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The Publishing Process: Building a Novel from Concept to Bookshelf

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

writing penI’m often asked at book signings and other public events about the process of writing and publishing. How long does it take to write a novel, and what happens after you’re done? In this blog I’ll cover some of the different aspects of the process from my perspective. I’ll start at the beginning: the story seed.

How does the idea for a book begin? It could be anything, an interesting situation from real life, a scene from a movie that gets you thinking, a smell that reminds you of childhood summers, or maybe you read a book and thought to yourself, “I could do something like this.”

Once you have an idea for a story, the creation process begins. I’m not going to get into the specifics of how to write fiction or all the things people say you should do before you start your first novel. If you want lessons to hone your craft, there are roughly fourteen bajillion books about writing on the market. Some are helpful, others not so much. Or check out one of my earlier blogs here on Black Gate (Nobody Gets Out Alive: Writing Advice from the Cheap Seats).

So how does that initial spark transform into a living, breathing novel? For me, the first thing is make sure I’ve got a viable story idea. You can write about almost any situation that humans (or nonhumans) find themselves in, but to hold a reader’s interest for three or four hundred pages is a tall order. Not every story idea can stand up to that. So I daydream. Yep. I sit at my desk and daydream about the idea. I wonder where would be the ideal setting for this story. What kinds of characters would play the lead roles? Most importantly, where’s my conflict? Is it a story about love, honor, war, spelling bees, or horse whispering? As the idea grows, I write everything down. Much of this will get tossed out at some point, but it’s important to record it all now before the magic of the idea wanes.

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Fantasy Metaphysics with Pathfinder Tales: The Redemption Engine

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

250px-Redemption_EngineFantasy worlds usually contain good and evil … and frequently personifications of good and evil. Angels & demons. Saints & devils. Knights & undead. Good gods and evil ones. Sometimes these distinctions are very clear cut, and that’s okay. There’s something to be said for a world where the heroes are clearly heroic and villains are clearly evil. But the real world isn’t generally like that and, even within our fantasy, it’s often the case that things tend to be much more interesting when the lines are blurred a bit.

Which brings me to the most recent installment in Paizo publishing’s Pathfinder Tales series of books: The Redemption Engine by James L. Sutter. This book places the metaphysical questions of good versus evil squarely in the center of the plotline, as the atheist priest Salim Ghadafar investigates a case of missing souls that had been destined for Hell. But as the case unfolds, drawing Salim across dimensions ruled by the forces of Good, Evil, and Neutrality, it becomes clear that some of the outsiders native to these realms are throwing the rulebook out the window, trying to gain souls to their armies through new, more innovative means.

As revealed in Ghadafar’s previous novel appearance Death’s Heretic (and the web fiction Faithful Servants), Salim serves as an investigator and enforcer for Pharasma, the goddess of birth, death, and prophecy, but he doesn’t worship her. Coming from the atheist nation of Rahadoum, Salim spent years as a leader in the Pure Legion, persecuting the faithful, before he finally got an offer he couldn’t pass up and swore himself to her service in exchange for the life of the woman he loved. Now he serves the goddess Pharasma … but he doesn’t have to like her.

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Tales From Windy City Pulp and Paper

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Weapon Shops of IsherThis coming weekend, Friday April 25th through Sunday April 27th, is Doug Ellis’s magnificent celebration of all things pulp, the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention here in Chicago, in nearby Lombard, Illinois.

Windy City is one of my favorite local cons. I’ve written about it before, and in fact I’ve been attending the show for around 10 years. 2012 was perhaps the most successful, considering I returned with a fabulous assortment of mint-condition fantasy and science fiction paperbacks from the collection of Martin H. Greenberg. See the article and photos from that show in my 2012 post, “Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis).”

The show has been growing steadily over the years. Doug and his cohorts have added a film program, an Art Show, panels, an auction, readings, and more programming, but the real draw continues to be the massive Dealer’s Room, a wall-to-wall market crammed with pulps, paperbacks, rare DVDs, posters, artwork, comics, and much more.

I jotted down a few notes last year, and promised myself I’d write them up before the 2014 convention, to let folks who may be on the fence about attending (or those sad and lonely souls, like me, who just enjoy reading far-off convention reports), know what they’re missing.

In 2013, the list of Dealers was the longest I’ve ever seen, boasting some 80 vendors. They had to add more space, and it took even longer to walk the floor. Doug reported that he sold more tables than at any previous convention, and in record time.

If there’s a drawback to the show, it’s that the Dealer’s room closes at 5:00 pm. That made it impossible for me to make it there after work on Friday. My weekly D&D game with my kids kept me tied up until after 3:00 pm Saturday, which meant that by the time I made the show on Saturday, I had less than half an hour to walk the floor before it closed.

I put the time to good use. After a few years, you tend to find a few favorite sellers and I searched them out immediately.

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Art of the Genre: An Interview with David Martin

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

tumblr_mwxucxtvi61ro2bqto1_500So it’s April, which is a lovely time of year here in L.A., with moderate temperatures in the mid-60s and 70s most days as the city gets ready for June Gloom to set in and cast a shadowy marine layer over everything for a month.

I was hoping to relax in the splendor of Ryan Harvey’s satisfied silence at the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as Kandi’s casting as innocent bystander #3 for the next Michael Bay film (you know, the beautiful young woman who gets filmed in slow motion from a gratuitous boob angle as some huge vehicle flies over her head), when my phone decided to ring.

Now there is only one person that calls me when I really, really don’t want to get a call, and that is always our editor John O’Neill.  To make things worse, this time not only was he intent on sending me out for an interview to the New Mexico desert (temps already climbing in to the 90s), but I was to take Goth Chick with me.

Why?  I have no idea, as her mission was coded ‘top secret’, although my money is on a clandestine meeting with UFO witnesses around Roswell.  Whatever the case, I soon found myself boarding a plane (yes, out of Long Beach again) with Chick.  I was pleased, however, that she was searched by the TSA four times before she made it through security, but that joy quickly evaporated when I had to sustain the brunt of her dark mood for the two-hour flight into Albuquerque.

Still, Chick is always fun to have around, and after a few miniature bottles of vodka, followed by a solicitation to join her in the ‘Mile High Club’, she was back to her caustically lovely self.  Now I know what you’re thinking, but a gentleman never kisses and tells, and besides, what happens above Vegas, stays above Vegas.
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Hope Among the Ruins

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

Gamma World First EditionAs I creep closer to the half-century mark, I find myself reflecting ever more often on my childhood. Though born at the tail end of the 1960s, I consider myself a child of the ’70s, since it was the images and obsessions of that decade that left the strongest impressions on my young imagination. I’ve mentioned before that popular culture in the 1970s was awash with the weird, the occult, and the apocalyptic. The latter saw its expression in the flowering of the “disaster movie” genre, which attained a kind of Golden Age in those days. Nowadays, the disaster films people most recall are fairly conventional ones, like Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974) – all of which I watched on network television after their theatrical releases – but the ones that had the greatest impact on me were those with a more global scope, like The Andromeda Strain (1971), The Omega Man (1971), and Meteor (1979). These were the motion pictures that fed my lifelong fascination with The End of the World as We Know It.

Growing up, I was possessed of the sense that life wasn’t necessarily as stable or as safe as it seemed to be on the surface. Real world events during the 1970s only made this point more forcefully. From the Energy Crisis to stagflation and fears of overpopulation and social unrest, life appeared awfully precarious in those days. And, of course, the ups and downs of relations between “the Free World” and the Soviet Bloc did little to suggest otherwise. Being a child, even a precocious one, I didn’t completely understand the full implications of a global thermonuclear war. I only knew that World War III (as my friends and I conceived it back then) was a virtual certainty, a belief reinforced by all manner of adults, from political commentators who publicly fretted about the implications of Ronald Reagan’s possible election in 1980 to my childhood idol, Carl Sagan, who regularly voiced his opinion that mankind was far more likely to destroy itself than to travel to other worlds.

Despite this, I can’t say that I was frightened by the prospects of the world’s end. Sure, I didn’t look forward to it, but I was just a kid and and I knew that, regardless of my feelings, there was nothing I could do to stave off Armageddon, so why worry? I’d read enough history by this point to realize that no world truly ends. Wars, plagues, and other sundry catastrophes were frequently devastating, marking the end of one era, but something almost always came afterwards. At my young age, I found it hard to countenance the possibility that even a nuclear war would spell the end of everything (despite that being the very reason why so many people lived in utter terror of it). I’d also read enough fantasy and science fiction to conclude that the End of the World might be adventuresome.

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In A Land Before Atlantis and Mu: The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_214202658YPxSzMI imagine that when most people hear the name Brian Lumley, they think of his vast Necroscope series. You know — the books with the malformed skulls on the covers. If your memory is a little longer, you might think of his August Derleth-influenced contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos series, featuring the supernatural sleuth Titus Crow. And in case you didn’t know, he’s also a prolific writer of really great horror short stories. Even if I didn’t love the stories in his collections, Fruiting Bodies and Other Fungi and Beneath the Moors and Darker Places, I’d still love them for their titles.

While I did know about all those books and stories, what I didn’t know was that he’d written a whole series of swords & sorcery tales set in Earth’s earliest days on the primeval continent Theem’hdra. I had read a story in Andrew Offutt’s anthology, Swords Against Darkness IV, called “Cryptically Yours,” but hadn’t realized it was part of a much longer series of adventurous stories of wizards and warriors.

Recently, I learned from from Paul McNamee that Subterranean Press was making a lot of Lumley e-books available at $2.99 a volume. I immediately bought three story collections: Haggopian and Other StoriesThe Taint and Other Novellas, and No Sharks in the Med. I’ve dipped into all three already and recommend them all.

My buying spree led me to check out Lumley’s website, which led me to something called The House of Cthulhu: Tales of the Primal Land (2010). I learned it was the first of three collections of adventures from the dawn of time. While Tor Books wasn’t selling it as cheaply as the Subterranean collections, I still hit the buy-button. Within minutes, I was traveling back into the deep ages of the world to the Primal Land, encountering giant slug-gods, sorcerers striving for immortality, amoral barbarians, and old Cthulhu himself.

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Don’t Just Buy on Faith: Finding Your Own Deities & Demigods

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAny collector of older RPG material will tell you that one of the “Holy Grails” is a first edition Deities & Demigods (DDG) from 1980. It is of interest not only to Dungeons & Dragons aficionados, but also to fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and Michael Moorcock’s Melnibonean Mythos (not to mention Fritz Leiber’s World Nehwon, home of the greatest sword-wielding duo of all time: Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser). This is because the first edition (actually, the first printing of the first edition) featured gods and characters from all three of those pantheons. Later editions dropped the first two for legal reasons.

A first edition of this coveted tome just went for $56.98 (plus 5.95 shipping) on eBay after 17 bids. The winning bidder was probably ecstatic, because I’ve seen them go for a lot more (I paid more for one myself).

But if you start scouring the listings, you’ll soon notice many first editions being offered for as low as twenty bucks. What gives?

As with the gods themselves, when it comes to DDG, not all first editions are created equal. The Cthulhu and Melnibonean pantheons were pulled midway through the print run of the “first edition” (which throws the normal meaning of first edition right in the shredder, but never mind).

The best tip-off is the number of pages. The one you want has 144 pages; later printings have 128. Some sellers will advertise that they have a bona fide “Cthulhu” edition or that it contains the “Chaosium thank you,” but these are not indicators of veracity.

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Vintage Treasures: The Shores of Space by Richard Matheson

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shores of Space-smallI’ve told you about a few really excellent single author collections recently, including Eric Frank Russell’s Men, Martians, and Machines, Michael Shea’s Polyphemus, and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and Others. As long as I’m on a roll, I figure I should continue in the same vein. So this week, I want to talk about Richard Matheson’s 1957 collection The Shores of Space.

Matheson is rightly revered by both SF and horror fans as a genius, especially at short length. He passed away in June, at the age of 87, and was productive right up to the end — with new novels (Other Kingdoms, 2011, and Generations, 2012), collections (Bakteria and Other Improbable Tales, 2011), and even a new movie (Real Steel, staring Hugh Jackman, based on his short story “Steel” from the May 1956 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.) That’s damned impressive… the closer I get to 55, the harder I find it just to summon the energy to change channels.

The Shores of Space was Matheson’s second collection (after his groundbreaking Born of Man and Woman, 1954) and it proved very successful, with half a dozen reprintings and new editions over the next 20 years. The last one was in 1979, with an intriguing (and rather purple) cover by Murray Tinkelman. But overall, I prefer the 1969 Bantam paperback (shown at right), with a defiant spaceman standing on a harsh alien landscape, ready to shake his fist at the first person who suggests he put pants on. You show ‘em, naked spaceman.

Here’s the back cover copy (it helps if you imagine Rod Serling reading it in a slow, urgent monotone).

A Shattering Journey into the Supernatural

Thirteen extraordinary stories that explore the slippery edge of madness — and beyond — into a chilling nightmare of bizarre and unexplainable occurrences… into a world where unspeakable horror becomes normal — where murky darkness from space works on the minds of men — in a time when creatures of dreadful, unearthy powers can control human beings… and humans create beings beyond their control. Weird fantasy and eerie imagination inspire stories of unforgettable force and unpredictable conclusions!

There’s some pretty good stuff in The Shores of Space. It includes, among many other fine tales, the short story “Steel” that was the basis for Real Steel.

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New Treasures: The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

Monday, April 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Forever Watch-smallThomas Dunne Books has produced some of the most exciting and original fantasy of the past few years and they’ve done it by taking chances on new and upcoming authors – including David Wong’s John Dies at the End, Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal novels, Paula Brackston’s The Winter Witch,  John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Old Dreams Die, Alaya Johnson’s Wicked City, Seth Patrick’s Reviver, Scott Oden’s The Lion of Cairo, and of course Howard Andrew Jones’s The Bones of the Old Ones.

That’s a pretty darn good track record. But they don’t appear to be slowing down in 2014. Their first novel to cross my desk in 2014 is David Ramirez’s The Forever Watch, a far-future science fantasy mystery that looks very intriguing indeed.

All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer…

As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered “mission critical.” She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty, the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.

When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor’s violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply “Retired,” nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.

What they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity in David Ramirez’s thrilling page turner.

The Forever Watch will be published tomorrow by Thomas Dunne books. It is 326 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.

2014 Hugo Award Nominees Announced

Monday, April 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The nominees for the 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced by LonCon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, and let’s not mince words: it’s a wacky ballot.

What’s so wacky about it? Well, to start with, the novel category includes The Wheel of Time. That’s right, the complete series. Which means that 2013 novels likes Parasite by Mira Grant and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie will be up against one of the great phenomena in publishing history, a series spanning more than 20 years with combined sales of 44 million (to put that in perspective, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, which includes A Game of Thrones, has sold a paltry 24 million copies). Not exactly sure how that happened, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the other novel nominees this year.

There are additional surprises. Analog magazine, effectively shut out of Hugo nominations for many years, has surged back into the limelight with two nominations (both for Brad Torgersen), and the traditionally strong Asimov’s SF and F&SF both come away empty-handed. Some folks are laying the credit (or blame) for that on an organized campaign of bloc voting by nominee Larry Correia, which successfully placed as many as seven nominees on the ballot… but really, every year someone gets accused of bloc voting and it’s tough to blame someone for having enthusiastic fans.

It’s a triumph for, with no less than four short fiction nods — more than all the print magazines combined. And the highly regarded Clarkesworld, which led the pack for short fiction nominations last year, didn’t make the ballot at all.

There are lots of people to congratulate, including several Black Gate contributors on the list, but I’d like to give a special shout-out to Scott Taylor, who acquired Dan Wells’s The Butcher of Khardov while he was an editor at Privateer Press. While I’d have to do some research to confirm it, I believe this is the first piece of licensed fiction to be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella. Congrats on helping to make history, Scott!

The nominees for the 2014 Hugo Awards are:

Best Novel

Warbound, Larry Correia (Baen)
Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Wheel of Time (complete series), Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (Tor)
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit)
Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace)

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