Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sundry Sunday miscellany

Sunday finds me working on LORDS OF HARBENDANE, and taking half hour out right here to answer some readers' questions.

This first, from a lady in Toronto, Canada: when the [expletive deleted] will the rest of HELLGATE be putting in an appearance?! Good question, with a simple answer: soon, because I'm doing the prep work for the entire rest of the series at this time. Right now, I do believe I'm cutting seven books to six, and just as I wrote CRY LIBERTY and PROBE back to back, I'll be doing the last two the same way. They'll be released singly, a few months apart, and I'm hoping to get them out in 2009. Afterwards, we have a pet project: the six HELLGATE books will be partnered by twos, and you'll be able to buy the whole lot in three big hardcovers which will look amazing on your bookshelf. (Few science fiction novels/series look like that ... and it's an absolute first in gay publishing. Three monstrous hardcovers, being a 2,200 page epic tale of love, war, espionage, death, high technology, survival, freedom and friendship? I'm actually racking my brains to think of any other such project. There's a number of big, huuuuuge fantasy novels ... the Wheel of Time, for one. But nothing similar, in hard SF. And absolutely nothing in gay SF or fantasy. Let me get this done, guys, and we'll make some history here.)

Next, from a gent in the UK: does the NARC riot armor look like the suit in IRON MAN? Actually ... no. Which is not the same as saying I don't really like Tony Stark's design -- I do. However, the NARC armor is very different. To begin with, it doesn't have a "face" on the helmet; the visor is featureless. Floodlights and sensor packs are concealed in a smooth fairing around the helmet. The NARC armor is mirror-black; there's a powerpack mounted between the shoulders, containing a superconductor unit. Those shoulders are big -- think ice hockey pads in mirror black. The joints are "smart seals" so you don't have massive, "swollen" elbow and knee assemblies ... when you put it on, piece by piece, the armor's joints nano-seal themselves, as securely as welds. I would love to be able to tell you I know exactly what the NARC armor looks like, but all I can tell you, really, is ... what it doesn't look like. I had an absolute blast at IRON MAN, and I like the armor a lot. But the NARC armor is very different. We're still working to get a design I, uh, like.

Next, this from a very nice reader who wants to know, would I take on an editing job? In fact (sorry) I have to say no. Editing is an incredibly time-consuming job, and at even minimum-wage rates, it gets very expensive. No writer trying to crack the market can afford to pay so much, and also, if you do shell out and pay a pro to do the work, you don't learn nearly as much as if you did the job yourself. I realize it could take months to learn this job, but at the end of that time you still have your money, and you've assembled a suite of skills which will benefit you the rest of your writing life.

The other downside to editing is that writers (especially new ones) can get very upset during the process, when it often seems there's something wrong with every second word. Someone once said, it takes a million words of creative fiction under the belt before one's work will be "good enough." This is not true; but the gist of it is ... it takes a hell of a lot of very hard work and practise to reach the point where the writing is (and I hate the term) "good enough" to pass muster in the pro arena.

Is there a study course I would recommend? Again, not really. There are hundreds out there; pick the one that suits you best, at a price you can afford. One word of caution: beware of the "we want to read your novel," and "get published fast and easy" type ads. You can be in print by next week, and you don't need to drop five hundred bucks to one of these companies to achieve this result! What none of these schemes guarantee is that anyone will buy your book; or, if you do get buyers, that your work has been polished to the point where it's ready to "fly solo." If it's not ready, this kind of "automatic self-publishing scheme" is a recipe for disaster. Sorry to be a killjoy.

It's much better to work with a smaller group -- a writers' workshop or a circle of friends -- until you're sure of your skills, *then* give the pro market a shot. There's almost certainly a writers' workshop in your area. Your local library would know -- and might even be the meeting place for one. It often happens. Writing for a group gives you the chance to bounce your work of other people before you have to start putting down a lot of money. When you're in Aus or NZ, a submission to a publisher in London or New York will cost upwards of $100. You have to print out, airmail, and pay return shipping on the whole 300-400pp manuscript. This is something that can wait till you're pretty sure of your skills. When you KNOW how good you are -- time enough, then, to start putting money into the project. Even if you're lucky enough to be close to the world's publishing capitals, it can still get expensive, especially if you blunder into an "editing agent" who wants $75 per hour, and more, to edit for you. The bottom line is this: the better you are before you run the gauntlet of these people, the easier it'll be and the less it will cost. By all means take a course. Also, find a writers' workshop or similar, and have some fun along the way.

And now, back to THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE. It's a cold but sunny Sunday, and everything in the world is in bloom, leaving you with fuzzy eyes and sneezes. I'll leave you with these images, which illustrate what I mean:

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