Yep, you get me twice today. Why? I read this for one. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/22/25-hard-truths-about-writing-and-publishing/ by the amazing Chuck Wendig, and it resonated. And I quote from Mr.Wendig's blog:
5. About A Billion Books Are Released Every Week
As I write this sentence, 50,000 more books will be released into the world like a herd of stampeding cats. By now, I think the books are actually writing other books in
some self-replicating biblio-orgy of books begetting books begetting books. All
in a big-ass mash-up of ideas and genres and marketing categories (MIDDLE GRADE
SELF-HELP SCI-FI COOKBOOKS will be all the rage in 2014). Between the publishing industry and self-publishing, I think more books are born into the world than
actual people (and just wait till one day the books become sentient — man,
forget SkyNet, I wanna know what kind of Terminators Amazon is probably already
building). Your book is sapling in a very big, very dense forest.
Which, wonderfully though it is written, is enough to send anyone to drink. Anyone who writes that is. At which point you begin to think, why the heck should I even bother? Well the answer to that is quite simple for me. I would probably write if I had to do it on the used sheets of a loo roll. It is what I do. Not entirely 'who' I am, but a big part of it.
So this brings me to the 'angry' part. When I began the process of having my book published - No, it isn't self-published, and I don't have a problem with people who do - just sayin before anyone gets up in arms - I began with one simple idea. I wanted people to enjoy what I wrote. Innocent, naive little me thought it would do this all by itself. Well, I wasn't quite that innocent, but close. But as Mr. Wendig so cleverly says, mine is just a sapling in a very big, very dense forest. So I started looking at promotion and marketing, since, every one else and their neighbour seemed to be doing it. I listened to what other people had to say. I clicked on how-to tweets. I even *gasp* put out a link or two.
Then I saw what everybody else and their neighbours were doing. Honestly, I *do* understand that need to be read, or else why do we even try? I do understand that that little bit of income makes all the difference between how many hours we can 'afford' to write. But writing a novel doesn't give you some God given right to be read. It doesn't give you the right to constantly spam others or stand in a room and shout 'I am an author'. (While that may explain everything, that isn't the point).
How the heck did we get to this point? This point of constant spamming? There is a link on this website for my novel. You don't have to go there, you don't even have to read my blog posts. I do care whether people do or not. It is lovely when they comment, but you don't have to. It just... arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh if I see one more post about 'how to sell your book' I shall probably throw mine at someone.
Yes, you need to advertise, but, boy, there must be a better way than this?
Photo of Toots because it seemed appropriate.
Sarain feels the pull from the mountain. Feels it deep inside, not just in bone
but muscle and blood. Why does the place call? What does it want? Ancient rock holds a signature of time. Of the feet which have walked its paths, of the eons which have passed and shaped it. If the land of Sele is magic then Sarain might tap into its powers. He can change, within limits of body and mind. Tori cannot.
If Sarain can escape he would not leave her. He does not know why except that they are joined somehow, by fate or a god’s will, and while she is human, there is a connection he cannot deny. And the mountain wants them both.
A name arrives in Sarain’s mind. Vicadia. The name means nothing but he sees a
castle. He walks across a drawbridge, touches the rough stone of the outer walls
and then the marble lining the walls within. He sees a great fireplace and climbs the spiral stairs of towers. Arched stone ribs of ceiling soar overhead, carved friezes dance above corbelled doorways and flowers grow wild between the cracks of an octagonal courtyard.
In the center of the courtyard stands a sundial; against the walls herbs and flowers spill over stone troughs and vine creeps up crevices between blocks of pink granite. Shadows skulk across the paving, yet when he looks up no clouds mar the sky.
Evil shivers in Sarain’s bones—a fetid sludge that steals forward, watching, waiting its moment to attack. Like a shadow over the sun it darkens everything it meets, crossing mountains, fields and dales. The charred bones of trees remain in its path as it consumes all life. When it reaches the sparkling sea it smothers waves until
rotting fish bob to the turgid surface and the great carcasses of whales beach
on blackened shores…
Today's photo: Jasper - Richard Curnow
Author Cat Hellisen had a list on her blog this morning, which intrigued me. Basically you take all that interests you and write it down, and then see how much of that goes into the novels you write. Or, as she suggested, use the words as prompts for writing short stories or even novels.
When you think about it, it is is an obvious kind of thing, but as a writer, I didn't do it consciously. So, here is my list.
Fae myths and legends - yes, all my kelpie stories and House of Faegrim
Horses/cats/dogs - they appear in many of my novels.
Crystals - One novel written around amethyst geodes, but I've used crystals many times in short stories and novels.
Bats - yes, well, I 'invented' a whole species around those, which ended up as the Warriors trilogy.
Mountains - yep, Lines of Betrayal (was Crystal Gate)
Shape-shifting - House of faegrim
Clones - Voice of the Land - it intrigues me that people even want to clone anything.
The arrogance of humanity - used frequently.
Forests - there is just something about the light in forests. An atmosphere...
Spiritualism - anything from psychics to reiki, because it is interesting what others believe and what we believe ourselves and the evidence of such.
Hawks - the sheer majesty of their flight.
There is more, which I have to think about. Not the obvious ones, I guess, but for now, that is what I came up with, without thinking.
Yep, there is a big one I forgot, which also often appears in my stories - Soldiers.
Today's picture is of Makoiyi who had just had a haircut and was so not impressed.
Elizabeth Hull writes under the pseudonym of CN Lesley simply because someone with that name was already a published fantasy
No novelist (unless they are lucky) writes a novel and is an instant success. Often, writing takes years of honing and learning. As stated before, the focus behind these interviews has been the changing industry. And one of the
things most important to new authors is the quality of their work. Even more so than before. Simply put, it is because anyone with a pc/laptop/tablet can press a few keys, ‘write a novel,’ and get it published. So how do you stand out?
On March 30th Elizabeth is publishing Darkspire Reaches with Kristell Ink, a small press. Can you tell us how your persistence paid off? Why do you think your novel stood out from the crowd?
There are any number of well-written, wonderful books waiting to be discovered. When a first book gets accepted, it really is a matter of luck and personal taste. As a magazine Editor of many years standing, I know this to be very true. Sometimes, good stories don’t get bought because they just don’t catch Acquisition’s eyes, or they aren’t quite right for the imprint, or they are too long, or too short; any number of
reasons. A person has to love a story to acquire it for publication. The trick
is to find that person.
Small or indie presses are a relatively new phenomenon in publishing. At lease their explosion onto the publishing world is. They differ from mainstream in that the majority do not place books in big box stores but rely on the Internet to spread the word and use POD - print on demand - to sell hard and paperback books. Very often, this is beginning to happen in mainstream too. It is placed upon an author to self-promote. How do you feel about this?
I have no problem with this, and it was an expectation, however my book was published. Having a website is imperative, as well as using the thing to draw readers in. I am releasing some of my shorts on my site to generate interest and will be posting snippets soon. I have increased my presence at the online media platform and will continue to do this.
As for the small presses not placing books in the big retail outlets, some do. If the sales of a book are strong enough on other platforms, then approaches will be made. There are all manner of e-readers now available and some of these are related to the big stores. Also, if a book’s sales warrant it, then the book will be brought in a print version. Where the small presses will differ from the traditional publisher is that they have not got the resources to purchase prime space in the stores. This is why a reader will never see any book published by small presses on those very special front-of-store tables. Well, that is unless the store is one of the fast disappearing Indy
stores and places books they personally like in a good position.
Do you think the glut of novels right now will only increase, or do you see it settling
Nearly everyone owns some form of word processor at this time. I imagine this will increase the glut exponentially. Only yesterday, I was at our local drugstore buying a card, when the cashiers were having a conversation of how they should each write a book about their family life. Go back about ten, or fifteen years and this conversation wouldn’t have been happening. Until Amazon opened up Kindle and its sister, Create Space, there was no real way for ordinary people to self-publish unless they went to a
vanity press. Most people wouldn’t pay that sort of money to get published, so wouldn’t bother. Now, anyone can stick up a book with ease. Of course, for a good self-published book to rise to the top, it must be given the same sort of attention and love that any publisher would have given to it. The difference is so easy to spot from the cover, the tightness of the plot, the quality of the writing …
How do you see the future of publishing and your role within it?
I think less new people will be published traditionally and the amount of agents will decrease. There is more of a tendency from them not to stray from popular trends, or to take a chance on an unknown author. The good small presses will continue to thrive and the good self-published books will compete. As for my role, I will continue to work within the industry and to write.
Are you excited by the changes to the industry? Should we be excited or daunted?
I suppose it is somewhat bitter/sweet. It is like watching to end play of the last days of the dinosaurs. They will always be around in some lesser form, but the great majesty of the beasts has already been diminished. I am sad, as I can see what the changes, especially the e-readers, are doing to the bookstores. There was nothing quite like browsing in one of the Indy Stores, where one could get all sorts of interesting books not available from the big retailers. On the flip side, new generations are discovering reading all over again as it can be done on a handy tablet. ‘If it can come on a gadget, it must be good’, seems to be the motto.
Please tell us all about Darkspire Reaches and what project you intend to follow it
Darkspire Reaches is a character-driven book that is billed as a dark romantic fantasy. Giving the blurb is going to be less wordy than if I describe it another way.
Her birth mother left her as a sacrifice to the Wyvern, believing a secondborn twin had no soul. Her foster mother thought Raven possessed the magic of the First born. She
believed she raised a slave.The emperor of all the lands believed she knew the secret of his birth andthat he must silence her.
Her tribe thought they could trade her for safe passage out of the emperor’s lands.
The Wyvern knows better. He is coming for her. His fury has no limits.
My next publications will be a Science Fiction book and a Science Fantasy book, which is the first book in a trilogy. Next year, I hope book 2 of the trilogy will be released and I also have two wildly different Urban Fantasies. Once those are done, I have plans for a new fantasy book and a sequel to Darkspire Reaches.
Elizabeth can be found at: http://cnlesley.wordpress.com/
Today we feature the debonair Jim (Giacomo) Giammatteo, author of two murder mystery thrillers – Murder Takes Time and A Bullet For Carlos. Thank you for talking to us, Jim!
I was a bit worried when Jim’s bio
said he was a ‘headhunter’ especially given what he writes, but not to worry, it wasn’t that kind of headhunter. Jim lives with his wife in Texas, where they run an animal sanctuary. Check out the wonderful picture on Face Book of Jim’s buddy, a huge wild boar called Dennis.
Since the purpose of these interviews has been to focus on the publishing industry, can you tell readers why you chose to ‘go it alone’ and not take the traditional route?
GG: “going it alone” wasn’t my initial plan. For two years I submitted to agents and publishers, and was rejected 103 times. Finally I decided to publish the books myself.
I’ve read rave reviews for your work. Why do you think you’ve been so successful where other authors haven’t?
GG: I think any author who puts together a book is successful. As you know it takes a lot to do that. As to why readers seem to like my books, it’s always a combination of factors, but I think the character depth is one of those factors.
In this changing industry, why are numbers so important? Both Good Reads and Amazon seem to focus on the number of reviews, the ‘stats’ if you like, to gauge an author’s success. How do you feel about this trend?
GG: In some ways I don’t like where the business is heading re: reviews, and in other ways, I see it as perhaps one of the only ways for independent authors to compete with large advertising budgets of the big publishing companies and authors who are established already. One thing that irks me is how Goodreads allows reviewers to simply apply a ‘rating’ without an explanation of why it was rated that way. It tells a reader absolutely nothing. I could go on for days about the problems with the review systems, but for now it’s all we have.
Many authors seem to come screaming and kicking to the whole idea of social media and the interaction. They would far rather just be writing. How much does promotion and marketing take up your time when you’d rather be writing the next novel? Do you resent that time or do you really enjoy the interaction?
GG: I was/am one of those authors you’re talking about. When I launched MTT last April, I had no Twitter account and maybe a dozen friends on Facebook. That was the extent of my social media. I still don’t care for it. I would much rather be writing, and the social media takes up too many hours per week.
Could you give us some of your own thoughts on the industry today and how it led you to your own particular path through it?
GG: I see the publishing industry today much like the dotcom industry was 20 years ago—filled with opportunity and pitfalls. The two biggest challenges, though, are still the same: write books that readers will love, and find a way to gain visibility.
I’ve just finished A Bullet For Carlos. One of the things I noticed was how error-free the story was, not only the format but in grammar and punctuation. Typos were clearly absent, the plot tight, and the story flowing. Writers understand the importance of this so that a reader never has a chance to jump out of the story in disgust. Do you think this is a failing with many published stories today?
GG: I’m a little obsessive about mistakes, but yes, I think it is a huge problem. And not just with independent authors. I recently finished a book by one of the big six/five publishers and it had 7 major errors in it. (yes, I did count them)There is no excuse for that.
Jim, tell us a bit about your novels. A Bullet For Carlos contains mobsters, violence, a serial killer, good cops, bad cops and not to mention three adorable dogs. Do you find it takes you out of your box to write about murders? And if that is so, do you think that makes you a stronger writer?
GG: I don’t think it takes me out of my box. It’s no different than if a SciFi or Fantasy writer is describing a new world or some magic power. I base all writing on characters and story. The characters and the way they would respond to situations are the same regardless of the story; the story only dictates the situations.
I see on your website that you plan more novels in the same world. Is this something you’ve been planning for a long time?
GG: When I decided to write mysteries/thrillers, I knew I didn’t want to get ‘stuck’ in a series. I have seen too many writers start off a series and then have a difficult time branching out from that. I decided to create three different series. So my first novel, Murder Takes Time, is the first book in the Friendship & Honor series, and, as the name suggests, the theme is friendship and honor, but it is presented in a very different light. The sequel to MTT, Murder Has Consequences, will be launched in late February or early March.
A Bullet For Carlos is the first book in the Blood Flows South series, featuring two different detectives and a completely different theme. The theme relates to family but again from a completely different perspective.
My third series is the Redemption series and the first book is Old Wounds. It is based in Houston, TX, and features yet another detective and yet another theme.
Care to tell us about your next project?
GG: I always have numerous projects going on, but the next release is scheduled for late February or early March. It is the sequel to MTT, and is titled, Murder Has Consequences. I’m also putting the finishing touches on a novella that depicts the early life of Dominic Mangini, a secondary character from A Bullet For Carlos.
Giacomo Giammatteo can be found at:http://giacomogiammatteo.com/
Jim’s novels can be found at:
Have a great day, Giacomo
Giacomo (Jim) Giammatteo
Murder Takes Time
A Bullet For Carlos
Website: Giacomo Giammatteo
Click here to sign up for my mailing list
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” Mahatma Gandhi
Since it is Australia Day it seemed appropriate to talk to the gorgeous Greta van der Rol today!
Hello to Greta van der Rol who writes ‘Action packed sci fi with a dollop of romance’. Greta is the author of The Iron Admiral and Morgan’s Choice along with many more science fiction novels but also a historical novel – To Die a Dry Death. Greta lives in Australia very close to a beach where she indulges in her other love of photography.
Greta, you are unashamedly self-published. What drove you to take that route rather than hang out for a contract?
First, Sue, thank you so much for this interview. I love the questions. They really made me think.
Die a Dry Death was originally published by a small publisher. I went that route because I knew historical fiction would not be my main genre. Meanwhile, I persevered with querying agents via the traditional route for my SF. Although I got a few nibbles, I withdrew. I'm still not really sure if I feared rejection or I just felt I was getting too old to muck about. I'd had an offer from another small publisher (a friend) who wanted my Iron Admiral books. So I took that route. Since then, the small publishers have folded and I'm effectively on my own. By the way, To Die a Dry Death is the same book as Die a Dry Death, renamed when it moved to a new publisher.
That said, I think we all crave recognition from the more main stream. So I submitted my paranormal novel, Black Tiger' to a few publishers. I was offered contracts but decided to go it alone. Not so long ago, the belief was you'd only self-publish because you weren't good enough to interest a publisher. I think that's no longer true. I'm prepared to do the hard yards to ensure my work is typo free and well formatted. For the rest, it's up to readers.
When agents like Jane Dystell (Barack Obama’s agent) use Kindle as their slush piles, does this show how much agenting and publishing have changed?
I think so. I'm sure it's lovely to have a good agent and certainly it still is the only way to get into the Big Six. Or is it the Big Four today? But I've noticed even the big names are opening their slush piles to unagented manuscripts from time to time. In fact, I'm getting the idea that now, writers are expected to make a 'name' for themselves before they're taken on by agents and publishers. Quite a few of the more successful self-pubbers have been approached after the event.
Do you think it is the author’s ‘platform’ as much as their ability to write which gives them results? Do you personally think that is unfair that folk with marketing ability are more likely to succeed than someone who can write well, or do you just shrug and think like many that good writing always wins?
What an interesting question. What is good writing? I loved Harry Potter and JRR Tolkien, couldn't be bothered to finish the da Vinci Code, loathe Terry Brooks because of how he writes, wouldn't touch James Joyce's Ulysses with a barge pole, don't like Dickens, like Agatha Christie... And I am constantly amazed that a Star Wars fan fic full of elementary grammatical errors managed to hold my attention enough to read it not once, but three times.
So it isn't about good writing, not even about a good story. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey. Or Twilight. (A one hundred-year-old vampire attending a High School ^o^??) But these books have touched a nerve in the reader psyche. I wish I knew how you did that. I think it's the crucial element to success. You have to write a book people want to read. Then they have to find you. Sure you have to market, but word of mouth is still the most important advertisement.
You write mainly space opera but you also wrote a wonderful historical novel called To Die a Dry Death, as well as Black Tiger, a paranormal romance, written to raise funds for tiger conservation. One of the things which delights me about your novels is the passion behind the words. I can feel your love of writing on every page. How important do you think this is for a novelist to succeed?
What a great question. To Die a Dry Death was that book that everybody has in them. Know what I mean? The one I was meaning to write from the time I finished university. It wasn't the first book I wrote but it was the first published. For your readers, the novel is based on the true story of the wreck of the Dutch merchantman Batavia on a desolate group of islands off the coast of Australia in 1629, and the truly horrific events endured by the survivors. There isn't space here to give all the motivation for this tale. Those interested can find it at http://todieadrydeath.com. I grew up with the story of the Batavia both because of my Dutch ancestry and because I grew up in West Australia, where the ship was wrecked. I could easily have had a relative on board that ship. So yes, I think you'll find passion in that story.
Black Tiger is certainly something I feel passionate about. I love nature and animals and it breaks my heart to see how close tigers are to extinction. There are more tigers in zoos and backyards in the US than there are left in the wild. So while it's a romance, I wove that aspect of tiger conservation in a tale that incorporates Indian traditions.
For my SF – I write what I'd like to read. I hope that shines through in the stories.
Does it lead to success? I doubt it. I think most writers would claim they love to write. Whyever else would you do something that requires so much time and dedication, with no guarantee of success? That said, you'll write a better book if you let your passion show. I firmly believe that's what holds readers, despite poor grammar and spelling.
You already have a fan base and readers demanding sequels. Isn’t this one of the main reasons why we write – to share? Have you ever tailored your writing to a particular market/dynamic, or do you write only for yourself?
I write to be read. Otherwise, it's pointless. But I think if all I wanted was monetary success I'd teach myself to write straight romance. It's the biggest seller. But I don't read the genre, so how can I expect to write it? I don't 'get' zombies and it's beyond my understanding how a vampire can be sexy. So I don't think I'll attempt either of them. Black Tiger is about the closest I'll get to simply romance – and I don't seem to be able to avoid adding the action and adventure stuff because that's what I like.
I have a small fan base and they like what I write, which to me is fifty shades of wonderful. For them, I'm delighted to write a sequel if the elements are there to do it in a plausible, interesting way. My latest book, Morgan's Return (due out in Feb) is a sequel to Morgan's Choice. But the possibility of a sequel was there in the storyline. I didn't have to resurrect anybody from the dead, or dream up a long-lost something-or-other. The biggest, scariest challenge was to come up with a story as interesting to readers as Morgan's Choice.
You often write quite raunchy sex scenes. Are you surprised that the sci fi crowd enjoy that?
Not at all. There's a very popular niche market for erotica in space. I don't 'do' erotica – but one of the reasons I write what I do is that a bit of good old sex was so often missing from the SF novels I read, and the movies, too. Remember the chaste kiss between Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back? Boooooring. And I know I'm not the only one.
Tell readers a bit about your next project and how you see your future as a writer.
As I said, Morgan's Return will be out in February. I hope it's as well-received as Morgan's Choice. But that's up to the readers.
Here's the blurb.
"When you delve into ancient history you never know what strange forces you might unleash.
When Morgan Selwood and Admiral Ashkar Ravindra travel to Morgan's Human Coalition to learn more about the origin of Ravindra's people, their relationship is soon sorely tested. Morgan is amongst her own people and Ravindra is overprotective and insecure, afraid of losing her. Even so, not everyone is keen to welcome Morgan home, not when they'd gone to all that trouble to get rid of her in the first place. Soon Morgan and Ravindra have a rogue Supertech on their trail with only one goal – kill Selwood.
Together, Morgan and Ravindra follow a tenuous trail back into humanity's past, to the Cyber Wars, the time historians call the Conflagration. But what begins as an innocent archaeological investigation escalates into a deadly peril for both humans and Manesai when Morgan and Ravindra are thrust into the middle of an unexpected conflict. And that rogue Supertech's still out there, determined to kill."
After that, I've started sketching out a new novel set in Morgan's universe. Morgan and Ravindra won't star, but they will possibly make a cameo appearance. I'll write a sequel to Black Tiger if I feel there is an interest.
My future as a writer? I'll keep on writing. The more novels you have in your list, the better. If people like one of my books, hopefully they'll read others. That's certainly what I've found.
Greta van der Rol can be found at:
website: http://gretavanderrol.net and http://todieadrydeath.comtwitter: @gretavdr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Author.Greta.vanderRolGreta’s novels can be found at: http://gretavanderrol.net/books-2/
Alma Alexander is the author of the WorldWeavers trilogy, The Secrets of Jin-Shei, The Hidden Queen/ Changer of Days duology, and Midnight at Spanish Gardens. Currently she lives in the U.S. but was born in Yugoslavia and educated
in South Africa and the UK. It is an old adage that like gravitates to like, and among writers, even complete strangers find it relatively easy to strike up a conversation. The advent of the internet produced a strange phenomenon called ‘blogs’ where people suddenly opened up to the world. Yes, I am guilty of that sin as anyone and in that process I ‘friended’ Alma for no other reason that she was a writer. Er, not entirely true. She was a writer I could identify with, whose words I wanted to follow. Writers often like to discuss their process or their latest work, or simply brainstorm and very often you find a kindred spirit.
Blogs are another face of the changing industry. If you don’t have one of those, like a twitter account and a dozen other social media platforms, you simply don’t exist.
Because readers, if they like your work, start clicking.
Alma, thank you so much for participating. Do you feel what I have said is true? That if you don’t have an Internet presence, whether you are an established author or a ‘newbie’, that you don’t exist?
It sure feels that way sometimes. As purely a social connection phenomenon
and nothing more, Internet footprint seems to be the equivalent of fingerprints
these days. And perhaps that was inevitable in the modern and very connected
culture where the cyberworld feels as real as stepping out of your front
door into your driveway and driving down to buy a quart of milk at the grocery
store down the hill. But the downside of that is the equally inevitable
distancing effect, and you find yourself with good friends who live halfway
across a country or a continent or the world away from you and with whom you
might never actually sit down for a “real” cup of coffee or a shared meal.
Many, if not most, publishers these days insist on a cyber-footprint for
their authors. This is probably because the publicity and promotion machine, at
the publishers’ end, needs to run a lot less hot if the author is already
shouldering part of the outreach load. In the days of yore it used to be that
you wrote the book and THEN gained an audience – these days the way it seems to
work is that you need an audience first, before you write the book. And yes, if
you don’t have a toe in the cyberwaters (and more likely a whole foot,
with all the platforms where you now “absolutely need” to be seen and present)
you are already operating at a disadvantage as compared to other writers who DO
– whose books are going to be known about in advance, awaited, perhaps
pre-ordered (when the authors give the relevant links in their blogs or on
Facebook), talked about – and we all know how important that is – cue (I think)
Oscar Wilde: “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked
But the flip side of that question is, just how much do you want or need to
know about a writer and his or her own personal life and views before it all
becomes too much? How much of all of that is going to be enough to tip you into
thinking about the writer as not just the writer of a book you might like but
someone who holds views with which, perhaps, you find yourself uneasy with (at
best) or at worst completely impossible to live with and now that you have
found out about them here in cyberspace you find yourself unable to stomach
reading any further words of fiction written by someone whose worldview was
informed by the attitudes you didn’t care for? I know that a number of people
abandoned Orson Scott Card when some of his – shall we call them , a little
extreme – political views came swimming to the top on his blog. Is it better, in
that sense, “not to exist” in your readers’ minds, as opposed to existing rather
more vividly than they can bear (and continue to read you)…?
In the end I think it boils down to a very personal choice, and to how much
you are comfortable sharing about yourself, and how you might perceive reactions
you could get to the things that you share. The days of a complete writing
recluse, however, are well and truly numbered, I think. Even if YOU aren’t
writing about yourself someone else out there will end up writing about you, and
you can’t escape the electrons. Far better, I think, to control your own
presence inasmuch as you are able to do this. Blog as often as you want to and
dig as deep or as shallow a furrow as you need to, on subjects that YOU are
passionate about or interested in – the idea is to engage a reader with your
words long before they commit to reading to your actual fiction. Myself, I am a
certified introvert who doesn’t do too well in “real” crowds and “real” parties
– but I have found a niche within a community or three here in cyberspace, and I
am happy with that – perhaps one of the most oft-quoted maxims of our age, “I
think, therefore I am”, should now be adapted to modern times and restated along
lines similar to, “I share my thoughts, therefore I am”…
I don’t think it’s possible to live in a vacuum. But I do believe that you
can choose your friends and those who surround you, no matter how and where you
engage in doing so. And there are ways that interacting with readers is
absolutely essential for any writer, no matter how introverted they might
So yeah, do come and read my blog [grin] I write it because I want to,
because there are things that I want to say and share, and (not the most
important but not insignificant either) because it keeps me connected to readers
even when they are not actually reading one of my books. Because a blog entry
that intrigues them might LEAD them to a book. If not today, if not tomorrow,
then instinctively some time in the future when they gravitate towards a title
and don’t even remember what the source of their interest in it once was….
As well as your novels, you’ve put together some superb anthologies. Do you think this is an essential part of an author’s resume – to write short stories? Is
this why you are putting together the Alexander Triads?
No, of course not. Some fine novelists have never written anything “short” in
their lives – others have but the short works were awful (because they insisted
on being embryonic novels) and some brilliant short story writers have never,
and WILL never, write anything longer than maybe 10,000 words. And that’s
perfectly okay. Being able to write both short AND long is not a requirement in
this game – and in fact you are blessed if you can. People like, for instance,
Neil Gaiman are equally at ease in both formats. I actually don’t write THAT
much “short” fiction – my natural length is somewhere in the region of (on
average) 90,000 words. The rules for writing long and writing short are very
different indeed and it takes experience and practice to be able to follow them
properly in either format. Think of novels as a full necklace of gleaming
diamonds, something that works together to produce a nice, well balanced piece
of jewellery. A short story is by contrast a single perfect gem. And where the
occasional flaw in the occasional gem in that necklace can be masked by the
quality of the stones next to it the short story has no such luxury – it has to
work and stand on its own, there is nothing that exists around it to hide those
imperfections. This can be a daunting task, for some. You wouldn’t think so if
you just compared the sheer amount of words but a short story is a much heavier
load than a novel is – and if the novel is all you can comfortably carry the
weight of a short story can crush you. And no, it is in no way essential as a
part of a writer’s resume. You write short stories because they insist on being
told that way, because you WANT to, and never, not EVER, because you think you
are obliged to.
As for the Triads, they kind of grew out of an original collection of short
stories which was literally my first published book – originally “The Dolphin’s
Daughter and Other stories”, it now has a new lease of life as the Alexander
Triads book #1, “Once upon a fairy tale” – and once I reissued those three
thematically connected stories it was a natural progression to come up
with other “triads” of connected stories, some published and others never before
seen, and produce little collections under the umbrella of a common theme. It’s
been rather fun, actually. And there are a couple more Triads planned, and in
Since you have an amazing biography and have traveled several
countries, how important do you think experiencing life is to an author? I am
asking this one because everything is a click away these days, but nothing
substitutes for RL. You can find anything via Google or wiki, but is it real?
Stories are fiction but they are made up of elements of truth. In writing
fantasy an author could write ‘anything’ because, well, it is fantasy.
Worldweavers is aimed at the YA market; do you feel that fantasy is often a
reflection of true life?
Not often, ALWAYS. Even the most whimsical of fantasy is in some way rooted
in the real – and fantasy is at its absolute best when it is telling some hard,
hard truths which it would be difficult or impossible to swallow if it weren’t
filtered through this fragile veil of silver lace. When you read stories like
“Those Who Walk Away from Omelas” you are aware that on a visceral level you are
reading a scathing indictment of something that, in a different form, exists in
your own world too. “Mary Poppins” might be all fun and games – but it is the
quintessential “spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down” because in
the end its message isn’t confined to frolicking around with cartoon penguins
but tears, eventually, through everything (even while leaving the illusion of
things being nicely tucked out of sight) and leaves us with some real truths
about our world, and our relationships in that world. “Tigana” by Guy
Gavriel Kay is one of the most beautiful – and most harrowing – books that
exists; I don’t know how he knows what it feels like to have your soul ripped
away from you but he does, and he makes YOU understand. That is the power of
And yes, there is a certain amount of living necessary in order to reach an
understanding of the things that lie beneath. It matters that you are taught to
see things differently, because you (the wirter) are the privileged prism
through which these truths will become obvious and known. Unless you understand
something of where they come from and how rooted they are in your own cultural,
geographical, metaphysical, and otherwise-boundaried position in life it is
impossible for you to even realize that there are other people out there who do
not share you own particular and unique worldview and who must be reached out to
in order for them to understand what your stories are truly about. This is
partly the root of the whole controversy of “cultural appropriation” because too
often a writer without the required breadth of worldview is incapable of
understanding that the shiny and interesting things which seem to be
crying out to be included in any given story cannot be used so without some
understanding about, and respect for, the position and importance of said shiny
things in their own particular environment. Being a part of a wider world, as I
was, and am, gives me a broadened vision of the things that were, and are now,
and are in the process of becoming. It is that much easier to write of a world
that exists outside your own walled courtyard when you are aware that the
outside world actually exists – and independently of that sheltered little
courtyard which may have been shielded from all kinds of harsh realities by the
walls it threw up against that world. Knowledge leads to understanding – and in
some ways direct experience is the ultimate form of knowledge.
Not so long ago, the only reviews mainstream authors received were through professional critics. Now, the whole world feels entitled to tell you how they feel via Amazon, Good Reads and other book sites. Do you think this changes how novels are perceived?
How they are perceived by whom?
I actually do draw a line between a piece of literary criticism – which can
be VERY high-faluting and ivory-towered and thus rendered almost completely
irrelevant to the reader-at-large – and a book review by an interested and
involved reader. To be perfectly honest, I would rather have a raw and
passionate response to something I’ve written from someone who was somehow
touched by my words on some raw place which necessitated a reaction than I would
aspire to a clinical, dissected autopsy of a book of mine spread-eagled on a lab
slab while sniffy professionals argue about cause of death. I don’t know that I
would prefer to get high technical marks for a perfection of prose, for
instance, over an outpouring of enthusiasm for an emotional truth which my words
have laid bare for a reader.
I don’t believe in vicious put downs for no reason at all – a reviewer who
comes up with a negative response to a book simply has to provide the reasons
why the book was disliked so, and I will be the judge, thank you very much, of
whether or not I agree with those reasons or whether they in fact matter to me
at all. I don’t believe, in other words, in reviews where the reviewer is
talking about THEMSELVES, and their own opinions or beliefs, rather than
discussing the book which they were entrusted with. A book, any book, deserves
to be judged on its own merits. The reviewer (whether writing for the New York
Times or Joe’s Book Blog) has the responsibility to provide a light which
illuminates the reading material at hand. Admittedly we all do this with a lamp
which is coloured by our own attitudes and beliefs and that is fine – but they
should not get in the way of the book being discussed, never mind take
precedence over it.
Perception of a piece of writing by the reading public, in fact, seems to be
very much dependent on how many people are actually talking about it, and how
loudly. To be perfectly honest, the frothy denouncements of the Harry Potter
books and how they are teaching our children witchcraft probably served the
books better than many a gushing review ever did. (Apparently you need to get
the right people good and mad over something you’ve written, and success is
So go right ahead. Leave me a review of any of my books – on Amazon, on
Smashwords, on your own blogs, on review sites, in magazines. I’m always
more than happy to know how my books have been perceived.
Do you think the ease with which people can self-publish has hurt the industry or do you see that as a vital injection to wake up an ailing and often old-fashioned way of thinking?
Yes, and no, and maybe. Oh dear. That is not helpful.
Look, it has been said that in most cases of people saying that they “have a
book in them”, that is precisely where said book belongs, and should stay. There
IS something to be said for a level of quality control, where someone other than
the author/their mother/their clutch of BFFs actually thinks a book has merit,
where the contents of such a book is properly and professionally edited (I’ve
seen a self-published volume where the author apparently honestly believes
that the second day of the week is spelled “Teusday”, despite having only to
look at the nearest calendar to be disabused of that notion), and has a decent
cover that doesn’t look like it was painted in crayon by the writer’s
six-year-old (or produced in bad Photoshop by their college-age kid who’s living
rent free in the basement).
Yes, I think it is a bad thing that there are only a handful of “big”
publishers left out there, and that they are increasingly geared for the
literary superstars of the world. No, I don’t believe that is the end of the
world because there are any number of smaller presses, some of them quite
successful, which are popping up to take up the empty places in the
publishing ecosystem. Yes, I believe there are books that are actively swimming
against the stream when it comes to the mainstream publishers and which would
never see the light of day if the author waited for that light to turn green
while they grew old and grey waiting for the postman to deliver their yes
answer. No, I don’t believe that every self-published book is in that category.
I think that a new publishing paradigm is still in the process of evolving
and it is likely that many of the authors working in that world today are going
to get ground into mincemeal trying to negotiate the grinding stones they are
dodging at every step of the way. It may be optimistic but at some point (when
the really bad wannabes who don’t see immediate rewards are going to abandon
this as a bad way to get the spotlight that they crave and will go off looking
for a new instant gratification) we will probably reach an equilibrium. When
that will be and how much we will have to endure before we get there… ah,
there’s the rub. Ask me again in ten years.
Thank you so much for participating – can you tell readers about your latest projects?
There are two or three new Triads in the works. My three YA books, the
Worldweavers series, are being reissued this year – initially as ebooks but
later as paperbacks – and a brand new two-volume conclusion to the entire series
will follow them – and that conclusion is going to be fabulous. I’m working on a
new YA concept and shopping that around for a home currently, and also some
other projects which are on the back burner right now (one of which is
going to be just pure FUN). Of course, more short stories when and if they come
calling. Maybe another anthology where I will wear the editorial hat. Lots going
Alma Alexander can be found at:
Alma’s novels can be found at:
Ebooks on Kindle:
Ebooks for other formats:
You can also purchase actual Real Books ™ from Amazon, or Book Depository, or ask your local bookstore. Or, if you want a signed copy of the books I have in stock here, you can always contact me directly and we can talk.
When I opened this blog, I began with a story as to why I followed the path to
publication. Unfortunately, when we updated the site, that post went with it.
For the people who didn’t get to read it and who want to know a little bit about
me: I’ve always written. It’s in my blood. Don’t ask me why. It just is.
Like many another author I didn’t do it for publication or fame (snort). For years I quietly wrote in notebooks, then a typewriter, then a PC. Then one day I found the on line writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy. And I thought, why not.
Several years of being torn to pieces later…
A few short stories published. A few ‘bites’ from agents. That close but not quite
close enough philosophy. But also a lack of confidence on my part. I didn’t
believe in myself, and, if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you believe in
what you wrote? Especially when it comes to selling it. Some people may say that
the two aren’t connected, that the writing and you are separate entities, but
for me they aren’t.
I’d never had a ‘career’. I worked with horses and was a proud stay at home mum of three sons, although I had a stint at secretarial college. I’d tried an office or two but it really wasn’t ‘me’.
Fifteen years ago we moved to Canada because my husband wanted to come home. That was an adventure and of course, life-changing. Scary when you get off a plane in snowy Alberta with five suitcases and a dog. Nowhere to live, just a whole country waiting for us with its possibilities. New schools for the kids, new jobs for the husband and learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road, and learning how to cope with ridiculously cold temperatures and lots of snow.
That was fun and exciting and different. Mountains dwarfed us and the
prairies stretched on forever. Which naturally gave me even more inspiration to
write, although I always wrote science fiction or fantasy or a combination of
But, publication. With the ever changing industry I had got to the point where I thought, why bother? Too much competition, not enough moolah. Then tragedy happened and my middle son passed away. When something like that happens
to one of your kids, pursuing a dream of publication becomes something very
trivial. Yet it was something he always wanted me to do. He even downloaded all
my novels and took them to Afghanistan with him.
When Jeanne from Artema Press asked me for “Games of Adversaries” my mind was still in a bit of a fug. I found it very hard to focus for a long while. Was it karma that she asked me at that point? I’m not sure, but after a while I found that passion again, returned to that place only writers know.
So, Rich a lot of this is for you and your memory, but it is also for me, and for all those readers out there, who I hope will enjoy my stories as much as you did.
A while back I spoke about inspiration and 'where authors get their ideas from'. The book cover for "Games of Adversaries" shows two beautiful ladies above a spaceship at an obviously bad angle, and beneath that, a hunk with an axe.
The novel is about contrasts and there are certainly a few on that cover. I mean, what exactly is the hunk going to do with that kind of weapon against a spaceship? And why are there women on the cover when the main story is about men?
Why did I write a story about some holier-than-thou prince who danced?
It's quite simple. When you are thrown to extremes, how do you survive? Yes, that's another question, but that was the question which inspired the story.
Have another picture.
Photo credit to Patrick Moulden.
I've mentioned before that there are references to PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) within "Games", even if they are not hit over the head kind of references. The reason I posted this picture? Contrasts. Take a young Canadian soldier and throw him into an alien world. We think, because we have 'social media', that we know everything. That once we 'wiki' we know all there is to know about another culture because, well, we can read about it, research it, look at pictures, watch films. We do all that at the touch of our fingertips. We don't 'live' it.
This isn't just about Afghanistan in particular. Soldiers the world over are thrown into conflicts with no true knowledge, just orders, a love of their country, and a desire to protect it.
Although I began "Games" before I personally knew a soldier who went to Afghanistan, when it came to polish the words, I knew that this is what the story is about. Because another country, to many of us, is an alien world. "Games" is all about that.
From our safe computer chairs and our laptops, could you survive? What would drive you to overcome horrendous odds, injury and terror? It's no computer game, believe me.
So I took two young men and turned their worlds upside down. From one, I took everything he believed in. From the other I took the love of his life. See if they both survived in "Games of Adversaries" and wonder if you might have done the same.
Please feel free to tell me why you wrote your current novel.
From "Vicadia" an upcoming fantasy novel.
“Magic is the nature of all that is around us. It is a summer morning when the
mist rises and the sun burns away the dew. It is winter when the snow falls in
silent flakes and enshrouds the ground until spring. It is the love between man
and woman and the laughter of a child. It is the butterfly emerging from a
cocoon or the rainbow caught in a waterfall's spray.”
"Sarain sighed. “Evil is the man who would condemn the use of magic and yet
use it for his own ends. Evil is someone who would drown ten thousand souls and
yet suffer one man to live. Evil is not a child who uses the wishes of her heart to
help someone else. --I am weary. I would sleep,” he said, and curled up in his
Today's picture by Richard Curnow. Helmand Province Afghanistan 2010