This is a fun and wide-ranging interview I gave to Sherri Rabinowitz on her Blog Talk show, “Chatting with Sherri.”
Sean Williams and four us 2016 Writers of the Future writers explain our very different picks in this special valedictory SF Mind Meld.
(If you havent heard, our beloved SF Signal, which used to host SF Mind Meld, recently went defunct. Happily, James Aquilone re-functed it on his website, and invited me to be part of its last glorious funct.)
Buy a copy of this year’s Writers of the Future before Midnight tonight and I’ll joyfully ship you a first-edition paper, hardback,* eBook or audiobook of The Jack of Souls!
Barnes & Noble (paperback | Nook) < $ 11.63 paperback, $6.49 Nook
THIS IS THE BEST WEEK TO BUY Writers of the Future!
off the grid for 24 hours
When last I posted, we’d all been assigned the task of writing a short story in 24 hours. I was given a random object (a 38 Special shell casing) and told to go interview someone on the street, and then use these things to inspire and craft a story.
And that’s what we did for the last day. I didn’t come up for air for basically fourteen hours (in two 7 hour chunks), which is why I didn’t post the schedule for yesterday
But I did it! I wrote a 5K story in a day, and it has all the bones of a decent story. It’s a rough draft, sure, but it has all the bones. There were valuable lessons in that for me. Perhaps the most valuable lesson of this exercise was to see that I could in fact do this from scratch, with random inspirations; the other was that I could do that in a 24-hour window. That makes me feel good.
So here’s what we’ve been doing:
You’ll notice the right-hand column is the schedule of the Illustrator’s track.
the illustrators arrived today
The Illustrators got here yesterday, and we just met them today and saw for the first time the illustrations they did for the stories that will appear in the anthology. I’ll get a close-up of the illustration for my story. The artist (as you can see in the picture) is a young woman; her name is Maricella, and she is from Mexico.
3 Days left! Larry niven, Mike resnick, nancy kress…
NANCY KRESS: “Develop writing rituals to train the ‘Little Man in the Basement.'”
LARRY NIVEN: “If Lucifer’s Hammer gets humanity to do something about this threat, I’ll feel my life was justified.” 🙂
MIKE RESNICK: “You sell your first 3 books on promise. You sell your 4th on record.”
This program was a closely guarded secret until we arrived
In fact, before we came, I searched the internet for one of these from previous years, to no avail. Now that we’ve all got a copy and permission to share, I can post mine. I’ll post one every day this week.
And yes, you see that right: 8 hours today with David Farland and Tim Powers, talking plot construction, characters, theme, conflict, etc., and hearing stories about bar-hopping with Phillip K. Dick. Fantastic. Such a wonderful opportunity.
Below, David and Tim, after they distributed story props to all of us. In the foreground is the prop that is to inspire a story I write tomorrow. In case you’re not familiar, that’s a 9 mm shell casing, which makes my job easy.There are lots of those in fantasy.
The audiobook for The Jack of Souls is up for preorder on Audible, and it’s freaking fantastic! I am so pleased!
Here’s an audio file of the opening pages. The actor, Alex Wyndham, went with an English accent—probably because of the lofty material, 😉 –and he rocks it! Turns out he’s a great character actor.
Even in the first minute I love what he did with the barman. II can’t wait to hear how he did Caris and Willard and Brolli and Bannus’s voices.
I shall have to subject my kids to it on the road trip to the mountains this weekend. Mwa-hahaha!
The Jack of Souls is FREE for Kindle on Friday, October 30!
Weirder than Fiction
Building Believable (and Fantastic!) Fantasy Worlds
Reality is often truly stranger than anything you could make up, so it pays to research.
Take this picture from a late 17th century fashion mag displayed in the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam. Look close.
Look how hard these guys are working! That hair! Those stockings! Those accessories! They look like 80s glam rockers!
Turns out, there was a name for this Captain Jack Sparrow style of dress back then. Here is what the Rijks Musuem had to say about them in their Fashion Magazines exhibit: They were called, “The Incredibles.” Not kidding.
So This was Actually Satire of the High Fashions of the Rich!
Still, I am not sure they succeeded in making it more ridiculous than the actual fashions. How could they? Here is one of the men they mocked, also from a fashion mag of the time:
Dude. You’re wearing pink and white candy-cane-striped tails with yellow pantaloons. Nailed it.
Extremities of Female High Fashion
I wish I had more pictures of ridiculous wealthy men’s attire from the time, but most of the extreme examples are of women’s fashion.
Like these insane hairstyles for women.
The Ship one is my favorite:
Here is the Timeless Message of High Fashion:
1) Since no one could possibly do work in such attire, I am clearly wealthy.
2) Since the time it takes to design and execute such confections of hair/clothing makes it impossible to do any actual work during the day, I am clearly wealthy.
3) Since the cost of my fashion–not just in time but in money–is astronomical, I am clearly wealthy.
Building This Principle Into Fantasy A World
A good illustration of this in fantasy is in Martin’s A Game of Thrones (the books, anyway) where the fashion of the noble women of the slave city of Meereen is a dress that is essentially a mummy wrap from neck to ankles, making it impossible for the women to walk in anything but tiny little steps. Clearly, those women are NOT doing any work!
Here’s a dress from modern day high fashion that might have been from Meereen:
Finally, a Note on the Timelessness of Junk Grabbing
Okay, pant-sagging may not have been around in the old days, but the Incredibles did, apparently, grab junk. They were straight up Gs.
You might think lepers had it rough in the old days.
But you would be wrong. If you were a leper, most of the time you were forbidden to enter the city, but once a year they put you in a wooden sled and dragged it through the city.
Leper Party Sled
You got to hold out a plate for donations and they gave you these wooden party clappers to make noise with!
Before there were balloons, there were pig-bladders! Ask nicely, kids, and the butcher will grab one from the offal bin! Hours of fun!
Months ago I sent two paperbacks, a cover letter, and a press release to Midwest Book Review, in hope that they would review The Jack of Souls. They get around 50 submissions a day, for 1500/month, and since they are non-profit, they don’t have time to reply to everyone; basically, if they don’t like what your wrote, you don’t hear from them. So I really had my fingers crossed for this one.
Who is Midwest Book Review?
MBR is probably the biggest non-profit small press reviewer that accepts indie books. It has a wide professional readership including book stores and librarians.
Today, while at a gas station in Winthrop, Washington (the first reliable cell reception on our week in the North Cascades), I saw an unfamiliar email in my inbox: MWREVW@aol.com.
It took a few seconds to recognize it. When I did, my breath stopped.
Good News Comes from Unfamiliar Senders
Stephen C. Merlino
Tortoise Rampant Press
9780986267413, $12.95 PB, 350pp, www.amazon.com
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI, 53575
Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.
They liked it!
I know I’m not supposed to care. That I’m supposed to write no matter what anyone says good or bad. And I will. But seriously, I am so thrilled and stunned and so grateful for this review. It is so nice to see my stories aren’t just sung into a void–that sometimes someone actually shouts back, Hey, that’s pretty good! and the solitary act of writing becomes for a moment a dialogue between like-minded people.
Thanks for shouting back, MBR.
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! 🙂 🙂 🙂