Moorcock at 75

Author Stuff

I’m going to range a bit, so let’s not bury the lede: today is Michael Moorcock’s 75th birthday. The image topping this post is a random assortment of covers for books that he has written. Books that were highly influential to me as a kid. That are still influencing me now. Thank you, sir. I hope there are many more to come.

I’ve been wanting to write something about the pulps for a little while now. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a blog post a little while back called “Pulp Speed,” wherein he breaks down some numbers for varying speeds of what he calls pulp writing. Let’s be honest. Anything these days that is falling into the category of Indie Publishing Put Food on the Table can probably be short-handed as “pulp.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Food on the table is a good thing. When all is said and done, my recent forays into traditional publishing haven’t been stellar in getting more contracts to fall into my lap, but that’s probably due to my lack of eager follow-through as much as anything else. (And I’ve been busy with bootstrapping Resurrection House over the last year.) All of which is to say: yes, pulp writing; let’s do some of that.

Michael Moorcock, over the years, has been outspoken about the pace at which he wrote some of his early books. Many of those haven’t aged well for me (rather, I think I’ve aged out of them), but there is undeniably a time and place and audience for those sorts of books. The fact that they’ve managed to survive at all (and still be in print) is certainly a testament to the underlying energy of Mr. Moorcock’s writing and imagination. Did you know that the origin of the names for the ancient gods of Granbretan (from the Hawkmoon books) are none other than the Beatles? Yeah, totally missed that when I was a kid. Now? It strikes me as a funny riff grabbed out of the ether by a writer who is plowing hard on a deadline. Like, “started on Friday, done by Sunday” sort of deadline.

They call this a working job, I hear. The sort you show up for and spend eight hours or more a day for. Crazy talk, I know. But hours worked = content created = money from readers. It’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it? Once upon a time, we used to ask ourselves whether we’d want be read in academia or be read by millions of paying readers. I was young then, and answered that I’d prefer the recognition offered by academia. So young; so foolish. Nowadays, the lure of the paying reader is mighty strong.

On this occasion of Mr. Moorcock’s 75th birthday, it’s worth noting that this is nothing new. The Paperback Fanatic, a zine out of the UK dedicated to the pulps of the ’60s and ’70s, has been cataloging the back in the day equivalent to the frenzied ebook market of these last few years. It’s still a content creator’s market, really. The trick is, as always, making content.

I’d like to do a little of that in 2015. It seems like a good year to make some books. I’ve got some good role models to follow.

One Year In


Today seems to be the day that the recent WordPress and Drupal vulnerability really kicks in. I’m busy crawling the web for bookstores, and one out of three sites I hit are offline with the now familiar Drupal logo. Ah, the Internets. Never stop reminding us that you are still a young technology in the grand scheme of things.

Speaking of young technology, I just renewed the business license for Resurrection House. It seems a good a time as any to pause and take note. We’re now the third return on Google if you just google the two words of our name, which makes me very happy because, well, you can go look at the competition yourself and see why. Chimpanzee is leaving the warehouse, and we’ve just initiated our first street team game with Sticker Your Chimps. We’ve also gotten ourselves on Edelweiss, and I’ve been pleased to see how many booksellers and librarians are well acquainted with how the digital ARC service works. Heraclix and Pomp went to press last week, and we’re putting three more books in the print pipeline by the end of the month. And that’s our first season. It’s taken us a year and a not insignificant amount of money to get here.

In many ways, that was the easy part. Rather, that was the part I knew something about. This next part? Kind of uncharted territory for me. One of the charming aspects of being a writer/entrepreneur is that you get to work out of the house. One of the debilitating aspects of being an entrepreneur who needs to engage his customers is that I get to work out of the house. We can make the sexiest books in the world, but they don’t do us any good if they’re sitting in the warehouse (or in my garage). As much as I appreciate all my friends’ continued enthusiasm, there is a threshold beyond which they’d like me to have something else to talk about. Friends, in the end, aren’t really your customers, and at some point, you need to go find customers.

There’s no silver bullet in marketing, as much as we’d all like to dream otherwise. Memes are accidents that you can’t actively create or curate (in fact, doing either—in my opinion—is the sort of hyper-vigilant oppressive parenting that will kill a meme dead before it even leaves the nest). You can spend an inordinate amount of money on advertising, and get completely undone by a meme or some other bit of news entirely unrelated to your project. Marketing is awareness, and awareness comes over time. You have to build something that slips into people’s consciousness in an understated way. I want long-term customers, and the way to get—and keep—them is to do good work, over and over again. And never stop politely reminding them that you’re doing so.

So, yes, we’re a year in. Books are going to be on the shelves of bookstores near you any time now. If you see one of our books in the wild, pick it up and show it to someone else in the store. Maybe even buy it if it feels right in your hand. But tell people: “Yes, this is new and it is a good thing.” Because, years from now, we’re all going to get together and tell stories about how and where we first encountered Resurrection House.

And that will be a good thing too.

A above U

What's Been Going On?

I’ve been getting things done in that behind the scenes way, which makes for updates filled with lots of blank spaces where I’m not comfortable detailing some projects yet. There have been, however, a few milestones that can be reported.

Firebird rising!

Resurrection House has a new logo, which has come about in order to unify the disparate imprints under the common brand. To that end, there is now an Arche Press and a Underland Press. We’re going to build out more distinct catalog sites for each press as we get closer to the first books shipping this fall.

(And when I say ‘we,’ I truly do mean ‘we’ as I hired Darin Bradley this week. He’s Editor to my Publisher, but really, he’s good at things where I’m not, and we’re going to tag-team the whole adventure for awhile.)

There is still a mailbox full of stories to read for XIII, and I’m working my way through them. There’s still another two weeks to submit a story, and I suspect there’s going to be a rush of submissions near the end. Oooh la la!

Bringing on some help with Resurrection House is also going to ensure that I have a wee bit of my own writing time still, and as there are plans afoot there, this is a good thing. Nothing to confirm yet, but I’m working on lining content up in a way that will provide some much needed continuity to projects.

Dreaming of Books


I’m still turning over ideas about The Potemkin Mosaic in a print edition, and while in Seattle today for other reasons, I stumbled across the Paper Hammer store, which in turn led me to Mighty Tieton and Marquand Books. Couple that with getting caught up on my reading of the Heavenly Monkey Studio blog, and it’s been a day of thinking about fine press editions.

I really like thinking about books. I should start making some. Maybe that’ll cure this fascination.

Tieton is having a Mini Maker Faire on June 29th (details here). Alas, I am otherwise occupied or I would be hauling the kids across the mountains for this.

The Strength of Content


Any large writer convention always leaves me with a flurry of seemingly-unrelated thoughts, and it usually takes a few days before I start to see the connective threads between them. I went round and round on the concept of “buying” versus “shopping,” and how both of these mindsets are equally applicable to the consumer. There was much talk of e-publishing and the new future of books (or the near death of books, depending on who you talked to). And always thinking about content.

Let’s start with a post from a few months ago by John Gruber. I enjoy Gruber’s analysis of all things Apple, and often his analysis extends to the Whys of tech business. His deconstruction of the Kindle Fire announcement, for example. Among other things, he says, “Amazon’s primary business is as a retailer, including as a retailer of digital content.” If you look at the Kindle Fire as a device to consume digital content, then its entry into the marketplace is to compete with Apple, and in that regard, the ubiquitous Amazon Kindle device is simply to facilitate consumption of Amazon-generated content. They don’t make money from the device; they make money from content bought for that device. That’s the long-term revenue stream.

In that sense, Amazon isn’t competing with traditional publishing. By entering publishing themselves, they’re simply creating a content pipeline that they control. Yes, there are concerns about them controlling the whole stack from content to delivery, but you can also argue that optimizing that stack may also mean that distance between creator and consumer is shortened.

Because, let’s be honest, the real death of the midlist author is obscurity.

Additionally, there’s been some animated discussion on the ‘tubes about the relationship between author and publisher (it started with a Barry Eisler post on J. A. Konrath’s blog, which in term referenced a post by Michael Stackpole), and I am not even going to get into a discussion about the language used in said posts because I think the more important thing is the point that was being made: the traditional relationship between author and publisher is heavily weighted in favor of the publisher.

Mr. Stackpole offered a follow-up post after WFC, and K. J. Jeter offered his own commentary on his blog as well as posting some other insight in a guest post at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Not to mention Dean’s own observation about the new world of publishing.

Go read, if you like. It’s all useful commentary, and the multiplicity of sources only drives home the point. Which is: content is where the power is. We shouldn’t feel bad about controlling it. And we should make as much of it as we like.

Remember the days when an author was only allowed to write one book a year? Boy, am I glad those days are gone. It’s time to recognize that our audiences are hungry for new content, and the digital age of publishing only means that we, as content creators, are more able to give our audiences what they want. They, in turn, seem increasingly happy to pay us a reasonable sum for that content.

What’s the downside to all this? Oh yes, we have to put our butts in our chairs and write. A lot. Bummer, that.

Two Podcasts

Author Stuff

It seems like my respite from the word mines was illusory at best, and I should vanish again, but–fighting and clawing against such subterranean banishment–I do have a few items to note before I go.

Writers Cast Podcast. David Wilk and I chatted a few weeks ago about the state of publishing. We touch on The Mongoliad, of course, and I soapbox a bit about the changes I see coming in the publishing industry. Given Amazon’s announcement about 47North earlier this week, you can better understand some of my longer pauses in the podcast. Oh, I wanted to share, but just had no idea when the news would drop.

The second podcast is going to released tomorrow on Bitten By Books. Use this RSVP link if you’d like to be entered in the contest. There will be some quasi-live Q & A stuff going on as well. The podcast was recorded a few months ago by Sandra Wickham over a few Manhattans. It went longer than either of us expected, and if I remember correctly, she let me natter quite a bit about some of the underlying mythology of the Codex of Souls books. Stop by on Friday, download the podcast, and let’s keep some energy alive on these books.

I went into the city last night and caught Boris last night. They stuck to Attention Please and Heavy Rocks (2011) for the most part, including a deliriously noisy 15-minute version of “Missing Pieces” and an awesome opener of “Riot Sugar.” The doorman at Moe’s was using a stamp with the word “JOY” in large block caps, and I’m in no rush to wash that ink off today.

Kicking And Screaming


I managed a whole 1000 words of new fiction today. I’ve been doing so much editing over the last six months that I’ve started to feel invisible, working as a silent partner with other writers. Today, working on some fresh stuff, I found it hard to remember my own voice. Well, the voice I needed for the content. It came back eventually, but man, those writing muscles do atrophy quickly. Need to keep up a proper regime, after all.

On the e-publishing front, I stumbled upon Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s new e-book imprint, Cheeky Frawg. Slightly silly name aside, they seem to have nailed the basic fundamentals of the new publishing frontier: lots of content, new and reprinted work; ace design that is both arresting and simplistic–very necessary when your storefront is the web; and a certain amount of irreverence.

Check out their 2011 publishing schedule.

Trust the Vandermeers to be at the forefront of the new paradigm.

I’m watching the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tonight. The film makes it abundantly clear that Larsson’s novel has at least three major storylines running through it. The film ditches a couple of the interesting side-notes (Mikael’s relationship with Erika, the cover story of him writing a book about the Vangers) in an effort to streamline things, but the film still blows through a lot of the subtlety of the novel. It’s a film that will probably seem even more archly foreign if you haven’t read the books, as you will keep wondering what it is that you’re missing (at lot, as it turns out). It’ll be interesting to see how Steven Zaillian adapts the novel. He’s got an impressive track record, so I’m pretty confident he’ll reduce it to something watchable. Which isn’t to say that the Swedish version isn’t; having read the novel, the film makes sense. I’m not sure it would if I hadn’t.

Blogging Again


At least it is easier to set up a blog this time. I remember the lengthy process of setting up and admining a blog package back in the day. This time, the installation was quicker than downloading the files. Of course, monkeying with the layout will take much, much longer, but getting the framework in place is a snap now. Which strikes me as somewhat funny, as my part of my trepidation about starting to blog again is the underlying suspicion that blogging is still dead. Well, in that sense of a lone voice shouting into the endless emptiness of the Web.

Or is it? In watching the rapid change that is sweeping over traditional publishing, I find myself thinking that we’re about to enter an age where the lone voice can be heard again, when it should be heard. Suddenly, a lot of the stigma of self-publishing has been swept aside by the fact that there is real money in it. Again, the basic rule applies: ninety percent of it will sink over night and vanish, but those with real talent–the sort of talent that traditional publishing would eventually deign to notice–no longer have suffer through an abysmal apprenticeship in the salt mines of MMPB releases that disappear almost as soon as they are printed. If it takes two years for a book that is paid a $5,000 advance to come out, why wouldn’t the writer self-release it, write two more, and do the same with them during that same period? If New York is going to offer crappy terms and crappy money and take forever to pay you, why wouldn’t you do it yourself? And if the boom is good enough for New York to have bought it, then ostensibly, the market would love it to the same amount through the new digital distribution channels. Frankly, they could love it less, but you’d see that return sooner as the payment percentages are better.

Night Shade Books is running a promotion this week on my first two books. $0.99 for the Kindle editions. It’s only been a few days, but already I’ve seen a tremendous spike in the ebook numbers. Yes, I know it is a temporary thing, but if my greater problem right now is obscurity, then this is the best thing. Also, the print sales (through Amazon, at least) have tanked, worse than they’ve been in the last six months. It’s too early to really draw any conclusion from all this, but my gut sense is that the tide is shifting. The cost of doing marketing and PR for a print book is too arduous for a starting writer to manage, but takes a lot fewer resources when you’re working on the Internet. More importantly, they are resources that YOU have access to versus the inaccessible PR wizardry that your old school publisher (might) have.

It still comes down to writing, and writing a lot. That hasn’t changed. And writing something of reasonable quality. But your ability to realize some financial gain from that writing more immediately–and probably more effectively in the area of audience building–is starting to become attainable.

The Foolscap Reading Series recap

Making Things Up

Sunday was the first of the Foolscap Summer Reading Series, wherein I rambled on for nearly three hours to a room of attentive and interactive listeners. It was more of a rolling discussion than a Watch The Monkey Dance! sort of show, but scarlettina was kind enough to tweet the proceedings and make it seem like all the bon mots were coming from me. For the sake of posterity, here’s the highlights of the afternoon (in a somewhat edited version from the flatstuff twitter stream).

* I start off by reading the two pieces I wrote for Omnivoracious, the Amazon blog, related to the Codex of Souls series. [NOTE: those would be “On the Nature of Magick” and “On The Existence of Monsters]

* Mark Teppo is fascinating: In twenty minutes, he’s invoked Alistair Crowley, Jesus, and Descartes.

* Teppo says: “We just wanna get naked with things that we shouldn’t.”

* Teppo says: As I wrote Lightbreaker, I repeated the words, “Men and mantras, shotguns and sigils.”

* On writing fantasy & making stuff up: Teppo says he actually did more research for his fantasy book than he did for his science fiction story.

* Teppo says: The trouble with doing research is the more you get into it the more interesting things you find.

* Teppo says: There are elements of abstract esoteric thought that, when applied to scientific thought, start adding sense to the universe.

* Teppo says: Faith is reliance on the external to deliver to you. Crowley says there is no faith, only will. Faith is reactive; will is active.

* This is more than a reading; it’s practically a class on esoteric thought. Fascinating stuff!

* First scene of Lightbreaker, what was the inspiration? Teppo says: “It was . . . kinda cool.” First scene was the only thing saved from first draft. [NOTE: Alas, Twitter doesn’t really afford the means to capture the three minute off-the-cuff grad school style breakdown I did of the first scene and why it was the way it was; but at the same time, I can admit that I made it all up on the spot. Also, I should note that the VERY first scene–with the deer–isn’t actually in the first draft. The early version references the deer, but it starts as he boards the ferry; I hadn’t remembered this until I was reading it aloud yesterday.]

* Beautiful image in the first scene of Lightbreaker: a deer glowing with human soul energy in the dark of night. Magic afoot!

* Book is set in the Seattle; Teppo invokes the mystery of the woods, the mundane experience of a ferry ride with an acute perception.

* Teppo says: “What’s the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance? Paranormal romance has happy endings; urban fantasy really doesn’t.” [NOTE: I’m not the first to say this.]

* Teppo recommends Mark Henry’s series about Amanda Feral, a zombie, in the hip, happening capital of the undead, Seattle.

* Q: What makes a story horror? A: An awareness of dread. [NOTE: The longer version of is a rambling discussion about the difference between Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Thing Are and what we thought the Welsh translation’s title was: In The Land Of Wild Things. (Don’t ask; that’s an even longer digression.) The point is that the Welsh title is a fantasy title, in the sense that it is the story of a magical land over there; Sendak’s original is a horror story, because you don’t know where the Wild Things are, and they’re probably right here.]

* And then, we launch into discussion of The Mongoliad. I do a demo. We talk about how it is going to drop on all the major mobile platforms. [NOTE: I explicitly point out that it will also be available via the web, but as that’s not nearly as exciting as the mobile devices, it’s not been a major talking point in the press releases so far.]

* I detour into a discussion of the evolution of publishing, complete w/drawing of the internet as a cloud–not to scale. Somewhere in there I posit that, in five years, the mass market paperback is going to be an e-book.

* Teppo defines the distribution mechanism for The Mongoliad. PULP. Personal Ubiquitous Literature Platform.

* Q: What is The Mongoliad about? A: In 1241 the Mongols raided Europe; in 1242, they went back. The story tells the secret history of why.

* The Mongoliad will be told as a weekly serial online by a group of authors including Teppo, Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland, and others. Contributors to Mongoliad may be musicians, artists–there are more ways to tell a story than only writing.

* Q: If I invest in a Mongoliad subscription I want to know it has a beginning middle & end. Will it? A: Yes. We want that. But. . . it will have seasons, like a TV show, and shorelines will intertwine.

* Discussion about piracy, and Subutai’s solution: build a interactive, entertaining site with low overhead to join, and people will do what is easier. Piracy may increase readership; it definitely improves sales. The trick is to make it effortless to participate honestly.

The How Book Publishing Works diagram. Notice the Internet cloud down there in the lower left, along with the top three distractions that plague a writer (“snacks,” “cat vacuuming,” and “WoW”). Later, I redraft it for the Internet Age and how it is relevant to the Mongoliad model.

The map of Europe. On the far right (you can see the edge of it) is another cloud that is the Mongol horde, not the Internet. Though, at first glance, you could mistake one for the other.

Finally, there were some questions about the status of The Codex Of Souls, and I re-iterated that I had scoped ten books, Night Shade had bought (and published) two, and things were in wait and see mode. They’re still in wait and see mode, but I can tell you that the wait and see hold-up is on MY END now. Night Shade has re-expressed their interest in more books, and I’m looking at my schedule and giving it some honest thought.