Another Giveaway!

Step3-YamadaThere will be another (and possibly one more, but this is all for now) giveaway of Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter, this time at SFSignal. Follow the link for the official rules, but it’s not complicated. You don’t even have to answer any questions, other than whether you’d prefer hardcopy or ebook. You have a choice! It can’t be much simpler than that. SFSignal will also be runing an interview of me at some point in the near future, so watch this space. Unless you already follow SFSignal–and why wouldn’t you?–in which case you’ll see it there no matter what I say or don’t say here.

Ugh. Spent all day Sunday doing taxes. Well, almost all day. From about 9:30AM until 6PM. And then had a glitch with the state forms which had to be redone. Even with good tax software, it was a trial. Nothing like self-employment income for two members of the household and Federal and State forms with different rules  to complicated an already ridiculously complicated ritual. And frankly, my brain doesn’t work anymore. I’m hoping it manages to reboot soon, because I’ve got books to write.


What Follows

Final-CoverYes, I’m talking about The Book again. Sorry about that, but that’s what’s going on right now, so it remains the subject of the moment. Late last week I learned that the distributor was out of copies. I had to take a moment to digest that. Savor, actually. I mean, think about it–the outfit in charge of getting the book into sales venues was out of stock. Which meant that the book  was being ordered. Which meant that there was demand. Which meant…well, let’s not get too crazy. The point is that the distributor was not sitting on piles of stock that no one wanted. In fact, Prime had to send out the rest of the copies they had on hand so that the distributor could handle their orders. So now the publisher is out of stock. All remaining copies are either 1) at the distributors or 2) at the bookstore(s). This is, what we in the business like to call, “a good thing.”

So what does this mean? Hard to say right at the moment. Distribution aside, the numbers look good. Actual sales are at a brisk rate, and at the very least odds are good that the publisher won’t lose money on the book. They might even make a buck or two. This is important for obvious reasons. A publisher might love your work, your editor might even believe you’re a genius, but if your books don’t sell, none of that matters much. Most publishers, especially smaller presses, can’t afford to publish books that no one wants. When a book does well, the publisher is more inclined to want another one from you. Simple as that.

Here’s the thing—if you’re a writer, you want to write. Which is fine, because who’s stopping you? If you don’t have time, you’ll reset your priorities until you do have time. If the work isn’t going so well you hang in there until your creativity decides to wake up and join the party. Even a fallow period—they happen—is understood to be temporary. Problem is, we’re greedy. We don’t just want to write—we want to be read, too. We, narcissists that we are, want to think that what we write matters, even a little. Sure, you can self-publish, and there are even times when that makes sense, but without a readership in place it’s a long slog to get one, and the readership is what you really want. We have more options these days, sure and yippee, but publishing through a competent traditional publisher, large or small, is still the best way to find those readers, or rather, let them find you. Otherwise everything you write is just you, talking to yourself. I think there are psychiatric terms for that, none of them very flattering.

So we have to worry about the business side of things. Self-promote as best we can, do what we can do and still face ourselves in the mirror come morning. As others have pointed out time and again, writing is both an art and a business. Art comes first. After that, it’s business. We forget the second part at our peril.

“I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means”

Final-CoverThe pre-publication prep on Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter is drawing to a close. So far the manuscript has been proofread by two people other than myself, and if any typos remain it wasn’t for lack of effort in hunting them down. It’s always best to have a pair of eyes other than your own when cleaning up a book—it’s far too easy to read what you expect to be there and what should be there rather than what actually is there. And no matter how long a manuscript sits, you’re never going to be able to review it with the objectivity that someone from the outside brings. That’s just the way it is.

Speaking of the way things are, the book already has its first review. From a reviewer who couldn’t finish it. You see, all the chapters “read like short stories.”

I know I heard a few of you snorting your coffee, or whatever beverage of choice, just now. “There’s a reason for that,” you might say, as did I when I first read the review. And it would be easy enough to slag on a reviewer who massively missed the point, but that itself would be missing the point. See, this is the exact opposite of the problem above. The book/story whatever it is, it’s your baby. You know it better than anyone. So well, so involved that you can never be completely objective about it. That’s when you’re trying to make it presentable to show the world, but then comes the next step—you show the world. And not anyone out there is going to know, to the core of their beings, as you do—just what is in front of them. Sure, it’ll look like a book, and have pages and words and things like, you know, a book. After that you’re into the realm of interpretation. Inevitable, completely out of your control, interpretation. Your book has left your world, where it was cherished and understood, and gone out into a world that, frankly, isn’t inclined to cut it any slack at all. They might read the cover copy about what your or another reader might have believed the book was about, but everyone knows that this much of it is hype and pitch. They will make up their own minds, thank you very much.

Here’s the thing—whatever your intention in creating it, you don’t get to decide what the book is. People who are not you are going to read the book (or attempt to). More to the point, they’ll compare it to their inner framework that tells them what a book is. Maybe that inner framework can’t take into account the fact that the book is a collection of short stories. Maybe they never read short stories. Maybe they don’t even know magazines and short stories exist. Don’t laugh, I’ve come across a few readers like that. Or they know about them but never read them. A book of fiction is a novel, and that’s how they’ll read your work, and find it lacking because it’s not a very good novel. Saying “It’s not a novel!” won’t melt any ice, because what you say the book is has no framework in their world, and you’re not going to be there to explain it anyway and it wouldn’t matter if you were.

I learned a long time ago that what I wrote wasn’t always what people read. Listening to reader interpretations of a story or book of mine over the years has been–and I hope continues to be–fascinating. If you’re a writer, you’ll probably see the same thing. There’s no point griping about it because, even though people will always read the book they think they’re reading and seldom the one you wrote, they’re not wrong. They decide what your work is for them: joyous or depressing, deep or ordinary. That’s their right.

What matters is that, now and then, you connect with a reader or two who is ready to read the book or story you actually wrote. They’re the ones you’re really writing for, and all you can hope for is that you find them.

Yamada Monogatari — Covering the Cover

Maybe arriving at the final cover art will prove to be a lot like watching sausages being made (and if that doesn’t put you off eating sausages, nothing will), but I’m going to run down the broad strokes of turning a licensed image into a finished cover. We started with the image of a samurai duel above(“By the Sword”–Artist: Glenn Porter). Also note that when I said “we” up there I mostly mean my editor/publisher Sean Wallace and Prime’s art director, Sherin Nicole. I was in the loop, but mostly as cheerleader. Continue reading

Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter — Update

We’re still on track for a February release, and so far everything’s looking great. I’ve been in the loop on the cover design progress, and we’re close to having a final. When that’s done I plan to post some of the preliminary images to show what changes/refinements a cover might go through before it’s ready for–pardon the expression–Prime time. But we’re not quite there.

For now, and knowing that there will be readers who haven’t a clue who Lord Yamada is, this is a working draft of a proposed introduction. It may and likely will change a bit before it goes live, but this is the gist:

“This book is about a man named Yamada no Goji and set during a time in ancient Japan now known as the Heian period. Although the term is derived from the capital city during the era—Heian-kyō (modern Kyōto)—the word heian simply means means “peace and tranquility.” In comparison to the later feudal era of Japan, when the rise of the samurai class meant every two-bit lording and their armies were at each others’ throats, the word is probably appropriate.

A time of learning, great poetry, and literature, the Heian period (794 – 1185) is rightly considered Japan’s Golden Age, at least for the upper classes, but they had their problems:

Demons. Ghosts. Monsters.

While the political situation was relatively stable, the spiritual universe of Heian Japan was in the grip of powerful supernatural forces, most of them malicious and all extremely dangerous. That’s where Yamada no Goji comes in. A minor aristocrat from a nearly extinct clan, he has no property and no family connections. What he does have is a sharp sword, an even sharper mind, and a willingness—if the price is right—to use both to take on any monster the Heian underworld can throw at him.

“Monogatari” just means “story” and this is Yamada’s story, or at least part of it. I originally envisioned him as a sort of Japanese Sam Spade. That original tone is clearest in the first section, “Fox Tails.” But, as characters often do, Yamada had his own ideas about that. Still, that’s where it all started, and that’s where this book starts. Where it ends…well, I hope you’ll enjoy finding that out for yourself.

—Richard Parks”