In the Meantime, In Between Time

I am in that strange space you sometimes get into as an author. I am revising one manuscript, preparing another for publication and writing another all at the same time. That seems to happen more and more often these days as I do my work for Black Library, try and get my backlist into print in ebook format and even write a new novel. So what exactly have I been up to?

Well, yesterday I killed an ork with a shotgun. OK– I didn’t. Leo, the narrator of The Angel of Fire did. I just watched him do it while keeping my usual lookout for detail. I mean what’s it like facing off against an ork? What do they smell like (oddly fungal and acrid, like athletes foot in old socks), what happens when you hit one on the head with the butt of a shotgun (it bounces, orks have very thick skulls so unless you are strong as a Space Marine you’re going to have some difficulty cracking one, you can however break their fingers and crush their windpipes quite easily if you have something heavy enough), what’s it feel like going toe to toe with one in close combat (scary, you’re fighting something much bigger and stronger than you, probably faster too and certainly having a lot more fun), how do you beat one (by fighting smarter and being lucky, preferably both).

I don’t pretend these are definitive answers. They are my answers, describing one specific situation from the point of view of one specific character, trying very hard to stay alive and keep his squad that way too in the teeth of a ferocious xenogen assault. This was for the prologue of the book, a chapter of rip-snorting, ork stomping action intended to hook the reader into the epic storyline to follow. It establishes the framing device for the series to follow.

Today I am going through my manuscript, checking the editor’s comments, trying to make sure the terminology is right (40K has changed somewhat since I wrote a bunch of the background for those old army books). This is slow work, involving going through lines and paragraphs and making small changes here and there. Once this is done, I’ll be making the larger changes, hopefully finishing with a much more polished book.

At the same time I am trying to produce more words. These days I like to keep my word count totals ticking up even when I am revising (which normally for me is a process of taking things out) so I am working on my first Kormak novel, adding a thousand words a day to the manuscript when I can find the time. I am as excited about this as I am by The Angel of Fire. Kormak is one of those iconic characters I always wanted to write something longer about, a hunter of monsters and men, a classic sword and sorcery hero.

In this book someone is opening old tombs and letting the inhabitants, wights and undead, out all for a very sinister purpose. Imagine Fog on the Barrow Downs from Tolkien, now imagine a whole land full of Barrows, the last remnants of a once-mighty kingdom of Necromancers. This is old fashioned, low magic, sword and sorcery, a combination of Tolkien and Robert E Howard. It’s a lot of fun to write.

This is the first new novel I have attempted for the ebook format and I guess it means I expect it to stick around. These books are the sort I have always wanted to write but just could not have gotten into print through traditional publishing. For one thing, they are too short by the standards of modern publishing (although long by the standards of the books of my youth). This is something that the epub revolution is making possible– experiments with different lengths and price points. You can fit the story to the length it wants to be, not an arbitrary page count intended for a certain price point that market research shows to be optimal (around 90-100K in case you were wondering!) Don’t get me wrong– there are certain stories that are perfect for that length, just not all of them and some of those are stories I would like to tell.

I am expecting the manuscript of Shadowblood to return from the editor any time now. Once that gets here I need to give it one last revision, turn it into an ebook and upload it to Amazon and the other ebook stores. In anticipation of this, I am writing the Author’s Notes for the books so I will have something to post when I do.

And, oh yes, I am going to be in Scotland later in the week so I am getting ready for that. I’ll be taking my computer with me so I can work on the road. It’s busy, busy, busy.

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Comments

  1. Michael Mooney says:

    Couple of things about this made me smile. Your description of Kormak brought the character right into my head, all Solomon Kane meets Phillip Marlowe. And the bit about word counts – it looks like I’ll be running closer to 75k than 100, and this reminded me that ebooks can be the length they want to be. Oh yeah, and a third thing, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about curry.

  2. And that Kormak e-book will never see the light of paper pages?

    My humble opinion…
    I hate when that happens. I don’t own an e-book and I will stick with the paper format until someday say “we are stopping printing paper books from now on”; then I Will choose.

    It’s unfortunally that Black Library is starting doing some e-books. Even giving preferences to them like publishing them earlier several months. I’ve got everything they published (paper format). Even when Boxtree was behind the publishing. But this idea of e-book is letting me down and maybe they will one day stop publishing novels and sticking to e-book.

    Thank the gods that I am not the only one against the e-book revolution.

  3. Just curious, what length are these new books coming in at? I often look at my dad’s bookcases full of thin paperback originals from the 50s and 60s and think, “how come books had to go and get so wordy?” 🙂 There’s something very nice about sitting down with a short novel or long novella, 200 or so pages, and reading it in one sitting. Not that I mind the occasional 1,000 page epic, but quick reads are okay in my book.

    • Hey Brian, I confess I have been asking that question about thinner books of everyone I have met in the industry for at least 10 years. I suspect its for the same reason that portion sizes in restaurants got larger over the same period. The actual cost to publishers is smaller than the price increases it justifies. In the UK at least the increase in the cover price of books was far greater than the rate of inflation for a very long time. This coincided with an increase in page counts and indeed in font size and leading in many books.

      I am aiming to get the new books in at the right length for the story I want to tell. I suspect this will be anywhere between 50 and 70 thousand words. I’ll just charge less for the shorter books.

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