New Project: Unraveled by Michelle C. Eging

I’m pleased to present Looseleaf’s most recently completed book-length project: Unraveled by Michelle C. Eging. It’s an adult fantasy novel, the first in a trilogy.

Threads of Sole: Unraveled by Michelle C. Eging

Michelle was a joy to work with. I completed the interior layout for the print version, the ebook layout, and the cover designs for both the print and electronic versions. (Remember, cover design does not mean the same thing as cover illustration. The lovely illustration is the work of Michelle Wilber.) I also did the final proofreading. Here is the back-cover copy for the novel:

In the aftermath of the War of Awakening, the King and his Council condoned the Purge, methodically executing members of the magically gifted Blessed so no person’s power will threaten Sole again. After years of political negotiation, the Purge has ended, requiring the Blessed to brand their faces and creating a rift that has Sole on the brink of civil war. Enwyck, the daamon half-blood Prince of Sole, Joslynn, a woman whose mask hides her deformed and poisonous spider-silk skin, Windle, a former Godmother now hiding as an old man, and Kasimir, a blind cripple no longer able to transform into a raven, find themselves struggling to preserve the kingdom while confronting the trauma of their pasts and the broken pieces of their present. One false move and everything they fought for will unravel, if it hasn’t already.

If that tickles your fancy, go forth and buy the book here. It’s available in both paperback and electronic forms from Amazon. (If you’re an ebook-reading Amazon Prime member, you’ll also be interested to know that the book is a part of the lending library.) If you have a non-Kindle ereader, touch bases with Michelle here at let her know you’re interested. Sometimes the other distribution channels can take a while to get things up.

2013 Editorial Availability, September–December

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m hard at work on my master’s degree. Once I have it, I will be an even more awesome choice for all your editorial needs. In the meantime, I have a very limited schedule for new projects. Currently I’ve got a pair of large, long-term projects, and between them and a few minor projects, I am booked through the end of the year.

However, if you have projects in the works for which you’ll want an editor, but do not need an editor until next year, feel free to contact me and preschedule. I’ll be in my degree program until June of next year, so until then the schedule will be tight. The earlier we touch bases, the better the chances that I’ll be able to work with you to help you reach your audience with clarity, credibility, and style.

A Brief Update

Brigham Young University Logo

I apologize for the lack of free editorial advice, delightful book reviews, and other bookish content available here in recent months. Obviously the past eight-ish months have not been prime time for my blogging. Book reviews are sparse, because at the moment I’m pursuing my master’s degree at Brigham Young University, so I spend a lot of time reading books that have been published for a while (although the oldest I’ve read for this degree only dates back to the very end of the 1600s), so there are a few hundred years’ worth of people to tell you if it’s any good or not. All my analytical brain cells that could write other sorts of posts are directed toward my seminar papers, my thesis, and the paying projects I’m still plugging away at.

If you miss my blogging, take it up with this face.

I also spend a lot of time tending to the newest member of my family, my now ten-month-old son. I’m quite proud of him: he runs around the apartment, voluntarily submerges his face in swimming pools, and spends a good chunk of every day bringing me books from his bookshelf. (Maybe I should start writing reviews of his books, since they tend to be the most recently published books I read these days.)

Anyway, updates shall be sparse. I’m going to be documenting some parts of my thought process and research as I go about writing my master’s thesis, which is about internet narratives on the broad scale, fairy tales on the internet more specifically, and a few examples of internet fairy tales in the most particular. Most of the updates on what my Thesis Neurons are up to will be on my new Tumblr blog: Internet Narrative. If I have spare time to construct blog posts that are particularly useful to writers or readers (I have a few outlines for posts that have been sitting around for eight months), I’ll be putting them here. I’ll also be posting Looseleaf news, like notable newly published projects, my availability, and such. However, these will be few and far between (especially since I’m taking on fewer projects while getting my degree).

So stay tuned to the things that most interest you. Maybe when this whole “master’s degree” thing blows over I’ll be able to get back to regular blogging. I miss it.

Leaflet Review: The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

The Half-Made World coverThe world is still only half-made. Between the wild shores of uncreation, and the ancient lands of the East lies the vast expanse of the West—young, chaotic, magnificent, war-torn.

Thirty years ago, the Red Republic fought to remake the West—fought gloriously, and failed. The world that now exists has been carved out amid a war between two rival factions: the Line, enslaving the world with industry, and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence. The Republic is now history, and the last of its generals sits forgotten and nameless in a madhouse on the edge of creation. But locked in his memories is a secret that could change the West forever, and the world’s warring powers would do anything to take it from him.

Now Liv Alverhuysen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels west, hoping to heal the general’s shattered mind. John Creedmoor, reluctant Agent of the Gun and would-be gentleman of leisure, travels west, too, looking to steal the secret or die trying. And the servants of the Line are on the march.

I can’t remember exactly how I became interested in The Half-Made World, but it’s been a while. I wasn’t quite ready to drop enough money to buy a new hardcover from an author I’d never read though, and that’s why when it came time to find books to populate my Nook, I was ridiculously pleased to see that for some reason, it was on sale for $3.99 (I later discovered that this was a promotional price because the sequel came out last week). It would have been worth paying more than that.

Characters in Conflict

The most interesting aspect of the book, for me, was how every viewpoint character had a strong internal conflict between who they were, what they were doing, and what they wanted to do.

The world of this book feels very magical-wild-West: there are cowboy-like outlaws (the Agents of the Gun), industry-driven railroad men (the men of the Line), the innocents caught in the middle, and the magical Hillfolk that no one fully comprehends. There’s a viewpoint character from every group except the Hillfolk.

John Creedmoor, Agent of the Gun, is ridden by a demon who lives in his revolver. The demon, Marmion, is used to more or less dictating the actions of his host. But Creedmoor delights in defying his master as much as he can, even when it results in demonic torture. Don’t get me wrong: Creedmoor is not a good man, and that point is frequently reiterated through his thoughts and actions. But there is a part of him that knows what good is and that wants someone to do the right thing, even if it isn’t him. John’s internal conflict was, for me, the most compelling conflict of the story.

Lowry is a man of the Line. Men of the Line are supposed to be more or less the same across the board: more or less equally capable, efficient, and unquestioningly loyal to the Engines they worship. His little rebellions are nowhere as brazen as Creedmoor’s, but they wouldn’t fit his character if they were. He is ever so slightly proud of his accomplishments (pride is anathema for Linesmen). He struggles with his desire for glory and his place in a system that doesn’t allow for glory. Especially when he’s put in contrast with Creedmoor, who is a complete glory hog, Lowry is actually an interesting character considering he comes from a group of people who are supposed to be the bland product of assembly lines and cookie-cutter lives. Where he ends up at the end of the book is perfectly fitting (though it felt unfulfilling for a moment and it took me a bit to realize how brilliant it was).

Liv was, for me, the least interesting of the characters. She too is in conflict with herself for most of the book—she struggles with her revulsion and pragmatic acceptance of Creedmoor—but I think she surprised me the least and had the simplest character arc. That said, she is very different, in a good an interesting way, from your typical fantasy heroine. She’s just not, in my opinion, the most interesting person in the book.

Drive to the Sequel

This book’s ending feeds heavily into the sequel. The biggest secret of the book still hasn’t been revealed, new difficulties are introduced, and in general it does a good job of letting you know that if you enjoyed this book, you must pick up the next one as soon as possible. But while I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and I’m emotionally invested in Creedmoor’s character, especially after the events at the end of the book, I’m going to hold off for a bit. Why? Because Liv suddenly became more central (and I already mentioned that she’s not the most interesting for me), and given the back-cover copy of the sequel, I’m not sure that the sequel will end up being what I’d expect. So I’m going to hold off until the price drops to something closer to the price of a mass market paperback. Gilman’s voice and setting are intriguing, and I want to try more; I’m just not quite prepared to pay a premium for it yet.

content warnings: Language (several F-bombs) and allusions to Creedmoor’s liaisons with various women.

The Familius Christmas Anthology 2012

Familius Christmas Anthology coverRemember not too long ago when I mentioned I had a book coming out? Well, now it’s out! Actually, it’s been out for a few weeks now, but it took awhile for it to post to all the major stores. I give you The Familius Christmas Anthology 2012, compiled by yours truly and Rick Walton:

Christmas is a time for family and there’s no better way of helping your family enjoy the Christmas spirit than by taking time each night to explore the annual Familius Christmas Anthology. Filled with stories, poems, recipes, and activities to make Christmas time enjoyable, this collection is literally stuffed with feel-good content and activities that will bring your family together. The stories include such favorites as the “The Gift of Magi” by O’Henry to the moving “The Child Who Had Everything But—” by John Kendrick Bangs. The anthology also includes favorite poems like “Long Ago” by Christina Rossetti and, of course, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” among many others. And delicious family favorite recipes provide an invitation to spend time at the family table, whether you’re enjoying Spiced Sugar Cookie Truffles or a simple pot of White Hot Chocolate. And don’t forget to round out your Christmas holiday with family activities like building Graham Cracker Cottages or playing Jack Frost Tag. The Familius Christmas Anthology is a fantastic way of enjoying this wonderful holiday and making sure your family enjoys it, together.

I love Christmas, and I’m happy to have been a part of putting this anthology together. The whole point of the anthology is the help families enhance the holiday time they spend together. I’ve always loved spending time reading stories and baking with my family around the holidays. (When I lived at home we used to light candles and read a Christmas story every night in December.) This year, I’m looking forward to starting some family traditions of my own with my husband and my son (even if the little guy will only be a couple months old by the time Christmas day rolls around). Maybe this little book can help you with some traditions of your own.

The book is currently available as an ebook from all major ebook sellers.

(These are not affiliate links.)

Familius Christmas Anthology cover

New Webcomic: Children of Eldair by Rachel Oaks & Jemma Young

Koe LeKai was content to live his centuries-long life isolated in his cavernous home, but a strange sign in his stargazing lures him away from his solitude. Upon encountering a horde of monstrous flesh eaters, he eradicates them and saves a young woman, Embera, from being torn into scraps. While Embera is grateful for his help, she harbors a secret that Koe will only come to understand through time, magic, and the ever-guiding wisdom of the stars.

It’s time to announce a new webcomic from Rachel Oaks and Jemma Young. These two talented women are close friends of mine, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing this storyline (and the art that goes with it) go through various incarnations.

The comic goes live today, December 1, and I know for a fact that they have quite a buffer built up, so you’ll get regular updates of fantasy-comic goodness even if you start reading right now. To get started, just visit Eldair.com. The comic will update every weekday for the first chapter. After that updates will come every Monday and Thursday.

If you need more convincing, watch this video below. Rachel will compliment you into submission.

Leaflet Review: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson coverThe Emperor’s Soul showcases a fascinating magic system as the clock ticks down for a condemned criminal. When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos. Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent. Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape …

This novella from Brandon Sanderson was the first full piece I read on the Nook SimpleTouch my husband got me for my birthday. (Side note: I know I’ve never been an outspoken fan of ebooks, but I have to say, with a newborn, I love my Nook. I can hold it and turn pages with one hand, and if the little one is up in the middle of the night, it has a little light to illuminate the screen so I can read while I rock him. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.) It was well worth the money I paid for it, even though there are full ebook novels you can get for the same price. As is typical of Brandon, the magic system is innovative and interesting. The two most important characters, Shai and Gaotona, have very different perspectives on theology, the place of magic in the world, and politics, but Brandon does an amazing job of showing how similar they can be when they’re genuine with one another. There is a great deal of discussion about the nature of beauty and art, and it’s actually quite poetic. As far as intellectual elements go (rather than the fun of character and worldbuilding, which were delightful), my favorite part was when Shai begins to understand how the emperor went from an idealistic crusader to an idle ruler. It rings very true, not just for the characters in the story, but for everyday people in the real world. I have to admit that I skimmed the fight scene. Fight scenes are another thing Brandon is known for, but I didn’t fully appreciate this one. However, you can hear Brandon explain why he kept it in a recent episode of Writing Excuses. (The episode is spoilerific, so don’t listen unless you’re okay with that.) Note: If you’re a big print fan and you decide you’d like a hard-copy version of this novella, go for it. If you buy the print version from Tachyon Publications, just email your receipt or a photo of yourself holding the book to ebooks@brandonsanderson.com and you’ll get a free electronic copy as well.

Announcing My First Book

Spiced Sugar Cookie Truffles

Spiced sugar cookie truffles

I’m not exactly new to publishing, working with publishers, or working with materials that I know will be published. But my latest project does have me doing something new: instead of editing the work to be published, I’m helping to write it!

Right now I’m working on a joint project with children’s author Rick Walton to put together a Christmas book for Familius, a new press specializing in family-centered books and collections. The book is going to have short stories, poems, recipes, and activities for families to use during the Christmas season. The experience is, so far, a lot different than editing.

Writing Nonfiction

One aspect of the book that isn’t difficult for me to adjust to is writing nonfiction. I’m writing the recipes and many of the activities, but honestly, I haven’t written any fiction in a long time. Right now I blog, write summaries, and write research papers, so I’m used to a wide spread of nonfiction styles and voices. I haven’t ever written recipes before, but considering the fact that I used to be the kind of person who could get lost in even the simplest set of recipe directions, it isn’t too difficult to make sure my recipes make sense.

The tricky part of this, for me, is that instead of editing the text to align it with someone else’s idea of what the branding and voice of the book should be, I need to decide for myself and reflect that decision in my word choice, topic selection, and more.

Writing Christmas Nonfiction

The biggest problem I’ve had so far is the fact that I’ve been testing recipes for Christmas … in September and October. Among other things, I’ve made peppermint meringue cookies (difficult to do when you can’t find candy canes in the store), spiced sugar cookies (which aren’t too weird, because the spices I used are associated with fall as well as Christmas), and two types of hot chocolate. The temperature has been up in the 70s or higher lately, so convincing people to taste-test the hot chocolate was a bit of a challenge.

Book Release Details

I don’t have a publication date for the book yet, but it will be out as an ebook this Christmas season (if all goes well, hard copies will come out next year). I’ll keep you posted on the details as I get them.

Leaflet Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Cover of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom RiggsA mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very peculiar photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Normally I’m not very good at enjoying a book that I think is a standalone, but is actually an introduction to something more. Normally I get a bit perturbed by books that spend a long time setting things up and keep me from fully understanding the worldbuilding for a long time. Normally I wouldn’t have been able to finish a book like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

But this book does things differently. The slow discovery of the world of the peculiar children is natural, and the steady pace at which the reader’s understanding unfolds somehow sits just right. It helps that the main character, Jacob, is as ignorant as the reader—anything he knows, you know, but anything he doesn’t, you don’t.

I’ll admit, the fact that it isn’t a standalone when that was my expectation was jarring.  I’m not particularly fond of being jarred. However, I found the children in the book—their personalities, their powers, their different reactions to their predicament—so interesting that even when I realized there was no way the story could wrap up by the end of the book, I didn’t get too upset. I appreciate that a good number of the children are treated as individuals instead of as a lump-sum group. An experience that makes one child an academician of everyday events turns another into a borderline sociopath who, frankly, makes me nervous (it doesn’t help that he keeps various body parts preserved in jars in the basement).

In short, the character development of the book makes my usual deal-breakers fade into the background. I enjoyed Jacob’s development from a loser teen to a bereaved grandson to the person he becomes by the end of the book. I enjoyed meeting the peculiar children right along with him and seeing his relationships with them develop. And it certainly didn’t hurt that there were pictures in the book (there are far too few pictures in “grown-up” books). If you’re looking for something with some strong characters and just a bit of creepiness, this book is a good place to look.

Content warnings: None that I can remember.

Leaflet Review: Railsea by China Miéville

I apologize for the hiatus—I know it’s been a while. The good news is that I’ve haven’t been posting because a series of exciting adventures have struck: the whole pregnancy thing (only five weeks until the little guy comes!), moving back to Utah from Texas, and starting graduate school are just a few of them. Because of all the adventures, after the next three book reviews (this one included), I’m only going to post once a week, on Wednesdays, instead of the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule I used to have. Now, speaking of adventures, here’s a look at China Miéville’s latest work: Railsea.
Cover for Railsea by China Miéville

On board the moiletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death & the other’s glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can’t shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea—even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-colored mole she’s been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it’s a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict—a kind of treasure map indicating a mythical place untouched by iron rails—leads to considerably more than he’d bargained for. Soon he’s hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters & salvage-scrabblers. & it might not be just Sham’s life that’s about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.

A Unique Spin on Classic Stories

As you may have guessed from the book description, Railsea bears traces of Moby Dick in it, only instead of hunting a great white whale, the crew of the Medes is hunting an ivory mole (the captain is certain to inform anyone who thinks otherwise that Mocker Jack is not yellow). But as I read, I found that the actual plot line bears a stronger resemblance to Treasure Island. Young Sham longs for adventure and finds a bit too much of it along his way.

However, as one would expect of Miéville, although the book draws on these classic stories, it has a texture and a feeling that is all its own. The dingy, polluted atmosphere of the world of the railsea permeates the book and makes it settle into your mind even when the scenes are on the lighter side. The worldbuilding is in depth and shows itself in everything from the way the world’s inhabitants think about dirt and water to the way the words appear on the page (the word “and” is never used, only the ampersand). Railsea’s world is, well, not necessarily a delight, but certainly a unique draw for the book. (I can’t use delight because that implies sunshine and butterflies, but between the polluted cloud of the upsky and the bizarre mutations it causes for airborne creatures, you find little of either on the railsea.)

A Lackluster Main Character

Although the setting was compelling, I found it difficult to read Railsea quickly (quite the change from how I felt about Embassytown). This was largely because the main character, Sham, didn’t particularly interest me. He is a young boy without much direction in life: he longs for some kind of purpose, but since he doesn’t know what he wants, he simply drifts from task to task and from event to event. That attitude doesn’t really change until at least halfway through the book, and by that time I’d failed to connect with him. This stands in stark contrast with Avice from Embassytown, who was a self-proclaimed societal drifter, but who was compelling anyway. However, like Avice, Sham changes a lot over the course of the book, and his growth is realistic. He just isn’t as compelling.

Final Thoughts

Outside of the main character issue, I think the book was particularly strong. I enjoyed the stylistic prose quirks—the self-aware narrator, the asides about storytelling, etc.—even when they interrupted the flow of the narrative. Speculative fiction is prone to info dumps, and many people hate them (myself included) as a general rule. But in Railsea, Miéville selectively info dumps in a few chapters, never taking more than a page or two at a time. The voice is so compelling that the info dumps don’t feel like info dumps, and the timeouts from the main plot were some of my favorite parts of the book.

Content warnings: Some violence, though it isn’t trivialized; some language, though nothing you wouldn’t hear on TV; drinking; sideways conversations about sex, but no sexual scenes.