The World of New Publishing Models: Serialized Self-Published Novellas by Traditionally Published Authors: Nigh, by Marie Bilodeau

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Nigh Marie Bilodeau-smallI wanted to talk to Marie Bilodeau, a multi-Aurora-nominated Ottawa-area author about her new novel, Nigh. It is an apocalypse story, a magical one, which is an original twist, but it’s also taking an old-school/new-school leaf in that Marie decided to serialize the novel as several novellas and self-publish them. So I sat virtually with Marie and the disjointed conversation that follows is the best one out of twenty-six takes…

So what’s fun about Nigh?


Stop! That’s not even a real word! God, let’s start again. Take twenty-five….

No! Keep typing! It is a word! That’s what fun. I’ve taken all the old scary faerie stories and thought about what would happen if the veil between our world and theirs suddenly collapsed. It’s not pretty. It’s definitely dark fantasy that could also be considered horror.

Plus, since I’m a professional storyteller, I’m also going to be performing a set of traditional faerie stories, woven in with some bits of Nigh, as bonus-can’t-read-this-on-the-page material. No, but seriously: FAERIEPOCALYPSE!

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Drizzt Do’Urden Simply Won’t Stop Adventuring: Myke Cole on Learning to Love Serial Fantasy

Friday, January 30th, 2015 | Posted by Myke Cole

Gemini Cell-smallMy name is Myke Cole, and I have a hard time with serial fantasy.

Yes, that’s right, I’m admitting it right up front. I’m wading into the hornet’s nest and making my confession.

More than three books in a series and I start to nod off. At five, you’ve pretty much lost me. It’s happened to me again and again and again. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I honestly don’t really care what happens after Dance. I followed Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharp through twelve books before I finally decided that, no matter how awesome his further adventures might be, I couldn’t get excited about them. Daniel Abraham’s The Widow’s House is the fourth book in his absolutely stunning Dagger and Coin series, and I know I’ll get to it… eventually.

It’s happened to me time and again with comic book series. Fables, Hundred Bullets, Sandman and on and on and on. I reach a point 5 or 6 or 10 trades in where I just sort of throw up my hands.

And all of the above examples are for good books. The kind of books that resonate and transport, the kind of books that make you want to give up writing because you’ll never be in the same league as that author.

For years, I’ve hid my head in the company of other fans, bit my tongue and kept my opinions to myself. Because Brandon Sanderson wound up rounding out The Wheel of Time series at fourteen books. Because Drizzt Do’Urden simply won’t stop adventuring, because fans LOVE long serials.

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Dave Duncan’s The Great Game

Friday, January 30th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

duncan past Connor Gormley wrote a post not long ago in which he discussed the seeming sameness of the current state of Fantasy. That the genre which should be most imaginative showed a singular lack of imagination, or flexibility might be a better word, in its choice of settings and characters. The comments give you a pretty good idea of how people agreed or disagreed with his thesis, and the whole post is well worth looking at. I think what it did for a lot of people, however, is remind them of books they’ve read that aren’t cloyed down with the sameness of things.

In my case, I was reminded specifically of Dave Duncan’s work. I’ve mentioned his Alchemist Novels in discussing fantasy mysteries, and one day I’d like discuss the brilliant West of January in more detail, but at the moment I want to introduce you to the trilogy The Great Game, made up of Past Imperative, Present Tense, and Future Indefinite.

At first glance it seems we’re being dealt a typical stranger-in-a-strange land trope, but as is so often the case with Duncan, the first glance is all you get for free. I think it’s safe to say that whatever you think Duncan’s up to, it’s very seldom what’s going on.

Part Imperative begin with two apparently unconnected storylines, or rather, we assume they are connected – not being entirely new to this game ourselves – but we aren’t shown how until much farther into the narrative than we’d expect. An epigraph does give us a broad hint, but honestly, it’s very easy to overlook. I have a theory that fewer than half of all readers actually read epigraphs, even the ones at the beginning of chapters, but that’s neither here nor there – which, come to think of it, pretty much describes the position of Duncan’s characters.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Ya Gotta Ask

Monday, January 19th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Ask_ReturnOne of the cool things about Black Gate is that there are a bunch of authors who post here. I’m not an author. I do write. As I’ve earned less than $5 from my writings, I don’t flatter myself to be a professional writer. However, I write things that other people (generally, in really small numbers) read. So, I’ll go with calling myself a writer.

Now, many authors here at Black Gate can (and have) given you advice on how to write a novel or get a book published. Do that and then you can be an author too. I’m going to make a suggestion on how you can become a writer, like me. I know, I know: you’re all a tingle.

I’ve got two blogs. My newer one, Almost Holmes, is where I post mostly about mystery-related fiction and a few other key interests, like Humphrey Bogart. Walking Through the Valley, which I’ve had for quite awhile, is mostly about my other interests: including baseball history and Christianity. But anybody can write a blog. A good one is tough to do, but you can sign up at WordPress or Blogspot and voila,’ you’re a blogger. So, no big accomplishment on my part.

Back around 2000, I couldn’t find a single picture of Ronald Howard, the (massively under-appreciated) star of a Sherlock Holmes TV series, on the internet. Not one. So, with no qualifications whatsoever, I created a website that became I’m no Alan Barnes (great book), but the Sherlockian community generally knows that I’m pretty knowledgeable on the subject.

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Smart Guy, Huh?

Friday, January 16th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

ScorpionIt used to be okay to be the smartest person in the room – at least on paper, real life isn’t my area of expertise. Sherlock Holmes was definitely a loner, and eccentric, no question. But when he left Baker Street, he was appropriately dressed, even, or perhaps especially, when in disguise. He knew, understood and used all the social conventions, and could converse easily with everyone and anyone, from any walk of life. He may not have been interested in women romantically, but he had no trouble interacting with them.

This facility used to be part of being the smartest person in the room. Now, we see more examples of this extremity of genius than ever before, including two versions of Holmes. It might have been CSI that started this off – what was Grissom but the smartest guy in the room? – and since then we’ve had House MD bringing in the medical side, and The Mentalist for the con artist in all of us, and this season alone we’ve got Forever, and Scorpion, plus, I believe, a couple more coming along soon.

And let’s not forget, that for as long as most of us have been alive, we’ve had Dr. Who.

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Writerly New Year’s Resolutions and How to Make Them Work: Part 2

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

Writing Space

It all comes down to time and space to write.

How are the New Year’s Resolutions working out?

Are you being a more productive writer?

If not, then you probably need to set things up so you can be more productive, which is what I promised to talk about this week.

It all comes down to time and space to write.

You can squeeze more into your existing writing time by having an effective writing process – we had that rant already in Part 1 – and by learning to touch type.

Touch typing rocks. The words appear on the screen by telepathy. No distractions, no fiddling fingers. You think better, write faster.

However, what you really want is more writing time, with less interruption, which in turn means establishing a better physical space within which to do it. The time and space then need defending.

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James Bond is in the Public Domain in Canada

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

James Bond 007-smallNews that the character of James Bond entered the public domain in several countries around the world, including Canada, on January 1st 2015, has stirred considerable excitement among small press publishers.

As io9 reported on Thursday, for many countries who signed the international Berne Convention governing copyright, an author’s works are protected until 50 years after her death. Ian Fleming died in 1964, which means his work entered the public domain this year. Fleming’s original novels can now be published by anyone in Canada, and new film adaptions of those works are fair game.

Canadian publishers such as Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, who recently produced the popular anthologies The Dark Rites of Cthulhu and Amok!, are exploring what this means to those interested in producing new Bond-related books and anthologies. Here’s Neil:

Here is what I know so far. The name James Bond is currently not trademarked, and it wouldn’t be an issue if it was. However, James Bond OO7 is trademarked, and would cause a kerfuffle. The movies are off-limits, so no fluffy white cats or Q. Movie versions of James are off-limits, as is SPECTRE and, to some extent, villains using nuclear threats. It’s all a bit murky, but I’m still digging.

I’m trying to clarify the position of writers outside of Canada, bear with me on this.

Keep up with developments on the April Moon Facebook page.

Revising and Editing II: The Nitty Gritty

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Strunk & WhiteI had occasion to read the first 3 chapters of a friend’s manuscript the other day. This is his first completed manuscript, and he wanted a second pair of eyes on what he was sending out to agents. I started off my critique by saying: “There’s good news. All your sentences are sentences, and all the words you use mean what you think they mean.”

Obviously, my friend wasn’t immediately gratified by this response,* at least, not until I explained how very often this isn’t the case. I had another friend (please note the past tense) who, when I suggested a word he used didn’t mean what he thought it meant, told me loftily that he knew that, but he was just trying it out to see if it would fit. He had, he explained, dashed it all down when he was drunk.

Which brings us to a piece of advice attributed to Ernest Hemingway. Write drunk. Edit Sober. Please note the order. Given Hemingway’s reputation, the assumption has always been that his advice was to be taken literally, but I’m not so sure. I know that people have achieved marvels while drinking/drunk, but I don’t think these were cases of cause and effect. Alcohol or its cultural equivalent can smooth the path of genius (at least for a while), but it doesn’t create the genius in the first place.

I choose to believe that what Hemingway meant was, write while inspired, edit with a clear head. All kinds of things might inspire you to write, and I often find that when the juices are flowing (creativity’s, not the bottle’s) I’m not even so much as aware of the passage of time, let alone the exact nature of every sentence and punctuation point.

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Revising and Editing Part I: The Big Picture

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Tim Powers

Tim Powers

A very long time ago, I was taught how to write a piece of prose. Our teacher told us to write on every other line (yes, that’s how long ago it was) in order to leave ourselves room to make corrections and changes. I couldn’t think what she was going on about. Why would I want to change or correct anything? Why wouldn’t I just write it correctly in the first place? Wouldn’t that be a big savings in time and energy?

Aside: I’m a big saver of time and energy, otherwise known as a professional lazy person, or “prolazy,” as in “She’s extremely prolazy.”

Back in class, I ended up by making fake corrections to keep my teacher happy. There was no way she was going to believe that I could have gotten it right the first time. Of course, I was right, but the problem is, so was my teacher. We just didn’t realize that we weren’t on the same… well… page.

Back then, I didn’t realize that I was already changing and correcting. I was just doing it in my head before I put it down on paper. Just about anybody can do that for a paragraph or so. But no one can do it for anything much longer than that – nor for something a lot shorter, if you think about Twitter.

So, nowadays I agree with Tim Powers, who, on a panel at a World Con, once said that all professional writers revise, only amateurs think they got it right the first time.

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Dwarves, Dragons, Wizards and Elves: Thinking About the Standard Fantasy Setting

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

Warhammer Elves-smallYou know, for a genre that should be based entirely around the thing, Fantasy really is lacking in that lovely little commodity everyone calls imagination.

I’m serious; there are three-book series kicking around called Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs respectively. That’s pretty much the holy trinity of fantasy clichés right there. And all the book covers I’ve seen lately feature these grizzled, Batman-ish, waylander types, which is fine, because Batman kicks butt, when he starts cropping up everywhere he just gets annoying, with all his gritty, gravelly-voiced sadness.

Despite the fact that fantasy is a genre in which the writer can do literally anything, put their characters in whatever situation they damn well please, everyone seems way too content with dwarves, dragons, wizards, and elves. We could have quadruple amputees with tentacles for eyes who fight off the slavering hordes of hell by playing rock guitar solos with their earlobes, but nope, we’re happy with elves.

My point is that fantasy, and all the genres like it, give writers a medium through which they can explore every facet of the human imagination, test the very limits of what we, as human beings, can envision and relate to, what’s within our power to articulate. Fantasy challenges writers to make social commentary and philosophical statements within the most fantastic and diverse circumstances possible. Fantasy has the potential to take its readers to places they could never conceive of, on adventures that transcend comprehension; with this tool, fantasy could become the most beautiful, poetic, and diverse form of escapism we have.

It could be, if we didn’t focus so much on the elves, the dwarves, and the dragons, but we do, because we’re idiots.

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