Friday, August 30, 2013

Know Your Hunt to Read Authors: Joseph Picard


This week, I'm proud to introduce a new Hunt to Read author who has done it all: he's stared down Romulans across the Neutral Zone for days at a time, daring them to blink. He got roughed up by some Naussicans in his Academy days. He's done battle with Cardassians and Ferengi, and is one of the finest starship captains in the--

[Someone hands me a piece of paper]

Oops! Wrong Picard!

No matter--this week's Know Your Hunt to Read Author is Joseph Picard, who has three books up on HTR:


Lifehack

Watching Yute

Echoes of Erebus


We caught up with Joseph to discuss the unique challenges of writing gay and lesbian protagonists, finding time to write with a family, and some rather "interesting" feedback that he's received from a reader. Enjoy!


First of all, Joseph, thanks for taking the time to join us! It was a 1/365 shot, but today also happens to be your birthday. Happy Birthday! How does it feel to be another year older, knowing full well that we're conducting this interview ahead of time?

At first, I thought “Hey! It’s like The Daily Show, recording the previous afternoon!”  But I’m answering this weeks ahead of time. That’s no Daily-Show-Overnight thing. This increases the odds that I COULD BE DEAD BY NOW. GHOST INTEVIEW!! OOOooOOOooOOOoh. So if you’re a reader out there, buy my books for the sake of my kids’ RESPs. J Unless I’m alive, in which case, you’re just fueling my various addictions.

I don't know if you know it, but we share something in common; we've both written gay protagonists in our books even though neither of us is gay.  Talk a little bit about where you came up with the idea and what that's like.


Once upon a time I drew a lot. I had been drawing a lot of Lifehack’s lead characters, (before it was ever to be a book) and someone said that Regan looked like a lesbian. Well. Okay, whatever. He couldn’t tell me why, but when I asked if Alisia was gay, nope. As descriptions of the books get longer, a story began emerging, and their orientations just sort of stuck. Blame TATU, or Willow Rosenberg. (from Buffy).

The pairing gave me comedy as Regan doggedly tried to woo Alisia, tragedy as she got repeatedly shot down, and a bittersweet … something, since Alisia was sympathetic. We’ve all seen straight romance story arcs a zillion times, but this was a fresh set of parameters and emotional dynamics to work with. Add a somewhat antagonistic ex just for fun.

I was deathly worried about offending real life lesbians and bisexual women, so I posted some of the early forms of Lifehack online and asked gay women to check it out. Bracing for hate, I instead found readers! That was my green light that I was handling it all right.

Your Lifehack series has a little bit of everything: nanotech, zombies, an ass-kicking lesbian protagonist. Tell us a little bit about the books, especially the latest one, Echoes of Erebus, without spoiling things too much.

They are a series, but they aren’t. They all take place one after the other, with a few years in between. They follow different protagonists in different places, but they all deal with personal relationships, (romantic or otherwise) while nanites are the source of the biggest problems. Often that means nano-controlled zombies, but not always.

Lifehack follows Regan as she dumps her nasty cheating girlfriend, and go to move in with her egg-head brother in a shiny new city. The brother works for a company that develops nanotechnology, but one employee has a sick sense of humour when he gets fed up with his employers. He starts a good ole fashioned zombie plague before skipping town. Regan finds reason to stay in town through the quarantine, living in the city for two years ‘alone’. Eventually the military notices her, and sends Captain Alisia Terone to fish her out. Things don’t go as planned, Alisia finds herself the target of an unwanted crush, and the nanite threat gets worse almost as soon as it’s discovered.

In the second book, Watching Yute, Lt. Cassidy Stanton finds herself at a low ebb in life, and takes up a new assignment guarding a ‘temple’ owned by local aboriginals. Over years, life begins to look up, with a new love, new friends among her colleagues. A strange presence lingers on the temple, and it attracts attention from dangerous people, and…. Well, that’s when deaths start.

Watching Yute
has some ‘undead’ in it, but not zombies, and they’re not a direct threat to the protagonists. This book is the odd one out, with a very low kill-count, (around five people, as opposed to thousands or millions) but the deaths count, a lot. It’s a very emotion-driven book, and might be my favourite of the three, but I’m a little biased, as it was driven a lot by a friend who killed herself. Imagine me on the skytrain, conceitedly reading my own stuff, and trying not to cry in public.

The third book, Echoes of Erebus, introduces Sarah Hartford, cycle courier. Early spoilers? She isn’t. Her entire existence is a set of manufactured experiences running on a computer. She doesn’t even have a body until her unseen ‘father’ gives her one. He arranged the tissue from biological material harvested from dead fish, and a nervous system built almost entirely on nanites. Her father is likewise digital in nature, and resides in her head to help her find a place in the real world. (Complicated father/daughter relationship, huh?) Thanks to the events of Lifehack, nanites and related technology are strictly controlled to the point of being nearly banned outright, and the father is (in a way) the very person to blame for the massacres of Lifehack. “But he’s sorry! Really!”

In the process of finding her place in the world, she has to hide her origins. She makes some good friends early on, but protecting them from an abusive ex forces her to expose some of her inhuman abilities. While that situation is going downhill, she gets tangled up in the slowly rising tide of monsters- which look uncannily like something that the father in her head has been known for.


The core of her origins runs a little deeper than even her father has been willing to face, and that horror turns out to be her greatest weapon.

Eeeeeheeeheee, see me trying to hide spoilers? There’s a big one that only people who were paying attention in Lifehack can appreciate. While I tried to make them all readable separately, there are links, both obvious and subtle. And of course a cameo here and there, since I can’t resist checking in on old characters. (Short stories due to be released free in coming months also peek in on some of them.)

If you were making a movie about the series-that's-not-a-series, who would you cast as the lead, and where would you film it?

Ugh. I’ve mulled it over a lot, and no one’s nailed a role in my head. Every sassy gal with wavy black hair might strike me as a ‘Regan’. I’ve cited Claudia Black and Michelle Rodriguez for Regan, only to have a friend tell me, “eww, too old!” Ugh.. really? Redheads with long hair get compared in my head to Alisia… Gee, as if actors can’t dye their hair for a part. Oh! hmm.. Katee Sackhoff (Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from Battlestar) would make a heck of a Cassidy Stanton. Starbuck’s a BIT more aggressive than Cassidy, but it’s not far off, and the wiry physique matches nicely.

I’ve thought of Joss Whedon for directing, (although he writes a lot of his stuff, so.. bleh..) because he does humour mixing with action and drama in very natural ways…where would I film it..? Hollywood north, baby! Vancouver.

Maybe it has to be an anime... Production I.G. pops to mind for their work in Ghost in the Shell, and Attack on Titan among many others.

Have you received any...let's say "unique" reader feedback from your writing?


Three stand out in my head.


One was from a young lady who wrote me for advice. She had fallen in love with her best friend, and being both female, it was especially stressful for her. I did my best to give a thoughtful response, (with the disclaimer that I’m a guy) and later I heard back that things went well, and they had begun dating! I don’t know how much of a role my advice played, but who cares! Young love! Wheeee!


I also heard from a mother who had given Lifehack to her son, (I think he was around 12 years old, way younger than I aimed Lifehack) and it seems that the book taught him that being gay isn’t just a sex thing! “They’re in love!” Heehee.. gawsh.


The funniest was from a reader who wrote to me while quite drunk, and detailed a threesome between herself, Regan, and myself. Well, as detailed as one can be while drunk. It was readable. By the time I got that email, she had already written me another, written the morning after, sober, apologetic, and embarrassed. She begged me to delete the first email, and never tell on her. AND HER NAME IS… nope, sorry, relax.

Do you get a lot of Star Trek jokes because of your last name? Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who's heard every "disc jockey" and Full House joke in the book...


These days, I don’t get it a LOT, unless I’m at a VCON event, but it was the worst in high school while next gen was still running fresh episodes. One kid in particular made terrible tries at making cracks about it until one day he said something typically goofy, calling me “Mr. Enterprise” or something similarly uninspired. I stood, straightened out my shirt “Picard maneuver” style, and pointed at him. With my best Sir Patrick accent, I declared “You will address me as SIR, or CAPTAIN.” And he did from that day on. It later confused the heck out of people who weren’t in on the joke. “Why did he call you Captain?” “We were in ‘Nam together.” “Shut up, Joe."

Ooh, side note, my dad once flew airplanes as a hobby, and could be referred to Captain Picard.

Very cool! Writing is a difficult enough profession as it is, but you've dealt with some real adversity in your life: tell us a little bit about that, if you don't mind.


I’m struggling with an addiction to energy drinks. Great for writing, terrible for editing. I haven’t had a fix in days, and the jitters are getting bad. I’m actually (not kidding) going to be hosting a discussion panel at VCON about energy drinks. It’s sure to be gloriously insipid.


Oh, and I’m in a wheelchair. In 2001, (September, no less) I was cycling to work, (never liked cars much, never had a license, didn’t trust myself with 2 tons of metal) when I decided to jay walk, and a speeding Mustang picked a fight. I lost. The girlfriend who I’d been seeing for a loooonggg time stayed by my side despite my warnings, so I figured we should make it official, and at the time this goes out, we will have been married ten years and one week.

Congratulations! And on top of that, you're a dad, too! As a bachelor, I often take the ability to retreat into my writing cave uninterrupted for hours at a time for granted; are your kids understanding of you doing the same? Or do you write in spurts?


They’re 6 and 2; they don’t get it, really. The 6 year old has dictated books to me, (Horsey Time” is my fav of hers, and has no horses in the entire whopping sentence or two on each of the 5 pages.) But yeah… I’m not good at writing short spurts, I like to get immersed, but times like that are few and far between. His nap times, plus her school helps, but there’s also SO much that NEEDS doing in the house every day. It is making book 4 the longest time it’s taken me for a book yet… but bit by bit, RUBBERMAN’S CAGE will get there.

Rapid fire time! Place you want to visit that you haven't yet?


Travel is a horrible thing, designed to show ways that architects and engineers don’t think of wheelchairs. And the whole world doesn’t have wifi yet. And where can I plug in? I’m missing Jon Stewart. And I’m getting a cold. And who would feed the cat? And...NO!

Cake or pie?


Pie. Cherry or raspberry preferably. Or cake if it’s black forest, or DQ ice cream, and I have my lactose pills. Hey, rapid fire doesn’t mean I have to be rapid in my answers, does it? In a related story, I hate twitter.

Dogs or cats?


Cats. I don’t have the energy for a dog.

PC or Mac?


PC. I was raised on macs in school, and groaned when my dad brought home a PC, but that attitude didn’t last long.

Favorite Movie of All Time?


Akira? Sure. Honorable mentions go to Cabin in the Woods, Army of Darkness, Ghost in the Shell, Matrix 1, Holy Grail, LOTR... uh.. I’d better shut up now, I could go on and on.

If you could own any business in the world or be the first person on Mars, which would you pick and why?


Mars is impractical. And no wifi. But any business? Hmm… oh to choose.. A gaming studio? (Bethesda and Square pop to mind to make a Lifehack game..) A movie studio? Or maybe something less creative and more earth-save-ish?

Thanks Joseph! And be sure to check out Joseph's books, Lifehack, Watching Yute, and Echoes of Erebus on Hunt to Read; I'm sure he'd appreciate your honest feedback, as well!

And for you other HTR Authors out there, we'd love to have you on KYHTRA! Check out the submission guidelines HERE. Happy Hunting!

-D.J.


D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder & CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

For Readers' Eyes Only: Spoiler Alert


As a writer with one series out, another to be born in the next few months, and a third awaiting major surgery before release, I've started to think about a topic with which I'm very familiar as a consumer of entertainment:

Spoilers.
More importantly, what's the difference between a spoiler and a teaser?

Let me give you a specific example: currently, I'm working on the sequel to Jesus Was a Time Traveler. The first book ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I have the first chapter of the second book finished, as in "final format, not going to change before shipping it out."


I've considered adding this chapter to the end of JWATT , just to give readers "a taste" of what's to come.

At the same time, as a reader myself, I would be a bit upset if someone gave me a teaser (especially with the answer to that installment's cliffhanger) without the ability to read through and finish it myself.


How much is too much? I honestly don't know. I've considered excerpting a scene from the middle of the new book, roughly analogous to the dinosaur hunt from the first one, that's a bit more action-packed, but that also could give away some important stuff.


Do readers like being "spoiled" by these kinds of things? Does it make you more likely to check out the full book when it's finished?

Or are you like me? Do you avoid all movie reviews in the hopes that an over-zealous reviewer won't casually spill the beans on what would've been an amazing reveal?


With my "writer" hat on, I could opine for a few hundred more words about the need to measure a reader's investment vs. oversaturation, or some other ridiculous thing, but this column is for readers, not writers.


So I ask, do you like reading teasers from the next book in the series? Or do you avoid them at all costs? Do you want the taste, the fleeting glimpse of the next one, available or not? Or do you want to delay gratification until you can sit down with the next book for a marathon session, utterly uninterrupted? 


Let us know in the comments. Happy hunting!


-D.J.

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. E-mail him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Free Featured Fiction: "Twilight of the Gods, Chapter 4," by D.J. Gelner

Every Wednesday, the Hunt to Read Blog showcases short fiction from our member writers. No one else has submitted to date. No problem--we don't take it personally! If you do want to be featured in Free Featured Fiction, check out the guidelines here.

So our Co-Founder, D.J.,
will continue to serialize his latest novelette, Twilight of the Gods on here over the next couple of weeks, until we start to get some submissions. You can check out the rest of D.J.'s books on his Hunt to Read Profile.

Previous Installments of
Twilight of the Gods:

Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 3

This week, Chapter 4...

Twilight of the Gods
Chapter 4

Like Zeus and Poseidon before him, Apollo roamed the countryside, searching for vulnerable targets.

Unlike his father and uncle, who had the luxury of singling out fault-lines and sea swells to incite broad-based suffering, Apollo was forced to take aim at individuals who might spread the plague he had developed to the ends of the Earth.

He scoured the back roads of all seven continents, searching for traveling merchants who might more easily carry the awful scourge to the cities of the world. Apollo was most troubled by what he saw; instead of the richly-attired merchants of many years ago, all he found now was shabbily-attired riff-raff meandering from town-to-town.

Has life on this planet grown so difficult for both god and man alike? he thought.

Still, he would take aim and turn his head as he pelted these pitiable mortals with arrows, though even after many years, the plague refused to take hold among the larger populations.

Frustrated, Apollo thought there had to be a better solution. He plumbed the depths of his own mind, trying to come up with more inspired strategies to cause the disease to tear through the puny humans as poverty and disinterest had spread through his own kind.

That’s it! He thought. Much like the gods, collections of humans in larger numbers are more likely to spread whatever afflicts them! The god knew where he must go: the largest city in all of the land, the center of the mighty empire that once caused its own enemies to tremble before it.

He followed the ancient roads, notable for their Olympian levels of decay, through the European countryside until he arrived at his destination:

Rome.

Apollo ignored the gawks and whispers as he marched confidently through the streets, his resolve blanketing the misery he felt at sending so many of these mortals to his uncle, Hades, so prematurely. He unsheathed arrow-after-arrow, launching them into men, women, and children alike, who, at the lack of pain upon entry thought the whole enterprise to be but a joke, and laughed and smiled as they showered Apollo with paper currency in appreciation for the "trick."

Eventually, he arrived at an ornate, marble fountain. Apollo would have been happy to concede that the intricacy and detail of the carvings on its face were rivaled only by those statues on Olympus proper, but to do so would have been to give into false pride; it had been many years since the sculptures on Olympus had gleamed so brightly, had sparkled in the sunlight, perhaps more than anything years since they had been so whole and beautiful, unmarred by cracks and fissures.

As Apollo launched another arrow into the gathered masses, and another eruption of bills fell around him, the god paused to examine some of the colorful currency.

As he did so, a large, well-muscled man dressed in Legionnaire garb pushed through all of the oddly-dressed tourists in their cotton shirts and blue pants to point a plastic sword in the god’s face.

“What are you doing?” the man asked in Italian.

Apollo chuckled, “Ah, constable. Perhaps you are the person I seek.” He licked his lips at the number of individuals a Roman soldier must come into contact with each day.

“This is my spot—you’re horning in on my territory!”

Your territory?”

The mortal approached the god and looked around before he whispered, “Look my friend, I know it’s not a bad little racket we have going on here. Tourists pay us good money just to stand here and take pictures with them. But, I mean, you’re doing it all wrong. That costume—how shabby! And the arrow trick? I’ve seen that done before. I—”

Apollo needed no further prodding. At close range, he unsheathed another arrow, threaded the bowstring, and launched it directly into the faux Legionnaire.

The man flinched, then paused to survey his midsection.
     No wound, no blood.

Yet…Apollo thought.

The crowd threw more colorful paper at the two men as the Legionnaire winked at the god and stumbled and staggered, doubled-over as if he had felt the full force of the projectile.

“Felled…by mighty Apollo…my death shall not be in vain!” He crumpled to the pavement.

The assembled crowd showered the two men with applause and more cash as the Legionnaire rose from the ground. Apollo’s jaw dropped as the man dared to grab the god’s hand and bowed toward the fawning masses.

“Take a bow, buddy,” the Legionnaire forced through gritted teeth.

Normally Apollo would have revealed himself then and there. But there was something about the crowd, something about the adoration of these mortals that he hadn’t felt in such a long time that he was compelled to follow the infected mortal’s instructions, and bow before the people in front of him.

More bills followed. The Legionnaire began scooping up the errant pieces of paper, and after raising an eyebrow for a moment, Apollo followed suit.

“Hey…my best day ever already!” the formerly surly man smiled, “You know, we could develop quite the routine, you and I, my friend.”

“Ah…indeed,” Apollo thought. His stomach knotted up at the realization that he had already infected the bravado-filled, kind stranger. “Pray tell, good mortal—why are we collecting these pieces of paper again?”

The Legionnaire smiled, “Haha—I like you! You’re funny. Come on, I’ll buy us lunch.”

Buy? Lunch?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—no problem, no problem. The least I could do is get you some food.”

At the mere mention of the world, Apollo’s stomach rumbled uncontrollably.

“So, we can exchange these piece of colored paper—” he let a couple flutter out of his hand as if to underscore his point, “—for food? Boar and the like?”

The Legionnaire smiled as he bent down to collect the bills that had fallen from his new friend’s hand, “Sure, we can get you some pork. Come on—I’m starving.”

That afternoon, Apollo enjoyed a feast unlike he had for centuries: breads slathered with butter teased his nose with their freshly-baked aroma, followed by a fresh, crisp salad and a pasta dish with a delectable red sauce. The main course was indeed pork, shaved thin and marbled with fat, drenched in olive oil. All of this was washed down with pungent red wine, the likes of which even Dionysus himself would have been envious.

After the meal was finished, Apollo reclined in his seat. He rubbed his stomach, which had gone empty so long that it now distended to digest all of the wondrous treats with which he had filled it.

“More!” Apollo demanded.

“Whoa, hey, buddy, I know we had a good day and everything, but cool it—my girl wants a new—”

Apollo slammed a fistful of bills on the table.

“Okay, if you’re buying, I guess…”

The men went through another round of the feast, then, realizing he had no more money, Apollo forced his new companion back near the fountain to obtain more currency.

He shot the unsuspecting Legionnaire with arrows dozens of times in the ensuing weeks, even as the sickness began to ravage the man’s body and those of the passersby who frequented their little performance. Apollo was obsessed; he craved the bills that fluttered toward him because that money meant food, delicious sustenance that he had gone far too long without.

As Apollo continued to shake Rome and its visitors bare of cash, the plague finally took hold, as spectators of his little play took pictures with the Legionnaire after each performance, and spread the disease to their friends, co-workers, and loved ones.

What started as a curious outbreak in Rome eventually spread, first throughout Europe, then North America, then South America and Asia. Eventually, the entire world was engulfed in the awful illness; festering, dark sores covered its victims’ bodies, a sure sign of impending death to those around them.

Doctors were appalled; this virus was unlike any other they had previously seen. For years, they toiled to come up with a cure, even as the death toll mounted and the cold smell of sickness oozed from the sewers and alleys of every major city on earth.

Quarantines soon turned these once vibrant urban centers into veritable ghost towns. The only glimmer of activity within each one were the various churches, temples, and mosques that took in the ill and dying, and tried to ease their suffering over their final few days.

All the while, greedy Apollo continued to ply his newfound trade. The Legionnaire was one of the first to die; eventually, as the plague spread, the crowds became less and less, until no one bothered to visit the fountain at all, the air in the nearby square bathed in the stench of foul death.

The hunger resurged in Apollo’s belly, made all the more awful by the recent taste of satiety.

“Mortals come back!” he screamed through the empty streets. He no longer cared whether his fellow gods would receive the worship, adulation, and delicious sacrifices any longer; if they wanted to, they were free to join in on his play-acting scheme, and share in the profits provided by these giddy mortals.

For now, though, business was awful. He cursed the other gods and their selfishness, oblivious to his own.

Wait a minute…I am a god! And now back to full strength, no less… Apollo thought. He grasped an arrow out of his sheath and snapped his fingers twice. Immediately, the pale silver sheen on it glowed and snapped with a muted hum of activity. He loaded it onto the string and aimed high in the air, with a fatigued yawn to punctuate the ease with which he drew back the projectile.

Apollo released the arrow. It arched high into the air, well above the clouds before it burst with a brilliant flash and a rumble. Raindrops fell from the heavens, and blanketed the streets with sheets of life-giving water, laced with the antidote to the plague.

The god casually collected a discarded cup from the curb and held it upward to collect as much rainwater as it could hold. Once full, he eyed a tyvek-suited relief worker and approached her with a broad smile.

“My dear mortal woman, though I would be happy to bed you—”

The god didn’t see the woman’s raised eyebrows and narrowed eyes through her oxygen mask.

“—I have news of more pressing import. In this cup is the elixir that will end the horrible plague that I ha—have seen wreak havoc on your fine populace.”

“Really?” her eyes narrowed even more under the faceplate of the mask, to the point that they were nearly shut.

To Apollo, her skepticism was little more than a bothersome inconvenience. He spotted a ghastly wretch in an alleyway, covered in black pustules, barely clinging to life. The god marched over to the man and raised the mortal’s head, dragging the man’s wasted body half off the ground.

Apollo brought the cup to the mortal’s lips and forced him to choke down the cool, sweet liquid inside.

Released from the god’s grip, the sick man flopped back to the ground. He lay there for several moments, the woman in the biohazard suit’s skepticism weighing down the raindrops, pulling them in great sheets toward the ground.

Suddenly, the dark boils began to bubble and sizzle as the man’s eyes shot open and his body seized to life. He shook and trembled as the white foam vanished from the sores, leaving new, flawless skin in their place.

“My God,” the woman remarked. She turned to the god, “Where did you find this?”

“No matter. Just make sure you get it to your alchemists or whatever brand of heretics concern themselves with chemicals so that they may replicate it on a large scale. And be sure to tell them to catch the show by the fountain over there, daily.”

The woman nodded. She carefully cradled the elixir in the crux of her elbow as she trotted off to parts unknown.
* * *
Though Apollo may have ended the plague that he started, what does it mean for the other gods? Will they be so charmed that Apollo ended their chance at being revered once more so abruptly? Does clever Artemis have another plan up her sleeve to regain favor with the mortals? Tune in next week for the next installment of Twilight of the Gods!

Like what you read? Check out D.J.'s books on Hunt to Read:

Rogue
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comments.

Happy Hunting!

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

So You Want to Write a Book...You Only Need a Copy Editor (and Some Tips for Copy Editing Your Own Work, for the Brave)


Last time, we covered how to find beta readers, the indie (and even trade-pubbed) author's best friend--voracious readers who help you polish your manuscript and get it "up to snuff."

Once your beta readers have given you feedback, the obvious question is "what next?"

For most folks, the answer is "hire an editor."

I'm a bit of an outlier on this one; I have a good amount of editing experience from my jobs both as an attorney at a big firm and in my various professional writing endeavors. While I understand the need to have as typo-free of a manuscript as possible, I find that I can generally do the job of a copy-editor after some time away from the manuscript to get it out of my head.


A lot of folks find it necessary to spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on all sorts of editors: copy editors, story editors, etc.


I'm going to share a little secret with you:

The only editor you probably need is a decent copy editor!


Let's face it, unless you're a genius or prodigy, your first novel isn't going to be a runaway hit. "Oh, but I'm differentI" Great--go ahead and prove it by going out and selling thousands of copies of that first book. It does happen from time-to-time, but you need some marketing savvy and some luck for that to be the case (more on that later).

What your first novel will most certainly do is teach you a lot about how to stay disciplined, how to put a story together, and how to do all of this great stuff I'm trying to impart to you in this series. In short, it's a learning experience.


In all honesty, you have no idea how good your story is or isn't. Most writers (myself included) have a lot of reservations about their work when it's first finished.

You know who does know? Your beta readers! Presuming you followed my advice and got some good ones who will give you honest feedback, they should serve the role of a "story editor." If you ask them to keep an eye out for continuity problems, they will be able to (9 times out of 10) serve the role of a story editor, without taking your manuscript and turning it into something different entirely.


What a lot of folks don't want to tell you is that there's no standardized set of  credentials or criteria for becoming an editor, any kind of editor. You really have no idea how good or bad an editor is going to be until you've worked with them, and even then, you really have no idea whether they'll improve your manuscript or not.


You know who's ultimately going to buy your book? Not editors, unless you're going the traditional route, in which case, best of luck to you.

Nope, ultimately readers are going to buy your book. And if you followed my advice from last time, you should already have a stable of smart, capable beta readers to help you with things like continuity or even "does XYZ part work?"

Unfortunately, for as much help as they can be, and all of the great work they do catching whatever typos they can, beta readers ARE NOT going to copy-edit your entire manuscript. Copy-editing is hard work--it can take hours to do a thorough job.

That's why if you don't have the background to do it yourself, I'd suggest hiring a copy-editor to go through your manuscript and clean up the typos and grammar a bit. Think of it as an investment in your brand; if you get a reputation for putting out shoddy products, how many repeat customers do you think you'll have?


As important as covers and blurbs are (we'll get to those in future posts), what the customer is ultimately buying is the collection of words that you've cobbled together. While it's virtually impossible to ensure that collection of words is perfect (I still catch the odd typo or two in my novels), it's your responsibility to eliminate all of the obvious typos as best as you can before release.


Tips For Hiring a Copy Editor


-All reputable copy editors should be up-front with their rates, normally quoted as $X per 1000 words or so.

-All reputable copy editors will offer to do a free sample on a portion of your manuscript to make sure you're on the same page.


-Reputable copy editors should charge a flat fee; they SHOULD NOT ask for a percentage of your book profits in exchange for editing, unless it's a part of a package deal at a trade publisher, and even then, you know my current feelings about that.


-You might be able to find reasonably-priced copy editors in all kinds of places; local newspapers and magazines are often a great source of low-cost, high-value copy editors.


-Provide the copy editor with a "style sheet" when at all possible. The style sheet should highlight what kind of punctuation "style" you're using (Chicago, AP, MLA, etc.), as well as how you want certain words spelled or how certain characters speak in dialect.


For example, in Jesus Was a Time Traveler, the main character, Finny, is an American who grew up in England and desperately wants to appear to be British. Since he writes in the first person, I wrote in the King's (i.e. "civilize" becomes "civilise," "color" is "colour," etc.). There's a part at the end where Finny's getting agitated and outright angry, and I want his American roots to slip through, so I start Americanizing the spellings and words used. If you have a similar request, lay it out for the copy-editor ahead of time in the style sheet and notes.

Tips For Copy-Editing Your Own Work

Some folks have the background to do their own copy editing. If so, congrats--you might be able to cut out a pretty sizable cost of getting your book to market.

-Don't overestimate your abilities. I did this on my first book; I tore through the edit and thought everything was honky dorey. Thankfully, my first cover artist flaked out and left me to do another paper edit--I was way off! I had to re-double my efforts and treat it as if I was editing a good friend's manuscript for cash--like a pro.

If you aren't willing to do this, by all means, there's no shame in hiring a pro. Better to do things right once than spend a lot of time cleaning up your manuscript after it's been on the market for a while.
-Use a Createspace proof to save on copy costs. I can't stress this one enough; I must've spent $100 on copy costs at Kinko's when I started, not just printing out manuscripts to edit, but getting them bound, too.

Instead of that, either wait until your cover is done (or make a dummy cover on inDesign) and have Createspace send you a proof once your manuscript is done and uploaded. Each proof of a 360-page book costs $5 or so, with another $5 for shipping. Not bad, considering the same-sized manuscript would run you well over $20 at Kinko's.
-Wait a month between finishing the book and picking it up again to edit it. "But my idea is so unique! What if someone steals it?! I can't wait!"

1) It's probably not.

2) They can't/won't.

3) Sure you can.

This is a topic worthy of its own post, but you have to clear out your brain and do at least one hard-copy edit before releasing your book. Have to, have to, have to as a beginner. While I'm sure you'll think you've written a masterpiece directly into Scrivener (you're using Scrivener, right?), what you won't notice are the word repetitions, tense changes, and flat-out mistakes you make along the way.

As you write more stories and improve in this regard, you might be able to decrease the timeline on self-copy-editing. For now, though, give it some time to get out of your system, then hop in and copy edit once your mind has erased the book from its hard drive. You'll be shocked/horrified by what you find.


-Use the "turn the page" test. If you copy edit your manuscript yourself, you're going to have to have some indicator of quality, as in "yes, I should release this book," or "this is horrible--IT CAN NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY!"


The way I account for this choice is by my overall editing speed. If I get caught up in the story, even with the typos and whatnot, I promise you I will get through the edit a lot more quickly. My first, unpublished novel took me a month to edit it, start-to-finish. JWATT took three days. Hack took me one day.


If, after letting the manuscript sit undisturbed for a month, you find that you're still engrossed in the story, you want to keep flipping pages and reading on, even late into the night, you have a publishable book.


If not? Sit on it for a while, then consider re-writing it wholesale. That's the dilemma I'm facing right now with the Debt of Souls books--there's some decent stuff in there, but two of the three need major overhauls.


Editing is no fun; that's just the way it is. I'd much rather write something new than go over my own stuff for the umpteenth time.


But decent copy editing is crucial before either presenting the manuscript to an editor, or releasing it into the wild yourself. Hopefully, this post will help you figure out whether you should outsource the job, or if you can do it yourself.

Next time? How to compile your manuscript in Scrivener.

Previous Posts In This Series:

#1: Before You Start
#2: The Idea Hunt
#3: Tools of the Trade ("What You Need to Publish Your Indie Book for Cheap")
#4: Sit Down and Start Writing!
#5  How to Write More Words Per Day
#6  Indie vs. Traditional Publishing
#7: Finish What You Start (With a Little Tough Love)
#8: How to Find Good Beta Readers

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hunt to Read Trail Guide: 1,000 True Fans

Everything that we do at Hunt to Read is driven by an ethos.

Though "Read What You Hunt" is our motto, and it's absolutely applicable to what we're doing given the cool new changes we have in the works, it quite frankly leaves a bit of gray area for authors and publishers when all is said and done.

After all, we're all about providing value to everyone who visits the site, from the reader searching for a new author to sample, to the authors and publishers looking to get feedback and, thereby, increase their own fan bases.

In our research here at Hunt to Read, we came across a famous blog post a while ago (by the incomparable Kevin Kelly) outlining the importance of having 1,000 true fans.

The main idea is that artists can flourish in this day-and-age by having 1,000 true fans that will support them (and help spread the word) in whatever endeavors those artists may undertake.

So our goal is simple:

If you're an author listed on Hunt to Read, it is our goal to connect you with those 1,000 true fans.


Period.

No, we're not going to hijack these folks and make them read your books, Clockwork Orange-style.

The way we see it, there are millions of readers out there. Speaking from experience, some folks likely will dismiss your work out of hand. Actually, a vast, vast majority probably will.

The thing is, that's okay. Let those folks who don't appreciate your work read stuff that they want to--your writing is likely not for them.

But as we continue to direct our burgeoning marketing efforts at readers, it's important to remember that a reader's taste is just that; their taste. Not everyone's taste in books is going to coincide with your own.

However, there's a good chance that out of the millions of readers out there (not just in America, but world-wide), there are at least 1,000 kindred spirits that would wholeheartedly appreciate reading your works, and it's on us to connect you with those folks.

That's not to say that your books, as currently constituted, will necessarily attract those readers. Part of the beauty of Hunt to Read is that you can see whether your cover, blurb, and presentation (for the moment--we're always working on more ways to get our listers data!) are drawing in those readers who would otherwise be interested in your books.

After all, the readers are self-selecting which genres and devices they filter on HTR, right? So if they're passing your book by in the Hunt interface, maybe you (or your publisher) needs to reexamine those crucial marketing tools that your book has at its disposal.

And, I'll admit it, we still have a ways to go before we're at exactly where we want to be. We're still working on building up a reader base, though as we've expanded our marketing budget, the results have been extremely encouraging world-wide. Additionally, we're constantly working on new tools to help connect authors with those 1,000 true fans that we know already exist.

But I promise you this: from here on out, we will not rest until we figure out new, off-the-wall, out-there, or just plain old tried-and-true ways to build those connections. It is our driving force; it is our ethos. We want to forge a community based around this principle, and I think we're moving in the right direction.

If you have any ideas, questions, concerns, etc. about how best to do so, as always, feel free to let us know in the comments or at contact@hunttoread.com.

Thanks everyone, and Happy Hunting!

-D.J.

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Know Your Hunt to Read Authors: A.J. Abbiati


It's Friday, which means it's time for another installment of "Know Your Hunt to Read Authors." This week's willing victim? None other than A.J. Abbiati, who currently has two books on HTR--be sure to check them out and rate their presentations:

The NORTAV Method For Writers: The Secret to Constructing Prose Like the Pros


Fell's Hollow


We caught up with A.J. to discuss his tech-y day job, his teaching aspirations, and why Fell's Hollow sounds like such an awesome TV series. Enjoy!

-D.J.


First of all, A.J., thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us! I know that your day job requires you to do...well...a lot of tech stuff, I imagine! Just what exactly does an "XML Data Modeler" do, exactly?


Ah. Well, imagine you have a group of ten strangers who all need to communicate with each other, yet each person speaks a different language. Instead of having each person learn nine new languages (so that everyone can talk to everyone else), it’s far more efficient if each person learns (and then uses) one common “neutral” language. This same concept holds true with computer systems. I’m one of a few lucky guys at my company who gets to create and manage a common “neutral” computer language (for you geeks out there, it’s based on web services written in NIEM/XML) so that all our computer systems can efficiently communicate with each other.

And yet, you have degrees in English and an MFA in creative writing! How does someone with that background get into the tech world?

I’ve always dabbled in the arts (drawing, playing guitar, singing, writing, etc.), but I knew early on that I had to take a different path if I wanted a stable income to raise a family. So in my late 20s I went to night school and earned a BS in computer science while laboring in a submarine shipyard during the day. After that, I transferred into the shipyard’s engineering department and eventually moved onward and upward. About ten years ago, sick of the IT grind, I decided to revisit my love for the arts. I wanted to (finally) learn how to write at a professional level, so I went back to school, this time to earn a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing. I’m hoping to transition out of IT in the near future. I’d like to either write fiction for a living or perhaps teach writing at a college or university. Or both, if possible.

Speaking of your degrees, what was the MFA program like? What did they teach you in it? What did they not teach you that you wish they would have?



Though I definitely learned a boatload in both my English and my MFA program, I was stunned to discover that no university, no workshop, and no how-to book teaches writers how to actually write. Crazy, huh? They teach everything else a writer might want to know about the craft (plot, character, setting, theme, point of view, grammar, etc.), but no one teaches a logical, step-by-step process for learning how to construct professional quality prose. As such, I was forced to figure out the process for myself, and I wrote The NORTAV Method for Writers so that I could teach the process to others. That took eight long years, but it was worth the effort. Not only can I now produce professional quality prose (if you’ll allow me to say that), The NORTAV Method for Writers recently hit Amazon’s Top 100 Bestseller List for Writing Reference Ebooks, so apparently some other folks have gotten a bit of use out of my discovery as well.  And I’m thrilled to be able to it pay it forward.

Absolutely I'll allow you to say that! Fell's Hollow has a very cool-looking cover that I was immediately drawn to; tell us a little bit about the book, along with where that cover came from!



Thanks! I designed the cover. I hired Jerry Dorris at authorsupport.com to finalize the design and build the Photoshop files. It’s a composite of pieces, some of which date back to the 1600s. I’m quite happy with the result, as I think it accurately reflects the tone and topic of the book.

Fell’s Hollow
is part fantasy and part horror. Over the course of ten episodes I follow the struggles of sellswords and sorcerers, soldiers and assassins, fetches and thieves as they fight to survive in a city smothered in crime, threatened by war, and haunted by an ancient, blood-thirsty predator. Each episode is a story in and of itself, yet together they intertwine and coalesce into a harrowing, unexpected conclusion that ties them all together as a novel.

If you were going to make a movie out of Fell's Hollow, who would be your first choices to star? Where would you film it and why?

Wow, great question! First, as an episodic novel I think Fell’s would make a far better mini-series than a movie. I could envision Anne Hathaway and Viggo Mortensen playing a couple of roles, the jilted sorceress and the grizzled Watch Commander. I could see Hugh Jackman in there as well, perhaps as Viggo’s tragic second in command. There’re quite a few characters in the novel, actually...my make-believe casting could go on and on: Amanda Seyfried, Lena Headey, Johnny Depp, Tim Roth, Gary Oldman. Definitely Jason Momoa. He’s such a huge presence on screen. He makes a hell of a sellsword.

Fell’s Hollow is a fog-filled port city crammed in a hidden cove. Imagine a miniature medieval London with a sprinkle of Elizabethan flavor added for good measure. I’m sure there’s a place in Scotland or Europe where a mini-series version could be filmed, though I’d guess much of it would have to be shot on set. If you recall the Bree scene from Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring as the hobbits head from the village gate to the Prancing Pony… that’s sort of a good idea what the bowels of Fell’s Hollow might look like.

Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?
J. R. R. Tolkien for his world-building. George R. R. Martin for his prose styling. Shakespeare for his insight into the human condition. Robert E. Howard for his sense of adventure. Stephen King for his characters and his creativity. J. K. Rowling for all of the above.

Lightning Round! Mac or PC?


PC! Though I do admit to having Mac-envy.

Place you've never visited that you want to most?
Stratford-upon-Avon

Cake or pie?


Pie

Cats or dogs? And why, if you don't mind my asking?


Hmmm….I guess I’d rather have a cat, provided it’s a lap cat. Though yellow labs come in a close second. I’m not a big fan of moody, independent cats or small, yappy dogs. My girlfriend and I recently rescued a big, white, fluffy cat with one blue eye and one green eye. We named him Ozzy. Cool cat, but he refuses to sit on my lap.  :-(

Favorite fantasy novel/story?


Difficult question! If I had to choose just one, it would have to be The Lord of the Rings.


Thanks A.J.! Be sure to check out (and rate) his books, The Nortav Method For Writers and Fell's Hollow, both on Hunt to Read. Happy Hunting!



D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.