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Independence

Independent publishing — indie — is generally a great thing.  When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a writer to part with their publisher/s there’s no need to let the world know the just causes, you can just leave and start writing indie.

Or you can start out indie, anyway, and not have to suffer the slings and arrows of incompetent office staff and indifferent sales staff.But this must be said: publishing independence, like the political kind, comes with obligations.

Yes, yes, we know.  Decent cover, good copy editing, etc.  We know all that.  And those are easy to be aware of and comply with.  But there’s more subtle things. Things that keep an addict like me from reading your book, even though I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT TO.

Yes, I’ve finished a mystery series (since I’m writing sf/f right now, I’m mostly reading mystery.) and I’m desperately looking for another one to fall into.  I love series, because I can spend a week reading the ten books without having to look for new stuff to read in the twenty minutes I’m cooking, or doing laundry or something.  So I really want to find a new series of mysteries that I can read.  I’m looking to approve, not to reject.

The total this morning is five rejections. Thank heavens for Kindle Unlimited Lending Library, or I’d be just downloading a ton of samples at this point.

Look, I’m not being unforgiving.  I can be when reading Tudor England or another time I’m familiar with, but I started reading medieval mysteries because I know bloody nothing about medieval England.

And I forgave the series I was reading having the FOURTEENTH CENTURY gentleman disapprove of the crusade against the Cathars, because they’re good people so it doesn’t matter what they believe.  (In the unlikely event a medieval man thought that he’d not admit it, not even to himself.) But the rest of the series was okay, so I forged on.

These other mysteries, though, were wearing their crazy on their sleeves.

…  Like the one in which the medieval monk is looking to “broaden the mind” of his fellow monk by introducing him to a Jewish man.  There’s so many things wrong with it, starting with “broadening the mind” that it doesn’t bear analyzing.  I realized I was in the hands of a modern author who not only didn’t understand the medieval mind-set but didn’t want to.  Rather he wanted to redeem the middle ages with his writing.  I gave up there.  (Not that Christians and Jews weren’t friends, mind, it’s just that a monk would at least feel forced to make ritual noises about converting his friend.  It’s more that the idea of “broadening the mind” on religion is NOT a 12th century one, okay?)

This was followed by the medieval mystery with PAGES of dramatis personae and glossary in the beginning.  Look, guys, glossaries and lists of characters are like maps.  Some people love them, others run screaming into the night.

We who also write fantasy know this.  But for the love of heaven, what type of mind thinks they need a glossary entry for faeder used obviously as “Father.”  And who needs a list of every character, including the pot boy, 150 of them or so? Look at it this way, you might put it in because you’re insecure “what if they forget who so and so is”?  But what you’re actually doing is declaring your incompetence: “I am not competent enough that you can take the character in his role without referring to a list.”  Uh…. one demerit for Griffyndor, but I read on.

<bangs head gently against desk.

I skipped that and found myself reading a book that read like one of grandma’s gossip sessions.  Now, I think this is because it’s not the first book in the series (I haven’t checked) because the new characters and the murder are easy enough. But then we get to what are obviously continuing characters, the detective and her crippled servant, and the guy who maybe has a crush on her, and who, once, was thought dead, but then was found in such and such a place in such and such circumstances.

There was no holding onto the story while being submerged in irrelevant information, and I gave up and tossed the book aside.  I mean we got the FULL HISTORY and parentage of this woman’s crippled servant before we have any attachment to the woman yet.

I then tried a regency mystery.  Which goes into three pages explaining that women suffered severe restrictions in behavior and ability to earn their living in the Regency and how the authors don’t approve of that.

Look, I’d even endure that kind of crap if they were giving the reason this was so (familial lines/interests, the absence of contraceptives, etc.) but they seemed to simultaneously think that everyone else was totally ignorant and that they needed to virtue signal that they didn’t approve of society women not being able to have jobs (newsflash chickies, society gentlemen ALSO couldn’t have jobs, and oh yeah, they could only make certain types of investments if they wanted to keep their position.)

After all this signaling about how their character is a strong and valiant woman, we see her apprehending a thief (no, really, these dodos don’t have her be an amateur pi, but a bow street runner, may the lord have mercy on their ditsy souls) and losing her occurrence book because her pet dog runs away with it.  In other words it’s another “Strong, independent, UNBELIEVABLY STUPID woman.”

Then we went into another medieval mystery, which gave me 20 pages of dry as dust history of England in the 11th century, with vague waves at where the character was at the time.

Look, I’m not a hard judge.  I’m a reader.  I want a book/series I can fall into.

What can I tell you as a reader about not holding me off your book:

1-read in the subgenre you’re writing in.  If you think your medieval mystery/science fiction mystery/fantasy mystery is utterly new you haven’t read enough.  Read and see how people — particularly people whose books have been popular for more than a year or so, have solved the problems of telling THIS particular kind of tale.

2-remember for whom you’re writing.  Yes, it’s absolutely possible that you find a reader who has never before read this subgenre.  It’s also unlikely.  Assume readers of an historic period know the period.

3- If they don’t introduce them to the period by immersion.  They’ll figure fast enough that there are restrictions to the behavior of women when your main character’s mother reads the riot act for walking alone in the street.  And honestly, I don’t think anyone will think you approve of it.  Unless they’re crazy.  your main audience probably isn’t lunatics.

4- If you’re using foreign/period words for flavor, let them trickle in and let the reader guess them from the context.  i.e. trust your reader to have a brain.  If I tell you “He got the soup into the malga, got a spoon and sat down to eat.” you will assume the malga is a container (mug, kind of.  It’s used for coffee or tea s well as for soup, but it resembles a very large Chinese soup bowl.) You don’t need to know the exact shape, but if you do, I’ll later say something about his turning it in his hands, or wishing it had a handle.

5- Don’t overwhelm the reader with unneeded details.  Give them what they need to follow the story, introduced as cleanly and dramatically as possible.  You have the whole book to give them interesting details.  But even then keep it to those at least marginally relevant to the story.

6- If your story is a sequel give me JUST what I need to follow THIS story.  If I like it, I’ll find the previous books, never fear.

Above all, respect your reader and endeavor to hook him/her.  You’re indie now.  There’s no one between you and the person who reads you.  Stop putting obstacles in their way. Go forth and be independent.

 

 

 

 

67 Comments
  1. Have you tried the Miss Fortune mysteries by Jana DeLeon? I find them light and entertaining with only a little suspension of disbelief required. They are set in the present day, however.

    July 4, 2018
  2. CACS #

    When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a writer to part with their publisher/s there’s no need to let the world know the just causes, you can just leave and start writing indie. 

    I laugh.  I also think, in the voice of William Daniels ‘this is terrible’. (Albeit it really isn’t.)

    John: Jefferson are y’finished?

    There is no answer.

    John: You’ve had a whole week, man.  Is it done?  Can I see it?

    Jefferson points to all the crumpled paper on the floor.  John picks up one at random and, flattening it out reads it.

    John: ‘There comes a time in the lives of men when it becomes necessary to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained –‘  this is terrible.  [Looking up]  Where’s the rest of it?

    Again Jefferson points to the floor.

    John: Do you mean to day it is not finished?

    Jefferson: No, sir — I mean to say it’s not begun. 

    I do believe that if our relationship continues long enough I do believe I will have cause to quote the entire musical — 😉  HUGS!  Have a great Fourth.

    July 4, 2018
    • LOL

      July 4, 2018
    • My sister texted me yesterday to make sure I put The Sacred Musical into my bag to bring over to my parents’ so we can watch it tonight.

      July 4, 2018
      • We need to watch it.

        July 4, 2018
        • CACS #

          The Spouse and I have watched it; I with the book for the musical in hand. It was good.

          July 4, 2018
          • g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4 #

            We introduced #1 Son’s fiance to it. She laughed/teared up in all the right places. i think we’ll keep her!

            July 5, 2018
            • g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4 #

              Yes, this is Sarah Hoyt from remote computer…

              July 5, 2018
            • CACS #

              HUZZAH!

              July 6, 2018
  3. I just had an interesting experience while listening to a book. It was a quirky, New Wave kind of time travel story, and one of the characters got sent back to Manhattan Island in 980 AD because another character had programed the computer wrong.(He left the “1” off the date.)

    The description of the natives was so over the top that I assumed that the author was telling me that the time travel in this book wasn’t really travelling in time, but going to some alternative wish fulfillment universe based on the traveller’s expectations. (Rather like George Alec Effinger’s “The Nick Of Time” or Larry Niven’s “Flight Of The Horse” stories.)

    Then I realized that the author was serious. He really did believe that the Eastern Seaboard at the end of the First Millennium was some kind of utopian hippie commune with free love and everybody sharing everything that would welcome some weird stranger who didn’t speak the language.

    After that the book was a lot less fun.

    July 4, 2018
    • er….

      July 4, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      Am I a terrible person if I have this secret little wish that some of these idiots actually would get sent back to 980 America and get a first-hand look at what life is like among the natives.

      July 4, 2018
      • I’ve stopped asking that question and just learned to be okay with being a terrible person. It makes life so much easier.

        July 4, 2018
      • A friend of mine said, “My ancestors didn’t care what color you were. They’d make a slave of you anyway.” She was speaking of her Cherokee ancestry, naturally.

        July 4, 2018
        • lfox328 #

          Thank you for stating what – to me – is obvious, but, apparently, to the rest of the world is unfathomable. That is, the use of the terms “captive” and “adopted” to refer to the settlers that were taken – by force and without their consent – away from their families. When they lived with the Indians, they were NOT family – they were SLAVES.

          My ancestor, Indian Billy Ice, was taken at a young age (his mother, one of his sisters, and his brother’s fiancee were all killed by these kidnappers). He and his sister survived, but Billy wasn’t released until the Colonial government negotiated his release in the treaty after Pontaic’s War. His children, and the Indian mother of his children, returned to the tribe, without him. He returned to his family, and married (twice – after the first wife’s death, he married again – 19 children in total).

          No, this wasn’t adoption. It was theft and slavery.

          His sister wasn’t with the tribe when he was released. She was said to have been sold to another tribe (apparently, she may have had either her mother’s red hair, or her father’s blond hair, and been an attractive asset). She returned as an old woman – briefly – but declined to stay with her family. Likely, she had children that were half-Indian.

          People who call this adoption should try applying that standard to Black female slaves. Would they have called sexual relations anything but rape of a slave?

          July 5, 2018
    • Brett Baker #

      It’s kinda bad when the horrible old-timers have a better grasp of history and science than folks who have access to modern history and science.
      Then again, look at how the peaceful Maya myth was created out of we’ll, wishful thinking. People were really shocked when it turned out the Mayan aristocrats were among the top psychopaths of all time.

      July 4, 2018
      • SheSellsSeashells #

        I both love and abhor S.M. Stirling for the epic comeuppance his peace-n-love siblings received in “Island in the Sea of Time”. Well-deserved. Poetic. And ew.

        July 4, 2018
    • Draven #

      this is my surprised face 😐

      July 4, 2018
    • CACS #

      That hippie utopian commune with free love and everybody sharing everything thing? It didn’t work too well. Not in the 1960s versions, nor in the nineteenth century attempts.

      July 5, 2018
      • Some things shouldn’t be shared – that’s why we have antibiotics.

        July 5, 2018
  4. If you haven’t read the Cadfael medieval mysteries, you lead a deprived live. Otherwise I have no recommendations, but would love to hear some… actually, I don’t even care what genre, so long as it’s Roman-to-Medieval.

    As to beating the reader over the head with excessive explaining and an attached encyclopaedia… I’ve noticed that a lot of younger folks are not competent readers. That is, they can read the words in front of them, but can’t infer anything further. If it’s not laid out in black and white, they don’t get it and can’t build it in their heads. So they complain about absent explanations, and write way too many of same.

    Concomitantly, one of the harder things to beat into green writers is: Trust your readers to Get It. These green writers are non-inferring readers themselves, so can’t understand that other readers may neither need nor like all their careful explaining.

    Being of perverse temperament, I tend to err on the far side, and make the reader figure out everything for themselves. 😀

    July 4, 2018
    • Mary #

      Though even there there are bloppers. . . .

      July 4, 2018
    • g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4 #

      Read them all YEARS ago. Watched the series, too, even though it was dumbish compared to the books.

      July 5, 2018
  5. Bah, I seem to have disappeared into the spamtrap again. I wish it would at least notify us when that happens, instead of just vanishing the attempted post.

    July 4, 2018
    • I’ve had that happen at my own blog. Really, WP, really?

      July 4, 2018
    • Okay, kicked you out of the spam trap. Where you were buried under a horde of search engine tools, stuff in arabic, and some poor barely-struggling-for-sentience AI trying to be a poet.

      July 4, 2018
      • Thank you Dorothy. I meant to do it.

        July 4, 2018
      • BobtheRegisterredFool #

        I fake sentience fairly well, most of the time, but I’ve always sucked at poetry. Can you point me in the direction of any AI that does poetry well?

        July 5, 2018
        • If they did it well, I might not be able to tell they were AI, eh?

          July 5, 2018
  6. Zsuzsa #

    I tend to think that the biggest mistake that a lot of historical writers make is the “I have suffered for my art, and now it’s your turn” mentality. They’ve found out all these cool facts and want to share them, which makes the reader feel like he’s reading the research materials rather than a novel.

    I tend to blame the SJWs for the “women were oppressed and that’s terrible” stuff. There is a certain vocal segment who seems to believe that if you depict something and don’t loudly condemn it, it’s because you’re endorsing it (actually, there’s a segment that seems to believe if you depict something period, you must be endorsing it). They’re not a majority, but they’re loud and obnoxious and tend to write flaming reviews out of all proportion to their numbers, so I can’t totally blame the writers who’ve decided they just don’t want to deal with that.

    July 4, 2018
    • Thank you for the topic for a post. 🙂 (I’m starting a series on world-building, beginning with research, but I’ll add “historical attitudes: theirs, not yours” to the list.)

      July 4, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Dear People, Dave Drake’s commentaries on his Books of the Elements.

      July 5, 2018
      • I have been discovering the works of Angels Thirkell, who wrote humorous contemporary 1930’s to 1950’s novels. They are nominally set in Trollope’s Barsetshire, and her characters tend to quote various famous writers without explaining explicitly.

        So the Wikipedia article about her… accuses her of plagiarism.

        July 5, 2018
        • Draven #

          cause no one ever does that…

          “Come on you apes, do you wanna live forever??!?!”

          July 5, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      I am seriously tempted to do some ‘women were oppressed, for sound reasons that we should really consider’. But I think lengthy works don’t hang together well when my motivation to write them isn’t enough to match the story. I’ve only been successful at channeling that sort of petty vindictiveness into parody news articles.

      July 5, 2018
  7. Zsuzsa #

    Okay, what did I do that all my comments are being sent to moderation? If I did or said anything to offend the mad geniuses, I am most heartily sorry. If I did or said anything to offend the Word Press gods…I’m willing to pretend to be sorry.

    July 4, 2018
    • Hon, no, it was wordpress. Periodically it does that.

      July 4, 2018
    • We like you. WordPress Delenda Est!

      July 4, 2018
  8. Eep! I was going to recommend Arthur Upfield, but theyaren’t KULL and they’re way over priced for “reprints” of books from the 50’s.

    July 4, 2018
  9. Well, I am giving another go at Georgette Heyer. I bogged down in Regency Buck … but read and very much enjoyed Cotillion on my Kindle, every day that I was at the gym, putting in mileage on the recumbent bike. It was a lighthearted romp, with a very nice twist at the end, and a happy conclusion for all three couples. Frankly, being able to read while pedaling is the only thing that makes the gym bearable.

    I also find “presentism” in a historical to be a good enough reason for wall-banging the offending book. (As long as it is a book, not a Kindle or other e-reader, of course. “wall-banging” is when you throw the book hard enough that it bounces off the nearest wall.)

    July 4, 2018
    • Try Venetia!

      July 4, 2018
      • Margaret Ball #

        Or almost anything but Regency Buck. Sylvester, Devil’s Cub (although that’s more fun if you read These Old Shades first), The Convenient Marriage, The Nonesuch, Faro’s Daughter…

        July 4, 2018
        • My oldest son also read Regency Buck first and I still haven’t’ got him back to Heyer.

          July 4, 2018
        • I read them as I come across them in secondhand sales (seeing as there isn’t a freaking bookstore in my city, I’m not going to stop complaining about that.) So I haven’t gotten These Old Shades yet, but I still enjoy Devil’s Cub.

          July 4, 2018
          • RCPete #

            Understood. We lost Waldenbooks when the owner (based over the Cascades) decided two stores were at least one too many, and Borders when they imploded.

            Unfortunately, the used book store went under in a recession, so what’s left are some specialty shops and the book section of Ye Huge Store (WalMart, Fred Meyer/Kroger, et al.) The selections show all the imagination of a DMV worker…

            July 4, 2018
      • Depends on the cost … for some reason, Cotillion was free for a limited time. Got the word on it through a Victorian-era FB group that I follow.
        (Which, weirdly enough, is run by a woman from India, who loves-loves-loves all things Victorian. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1199489966762278/ How is that for cultural appropriation? Another reason to bless the internet … against some of the nastier and more public trends.)

        July 4, 2018
  10. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a writer to part with their publisher/s there’s no need to let the world know the just causes, you can just leave and start writing indie.

    Oh, Sarah! I love you and all, but Thomas Jefferson would have gagged.

    “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a writer to part with his publisher, there is no need to let the world know the just causes; he can just leave and start writing indie.”

    You don’t want Jefferson revolving in his grave, do you?

    July 4, 2018
    • Sigh. Thomas Jefferson would have got that I was joking. 😀

      July 4, 2018
  11. Luke #

    You might like the Justin de Quincy series from Sharon Kay Penman.

    July 4, 2018
  12. And who needs a list of every character, including the pot boy, 150 of them or so?

    For some things, I found it useful, like in the original Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, but they didn’t include every single character. There were some books I read when I was younger where I found having something of a mini-reference of the world rather neat and interesting reading – like the author was inviting you to enjoy the world a little more, after the story or book was over. Then again, I’m the sort of odd that liked reading fluff text on gaming cards and gaming book sidebars, etc.

    For some things though, I’ve kind of gotten used to it, largely because I see it a lot in manga and light novels; character bios and brief descriptions. They’ll list the main characters, and the relevant minor characters germane to the story arc involved.

    I put a glossary and character list in Blessed Hope as a homage to that – in the back, so one have the option of skipping it entirely.

    July 5, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      As a nerd, when I get really into a setting, I will cheerfully read through all sorts of extra material. But from a design perspective, that stuff should be supplemental, not essential. Though I was just looking up translations of Water Margin, and that is one where a character list is apparently considered advisable.

      July 5, 2018
      • Oh yeah, it’s purely supplemental in the case of the Aff’s Diary series. I’d say Saiunkoku Monogatari and The Twelve Kingdoms is another one of those where a character list is advisable.

        July 5, 2018
      • TonyT #

        I’d say a character list is pretty much a hard requirement for any of the classic Chinese works, since they have so many characters AND the names are unfamiliar (and often too similar) to non-Chinese readers

        July 5, 2018
        • To an extent, though I can make it through Judge Dee without.

          July 5, 2018
          • TonyT #

            Remember Judge Dee was written by a Dutchman, so it’s written with Western sensibilities in mind. I’ve only read a Judge Dee short story so far, but just picked up a couple of the novels, and will probably be adding more – after all, it’s for learning about China 🙂

            The works I’m referring to are Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West (West = Central Asia and India), Dream of the Red Chamber, The Plum in the Golden Vase, and The Unofficial History of the Scholars.

            Apparently, the Chinese never had the novel explosion that happened in the West from the 18th Century on…

            July 5, 2018
            • Read Journey to the West and Dream of the Red Chamber. I didn’t need the name list. But I’m willing to assume I’m weird.

              July 5, 2018
              • Well, certainly Odd. I’m not sure you’re more Odd than most here, though.

                July 5, 2018
            • BobtheRegisterredFool #

              Chinese, along with a number of other Asian populations, have been producing a lot of stuff over the web.

              July 6, 2018
    • mrsizer #

      But put it at the end!

      July 5, 2018
    • TonyT #

      Of course, a classic example of added material are the appendices in the Return of the King, which are beloved by many (including myself) – but I’m glad Tolkien put them at the end, not the beginning.

      July 5, 2018
  13. Ben Yalow #

    Although it’s only three books long, the Sarah Tolerance hard-boiled Regency mystery series by Madeleine Robins is a lot of fun.

    July 5, 2018
    • I love that series! And she makes it work in part by having it be an AU, and so can get away with a few shenanigans that would not otherwise have worked in a “straight” historical mystery.

      I sure wish she’d write more in it, sigh.

      July 5, 2018
  14. Aimee Morgan #

    Re: #3 – having to tell the readers that you don’t agree with whichever particular “evil” was perfectly common in the period.

    This isn’t limited to historical genres. There was a YA book released late last year – The Black Witch – that got absolutely *hammered* on Goodreads and in the press. It’s fantasy, the world has many different races, and the protagonist has been raised to believe that her race is the superior race – all others range from “slightly better than animals” to “much worse than animals”. By the end of the book, she has figured out that this is probably wrong, and anyone with passing knowledge of the relevant tropes knows that by the conclusion she will (a) actually be the Black Witch that everyone is looking for, (b) save the world, and (c) do it in such a way as to forever change the near-universal belief that some races are more equal than others.

    But it seems none of the complainers actually read to the end of the book. The second book is supposed to be out in September, but that’s still up in the air. If I were a betting Secretary Dragon, I’d lay odds that either the book is getting a massive re-write so the author can grovel for forgiveness, or is not going to be released at all.

    I think it goes back to what Reziac said up there /\ – today’s’ schools are turning out incompetent readers. The ability to infer information from what is presented is gone, probably because it’s harder to believe in Socialism if you can infer it’s inevitable failure by reading about it’s inevitable death rate.

    July 5, 2018
    • Amen on the incompetent readers, but honestly they also want to believe everyone else is evil.

      July 5, 2018
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      A lot of people these days seem to have great difficulty with the concept that a character might grow and change.

      July 5, 2018
  15. I put a Dramatis Personae and Glossary into all my books, so far; who knows what will happen in the future? Mostly because I like them, and would have maps and illustrations of my combat armor suits too, but for the fact I’m saving that for the RPG/tactical wargame rules, which may never get written, because “Sweet dreams are made of this.”

    July 11, 2018

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