Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Books Are Always New

As is becoming a tradition here at Heroines of Fantasy, the Big Boss is our blogging guest in January. Eric Reynolds started Hadley Rille Books with a few bucks, stories he loved, and a fair dose of determination. More than six years later, he has published twenty-one novels and nineteen anthologies and collections--and is still going strong with seven novels and three anthologies planned for 2013. Not bad for an IT guy of twenty six years, eh?
Thanks, Eric, for guest posting! And for being as proud a "papa" as you are.

In 2012, we added several new fantasy novels to our line-up at Hadley Rille Books, all of which you've seen blogged about here on Heroines of Fantasy. They’ve been well received, and as is typical with a small press, the sales aren’t big, but they’re steady. Because at Hadley Rille Books, our titles are always new.
Typically, when a large publisher releases a book, they do an initial print run based on an estimate of how many books they expect to sell. If there are books left over from the initial print run, they’re usually pulped. If all the copies sell, then the publisher considers doing another print run if they believe more will sell, and if the bookstores will accept more copies. If neither of those is the case, there won’t be a another print run at that time. Unless the book is a best seller, the book is off the bookstore shelves within months.

In the small press world, we generally use print-on-demand that not only allows us to keep books in print indefinitely, but saves us from ever having to destroy left-over copies. So, not only does print-on-demand make business sense for a small press, it's also a much greener alternative than offset printing. Our first fantasy novel, The Song and the Sorceress by Kim Vandervort, is still available and will be for a long time since it costs very little to keep it available. We still receive orders for it more than three years after its publication.
If you were to superimpose a sales graph for one of our books on top of the same for a large press, stretched out over, say, five years, you would see a large spike for the large press book at first and a small spike for our book. However, the large press book will dive after a couple of months and will hit zero at some point once the print run is used up. Our book will decline somewhat, but it will always be above zero and continue with steady sales since the books are printed according to demand, even one at a time. And since we have a smaller readership than the large press, our book hasn’t been seen by most of the potential readers for it and will continue to be “discovered” by new readers two or three years after its initial publication. Over time, the steady trickle of sales adds up. While our book sales may never reach the numbers the large press book reached within the first few months, our sales eventually add up to something respectable.

This is also true, of course, with ebooks and in the past year our ebook sales have exceeded our print book sales. Ebooks, like print-on-demand, can remain in publication indefinitely, and since the technical effort of getting them available costs nothing, then we can afford to price them at a much lower cost than the print versions. Still, the majority of readers prefer print books, at least at the present time, so we offer both (and will be offering audio books in the near future). Ebooks have also allowed us to reach a new market for our older titles—which are still “new”—such as our Ruins anthologies.
So as we continue to publish, and our line of fantasies grows, we have an ever-growing offering of exceptional books that continue to find their ways to new readers. We hope to continue this for a long time. And look for exciting new offerings in 2013!

Eric T. Reynolds, Editor/Publisher, Hadley Rille Books. Eric has edited forty highly-acclaimed anthologies, collections and novels, and has had short fiction published in several small press publications. He has also had several non-fiction articles published about space exploration history and history of technology. Visit his blog for
up-to-date happenings with Hadley Rille Books. Member of SFWA and Broad Universe.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Happy Birthday!

I love birthdays: mine, other people's... I'm not picky. I love the idea that everyone gets one day a year to be a prince or princess, to have his/her own way, to be with friends and family, to be the center of the universe. Sometimes there are gifts, given and received, but that's not always the best part. The best part is knowing that for one day, people care enough to take time out of their busy day to honor someone else- a practice that is becoming more of a rarity in today's fast-paced society, where cards and calls are replaced by quick Facebook posts and texts.

Birthdays in my family are particularly important because so many of my family members have birthdays so close to holidays that it becomes a conscious effort to honor them. My aunt's birthday is December 26th; my cousin Halloween. My daughter decided she wanted to show up on Easter, so she only occasionally has to share her special day. I myself was supposed to be a Christmas baby; I turned up late enough to miss the holiday, but early enough in January to still get the "combined" Christmas and birthday gifts. So what do we do with all of this holiday/birthday madness? We make birthdays a big deal. No Christmas wrap for my aunt; no Halloween/ birthday parties for my cousin. Everyone gets a special day just one's own.

Aside from just the honor of having one's birthday noted as special, our birthdays are milestones. First birthday. Eleventh. Thirteenth. Sixteenth. Eighteenth. Twenty-first. After that, we start counting in decades: thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, and so on. Many of these milestones have important traditions that go along with them, some cultural, some familial. From Quinceneras to driving lessons to binge drinking with friends and "over the hill" parties, birthdays become more than numbers: they are signs that we have become part of society, rites of passage that mark the transitions between each phase of our life.

Because I love birthdays so much, I mourn the absence of them in fiction. Sometimes birthdays and celebrations are important to the story. In fairy tales, for example, the sixteenth birthday is where all the magic happens (usually due to a curse at that all-important christening). But a majority of the time, they go unacknowleged completely. I totally get it that Frodo and Sam really couldn't stop for a cupcake in the middle of Mordor. But shouldn't there be some mention of birthdays, if nothing more than a way to mark the time?

When I was writing my second novel, The Northern Queen, not knowing Ki'leah's birthday became a problem for me. She was nineteen at the start of Song; at the beginning of Queen, I had to figure out exactly how old she was. And had she had a birthday during the first novel? Surprisingly, this suddenly mattered. In my current novel, the main character's age and birthday are imperative to the plot. But what about the other characters? It's sort of funny that as much as I and my family honor birthdays, even I have sort of dropped the ball with them in my fiction.

And therein lies the problem. Because of the social and cultural implications of birthdays, they can be important to the world building as well as to our understanding of the individual character. At what age do characters get married? Become warriors? Die? What happens to the elderly (often absent from fiction entirely)? How do people celebrate? Quiet celebrations or big blowout parties? I can't think of many mentions of birthdays used in this way, and I think I'd really love to see more of them.

So help me out, here: where have you seen them used effectively as world-building, plot, or even just casual mention? How do (or could) birthdays change your experience of reading or writing novels?

Kim Vandervort

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On the Importance of Play

The idea of play has been whispering to me lately. I've reached a limbo period where new words aren't in the offing. The novel is in the hands of the copy editor. I've been ill and teaching like a robot since returning from break. For an educator, these are the cruel weeks when student motivation is as low as the temperatures outside.

All I want to do is play. And in this desire I find a connection to writing and story.

Perhaps a little clarification is in order. Two of my favorite pieces of art my parents collected during their Air Force travels depict groups of men playing games. One is from Korea and shows several Asian gentlemen sitting on their knees playing with set pieces I have always assumed were dominoes. The lead figure leans back contentedly, puffing on his pipe and smiling out beneath a cheerfully wrinkled, long whiskered face. All the figures present are relaxed and happy. The other painting is from Holland and shows a similar grouping of two figures playing cards, perhaps whist, with a third eagerly looking on, no doubt offering advice to the loser. The lead figure, complete with ruffled shirt and neatly trimmed beard, has a victorious look on his face and his hand is raised, grasping a card in what I have always felt was the last penultimate discard. Late afternoon light bathes the scene, giving it the atmosphere of a diversion, a welcome respite from a day spent in toil.

Both pieces are from the nearly the same period in history but a world apart. They show the same thing: play. Both images are frozen moments in time when the stories for the characters so placed, paused for a moment. Perhaps they were leaving on the quest in the morning, but now there was time for dominoes and whist.


It kind of reminds me of a certain dinner party at Bag End, or the expected one sixty years later, of mushrooms and baths before the Old Forest, or a punt on a river tickled by willow fronds, or a wardrobe in a forgotten room in a country house in England, or a Gather on Pern. Yes, I think Lewis, Tolkien, Greene and McCaffery knew about play. In fact, the professor's early working title for his legendaria was called in part 'The Cottage of Lost Play'. I think the BEST stories are those that remember the importance of play. It is the stuff we all capture on film and slides and forget in the mad pace that is the plot line of our lives. And then a relative hauls them out of the box and we take a walk down memory and recall what it felt like to play. It's all there: the innocence, the games, the laughter, the victorious discard, the life outside of the quest. I also think that some of those moments, both in our lives and in our fiction, are the most important times.

Let me be clear: play includes but is not just humor. We use humor. I'm told there is some of it in my "banter" as my editor calls it. No, by play I mean PLAY, the tonal lightness of being that really should be present even in the darkest stories. I mean kids running, poetry competitions (small plug), story-telling within a story, laughter, mudpies, all of the stuff that brings our worlds ALIVE in the sense that we recognize, even in alien guise, shared experience.

Think about it. Play is one of the first things we do. If we are not careful, life takes all those joyous lessons from us. The same thing happens in our stories--especially the huge blockbuster epics that create such big winds with their passing...and then silence. Sadly, I feel play is all too soon, and all too often left out in favor of the quest to save the world from the great big, bad, wolf-totem who threatens to destroy all life down to the molecule. Games, fun, laughter, play; all fade out too quickly, replaced by ├╝bercool descriptions of dragons, blue bolts of light, awesome incantations and oodles of really gross, bloody conflicts and shining swords. And I don't mean we need to drag the pace of our stories down with descriptions of the small. Quite the opposite, actually. I think we need to find ways to incorporate them into the story entire. I don't want to even consider what a tonal mess LOTR would have been if the professor had left out the hobbits. While it is true we leave the light stuff, as it were, behind in the Shire, the hobbits carry it with them through the entire quest. Even at his darkest moment, it is Sam's love for the recollections of his home in conjunction with his immediate courage that save him from the ring.

As in life, there must be a balance between light and dark. I see no reason why such rules shouldn't hold true for the subcreated world. I think we owe it to our characters and the places they inhabit to let them be as alive as possible. It's okay to weave a little fun into the mayhem. Laughter exists, even in war. I intend to use cats and mudpies as soon as possible.

How do you feel about play? In life. In fiction. In all things.

Mark Nelson

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Not-So-Nice Girl

I have recently and once again picked up my edits for Beyond The Gate (releasing in August 2013 by Hadley Rille Books.) I already had edits to work from, but just as I was about to begin, someone I asked last May to read for me stepped up to offer her eyes and I jumped at it. When it comes to this particular story, just trust me--it's a good thing to have one more pair of eyes.

My reader said the same thing my editor said, which was the same thing past readers have alluded to: (paraphrasing here) "Jinna* isn't a very good friend. You draw her as if she is, she presents as if she is, but then she does things a good friend wouldn't do."

(*Jinna is a secondary, yet major character.)

Well, there's a good reason for that--Jinna isn't very nice. She's jealous and petty and vindictive and selfish. Her best friend, Linhare, is exactly the opposite; and when Jinna is less than noble, Linhare makes excuses for her. She always sees the good in her. Linhare tends to see the good in everyone.

To make it simple: Linhare is Melanie Wilkes, Jinna is Scarlet O'Hara. And like Melanie and Scarlet, when it comes down to the very, very quick, they are there for one another. Melanie might be MORE there, but that's just who she is. Melanie/Linhare are givers; Scarlet/Jinna are takers.

Why did all my readers say the same thing about Jinna? Because I didn't do my job. I didn't commit to her being a not-so-nice girl. When I got the note: Jinna isn't very likeable, I tried to add something to make her more so. Instead of cementing her character, I confused it even more. As I go through the manuscript, she seems to have a split personality. I'm committed now, and I SEE clearly. Don't expect nice things of Jinna.

I don't want to make Jinna a nice girl. I don't want to redeem her. A big theme in Beyond the Gate is accepting who we are, what we are, and being ok with it. Would Jinna throw Linhare to the wolves? Nope. I said she's jealous, petty, vindictive and selfish; I didn't say she is evil. She loves Linhare, a noble emotion! But you can be sure if Jinna does something noble, there's something in it for her.

She has redeeming qualities, and I will work with those; But Jinna is Jinna is Jinna, and I love her the way she is in my head. Now it's time to get her right on the page.

What do you think of not-so-nice characters? Do you love to hate them? Hate to love them? Do they make for a more interesting read, or is trying to figure out why anyone would even like them in the first place distracting?

Terri-Lynne DeFino