Pre-Order functionality for Indies

For a long time, one of the advantages of traditional publishing was the ability to get pre-orders. The soon-to-be-published book would be visible in online shops with a possibility to order a copy which would then be shipped upon publication. Trad-Pubs then had considerable time to promote their upcoming release. The good thing is that all pre-orders would count as sales on the day of publication, making the book much more visible to potential readers. So far, Indies didn’t have many shops where they could garner pre-orders, and of those that did offer it, not many made much sense to use.

Now, amazon announced a pre-order option for Indies. If that will benefit authors and small publishers remains to be seen. One thing is for certain. We’ll have to get better at scheduling our releases. It doesn’t make much sense to offer a book for pre-order if it’s all proofed, has a cover and is ready to go. But it will be interesting for ongoing series where readers often want to know when the next volume will be available. Of course that means that if you set a publication date, you’ll have to stick with it. There’s nothing worse then an unplanned delay.

I, for one, am really curious to see how well pre-orders will do once I know how to use them well. How about you? If you’re a reader, are you the kind of person who uses pre-orders? If you’re a writer, will you try out this feature and what do you expect from it?

What Makes a Story Unique / Original?

I’ve been doing some research / study on originality in fiction. Remembering the conventional wisdom that there are only so many plots in the world, and all of them have been done many times…and by the masters, how do contemporary writers have a hope of writing original, unique works?

One persistent response is “voice”, that elusive element that marks your work as your own. Something that an individual writer often can’t recognize in their own work, but that others read and say, “Oh. Of course. That’s a Deb Logan story.”

But more than voice, where does originality reside? Is it in a gimmick? Some little detail that no one else has thought of that an author can build their plot (which has been done before…and by the masters) around?

I decided to look at three of my favorite series and see what insights I could gain. Each of these three has a distinct gimmick…but is that the answer to their uniqueness? Let’s see.

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Colfer built an entire series of eight middle grade fantasy novels around an imaginative bit of word play: leprechaun = LEP Recon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance). I love that … wish I’d thought of it first *lol* I heard Colfer speak once and he revealed another bit about why this series is so original: he based the main character, Artemis Fowl—who begins the series as a 12-year-old criminal mastermind—on his older brother, thereby pulling in Colfer’s own emotional history. It’s a delightful series with a great character arc leavened with lots of age-appropriate humor.
  1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher – The first book of Butcher’s Dresden Files series introduces us to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a contemporary wizard living and working in Chicago. It’s the little touches that really make Harry unique – the fact that he advertises in the yellow pages under “W for Wizard”; his sidekick and helper, Bob, is a disembodied spirit who lives in a skull and loves romance novels; his cat, with the nondescript name of Mister; and eventually his dog, Mouse, a gentle giant with magic of his own – a Tibetan Temple dog (Foo dog). All through this series Butcher creates memorable and unique characters, giving them a life of their own while breaking traditional stereotypes. (His vampires are truly terrifying…and completely original.)
  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – this series could be described as time-travel romance, but you’d be limiting its scope. Diana’s gimmick is that Claire Randall, a nurse who has just survived WWII, is sucked back in time through a circle of Scottish standing stones. Doesn’t sound all that original, but her characterization is amazing. Diana writes really LONG novels, and there are eight in this series (so far) all centering on the passionate love of ONE couple: Claire and Jamie. I don’t know many writers capable of keeping me interested in the life and love of a single couple over that many words, but she pulls it off. Plus, her main characters jump from being in their late 20’s in the first book, to nearing 50 in the 2nd, and the relationship remains just as intense.

Interesting. A good gimmick is great to start the ideas flowing (LEP-Recon; Wizard for hire; time-travel), but what makes the story original ultimately is the depth of characterization and the author’s own emotional history woven into those characters. All of these books have characters that I love as well as characters that I love to hate.

Each of these writers has created characters so real, that I feel like I know them … and not just the heroes. Even the secondary characters have personalities so distinct that I can recognize them from dialogue alone.

Which leads me to conclude that originality, uniqueness, memorability, isn’t a function of the gimmick or the plot as much as it is a by-product of characters so real they leap off the page and drag you into their lives, loves, and adventures.

What do you think? What makes your favorite books memorable for you?

Audiobooks- Will and Karin Chat on the other way to your readers

I’m chatting with Karin Gastreich about a-books. This is one of those decorous corners of the self-pub world, like coming across a hidden niche in a mansion, with lovely furniture that just makes you want to sit and take it in. Were you as charmed by the idea as I was when it first came up- and hey, whenabouts did it come up in your career as an author, right away or recently?
Karin_Rita_GastreichWell, I signed on with a small press, Hadley Rille Books, and in that initial contract they asked for the audio rights. So right from the beginning, the idea was in my head, thanks (or no thanks) to my editor. But it took a while to make that dream happen.
I’m curious: What charms you about the thought of an audiobook?
I could try to lie, but- it’s the sound of my own voice! I can’t think about a-books as anything other than self-narrated. I’m an old acting ham from way back. My first effort, The Ring and the Flag, drew me because I knew I could convey some of my passion for the tale with the spoken word.
Yes, me too! I love acting and reading out loud. As a consummate narcissist, I especially love reading my own stories.

You couldn’t possibly be as egotistical as me!  What’s more, reading my own writing out loud is a best practice for finding odd constructions, run-on sentences, repeated words. I find that talking out my chapters is half the rehearsal I need to record it later anyway. Will 1
Yup. I totally agree. There’s no better way to edit.

Where do you come in on the Fear of Being Heard Scale? Would you contemplate narrating your own stories? Can anyone else do them better?

I would have loved to have done the audio edition of EOLYN. In fact, my editor, after hearing me read a few times, suggested that very option. But I don’t have the time to read a full book, or the means to record it properly. So I think I knew from the beginning that we would have to find another narrator.Darla_Middlebrook

Can anyone else do them better? Well, I would say Darla Middlebrook probably did a better job with EOLYN than I could have. She has a gift for voices that I don’t share; and I think she understands pacing for an audiobook better than I do.

Hold the phone, what do you mean by “pacing”?

Well, basically just the rhythm with which one reads the story. It’s one thing to listen to a 10-minute read; another to listen to a 14-hour read. People need time to digest all the details when listening to a book; they can’t flip back through the pages to double check on something they forgot. The narrator needs to respect that, to keep an even pace that’s not too fast or too slow.
Oh, and there’s something else that I suspect might be important. Darla connected to the story as a reader; I will never get past connecting to the story as an author. Darla probably saw elements in my work that I am blind to, and so was able to capture and interpret these elements in ways that I could not have.

Hey that’s right, she does count as a reader! Heavy.

Yes, and I’m really glad that in addition to narrating the book, Darla also liked it! She is doing the audio edition of the companion novel, HIGH MAGA, which should be out sometime this fall.

Will 5I will confess, marketing a-books has been a puzzle for me. I posted my one complete tale to Podiobooks at first, and later decided to also try Scribl, where people can get the e-or-a-book and the price is crowdsourced. I can’t help but feel it’s out of the way there, though; I link to it and mention it, but… any great insight come your way about how to push the tale in people’s ears?

Marketing is tough. I’m just getting started with the audio edition of EOLYN, and am still exploring possible channels. A lot of what’s out there (book blogs, forums like Goodreads, etc.) is very much geared toward the ebook or print market.
One interesting thing has happened since the release of EOLYN in audio. HRB coordinated production through the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). As a result, Audible (i.e., Amazon) sets the list price. When the audio book was released and I first saw the price tag, I thought “No one is going to pay that!” Why would they, when the ebook is so much cheaper?

I think I’d have the same problem, separating the price in my head. A tale’s a tale, surely?
But to my surprise, people are buying the audiobook, not in hordes, but consistently since its release. I’m hoping that as I pick up on my marketing effort, that will increase. I suspect that the market for audio books is not nearly as saturated as the market for ebooks, so it’s probably a little easier to get noticed.

Agree, and it sounds like your publisher did good work for you there.

I would say that it’s probably a good idea to establish a track record for your work before releasing an audio edition. Let the reviews of the ebook (and print) editions build up a little. The more buzz you already have once you go audio, the better.

Whoa, print, I’ve heard about books written on paper. So the platform can never be wide enough, I guess that’s fair to say. And you’re right, I keep hearing (!) about folks who want good audio materials for things like the daily commute. It just seems to make so much sense, especially if you have a book with good chapter-breaks.I did get some notice and nice feedback on the audio first chapter of Games of Chance I used on the blog tour. An audio-file as a blog post might be a nice way to sample a tale. Have you done that?

Yes, I have posted some audio recordings of my readings on the blog. There is a page that carries readers to those links, and it’s one of the most visited pages. I think people really like to hear an author read his or her work.

You mean, besides ourselves? Yes, I’ve heard that too. But let’s assume we’re getting a narrator. Tell me a bit about who you looked for, why you picked Darla; did you chat with her before she started recording, for example?
Eolyn_Audio_Cover_compressedWhen HRB decided to do the a-book, they solicited auditions through the ACX platform. Interested narrators, after reading the book blurb, recorded and posted their auditions, which consisted of an excerpt provided by the publisher.
Darla was one of the first people to audition. Since HRB is a small press, my editor asked me to listen to the potential narrators. (Not sure if a large press would have given me that option.) I knew nothing about this back then, so really I was going on instinct. Darla has a rich voice, and it simply “felt” like the right choice. My editor agreed, so the decision was made. During the auditions, I had no direct interactions with potential narrators; HRB took care of that.
One thing I’ve figured out since then: When choosing an excerpt for an audition, pick a scene the has a lot of voices, male and female, preferably of different ages. That will give you a very good feel for the versatility of your narrator.
What have you heard about the pitfalls here?

Well there are many pitfalls in making an a-book. I’ve had a great experience with Darla Middlebrook, but some of my fellow authors have run into problems with audio productions. Narrators occasionally defect from the project, or the final recording is not satisfactory for any number of reasons, or the name pronunciation or voices are all off. It took us about 4 months to produce EOLYN with everything running smoothly, but I have colleagues who started their audio production at the same time I did and still do not have a final product in sight.
I guess one advantage of doing your own audio recording is that you depend on no one else but you. What has been your experience, recording stories in your own studio?

My studio, that’s a laugh. I rustled up a microphone that had come free with some game or other, made in the Philippines back before Marcos stepped down. And I stuck it in the crack of a music stand, and put that into my PC (using Audible, which is free and great) facing into my daughter’s closet (so the clothes would help deaden the echo). I read the entire novella into my PC like that, three times- I mean multiple takes of each paragraph, going back and scrubbing the project and coming back to re-record three times. I have no idea how many hours I spent- so much pop, crackle, what sounded like background noise, and an irregular bub-bub-bubb sound like I was gently bouncing the mike. Argh!
But I got through it, and after some significant heavy-handed engineering I think the end product sounds quite good. Have to say I was really unsure if I’d go ahead on those terms though. Suddenly, a friend simply sent me a microphone- a really good one.

Good friend, or good microphone?

Yes! Both. I was stunned. That’s what I used to read off the first audio chapter of Games of Chance- in like half an hour, no pops, no sounds, nothing. And a stand, with one of those foam circles to catch your spit- I feel like Peebo Bryson recording the end-music for a Disney movie.
That’s awesome. For any author who has the equipment, talent, and time, I’d say go for it. Record your stories and put them out there. For the rest of us who are a little hesitant to take on this particular challenge alone, ACX is a great alternative for making our work available to a wider audience.

Thanks Karin, really good chat. Everybody, get down with the links below especially the trailer and the rafflecopter at the bottom. And let’s “hear” from you in the comments!

EOLYN http://edition
Karin Rita Gastreich (author)
Darla Middlebrook (narrator)

Sole heiress to a forbidden craft, Eolyn lives in a world where women of her kind are tortured and burned. When she meets Akmael, destined to assume the throne of this violent realm, she embarks upon a path of adventure, friendship, betrayal and war. Bound by magic, driven apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King confront each other in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes will satisfy fans of traditional epic fantasy, with a romantic thread.” – Publishers Weekly

“Magnificently written.” –Kindle Book Review

Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/Eolyn/dp/B00KROCQCY/

Link to YouTube Preview: http://youtu.be/ymFTCvi8wew

 

About the Author:

KARIN RITA GASTREICH lives in Kansas City and Costa Rica. An ecologist by trade, her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. Karin’s first fantasy novel, EOLYN, was released by Hadley Rille Books in 2011. The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is also available from Hadley Rille Books. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. Follow Karin’s adventures into fantastic worlds, both real and imagined, at http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com and at http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com.

Author web links:

Blog for Eolyn: http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com
Blog Heroines of Fantasy: http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Eolyn/110814625640244
Twitter: @EolynChronicles

About the Narrator:

With experience of 34+ years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, more than 20 years as a stage & film actor and over 20 years as a trained singer with knowledge and insight into the mechanics of the voice and speech, Darla Middlebrook brings a wealth of experience to bear to develop character voices (male, female, mature, extremely elderly, creepy, bright exotic, etc) with an impressive emotional range.

Currently, Darla is one of many voice actors who narrates podcasts for AIRS-LA (an audio internet service for individuals with visual challenges) in addition to narrating audio books. She is able to produce retail quality audio books from her home studio in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – Canada.

Narrator Web Links:

Website: http://www.darlasvoice.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/damiddlebrook
Twitter: @GypsyCatVoice

Html Code for the Rafflecopter Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Old is New Again: Serialized Novels

Serialized novels have become a popular way to publish stories in the past few years. Some of the advantages of publishing as a serial include readers getting new parts of the story on a regular basis as it’s being written, instead of having to wait a long time for the whole novel to be finished; and authors can get feedback (and sometimes money) for their writing while they’re still working. But serial novels aren’t a new invention that happened on the internet.

In the 19th century, most novels in the U.S., Britain, and across Europe were actually published serially. Famous works like Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin were published with a new chapter every week or month in magazines and newspapers. When the story was complete, all of the parts would be collected in a single volume, which is how we read these novels today. But when they first appeared, readers would wait for the story in installments, which could be spread out over an entire year.

This method of publishing fell out of fashion with the invention of broadcast radio and television. Today, we think of episodes in a television series as multi-part stories, but written fiction comes out in books once every year or two. Only a handful of novels were published as serials during the 20th century.

But when the internet made it easy for anyone to publish their stories, serialized fiction made a come back. It started with amateur writers posting stories on their own websites, forums, and newsgroups. Then sites sprang up for writers to share free stories more easily, like Fanfiction.net. Now there are too many of these communities to name, where thousands of free stories are shared, talked about, and rated by readers and writers.

With widespread ebooks distribution, professional authors gained the ability to sell these serials online. Unlike printing where there are limitations on the length of stories that can be economically printed and distributed, digital works can easily be shorter (or longer) than the limited range of traditional novels. Now serialized novels, or series of connected novellas or episodes, are gaining popular readership in stores like Amazon and Smashwords.

After seeing how well serials work for other authors, I’m starting to experiment with serials. Last year, I posted a novel, Witch Hunt, on Wattpad for free at the rate of one chapter a day for NaNoWriMo. I did get some feedback as I wrote, but I found that most readers couldn’t keep up with that pace, and I’ve seen that most successful authors on Wattpad write at the rate of one or two chapters a week. I revised that novel and put it on sale—and surprisingly, even after I gave it away for free first, there are still readers willing to buy it!

miscreation-ep1Then this summer, Holly Lisle challenged writers on her How To Think Sideways site to write and publish a monthly serial as part of her How To Write A Series course. Following her advice, I’ve started a series of novellas using characters from my established Wyld Magic universe. The first episode, The Voyage of the Miscreation #1: “ The Voyage Begins,” was published last week. I’m excited to see how the series turns out as more episodes come out. Hopefully, I can engage readers who look forward to getting a piece of the story every month.

Have you ever read a serialized novel? How did you feel about having to wait for the next part of the story to come out? What rate do you think is good for new parts to come out?

Information about the history of serial novels from Wikipedia.

 

friends?

Games of ChanceI’m currently setting up an eMail list for Will Hahn (the first volume of his Magnus Opus “Judgement’s Tale” has done quite well this month (much better than we had hoped for), and we’d like to keep that going even when the book becomes less visible on amazon). As I did so, I wondered for a split second why I was putting so much time and effort into Will’s campaign. I could be spending the same amount of time on my own campaign or on writing more books, right?

Wrong, oh, sooooo wrong! Will is my FRIEND and that’s more important than anything in the world. When I went to primary school I had only two friends; one went to a different school, and the other one more or less dumped me on day two. At middle school I found one friend, and it worked for a while, but then she moved and that was the end of it. I never made many new friends after that except for one during my time at university and one during my PhD in Bavaria. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of people I got along with fine. They just weren’t the people I consider friends.

Friends are there for me when I need them. Friends will let me know, sometimes quite brutally, when I’m wrong. They’ll call me or write eMails when I don’t have the time to read/listen, and I’ll be happy they do. Friends keep me on track. Having a good friend is better than reading a good book (which is my most favorite pastime aside from family life). For years now I had accepted the fact that the three friends I have in Germany would be the only ones for the rest of my life. I count myself lucky to have them to this day even though they live quite far away (nods to Kerstin, Anke, and Walter).

But when I sat there going through the tedious process of setting up a list and a website (not done yet), I was very surprised when I counted the friends I made online. Of course, the topmost one is Will, but there are many more. I realized how very happy I am when I can connect with other writers, readers or people who are really interested in some obscure thing or other I’m thinking about.

So this post is to let all of you (and I’m sure you know who you are) know that I’m deeply grateful that you’re here. In my world, there’s nothing better than my friends (except for my husband who’s a friend too and my kids). I’ll always be there for you as long as I’m alive.

How about your friends? Tell me in the comments about those special ones you’d like to have the world know about. Are they readers? What do they do that you love them so much? I’m curious…

Thoughts on Genre

I’ve been thinking about genre recently. The genres I prefer to read…and the genres I choose to write.

I know the defining characteristics of genre. I can tell the difference between fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. I can even tell when they overlap (I’ve been reading a very good series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch which melds science fiction with mystery. If you haven’t met Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, I highly recommend you do so quickly :D ), but where in the story does genre reside?

Let’s look at the bare bones of a story: A character – in a setting – with a problem.

What part of that equation represents genre? I’m going to posit that genre resides in the setting.

The character has to be relatable to the reader, someone the reader can identify with and care about. Even if the character is an alien, s/he has to have enough “humanity” to allow the reader inside his/her skin. So, genre doesn’t reside in character.

The problem also has to be relatable. Something the reader understands and can identify with. So no matter the genre, the problem must be of a common enough nature to allow the reader to care whether or not the character solves it. Nope, the problem (plot) doesn’t represent genre.

Setting is where genre resides. Science fiction settings are vastly different from fantasy settings. Mysteries can take place in a sci-fi or fantasy setting, but then they aren’t classified as mysteries (unless the setting is so minimally sci-fi as to make it almost invisible – JD Robb’s “In Death” series fits this bill).

Romance is character-centric with the essential element residing in relationship, but romance also transcends all the genres. You name a genre, and there’s a romance sub-genre covering it.

So, setting, and how the character understands and interacts with the setting, is where genre resides.

In order to write science fiction, an author doesn’t have to be a scientist. S/he just needs to imagine a rich enough world (setting) for the reader to know that the characters don’t live on our planet / in our time / or within our current understanding of the physical universe.

Back to the bones of story:  A character the reader can identify with (thereby gaining access to the story) – in a setting (which determines the genre) – with a problem (which defines the plot).

What do you think?

Fairy Tale Retellings

Fairy tales were the first stories I read on my own, and I loved them. My favorite is an obscure tale called “The Spiderhans” and it tells the story of a girl who defeat a giantess to get her cow back. Simultaneously, she rescues a cursed prince. I like it so much because in contrast to a lot of the more traditional fairy tales, the main character is female… and spunky.

So it seems no surprise that I started writing retellings of my favorite stories. I already covered “Snow White and Rose Red”, “The Beauty and the Beast”, “Rumpelstiltskin” (was published by German publisher some time ago) and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Currently, I’m working on “Brother and Sister” by the Brothers Grimm. When I thought about possible publication, I searched the Internet and guess what I found? Fairy tale retellings seem to be rather popular.

I also re-discovered an author who I love to read. She writes very interesting and often twisted versions of fairy tales and novels that resemble fairy tales. Her name is Danyelle Leafty. She’s already published several novels. I can only recommend her books to anyone who likes this kind of story. her most recent short story is “Curious Leaf” where a flower wants to fly. You can read a free excerpt here.

If you read the excerpt, let me know what you think (I loved the story. It’s very poetic), and while you’re at it, please tell me your favorite fairy tale. I might get around to twisting it once I’m done with my current WIPs. :D

 

We proudly present…

William L. Hahn’s

Games of Chance
Part One of Judgement’s Tale

cover art for Games of Chance

Will and I have been working toward this goal for a few weeks already (of course Will worked much longer – read his last post and you’ll know what I mean). Since I had the pleasure of reading the whole novel, parts 1 to 4, I can only say that this is one of the few Epic Fantasy books I really, really enjoyed. Every single word is there for a purpose. I couldn’t find a single boring place (only one with an infodump but that’s long been corrected).

Go to amazon and order your copy right away.

About the Book:
For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.

In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale

Of Magna Carta and Magnum Opus

In just two weeks, give or take, my greatest chronicling effort to date will start to unroll before the world as Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance hits the internet equivalent of the shelves.

And last week, following rare in-person meetings with my business colleagues in the UK, I took a completely uncharacteristic walkabout in the countryside north of London near the site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

Think these two events are completely unrelated? How little you know me.

Business and Pleasure

In England this is called a hotel. Anywhere else, a castle.

In England this is called a hotel. Anywhere else, a castle.

Alleged Real World first. I was moping all the way to England for my business trip- no money, no way (I figured) to see any sights in a land of one hundred castles, and– this is the key– no idea where my business meetings were taking place. I  only knew Egham as the town that had my company’s offices, and also MI-6 (the British Secret Service) in it, somewhere. Turns out, Egham is the town next door to Runnymede. As in, the unknown field where King John had to put his Hancock on it eight centuries ago. My boss, unlucky fellow, was with me in the cab on the way in; I shout, “Look, there’s a memorial to the signing of the Magna Carta!”. He’s French, says “what ees thees magna carta?” No escape! I had him for ten minutes, poor devil, on and on about John Lackland and the barons, forced to sign a charter promising not to do naughty things anymore just to scrape up money. And over the years, that backroom deal between two dozen feudal lords somehow came to stand for the immutable rights of every British citizen, and on beyond that to all the rights of man.EuropeGoBargingB

My boss finally escaped the cab, but I was already determined- me, the guy who never exercises anymore, the dope who gets sore the day after playing golf ON THE WII- I was going to have my British sight-seeing vacation on foot. I went on a walkabout through scenic, charming Runnymede, got up close and personal with memorials to that famous signing and others. I walked for MILES. Me! Channeling Lewis and Tolkein, strolling through rural England and ruminating deep thoughts in search of historical markers. And the weather was perfect, I mean just cool enough, no humidity, bright sunshine, and a breeze that blew energy into you. I could have walked across the island. I stopped part-way along, folded my hands and thanked God for saving me from my own torpid idiocy.

So then, how is the signing of the Great Charter in any way similar to the release of another epic fantasy tale? Am I really going to try and convince you that my next book is some kind of milestone of world history?

My answer- it depends which world you mean.

Adventurous Times

In the Lands of Hope, I started watching a time where things were beginning to happen after a long period of peace and prosperity. The Age of Adventure was first signaled around 1992 (ADR, their SavillCt3calendar) with an incredible act of stealth unheard of since the days of the heroes millennia ago (see Three Minutes to Midnight). I spent a lot of time examining things that were going on in late 1995-6 when the curse lying over the Percentalion (the Land of One Hundred Castles in my world) was finally lifted. A band of despised adventurers was a big part of that wondrous deed, you meet them in this tale. So yes, history pivots on the events set down here, and all the other tales I’ve published come later, largely because of them.

But there was another character, just before that time, one everybody knew as The Man in Grey. I saw Solemn Judgement first, even before I saw the Lands of Hope. The image of this grim, erudite, reserved and skillful pariah was always clearly before me, more than thirty years ago. Everywhere that things went wrong, wherever adventurers argued about the best solution while “regular” folk moaned about the good old days, there he was; stalking briefly in and out again, a few words, a few blows, a miracle, and then gone. No hesitation, no explanations, and nobody sorry to see him leave, to resume his mysterious walkabout across an entire continent.UK_Windsor

But he never left my mind. Before I go any further, let me reassure you- my lovely wife is very knowledgeable about all manner of mental problems and keeps a close eye on me. If she ever says I need to put on the looonng sleeved cardigan, I will; just let me out for an hour a day to write some more, because that’s the only way Solemn Judgement leaves me alone.

My entire adult life I have worked in some way to placate him. Like him, every stitch of my clothing is a shade of ash, slate, charcoal or steel. Though much older than he, I feel a kinship now that my hair is coming to match the outfits. But these gestures do little to put him off, year in and year out- in my mind he is always standing there, not saying a word but only looking on me with that serious face that clearly says “what should be done”.

So I have done it. This is literally his tale, the story of how he came to the Lands and what drives him to be the way he is. Against all odds, against nearly everyone he meets, Judgement is determined to do what is needful. A mighty river of other peoples’ lives flows in one direction, but only he can swim, and chooses to fight the current. Nothing deters him; as he pressed on against undead and demonic foes, so too he bore down on my mind all those years. And as his story finally comes out, Judgement wins, over endless enemies and feckless friends alike. But if I know him, it will merely mean another task, more adventure that needs doing, and then needs telling.

Hoookayy then. What about the connection? You still don’t see it?

More than They Seem

Baht rrRicharhd!-, after oll, I am your brrrothah.

Baht rrRicharhd!-, after oll, I am your brrrothah.

John got in trouble because he was supposed to be a king and was doing such a LOUSY job. Notice there’s no number after his name? Eight centuries and no queen has dared try the most common of English names, there will probably never

Paid for by the US Bar Association. Rough Translation: Thanks for all the jobs

Paid for by the US Bar Association. Rough Translation: Thanks for all the jobs

be another John of England. A few of his barons finally made him sit down and put it in writing before they’d leave him alone- the Great Charter was a private deal, just to stave off immediate rebellion, and only later came to be seen as this mystical guarantee of the rights of every English peasant, and every citizen of the Alleged Real World. Not to mention the whole bad-guy-in-Robin-Hood-thingie, which was a bum rap but too fun to correct. Safe to say the Magna Carta became a much bigger thing with time. But John didn’t give a damn- he was just out for some peace.

And so it is for me. A few heroes, one especially, have been pressing me day and night for thirty years because I’m the guy, the sole chronicler of The Lands of Hope charged to tell their tales. And I’ve sucked at it. William Lack-hand, until recently: it’s no accident I chose July 4th for my first publishing date back in 2011. Writing for me is about shedding chains. With this magnum opus, the work of my lifetime I seriously believe, I’ve made a bargain with the leader of the rebels. His story starts. You can read it for yourself. Perhaps history in later years will make much of this beginning, more than I or Solemn ever intended. Hey, they only made seven copies of the Great Charter, I should be able to beat that! But Judgement takes no notice of what others think of him. Soon now, like John my name will be on it, my debt to him discharged, and perhaps he will leave me be awhile.

Cover Reveal- Games of Chance

If you’ve followed the tour, you’ve seen the cover already. I love the elemental simplicity- a pen and a sword, I wonder if they will come into play at some point. And if you haven’t seen the tour yet… LoHI_JT_GoC_Cover_front

 

The Games of Chance blog ride is in full gallop with original material (only one repeated post in the lot). If you haven’t seen it I have an itinerary here which I will update as the links go live. Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance will be on sale July 4th at Amazon.

Games of Chance Blog Tour Itinerary

LoHI_JT_GoC_Cover_frontIn case you rode in late, here’s an updated list of the sites visited by the blog tour for Judgement’s Tale Part One: Games of Chance in June 2014. This tour preceded the release of Games of Chance on July 4th. It’s a who’s-who of cool fantasy authors and bloggers who are helping shape the internet and the indie publishing world- I’m privileged to have been a guest on these sites.

As they go live I will update the schedule with specific links: check back here if you missed a day or want to revisit a topic from an earlier post.

Ar Aralte! (Hope Forever)

DATE     HOST           TOPIC

6-14-14             Tracy Falbe, Her Ladyship’s Quest

Chapter One Podcast- the first meeting with Solemn Judgement, in the chronicler’s voice

6-15-14             Karen Woodward

Being a Writer: What Does it Take and Where Will it Take You?- advice to writers? Maybe good for a chuckle!

6-16-14             Lori Fitzgerald, White Raven Writing

Introduction to Prince Gareth of Shilar- one of the main characters of the novel makes his debut appearance.

6-17-14            Katharina Gerlach

Introduction to Solemn Judgement- the title character, known to the Lands as the Man in Grey, on his first day an orphan and alien

6-18-14             Susan Stuckey, Kalieri Tales

Author Interview- the one and only for this tour, not for lack of trying!

6-19-14               Day Off, Resting the Tour-Horse

6-20-14             Daniel Marvello, The Vaetra Files

  Magic and Miracles in the Lands of Hope- a view of one background element of the world setting, for the enthusiast

6-21-14              Sher A. Hart, Written Art

An Interview with Solemn Judgement- or as close as anyone can get to such a thing

 6-22-14             Mathew Reuther

An Interview with (not About) Cedrith Fellareon- the tale’s principal guide to the mind of Solemn Judgement discusses his protege

 6-23-14                Matt Graybosch, A Day Job and a Dream

Technology and Despair- the bad guys don’t show mercy, and they’ve got better stuff!

 6-24-14                Robin Lythgoe, The Series that Snuck Up on Me- because all my stories are going to connect eventually

6-25-14                 Peter Cruikshank, Introduction to Treaman the Woodsman- one of the main protagonists revealed, and already fighting for his life

6-26-14                 Karin Gastreich, How to Write about Combat- you could say I struggled with this one…

6-27-14                 Mysti Parker, World Building on the Sly-a familiar topic for me, am I actually getting subtle in my elder years?

6-28-14                  L. Blankenship, Character Interview with Cedrith Fellareon- a major supporting character, talking about anyone other than himself of course

 

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