Friday, September 22nd, 2017 11:41 am

Friday has been having trouble keeping up on the blogging lately…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Tags:
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 11:07 pm
This is the tenth of a series of blog posts that I wrote last year in order to show how I create the anthologies for Zombies Need Brains, the small press that I founded in order to produce anthologies. It's basically a behind-the-scenes look at the process, which will be covered in multiple parts. Obviously, this is only how I produce an anthology and there may be other roads to follow in order to produce one. Keep that in mind.

Here are the previous parts of the series:

Part 9: Design: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492092.html
Part 8: Cover: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491810.html
Part 7: Copy Edits: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491738.html
Part 6: Table of Contents: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491496.html
Part 5: Editing: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491105.html
Part 4: Slush Pile: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490870.html
Part 3: Funding: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490583.html
Part 2: Authors: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490491.html
Part 1: Concept: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490112.html

At this point, you should have everything you need to send your book out into the world—a cover flat file, an interior print file, an ebook file, and a cover file (either taken from the cover flat, or designed specifically by your cover designer for the ebooks). All that’s left is the distribution.

There are many different options and outlets for distribution. Some of them allow you to distribute to many places through one portal, such as IngramSpark. Some of them let you distribute to selected places through one portal, such as CreateSpace. Most who have multiple outlets let you pick and choose where you want the anthology to be available. And then, of course, you can choose to go directly through particular places with your own account at each one, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lastly, perhaps you just want to get a set number of copies of the book printed by an offset printer and then store them and sell them yourself, either by hand or through an online store.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every option, so you really need to sit down and do the research for each one, perhaps create a spreadsheet so you can compare them all, and then you can focus on what you want for your books. Each place will have a different royalty rate, perhaps even two options for royalties at one location. For example, CreateSpace has multiple royalty options, where you trade a lower royalty rate in order to get better advertising or a larger distribution network. If you’re going to do your own advertising, then you can pick a higher royalty rate. Each usually has other options that may get your book in their newsletter, or allow your book to have a fire-sale at a low rate for a specified period of time, or allow you to make the price of your book whatever you want. (Kindle requires that your book be within a certain price range, for example, unless you give up some royalties to make it lower). All of these options at the various places are changing constantly, so you need to look into it yourself.

As you can see, it’s already gotten complicated. But the real issue is how much of the marketing for your book you’re going to do yourself, and how much you want your distributor to market it for you. How much marketing you want someone else to do depends on how wide an audience you think you can reach with your book and name alone. Someone like Seanan McGuire has a large fan base already, so she probably doesn’t need the marketing machine to get her fans to notice a book she puts out herself. My own fan base isn’t quite that large, so I may want to invest in a smaller royalty rate from the distributor in order for the distributor to help me reach people I wouldn’t be able to reach myself. It’s all a balancing act—how much of the royalties are you willing to give up in order to sell more copies of the book? Keeping all the royalties means you may sell X books, making $Y amount of money. But maybe if you give up some of the royalties you’ll sell A books (A>X), and make $B amount of money. Is B higher than Y? In some situations it will be, which means accepting a lower royalty actually increases the money you make. The REAL problem is that there’s no way to tell whether B will be higher than Y ahead of time. Absolutely no way. Because no one can predict marketing. Advertising your brains out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make more sales. This is the most frustrating part of the business: you will never know how effective your marketing is. Even if you sell really well, you can’t pinpoint what it was that you did that made the book sell well. It just did. For some reason. None of it quantifiable.

In any case, you need to choose: distribute yourself (offset printing, ebook sales online), distribute through one agency that distribute to multiple places (IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.), or distribute by setting up your own account at multiple places (Kindle, Nook, B&N, CreateSpace, etc.). Distributing the books yourself means all of the work is put on your—for marketing and sales—but you’re probably going to get a much larger cut of the profits. Distributing through someone like IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.) allows you a wider audience reach immediately, but they’re going to take a larger cut of the profits, especially if you select the option where they do more marketing for you. But you’re getting a single check each month from one source. The last option, where you set up accounts at multiple places, usually gives you a higher cut of the profits (not as high as distributing yourself, though), but now you’re dealing with multiple checks every month from multiple sources, so it’s a little more complicated to keep track of the finances for tax purposes and such.

Zombies Need Brains does a mix of two of the options. It has accounts set up at various places so that it gets a check directly from those distributors, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc. The rest of the ebook options are handled by a single distributor, where I can select which places get to sell the ebook and which don’t. And the print versions are run through CreateSpace with a fairly wide distribution network, but not as wide as it could be. I was trying to balance the marketing a distribution options, while mitigating the amount of work I’d have to do in terms of bookkeeping.

And that’s how ZNB produces their anthologies. I didn’t cover absolutely everything. There are a few other things I could have talked about—such as advertising, marketing, etc.—but this gives everyone who might be interested in producing an anthology at least a rough framework for how it’s done. Again, you may need to alter and change and personalize this so that it works best for you. I hope you’ve learned something from this blog series! Thanks for reading!

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************

Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 12:07 am
[expanded from the review I posted on Steam]

Review and Discussion )


Bonus review-let: Forced.

Forced, Gamification of Games, Player vs. Designer )

So, yeah. I am learning something about gaming, game design, or myself from every game I play, and I am glad I seem to have broken through the mountain of shame (OMG, so much stuff I've never played, best never look at them) and guilt (OMG, so much wasted money). I no longer feel compelled to 'give every game a fair chance' just because I once spent money on it. (Frequently, in bundle deals, I did not even set out to buy all of the games.)

Overall, I spend less than £5/month on games and, overall, I enjoy gaming. I'm not going to get the same amount of fun out of every game, but if I can average a couple of hours of fun for every £5 I pay, that's actually not bad value for money.
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 12:44 pm
I see that someone has nominated last year's TV series of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency for [community profile] yuletide. That could be interesting, if anyone takes it up.

(wow, it's within 1 character of tag length limit!)
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 08:16 am
A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog has changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I'd run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today's authors. So for three days, I'll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Plot Synopses:

Here are some thoughts on how to write plot synopses from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I'd suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is not the first time I've done a plot synopsis project, so some of these posts are new and some are from the previous run-through. Also, I'll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there's a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

Here are the links:

Chaz Brenchley: http://desperance.livejournal.com/254192.html (Originally posted 3/17/2008)
S.C. Butler: http://scbutler.livejournal.com/23177.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
David B. Coe: http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com/29443.html (Originally popsted 3/18/2008)
Harry Connolly: http://harryjconnolly.com/how-i-write-a-book-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Jennifer Dunne: http://jennifer-dunne.livejournal.com/244403.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
S.L. Farrell/Stephen Leigh: http://sleigh.livejournal.com/187253.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Gregory Frost: http://frostokovich.livejournal.com/19384.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Jim C. Hines: http://jimhines.livejournal.com/355241.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Elaine Isaac/E.C. Ambrose: https://ecambrose.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/pitching-a-novel-nailing-your-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Kay Kenyon: http://www.kaykenyon.com/2017/09/21/writing-a-novel-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Jackie Kessler: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2008/03/18/the-plot-synopsis-project/#more-178 (Originally posted 3/8/2008)
Mindy Klasky: http://mindyklasky.livejournal.com/135970.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Misty Massey: http://madkestrel.livejournal.com/64716.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Kelly McCullough: http://wyrdsmiths.blogspot.com/2008/09/plot-synopsis-strikes-back.html (Originally posted 9/19/2008)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2017/09/18/literary-pitches-and-timing/ (Added 9/21/2017)
C.E. Murphy: http://mizkit.livejournal.com/339428.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Naomi Novik: http://naominovik.livejournal.com/34610.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Joshua Palmatier: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493561.html (Added 9/21/2017)
Jennifer Stevenson: http://smokingpigeon.livejournal.com/15208.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Michelle Sagara West: http://msagara.livejournal.com/37498.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)


And check out the Elevator Pitch Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html, and the Query Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493069.html.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 08:14 am
Plot Synopses

First off, there are two types of plot synopses: the one written AFTER the novel is finished, and the one written BEFORE the novel is finished, both used to send to the agent or editor in the hopes they’ll buy the novel. I’ll start with the one written AFTER the novel is finished, since this is typically what happens for a writer who has yet to be published.

Writing a Synopsis AFTER the Book is Finished )

In any case, here’s my sample plot synopsis, for the first book in my Throne of Amenkor series, published by DAW Books, called The Skewed Throne [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy]. Keep in mind that if you haven’t read the book, this synopsis will reveal all of the major plot twists and turning points in the novel, so spoilerage is possible. Well, not possible. Spoilerage is DEFINITE. I think you’d still find the book enjoyable even after reading this though. In fact, it might be an interesting exercise to read both the synopsis and the book itself so you can compare them and see what I put in the synopsis and, more importantly, what I left out. You certainly can't put everything in the book in the synopsis.

After the sample, I discuss writing a plot synopsis BEFORE the book has been written.

************************

Skewed Throne Plot Synopsis (spoilery if you haven’t read the book) )

***********************************

Ok, that’s what the beast looks like if the book has already been written. However, once you’ve been published, the agent or editor is more willing to work with a book that hasn’t been written yet. At this stage, they’ll likely demand a plot synopsis, and sometimes they’ll want a plot synopsis and the first few chapters (even if the rest hasn’t been written). I find this a much MUCH harder beast to tame, because of the way that I write.

Writing a Synopsis BEFORE the Book is Written )

So here’s my sample of a synopsis written BEFORE the novel was written. It's from the second book in the Throne of Amenkor series, called The Cracked Throne [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy]. Again, if you read this, it WILL spoiler the book. (But also again, it might be good to read the synopsis AND the book so you can see what was included and not included . . . and also what I thought would happen and what actually happened.) You’ll notice some differences. I didn’t capitalize the characters names when they first appeared in this one, for example. Some editors/agents like them to be capped, some not. You should always read and follow the guidelines for the publishing house or agency where you’re submitting in order to see what kinds of rules they like you to follow. You’ll also notice that the synopsis doesn’t read as smoothly as the previous one; that’s because the novel wasn’t written and I was flailing around in the dark while writing it. And for those that have read the book already, you’ll notice that the final version of the book had some serious changes (the part about Erick and Baill leaps to mind). The end product didn’t follow this synopsis exactly. Editors and agents know this might happen, and they generally accept it.

**********************

Cracked Throne Plot Synopsis (spoilerage ahoy!) )

******************

So that’s my take on writing plot synopses and a few examples to give you guys something to work from. Hopefully you found some helpful advice in there. But my way isn’t always the best, and doesn’t always work for everyone, so take the time to read some of the other authors’ posts about their process and see some of their examples. I think what you’ll find is that there isn’t one set way to do these things, and there’s not one set road to publication. Some include synopses and some don’t. Some synopses are 1 page long (if that) and some are 10 or more. It depends on the editor’s and/or agent’s preferences.

And keep in mind that you can have the perfect synopsis but if the STORY ITSELF SUCKS, it won’t help. You have to have a good story to tell. And if the story is good, most editors and agents will cut you some slack if your plot synopsis isn’t perfect.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 11:41 am
The characters:

1. River Song (Doctor Who)
2. Eugénie Danglars (The Count of Monte Cristo)
3. Victor Nikiforov (Yuri!!! on Ice)
4. John Tracy (Thunderbirds)
5. Romeo (Romeo and Juliet)
6. Liz Shaw (Doctor Who)
7. Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds)
8. Petrova Fossil (Ballet Shoes)
9. Edmond Dantes|The Count of Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo)
10. Dorothea Callum (Swallows and Amazons etc)
11. Madame C-|Lady B- (The Comfortable Courtesan)
12. Dickson McCunn (Huntingtower etc)
13. Miss Marple
14. Rudolf Rassendyll (The Prisoner of Zenda)
15. The Dowager Duchess of Denver (Lord Peter Wimsey)


The answers )
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 12:40 pm
Had my passport interview today. Everyone told me it was fine and normal but I thought it was weird and intrusive. How many of your bedrooms look onto your back garden? Where did your parents go on their honeymoon? But it was done quickly and kindly, by a big guy with amazing facial hair and who had actually heard of Minnesota because he's an American-football player.

The worst thing about it was that we had to go all the way to Salford for it, which took ages. I turned out to also need to go back to the university because you can't sign up for language classes online, you have to go in person to the place I was twice yesterday where no one told me this. (I presume it's because they need to check the level people are at if they want to do anything other than beginner's level in their language, because there was a lot of that happening. But surely abject beginners should be able to apply with the system we have to use to do everything else?) But I filled out the form so hopefully that's done.

Which means all my bureaucracy should be done that can be done for now, which is good as all of tomorrow will be taken up with volunteer training at Manchester Museum (which is just a different kind of in-person bureaucracy, as little or none of it will be relevant to my role).

And I had a smear test today, and that's all this morning, so frankly not only am I done with today, but I think I need a medal.

For future reference, though, having a lot of local friends means a lot of them share the same doctor's surgery, and I'd heard a lot of good things about the new nurse who frankly could hardly have been worse than the old one. And she lived up to everything I'd heard about her; she didn't mention my weight, even though she did mention my blood pressure a lot which is fair enough as it was high when she checked it. She even took my height and weight which I know will be for bullshit BMI things the NHS makes them do, but while she said "Five four" as she read my height off the thingy, she then looked at the scale and said "weight...[mumbly mumble]" like she was just reminding herself long enough to go write it down (which is exactly what she was doing) so far from making a big deal of it she ensured I didn't know it at all which is the best thing for my mental health.

And when she asked if I wanted a sexual health screening done at the same time I said it was a good idea because I have two partners but it's okay and they know about each other and etc., she actually said "Oh, so you're poly?" Which left me really taken aback! I've never had a health professional know the word before. And she asked me if the partners were "male, female or other" so didn't assume sexuality or binary gender, which made me happy.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 10:35 pm
What I've read: short fiction
Actually read this week:Some of the backlog (all DSF):

What I've read: long fiction

Banishment by M.C. Beaton, which is the first of six apparently-fluffy Regency romances about six beautiful sisters and a malevolent stately home, recommended as a Yuletide fandom (thanks [personal profile] ceb for the pointer!)  This one was indeed the promised fast, lighthearted read, in which the family lose their beautiful stately home and much of their wealth, and (some of them) begin to learn Important Lessons About Not Being Awful To Other People.  And the first of the beautiful daughters finds true love, etc.  The remaining five in the series are now on their way so I can find out just how malevolent the house gets ...

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 09:18 pm
In the final book in Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolò series, Nicholas de Fleury returns to Scotland to try to make amends for the damage caused by his earlier actions and to safeguard his family from the enemies who have tried to kill both him and them so many times. For a while, I thought that Gemini was going to be a bit of an anticlimax to the series; several plot threads were resolved at the end of Caprice and Rondo, and Gemini is almost entirely set in Scotland, lacking the exotic locations of the earlier books. Nicholas has also changed and grown, and in Gemini is tackling the task of learning to care for people, and not just for the outcomes of his schemes. However, after a slow start, the novel gathers pace and the psychological drama is more than a match for the drama of any of Dunnett's other novels; there were just as many twists and edge-of-the-seat moments, and I found it just as hard to put down. It's a fitting end to the series, and like the ending of Checkmate leaves me wanting to go back and re-read key moments from earlier in the series in the light of the final revelations.

Fittingly, having started reading The Game of Kings on my 40th-birthday trip to Scotland, because I wanted to read something set in Scotland while I was there, I read Gemini while on holiday in Scotland once again. Three and a bit years, 14 books, at least 7,000 pages and an amazing sweep of European and Middle Eastern history in the early modern and late Middle Ages later, I can safely say that it has been one of the most intense reading experiences I've ever had. I can't actually remember who it was who made Dunnett sound intriguing enough for me to give her a try (I suspect it may have been a gestalt entity of friends and acquaintances), but it's been incredible, and in many ways I'm sorry to have come to the end. (I do still have King Hereafter to read, and will probably give the Johnson Johnson novels a try at least, but neither is going to be the same.)
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 04:15 pm

A video of a Nazi in Seattle getting punched and knocked out has been making the rounds. Responses range from satisfaction and celebration to the predictable cries of “So much for the tolerant left” and the related “Violence makes us as bad as them and plays right into their hands.”

A few things to consider…

1. According to one witness, the punch happened after the Nazi called a man an “ape” and threw a banana at him. With the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, that sounds like assault to me. I’m guessing Assault in the Fourth Degree. In other words, the punching was a response to an assault by the Nazi.

The witness who talks about the banana-throwing also says he was high on THC. I haven’t seen anyone disputing his account, but I haven’t seen corroboration, either.

2.Remember when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and people like Geraldo Rivera said it was because Martin was wearing a hoodie, and that made Martin a potentially dangerous “suspicious character”? Utter bullshit, I know. But if our legal system let Zimmerman plead self-defense, saying he was afraid because Martin was wearing a hoodie, doesn’t that same argument apply against someone wearing a fucking swastika?

We’re talking about a symbol that announces, “I support genocide of those who aren’t white, aren’t straight, aren’t able-bodied…”

3. Buzzfeed presents this as anti-fascists tracking a Neo-Nazi to beat him up. While antifa Twitter appears to have been talking about this guy, there’s no evidence that the punch was thrown by someone who’s part of that movement. And even if he was, the guy didn’t throw a punch until after the Nazi committed assault (see point #1).

Those Tweets quoted on Buzzfeed also suggest the Nazi was armed, which could add to the self-defense argument in point #2.

Is Nazi-punching right? Is it legal? As any role-player will tell you, there’s a difference between whether something is lawful and whether it’s good.

The “victim” has every right to press charges. But for some reason, he didn’t want to talk to police about the incident.

Was punching this guy a good thing? I mean, there’s a difference between comic books and real life. The Nazi was standing in front of some sort of tile wall. He could have struck his head on the corner after being punched, or when he fell to the ground. In other words, there’s a chance–albeit probably a slim one–that this could have killed him.

My country and culture glorify violence. I’d much rather avoid violence when possible. I think most rational people would. But there are times it’s necessary to fight, to choose to defend yourself and others. I think it’s important to understand the potential consequences of that choice.

Multiple accounts agree this man was harassing people on the bus, and later on the street. He was a self-proclaimed Nazi. Police say they received calls that he was instigating fights, and it sounds like he escalated from verbal harassment to physical assault … at which point another man put him down, halting any further escalation.

I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that situation, but I see nothing to make me condemn or second-guess this man’s choice in the face of a dangerous Nazi.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 03:48 pm
Somehow all my freshers' week stuff was mostly crammed into three days, which is kind of nice since I'm done with it now, which gives me time for volunteering orientation, a passport interview, a doctor's appointment, and a weekend of being in Yorkshire because of Thought Bubble.

Overall it's gone pretty well. I was nervous of feeling out of place but I really haven't. Everyone's been nice and neither I nor anyone else has called attention to me being twice their age (though I have felt it, especially since I keep coming home and taking naps, and they've been going out every night according to scraps of overheard conversation).

I've done all the bureaucracy: enrolled on everything (except my language, working on that), got my student card, met my advisor, peppered my department's admin with questions...I've been to welcome talks and figured out where some of the rooms in the rabbit warren that is the building I'll be spending most of my time in.

I've made a friend! I went to this divisional "party" thing on Monday, which is where you stand in an echoy room with a bunch of other people standing inexplicably close together. This was on Monday so I was at my most self-conscious and sure no one would talk to me, but she just walked right up and did. She's called Kitty...well, she's not because she's Chinese and can't expect people to say her name. But she told it to me, Weijia, and I said it back to her and she said my pronunciation was good but I can't remember it now! She turned up in the group meeting with our advisor today, and we were happy to see each other.

I had my introductory meeting with disability services yesterday, too. Which was great, but kind of weird. I left it convinced that if I'd had even half that support when I first went to college, I wouldn't have to be trying again now. At the time I was still firmly of the belief that I wasn't mentally ill, I was just rubbish. So much of that could have been different.

But then if it was I might not have written so much that Andrew saw on LiveJournal and he wouldn't have been able to identify with me as much as he did and maybe wouldn't have wanted to talk to me and I certainly wouldn't have visited him here if my life had stayed on the track it was supposed to be on. Things would be so different down the other leg of the trousers of time that it doesn't bear thinking about.
Tags:
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 08:40 am
A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog has changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I'd run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today's authors. So for three days, I'll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Queries:

Here are some thoughts on how to write queries from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I'd suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is not the first time I've done a query project, so some of these posts are new and some are from the previous run-through. Also, I'll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there's a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

Here are the links:

Harry Connolly: http://harryjconnolly.com/i-should-have-done-this-a-while-ago/ (Added 9/20/2017)
Chris Dolley: http://chrisdolley.livejournal.com/97929.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Simon Haynes: http://halspacejock.blogspot.com/2008/09/query-project.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Elaine Isaac/E.C. Ambrose: https://ecambrose.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/the-query-quandary-pitching-your-novel/ (Added 9/20/2017)
Jackie Kessler: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2008/09/12/the-query-project/ (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Glenda Larke: http://glendalarke.blogspot.com/2008/09/on-writing-query-letter.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
John Levitt: http://johnlevitt.livejournal.com/9407.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2017/09/18/literary-pitches-and-timing/ (Added 9/20/2017)
Joshua Palmatier: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492803.html (Added 9/20/2017)
Phyllis Irene Radford: http://www.radfordeditorial.com/?p=99 (Added 9/21/2017)
Janni Lee Simner: http://janni.livejournal.com/499198.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
Jennifer Stevenson: http://smokingpigeon.livejournal.com/30055.html (Originally posted 9/12/2008)
David J. Williams: http://autumnrain2110.com/blog/2008/09/12/query-letter-time/ (Originally posted 9/12/2008)

And check out the Elevator Pitch Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html, and the Plot Synopsis Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493782.html.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 08:33 am
Queries

The query is horribly important for writing purposes, especially for new writers, because it's the door to the editor's and/or agent's office. Basically, the query is a cover letter for your manuscript. In the query, you want to include information about yourself, your book, and what you have to offer. It's an attempt to get the editor and/or agent interested enough in you and your work so that they either request to see a partial of the manuscript if they requested a query only, or to get them to turn the page and start reading the partial that was included in the mailing. It's the first impression that the editor and/or agent will get of you, and because of that, it has to look sharp, speak clearly, and be perfect. Which is alot of pressure on you as the writer.

But before I go any further into discussing them, let me say that I'm not purporting to be an expert on queries. I'm only going to report what I did and/or learned in my process to getting published and what I think the query should be and do. I also want to say that, in general, I DO NOT think that agents and editors read the query and skip reading some of the partial (if it's included) "almost all of the time". I think they only skip reading a portion of the partial if it's obvious from the query that the book just does not fit what they represent or sell. If the editor publishes mysteries, and you sent them a romance, then yes, they'll read the query, determine it's a romance, and not even look at the partial. There's no point (unless there's a significantly good dose of mystery in the story, and if that wasn't mentioned in the query, then you screwed up the query). However, from what I've seen and heard by dealing with agents and editors as a writer, they almost always read a little bit of the partial. It may not be much, but it's enough for them to determine if they'll be interested in your story and whether you can write, regardless of what's in the query.

OK, I'm sure I'll get some flak from people over that last paragraph, but let's move on.

Queries. The main point is the query should be one page, short, and to the point. Don't waste time here, because you want them to move from the query to the partial (or the request for the partial) as soon as possible. There are three paragraphs to a query, maybe four. And in all three paragraphs you have to be completely and totally honest about yourself and your book, and you have to be completely and totally upfront about what you want and where the book currently is. Always. And lastly, you must be completely and totally professional at all times. Remember, this is your first impression and you only get one first impression. It's like a date. You DON'T want to screw it up or you'll never get laid.

I'm going to write this as if you were sending it to an editor, but the same advice applies to agents as well.

Incidentals: Before we hit the three paragraphs, you must make certain you have all of the incidental letter material absolutely correct. This means the address for yourself, the address for where you're sending it, and above all the name of the person you're sending it to! This person should be the actual editor at the publisher where you want to be published, it should be spelled correctly, and it must be current. Double check to see that the editor or agent is still working there. Editors and agents shift positions all the time. If the move was fairly recent and hasn't been circulated much yet, and you put the wrong editor on the query, it's not a problem. Don't stress about it, the query will find the right person. But if the editor you sent it to left their position six months ago and you send it to them instead of their replacement . . . that doesn't look good. It's not professional. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but take the time to do the research and find the appropriate editor. And for heaven's sake, if you don't know if it should be Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Dr., then leave the honorific off. Just say Jane Doe. You certainly don't want to say Mrs. Jane Doe and then find out later that it was really Mr.

First paragraph: Ok, so you've double checked the editor's name, triple checked their address, and made certain you put your own address on the envelope correctly. The incidentals are done. In the first paragraph you should tell them exactly what it is you have to offer and what you're looking for. Something along the lines of:

"I am seeking a publisher for my 100,000 word contemporary fantasy novel entitled Fever."

You should take one sentence, maybe two, to tell them why you are sending this novel to THEM. Make it personal if you can. If you met them at a conference or convention and chatted with them briefly at the bar, mention that here. If they gave you their card and said send them something, mention that here. In fact, if you've had personal contact with them, mention that first, saying something like, "I had a great time chatting with you at the bar at Confluence last month. I hope your dog Sparky is doing better after his surgery." You can get a little personal depending on what you spoke about at the bar, but keep it short and move on to the main point as soon as possible, which is of course that you have a 100,000 word contemporary fantasy novel to sell. Include what is enclosed with the query, if anything, such as a partial, or the plot sysnopsis, etc. This is important however: Only include what they request in their guidelines, or what they have requested from you in person. In the end, this paragraph shouldn't be more than 5 sentences long.

Second Paragraph: This is where you describe your entire novel in no more than 5 sentences. Which is hard. It's got to be punchy, pithy, and get across your main character, your basic plot, and whatever it is about your book that makes it unique and/or different from all of the other books out there. I suck at these kinds of paragraphs. Most writers do, because it took 100,000 words to get the story down on paper, not 5 sentences. If we could have done it in 5 sentences, we wouldn't have wasted the 100,000 words. What it takes is a huge butcher's knife and a little fortitude. You have to be willing to cut out almost everything about the novel except the character's transformation, how the plot forces that transformation, and what makes the book unique. Remember, you aren't trying to explain the entire plot or book here, that's what the plot synopsis is for. What you're trying to do here is pique the editor's interest so that they think, "This sounds cool," and they either request the partial, or turn to the partial immediately. Here’s the one I used for my novel Fever:

"Set mainly in north central Pennsylvania in 1965, Fever is the story of Dr. Avery Mills, a young doctor whose life takes a sudden wrong turn when he nearly kills a patient. Dumped by his girlfriend, he seeks to escape his life and takes a job in the small town of Coudersport. But Coudersport holds a secret: a fever that gives those infected the ability to channel fire with their minds. Mills must uncover the darkness beneath the town’s idyllic surface, and in the process face his own past and discover his own strengths."

That gives you the idea anyway. Short, but with as much information as you can pack into it. Keep it focused on the main character and his or her change or "problem". Don't stray from the main plot with subplots or anything like that, keep those for the plot synopsis. And bring into it what makes the story unique (the pyrokinesis here, I think).

Third Paragraph: The last paragraph is where you should include any information the editor needs to know about you, such as credentials, and where your novel currently stands. If your book is about biological fantasy creatures, you should include the fact that you're a biologist. If you've sold 3 books already, include that. Won a prize for writing, had short stories published, anything that would be a cred and give you more standing should be mentioned here. Also, and this applies more for a query to an agent, if your book is being looked at by a publisher already, you should mention that, something like, "Fever is currently being considered by an editor at DAW," or whatever. In essence, let them know where the book stands at the moment, if there's a solid lead or nibble in a certain direction. If you don't have any publishing creds yet, that's fine. Just mention something personal about yourself. For my first fantasy novel, I had no creds, so I just said I was a graduate student at Binghamton University, working on a PhD in mathematics. Nothing whatsoever to do with the book or publishing or even fantasy, but it was a little personal touch, so I seemed more real to the editor, not just a piece of paper in the mail.

Ending: After this, you should have a short, short paragraph thanking them for their time, that you look forward to hearing from them soon, that an SASE is included (if so), etc. Sign it off in some way, such as "sincerely" or whatever. I wouldn't use "love" unless you really know them that well, in which case you probably don't need a query at all.

And that's that. Sounds complicated, but the worst part is the novel summary paragraph, and you can get lots of help from friends and others in workshops and on LJ and whatnot in getting that written. So here's the sample of a cover letter I may have sent out based on what I've said here, if I were looking for a new publisher at this moment. Keep in mind that this still needs some spit and polish, and that pieces of it will vary depending on your situation and how well you know the editor/agent. I've faked the addresses and names and whatnot, but the description of the book is real, from a book I actually wrote, called Fever, that has not yet been published. Check the comments out as well, since others may chime in and bring up some good points that I forgot to mention or just didn't think about regarding queries. And of course you can ask any questions you might have as well.

******************

Sample:

Joshua Palmatier
213 Gigawatt St
Coudersport, PA 00000

August 17, 2007



Bigwig Publishing
317 Whatsit Ave
New York, NY 00000

Ira Greenwaltsonphindermacher:

It was great meeting you at BlipCon last month and I enjoyed the panel on nanotechnology in fantasy. As per your request after our discussion after the panel, I'm sending you the partial and a plot synopsis of my 100,000 word contemporary fantasy novel entitled Fever.

Set mainly in north central Pennsylvania in 1965, Fever is the story of Dr. Avery Mills, a young doctor whose life takes a sudden wrong turn when he nearly kills a patient. Dumped by his girlfriend, he seeks to escape his life and takes a job in the small town of Coudersport. But Coudersport holds a secret: a fever that gives those infected the ability to channel fire with their minds. Mills must uncover the darkness beneath the town’s idyllic surface, and in the process face his own past and discover his own strengths.

I have three fantasy novels currently being published by DAW Books, and was a finalist for the Compton Crook award for best first novel in 2006. I'm currently working as an assistant professor at SUNY College at Oneonta.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,



Joshua Palmatier

*****************


And now a word from our sponsor:


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter… Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means? Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will include short stories by: Gerald Brandt, William C. Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry.

SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR: In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir! Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.

GUILDS & GLAIVES: Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain short stories by: David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios