Book Launch for Stranger Skies this Saturday in Powell River

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StrangerSkiesebookcoverPress

Stranger Skies

Queer Pagan Fiction with a YA Bent

“The scent of death and fear hit her then — she’d found her first Minae wolf….”

A goddess’ fall from grace leaves her on an alien world, bereft of her followers, trapped in a mortal body. Should she strive to regain her godhood or accept her mortality and find love?

Silva, Queen of Wolves, Lady of the True Woods, seeks her only friend Etan, who, along with other deities of the Council of Divinity, has gone missing for reasons unknown. Her search traps her on a world where the wolves have lost faith in her; she becomes a mortal woman whose remaining powers could brand her as a witch.

Through the chaos of war and the turmoil in her own heart, Silva can’t escape a persistent feeling: her fall was not an accident.

~~

Just a brief heads up before I go collapse into a codeine-induced coma:

I am having a book launch for my latest novel, Stranger Skies, this Saturday the 22nd at 4 p.m. It will be held at the café “A Step Above” on the second floor of Quality Foods on Joyce Avenue.

From the event page:

It’s finally happening! Stranger Skies is having a book launch this Saturday in Powell River!

Stranger Skies
First Novel in The Borderlands Saga

“Any reader who loves wolves, woods and wonderful characters will devour Stranger Skies.”
— K. Wolff, La Chiripa

Have your copy of the first volume in this magnificent new science-fiction/fantasy saga signed by Katje van Loon, author of Bellica.

Located at the cafe above Quality Foods in Powell River — “A Step Above”. Go to the end of the cash registers, past the frozen foods section, and take the elevator or stairs up!

Hosted by The Pearl Review, Powell River’s book-lover’s collective.

Cover art by Autumn Skye ART.

You can RSVP at the Facebook event page here.

(Let me know if it doesn’t work; FB continues to mystify me. The event is set to public but who knows.)

If you’re in Powell River this weekend I hope to see you at the launch!

If you don’t live in Powell River, I will be having other book launches for Stranger Skies in the coming months both on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland. It’s an informal book tour — informal, because we’re not planning the entire thing out beforehand and are just doing it as and when and where we can.

However, there will be more notice than a few days’ worth for other towns. We meant to get the word out earlier for this one, but moving + travel + surgery + recovery has kind of eaten our lives.

Speaking of recovery…I’m going to go do more of that, in bed, for several hours. Sleepy time! Codeine is kickin’ in with a vengeance.

Hope to see you on Saturday!

-Katje

Reading more women authors

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This is not actually something I need help with, in the most general of terms. I tend to read women authors by default, and often have to work to seek out male authors.

I consider myself lucky — in this one, small way, my brain has escaped patriarchal programming.

Well, perhaps. I think I still read a disproportionate amount of cisgender, white, able-bodied, women authors, and I often only read the speculative fiction/SFF genres. My defaulting to women authors still does not yield much diversity in what I read.

So I am taking a page from Lilit Marcus’ book, here in 2014, and actively seeking out more women authors — but more specifically, queer and trans* women (including genderqueer folk who are socially classed as women/assumed to be women), women of colour, indigenous women, mixed race women, and women with disabilities. Also, I’m going to attempt to branch away from SFF and read other genres.

I won’t be reading women exclusively — as I said, I already default to reading women authors, so I actually have to actively seek out male authors most of the time. However, if I read a book by a man, I will then read 2 by women.

And I’m not sure how many books I’ll get read. I don’t do much reading these days; I think university killed my joy in it. But I will try; I will work very hard to read several books this year, and to seek out different types of books by more queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, WOC, and disabled [women] authors.

Are you participating in #readwomen2014?

(Worth noting: the hashtag was created by Joanna Walsh, and most of the credit for the idea is given to her — but Lilit Marcus deserves credit for the idea, and I’m giving her her due.)

And if you have any recommendations for books by queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, disabled, and/or women of colour authors that are not SFF, please let me know in the comments!

 

The Writer’s Journey, Chapter 1

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Cover image of The Writer's Journey, Third Edition, by Christopher VoglerI’ve started reading through The Writer’s Journey (Third Edition) by Christopher Vogler. I was given the book ages ago by mom and never really sat down to read it. (I have such a huge pile of books that are TBR.)

The book is a look at the Hero’s Journey and how it can apply to writing and a writer’s life. The Hero’s Journey is the idea that every story is, at core, the same. It’s a monomyth paradigm put forward by Joseph Campbell.

There are a lot of problems with this paradigm being touted as universal. The Hero’s Journey has a definite Western bias and trying to apply it to non-Western stories and myths is, to my mind, a form of literary colonization.

However, I still think the book will be useful to me. Not because the Hero’s Journey is universal, but because it is specifically biased to Western civilization, and I am a Western writer, with a Western audience.

The book also doesn’t push formula, which is unexpected, honestly. It puts forth the Hero’s Journey as a form, but says that to make it really work, one must internalize one’s understanding of it and then do one’s own thing. It’s form, not formula. It’s a map, with possible rest stops marked out, not an itinerary from which one may not stray.

The rest stops he marks out are as follows, with my own understanding of what each rest stop means.

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A good day for pluviophiles

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Well, actually, even I find this weather kind of frightening. It is monsooning outside right now. As in, I’m pretty sure if I walked out of my building I’d drown.

Anyway, this means that WORD Vancouver is being moved indoors — so you can still come see us tomorrow but we’ll likely be inside.

Oh, right — we’ll be at WORD tomorrow. Not sure if I mentioned that. I probably didn’t, because I spent this week getting my FACE EATEN by the work I had to do in prep for WORD. Beeg [bada boom] publishing order had to be completed and then I had to finish editing Stranger Skies so I could get the ARC out to winners and people who helped me with the cover reveal.

(If I missed you in that email — please let me know. My brain is basically dead right now and I’m not even sure what my name is. Awesome McBitchpants? Something like that.)

Who is we? Kat and Wolff, obviously, and the Powell River Live Poets’ Guild and International Peace Poem and Youth Peace Poem Competition. We’re big on peace. And literacy.

Right now I am trying to give my brain a desperately needed break after going through editing hell over the past two days. Mainly by watching Angel and Buffy on Netflix. Don’t judge me. I never got to see them in the order they aired (I watched Angel before Buffy and marathon-ed both shows) so I’m re-watching them in order. I wish Netflix would make this a bit easier by allowing you to create playlists but it doesn’t. C’est la vie.

Also, yes, that annoying box at the top of each page on this blog will be there until October 4th. Sorry. Actually, not sorry, ignore that reflexive Canadianism.

And finally, in honor of Banned Books Week (which I totally missed thanks to work), here are my favourite three lines from the poem “Voice” by Kaimana Wolff (found in the witless poisoner).

This flesh is made of words:
light me and I will burn
like a brave, banned book

-Kat

Writer’s Bucket List, Revisited

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A while ago I posted a writer’s bucket list for myself. I decided that for today’s post, I would revisit it and see how much progress I’m making.

  1. Publish 4 novels. I’ve got at least that many as WIPs currently, so this should be “easy” to do (nothing about writing is easy).
  2. Finish a short story. I have this habit of making stories too big, and for once I’d like to write an actual short story. If only one in my life. So this is definitely part of the list.
  3. Connect and make friends with fellow authors. I have a history of being a recluse and I’d like that to change. (A little bit. Not by much.)
  4. Attend a writing conference. My mother has been doing this for years and I should really start to as well — she has so many contacts and she has so much fun at the conferences, I wonder that I haven’t started to go to them yet.
  5. Attend a fandom conference as a guest. Something like DragonCon, though maybe not that big. I’m not sure — cons where sff writers are more than welcome. (I know they’re out there; I’m just at a loss for names right now.)
  6. Win NaNoWriMo. I have been doing this thing for years and I have yet to win the elusive bastard. This year (2011) is mine.
  7. Become semi-famous. At least well known in the SFF circuit. That is a fame unto itself, and the one that matters most to me as a writer and reader of SFF.
  8. Actually develop a technique, and learn what that technique is. I do have a technique, but if asked to talk about it I start babbling incoherently because I don’t know what it is.
  9. Get a blurb from one of my favourite authors. Ideally, Ursula K. LeGuin, but I have a short list of favourite authors in addition to her name.

Damn! 2 done already, and it’s only been 2 months. Not too shabby. As well, I currently am just shy of 20K words for NaNoWriMo 2011, and plan on making 25K by this Sunday. I expect to have 50K words written by the middle of the month. Just you wait!

(The short story I wrote has been entered into a contest and so is un-shareable at this time. However, I’ll know by January if it wins or not, at which point I’ll probably put it on the site.)

 

Can’t stop now! This is Nano country!

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As many of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month: Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.

Some may say that phrase is quite literal, that we abandon literature. I’m sure there are NaNo novels for which that is true, but is is not true for mine, because I’m a damn good writer. (And a lot of other Wrimos are as well.)

This year, I actually planned. I wrote an outline. I figured out the First Plot Point, the Mid Plot Point, and the Second Plot Point. I wrote an overarching vision for my story. I came up with a partial Beat Sheet, outlining the scenes I would write and the missions they had. (Thanks to Larry Brooks at StoryFix.com for his 30 posts on how to outline your NaNo novel. I found many of his tips useful.)

A glazed Tim Hortons donut

This is exactly what I ordered, too.

At midnight on the first of November I started writing with my fellow Nanaimo-Wrimos at our Tim Horton’s kick-off party. In the two hours at Timmy’s and the three hours when I got home, I wrote 3,331 words of my novel. (I was planning on sleeping as soon as I got home, but someone at Timmy’s gave me a coffee instead of a hot chocolate.) I decided sleep was the better part of valor at that point, and when I woke up later that day I rounded off my day’s word count at 5,560. My goal today is 10K.

You know what happened? I followed my outline…loosely. I found as I wrote, other things cropped up, and I ended up adding them into the story quite nicely. My main character’s best friend showed up in Chapter 1, instead of Chapter 3 as I had planned. Which meant I had to actually figure out the right name for him before moving on. I had been tossing around name ideas (I’m a writer who can’t write main characters without the exact right names, because I believe your name is such an integral part of your being that to write a character without a name is like writing one without a soul) before starting, but had not been able to settle on anything. I figured, no big deal, I’m not introducing him till Chapter 3 or so, so I can figure out a name before then. Well, he had other ideas.

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Friday Five: five random items sitting in this writer’s room

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I’m making a departure from the norm for this Friday Five — instead of listing books I think you should read, I’m just going to list 5 random things that are in my room.

Why? Because it’s Friday Five and I can list whatever the hells I want.

  1. An unopened package of Rockets, sitting on my shrine to Aphrodite. (Yeah, they’re called Rockets in Canada because our Smarties are candy-covered chocolate. Geez, U.S.A., get it right. Actually, wait, no, you’re right enough already — get it left! Oh, political humour…never old.)
  2. A lampshade with my favorite quote from Romeo and Juliet written on it in gold paint. (“Give me my Romeo; and when he shall die/Take him and cut him out in little stars/And he will make the face of the heavens so fine/That all the world will be in love with night/And pay no worship to the garish sun.”) There are also little stars on the lampshade.
  3. Two bottles of water next to a huge bottle of Naproxen. (Chronic pain. It’s not fun.)
  4. A poster for Michael Jackson’s film This Is It.
  5. Two masks — one gifted to me years ago, green, and for decoration only. One I made in stagecraft class, modeled after M’Lady the Morrigan, which I will very occasionally wear in ritual, to invite Her to possess me.

I would love to see a personality profile made of me based on this one blog post.

Writer Wednesday: The Writer’s Bucket List

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This post is inspired by Heather Simone’s August 8th blog post of her writer’s bucket list. I read it and thought “That would be a great WW post!” and, well, here we are.

Some of my list items will be the same as hers, because, well, we’re writers and many of us have similar goals. Not rocket science, that.

So without further ado, I present Katje van Loon’s Writer Bucket List.

  1. Publish 4 novels. I’ve got at least that many as WIPs currently, so this should be “easy” to do (nothing about writing is easy).
  2. Finish a short story. I have this habit of making stories too big, and for once I’d like to write an actual short story. If only one in my life. So this is definitely part of the list.
  3. Connect and make friends with fellow authors. I have a history of being a recluse and I’d like that to change. (A little bit. Not by much.)
  4. Attend a writing conference. My mother has been doing this for years and I should really start to as well — she has so many contacts and she has so much fun at the conferences, I wonder that I haven’t started to go to them yet.
  5. Attend a fandom conference as a guest. Something like DragonCon, though maybe not that big. I’m not sure — cons where sff writers are more than welcome. (I know they’re out there; I’m just at a loss for names right now.)
  6. Win NaNoWriMo. I have been doing this thing for years and I have yet to win the elusive bastard. This year (2011) is mine.
  7. Become semi-famous. At least well known in the SFF circuit. That is a fame unto itself, and the one that matters most to me as a writer and reader of SFF.
  8. Actually develop a technique, and learn what that technique is. I do have a technique, but if asked to talk about it I start babbling incoherently because I don’t know what it is.
  9. Get a blurb from one of my favourite authors. Ideally, Ursula K. LeGuin, but I have a short list of favourite authors in addition to her name.

30 in 30: Day 16 (democracy has miles to go before we can sleep)

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Favourite Poem or Collection of Poetry

This is a difficult one. I don’t have many favourite poems as I have favourite poets, and when I look at their works there are a few poems that jump out at me.

So I have two.

The first is by Langston Hughes.

Democracy

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Freedom
Is a strong seed
Planted
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

The second is by Robert Frost.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

These two poets are not my only favourites — I’m also very fond of Emily Dickinson — but they are the ones whose poems came to mind for this post. They are definitely masters of the craft. These poems are so simple, and yet so poignant. They do not waste breath with unnecessary chatter.

The art of poetry lies within the ability to prune.

Within the ability to stop.

30 in 30: Day 15 (in which I am fairly whimsical about the Rootabaga Country)

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Cover of 1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories, by...

Image via Wikipedia

Your “comfort” book

Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandberg.

I first read this book when I was fairly young. The stories ‘were born of Sandburg’s desire for “American fairy tales” to match American childhood. He felt that the European stories involving royalty and knights were inappropriate, and so set his stories in a fictionalized American Midwest called “the Rootabaga country” filled with farms, trains, and corn fairies.’ [1]

Alongside the traditional fairy tales brought over to North America from Europe, I grew up in Canada reading Rootabaga Stories, and they spoke to me much more strongly than the Brothers Grimm. There was a sense of adventure alongside a definite level of ridiculousness in the stories; they were crazy enough that you could believe they were true.

You get to the Rootabaga Country by train, and I’m sure it’s this book that created my childhood love of trains (that, and travelling by train from Vancouver to LA and across to Albuquerque and back again in an awesome trip that involved Disney Land and Universal Studios).

There’s something very reassuring about the idea that you can get to a mythical land if you just go far enough in a train, or on a bike, or by bus.  The idea that escape is always an option, if life gets too bad.

That is why we read fiction, after all. To escape into another world, if only for a few hours. I’ve spent my life finding new ways to escape every situation — so is it any wonder the books that bring me comfort are the ones where that fantastic land is just around the corner, and I’ll see it if I just squint my eyes the right way?

Time and time again I pick up this book and read through it, and find myself content in the knowledge that if it is so far, so early, and so soon, that I can get a long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it and I will ride where the railroad tracks run off into the sky and never come back. [2]