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Re: Original Sources for Fantasy That sacred texts site seems like a pretty great resource for inspiration on mythic fantasy and world-building, thanks for sharing it!
October 03, 2017, 06:19:01 PM
Re: "Murky middle" problem with outlining a story When I'm stuck like that in the outlining process, sometimes I brainstorm on random scenes.  Almost like imagining a snippet that might appear in a movie trailer for your story.

For example, just start thinking of your setting and some of the themes involved.  Maybe you start to picture a wild chase on foot through a marketplace, with the heroine dashing after some rambunctious thief.

From there, start working backwards to figure out where that scene fits.  Where could there be a marketplace like the one you pictured?  At that stage in the story, what could be stolen that is precious enough to elicit the sort of action-packed chase scene you imagined?  Then think about what you want at that stage of the story.  If she needs to meet another character around then, maybe they're the thief, or maybe they help her catch the thief.  Or maybe she wins them to her side because the thief stole from them instead of her.  Or maybe you need to show her character, so the chase ends with mercy, or a lack thereof.

Once you plant the scene where you need it, and figure out what you can use it for in that spot, then tendrils drift out into the rest of the story, filling in even more of the middle.  If the thief stole money, then to make that dramatic, she must want money.  Suddenly, you're filling details elsewhere with scenes to show how a woman raised as a spoiled princess struggles to manage her finances.  Or maybe you decide she's flawed and greedy, and you show her chasing down the thief to demonstrate that quality of her character... which of course, is a detail that will need to spill over into other scenes she's in.

The more bits and pieces you fill in like that, the more of a cohesive vision you'll build for yourself of your setting, characters and the final story.  When you've done all your work, in the end those patchwork scenes will seamlessly unite even though you didn't know exactly where each would go when you first imagined it.

October 04, 2017, 06:33:31 PM
Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing. I'm still new to all this, but it's an issue I've considered quite a bit.  It's interesting to read through this and see that despite the voluminous verbiage, the principle arguments are only two-fold:
1) Self-published authors don't hire editors.
2) No one takes self-published authors seriously, giving them a huge marketing disadvantage.

The first, as a writer, is very easy to address - just hire an editor.  I hire two per book; a professional developmental editor (I use Writer's Ally for that step) to give the story polish, and then a copy-editor to clean up any typos (which I hired freelance).  My first copy-editor didn't do a great job, but one marvel of self-publication on something like Amazon is that when I find mistakes that slipped through, I can fix it very quickly, and remove the error from everything that goes out from that point forward.  For the second book I hired a better copy-editor.  Those are expensive steps, but if you want a quality product, they are unavoidable.

Which brings us to the second issue.  People expect self-published work to be crap.  Hell, some of my reviewers put in remarks on my grammar, like I'd uploaded a six-hundred page grade-school report.  Even in this thread, a number of commenters discuss the lack of editorial polish like it's an inherent aspect to self-publication.

The irony bridging these two elements is that traditional publishers screw up this stuff all the time.    R. Scott Bakker writes some amazing stuff, but I remember reading one of his books (White Luck Warrior, maybe?) where for the entire novel he had a guy who kept talking about fighting 'duals'.  I cringed every time, yet he's available in brick and mortar stores around the world.  I've seen errors in Stephen King and others who have no excuses to budget or inexperience.  It happens to everyone; but when it happens with an indie book, everyone rolls their eyes and claims it's an aspect inherent to self-publication.

A majority of self-published works are crap, but as the technology has rendered a number of publisher services increasingly superfluous, the main advantage they are left with is credibility.  A new author published by a major house gets professional reviews with no proof of sales (I need to prove $3k in sales before a number of places will even look to review my book).  A new author published by a major house gets their literal stamp of approval before anyone has read the book.

The trade-off is that you spend years going through their song and dance, vying for a spot on their limited roster.  You're not building readers, you're not paying off developmental costs, you're just circling the airport, hoping they clear you to land.

With either traditional or self publication, the entire trick is overcoming the default presumption of not being good enough for traditional publication... so the option is whether you want to try and overcome them by courting publishers, or try to overcome them by courting readers directly.

Given the usual multi-year pendency required to court publishing houses, as an indie author, if I can build to just over 2k readers within 6 years (and presumably continue to grow from there), then I've gotten a better deal.  I suck at marketing, but looking at the numbers, I decided to gamble on my own entrepreneurial efforts, and never actually sought traditional publication.  You've got to court the readers eventually regardless, so courting publishers first seemed like duplicative work to me.

That course certainly carries penalties, but you can't fairly compare the two without including the several years head start that self-publishing gets you.  To overcome the competence perceptions among readers, so far I've found two expenses most worth the effort:
-A cover.  People judge covers very heavily.  If you toss up a proposal on 99Designs though, you can get some really solid stuff for super cheap.  Plus, you can engage those designers for more than just the book cover... they can make website elements, business cards, forum signature banners, and all sorts of things using the same elements.  A professional looking cover is a major step to overcoming self-publishing prejudices.
-Professional reviews.  I used Kirkus, and they liked my book a lot.  Being able to tout an organizational review goes a long way to making your work look professional.  Despite being willing to review any book, Kirkus has a reputation for blunt honesty in their reviews - indie authors pay them for that service, but even major publishers pay them, they just get it as a subscription for all their books.

Self-publication is still a marathon of effort, but it's a mixed bag of advantages and disadvantages.  You start earlier, and manage things your own way, but you're also missing a lot of the expertise and connections traditionally published works get you, and you have to find that stuff on your own.  The challenge is to use that head-start productively to engage your audience and establish credibility.

I wouldn't give an automatic 'no' to a publisher who was interested in my work... but not being forced to rely upon them gives me an enormous range of options and flexibility in negotiation I wouldn't otherwise have.  For those of you who habitually discount self-published work, I encourage you to look beyond that, because the world is changing fast.

October 09, 2017, 06:32:13 PM
Re: SFF? What does Science-Fiction have to do with Fantasy? And it gets weirder when you delve into the official categorization system used by publishers, where 'steampunk' is technically part of sci-fi, despite being about fantasy worlds that often feature magic and elves and so forth.  It's especially awkward because neither sci-fi nor fantasy is really a 'genre' so much as a setting.  Fantasy usually follows the classic hero's journey, but it could just as easily be a crime story, or a mystery, or anything else.

Personally, my theory is that fantasy and sci-fi follow slightly different story rules based on how they relate to our world.

Fantasy usually features a world where the people of the past were mightier and more virtuous than the people of the present.  Usually those virtuous past people fought of legendary evil, and either defeated it or at least imprisoned it, but now the less virtuous people of the story's present must somehow cope with the lesser version that is somehow escaped/revived/returned (usually due to their failing of virtue).  Such stories are often depicting eternal struggles of good and evil writ in larger, more basic terms that can usually be stabbed or magic'd into submission.

Sci-fi, on the other hand, usually features a world that has moved beyond our own meager abilities and accomplished more.  Usually sci-fi stories focus on how certain universal problems persist despite those advancements... highlighting very human moral quandaries that we face in our own lives by divorcing those problems from our mundane existence, and allowing us to examine them at a remove.

Those are typical frameworks, but as someone else mentioned, Star Wars is often classified as sci-fi because it has spaceships, but it is clearly a fantasy tale.  By contrast, Star Trek is also replete with space-wizards and planets ruled by Greek gods and so forth, but it's clearly more sci-fi than fantasy.  I think that structure of past vs. present is really the stronger determinative factor.

Even when the future is dystopian, you seldom see a sci-fi story where the people of the primitive past were really hailed as more virtuous; usually because we're the morons that dys'd up the -topia to begin with.  Idiocracy played with that idea though, which makes me wonder if it could be considered a sci-fi future setting but with a fantasy storyline (Joe Bowers was full of ancient knowledge that seemed magical to people in the future, after all!).  Something like Dune though, which is unpleasant, but post-dystopian, not really the fault of modern people, nor related to us really, but features various forms of space magic... it could be anything!

They're definitely a messy pair of classifications.  My own books are set in a fantasy world with Elves and magic and so-forth, but the past is less virtuous, so they often feel like they have more in common with classic sci-fi... but that would be confusing, so I just call them fantasy and sometimes 'steam punk' (despite not being very punk).  Unless you're serving just straight-up Tolkien fanfic, it's tough to perfectly fit into those classes.

October 11, 2017, 11:15:43 PM
Re: Reading a book series out of sequence I feel like if a series can't be enjoyably read out of sequence, then the author's individual stories probably aren't as polished as they should be.  Then again, I feel similarly about spoilers too, and enjoy filling in the backstory on things so, for me, knowing what happens at point B doesn't really diminish my interest in following the journey that began at point A.

This is also the point at which I lament my pre-Kindle days.  I know a series that fits that perfectly... the author started with a book about a siege, then wrote a series of both prequels and sequels about characters and events that spun outwards from that siege.  Unfortunately, all the names elude me entirely, I can't think of a good angle to search on it in Google, and the paper versions I owned are long since surrendered. :(

There are tons of examples though.  People advise the Star Wars movies are best enjoyed out of sequence, and the vast library of books in the setting happen at all sorts of different times in relation to each other.  I remember that the Dragonlance series had a bunch of prequels and sequels and midquels, and whatever elses, and while stories were often told in three-book chunks, the stories themselves didn't necessarily require being read in chronological or publishing order.  My father adores Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels, which (as near as I can tell from the two I've read) don't seem to require any particular sequence.

November 14, 2017, 03:31:59 PM
Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing. Exactly.  Josiah Bancroft is a great example.  Self-publishing success can, and has been made.  I mean, it's work, and it takes time, and as near as I can tell the key is mostly just to find bloggers who will actually give indie books a shot, but once you've bridged that credibility gap, there's no longer an issue of sales capacity... the old thunderdome has fallen silent now that writers don't need to contest with each other in B.D. Dalton's various bloodsports for shelf-space.  It's a wide open market.

It's always been a low-paying job for most, and for the vast majority it was an entirely non-paying job.  My debut was named one of the best books of the year in '16, and yet I'm still out of pocket for my editors and cover designer... but even selling one book means I'm making more than nothing, which was the traditional model.

I think the traditional model is a dinosaur.  It'll still stomp on a lot of us little mammals before it lumbers off into the tar pits, but I think in the future indie is the way most stuff will begin.

January 18, 2018, 08:25:30 PM
Re: Do you need to know how to use a crossbow?
You Tube's good for this. I watched videos there when I decided on a sling as a weapon.

YouTube has an amazing array of videos on exactly this sort of thing.
Additionally, find some reenactors.  Even if they just dress up as Romans or cowboys or something.  I guarantee they'll know a guy, or a guy who knows a guy, who knows everything you might possibly need to know, and then you just need to email that guy, tell him what you're thinking about doing, and you'll get plenty of detail.

January 18, 2018, 08:32:24 PM
Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
I'm in the same position—still working on recovering the outlay on editors and cover designer. Intrigued by your cover and the 'look inside' on Amazon, I bought a copy of your first novel. Probably be a month before I read it with all the other books I'm reading.

How did you get a copy of your cover in your signature? Perhaps I should do the same.

My mantra has become, "I am not the thunderbolt; I am the unrelenting sea. My tides will rise and fall, but mountains are not worn away in an instant."
Whenever self-publishing feels utterly Sisyphean, I just repeat it to myself.  Sometimes just getting to 'thunderbolt' is enough to remind me that I have a plan, and that the plan is workable, and is working, but just slow.

And thank you for giving my book a try!  If it catches your fancy, there's a second novel in the same setting out now as well, which is more of a mystery story.  I'm actually quite proud of having swapped story style and structure within the series to create a second book very different from the first.  :)

tebakutis gives good instructions on putting stuff in your signature, so I won't bother to repeat them, but I will say you totally should get a signature banner.  I had my cover artist design some for me, and I use them on Facebook, Twitter and various other forums I visit.  It feels far more professional to me than just a picture of a book, or mis-fitting vertical rectangle.  The big thing with self-publishing will always be that credibility gap, so anything you can do to overcome that is going to help.

Also, I should say more enthusiastically that I absolutely love the wide-open market of self-publishing.  I'm not competing with anyone.  If someone only reads one book a year, they're going to read GoT or something else they see on TV.  If they read just a few books, I might have an entry-point, but really it's not a sure enough thing to scramble after.  The literati who buy the most books read them far faster than I can write them and therefore, as a marketer, everyone else's rising tide raises my boat too.  If Bancroft does well, then it draws in more fantasy readers, and more readers means more who are likely to read my work too.

As a modern self-publisher, I don't have to worry that someone else gets better awards, and thus better shelf-space, or whatever; I can just do my best work and I get to cheer enthusiastically when I come across someone else whose work I like.  Sure we're paid peanuts, but we don't really have to fight each other over those peanuts, which is a rarity in any business, and one I greatly appreciate.  I get to go on Twitter and wish other authors well, and mean it, and openly celebrate work I admire because the other people who like things I like will probably also like the things I write, and celebrating helps us find each other.  It can be a great, positive world.

January 19, 2018, 05:25:34 PM
Re: What's the name of that book? - Lost and Found for novels Carnivores of Light and Darkness!  Alan Dean Foster.
No idea why I couldn't remember it, or how I suddenly remembered it now, but there it is.  There were three books in that series, all pretty fun, as I recall... although it's been twenty years.  ;D

May 04, 2018, 04:38:41 AM
Re: Adventures in Writing
Many writers in the SPBO 2018, including me, are putting their books up for sale for 99c, from 1-5th August. I'd like to put up a link somewhere here, not sure where, nearer the time. There should be 100+ fantasy novels on sale then. @WilliamRay is there, too.

We're not supposed to tell people that yet, so... shhh!  ;)
I haven't read Blue Prometheus yet, but it looks frightfully good, considering that our books are squared off against each other in the very first round of SPFBO!  Yikes. :D

But yes, for those wishing to play the SPFBO home game, there may or may not be a sale so you can more easily afford read along with the epic conflict of SPFBO 2018... a sale which I definitely gave you no hint would be happening, if it did happen, which maybe it won't, I'm certainly not saying.

If it were to happen, maybe Ned will come back and post a link to it later, if such a thing existed, which it might, but I'm certainly not saying it will or that he would, or that either of us are involved, if it is happening, because I can neither confirm nor deny it.

July 14, 2018, 03:14:16 PM