Baby’s First Audio Book

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Today I finished listening to my first audio book.

It was the unabridged Fellowship of the Ring, read by Rob Inglis, and I enjoyed it. A lot.

I didn’t expect to. When the audio book for Child of Fire came out, I found it impossible to listen to it. The narrator’s voice was fine–excellent, even–but it was completely different from the voice I heard in my head when I was writing it, and the dissonance was unbearable.

And the format itself seemed utterly wrong for me. I love to drive but I don’t have a car so I never do. I don’t have a phone to carry with me when I walk. My apartment is tiny, so when would I be able to listen at home? Besides, no skimming? No reading quickly through the exciting stuff?

Hmf, I said.

Then I heard a piece on NPR where a woman said she listened to Rob Inglis’s reading of LOTR every year, and I found it at the library. The first book was 19.25 hours long on 16 CDs! [1] And I just happened to get my copy of Obduction from Kickstarter.

A quiet, Myst-style game and an audio book through the headphones seemed like a perfect combination.

And I loved it.

The game was done before the audio book and I’ve been having trouble squeezing time to listen, but all the things I thought would be bugs turned out to be features. As annoyed as I was when I read Tolkien’s description of hiking through rough terrain (was this really the sort of challenge you want to devote page space to?) being forced to listen to it had the opposite effect. I could visualize the scene. I didn’t feel impatient because I couldn’t skim ahead to the next plot point. Taking away that small measure of control was surprisingly relaxing.

Anyway, I have never enjoyed Fellowship of the Ring quite so much before (although I still say Fuck Tom Bombadil) and I’m wondering how I can find 17-odd hours for the next book. I can’t. It just won’t fit into my life, but I wish it did.

Until I get a car, maybe.

[Update] I forgot to mention that the third book in my Great Way series comes out today in audio book. If you subscribe to Audible, you can listen free. If you bought the Kindle version from Amazon, the audio version is startlingly affordable. The series begins here.

[1] Don’t laugh. I’ve just had to order a new CD player online, because our old one is going wonky and my wife doesn’t want to have to fuck with a computer to play her music while she paints.

Can I get these Polish cover designers to do ALL my books?

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The Polish edition of Child of Fire is out, and look at how amazing it is.

If that image doesn’t show, you can also find the cover at this link.

In a time when covers (especially urban fantasy covers) seem to share all the same design elements, this is genuinely exciting.

BTW, I originally found the cover on Goodreads, but I couldn’t find a simple way to share it without being scolded to linking to my own work, so Amazon it is.

Child of Fire on sale

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I woke up this morning and saw this:

I don’t subscribe to BookBub‘s newsletter (which shares promotional deals with large numbers of readers, and is a powerful marketing tool) but I do know they’re choosy about which books they choose. Anyway, it seems that today they’ve chosen mine. It was submitted by Del Rey, of course, and they didn’t let me know about it, of course.

Still, BookBub favors sale prices, and that means the ebook edition of Child of Fire is on sale right now for only $1.99. If you haven’t read it, here’s your chance (buy links at the bottom of that page).

Update: BookBub bumped the sales rank to 780, which is pretty good, six years after the novel was released.

Brandon Sanderson Thinks You Shouldn’t Give Up On Writing

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On this page for NaNoWriMo pep talks, Brandon Sanderson wants you to know that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams of being a writer because you never know if the book you just finished, or submitted, or self-published, might be the one to break out. Maybe it’ll get you that publishing deal or climb that bestseller list. You never know!

I agree with him up to a point. You shouldn’t give up on writing, unless you have something better to do. Perseverance is a fine quality until it isn’t, and it’s hard to know where to divide the line.

Because I was in a similar place once. I had a day job I hated, answering phones for a doctor’s office, and we were so understaffed that calls were 20-30 deep all the time, and people who have waited on hold are rarely polite when they finally get someone. I spoke to addicts who’d been denied a refill of their narcotics. I spoke to people in terrible pain who were denied relief because of the fear of addiction. I spoke to a man whose wife was vomiting feces. I spoke to women who had just had miscarriages. I spoke to the parent of a chronically ill teenager who had run away with her boyfriend and left all her medications behind.

It was an endless succession of other people’s pain.

I was sick of working a job I hated, of not having any money, of not having time with my family, and with the constant failure and rejection from the writing end of things.

And I was ashamed. I’d pursued the writing dream for a long time, and had nothing to show for it but a family I could barely support.

So I decided I was going to quit writing, go back to school, and get a new career. I took GRE study guides out of the library and said things like “There’s got to be a better life!” to my co-workers.

However, I’d already written CHILD OF FIRE, then called HARVEST OF FIRE, and I’d spent part of the summer on the query letter. We didn’t have much money, but I could afford postage. The weekend before Labor Day, I started sending out queries. By February, I had an offer from Del Rey.

From there, my story and Sanderson’s… let’s just say they diverge. He went on to become a bestseller and I’m doing whatever the fuck I’m doing. Still, he has followup advice here about marketing yourself and quitting your day job, and I don’t want to disagree with him. I do want to point out that not every writer can follow his path (and they shouldn’t try).

But it’s interesting information.

AUDIOBOOKS!

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Hey, guys. Child of Fire is listed as Audible’s “Hidden Gem of the Week” and is available for only $4 right now. If you’re an audiobook fan (or know one) this is your chance to pick up a copy.

Also, there’s an audio copy of King Khan available. I’m listening to the free sample right now, and I’m flummoxed that more people haven’t tried this book.

Anyway, normal internetting will resume, now that I’m back from VACATION! Pics to come.

I receive books in the mail

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Yep! The Fate books I pledged for on Kickstarter arrived, and so did my first ever author copies of one of my translated novels. The German language translation of CHILD OF FIRE turned up a mere four (?) years after selling the rights. Maybe it was only three years. Anyway, Russian, French, and I believe Polish books are still out there waiting to be mailed to me.

Roleplay Twenty Palaces!

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Last night my Kickstarter hit 925 backers, unlocking Stretch Goal: Monitor, the second to last stretch goal. This morning we reached 1000 backers, which unlocked Stretch Goal, Mask, the very last one.

So I created something new: Stretch Goal: You. I encouraged backers to create their own stretch goals so they could create anything they wanted and share it with the other backers, if we hit their goal.

Already we have an indie composer who has promised 20P music, and…

Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue have promised that, if we reach 1200 backers, they will expand on the Voidcallers section of the FATE Toolkit to let people role play in a Twenty Palaces-style setting. See here.

I’ve said before that there was no need for me to create a 20P supplement because Voidcallers is already it. But if you want sample stunts, special character creation rules, the whole deal, you probably want to join in on this.

We’ve already gone far, far beyond anything I had a right to expect. Can we manage to hit this goal, too?

I have to run out for a meeting, if you can believe it, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

And if you have something you want to share with the other backers, please do.

Progress report

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Let’s see if I can briefly cover everything that’s been going on.

First, I’m revamping the Kickstarter page pretty thoroughly. As I mentioned before, I asked some folks with KS experience to check it over and I made a bunch of changes. Then my agent had a look and she told me that I was underselling everything. Like a lot of writers, I’m not the best advocate for my own work. She encouraged me to explain why the books are actually fun instead of, you know, doing the whole “Here’s a thing I wrote you might like it maybe” bit that writers do.

So, revisions. I have new text for the main page ready to go and I’ll be shooting a new video this week. As some of you folks know, I get ugly red blotches on my face when I eat certain foods, so I’m trying to be super careful about every meal until then. I don’t think it would help me make my goal to have leprosy face.

By the way, if you want to know when the Kickstarter launches before anyone else, you should sign up for my newsletter in the form on this page.

The print edition of TWENTY PALACES is still a few weeks off. Everything takes longer than you think it should. That’s the law.

Finally, while the Kindle version of TWENTY PALACES is still only $2.99, there’s a sale price of $5.99 for CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, and CIRCLE OF ENEMIES. If you read from the Kindle and have been meaning to pick up some or all of my books, you’re not going to get a better price.

I recommend starting with the prequel, although I wrote each book to stand alone.

There are shiny new ideas for me to work on, but I have so much revision and other work ahead of me that I don’t expect to get to any of it before the end of the year. Yeah, that sucks; we only get so many productive years in this life, but it needs doing.

More later.

Long Overdue: Amazon MatchBook and What It Means For Me

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(Announcement buried below)

If someone from Del Rey/Random House is reading this, please feel free to put my books into Amazon’s MatchBook program.

If you haven’t heard of this new program, it works like this: For publishers who sign on to the program, readers who buy (or have bought) a physical book from Amazon.com will have the opportunity to also buy the ebook edition at a discounted price. Some books will be as low as $2.99, some will be free.

So, if you bought CHILD OF FIRE when it came out in 2009, you could (if Del Rey signs the contract) pick up an ebook copy for cheap.

I’ve already seen some authors speaking against this deal. They don’t like the bundling and they earn part of their living from people who buy replacement copies for books that wear out.

Another strike against is the fact that I could buy a copy of a book, give it to my buddy Jim as a gift, then pick up a cheap/free version for myself.

Yeah, what Amazon is doing is selling the content, but what the have the right to sell is the copy. The whole point of copyright is that I make copies of my IP and sell them to people who want to buy them; if I’m selling the right for another person to make more copies, that person is a publisher and we need to have a publishing deal.

Except that model has been under serious strain for a long time. It’s now trivially easy to make copies of other people’s work, and some people can be amazingly clueless about it:

“Help me download a copy of your book without paying you!” I mean, Jesus.

But these are just bumps in the road. I think that selling the content over the copy is the way of the future and I’m surprised it took so long for a program like MatchBook to get started. Yes, the readers who want an author to fix their torrents are annoying. Yeah, getting a free copy of a book you intend to give away is a pretty nice deal.

It’s good promotion, though. There are a handful of books out there that won’t need it, but most do. I don’t blame any author for shying away from this deal, but I think that, overall, it will be a good thing for those who sign up.

I also strongly suspect that this is part of a plan to drive self-publishers to CreateSpace, which they should have been doing anyway.

What’s that? you say. How can you talk about using CreateSpace when TWENTY PALACES is still ebook only?

Well, here’s the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Lately, with the help of a saint of a human being, I’ve been working on creating a paper edition of TWENTY PALACES. If you’ve never read it because (like me) you don’t read ebooks, you will soon get a chance. Also: to buy a copy for your friends. Also: to buy a copy for your friends and get a discounted ebook for yourself.

The book won’t be available for some weeks yet; there’s still a lot to do. Frankly, one of the reasons I’m prepping this is to buffer the budget for my upcoming Kickstarter on The Great Way (I wrote a status post about that over the weekend). The other is so we’ll get to have Christmas this year. Yeah, it’s getting to be like that.

But… MatchBook: I’m surprised it took this long and while I expect there to be bumps, this should be a great thing.

Five Quick Publishing Links And One Long One

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Let’s round up a bit of publishing this and that with some links and brief comment. Very brief, in face, since today’s a big writing day.

1) Remember way back in the misty dawn of yesterday morning when I pointed out that Paula Deen, having been dropped by one corporate partner after another, saw her next cookbook shoot to the top of the Amazon.com bestseller list even though it doesn’t come out until October? And that her last book was sitting pretty in the number two spot?

Well, that upcoming book isn’t listed on Amazon anymore because Random House cancelled the contract.

Yeah, they had a lot of pre-orders through the online giant, but if Wal-Mart, Target, et al were no longer willing to carry her work, the P&L must have looked pretty dire.

2) Hey, did you guys know that, in the original submission draft of Child of Fire (then called Harvest of Fire) Ray Lilly wept for the child who was so horrifyingly transformed and destroyed in that first chapter? Completely true. The kid died of an acute case of Evil Magic, his own family forgot he ever existed to the point of denying him, and Ray mixed up his feelings about the kid’s unmourned loss with his own imminent unmourned death. Then he wept.

This was the first thing my editor asked me to change. She said it made the character seem weak, and one of the other readers at the publisher immediately assumed Ray was a woman (it’s a first-person narrative, for those who haven’t read it, so there were no helpful pronouns).

Me, I hated the idea of changing that bit, because if a tough guy can’t weep over a dead child, what the fuck?

Still, was this the hill I would fight and die on? My first note in the first chapter of my first published book?

So I turned to a mailing list of readers, writers and friends to ask them what they thought. The overwhelming majority of the responses were along the lines of: “The main character is a guy? And he cries? Sounds sketchy.”

I was surprised and disappointed. I also thought it was a bullshit assumption, but if it was so wide-spread, was I really the one to fight it? So I revised that part of my book (whole chapter available here) like this:

I watched them go, feeling my adrenaline ebb. I couldn’t stop thinking about that little boy, or how fiercely hot the flames had been. I looked down at my own undamaged hands. I felt woozy and sick.

Annalise called my name again. I turned away, ran to the edge of the lot, and puked into the bushes.

When that was over, I had tears in my eyes from the strain of it. They were the only tears that little boy was ever going to get. I tried to spit the acid taste out of my mouth, but it wouldn’t go away.

I wiped my eyes dry. My hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots. That kid had no one to mourn for him except me, and I didn’t have that much longer in this world, either. Something had to be done for him. I didn’t know what it was, but as I wiped at my eyes again, I knew there had to be something.

I heard footsteps behind me. “Don’t get maudlin,” Annalise said.

That passed muster, apparently, because Ray’s eyes well up from tossing his cookies and totally not because he is feeling grief, horror and loss.

Why am I bringing this up? Because this is the proverbial stopped clock in Rod Rees thoroughly embarrassing blog post on whether men can write female characters. (Update: the post seems to have been taken down.)(Now it’s back.)

That link was making the rounds yesterday while the whole Frenkel/harassment issue was going on so I didn’t give it much attention until later. Yeesh, is it a tone deaf mess.

However, on this topic I will say: just because the stereotypes male characters face limit you doesn’t justify using the stereotypes female characters face.

3) But there’s more bullshit in that Rod Rees post, but rather than try to pick it all apart, I’m going to link to someone who’s done a fantastic job already.

I’ll just add that Rees seems like a pretty terrible writer, based on the samples and on the content of his post, but I suspect he’s terrible in a way that will earn him a bit of success. Still, someone should explain to him that certain scenes will break reader disbelief not because of the characters or behaviors the scene describes, but because of the way they’re written. Word choice is character, too, and it matters.

4) In even stranger news, Weird Tales has begun releasing unpublished stories back to the authors. Not due to quality, either; several of the stories have been described as excellent in the past. They’re doing it because they have a backlog of fiction and the pressure to open to new submissions has been intense.

I’m not even sure what to say about this. A magazine is not its slush pile. Still, if the publisher and editor is missing the thrill of going to conventions and meeting people who are desperate to be published in their pages, maybe they could put out a few issues. Maybe they could publish those stories rather than return them.

Why did these guys want this magazine in the first place?

5) Can I just make mention of how humble and grateful I am that folks are so kindly pledging in my name for the Clarion West Write-a-thon? So far, we have raised almost $400 for the workshop and I really didn’t expect so much. It’s a great cause. Thank you all for pledging.

6) Have I mentioned something crazy? When you write a lot, books get done faster. I know, right? The Great Way is nearing completion at a much faster pace that I expected. In fact, I’m entering the series of climactic confrontations about three hundred words from now. Then the first draft will be done and I can start fretting over the Kickstarter.