Friday, August 31, 2012

The Next Project (Jason's first post in *how* long?)

I just finished writing a rough draft of another book a week ago. Typically, in my writing life, I've noticed that it takes me about 7-14 days after such an achievement to be up for doing any other creative work. Instead, I ponder what I'll do next. Ideas bounce around in my head, every one gaining massive amounts of traction and then fading to nothing when I don't start writing immediately. But it's been a week now, and I'm getting the itch again, and so I've got to get writing.

I'm thinking something shorter than a novel. I've got an agent to sell those now; what I want is something I can publish myself, put out and sell right away. (The money's nice on traditional publishing. The waiting isn't.) I've got a few ideas, one that I'm working on with Peter is to put together a pair or trio of novellas with a particular (perhaps secret? Don't know so won't say it) theme. I'm thinking it'll end up in the 15-20K word range. But there are other novella length things that I contemplate.

I have the start of a novella about the later years of Morgan le Fay, sitting at about 10K and needing probably 30K. That's too short for traditional publishing, too long for magazines, the perfect length to self publish. I love the Arthurian legends, and I've been meaning to finish this thing for a great many years. When I started it (so long ago was that date) it seemed like it would be a great achievement to finish it. I have advanced much beyond that point now, but I still want to get back to it and wrap it up.

Or I could write an interpretation of the myth of Orpheus that's bouncing around in my head. I think it's just a little too thin to be a novel length work; it would be a good novella, but just not meaty enough for more.

Or the sci fi piece about abandoned terraformers. Again, it's too thin for a novel, but probably more than enough to get to 20K words.

All together, those four would be about 80K words, or about the length of the novel I just wrapped up. So that wouldn't really take long, and it would be four pieces of work that I could do things with promptly.

I think I like that plan. I think I'm on it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sink or swim, it's raining ebooks

First, read (or at least scan) this:

Publishing Is Broken, We're Drowning In Indie Books - And That's A Good Thing - by David Vinjamuri

It's a timely and telling article on the state of the publishing industry with a specific question for indies: Is Indie Publishing Good or Bad for Authors?

It's hard not to think that Vinjamuri has his own ideas on that question. After all, one of the earliest points he makes is this:

"Bestselling authors who are talented and hard working [...] are inclined to believe that publishing is a meritocracy where the best work by the most diligent writers gets represented, acquired, published and sold. But this is demonstrably untrue."

The writer goes on to look at how the traditional publishing industry got into its current fix. The content of the article is good, especially when it comes to identifying where the current publishing system is broken and how the indie publishing movement has stepped up to fill in some of the gaps left by changes wrought by industry policies and market forces.

Where the article really shines, however, is in the quotes from indie writer superstars Hugh Howey and Robert Bidinotto. One of the most telling examples:

"No customer going to Amazon knows what is traditionally published or independently published – and they don’t care. They’re interested in an experience that will educate or entertain them." - Robert Bidinotto, former journalist turned indie author

That's a powerful statement because it questions the traditional wisdom that New York publishing houses (the so-called Big Six which currently supply at least half of all books sold in the US) are the ultimate arbiters of content, style and taste when it comes to what the reading public - you - will have offered to them. The idea that they might not be is dynamite. And the Big Six are, variously, struggling to figure out what to do about it.

Here's another potent quote, this one by Hugh Howey, on how indie publishing is different from traditional publishing:

"I don’t have to compete with the price of mainstream publishers. They used to have the price advantage with economies of scale and the realities of large print runs. Now I have the advantage because I have low overhead. Where I once couldn’t compete with their physical price, they now can’t compete with my digital price."

What do you think? Do you buy a book solely because it is a New York Times bestseller? Do you buy a book because your friend recommended it to you? Or maybe because you know and like the author and his writing? What role does social media play in your buying habits? Would you be more likely to read something by an author who engaged with his readers online, or one who was reclusive, mysterious, and hidden behind the high gray walls of a Big Six publishing house?

Lots of good material for discussion here, especially because there are no clearly right or wrong answers. I highly encourage reading the article.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hawkwood's Folly: Old story, new honors

Almost a year ago, 20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey was published.

It was a labor of love, and many hands besides those at Kindling Press contributed to that work. One of those pairs of hands belonged to Tim Reynolds, an author out of Calgary, Alberta. His story, Hawkwood's Folly, remains one of my favorites in the anthology. Not only did his submission really nail the theme and the genre we were looking for, but Tim was also easy-going, responded quickly and cheerfully to editing and constructive criticism, and proved himself a thorough professional when it came to meeting deadlines and producing quality writing on demand.

Naturally, we couldn't hoard him long.

Hawkwood's Folly is one of several short stories to be featured in the prestigious reprint anthology Imaginarium: Best of Canadian Speculative Writing (ChiZine Publications & Tightrope Books, published in August 2012 - ebook version here). Along with such luminaries of the field as Cory Doctorow, Tim Reynolds' work shines as a work of speculative fiction that challenges ideas of what it means to be human, and how far one might go to defend that definition. In the words of the publication's own description:

At their best, these pieces disrupt habits and overcome barriers of cultural perception to make the familiar strange through the use of speculative elements such as magic and technology. They provide glimpses of alternate realities and possible futures and pasts that provoke an ethical, social, political, environmental, and biological inquiry into what it means to be human.

Kindling Press prides itself on discovering and showcasing new writers of quality, so we are hardly surprised - though deeply pleased - to have contributed in part to this author's well-deserved success. It is a tremendous honor for us to have one of our authors recognized in such a prestigious publication, and Tim has certainly earned his place of honor.

Tim has also graciously given Kindling Press a short interview, talking about his work, Hawkwood's Folly, Steampunk, and his own future writing plans.

KP: How does it feel to have your work selected for inclusion in the prestigious anthology Imaginarium 2012: Best Canadian Speculative Writing?

TR: It's a real honour to be accepted into a 'Best of' collection, especially when it's the first "Imaginarium". It's also quite a feather in my writer's cap. I'm really just starting out as a published writer and, as you know, new writers can run up against roadblocks when trying to get publishers to notice them. "Imaginarium 2012" will help me get my writing noticed. It's all about having a solid resume, just like any pursuit.

I'm also extremely proud to be included in a 'Best of' anthology with a story first published by a 'young' company. Kindling Press did a terrific job not just on 20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey, but in changing the way a publisher deals with writers. I'm seeing more and more young publishers grown tired of the old publishing model and I think Kindling was one of the ones who got the ball rolling.

KP: What is it that attracts you to Steampunk?

I love Steampunk because it combines elements of my favourite genres: historical, science fiction, and fantasy. Also, it's so wide open for interpretation that those who are writing in it now are able to take it just about anywhere they want. As time goes on, the Type-A personalities will try to impose rules galore on Steampunk, but we have to remember that half of the word is 'Punk' and punks don't conform to rules or play well with others.

KP: What gave you the idea for Hawkwood's Folly?

TR: "Hawkwood's Folly" comes from a couple inspirations. It had to be an underwater/nautical tale in order to fit with the theme of 20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey. I really just started the story from the doctor's point of view and let him carry me along for the ride. I wanted clanking automatons, a slightly mad man, and a doctor with a dilemma. Grigori is actually Grigori Rasputin and the story was written to take place during a time when we have few details of his life, so that it could be possible that this series of events really happened to him and contributed to who he became, historically. The first draft was not nearly as dark as the finished tale, and I have the Kindling Press editors to thank for that. Suggestions were made and then it all fell into place.

KP: Why did you choose that particular time period and location as your setting?

TR: I suppose in the long run, the specific time and place for the setting revolved a lot around the know facts of Grigori's life. I was leaning towards Paris anyway but with a few shifts here and there I was able to bend history a bit to fit. Also, Verne was French and I sort of thought a tribute to him should include either a French hero or villain.

KP: How much research went into this story, given your authentic use of language and Belle Epoque setting?

TR: I usually do a fair bit of research just to get one simple fact correct or at least sounding correct, so delving into a period of history took a lot of reading. I had done undersea settlement research for a far future sci fi novel and it came in handy when trying to realize how Hawkwood's submarine settlement could be done. I used to have a working knowledge of French so it was a simple thing to figure out what I wanted to say and double check it with online translators. I must admit that when it comes to research I absolutely adore Wikipedia (but always find another source to confirm!) and Google Maps Streetview. If I have a specific idea in mind, then Streetview lets me double check the surrounding area, even if it's a historical setting. My degree is in History, so I enjoy tapping into it and mutating it for my own purposes.

KP: What are you working on now, and how does it fit into your goals and interests as writer?

TR: I am finishing up 11 critiques for a 2-day Clarion-style workshop I'm attending this week and then am very involved in When Words Collide, a Readers & Writers Festival here in Calgary August 10-12. I'll be reading from Hawkwood's Folly and another story I have coming out this year, as well as leading a workshop on finding story ideas. Once the workshop and festival are done, I'm going back to editing down my sci fi novel from 150,000 words to 100,000, finishing my man-loves-ghost-of-dead-princess novella, and trying to sell my completed urban fantasy novel in New York. I'm also planning for a trip to World Fantasy in Toronto in November where we will be launching two anthologies I contributed to, including one which is a blend of Wu Xia martial arts and Steampunk set in 19th century Tibet.

Oh, and then there's my new fantasy novel percolating in my brain, sequels to both the sci fi and urban fantasy novels, novelization of my vampire screenplay (unproduced), editing of another urban fantasy, and marketing of the twelve short stories I still need good homes for. My goal as a writer is to publish stories (specifically novels) that people love to read. My interests as a writer cover just about everything. I love Steampunk, especially, so I will be finding as many different ways to write it as possible. Hawkwood's Folly was my first Steampunk tale to be published. Since then I've published one other and have two more coming out shortly, so my thanks go out to you and the crew at Kindling Press for getting me started in such a cool genre.


Looking for more about Tim Reynolds? You can find him on the web at: and