Friday, February 12, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hugo Recommendations

As a supporting member of last year's Worldcon, I'm eligible to nominate works for the 2016 Hugo. (That is, assuming I ever get my PIN for the process.) While many fans may not care who wins, the awards are still prestigious. Although I read a lot of books last year, I'm not sure how many of them were actually published in 2015. I also haven't read a lot of short stories, graphic novels, or related works. And of course I haven't had time to watch TV (besides what Alex has on) or seen any other movies besides The Force Awakens. So if you have any recommendations, please feel free to list them in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Series Evolution

Last week, I read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, the latest book in Lois McMaster Bujold's long-running Vorkosigan Saga. The series started thirty years ago and includes not just novels, but novellas and short stories. Most of the works revolve around the Vorkosigan family, in particular, Miles Vorkosigan. I wasn't sure at first I would like this series, since I don't read much military science fiction. However, Bujold not only mixes in a lot of humor, but she also incorporates other genres such as mystery and even romance. Although many of the stories feature Miles, other relatives (and even people with no link to him) are also point-of-view characters and even protagonists.

The characters in this series are neither ageless or changeless. The series starts long before Miles is even born, and in the latest book, he is in his mid-forties. The type of story he stars in has also evolved with the series. Some of his early stories were fast-paced and madcap, but various events have forced him to slow down. While I do miss the plots of the earlier works, it does make sense for his career to have changed over time. (I suppose I could always reread the series, but it's not the same when you already know what will happen.)

The latest book in the series is an autumnal romance, featuring Miles' mother as one of the protagonists. Some fans feel that Bujold has retconned a major character in this book, while others (myself included) feel that nothing happens plot-wise. (There are setups for conflict, but they fizzle out, IMO.) I have no idea if she intends this to be the last book. I think it does make sense for the themes and even the style to evolve as the series progresses. The difficult part is exploring new directions while giving fans what they want in these books. If Bujold does write more books in this world, I'd like to see her use POV characters from the latest generation. However, thirty years is a long time to work in a world, and if she has no more she wants to say about it, we have to respect that.

Speaking of series, I'm planning on releasing Chaos Season, Book Three of the Season Avatars series, this June. I'm targeting the summer solstice, since that is my main character's birthday, but of course I first have to finish revising the story before I focus on cover art, formatting, and all the publishing details.

What's the longest series you've read? Do you think it was uniformly good from start to finish? If so, why not?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

IWSG: How Many Books?

If it's the first Wednesday of the month, it must be time for another Insecure Writers Support Group post. You can learn more about the group here.

One of the things I've been hearing lately on my self-publishing e-mail group is that it can take at least five books in one genre, subgenre, or series for an author, especially a self-published one, to become established, or at least start to see steady sales. (I looked on the Smashwords blog and for evidence to support this, but I didn't find any. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, or maybe this number is only based on anecdotes.) Of course, some authors may hit it big with their first book, while others may write lots of books and never develop an audience. But aiming for five books will definitely help develop your craft and make it easier to market your work. For example, if you have five books in a series, you can set your first book to free or a bargain price to attract readers and place ads. You can also bundle books together to make them more attractive.

No matter how many books you have out, perseverance is necessary to succeed as a writer. It can take a long time to write a book, and it can take a longer time to develop a fanbase. Keep writing and keep publishing even if nothing seems to be coming of it. Every book or story out in the world brings you closer to your goals.

How many books do you think is the right length for a series? Do you like open-ended series, or do you like them to end after a certain number of books? Will you read an unfinished series, or do you prefer to wait until all the books are out? Feel free to answer in the comments.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Report on the Elgin Literary Festival

Last year, the Elgin Literary Festival was spread out over three days and was held in several different locations throughout downtown Elgin. This year, it was held on a Friday evening and all day on Saturday. Although some Friday events took place at the local library, most panels and activities were in a single building.

This year, I had the opportunity to be part of a Speculative Fiction panel Saturday morning with mystery/fantasy author EM Kaplan. It was a small panel, with about six people in the audience and a moderator, but I think it went well. We kept it general, discussing such things as subgenres of science fiction/fantasy and character development. Some of the audience members were also writers, so we talked about cover design and publishing as well.

After the panel, I had about an hour to set up my table for the marketplace. (You can see my table above.) Book sales went about as well as I expected for a festival of this size and genre mix. The marketplace was only open for about two hours. It would have been nice to have more time for people to browse. I did get to hand out some bookmarks and tell people about Broad Universe.

Since we had plans in the evening, I wound up skipping the speakers and the closing reception. For me, the highlight of the festival was getting to see another writer friend of mine who was selling books in the marketplace and making contact with TS Rhodes, who blogs about pirates and writes a series about a young female pirate. I've invited her to contribute a guest blog here. The three of us may try to get a "Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing" panel together for next year's festival.

Are there any literary festivals in your area? If so, have you attended them or participated in them?

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