An Hour With @KevinHearne

Yesterday evening my wife and I moseyed on down to the library in Erie, CO to listen to a talk by Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid series.

20151112_193920

Kevin Hearne on the right. Yours truly on the left. Like you couldn’t figure that out. Photo cred: Kate Ford

We had a great time. Mr. Hearne didn’t go with a set script, instead prompting the audience (about a dozen people, I guess—I didn’t count heads) for questions about writing in general and his writing in particular. And so he talked about Iron Druid, and his writing style; and people asked about how he came up with his characters and settings. He often went off-topic, telling us about things that happened while researching his books. I could have listened all evening. If you ever get a chance to catch one of his talks, do.

It was entertaining and educational (I definitely learned a couple of things, particularly about how developing a character can automatically create story—something I’m taking to heart as I develop my currently untitled WiP).

Check out Kevin Hearne’s web site for details about forthcoming events (including signing tour dates for Staked, the eighth Iron Druid story).

That Whole Weird Baby Hitler Thang

I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself. I just have to weigh in on this. It’s just too much like fun not to.

So, here’s my thinking:

  • Hitler thought he was a terrific military strategist, and would ignore the advice of his own generals. To the point where some of them—von Stauffenberg and others, for example—realised that Hitler was going to cost them victory, and that getting rid of him was in Germany’s best interests. You’ve seen Valkyrie, right? Churchill himself vetoed any plans to have Hitler assassinated, because Hitler’s replacement would probably have done a better job of prosecuting the war against the allies.
  • The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay a huge amount in reparations for the first world war. Germany—the German people—suffered because of it, so it should be no surprise that the resulting conditions prepared the ground for someone to step in with a promise to make things better, because it was what everyone wanted to hear. I’m not the only one who thinks that the treaty made WWII pretty much inevitable.

treaty-of-versailles

So, let’s say someone went back in time and took Hitler out before he rose to power. Would it have avoided WWII? I don’t think so. I think it would still have happened, and there’s a good chance that it would have happened under a leader who let his generals do their jobs. There’s a damned good chance we’d have lost.

In other words, I think the only reason anyone would want to erase Hitler from the timeline would be to improve the chances of Germany winning WWII.

Now, a few people have suggested that people with time machines might have tried, and failed, to whack Hitler before his rise to power. I present here another possibility: that someone else led Germany into a war that they won, and then time-travellers went back and whacked that person specifically so that Hitler would lead, badly, and the Nazis would therefore lose. Just like they did.

There’s a thought, eh?

Until next time . . .

Vape Update

I have a few minutes while dinner comes along. Time for a quick post about the vaping status.

I have a confession to make: after using Vuse e-cigs for over a year, I lapsed back into burning “real” cigs. Yes, I know. Nasty. Smelly. Unhealthy.

It was pretty obvious that the e-cigs I was using (Vuse in my case) doesn’t deliver enough of a kick to really kill the urge to light up a real cig once in a while, especially at times of stress. So today I did something about it. I bought a “proper” e-cig. It’s a lot like the very first one I tried, early last year—so it’s back to the possibly messy refilling process and everything that goes with that. This time round, I’ll put up with it since the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Here’s a pic:

20151107_175405

One thing the guy in the vape shop told me: people seem to lose the urge to smoke tobacco after a while of using e-juices with flavours other than tobacco. So I bought one bottle of tobacco flavoured just to get started, and I also have a fruity flavour (plum, actually) and one that sounds weird but I couldn’t resist it: custard & chocolate. Let’s see how this works out.

Until next time . . .

Writing Process #7: Submitting

YOU’VE self-edited your script, and now it’s much better than that first draft you had before. Is it perfect? Probably not. You could do another editing pass and I’ll bet you’ll still find something wrong. Lots of somethings, in fact. But there comes a point where you can honestly say to yourself that your typescript is something you’re happy for someone else to read. Are you ready to get it published?

How do you get it published?

20151106_130440

There are a number of options:

  • Self-publishing. There are plenty of places to do that. My very first full-length work was self-published on Smashwords, and as part of that process it was automatically made available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and several other platforms. But to self-publish properly, you have to do all the work that a publisher would do. You must BECOME THE PUBLISHER. You need, really need, a professional editor to work with you on polishing the work to a high shine. (I can’t stress how important that is. Some people can self-edit to a professional standard, but those people are as rare as rocking-horse droppings; do you really, honestly think you can self-edit to that standard?) You need someone to format it properly for publication. You need cover artwork. Of course, you could do all that yourself, but you’re better off getting professionals involved—and that costs money. So you have to ask yourself, are you happy to spend the cash with no guarantee that you’ll make enough sales to get that money back?
  • Go directly to a publisher. Smaller indie publishers will generally accept submissions directly from authors. Larger publishers, not so much (see the next bit, about agents). Work up a list of publishers that deal with books in your genre—you might be surprised just how many people submit work that’s in a genre the publisher just doesn’t deal with. Make sure they’re accepting submissions (many publishers only accept submissions at certain times of year; some only open for submissions when they have the bandwidth to take on work). Publishers have guidelines for submissions—for example they might ask for the first ten pages of your story to be pasted into an email cover letter. Some will ask for a synopsis. Many will delete emails with attachments unread. So read the guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter.
  • Find an agent. The bad thing everyone thinks about agents: they take a percentage of the profits of sales of your book. Well, of course they do. They have to pay the rent on their double-wide, same as you. But the good things about agents outweigh the bad by a good margin. An agent can submit your book to publishers that won’t take submissions direct from authors. They can help make sure that a publishing contract isn’t screwing you. They can get you better contract terms (for example a better percentage on sales) than you might be able to manage on your own. In the end, the fact that agent takes, say, fifteen percent, is more than made up for by the fact that she’ll get you a publishing deal that makes you more sales. Some agents also suggest edits to improve the work. As to finding an agent . . . well, there are a few ways. Follow Writer’s Digest (@WritersDigest) on Twitter—they often send out alerts when agents are looking for books in specific genres. Check out QueryTracker—this is a great tool that can help you search for agents. When you find an agent to submit to, the rules are much the same as for publishers—check genre, make sure the agent is accepting submissions, follow submission guidelines closely. When it comes to writing query letters, check out Query Shark.

This is IMPORTANT: No reputable agent or publisher should ever, ever, EVER ask you for money up front to “cover costs” or for anything else. Real publishers and agents take their percentage from sales of the book AFTER it’s been published. If an agent or publisher charges for their services up front, they’re almost certainly scam artists intent on taking your money. Take a look at the Writer Beware site for more on this.

Here’s another thing: Be ready for rejection. In fact, expect rejection—that way it won’t faze you when it happens. And it will happen, over and over and over. At a rough estimate based on what I’ve seen, the chances of any one agent accepting your work is something like five percent. Indie publishers appear to have higher acceptance rates, but it’s hard to be certain about that because good data is hard to find. The thing is, agents and publishers are taking a risk when they accept your work. They have to cover the costs of doing their job until your book is on the shelves and making sales—in the case of agents, time spent dealing with publishers, and in the case of publishers, paying editors and artists and everyone else involved in getting your book out there. Maybe you’ll sell hundreds of thousands of copies and you’ll all be rolling in cash. Or not. It’s a gamble, and it’s on their dime, which is why agents and publishers are so picky about what they accept.

Now let’s say your work is accepted. What next?

AFTER you’ve celebrated a little bit (because getting accepted IS a big deal and worthy of a little celebration), be ready for what can be the hardest part of this whole thing. Remember all that self-editing you did? Well, now it’s about to happen again. Only this time, someone else—maybe your agent, maybe a copy editor working for a publisher—will be picking your book apart and finding things you didn’t even suspect weren’t right. They’ll be coming back at you with lists of things that need changing. (They should not be making those changes themselves, beyond maybe correcting simple, obvious stuff like spelling errors; they should just be telling you this passage or that scene needs fixing, and they might suggest ideas for how to fix it. But it’s your book, and how you fix it is up to you.) And you might very well find yourself working to a deadline.

Here’s a story for you; at the time Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was accepted, I had no idea that I was about to spend the next SEVEN MONTHS editing the typescript for publication. Seven months of working on it evenings after work, and hour upon hour at weekends. It was tough, and not just on me—I swear my wife had plans to throw my laptop out into the yard and then set it on fire. (This is why so many books have an “acknowledgements” page where the author thanks their spouse for putting up with it all for so long. Until you’ve been through it, and put your other half through it, you have no idea just how much mutual understanding is needed for this.) But seeing the book out where people could buy it made it all worth it.

And guess what? Once you’ve been through it once, the lessons you learn will make the next one go that much easier.

That, I think, concludes this short series of posts (unless I think of something else to add). I hope, gentle reader, that this helps in some small way.

Until next time . . .

Writing Process #6a: I Found This Great Book

I was in the process of writing the #7 post for this short series when I came across a book . . .

SnowflakeGuy

It’s How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy “Snowflake guy” Ingermanson. (Here’s a link to the web site.) And having read it, I have to say that if the articles I’ve been writing about my own process resonate with you, then you should have a look at this book. Ingermanson’s method is very similar to my own in many respects, but formalises some steps that my own process tends to leave a bit vague. (On the other hand, my process seems to have a couple of additional aspects—for example the way I think about characters—but I should be able to merge bits of my own process as described so far without any conflicts.)

The way the book’s written comes across as a little weird at first—Goldilocks goes to a writer conference and learns about the Snowflake Method, meeting the three bears, the big bad wolf, Mother Hubbard, and other storybook characters along the way—but it makes for a more entertaining read. The last couple of chapters summarise the method and show in detail how it was used to write the book itself.

I’ll definitely be using this method for my next book (or to be more specific, I’ll be creating a Frankenstein hybrid of Snowflake and my own, using Snowflake for the framework and adding in my preferred way of thinking about characters together with the way I like to build my timelines).

Does Ingermanson’s method supersede the posts I’ve already done in this series? Maybe. Probably, even. But I’ll leave them up anyway. Does it mean #7 won’t happen? No, it doesn’t—because that’s going to be about getting a work published, which is something the Snowflake method doesn’t get into so much (beyond writing short and long synopses, but that’s still considered part of the process of developing a story as well as being something you can use when submitting for publication).

So, watch this space for #7 in the series, which should be up within the next few days. (Sorry for the delay on getting it done, by the way; life intervened and pretty much blew away last weekend, which was when I’d planned to finish it up and get it posted.)

Until then . . .