Category Archives: Shieldclads series

Ravencon Panels (I DID do): Why I DIDN’T Get a Book Launched

This was supposed to be a post on my first Ravencon Panel, “Swords Not Required.”  Those panel posts are going to be very long, however, and for various reasons this was a short week for me.  So, I figured I’d explain some things I didn’t get around to in last weeks post.

I mentioned during most of my panels that I would have had another book (a sci-fi novel) out, but I had to reject the cover art a month ago and therefore it was delayed.  That was… uh, not the full story (to put it mildly), but there was too much to discuss when just introducing myself.  But I can expound on it here, without restriction.

While I did not ask the convention for a book launch space, back around January I was hoping to launch a book at Ravencon.  That book was the long-delayed The Merrimack Event, which I’ve been talking about on this blog for years (literally).  It is a novel that’s actually older than my first-released novel (In Treachery Forged) but has been in the self-publishing version of development hell since before I filed the DBA for Fennec Fox Press.

I approached an editor for it; I checked him out, found I liked his style, negotiated a price for his service, and… he disappeared before signing the contract we’d agreed to.  Vanished off the internet, never responded to any more e-mails, etc.  I hadn’t paid him, nor had he seen the full manuscript, so it’s not like he was stealing from me… he just, well, vanished.

I like having different editors and cover artists for each novel series; I’d not had the time to investigate new editors, and every cover artist I queried with this book in mind (just to see if they were available, not even yet mentioning the project) never gave me any reply at all.

But around January, things were looking up.  It may have been piecemeal using beta readers, it may have been done in fits and starts, it may have partially been edited through a self-editing procedure I would normally never do because it was too labor intensive, but The Merrimack Event had reached a level of “edited” that I felt it was acceptable for release.  There were some minor tweaks that still needed to be done before the book could be built, but those tweaks were the equivalent of running a last spellcheck and fixing a few minor inconsistencies brought about through all the various edits.  The book could be released within days… if I could get cover art.

Then my budget was hit after I broke a tooth (or rather re-broke a tooth that had previously been repaired), and the money for the cover art went away.  I could pull the money from somewhere else, but that would slow one of my other projects.  However!  I had an option.  A professional artist was willing to do the cover for free (well, sort of; no money was to change hands, anyway).  Book covers weren’t their usual medium, but I’ve had success using artists who didn’t specialize in covers in the past.  So I said yes.

Unfortunately, come the start of April, their cover proposal showed up and was unacceptable.  It wasn’t completely hopeless, but you could tell this wasn’t the artist’s usual medium.  I tried working with the artist to maybe get it revised into something acceptable.  While things were getting closer and closer, I could tell the artist was getting frustrated.  I was struggling to get them to make the right changes (I am not an artist, myself; I have enough of an eye that I could see a problem, but I wasn’t sure how to explain that problem so that the artist would understand what I wanted).  I was taking more and more of their time away from the art projects they usually did.  Finally, I decided enough was enough; I pulled the plug and rejected the cover completely.

That’s not the end of the story, though.  There was still a month before the convention.  Both my mother (a professional quilt artist) AND my brother (who, for his first few years of college, studied mechanical design) decided they would make a go at trying to put something together; I might not have been able to get the print book out at that point, but if I could get an acceptable cover by the 25th I could submit the eBook and it would be for sale by the start of the convention.  Both of the cover proposals I received from them had possibilities, but both would need work… just like the first cover option did.  I didn’t want to go through all that again, so I just said “no” to both covers.  I’ve re-established a budget.  I’ll be hiring a professional cover artist… IF I can ever get one to reply to my e-mails, and then the book will (FINALLY) be out.

Incidentally, I had other observations from Ravencon which didn’t fit into last weeks recap:

  1.  I had produced some swag, but most of the other authors had much more than me.
  2. I did not ask for any book signing or reading times (during which an author can sell their book), nor did I rent a table in author alley to sell my books from, but maybe I should have (though I might need to replace my phone to something that will allow the use of a credit card reader, first).
  3. I was a little worried that I didn’t have the ‘pedigree’ to be a guest, but there were a number of guests at Ravencon who had the same sort of writing portfolio I had.
  4. Apparently, the end of April is the wrong time of the year for me to go down to Williamsburg; I have a lot of family in the area, but none of them were able to see me while I was there due to scheduling conflicts.  I like Ravencon, and plan to return, but maybe I should look into other conventions the area as well.
  5. I still need a name for my mascot fennec fox (stuffed animal).  Fortunately, no-one asked me what his name was when I was wearing him on my badge lanyard all weekend.

And… well, that’s it.  I’ll get that first “panel” page out next week, hopefully.  Until then….

Keeping Up With the Joneses…

I am sure people here recall me mentioning “The Merrimack Event” on this blog on occasion. Maybe not — I only bring it up every third or fourth blog post. Some day in the not-so-distant future (as in, between now and Ravencon), I hope to get this book out there.  But it is still in the “needs work” category.

The thing is, “The Merrimack Event” is old.  It’s actually older than In Treachery Forged (well, sort of; I started The Merrimack Event first, then wrote most of In Treachery Forged, then finished The Merrimack Event, then finished In Treachery Forged).

When I decided to turn to self-publishing, I sat back and evaluated everything I’d ever written, seperating it into several categories.  There was the stuff that just needed a polish before it was ready (sadly not that much; there was In Treachery Forged, which was the first book in a novel series, and the Rink of War, which was the only “ready” story one out of a much larger collection of novettes, novellas, and short stories taking place in a shared universe, and Voices — a very short story (just barely above “flash fiction” length) which I still need to find a place for), stories that were looking good but weren’t finished yet (the novel now published and entitled The Kitsune Stratagem, plus a few other things which I’m not discussing yet as I still haven’t worked on them since), and a depressingly long list of things I rejected as unpublishable.

(Yes, that’s right — as a self-publisher, you have to learn to reject your own manuscripts if they aren’t good enough).

Most of the rejections were short stories, barely begun unfinished works, and the like, but there were at least three works which, while not necessarily finished, had already reached full novel length.  The first was a historical fiction entitled “The Little Ring-Giver” about a barbarian mercenary hired by Rome to fight against Attila the Hun; it ended tragically (the hero is killed before the end, so his lover disguises herself and plots to marry Attila and murder him on their wedding night).  It… well, let’s just say it had a silly plot, overly purple prose, and a poor grasp of the “historical” aspects of historical fiction.  The second was a prequel to Oedipus Rex (I may have mentioned this here, before — in High School, I was required to read this play several times; when I was forced to read it one too many times in College, in an act of self defense I decided to do something to make it (a) more interesting and (b) to make sense of Oedipus’ punishment (if it were modern times, I think he could argue the situation the Greek Gods put him in was entrapment of the worst kind).  The problem with this one was I couldn’t decide whether it should be prose or script, and wound up with an awful amalgam of both.  The third novel-length manuscript of my own I rejected was another historical fiction; a highly improbable bit of Naval combat during the Napoleanic wars.  I actually might still write a novel with the same premise of this one, some day, but just about everything else from this book (bad research, bad dialog, purple prose, improbable plot twists,and more) means I’ll have to start over from scratch.

The Merrimack Event was the only significant item of a final category, however — things that were “not publishable yet, but still salvageable.”  It was in… rough shape, and had a lot of dust on it, but there was a lot of promise in it as well.  It had been through three or four revisions already, at the time, and with all of that work into it I was loathe to abandon it entirely.  So, after “In Treachery Forged” was released, I dusted the cobwebs off of The Merrimack Event and started to revise it… again.

It needed a LOT of work just to get it good enough to send to an editor, and it took me almost as long to get it to that point as it would have to write the thing over from the beginning (only for my chosen editor to vanish without a trace before I could get him the manuscript, which is a good part of the reason why it’s not already come out), but in the end I felt the story had been “salvaged.”

Which brings us to the title topic of this post.  The Merrimack Event still needs editing, but at this stage I’d say it is a “publishable” book.  Or, well, it was when I last touched it… but, uh, there’s a problem, as I was reminded earlier this week:  It’s a scifi novel, but some of the scientific tech that was in it has, well, proven not to be so fictional at all.  The book hasn’t “kept up with the Joneses,” so before I can do anything with it I  need to go back into the book, dust off the cobwebs, and “update” it, so that things that either looked unfeasible but weren’t, or which I figured wouldn’t catch on but did, don’t get so emphasized as “new.”

For example, I need to make sure that the engineer doesn’t call touchscreen keyboards a poorly adapted “new” technology (a real example from the book), even though… well, if you’re reading the blog on a Kindle Fire, you’ve probably already got one in your hand.  Back when I first wrote that scene, touch screens seemed a lot more impractical (something which might work, but no-one would favor a touch-screen keyboard over a tactile keyboard).  Obviously, time has proven that my read on that was wrong, but even though the story has been edited many times since it became clear that touchscreens were here to stay that scene has never been changed to reflect reality.  Now, the character discussing it was talking about how his service was being forced to adopt new technologies before the bugs had been worked out, and how he prefered more retro technologies in these cases, but given that this story is supposed to be set hundreds of years in the future one would think that any of the bugs he discussed would have been worked out by then.

I’m not alone in having this difficulty.  During the 2009 Marscon (a good convention, but that year it was at a horrible hotel; I didn’t go back until they changed hotels), author John Ringo (who really would have a worse time of it than me, considering he was writing “near future” science fiction and The Merrimack Event is more distant-future space opera, so the stuff I can write about can be even more off-the-wall) pointed out that there were one billion engineers and scientists on Earth (note: I don’t know if this number is even close to accurate, but the point stands even if it’s a lot less), and there’s only one of him trying to stay ahead of them all.

And Authors are not alone in this...
And Authors are not alone in this…

This is a fixable issue, and will be corrected before the book goes out the door… but the next time you read a science fiction book, and something fairly everyday is discussed as impractical or impossible, remember that technology can advance in unpredictable ways, and unexpectedly fast.  And that the technological prediction might have been made longer ago than you might realize….

Status Report

With Thanksgiving (and a lot of chores), I didn’t quite finish everything I intended for the blog post I had planned for this week (the “Merrimack Event”‘s back-of-the-book blurb). In its place, I figured I would do a status report for all the things I’ve told you I was going to be doing.

First of all, I’ve applied to be a guest at a few conventions. I haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, but I haven’t been rejected yet, either. I’m hopeful.

In Forgery Divided is still with the editor and cover artist. I haven’t recieved any information from my cover artist recently, but my editor says he’s through most of it, but there were a couple “problem areas” he’s devoting more attention to. I’m as tired of these delays as I’m sure my readers are, but I can’t put it out without a cover or any editing.

Over the last week, I’ve started approaching some more potential cover artists to get estimates for “The Merrimack Event.” Haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, but that’s no surprise in this timeframe. I’ve identified four editors to try and vet, but I have yet to approach any of them.

The Back-of-the-Book Blurb for “The Merrimack Event” should be posted next week, but I’ve got new ideas going from there. I’ve been cleaning out my office desk as I prepare to move my new computer from it’s temporary set-up to its permanent home. Found some fun things I could take pictures of (maybe. I hate taking pictures of any kind) and talk about here on the blog, including badges for well over a dozen conventions I’ve attended in the past — all from 2009 or earlier. And I’ve started a fun little research project I may discuss here, as well, even though it’s research for a story I probably won’t be writing for years.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving. And I’m giving you guys even more thanks for reading this blog. (I might be even more thankful if a few of you commented now and then when I was asking you guys for comments, but I’ll take what I can get).