Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: April 2013

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Friday, April 26, 2013

News for the Week of 4.26.13: Kickstartin', Gestatin', and Exhastio'in


Hello, Dear Friends and Readers!

Ph-ew! Another exhausting week behind me, and glad of it. Sales are petering out for Three Dances, which is what I expected. Now we’re in what I like to think of as the gestation period. The initial buyers of the book are reading it. If they love it, they’ll start telling other people and sales will pick up. If they don’t, well, then I suppose I should have written a better book.

In the meantime, work has been going well on Soulwoven: Exile. I’m down to the last few chapters, and then it’s time to let it sit and marinate for a bit before it goes out to early readers. I apologize for taking so long to get it to you. I have no excuse but the fact that I want to do a good job, and that there are only 24 and a bit hours in the day.

I think it’s turning out well though, and that you’ll like it.

Speaking of Soulwoven: I’ve been mulling over the Kickstarter idea, and the more I think, the more I like it. I’ve started pricing out the services I’d like to contract for it, and I’m starting to get a sense of how I’m going to structure the campaign. Basically, the more funding the book gets, the better the help I’ll be able to buy for it, and the better the rewards will be for the people who help fund it.

Sound cool? Let me know. I’m going to draft up a survey next week to get an idea of what sorts of bonuses and swag and extras people would be interested in getting in return for funding. The ideas I’ve got range from full editing on their own books (which, since I do it for a living, is pretty pricy to buy a la carte), to signed editions, to personalized notes-in-the-margins editions, to extra novellas and short stories, to gear like t-shirts and mugs and pens and what-have-you.

But what I really want are YOUR ideas. What’s the thing you want most in the world from me? Let me know, and I might just be able to offer it up as a Kickstarter reward.

If you’ve never participated in a Kickstarter campaign before, you should go check some out. They’re heaps of fun.

So that’s what’s up with me. Oh, and I’m buying a house. And moving to Indiana. And getting married. And still managing to get up and work every day.

Hope all’s well with you, too, gentle readers.
-Jeff

Friday, April 19, 2013

Three Dances Launch Party Speechifying, Part 3: The Reading

As promised: the reading! I read the first few pages of "The Jazz Festival" at the launch party. You can hear them below.


There's a lot more in the book---the rest of the story, for one thing. Plus illustrations and the story behind the story, which can be just as interesting.

You can buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One for the Locker: Austin Grossman on Video Games and Writing

If any of you have ever taken the time to peruse my old blog, you'll see that I've learned a lot of things about storytelling from playing video games. I now no longer have so much time to do that (sad! Although I have a smashing idea that will give me an excuse to play for 24 hours straight next Fall, so stay tuned), but I still think often about the writing in video games and what an amazing playground it looks like to me from the outside.

Anyway, this article is about what it looks like from the inside, and its author reminded me a bit of myself. Except that I applied for jobs writing video games and got one in publishing instead.

Funny ol' world, innit?

http://www.polygon.com/2013/4/18/4231940/opinion-video-games-taught-me-how-to-write

Thursday, April 18, 2013

News for the Week of 4.18.13: Fall-Down Tiredness, Three Dances' Warm Reception, and Potential Kickstarting


Hello, Dear Friends and Readers!

I write to you today completely and utterly exhausted. It’s been a heck of a week. The Three Dances launch party went off well last weekend; I’ve been posting snippets from my speech there up on my blog all week, if you’re interested. Tomorrow I’ll post a reading from “The Jazz Festival” as well.

Three Dances itself is getting a much warmer reception than I expected. I thought of it as quite a weird book, but people are saying wonderful things about it on Goodreads, and Amazon, and Wattpad, and also in private messages to me. And that makes me wonderfully happy.

Meanwhile it’s off to the next book! I’m finishing up revisions on Soulwoven: Exile---just ten chapters left, and I’m getting into the real meaty, pulse-racy, everything-changes-forever sort of material. I feel sort of like I’m dancing drunk, because by the time I get to the book every night I’m so tired I feel like falling over, and then I have to try to put words on the page in a way that makes sense and tells a story, and that’s hard.

But I learned in college that sometimes I dance pretty well when I’m drunk.

Anyway, the wonderful reception that Three Dances has gotten has me thinking more about Soulwoven and how to best launch it this summer. I’m thinking about a Kickstarter, because the book is long enough and serious enough that I’d love to buy some professional help for it (copy editing, developmental editing, and line editing, in that order), but I have nowhere near the funds I need in order to do so. And I like the idea of letting fans fund the book in return for little treats like signed copies and marked up manuscript pages and doodles in the margins and critiques or edits or phone calls or visits from me. I want to reach out and make you guys a bigger part of my writing and my life, and that seems like a great way to do it.

Oh, and as I’m finishing up on Exile, I’m noodling final revisions for Nadya. I think it’s going to be good. I was a little rushed getting it out to agents last month, and I think giving it another pass or two will do good things for it.

So that’s me, so tired that I forget to feel excited some days.

Hope all’s well with you, too.
-Jeff

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Three Dances Launch Party Speechifying, Part Two: Thank You

Just another short clip from the Three Dances launch party speech. A lot of the speech was taken up with thanking people who helped specifically on the book, but I spent a minute or so talking about the ways in which people have helped me generally, sometimes without even realizing it.

And I wanted to share that bit with people who weren't there, because I think sometimes we have a tendency to tell ourselves that people don't want or need our encouragement. And a lot of times that's simply not true.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Expanding on My Three Dances Speech: Traditional Publishers and Hybrid Authoring

Yesterday I posted a link to the first few minutes of the speech I gave at the launch party for Three Dances. In it, I talk about some of the ways in which traditional publishing and self-publishing aren't really that different.

It has occurred to me that this could be misconstrued as me saying that traditional publishing doesn't bring anything to the table. Being as I work in the industry, I want to be clear that I don't think that's the case. Three Dances was a great fit for self-publishing, because it was a project that was niche enough that it would hold little attraction to a traditional publisher no matter how good it was, and it was short and small enough that I could feasibly do all the work on my own. That's not going to be the case for all books or all authors (I have spent years of my life learning the editorial skills I put to work here).

And on top of the advance you might get through a traditional publisher, you get a pretty sweet basket of services thrown in as part of the deal. Top-notch editing, design, and production services for a novel-sized book can pretty quickly run into the thousands of dollars on the freelance market. Marketing and pr, even skimpy as it can be, adds to the cost of a book as well. I used to think thousands of dollars was too much to pay for that kind of work. Now that I make my living as a freelancer, I've realized that if you want skilled labor, you have to pay for it (indie authors may recognize this argument as one they've been making to publishers for years). As much as I owe my authors, I owe my family more.

I do think that indie writers, if they've written a good book, will make their money back over time. But not everybody has that kind of scratch to invest. I sure don't. More importantly, not everybody is a good judge of which projects to make that kind of investment on. I could have spent that money on Three Dances, but it would have taken years to make it back, even if I wildly exceeded my expectations for the sales of the book.

There are several reasons I'm pursuing a traditional deal for Nadya. One of the biggest is that the middle grade market is still very much dependent on bookstore, book club, and library placement, and those are very hard markets for an indie to break into. But the other big one is that I'm willing to sacrifice long-tail money on that book for the services I can get from a traditional publisher, and for the things I could learn from working with one.

I see more and more hybrid authors doing the same thing in my submissions pile at Carina, and I'm always happy to see them, both for their sake and for mine.

--
You can buy Three Dances as a print or e-book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Three Dances Launch Party, Speechifying Part One: How Books Start Their Lives

Hello gentle readers!

The Three Dances launch party farfnoogled its way into history this weekend, to my very great enjoyment, to my stomach's very very great enjoyment, and to my waistline's subtle detriment.

I wish I could offer you a sliver of all the food and conversation, but that is somewhat beyond me.

Instead, I'm going to offer you a snippet of my speechifying. I'll be putting up three clips from it this week, one of which is a reading from the first story in the collection, "The Jazz Festival."

But today's clip touches on something different: how books start their lives, and how in some ways self-publishing and traditional publishing are very much the same.

I'll expound at greater length on some things that didn't fit into the speech tomorrow, but for today, here you go:


As a reminder, you can buy Three Dances in print or e-book on Amazon or B&N.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Countdown to Three Dances: Do It Now

I don't cry often.

It's not so much because I think I must be manly (although I sometimes do) as because I think I must be calm. I don't like letting my emotions get the better of me. When things get hard, I try to get rational and quiet and thoughtful.

But I cried last weekend.

Those of you who have been following the Three Dances posts will remember that I talked about a subject that made my stomach churn and my eyes tear up. This is it. And I am now three paragraphs into talking about it without having talked about it at all. That's how hard it is to write about for me.

One of my grandmothers did the art for Three Dances. She is an amazing, wonderful woman; donated her time and art to the book; and has been a mentor and a guiding light to me in ways I don't think she fully understands, because she is also a humble person.

But she's not the grandmother who has been most supportive of my writing over the course of my life.

Since I was a teenager, my other grandmother has encouraged me to be a writer. When she visited, she asked how my writing was going. When I was in college, she was thrilled to hear that I was studying writing, even though everyone knew it was never likely to be particularly remunerative. When we talked, she always, at some point, said, "Now, you're still writing, aren't you?" She was never pushy, but I always knew that she thought it was amazing that I was writing, and that she would be proud as a peach when my first book came out.

After my grandfather died, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, or something so much like it that nobody other than a doctor is likely to care about the difference.

But still, she knew I was a writer. During the times when the disease was just taking hold and she would only forget my name and not my face, she knew I was a writer. When we spoke, she still wanted to make sure that I was writing. It was very important to her. That's one of the funny things about that disease; you get to see what's important to people, because they talk about the same things over and over again.

In the last year, her disease has gotten much worse. I don't think she really knows who I am anymore. When we see each other, she gives me a huge smile and a hug and a kiss and says, "Oh, what a good-looking young man!" because, even as her brain wanders away from her, she is still just that kind of a person.

Last weekend I brought the proof copy of Three Dances to my parents' house so that I could share it with them and my grandmothers. And as I sat a table and waited for her to arrive, I realized that the grandmother who for years had encouraged me to write books would never really know that I had finished one, and that it was being published.

So I cried. And I'm crying again now, as I write this.

Because I could have done better. I could have done sooner. I could have published Three Dances, or Soulwoven, or something very much like them, while she was still capable of recognizing me and truly, deeply knowing that I had done something she had always wanted me to do.

So my advice to you is this: whatever thing you want to do with your life, do it now. Don't wait. There are people to whom your dreams are more important than you yet realize. And if you wait too long to make things happen, you may lose the chance to share wonderful moments with them.

I will never know what my grandmother's reaction to my first book would have been if it had come out five years ago. When I was younger, she was a very deep and thoughtful person. I wish I could know what she would have said and done.

Last weekend, her reaction was "That's wonderful! You wrote this? Where can I buy this? [pause, during which conversation moves on a little] I will give you two dollars for this!"

I told her her copy was on its way, and I laughed, because that reaction was so much better than what it could have been.

But still. Do it now. Whatever it is. Don't wait. We all only get so much time.

-Jeff

You can buy Three Dances here, here, or here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

News for the Week of 4.10.13: Three Dances is Live, and I Am Still Writing Soulwoven: Exile


Greetings Friends and Readers.

Three Dances. Is. LIVE! You can go buy a copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or CreateSpace or my website right now. The commercial editions come with illustrations and extras, and the knowledge that you’re supporting the creation of more stories like the ones you enjoy. For the next couple of weeks, I’m probably going to get a little proselytize-y about this book, so fair warning. But I’m very proud of it, and I want to get it into people’s hands.

So buy a copy, please. Or buy one for someone else. The print version is only $5.99 and the e-book version is available on my website for whatever you think is a fair price (as long as it’s at least $1; that’s as low as the fulfillment people will let me go).

Thanks.

In other news: Soulwoven! And Nadya!

Something rotten seems to be afoot with the read counting machines on Wattpad, but you guys have been amazing in your support for the book lately anyway. There are squillions of new votes, lots of people are tuning in and following, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Work on the sequel is going well. I’m also buying a house and launching Three Dances and planning a move and a wedding, all on top of my day job as a freelance writer and editor, so things have felt a little hectic.

But every day I’m taking an hour or two, whether I have the time or not, to keep telling stories for you. I’m a little over halfway through this draft of the book, which broadens and shifts focus a bit. You’ll learn a lot more about Tsu’min in it, for instance, and Leramis takes center stage for longer than he has before. Some terrible things that lead to wonderful (or maybe even more terrible) things happen to Ryse.

I think you’re going to enjoy it.

Once this draft is done it goes off to my trusty inner circle of early readers and critics, and then I’ll start final review and posting chapters of it. In the meantime, I’m going to cram in one final revision of Nadya before she goes back out into the world of traditional publishing submissions.

Thanks again for following, all.

And please, check out Three Dances. :-)

Yours in ink and sleepless nights,
Jeff

Friday, April 5, 2013

Countdown to Three Dances: Images

Various versions of Three Dances are under final review at Amazon and B&N. The print version, actually, is live here: you can buy one (or ten, or a hundred) if you want, and I will get paid for it.

For some reason, this is terrifying to me.

So in order to stay clear of being afraid, I'm going to put up a blog post I wrote months ago with the plan of posting it in the runup to the Three Dances launch, mostly because I thought it was interesting and also because I thought it might drive some attention. Warning: It's long and gets a bit technical in places.

Anyway, here goes:

--

Today I want to talk about the art for the collection, and the interesting challenges it has presented for me-as-publisher.

I decided to include art in the collection because I wanted something to help it stand out from the crowd. There's so much being self-published right now, and it's so easy to just chuck something up on Amazon as an e-book, that I wanted to provide my readers with immediate proof that I had not just chucked the book up on the Internet. That, in fact, it had been planned and plotted and slaved and sweated over, and was going to be worth their few dollars of money and few hours of time to experience.

Including custom art seemed to be a good way to do that.

Originally, I was going to have a friend of mine who does amazing things with spraypaint and stencils and letters make the art, but his schedule got too crazy, and he had to back out. I then approached my grandmother, who has been making art for the better part of a century, about helping out.

Luckily for me, she was excited about the project, too.

Working with her has been a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience worthy of its own blog post, but one of the upshots of it has been that I'm left doing the digitization of her artwork completely on my own. Computers are not her thing.

I'm using a free program called GIMP, which was introduced to me by the folks at Wattpad, to do it. Process breakdown below:

First, I receive the finished art from my grandmother. It's not exactly in ready-to-display shape, but we're on deadline here, and she's working for free, and I'm happy just to have it at all.

Next, I wait for good, natural light in my apartment, take a digital photo of the artwork, and shovel it onto my computer. It looks something like this:


Next, I crop and rotate the photo in GIMP.


At this point, it's still far from ready for production. The whites aren't white, and there are a lot of extraneous lines left to be cleaned up. My first thought was to attempt to go through and clean everything by hand, but that very quickly proved to be an untenable amount of work.

Luckily, GIMP has a tool called "Color Select" that selects everything in an image that's the same or a similar color. The tool has been a godsend for me. So next I create a new image with the same dimensions as the original, select everything that's black in the source image, and copy it over onto the new image. It gives me something like this:



Pretty big improvement, right? But we're not done yet. It looks a little washed out, like it's been copied poorly on a machine. So next I go after the gray tones.

It takes several steps, but eventually, I get this:


Still not perfect, but it's getting closer, and we're now at the point where manual touch-up becomes feasible. So I go in with my GIMP paintbrush/pencil tool (they work kind of the same) and eraser, and I blacken in lines that I think are meant to be blacked and get rid of lines that I think were not meant to appear in the final product. It takes some fiddling and a little artistic interpretation on my part, but eventually, I end up with an image that looks more like this:


Finally, I print off a test page, which includes the image and the text roughly as I think they'll appear in the finished version. I then put it under a good light and circle areas of the image that I think need further retouching, like so:


Then, after I go back through and do some more image correction, I come out with what's approaching a final version:

Now I still have to get it laid out for real and wait for proofs, and there's a chance that the image will need some tweaking at that stage, but for now, it's done! And in much less time than one might think, as well. This one probably only took me three or four hours of work, and I was figuring everything out as I went. Future images should take even less time than that.

--

The image I used as an example here is one of the black-and-white ones that appears in the print and basic digital (for black-and-white ereaders like the basic Kindle and Nook) editions of the book. Creating the Digital Deluxe Edition's colorized images was a bit more fun. I'll pop back on the blog to talk about that sometime next week.

I also have a Three Dances-related blog post in the back of my head that churns my stomach and brings tears to my eyes to think of. I will write it when I think I have the mental space to do it justice, and I will share it with you before the book's official launch on the 13th.

I promise.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

News for the Week of 4.2.13: Icy Roads, Encouraging Things, and SOULWOVEN Coming Out Soon!


Greetings Friends and Readers!

Apologies for the late newsletter. I spent the weekend dodging semis on icy roads in the mountains and have only just recovered from the shock (and the Easter meal that followed).

So, to the news:

Work is picking up on Soulwoven: Exile, the sequel to Soulwoven. I’m about a third of the way through it now, and while I’ve hit a few sticky points, and I’m also really starting to get into my groove. It still has to go through a few more rounds of reads and revisions before it will be ready for mass consumption, but I hope to have it finished soon.

Nadya has been getting a decent response from the agents I’ve submitted it to. So far it’s still all “no”s, but they’re the “loved this, didn’t love this,” or “thought it was strong but just didn’t connect with it” kind of “no”s. As an editor who writes letters like this, I know how close this means I am, and I take a great deal of comfort in it. I plan to sneak in another round of revision on it based on some agent feedback after I’ve finished this draft of Exile and then send it out to a broader swath of agents this summer.

And speaking of summer, I’ve decided to self-publish Soulwoven in the summer as well! I’m shooting for a June release date, which is a bit ambitious, but hopefully will be manageable. What that means for you is that you’ll be able to get a print copy, or a prettied-up digital copy, or a bundle of both, within the next few months.

Finally, Three Dances has hit the home stretch! I’m waiting on the final proof copy of the printed version, and as long as I don’t find any problems in it, it’ll go live either this week or next.

The fourth story in the collection, Birdcage, is up on Wattpad now. It’s about an ordinary human being who encounters something he can’t explain, and a supernatural being caught in a cycle of death, rebirth, and predation she doesn’t particularly enjoy.

It is also, despite what one early reader said to me, decidedly NOT erotica.

Happy spring, friends! It snowed AND rained here today, so surely the world is yawning and stretching and waking up for another round of rabid growth.

Jeff