Becoming a Bookseller

Corrugated Sky’s books at the Ellicott City Deja Vu and Nearly New sale.

Last Saturday, June 30, I set up a small table for my first on-site book sales venture. The location was historic Ellicott City, Maryland, which has recently been ravaged by flooding for the second time in just a few years. The venue was the Howard County Historical Society’s Deja Vu and Nearly New sale.

As nature would have it, the weather was not only hot, it was dangerously hot. The sale was smaller than I expected it to be, and for the first two hours a small but steady stream of people came by the table. And as the sun rose higher in the sky, the people evaporated in direct proportion to the amount of shade available — or more likely, ran for shelter to a nearby building or the air conditioning of their cars.

I sold two books, and I got sunburned. I passed out bookmarks for all the available titles (in case you can’t see them clearly in the photo, from left to right the books are Seacombe Island, Tales of the Black Dog, Smoke and Steam, and Hellfire) and chatted with a few people who stopped by. Quite a few people were accompanied by their dogs, who gamely trotted alongside their owners despite the heat.

While I wouldn’t call the sale a resounding success, it wasn’t a flop, and it was good to get out from behind the keyboard and spend some time outside. It was also a good way to test out the table I bought and play with some ideas for displaying books at events. I have a shopping list now: banner, table cloth, book easels.

The next venue is HallowRead — also held in Ellicott City — at the end of October.

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More Steam!

This week we are promoting our Steampunk anthology, Smoke and Steam, Corrugated Sky’s second title. The four stories are novella length, and yes, there are airships!

I’m answering the question about what inspired my story “Hekatite.” When we first decided on a Steampunk theme for the second anthology I began thinking about Victorian adventure stories, which is something that’s always had appeal for me. Journey to the Center of the Earth? Check. The Time Machine? Check. The Mysterious Island? Check. Check.

Combine that interest with the fact that I’d written about Arctic and Antarctic exploration a couple of years back for an encyclopedia that is coming out this year, and I suppose the germ of an idea was hatched. Oh, and throw in a James Bond-esque island with a hidden warehouse inside it, and you have Seacombe.

My story “Hekatite” takes place in the same world that my novel Seacombe Island is set, and includes three characters from the novel. The events in the novella take place roughly five years before the events in the novel and the story fills in some back story for the characters as well as information about Hekatite, the mysterious fuel that everyone wants to get their hands on. Hekatite is a volatile energy source that is refined from the Hekate orchid, a fictitious plant that grows only on Seacombe. Unfortunately, while the Hekatite is a great source of energy, it’s also quite poisonous.

Ha! You knew there was a catch, didn’t you? Well, there wouldn’t be much story if everything was so easy!

Now as it happens, I wrote “Hekatite” before I finished the final round of drafts on Seacombe Island. I found myself stuck on a few details about the protagonist and his interactions with a few of the characters, and writing the short story helped me sort out quite a few plot issues that I hadn’t managed to get a handle on. “Hekatite” is a fun read and I think you’ll be hooked and want to read the novel. Or, if you’ve read the novel, pick up the anthology. And if you haven’t read either, get both books! It won’t matter if you read the story or the novel first; while “Hekatite” fills in some blanks, it won’t spoil the plot of the novel and you’ll feel superior when you have an inkling of what’s happening while the novel’s protagonist, Thomas Ashton, is still trying to figure out what’s going on at Seacombe Island.

And actually, I’m still trying to figure out Seacombe Island. I’m sure the island is big enough for a few more mysteries — and a few more stories.

 

Encountering the Black Dog

Tales of the Black Dog was Corrugated Sky’s first anthology.

When you tell someone that you’re a writer, the first thing they ask is what kind of things you write. The second question they ask is where you got your inspiration for a story or book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

When we decided to form our own publishing company we put our heads together and came up with some themes for anthologies. The black dog legend has a long history and surprisingly is found in cultures around the world. For my story I was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as well as traditional English ghost stories that I grew up reading. The atmosphere of a lonely country road, the local inn where the country folk harbor some dark secret, and being stranded or trapped in a place or situation that you can’t get out of are all part of the setting for these traditional stories, and they worked their way into mine.

During the summer when we were working on Tales of the Black Dog my husband and I went on a trip to Maine. We stopped at a coffee shop for a bite to eat and took our coffee and sandwiches outside, where there were tables and Adirondack chairs for guests to enjoy. I went back inside the shop for something, and when I came out there was a huge black dog sitting next to my chair as though it were patiently waiting for me to return. No kidding, this really happened!

My husband gave me one of those knowing looks, and I burst out laughing. I sat back down and for a few minutes the dog didn’t move from that spot. Yes, it was really weird, but despite reading old legends of black dogs being associated with death, I’d read other legends that said the black dogs were protector spirits, especially of women. I’m pretty sure it was a real dog, and that is was just a coincidence, but there’s always that small doubt … in any case, that particular black dog did a good job of protecting my chair and making sure no one else sat there until I got back!

And now we’re working on our third anthology, which is about zombies. I hope I don’t meet one of them!

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 143

“Sienna City,” one of my digital paintings.

It’s been some time since I’ve had the energy to sit down and write a blog post. Work has been tremendously busy and at the end of the day I find myself just staring at the TV or playing Guild Wars 2 or Random Mahjong and telling myself that tomorrow I’ll do some writing. Since I work full time as a copy editor I pretty much read all day and that type of work is intense; editing requires that I make a lot of decisions (you might not believe the angst that hyphens can cause for editors) and by the time five o’clock rolls around I’m mentally spent. At that point I chuck any unused hyphens in the recycle bin and shut down my office connection.

So, last week I was avoiding writing my zombie short story for Corrugated Sky’s upcoming third anthology by looking at the digital tools over at Creative Market. I picked up a set of Photoshop brushes called Cityscape. I spent some time “doodling” until I came up with a nice composition, and then combined my newly minted city with effects from Topaz Studio to create “Sienna City.” Art and photography are cross training for writing, since they are all creative endeavors, right? I mean, at some point you have to do something other than write, or else what can you write about?

So, what’s a city without people? For this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt, you get to describe Sienna City and its population. In 350 words, write a travel guide entry for tourists that will compel them to pack their bags and head to town. Think about the kinds of things you want to know about a place before you visit, but mostly, think about what is so compelling about Sienna City that people want to go there. Are the restaurants world-famous? Is there a special landmark or museum? Is it a shopping destination? Or does the city hold some special festival each year that pulls in tourists by the busloads?