Saturday 15 August 2015

Venn at a loose end...

Inspired by this diagram I decided to populate one for fantasy authors.

I found myself struggling so most of these suggestions come from Twitter. Thanks Twitter!

Yes, I know there's just one female author there. Suggest some alternatives?

EDIT 2018:

Here's one I saw on Facebook, attributed to "someone on Twitter" (who turns out to be @jpnadia). It seems to capture some of the suggestions in the comments below.

Friday 14 August 2015

The Big Four-Oh, oh, oh, oh

They say life begins at 40 ... sadly that's some way behind me now...  Anyway, Prince of Thorns was 4 years old less that 2 weeks ago, and today the ratings meter over at Goodreads clicked past the 40,000 mark.

When the meter clicked past 30,000 I commemorated the event with a blog post that proved bizarrely controversial. And, thus inspired, I thought I would blog again.

Today's subject is tribalism. Particularly in the fantasy genre.

I suppose this bleeds in from the incredibly partisan politics in the US which in turn have created an ongoing culture war where the only thing both sides hate more than each other is the idea that there might be any legitimate middle ground.

In any event, it wasn't something I was prepared for when I stumbled into a book deal back in 2010. I wrote a fantasy story, swords were swung, blood spilled, a young life laid bare. On the day it hit the shelves I found myself accused of being a misogynist because ... there weren't 'enough' female characters in my short book from a single point of view, of being a rape apologist because the book contained three lines indirectly describing rape, and again of being a misogynist because the main character was (incorrectly) perceived to be one.

If you look at my blog post "That book with all the rape." the degree to which what people say is at odds with the reality of the situation is breathtaking. It was my first glimpse at the tribal nature of the genre. These people hadn't read my book. They hadn't so much as glanced at the first page - they had just heard the war drums and come running to boost the signal.

Much of the debate in the fantasy genre is just that partisan politics rolling on blindly, the culture war taking no prisoners. Read two invested parties getting into it on a forum or comments section and you get the distinct impression that neither is reading what the other writes, just skimming for something to pounce on. If they were having an actual conversation you might imagine them hearing only 'blah blah blah' and waiting for the pause in which to repeat themselves.

In my 30,000 blog post I dared to suggest that circumstances existed where it was legitimate (whatever that means) to have a book that contained very few members of one gender. I cited a novel about a week at sea in a submarine in World War II as an example.

A popular partisan blogger site got hold of this, and still burning with holy zeal over the 'rapefest', put me on their wanted list alongside hate-blogger Requires H@te whose rap sheet included victimising women of colour, death threats, relentless hounding of authors, driving someone to a suicide attempt, and 'many more'. The thing was - that Requires H@te was one of theirs, only recently disgraced when it turned out her targets had secretly included authors who were women of colour, up until then it had been assumed they were all white male authors and that was fine. So in the ... somewhat skewed ... perspective of this blog site I deserved to sit along side Requires H@te on the shelf of shame.

The most interesting thing to me about this was that the condemnatory tweet about me was picked up and retweeted over 100 times. Score 1 for the witch hunt - quite a mob gathered! But, the blog post itself, which until that point had had around 12,000 hits, only gathered slightly less than 100 new hits that day.

The most charitable interpretation is that everyone who retweeted that tweet looked to see what they were up in arms about ... and not one of their many thousands of followers did. But the truth must be that very few of those leaping on the bandwagon in an attempt to shame me actually read the blog post they were howling about. They just took as gospel the distortion presented to them in a 140 character tweet (or possibly on the site itself where I was lucky not to have Osama Bin Laden's mugshot to my right). And that's the culture war right there - it doesn't matter what individuals actually say - get caught in the cross hairs and you're thrown to the mob. The mob don't care, they're just pitching in. The people doing the throwing don't care, they think the lie (perhaps a mere gross exaggeration / distortion) is fine because they have their eyes on winning the war and collateral damage in this engagement is an acceptable price to pay.

The irony is that politically I am far far closer to the people spouting ridiculous nonsense about me than I am to the people with whom they want to line up beside me against the wall.

The fact is though, that there is nothing so good at undermining your own thoughtfully held position than seeing it spouted as dogma by a frothing evangelist. I've had the unpleasant experience of having my own beliefs preached at me by myopic idiots who think I'm their mortal enemy on the basis of someone's tweet.

What can be done? Very little really. People are people. It took millions of us quite a few decades to dig the hole we're standing in, and getting out will take a while too. The good news, however, is that we can still see the sun.

As a footnote: I finished Red Sister last week, the first book in the upcoming and eponymous trilogy. I'm waiting to be censured for having too few male characters and to be told that the convent setting is just a misandrist excuse.

The publisher's press release by itself was enough to set my most enthusiastic detractors (one being the author of the rapefest quote) into paroxysms. One wondered if it was a plot to suppress women's writing. Another worried that it was a conspiracy to undermine women writing about women...

This is what happens when you get so far into the tribal mindset that if you see someone who you've labelled 'THEM' running toward a drowning kitten your first thought is that the person is only running because they don't want to miss the show.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Final Round: Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

It's all over - read the final results / summary HERE!

We have our 10 finalists!

I will be keeping tabs on the final round on this page, recording scores for finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and linking any reviews. #SPFBO

The reviews, the books, and the blogs are all linked on this table. (click scores to get reviews)

* = favourite finalist

* * = blogger's highest score

Many of the ratings not currently linked to reviews will be linked when those reviews appear in the fullness of time.

It looks as if all the finalists are going to get close to 10 reviews. That's a damn good reward for coming through the rounds! There aren't many authors who wouldn't be very pleased to get ten reviews from blogs of this caliber! 

The final round ends on March 1st 2016.

Each of the bloggers will read, or attempt to read, each of the finalists. As they complete a book they will score it out of 10 and that score will be entered here. If they also review the book I will link the review from the score on the table above.

The winner will be the book with the highest score.

At the end of the final round each blogger will review the over-all winner (if they haven't already done so).

A good number of these books are free on Amazon, none of them are expensive. I invite you to give them a go and post your review/reactions in the comments section.


On Fantasy Book Critic a wide-ranging interview in not one but two parts with a group of SPFBO authors, discussing their experience in the exercise.

An SPFBO-inspired review of What Remains of Heroes on The Royal Library.
Ria does the stats on Bibliotropic!
What to expect? Sarah on Bookworm Blues.
On Fantasy-Faction Marc Aplin ruminates about self-publishing and the blog-off.
On Fantasy Book Critic Mihir interviews Crista HcHugh
On Fantasy-Faction GR Matthews asks the bloggers if they've changed their view on self-publishing?
Reviews from The Speculative Book Review are in progress.
An SPFBO-inspired review of Priest on The Royal Library.
The SPFBO is up for an award under 'best related work 2015' on r/fantasy:  upvote to vote. It would recognize the efforts of the bloggers and the achievement of the authors.

On the 21st of January ranking the finalists by their average so far would yield:

#1  What Remains of Heroes  (8.10)
#2  The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids (7.89)
#3  The Weight of a Crown (7.75)
#4  Blood Rush (7.57)
#5  Shattered Sands (7.40)
#6  City of Burning Shadows (7.19)
#7  Sins of a Sovereignty (7.14)
#8  Under a Colder Sun (6.94)
#9  Priest (6.80)
#10 A Soul for Trouble (6.36)

On Galleywampus two of the finalists, Priest & Under A Colder Sun are reviewed.
A guest blog by SPFBO finalist Mike McClung.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Venn in doubt!

There is a post on Fantasy-Faction explaining why Fantasy-Faction overlord Marc Aplin advises against self-publishing.

This is interesting in its own right, and interesting because Fantasy-Faction are one of the blog sites taking part in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #SPFBO.

The post has sparked an enthusiastic discussion in the comments, on the Fantasy-Faction Facebook group, and on twitter.

For me the important thing to note is that the Venn Diagram above is not in question. Nobody denies that all the sections on it are populated. The only debate is just how large each section is as a proportion of the whole, and how best to roll your personal dice when joining the game.

- You can write a best-seller as a self-published, traditionally published, or hybrid author.

- You will earn more per book sale (as a percentage) as a self-published author.

- You will have to wear more hats as a self-published author.

- If 12 agents reject you in a row you need to consider if your book is good enough ... but on the flip side you may be JK Rowling or William Golding.

The question is not IF a good book can be rejected N times, but how that information changes the odds of it being a good book.

The same debate over the relative sizes of these zones and intersections applies to the readers too. They stick a pin in the Venn Diagram above. Will they be lucky and stick it into the best-seller zone even before that book has a chance to realise its full potential? Will they find a great book that aligns with their taste ... or awful dreck?

In the SPFBO we hope to find a wonderful self-published work of fantasy that all the bloggers can rave about and that we might be able to boost onto a larger stage. We've already found quite a few books that the bloggers have been enthusiastic about. I really hope we do find a brilliant novel.

We need to be cautious too though. Success is hoped for, not guaranteed. If you choose 27 self-published books at random what are the chances that the best of them will be good? What are the chances it will be great? What are the chances it will rock your world?

The same question applies to the whole 267 under consideration. I don't know the answer.

I do know that my agent accepts onto his list about 1 in 1,000 of the writers who send him their manuscripts. And of those about 50% get a publishing deal. And of that 1 in 2,000 only a small percentage - I'll guess wildly at 10% make it 'big' (another vague arm-wavey term). So that's 1 in 20,000 of the writers approaching my agent succeeding and making it 'big' with him at their side.

So what hope 1 in 267?

I don't know. I do know our bloggers are giving each book far more attention than they would get from an agent in the assessing stage. I know that to have heard of and joined the contest is in itself a form of selection requiring a level of engagement and awareness...

Anyway. I really just wanted to post the diagram and underscore that nobody disputes its form, just the relative size of those regions!

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Gunlaw - a novel!

I've put a book on Wattpad. It may not stay there long.

Please join in the read and help me out with feedback!

Wattpad's free and easy to join. The story can be found HERE.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Prince of Thorns is 4 years in print!

Check out the third, second, and first birthday round-ups. Things have moved on!

First the obligatory "Four years? It only seems like yesterday."

Being a numbers guy as well as a words guy I like to keep track of things and record them for when I'm a doddery old guy looking back at my 'glory' days.

On Goodreads Prince of Thorns is a touch off 40,000 ratings!

And it seems a good bet that next year Prince of Thorns will have broken the 1000 reviews barrier on!

And the blog breaking a million views by next year looks on!

And finally my snail's pace conquest of Twitter continues its crawl.