If you find yourself making a sunny day trip tomorrow on Bainbridge Island, I’ll be reading from The Jack of Souls and talking fantasy at Eagle Harbor Book Co, in lovely Winslow. Drop in! It’s walkable from the ferry!
Punch and pie.
What did I do for the month after I sent out all the Kickstarter rewards? I launched what I’m calling
THE WAR ON OBSCURITY!
For an indie author, obscurity is public enemy #1. Of course, the more reviews a book has, the easier it is for readers to make a decision about it, but there’s more: to be taken seriously by the best publicity engines out there, a book needs at least 25 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
So, January’s Target was to Acquire Book Blog Reviews
What the Heck is a Book Blog?
I didn’t know, either. But it turns out there are thousands of book bloggers–book lovers who’ve taken to posting their own reviews of books in a blog. They don’t get paid, and they don’t HAVE to review anyone. Authors contact them with an attractive pitch and request, and the bloggers accept or decline.
If they accept, the book goes in their To Be Read pile, and months later a review appears on the their blog, Amazon, and Goodreads.
In January, I Queried 127 Book Bloggers
These I found in The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (exactly what it sounds like, in heft and content) and Indieview. I started with a base pitch email, but each had to be individualized to fit each bloggers requirement policy, preferred genres and formats, and flavor/tone of their blog site.
I Heard Back from 22!
Believe it or not, that’s really good results! The marketer who coached me submitted a book recently to 200 reviewers, landed 20 reviews, and was happy with that. She says 10% is standard, so I’m very pleased with my 17%!
Here’s a Sample Line from my Spreadsheet
Website Blogger Date Queried JOS Sent Est.Post
SFBook.com Vanessa Dec28/Jan28 (Pbk 1/13) Mar 15
You can see too that I queried Vanessa twice—that was b/c she didn’t respond to the first query. I figure, why not send again after a month? Reviewers get busy. Maybe she didn’t reply because she was over whelmed with requests and had to delete a bunch, unread; or maybe my pitch didn’t catch her attention and she deleted it. Who knows? In any case, I re-queried and made sure to re-target my pitch, and it worked! I’ll do the same for the other 100 who haven’t replied.
I have officially sent off all 100+ mailers to 17 different countries and as many states! Here is what our dining room table looked like at the height of mailing frenzy in December. Now it’s online and Amazon does the shipping! (Whew!)
Here’s what it looks like now. We can use our table for dinner again! 🙂 🙂 🙂
I just learned that my short story, “Outside the Game,” won first place in the Southwest Writers International Writing Competition!
Many thanks to David Levine and Fairwood Writers, who helped me develop it.
“Outside the Game” is an alternative first chapter to The Jack of Souls, set in the same place the novel begins, but an hour before the events that start the novel.
I wrote it as a tool to gain attention for the novel (and because Harric is so much fun to write about!).
Here’s the link, if you want to check it out:
A week ago last night, I learned that my fantasy novel, The Jack of Souls, won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s unpublished novel competition for the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. I’m just getting over the shock, so I feel I can post it.
The announcement ran after they cleared plates from the awards dinner at the conference. Before announcing winners, they announced the names of all eight finalists and their novels, ala Oscars format.
It took a long time. Cruelly, they served no wine at the tables.
As they listed each finalist and the title of their novel, I imagined a door of probability slowly closing. Six years ago I submitted to the contest and didn’t even make the finalists, so now with each finalist name, it seemed the door closed a little more. When they announced the second place winner, only a crack of light remained, so it was extremely surreal when they announced my name next and I saw The Jack of Souls on the screen.
I rose and accepted the award and sat again. I know this because I found myself at the dinner table with the same people I’d eaten with, the award folder in my hands.
Here’s the link to the results of all the category winners for the competition:
An agent/editor party followed, where I met some fun and interesting people including the agent who judged the contest. Good things in the offing!
Some of the best spec-fic holds up a mirror in such a way that we see aspects of our species/culture anew. Often this is accomplished by showing first contact. Ursula Leguin’s Left Hand of Darkness comes to mind, with its human diplomat arriving at a planet of hermaphrodites; also Larry Niven’s Ringworld, with its humans, puppeteers, and kzinti.
The First-contact Mirror
I recently found a hilarious first-contact mirror in Mary Sisson’s novel Trust (sequel to Trang), which follows the human diplomat Phillipe Trang as he interacts with five or six different species of alien.
In these scenes, inter-species communication is made possible by a Universal Translator device, which struggles to decode the expletives of the human space marines assigned to protect Trang. Since the POV in the scene is that of the alien, the results are hilarious and thought provoking.
Excerpt from Trust
(Setting: Trang and his marines meet the alien (named Daring Attack) near their crash site on a wild and remote part of an alien planet as a giant T-rex-like thing referred to as a “Giant Mankiller” approaches through the jungle. The dialogue starts with the marine nick-named Princess).
“I cannot see it,” said Noble Person, who was holding a machine to its face.
“Of course not—if it was that close, we’d be dead,” said Daring Attack.
“What distance—” Noble Person stopped.
“His units for measuring length—” said the diplomat.
“I am knowledgeable of that fact,” said Noble Person. “If the carnivore continues toward us at the rate of travel at which it is currently traveling, at what time will it reach us?”
“His units for measuring time—” said the diplomat.
“May it remain for eternity in the mythological place where the spirits of the ignoble dead reside!” said Noble Person.
“I express my regret,” said the diplomat.
“There it is,” said the alien holding the sheet.
“Sacred digestive by-product,” said Noble Person.
Daring Attack tried not to dwell on the fact that he was risking his life for people who worshipped digestive by-products. Instead, he noticed a large dark blob on the sheet.
“Mythological figure who regained life after being dead for three days and is engaged in reproductive activity, it is large,” said the other alien.
“Is that the carnivore?” asked Noble Person.
Daring Attack looked at the blob. Was that the Giant Mankiller? He couldn’t tell.
(When the marines send armed drones to attack the Giant Mankiller, the marines watch through video monitors, muttering…)
“Draw closer on, you small individual conceived in a socially inappropriate manner,” said the alien. “Draw closer and obliterate that buzzing flying insect that is engaging in reproductive activity with you.”
Has it gone insane? Daring Attack wondered.
After I was done howling with laughter, these are some of the things I found myself thinking about:
Why do humans use feces and sex in expletives? Okay, we’re primates, we like to throw poo, and now that we have words to do it with, we don’t need to get our hands dirty. I get that. But sex? Do all human cultures do that, or just puritanical Western ones? For that matter, do (puritanical) Islamic cultures do that? Do Hindis? Do the Chinese? The Japanese? Maori? Australian Aborigines? Are we all sex-and-potty mouths?
If you are fluent in these cultures, please comment and share.
The Muse of Invention
One of the best things about speculative fiction is the joy of pure invention, riffing off of patterns we see in the Nature. The florescent flora of Miranda, in Avatar, comes to mind–stunningly beautiful, inspired perhaps by some of the bio-luminescence of the sea.
(Image of flora in Avatar) (Image of florescent sea anemone)
Michael Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide
Here is a passage from Stations of the Tide that I thought beautiful, inspired perhaps by the symbioses we see among sea creatures–from whales to crabs–like barnacles, remoras, and whale lice.
The orchid crabs were migrating to the sea. They scuttled across the sand road, swamping it under their numbers. Bright parasitic flowers waved gently on their armor, making the forest floor ripple under a carpet of multicolored petals, like a submarine garden seen through clear fathoms of Ocean brine.