Potpourri July 2020

This Saturday, I will be presenting on Writer’s Research for the St. Louis Writer’s Guild.

jamesyoung_2020 (This One)

You can join for free via Zoom.  

I’m basically going to talk about how to do historical research and also chase down various things about writing.  There’s going to also be a lot of Q&A, so if you’re wanting to pop in to ask me random questions there will be a chat available at that blog link.  No, I will not be debating “What is the best fighter of World War II?”

Nor will I be getting much into Victorian-era work.  Why?  Well, in addition to not being a Victorian historian, two hours after I’m done, the indomitable Holly Messinger is also doing a talk for the Olathe Public Library.  For those who don’t know Holly, she writes Weird West stories, does costuming, and also knows a bit of Kung Fu.  If you’ve ever had a bunch of burning questions about Victorian-era dress, where to find Wild West information, or general gothic tid bits, it’ll be well worth your time to drop in.  Here is the Zoom Link for Holly’s Presentation.

On another front, your humble narrator has just had an essay published in Proceedings‘ online magazine.  This had been an entry for their General Essay contest, and getting selected for publication from the bevy of other essays is quite an honor.

In celebration of the presentation Saturday and Against the Tide Imperial‘s imminent release (I swear, it’s almost done), I will be placing On Seas So Crimson on sale for $.99 / £ .99 from 11 – 18 July on both the US Amazon and UK Amazon sites.  (Sorry for any other Amazon sites, but those are the only two it will let me do a countdown for.)

MediaKit_BookCover_OnSeasSoCrimson(1)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01B175FJG

In addition, Those In Peril, the first Phases of Mars anthology, is currently on sale for $.99 on Amazon and will be through Saturday, 11 July.  

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Last but not least, my novellas A Midwinter’s Ski and Pandora’s Memories will likely become audiobooks by the end of the year.  I look forward to hearing them “brought to life” by a crackerjack narrator who sounds awesome, but more on that once things are closer to getting finished.

I will expound on many of the above things in my newsletter, but wanted to give people a quick heads up on some of the things going on.  If you’re not a member of the newsletter, you can join it here.

 

 

Ancillary Items–Editors and Illustrators

So, as those of you who have heard me give a talk before can attest, I usually state that the first two and likely largest outlays an author should have are the editor and cover artist. Note that some self-assessment has led me to realize which I place first is dependent on what phase of the book I’m in / recent issues I may have had in one department or the other. But bottom line, if you have $500 for marketing, editing, and cover, I’d say that it should be $225 editing, $225 cover, and $50 for marketing. Why? Because if your cover is crap and your editing subpar, odds are a marketing budget under six figures isn’t going to do you any good.

A good “one stop shop” for indies is Reedsy, and an article on the service is here. I know a few authors who have found their editor on Reedsy, and generally the reviews have been good (although check out the comments for the article). From the editor side, I’ve heard of the stringent requirements to gain a listing. This is a good thing, as it means that odds are you’ll be happy with what you’re paying for. While I seem to keep running into my editors through “word of mouth,” “friends of friend” (and have been really lucky with both), or through folks finding me on Twitter people do point out that I’m the rare “extrovert author.” Reedsy seems to be a good resource for those who are less “Hi random person, I’d like to talk to you!” (Full disclosure–haven’t tried Book Angel yet, but I appreciate someone who reaches out to independent authors to help.)

Illustrators are a bit harder to wrangle. As I’ve mentioned before in a blog post or two, the first part is figuring out what you want out of the illustration. In this case, I was primarily concerned with ad copy (as some of the Usurper’s War imagery is getting repetitive after five years). This desire was followed closely by the possibility of images getting used again for novella / short story covers set in the Usurper’s War universe but not part of the main plotline. Thankfully, I recently discovered a Twitter page that features aviation artists (@theaviationart). There were also artists I had found on FB through several aviation artwork pages I’m part of. Through various means, I winnowed things down to the following:

For various reasons things didn’t work out with anyone in the list above. In some cases, it was a matter of timing. Others it was subject matter, as “alternate history” could potential cause other clients to call into question their attention to detail or accuracy. (Which, as you can see in every case, is most excellent.) Finally, there was that bugbear of price point, as I couldn’t quite justify spending four figures on art that was first and foremost going to be ad copy. All that being said, almost everyone was a professional, and I heartily encourage A. going to buy their art and B. seeing if your needs would mesh with their timing / ability more than mine did.

Ultimately, Itifonhom 3D Models was who I went with. We’d previously worked together before for the piece commemorating “Fate of the Falklands” out of Those In Peril. I knew from perusal of his site that World War II was his area of expertise, and he jumped at the opportunity. I think you’ll enjoy the two pieces below, both of which depict scenes from Against the Tide Imperial.

Jill goes to Massachusetts
A Victorious Encounter

As for the book in question, things have moved along well. There’s going to be some parts that end up on the cutting room floor (see possible novella cover), but with a little bit of wrap up it’s getting close to time for it to go out to beta readers. I’ve been debating doing preorder, but after the algorithms screwed up with Aries Red Sky, that’s probably not going to happen.

Paths to Publishing

Fellow author (and good person) Holly Messinger shared this infographic on paths to publishing on FB earlier today.  The original source has more information and commentary at this link.

I agree with what the original poster said on most counts.  As an indie, I assure you, fair reader, that you will be doing a lot of hustling if you wish to be successful.  To paraphrase a certain superhero, “With great independence comes great responsibility.”  Being independent means much of your life is like being a shark, i.e., if you’re not swimming, you’re drowning.  It also makes you subject to the vagaries of your given outlet, with Amazon’s algorithm shifts being the most well-known (and complained about) example.

Having just completed a certain trilogy ( with the conclusion hopefully more Wookies than Ewoks), I can now say that there are advantages and disadvantages to the small press route as well.  As with any joint endeavor, there were vehement disagreements with regards to direction, participation, and marketing.  However, I can say with 100% certainty, that “James Young, Slinger of Tales” does not land all the names you see on that last cover.  To hint at my “year in review,” I’ll merely say that this was a fun exercise, but it came at the cost of me being behind in my own projects.  Ergo, while I’m not saying I won’t be in or run another alternate anthology ever again, I am confident in saying it’s coming on the back side of my next two books.

Ultimately, no matter what your choices are, remember no one will manage your career as well as you do.  Keep your head on a swivel, and make choices that look out for your interests.

 

News From the Con World

This mirrors what a lot of other vendors have said about the 2019 season and concerns about 2020. While I will be potentially doing as many shows, I’m definitely leaning towards new markets with proven performers.

This is also something to consider for the larger author community. One may have to take a deep breath when looking at overall sales numbers and also pay strict attention to marketing. Things may get bumpy for a bit.

WWII Quick References (NOV 2019)

Figured I’d perchance save loyal readers some gumshoe work down the road if they ever want to do a World War II story:

You can find ONI drawings for World War II references (like for your cartographer to draw ship outlines) here.

This is a good time zone converter for those cases when you go from Hawaii to Mombasa  to Ceylon all in one chapter.

Finally, lunar data for those pesky night Mosquito attacks.

Now, back to the Kido Butai vs.  Her Commonwealth Navy’s Far East Fleet.  Later!

Happy Veteran’s Day Potpourri Post

So it’s been a bit since I’ve updated the blog.  I figured I’d hit some of the high points of the last couple of weeks:

Attended the Ozark Book Con down in Fayetteville this past weekend as a vendor.  First year event with all that entails, but had good panels and talks with several good authors.  I recommend attending the event for the professional aspects if you’re in the area.  If you’re coming from out of the town, it’s definitely a “Hey rando friend I haven’t talked to in years, mind if I sleep on your couch?” until it grows some.  Which, given the professionalism and drive on display, I think it definitely will.

On the way back, finally got to meet Acts of War‘s editor, Mary, in person.  In addition to being long overdue, the fact it’s been 5+ years since that book went through her able hands made me marvel at what modern technology makes possible.  Although her current work with medical journals precludes her from working on anything else, I’m glad that a mutual acquaintance said “Hey, I know someone who might be able to help you…” many moons ago.

Speaking of the Usurper’s War series, Against the Tide Imperial continues to move along.  Unfortunately, after getting read the riot act by an author mentor, I’ve had to accept that the Phases of Mars anthologies are 100% my “books for the year.”  Combined with the new day job’s obligations (oh, yeah, I got promoted and changed positions), the process of putting out Those In PerilTo Slip the Surly Bonds, and Trouble in the Wind has pretty much sucked up a lot of available time.  So, rather than put out a substandard product or skimp on marketing, Against the Tide Imperial is slipping to the right again.  The manuscript will get done this year (which means preorders will be up), but the actual _book_ is probably going to be out in 1st Quarter 2020.  *angry author noises*

This dovetails to a professional lesson that I am learning again, but in a different dialect:  Projects are rarely as easy as they may initially seem.  At the beginning of the year, with Those In Peril shooting up the charts, “Suuuure, we can do two more of these this year…” seemed like a good plan.  What I now realize is one can do three books in a year, it just means one probably shouldn’t also do cons and other creative projects if there’s also a fourth book one would like done.  So, for 2020, the lesson will be, “No, I think that timeline doesn’t work for me, thank you…” as I get solo projects back in line.  (Feel free to remind me of this in the comments when my hair is on fire again this time next year.)

In addition, having now done editing three times, I cannot emphasize enough that you should always pay your damn editor.   It’s a whole different animal than writing, and I will issue a blanket, heartfelt mea culpa for some of my past sins to my editors.  In addition, as an author, understand that your editor’s job is to polish up your work.  “Polish” implies that you have done a grammatical read through, researched the technical aspects of the work, and are basically giving the editor a complete story that just needs a set of professional eyes to look upon it.  This goes doubly so for an anthology submission.  Indeed, I’m just going to let John G. Hartness take it away…(language alert…NO REALLY!):

Anyway, it’s Nano (and yes, I’m counting these words), and I’m going back to US CVs about to go to guns with an Italian Fleet.  (Yes, that’s a teaser.)

Now It Can Be Told

So for about two months now, I’ve been having to sit on the line up for Trouble In The Wind.  Behold, the magnificence of the headliners…

Trouble Ebook Cover Big Lineup

If someone had told me when this whole indie thing got started, “Hey, you know someday you’re going to be editing an alternate history anthology with S.M. Stirling in it?”, I would have advised them to lay off the peyote.  If they’d then added the rest of the names on that list?  Well, I would have slowly backed away while searching for a weapon to deal with the crazy person.

I’m astounded and stunned to be working with titans.  We won’t even get into Team “And More.”  December 13th is the expected release date, so buckle your chin straps.

 

An Interesting Take on Procrastination

I think procrastination is the bane of most authors.  Having carved out time to write, cleared the calendar, it is all too easy to lose a couple hours on social media or “just one more turn”-ing it through a computer game.

Apparently there’s a study out that shows this may not be “You’re a bad time manager…” but actually “Something is emotionally bothering you.”  I’m certainly willing to entertain the argument–I know that emotional upheaval can be a double-edged sword as far was writing motivation goes.  (“Double edged?”  “Yeah, let’s not talk about the fact the original Will Colfax novel got churned out during one of the most difficult years of my life.”)

So maybe all the advice people give about “clearing your head” before sitting down to write has some merit?  Or perhaps that’s why some people write better inebriated, as they’re too smashed to care about the emotional debris flying around in their head space?  Food for thought…

Covering Alternate History

Where Sarah Hoyt discusses the difficulty of putting a cover on alternate history works.  Go on and take a gander…

Mad Genius Club

This one is difficult, because you have to convey three things: alternate time line, where it deviated from ours, and what in general the reader can expect from the book.  You know: funny, serious or adventure.

The easiest ones are the ones that are sf or Fantasy and obviously so.  For instance, my dragon-shifter-red-baron will eventually when finished and ready to go have a dragon with the paint to match Richthofen’s plane, flying over the trenches. Title and subtitle will help, and I’ll come up with something.

Alternate history that is “just” alternate history is more difficult, and you sometimes have to “represent things that aren’t in the book to represent something that is in the book.”

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