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The illustrious Carol Buchanan, my host Friday.

A last-minute change to the schedule:

Tomorrow (Friday), I’ll be taking part in a Q&A at author Carol Buchanan’s blog. Carol is the fabulously talented author of God’s Thunderbolt and Gold Under Ice, two books you should definitely read. And, as it turns out, she slings some pretty good questions, too.

Here’s where I’ve been so far on my virtual book tour, and where I’m going in the coming week:

Monday, January 24: A Word Please

Tuesday, January 25: 5:01 blog

Wednesday, January 26: The Book Inn

Thursday, January 27: Straight from Hel

Monday, January 31: Cherie Newman, host of the excellent “The Write Question” on Montana Public Radio, will give me the keys to her blog of the same name and let me hold forth on what it means to write in and of Montana.

Tuesday, February 1: My friend Jim Thomsen will host a Q&A with me in the form of a Facebook note. The interview will be simulcast on two authors’ blogs: R.J. Keller’s Ingenious Title to Appear Here Later and Kristen Tsetsi’s From a Little Office in a Little House.

Wednesday, February 2: One Book at a Time blogger Page Eberhardt will host me for an essay on where stories come from, as if I have any idea.

Thursday, February 3: The fellas over at 3 Guys, One Book will let me pitch in with an entry in their ongoing series “When We Fell in Love.”

Friday, February 4: I will wrap up at Coffee, Books and Laundry, hosted by Melissa Vasquez, where I’ll write about balancing readers’ expectations with following the muse wherever she leads.

There will be giveaways of signed books at every stop, so please follow along and throw in an entry.

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My friend Ann Charles has more energy than anyone I know, and she’s expending a great deal of it drumming up interest in her new book, Nearly Departed in Deadwood.

You want to read this. Ann’s book won the Daphne du Maurier Award before it was published, and she’s riding that wave of momentum to new heights now that it’s out in e-book format and soon to arrive in paperback.

You can read more about the book here.

So here’s what we’re gonna do: Leave a comment here, and in a day or so I’ll close things up and pick a winner. This is an e-book giveaway only; fortunately, the coupon code I’ll give you is at Smashwords, so you can have it in any format you want, including a PDF file for the computer if you’re not among the cool kids with a snazzy new e-reader. (And if you’re not, you and I should form a club.)

It’s just that simple. Dive in, people.

I'll be at the Billings Barnes & Noble this coming Saturday.

Honestly, I wondered if it would actually get here — which immediately strikes me as an ill-advised thing to say, seeing as how I signed a contract in June and saw the book released just seven months later, the publishing equivalent of warp speed.

So let me try that again: What? The book’s out already?

I’ve been living with some final copies of the book for a couple of weeks now, and I can tell you that my publisher, AmazonEncore, did a beautiful job and created a lovely book. I’ve been living with the manuscript, in some form or another, since late spring 2009, and I can tell you that I wrote the best book I could. I’m proud of this one. I’m eager to see how it does. I am, I must acknowledge, a bit nervous, and I wouldn’t trust my feelings if I weren’t.

So, you want one, yes?

You have many options:

If you’d like to order from Amazon, either a paperback or a Kindle download, you can go here.

If you’d like to throw your name in for a giveaway copy, I’ll be handing several out over the next couple of weeks on guest blog posts. Go here for a schedule of my stops.

If you’re going to be in the vicinity of Billings, Montana, this weekend, there’s a launch party at Travel Cafe (313 N. Broadway) from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, and I’ll be at the Billings Barnes & Noble the next afternoon from 2 to 4 for a reading/signing. As ever, my schedule is available at CraigLancaster.net. Events are being added all the time.

You can walk into your favorite bookseller and find it either on the shelves or available by order. Your bookseller will happily get a copy for you, and perhaps even add a few more to the shelves.

And here’s one more option. For the next two hours, anyone commenting on this post will be entered in a drawing for  a signed copy of the book. Get in there!

Update, 10:12 a.m.: The book goes to Laura Lambeth. Congratulations!

I cannot wait to give away this ARC. CAN’T WAIT!

You may have noticed that I’m just a little more than slightly excited about the release of Jonathan Evison’s second novel. If you haven’t noticed, let me refresh your memory: There was this. And this. And this. And this.

And now, this: I’m shipping off the beautiful advance reader copy that was given to me a couple of months ago, to clear room on my shelves for the hardcover copy of the book when it’s released on Feb. 15.

This book is getting serious, serious adulation, and it’s a darling of indie booksellers everywhere — first, because it’s a fantastic book, and second, because Jon is the genuine article, a man as forthright and kind as he is talented.

I cannot exhort you strongly enough: Leave a comment and try to win this book. You will not be disappointed.

I’ll cut off entries sometime tomorrow (Tuesday) and pick a winner.

Update, 7:37 a.m.: Heather Cox wins the drawing for the West of Here ARC. Thanks, everybody, for entering.

It’s release week for The Summer Son, so I’m expecting to see some editorial reviews rolling in over the next several days.

First up is a beautiful review from The Billings Gazette (where I work, I should add for the record). Reviewer Chris Rubich writes:

Mitch’s journey to his father and back through the past couldn’t be in better hands than those of Billings author Craig Lancaster in The Summer Son.

In his debut novel, 600 Hours of Edward, Lancaster showed his mastery in exploring the pain and love in such relationships. That skill earned him the High Plains Book Award for first book and the book’s selection as a 2009 Montana Honor Book, as well as praise from disabilities groups for his sensitive look at a man struggling with Asperger’s syndrome.

Both books are set in Billings, and both blend piercing pain with humor and realism.

While 600 hours define Edward and offer a chance to change his life, a single summer leaves a heavy imprint that marks Mitch across the decades.

The book comes out Tuesday. If you’re in the Billings area, there are several events coming up where you can get a copy:

  • This coming Friday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Travel Cafe (313 N. Broadway), there will be a launch party with a couple of readings, signed books for sale, snacks, a cash bar and music by special guest Dan Page.
  • The next day, I’ll be at the Billings Barnes & Noble (530 S. 24th St. West) from 2 to 4 p.m. for a reading and to sign copies.
  • Saturday, Feb. 5, I’ll be at the Billings Hastings (1603 Grand Ave.) from 1 to 3 p.m. for a signing.
  • And if you’re in Bozeman, catch me on Monday, Jan. 31, at the Country Bookshelf (28 W. Main Street) at 7 p.m. for a reading and signing.

For everyone else: The book will be available in paperback and Kindle starting Tuesday. Order if from your favorite bookseller or at Amazon.com. Please!

*****

Finally, one last note about launch week: Monday starts a two-week stretch where I’ll be popping up on various book- and publishing-related blogs with guest posts, interviews and all kinds of other fabulous stuff. At each stop, a signed copy of The Summer Son is being given away, so follow along and throw your name into the mix.

For a rundown on the sites and dates, go here.

Jenny Shank‘s debut novel, The Ringer, is set for a March 1 release, and already it has gained some nice notices from reviewers.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly says:

Shank debuts promisingly with the dramatic story of two families upended by an accidental police shooting. Denver police officer Ed O’Fallon is wracked with guilt after he guns down a man during a drug raid; Patricia Maestas, meanwhile, is instantly made a widow and single mother. Their narratives are equally engaging: as Ed’s marriage buckles under the weight of his feelings of guilt, Patricia struggles to keep her 12-year-old son, Ray, out of trouble. What keeps Ray off the streets is baseball—the same sport Ed’s sons are devoted to.

You can see where this is headed. I really enjoyed this book. Shank, the book reviewer/blogger for New West, writes in a literary yet accessible style, with plenty of plot turns to keep the pages flying by. And now you have a chance to read this novel in advance form before it lands in stores. If you’d like to be considered for this ARC, simply comment on this item. In about 24 hours, I’ll randomly pick a winner.

And be sure to check back tomorrow for the chance to win an ARC that absolutely knocked my socks off. I can’t wait to pass it on.

Update, Friday afternoon: I’m going to let this one ride on through the weekend and perhaps pick up some more entrants. On Monday, there will be one last giveaway of an absolutely titanic book. As the Jets’ Bart Scott might say: “CAN’T WAIT!”

Update, Sunday, 12:24 a.m.: JHS wins the copy of The Ringer.

Everybody else, swing back by on Monday for the last of the giveaways (for now). It’s a good one!

In the past few months, I’ve come into possession of some ARCs (advance reader copies) of forthcoming novels. Having consumed them, I’m ready to pass on the love.

So, if you’d like a chance to read a novel before it’s released to the general public, check here over the next few days and I’ll unload a few of them.

First up: “Ride the Jawbone,” a legal thriller mystery set in Montana in 1902. It’s by debut author Jim Moore and will be released this summer by Raven Publishing, an imprint run by my dear friend Janet Muirhead Hill.

I don’t have a cover image to show you, but you can read up on the book here.

This is the back-cover text:

The son of a cattle rancher, T.C. Bruce, newly graduated from law school, has yet to set up practice. As he rides the Jawbone Railroad train on his way to White Sulphur Springs, all the gossip is about the murder of a young woman whose body, they say, was thrown from the train. To the general public, there’s no mystery. They have the killer locked up in jail awaiting trial. They just want to see Loco, a surly, odious loner, hanged. T.C. must confronts a dilemma and make an important career decision when the judge asks him to defend the man. Would T.C. rather be back on the ranch working cattle or will he accept the challenge of saving Loco from the hangman’s noose?

If you’d like this book, leave a comment. In about twenty-four hours (give or take; I’m a working man), I’ll close up the comments and draw a lucky winner’s name.

UPDATE: Genna Sarnak wins the ARC.

As I type these words, the release of my second novel, The Summer Son, lies just a week away. During the first couple of weeks of release, some friends and fellow book bloggers are going to be helping me get out the word about the new book. In exchange for their generosity in letting me hang around their sites, I’ll be giving away signed copies of the book at each stop.

Here’s the lineup. Please do these folks the courtesy of visiting their sites, now and during the upcoming appearances. My guess is you’ll find plenty to interest you at each one:

Monday, January 24: I’ll kick things off at A Word Please, hosted by author Darcia Helle, with an essay on the meeting of fact and fiction in The Summer Son.

Tuesday, January 25 (release day): Billings Gazette arts reporter Jaci Webb will host a Q&A with me at the 5:01 blog.

Wednesday, January 26: At The Book Inn, hosted by Natalie Wadel, I’ll write about fathers and sons, the major theme of the book.

Thursday, January 27: At Straight from Hel, hosted by Helen Ginger, I’ll write about the 20-month stretch in which I wrote and sold my first two novels, a burst of creativity that I’m not likely to mimic anytime soon.

Friday, January 28: The first week will wrap up with a visit to The Visual Side of Journalism, hosted by Charles Apple, where he’ll pitch some questions at a guy (me) who works in the production trenches of a daily newspaper but writes fiction on the side.

Monday, January 31: Cherie Newman, host of the excellent “The Write Question” on Montana Public Radio, gives me the keys to her blog of the same name and lets me hold forth on what it means to write in and of Montana.

Tuesday, February 1: This will be a little different. My friend Jim Thomsen will host a Q&A with me in the form of a Facebook note. But don’t worry: if you’ve so far resisted the siren song of the social network, the interview will be simulcast on two authors’ blogs: R.J. Keller’s Ingenious Title to Appear Here Later and Kristen Tsetsi’s From a Little Office in a Little House.

Wednesday, February 2: One Book at a Time blogger Page Eberhardt gives me the floor for an essay on where stories come from, as if I have any idea.

Thursday, February 3: The fellas over at 3 Guys, One Book let me pitch in with an entry in their ongoing series “When We Fell in Love.”

Friday, February 4: I wrap up at Coffee, Books and Laundry, hosted by Melissa Vasquez, where I’ll write about balancing readers’ expectations with following the muse wherever she leads.

So please (please!) make plans to follow along each day, and be sure to throw in for a chance at a signed book at each stop.

My friend and fellow author Kristen Tsetsi has put her considerable will and energy behind an intriguing idea: She wants TIME magazine to make the military family its Person of the Year. What’s more, she wants you to want this, too, and you can join her Facebook campaign by going here.

Kristen was good enough to take a few questions about the campaign:

What was the impetus behind this?

I was watching the announcement of the 2010 TIME Person of the Year on either Morning Joe or the Today show, and when they announced who it was, I thought, “They should make it ‘the service member.’ ”

Curious, I looked up the list of TIME’s people of the year, and I discovered the service member has been PoY twice: in 1950 it was “The American Fighting-Man,” and in 2003 it was “The American Soldier.” Naturally, my next thought was, “It should be the military family.”

Person of the Year is given to the person, group, or thing that has most influenced the culture or the news during the past year. The military family has easily had a cultural impact in the last year: every time the war, a soldier, or the military is in the news, so is a military family by extension. When a soldier dies, the media jumps to interview the family members trying to deal with the loss. (Or, they used to. These days, Lindsay Lohan’s rehab seems much more interesting to them. A few days ago, two soldier deaths in Iraq got less than 10 seconds of coverage, but Lohan was given a full feature story for getting out of rehab, or not getting out of rehab, or something to do with her drinking and drug habit or quitting thereof. I’m sure it was important, whatever it was.)

Additionally, the military family has had an incredible impact on pop culture. Army Wives is entering its fifth season this year, E! just aired a special on the military spouse, Oprah has done several episodes that recognize the military family, and in terms of larger cultural impact, how likely do you think it is that we’d have nearly as many volunteer forces as we do if there weren’t extended family members available to take care of soldiers’ children?

What sort of traction have you gotten so far?

New-tire traction. Since Dec. 16, the Facebook page already has 245 fans (note: It’s 281 now). Not enough to get media attention, but it’s a nice number for the length of time the page has been up. Military Avenue, created by a retired Air Force Colonel, Dale Kissinger, has interviewed me, I’ve been invited to write a blog post for a Kentucky NPR station’s website, and others are contacting me to ask how they can help.

Why this year? Is there a particular “hook” upon which to hang this?

Can you think of a time in media history in which a television show about military families has entered its 5th season (or even HAD a season)? That, and it’s already been over a decade since the conflicts we’re involved in began. Why not now?

You’ve had to wait out the deployment of your husband, Ian. What part(s) of that experience can those of us who’ve never done it not imagine?

People who have had family members or others they love in ICU know what it’s like, even if they don’t know it. It’s day after day of not knowing whether the person you love will die, to put it simply. It’s a constant, nagging thought, no matter what you’re doing. And it colors every minute.

How do you define a military family? Are we talking spouses, parents, siblings and children, or does it go wider than that?

Wider. When Ian deployed, we weren’t married, but I considered him my “family” and there would have been nothing worse than losing him. That we’re married now doesn’t mean I’ll suffer the loss any more than if we weren’t married. The military family, as far as I’m concerned, includes anyone who so loves the deployed service member that their death would have a devastating impact.

Okay, you’re sitting here, waiting, and your loved one is overseas, in the line of fire. How do you cope with abstractions as people here at home debate the merits of war or troop levels or whether they’re being given the equipment to do their jobs?

When Ian was in Iraq, I watched Trading Spaces when it was still on. A woman cried after seeing her newly decorated home. I thought, “People are flying and shooting and taking cover in a desert, and you’re crying over paint?” I also watched the embedded reporters sending live broadcasts of the war 24-7 when the Iraq business started, and on one hand I thought, “You think this is a war movie? Do you not know you might catch someone being killed and that person might be someone’s spouse/parent/sibling/child?” On the other hand, it allowed me to feel confident that because I wasn’t hearing about it, nothing had happened to MY person in the Middle East. (Until Asan Akbar of the 101st grenaded his own troops, which was immediately reported and had me in a panic until Ian, in the 101st at the time, called me.)

I listened to the various news-people debates and I rolled my eyes at their opinions because they were coming from a safe place behind a glass desk upon which sat fresh coffee and a stack of notes.

How do you cope? I guess you just get pissed off at the silly things people find “important,” envy those who don’t have anyone in immediate danger, and live on hope and assumptions of a safe return.

I’m going to play cynic for a minute: You have a novel coming out, Pretty Much True …, that chronicles one woman’s life on the homefront. So you’re just ginning up interest in that, right?

No, I’m not. However, in the interest of absolute honesty, if this leads to future sales of Pretty Much True…, I won’t be disappointed. I wrote it to paint an intimate picture of the personal, political, and psychological experience, and I think it’s one most people haven’t been introduced to, but should. That said, when I had the idea for this, Pretty Much True… wasn’t even a thought, and I have no interest in linking to anything having to do with it on the facebook page created for this effort. The most information I give about myself on the page is my e-mail address, and the writing I link to is written by other people.

I’m going to play skeptic for a minute: Person of the Year ought to recognize achievements toward peace, not the making of war. What do you say?

I say, as TIME says, that PoY isn’t an honor, but a recognition. Big difference. (And military families aren’t involved in the making of war. At least, no more than any other voter.)

How can someone who’s on board with this idea help?

By simply clicking “like.” I don’t want anyone’s money, I don’t want anyone to commit to receiving newsletters, and I don’t want anyone to do anything else that would cut into their day. All I want is a “like.” It’s the easiest possible thing to do, and what’s more, if it works, that very small, two-second act could actually have an impact. TIME editor Richard Stengel says of PoY, “The challenge is presenting something people know in a new way.” People think they know the military family, but all they know are yellow ribbons and crying families. There’s much more to know, and this can help spread that awareness.

I’ve written before about my adoration of Jonathan Evison’s forthcoming novel, West of Here. It’s a big, beautiful, sprawling tale of the American experience, set in fictional Port Bonita, Washington, and rooted in two eras: the town’s founding, and its pioneers’ headlong rush toward the future, and 2006, as their descendants try to unwind the mistakes of the past.

Algonquin, Evison’s publisher, has put an incredible effort into the book, and it shows. More than a month before its February 15th release, the book has sold out its first printing. This is going to be a huge novel. I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.

While you’re waiting for the book, why not pay a visit to Port Bonita? The uber-cool website for the book allows you to do just that.

The level of detail is just stunning. There are beautifully rendered maps and postcards of a place that sprung whole from Evison’s imagination. You can read excerpts from the book, a bit about Evison (who is a fascinating story unto himself), and a love letter from Evison’s editor, Chuck Adams, that makes it clear why Algonquin is betting so heavily on West of Here. I’d say it’s a wise bet.

Go there. Now.

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