Tag Archives: thieves of fire

Thieves of Fire

Thieves-front cvr only-6x9-04272015Thieves of Fire is the book that almost didn’t get published.

Let me explain.

If you ask 20 writers about their writing process, you’ll probably get 40 different answers. Some love their old typewriters. Some outline their whole books before penning a word. Others just start with a general idea and figure it out as they go along. Etcetera, etcetera.

Well, I started writing Thieves of Fire in order to answer questions left hanging around unanswered in The Road Unsalted. For example, I wanted to know why Carding’s most famous resident, an artist named Joseph Stillman Croft, made the two women he hated most the heirs of his estate. And why would his will stipulate that the massive, dark and forbidding painting known as Thieves of Fire hang just where he’d left it or that estate would be forfeit?

To tell you the truth, I had no idea how to answer those questions when I began so my writing process was actually a process of discovery.

Which sounds like it should be fun but at one point, I wrote myself into a big knot, and struggled to pull the parts of the story together.

But then one night, at a party, I got into a conversation with a friend about a young woman we both knew whose life had taken an early twist with life-shaping consequences. I had never heard the end of that young woman’s story but my friend had, and she filled in the blanks.

The next morning, I realized that I now knew what happened in Thieves of Fire. The book was finished a month later.

Now, I have two versions of Thieves of Fire in my inventory. I have a small number of Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) and a much larger number of first editions. Let me explain what an ARC is so you can decide which version you want.

Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of Thieves of Fire
Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of Thieves of Fire

In publishing, review copies (known in the trade as Advance Reading Copies or ARCs) of a book are printed months before the finished copies. This long lead time allows critics to publish their reviews simultaneously with the appearance of finished books.

Because ARCs are printed before the final proofreading of a book, there are usually errors in the text, as is the case with my ARCs of Thieves of Fire. 

So here are the prices:
Thieves of Fire, first edition: $14.95 (includes shipping)
Thieves of Fire, Advance Reading Copy: $10.00 (includes shipping)

You can order copies by going to our BOOK SALE page and filling out the order form. We will invoice you so you can pay by debit or credit card, and then the books will be on their way.

Thieves of Fire Reviews

Readers of my latest Carding novel, Thieves of Fire, have been very generous in their praise on Amazon.com. I consider myself a fortunate writer, indeed.
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I wanted to take a moment not only to acknowledge the praise but to let all readers know how very important reader reviews are to a writer and a writer’s career.

You see, reviews used to be the province of the media only, and publishers (and authors) lived and died by what the New York Times or Publishers Weekly had to say about their books. But that was back in the days when the publishing industry was monolithic, and what we now call “traditional” publishing was the only legitimate game in town.

But then Amazon opened up the review process, encouraging its members to voice their opinions about what they read. That’s when the tide started flowing in the readers’ direction, and now the power of reviews lies firmly in their court.

Here’s how this works: The quality of reader reviews (the number of stars given) has a definite impact on sales. How many of us are going to read a book with a one-star review?

But equally important is the NUMBER of reviews. Why? Because they foster links among books. For example, Thieves of Fire has been compared to works by Maeve Binchy and Alexander McCall Smith. The higher the number of Thieves reviews, the more likely it is that searches for books by Binchy and Smith will include links to Thieves.

And the more links, the more likely there are sales.

So if good books are important to you, then you need to support them by writing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

On behalf of all writers, thank you for taking the time to support us.

Carding Three

Yep, I know that Thieves of Fire is barely out into the world (and work on the ebook files will not be complete until next week). But a writer’s gotta write.
Index cards for TOF 2 for web
So I spent this week outlining my next Carding novel. The working title is The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life but don’t hold me to that because it could change several times between now and publication.

I’m still absorbing the lessons learned from Thieves, especially when it comes to planning before I write and how much time that can save.

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Thieves was launched at a crazy time in my life, the aftermath and recovery from the damage we sustained from Hurricane Irene. I was neck-deep in paperwork, trying to figure out how to do what we knew needed to be done, getting permits, following lines of possible funding (believe me, building retaining walls–LARGE ones–is an expensive proposition) and coordinating excavators, engineers, federal agencies, etc.

Yeah, crazy. But to give myself a little wiggle room here, I needed something that was stable in my life at that moment in time and writing has always been my rock.

Regardless of the reason why, I know that Thieves suffered from a lack of planning. Instead of starting with a story arc, like the one I had in The Road Unsalted, I started Thieves with a few pieces of knowledge about Carding, Vermont and a lot of questions.

Not the best idea if you would like to satisfy readers in a timely manner.

At one point, I was so discouraged, I almost gave up on Thieves entirely because it was so, so, so scattered. I can’t tell you how many months it sat on my desk while I scowled at it and it scowled back.

I finally decided I needed to impose order on the mess of words so I grabbed a pack of index cards, sat down with what I had written to that point, and noted each scene. This is an idea that I learned from an interview in the Paris Review with Vladimir Nobakov. (Did you know that he almost burned Lolita? His wife literally rescued the index cards for that book from a burn pile.)

Then I shuffled my cards around until the sequence of events made more sense. AND THEN I figured out where my holes were and noted the scenes that needed to be written in order to weave the book into a whole.

Then I sat down to write.

And write and write and write.

There were a lot of holes.

As I said, I learned a lot.

But the biggest lesson is this: A little planning goes a long way to saving time later.

I recently celebrated my birthday, a day that I treat somewhat like my personal New Year’s Day. I always make a resolution (OK, usually more than one). This year, it’s to up my game as far as writing output is concerned.

I have a lot of Carding stories crowding my head, a lot of characters I want to explore in much greater depth.

And readers who are asking when the next book will be out.

My goal is a new book in September. That’s THIS September.

I’ll keep you posted.

Reader Reviews

Most readers don’t realize how much power they have in the brave new world of publishing.
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You see, back in the traditional-publishing-only era, reviews were all written by professionals who served the interests of the publishing establishment. This is not to say that reviewers wrote what publishers wanted to hear. For the most part, that is definitely not true.

But publishers fed reviewers the books they really wanted to sell, and didn’t bother with the rest.

If you were the author of “one of the rest,” getting reviewed was nigh near impossible.

But then Amazon tore that whole cozy relationship to pieces when they created a review mechanism that was open to EVERYONE!!!

Gasp! Horror! Readers can’t write reviews, the establishment said.

Ah ha, but they can. And they do. And they’re really, really, really good at it.

Reader reviews drive book sales. A lot of reviews raise a book’s visibility. A lot of bad reviews can sink a book. Pointed comments about a lack of editing can get a book pulled from the Amazon shelves.

Yep, readers are powerful.

My latest novel, Thieves of Fire, has just opened up for reviews on Amazon and I have been so touched and honored by what folks have to say. I’ve always believed that books are incomplete until they are united with readers so hearing what folks have to say about Thieves is crucial to me.

Here’s one of my favorites so far:

I loved this book. I am an avid reader and do not say that about many books, but this one creates a world that I wanted to inhabit, with characters that I felt I knew, both the endearing and the annoying, and a story that kept the pages turning. The back story within the story was far more complex than I expected at the outset, and the way that it intertwined with the main plot was masterfully executed.

I live in Vermont (only 25 years years so no delusions that I’m a Vehmontah) and am a bit skittish about books that are set in our just about perfect world. Thieves of Fire hit all the right notes and showed us for what we are: a rugged, quirky, individualist bunch of interesting (on a good day)/curmudgeonly (the rest of the time) people who like to be left alone except when someone needs a hand or has a good story to tell. Well done, Sonja Hakala, you’ve done us proud!

A Cloud of Covers

I sent the final, final, final version of Thieves of Fire to the printer yesterday. The text will be off to the ebook conversion division of Full Circle Press tomorrow.

I’m done.
TOF cover cloud
One of the most difficult aspects of any book is its cover. I’ve been designing covers for a fair number of years and no matter how much I read about “what makes a successful cover,” I still think that no one really knows for absolutely sure.

My friend and fellow quilter, Nancy Graham, made quilts for both of my Carding novels and I love what she created for Thieves. However, I’ve had to take a step back from my admiration to critically assess what I can use on a cover because the size of a book (6 x 9 in my case) is so much smaller than the canvas that Nancy uses.

The “cover cloud” that I posted here shows a few of the cover incarnations that I tried for Thieves, including using one of my favorite photographs, “Sunrise on Holland Pond.” I took the Holland Pond picture when my husband and I were there on vacation a few years ago.

I used this photo as a placeholder on the advance reading copies of Thieves because I was still not happy with my treatment of the crow.

Once the advance reading copies were out, I took a break but then went back to Nancy’s quilt.

The crow and the key dangling from its mouth are critical elements of the story so I wanted them to grace the final version of Thieves. For this incarnation, I opened up Photoshop, did some cutting and erasing to get the crow and the key just so, scanned a fabric from my stash that I thought had promise for the background, layered them together, added text…and then I was satisfied.

Finally.

Testing, Testing

I’m working on the final draft of Thieves of Fire and have gone back to the crow on the cover because I want both The Road Unsalted and Thieves of Fire to have the same look.

test cover with crow 04252015
One of the downsides of being able to do this kind of work yourself is that you have the tools for endless tinkering.

I’m going to send this one out for feedback and then, I think, go with it.