Libbie Hawker

Independent author Libbie Hawker blogs about her books, the publishing industry, writing, reading, and her personal life here.

Celebrating the Libbie way

I have a lot to celebrate today. It's May 19th, the date of Tidewater's re-launch under Lake Union's imprint.

The day Jodi, my editor at LU, contacted me to see if she could talk me into partnering with Lake Union, was a big milestone in my career. (And Jodi was brave to try it, because I've been very frank on the internet about my reluctance to work with traditional publishers.) I was cautious about signing that contract, but once I committed to it, I've been anticipating today eagerly.

Twelve days from this date, it will also be the one-year anniversary of the date when I left the "day job" world permanently and took up writing as my full-time occupation. There have been ups and downs since then, as there are with all start-up businesses, but with today's re-launch of Tidewater, I feel very secure and enthusiastic about the next few years of my writing career.

So how does Libbie Hawker celebrate when she REALLY wants to have a good time?


I love cookies. I'm not supposed to indulge in them often, as all their delicious carbohydrates cause me all kinds of annoying health problems. But I still love cookies with a white-hot passion, and I can't give them up entirely. I trot them out for special occasions, though I usually end up giving them to other people and only eat one or two myself.

Decorating fancy sugar cookies is one of my favorite hobbies. I often make intricate, detailed, and (I think) very pretty cookies as gifts for friends and family, especially during the Holidays.

Last Christmas, I didn't have much money to buy presents for anybody, so I spent a couple of weeks baking and then icing a huge collection of cookies no one would ever forget: The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies. Everybody got a large gift bag, and inside each bag were a dozen smaller bags, and in each smaller bag was a different, super-fancy cookie--different combinations of dough and icing flavors, each one iced intricately to reflect the lyrics of the famous Christmas song. I was so tired by the end of that bake-a-thon that I didn't take any pictures of those cookies. I know, crazy, right? But they're burned into my memory and everybody else's, so that's okay.

Well, today since I'm celebrating my own successes, these cookies are a gift to me! Okay, I also made some for the Lake Union team, and I will be running them over to their offices soon. It's fitting that we should all celebrate together. Everybody at LU worked very hard, preparing Tidewater for its re-release, and I am grateful for their efforts.

I only wish I'd had a bit more time to make these cookies even fancier! They're a bit low-key for my tastes, but still quite fun. And I'm really too busy this month for baking and icing, as I am putting the finishing touches on House of Rejoicing for its June publication and preparing for the Historical Novel Society conference, which is only a few weeks away!!

Edible Pocahontas chills beside the Lake Union edition's paperback. Yay!

Edible Pocahontas chills beside the Lake Union edition's paperback. Yay!

Obviously I based the cookie design on the cover art, created by Lane Brown (who is also doing the cover art for all three books in the Book of Coming Forth by Day series, coming this summer for all you Egypt fans out there). I'm so glad Lake Union was able to use the original artwork for their edition's cover! I think it's so striking and emotional...and now, in cookie form, it looks very tasty, too.

My second novel from Lake Union, Daughter of Sand and Stone, comes out on December 1 of this year. I don't know what the cover will look like yet, but I'm looking forward to thinking up a good cookie design to match it. :) DOSAS is about Empress Zenobia, maybe the most badass lady who ever flipped the bird in Rome's direction. It's a bit of a departure from most of my books, as it's packed with romance, high-stakes adventure (no fewer than three high-speed camel chases, in fact) and at least one instance of smizing. It never lets up, and it's got one tough lady at the center. It's kind of the Mad Max: Fury Road of historical fiction (though I admit it doesn't have any fire tornadoes in it). Dramatically different from most of my others, but OMGSOFUN! I'm very excited to see what Lake Union does with DOSAS and Tidewater, and hope we'll continue working together on many more books to I can turn them all into cookies.

Well, I'm off to have a cookie with my next cup of tea. May you have a day worth celebrating, and may you do it with cookies!



(Want to check out Tidewater for yourself? Linky-loo.)

Man, you guys LOVE to take off your pants.

It has been a little over a month since I published Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing, and I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised at the response from readers.

I thought it would be nice if I put up a little signboard here to answer a few common questions I've received since publishing Pants.

Yes, I will release a paperback edition. Very soon. I didn't think this book would sell more than a handful of copies, so I figured ebook-only (as with Gotta Read It!) would suffice. But lots of people want a paperback, so I'm putting one together over the coming week, and unless the Internet Gods are against me, it should be proofed and approved and ready to rock before April 25th.

A revised edition is also coming very soon. Lots of authors have written to ask me how to tackle things like series plots, and have sought clarification on other points I raised in TOYP. This has made me realize that I wasn't clear enough about these topics in TOYP, and the book could benefit from a few additional sentences here and there.

No, I will not be creating a template or workbook to download. Lots of people have suggested that this would add some incentive/additional monetization to the book, but I've decided against it. Why? First of all, because I'd rather write new books than find ways to squeeze all the pennies I can out of an existing one. :) But mostly, because a template will make users think about story structure too rigidly. I want writers to feel free to wiggle and squish and re-arrange the various steps in my outlining process in ways that suit the logical events of their story. A PDF template isn't conducive to creative cut-and-paste sessions. One of the things I'll make clearer in the revised edition is that you can and should feel free to be adventurous with the structure--as long as all the parts of basic story structure are in there somewhere, and in an order that's logical within the context of your plot and your world, you can and should customize it at will. 

So that's it for now. I've got a few projects on my plate at the moment, but I am determined to get the revised and print editions of TOYP out as soon as possible.

I will also be offering up my how-to for historical fiction authors (and people who want to become historical fiction authors) in May.

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful enthusiasm for Take Off Your Pants! I'm really happy to see that so many authors find my advice useful.

The greatest thing I've ever seen in my whole, entire life.

Bad Agent Sydney. I have a new love-read. Whoever is behind this blog, you are a genius and I love you.

While I do think there are a few good agents out there who work really hard and go to bat for their clients like heroes, I think they've always been a rare breed and are getting rarer all the time. It's still Gospel Truth in certain corners of the internet that real writers have agents--that real deals come from agents, that you don't really have a good shot at the big-time big leagues without an agent.

Oh, Aspiring Novelist, there are so many Gospel Truths in so many corners of the internet that aren't really truths at all. Not even remotely close. You need look no further than my own career to see several of them being kicked over and trampled on right before your eyes.

Gospel Truth: If you self-publish, no publisher will be interested in you. Wrong, sorry. I self-published six novels, and then multiple publishers came knocking at my door. They were all definitely interested.

Gospel Truth: Okay, but give up all hope of your already-self-published book being picked up by a publisher. They're only interested in first rights and won't touch anything that's had its first rights "ruined" by indie publishing. I published Tidewater in July 2014. In October 2014, I sold it to a traditional publisher. So much for that well-known fact, I guess.

Gospel Truth: You can't provide your own cover art to a publisher. They'll think you're a total loser if you even bring it up. I did it. Shazzam.

Gospel Truth: You need an agent if you want to take your writing from the realm of hobby into the realm of career. I had two agents, and neither one got my career to go anywhere. When I stopped working with them and turned to indie publishing instead, I very rapidly obtained the full-time writing career I'd always dreamed of. Hell, I even have contracts now with a traditional publisher! (Though I still make most of my money from indie books, and probably always will.)

This is why I love the blog of Sydney T. Cat, Agent so much. It debunks this last Gospel Truth and educates aspiring full-timers in the best way possible: via cats on the internet. Sail on, Sydney. My hat's off to you.

A new how-to book for authors, and updates on stuff.

Howdy. It's me again, with my quarterly blog post. I'm so terrible about updating this thing; sometimes I don't know why I bother, except that people who know stuff about commerce on the intertubes assure me that changing content is...vital, or...something.

Anyway, I've got a new short how-to book out for authors. It's called Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing. In it, I share the super-secret method (by which I mean not secret at all) that allows me to write first drafts of some of my novels in as little time as three weeks. Sounds tasty, authors, doesn't it?

Here are the links for buying.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple

Huh. Apple link is being dorky. And not sure why it's not up on Kobo or Google Play yet. Sometimes the files of new books get a little fussy and take their sweet time. I'll look into it.

Other news:

The first book of the new Egyptian series, The Book of Coming Forth by Day (Part 1 is called House of Rejoicing) is coming along nicely. I'm excited to set it free in the world and see what it does. April 15th should still be its release date, but if life throws me any unexpected curve-balls that might need to be pushed back a bit, as it's a tight deadline even for me. I'll keep fans posted so they know when to look for it. It will certainly be out before May 1 if I can help it at all, as I promised Lake Union I wouldn't do any indie releases in the month of May so I don't distract anybody from Tidewater's re-release under their imprint. :) I plan to release Parts 2 and 3 of The Book of Coming Forth by Day at the end of June.

The She-King series is getting fancy new covers with original artwork by New Zealand artist Joelle Douglas. Don't worry, Lane Brown is still doodling away on covers! Due to his schedule, I was only able to book him for six new illustrations this year, and after an extensive search for a second artist, I found Joelle for The She-King's re-design. I'm psyched about the first two covers! Keep in mind the text I put on these is very "rough draft," just to play around with some concepts. Nothing is well centered or anything like that, but I thought it would be fun to give a little sneak peek at the new designs for The Sekhmet Bed and The Crook and Flail.

I'll be bringing out three more historical fiction titles featuring famous women from ancient history this year, in the summer and early fall. They'll be stand-alone books, not part of a series, but they should all appeal to readers who like The She-King with their strong heroines and ancient settings.

I haven't decided which women to write about for the first three books, but I've got a whole list of fascinating potential subjects, and someday I'll get to all of them. I've tried to pull female leads from several different cultures around the world, but as my focus has been prior to roughly 500 C.E. that has limited me mostly to ancient Europe, Africa, and Asia. We don't have many historical sources to pull from in order to research pre-500-C.E. Americas or Oceania, but I'm still on the lookout for tidbits of information I've missed.

However, I think most readers will be happy with the selection, which will have some of the "usual suspects" of ancient-setting HF (Greece, Rome, Egypt, Celts) and some settings and people we don't encounter often in this subgenre...a one-eyed Nubian warrior-queen who threw off the shackles of Rome; a pair of Norse princesses who took to pirating rather than settle down with husbands; an unlikely heroine from the pages of the Kalevala, the epic poem of Finland; and a few more.

I intend to make these stand-alones about real women from the distant past a habit, and will try to grow the "collection" by two or three volumes each year.

I'm working on pitches for a few new novels for Lake Union, too. All are historical fiction; any Lake Union doesn't take, I'll write anyway and self-publish. Speaking of which, that novel about Emma Hale Smith I pitched to them back in December didn't get picked up, so I'll write it soon, too, and self-publish it. It might be my big winter project this year.

In personal news, I'll be moving to an island in five months! Isn't that weird? I've never thought of myself as the kind of person who would just pick up and move someplace relatively remote, but the more we've thought about doing it, the more it's seemed like a really great idea. We have a lot of islands in the Puget Sound and the adjoining Salish Sea (about 500 all together, though not all of them are habitable) so I won't give away any exact details of where. I'm cagey about freely offering my precise location to the entire world. I think it'll be a fun challenge to build a house and adapt to island living! And after more than a year living smack in the heart of Seattle, I'll really welcome the peace and quiet.

I love having a portable job! It certainly opens up a lot of opportunities I never could have considered before I was able to switch to full-time writing.