While I can often come up with content for my “For Writers” and “For Artists” blog posts, I sometimes have trouble figuring out what readers are interested in. Do you want character sketches? Deleted passages? JK Rowling-style exposés on secret and possibly irrelevant backstory?
This month, instead of guessing, I decided to let you all tell me what you’re looking for. I finished out September with an Instagram Ask Me Anything, which I promised to answer in this month’s blog post. See your questions and their answers below!
It should go without saying, but there are MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS for the entire trilogy below--continue at your own risk!
Recently I’ve given several programs on the power of fan art, and during these programs, I always make sure to stress that the same value applies to fanfiction as well. There’s a good reason for that—most of my completed manuscripts prior to Woodwalker’s publication were fanfiction. The most significant of these, at least in relationship to my published work, is a 67,000 word fic set in the world and events of The Hobbit (in comparison, Woodwalker is 72k words). I wrote it after the first Hobbit movie came out and made me mad with how little it held to the spirit of the book, keeping me awake at night with all the potential that had been lost. It ended up becoming the first of a duology, with the second installment set during The Lord of the Rings.
Nobody has read these fics, not even my best friend and beta reader, who’s read almost everything else I’ve ever written. And they’re not my only LotR fics—I wrote one in undergrad that topped 115k words and encompassed about 500 years of Middle Earth history. But the one set during The Hobbit is the most special to me for several reasons—first, because The Hobbit defined my childhood and ignited my love of fantasy, quests, and worldbuilding. Second, because it was the fic I was writing when my husband finally found out, after four years of marriage, that all the typing I was doing on my computer wasn’t just social media, but fiction writing. And third, because without it, I wouldn’t have conceived of the character of Mae and the plot of Woodwalker.
Warning: Big plot spoilers for Woodwalker below (but none for books 2 and 3). Read them all after the jump!
My name is Brian Robeson and I am thirteen years old and I am alone in the north woods of Canada.
When I was in seventh grade, during the dawn of dial-up Internet and Angelfire websites, I wrote a fan letter to Gary Paulsen telling him how much I loved his adventure books. He replied with a signed typewritten letter and a Polaroid photo of him on a sailboat in a gray Alaskan inlet. The postscript of the letter went like this:
Read all the time; read when they tell you not to read, read with a flashlight under the covers, read on the bus, standing on the corner, waiting for a friend, in the dentist’s waiting room. Read every minute you can. Read like a wolf eats. READ.
I followed Gary Paulsen’s advice up until I reached grad school, when my life was overtaken by academia and, later, motherhood. But now, with two kids eager to devour the same adventures and worlds I did, and with my re-entry into the world of literature as an author, not just a reader, I’m happily rediscovering his wise advice to thirteen-year-old me. Reading isn’t just a pastime; it’s a gateway and lifeline to a broader human experience. Would I be a park ranger today if I hadn’t been transported to Brian Robeson’s L-shaped lake in northern Canada?
Hatchet was a foundational book for a lot of the scouts, rangers, and outdoorsfolk I hang out with—the story of a kid like us, a city boy from a stressful household, who finds himself lost in the rugged wilderness with a small hatchet as his only tool. It was equally captivating and terrifying to stumble along with Brian as he guesses his way through survival, relying on memories of action movies and shipwreck stories, giving childish names to the things he comes to rely on—gut cherries, foolbirds, food fish. And Hatchet certainly isn’t Gary Paulsen’s only survival story. Most of his work—even his autobiography and sci-fi work—is threaded with themes of struggle and cohesion with nature.
Survival remains one of my favorite tropes in literature. From childhood favorites like Island of the Blue Dolphins (O’Dell) and The Sign of the Beaver (Speare) to recent favorites like The Moor’s Account (Lalami) and In the Heart of the Sea (Philbrick), I’m a sucker for a story that throws a character into a wild unknown and forces them to adapt. And now that I’m a published author, I’m not just a sucker for reading these characters, but writing them, too. In fact, I’m mere paragraphs away in my current manuscript from stripping every bit of gear from my protagonists and pushing them into a fifty-mile expanse of waterless desert. Granted, I’m not sure how I’m going to get them across, but at this point they’re cleverer than me, and I expect they’ll show me.
Part one of “So Your Hero is Roughing It” focused on equipping your characters with the most basic gear they might need to survive a quest. This installment focuses instead on what happens when you take all that stuff away. I’ll make the same disclaimer here as I made in Part One: this is not a survival guide. Don’t screenshot this blog and head off into the Yukon. This is a resource for writers and role-players looking for plot nuggets and worldbuilding ideas. I’ve kept things relatively generic on purpose—a lot of your details will depend on what environment your characters are traveling through. Finding medicinal plants in a temperate rainforest is going to be a heck of a lot different from finding medicinal plants in high steppes. This is just a framework, not an in-depth guide.
Read more after the jump!
So you know how I said last month that I was finally getting a Wacom Cintiq to replace my external Intuos tablet? Well, I did it! It wasn't an entirely seamless process, complete with the gutting realization that the Cintiq wasn't compatible with my current laptop, but after some setbacks I got it set up in the past week and have started tinkering with it. And with June's blog structured for readers of my trilogy, what better way to break it in than by drawing a bunch of pictures of my protagonists!
While romance isn't the central part of the Creatures of Light trilogy, it's a strong current throughout all three books. Partnerships--both platonic and romantic--play a big role in driving the plot and upping the stakes. And the romances, be they past or present or on the rise, are not simple, sweet things. They're messy, and bittersweet, and at times very, very hard. Some fall apart over the course of the trilogy, some bloom. But they all have an impact, leaving characters different people from who they were before.
So this blog post features an illustrated snippet from each protagonist's first meaningful interaction with their significant other. Some are right there in the text, and some are only hinted at. Obviously, there are spoilers ahead! But I've arranged and labeled them by book, so if you've only read Woodwalker, you can stop without spoiling the rest; likewise for Ashes to Fire. If you haven't read any of them.... get out now while you still can!(Shameless link to book one in the series here!)
See them all after the jump!
The Creatures of Light trilogy is complete! Help celebrate the last book in the series by participating in the Creatures of Light Coloring Contest! One randomly-drawn winner will receive a full trilogy set, with author-illustrated title pages and matching bookmarks!
The contest runs from March 12 to April 15, 2018. Get all the details, rules, and, of course, coloring pages in the Coloring tab!
Family is such a comfort. There's your blood family and then there's the family you create through shared experiences. There's no better shared experience than writing, and many of the authors from Harper Voyager have become close. We love to support each other.
And we love to do things together! Like chat about science fiction and fantasy books.
And super lucky for readers, we like to give away books together, too!
See the giveaway details below the jump!
We are t-minus ONE WEEK from the e-release of ASHES TO FIRE! The e-book launches next Tuesday, January 31, 2017, and the paperback will follow a few weeks later. Woohoo! Readers will get to follow Mae, Mona, and the other characters from WOODWALKER on a new adventure--new stakes, new country, and new characters! Let's take a look...
Ah, Mister Rou. His real name is Theophilius Roubideaux, but he thinks that's pretentious. Queen Mona describes him alternately as "indecent and asinine" and "insufferably likable." Part savvy diplomat, part impulsive swamp bandit, Rou has the distinct ability to charm his way out of most (self-wrought) sticky situations. He is a diametric opposite to cool, composed Mona, so obviously there could be absolutely no chemistry whatsoever between the two of them...........
See more illustrations of Rou in my Portfolio!
Rou's twin brother Lyle, however, couldn't be more different. Rou describes him to Mona as "downright surly on a good day... balancing long chemical reactions is his idea of a two-way conversation." But what he lacks in his twin's charisma, he makes up for in academic brilliance--Lyle is a wickedly talented chemist and engineer... and it can't be denied that Mona needs a tactical advantage over her enemies. Could Lyle be her ticket to finally protecting Lumen Lake from the threat of Alcoro?
To see a little progress video of Lyle's illustration, see my Videos page!
And after all, Alcoro is indeed a threat, led by their ruthless, tyrannical... quiet and compassionate Queen Gemma? Mona has no idea what to make of her enemy queen, partner to the despotic Seventh King Celeno who ordered the invasion of Lumen Lake four years previously. First impressions give way to second and third impressions, which eventually leave Mona wondering if she knows anything at all about the country that overthrew hers. One thing is for sure---it won't do to underestimate Gemma's role in this conflict, for good or bad.
See these three illustrations alongside the other protagonists on my Characters page!
(DRAMATIC ORCHESTRA STING)
So, there are three of your new characters in ASHES TO FIRE. I will be posting a video in a day or two with more information about the book release, including some details on the launch party and what readers of WOODWALKER can expect in book two. Look for it on my Facebook page (I won't post it on my Videos page because it features my face instead of artwork).
Thanks for following along on this adventure! Don't forget you can pre-order the e-book so you get it right on January 31, and you will be able to pre-order the paperback starting in February!
A lot of you have heard me talk about the follow-up novels (emphasis on novels, plural) to Woodwalker as if they were a done deal. Thing was, my editor only originally signed me for two, with the understanding that if my second wasn't unintelligible garbage, he would consider signing me for the third and final installment.
Well, as of today, I can officially share the good news...
HarperVoyager has signed me for CREATURES OF LIGHT, the third and final follow-up to Woodwalker! This book is narrated by Gemma, a character readers will get to know in Mona's forthcoming book, Ashes to Fire.
The manuscript itself is almost complete, though it still needs several rounds of hardcore editing. I hope readers will find it a satisfying finale to this series.
But let's not forget that before we get too worked up about Creatures of Light, we have something much more tangible and imminent---Ashes to Fire releases in less than two months! In between drafting the manuscript for Creatures of Light, I've been putting together some sweet new material for book 2's release. Expect lots of new illustrations and interactive media in January and February! In the meantime, you can go ahead and pre-order the Ashes to Fire ebook, with the paperback launching shortly afterward.
Thanks for all your support! Without the love you've all shown Woodwalker, book 3 never would have seen the light of day. Happy holidays!
All I want for Christmas is 50 Amazon reviews!
And we're so close! Right now Woodwalker is sitting at exactly 45 reviews—it only needs five more! Amazon is perhaps the biggest influence in a book’s sales, and 50 reviews is sort of their threshold for determining whether a book has a decent following or not. If you’ve read Woodwalker, whether you loved it or wanted to gouge out your eyeballs with compass needles by the end, would you please consider leaving a brief, honest review?
Just like last time, as incentive, I have a second wave of spoiler art ready to go live on my website once we hit that magic number. Additionally, I’ll publicly post my most recent painting, a rather dashing portrait of Valien Bluesmoke, King of the Silverwood.
Reviews on other sites, like Goodreads, are more than welcome, as well. As always, thank you so much for your support, and happy holiday season!
Update: Woohoo, you did it!
Barely two hours after this post went live, Woodwalker received its 50th Amazon review! As promised, there are ten brand-new highly spoilery pieces up in the Spoiler Gallery (spoiler: there are spoilers involved, so don't click if you want to remain unspoiled of the spoilers). And here is your GQ-esque portrait of cunning Valien, also on display in my portfolio:
Thank you again for your support and feedback. Please continue to leave reviews for the books you read, particularly by lesser-known authors--they are the best tool for a book's success!
"What else did you bring?" I asked. "Tell me you brought something besides traveling tunics.”
Mae glared at me. “In case you’d forgotten, we left the Silverwood in a bit of a hurry after a night of no sleep. I packed for battle, not tea and cookies.”
“Rivers to the sea.” I pushed back my chair and stood. “You’ll have to borrow something of mine.”
“Three reasons.” She pointed to her breasts. “One. Two.” She slapped her hips. “Three. And you’d have to hem about a foot off the bottom.”
I went to my trunk. “We’ll make it work.”
“You doubt my sewing skills.”
“I do. You’re not a miracle worker. Just let me wear my uniform.”
“I saw it when we met with Atria. The knees are filthy. Tell me, what color is the cleanest pair of breeches you brought?”
She sighed and propped her boots up on the end of her bunk. “Probably brown. Most of them are brown.”
“Do you have gray?”
“No, I don’t have gray. What does it matter?”
“Brown’s a bad color for you. Muddies you.”
She fanned herself in mock distress. “Oh, you cruel thing. To think I’ve gone this far in life not knowing…”
I pulled out the richest color I had brought, a midnight blue gown with a square neckline. “You should consider wearing reds, or pastels.”
“Pastels?” She spit the word out as if it tasted bad.
“Something other than olive drab and brown.”
“Maybe I’ll just go naked, so Celeno’s not offended,” she said vehemently. “And don’t slam green—it’s the color of our banner.”
“Then let it stay on the banner. Get up,” I said, dragging a chair into the middle of the floor. “Let’s get to work.”
“I thought we were supposed to be talking about something practical?” she said.
“On the chair.”
-Ashes to Fire
One of my favorite exchanges between Mae and Mona in Ashes to Fire! I really love how the relationship between these two grows and changes through the two books. After the events of Woodwalker, they're able to appreciate and trust the other a lot more, leading to some great dialogue and action between them.
Ashes to Fire releases as an e-book on January 31, 2017! The paperback will follow a few weeks later. You can pre-order the e-book through HarperCollins for just $3.99.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator