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Agar Art

Posted in Artwork, and The Affinities of Magic

Image of bacteria on a Petri dishMy new series, The Affinities of Magic, has a microbiological basis for magic.

What that means in practice is that I have to describe cultivating bacteria on an equivalent of Petri dishes as part of the contextual background for the novels.

That's a matter of diluting your source multiple times and scraping streaks across your dish, and other ordinary conventions of basic bacterial cultivation.

And then this comes along…

The American Society for Microbiologists hosted the first bacteria art competition called ‘Agar Art.’

Image of bacteria in Petri dishOf course, there's more than one way to cultivate bacteria.

Like the Horsehead Nebula? I especially enjoy the obligatory Hokusai and van Gogh homages.

Check out the full set of a dozen intricate “paintings”.

Image of bacteria in Petri dish

Image of bacteria in Petri dishes

The Chained Adept – German edition

Posted in Language, and The Chained Adept

I've commissioned my first translation. This is a new experiment for me, and very exciting!

I decided the German market was the place to start, since it has a well-developed interest in SFF, both locally written and in translation. While I have some knowledge of German (well, the language from hundreds of years ago, anyway), I naturally needed to turn to a professional.

My biggest concern is not just the accuracy of the translation, but the tone of it. I want to make sure it doesn't have any whiff of modern slang to throw the reader out of the story while still presenting itself in living German idiom. That requires a sensitive hand, willing to reset the phrasing as necessary instead of just processing the words mechanically.

Image of robot from Metropolis
From Metropolis, part of the long history of SFF in Germany

I am myself slogging through the translated results with the aid of automated translation (Google Translate) to try and catch any obvious issues with individual words, especially since my English vocabulary is broad and therefore a potential source of confusion. This has the added amusement of showing me German constructions I've never seen before, as when “bandy-legged” becomes “o-beinig” (bones shaped like an “O”, I presume — who knew?)

I anticipate this will be ready by the end of the summer. Now I have to study up on my international marketing skills.

 

 

The villains of Atlas Shrugged

Posted in Characters, and Villains

Image of cover for Atlas ShruggedIt's not the heroes of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), nor its peculiar human simulacra, nor its polemical message that make it such an influential book, still a perennial best seller after 60 years (800,000 copies/year). According to a Library of Congress poll, Atlas Shrugged is the second most influential book after the Bible, at least in America.

It's the villains.

Like many others, I came across the book at the perfect age and in perfect circumstances — I was 13, working summers in my father's company, just like Dagny Taggart. I had no notion of political flavors, had never heard the term “libertarian” (much less “objectivism”), and was as stunned by the length of John Galt's speech as anyone would be, but I still found the book absolutely fascinating.

At the same time I was well down the road of total immersion into what science-fiction and fantasy was available in the mid-1960s. I read it all, and when I say that, I really mean that I bought everything in the genres that was available in paperback. Everything. Thus began a habit that has run to hundreds of books per year for five decades (somewhat fewer during the dark days of New Age…).

I recently participated in a Facebook discussion where people were asked to name the most influential SFF book they read, and I suggested Atlas Shrugged. It's nominally set in the future (from 1957) even though it's not a standard genre specimen. While some agreed, others spouted the usual objections: paper characters, flawed plot, debatable ethics, and so forth.

I've never understood the visceral hatred for the book from some people. Sure, it has plenty of flaws, and it's message fiction which is generally objectionable. But no one has ever suggested it was a perfect book — why does it bear some special burden for perfection as compared to, say, Frank Herbert's Dune, or Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan?

What the detractors don't care for, I've come to believe, is Rand's depiction of the villains, the various wreckers of civilization. They are many and various, and they range from journalists, scientists, industrialists, bureaucrats, and politicians to ordinary people — wives, parents, strangers.

We see these same villains every day in the news. They couldn't be more familiar to us, now.

Image of White Suit manga villainsThat must be unbearable to some people. Some scene will feature one or more of the these villains mouthing the same pious elite words that seek approval today, and Rand makes it perfectly obvious just how little good faith is involved and how clearly and comprehensively these policies lead to disaster. As a bonus, she illustrates the resentment that is the underlying motive for many of them.

Other SFF authors (Mil SciFi comes to mind) have dwelt upon a limited subset of these people, in the context of a (military) bureaucracy gone mad, but no one has been so thorough and wide-ranging and… accurate as Rand.

I reread the book every few years, and the villains become ever more non-fictional. The heroes may not be 100% convincing, but the villains certainly are. I'd be delighted if I could make my own villains half as compelling.

Cover reveal – Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, and Structures of Earth

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My cover artist of the last couple of years, Jake Bullock, got a full-time job (good for him) and is prohibited from doing freelance projects (bad for me). The good news is that I had just finished The Chained Adept series, but I already had a cover from him for book 1 of The Affinities of Magic series. So I had to start over again for that.

Happily, I've partnered with a new cover artist from Poland, Michal Wojtasik.

His audition blew me away. I only asked for a simple sketch of the scene I had in mind, and look what I got, a day later.

Needless to say, he buried his competitors.

He's completed the cover for Structures of Earth and is working on the one for book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I'll be writing book 4 before I release the first 3 books in the series, one right after another, to try and build up some momentum for the new series.

Taking stock of 2017

Posted in Goals

Still Life and Street, M.C. Escher, 1937It's time to look back on 2017 and take stock — what worked, what didn't, and where I spent my time.

Accomplishments

Early in the year, just after I released the 4th and final book in The Chained Adept series (On a Crooked Track), I decided to pause my miscellaneous plans, including my audiobook recording, in order to devote the year to a major ascension of my learning curve for marketing, making 2017 the Year of Marketing.

* Third website (for Readers) with professional branding elements – KarenMyersAuthor. This is a companion to HollowLands (for Writers) and Perkunas Press (Publishing). Facebook & Twitter persona to match.
* Courses in Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads
* Advanced newsletter services and landing pages
* Related tooling up in video and other image processing
* New author photos and bio (not getting any younger)

Images of plansNot all of this was finished in 2017, but everything except the Facebook Ads is now up and running, and the first FB ads should get implemented fairly early in 2018.

While I was doing all this technical stuff, I also tooled up in other ways — republished 20 titles, created ONIX records to make broad distribution more professional, and even added a fancy email signature with the new branding, for engaging with readers or fans.
Image of signature

On the publishing side, there were several unexpected developments.

* Two paid consulting gigs bringing manuscripts to market for a couple of authors, one a colleague and one a stranger.
* New imprints. Three old friends who are not in a position to get beyond the manuscript stage themselves (age, infirmity, tech competence) have manuscripts that need publishing, indie style. I have a long and trusted relationship with them, and it's a great way to get started publishing other authors

Finally, on the writing side, I was able to get some work done. I completed the paused Structures of Earth, the first book and prequel for the new series The Affinities of Magic. I'm well along on book 2 (Fragments of Lightning), and I've lined up a cover artist for the series since my old cover artist is no longer available (stay tuned for several cover reveals).

I also released a few SciFi short stories.

Word Count 2017

Posted in Goals

table_abacus-gregor_reisch_margarita_philosophica_1508

Always good to know what the numbers say…

Words of fiction

2017 –   94,891
2016 – 346,258
2015 – 119,593
2014 –   64,390
2013 – 210,470
2012 – 270,600

Total – 1,106,202

 

Goal for fiction for the new year

2018 – 385,000

Blog posts

2017 – 30,777
2016 – 43,429
2015 – 30,619
2014 – 34,214
2013 – 28,714
2012 – 18,347

Total – 186,100

Returning to my writing (yay!)

Posted in A Writer's Desk, Goals, Publishing, and Structures of Earth

After my long prior post about all the learning curves for reaching my next marketing plateau, I'm finally (almost) done and have picked up my latest book (Structures of Earth) and poured another 55000 words into it, just in the last month, and finished it. I've missed it badly!

I'm just starting book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I plan to complete the first three books before releasing any of them, and have the fourth one almost done. The first book, Structures of Earth, is a prequel that takes place five years before Fragments of Lightning, while the hero is still a teenager. I expect to write quite a few books in this series, each of them complete, like a detective series. The release(s) of the first few books should happen in the Spring of 2018, one right after another.

The remnants of my 2017 plans

 

Republishing all titles

I've finished cutting over to ActiveCampaign from MailChimp, and created suitable landing pages on my websites for newsletter signups from various locations.

Image of a stack of booksThat was the last thing I needed before updating all my titles (20 of them) with:

  • Misc. accumulated typo corrections
  • Longer next-book sample excerpts
  • Updated contact info
  • Updated newsletter info
  • UTM-wrapped links to other books & my websites for Google Analytics
  • Better TOC & metadata info inside the books
  • Larger cover images
  • Improved copyright pages

No one item is important enough, but with all of that I felt it was time to finally refresh all 20 titles, ebooks & print. I even moved from Ingram LSI to Spark for various discount coupon situations in the future as part of it. With any luck, I won't need to revise these particular titles ever again.

Associated with that was getting a copy of ONIXEDIT so that I could use the same distribution tools (ONIX) used by traditional publishers with their channel partners. It is of limited immediate use (only for my PublishDrive and StreetLib partners) but just going through the process was immensely educational about the metadata and channel communications issues that go on behind the scenes in the industry. I'm ready to start transmitting using ONIX to these partners very soon.

The newly branded website just for readers

Image of a fantasy landscapeKarenMyersAuthor is up, and so are its related Facebook & Twitter pages, but I haven't produced content yet, and so I haven't announced it. I need to start getting active there.