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Posts tagged ‘Sarah A. Hoyt’

Support and Inspiration

I’ll admit I had no idea what to write about today. Between trying to finish up one novel, get another two ready for print and adulting, the last thing on my mind was the blog. Then I realized it was Tuesday and, oops!, my day here. Fortunately, a couple of fellow writers and I were on chat earlier and, during our discussion, inspiration hit. Let’s hope it survives to the end of this post, especially considering this is now my second try as my internet is being wonky this morning on top of everything else.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories, even if only to myself. Part of it might be because, back in the days of caves and stone tablets when I was growing up, we had to make up stories when we played. I know, it isn’t politically correct, but we played cowboys and indians. We also played out our favorite TV shows, movies, books, etc., all in the exciting confines of our backyards. In other words, we used our imaginations and made up stories to keep ourselves entertained.

Once I could write, I started putting stories down on paper. It was my escape in the evenings, just like reading.  Those early flights of fancy were private. I didn’t share them with anyone. What I didn’t expect was for writing to become a part of me, a very necessary part. It became my outlet, especially when life tossed curve balls I wasn’t sure how to deal with.

In 7th grade, my English teacher caught me writing in class. I’d finished the assignment and, rather than sit there twiddling my thumbs, I pulled out a spiral notebook and started writing a story. I don’t remember what it was, other than it was something I’d been working on for a bit. When I realized Mrs. Winslow was looking over my shoulder, I was mortified. No, I was terrified. Mrs. Winslow was a great English teacher but she also didn’t put up with folks breaking the rules. I couldn’t think of any rule I was breaking but I was suddenly afraid she would take my notebook and read what I’d been writing aloud.

Instead, she placed a hand on my shoulder and gave me a nod. Then she moved on, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Still, I think you can guess my reaction when she dismissed the class a few minutes later but asked me to stay behind. I was scared, not only because she wanted to talk to me but because I might miss my bus. Fortunately, her talk didn’t take long and I didn’t have to find another way home.

But that talk. Oh, that talk.

It was the first time someone had realized I was interested in writing fiction. She asked if she could read what I’d written, promising without being asked, not to pull out her red pen to mark all the grammar and punctuation mistakes. I really didn’t want to agree. After all, no one had read my work before. But I also didn’t want to do anything that might make her tell me I couldn’t write in class during my free time. So I dug out my notebook and gave it to her.

She returned it the next day with a smile and a word of encouragement. From then until the end of the school year, she took time at least once a week to ask how my writing was coming along. She would read it and offer suggestions on structure and content. Not once did she criticize what I was doing. I know now it was because she realized how fragile the writer part of my ego was. But she gave me the permission I needed to stretch my writing wings a little more and let others see my work.

Except, like so many writers, I was too scared to. So I kept writing and shoving my work in a drawer or under the bed.

The next time someone stepped up to encourage me happened when I was in high school or shortly after graduation. I was visiting relatives in Wichita and had gotten up before everyone. Sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for the coffee to brew, I pulled out my notebook and started writing. I was deep into the story when my cousin Clarice entered the room. She didn’t say a word. Instead, much like Mrs. Winslow, she patted my shoulder, poured us each a cup of coffee and sat across from me.

Then she told me a story. It was a story about her father, my great-uncle. Uncle Herb had owned a store and had been active in politics. I knew all that. Uncle Herb had been the head of the family for his generation. Level-headed, family-oriented and very German when it came to living up to your obligations. What I didn’t know was that he always wanted to be a writer. In his case, he wanted to write plays. Unfortunately for him, the system back then was not the sort where he could do it in his spare time and make money from it. So, he wrote a couple of plays, sent them off and then went to work to support his family. She still had a couple of his plays, carefully bound, the copyright filing firmly attached. That day, she gave me one of those plays, making me promise not to give up on writing. Even if all I did was write for myself, I needed to do so. She had watched her father regret not continuing to write until the day he died. She didn’t want me to do the same.

Then she reminded me of others in our family. Uncle Jack — Herb’s brother — had been the youngest linotype operator in the country at one time. Their father, TJ, had owned and wrote for/edited for a newspaper in Colorado. There were others in the family, going back further, who had been writers as well. Only none had ever pushed through to make it a career except for the reporters.

Clarice was the first to see a completed novel — and I cringe now when I think about what I gave her. But she kept it. Years later, not long before her death, she returned it to me. She wanted me to know not only that it had been something she treasured, not only because I had written it but because I had trusted her enough to let her see it. Once again, she told me not to let the dream die. I was a writer. I just had to believe it myself.

After that, I gathered the courage to join a critique group and to start showing my work to a neighbor who had come across me at a local coffee shop where I would sometimes go to work. When I finally screwed up my courage, I started sending off queries to agents and publishers. I wasn’t ready. The work was too rough. I know that now. But that was a very big step for me to take. One that could have backfired when the rejections started coming in.

Except I’m a contrary bitch and those rejections just told me I needed to learn more about the craft. Oh, I wasn’t sure I wanted to send anything else out but I had not forgotten what Clarice had told me. I wasn’t going to quit writing. I couldn’t. To quit writing would be like cutting off a limb. Nope, not gonna happen.

Then, one day, I found my way onto Baen’s Bar. There was a new author conference and I wandered into it. That new conference was Sarah’s Diner. Somehow, and I’m still not quite sure how, Sarah and I started talking, first in the conference and later through PMs and emails. Somehow, witch that she is, she weaseled out of me that I did “a little” writing. Look, it’s one thing to let a neighbor know I write and let her read some of my stuff. It was a totally different thing to let Sarah know. She was a “real” author. Nope, no way was I going to let her know.

Except I did. The Portuguese witch — what other explanation is there for it — got it out of me.

But that’s okay. I wouldn’t ever let her see what I wrote. It would be too embarrassing.

And then, somehow, I find myself sending her the opening chapter to something I had been working on. Something that is deep under my bed today, never to see the light of day. I knew, once she read it, she would tell me to never darken her digital doorstep again.

Wrong. Like Mrs. Winslow and my cousin Clarice, she understood. Oh, she had more than a few suggestions on what I needed to work on but they were given gently and with the understanding that it wouldn’t take much to send me running for the hills. Somehow, over the course of the next few months, she became more than a friend. She became my mentor, giving me writing exercises to do and conning, er convincing, me to send her more of my work.

When Amazon opened up to indie publishing, she dragged me kicking and screaming into the unknown. Of course, I think she did it because she has a terrible sense of direction and she wanted to make sure she didn’t get lost on the way herself. But she let the genie, so to speak, out of the bottle. She gave me the little — okay, the big — shove I needed and I haven’t looked back.

This is all a very long-winded way of saying we, as writers, need a support system and encouragement. Part of that comes from reviews for our work. Part of it comes from interacting with our fans. Friends and family are great but too many of us have families who just don’t get the writer thing and wonder when we will get a “real” job. But it also means that we, as writers, need to give back. We need to remember how we felt when we were first getting started. We need to figure out ways to help others the way we have been helped.

No longer is publishing a case where there are only a limited number of slots each month that writers are fighting for. Indie and small press publishing has proven the fallacy of that. So, as we work to improve our own craft and network with our fans, we need to reach out to others and help them do the same. I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without Sarah and those before her. (Now you guys know who to blame. VBEG) Hopefully, one day, I can be of help to someone the way Mrs. Winslow, Clarice and Sarah have been to me.

Tuesday links and a few thoughts

When I first started posting here at MGC, it was my job to be the link-master of sorts. publishing was in the early throes of the upheavals we still see rocking its foundations. Around that time, Amazon started the pre-cursor to the KDP program. Oh the howls of outrage, howls that still sound from time to time. But times change as did my role with MGC. Today, however, I’m going back to that early role (mainly because I’m still getting over a nasty bout of a stomach virus and the brain isn’t quite back to functioning beyond “sleep” and “sick” modes. So, for those of you who might have missed some of the latest on the Sad Puppies 3 and the fall out around it, here are a few links:

From Breitbart, we have “The Hugo Awards: How Sci-Fi’s Most Prestigious Awards Became a Political Battleground“.

It may not, therefore, surprise you to learn that similar occurrences are taking place in the science-fiction and fantasy (SFF) community, too. Previously a world renowned for the breadth of its perspectives, SFF increasingly bears the familiar hallmarks of an ideological battleground.

The story begins, as ever, with a small group of social justice-minded community elites who sought to establish themselves as the arbiters of social mores. This group would decide who deserved a presence in SFF and who deserved to be ostracised.

The Breitbart article hits the proverbial nail on the head with the above observation. In a field that ought to welcome everyone and welcome what they write, there is a group that is doing its best to shout down and, according to some, ruin the careers of those who do not toe the line when it comes to who they are and how diverse they make their stories. They sneer at white males of a certain age and attack women who do not fall into step with the rest of the sisterhood. These folks have forgotten that “wrong think” has long been the foundation of science fiction and fantasy and the field has been populated with writers from every political spectrum. That, apparently, is no longer something these folks want. Well, if SP3 does anything, it shows that there is a large group of authors and readers who don’t give a flying rat’s ass about being preached to in their stories. What they want is a story that engages them, entertains them and makes them think. Story has to win out over message because what good is the message if no one reads the story?

Sad Puppies: Some responses to the fallout is from Brad Torgensen.

Others (on the leftward side of the fence) make a great big fat noise about “Speaking truth to power.” Now, the shoe is on the right foot. For a change. Again, you don’t have to like it. SAD PUPPIES peels back the foil on the stale TV dinner. SAD PUPPIES says stuff that many people mutter in confidence, but few have dared speak openly; because they know it’s going to cause an uproar. SAD PUPPIES is specific in its intention: to alter the Hugo awards process such that artists and works which would otherwise be ignored, are not ignored. It’s not a “right wing” thing. It’s a make-the-field-live-up-to-its-reputation thing, by way of the field’s self-proclaimed, “Most prestigious award.”

And here’s the mind-blower: SP3 is not a same-minded collective. We’ve actually had a tremendous amount of internal debate about how to proceed.

There is the key where SP3 is concerned. It isn’t a slate — and I hate that word because this isn’t a slate. It is Brad’s recommendations for the first round of Hugo voting. He has repeatedly stated that. They are his recommendations, just as others for years have made recommendations, yet he gets pilloried for daring to put a “slate” together. But more importantly, those included in SP3 come from more than just the conservative political spectrum. There are libertarians on it and — gasp — liberals. Their political beliefs aren’t important. What is, is the quality of their work, something those attacking SP3 completely overlook.

Then we have the Sad Puppies 3 Update by Larry Correia. You know Larry. He’s the most evil of men except for Vox. He likes guns. He’s big and scary and the delicate little flowers of SJW must have safe zones whenever he’s around because they are afraid he might turn into a berzerker around them. What they fail to understand is that they are really nothing but comedic fodder for him. Or maybe that is his real crime — he laughs at them and does so in a way that the rest of us do as well. He peels away the lies and shows that the emperor really is marching down the street naked and it’s not a pretty sight. Among the holes he punches in the SJW argument against Sad Puppies is this:

Privilege!  

Says a SJW who grew up in the suburbs, and attended some of the most expensive schools in America, to the guy who grew up milking cows, and worked his way through Utah State, unironically.

Puppies are color blind. (No… really, come to think of it they are!)

We don’t care who you are or where you came from, as long as your writing is awesome.

 Brad also responded to the detractors with Sad Puppies: the march of the straw men.

Ever since this Breitbart article appeared, a small legion of straw man arguments have been deployed against the current season of SAD PUPPIES. I was going to type up a very looooooooong rebuttal to the straw men, but Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt already did the heavy lifting for me. Much of what I might have said, they say with superior gusto and humor. It’s a blessed thing having friends such as these. Not just under the Baen banner per se, but under the general banner of colleagues who’d like to see the field return itself to a more balanced state of being.

And that, dear readers, is the real crux of the issue. Those of us supporting Sad Puppies, even if we don’t agree with every recommendation Brad has put forth, want to see the field return to “a more balanced state of being.” I want to see books and movies that entertain. Not everything has to push an agenda. (Hollywood and NYC Publishing needs to pay attention to that.) You can still have a message in your work but you don’t have to beat your readers over the head with it. Nor do you need to act like a spoiled child on the playground pitching a fit because the other kids won’t follow your rules and that is exactly what is happening when you have authors taking to social media saying editors should stop publishing certain white male authors because they are evil white male authors or offering to help ruin careers if someone doesn’t start following the right think agenda.

Finally, we have our own Sarah’s take on the issue with When Duck Noises Fail Me. I’ll leave it to you go follow the link because it is one of her gif-tastic posts and cuts right to the chase. I’ll warn you not to have anything in your mouths when you read the post. I am not responsible for any damage done to keyboards.  😉

In case you haven’t seen the SP3 line-up, you can find it here. Full disclosure, I am on the list as are other members of MGC. However, that did not influence the writing of this post. I said basically the same thing last year and the year before. It is time for those of us who like reading entertaining stories and seeing entertaining movies to let our voices be heard. I think you will find that you are not a lone voice in the darkened woods but one of many, one of the majority who have grown more and more frustrated by what has been happening in the field over the last twenty years or so. It is, in other words, time to vote, not only for the Hugos but with our money. Indie and small press authors are out there and they are writing the sorts of books so many of us are looking for.

Humor in Writing

Storyteller

Storyteller

Yesterday my body switched to “off” and left me feeling as though I couldn’t think straight, much less write. Sanford Begley offered to step up and write something for the Mad Genius Clubbers, which was very noble of him, considering he is somewhere at the headwaters of the River Nile when it comes to admitting that he can write. But I will let you judge for yourselves. Here, my friends, is a man who cultivates snark like fine orchids, an inverterate flirt, and a master of the lowest of humor. 

Hi! Cedar is not up to par so I’m teeing off for her today.  A few things about me, so you know how much weight to give what I’m going to say. I am not a writer, pay no attention to what most of the Mad Geniuses say. They share a group mind and one of them loves me so they all approve. I have however spent a lot of time with writers going back more than 30 years. I’ve been intimately involved with one for years. Lately I have been showing some signs of a knack for editing. All those things are not the place where I find the info for this post though. I am a voracious reader of everything and have been for years. Now you know how much weight to lay on my words so I’ll start.

Should you use humor in your writing? Absolutely! Or maybe not. The first thing you have to find out is, can you? Everyone has a sense of humor, unfortunately not everyone has a good sense of humor. There are people who find murder hilarious, most of us don’t. Well, there have been funny books about murder, but the act itself isn’t funny to most of us. Some people love slapstick, others prefer a more cerebral approach. What I am saying is, use humor but only if your target readers will enjoy it.

The above doesn’t mean you can’t use humor in a serious story. John Ringo kills off millions and leaves you laughing at times as he does. Sarah Hoyt writes mysteries with a gentle loving humor infusing all her characters, sometimes even the villains. Louis L’Amour did asides in his books talking about the language they used, mostly to inject humor. Every one knows that Terry Pratchett uses farce and absurd humor as the basis of his work. Erma Bombeck was the mistress of everyday life humor. The funny ones often talked about serious issues through their humor, the serious ones use it to break tension.

Some of you may have noted that I used a small, very small, joke to start this post.  It is traditional to start speeches with a joke. And while this isn’t a speech it doesn’t hurt to put levity in where you can. At least if you can do it well, and place it appropriately. A task much more easily said than done.

So, how do you know if you have placed it appropriately and done it well? The short answer is, you don’t. What you say in your writing is informed by your own unique experiences. Seeing someone get poked in the eye ala The Three Stooges may be hilarious to you, it will not be at all funny to others. Timing is part of it, jokes are funniest if they have an unexpected twist. People make good money to tell jokes. Others, like me, can sit and tell jokes for hours, some of them funny, some not. I have friends who cannot tell some of the jokes I tell and get even a half smile. Then they tell one of the ones I bomb with and the same people who didn’t laugh when I told it roll on the floor.

Now that I have made the prospect of humor as daunting as possible, I will let in a small ray of sunshine. There are things you can do to include humor in your writing and make it work. The first thing is to realize not everyone will get it. When I read John Ringo and David Weber’s We Few one of the major characters in the Empire was Admiral Helmut, Dark Lord of the Sixth Fleet. I didn’t get that joke for two years, never even realized it existed.

Another trick is to inflict the work on friends who read that sort of thing, but aren’t so close to you that they share the same in jokes. This is also called using beta readers. One of the things you need to do when you have beta readers is ask them. Did this joke work? Was that scene funny? Do you buy the one liners the hero is biting off as he is swarmed by Zombies?

And finally, trust yourself. If you hate your work, others will too. If you think a joke stinks there leave it out. If you want to add a silly monkey there just to break the tension go ahead. You will find your audience eventually and they will like it as well as you hope.

For a final statement on the topic I’ll quote a man who can tell jokes for hours. “I tell jokes, some are good, some are bad, some are corny enough to solve the bio-fuel crises by themselves. As long as people laugh more often than they boo I’ll keep pitching them.”

A Bit of Promo for the Mad Ones

Promotion is one of those things every one of us at MGC knows we need to do but we don’t do nearly as often or as much as we should. We’d much rather be writing — or tearing out our fingernails — than promoting our own work. So, since we haven’t done this for awhile, I’ve listed some of our indie or small press books that are currently out. I’ve linked to the Amazon (U.S. store) pages, but most of the titles should be available through other stores as well. Remember, we have mouths to feed — our own, our kids (two and four legged) and editors to keep happy 😉

Some of Dave’s titles:

mankindwitchA Mankind Witch

To the North of the Holy Roman Empire are the pagan Norse-lands. It is here that Prince Manfred of Brittany, and Erik, his Icelandic bodyguard, must venture in the dead of winter to a mountainous land of trolls and ice to find a stolen pagan relic, the arm-ring of Odin, something so magical that it should not be possible to move it beyond its wards, let alone take it away. It is gone, and unless it is recovered before Yuletide and the re-affirmation of truce-oaths, a new Viking age will be born. King Vorenbras will lead his berserkers in an orgy of killing, rapine, looting and destruction, across the Empire’s unguarded North-Western flank.

Princess Signy is the King’s older stepsister, and everyone believes her to be the thief, a witch and a murderess. Everyone, that is, but Cair, her stable-thrall, a man plucked from the ocean, with a hidden past. Cair doesn’t believe in witches or magic, let alone that Signy could steal and murder. If he has to drag the foremost knight of the age, and his deadly bodyguard kicking and screaming though the entire Norse nine worlds to prove it and free her, he’d do it. No Kobold, dwarf, or troll is going to stop him, or his scepticism. Not the wild hunt. Not even a Grendel. He doesn’t believe in this superstitious rubbish. He’s a man of science and learning, and he’s used that to fake his way into being feared as a magic worker. But for Signy, he’ll be all of mankind’s witches.

He’ll have to be, because that’s what it’ll take to defeat the dark magical forces which are marshalled against them.

forlornThe Forlorn

Across the one human colony world, a place technologically regressed to near medieval, possibly the last place humans still survive, a desperate search continues. Scattered across the deserts, tangled jungles, and alien fortresses, lie the core sections of the matter transmitter.

These sections hold the key to vast wealth, power, or… the fulfilment of the colony’s purpose: to help humankind survive the rabidly xenophobic alien Morkth who will tolerate no other intelligent species. The Morkth managed to follow the colony ship, and, despite their mothership being shot down and their queen being killed, they continue their relentless struggle to destroy humankind… and to reconstruct that incredibly valuable matter transmitter. If they succeed, they’ll be able to return to the hive with the location of the colony of vile humans, and have a new world to occupy. If they fail, they’ll destroy the planet.

The search has gone on for centuries, and it is all reaching an end point. The future hangs in the balance.

The Morkth have lasers, aircraft, nukes. Those who want the core sections for their own ends… have vast armies. Against them are three unlikely reluctant heroes: A street child thief, a dispossessed spoiled brat of a princess, and a confused, amoral Morkth-raised human, armed only with 14th century weapons and their own wits.

It’s a lost cause, a forlorn hope.

But it’s all humans have.

bolg brideBolg, PI: The Vampire Bride

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds himself called on undertake paranormal cases: in this case tracing the Vampire bride’s absconded or kidnapped groom.

The groom should have been a troll by the name of Billy Gruff, the manager and owner of the Ricketty-Racketty Club – a topless bar and nightclub. Bolg finds himself, and his client embroiled in murder, extortion and a Celtic wizard. The latter is supposedly helping him, but wizard’s help is not always what it you think it will be.

bolg wolfy ladiesBolg, PI: Wolfy Ladies

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds himself called on undertake paranormal cases: in this case finding the missing mage who supplies the potion that helps werewolves retain their human shape at full moon, for a lady-wolf who finds the change interferes with her love life.

The ancient Celtic wizard he’s trying to trace is a friend, and shape shifter, and there far more going on than just a search for a missing person.

bolg fairiesBolg, PI: Away with the fairies

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds this restricts him to oddball clients. In this his first case, a wealthy fruitcake who want to dance with the fairies. Most PI’s would do their best to avoid this because they know there are no fairies. Bolg would like to avoid it because he knows the fairies to well, and they’re mean.

Aided by a gargoyle informer and an ancient Celtic wizard, he sets about trying to oblige his client, and keep both of them alive. It’s no sinecure.

without a traceWithout A Trace

Mike O’Hara has spent his life defending the family honor. His grandfather, Cap’n Al O’Hara, has been called everything from smuggler to coward and it is said he abandoned his family rather than pay his debts. Mike knows better, but what’s a boy to do?

When his father is injured in an automobile accident and the authorities threaten to take Mike from the family farm, Mike knows he has to do something. Spurred on by a radio transmission that just might be from Cap’n Al, Mike and his best friend, Amos, start out on a mission to find his grandfather. His journey takes him to an alternate South Africa inhabited by pirates and worse. Mike quickly finds himself in a race against time to rescue his grandfather and return home – before it’s too late.

Some of Amanda’s Titles:

nocturnaloriginscoverNocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

nocturnal SerenadeNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

NOCTURNAL HAUNTSNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

 

Some of Sarah’s titles:

atomA Touch of Night

In a world where magic reigns and being a shape shifter is the only crime that warrants immediate execution, this is how Pride and Prejudice would be written. The novel is set in the world of Sarah A. Hoyt’s Magical British Empire.

 

crawlingCrawling Between Heaven and Earth

A collection of short stories by Prometheus Award Winner Sarah A. Hoyt. The first edition of this collection was published by Dark Regions Press in paper, only. This updated edition contains two bonus short stories: High Stakes and Sweet Alice.

It also contains the stories: Elvis Died for Your Sins; Like Dreams Of Waking; Ariadne’s Skein;Thirst;Dear John;Trafalgar Square;The Green Bay Tree; Another George; Songs;Thy Vain Worlds;Crawling Between Heaven and Earth.

shakespeareMagical Shakespeare Omnibus

Combining the three books of Sarah A. Hoyt’s Magical Shakespeare series, this volume takes Shakespeare — always bedeviled, aided and hampered by the elves of Arden forest, the spawn of Titania and Oberon — from a young and anonymous schoolmaster to an acclaimed playwright. His fame, and his tradings with fairyland put his son Hamnet at risk, and might destroy Shakespeare himself.

This Omnibus combines Ill Met By Moonlight, All Night Awake and Any Man so Daring. These books were originally published by Ace/Berkley between 10/2001 and 10/2003.

“Wildly imaginative and poetic…. a delightful fantastic speculation” – Booklist
“The Author of Ill Met By Moonlight continues her portrayal of the secret life of William Shakespeare with a tale of deception and betrayal that brings to life the raucous world of Elizabethan England. Will have particular appeal to fans of literary fantasy.”

no willNo Will But His

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.

wingsWings

Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories, ranging between Elizabethan England and the far future. These short stories of Prometheus Award Winning author Sarah A. Hoyt have been published in anthologies like Cosmic Cocktails and magazines such as Analog and Asimov’s. The collection was originally published by Dark Regions Press in paper only.

This edition contains an introduction by Dave Freer and a bonus short story: With Unconfined Wings.

Some of Kate’s Titles:

conventConVent

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

consensualConSensual

There are vampires in the lobby, succubi in the beds, and bodies in the bathroom. It’s ConSensual, where the editors are demons, the writers are crazy and the vampires and werewolves might be the most stable people in the room.

If that isn’t enough, Dracula is staying at the hotel on a business trip for his wood-based hardware chain, Kit Marlowe is one of the authors, and there’s an out of control baby vampire to deal with. Once again, the “Save the World” department is caught with its pants down.

confurConFur

A vampire at a science fiction convention might not seem that far-fetched except for one thing, Jim is a real vampire. Of course, he’s not the only supernatural being making the circuit. There are demon editors, succubi authors and the odd archangel. Jim’s learned how to deal with all of them, as well as the humans, without getting into too much trouble. But he’s about to learn a very important lesson – it is never wise to stand between a mother werewolf and her children, even if you aren’t the one responsible for their disappearances. There’s only one thing Jim can do. He has to find the kids and deal with those responsible. Little does he know this will lead to a long, and not always comfortable, relationship with a young werewolf who insists on calling him “Hickey”.

impalerImpaler

Impaler by Kate Paulk revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption.

December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds…

His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

Some of Chris’ Titles:

Gah, my google-fu is failing me this morning. So, I’m going to direct you to Chris’ site and his blog for his latest work.

Chris’ website: http://chrismcmahon.net/

Chris’ blog: http://chrismcmahons.wordpress.com/

Some of our guest bloggers:

Ellie Ferguson

huntednewcoverHunted

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what.

Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

HUNTERSDUTYHunter’s Duty

Maggie Thrasher is looking for a man, not to love but to kill. Duty to her pride and loyalty to her family demands it.

Joshua Volk has betrayed pride, pack and clan. All he cares about is destroying the old ways and killing anyone, normal or shape-changer, who gets in his way.

Jim Kincade is dedicated to two things: upholding the law and protecting the pride from discovery.

When Jim is called to the scene of a possible murder, the last thing he expects is to discover the alleged killer is a tracker from another pride. Now he’s faced with a woman who is most definitely more than she appears. Complicating matters even more, there’s something about her that calls to him and his leopard is determined to claim her for his own.

Joshua Volk is looking for revenge. Maggie killed one of his own. His vengeance will bring Maggie’s worst nightmares to life. Is the passion between Maggie and Jim enough to defeat Volk’s plans or will Maggie’s determination to fulfill her duty to her pride be the death of them both?

wbbWedding Bell Blues

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

C. S. Laurel

quickB. Quick

It was a night of triumphal activity for the Society For The Elimination of Good Looking Blonds. By sheer chance, middle-aged literature professor Bill Yates interrupts a murderer in the act of dumping an unconscious young man into the local river. Bill surprises himself by rescuing the young man and unwittingly plunges into a maelstrom of murder, psychoanalysis and Shakespeare. Falling in love with the young man he rescued is either fitting punishment or just reward for his trouble, and it will be a long time before Bill knows which.

qcaQuick Change Artist

In this story, Professor William Yates’ gets more than he bargains for when he wakes up with a snake tattoo, a pierced tongue and an even bigger surprise. It turns out a serial rapist who answers his description EXCEPT for having those, has kidnapped him and made him match. Bill and Brian interview “ink artists” and various one night stands to find him.

 

quicksandQuicksand

When a dying man rings his doorbell, secrets from Professor William Yates’ past rise up, which threaten his relationship with Brian Quick, his reputation and his life. Caught in the quicksand of his past, he has to solve the murder to get free.

 

I know I’ve missed a couple of guest posters — not to mention all our wonderful commenters. I know I speak for everyone at MGC when I thank you for your support. Now, go out and spread the word of our books so we can feed our kitties and dogs and even our children 😉

 

Enriching the soil

A big part of SF and Fantasy writing is the world-building – creating the illusion of an entire culture out there that exists independently of the story you’re telling. If the illusion is well done, the piece feels more solid and will often be much stronger even though the world-building doesn’t directly impact the characters or plot (it does, and should, impact them indirectly by informing their choices and their view of how their world works – Athena Hera Sinistra’s shock and confusion dealing with Eden in Sarah’s DarkShip Thieves is a good example of how this works).

So how do you do it?

The reality is that many authors “cheat”. Just as plots are borrowed wholesale from history and have the serial numbers filed off, so too are settings. The best borrowings enrich the story soil by working with the plot and characters to make the whole piece stronger. Pratchett’s Discworld books are probably the best example of this: Ankh-Morkpork is sufficiently developed that the city is damn near a character in its own right, complete with interesting history, landmarks, and of course the river Ankh. The broad base of a medieval European city is there, with the Discworld version of early Victorian industry, and such a collection of bits and pieces from different places and times that the effect is much like a place that has grown and evolved from its earliest settlement.

Just how much Pratchett has borrowed from different parts of history (and any other field of knowledge he can get hold of) is astonishing. I’ve yet to encounter an obscure bit of historical trivia that wasn’t at minimum a throwaway line in a Discworld book – but I doubt Pratchett is going consciously “Oh, I’ll do a piss take on the Peelers next.” No, what he’s doing is absorbing an eclectic mix of odd facts (he said at the last North American Discworld Convention that he collects books of obscure Victoriana and history) and they take a twist in his brain before emerging into something that looks and feels fresh – but if you look you can see the original source there. The clacks in Going Postal did exist. They were used in France about 50 years before the telegraph got started – but not quite the way Pratchett revisioned them for the Discworld.

There’s also explicit borrowings. I won’t spoiler anything, but Sarah’s A Few Good Men has very strong echoes (deliberately) of the American Revolution. There are hints there of pre-revolutionary France as well – also deliberate, and Sarah has said that Liberte Sea City will have a French-style revolution which will end about as well as the real one did (badly). Those who know their history will find A Few Good Men and its direct sequels have a much deeper resonance for it. Oh, yes. Buy the book. It’s that good.

My method is to not explicitly borrow anything, but to set up resonances. If a culture has names that sound vaguely Celtic, they’ll have cultural patterns that follow the appropriate Celtic model, and their history will have echoes of one of the Celtic nations. Similarly English-y names will go with an English-y culture and an English-y kind of history. If I want it really alien, I’ll use patterns that I’ve built myself and build in stressors to the culture that force it in a direction likely readers will find very unfamiliar. What I’m doing is letting people’s subconscious pattern-recognition do the heavy lifting for me – and I have no shame about this. If there’s something that’s not likely to be in the common view of “what medieval English life was like” (as an example), I’ll do the groundwork so it doesn’t surprise Joe Reader too much. Otherwise the general idea, however incorrect it is, is enough to give the feel of something bigger.

Yes. I admit it. I use tropes and collective ignorance to hook my readers and leave them with something a bit more than they expected. Go thou oh lazy writer, and do thee likewise.

 

 

 

Don’t knock at doors. Knock down walls instead

It’s no surprise to anyone who has been a regular follower of this blog to know I’m a big supporter of small press and indie publishing. I have been for a long time, long before I actually started working in the industry. But that doesn’t mean I wish ill to traditional publishing. It has its place. What it means is that I see traditional publishing houses having to change and adapt to new tech and new consumer demands or it will become like the dinosaur. Most will die while a very few will find a way to evolve and survive. But those that do survive will not look anything like they once did.

Before someone points out that trade sales increased last quarter thanks to the Hunger Games trilogy and Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ll say this. I’m glad sales increased. But I have a warning. These books are a short-lived trend. I’ll remind everyone about the huge decrease in sales the publisher had after the last Twilight book came out. Why? Because so much was put into pushing those books that there was nothing in place to take over as the new “it” book when the time came. Also because publishers, and not just the house that brought out Twilight, were busy putting out pale imitations of Twilight and, at least in my opinion, saturating the market with sparkly vampires.

So, is there a reason to try to go with a major publisher these days? Given the difficulty in landing one of the increasingly rare slots with a legacy publisher, is it worth an author’s time — not to mention ulcer and hair — to try to go that route?

I’ll admit, I started thinking about this question again the other day while reading one of the discussion boards I belong to. Someone had asked why an e-book would become unavailable. There were several good explanations for why, including the one that was accurate with regard to the e-book in question — the rights had reverted back to the author so the publisher could no longer sell the e-book.

From there the conversation drifted, as online discussions often do, into whether or not an author should self-publish. It seems the author in question is one who has been self-publishing her backlist and has been discussing her efforts online. She hasn’t held back, describing the good, the bad and the indifferent. More power to her. The way I look at it, the more open and honest discussion of the entire publishing spectrum there is, the better for authors and for readers.

Where I started shaking my head was when an author popped into the conversation and started talking about how he could never self-publish because he couldn’t afford it. The problem is he had fallen into the same trap so many who condemn self-publishing do: he was saying what the major publishers have said without actually investigating it himself. The only thing he really had right was that he wouldn’t get the upfront advance. Yeah, I’d love to have that. It would make life a lot easier. But when you consider that most books never earn out that advance according to publishers who never let you see actual sales figures, how do you know how much that book actually sold?

Big disclaimer here: everything I’m saying about publishers doesn’t hold for Baen. Baen is a solid house that treats its writers with respect. Baen also listens to its readers. The major houses could learn a lesson from Baen.

That said, let’s look at some of the misconceptions about publishing that came out in the thread.

The author commented that if he went the self-publishing route, he’d have to give up either editors or decent cover art as well as release to known venues. The first two because of cost and the second because of distribution.

No. No to all of it. You can find excellent editors who work for a very reasonable price if you want to pay for them. However, if you are in a writers group or if you know other authors, you can find someone who will edit for you in trade. The key is knowing what you want and in getting samples of their work as well as recommendations. As for cover art, with the exception of Baen and one or two others, most cover art these days is either stock or minimalistic. At least one house has delayed the release of all its titles in an imprint so the covers can be rebranded to look like Fifty Shades of Grey. If you look at another major house’s covers, you’ll see a solid color background, a large block banner in a darker color with the author’s name superimposed. Below that is a small, maybe only 1/3 of the cover, image with large block letters below for the title of the book. All design and not art. Even if you are hiring someone to do art for you, you can get a very good cover from young, hungry artists for no more than $200. However, you can do what so many — including established publishing houses of the legacy kind — and use sites that allow you to buy a license for a photo or piece of art at a very small price.

As for getting into known venues, yes, traditional publishers can get you into the bookstores. Note I said “can”, not “will”. And even if they get you into a bookstore, that doesn’t mean your book will be there in a large enough quantity to gather attention or that it will be there long enough to be found. Take a trip to your local bookstore, especially your local big box store. Walk along the aisles and look at the books. How many copies of any book that isn’t by a best seller are there? Make a note of the titles of one or two authors you haven’t heard of before. Note how many copies of these books there are. Go back in a month and see if those titles are still on the shelves. I’ll lay odds that, unless something happened to give the books push, they won’t be. Why? Because the self life of a book is measured in weeks, sometimes in days, not in months.

There’s something else to consider. You can go the POD — publish on demand — route as a self-published author. That means you can take your book into your local indie bookstore and ask them to carry it. Yes, it may cost you a bit upfront — and we are talking however much you want to spend to buy a few copies to show, and maybe give, to the buyer for that bookstore so they can see the quality of your book. If they like it, they can then order the book and stock it. All it will cost you is the price of an ISBN to get you listed in Books in Print and a little bit of time to go make friends with your local bookstore employees.

It irritates me to no end to see authors saying they can’t put out “professional-quality” books without having a publisher. That is a load of hooey. Is it easy? No. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. The fact that this author and those who think like him are out there saying stuff like this means they are smacking every author who self-publishes in the face. The truth is, these authors who are condemning indie authors and small presses are either publishing’s darlings or they are authors who really haven’t looked into what it takes to self-publish. I’ll lay odds that they also haven’t really looked at the fine print in their contracts to see just how their publishers are screwing them out of so very much.

Again, Baen is the exception. Otherwise, Dave and Sarah wouldn’t be working with them and the rest of us wouldn’t be such vocal supporters of them.

But the list of what publishers do for you grew in further posts from other folks on the list and my disbelief continued to grow with it.

1. Editing — uh, has anyone really looked at books coming out of major publishers over the last five years or so? Have you listened to authors and their horror stories about what sort of editing — or not editing — has gone on? You have to remember that publishers have pared their staffs tremendously and now outsource or let interns handle a lot of work once done by established and respected editors and copy editors. Frankly, I’ve seen better edited self-published and small press published books than I have from some of the big publishers.

2. Cover art — see my earlier comments. Cover art isn’t what it used to be for books, with the sometimes exception of romance. But even then, if you look closely, you’ll see that the artwork is being reused by different books. Yes, the biggest way to show you are new to publishing is to have a bad cover. Yes, covers are probably the hardest for most folks to do. But to think that only big publishers put out good covers or that you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a cover is flat wrong.

3. Printing — wrong again. Any author can go POD and little to no cost. But the issue that you have to consider is this: where will your sales come from? With the trend showing that more and more readers are going digital, shouldn’t that be where you are focused? Note also that a number of small to mid-sized publishers, and even some major publishers, are now putting out titles digitally first and only taking them to print if a certain level of sales are reached.

4. Distribution — agreed, to a point. Again, see my comment above about placement in bookstores. But again, you are working off the old business model, a model that very well may not survive in its current form for much longer.

5. Marketing — okay, that sound of hysterical laughter you hear is coming from Sarah. Every publishing contract has a clause saying that there will be marketing and push for the book. Does it happen? Not really. The book is listed in a catalog and, if the market rep happens to have read and liked the book, she might suggest it to a bookstore purchasing agent. Otherwise, unless a book has been slotted for best seller status, that is the sum of the marketing. Authors are expected to market it themselves. They are told to brand their work, to have a website, to blog and go on blog tours, to tweet and facebook and all the other social media. They are to do trailers for their book and go talk to folks and, no, usually they are not reimbursed by the publisher. So why not do that for yourself and take yet another middleman out of the equation?

6. Accounting — oops, sorry, I just fell off my chair laughing. I’m sorry, but the accounting an author gets comes to them via bookscan. This is the form of alchemy used to say how many books have been sold and is totally unacceptable. In this day of computers and  RFIDs and instant communication, there is no reason a publisher shouldn’t know exactly how many books have been printed, shipped, sold, and returned. But no, they don’t do this. They hire a company — the same company that does the Neilson ratings for TV — to estimate sales. Depending on who you ask, these figures are 1/3 – 2/3 lower than actual sales. So, who gets screwed? The author.

I know there are authors out there who will never feel they’ve made it as an author until they have been published by a “real” publisher. Would I jump at a chance to work with a house like Baen? You betcha. But I also respect what authors like Larry Corriea who went the indie route, proved himself and landed a contract with Baen because of it. He, and others like him, have proven that you can make it as an indie author and can use that platform to launch into traditional publishing — if that is what you want.

So maybe instead of beating our heads against the wall, we should do what Larry did, do what authors like Sarah and Dave are doing. We should put our work out there in the best format we can. If we don’t put out the quality our fans want, we’ll know it. We’ll hear about it through the lack of sales and through the comments we’ll bet via reviews or email or facebook posts. But at least we are trying and not sitting in our rooms, beating our breasts and wailing about how unfair it is because we can’t break through.

A writer writes. A writer finds a way to get his work into the hands of his readers. If one path appears to be closed to you, then find another. If you don’t, you’ll never know if you could have made it because you’ll continue to knock on doors that may never open.

Again a Still, Small Voice

by Sarah A. Hoyt
Cross-posted from According to Hoyt

A year and a half ago I blogged about Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s novel, The Still Small Voice of Trumpets.

I’ll confess I was not perfectly straight forward with you, when I did that.  If I remember, I wrote from the perspective of a reader, and how happy I would be to see the writers who had vanished, how happy to rediscover them.  But I couldn’t close that circuit and make that connection.

I couldn’t do that because at the time I was still agented.  I was still not writing for indie.  I did not know if I could be or would be at any time.  And this imposed certain controls on my tongue.

For those of you who have never read Biggle’s The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets, some spoilers follow.  I’ll just say that despite the spoilers, despite knowing how it will turn out, you should still read it.  It’s one of the classic space operas that is near and dear to my heart.

First, to give you space if you wish to read no further because of spoilers, let me tell you that the proximate cause for this post is a comment by Robin Munn about how, due to the horrible contracts houses are now forcing many writers to sign, until publishing collapses and something else rises phoenix-like from the ashes, many writers are going to disappear for ten years or so.  (It’s in reply to this post.)

My answer said something like “yes, but writers have been disappearing randomly, strangely, for fifteen or more years now.”

I’ve talked about this elsewhere, and I won’t go into the mechanisms.  If you wish to read my old post He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher, go for it.  If you don’t – and I’m not the first person to describe this mechanism.  Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch have described at least parts of it – I’ll give you a quick summary.  At the end of the eighties, sometime, while I was laboring largely in vain to break in, the publishing landscape underwent a marked transformation.

It was mostly a revolution in retail.  I remembered reading at the time about the bright future ahead, now chains were displacing indie bookstores, and how there would be more books and cheaper for the public.

This was true to an extent.  I was very happy when a Borders opened here in town, because it had a much bigger selection than anyone else, and I could go out and buy anything, even late at night…

Except–

Except the book trade is a specialized trade.  If the people who were running, managing, distributing, etc, had been readers, true book people and/or if the publishing industry hadn’t itself gone through a convulsion of mergers and buy outs that left management quite removed from the day to day business of publishing… or had most publishers the most rudimentary understanding of economics, the chain bookstores would have been a very good thing.
If ifs an’ ans were posts and pans no one would ever be hungry.

However, the conjunction of book retail being treated as just any other retail “by the numbers” and of the publishing houses having clue zero why it would be a bad idea to control the numbers from the inside out… was a very bad thing.

Sorry, I’m so used to the situation that I just realized I might need to unpack it further, for you.  See, to some extent, publishers always had some control over how much “push” a book got.  To an extent.  The book reps – the people who went door to door, bookstore to bookstore, drugstore to drugstore, everywhere that stocked books saying “hey, you want to stock this because” – tended to be (I think, this was before I was in the industry) readers.  But they also got marching orders – of course – from the publisher.  If told “We’re pushing this book to be big” they’d go out and lean on the stores to stock a lot.  Did it work?  Eh.  Sometimes.  And sometimes, no matter how much they pushed, the retail managers, who back then were by and large readers, would read the book and go “Joe, this is a stinker.  It won’t move.”  And sometimes the reverse happened to.  You had “surprise bestsellers.”  A book that was slated to go down into obscurity would catch the fancy of retailers, and they would hand sell it.  It would reprint, and reprint, and reprint.

That was before retail became consolidated into three big chains and before Borders brought its innovation of “computer numbers” and “ordering to the net” to the business.  Ordering to the net is ordering to the last “net sold” number of books by that author…  No matter the genre, the subgenre or the author’s growth.  (And let me tell you right away that there is no writer – not even Heinlein or Pratchett (genuflect) who never wrote a stinker.  And there are few writers so bad – one or two – who never wrote a book I like.)  Or… what was on the cover.  Or…

What the “computer numbers” system was supposed to do was streamline ordering and give the retailer a real basis for re-ordering.  What it did was provide cover and allow both retailer and publisher to play the numbers.  Let me put it this way – if you had only two books on the shelves per store your chances of selling more than half were almost none.  Your chances of reprint were less than that.  And your writing name would have to be changed within three books.  The alternative was you gave up writing and retired in disgust.

BUT the publisher didn’t have to think about “did we use the right cover?” or “If we bought it, how come it didn’t sell at all” or even “Should we have pushed more.”  No.  They could say “the numbers were bad” and cut the author off.  It was ALWAYS the author’s fault.  Even when the book didn’t even make it to the shelves.

This is what made me think of The Still Small Voice Of Trumpets.  In the book – spoiler warning! – our hero finds himself in a world of people with a mad appreciation for the beautiful.  The most valued art form is music and the type of music is the harp.  The world is ruled by a mad king who periodically – for no reason anyone can divine – has an harpist mutilated by having an arm cut off.

This makes it impossible for the harpist to play again and though the harpist might have been very popular, it effectively erases them from public view and public consciousness.  They disappear into the villages of the one-armed men, where they are in fact untouchable and “dead” to their fans.

In the interest of fomenting revolution, our hero invents a trumpet that can be played with only one hand and teaches the one-armed men to play.  In one of the most moving scenes of the book, the one-armed men march into the capital, playing their music and all their former fans, suddenly, remember them and realize how unjust their condemnation was.  Which starts the revolution.

When I wrote that first post, a year and a half ago, I was thinking how much traditional publishing was like that mad king.  I know of an author who sold very well and had the door slammed on her face because… she dumped her agent – one of the big names in NYC.  I know of authors who gave up in despair after two or three series died without their being able to do anything.  I know of authors who never got started, because they saw how their “older” (in the field) friends and mentors were treated.  And I know of authors who suddenly wouldn’t be bought and never found out why.  The wrong word at a party; the wrong blog post; the wrong expression when a political joke was told…  And it all came tumbling down, and you were banished from publication and from the shelves.  And your fans forgot you.

(In here, because the commenters asked before, I should say that it’s an open secret in the business that if you’re writing for Baen “you’ll be okay” – partly because Baen is in many ways a family enterprise, and not run strictly by bean counters.  OTOH when, like me, you like to write many different genres, it’s rather a lot to ask Baen to start a mystery line just to keep you happy.  So at least one of my pen names – Sarah D’Almeida – was sent off to the village of one armed men.)

If you’re like I used to be, before entering the business, you just went “Well, I guess so and so lost interest in the series; stopped writing; retired.”  If we were still writing – in other genres/under other names – we HAD to abet the deception.  In the interest of continuing to be published – not angering the mad king – we lied to you.  We said “Oh, I hated that series.  I’m much happier with this one.”  We said “Oh, that just never went anywhere.  I didn’t know what the next book would be.”  We said “We always just wanted to be myster/fantasy/romance writers, so we crossed over.”  And what the heck could you do but believe us?

But now we have our trumpets.  Indie publishing allows us to bring back dead pen names; to start writing again; to start writing at last.  We’re no longer dead and gone, banished to the unseen villages of one-armed men.

We are, more and more, marching into the capital, playing our trumpets.  Our fans are remembering us.

In the revolution that follows, a lot of mad kings will be deposed.  I agree with Robin that what emerges will be completely different.  I’d like to believe that as at the end of a fairytale the good are rewarded and the bad punished.
It’s more likely to be like the ending of Romeo and Juliet: “All are punished.”

Rough waters are ahead.  Revolutions are always hard.  But I think in the end, the system will be a little less closed, a little less insane, and a lot fairer.

Listen.  Can you hear it?  The sound of indie publishing is the Still Small Voice of Trumpets.  And they’re ringing freedom.