Today was a funny day. I thought I’d written a lot more during the day than I had – around 600 to 700 words was my guess, but it ended up being just 402 more words for the Time’s Arrow story about an alternate Agincourt. But at least the words flowed pretty well and I was generally happy with them.
Also I feel that I’m nearing the end of the story, which is a good feeling.
I also did a bit of thinking about the next story – it might be called Broken Lance and will have some basis on the grail legends and a fantasy Morte Arthure feel about it – I think!
Other activity included located primary sources for the next section of Stonehearted, the sequel to By the Sword’s Edge. I’m getting copies of Medieval chronicles that relate the events of the Pontvaillan campaign of 1370, which is the setting for the story. Praise be to archive.org!
Not quite finished Sweet Justice and read second chapter of Feast of Crows – loved the third new setting and set of characters – Sand Snakes awesome and very evocative!
For quite a while now the contributor pay rate for a professional Science Fiction and/or Fantasy Magazine has been 5 cents per word. So if you were to write a 5,000 word story you should be making $250. This rate has been pretty much the market standard and fixed as the sign of a professional sale as the SFWA only recognizes a magazine market as professional if it pays this rate or over.
Now it seems economic factors such as inflation have finally caught up with this figure. Asimov’s and Analog are both increasing their rates. SFScope reports that these two publications are actually increasing their rates from 6-8 cents per word to 7-9 cents per word. The other major market is Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine – their website reports that they are offering 6-9 cents per word.
How long I wonder until the SFWA increases the criteria for the qualifying markets it lists? I would imagine they might look at increasing it to at least 6 cents per word? Although it doesn’t sound like a lot, when you calculate the payment for a 5,000 word story then it does add up: $300 instead of $250. These magazines must be taking quite a hit at the moment to their costs. I hope they can cope, as we definitely need these publications to stay vibrant and profitable for the sake of the SFF writing and reading community.
I was inspired to write a one year plan of writing goals after skimming through Jeff Vandermeer‘s Booklife. Booklife is a guide to for authors keeping your sanity in today’s world! It gives you tips on how to cope with social media, blogging and generally building your public persona as an author, as well as how to build strategies for developing your career, finding time to write etc. I haven’t read the whole thing, just glanced at it in the library so far, but it looks like it has some good tips for any author.
The section on goals caught my eye as I realized that I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do in the future, but no concrete lists or targets to measure success against. Like any business, an author’s career I think could benefit from having targets – not sales targets in the case of an author, but targets on what you produce or where you are published. Jeff recommends having a shorter-term one year plan and a longer term five year plan. Here’s my one year plan (I’m keeping my five year plan private for now):
Have 40+ short stories finished and available for purchase (eBooks or printed collections) – in various pen-names. I currently have 11 available, so that means publishing another 29 in the next twelve months.
Finish editing the two novels I have completed in draft format: Hell has its Demons and Return of the Free. Approach agents/publishers about these novels.
Complete one non-fiction title and self-publish it.
Gain one sale at a fiction magazine with professional rates (over 5 cents a word and recognized as a professional market by SFWA).
For me I think these goals are challenging, but achievable at a stretch. I’ll keep readers of this blog updated on how I get on.
I have instituted a new cover style for my self-published short stories with Bird Talk and Bisclavret being the first examples. The main purposes was to make the author name (sounds horribly egotistical!) more prominent and also of a consistent style. My decision to do this was influenced by Dean Wesley Smith’s post about how self-published authors shoot themselves in the foot by not acting like a proper publisher – one example he gave was by not having a consistent author brand on covers, so this is a change I decided to make.
Hope you like the results!
And for reference here are the old covers – similar style as each other, but to my mind not as effective:
Quick Short Story Review: The Homecoming by Mike Resnick
This story is a nominee for the 2012 Hugo awards, and as such I expected it to be a good read. And Mike Resnick doesn’t disappoint.
The Homecoming was a well crafted story about a prodigal son who returns home. This is a twist on the everyday story of kids falling out with their parents. In this case the son hasn’t returned because his parents (well his Dad really) can’t handle the fact that his love of science has lead him to turning himself into an alien in order to study them better.
He’s returned to the family home, where Dad is looking after his mother who is suffering from Dementia. The story is told from the first person point of view of the Dad, and shows how he comes to terms with what his son has become.
A well-told tale. Nothing earth-shattering, but you can see why it’s been nominated.
I have been discussing the aversion of a friend to fantasy fiction and tv/film and it’s interesting to note that their main problem with the genre – citing in particular Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, were the silly names – Mordor, Frodo, Targaryen etc. Why should they care about characters who were so obviously silly and made up to have names that they could hardly pronounce? They are not adverse to a bit of costume drama – having loved the Borgias for instance. Even though Game of Thrones uses names that aren’t that far away from historical ones didn’t make it any better apparently.
I did point out that Game of Thrones was immensely popular – but I have to say it probably isn’t as popular as Harry Potter, a fantasy series that really has crossed over into the mainstream. But what more mainstream name can you have than Harry Potter, Hermione etc. It’s only the bad guys who have silly names in Potter!
So where does that leave fantasy fiction looking for a mainstream audience? Ditch the silly names for your epic fantasy fiction novel – name your main characters Freddie and Ella? That doesn’t sound right somehow either. I think to a certain extent Paul Hoffman in his Left Hand of God series tried it – by using familiar historical and geographical names – and perhaps that worked in a way – or perhaps that just confuses the reader, or appears to turn fantasy fiction into just a post-modern game?
Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale: New Edition Now Available
The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer is probably one of the most accessible works of Middle English for modern readers – it features a neat moral parable, bawdy language and a barbed satire of the avarice prevalent in some elements of the medieval Church. The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer is also fairly short, and that no doubt makes it a favourite for English Lit classes at school and university level.
But even though Geoffrey Chaucer’s language is not that hard to understand, the very fact that every line or so you have to refer to a glossary or footnote does mean that the experience of reading a poem such as The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer can be frustrating and less enjoyable than it might be. Although there are some good prose translations available, I thought it would be useful to make a verse translation of the poem – partly because I thought it would be useful for others – and partly to help me re-engage with the text and get to grips with the meaning (it’s so easy to just read something and get the gist of what it’s about, but actually digging around and working out the meaning can be very rewarding). So to that end I have created an eBook of The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, and a free online version, which feature both the original Middle English text, a parallel Middle and Modern English text in verse and also a Modern English version on its own. The verse translation into Modern English does not scan or rhyme perfectly – to do so would, I think, bend the meaning too much, but I hope it gives some of the flow or the original while also retaining the meaning.
My fantasy short Demon River is now free for Kindle for three days, from 2nd March 2012 to 4th March 2012. Enjoy!
Set in a fantasy world of dark magic, Benetus, the King’s chancellor, fears the return of a rival he had thought banished from court. Benetus turns to the help of demons to rid himself of his enemy. But things are not always as they seem in the spirit world.
“Recently I had even felt the beginnings of optimism. After years of cloud and storm, the sun had broken through and I could at last bask in the success that I deserved. After all, who else now stood between me and the ear of the King?”
The last few weeks have been spent editing my historical fantasy novel set in the Middle Ages: Hell has its Demons. At present I am half way through reading the first draft. I am not making too many edits at the moment, unless I spot a glaring typo. This is my first time editing a full novel length story, and I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. But I have found that the most valuable thing to do is to just remind myself of what happens in the novel, what I wrote, and to get an overview of the major things that need fixing. For instance I have realised that there are a number of inconsistencies in the middle of the book – chapters out of order etc. Also there are some characters I introduce early on that die away, so I need to make a decision about whether to keep them in and develop them further in the book, or to get rid of them completely, or at least minimize their importance.
I’m enjoying this phase of the process. It’s nice to read through what I have written again as a holistic exercise rather than just reading bits and pieces here and there to check what I should be writing next. The good thing (or perhaps the dangerous thing) is that I like what I have written so far!
My experiment with writing a novel from different first person perspectives – see the Vulture posts, lead me to realize that it would be a lot of work to do this for Hell has its Demons, and I think not necessary either. My reread so far leads me to believe that the three different third person POVs will work quite well. First person POV writing gives fiction a completely different flavour, especially over an extended piece such as a novel, but I hadn’t appreciated that fully until I started writing the Vulture as an experiment. Who knows maybe I’ll take the experiment further at some point in the future, but I know it definitely has helped inform my writing of Hell has its Demons.