And my novel has a blurb…

Writing a blurb is harder than it looks! But, less than a week out from the start of NaNo, here it is:

 

The world’s greatest empire is no more, its last champions cast adrift from all for which they’ve fought. But one woman amongst them could change the course of history.

In service to the empire, Tian Risa has walked with ghosts, harnessed wondrous new fuels, built the world’s first flying machine. Now commanding the sky frigate Windrider, she leads her followers across the sea in search of allies to reclaim their home. Vultures, villains and the valiant will clamour for the power of her ship, and only when history enters its judgment will it become clear which is which.

A novel of adventure, courage and conflict; great opportunities and the burdens they bring; doubt, hope, despair and triumph.

A useful resource for writers – FILM CRIT HULK

Working on my novel outline in preparation for NaNoWriMo, I discovered this gem of a site: FILM CRIT HULK. Don’t be fooled by the Hulk-speak — the actual content is deeply analytical, and the three posts I’ve read apply to writing in general, not just movies:

 

The Myth of the 3-Act Structure“;

Why We Should Stop It With The Hero’s Journey ****“; and

Hulk Explain Action Scenes, Part 1“.

 

Well worth checking out for an aspiring writer. (For myself, I’ll be reading Parts 2 and 3 of the Hulk’s write-up on action scenes once I’ve had some sleep!)

Fiction Snippet: “Though the World Perish”

As a bonus, here’s a singleton scene I wrote a little while back, set close to 1,000 years after “The First Sacrifice”. (If you’ve read “The First Sacrifice”, you’ll recognise one character who appears here.) One day, I hope to expand this, but for now, enjoy the snippet!

 

***

 

Fiat justitia et pereat mundus. – Let there be justice, though the world perish.

 

The Vermilion Empire has endured for hundreds of years.

But now, the conquered nations grow restive.

The emperor lies dying. He has no heir.

There is but one man, Grand Duke Koh, acceptable to all.

If anything should happen to him…

Conjuring up Nemesis: The Scholar Tian Kizo

 

Tian Kizo met the spirit in a desert, under a blazing hot sun. The ruins of battle surrounded the two men: swords and bows and guns, discarded shirts of mail glittering so brightly they hurt his eyes. Though he still reeled from the vision he’d seen, it was the other man’s words that were his focus now.

 

“You’ve seen my story,” the spirit — Artorius, that was his name — spoke. “Your turn. What do you want of me?”

 

“Justice.” For all Kizo’s rehearsal, all his careful thought, the words came tumbling out. “My son is dead. Murdered. I’m no warrior — but you are.”

 

“You have no magistrates in your empire?”

 

“Hah!” It was a short, bitter laugh. “None who would arrest the greatest lord in the land.”

 

“Ah.” That was all Artorius said. He folded one arm across his chest, the fingers of the other tapping on the hilt of his sword.

 

“Please. Help me.” Kizo could hear the desperation in his voice. “You ended your mortal days when you were betrayed. Murdered. Your wife, too. You must know how I feel. Don’t you want to deliver justice?”

 

“Justice.” Artorius stretched out the word. “At what price? The world is not a fairy tale.”

 

“If it were, my son would still be alive!”

 

Artorius held up a hand. “Listen to me. What will happen if I kill your empire’s greatest lord?”

 

Kizo breathed deeply. He had to stay calm, convince the spirit with his logic. “I have a plan. With your help, I can summon another spirit — the Phoenix Prince, the founder of the empire. No matter if one lord dies — the people can rally to the Prince.”

 

Instead of replying, Artorius gazed off into the distance. Kizo felt sick. He could not tell what Artorius was thinking, not under that hard veteran’s mask. This was by far his best chance for justice…

 

“The world is not a fairy tale,” Artorius repeated. “I’ll be damned if I make it worse. All right, I’ll help you. And the name of this man I should kill?”

 

Let Kizo never again look forward so much to another man’s death… “Grand Duke Koh.”

Two Weeks Later…

It’s been a little over two weeks since “The First Sacrifice” went live, and in that time I’ve been promoting it through friends, family and social media. And I’ve been tremendously encouraged by the response so far. I already have my first Amazon review, which gave me four stars out of five. To my delight, people like the cover (I am very happy with how I went about putting it together– stock photo websites offer some truly great content available at very reasonable prices). And, most importantly, I’m selling a steady trickle of copies, including two in the last couple of days! It’s not a lot of money, but it’s better than nothing.

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course; writing and releasing a novel will require plenty of hard work, far more than it took for “The First Sacrifice”. But now I’ve experienced the freedom and the fulfilment of self-publishing… and best of all, the thrill of having a work out in the open.

 

I look forward to where this road will take me.

Adventures in Self-Publishing

I’ve been writing fiction as a hobby for years, and like many other authors, I wanted my short stories to be published by an established magazine or website. For most of that time, to say self-/vanity publishing carried a stigma was an understatement. Sure, if you were a crank who claimed that Elvis revealed himself to those wearing tinfoil hats, you might self-publish. But if you produced Real Writing, you sweated it out, researching markets on Ralan.com or Duotrope.com, sending out your manuscripts, waiting months in the slush pile, all in the hopes of $0.05 a word from a professional market.

 

Well, I sweated it out. I researched markets. I sent out those short story manuscripts that I thought were worthy. At the last place to which I submitted a manuscript, I waited nine months in the slush pile — only to receive a form rejection slip.

 

I had two choices, it seemed. Spend months more working my way down the list of magazines to those that pay little or nothing, or let my stories die in obscurity on my hard drive.

 

Instead, I opted for a third choice. Self-publishing.

 

Several factors drove my decision:

  1. Ebooks are finally getting traction in the marketplace, driven by Amazon.
  2. It’s now very easy to publish an ebook, again courtesy of Amazon and its ilk. As a result…
  3. The self-publishing stigma is ebbing rapidly. Every other month, the media will run a story on an ebook author who’s made it big. Obviously these aren’t representative of every ebook author, any more than JK Rowling is representative of what traditional authors can look forward to, but it shows that self-publishing is becoming more mainstream.
  4. Lastly, I had nothing to lose, since the markets that most interested me had already rejected my manuscripts.

 

I didn’t pull the trigger straight away – it took me months to iron out a structural issue with the manuscript that I most wanted to publish. But other than that, the process was remarkably straightforward:

 

  • Which platforms to use? Submitting to Amazon was a no-brainer given its market share. People on the Forward Motion forum had also used Smashwords, which distributes to pretty much every e-bookstore that isn’t Amazon. Smashwords seemed legit and offered a decent cut of royalties, so I went with that as my other venue.
  • Cover art: Just as in olden times, banks signalled their trustworthiness by investing in elaborate stone buildings, I wanted my cover to immediately signal that my story wasn’t Generic Farmboy-Meets-Princess Extruded Fantasy Product #457892. Over the last week or two I trawled through stock photo websites and finally found an image I was happy with on Dreamstime.com. I looked at the covers of my non-fiction library for inspiration as to layout, used Powerpoint to produce a cover mockup, and when I was happy with everything, bought the stock image for $25 (or, to be precise, I had to buy $25 worth of Dreamstime credit, then spent $16 on the photo), loaded it into Powerpoint, and saved as JPEG.
  • Formatting: Smashwords provides a detailed style guide for how to format a DOC file so that it’ll look good as an ebook. It is MUCH more detailed than Amazon’s style guide, and it appears to me something formatted to be Smashwords-friendly can be made Amazon-friendly with minimal effort. This step was actually less painful than I thought it would be, but it still took me several hours of work .
  • How (and how much) do I get paid? As I live outside the US, Smashwords will only pay me via Paypal (for which I had to register), while Amazon will only pay me via cheque. Given that I’m selling a short story rather than a full novel, the minimum possible price of $0.99 seemed appropriate. Amazon will pay me a cut of 35%, whereas Smashwords gives me around 55% or 60% net of transaction costs. I obviously don’t expect to become a millionaire on the back of one $0.99 short story, but I would like to make at least a few hundred bucks (what I could have made by selling the story at the pro rate of $0.05/word). At a bare minimum, I’d like to break even on the cost of the cover photo!

 

Once I had formatted the manuscript, added a cover, etc., it was time to upload it! Amazon takes around 24-48 hours to send the ebook live, and as I write this, it hasn’t yet gone live on the Kindle store. However, it appears after only a few minutes on Smashwords. And so, I present…

 

 

Artorius of Cairbrunn hates being dead.

 

In life, he was a hero, protector to emperors and scourge of the barbarians, before he was betrayed and killed. Now, hundreds of years later, he’s been summoned back to the world of mortals — and telling hero from villain is not as simple as he once thought.

 

A heroic fantasy short story about right and wrong; fallen kingdoms and rising upstarts; love, loss, and the lengths to which we’ll go for those we care about.

 

You can buy the story (just $0.99!) or read a free sample at the Smashwords store, here. You can also buy from Amazon, here.

 

I hope those of you who check out the story will enjoy it enough to recommend it to your friends. And if you’re thinking about ebook self-publishing, I hope you’ll have found this thread useful!