Category Archives: For Authors
When I finally received my copies of The Dragons of Sheol yesterday, it seems like the long process of writing this book has come to an end and I can concentrate on the next one, Coventry 2091.
As a novelist who is trying to build his reputation, I realize many readers take a chance to spend their time and money reading one of my books because they have come to know me personally and so have become interested in what I write. Indeed, as a writer, one pours so much of oneself into one’s book you can probably get to know how I think and look at life much more clearly through my writing than simply by speaking with me.
When I first started out, personal sales, including sales where I mailed my books to readers was a big part of getting the word out. In those early days, I could mail my books to readers in Canada for $7-$8 postage (from a mailing perspective, unfortunately none of my books except Questioning Your Way to Faith is small enough to be sent as a letter-sized package). Now, there are so many surcharges that even with a small business discount, it can cost me $17.50 to mail one book to a small town in Ontario (I could drive it there for that). There is no point in giving my readers a $6-$10 discount when they buy a trade paperback from me if the postage costs $17.50. If you buy from Amazon®, you can often get free shipping if you are willing to aggregate orders. For Chapter/Indigo® one can avoid shipping cost all together if one is will to drive to the nearest store for pickup.
So where does that leave me? I had discussed this change in the dynamics Indie book publishing in a previous post. For me it means personal sales that avoid postage charges are very important. I always carry a few carefully bubble-wrapped copies of my books in a satchel in my van. If people express an interest in my writing when they meet me, I can let them buy a book from me directly and avoid the postage charges. So if you see me, and want one of my books at a discount, be sure to ask.
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I had written previously about the essential difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction [Link]. An illustration of this is provided in how I deal with dragons in THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL when compared with other occurrences in literature, for example in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not regard Tolkien’s silence on the question of “How can a large animal fly?” or “How can a dragon breathe fire without burning itself up?” as a defect. Not at all. Indeed, I regard The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy among my favorite books of all time and would not like to change a thing.
I merely wish to point out the difference in approach that the two genres take when designing the fabric of the story. As a genre, Science Fiction, often takes great pains to think about the physical laws involved, while for Fantasy these considerations are usually set aside.
So What’s the Problem?
Many years ago, I listened to a captivating lecture by Professor Octave Levenspiel. His lecture has been published . He applied many engineering principles to animals reconstructed from the fossil record and argued that these animals existed and were able to function because the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 Bar (a little more than 3-5 atmospheres).
Of relevance to The Dragons of Sheol was the data captured in his Figure 7:
The above figure is a log-log plot of mass (kg) against cruising speed (m/s). Since the lift (force holding the flyer up) is proportional to the square of the velocity and the first power of the wing area, one quickly runs into a limitation for birds. At our air pressure one of the highest wing loading (force/unit wing area) occurs for Canada geese. Indeed birds reconstructed from fossils (quetzalcoatlus and pteranodon) were much larger and were well above the one-atmosphere line.
However lift is also proportional to air density. According to Professor Levenspiel, very large flying creatures, that is muscle-powered flyers weighing more than 14.5 kg, could only have flown if the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 atmospheres. Even in fiction, if I want to have dragons flying, I have to imagine a setting that is plausible. In my thinking this led to the continent of Abaddon.
Abaddon Below Sea Level
The sketch below shows the altitude of Abaddon on a much-contracted horizontal scale. The Abaddon Plain is about ten kilometers below sea level while Sheol is about sixteen kilometers below sea level. For comparison, Mount Everest is 8848 meters above sea level. If sliced from the summit all the way to sea level, it would still be lower than the rim wall around the Abaddon Plain. Still, since Abaddon is a continent-sized plain, the ten kilometer rim wall on the scale of thousands of kilometers of plain, make the rim wall quickly disappear over the horizon.
Rough calculations on the pressure (assuming temperature is approximately the same as at sea level) would make the pressure approximately three atmospheres and six atmospheres respectively for the plain versus Sheol. Given the higher air density, much larger animals could fly at these pressures using muscle-powered locomotion, but it brought up the interesting idea: if the larger dragons grew so large they could only fly in the lower reaches of Sheol, then only the smaller ones could reach the higher terraces.
The Terraces on the Edge of Sheol
So how does one drop from the Abaddon Plain to Sheol? One huge drop? A steep slope? How about steps? Using steps has some interesting possibilities as shown in the figure below.
Depending on the geometry, line-of-sight would block vision of all but the immediate terrace below the escarpment edge. This fact, coupled with the danger of dragons rising from the depths would make the terraces an ideal place to hide. This plays a significant role in the story.
Want to Check Out Peter’s Books?
Read The Halcyon Dislocation for free at the Mississauga Library … if your library doesn’t have it, you can have your library request the e-book from Overdrive or the trade paperback from Amazon or Indigo.
Why not check out Peter’s author page on Amazon?
As a writer I’m always looking for inspiration. I want my readers to “see” the scenes they are reading about and so I want to experience and even do my writing in places that help me describe beautiful locales. Furthermore, beautiful natural settings seem to inspire my imagination.
One place that helps me in this way is our cottage on the Rideau Canal System in Eastern Ontario. I have found that my kayaking adventure off British Columbia’s Maurelle Island is another place that has inspired my imagination.
I had opportunity with family to spend five glorious days with Go With The Flow near the Surge Narrows islands.
We were a family group of four and were joined by another couple who began as strangers but rapidly became good friends. We had an absolutely wonderful, breath-taking time! The temperature on the ocean was perfect for summer. The kayaking instruction was helpful. The scenery was spectacular. We were able to see abundant marine life and our guides were very knowledgeable and provided interesting details about the plants and animals we were observing.
Although I have kayaked on lakes a few times, the kayaking instruction I received significantly improved my stroke and my endurance and confidence improved markedly.
The food was superb. It was well-presented and delicious. I so appreciated the early morning coffee enjoyed on the Cabana overlooking our bay, the Surge Narrows islands and Quadra Island.
With respect to my writing, I now have pictures embedded in my memory of tidal flats, rain forests, fern-filled glades, and brooks bubbling over moss-covered rocks or meandering through flower-filled meadows.
What a contrast to the lake country I love—the tang of ocean spray, seals, sea urchins, crabs, and cool air even in the midst of summer. And almost no mosquitoes!
If, as a writer, you’re thinking of checking this out, you need to be aware of two things:
1. The days focus on kayaking. Your writing time (if you choose) will be in the late afternoon and evening.
2. The base camp, on a picturesque, secluded bay, is off-grid. For my part, I took six chapters of my latest manuscript for reading out loud and editing. You can charge your laptop, but there is no internet.
For my part, I have pictures in my mind’s eye and photographs that I think will enhance my writing for years to come.
If you’re interested in what Peter is writing, follow this link for his author page.
The Halcyon Dislocation is no exception. One of the prominent “What If” questions I asked as an author: “What if time were quantized and parallel worlds could exist side by side in these overlapping time intervals?” Here is how it was described in the book when one of the physics graduate students tries to explain how the island university of Halcyon was moved to a new world.
Tired and hungry, Dave and Glenn returned to their room and turned on the TV to see if broadcasting had resumed. To their surprise Jennifer McCowan, the blonde talk show host of Halcyon Music, was on the air.
“Even without social media,” said McCowan in her gentle, lilting voice, “I know that everyone is asking ‘where are we?’ and ‘what’s happened to us?’ To answer those questions I’ve asked a friend of mine to the studio. Please welcome Vlad Sowetsky.”
Canned applause welcomed Vlad.
“So, Vlad,” said McCowan, “please tell our viewers what you do.”
Vlad, a tall, big boned youth in his mid-twenties, had a long, narrow face and close-set eyes, so that the overall impression vaguely reminded one of a horse. He had shoulder length hair and stubble on his face.
“To cut to the chase, I’m a graduate student with Professor Hoffstetter, and I was in the control room when the dislocation occurred.”
“So what actually happened during the accident yesterday?”
“Well,” said Vlad, “we were running the largest test on the force field to date. The plan was to—”
“Whoa,” said McCowan, “I think you are going much too fast. Tell the audience how the Hoffstetter force field works, but no jargon, please!”
Vlad screwed up his face as if he were being asked the impossible. “The force field appears as a bubble about the size of a soccer ball when we first generate it. The time inside the bubble is slightly behind our time. When we first make the bubble, the time delay—or offset—is very, very small so that the field is thin. That is to say, anything can cross it. We expand the bubble to the desired size and then thicken it. By ‘thicken’ I mean that we increase the time offset so the field begins to have an effect. First it stops large objects. If we increase the time offset even more, we could theoretically stop air molecules or light from crossing the force field boundary.”
“Field boundary,” said McCowan. “Now you’re lapsing into jargon again and losing me.”
“By field boundary I mean the edge of the force field bubble. Shooting a missile through this barrier is, as Hoffstetter would say, ‘like trying to shoot into last week.’” Vlad was beginning to get exasperated.
“Okay,” said McCowan, “please go on. Even if I don’t understand all of the physics, I’m sure there are many listeners who will.”
“Well, we had intended to expand the force field so that it enclosed the central building in the experimental area. However, while we were expanding the bubble, the first lightning strike overloaded the equipment and the expansion continued unabated.”
This was followed by a momentary pause and a baffled look on McCowan’s face. “How big did the bubble get?” she finally asked.
“I think it expanded to a sphere about four miles in diameter,” said Vlad.
“Then a second series of lightning strikes overloaded the offset controls, and the time offset increased enormously,” said Vlad. Beads of perspiration had appeared on his forehead.
McCowan uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “Tell the audience what you think happened next,” she prompted.
Vlad took a deep breath. “I only have a half-baked theory. Do you know about quantization of energy?”
“Vaguely,” said McCowan, a blank look on her face.
“Let me see if I can make it as simple as possible. Macroscopically, that is, in the world of meter lengths and kilogram masses, energy seems to be continuous. It flows like a stream or a river. So if I ask how much energy it takes to lift this book,” he lifted a book from the table, “you can calculate the energy in joules to as many decimal places as you like. I can lift the book to any height and calculate the lift energy for each height. But when you go down in size, ten orders of magnitude to angstroms, the world changes. When lifting electrons away from the atomic nucleus, all the rules change, and one can only ‘lift’ the electron to discrete ‘heights,’ or energy levels. It’s like being able to lift this book in little jumps.” He demonstrated by rapidly lifting and stopping the book at various heights.
“Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. You’re bringing back unpleasant memories of first year chemistry. But what has that got to do with the Hoffstetter field generators and the accident?”
“Everything!” said Vlad. “I think time is also quantized.”
“You’ve lost me again. How can time be quantized?” asked McCowan. “And if it is, what difference does it make?”
“Well, think about it in relation to the quantization of energy that you learned about in first year chemistry. We think of time flowing past us like a stream moving at a constant rate. That may appear true in our macroscopic world, but what happens if, at very short time intervals, one reaches a minimum time (I call it a mintival for minimum time interval)? What if our existence at the time interval of a mintival consists of little jumps, like a jump second hand rather than a sweep second hand? Or putting it another way, what if instead of a flowing stream, time consisted of a series of pools,” and here he paused to let his words sink in, “and our existence is a discontinuous series of jumps from one pool to the next?”
“Your theory is fascinating, Vlad, but what has that got to do with the Hoffstetter field generators?”
“I just told you that the Hoffstetter field generators cause the matter inside the field to lag normal time by a very small amount, say ten to the minus thirty-second of a second—that’s a decimal point with thirty-one zeros after and then a one. Now let’s suppose…” Sowetsky turned and kneeled on the sofa and drew three contiguous rectangles on a white board behind his seat “…that these three rectangles represent three sequential mintivals in our world, or universe, if you like. Another world can coexist with ours, as long as the mintivals of that world are offset from those of our time.” He drew three more rectangles adjacent but offset to the first three, like bricks on the side of a building. “It would be like a single reel of film containing two movies, with the odd numbered frames representing our world and the even numbered frames representing another world. If two protectors played this interlaced film with one displaying the odd numbered frames and the other the even numbered frames, one film could give rise to two motion pictures. Similarly, although two solid objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, they can occupy that space at different times, so to speak.”
“Keep going,” ventured McCowan doubtfully. “I hope our viewers are following you through all this.”
“Well, normally, when the Hoffstetter field generators shut down, they collapse back to the nearest quantized mintival. When the field generators overloaded, I believe we kicked over into the trailing mintival—hence the new world!”
“Well, I’ll be!” said McCowan, genuinely shocked. “Can we get back?”
“I don’t know,” said Sowetsky, frowning. “We only know how to make the Hoffstetter field lag time, not precede time. If we tried it again, we might jump into yet another world that lags this one!”
“You can’t be serious!” said McCowan.
“I’m deadly serious,” said Sowetsky evenly.
“We’re never going to get back, are we?” asked McCowan, her voice fading to a whisper as tears began to fill her eyes. She turned away from the camera for a moment. “I have one final question, Vlad,” she said, regaining her composure with obvious effort. “Did you tell Professor Hoffstetter about this possibility?”
“Of course! I told him not once but several times!” said Sowetsky. “That’s what burns me up so much.”
“What did he say when you told him?”
“At first he told me ‘science requires us to take risks,’ and finally he told me to stop raising the matter.”
Back in the dorm room there was brooding silence as the interview on the television drew to a close. Glenn suddenly got up and threw a magazine as hard as he could against the wall, cursed, and stomped out of the room. Within minutes, Dave heard the sound of an ominous rumble, like the growl of a giant beast being roused from a troubled slumber. He went out into the hall to investigate. Students were everywhere. Approaching the common room, he felt the air electric with tension. The fear and anger that had been building over the last two days was growing, and students were gathered in groups. Most had seen the television show, and they were loudly blaming Hoffstetter for their predicament.
I recently received a question from an interested customer who wanted to buy The Halcyon Dislocation as a Christmas gift, a question guaranteed to warm the heart of any author. When she checked on my Amazon author site, she saw the Kindle edition of The Halcyon Dislocation for $3.99, but at that time the only printed copy she saw was listed for $92.48 USD (I think the vendor promised shipping for only $3.99). Her question to me was “What gives here? Why is a $3.99 Kindle book listing for $92.48?” Great question. My books lists for $24.99 CAD (since I’m a Canadian author and the book is printed in Canada). I didn’t take a screen capture at the time, but here’s one from today:
The Paperback price is somewhat lower today than before Christmas, but still almost four times the list price. What’s going on and how does one get at least the list price (vendors like Amazon sometimes have sales prices which are much better than the list).
If one clicks on the Kindle edition then …
Only now do you see the much more reasonable list price of $24.99. So where did these $80-$90 prices come from? I contacted my publisher, Word Alive Press and their representative did not know. The simple answer appears to be that there are vendors who can list at any price they choose and somehow their offerings can appear very high up in the on-line listing. When I discussed this on my author site on Goodreads, I was contacted by another author who speculated that for relatively rare books (I didn’t think of The Halcyon Dislocation as a rare book), there are vendors who attempt to sell books at inflated prices and if they get a hit they simply buy a copy at the list price and take home a tidy profit with no inventory. In the case of my author colleague, his textbook which lists for $79.95 was offered for $450. His theory may be correct. if one clicks on the expensive version and then on the box “see all buying options” :
Then one can pull up a list of vendors that offer to sell The Halcyon Dislocation listed in order of decreasing price:
As an author who is trying to make a name for himself, I wish I could offer a 326 page trade paperback like The Halcyon Dislocation for much less than $24.99 (as I do with the Kindle edition at $3.99) however with Print-On-Demand costs that is not really feasible. However, to me, charging $80 or $90 dollars for a book that with one click would let the reader buy it for $25 is predatory, and takes advantage of a customer’s inexperience with internet sales.
My novel The Halcyon Dislocation was featured on December 19th on Kay MacLeod’s Indie Advent Calendar. Why not check it out?
It starts today. Why not check it out?
I’m grateful to Speculative Faith Library for recently adding The Halcyon Dislocation and The Battle for Halcyon to their listings. This library also has a number of other books and book series that I have read, enjoyed, and recommend to my Science Fiction and Fantasy readers. If you’re looking for some Science Fiction or Fantasy that has a faith component why not check out Kathy Tyers’ Firebird Trilogy or Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings series.
I would love to hear from you. Why not use the contact form below?
Why Look at Independent Authors?
The world of books (and e-books) is changing. Traditional publishers with their teams of editors, their distribution networks, and advertising power are consolidating. Many smaller book stores are closing as readers shift to mega-stores and the internet. From my perspective, traditional publishers are focusing more and more on blockbusters to shore up their bottom line. This means that well-known authors and people with a platform (e.g. sports stars, celebrities, and pastors of mega-churches) have an edge. Increasingly, it is difficult for established publishing businesses to take a chance on a new author with an unproven track record.
Along side this trend, advances in on-demand publishing, easy internet and social media access, and the ready availability of contract editing expertise has led to the explosive rise of the independent publishing movement. More and more in my own reading, I find myself ignoring the best-sellers list and looking for the works of outstanding independent authors. There are many advantages to this:
- There are increasing numbers of high quality books available as professional editing becomes accepted as a key to producing a high quality book among indie authors.
- The numbers of indie books is enormous. You will find a huge selection in your favourite genre.
- Independent authors have true freedom to write what is on their hearts, unencumbered by the constraints of political correctness, or the biases of the mainstream media. I often wonder to what degree the philosophy, brand, and convictions of the owners of traditional publishing houses impact their product. Once they buy the rights to a book, they can (if they choose) influence it to a remarkable degree. To get away from that possibility, you have to look at the independents for whom the freedom to write what they like is paramount.
- It’s usually easy to get to know and chat with indie authors. They are generally delighted to talk to someone who has enjoyed their book and their following is often small enough that they have the time to engage in dialogue.
- Although the cost of hard copy books (hard cover, trade paperback, or paperback) are generally more expensive for independent works than for mass produced paperbacks by the traditional publishing houses (because of the higher cost of short print runs), e-books are not. Often e-books are available for much less from indie authors who are eager to get a foot in the door and expose as many readers as possible to their creation.
Although independent authors have many things going for them, they also have many challenges:
- It’s hard to become known. Most newspapers and best sellers lists focus on authors publicized by traditional publishers.
- Most awards are restricted to traditional publishers. It’s very hard for an independent author to get a prestigious award.
- There is a view that has been promulgated that self-published works are of poor quality because had it been good, it would have been picked up by a traditional publisher. In my experience this is false. Undoubtedly there are some poor books in the independent realm, but there is also a lot of poor and (to my mind) distasteful products in the traditional arena—works that make me question what I was thinking when I bought the books (check my one and two star ratings on Goodreads if you want details on my evaluation).
- It’s very hard for an independent author to get a review in a major newspaper. Again they tend to focus on their long-established links with traditional publishers.
So How Can I Help an Independent Author?
- Make reading independent authors a regular part of your reading diet. Use the internet to find books that interest you. Follow reading sites such as Goodreads.com and identify books from their huge database that are interesting to you.
- When you find a good book by an independent author, write them a review. As an author, I think I have to write a well-thought out, detailed review, and so I write very few of them. As I write this, I think I’m changing my mind. Certainly the long review is best, but perhaps a quick one or two line review is also good—better than saying nothing. Authors often don’t like to ask for reviews (even though they wished they received from people who laud their books) because asking defeats the purpose of an independent review.
- Help independent authors with social media: “like” their Facebook pages, retweet their book announcements, let your friends know when you like a book.
- Give an indie book that you like as a gift to someone else.
- Take the time to add an indie book that you like to a genre lists such as those found on Goodreads. Even two or three votes identifying a work as a valued book in a genre can make a big difference.
I belong to a couple of indie authors groups on Goodreads. In reading their comments, I think many feel like the green heron sitting alone in the marsh in the cover photograph. One often receives excellent feedback from readers on one’s writing, but one misses the little things such as reviews, posted ratings, and genre listings that can go a long way to helping a good creation become recognized. Let me know what you think. If you’d like to see what Peter is writing …
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The traditional publishing industry continues to be under pressure. In November HarperCollins Canada indicated they were closing their warehouse in Toronto and 120 positions would be lost. Simon & Schuster Canada also indicated that two of their top people were being let go. Given the erosion of people and resources in traditional publishing how is a neophyte author to respond?
M. C. A. Hogarth in a recent blog pointed out one of the difficulties confronting new authors trying to break into the publishing field using traditional publishers is the disparity between the number of excellent manuscripts and the number of publishing slots available to a publisher.
Hogarth’s post was summarized neatly by Z. Rider on Goodreads:
Let’s be harsh and say that of those 10,000 [manuscripts], only 10% are worth publishing. That’s 1000 books, and you [the publisher] only have 45 slots. How on earth do you choose? Out of self-preservation, you decide only to receive manuscripts from agents, figuring they’ll comb through the top 10%. They do, and they present you with 100. You still only have 45 slots. Now how do you choose?… At the end of the day, there were 1000 books worth publishing, and 45 got through the door.
As the traditional publishing industry continues to be pressured into cost-cutting, editors have less and less incentive to take a chance on new authors. Furthermore, increasingly the available information dictates that many excellent manuscripts will be missed simply because of the sheer numbers of manuscripts that need to be read to find the gems.
I love the science in Science Fiction, but I feel much more at home in the moral landscape of Fantasy, so I write Science Fiction that has the feel of Fantasy. I wanted to check out a well-known SF/Fantasy publishing house to see how many titles they brought out in 2014. A search on Amazon indicated they published 122 new novels in 2014 (the latest offering was mid December). This number is quite consistent with Hogarth’s estimate of 100. Given the bias towards established authors, Hogarth’s estimate of 45 available slots for new authors is quite reasonable. It means a new author has almost no chance no matter how good his material might be.
I think Hogarth’s point is an excellent one and leads to a number of conclusions:
- Writing an excellent Fantasy or Science Fiction book is no guarantee that an SF/Fantasy publisher will even consider, much less read your manuscript.
- As the pressure on traditional publishers mounts, the situation will only get worse.
- The neophyte author can write query letters and never even have the manuscript evaluated because of the numbers in play.
- If you’re committed to being published by a traditional publisher, all of the time taken away from writing the next novel will only pay off if you eventually land a contract.
Thanks for reading. Have you had an experience with either Micro-Publishing, Self-Publishing, or Traditional Publishing that you’d like to share?
Peter Kazmaier is author of The Halcyon Dislocation, a colonization epic about a university transported to a parallel world.