Let’s get one thing clear: this is not your grandmammy’s Iliad. You’ve probably snored through a few excruciating lectures about “the subtle mastery of Homer’s poetic scansion.” Please. This is not some prissy love sonnet. This is a poem in which 12-foot-tall he-men use rusty bronze spears, devastating serrated blades, and boulders the size of tractors to rip each other to shreds over a stolen girlfriend in the most brutal and gratuitous cage match known to history. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reclaiming the Iliad in the name of awesome, with a series of posts designed to brush the dust off of Homer’s epic proto-action-movie. First up: the 10 most stomach-turning kills in the war between Troy and Greece, from least to most disgusting. All the translations are my own. All the bloodshed is Homer’s.
1. Twelve Sleeping Trojans: Gutted by Night
The fact that this is the least gory item on this list should tell you something about the upcoming mayhem. When the Greeks lose their star fighter, Achilles, they’re playing at a serious handicap. In desperation, they send two undercover operatives, Diomedes and Odysseus, to slaughter the Trojans in their sleep. It’s a low blow, but it gets the job done: while the Trojans are cuddled up all snug, the two Greeks eviscerate twelve of them, spilling their guts on the ground. “Unholy shrieking rose from them as they died,” Homer says, “and the ground ran red with their blood.”
Is there a difference between a hero and a heroine? Should there be any difference? Comics more than any other form of media have presented the widest set of examples in the way of female heroes (as the politically correct term goes) from the demure to the overly aggressive. But in such creations as Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Thundra, and She-Hulk, all attempts at kowtowing to the feminist ideal, the industry might as well have made them male characters for all their busty bosoms and flashing legs. In fact, by powering up these females in the way of physical strength, male writers have done a disservice to women, falling into the feminist trap of equating men with women, in effect merging the two as if they were interchangeable.
Why do women need to be defined by such male qualities as physical strength? Why not have them defined through their own particular strengths and play up to that? Aren’t their own unique qualities as valuable as those of men? Women are no less courageous than their male counterparts of course, but where men are likely to be aggressive and bombastic, women are kind, caring, protective. Because they are not as physically strong, they frequently have the advantage of being able to hold back and think a situation through before barging ahead. In reality, men are physically stronger than women so giving them super-strength for instance, is a believable extension of an existing condition. Not so for women. For them, powers that are more passive in nature such as invisibility, telekinesis, or probability altering fit their more reserved natures better. As such, the heroes and heroines that work best are those whose super attributes are extensions of their basic masculine and feminine gifts. Not that super-heroines cannot have super-strength, but those that have that power ought to use it in different ways than a man would.
Many have seen the various Marvel Studios films starring the Black Widow character. Her ability to lay low dozens of male combatants crosses the line and snaps our ability to suspend belief for the duration of a two hour movie. With her around, who needs Captain America and his apparently useless super soldier serum? But in overdoing the Widow’s physical abilities, the producers have robbed her of her essential femininity (her physical appearance not withstanding!) She’s essentially just one of the boys: serious, tough, distant. Her polar opposite, and the perfect reconciliation between physically capable and retention of feminine qualities is the Emma Peel character from the 1960s-era Avengers television show. There, Mrs. Peel is totally capable in any number of areas including physical ability and yet nothing about the use of her skills detracts in any way from her femininity. Unlike the movie Widow–or current depictions of Wonder Woman or She-Hulk–she could never be mistaken for a man!
In that spirit, the following list includes the most successful examples of the super-heroine ideal. Heroines who rely less on aping their male counterparts than exercising power in ways that allow them to succeed while retaining their feminine qualities.
(Caveat: This survey of super-heroines does not take into account changes in the characters instituted in the post-1980s dark age)
It never fails. (Sarah here.) I find myself on some forum with traditionally, indie and hybrid authors, and someone brings out two old canards:
1- You’ll never get there by your wits alone. I.e. indie is all very well, if you want to sell a 100 copies of your precious little effort, but to make the big bucks you need traditional publishing.
2- Indie publishing is submerged in the proverbial tsunami of cr*p.
Do I need to tell you that not only neither of these are true, but that they’re almost the opposite.
Yes, you can do very well financially from indie. And I’m not talking the big name cases like Amanda Hocking, or Hugh Howey. No, everyday people who have been publishing indie for five years or so and do well enough to make six figures and are considering quitting their job. This might seem like nothing to you, if you think that every traditionally published author plays poker with Stephen King and has his own swimming pool filled with gold coins, like Uncle Scrooge, but “making a living from writing” has been impossible for most writers for the last forty or fifty years. Ten years ago the average income from writing of the members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was five thousand dollars a year. And most people in the professional organization made less than that. (And it’s probably worse now.)
What about the tsunami of cr*p, then?
This rings true, especially to many writers, because, well… we’ve most of us had to read for contests, or even have downloaded ebooks that are appalling.
But is there a tsunami?
I can tell you that whatever it was, tsunami or gentle rain storm, it was much worse back when ebooks started. Either I’ve got better at picking books, or the really seriously bad ones have given up and gone home. And I think a lot of them have. The people putting up a book in hopes of being millionaires tomorrow get disappointed and stop writing.
There is another factor too. Almost every hopeless “die trying” case of wanting to write I’ve ever met doesn’t want to go indie. They want validation and “books on the shelves” and to do the morning talk shows and… In fact in the indie versus traditional battles they’re the loudest pro-traditional voices. Hope springs eternal, I guess, and it prevents their ever coming to grips with their shortcomings.
Mind you, there are plenty of awful books out there. I just returned one to Amazon, something I don’t remember doing with a free book, ever.
First, the main character had gender dysfunction issues he didn’t seem aware of. As in, I was in the head of a six foot something male and he was reacting/thinking/viewing people as though he were a small female. This is something that can/does happen when women write first person (or third person close in) males. Yes, it’s worse than men writing females, because then she just comes across “Strong” and “independent” because she’s not afraid to be out at night. But a tall, strong man doesn’t go all feely over “there’s a knot of people ahead. Oh, my, are they aggressive?” unless he’s wounded or otherwise incapacitated.
Second – I thought “maybe the character is a very swishy gay male. Whatever.” BUT it kept pulling me out. I kept seeing a petite female and then being told this was a male.
Third- the knot of people turned out to be a “disturbance”. There’s a man screaming at someone else in a square in Regency England. A guardsman shoots him, and then says “He was just a peasant” and there’s no consequences. France, before the revolution? Sure. England in the Regency? No. Yeah, it could happen in a riot, but if the guard weren’t lynched, he’d be tried. I thought “Oh, boy, someone read too much Marxist theory and knows no real history” but kept reading.
Fourth-The man goes in and has a pointless discussion with the alleged villain in which they explain all the social rules of Regency England and half of them are WRONG or at least the writer has no clue what she’s trying to explain having got the smell but not the taste of the thing.
Fifth- Our hero goes home. There’s a woman (ravishing, natch) waiting in his rooms and she makes sweet sweet love to him. Look, it’s not even the “why would she” it’s the SHE made love to him. I.e. he was utterly passive in a way I’d find hard to believe for most women, and I don’t think the most passive of men can be. The book got deleted.
Yes, yes, it was an indie book.
Now the kicker and the chaser. THE KICKER: it was an indie book republished by the author AFTER rights reverted from…. drumroll … Berkley Prime Crime. THE CHASER: It’s third for historical mystery and VERY high for historical romance.
This brings me to my final point: Look, we’re in unknown territory here. For longer than any of us has been alive, the publishing houses have been publishing not what sold (if they even knew what that was, through their arcane accounting system) but two things: the correct politics and something to impress their colleagues. So we got leftist litrachure.
We also got a whole bunch of things that editors decided was “good” and lost a lot of things they decided was “bad.” When indie started, despite the fact that most golden age sf/f was first-person, the publishers were well on their way to banning first person. Other things have been banned that were part of the story teller’s art forever: omniscient viewpoint, male action heroes, things that have nothing to do with quality but with the echo chamber of NYC publishing.
And what we’re finding with indie is that those often sell. Because we’ve been trained in a certain type of market/storytelling, they often strike us as bad, but the public likes them.
So, if you’re a writer, indie or not? Try things. Your first book probably won’t sell a lot, but keep writing. In indie, there’s a virtue in volume. I hear there’s a huge increase in all numbers after your fourth indie novel. Just get it out there. Write the best you can, and put it up. If this is what you want to do, strive to improve and don’t lose faith.
Go indie, young man, go indie.
Only 99¢ through tomorrow.
A collection of short stories by Prometheus Award Winner Sarah A. Hoyt. The first edition of this collection was published by Dark Regions Press in paper, only. This updated edition contains two bonus short stories: High Stakes and Sweet Alice.
It also contains the stories: Elvis Died for Your Sins; Like Dreams Of Waking; Ariadne’s Skein;Thirst;Dear John;Trafalgar Square;The Green Bay Tree; Another George; Songs;Thy Vain Worlds;Crawling Between Heaven and Earth
Fighting in over 100 countries.
Economies shattered, empires dissolved.
More than 60 million dead.
The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in human history, but it was more than just a battle of ideologies and nations—it was a war on culture. As they marched across the continent, Hitler and the Nazis looted the art of occupied Europe for the glory of the Thousand Year Reich as well as their own personal collections. Many artworks are still missing today, while others are the subjects of modern treasure hunts as survivors seek to bring their property home.
In Trophies of War, David Lyon discovers a family mystery in his mother’s basement that takes him across a former war zone where the secrets of the 1940s—and those who would do anything to keep them hidden—are still alive today.
William is just your typical engineer fresh out of college with a stressful job, a boring life, and not a lot of prospects of anything better in the future.
Until one weekend while hiking in the woods he stumbles across a portal to another time, or perhaps another place. The more he investigates this new world the more he realizes that it may just be able to offer him a lot more than the one he’s been living in.
However, there are forces at work beyond anything that Will has ever come across before and the local Goddess seems to have taken a liking to him. Will may soon find himself getting an offer he cannot afford to refuse.
In the twilight of the Roman Empire, a sculptor struggles to keep an 800-year dream alive while honoring the love of his life and raising his adoptive son. Part I of the *Idolatry* series, an epic story in five parts.
Duchess Marie von Starland, wife of the great Aquila von Starland, mother of Princess Miranda Sobieski, tells her side of the story of the war against the Turkowi and the Siege of Vindobona.
The Path of Haveshi Yellowcrow: When ill fortune strikes Haveshi’s clan, the remedy is devastating for the young wife and mother. Guided by the Yellowcrow, god of the forsaken, she sets out on a path to regain what she lost.
The Path of Latan the Clerk: Latan, a lowly clerk in service to the magical Source Tiati, has discovered a historical document of great importance, and is summoned to present his findings to the high priest of the Empire. Accompanied by the warrior named Haveshi Yellowcrow, he embarks on the journey of a lifetime and finds unexpected danger and self-discovery.
A novella-length duology set in the world of Chosen of Azara.
Arisa: a world of loss and hardship; of legend and wonder; the world of A Warrior’s Path. Return there now with Stories from Arisa, a short story collection featuring four wonderful new fables from that mythic place; each one a polished gem; together, an assemblage spanning the realms of hope, humor, tragedy, loss, and love.
Stories: Received Wisdom, The Prank, A Lesson Learned, The Missing Diamond
Also included are the prologue and chapter 1 of A Warrior’s Knowledge, Volume Two of The Castes and the OutCastes.
Ten years after a nuclear war forced Jason Calvin to fight his way across Georgia and through a brutal warlord, life has settled down a bit in a town called New Eden. As the town sheriff, Jason keeps the peace.
After saving a family from a horrible fate, that peace becomes threatened when a sadistic military man shows up, claiming the family are fugitives from his draconian justice system and they’re coming back whether anyone in New Eden likes it or not…and maybe some of New Eden’s own as well.
Unfortunately for him, Jason isn’t about to just let something like that go.
99¢ through the weekend.
Josephine Ishikawa’s last shift as Captain of the starliner Pericles changed the course of history, but no one knows about it. The powers that be took charge as soon as she got back to Earth, with only a select few permitted to learn about the beings she encountered during the run from Gliese, or the eggs they entrusted to her care.
Satisfied that the government would make good on her commitment to return the eggs home, Jo returned to her job of getting Pericles through a major maintenance overhaul and then back out to the stars. But when she learns that the authorities reneged and have begun experimenting on the eggs instead, she faces a difficult choice: keep the life and career she loves or embark on a quest to rescue the eggs and keep the promise she made to their dying parents, out in the depths of space. That quest could cost her more than she ever imagined as it plunges her into a shadow war against a planetary government that will stop at nothing to keep its secrets.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Lisa de Pasquale’s memoir of life and love in Washington, DC, Finding Mr. Righteous. Her honest, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking tell-all about dating life in the conservative world struck a few chords with me, so I asked her some follow-up questions. Keep reading to find out how she’s dealt with people trying to figure out who’s in the book, the current status of her dating life, and the latest steps in her spiritual journey.
We’ve talked about a lot of things together, here. What to read, how not to date jerks, why the internet loves to hate Lana Del Rey, that time I dodged bears in West Virginia, and much more. I’ve really enjoyed the heck out of sharing these episodes with you, and I look forward to continuing to do so. If you’ve enjoyed the heck out of following my adventures, it’s time to join me in my latest big one: the launch of my second novel, Bulfinch.
Bulfinch is a whimsical tale about a history student whose imagination is so powerful that the knight from the book she’s reading pops out of her head and into real life. But he’s no fairytale visitor — he’s a very medieval fellow indeed, and our heroine Rosie is forced out of her reclusive bubble as she sets out into Baltimore to track him down and put him back into history where he belongs. Bulfinch is appropriate for readers aged 14+, and entertaining for all. By turns funny and tender, it’s a book you won’t be able to put down.
Bulfinch was released last Friday, to my delight! Don’t miss another day in ordering your copy, in paperback or Kindle formats. Buy it here.
Ever since the earliest comic books appeared on newsstands in 1933 they followed many of the precepts laid down by comic strips: square bordered panels arranged in a left to right pattern, use of onomatopoeia for sound effects, different shaped borders dialogue balloons indicating thoughts or words spoken aloud or whispered, captions to set a scene, and a down to earth realism even for such fantastic characters as Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers.
With minor exceptions, comic book publishers kept to these tropes for many decades making an exception early on for the newly invented super-heroes whose outsized antics needed bigger and bolder presentations. Enter such figures as Jack Kirby who used tricks of foreshortening, full and half page panels, and breaking panel borders to convey a sense of furious action.
For almost thirty years, little changed until the advent of artists Neal Adams and Jim Steranko both of whom entered comics from outside the field bringing with them new ideas about how to tell stories visually. In the 1970s, though many of Adams and Steranko’s tricks were abandoned, the idea of breaking open the comics page remained with artists like Gene Colan, Rich Buckler, and Frank Brunner who continued to experiment with page layout.
In the 1980s, artist Frank Miller did the same with his work on Daredevil but now adding a new attitude to the storytelling to match the radical inclinations of his art. Influenced by film noir and later Japanese manga, he built an atmosphere of oppression and brutality to DD that only grew more intense issue by issue. No one realized it at the time, but Miller was leading the industry into uncharted territory, one that in time would become completely divorced from the strictures of the Comics Code Authority.
At the same time, across town at the offices of Marvel competitor DC, a British writer named Alan Moore was also doing his part to shake up the status quo. There, taking over the Swamp Thing comic, Moore immediately began to explore the dark side of the human psyche with tales that were increasingly unsuitable for young readers. Other writers from across the water would soon follow Moore’s example including Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman. Together with Miller at Marvel, they would succeed in transforming ground level comics into an adult oriented playground where children were not welcome.
It was a transformation that the comics industry perhaps needed as prices climbed and readership shrunk with children abandoning comics (and reading in general) for other pursuits. With a fan base now comprised mostly of adolescents and young adults, the industry could proceed full speed ahead with a program of increasing violence, sex, and darkness. The line between heroes and villains became blurred so that by the end of the 1980s when Marvel and DC found themselves challenged by a host of upstart companies with no allegiance to the Comics Code, they were forced to adapt to the new sensibilities or continue to lose ground.
The following is a list of the top 10 most influential comics or series that acted as sign posts in this transitory period between the last years when comics were accessible to readers of every age and their current form appealing to an extremely narrow band of young adult fans who often require stories that feature the extremes of human behavior in order to be entertained.
10) Punisher Limited Series
Created by writer Gerry Conway in 1974, the Punisher was inspired by similar characters that had been appearing regularly in paperback for years including the Executioner, the Destroyer, and the Avenger. All derived their popularity in part from the Dirty Harry films of the early to mid-70s which capitalized on the frustrations of Americans with the apparent inadequacy of the law in dealing with criminals. By the 80s, such sentiments had trickled down to the younger set who soon took a shine to the Punisher who really began to take off after writer/artist Frank Miller featured him in one of his Daredevil stories. A limited series by writer Steven Grant and artist Mike Zeck followed which proved to be a huge sales success. In succeeding years, the Punisher would star in numerous series, each more violent than the last helping to redefine what it meant to be a comic book hero all the while pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in comics.
With the few remaining store shelves groaning under the weight of fantasy series whose authors must crank them out with the regularity and efficiency of a printing press (and with the same lack of originality), not much room is left for preserving the classics of the genre. Over the last several decades, fantasy has gone from a niche market to mass acceptance, and with the success of such series as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, it’s also gone mainstream. Unfortunately, interest in those series hasn’t translated to interest in other fantasy worlds. Potter and Thrones have their fans but those fans seem to be parochial in their tastes, refusing to explore beyond the walls of Hogwarts or come out from behind the Iron Throne.
But fantasy is about more than dragons, swords, spells, and now sex. It’s also about the craft of writing and somehow capturing a sense of wonder and of faraway lands and climes that readers may not even be aware that they’re yearning to experience. It’s that deep, unsuspected tugging against the bonds of the here and now that the best works of fantasy create. And (dare I say it?) once upon a time writers did succeed in doing that when fantasy written for the older person (as opposed to children) was somewhat rare in a late nineteenth and early twentieth century era of limited media coverage and that frowned upon the man or woman who refused to let go of what were considered childish things.
However, those childish things began as somewhat serious tales told around Grecian campfires before they metamorphosed into mythology. But what is understood as modern fantasy, that is, fantastic stories meant for entertainment and that no one is expected to actually believe, began in the nineteenth century when authors such as William Morris and George MacDonald formalized the genre. It was they who took elements of myth and folklore and transformed them into extended-length novels that could be enjoyed by both children and adults. And through their skill with the written word they molded individual statements on the fantastic, creating worlds that spoke to the human heart in voices with which readers could identify.
In those worlds, combat and strife were often relegated to the background or were non-existent, and though there could be magic, it was limited. Most important to these authors was the human element, often expressed in the form of a quest which was actually a search for love, wisdom, or understanding — elements that will largely be the criteria upon which the following top 10 fantasy novels and series have been judged.
(Note: many of the books listed here have been reprinted as paperbacks in the late 1960s/early 1970s Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series and are still available at decent prices.)
The only “modern” fantasy on this list, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Chronicles antedates such newer fantasies as Game of Thrones with their palace intrigues and veiled diplomacies. Published in 1970, Deryni Rising was the first of a long series of books (usually written in threes) chronicling the history of the kingdom of Gwynedd, a medieval land roughly akin to Great Britain. There, two-faced diplomacy, palace intrigue, arranged marriages, warfare and the occasional regicide are further complicated by the existence of a race known as the Deryni. Possessed of various powers from mind reading to psychic healing, the Deryni were once powers in the land until the Church and its secular allies declared them tools of the devil. They are driven underground, and most of the series is about the Derynis’ struggle to survive and regain their legitimacy. It is told in a straightforward, extremely detailed, but engaging style. The Chronicles of the Deryni is likely the most fully realized, convincing fantasy world created in the modern era.
Ladies, gentlemen and writers, this is Sarah speaking, and today I’m really, really, really myself. I have, in fact, allowed myself to fall under my own influence. You may blame it on Pat Richardson who, under the amiable illusion that my blood pressure was too low, sent me the following article: Why I Will Never Self-Publish.
Now, first of all, I have to confess I looked at the title in wonder and puzzlement because I’ve been a professional in this field for going on sixteen years, and all along I’ve stuck to the principle I first heard from Kevin J. Anderson at a Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference around 1998 or so, which was “Sure, I can do that.” In the ever-changing publishing landscape, I’ve seen arguably more prolific, harder working and far more talented people become lost along the way all for lack of “Sure, I can do that.”
I had a friend who refused her first contract for a YA series in England, because her lawyer said not to take the perfectly normal clause in the contract. (Yes, I know, but back then the contracts weren’t even that bad.) She didn’t get a second opinion. She waited for the better contract that never came. I’ve had friends who stopped writing because their advances weren’t increasing, friends who refused to write original mass market paperbacks, and friends who refused to write different series/short stories/other characters/different genres.
Sometimes you get lucky when you do that, but most of the time you just get abruptly retired.
But I thought, well, maybe this person is just under-informed. After all, five years ago I’d have said the same thing, because my image of self publishing was Publish America or worse. Yes, yes, in the days of Hugh Howey and after Amanda Hocking there is no excuse for that, but who knows? Maybe he hasn’t heard that indie is viable and a perfectly respectable avenue for writers these days. There’s no shame in indie, there’s shame in not selling.
And I’ll also confess I wouldn’t bother eviscerating this blog post, except that lately I’ve run into a number of people with the exact same ideas who will look down on those of us who write for a living.
So I started reading.
I sold my first novel to Unbridled Books without an agent and then, at my book release party at Watermark Books, during the Q&A section, someone asked me why I had self-published. I was crushed. I’d spent two years writing and rewriting the book, another six years trying to find an agent before giving up and submitting it to a few small presses.
Oh. Oh! You sold your book to Unbridled Books, did you? Which is, exactly what? And you’re surprised people thought you self published? And you had a … release party?
At this point it became obvious to me that I was in the presence of that ubiquitous creature in writing circles: the precious flower.
The precious flower is convinced his efforts at putting wordage on paper are going to make the world bow to him and explain their lives were empty – empty – until he came along.
The precious flower will clutch at a publisher like Unchained Unknown Unbridled Books rather than face the big, cold world alone, because, well, they’re a real publisher and they’ll do wonderful things for him.
The truth is, if he took two years to write his first novel, and six years to shop it around without (I presume) writing a second novel, the bigger publishers couldn’t have done anything with him, other than perhaps put him in the literary and little niche which doesn’t sell. Rightly, wrongly or confusedly, to maintain a career as a traditionally published writer, you needed to have a book every year. (Indie likes them rather more frequently.)
….Invariably there are the same old comments about keeping all my rights and getting to keep more of the money from sales. There have even been a few who have taken the semi-business based, utilitarian approach – just put your “product” out there and see if people will buy it. Most of the time, I let it slide because, frankly, I don’t have the energy to explain the publishing world to them, nor the difference between a utilitarian object – something used to accomplish other tasks and that has an objective, determinate value – and an object of art – something that is experienced for its own sake and has a subjective, indeterminate value.
Oh, my. You can’t explain the publishing world to them? Dear ducky, you wouldn’t know the publishing world if it bit you really hard in the fleshy part of the buttocks.
The publishing world does make interesting noises like those you are making about Objects d’Art and “literachure” but in fact it runs on two things: prestige and cold hard cash. For prestige you need to be something special: a celebrity in another field; someone with an interesting life story or a particularly fascinating job. I see no evidence that you are any of these. And if you’re not going to be a prized status author, then you are there to make money. And if your book Object d’Art doesn’t make the house a sh*tton of money, they’re simply going to drop you after one book. The value is neither subjective nor indeterminate. Your book is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and that’s not only true for the person paying the cost of a good carton of beer for it, but even more so to the publishers.
But I’m going to give it a shot now because, honestly, some people just won’t shut up about it. So, here it goes. First with the obvious: When a writer decides to self-publish, that writer then stops being a writer and becomes a publisher, which requires an entirely different skill set . . . and money.
largest publisher in the world, a small independent like my publisher, Unbridled Books, or Bob, from next door:
1) Editing and Proofreading
2) Book Design (yes, it’s even needed for ebooks)
3) Printing (optional if only doing ebooks)
4) Marketing and Publicity
And now I can’t read anymore. You have just proven, dear ducky, that you know absolutely nothing about how the publishing world works.
1) Editing and proofreading – at most publishing houses (I worked for a lot of them, and Baen is the only exception so far) the only person who ever reads your book start to finish is the copyeditor. And most copyeditors, at least those I used to get at those other publishing houses, were recent high school graduates who knew less grammar, composition and style than I did. For the love of … duckies… hire one of those. Ten bucks and all the pizza she can eat ought to do it. Or pay a real copyeditor. I recommend Jason Dycks though I’ll be danged if I can find his address right now, who does a better job than any of the “professionals” at the big houses. I think – and he can correct me in comments if I’m wrong, he will do your average sized novel for $500. Or you could, if you need more substantial editing, hire Pat Richardson who will even undertake some structural edits and will probably not cost you more than $1000.
2) Book design – yes, we DO know it’s needed even for ebooks. You could do worse than hiring Cedar Sanderson to do your cover design and she will hook you up with decent art, too, at a modest cost, the cost for the total package, purchased art + design being around $500 unless you really drive her insane. In traditional publishing houses, this usually defaults to a junior assistant, who gets some guidance from the art director. I doubt that Unobtrusive Unbridled Books is hiring a top-of-the-field cover designer for you. Most of the freelancers working for small press imbue their books with “literary and little” kind of clues that will ensure you never sell. Oh, and most of them work for between $250 and $500.
3) Printing. Um… indeed. But you do know that printing is only part of the package, right? The real service of the big publishers is distribution. And frankly they only really exert themselves for the darlings. Mostly midlisters (which, trust me, is what you’d be) get hit or miss placement on store shelves. Yes, that’s better than nothing. And that’s better than Unfound Unbridled Books can do for you. If you go with a small or medium publisher, mostly you’re going to be stocked in a few small independent bookstores where, if you’re lucky, the publisher has contacts, or you’ll sell through Amazon. For this, you can have your book on print on demand on Create Space for the grand total of zero. And even technically illiterate me has learned to typeset books in three hours or so.
4) Marketing and publicity. Oh, doctor, really, it only hurts when I laugh. Marketing and publicity!
I get some – not tons – from Baen (Not complaining. It’s more than I got elsewhere.) But for most publishers? Ah! Unless you’re the movie star du jour who just “co-wrote” a book, these days your marketing and publicity run something like “Will be listed in your catalogue.” If you’re really lucky you’ll be part of a mass ad in some trade publication.
Most publishers and agents expect you to do your own marketing, anything from a blog/FB page, to your own self-paid tour.
Any substantive marketing from a publishing house other-than-Baen is pretty much an illusion designed to keep the writer happy.
And those are your reasons for not being self-published? My dear Petunia, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. Come down off that unsteady pedestal you built out of your own ignorance and some really convincing cardboard boxes, and look around.
No, the world isn’t going to stop for your masterpiece, even if it really is a masterpiece – I don’t know. It might be – and it’s not because most people are jealous of your genius. Most people don’t know you exist. And that’s ultimately your problem.
If you write a book a year for a traditional publisher and make it good and it sells enough for them to keep buying you, your audience will grow. Or if you write a book every six months for indie, and invest a very little, you could make a living in a couple of years.
Or you can continue being certain of your superiority and make nothing.
The choice is entirely yours. Just remember if Shakespeare had written Object’s d’Art of indeterminate value, right now we’d consider Kit Marlowe the most important Elizabethan Playwright. Instead, old Will gave them what they wanted and plenty of it, with the funny bit with the man and the dog thrown in. And centuries later we can ascertain that he did touch enough of eternal humanity for us to consider his books object’s d’art.
The rest, all the rest – your pride, your moral superiority, your ignorance about how publishing works or what the value is… is so much sound and fury. Signifying nothing.
You’re clearly an example of why MFA graduates aren’t hired for accounting jobs. Sarah, I think, has already soundly skewered your pretentious academic notions, so let’s just look at your arithmetic. We’ll take as given your numbers — though I know some top New York copy-editors and they don’t get $40 an hour, you must put me in touch with that company. But observe:
In this model, using the Scribe Freelance’s in-house editor, you can save some money, but it looks like you won’t get to choose your editor. I prefer to have a personal relationship with my editor, so I’d go with a separate freelance editor whose references and work I could look up and I’d end up spending the following:
$1,640 +$375 + $250 = $2,265
Now, I’m involved with some self-publishing, and I can tell you there are lots of people writing lots of things they self-publish for one helluva lot less than $2300, but as I say, take that as given, and let’s assume you were to publish it as an ebook at Amazon’s upper limit for the good royalties, $9.95. You’d then make about $7 a book, which means you need to sell about 315 books to break even.
If you have a conventional publishing contract, you get a 25 percent royalty on ebook sales, and perhaps 10 percent on hardcover. Let’s keep looking just at ebooks. Whatever your publisher’s costs, we know they’re less than that $2300 — plus any promotion you get, but I haven’t noticed your name on any book tours recently — because the prices you quoted are all for contract labor. Those people have to charge more for each job to account for the risk they won’t have a job this week. For those services, you’re paying $4.48 per book.
Sell 314, and you are paying $1406 for that and netting $781. Sell 628, and you’re paying $2812. Sell 942, and you’re paying $4418.
Sell 2000 and you’re paying damn near ten grand.
What you’re really telling us is that you’re not a professional writer; you either have no actual pretensions of ever making a living from your writing, or you haven’t done the arithmetic. Writing is a hobby, and by refusing to self-publish, you’re paying even more than a “vanity press” would charge you for the privilege.
Life was never easy out in the Methuselah Cluster, but when her alcoholic father found her a ‘job’ while he went off-planet to look for ‘work’, 11-year-old Loralynn Kennakris began to learn just how ugly it could get. Within a year, her employers sold her to a brutal slaver captain, who took from her the last thing she owned: her name.
Most girls in Kris’s position last a year or two. The strong ones might last four. Kris survived eight before she was set free, thanks to the League Navy.
Unfortunately, eight years growing up in hell prepared Kris for nearly everything but freedom, and her new life isn’t at all what she imagined. Not only must she find her way in a bewildering society full of bizarre rules, but the very people who rescued her think she’s a terrorist plant, a beautiful interstellar celebrity is complicating matters in more ways than one . . . and now someone is trying to kill her.
But Kris hasn’t stayed alive by obeying rules, and her adopted society is about to find out what it’s like to collide with someone with no concept of a no-win scenario.
Until now, humanity’s potential has been limited by its physical capability: of its body and its brain. In the middle of the twenty-first century, the mind itself is upgraded.
Three individuals hold humanity’s next stage in their hands:
Nikolas Rodrick, CEO of Rodrick Industries, oversees the largest corporate empire in the world. Grace Taylor holds the Earth casually on her shoulders as the aide-de-camp to Rodrick Industries. Both change when they meet Leo Apollus. Leo loves humanity, and sees its proper end above the clouds. Along with Grace and Rodrick, he takes it there.
Sarya dyr-Rusac has risen from her destitute childhood to become a respected arranger of musical magic rituals – until a wedding ritual she wrote results in tragedy. In exile for her failure, she hears powerful new music in the wind, heralding natural disasters like none ever before known. In hopes of learning what this strange new power is and finding a way to end the disasters, she returns to the musical service she left in disgrace.
There, she confronts the mistakes she made in the past and resumes her complicated relationship with the gloriously talented singer Adan Muari. Sarya believes that she and the wealthy, privileged Adan can have no place in each other’s lives. But, facing official resistance to her research and threatened by someone who is desperate to protect the secret of the mysterious music, she finds herself relying on Adan’s unwavering support – and increasingly unable to fight her attraction to him.
As the disasters worsen, a beautiful, nameless man in chains appears in Sarya’s dreams, begging her to sing the music she heard in the wind: the music that will free him. He could be a god with the power to save the world from destruction, or a threat to everything she knows and loves. With time running out, Sarya risks all, including her growing bond with Adan, to discover the chained man’s identity and the meaning of his song before the world itself is torn apart.
NYPD surveillance expert, Detective Millie Angeles has made a name for herself working in the elite TARU unit of the New York Police Department as the go-to girl for surveillance and tracking. However, when tragedy occurs, she finds herself casting about for a new chapter. That all falls into place when she lands a job at a private company, which dispatches her to the West Coast to work for Adrian Zaragosa, a blind, and strikingly handsome owner of a winery estate in the Napa Valley. As the plot thickens and their passion sparks, Millie finds herself in the throes of both extreme danger and overpowering desire. Millie’s talents seem to be just what Adrian needs. Or is he simply manipulating a situation to have her near?
A romantic thriller for mature adults only, please.
Last week I presented an exploration of many popular beliefs that can disrupt our lives and undermine our relationships: “30 Bad Ideas Men Should Embrace if They Want to Destroy Themselves.” The list utilized books from gifted writers exploring concepts across culture, history, and religion. Here are links to their books and where you can read more of their writing in the series:
1. Lisa De Pasquale with her memoir Finding Mr. Righteous
2. David P. “Spengler” Goldman with his essay collection It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You
3. Leora Batnitzky with her scholarly study Idolatry and Representation: the Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered.
Goldman’s books are great introductions to the tools of Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig for understanding the impact of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity on modern thought. Batnitzky’s book provided an opening for understanding the differences within Christianity as relative to their attitudes to Judaism.
4. Camille Paglia with her essay collection Sex, Art and American Culture and magnum opus Sexual Personae
5. The super-blogger the The Anchoress Elizabeth Scalia with her very accessible introduction to idolatry, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life
6. Five Feet of Fury Blog Empress Kathy Shaidle with her great culture critique and memoir e-book Confessions of a Failed Slut
Kathy points to the future that’s coming and how technology is transforming the way men and women relate.
7. Robert M. Hoffstein with his revealing A Mystical Key to the English Language
Exploring the word Love here.
8. PJ Columnist Dr. Helen Smith with her important manifesto Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters
Here in the list I explained where I agree and disagree with Dr. Helen.
9. Harvey C. Mansfield with his book Manliness
This and the next two books are useful for understanding men and women who have fallen into a nihilistic ideology
10. Allan Bloom with his classic The Closing of the American Mind
11. Andrew Breitbart with his memoir Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!
12. Douglas Rushkoff with his introduction to a more mystical, “open source” Judaism, Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism
13. Franz Rosenzweig with his The Star of Redemption
The series concludes with an author Goldman has inspired me to dig deeper into understanding.
In two of the posts preceding the series I also suggested these authors and their books as important for understanding humanity’s fallen nature and marriage’s ability to raise us upward:
14. Michael Ledeen with his Machiavelli on Modern Leadership
15. Shmuley Boteach with his integration of Eastern and Western mysticism, The Kosher Sutra
Need more books that’ll transform the way you understand the world?
For the next big list coming I’m planning on naming some great movies and explaining how they can inspire us….
Howard the Duck is back!
Does Howard’s appearance (in a speaking role no less!) suggest a bigger part for the malicious mallard in the next film? (There was a “Guardians of the Galaxy will return” consumer warning at the end of the movie…) If so, there will likely be many happy fans who hold fond memories of Howard from comics of the 1970s and ’80s, when the character was riding high and didn’t mind pointing out the absurdities of human behavior in general and skewering establishmentarianism in particular. What rich pickings he’d have in the Guardians’ corner of the universe with its amalgam of alien civilizations, warring empires, and mashed-up values! (Imagine Howard face to face with the self-important Thanos!) He might even find his way to the Earth of the Avengers where audiences can be treated to the spectacle of Captain America debating the finer points of the Constitution with him! (Howard would likely get along better with the more cynical Tony Stark.)
But first, Howard will need to convince audiences to accept him.
Which may be easier than some might believe. With today’s moviegoers mostly being under the age of 30, they have no direct knowledge of Howard’s last disastrous brush with movie stardom. And though they may feel some instinctive negativity toward the character, they likely have no idea that it has been inculcated into them by the overwhelming condemnation that had been aimed at George Lucas’ original Howard the Duck film. Over the years since, the poison has long since filtered into the public consciousness. Howard the Duck has become synonymous with camp, junk, and the worst kind of movie making.
But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1986 and there’s definitely a sense that audiences are ready to move on with the subject of Howard the Duck. The electricity felt in theaters over the tag scenes at the end of the new Guardians film was palpable. Thus, it’s perhaps time to review a bit of Howard’s checkered history and find out if the madcap mallard is really ready for a comeback…
10) Howard the Duck, movie star
It’s been 27 years now since Howard the Duck crashed Hollywood in a big way starring in his very own big-budget movie produced by Star Wars super genius George Lucas. At the time, following his breakout film American Graffiti and then the worldwide phenomenon that was Star Wars, it was widely accepted that Lucas, like his contemporary Steven Spielberg, could do no wrong. That belief was quickly dispelled with the release of Howard the Duck in 1986, a film roundly savaged by critics and filmgoers alike. It not only proved to be a Waterloo for Howard, but Lucas as well, as the myth of his infallibility was burst forever. For the maligned mallard however, things would be a little different. Although his comic book career continued to be much admired by fans, to the general public he was at his lowest ebb, reduced to a laughingstock and a tinseltown untouchable seemingly for good.
It was so wonderful having the opportunity to reconnect last month. I enjoyed getting to know you better and coming to understand more of the parallels in our political and spiritual journeys. I look forward to many more deep discussions in the future.
I look forward to exploring these subjects in pieces more soon and think we should continue brainstorming together; let’s definitely plan on collaborating more in the future on ways to explore these concepts in articles, perhaps with some of your delightful artistic illustrations?
I want to congratulate you for your invention of the Bamusers, as showcased in your new collection of sketches that straddle the line between art and humor.
We’ve already talked about a few directions you might want to consider exploring using the Bamusers style of quick, simple illustrations accompanied by short titles. Today, I wanted to encourage you to consider another that could have some potential, both as a way to make perceptive cultural commentary and connect with new audiences: generational theory. Here are two books I’ll throw back your direction:
[Charlie here: Today we have a guest post by Mark Wandrey, who we often plug on BPF. ]
Sixteen years ago while watching an episode of Stargate SG-1, I thought they were seriously under-utilizing their universe. Here was a galaxy-spanning transportation network and the galaxy is populated by… humans. Sure, from the production standpoint of a TV show, having an alien a week was simply far beyond what could be afforded. Even Trek handled this mostly with a prosthetic head application here and there, and skin paint. Lots, and lots of skin paint.
Anyway that thought was filed away for later consideration. As any writer quickly learns, there is a big difference between an observation and an idea. But some time later I was re-reading a favorite of mine, Ender’s Game. The protagonist is a young child, plucked from his environment, who grows even at a young age to be a powerful war leader. Then in later books, the writer proceeds to spend untold thousands of words trying to apologize for what Ender does in the first book.
Such is the decision of a writer. Rather like a role playing GM; your game, your call. But it got me thinking. What if there was no apology? What if that kid became a legendary leader, and didn’t look back? Now I had something, and then I remembered the Stargate theme. It’s not like portals to the stars are anything new. Everyone from Carl Sagan to Robert A. Heinlein have used them. They’re not as common in hard/military sci-fi as space ships, but if you want to go to other planets you have to have a way to get there, and dimensional portals are a damned fast way of getting there!
Up until a short time before these ideas occurred I’d only really written short stories. Tons of short stories. They’re generally easier in execution than a novel. Oh, not easy! Shorts have their own issues, and they can drive a writer nuts in short order. You have to do a lot in only a few thousand words. But when you get into novels, you commit to a vast canvas. And the bigger the canvas, the easier to miss things.
The first novel I wrote front-to-back was a book about the colonization of Mars. Also motivated by what others did (wrong in my opinion), I was tired of every trip-to-Mars book being filled with aliens, and endless disasters. So I wrote about a guy running a project to both travel to Mars, and colonize it. That novel still sits in a hard drive, and may well forever (it’s horribly out of date now among other problems) but it was about 100k words of work that I hadn’t thought I could do, so this new idea wasn’t impossible.
Armed with a setting (galaxy full of aliens and intergalactic portals), and a basic plot (young person becomes warrior leader), I set out to put electrons in order. And that was the beginning of the Earth Song series. But it didn’t start as Earth Song, or even a series!
I wrote the original book, The Avatar’s Overture, in less than a year at lunch each day while working nights. With the basics of an idea, it came out fast. As often happens with a writer, it wasn’t what I’d originally thought. There was a galaxy of aliens out there, there were portals, and a protagonist. But she wasn’t young, and not a war leader. And I up and destroyed the whole planet. It was a good stand alone story, but that was it.
I knew the chances for a publisher to buy an unknowns book, especially a rather large one (160k). But I fished around, with the expected results. So, I figured WTF, and went self pub. But this was before the days of POD (print on demand) changed the world. I went with a company that’s still around, called Authorhouse. Pay them, and they make it available. I did, they did, and sold a few books. The internet wasn’t what it is now too, so without stacks of cash I was very limited in my ability to promote. It went nowhere, and I move on.
Then about 6 years ago, I revisited the world of the ‘Avatars’. Because a guy named Cameron was coming out with a movie called Avatar. Crap. If it couldn’t get worse, it was also sci-fi (albeit badly written sci-fi). But again, it got me thinking about that book, and the original idea. The thought struck one night. “What if that was just the prologue to a vast saga?”
As is often my style, I started writing before I’d fully formed an idea. But within a few chapters, I knew I’d hit on something. The descendant of that first heroine, many centuries later, earth long dead, and now they meet the aliens. Lots of aliens. Lots of aliens that don’t like us. Lots of aliens with better technology. But the galaxy is also in decay, decadent, falling apart.
As I wrote more and more pieces came into focus. This is a trilogy, I realized. But by the time I finished the book (2nd in the series), I knew it was a lot more than three books. Probably five. As I’ve written it went to six, and now seven. The galaxy got more and more crowded. Plots began to evolve, and motivations (both hidden and obvious) materialized. There was stuff going on I had no idea what I would do with later, just wrote it anyway.
With the 2nd book done, I went back and fixed the 1st. It had to be a clear series now, so I repaired some bad writing and some glaring plot holes, and brought it into the modern realm of a series launching book. I actually almost trashed it entirely, just leaving it as an unmentioned prologue of sorts, but friends convinced me otherwise. They said; “Overture is a good book by itself”. Overture. Well, that was the basis of the name. Dump the Avatar crap. More editing. But a series needs a title. “Overture” is a musical term for the beginning of a much larger movement. The second book takes place in humanities new home, Gamma Orionis. The title would be Sonata in Orionis. Another musical term. And now I had a series title, Earth Song.
As the second book launched and the first book relaunched, this time on Amazon’s Createspace, I set to work doing what I didn’t do nearly as well last time, and what wasn’t really that possible. I started building a web presence online. I use Facebook almost exclusively (to my detriment maybe). But even an indie has to have time to write, so if I’m on Facebook, twitter, G+, etc. all the time, when can I write?
The presence building has been a careful combination of cultivating fans I gathered from new sales (not a lot, but they started coming in), people I came across from wandering other writers pages (avoid plugging your stuff on other writers walls, it tends to piss them off), and building writers pages on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I also never pass up an opportunity to write a bit for someone else (like this) and to self promote.
Next came conventions. And THAT can be a double edge sword. They’re expensive (even if you do them on the cheap), and as an indie you have to buy boxes of your own books to sell. I invested in some advertising, cards, flyers, and a nice banner that came from the cover to my third book (getting good cover art as an indie is a must). These are things you just have to do. If you show up at a con, buy a table, and just sit a couple books there, no one will even slow down. Put a nice looking book there, at a 6 foot banner with nice graphics, and they’ll slow down. If they slow down, they might look at a book. If they look at a book, they might buy it. And you get a sale! Indies make it one sale at a time.
And this is where I advise against eBook only. Yes, it’s easier. Yes, it’s cheaper. Yes, it’s also often a lot faster. But dead trees will be popular for a long time to come. I sell almost as many hard copies as eBooks.
So here I am now, 15 years after the adventure began, and the 3rd book in the series (The Lost Aria) is about to come out. I’ve been done with the 4th book for over a year (Etude to War), and am about ¼ of the way through the 5th book (Nocturne’s Reckoning). Promotion has become a lot of my online time, but when the eBook of Aria went live this week, I instantly saw sales. It came up a few days early (by mistake), and I looked at their tracking information and was surprised to see a bunch of sales. And this one was priced at $5.99. Remember, if you have a series, resist the urge to go for the money and reduce the older ones in steps. My first book is now only $0.99 (I barely make anything on each sale), the 2nd is $2.99, and the third $5.99. You’ve got to make that first taste cheap. Almost anyone will pop $0.99 for an eBook. I have fans that buy a half dozen a week just looking for that one good one.
I’ve been ordering paper copies of Aria for weeks, slowly building up inventory in prep of the 6/28 official launch (at Libertycon in Chattanooga). In the course of that, I put up on my blog a paypal button to preorder autographed copies. Sold quite a few of those as well. It’s beginning to develop momentum. Will I sell thousands? I really don’t know yet. Readers love a good long series with engaging characters and a dynamic story. That is my goal. So I will continue onward.
Oh, book 6 is titled Oblivions Waltz and book 7 Requiem, just in case it was eating you alive.
Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to firstname.lastname@example.org to be plugged here on PJ Media.
It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like
TITLE My Book AUTHOR My name as it's on the book cover. AMAZON LINK http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/ BLURB no more than about 100 words.
Free Friday 8/8 and Sunday 8/10Jerry is dead and Charlie’s in jail. Saul turned out to be a bigger jerk than she could have imagined–what else could go wrong?
Bri races back to Charlie’s side to find he’s more than her next boyfriend. He’s the man she’s meant to be with. But before she can marry Charlie, she needs to confront Saul. The only problem is–he’s dead, too. Coincidence, or are Bri and Charlie headed for more than a simple Key West honeymoon?
[Note: This is an erotic thriller. If you don't like erotica, it's not for you.]
Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his search, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. When the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.
A generation has passed since asteroid scares led the United States to launch its first and only interstellar starship. The ship returns and announces the discovery of another Earth. People are star-struck, crowds form in Washington, DC, and a boy from Alaska and two lawyers grapple with questions surrounding whether ordinary people will emigrate to the stars.
This is bourgeois, legal science fiction with a hearty helping of space policy wonkery.
[I love the blurb. --C]
Which is stronger, love or honor?
The Collapse of 2015 left parts of Denver in ashes, the US economy in a mess, and the Salazar family with little besides their pride and honor. Now Alicia Salazar must repay her father’s debt by working in Illif House. She discovers a recluse, a wonder, too many tomatoes, and freedom. When Cousin Ernesto threatens to drag her away, Alicia must choose between freedom and honor. Will love and a Power prove stronger than lead and fury?
Novella includes bonus teaser.
Many humans know there is a mountain at the end of the universe to which a bird flies every thousand years to sharpen its beak, until the end of the mountain comes, and thus the end of eternity. What few of them know is that of the mountain only a few small grains of sand remain. And the bird that is to end eternity is alive and ready to fly. At half past noon at the end of the universe, the last great hopes of everything that exists, ever existed or has yet to exist, rests with a stray cat with alcohol issues, a Siamese cat with gender issues, and a Persian cat with pregnancy issues. Things are just about to get fun.
[Yes, those Hoyts. --C]
PriDe and Prejudice – now with more dragons.
In a world where shape shifters are forbidden and being a shape shifter is forbidden, the Bennet family has a terrible secret. So does the Darcy family. They’re not what you expect.
Pride, Prejudice, werewolves and dragons, oh, my.
The Inari’s Children Series: Once magic was plentiful and the world was dominated by a singular empire whose name has long been lost to history. In its time, the great wizard Inari developed his greatest creation: The kitsune. His enemies were quick to copy him, and soon the world was populated with many different types of this remarkable creature. Two thousand years later and these different breeds of kitsune are fighting amongst themselves, and the rest of the human world joins them.
Book I: The Kitsune Stratagem: To avoid being used as a political pawn against her father, a young kitsune vixen named Kieras must leave her homeland. She soon gets caught up in the fortunes of Mathis, a vagabond hunter from Ekholm, a once sleepy little town on the verge of becoming a small city. To find a way to return home, Kieras must first help Mathis save Ekholm from threats both inside and out.
Lesson #5: Everybody’s human. Very, very human.
I once heard a guy tell a story about a disastrous first date he went on. He was ultra-liberal, and didn’t realize the girl he’d asked out was a libertarian. They discovered their differences soon enough, and their debate was so fierce she left in tears. It didn’t end there, though; he followed up with links to articles and documentaries she had to see, to correct her point of view. She participated as well, sending him material from her own side. But it was clear there was no romantic possibility between the two of them — instead of finding love on a blind date, they found hate.
He asked, “What do you do? When you meet up with these DC vampires who are just dead set on destroying the world?”
I told him the first thing you do is stop denying their essential humanity by calling them monsters. Then, give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they hold their views because they want to make the world a better place, too — or, at the very least, not because of some desire to burn it all down. I wish now I could have just given him a copy of Finding Mr. Righteous, the romantic memoir by conservative activist Lisa de Pasquale.
(Hi, this is Sarah.) When I was a young writer, knee high to a trilogy print out, I subscribed to every possible market listing in the world. [“What is a market listing?” “That’s what people used to have, back when they needed gate keepers to publish them. Back in prehistory. Publishing was expensive, on account of having to dispose of the chips you carved out of the rock with your chisel.”] Partly this was, of course, because there was no internet. [“Seriously, no internet? Now you’re just making stuff up.” “Okay, you’re right. There was internet. It’s just the t-rexes kept snapping the cable with their toe claws.”] You couldn’t just search for “markets for science fiction” and then spend three hours reading about Amazon’s dispute with Hatchette and dino porn. [“I don’t read dino porn.” “Of course not, the Amazon/Hatchette thing makes you feel dirty enough.”]
Anyway, so I subscribed to all of these in the certain hope that eventually I’d find the one that said, “You, Sarah A. Hoyt, sitting there, with your manuscript of dino porn inchoate pseudo literature, you’re the person we want to publish.”
Alas, this never happened. But I used to come across this listing that baffled me. After the pro markets to which I sent for fastest rejections, and the semi-pro markets which were buying me, and the penny markets, where I sent stuff that had been rejected everywhere else, there was a “for the love” column.
Look, I yield to no one in my love for writing. [“Liar, you just say that to get it into bed.” “Only because the pterodactyl isn’t willing.”] And I’m one of those people who think if something is not making you rich, and you don’t love it, then you’d be better off doing something else. [“Unless of course writing is the only thing you can do. Not that this has ever happened at low points in our personal finances.” “Er… right, never.”] Writing, in particular, while easier than digging ditches, is still a lot to do day after day if you don’t enjoy it. But… “for the love?”
I mean, if no one is ever going to pay you, are you going to give this story away just so someone will read it? [“Yeah, like someone who wrote fanfic so that it would actually get read, when nothing else was selling.” “That was different. How many people make money rewriting Jane Austen with dragons? Don’t answer that.”]
Then I broke in, started selling to those pro markets, and then started getting paid more so the pro-markets attracted me, and I never gave this another thought.
Until today when I was thinking about writing for readers and writing for prestige. For most of my traditional career, I argued with my agents/editors/publishers that I wanted to write popular and accessible fiction, while they tried to push me into writing convoluted, difficult “literary” fiction.
My fault in a way, because I broke in with a series that was a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s biography, this time with elves. But at least I realized that though I loved that series, it had a limited audience. The average person on the street doesn’t want to relax after a hard day with Shakespearean word-play. Also, the idea of writing nothing but literary fantasy forever made me want to slit my wrists.
I wanted to write mystery, and science fiction, and funny things, and serious things, and romantic things. And while some of them would come out in a way that could be described as “literary” that was not what I was aiming for. I mostly wanted to write to be read and to make a living.
I knew for a fact that “literary” works sold very little.
So why were publishers and agents so interested in them? Because their interests aren’t the same as writers’. Writers want to make a living, and to get the sincerest form of appreciation in foldable form. Publishers, or at least editors, working for multinational corporations where their salary is assured, don’t want that – they want to be hailed at the next cocktail party as the person who discovered the literary wonder of the century. And agents, too, want the prestige of being known to have exquisite taste. They won’t object to a lot of money, but mostly they need the prestige.
Eric S. Raymond said that what is destroying mainstream science fiction… (and more so mystery. I’m going through my shelves to get rid of excess paper books, and if I had a dime for each “high prestige” mystery I got because it was up for some award or other and which is now worth less than one cent, I’d have a lot of dimes.) … is not so much politics, as this entire idea of “worth” that’s predicated on an academic culture which ignores readers and the ludic aspects of reading. [“Ludic. My, aren’t we posh?” “Ludic means fun. Like, you know, dinosaur porn. At least I presume people have fun with it. Never having read any, I wouldn’t know.” “Yes, but growing up in the Jurassic would give you a different perspective.]
He is right at that. But I don’t think it’s something that can be wrung out of the publishing establishment. If the shrinking of the bottom line didn’t convince them, neither will our telling them what they’re doing wrong.
Fortunately, though, we don’t have to. It’s entirely possible that, after the shocks and aftershocks, traditional publishing will settle into a prestige and validation role for academic writers, bringing out little gems of books (possibly leather bound) for a small clientele for whom they’re objets d’art and not a way to while away a couple of hours of a rainy evenings.
I’m fine with that. They can do whatever they want.
Those who want to read and write for fun can always go Indie.
Set some time after Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon and before The Grail War, Blood and Dreams continues the story of Parsival, who in middle age finds himself more the jaded cynic than the wide-eyed fool of his youth. Waylaid as he journeys home from his latest “bloody bit of work for Arthur,” Parsival must escape his captors, save his kidnapped family, and prevent the forces of Clinschor, the mad sorcerer bent on world domination, from finding and exploiting the Holy Grail, all while enduring the disdain of his teenaged son, Lohengrin.
(Charlie here: Richard has been one of my favorite writers for longer than either of us would care to think. This is free for the rest of today, and worth the $4.99 any time.)
When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir. Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.
Entertaining pulp crime stories written in 1979 and 1980. Paul F. Gleeson was a lawyer, but he ached to be a writer, of tales of murder and intrigue and dark forces and witty twist endings. He submitted manuscripts to the pulp mags, and actually got two stories published, but the rejection letters kept piling up, and he finally stopped writing. After he died in 2012, his sons and daughter found the manuscripts in a cardboard box. They collectively decided that these stories would finally be published for the world to enjoy, the way their dad always wanted.
“Paul F. Gleeson’s hardboiled fiction paints characters who live in swirling cesspools of corrupt human nature in a rich, distinct voice that’s not to be missed.” — David Cranmer, editor of BEAT to a PULP
LB Johnson knew how to get things done. The former jet commander was singularly driven, capable and highly educated, immersed in a world of complex puzzles, tangled story lines and the intricacies of the law. So how hard would it be for one redheaded federal agent to raise a black Labrador retriever puppy?
Mayhem on four legs was named Barkley and he led his owner down a path of joyful self discovery, loving frustration and self sacrifice, changing the way she viewed the world, and those that shared it with her. Her home and her heart were never the same.
Free from August 1-5
A short story of a woman who looks to the stars as she tries to protect her children and offer them a future. In a world with no escape for those who cannot undergo a genescan, a fugitive mother has vanishingly few options left to her. Ultimately, only her sacrifice can change the world… but what becomes of the children?
Two millennia ago, a demon named Suwraith thundered into the skies and cast down the First World. In a single horrific night, a glorious age of enlightenment was ended, leaving the world in fearful darkness. Humanity survives by a thread, only surviving in cities protected by an Oasis, mysterious places impervious to Suwraith’s power. Throughout the rest of the world Humanity is an endangered species, fodder for Suwraith’s deadly Chimeras. Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another. In the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies. Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.
Free on 8/1 and 8/2
Alex Sanderson doesn’t like much of anything, but of all the things he hates, getting locked up in an alien prison on trumped-up charges tops the list. All he wants is a fair hearing and he’s sure he can get out. His cellmate on the other hand, she has different plans for Alex….
Note: This story contains profanity, some violence, and sexual situations, although not especially graphic, they may be offensive to some readers.
This story is a Novellette, about 14,500 words long.
Amazon posted an explanation of the economics behind their row with book publisher Hachette:
It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.
The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved.
Of course. This is Econ 101 stuff, and it’s deeply weird that Amazon should have to explain it to a profitable publisher. And a wider audience for a writer gives him better luck of having another hit with his next book, too.
More interesting was this last bit:
One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.
Message to authors: Go indie and cut out the greedy and ignorant middleman.
You wouldn’t think it possible to say something profound about a movie starring The Rock — it seems almost an offense against reason! But over at the classics website The Forum — or as I like to call it “Young Klavan on Old Culture” — my son Spencer delivers a brilliant treatise on why taking the myth out of mythology gives us, not modern profundity, but emptiness and cynicism:
Back in the day, hero myths were how Ancient Greece told the stories that America now tells in superhero comics. An unstoppable renegade throwing a destructive hissy fit then going down in a blaze of glory for the good guys: that’s Phoenix from X-Men and Achilles from the Iliad. An ordinary guy turned extraordinary champion of justice to avenge a murdered father: that’s Batman and Theseus. And the long-lost son of super-parents in the sky, raised by humans to save earth with unheard-of strength and powers? That’s Superman. That’s Hercules.
But Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules is no Superman. In this movie, all that phony supernatural stuff is for suckers, a bedtime story that Hercules perpetuates to pump up his image. Scene after smug scene, the movie knowingly debunks its mythic origins. Son of Zeus? Let the saps believe that so they’ll fear me, says The Rock. Centaurs? Please. Just dudes on horses (from far away . . . before contact lenses). “I have seen too much reality to believe the legends,” says the canny queen, Ergenia, but “the people need a hero.”
In other words: Joe Schmo needs a pretty story so he can believe in “virtue” and “heroism.” The élites know better.
Yowsa! And he’s just getting started. Read the rest of it, really. It’s all good.
Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.
10. Harry Potter
When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),
Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.
Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.
The early twentieth century was a time when the daily newspaper reigned as the number one source of public information; magazines such as Time, Look, and Newsweek were huge; pulp magazines were the prime source of affordable reading entertainment; movies were becoming a national pastime; and radio dominated the airwaves.
It was a time that saw the rise of a mass media that in turn created a rich environment for the entrepreneur, the advertiser, and the promoter to reach a national, even international audience. It wasn’t coincidence that a showman like Harry Houdini — who made it a practice to advertise escapes from straitjackets while hanging upside down from flagpoles or to challenge local law enforcement that he could escape from their jails, or survive being thrown into a river while locked in a trunk — became an international celebrity. Advertising stunts like that turned Houdini’s shows into SRO events and his success wasn’t lost on anyone. And so was born the advertising stunt, a contrived event designed to draw attention to a person or product.
But for the comics industry, advertising had always been something that publishers spent little money on. Considered mostly a children’s entertainment venue, money would have been considered wasted if spent on ads in Time or the local newspaper. Instead, publishers have traditionally concentrated their efforts on point of sale advertising such as store spinner racks with signs affixed to the top of them reading “Hey kids! Comics!” And if some comics characters like Superman or Batman made it onto radio or the movies, so much the better.
And so comics mostly flew under the radar except in rare instances when the larger media took notice. Those times, the spotlight was often unwelcome as it usually meant criticism of comics and questions about their suitability for children. Likely it was one of the reasons why publishers for the most part, avoided drawing too much attention to themselves.
All of the preceding then, makes the recent phenomenon of coverage of comics news by the mass media all the more surprising. But when looked at more closely, maybe it shouldn’t be. Since the 1960s, pop culture has risen to the point where today it dominates the culture and reporting on entertainment news (including whole television programs devoted to the subject) has become overheated, even hysterical at times. (Witness the mania surrounding the annual San Diego Comics Con). Add to that, the rise of social media, the proliferation of internet news sites, apps, tweets, and hits and you have an environment ripe for exploitation.
Enter savvy, young, and usually left leaning comics industry publishers, editors, and “creative consultants” who know how the world of internet news dissemination and just plain ole gossip can be spread hither and yon in a matter of hours or days. Add to that a real politik understanding of mob mentality and the inclination of human beings to follow the fad of the moment and you have a formula for the comics somewhat unique take on the marketing stunt.
Unique in that unlike other entertainment media, the comics industry thrives on continuing characters, many with long and storied histories going back decades into antediluvian times before the current wave of political correctness so to speak. Thus, events that see characters being killed off, changing genders, or embracing radical beliefs strike at the heart of readers’ comfort zones.
But such stunts, designed to catch readers’ attention and hopefully boost sales are nothing new in comics. Way back in 1983, Walter Simonson replaced Thor as the thunder god with an alien named Beta Ray Bill revitalizing the character’s title. In 1984, John Byrne replaced the Thing with the She-Hulk on the Fantastic Four. In 1974, Steve Englehart had Steve Rogers quit being Captain America to become a hero without a country called Nomad. And in 1988, DC held a poll in which fans could phone in and vote whether the Robin of the time should be killed off and replaced.
The difference with what is happening today is that in those instances, the stunt resonated only within the small pond of comics fans. The larger media had no interest in such small time shenanigans.
But today, all that has changed and the comics stunt often means a big boost in sales for an otherwise dying industry. The value of the properly handled stunt first became apparent to comics companies in 1992 when DC concocted the “death of Superman” event which grabbed the attention of the mainstream media and had gullible customers lining up outside comics specialty stores to get a copy of Superman #75 that they were sure would be a collectors item some day.
The sales and attention generated by the death of Superman was not lost on the industry and other such stunts were planned including DC’s next involving Batman having his back broken by super-villain Bane. As the years passed, marketing stunts became more frequent with the overall pace picking up substantially in recent years with new earth shaking announcements coming from Marvel and DC on an almost weekly basis. Each surely generates comment wherever the stories about them are posted but it’s questionable that they make much difference in sales anymore, the specialness of such stunts having worn off over the years.
Further dulling the edge of the latest stunts is the fact that the status quo ante is almost always restored at some point: a hero is brought back to life or never died in the first place, the event took place in a different dimension or different continuity, or the original character returns from retirement.
But all that hasn’t stopped the companies from coming up with new marketing ploys, most related to politically correct themes which perhaps explains some of the fervor with which these stunts keep coming. As with most of those harboring left leaning ideas, ideology trumps everything else even sales, the risk of public rejection, or damage to their iconic brands.
Note: The following list is ordered roughly in terms of least to the most successful stunt (in terms of marketing) with that of the position of the new female Thor admittedly an informed guess on the writer’s part.
10) Thor becomes a woman
The latest news from the “house of ideas” is that long time male hero Thor (who’s been around like, since the Vikings sailed the seas around 1,000 AD) will become unworthy of wielding mjolnir (his uru hammer, natch) and a woman, as yet unidentified, will take his place. The stated reason for the change is to attract more female readers to Marvel (we’re told they comprise a significant part of its readership already… yeah, right) but aside from the bump in sales usual with these kinds of stunts (clueless consumers of mainstream news rushing to invest in the latest collectible), there’s no money to be made here. Look for sales of Thor to remain low until Don Blake returns in a couple years (with writers likely finding some way to keep his female counterpart around so as not to have to admit complete defeat).
The first thing you have to understand about this list, 18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet, it’s not mine. Yes, I published it on my blog, but that was after polling a bunch of people and then tallying up how many votes for whom. This isn’t a list of old school friends, or my twitter followers, it’s the names I was given when I asked simply “who do you listen to?”
The list of the top names voted for appeared on my blog, and I was surprised at the response to it. See, the original list was of 35 literary people who run the internet, and it was a list of (mostly) people none of us had heard of. My list, on the other hand, tilted heavily toward people who were mentors, who nurture good stories, and mostly, people who are vocal in caring about literature. Story is king, and these folks never lose sight of that.
Larry Correia tops out the list, which was ranked by number of votes received. Why? Well, Larry may not blog about the ins and outs of writing and publishing, but he does serve as an inspiration to indie authors, having gone from self-publishing to his new (hilariously funny) rating of being a “D-List” author. He also gives other new writers a hand up with his semi-regular Book Bombs. In short, he’s awesome.
Hugh Howey has become practically the voice of the Indie Author, with his best-selling series Wool, and his reports on the nitty-gritty of how independents are eating Big Publishing’s pie. In a recent blog post, he says “I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.”
Sarah A. Hoyt came in next, and her reaction to seeing this was ‘I don’t belong there… Why am I there?’ Sarah, you’re there for two reasons. One, alphabetically Hoyt comes before Konrath, and you were tied with him. Two, you are a strong, clear voice for writers to come to for help. You’re paving the way for some, and publishing how-to’s on the Mad Genius Club blog, providing support for those who are trying to find a place to start. Like Larry, you’re an inspiration and you put story above navel gazing. Of course we think of you. You’re like a mother to us… ducks and runs, fast
JA Konrath on his blog tackles thorny issues independent writers are concerned with, he’s responsible for the brilliant Writer’s Declaration of Independence, and spot-on for this particular topic, had this to say about legacy authors, publishers, and group narcissism: “I wish other people would recognize the authority of my group -Self-pubbed authors have no group. But many of us strive to be heard because we want to help, not because we want our authority recognized. Whereas the Authors Guild is recognized by the media, and many authors, as having authority.
My group has all predispositions to influence others – Self-pubbers don’t predispose to influence. We want to help. Legacy folks believe they are part of a special club. It is an ideology to them.”
Passive Guy, the formerly anonymous man who founded Passive Voice, is an attorney, although he warns nothing he says on the blog is to be taken as legal counsel. But a great deal of what he doe say is enormously helpful if you want to stay informed in this industry. Tapping into Passive Voice will keep any of us writers abreast of the news, as he posts lengthy quotes from blogs and other media several times a day, sometimes with pithy and relevant comments of his own attached.
John C. Wright, when I contacted him to ask him for a quote for this article, first sent me his bio, then rather than words from him, a nomination for someone he felt better suited to fill the place of an influential voice. “I nominate Tom Simon. He is the man who invented the term ‘Superversive’ which I took as inspiration to start a superversive literary movement in science fiction. The goal of the movement is to get SFF out of the doldrums. He has written several books, including nonfiction.” Which is interesting, and I look forward to reading them, but Mr Wright, I will insist you do belong on this list, as you have a way with words that may not cut to the heart of the matter immediately, but rather as an artist creates a sculpture with a thousand precise cuts.
Jerry Pournelle, one of the grand old men of Science Fiction, made it onto the list despite not having a traditional blog. What he does instead is to take fan mail and publish it, with his own trenchant comments. Less about the mechanics of writing will appear here, but for the earnest writer who wants to find bleeding-edge science, the site is a trove of information. Also, he is reviving his review column, which I will be interested to see what he has to say about new books.
Toni Weisskopf of Baen Publishing pointed out she hates talking about herself, Baen doesn’t really have a mission statement besides making SFF fun, and suggested that I refer my readers instead to something she wrote earlier this year when it seemed fandom was ripping itself apart from the inside out. “Yes, it took the brilliance and guidance of one person to set it in motion and shape it throughout, but it is the result of hundreds of people pulling together to explore and create on their own. Not as some side “fan fiction” endeavor, but as part of the—commercially viable—whole. And when I say “commercially viable” it is shorthand for: “lots of people like it and are willing to show this by paying money for it to continue.”
Brad Torgerson sent me to a blog post of his when I asked him for a few words, and suggested I glean from it. It’s all good stuff, and I recommend you take a look at his whole post. But the very first topic is perfect for this article, I think you will agree: “1. You must never self-publish.”
This was gospel when I was plowing through my proverbial first million words of “practice” fiction. And at the time, it was good advice. Self-publishing invariably meant vanity publishing, which is a form of publishing where the author spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars of his/her own money, to put his/her book into print. Vanity presses tend to be scams as often as not, and with the advent of widespread electronic book platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) as well as print-on-demand options like Amazon.com’s CreateSpace, vanity presses are also wholly unnecessary. Plus, self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to. Once upon a time self-publishing was a warning flag to the rest of the genre—hey guys, I couldn’t cut it with editors! These days, not so much. There are good writers who are self-publishing, and making a decent amount of money. You have no doubt heard of a few.”
There are more names on my original list, but in an attempt at brevity, which I have deeply failed, I’m leaving them to you to research through the links provided at my blog. I hope I have introduced worthwhile people to you, and I’m curious: who do you consider an influential, positive, nurturing voice in literature active on the internet? Comment below, and perhaps we can make another list of great voices to listen in on!
Oh, and I have permission to add this… my fifth novel is being released in a week. The God’s Wolfling is a tale of adventure, myths, goblins, troll blood, and more. If you’re interested in entering to win a signed print copy, possibly sketched in if the mood strikes me, step over to my blog and leave a comment here. Winner will be announced on August 2, the day after the release.
[Charlie here:] Sorry the links didn’t make it in on time. As I said in the comments, when I was prepping the links, Google Mail suddenly decided not to let me get at the BPF email (at email@example.com, where you can also send an email to get submission guidelines, which say “Send the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME, a SHORT blurb, and an AMAZON KINDLE LINK.)
Oh, and here’s some hints: don’t bother to send a cover photo — I link to the one on Amazon anyway. Don’t forget that the official deadline is the Tuesday of the preceding week. I’m keeping up right now, but this turned out to be pretty long; if you submit a book with the necessary information, it’ll get up eventually, but if you hae a promotion, then make sure you send the book in plenty of time.
Oh, and I do try to be flexible about the submission format, but I’ve been giving a BPF No-Prize for the first submission that actually completely follows the guidelines, and it’s often not awarded until the fourth or fifth book. However, if your submission is like one this week, with no title, no author’s name, an Amazon link and about a five page excerpt of the book, then you’ll just get a new copy of the guidelines.
ON SALE FOR 2.99 7/25 THROUGH 7/29 ONLY
In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.
FREE on Kindle for a few days!
Korea vet steps irritably into the twilight, but unexpected guests make him feel young again. (Warning: a few salty epithets, and maybe some VIOLENCE.)
“Short. Deadly. Hilarious.”
“[I]t’s like a punch in the solar plexus, only it tickles.”
A teen trying to improve concrete for a science prize stumbles onto a formula that transforms the foundation of his parents’ house to mud. Hilarity does not ensue, even when it dries into something “rich and strange.”
Moscow wants that formula, and so do Tehran, Peking, and Tel Aviv. Can Michael and his family find a safe haven?
“Unique and Thoughtful Thriller”
“A Gem in a Genre that Usually Lacks Gems”
Trouble’s never more than an ear-twitch away.
After fifty years away, Rada Ni Drako and her business partner Zabet return to Drakon IV and find themselves entangled in Lineage politics. Then a corrupt King-Emperor and a series of natural disasters force Rada to choose between obedience and duty, with near-fatal consequences for all involved. Add a dash of feudal justice and a child whose death uncovers a hidden crime, and Rada’s got her forefeet full in this Cat among Dragons story set.
Only one Mage Guardian now defends Aerope from the malevolent plans of Denais and his dreams of conquest and revenge. Ardhuin desperately tries to make the Allied governments see the danger and replace their murdered Guardians, but the long peace dulls any sense of urgency. Her new husband Dominic fears the Allies consider Ardhuin’s phenomenal power sufficient—and in no need of help from their mages. And yet…a weary traveler from the ends of the earth rushes to their home to deliver a message from a man thought dead. A desperate plea for help, invoking the Compact—as only another Mage Guardian would. Does another survive after all? And what new danger threatens the world?
(FREE this weekend!)
Tammy Kirsch has had her shot at fame. She came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and lint in her pockets and looks that would open any door in town just to try to get her onto the casting couch. After several guest roles in TV shows, one starring role in a movie that nobody saw, inadvertently dodging the mid-70s porno chic moment and keeping her dignity and reputation intact, her career sputtered to a halt.
Then she lost her daughter in a custody case, and what was left of her world came crashing down around her ears. When the crazy homeless man tried to talk to her incoherently as she was leaving the court building, that only seemed to be the cherry on top of the layered dessert of her misery. In fact, it was just the first step on her path, a path that would end with her defending the entire world from an invasion of other-dimensional eldritch horrors.
“Better a world that might kill you, than a world you know wants you dead.”
A premium human in a genetically enhanced future, Rylen Weir was bred for a life of harmony and balance. Being kidnapped by unenhanced “throwbacks” and finding himself the key to which version of humanity survives was never in the plan.
Rylen has little choice, however. An unknowing test subject for the Traveller Enhancement, allowing him to send his consciousness back through time among his own ancestors, Rylen can possess the one man who set this future in motion. Which gives Rylen the power to save everyone, and everything, that he has ever known—or to prevent his world from ever happening.
Only neither side knows what Rylen will choose, because Rylen Weir is flawed.
A screenplay for a film that never was…
Red on Blue is a former high-level bureaucrat and Republican appointee’s observations on re-organizing and managing a government designed by and for Democrats so that a Republican executive can actually run that government. The primary focus is on getting control of the money, people, and stuff in the government, getting the holdover Democrats out, and avoiding scandal in the process. Since there are few Republicans in government where there are heavily unionized public employees there is a dearth of working knowledge in conservative/Republican circles concerning dealings with unionized public employees. When I was Alaska’s director of labor relations Swartzenegger’s guy and I were the only Republican appointee-level heads of a state’s labor relations function; the rest of the union states were Democrat controlled. Consequently, I put a heavy emphasis on the dynamics of taking over a government from the Democrats and dealing with public employee unions in the aftermath.
The Confederated Worlds, Book 1
The Confederated Worlds implanted in Tomas’ brain the skills to make him a soldier. He had to learn for himself how to survive interstellar war.
Tomas Neumann sought escape from his backwater planet and overbearing mother, and a mentor to replace his long-dead father. “Taking the shilling”—enlisting in the Confederated Worlds military—promised both. But despite the soldier’s skills implanted in his brain, combat still threatened to destroy him, in body and in spirit. Grieving for lost comrades, demoralized by a spiral of atrocities, could Tomas learn what he needed to survive, before facing his war’s ultimate challenge?
The Confederated Worlds, Book 2
The Confederated Worlds lost the war.
Can Lt. Tomas Neumann win the peace?
By the terms of the peace treaty, the citizens of the planet Arden will vote to stay in the Confederated Worlds or join the victorious Progressive Republic. Newly-minted Lieutenant Tomas Neumann leads his overstretched and demoralized Confederated Worlds Ground Force platoon in a mission that pushes men and machines to their limits, against elusive, deceptive foes out to tilt Arden to the Progressive Republic—and turn the Confederated Worlds against itself.
Book one in the Pixie for Hire series.
You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…
Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…
“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”
Dave Freer, author of Dog and Dragon, The Forlorn, and many others, says: “”To those of you who thought there was nothing new worth reading in Fantasy: Cedar Sanderson’s Pixie Noir proves that you are wrong. The author plainly knows and loves her setting and characters, and this carries through to the reader. The pace picks up throughout, so save this book for a weekend, or you’ll be complaining about a lack of sleep at work. A very good read!”
In this first novel in The End Times Saga, we follow how the Evans family gained their riches and eventually their power to influence events in the United States. We see important events that the Evans family gets themselves involved in: such as the return of the Israelites to Israel, the assassination of President Kennedy, the terrorism of 9/11, and eventually events that lead to government tyranny in the United States with the sole purpose of destroying Christianity and its influence in the United States.
Do you believe in miracles?
When Marni Taylor meets her new apartment neighbor—brash, good-looking Dallas Narcotics Detective Sammy Kidman—she pegs him right away as a heartbreaker, a user. Still, she agrees to help him with an undercover assignment. By the time he’s through with her, Marni is so traumatized that she is driven to find healing in a faith she never knew she had.
That same faith forces Marni to decide what to do about a man she both hates and loves, while Sammy, faced with the terrifying consequences of his actions, makes a blind grab at redemption. But Sammy is a cop, first and last, and his life comes down to the choice every cop must make of how much of himself to give. The question is, when the time comes to give your all . . . how much do you believe?
Sammy: Dallas Detective is the first book in The Sammy Series. The story continues in Sammy: Women Troubles.
Bill Gates is much more than your run-of-the-mill multi-billionaire. He also recommends books for you to read. BONUS!—his list comes with a cute video.
Gates is, undeniably, a really smart guy. But his summer reading list leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, it’s totally predictable. If the East Coast and West Coast elites have such things as book clubs, there’s not a title on Gates’ list that wouldn’t appeal.
Doubtless everyone in Martha’s Vineyard will be reading what Bill is reading. But the rest of us might care for something other than what passes for orthodoxy with Bill’s crowd. So here is Bill’s list and my “unorthodox” alternative selections.
Ever wonder why some things are shoved at you from every direction while others are virtually ignored? Why some things seem to dominate the pop culture scene and you feel almost guilty for not embracing them like everyone else…even though no one you know likes them either? Why, for the life of you, you can’t figure out the reason for a character’s popularity when nothing about him is terribly interesting?
If all those things have occurred to you after running into a TV show, movie, celebrity of the moment, novel, or…in this case, super-heroes, you’ve likely discovered something that’s overrated. Something that might have little demand or is largely uninteresting in and of itself but keeps getting pushed before the public, viewing audience, or readers by the powers that be for reasons unknown or simply inscrutable.
In the field of comic book heroes in particular, there could be any number of reasons including sales figures (once, in the 1960s, sales figures indicated that having apes on the covers of their comics improved sales, so editors at DC made sure covers featured an ape or two every few months), political correctness (by the 1990s, ideology trumped common sense in editorial offices), or simply to create a buzz (Dazzler anyone?).
Of course, some comics characters such as Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man may have appeared to be overrated at different points in their careers, but time has proven that to be untrue as they have demonstrated their staying power over the decades. Truly original characters can overcome the threat of becoming overrated through overexposure from the sheer inspiration they offer to creators in succeeding generations.
Such, however, cannot be said of most other characters. Surprisingly, few of the thousands that have been invented in comics over the years have been so overexposed as to render them overrated, that is, reaching a point of over-saturation based on a false hysteria whipped up by an overheated media.
But can anyone really blame comics publishers or their editors for promoting any character in their stable that displays even the slightest amount of heat? After all, do they have any other choice than treating the shrinking pond of comic book buyers as an indicator of what the larger public might go for? (On the other hand, how reliable is the enthusiasm of a few thousand comics readers in gauging the tastes of the larger public?) Be that as it may, publishers must justify their existence now that the movies have become the tail that wags the dog of the comics industry. How else to explain the mutual spectacle of multiple reboots of hundred plus million dollar film franchises or their equivalent in comics shops where their featured heroes star in a dozen different titles at once?
The danger of course, is that the requirements of the film industry feed into a narrative that sometimes only exists, not in the minds of the public, but in those of editors, marketing consultants, and comic shop sales representatives making for a toxic mix that grant some comic book heroes a false cachet to the point where they inevitably become: overrated.
10) Lex Luthor
Okay, so most of you are going to say “No fair! He’s a villain!” And for the most part, that’s true. On the other hand, there have been enough scenarios in the comics (as well as in other media), especially lately, where Lex is portrayed as a super-hero (complete with Iron Man style armor) and even President of the United States, that there’s some justification for his inclusion on this list. His overrated index which has been pumped up over the years by a much ballyhooed John Byrne comics reboot in the 80s, a Superman cartoon show in the 90s, and various movies (including one made in 2006 ) that he’s become synonymous with Superman himself. And why? Well he’s a millionaire tycoon! He can buy and sell mad geniuses to invent stuff for him! And…and…he’s bald! Exactly why does Lex deserve all the attention he’s gotten over the years? Why? Is Superman’s rogues gallery cupboard as bare as all that?
Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?
12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.
“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.
I have been reading Barbara Oakley’s new book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) this week. It’s a fascinating and fun read if you want to learn math, science, or, like me, just want to improve your memory.
I was actually pretty decent at math as my father was a mathematician and I grew up learning to love numbers. However, I had no natural talent, just no fear, which is important in learning math. Oakley makes this point throughout the book as she believes most people can learn math (and science) with the right tools and mindset. She is an engineering professor who failed her way through high school math but tackled these skills as an adult. Here is more about the book:
In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science—secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they’d known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there’s only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions—you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!
Relaxing while trying to learn math sounds counterintuitive but it works, according to the book. One of my favorite chapters is called “tools, tips, and tricks” and it gives the reader positive mental tricks to use to their advantage in learning. She tackles procrastination and gets tips from experts regarding their student, such as “No going onto the computer during their procrastination time. It’s too engrossing,” “Before procrastinating, identify the easiest homework problem,” and “Copy the equation or equations that are needed to solve the problem onto a small piece of paper and carry the paper around until they are ready to quit procrastinating and get back to work.”
All this seems to lead to being a bit more creative and perhaps a bit more relaxed. Come to think of it, the above tips would be helpful in writing a blog post except the writer has to use the computer and cannot avoid it. Anyway, the book is great and goes into more detail about how to increase your memory with metaphors and visualization. Pick it up if you want to know more about how to succeed at math and science or if you just need to improve your memory and learning ability.
What would Arthur Conan Doyle say if he could see all the fans his great “consulting detective” has today? It has been, after all, over one hundred and twenty-five years since the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories were written. And, what’s more, that fandom is continuing to grow day by day, thanks largely to the new, exciting and inventive versions of his stories being produced on film and video.
Many of us here share in the thrill of these visual retellings of the Holmes stories, but still we insist: The very best way to get to know Sherlock Holmes is via Conan Doyle’s books, be they on the printed page or on an e-reader. And what surprises many fans who got to know Holmes “on screen” is how accessible those stories are! Fifty-six of the original stories are quite literally “short stories” — only 12 to 15 pages in length. But within those few pages are captured, not only some of the world’s greatest mystery stories, but something even better: the persona of Sherlock Holmes himself.
Have you actually read the Sherlock Holmes stories? If not we truly encourage you to do so! Indeed we are willing to bet that if you do you will find the pages flying by so quickly that as soon as you finish one you’ll be looking to start the next.
What follows, then, is a list of the top 10 Sherlock Holmes stories. Each one is a winner. And the list goes from very good to even better all the way to what many Holmes fans think may be the very best of them all.
We are also including video snippets from each of these selected stories – some short, others a bit longer. These will give you a delightful taste for what the story contains. But remember… it is only a taste.
10. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”
A befuddled old man, a lost hat and a goose. Such things hardly seem the stuff of a great mystery. But by scrutinizing each of them, and applying pure ‘Holmesian’ logic, Sherlock is able to solve one of the most perplexing crimes of his day – and, at the same time, save the life of an innocent man.