had to read her in small doses because she’s a bit mentally exhausting. She’s gritty and real and broken. I liked this slice of her story because the length was enough to get a feel for Miriam while the pace zips her current situation along.

Swallow jumps back and forth over around a week, but each section has a heading indicating where in time we are so it isn’t confusing figuring out where/when we are in each “chapter.” It’s also great for sustaining the suspense as the timelines collide.

The tyromancy in Swallow works well too, though in a creepier manner than in NMC, NMM. Instead of having a weird-cool vibe of “ooh magic and cheese,” this was a bit more “ok this works, I’m buying it. I get it, wait, wait omg wtf are you doing with the…omg gorey cheese.” Different, but it works for Miriam’s story.

The title is fitting because this does feel like an interlude, an action-packed pause, in Miriam’s larger story. It still has an “end” for this part of the adventure, but nothing ground-breaking happens. I think that the people who move straight from Cormorant to Thunderbird, aren’t going to feel like they’re missing a part of the story. It’s more of a gift to readers who want more Miriam Black.

First Blog Post- Review of The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I’m not a professional book reviewer so these reviews may be random or digress.  I’ll point out what I liked, what I didn’t, perhaps ways I thought things should’ve gone or could’ve been improved.  Star ratings aren’t really my thing so I’ll probably “grade” more along the lines of if I’d recommend the book or not.  I make no promises about being completely objective, but I will not be mean for funsies.

The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson.

Pub. 10/10/2012, 176 pages, by Tachyon Publications.  Hugo Award winner- Best Novella

I had the kindle format for this book and don’t recall any formatting boo-boos.  Refreshing, because I’ve read a few books that obviously weren’t formatted correctly (or checked over) for the kindle.

Emperor’s Soul takes place in the same world as Elantris, but the novella is a stand alone and you won’t be missing anything by not having read Elantris first.  Really, the only way they’re linked is through the mentioning of ethnicity and locales encountered in Elantris. 

This story follows Shai, a thief and skilled Forger–someone who can change the history of an object using soul stamps–who has been captured during a botched attempt to steal one of the empire’s relics.  She’s facing execution, but is given the seemingly impossible task of Forging a new soul for the brain-dead emperor in 100 days in exchange for her freedom.

This is a nice and quick read.  Plenty of worldbuilding for a short work, and the magic system is well thought out.  The description of the world and magic isn’t always delivered fluidly, as there are some long passages where it’s just Shai explaining how Forgery works via dialogue to someone else.  But the detail and way Shai goes about her Forging is interesting and described well.  I did think Shai was a bit too “perfect” because there are times in the story where she’s able to figure things out with no explanation, but unable to know similar things later on.

The antagonists are a bit one-dimensional, with the exception of Gaotona and the Emperor himself, but given the short page count it makes sense.  Otherwise, Shai has no trouble dealing with the other arbiters and their minions because they fit perfectly into her presumed mold.  It was all a little too neat for me, but Shai’s real conflicts were of a more personal/philosophical nature.

The only glaring issue that stood out to me was the complete lack of attention or explanation for the Imperial Fool.  This is the guy who supposedly turned on Shai and escaped while she got caught during the switheroo they were trying to pull with the scepter relic.  If he’s the “Imperial” fool, then I’d think the arbiters would be at least a bit concerned about his role in the attempted burgling of the empire’s treasures.  I understand the story is left open for Shai to go on and hunt him down if she pleases, but it’s a bit too unbelievable that his betrayal of the empire wasn’t seen as more of a problem.  I also thought she’d try to throw him under the bus upon her capture, but apparently not.

The pace is good and moves right along.  Never felt like there was a dull moment, which is good considering this novella clocks in at less than 200 pages.  The story progresses out by the day as it counts to 100 and Shai’s deadline, which fits well for the base plot of her needing to Forge the Emperor’s soul and escape.  There’s not much of a surprise to the ending, but I thought it fit well with the tone of the story.

Recommended, and I’d love to see Sanderson return to this world and flesh it out more.