Saturday, 31 January 2015

Interview with Kevin Breaux (experiences with small press / self publishing)

Three years ago I sent out three interviews to find out more about life in the self-published and small-press game, and to give some blog-space to three authors who had been supportive in my first year in print.

Two of those interviews came back swiftly and have been on my blog ever since.

The other arrived back in my inbox a few days ago. Kevin having been dealing with various trials and tribulations in the interim.

He's now moved from small-press to self-publishing and has recently released a new and improved edition of his debut.




1. Score out of ten the following reason you write (10 = nail on head, 1 = no part of me has ever even thought this). You may qualify your numerical response with a tweet length text addition if you so desire.


-I hope to become rich

#3. I would love to be able to support myself and my family with my art.

-I would not be happy knowing only a couple of people ever read my stories

#10. I would like to connect with as many people as possible over my writing. I enjoy constructive criticism as much as I do praise. I spent 8 years in art school with daily critiques. I’m used to it.


-To stay sane

#9. Writing does help keep me balanced. When I had an IT job, I was miserable because it was suppressing my creativity. My soul needs to express itself.


-To have people tell me how well I do it and how wonderful I am

#6. I enjoy praise as much as the next artist but it’s not my driving force. But I do enjoy it. I do. J


-Chicks

#10. Look. Let’s be serious. It’s all for the ladies. It always has been. Lady agents. Lady publishers. Lady readers.

Oh yay! *flexing* Nothing says hot like a man who never wants to leave his house and be on the computer all day writing sexy-sex under layers of Viking, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy plotlines.


-To prove wrong somebody/bodies who said I wouldn't succeed

#1. I don’t care about those people. And if I did, I would write them into one of my books and have them eaten alive by were-piranha.



2. You've opted not to self-publish your recent work. Did you ever try to self-publish? If so how does the small press vs self-published experience differ?


I started submitting my work to agents in 1998. I don’t think self-publishing was a thing back then, not like it is now. I wanted to follow the traditional route. I’m old school like that. And I kept sending to agents and publishers until 2007 when my work was finally bought and published. From that point on, my desire to get an agent only grew and grew.

When I first started getting offers to publish my books, I was nervous about signing deals. I wanted to have someone help me with those important business decisions. Yes, when I was young I made every mistake possible. I was taken advantage of several times. Promised the world. Robbed of money. It was gross.

So as an adult, I treaded carefully… and STILL made mistakes working with some unscrupulous small press.

As of 2014, that’s all behind me. I signed with an agent and she is shopping my books from two new series around. I will finally get my wish very soon. In the meantime, I actually self-published my old novel SOUL BORN on Amazon Kindle. This is a new re-worked and re-edited version, but I made sure the plot remained the same. It was hard not to just re-write the entire thing at my new level of skill… but then it would not have been Soul Born anymore it would have been something different.

Soul Born may not be my best work, but the fans like it and I wanted to get the book back out there for the fans. I’d love to hear what people think of this new edition. 


3. How much hard work is being an author with a small press? Without the push from a large publisher what fraction or multiple of your writing time do you have to spend on promotion just to be noticed by the reading public?


From 2009 to 2013, while I was solely with small press, it was a ton of hard work. A ton of stress. Okay, it was a battle.

I had to do many of the jobs a big publisher would normally do. And I had no experience doing them. I promoted, I also designed and created and placed advertisements in print and on the web. I hired cover artists, including Dan Dos Santos for the Soul Born Saga… and I laid out the cover design work myself. Thanks Art School!

Yes, it was a great deal of hard work, but I learned a lot and that knowledge is more valuable than anything else. Granted, it was not until 2013, when I was separating myself from small press, that I actually had more time to write and edit. During that time, I grew as an author and my skill as a writer doubled-no tripled! Boom!

So, yeah, it’s better to be able to focus more on crafting the words in your book than the words of self promotion in your tweets.


4. It seems signal-to-noise is the big hurdle for all authors. There's an incredible amount of stuff out there and readers have few signposts to the best of it. Potential readers and book bloggers who may never have read a book from a small press will read this - you can write two short paragraphs to convince them your book's the small press work they should experiment with _or_ you can have three paragraphs from your book here to do the talking for you. Which do you choose? Please supply the material.


Oddly enough, I have done this before. Many… many times. I have emailed so many bloggers I cannot remember them all. And I wish I could. Most of those bloggers were cool people. Nice people with jobs and hobbies and passions of their own—inside and outside the book industry.

Normally, I did not try and convince them my work was the next best thing. Instead, I reached out as one human being to another. I told them my history as a student of art and how hard I worked to get to where I was. I told stories of the ups and downs and the hurdles of life. I asked politely if they could help me promote my work, as it was the beginning of my dream, and they agreed to.

Small press? Self-publish? Traditional?

I have been fighting to reach my goals since 1998 and even more so since 2007. I have made mistakes. I have had major successes. I have won awards and I have had decent sales. I have also received thousands of rejection letters. Hundreds of those in snail mail form. Yes, snail mail.

I wanted an agent more than life itself… and now I have one. A year from now, I hope to be emailing those bloggers and loyal readers again. I have always believed that hard work must pay off or dreams will die. And now I’m truly an example of that. 


5. The first great book, poem, and album that pop into your head?


MISTS of AVALON. This is the first great book I got my hands on in late middle school. It was so vastly different than the kids books I was forced to read and I owe it much for opening my eyes. I could name some Frank Miller comic books too… but maybe we can talk about them next time.


6. Any last thoughts?

Write Makes Might!

Check out my website at www.kevinbreaux.com.

Thanks!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

One cover, many books!


Someone sent me this image of the Czech editons of two of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (by Fantom). The US cover art for Prince of Fools and the art for the cover of an edition of Stephen Erickson's Gardens of the Moon are serving in a rather different capacity over there!


This is nothing new of course. Last year a Polish publisher were going to put the King of Thorns artwork on a Brandon Sanderson book!


None of this is unusual of course. On Mazarkis Williams' blog we see one cover being used for four different authors!





Friday, 9 January 2015

Films that were better than the book

Canvassing opinion this topic reveals that passions run deep on this one, perhaps even deeper than in the books we love/hate stakes.

Every film/book combo on this list I've seen argued in both directions with equally blank incomprehension at the idea that anyone could hold the opposite view.

I've made three contributions here. Partly because there aren't that many cases where I've both read the book and seen the film, and partly because generally I tend to think that the books are better!

I'm going to keep the focus on fantasy.

#1 How to train your dragon.



I read the book to my daughter and reviewed it on Goodreads. I enjoyed it, it was a good enough read. The film though, was (in my own humble opinion) much better.

The fundamental changes made for a better story. A bunch of boys training small dragons as part of the test to qualify to become full members of their clan - is changed to - a bunch of children training to battle large dragons to help preserve their clan. Our hero then becomes a ground breaker by befriending a (very well characterised) dragon and learning how to befriend/train others (all in secret), rather than a more modest innovator who in the book learns it's better to talk to your dragon and negotiate than just to shout at them as loudly as you can.

The addition of a love interest and both girls and boys into the fighting mix also helps make the film a better experience than the book (which to my mind lacked a little heart).


#2 The Never-Ending Story


Here I also read the book to my daughter and reviewed it on Goodreads. I watched the film probably 25 years earlier.

This one was a much closer call, with the film helped by the fact that I watched it so long ago. I wasn't a big fan of the film ... it was all right. I wasn't a big fan of the book, the first half (which the film was based on) was better than the film - but the second half (which I've seen one person praise to the sky) was for me as an adult reading it out loud, a dreary, repetitive, slog. I give it to the film in this case.

"That" song!








#3 The Shawshank Redemption

The last of mine, and not fantasy. This was a very good short story by Stephen King ... and a brilliant film directed by Frank Darabont - the highest ranked film of all time on imdb.com!



Other film-better-than-book suggestions include:

The Princess Bride
American Psycho
Blade Runner vs Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Die Hard vs Nothing Lasts Forever
The Green Mile
Fight Club



I can't comment because with the exception of The Green Mile I've seen the film but not read the book. For The Green Mile I've seen and liked both, with no clear favourite.

If anyone wants to put forward a brief case for or against in these cases then I'm happy to move it up into the blog.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Stabbies - reddit r/fantasy awards 2014

It's all about the Stabby. The award handed out by r/fantasy in many categories, including Best Book, Best Debut, and Best Self-Published Book. 





Check out the official results and the nominations

The book results 
(unofficial rankings - the ordering can vary with time and these were gathered a short while after the official time)



Best Fantasy 2014

Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson
Prince of Fools - Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ..... eeeeeeeeee ...eeee!

The Broken Eye - Brent Weeks
The Crimson Campaign - Brian McClellan
Skin Game - Jim Butcher





Best Fantasy Debut 2014

The Emperor's Blades - Brian Staveley
Red Rising - Pierce Brown
Damoren - Seth Skorkowsky
Nameless - Mercedes Yardley
Clockwork Dagger - Beth Cato


Best Self-pulished Fantasy 2014
Ten Thousand Devils - S.A. Hunt
Fae - The Wild Hunt - Graham Austin-King
Construct - Luke Matthews
The Shadows of What Was Lost - James Islington
(3-way tie for 5th place:)
The Way Into Chaos - Harry Connolly
Clarity - Christopher Kellen
Pennsylvania - Michael Bunker

Congratulations to all!
Many thanks to everyone ... except... y'know, those guys who didn't vote for me, and I promise to wield my Stabby (see below) with reckless disregard for health and safety regulations.

See the results of the 2013 Award and the 2012 Award.


Reddit r/fantasy has 69,000 members (up from 45,000 last year and 25,000 the year before) and is the most active fantasy forum on the internet. Well worth checking out - though the interface is a steep learning curve at first.

http://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy



But wait! There's more. I won a Stabby this year too!

... it's not for best book ... and I'm sharing it with Potterhead42 ... but I have (half of)(hopefully the pointy end) the Stabby for r/Fantasy Community Achievement Award!

I like to think I earned it through my general tact throughout the year as I poured oil on various troubled waters and promoted harmony.



Monday, 5 January 2015

WWJD?

What Would Jorg Do?


Introducing a new online counselling service wherein Jorg offers advice on matters as diverse as relationships, careers, and the destruction of one's enemies.



You're welcome to enter your questions in the comment section below, and Jorg will address them in a thoughtful and sympathetic manner when and if he can be bothered.

Watch this space.

This one here ---->


A Question from Denmark:

Dear Jorg,

My nefarious uncle killed my father, married my mother and dispossessed me of my rightful inheritance I initially planned to stab him while he prayed in church but thought "you know.... that's probably too good for him". Now I mope about the palace and get all emo with my crazy girlfriend. I think I could be happy if I forget about the past. Who knows, maybe i could go to dental school! Should I get on with my life or embark on self-destructive roaring rampage of revenge?

Sincerely,
Prince H. 



Jorg says:

Three things, Prince Hamlet. First, do not under any circumstances accidentally murder your girlfriend's father. Probably best not to do it on purpose either. These crazy types can be unstable. Secondly, watch out for poison. In the ear, in a cup, on a sword, wherever - just make sure you have a big jug of antidote on hand at all times. Thirdly, killing is always too good for treacherous uncles. Any good castle should have a nice deep torture pit somewhere. If you have trouble locating yours try consulting the manufacturer's website. Often they're on the underneath.

*****

Dear Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath,

My professor of medieval literature gave me a B when I should have received an A. However, I am fond of the little man. I want him to suffer but I also want to have him live. I have thought about putting laxative in his coffee or perhaps to slash the tires of his car or perhaps I'll put some sugar in his gas tank. You know, things that would spoil his week but not hurt him too much. What would you do? 

Warmest regards,

Vivian's evil twin sister.



Jorg says:

Vivian - you're thinking in the right direction but lacking finesse. Firstly it's important the the error that has occasioned your anger is corrected. Secondly, context is always important in revenge situations. 

Capture your medieval literature professor and take him to a suitable medieval torture facility - such as the London Dungeon after hours. Strap the prisoner into a suitable correctional device and offer him the chance to regrade your paper. Remember to use the line given to us by the immortal Marcellus Wallace  I'ma get medieval on your ass.. Once the A has been delivered you may proceed to give as much correctional torture as you see fit.

****

Anonymous says

Dear Jorg,
I've recently become a manager in my job as an archivist. I have a compulsively lying disobedient fool on my team who will do pretty much any task other than the one I have assigned him. How should I handle this? Perhaps igniting a builders sun over his part of London?



Jorg says:

If you're the kind of archivist they have in the Natural History Museum, the kind that stores lots of little samples away in thousands of tiny drawers, then the solution is simple. Cut the offending team member into a great number of small pieces, label each, and store them in the appropriate drawers, ensuring that the labels are sufficiently boring to dissuade inspection, and that the reference codes don't appear in the main index.

An alternative, if you're the boring paper-based kind of archivist, is to tell the team member that they have been promoted, and that their new official job title is Compulsively Lying Disobedient Fool. The physical side of the punishment will have to rely on the tools of your trade. Immobilise the CLDF with sticky tape, then administer an appropriate number of paper cuts. You may have to use the stapler and scissors too if the problem continues.  


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sex


Specifically sex in fantasy novels.

I'm moved to blog partly by this review of The Liar's Key, which contains the surprising line:

I now have a favourite literary sex scene! 


And partly having read a discussion on reddit r/fantasy, "do you think sex is hard to right(sic) in fantasy?"

Now, my own scene was probably the reviewer's favourite because it's funny and there are cows. But there are more general points to make - and here's George RR Martin making one:

“I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”


And it must be said that George's books have more sex in them than many fantasy books do. Though far less than is on screen in the TV adaptation, and perhaps not very much on a per-page basis ... he just writes a lot of pages!

I'm sure that, as many people have said, the causes for the imbalance are several in number and prime amongst them are society's irrational prejudices and prudery. Violence (generally illegal, cruel, and destructive) is lauded and spot-lighted, sex (generally legal, kind, and productive) is considered shameful and hidden.

However, I have a couple of additional thoughts on the subject - not perhaps the prime causes but possibilities to be considered:

I wonder if one factor might not be that when it's violence we're reading about we're generally interested in the outcome - we want to know who will win, who will survive. The protagonists haven't just said, "let's have a spot of violence, shall we?" ... it's about something. Whereas sex is an end unto itself, and if you're not a participant, one might wonder what the point of being party to it is.

Another thought runs thusly: Most of us have sex and because real sex (as opposed to porn) is private, we have a particular and private experience of it. Very few of us kill people with swords or watch people burn. So when describing the latter the writer is leading - they are describing something about which the reader is unlikely to have strong expectations. When describing the former you risk running roughshod over the reader's expectations/sensibilities ... or giving them porn.

A sword-fight has to be pretty unrealistic before many of us complain because few of us have any real experience of sword fighting. Similarly with GRRM's axe-entering-skull - how many of us will be jarred out of the story by the sudden thought that 'no, the last time I put my axe through someone's skull it was rather different'? Sex, on the other hand, is more difficult to get right on the page - people have opinions, experience, and it's far more easy to lose them with a clunky line or an image that for them is unintentionally funny.

After all - get it wrong and you might find yourself starring on the Worst Sex Scene lists that crop up every year!




Tuesday, 23 December 2014

List of Lists ... Four!


(I did this last year, the year before and the year before ... I'm doing it again!)

2014 has been kind to Prince of Fools!


Below are the 29 'Best of 2014' lists that I know of featuring Prince of Fools (presented in chronological order of publication). The two main reasons for assembling this list of lists are:

i) A thank you to the reviewers in question. It's a labour of love maintaining a book blog.

ii) You're probably here because you liked Prince of Fools. These reviewers (or in one case, these 200,000+ voters) appear to share your taste in one book, perhaps you will enjoy the other books on their lists.



Fantasy-Faction
Fantasy Miscellany
Total Inability to Connect
Indie-Fantasy
Fantasy Book Review
AGT Reviews
reddit r/fantasy
Only The Best SFF
Konjam Random
The Arched Doorway
Lynn's Book Blog
Bookworm Blues
Phil's Blog
The Fictional Hangout
The Reading Frenzy
The Royal Library
SFF World
Beauty in Ruins
Inaugural Press
Best Fantasy Books
Parmenion Books
The Book Plank
Grimdark Reader
The Grimdark Review
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Powell's Books
Book Reviews
A Reading Machine
Goodreads Choice Award