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Brooke Shaffer

Author, Ski Patroller, and Pasta-Eater Extraordinaire

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December Author Next Door

A few of you know this, but in November I was interviewed for the National Writers' Series Author Next Door column.  As of this morning (December 1), the article/interview is live.

National Writers Series December Author Next Door

For the lazy, I'll include the transcript here, as well as a few questions I made up by myself for myself, just because what the heck.

Remember that creative kid in elementary school? Every class had theirs: that one kid who could fill every possible inch with writing, and still go on to another sheet of paper. Northern Michigan-based author Brooke Shaffer remembers, because she was that kid. In fact, she can’t recall a time in her life when she wasn’t writing. She finished her first full-length manuscript as a middle-schooler, though it never saw formal publication, and continued to spin stories – sometimes as incomplete as a concept or a chapter – throughout secondary school. And even though most of those stories never saw the light of day, Shaffer’s efforts were not for naught. Her debut publication, Time to Kill, the first installment of a lengthy series entitled, TheTimekeeper Chronicles, hit bookstores shelves in July of last year. Since then, Shaffer’s already cranked out two more novels; Tick Tock, in March, and Windup, her third novel, was just released in hardcover early last month. And with an ambitious fifteen-volume outcome in mind, Shaffer’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

According to Shaffer, The Timekeeper Chronicles has been a long time coming. Ironically, the turnkey that set her pen aflame was not the presence of time, but rather, the lack thereof. Says Shaffer, “I have this weird thing about time: I see it as a river, and [as it moves along], [all of the events that take place within it] are rocks and reeds. The summer before I turned twenty-one, I worked at a children’s camp as a nurse, and when I was there, I couldn’t see time anymore – basically, it got up to the camp, and then it ended. I [actually ended up going] home [because I was so bothered by it]. And while I was at home and feeling bad that I had to leave this camp, I kept thinking [what I could have done] if I’d had more time. So, I started there. I knew some things that I wanted to have happen and then I just kind of filled in the rest.”

Rather fittingly, The Timekeeper Chronicles is the reflection of a lifetime. Shaffer’s lifetime, that is. In it, she’s has managed to immortalize nearly a decade’s worth of daydreams, ponderances, and plotlines, some even dating back to high school. She explains, “I have starting points from many years ago, and even if the story I was drafting at the time never came to fruition, I’ll still use the names and the places. When I started writing Timekeeper, I just kind of went back through some of the old drafts, picking out what I liked, and reforming it.” It makes sense, then, that the Chronicles as a whole have no singular inspiration, but many. The setting, however, was a different sort of beast. Says Shaffer, “The setting is in Charleston, West Virginia, and my husband and I actually stopped there for a few days on our honeymoon. There was also a movie that we watched years later, called The Last Sin Eater, which was set in the Appalachians. So, I had taken a few names and basic things from [the original] draft, and now I had this reference, and my own experience in West Virginia. That became a starting point.”

And so, the saga began. Spoilers be damned, Shaffer classifies her series as veritably sci-fi, but with a slightly less “fanciful” twist. In her characteristic matter-of-factness, Shaffer summarizes her series so far, with the most recent book, Windup, as “a murder mystery that devolves into a stand-off with police, running around on an alien world naked, and an intergalactic court trial.” The eventual collection, however, is designed to become multiple series set against the backdrop of the same fantastical world, with the series into which her three current novels fall, entitled The Chivalrous Welshman, as the backbone. From there, she’s envisioned multiple, self-contained mini-series to be read in that context. Already neck-deep in book nine, Shaffer maintains that her world of Timekeeping simply grew as she wrote: “I started out initially just writing The Chivalrous Welshman. Originally, it was [going to be] sixteen books, but I cut off the last one. As I started writing through that, I realized that a lot of the depth and backstory I was giving other characters, though they fit just fine in the backbone, would be awesome to explore further; that there was more to the story there.”

In contrast to her countless other endeavors, The Timekeeper Chronicles demanded to be written: “Starting The Timekeeper Chronicles was first time that I ever actually felt like ‘this must get out there,’ [about something I had written]. Timekeeper was one that I actually had to push for. So, I [pursued] traditional publishing [at first], but [everywhere I went, [publishers] kept saying, ‘It’s great, but it’s not for us.’ Finally, my husband said, ‘You know, if you feel that strongly about it, do it yourself.’” So, on top of being published, Shaffer became a publisher, too. “It’s actually really easy to self-publish,” she explains. “You can go on Amazon, for instance, input your information, upload a manuscript, and you’re done. But I didn’t want to be seen as a cheater. So, I went through and got a business license through the state, basically started my own business. I pretty much do everything as the business, and not necessarily as me. From there, I can do everything myself.”

Shaffer is certainly no stranger to dancing on her own, but creating a new universe is no easy feat. When she needs a little insight, Shaffer calls in the experts: “My biggest inspiration for the Chronicles’ structure would be Ted Dekker,” says Shaffer. “As far as the fun and the intrigue, I’d say Jim Butcher [of The Dresden Files fame].” There’s also a lot of historical inspiration [in my writing],” she continues. “If I’m reading historical fiction, I like to go back and research what actually happened. So, when I’m writing, sometimes I’ll go back, read a chapter, and realize I’ve taken inspiration from something in history.” But while Shaffer’s content is composite, her method is entirely singular: “If I’m really excited, usually I’ll just kind of open up the program and start writing, and once my creativity slows down, I have everything organized in neat little folders with the books and chapters and scenes. Depending on how much I know has to happen, or what I want to happen, I might just outline the rest of the book, and fill it in later when I’m feeling productive, or I might just be a few chapters ahead. For each book, I have how I want it to start, how I want it to end, and any major things that I want to have happen.”

For the cumulative chronicle Shaffer has planned, that sounds like an awful lot of folders. But, in contrast to her ever-growing sci-fi schema, Shaffer is starkly realistic in her approach to the professional writing industry. “Don’t stop reading,” she says. “Don’t stop writing, and don’t discount other mediums. There’s a lot of value in watching movies and watching theater, as far as [character] interaction and scene structure.” Her thoughts on self-publishing? Though it’s a process she’s ultimately come to enjoy, Shaffer unabashedly describes the initial steps as “a pain in the butt.”  “Don’t quit your day job,” she continues. “If you’re self-publishing, definitely don’t quit your day job.” While her head might be afloat in an alien landscape, Brooke Shaffer’s feet are solidly on the ground; and it’s precisely that sense of balance that makes her otherwise otherworldly cast so unquestionably human: “I’d like to say that [the books] were divinely inspired,” she says, “but as far as the semantics of it, I think it was just the actual relatability of the characters. Because I am every character.” We know just what she means. On second thought, maybe we’ll take an extra sheet of paper, too.

And the completely spontaneous, slightly self-centered, website-only questionnaire:

Q: Wait, this isn't a trilogy?
A: No.  Where do people keep getting that this is a trilogy?  Fifteen in the main series plus more.  I think I have it totaled out to about thirty books in all.

Q: Do I have to read them all?
A: If you want to explore the Timekeeper universe more, sure.  While each series is intended to stand on its own, reading them in the context of the larger universe, especially those that intersect with The Chivalrous Welshman, I think provides more depth of understanding.

Q: You're already writing book nine?
A: Yes.  Actually, I'm just about to start book ten.  The worst thing to happen to a series is an author losing interest, and it reflects greatly in the story.  By continuing on and pressing on and not getting bogged down by the logistics of the next book to be published, the series thrives.  But, to that end, I also had several pre-installed exit ramps in several of the books in the event that I lost interest and wanted a strong closer, versus a sad tapering off.

Q: How are the other series going to be published?  In tandem or just one at a time for the next thirty years?
A: I'm just going to not dig my own grave here and refuse to comment at this time.  The short answer is in tandem.

Q: What are the other series?
A: Sorry to say, but giving away the titles now would actually spoil some of the future books.

Q: How about the titles for the next Chivalrous Welshman books?
A: *sigh* Stopwatch, Free Time, Leap Second, Imminence, Synchronization, Turning Point, and The Eleventh Hour as book ten.  Everything after that is still working, so I'm not going to say anything about them.  You've got time, guys.  Relax.

Q: Do you have any other books/series not related to Timekeeper?
A: Actually I do, but they're so far off the backburner, they haven't even really been defrosted yet.  At this point, just focusing on Timekeeper.

Q: Which character are you most like?
A: I am every character to an extent, so it's a little hard to choose one specifically.

Q: Which one is your favorite?
A: I think Rifun is arguably my favorite character, but there are some close seconds whom you haven't met yet.

Q: Where else are we going in the Timekeeper universe? Any cool new planets?
A: Oh, yes, plenty of new worlds and people to meet.

Posts From...Somewhere in the Graveyard, I Suppose

Holy shnikies, it's been a while since I've posted.  It kind of makes me feel bad because I've read that good authors should stay engaged with their audience and provide regular, relevant, thoughtful mediums, be it blog posts, videos, newsletters, and so on.  The pitfalls of being an introvert, I suppose.  Now all I need is a tragic life story worthy of a country song, a strange fetish or collection, and an addiction to either drugs or alcohol and I'll be an instant classic author with my books in every school across the country for the next century.  Bwa ha ha ha!

So this post isn't so much from beyond the grave, but I'm wandering around the graveyard somewhere, I'm sure.

Windup is set to come out next month.  Yay!  Files be in the system, just gotta wait for the guys in the office.  Now, normally I try to come up with something creative or interesting to go along with the release.  For Tick Tock, it was a nice neat list of interesting things about deserts and jungles, per the relevant landscape.  Windup, however, is about the elections in the Time industry, and it is being released less than a week before midterms and, in Michigan, the Governor's race.

Now, I could be desperate and post some politically-charged message here, comparing this or that character to this or that politician.  It would generate views, but I don't think the actual "like" would be very high.  Therefore, I will refrain.  You all get the message.  You all have your own opinions.  I don't want to hear yours and you don't want to hear mine.  Peace, love, and cupcakes.  And books.  Lots of books.

Instead, I will turn your attention to some of the cool things that will be released with Windup.  This includes deleted scenes, extra scenes from more than one forthcoming novel (though its release date is yet unknown), and a variety of neat printable and digital goodies.  One little goodie is already available as a desktop background (for us ancient people who still use computers).  More will become available on or around the actual release date of November 2.

That's about it for now.  It's not that I don't love you, my dear audience, it's just that I love my peace, quiet, and snuggable cats more.  And my husband.  I love my husband.

-Brooke Shaffer

More Fun in the Amazon!

So, I've gotten reports from multiple people who ordered through Amazon that your ship dates have been pushed back from reasonable dates like March 20th and such all the way to the end of April or even into May.

1. I am aware of it.

Once is a fluke, three or more times is something serious.  I don't like it any more than you do.

2. I can't do much about it.

Problem is, I can't do anything about it.  My printer/distributor is on their game getting everything out as they are supposed to.  The problem lies with Amazon, whatever their problem is.

3. But I might be able to help a little.

If you are in my area and we can meet, my proposal is that you can

a. Cancel your Amazon order (ensure you get your proper refund) and buy directly from me.
b. Cancel your Amazon order and go through another retailer like Barnes & Noble.
c. Continue with your Amazon order.  I will give you a book to read now.  When your book arrives, you hand that book over to me.  Since you have already paid through Amazon, everything is solid there.

I am sorry that this has happened.  Some may have more luck with Barnes & Noble, and you shouldn't have any problem with e-reader versions.  If something else happens or there is a break, I will let you all know.

-Brooke Shaffer

Fun Facts About Deserts and Jungles

You might be thinking, "Huh?  But Charleston is in the mountains!"  Well, my little observant reader, that is very true.  However, the majority of Tick Tock does not occur in Charleston, but in a desert and a jungle.  In order to get you excited and a little more acquainted with the conditions, here are some fun facts about said landscapes.

Desert

  1. Deserts are formed as extreme temperature variations and little precipitation cause rocks to crack and break down. Sudden bouts of heavy rain precipitate flash floods which wash everything away.
  2. Deserts are classified by the amount of precipitation received annually.  Thus there may be hot deserts (Sahara) and cold deserts (Antarctica)
  3. There are also less extreme semi-arid deserts which receive more precipitation than hyperarid deserts, but are still deserts.  They may act as the go-between for an arid desert and surrounding fertile lands.
  4. Coastal deserts are defined as strips of land near a large body of water with cold currents that pick up little to no moisture.  Temperature ranges are narrow, but lack of precipitation classifies the area as a desert.  Examples include Chile and Baja California.
  5. Sandstorms are less frequent than dust storms, but they can be considerably more damaging.  During a sandstorm, the particulate matter becomes electrically charged which can interfere with telecommunications and cause headaches and nausea in people.
  6. The driest desert on Earth is the Atacama desert in Chile, where it is suggested that the region received no rain between 1570 and 1971.  Even today, some weather stations have recorded no rain, and the overall precipitation is less than 1mm.
  7. Desert plants have small or no leaves and must store water for long periods of time.
  8. Desert animals are called xerocoles.  Birds are the most well-adapted to desert climates as they can move quickly to get to food and expend the least amount of energy to get there by gliding on air currents.  This also keeps them away from the hot desert floor.
  9. Deserts are often rich in metals and minerals such as gypsum, sodium nitrate, copper, iron, and uranium.
  10. Mars is the only other planet in our solar system where deserts have been identified.

Jungle

  1. Jungles are areas of dense vegetation heavily dominated by trees.  The term used to be applied to tropical rainforests, but has since fallen out of use.
  2. Jungles differ from rainforests in that jungle ground level vegetation is often unnavigable by humans, and requires cutting, where rainforests are open in their lower levels owing to lack of sunlight.  Jungles and rainforests may occupy the same or neighboring areas.
  3. Tropical rainforests are characterized by warm and wet climates with no dry season.  Tropical dry forests have marked rainy and dry seasons.
  4. Dry forests are less biodiverse than rainforests, but are still home to a significant number of plant and animal species.
  5. More than half of the world's plant and animal species are found in rainforests and jungles.
  6. Typically, soil quality is actually quite poor.  Rapid decay due to the climate does not build up and what little there is, is used up quickly by the surrounding vegetation.
  7. Rainforests in volcanic soil, however, are high in nutrients.
  8. Over 1/4 of the world's natural medicines have been discovered in rainforests and jungles.
  9. In 2007, there were 67 confirmed uncontacted tribes in Brazil.  There were 44 on the island of New Guinea.
  10. Central Africa is home to the Mbuti pygmy tribe and have been the subject of numerous studies.

So that's it.  A little taste of stuff to get you excited and thinking about the upcoming landscape of Tick Tock.

-Brooke Shaffer

All the updates!

*crawls out of hiding*

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and all that other stuff.  I was busy hiding in a hole trying to survive, but I'm back now.  All is well.

Okay, updates.  Good things are happening.

First, the paperback edition of "Time to Kill" is only days away from being available (darn weekends and holidays, anyway).  Same size, slightly lower price, and with half the cover bulk.  And half the cover protection!  Yay!

Second, there are rumors of another Chivalrous Welshman book somewhere in the world around the area where I call home.  I don't know about this, but it has something to do with political intrigue with the Hands, double-crossing the Zero Hour, traveling to distant planets, and facing off against some very ugly wild animals.  Could just be me.

That's about it for now, actually.  Except for that part where book five has a pretty awesome ending, book six has a very sad ending, and all that.  But you know.  Details and stories for later.

-Brooke Shaffer

10 Fun Facts About: Charleston, West Virginia

  1. The first capitol building was built in 1885, but burned down in 1921.  It was rebuilt, but burned down again in 1927.
  2. During the first fire, ammunition on the first floor was set off, causing people to flee in terror.  Two men also stole a fire truck, but were later apprehended by the police.
  3. The current capitol building is the tallest in the state at 292 ft with 3 stories.
  4. Charleston is home to the first brick-laid street in the world, laid in 1870.  It is known as Summers Street.
  5. Charleston is simultaneously the most populous city in the state while being the least populous state capitol.
  6. The city spans both sides of the Kanawha River.  This comes from an Iroqouis word meaning "water way" or "canoe way."
  7. During the Civil War, Charleston was divided between the Confederates and the Union.  On September 13, 1862, Confederates seized the city, but the Union returned six weeks later and held it until the end of the war.
  8. The city spans both sides of the Kanawha River.  Kanawha comes from an Iroquois word for "water way" or "canoe way."
  9. Original Native American tribes in the area include the Cherokee, Iroquois, Monacan, Nottaway, and Shawnee.  There are no federal reservations in the state today.
  10. Charleston's sister city is Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.

10 Fun Facts About: The Appalachians

Because they really are important to Tommen, and the story at large.  So here are ten fun facts about the Appalachian Mountains.

  1. The mountains are named for the Apalachees, a Native American tribe in the region
  2. Mount Mitchell in North Carolina is the highest peak, at 6,684 ft
  3. It is also the highest peak east of the Mississippi
  4. Elisha Mitchell was the first to successfully climb the mountain in 1835, hence Mount Mitchell
  5. The Appalachians are over 1,600 miles long, spanning 14 states and provinces
  6. Mount Washington in New Hampshire is known to have hurricane force winds over 100 days out of the year
  7. The Appalachian Trail is 2,200 miles long
  8. There are 8 national parks and 6 national forests dotting the mountains in various states
  9. The Appalachians contain significant deposits of coal, iron, salt, copper, petroleum, and natural gas
  10. Red spruce is the most prominent tree in the northern region

Book Signing at Horizon

If anyone is going to be hanging out around downtown Traverse City on October 14, from about 4pm-6pm, come by Horizon Bookstore to say hi and get your book signed. Don't have a book, well you can buy one at the signing or from any number of other outlets.

Problems and Solutions (Answers Anyway)

So, I've been getting reports that some Amazon pre-orders are self-canceling.  I looked into it and now I have an answer.  Amazon is dumb and apparently doesn't make a distinction between pre-order and out of stock (talking about the print book only, as far as I know, all digital pre-orders are still on track).

Amazon has a neat feature where if an item remains out of stock for thirty or more days, any orders are automatically canceled so you aren't kept waiting forever and a day.

So that's what happened.  It mistook pre-order for out of stock, so as thirty days goes by with no "stock" it cancels your pre-order.  So, here's what you can do:

1. Ensure that the order was canceled and you got a full refund

2a. Re-pre-order the book from Amazon

2b. Re-pre-order the book from Barnes & Noble

2c. Wait until the book comes out fully on September 1, then order from Amazon or your favorite bookstore

2d. Wait until the book comes out fully on September 1, then get it personally from me (assuming I know you and have a way to contact you)

Sorry for the confusion and the blind-sided sudden cancellations.

Pre-Order Now!

Pre-orders are now available!  Go here for the full details.  Or you can look it up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite ebook vendor or local bookstore.

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