I Explain My New Publishing Deal to Aragorn, the Cat Who Lives With Me.

“Aragorn!” I screamed as I ran up the steps of our porch, feet pounding up to our front door. “Aragorn!!!! It happened! It. HAS. HAPPENED.”

I slammed the door behind me, remembering to throw the bolt – it doesn’t shut properly if you don’t throw the bolt, and when Train rumbles by the door can pop open — allowing the Dogs to wreak a very limited havoc on the neighborhood. My words echoed in the house and then fell quiet.  My Beloved and the dogs were out on a walk and the black and white cat was in the backyard absorbing solar radiation. It should just be me and Aragorn in the house. Is he asleep? I think I yelled pretty loud. I prepared to venture further, to face the lion in his lair, when at last his magnificent orange frame sauntered into view.

Aragorn
Aragorn

“What.”

“Oh, hey. Hey, Aragorn. Were…were you asleep? I mean, I can tell you about this later, if you were, you know, asleep.”

The orange tail lashed and he said nothing.

“Okay, I was just very excited because I’ve got my first publishing deal and I wanted to tell you about it.”

Aragorn blinked, then slowly uncoiled himself, heading back for his favorite nap spot.

“No! It’s a really cool thing! I won a contest and now I’m getting published by Inkshares and I’m going to be on Sword & Laser and –”

The orange cat stopped and looked back over his shoulder with disgust. “There’s no way you’re going to let me go back to sleep until you tell me about this, is there?”

I bounced on one foot, vibrating with pent up excitement. Aragorn sighed and curled back up in a nearby sunbeam. He flicked his whispers in a way that signified if not submission then at least grudging consent. I sat down next to him with my legs crossed. We sat together, him in the sun, me respectfully folding my hands and preparing my tale.

Aragorn opened one eye. “Did you fall asleep?”

“Snrrr..no! It’s just been a relentless couple of months okay, I was just taking a brain-pause.”

The orange cat closed his eye.

Inkshares is a publisher, an honest to god book publisher – but they’re trying to do something different. They crowdfund books – a little like Kickstarter, but with a guaranteed product. If you can convince 1000 people that you have a cool idea for a book, they will publish that book. Professional editor, professional marketing, professional cover design, the works – and it’ll be in bookstores. For real. Like I don’t have to personally deliver them myself and sweet-talk the staff. I heard about them a few months ago when Sword & Laser interviewed Gary Whitta.” I jabbered. “I had already been poking around the site – kicking the tires as it were – trying to decide if it would be a good fit for me and my next book. But then, out of nowhere they announce this contest.”

“Contest?” the cat didn’t quite sneer.

“A contest sponsored by Sword & Laser! It started in April and ran through the end of May. The top five fantasy and science fiction campaigns on the site with the highest pre-order counts would all be published – even if they didn’t hit the 1000 book goal. I thought about it for ten whole minutes before I jumped in. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. It was too many coincidences! I had never even heard of Inkshares until the podcast, and now the podcast was running a fricking contest for fantasy novels and I WRITE FANTASY NOVELS. I had already setup a ‘dummy’ campaign with very basic information – in a frantic hour or two I field-dressed it and set it to launch.”

“What’s the book called?”

“Uh. I mean. I think we’ve agreed to disagree before about my style, so –”

“What. Is the stupid. Book. Called. Human.”

Asteroid Made of Dragons…?”Asteroid

Aragorn arched his back and hissed at me.  I held up both hands, hoping to placate him. “Yes, yes – I know. But you see, I won. I won Aragorn. It took a lot of amazing people helping me out and Inkshares amending the contest rules right at the end to factor in unique readers as well as pre-order totals. But I’m getting a book published. It is happening. It’s happening, Aragorn!”

The cat lowered his spine and plopped back on the floor – or at least the most graceful version of a ‘plop’ that can exist. I kept going, hoping he wouldn’t mind the excited spittle flying across the room.

“And on top of that I get to be in the Sword & Laser Collection. I get to be interviewed on the podcast. It’s come full circle or something. I also have to write a whole hell of a lot in the couple of months to get the manuscript done and I think I may have some sort of anxiety-related tic forming in my left eye – but I get to see my work in hardback. I…I…I…”

Aragorn stretched with boredom. “You realize this is only interesting to you? It’s nice that you tricked a bunch of friend and strangers into helping you, but I fail to see what this could possibly mean for me?”

Cats ruin everything. “I mean, we’ve just talked so much about the other books, i thought you’d be excited.”

“Yay.”

“Okay – okay, I get it,” I got up from the floor and skulked away.

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The Buzz-Saw

Setting out on a mission of revenge, the hero is told to dig two graves. One for the villain and one for himself. When setting out on a mission of self-promotion I have learned to dig eight graves.

One for me, one for my dignity, one for my pride, one for that random werewolf that always attacks me, two for anxiety because that sucker is portly and depression resurrects him on the regular. Two more just because I like digging. And the eighth grave for this entire metaphor.

So, to whit: anxiety is getting out of the grave, but I defeat the werewolf?

This is my problem, you see? I’m a writer and a communicator, but my preambles are deadly. Weaponized elocution right here.

I’m the self-published author of two fantasy novels. And promoting your self is part and parcel of the experience — and something that more and more people are becoming familiar with. You can’t wander into any social media space without seeing people hawking and flogging everything from albums to alcoholic cookies. It’s something that innumerable people will offer to instruct you on in never-ending neon-rimmed posts on Twitter and FB. As the arsenal of marketing feels ever more at our fingertips, it becomes easier and easier to feel dumb for not doing it right.

I feel pretty dumb.

But this really isn’t about self-promotion. It’s about the buzz-saw.

So you make a thing. A book, a record, a drawing, a video. And then you pick it up Buzz_sawin your arms and you look at it. You like it. It’s got problems, sure, but it’s a good thing. But now you have to get that thing to other people. Fortunately, the human race has equipped itself with the most potent communication tool in history. So you put it up.

And nothing happens. Except you walk right into the buzz-saw. The deafening un-sound of one droplet in a rainstorm.

You bring the thing up at parties. In casual conversations, in careful status updates designed to hide the sales payload, in fervent harangues over too much beer, you put it up. And nothing happens. The buzz-saw whirs and more sawdust flies off of you.

There is a certain weight you need to carry your thing forward. A certain percentage of your psyche you need at fighting form. The buzz-saw cuts that weight off you. If you’re not careful you are splinters before you realize it.

You put it up again. You read guides, you watch YouTube videos, you go to conferences. Everyone tells you how to carry the thing. How to get the thing to the other people. The buzz-saw whirs. You put the thing up three times a day, five times, ten. You blog-hop and tweet and podcast and jibber. You find sawdust in your pockets and crammed in the crevice of your car’s console. You can’t use the cup holder anymore there’s so much of it falling off you.

A lot of nights it’s just you and the thing. Huddled under the brown comforter and thumbing your phone through the endless places you want the thing to be. Wistfully weighing other people’s things — things no better or worse than your thing! — and feeling the buzz-saw bite.

And you can’t stop. Not now, not ever. Because if you do, no one else will carry the thing. That light will go out and not even the dark will notice.

So you keep walking into the buzz-saw. People help you of course, it’s not all disintegration. A new review, a friendly word, someone makes a thing because of your thing [!], you get a great idea for a new thing, or a new part of the old thing, or an old thing you can do in a new way. There’s a lot of us on this side of the lumber mill and you take strength from swapping scar-stories. I’m always astonished by those that live in the teeth of the buzz-saw, mashing those buttons with fever intensity. We all roll our eyes — but I also quietly give them the gunslinger nod. They are stronger than I or less fragile or just made of more wood.

I am mostly sawdust. I am chicken-shit. I barely get touched by those metal fangs and I’m reeling back on the ropes. But — and this is the important bit — I don’t stop. At least not yet. At least not yet.

So to all who press against the buzz-saw, with their thing cradled carefully in their arms, I salute you. To all those who cannot or will not press on, I salute you. To all the things, a toast. May we all pass the metal destroyer and watch our things fly beyond us into a wider world.

[This originally appeared on Medium – is anyone else over there? I don’t really know what that place is for, if you’re over there could you help me figure it out?

Query Letter on File

Dear Literary Agent of Sophistication and Skill,

I am the Alpha and Omega. Starlight is my rod and moonlight my robe. I can manifest Mr. Pibb only from places that Mr. Pibb should never emit. Lint fears me. All lint. It knows why. I am contacting you today because I have written a book and would like you to represent me to publishers. I have selected you for this task after your future self came to me in a dream and begged me for pistachio ice cream. You muttered something about the book, but it was indistinct as your mouth was full of green delicious.

The book in question is called Asteroid Made of Dragons. It is the third book in a

I look like this! Maybe we already know each other.
I look like this! Maybe we already know each other.

series of undisclosed number. It concerns the impending doom that threatens a planet stocked with fantasy cliches. This will be the most terrible of contrived apocalyptic scenarios — for after the asteroid hits and nuclear winter wraps the globe and crops die – there are also hundreds of concussed dragons. The main characters of the book have no knowledge of this dark fate as they are occupied with a bank robbery, unresolved murder charges from their past, confusion about their sexual awakening, a pan-dimensional witch cum narrative device, courtly intrigue, a lost recipe for Strawberry Tarts, and a team of hardened assassins that seek their death. They got their own shit to deal with, man. Will they save the world? Yeah, probably.

I have been cleverly subverting epic fantasy tropes for a few years now in foul obscurity. I’ve already unleashed the first two novels of my genre-mangling series, Spell/Sword and The Riddle Box. It’s too late for you to represent those, you missed out. Too bad you weren’t following my Tumblr feed in 2012. I have published no short stories and do not intend to. Published authors like [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]  have read a few pages of my stuff and responded with extreme tact but obvious concern. I am a danger to myself, the fantasy genre, and linear thought itself. I must be stopped. But I cannot be stopped. [I can probably be stopped.] You should only consider representing me if you  are interested in forever altering the DNA of the fantasy genre and dying alone in poverty and misery.

You have been warned and also enticed. I stand ready in my Dreaming Chamber to commune with you. Do you prefer emeralds or onyx as a resonator?

G. Derek Adams

Writer of Minotaur Poetry

First Three Chapters

Spell/Sword

The Riddle Box

Asteroid Made of Dragons [soon]

[I’m self-published, but traditional publishing most definitely has an allure. I watched Seth Fishman’s broadcast about query letters from the Worldbuilders charity and found it very helpful and responded with this garbage. This is the query letter I wish I could send. I am certain it will be helpful to anyone attempting to write their own!]

Continuity

Artist - Abe Taraky
Artist – Abe Taraky

I get asked this question a lot: How many books are there in the Spell/Sword series?

Well, not a lot. Eleven times, tops.

People ask because they want to know what they’re getting into, I suppose. Or just figure out how many years they have to deal with me explaining my fiction with wild-eyed elan. On the site so far I have three titles listed: Spell/Sword, The Riddle Box [PREORDER IT OH MY GOD PLEASE IT COMES OUT ON THE 26th]and Asteroid Made of Dragons.  These are reasonably set in stone – first one is out, second one next week, and I reference the title of the third book IN the second book so those are visible within the Narrative Fog of War. But, as I’ve always said – this is not epic fantasy, I’m not writing a trilogy. The story doesn’t end in the next book ( though you can safely consider AMOD as the end of an arc, or more correctly, the end of Disc One).

So, how many books will there be?

I should really only ask rhetorical questions that I know the answer to.

More than three, obviously? Seven seems like too many, but five might not be enough. BUT who writes a six book series?!? Is that a hexology? Wait, that kind of sounds badass, maybe it will be six books.

See, you would think I’m in charge of these things. But I’m kind of not. I know the tale I’m telling, I know the end. But the path to get there — there’s still plenty of shadows and fog, which is the way I like it. I’m a ‘pantser’, a ‘discovery writer’. I ‘don’t know what I’m doing’. I don’t know what I’m doing. Is there anything more wonderful or grand than that statement? I just point my antenna towards Aufero and pick up the broadcast and try to type fast enough to keep up with it — at least for the rough draft. Part of me wants there to be 10 books, because the last one is so sad.

Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend there are going to be ten books. Here’s what they will/could be.

  1. Spell/Sword
  2. The Riddle Box
  3. Asteroid Made of Dragons
  4. Paper-Thin Harry Potter Parody*
  5. Wild Magic and Mild Salsa
  6. Suddenly the Robots
  7. Ecclesiastical by Jonathan Franzen
  8. The Archivarium Saga : Secret of the Wonderblade**
  9. Swordroom – Adventures in Financial Diplomacy and Corporate Espionage
  10. The Fall

* There will be a year ‘in-world’ gap between the events of AMOD and Paper-Thin Harry Potter Parody

** I think this is the one where they get Bird!

Shit, maybe I will write 10 books. I need to hurry up and become famous so I can write these faster and stop wasting time ‘feeding and clothing’ myself.

The Holy Detective

wide

Close your eyes. Okay, wait, open them again. You can’t read with your eyes closed. Are you reading this now? I guess I’ll need to wait for you to get bored and come back and read this.

Okay – welcome back. Now, metaphysically close your eyes. What do you see when you read the word ‘detective’? YES I KNOW YOU SEE LETTERS.

You are impossible to blog at. Simply impossible.

Now most normal people probably see Sherlock Holmes. Or Batman. Or Sam Spade. Or Tracer Bullet. Or Kay Howard. Or DCI Jane Tennison. Or Columbo.

Or any other number of gumshoes, thief-catchers, and head-scratchers. The ones who find. The ones who put the pieces together. The ones who solve the puzzle, catch the crook, go into the dark place and shine their big-ass X-files style flashlight on the things we’re afraid to look for.

All the way from Sgt. Cuff in The Moonstone to the watered down latter day sleuths that tromp across primetime underneath their personal assortment of L.E.T.T.E.R.S. — we love them. Or at least I love them. But I would make the argument that in our modern minds the role of detective has taken on a religious bent.  When they appear in a story we know their purpose, we understand their function. And when they succeed, when they drag the truth to light,there is a feeling of our faith being rewarded.

Humans have always used stories to understand the world that surrounds us. I find it interesting that so much of popular fiction in one way or another features this figure: the Detective as Hero. True Detective on HBO explored this trope in several fascinating ways — overlaying the mechanics of a procedural on the Hero’s Journey. As a side bar, I also found it interesting that the grungy, dystopic world of that show culminated in a moment of true, non-ironic hope and peace.

Maybe that’s why the popularity. If Campbell is to be trusted [ AND HE FUCKING IS] the mono-myth appears again because it mirrors the operation of the human psyche. Mapping the Hero’s quest to Detective stories is a natural pop-culture tic. The Call is some dead body in an alley somewhere, the Underworld an interrogation room, the Elixir a confession, a signed piece of paper, vengeance wreaked, the sound of the cuffs as they click closed. Across the board we make a solemn grunt of satisfaction as the Detective solves the case.  Other heroes have their battles take many forms, but for the Detective it most often boils down to ‘ Figure This Out.’ Maybe I just find mental battles more interesting in my dotage.

What do you think? Close your eyes again. [Metaphysically you ass.] When you see your Detective, are they outlined in a holy fire? Or, as is all too often the case, is it just me having a weird fixation?

Because I see it. Bayless and Pembleton, Mulder and Scully, Watson and Holmes. When the Detective appears I am on board. I lean forward, towards the TV or the page, eager for the first move to be made. I want them to get out there, out there in the dark and get on the trail. I want the hounds sniffing at the scent, I want the board covered with pictures and yarn, I want the detective to drink her coffee grind away at the problem. FOLLOW THE LEADS, GET IT WRONG, TRY AGAIN.  Play the violin and stare at the drop of green ink on the handkerchief and realize that the priest was blind so there is NO WAY HE COULD HAVE KNOWN THE KILLER HAD RED HAIR.

I may have a problem.

So yeah, I like mysteries a little. And detectives a bit.

When I realized that the most logical sequel to my fantasy novel was an Agatha Christie locked-room murder mystery, I was to put it mildly: NUCLEAR LEVEL STOKED. Just throwing all those toys in the box and rattling them around was exciting enough, but the idea of my hero becoming the Detective was the most exciting. Rime is a character defined by her intellect, the idea of matching her up against this type of puzzle was very exciting. Also, finding out that Rime has the same nerdy love for mystery stories that I do was another nice surprise. She’s so excited to step into that role. If I may put it mildly, she is a huge dork about it. Another surprise: Rime is not the greatest detective in the world. I wouldn’t say terrible exactly – but definitely not on speed dial for Commissioner Gordon.

So, what do you think? Is the Detective ‘holy’? OR HAVE I JUST GONE MAD.

[This post is a naked attempt to promote my new book, The Riddle Box. The first two chapters are free here and you can pre-order the ebook here. DON’T FALL FOR MY TRICKS.]

Before You Buy the Barrel

Now available free here on the site: the first two chapters of The Riddle Box.

Sample Chapters This Way!

This is a common tactic – in both the world of traditional and self-publishing. It’s nefarious.  You’re going to read the first two chapters, just enough time to figure out you think the book is fucking awesome, then I’m SLAMMING THAT PAYWALL DOWN IN YOUR FACE. It is goddamn Machiavellian.  Even better this book is a murder mystery, so you will never ever know ‘whodunnit’ if you don’t fork over your filthy silver coins into my internet pouch.

I know, Kuwabara! It IS upsetting.
I know, Kuwabara! It IS upsetting.

So yes – give the chapters a taste, you fools! Commit yourself all unknowingly to an oubliette of narrative servitude that will last unto the cracking of the world.

Or maybe you won’t like it – also possible.

If you like what you read, you can pre-order the book via the link below — available November 26th!

The Riddle Box Preorder- Kindle Version – .99

So try that wine. I’ll be talking much more about they why and wherefore of the novel, trying to win you over many other ways as we get closer to the release — but ultimately you can just read the first few pages and make the decision for yourself, you informed consumer you.

Your Advice and My Stupidity

[This is an actual email I’m sending to another writer today. I’m removing their name, of course, to respect their privacy — all you really need to know is they have sold a shit ton more books than me in the same genre, and I’m a moron for not listening to them.]

Good afternoon, XXXXX.

I’ve been intermittently agonizing over this email. You gave me some excellent advice and feedback on my novel The Riddle Box and went out of your way to assist me. Now I’m trying to come up with the best way to tell you I’m ignoring your advice even though I agree with it.
Of course, I just told you. But there are provisos and navel-inspections below. You are successful and busy, so if you don’t want to clog the mind-works, please stop reading here with my compliments, my thanks, and my undying respect.
Will it help if we imagine a more appropriate setting? Perhaps if we were sitting in leather chairs in front of a roaring fire as we sip tea? No, too patriarchal – how about at a deli counter in New York, enjoying bagels and coffee, trading different sections of the Sunday Newspaper. [Apparently this is set in 1987.] The jukebox is playing Elton John and the morning sun is slanting across the white tile and the rye bread.
First, your advice is completely correct. To make the book more marketable, to make it an easier access point for the reader, I should make the revisions that you suggested. I should forego the ‘joke’ , the ‘TV open’ and begin with the main characters. Asking the reader to slog through the prince’s monologue before the reveal, before the first murder, before even grounding the reader in a firm setting is stupid. Any editor worth their salt would tell me the same and be just as right. It demands patience from the audience — a fool’s gambit in any piece of writing — nowadays more so as there is so much media jousting for every bit of mental bandwidth we humans can muster. Not making these revisions is harming my chances of success in a quantifiable and significant way.
I take a bite of my bagel. Just to blunt the tension.
Second, I want you to know that I attempted to make the revision. I pulled that whole chapter apart, wrote a couple thousand words restructuring it, putting my main characters front and center. I got to write some new jokes, it even fixed some confusion in later chapters when I had to time-hop a bit to describe their arrival at the Manor. It was a good revision, it worked. And I hated it. I hated working on it, I hated making the changes. I hated you for being right, in a perfectly urbane, respectful way.
It’s just then that I realize I don’t have my wallet with me. I’m being rude to you professionally and I’m going to have to get you to spot me for lunch. I brush the crumbs off my chest in despair.
These kinds of revisions are a reality. They are necessary and good. If I want any chance of success in traditional publishing or even in the Wild West of self publishing, I need to get used to it. I need to accept it.
Now cue the Special Snowflake Defense. But my vision — but my art – but my blah blah blah.  I know it’s crap. You will never meet a greater cynic than I, not in any imaginary diner in the world.
Ah, but still. But still. From the Cavern of Idiocy it arises. Of course I’m different and special.
I have to be the writer I am. If I stop listening to my Muse, then there’s really not much point to this whole enterprise. At this point my success is not renown or anything remotely financial. My success is my mistakes, my success is the stupid, weird, wrong-thing I wrote that would never exist anywhere else, under any other auspice. What I like is writing my weird story. What I don’t like is chasing an incorporeal finish line.
Maybe it comes down to this: If I’m chasing money and success I’m clearly losing. If I’m chasing weird art I’m always winning. And just about the only true fringe benefit of self-publishing is I can make the mistakes I want as often as I want.
You are folding up the Comics section in a most displeased manner. I consider going to the bathroom and jumping out the window.
So, there it is. You are an exceptional human and you’ve done me a solid. And I’m going to ignore it and be stupid. I make no claims that I’m doing it for the right reasons, or that one day people will compare my oeuvre with the Grand Masters who began their novels with history lessons, minor character slaughter, or songs.
Thank you so much for taking the time to help. You have led me way up into the water and even passed me a straw.
And can you cover my bagel?
With completely unfeigned sincerity,
G. Derek Adams
spell-sword.com