Fantasy Summer Sales and Indie Week Giveaways

Fantasy bandwagon: activate!

Fantasy bandwagon: activate!

It’s one thing to have written three books.

It’s quite another to share them with the world.

Well, this week I’m aiming to do just that. In concert with the approaching American Independence Day (sorry Brits), I figured it’s only right to celebrate Independent Authors, too, so there’s going to be a FLASH SUMMER SALE running on THE HOLLOW MARCH all week long. From today through Friday, July 3, the first entry into my fantasy series–THE HAUNTED SHADOWS–will be available on the cheap. So if you know anyone looking for a new fantasy series to lose themselves in, that’s the bandwagon to jump on.

And by bandwagon, I mean gryphons.

And by jump on I mean get eaten by…

Er, you know what? The details really aren’t important, are they?

Contemporary fiction at its finest.

Contemporary fiction at its finest.

What’s more, I’d also like to take the time to incline your ever-so-thoughtful heads towards another Indie sale going on this week. Fellow author Bryce Salazar’s debut novel, SHE SEES METAPHORS will be available for the low, low price of free through tomorrow. Absolutely no cents involved. Plenty of nonsense, though.

Bad jokes? Hey, that’s just part of our appeal.

Seriously, though, Salazar is a brilliant writer, with a piece that will blow the pants off any character-intensive reader out there. It tells the tale of one Jacqueline Schuler, who sees the world in metaphors. Literally. From streets of violent rivers to broken hearted mannequins, it’s a unique outlook on the world, with some truly intense imagery. It’s not quite magical realism, but it’s certainly magical in its modernity.

So give it a read, why don’t you?

Realities of Writing

Depression

It can be blue, folks. (Photo credit: Hendrike, via Wikipedia)

The fact is: writing can seem at first a terribly depressing field. Believe me, I know—you tack a determination to write onto someone already struggling with depression, and you get someone already prone to the blues receiving a steady stream of disappointments. No one ever said we set ourselves up to be the steadiest sorts.

I have spoken before of endurance, of perseverance, and I will confess the notions can come out as just so many words—a wisp in your ear that is gone by the time you turn around to greet them.

The reasons are plenty…

Reason the First

Though we talk the big game about passion and art and the need to write (all true, mind you), most writers are like the majority of people in the world: in some sense, we want to succeed. It’s not even that we need the big movie deals, or a fanatic cult (ala The Following—don’t watch it, it’s cheesy and terribly predictable), but we want to be able to point at something and say: You see this work? I wrote this, it touched someone beyond myself, and I am proud. Vindication, I suppose.

I know for all my protestations otherwise, I felt it when undertaking The Hollow March–whether I wanted it or not, the feeling lurked, just out of sight.

Especially in a world where the volume of writers has soared through the ceiling, as every Tom, Dick, and Transfalmadorian are able to turn to self-publishing to get a word out, is also a horrendously difficult field in which to get noticed. Slush piles are bigger than ever. As such, the opportunity for disappointment seems to grow, and while we can point to similar stories around the world, there is always that niggling little voice telling us: yes, but that’s not you, is it?

Reason the Second

Loneliness. You will hear many writers speak of it. Though some are capable of immersing themselves in sound, many must isolate themselves to work. The office cubicle may make you itchy, sure, but at least you know you can lean over the wall to talk to someone, or walk down the hall. With writing, we may spend hours in our own little world, and especially if reason the first is letting us down, that sense of isolation—isolation for seemingly no reason (so we tell ourselves) walks the dangerous line of feeling overwhelming.

Reason the Third

Too many hats. It began with a blog. Alright, manageable enough, right? You’re getting the hang of this. A blog post a week, perhaps, to connect with folks while you write. How about a Twitter? 140, alright, that’s not so bad. Have you considered a Facebook page? Well, I—Don’t forget to make two! One for you, and one for your book! Oh, and Tumblr, don’t forget about Tumblr…

ADD. It’s what you begin to feel like. Or being trapped in a bouncy castle. Writers are their own greatest advocates. At first it might seem glamorous—do what you want, when you want, how you want it—but it can wear at you quickly. Because it means you’re also out there without a lifeline. There are no promotions for good behavior. A writer can no longer be “just a writer.” He must also be a sales rep, a public relations whiz, and quite possibly, one of those fellows on the side of the road dancing around with business signs.

You are the alpha and the omega. It’s self-pub law, but even if you hit it big, the burden is increasingly being put on the writers themselves. There are no breaks, no real days off. If you’re self-conscious, or simply not sure what to say, or if the first two reasons have gotten you down, this can be (or feel) devastating, and you run the risk of a serious burn-out.

Epilogue

My, my, cheery today aren’t we Mr. Galford? Yes, I am, and I’ll tell you why: I have come to terms with these things, and what’s more, I know that everyone struggles with them equally.

Cease to abstract it. Can you point to examples of exceptions? Yes, but they are only that, the exceptions, and while you might feel surrounded to them, know that there are many of us in the same crowd, all feeling equally surrounded. You might say, “Chris, but I wrote a book and no one’s biting,” you must know that there are others around you looking at you with awe and wonder saying, “My god, I wish I could do that—you actually wrote a book? And published it even? You’re so brave.”

What you take as disappointment, other will take with jealousy. You may feel like the lowest end of the food chain, but I assure you that you are not, and there are many feeling the same way.

Take the disappointment—I’m not saying it won’t come. To look at the world as nothing but optimistic doesn’t get you anywhere either, but there’s a balance to be struck. Step outside yourself a moment. Don’t lock others out. If you’re struggling, I guarantee you there’s someone else willing to lend your hand.

Keep your fingers nimble, but keep your eyes open.

I wish upon an Indie

Author J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter an...

Author J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at the Easter Egg Roll at White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc; the composer of a literary work.

That wasn’t hard to define now was it? Ah, but these days the word is so much more complex, no? What sort of author are you, they ask. Genre? What does that tell us? No, sir, what I meant to ask is: are you indie? Are you self-published? Or are you an author?

It’s harsh, and think in no way would I ever honestly address it as such, but the fact is: many do. Publishing companies, certainly, would like to draw the lines there—and then work their best to weed out the ones that don’t meet the latter’s definition.

So what’s the difference?

An “author” in such terms are writers vetted and published by established companies—usually referred to as the “Big Six.” Visibility is at its highest point for this select breed, as the publishers work to get the books mass-produced and mass-distributed. Yet it is also the route that sees the least return for any “author.” An agent if often advised as a go-between, while low percents to the writers, high percents to the publishers means minimum wage rewards, generally. You need to sell a lot (and I mean a lot) for this to equal any sort of earnings.

Not that most of us are in this for the money, of course, but it’s still something to consider.

In the past decade, however, we have also seen the rise of indie authors. Now, for all intents and purposes, both indie authors and self-pub authors are technically “indie”, but generally the term refers to those published by smaller, (you guessed it) independent companies. Distribution is less here–more focused–but the percents are typically greater, and the company still tends to provide an editor.

Amazon Kindle wordmark.

Amazon Kindle wordmark. Public Domain.

Then there are the self-pubs. It means exactly what it says—the author has taken it upon him/herself to publish their book without any company’s hand in the matter. Amazon has truly pushed the advent of this in recent years, as has the e-book revolution sweeping the literary world, but in many cases these people still face great scorn—not just from established literary circles, but from all corners of society. Which is a real pity, when you think about it. Many of them, after all, are writers fed up or terrified of the old guard—men who determine, year after year, the certain type of literature that can fit the mould, and the certain number of those books that can enter the market (I refer you back to the Big Six). Even some very well-established authors, such as J.K. Rowling, have begun to go this route.

And why not? If you can make it work, the rewards are at their greatest for the actual author. The burden of distribution and marketing and editing are all on them too, however, and therein lies the issue.

Many think self-pubs are just giving up. That they haven’t struggled—if they couldn’t convince a publisher, why should they waste our time? It’s nonsense, really. There are many talented authors out there that could never get their works published that way—not with the surging slush piles and increasingly stringent restrictions at the publishing companies. Should they simply sit by and let their works gather dust, than?

Well, the issue is that these people must combat, in such a system, with the (many) people that honestly shouldn’t be published. Those who cannot be bothered to edit, put no effort to organization and, so sorry, simply cannot write. They swarm the self-published scene and drown the image of the rest—while simultaneously swallowing most attempts to find them.

See the conundrum?

Personally, I believe “indie authors” are key to the system—they are a necessary and legitimate response to the failures in a rather chicken-with-its-head-cut-off styled industry. But even so, they do need some sort of guidance, some oversight. The authors that truly try—they do not demean the industry as some claim. However, the mobs of unedited, uncaring scribblers do.

Time adjusts all things, but this is a situations that requires care. Truly, it comes down to the question that’s been at the heart of democracy itself from the oldest of days…

How do we guarantee the freedom, while still providing the security?

What do you think? Because personally, I’m growing tired of standing on this precipice.

The Hollow March Begins

For two years, I have spoken here and there of a mysterious book in progress. Between bouts of poetry and short story fancies, I have penned, edited, and re-edited this work countless times, in my own attempts to reach that forever out of reach pinnacle of perfection we writers view as something akin to the Garden of Eve.

Well, a writer is never fully satisfied in his own work. It is our way.

Yet in two months time, I am proud to announce today, “The Hollow March” will be available in e-book and print, from Kindle to Nook and back to the glorious old ways of literature. Only two parts of the puzzle remain, and both are to my viewing pleasure: the cover art and the maps that span the breadth of this work’s imagined world.

The map, I am proud to say, rests comfortably in the hands of my good friend (and one of the book’s editors) Nathan Hartley. The previews I’ve received via camera phone (while small) certainly have me anxious, and I look forward to the time when I will soon have them-in hand, both in the digital sense, and the delightfully physical (pictures to follow when that day arrived, by the by).

As for cover art, the artist should be settled within a week or so, with the month after given over to their labors. It’s amazing to see the breadth of people already sending in applications though, from all corners of the world. Especially where, being an indie author, I lacked the funds that the publishing companies do, I was astounded to see such an overwhelmingly positive response, and hope to continue viewing the same. So much fascinating work to behold…from the comic to the dark heart of cyberpunk-style CGI. It’s a trip.

Thanks to the people at ConceptArt.org for a lovely site by the way – they really streamline this process. If you need artists for any project – books, games, what have you – I highly recommend them.

But I suppose I’m nerd-squeeing at the moment (writer-squee, it’s the same thing, really), so let’s get back on topic. “The Hollow March” – what is it, you may ask? Well, dear fellows, it is a fantasy novel subscribing more to the modern approach in style: realist fantasy, which is to say, more in the vein of George R.R. Martin than J.R.R. Tolkien. Magic lurks in the shadows, but the world before your eyes is one of renaissance—and turmoil.

Because every good bit of literature needs turmoil, no?

For your viewing pleasure, though, here’s a more accurate summary:

“It is a time of upheaval in the Idasian Empire. As religious fervor stirs dissent among the people, and the winter winds loom, thousands gather behind their aging emperor on a march to war.

In the midst of this, young Rurik Matair blunders home with childish notions of revenge, and an unlikely band of sellswords at his back. The third son of a backwater nobleman, Rurik was destined for a life in service to the crown. But when he reached beyond his station, he was banished from his father’s house with nothing to his name. Tired and hunted, he returns after two years abroad. Yet all is not as it appears. As Idasia’s brutal war threatens to stagnate, old rivalries rekindle. Other players shift through dark games behind the scenes, and old magicks rise against a tottering throne, stirred on by a woman with nothing left…”

What do you think? As that is, at present, likely what’s going to be slapped on the back of this book—“the blurb”, as we call it—if there’s any way you think it could be improved, I’d surely love to hear your input.

Also: keep your eyes peeled for a preview in the days to come, to give you a little taste of how this book runs. A look into the author’s mind as it were–though I’m sure mind surfing is something of a terrifying process.

So to sum: December. Keep your eyes and ears open, people, because “The Hollow March” will be ready for your bookshelves or your electronics. Good Christmas gift, don’t you think? *nudge-nudge*