The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Video Found: Mobility 2088

(Stolen from Big Dumb Object)

This video is fascinating. It's a collection of writers, directors, and Honda engineers discussing what the future of transportation will be like, but in a spiffy sort of way, rather than in a manner that might bore people (like all those old animal documentaries with the monotone narrator). Check it out:

What do you think the future of transportation will be in 80 years?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Story Wordle: "Maglev Magic"

I'm starting a new feature on my blog called Story Wordle. This is in response to a recent discovery of this site called Wordle (well, not so recent, but certainly a recent rediscovery), which creates a sort of word map of your blog or a selection of text. Story Wordle will feature word maps of my finished stories as they are, well, finished. This one will be for my newest finished story called "Maglev Magic," which I wrote for the Bantam Spectra writing contest. Enjoy!
Wordle: Maglev Magic (rework)
Get your own Story Wordle and link to this page or any of the other ones that will come up and maybe I'll do a Blogger Story Wordle feature!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Video Found: Crazy Birds

Found this video while randomly stumbling.  These birds are insane.  Just watch to see what they do to one of the trees.  Pretty impressive, don't you think?


SF/F Links: A Few Feb Links

Well, I thought I would bring this feature back.  I'm not going to make it as big as I did in the past, but hopefully it will be of use to folks.  Here goes:
And there you have it!  Hope you enjoy the links.

Self-publishing Sucks and Small Presses Rule

Mulluane recently pointed me in the direction of this interesting discussion of the 21st Century Writer knowing full well that I would take issue with some of the points. I've come to learn that the old bat has me pretty much pegged when it comes to talking points. The problem with that post isn't that it's necessarily wrong; on most points it is correct and the 21st Century Writers is largely being defined by the more progressive, technologically impacted forms of promotion and distribution. The problems I have with the discussion involve the author's perspectives of self-publishing and small presses. To start with self-publishing, I'll point to something the author said that made me curl my brow:
I no longer engage in the self-publishing debate since it no longer matters... We no longer have to go through the gatekeepers (agents, editors, and publishers) in order to get what we want out there, to get our voice, saying what we want it to say, heard.
While it's true that writers don't have to go through traditional channels to become a success, the notion that one can become like, say, Scott Sigler, Tee Morris, J. C. Hutchins, Mur Lafferty, etc. is misleading. These folks got, to put it simply, lucky. Yes, they worked their butts off to get where they are--which is still far from the fame of people like Stephanie Meyers, J. K. Rowling, or Stephen King--but hard work doesn't always pay off. There are loads of folks who worked hard, who promoted and poured tears and blood into their work, but ended up getting nowhere. Most self-published authors (whether doing traditional paper versions or podiobooks) fail. This is simply the reality. They may sell a handful of copies or a few hundred, but I think it needs to be made quite clear that sales in the thousands of copies are exceedingly unlikely.

Self-publishing, however easy and desirable for some, is not a picnic. A lot of people seem to think that one can waltz into the self-publishing scene and find success. Most of those folks fail and either disappear or become bitter writers. Factored into this is quality, obviously, something which self-publishing as a whole is constantly battling. Self-publishing is seen as simple largely because one can do it for practically no cost. But it's not simple. One has to market to sell books, and most don't know how. Even those that do know how often learn that marketing is not an exact "science." Sometimes no matter how hard you work, you will fail. It's inevitable. Some people aren't cut out to be writers, no matter how much they or their delusional friends and family think so. Self-publishing is as brutal a business as traditional publishing.

What really killed me about the article, however, is this quote regarding small presses:
And please don’t say the “Small Press.” I’m sure the small press is the answer somehow, but these days the small press is sort of like the independent movie makers. A lot of them are small and independent because they couldn’t make it in New York or Hollywood. So in the end they’re looking for someone young, pretty, and fast the same as the big boys. They care no more about the content in the books they publish than do the name brand publishers.
My immediate reaction was: bullsh*t. Comparing small presses to independent movie makers is a bit of a low blow. First off, most small presses actually do care more about the content of the books they publish than name brand publishers. The reason for this is that small presses tend to be niche markets: some publish short-story collections almost exclusively, while others delve into very specific forms of fiction, whether it be Christian speculative fiction or literary fantasy. Of course small presses want to make money (most of them, anyway), but that doesn't mean that they are interested in simply publishing stuff that will sell thousands of copies. If they wanted that, most of them would have stuck to publishing mainstream fiction, not niche markets.

And small presses aren't at all like the independent film makers who couldn't hack it in the land of the big guys. Small presses are small not because they simply couldn't cut it, but because they serve a very specific and vital purpose in the publishing industry. Major publishers aren't printing a lot of the works that small presses cover primarily because those works will have, by default, smaller audiences. If you were to try to publish an epic poem in today's market, you might find it almost impossible, with the exception, perhaps, to Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth. Epic poetry is not exactly something that folks look for anymore--and poetry in general, to be honest. Its market is going to be understandably smaller. The small press is able to provide a publishing field for such work.

One of the things the article does a great job pointing out, however is how much the publishing industry has already changed and will change as technology progressively becomes more a part of how authors and publishers have to market the works they put out. In a way, successful self-published authors have a talent that many new authors don't: they've been there and have had to learn from start to finish how to make their work successful without the help of another. It's true that these folks, even if they aren't self-published, will become more important to the publishing industry as the Internet becomes a greater tool for spreading the word and selling books. I disagree that to be an author one has to be popular. To continue being an author, one definitely has to gain a readership, but there are plenty of authors still being published these days that start largely from nothing.

I don't know yet if this is a good thing. Some part of me yearns for the olden days. But perhaps those days are fast becoming a thing of the past. It's sad, but that's what I get for being old fashioned.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Video Found: Scottish Star Trek

Maybe you all have seen this, but if not, it's pretty funny:


Book Plug: Chosen Sister by Ardyth DeBruyn

I recently discovered that one of the members of a small writing groups I'm a part of has had her first novel published! It's called Chosen Sister by Ardyth DeBruyn and can be found either through her personal page or at the publisher's page. Here is the novel blurb:
When the Gold Wizard comes looking for the Child Warrior in Reina's village, it's no surprise he's only looking at the boys. However, when the wizard magically selects her younger brother as the warrior prophesied to defeat the Red Wizard, Reina has mixed feelings—jealousy and concern. Austyn is only six.
Allowed to accompany her brother, Reina soon finds they're in deeper trouble than she thought. The Gold Wizard's fake beard is ripped off by attacking harpies, revealing he's only seventeen, not to mention his magical demonstrations tend to go awry. Unfortunately, with the Red Wizard's harpies and snakewolves on their trail, finding a new (and better) wizard mentor is hardly an option. If anyone's going to find a way to track down the elusive Sword of Chivalry for Austyn and get him into the Red Wizard's castle to fulfill whatever the obscure prophecy insists must be done, it's got to be Reina.
If you're interested in a debut novelist's YA fantasy novel, then check out Chosen Sister by Ardyth DeBruyn! And expect to hear more about this in the near future!

Fantasy Clichés: The Good, the Bad, and the Published (Part Two)

In the last part of this, I talked about whether or not clichés are bad. Now it's to the discussion of whether or not fantasy clichés have any influence on publishing, in my opinion. My short answer is: well, yes, but...

The "but" is the important part. While it is assumed by some that publishers are on the lookout for the next original fantasy novel, the reality is that they're just looking for well written novels. That's it. Sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they don't. Publishers don't care if you think that your novel is the most original thing since Tolkien. They've heard the same ego trip before and, at this point, it's a bit stale. It doesn't matter how original you think your novel is, because it's not. Unique, sure, but not original.

And that's the important part. The best fantasy novels, as I mentioned before, aren't ones that are claimed to be original by the author (who is almost always wrong and is almost always writing obviously clichéd fantasy trash); the best fantasy novels are ones written by authors who take clichés and make them their own. Publishers, again, are not concerned with whether or not your fantasy novel is cliché, because it already is by default. What they are concerned about is whether or not your novel is interesting, well-written, and worthy of the paper it may potentially be printed on. If a publisher doesn't think it can sell your work, then it's not going to take it. Period (with rare exception to those small presses that are less interested in sales and more interested in purely unique stories; such places have a tendency to focus their attention on matters of style and the nature of the content than on anything else).

Having said all that, there really is little to be concerned about in regards to clichés. The only time one should be concerned is if their work is a direct ripoff of something already told, or if the clichés are made exceedingly obvious by poor execution. What this means is that you probably shouldn't retell Tolkien's LOTR series and you probably should avoid having Tolkien elves who live forever and act like Spock. Of course, you can still get published with these sorts of things, but I suspect that has more to do with a well-crafted plot than anything else.

There is, of course, a problem with all this. We all have different opinions on what constitutes good execution. A lot of novels that are quite obviously cliché have been published, and quite a few have been rather successful. What does this say about the publishing world? I don't know, to be honest. Those novels sell, so perhaps what it is saying is that publishers are simply following the money. As long as we buy the books, they'll keep making them. So while many fantasy purists and junkies may find the clichéd forms of fantasy to be trash, but such folks aren't necessarily the largest demographic for fantasy. They're the folks who read the stuff that sells well, but not always well enough to get onto the bestsellers list.

Perhaps the question to ask about all this is whether or not fantasy clichés are a good thing in the publishing world. What do you think? Are the more cliché forms of fantasy literature necessarily lesser forms (in the same way that media tie-ins)?

RIP: Philip Jose Farmer

Apparently Mr. Farmer, one of the grand masters of science fiction, has passed away at the ripe old age of 91.  He published more than 75 novels and had fans all over the world.

He will be missed, surely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Show Review: Dollhouse (Ep. 2)

The second episode of Dollhouse was released last Friday and I have a few thoughts. Firstly, I'm not giving up on the show just yet, but there are certainly some serious things working against it.

Whedon is a brilliant storyteller, there's no doubt about that, but Dollhouse is suffering from something I'd like to call "sitcom-ism." The story is developing slowly, at best, and the episodes thus far feel disconnected from one another when, for a show of this type, they should be following a noticeable plot-arc. The first episode was a throw-away, one which Whedon and the producers could toss out there to establish the central idea and let us know what is going on. The problem, however, is that the first episode shouldn't have been a throw-away. Whatever the FOX folks did to the first episode may have irreparably damaged the Dollhouse franchise.

The second episode probably should have been the first, because what it did was bring in an interesting story that, quite frankly, should have been a part of the whole idea in the first place. What happens when a company that imprints memories gets a glitch in the system and one of it's "products" goes haywire? Well, the answer to that is more interesting than the questions posed in the first episode; and that is the problem.

Dollhouse, essentially, is suffering from a problem of disconnection, where the episodes have connections that seem forced rather than fluid. Story lines that should be highlighted are given undeserved lesser treatment; the second episode pretty much established the first as a pointless waste of space. Yeah, we got to meet Echo and a couple of important characters, but now the story is conflicted by the disconnection between the Echo story and everything else. Whedon tried to bring them together, but thus far it isn't working. I want the Alpha story (the rogue doll) to become more important, but as of right now, it isn't. It's there to add back story and conflict that isn't conflict at all.

Perhaps I'm being harsh about Dollhouse, but I feel somewhat cheated at this point by Whedon. Firefly was brilliant: it never failed to highlight the important parts, or the most interesting parts. But Dollhouse isn't Firefly. It is missing something that Firefly had: charm and cohesiveness.

I'm not ready to give up on it yet, though. I'm hoping that the third episode will resolve some of the problems I see. I know sometimes it can take a while for a good show to come into its own. Perhaps that is what is happening here. To be honest, I think that Dollhouse could have benefited from a two-hour opener, much like Firefly seemed to benefit when seen on DVD. Generally I hate those two-hour deals, but I think it's possible it would work here.

What thoughts do you have on this? What do you think about Dollhouse?

Monday, February 23, 2009

How Not To Sell Your Fiction

Since I haven't a clue how to actually sell fiction--considering that I haven't done so myself--I can at least talk about the reasons why you won't sell your work--assuming, of course, that selling your work is your intention.
How do you go about not selling your work? Well, these are some pretty good reasons:
  • You Don't Submit
    Pretty obvious, right? If you don't submit, you won't be published, unless by some freak accident some random editor sees some of your writing and comes to you. But we're talking some seriously absurd odds here--worse than anything NASA can come up with.
  • You Can't Take Criticism
    I've mentioned this before primarily because it's something I think is enormously important for any writer to be able to do. If you can't take criticism, you can't improve your craft. People who criticize your work aren't doing it to be mean (well, some of them might be, but good people aren't). The best way to improve is to pay attention to what others say about your work. What do they perceive to be weaknesses and strengths? You don't have to agree with all of it, but you wouldn't have let them read it if you didn't care about their opinions, right?
  • You Don't Follow Guidelines
    Editors don't put submission guidelines on their websites simply to torture new writers with the "complicated" nature of formatting, etc. No, editors put them up to make their lives easier. You're not the one reading hundreds or thousands of submissions for every publication. It's bad enough for the short story market and it's even worse for the novel market. Follow them. The last thing you want ruining your chances is your inability to double-space.
  • You Don't Write
    Duh. Do I even need to explain this one?
  • You Make Death Threats or Other Career-Sabotaging Things
    Remember the whole Kevin W. Reardon/Cole A. Adams thing? If you don't want to sell your work, I recommend sending death threats to editors. Guaranteed results. Just like with Mr. Reardon, who has, at this point, been put into every editor's book of folks to banish to the depths of writing obscurity--since I'm sure he won't be obscure in the realm of authorial conduct.
  • You Die
    Don't. It's generally a good idea to live. Otherwise someone else has to sell your work.  It doesn't count if someone else sells your work, because you're dead, and dead people don't generally care if they achieve fame post-mortem.
  • You Let Evil Wombats Store Your Work
    There's a reason why they're called evil wombats: they take unsuspecting writers' work, print it, delete it, and then shred it into tiny pieces right in front of you. I don't know why, that's just the way it is.  They're evil...and wombats.  That's a double whammy right there.
And there you have it.

What do you think? Got any suggestions? Leave a comment!  And as always, feel free to digg it, stumble it, or submit it to your favorite social bookmarking site.  Anywho!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fantasy Clichés: The Good, the Bad, and the Published (Part One)

Recently over at Dragon Federation (the quite awesome new site for SF/F blog reviewers and their fans can hang out and tip back a few imaginary beers) SparklingBlue brought up an interesting topic that I have discussed before, but haven't really delved into:
I was wondering your opinion on the subject of clichés in fantasy--are they a good thing or a bad thing; and will a book still sell even though it has what is considered cliche in fantasy?
The problem with fantasy fiction is that it is, by default, a clichéd genre. Very little, if any, original fantasy is being written today. What is being written is fantasy that utilizes interesting methods of retelling old ideas, revitalizing classic fantasy creations, etc. I've said similar before, and I often get lambasted for doing so. Why? Because readers of fantasy don't like to have their genre criticized for what is a reality. Fantasy is incapable of escaping its mythic roots, as much as it tries--contemporary fantasy and magical realism are really as close as you get to an escape, and even then it's only a faux escape hidden under flowery language or the intensely strange. It is embedded into the mythology of thousands of years of human history and equally as embedded into the exceedingly long, and truly astonishing history of literature. From the dawn of the written form (whether as words or pictures) we have been telling stories of gods, monsters, magical beings, and heroic journeys. Obviously these are some of the most cliché elements of fantasy, but I'm using them to make a point, because most fantasy uses some or all of these in some capacity or another.

Some call the things I refer to as clichés "tropes," which is pretty much the same thing in terms of literature (which seems to have its own dictionary in much the same way that science does, apparently). Whether they are tropes or clichés, these elements, whatever they may be, are built into the fabric of the fantasy genre. It is incapable of disentangling itself from its history and easily as incapable of disentangling itself from its commonplace parts. This is why the notion of "original fiction" is, by default, nothing more than a noble gesture. Fiction is only original in the sense that a particular author manages to do something different with an old thing. Some might argue here, however, that science fiction is a genre of the original; the problem with this assessment is that it assumes ideas are the same as plots, characters, etc. Science fiction is only original in that it sometimes invents new things that are separate, in some capacity, from the body of literature that precedes it. This has a lot to do with the fact that science fiction is as embedded into the present as fantasy is embedded into the past.

None of this is necessarily bad. To get upset over this reality--that fantasy is a cliché genre by default--is like getting upset over finding out that ice cream and frozen yogurt come from cows at some point down the line.

But clichés make a work crappy, right? Well, no, not always. Clichés are bad news when:
  • There are a lot of them.
  • The author fails to do something different with old concepts.
  • The author tries something sadly obvious to make it seem like he or she is being original (having elves and calling them bingles instead, for example).
The above list isn't set in stone, though. But we'll leave that to the next post, which will address the publishing side of all this. For now, I'll stick with whether clichés are good or bad.

The thing about clichés is that they are perceived to be bad when they are written poorly. It becomes pretty obvious when reading a book that the author didn't care enough to try to mask his or her use of clichéd elements. You'll find elves and wizards doing what they've always done in fantasy and the reader (us) is left wondering: why did I bother with this crap?

Good writers try to write clichés in a way that doesn't draw attention to the fact that you've seen it before. A prime example, I think, is Karen Miller (author of The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage). With these two novels, Miller succeeded in avoiding the instinctual drive towards originality by taking several clichéd elements and writing them in a way that doesn't automatically draw the reader's attention to the fact of their commonality. Her work takes clichés like prophecies and magic and spins them on their head. Instead of just another story of the chosen one rising up and winning against the evil bad guy, Miller gave us a story in which the chosen one is not at all what one would expect, and someone without any interest in matters of prophecy, magic, higher culture, etc. Her use of magic, too, avoids the cliché all-too-prevalent in fantasy (the white-haired or old wizard mentor) and instead twists magic around, making it dark, but necessary. There are few, if any, super-powered ninja wizards running around blasting holes in the moon.

And Miller may be one of the few fantasy authors with the ability to write dialects into dialogue. Her main character, Asher, speaks with a clear type of accent, and the she writes his dialogue draws us into that world of peasantry and class conflict.

All this is to illustrate the point that one doesn't have to be original so much as unique. Yes, those terms are different. To be original is to precede all others, to be the first. To be unique is to be radically distinctive. Miller, I believe, is just that.

And I think that will conclude this post. In the second installment I'll talk about how the nature of clichés influences publishing (as I see it).

If you have an opinion on this, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Interview w/ Chris Howard

I recently reviewed Chris Howard's Seaborn and asked him for an interview, which he graciously agreed to. Here is the result:

First, thank you for doing this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself (a bio, if you will)?

I write science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories, and I also paint and illustrate in watercolors, ink, and digital. Seaborn is my first published novel--it came out last July from Juno Books, and I've completed two more in the same setting, Saltwater Witch and Sea Throne. In terms of time, I've been writing for years, but it's only in the last five years that things have taken off, and 2007 is when it all came together. I got my first book contract, got an agent, won the Heinlein Centennial Short Fiction Contest (amateur division).

I also love technology. I'm software engineer--have been for a long time--but as an author, I love the use of technology to get the word out. I love Twitter, Facebook, blogging, podcasting, web comics, all the ways technology can help readers--entire communities of them--find and interact with an author or illustrator.

Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to talk about (new books, comics, etc.)? Can you tell us a bit about them?

Quite a few. I have pen and ink work in the next issue of Shimmer Magazine. After completing three novels around Seaborn, I've moved inland with a whole new set of characters, actually a new setting, new world, new time, new everything. I'm about twelve chapters into this one, expecting to finish around April. I spent the last couple months of 2008 writing short stories, mostly SF, and I'm submitting and trying to get them sold.

There's also my weekly web comic Saltwater Witch (linked from, which allows me to move on to new stories, but keep my feet in what's probably my favorite world and set of characters--Kassandra and all the others.

Who are some of your favorite writers from the past and present? Were there any writers that had a significant influence on your writing? If so, why? Also, what are some of your favorite books?

I have a lot, but to pull a few out and make a list: Frank Herbert, Lois Bujold, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Richard Morgan, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Neil Gaiman.

Growing up, Frank Herbert's Dune--and I'd include the next three, Messiah, Children, God Emperor--just blew me away. I wore out copies of the books. (Dune's influence on the world building in Seaborn has been pointed out, and sort of stealing from one Seaborn reviewer, I've been using "Dune meets The Little Mermaid" as the high concept for the book).

Favorite books--most of these are on my re-read every few years list: Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age, Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog and Passage, Caitlín R. Kiernan's Murder of Angels, Lois McMaster Bujold's Curse of Chalion, William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

What are you currently reading, what did you just finish reading, and what do you plan to read in the near future?

I'm currently reading a couple books, Paul Melko's Walls of the Universe, Roberto Bolaño's 2666, and I 'm about to start a couple more: Marie Brennan's Warrior, and Caine Black Knife by Matthew Stover. I just finished re-reading Dan Simmons' Hyperion and Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains, which was outstanding (I'm also a Takeshi Kovacs fan).

You're published with Juno Books, which, until recently, was a relatively small publishing venue (or still is). Did you always intend to send your work to a smaller press? What are some advantages you think come with being published by a smaller press? (What was your experience like with Juno?)

Right off, I'll say--so far--Juno Books is the best thing that ever happened to my writing career. For those who haven't heard, Juno Books is now an imprint of Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books division, still focusing entirely on fantasy novels with strong female protagonists. (

I didn't really think of Juno as a small pub as much as I thought of it as a serious publisher, a publisher who would get my books on store shelves, who took the business seriously, who made room for new authors, room for something different, room for chance--taking good kinds of risks. I liked the books Juno Books editor Paula Guran was releasing. I bought them, I read them, and what I was writing seemed to fit. Juno's part of Wildside Press, and I'll add that everyone at Wildside, Prime Books, Fantasy Magazine--Sean Wallace, Stephen Segal, Cat Rambo, Tempest Bradford, and everyone else that I've met or worked with over the last couple years is passionate about books, publishing, storytelling, art, and there are a bunch of small and medium-sized publishers with the same passion, releasing great books, short stories, anthologies, and magazines. I think it's really about the passion, the ability to push the edge, and the ability to get books into readers' hands, not necessarily about the size of the publisher.

As far as differences--and with my limited publishing experience, here's what I think: with smaller pubs there are some clear advantages and disadvantages. Bigger publishers are just going to have more money, manpower, and clout in the industry, and that influences where and how books are reviewed, picked up by bookstores--indies to chain stores. A bigger pub in most cases means a bigger advance on royalties. With a smaller pub you may get more of your editor's time. With a smaller pub you're probably going to get from contract signed to the shelves faster, in my case a little over a year, in an industry where the norm is eighteen months and sometimes two years. There are outstanding editors in the smaller publishers, but there are more of them at the large pubs, with assistants, and publicists and contract copyeditors, and marketing channels wide enough to float barges of books down.

Seaborn seems to take quite a lot of inspiration from Greek mythology. Did you do any research into ancient Greece in order to add a flavor of authenticity to your novel? Is there more of the Greek myths in your novel than might be readily apparent to readers who are unfamiliar with Greek mythology? Or do you simply have a lot of Greek stuff swimming around in your mind?

I do have a lot of Greek stuff swimming around my mind, and I did want to draw on it, but one thing I didn't want to do was use the same well-known and very obvious myths. Most of the Seaborn ties to Greek mythology are centered on the Telkhines (Telchines), who were the original gods of Rhodes that were then absorbed into the ancient Greek pantheon. They played minor roles for the most part as sorcerers, metal workers--they made Poseidon's trident, helpers of the gods when it was needed, and they ended up betrayed and sent to the bottom of the sea by Zeus.

Do the novels following Seaborn delve into the history of the Telkhines as present in Greek myths (with your own spin on them, of course)? If so, can you talk a little about that?

There are actual Telkhines in Sea Throne, so yes, I get more into their history, starting with hints that, as a people, they've scattered--the few that remain, with some still living under the sea, some on the surface, and they don't even maintain much in the way of contact among themselves. At the end of Seaborn, I hope I made it pretty clear that Kassandra has a whole new kind of enemy, and is herself something completely different from the woman in the first chapter--and her reshaping of the world the Seaborn continues with how she deals with the old kings, the Telkhines. I think she's more of a tragic character in Sea Throne, in a way paying for everything she's done up to now. Readers will also get to understand why she did certain things way back in the middle chapters of Seaborn.

Your writing style is at times quite beautiful, particularly in your descriptions of the ocean, etc. How long have you been writing and developing your craft? What do you think are some unique aspects of our writing?

I've been writing more on than off for around twenty years. My mother was a writer, and she really encouraged me. I also have hundreds of rejection letters, some going back to the 1980s from Dragon Magazine, a couple fantasy anthologies, F&SF, which I'm still trying to break into.

I think it comes down to the reality that I just like to write. I write poetry, short form, long form, non-fiction (including blogging). I carry my journal everywhere I go and I write down every idea that might be worth exploring. To me, if I couldn't be writing, I'd be holding a pen or brush and drawing, and what the hell, why can't I do both?

I'm not sure how unique it is, but it is a preference of mine. I love internal struggles, I think they're more exciting than most of the plots that work solely in the external world.

Both Kassandra and Corina deal with some very obvious, but different internal struggles. What draws you to the internal struggles of these characters now and when you were writing Seaborn? Will these struggles remain a strong focus in later novels?

In Sea Throne I continue with Kassandra's inner turmoil, although she's a lot more in control. It's more like she does something, then stops and has to tell herself she doesn't have to do that any more. She can make choices that weren't open to her in Seaborn. I think internal struggles are far more interesting, make a character more real and relatable. Very few people spend their lives openly battling oppression, but just about everyone can at least relate to living with painful memories, betrayal, secrets. I think that's what makes the internal struggles work. I do continue with this in Sea Throne, where misplaced revenge is one of the themes, with a character who has grown up with the certainty that she knows who killed her father, and when she catches the murderer, it isn't going to clean and the death will be slow. Unfortunately, she's wrong.

Can you talk a bit about how you developed your characters? Where did Aleximor come from? Was Kassandra inspired by anyone in particular?

The seeds for Aleximor came out of a scene idea I wrote five or six years ago about a man imprisoned underwater inside the stone with a handprint of blood to mark the spot on the cave wall, but he didn't really develop until I had the other side, the person who was going to release him. That came from a completely different direction, several years later.

Seaborn started with the idea of losing freedom and how many forms it can take. I actually spent a lot of time plotting Seaborn--more than any other book I've completed so far. I also have two main characters, Corina Lairsey, who has all physical control taken away, and Kassandra, who has what appears to be near unlimited power, but can't be certain that any motive, any particular idea, anything inside her head is actually hers. I think it's interesting that most readers love Corina's struggle and really don't have a lot of sympathy for Kassandra--somewhat deservedly. Kassandra's whole life is about manipulation--being manipulated, and manipulating everyone around her. I'm also confident that those readers will all come around in the concluding book, Sea Throne.

One of the interesting concerns within Seaborn is centered on the idea of having other consciousnesses within ones mind. Aleximor has Corina and Kassandra has the presence of all her bleeds (which increases at the end of the book). What about the mind and how it responds to the pressures of things like insanity do you think it is important to fiction as a whole and to your fiction in particular?

I do think it's important--not necessarily insanity, but everything that can be grouped under Internal Struggle. There are a thousand ways to tell the same story, but I think some work better than others, and I have preferences as both a writer and a reader. Some are easier for a reader to realize, some invite the reader to look at things on a more personal level, and some make it easier for the reader to realize that this could be happening to them.

Put it another way, very few people are actually battling a Dark Lord at the moment. But just about everyone can relate to suffering from or struggling against hard decisions they have to make, lies that have to be told and the bad aftertaste of telling them, growing up with pressure from different groups, loneliness, being dealt a hand less than fair, betrayal, conflicting loyalties, all that normal bad stuff that almost every person on the planet over a certain age can relate to. Sure, Sauron, Voldemort, Darth Vader, etc., can represent the powerful, some evil elite, institutional corruption and violence--all of which make for great storytelling, but I think you need more than that, more than perfectly healthy characters going up against the big bad guy.

I pointed out in my review of Seaborn that you maintained a connection to the "real world" with Corina, which allows the reader to see this fantastic world-under-the-sea from a new perspective, as if we're there learning about it too. Was this part of Corina's purpose when you wrote the novel or simply a coincidence? Can you talk about how you merged the real world and the fantasy world together? How did all this come together (how did you decide to have both present in the novel)?

That certainly became part of Corina's purpose. I already had Kassandra, the exile who grew up in Nebraska, as far from the ocean as her enemies could move her. I didn't think Corina's purpose was to reveal a lot about this underwater world, but it ended up working very well, and also the other way around, Aleximor knowing absolutely nothing about the surface and being forced to rely on his own host--Corina--for guidance.

Can you talk about your process for working on Saltwater Witch (the web comic)? How, in your opinion, is it different from writing novels/short stories (with obvious exception to the differences between written word and visual medium)?

Sure. To set it up I'll say Saltwater Witch is actually another novel I completed after Seaborn, although it all occurs five or six years before the events in Seaborn--Kassandra growing up in Nebraska, completely ignorant of any connection to the sea until she cries and demons drop from her tears, kings and queens wake up in her head, and a grandfather--she never suspected she had--has an army of the drowned dead and he wants to kill her.

Having the completed story makes it far easier--I think--to create the web comic/ graphic novel, whatever you want to call it. I've been using "web comic" mostly to describe it, but it is long form, no punch lines at the end of each segment, and so it's more like a graphic novel.

As far as process, I usually sketch panels during the week, storyboarding action, scenes, and expressions in my journal. I do a lot of this at lunch. See this post for examples of some quick idea sketches: I post three to five panels to Saltwater Witch every week, usually Sunday or Monday evening, and I usually don't get into the real art until Saturday morning. Here's an example of the actual posted panels that came out of the earlier storyboarding sketching:
As you said, the obvious differences between written and visual storytelling is that I'm far more limited in what I can describe, narrate, and show. In many ways a comic is like a screen play, except that all the action has to be done in stills--the motion and character reactions have to be shown visually but frozen in time. Another element I use quite a bit in my writing but it's rarely used in movies and TV is inner dialogue, thought bubbles.

Another cool thing about Saltwater Witch is that it allows some part of me to remain in that old world, in contact with Kassandra and the Seaborn. It was hard to move on after Sea Throne. The story was done. It was really difficult to get into the next thing when I had characters I had worked with for several years.

Where does your inspiration come from in your artwork? Were you professionally trained (school) or is it something you just developed on your own?

The inspiration for almost everything I've drawn or painted comes from what I write. For commissions and contract work, the ideas usually come from the story or synopsis the art director sends along, or in the case of a commission, the client.

I took a couple art classes in college, but I was painting long before that, and didn't really take anything away from classes other than a continued interest. Everything else is just from doing it and making mistakes. I read art books and the blogs of artists and art directors. I lurk and occasionally participate in the forums like, where there seems to be more pro artists doing stuff than anywhere I've been.

Maybe most important, I grew up in a household in which art--writing and painting especially--was encouraged. I've been doing both for a long time, and I was never told that art as a profession was in any way wrong, or not serious, or that it ought to relegated to just a hobby. Maybe sentiment has changed over the years--for the better, but growing up I had friends whose parents made them quit artistic activities, or at best sideline them for "more important things."

Additionally, what is some writing advice you would give to any budding authors out there?

I'm a newb with a first novel out and a handful of short story credits, so not a ton of experience, but I do think that publication is mostly a matter of having the right story, the right length, the right theme, the right editor, and the right publisher all come together at exactly the right time. There are thousands of authors all competing for the same page space and way more stories than can be published every month. So, what do you do? Write a lot and submit everything as many times as it takes to get what you write published.

Get a job as close as you can to the publishing industry or the kind of work your characters do--so if you write SF and you work in nanotech fabrication, well then you're kicking ass. You need to do something that pays bills and allows you to buy a computer now and then, and even better, if you can do something that gets you that and feeds your ideas, damn you're set.

Do something to stand out. Podcast some short stories, blog about ideas for writers, blog about your publishing experience. Go to cons and meet other authors, agents and editors, pitch your stories in person. Read the books your favorite authors are writing and blog about them, recommend them, and review them.

Random Question: If you could be any specific kind of fish (not mammals, but actual fish) in the ocean, what kind would you be and why?

Cool! I'm going with a whale shark, all the benefits of a gigantic non-mammalian sea creature and you get to travel the world, but not in a hurry. Very few predators--really just those pesky packs of orcas. The biggest fish in the sea, they're rock stars with scuba divers, but they know a whale shark isn't going to have them for lunch.

And there you have it! Hope you all enjoy. Make sure to check out Chris Howard's website and all the nifty stuff there!

Friday, February 20, 2009

GRRM: Tired of Your Crap

...and for good reason. This was brought to my attention by a friend (whose blog I would mention here, except I'm not sure he or she would like me to for very complicated reasons):
Apparently GRRM is pretty much sick and tired of all of you out there yelling at him about the lateness of his next book. In fact, what I thought were a few fan complaints here or there are actually massive whiny fits by people who a) don't know what it's like to be a writer, and b) are selfish, rude jackasses. In GRRM's words:
Some of you hate my other projects. You don't want me co-editing WARRIORS or the Vance anthology or STAR-CROSSED LOVERS or any of the other projects I'm doing with my old friend Gardner Dozois, and you get angry when I post about them here. For reasons I don't quite comprehend, the people who hate those projects seem to hate WILD CARDS even more. You really don't want me working on that, "wasting time" on that, and posting about it here.

Some of you don't want me attending conventions, teaching workshops, touring and doing promo, or visiting places like Spain and Portugal (last year) or Finland (this year). More wasting time, when I should be home working on A DANCE WITH DRAGONS.
There's plenty more at the link I listed above, but these are good examples of the kinds of crap GRRM is dealing with in comments, at message boards, and in emails, the latter of which, to me, seems exceedingly rude. His response was basically a friendly way of saying "f*ck off," showing us that GRRM loves his fans more than they seem to love him (or are those folks who are ripping on him really his fans?).

My response to all this is somewhat less friendly: STFU. That stands for "shut the f*ck up," in case you were unaware.

I know this may be hard for all of you out there to understand, but GRRM does have a life. He is allowed to watch football and have friendly bets with friends. He's allowed to travel, to visit his family, to hang out with his buddies, to have a few beers here or there, to go out for a smoke (or a nice waltz in the sun), and he's allowed to have marital relations (assuming he's married). And you know what? He doesn't even reserve a lot of his time for that. He spends a lot of time teaching, going to conventions to visit YOU, the fans, editing books, and writing short stories, etc. The man has a career. He doesn't owe you anything. I may not be a reader of his books, and I certainly have opinions on the whole wait thing, as outlined here, but I'm not going to get on this man's case for trying to have a life and trying to maintain a career.

Writing a book isn't easy. It's not something that takes a few months to churn out, especially not works like GRRM's, which are complex and long. It took me almost a year to write WISB, and that book is in rough shape at best (plot holes, grammar and spelling errors, etc.). And it's taken me a lot longer to get SoD written for probably the same reasons that GRRM is taking his time. Plots don't get simpler as a series progresses: they get more complicated, especially because as the series closes you are forced to begin sealing up all the holes. An author like GRRM has a lot to think about in regards to his characters, his themes, and his world. And all authors are different. Some may be able to churn out a decent book in three months; others may take a year or two. A lot of authors start off having an entire series already written. GRRM is going into this somewhat cold, I presume (well, as cold as you can be several books into a series).

And you know what? All this pressure, this pushing and prodding and bitching and fighting with him over how long it's taken him to write it: it's making it worse. He's not going to write this book faster if all you, his supposed fans, can do is bitch and moan over it. Sending him emails telling him he sucks and should stop having a life probably makes him unwilling to want to continue writing. He's already got editors breathing down his neck about this. They're not there to support him so much as push him to give them a product they can sell (he may have a good relationship with his editor/s, but that doesn't mean that the publisher isn't pushing). The last thing he needs is for the people that he cares so much about, who have made his career what it is today, to start throwing temper tantrums over his desire to maintain his sanity.

I hope this is one of those instances where karma comes into play. What goes around, comes around, right?

To conclude this rant, I'd like to reiterate: STFU. Leave him alone if all you're going to do is bitch. If you don't like waiting, then read something else. He's not the only one writing books. Jackasses.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Royalties: Should Used Bookstores Pay Them?

I'm sure this is a subject that has been discussed over and over in the past, but it seems to have been mildly revitalized in the last few months by the blogosphere (such as at Teleread). What has probably driven it out of the wood works, if it was ever there in the first place, is the crash of the economy and the rippling effect that tore through the book industry. Used bookstores, of course, have been hit hard by the economic crisis, with many of our favorite indie used bookstores shutting down and some we thought were secure due to their popularity now shivering in their boots.

But what about those used bookstores that are still around? They're selling loads of second-hand books, tossing around cheaper prices, and undercutting the big guy, right? Sure, but should these stores have to pay royalties to the publishing houses for selling second-hand? Or should things remain as they were? Of course, this excludes stores that also sell new books, since obviously they would have to pay full price for those books anyway. Then again, we don't generally expect to pay half price for a brand new book (well, maybe some of us do).

My personal opinion is that used bookstores shouldn't have to pay royalties for the following reasons:
  • I'm selfish and if I can get an older book for dirt cheap, I'll jump on it.
  • Trying to charge royalties to these stores will shift the cost to the consumer, will shut down most, if not all, of the second-hand industry, and will drastically change the entire structure of the book industry in general, which will have adverse effects on everyone.
  • I see this as a way of latching on to profits that have been lost due to poor marketing or the failures of the industry to sell books. But this is something illogical that is stuck in the back of my head and I am, as of this moment, incapable of quantifying it.
  • The cost of applying a royalty-payment system (for tracking, etc.) will trickle down from both the publishing and second-hand industries to all of us, which could reduce the attractiveness of used bookstores--most will go out of business.
Teleread points out that a lot of people will stop buying books altogether when the cost rises due to economic reasons. This is probably true, at least for a segment of the population. What will most likely happen is that readers will buy fewer books, which, in turn, will cause a fallout in the book industry as independent bookstores drop off the face of the Earth, more people lose their jobs at publishing houses, etc. Perhaps in more economically stable times this would have seemed a "good idea," but I wonder if the folks proposing royalties for used bookstores in the U.S. have considered the ramifications of these ideas in today's society.

All this isn't to say that I don't understand the reasoning behind wanting second-hand stores to pay royalties. I completely get it. But it's also problematic, and I think trying to problematize the book industry further will be far worse than simply adjusting with the times. Besides, second-hand bookstores are already concerned about a future where there will be fewer dead tree books and more electronic books. Sooner or later, I suspect, the second-hand industry will dwindle as newer books fail to get into their stores some ten years after publication. But that's just a guess.

What do you think about all this? Do you think used bookstores should pay royalties?

Rejection: Nobody Gives a Crap About Compsagnathus

Well, another one rejected! Yippee. It will be off elsewhere today.

Anywho. I have nothing else to say.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inside the Blogosphere: Book Marketing Favorites

John recently asked if anyone would like to host the "Inside the Blogosphere" series on their blogs and I volunteered. Of course, I'm later than I expected on this, but in any case, here is this round's question:
What is your favorite form of book marketing? And what form of book marketing do you find most convincing?
The question is based on John's Tor article. Here's what everyone had to say:

Lisa (Danger Gal): I used to work in television and now I'm a web designer, so I'm often drawn to the visual nature of book trailers. When done well, they do tempt me to at least find out more about a book. Ultimately it's the cover, book blurb, and first few pages that convince me, though. If those don't hold up to what I expected from the trailer then I don't buy. When I'm perusing in a book store, certainly the cover is what grabs me. Often I'm in that store looking for a specific title, though, after having read a review.

When it comes to covers, a depiction of a strong heroine will always interest me. Internet ads do draw me in, and I have in fact purchased a few books from clicking on Internet ads, but they function for me similarly to how book trailers function.

I think Web sites are a critical tool in maintaining a connection to an author's core audience. It might only rarely draw in new readers, but it will harness the pull of existing readers and may capture the attention of a reader on the fence about a particular author. It's a great way to build a mailing list and use that mailing list to drum up anticipation of new releases. As a reader I'm not so interested in blogs where authors talk about the mundane details of their lives, though I may be in the minority on that -- and it does seem to depend on how entertaining an author can make the post. I'd rather read some insight into their research methods, what inspired some of their stories, or other topics that directly relate to their books. Author interviews can be useful, but I don't often have time to read them. Twitter is fun, and if an author is particularly witty in this format then it's a great tool. FaceBook does seem to be able to reach audiences in ways a web site often doesn't. I think FB can be a useful tool to push audiences to an author's Web site.

John Markley: I like a nice, extensive publisher website, especially if it goes beyond just listing the books available. I love reading background info on books and authors, author interviews, fan discussion, and things like that. If the website is interesting, I’m a lot more likely to spend some time exploring it and end up stumbling on new books that seem like they might be interesting.

It’s a strange irony that with a few exceptions- principally Baen- SF publishers really seemed to lag behind on this until fairly recently, and in some cases still do. Ace, a name that’s been a Titan of science fiction publishing longer than I’ve been alive, has an official Internet presence consisting of a three-paragraph historical overview and a bare bones entry for each book on the Penguin Group Inc. website.

It doesn’t seem to be a question of resources; indeed, my experience is that smaller publishers often seem to put more into this than bigger ones. Night Shade Books is a small company but has a nice site, while Ace is an arm of a huge publishing conglomerate and yet has less info online than the cereal I had for breakfast this morning. I’ve bought books that I would have most likely overlooked from learning about them on some of the more interesting publisher websites, so I’m hoping that more publishers will take advantage of this form of promotion.

Elizabeth : Personally I find the cover as the biggest marketing tool. Probably fickle, I know. Even had I never heard of Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man, before buying it, I would have bought it. Purely for the fantastic artwork on the front. I’ve picked up many a new author because of the illustration on the front cover and similarly, there are books I won’t touch with a pitchfork because of the lurid covers. I also like continuity in covers – for instance, the new covers done for Robin Hobb genuinely appeal to me. I have read all of them but am keen to own them all over again, purely because of the emblematic covers. Similarly the new covers brought out for James Barclays books – genius marketing. Another author whose work I admire greatly is Charles de Lint – recently his older novels are being re-done and the artwork is indicative of the magic within the books.

Something which Orbit is doing – as I’m sure many others know – is doing behind the scenes peeks at how front covers are put together. Visit the Orbit blog to view what they’ve done for Joe Abercrombie’s newest novel – it is very much an eye opener.

Press releases – very few readers see them. As a book blog reviewer, I love them! I keep all of mine tucked into the books I get sent. I do read the sheets as a lot of times it has more information about the author and the novel than just the blurb on the back and at times they make mention of the marketing they have in mind for the book – and that is something I find very interesting.

Book reviews – I have a few other bloggers whose sites I visit to catch up on reviews on books I don’t have and I have been swayed to buy loads this way. I will however not read reviews on books that I have got to review myself. You have to keep an open mind and not be swayed by another’s opinion. I refuse to read Amazon reviews - that of course is an entirely different matter!

I find book trailers, unless they are done by fans (I even did one!), a bit forced. Along with TV spots they drive me a bit insane. Billboards – books don’t really get advertised much on the big billboards here in the UK. At various overland stations and on the underground yes, and they are invariably very eye catching and they do draw a lot of attention. I remember seeing the posters for Brisingr at least a
month (maybe I’m exaggerating?) ahead of its release date. It was pretty cool (especially as I got sent a whole sheath of them to give away) and it generated a lot of interest.

Internet ads are a favourite too – I have a notepad where I write down books advertised this way so that I can check out the publisher and author at a later stage. Author sites are a must. Case in point: Simon & Schuster are debuting two very hot new young adult authors this year: Michelle Harrison and Sarah Rees Brennan. Both these girls have got amazing online presence and they are EVERYWHERE. The buzz about their books are just a bit daunting – Sarah put a post up on her LJ about ARCs being available and there was over 600 replies. Michelle’s generated so much interested in her novel that it’s been shortlisted as one of the books in the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize list! Similarly, American debut novelist Carrie Ryan (Delacorte) has a fantastic website and online presence for her novel out later this year. The noise is incredible. And it is very satisfying as you get so caught up in it, you feel part of it all. The fact that the websites are there,makes you feel like you can personally interact with the author – and invariably, when you do, the response back is worth it.

Author interviews, online / in person, along with signings – man, this is what I was built for. I love them. I thank my lucky stars every time I get to go to one of these because it brings home how nice most of them are and how human and normal.

Giveaways are, along with good book jackets, the best tools for marketing and probably the least forced. I love hosting giveaways and I know most publishers – even in these difficult times – are happy to oblige. They know about word of mouth and hand-selling and they rely on this quite heavily.

Gav: *Getting on the shelves in Borders or Waterstones*
This might sound a little strange, but I do like seeing books in book shops. If a book is on the shelves then I can 'kick-the-tyres', check the print, maybe read a bit, but most of all impulse buy. And if they can get it onto the promotional tables or on a 3 for 2 offer than I'm more likely to buy something I'm not so sure about.

*E-Book Edition*
I've been getting quite excited by finding books that I want as epub files that'll play happily with my Sony Reader. I know older books aren't going to be easy to find but there little excuse for new releases not be in that format. *And it is a form of marketing as it increases the chances that I'll buy it over one that isn't ebook'd even if I want to read it.

*The Cover*
A great cover is going to win me over every time. I'm a little conservative when it comes to covers so if it's like other books of its kind I'm likely to know what type of book it is. I don't mean that it has to be too close but it does have to match the style and tone of its content.

*The Cover Blurb*
I tend to read blurbs in-depth after I've started reading the book to fill in the gaps but a good blurb will give give me a little more of a idea of a book after a cover has attracted me.

*Being Wide Spread*
Getting mentioned is as many places as possible in a positive way is going to raise my interest. I'm the kind of person that likes to know what he's missing.

*Various Internet Promotions and The Giveaway*
I think that goes back to getting positive vibes so if I see them around I know that there are people out there that like the book and want it to do well. I guess it's a subconscious thing.

So overall, my favourite form of marketing is anything that gets me to think of a particular book more than another one in a positive way but it needs to be viral more than hammer driven.

Trin: More or less the only thing that reaches me in this backwater place is a good review. :) Our main bookshop can hardly be trusted with choosing good titles (I have a feeling that they simply buy whatever people order) and there are no author signings, billboards and the like. A nice enough cover always helps, though, but I find the quotations and blurbs pretty unimportant - I never read them, since the former don't interest me and the latter often include spoilers. So, I believe in the power of the Internet - if a book is much discussed/positively reviewed, then I'll almost certainly read it.

Me: In all honesty, there's only one form of book marketing that has any effect on me whatsoever, and yet has little to do with the publisher: approachable, friendly, and engaging authors. The publisher only helps by making these authors available by sending them to conventions and book signings, etc., but generally speaking all the work is up to the author him/herself. I find that when an author is approachable
and willing to engage with current or potential fans it immediately puts them in my book of good folks. There are quite a few authors who, while great writers, are not really all that interesting to me either because they aren't available, or because they're just too busy (or don't care) for engaging with readers.

Otherwise, while I like all the bookmarks, fliers, videos, free giveaways (I especially like these), etc., they don't really influence me in purchasing. If the book itself isn't interesting, I'm likely not going to buy it unless the author can make it interesting. Book reviews, of course, do help when you're not sure about a book and need an objective opinion. I certainly am not suggesting that publishers stop all the stuff they are doing, though. What works for me may not work for someone else, etc.

I also find the cover to be incredibly effective in getting me to pick up a book (with the actual blurb on the back and some of the writing itself to draw me in further), but I had never really considered this part of "marketing." Still, nothing like a pretty cover to get me to look at something.

Gareth Wilson: I suppose I like something that's a little different to what's becoming a little cliched in certain circumstances. For example everyone enjoys a little something for free be it bookmarks, stickers or even, in some cases, sweets. (As was done for Jennifer Rardin's original novel.)

That said though I tend to go over word of mouth from people I trust yet this isn't a nay say to the reviews, as a lot of the people I hear from about certain books are reviewers, it can be a real saver and at times a surprise to discover a secret gem hidden beneath the TBR pile. I suspect that's why, to a certain degree, a lot of reviewers get to know each other as with the sheer volume of books released it makes it difficult to read the lot at the time they're released so a number go on a back burner until the time that you get to them.

With myself one novel that landed that took me six months to get to was Christian Cameron's Tyrant which I absolutely loved and was a little upset that I'd left it so long but with these things you tend to learn and get a feel. Its great having friends who also review as we can all tackle different books and then send out the recommendation to each other so that you don't miss anything. I think if we were to get a central hub to be able to do just that then it might help each other out.

Heather: Asking me about my favorite form of book marketing is akin to inquiring about my favorite dental procedure. While I appreciate an effective marketing campaign (“Where’s the Beef?” “Lever: for all of your two thousand parts”), I find that it’s a necessary evil. (And yes, I’m a card carrying member of Lever 2000).

But you also asked what form of book marketing I find most convincing, and that’s quite a different story! Number one with a bullet would be book reviews. That’s my primary source for discovering new books/authors. They closely resemble word of mouth, and since these days I spend hours upon hours each week in the blogosphere, the process is also very convenient. Good, bad, snarky, sugar & spice, amateur or professional, review sites are a smorgasbord of entertaining dishes.

One form of marketing seems to be the, er, marketing category placed on the spine. While partly an organizational tool, it’s a vital part of the package when viewing books on a shelf or when typing key words into a search function. I’d say that form of marketing gets me every time, because frequently my search starts with a particular genre, and marketing categories is the quickest way to narrow my search. However, I tend to raise an eyebrow whenever I notice publishers getting devious with the categorization. I think it can misfire when the label does not accurately represent the story (Susan Grant’s science fiction romance MOONSTRUCK, which features a starship and nonstop space travel, has “Paranormal Romance” on the spine. My edition must have omitted the vampires.)

Titles are another way publishers might persuade me to part with my hard earned cash (or my husband’s, as the case may be). While I understand that they are basically crafted to sway distributors and book buyers, and while they rarely figure into my book buying decisions, smashingly great ones will sometimes tip the scale (WHITECHAPEL GODS, I bow before your moniker magnificence).

In the end, though, it comes down to reviews, because reviewers take the time to analyze the ins and outs of a tale so I can make informed decisions. And that’s a marketing strategy bordering on a public service, at least in my book.

Sarah: the main way that I choose my next book to buy is word-of-mouth, so the marketing schemes that work best are the ones that most resemble word-of-mouth or personal recommendations. Whether it's a review by a reviewer I trust, or a "Staff Choice" in a bookshop, or even the "Recommended for you" section on Amazon, I'm much more likely to give those books a shot than if I'd just seen them advertised on a generic poster. Most poster-advertised books are not for me anyway, being a bit too mainstream; the one time those are useful is if there's a new book out by an author that I already like, and it alerts me to the fact that it's now published.

And there you have it! Comments welcome, as always.

SoD Chapter Four: Of Traditions Doubled

Laura remembered falling, but she couldn’t pinpoint when she had struck the water. It had all happened so fast, and yet so slow at the same time. Where she was at one moment seemed ages from where she was before and in that time she found herself even more confused, for instead of striking the violent waters of the Sea of Loe, she had struck light. The pattern-less light approached her from the water as a narrow beam. She hit it and found herself not in the water at all, but someplace else, somewhere bathed in an ethereal glow that was warm and cold at the same time, and featureless except for the strange walls and pillars that made up the landscape. No designs, no markings to tell her what sort of place she was in. In that moment she thought she had died.
Then a new light flashed before her, brighter and strangely terrifying. When it faded she found herself face to face with a creature, or a man, or both—she couldn’t be sure. He stood taller than anyone she had ever met in her life and was clothed in nothing but light except where metallic bands surrounded his wrists. Two glorious white wings were extended, presenting a massive wingspan. In her peripheral vision she imagined he had an eagle’s head, but when she looked at this creature, the face seemed human, with prominent cheeks and eyes that shined gold.
And now she really believed she had died and gone to heaven. The revelation brought her to tears and she collapsed. She sobbed and was overcome by loss. She would never see her friends or her family again; this was the end.
It seemed like an eternity before the enormous man-creature approached her. He lifted her to her feet with massive arms and stared straight into her eyes. Warmth came over her and her tears subsided as if commanded to do so. Fear and sadness fell away and warmth enveloped her like a cocoon.
“Shed no tears, child,” the creature said. “Do you know me?”
She nodded. “You’re an angel,” she blurted.
He laughed. “Close. I am no angel, child, though perhaps where you come from you would know me as such. I am Nessian, the Father.”
She sat dumbfounded.
“Child, I am one of the Great Fathers that rules this land, or used to rule. But that is for another meeting. Now, time is pressing.”
“I don’t understand.”
He let go over her arms and she stood for herself. “I don’t expect you to right now. I’ll let James explain when you are brought back to the Luu’tre. Now, however, is your trying time, you moment of exposure to a world you have only begun to see. The world that inhabits something your people have forgotten.”
Nessian smiled and flexed his wings. “Yes.” He paused as if in thought, then continued, “Be careful. Carelessness cannot be afforded, for Luthien hunts you. Beware his eye. Beware those that would claim to be your friends who do not know you.” He turned and started to walk away, the bright light suddenly warping around him.
“Wait!” she cried, but he was gone.
For a while she just stood there, unable to comprehend exactly what was going on. The white light swirled like a cloud around her. She wondered who this Great Father was. Who was Nessian, or who had he been once? She shook that thought away. The Great Fathers didn’t interfere with the mortal world. They were gods, creatures of magic and power, rulers of a universe bound by order and law. Nessian couldn’t be one of them.
Yet, no matter how hard she tried to convince herself, she realized that Nessian was someone of importance, someone she knew Triska, Pea, and the others would be interested in hearing about, and possibly divulging informationg about. Maybe he was one of the Great Fathers. And thinking that startled her into a type of fear that she had never felt before: fear of the world gone completely wrong. If the Great Fathers are getting involved, then something worse than we expected is happening here. Loe is only the beginning.
The light swirled again and reared up like a snake. It struck down at her. The brightness blinded and she closed her eyes, burying her face into her arms.

Laura woke just as an enormous wave struck her floating body and pummeled her into the pink reef nearby. The porous, living creature cut into her sides and she jerked into action, trying desperately to swim away. Light erupted in the dark blue and something coursed through her veins—an energy, pulsing as if the veins were constricted. The water around her bubbled, becoming steam and rising until it exploded from the surface and disappeared from her view. Then, the energy coursed around her, through and into her, and, to her surprise, she rose up like a balloon. She broke the surface and gasped for air. Waves struck all around and a strong current tugged at her legs. Sea sprayed against her face as she kicked with all her might to stay afloat.
Looking up, she could only see the side of the Luu’tre, tilted to the side and gently rocking as waves pummeled the wooden sides. A loud boom sounded and something crashed nearby, sending bits of splintered wood all around her. She covered her face just as an undertow dragged her under. She fought it and managed to get back to the surface to find that a hole had been blown into hull of the Luu’tre. The Luut’re leaned precariously to one side, jarred by whatever had struck it.
“Help!” she screamed, but there was no response.
Another boom sounded and this time she saw and heard something shoot through the air and strike the ship on her side, sending more bits of wood raining down into the ocean.
What’s going on, she thought and tried to look through the misty swaths of vapor and the now forming fog. Another boom sounded, slamming into the water nearby. Cannon fire. The realization struck like a light and she pushed herself to swim towards the Luu’tre, stopping every few feet to scream as if her warning would alert her friends to something they didn’t already know.
She heard Iliad’s voice just as a wave drug her under. She swam up and coughed. She stopped herself from vomiting and turned herself in the water until she could see the scout’s form.
“Iliad, I’m over here!”
He saw her and swam in her direction. Once by her side he wrapped and arm around her to help her swim. “You alright?” he said, his voice roaring over the winds.
“I think so,” she replied. “We have to get out of the water. The ship’s being hit by cannons.”
“I know. We’ve been caught up with. Luthien managed to wrangle a ship, maybe more.”
“Can we get the Luu’tre off the reef?”
“I don’t know. Come on.”
Together they made their way towards the Luu’tre; a huge chunk of reef held her bulky front out of the water and Laura tried to indicate to Iliad that they should move in that direction. They swam, Laura lagging behind slightly. She hadn’t had to swim in such turbulent water before. Woodton—her home back in the world now a dimension away—barely had rapids in the single river that ran through it, and no lakes. And the pool offered nothing more than calm waters. Here, in this violent sea, waves tossed her one direction and then another. When they seemed to gain ground, a wave pushed them back. They constantly fought against an inconsistent tide, running in all directions as if it couldn’t decide which way to go.
Laura grew tired; her arms burned and she saw for the first time a group of red marks along her hands and wrists. She gave it only a momentary glance before continuing on, using Iliad’s fierce determination to guide her.
Another cannonball struck above, sending more splinters into the air. She heard Captain Norp’s protests. An instant later and a swift wind whipped down upon her and Iliad, accelerating and driving stinging drips of rain into their faces and pushing them sideways. It proved beneficial, for when they were able to open their eyes and swim again they found themselves in a milder section of the torrent of waves.
Energy resurged into Laura’s arms and soon she and Iliad managed to reach the edge of the reef. Iliad helped her up carefully, though in vain, for the crashing waves forced her to cut herself as she tried to climb to the top. After, Iliad tried to climb up, but only managed to pull his frame out of the water. Laura tugged on his arm and managed to drag him out.
“Well, this is marginally better,” he said. “The problem is getting someone’s attention…” A huge thud indicated another cannonball had struck the ship. “And that might be a little difficult if they keep doing that.” He pointed and Laura followed his direction.
There she saw another ship, its side turned towards them, all gunports open. Flying on a flag at the top of the central mast was a symbol she was, regrettably, familiar with—Luthien’s eye. It made her skin tingle and shivers ran all along her body. She couldn’t remember how long she had been under Luthien’s control, nor most of the things that had happened. But she remembered that eye. It had watched her while she lay comatose, peering into her dreams and inner mind, an invasive and alien experience for her.
Her stomach lurched then, and she held herself with her hands pressed to her belly, a pinch of pain erupting in her gut. Iliad turned to her and she buckled over before he could grab her. Memories flooded back to her then, all manner of thoughts and sensations pouring into her mind. And then it was over before she could make sense of it all; the pain slipped away and she stood. The memories were too much for her, all of them merged together like a collage that, overall, made no sense. Considering their predicament, she put them in the back of her mind, for she knew that here wasn’t time to deal with that now.
“You okay?” Iliad said, touching her shoulder.
She nodded. “We need to get the ship out of this reef.”
“That goes without saying. Look.”
She followed Iliad’s arm to the northern horizon. There two more ships appeared from the gloom of a thick fog—smaller craft that likely acted as scout ships rather than as members of an assault fleet, their bows stuck out in long points and their sleek exteriors rode through the wind with ease. Each bore the red eye of Luthien on their central masts.
“That’s troublesome,” she said. That’s an understatement, she thought. Three ships to one. Those weren’t good odds, especially if the ship under attack couldn’t move—and the Luu’tre was pretty securely stuck.
More cannon fire slammed into the water near the Luu’tre’s aft. Laura sensed they were running out of time. Sooner or later Luthien and those serving under him would figure out that they could do more damage at a closer distance. They had the advantage.
Laura screamed at the top of her lungs to get someone’s attention. It worked, for a moment later a face appeared above—a familiar face. James looked down at her and even at that distance she could see a wide smile crossing his bruised and battered—and dirty—face. It was some minutes later before a rope was lowered and one by one Laura and Iliad were dragged back into the ship.
Then the bitter cold finally took its toll on her. She toppled over and shivered, her hands suddenly numb and hard to move, as if the joints had seized up. Someone took her to Captain Norp’s cabin and wrapped her in a thick, wool blanket. Her body tensed as the man—who she found out was one of Norp’s crew and not one of her friends—tried to tell her she needed to get her wet clothes off; she wasn’t about to get undressed in front of some stranger. Realizing her position on the matter, he disappeared and after a long wait she undressed, finding a new set of dry, though stained clothing on a wood stool nearby. Another burst of cannonfire buffeted the ship as she dressed.
It didn’t take long before someone came looking for her, but not because they were worried about her; they needed her help. Outside she met with the others, each were displaying their talents in some way to keep the ship from falling apart. But none of it seemed to matter. The Luu’tre was stuck and no manner of rocking, readjusting the sails, or screaming and yelling—of which Captain Norp was guilty of—had managed to loosen the ship from her prison. Now things were getting desperate and they had to come up with something or they’d quickly find themselves without a ship, and very likely in the hands of Luthien. Of all places, Laura didn’t want to be there. She’d rather be dead.
She stood in the rain, dumbfounded and looking around confused. What can I do to help them, she thought. A few men hustled past her, compelled by Captain Norp’s barked orders to do anything and everything in their power to get the Luu’tre free.
Laura decided against entering the fray of the hustling men, or bothering her companions. They were too busy now with Luthien pouring his power over them. She stepped away and hurried up the steps to the quarter deck, where Captain Norp was on the railing looking down over the main deck, flailing his arms, his face cherry red with all the energy coursing through his veins as he ran one way and then another. He fell when something hit the ship and rocked it and climbed back up to resume his tirade.
She ran all the way aft and came to a stop with her chest against the railing. Her jaw dropped: more ships had arrived through the storm and fog, dozens of them and more floating in from the gloom. Two of the nearest ships took positions alongside the first ship and, their gunports aimed at the Luu’tre, opened fire. She saw the puffs of smoke, the brief bursts of flame, and the blurry shapes of cannonballs heading in her direction. Her hands unwillingly clenched the railing.
In that split second she heard nothing but a faint voice, unintelligible, but soft and somehow reassuring. It whispered in her mind and consumed her focus along with the sounds of the thumping booms as more cannons were set off.
The world worked in slow motion. She watched the cannonballs as if peering at them through binoculars, willing them to just go away as if this were all a terrible nightmare. But even clenching her eyes shut did no good; the cannonballs were there throughout. She took one deep breath; her heart beat—thump thump—in her chest, every vein pushing her blood around, circulating as something inside her grew.
Then that slow moment ended, abruptly returning to normal speed like an action sequence from a movie. She blinked, then closed her eyes and waited, seeing all the many balls of hot metal rushing through the air. She opened them again—curiosity taking over her instincts—and tensed…
Only, nothing struck the Luu’tre. Before her eyes she saw the cannonballs erupt into flames and melt away, each at the same spot, pouring into the ocean like miniature waterfalls of molten metal. A deep energy and warmth coursed through her, pushing the rain away from her face in streams of vapor. Her skin grew red around her hands, becoming like sunburns. More cannonballs fell to the same fate, all sliding into the ocean, sizzling as they went.
Laura sensed her heart rate rising and breathed rough, coarse breaths as she came to the realization that she had just used magic. When another volley of attacks came at the Luu’tre, she tensed again and willed the same thing to happen. But when it did, a dull pain shot up her arms and she became lightheaded. She turned, saw someone through her blurry vision and fell to the ground. The last thing she heard was her name, chanted amidst the booms of distant cannon fire.

The Facebook Fiasco Has Ended: Terms of Service Back to Normal

Well, it looks like all our kicking and screaming has paid off. The Facebook folks have gone back to their original ToS. Additionally, discussions on the issue have caused the following bits to be written for clarification purposes:
1. You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn't claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don't claim to own your information.

3. We won't use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven't asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don't want, but this isn't what we're doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you've already sent a friend a message, they'll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people's content even though that's what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.
Looks like it's all back to normal! Good work everyone!