Category Archives: administrata

CLOAK GAMES: HAMMER BREAK meets CreateSpace

I had a chance to do the print layout for CLOAK GAMES: HAMMER BREAK’s paperback edition today.

I have to admit I like doing the CLOAK GAMES paperbacks because they’re so much easier than my other books. In print books, you have to check the location of each scene break, because print books obviously do not paginate automatically the way that ebooks do. Because CLOAK GAMES is first-person perspective from Nadia Moran, there aren’t a lot of scene breaks.

So CLOAK GAMES: HAMMER BREAK had exactly two scene breaks.

By contrast, GHOST IN THE RING had 42, SEVENFOLD SWORD: CHAMPION had 53, and FROSTBORN: THE SHADOW PRISON had 102!

-JM

the marketing parable of the submarine sandwich

I occasionally get asked if writers really need to do marketing for their books.

Okay. True story time.

A couple of days ago I was at a Subway for lunch. Subway is an extremely common restaurant in the United States. I don’t know if this is accurate or not, but Google says there were 26,000 Subway locations in the United States in 2016, and that certainly seems right. A few months ago I drove through a town of 50,000 people that had six different Subway locations, and I’ve visited towns of 10,000 to 15,000 people that had two Subway locations.

So Subway is a common restaurant. One might even say ubiquitous. And Subway advertising is common – TV commercials, internet ads, billboards, sports sponsorships, and so forth.

Anyway, I was in line, and the woman behind me approached the counter in great confusion. Evidently, she had never heard of this “Subway” before, and wanted to know if their name meant they served submarine sandwiches. You might think the woman was confused and elderly, but she looked to be in robust good health, and couldn’t have been older than 60 at the most.

The conclusion: if a restaurant with 26,000 national locations and constant advertising still has potential customers who have no idea it exists, then writers need to do marketing for their books.

Speaking of which, buy my new book! The ebook costs less than a submarine sandwich. 🙂

Image copyright Jonathan Moeller 2016.

-JM

how to measure progress

Finished the first chapter of the fourth book of my upcoming SF series.

So 1 chapter down, 9 to go.

But! I’m writing the four books of the series all at once and releasing them all at once (hopefully in October), so maybe I should view them as a totality.

In that case, 31 chapters down, 9 to go! That sounds much more impressive. I should totally frame it that way. 🙂

-JM

SEVENFOLD SWORD: a map of Owyllain?

This morning I got an email from a reader saying nice things about SEVENFOLD SWORD: CHAMPION, but asking if I intended to make a map of the realm of Owyllain, since I had previously made one of Andomhaim.

Yes. There will be a map of Owyllain. I didn’t put it out with SEVENFOLD SWORD: CHAMPION for two very good reasons.

1.) The confusion of the characters as they find themselves in a new and unfamiliar land.

2.) I hadn’t, er, actually finished it yet.

Because I do not care for drawing maps. It always feels so limiting!

Still, I’ve got a good system down, and if I need to add map elements later, I can always do so in GIMP. The map of Owyllain will be ready in time for SEVENFOLD SWORD: SWORDBEARER when it comes out in September, if all goes well.

-JM

Princess Mononoke

Before last year, I had never seen a Studio Ghibli movie, but I finally got around to seeing Princess Mononoke this week.

I quite liked it. Ashitaka made a good protagonist with the whole “cursed to wander the Earth” thing, and the demon-boars were downright creepy.

I have to admit I rolled my eyes a little when Irontown was introduced, since I expected the movie to get preachy at that point. I’m pleased to report that I was wrong. Lady Eboshi was an excellent antagonist for the movie, because she wasn’t entirely wrong, was she? She had built a thriving community for her town of lepers and former prostitutes, and thanks to her firearms, mankind wouldn’t be at the mercy of capricious nature spirits any longer. It’s all well and good to idealize Nature, but that overlooks that Nature is also red in tooth and claw.

I’m sure that the movie had some Japanese cultural subtexts that I missed entirely.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it considerably, though Castle In The Sky is still my favorite of the Studio Ghibli movies that I’ve seen.

-JM

Nabakov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, by Ben Blatt

I just finished reading Nabakov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, by Ben Blatt, which uses statistics to analyze various popular and classic works of literature. For example, the book examines the favorite words of popular authors, whether it is possible to determine whether a man or a woman wrote a book through analysis, whether there is such a thing as an author “fingerprint,” and so forth.

It was a really interesting read, and one point caught in my mind. When discussing Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES, the author noted that all three HUNGER GAMES books are nearly the same length, and have very similar internal structures – number of chapters, length of chapters, and so forth.

I think this point caught in my mind because it wasn’t at all surprising to me. I write really long series, and to do really long series, the writer has to settle on a structure for the books. That makes it far easier to a series that can sustain itself over an extended length.

Like, the FROSTBORN series for example. The first thirteen FROSTBORN books are all 24 chapters long, and they all land between 90,000 and 105,000 words in length. The only exceptions are the second-to-last book FROSTBORN: THE DRAGON KNIGHT, which was 26 chapters long, and the final book FROSTBORN: THE SHADOW PRISON, which was 33 chapters long. The extra length was necessary to make sure that the series ended properly, since there is nothing that readers hate more than a long-running series that screws up the ending. (For example, see the ending of THE SOPRANOS.)

I did the same thing with the GHOST EXILE series, but less rigorously. The first 7 books were all between 21 and 24 chapters. Starting with the seventh book, GHOST IN THE THRONE, the length began creeping up, and the final book GHOST IN THE WINDS was the longest of all. Again, it was to make sure that the series hit the ending properly.

MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED was probably my most consistent series – all 3 books had exactly 20 chapters.

But I digress a bit. Nabakov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve was definitely an interesting read if you’re interesting in writing and publishing.

-JM

The Hymn of the Pearl, by Brian Niemeier

The Hymn of the Pearl by Brian Niemeier is a fantasy novella with an interesting premise. The concept of palmistry (or “chieromancy” to be fancy) is an ancient one, the idea of reading someone’s fate from their palm. Hymn of the Pearl takes the concept to the next level, with chieromancers actually able to alter or change someone’s destiny by altering the invisible lines of fate extending from their hand.

Since fate is real in this setting, that means that the guilt of an immoral act inevitably invites misfortune. A chieromancer can take that guilt, and its inevitable misfortune, and transfer the guilt to someone else, preferably a livestock animal. It’s a rather more direct and practical application of the ancient idea of offering an animal sacrifice to appease the gods.

Previously, this practice belonged solely to a religious order called the Advocates. However, the Advocates were overthrown by another order called the Arbiters, who believe that fate was simply another science and pursued it without a religious lens. The Arbiters took a more commercial approach, changing fates and reassigning destinies for the highest bidder.

Into this setting comes Soter, the last of the Advocates. The fall of the Advocates cursed Soter so severely that he is a walking vortex of misfortune – if he travels on a ship, it will sink or undergo pirate attack, if he’s thrown in prison, the prison will burn down. The curse also makes Soter effectively immortal so he remains alive to enjoy his torments fully.

However, some of Soter’s former friends have realized the nature of his curse, and want to use him as a weapon to win a war, despite Soter’s warnings that it’s going to backfire horribly. Worse, something ancient and evil has noticed Soter’s curse, and has its own ideas about what to do with him…

It’s a really interesting theological and mythological idea, and I enjoyed reading The Hymn of the Pearl. The novella does use a lot of invented terms, but fortunately there is an excellent glossary in the back. (One of the nice things about ebooks – no need to watch printing costs.) The only thing I would change is the cover art, since it doesn’t say “high fantasy novella” but instead says “Penguin Classics Edition of some Roman poet or another”. That said, I cannot judge a writer for using public-domain art for cover art, since I have done it myself many, many times.

-JM

a 10k day!

I wrote 10,800 words today! 10k word days are rare, so I always appreciate them when they come along.

I finished the rough draft of the 3rd book of my upcoming 4-book science fiction series.

Next up, I’ll start edits on CLOAK GAMES: HAMMER BREAK. Check back tomorrow to see the cover image for the book!

-JM