Fifteen days to go. #curseofkerevesdere

Oh, the places you’ll go… when you start trying to produce large eBooks.

There are fifteen days to go until the book launch. It’s not too late to let us know that you’re coming to the launch!

What have I learned about eBook production? I’ve learned that superscripts such as the ‘th’ in 18th transform differently depending upon which eBook format you target. MOBI seems to be produced without any trouble but the baseline gets messed up in EPUB and it’s a manual (not entertaining) task to manually edit the EPUB in Sigil to replace the rather bizarre span information with simple ‘sup’ tags. (Please ignore this paragraph if it makes no sense.)

In other news, I’ve learned that a 15-gun salute is awarded to three star generals and vice admirals. I’ve also learned that if the birthdays of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh happen to be on the same day, then some poor soldiers in the Tower of London have to fire a combined 124 gun salute. I have no idea if that is going to be useful one day but it’s too late, I already know it.

If you’re ever in London on a Saturday that is the 10th of June and also the official Queen’s birthday, wear earplugs.

If you liked the short stories, you’ll love the book!

(If you liked the short stories, please consider leaving a positive review as there are numerical thresholds to pass before ratings will be displayed. Thank you!)


Novel is now in production! #curseofkerevesdere

“The Curse of Kereves Dere” has now left the editing phase and I’ve finished my final pass. Kerrie, my awesome editor, has made many great suggestions and rewordifications (may not be a word). Thank you!

Over the next couple of days, I’ll set it up for distribution through iBooks, Smashwords and Amazon.

That sound you hear is both anticipation and mild terror! Onwards!

Sixteen days to launch!

(Free image from Pixabay.)

Evolution of a physical artefact

One of the issues with an eBook is that there’s nothing to hand over at a book launch. People like physical things, even if they are big fans of the digital format. As you know, I’m a printmaker, and I decided that I could create something fun that would be a proxy for the book.

QR codes are those two dimensional black and white blocky things you see all over posters, bus-stops, and movie advertisements. (The QR stands for Quick Response, if you’re curious.) You can take information and put it into the QR code, then someone can scan it with a phone that understands the codes and see your message.

This one says “Thine Antique Pen”, for example.

QR codes can also store URLs, the addresses that we use to locate things on the web. Of course, my eBooks will have URLs, one for the Apple store and one for Smashwords. This got me thinking; I could create a QR code that would take people to my book and I could print it out in a way that would allow me to sign and distribute them, just as you would for a first edition at a book launch.

Here’s my test run. I made up a shortening link and I turned it into a QR code (there are many sites that will do this for you), leaving a big hole in the middle for me to be able to sign or personalise any of the prints that I see. QR codes can be set up to allow them to be very tolerant of missing parts of the puzzle and I wanted a big empty space in the middle to give me the freedom to make a simple print more interesting.

I decided to use a 29×29 grid and worked on lino, working in pencil to create the reversed image (relief printing is going to flip it!) and then cutting it out. Finally, I decided to print it at home using only hand pressure, Japanese paper and Gamblin black relief ink (one of my favourite inks). As a test, if the image can be scanned with the innate variability of my hand printing technique, then it will work really well when it goes into a lino press.

Here’s an animation of the process, a collection of photos that take you through the process to the end.

This makes it look a lot easier than it was but it was still huge fun. I worked on this at Union Street Print Studios in Stepney, as well. Want to get into printing? Get in touch with Union Street and the amazing Simone.

It takes about eight hours from start to finish to do this. I like to work slowly and take breaks to avoid over-cutting and I spend a lot of time at the start to make sure that what I have sketched is actually the correct image and is correctly flipped.

Here’s the final print, in all of its shaky glory. But it does scan and that means that, when I finally get the real URLs for my book, they should scan as well. And now I know that people at my book launch will have something that they can take away, if they want to buy something physical as well as digital.

Notice the beautiful “hand made” details. That’s artisanal impact, that is. Feel the quality.


Plans and schemes

Now I have my Australian Business Number, this whole project has moved from “cautious progress” to “go go go”. I want to test the production systems, without making a total mess of the novel, and I will be releasing a set of five short stories in the lead-up to the novel release.

For those of you who haven’t read any of my writing, this is a set of stories that touch on fantasy, science-fiction and, above all, the people (and others) in those situations.

Here’s the working cover art for the first version of “Five Stories”, revealing my ongoing minor obsession with London Underground. It will retail for 0.99 US and I hope that it will be available in the next couple of weeks. (Actual art may vary but this is the overall look and feel.)

Fingers crossed for a successful test of all of the production systems! If you read it, I hope that you enjoy it.


Quick progress update

My amazing editor has given me some really useful things to think about. I’m happy to say that she did what I’d hoped for by identifying the places that I knew were weak but thought I’d got away with, and giving me some more things to think about. But it’s not major and the overall feedback is very positive.

I’m rewriting a little bit, then we go back into deep copy edit. But we are still on track for the launch!

The tax office have also provided me with the ability to run this as a business, in that my ABN has come through. I’ve never been so happy to see an 11 digit number…


Lovecraft’s racism: doubly ridiculous #curseofkerevesdere

When you write anything that touches on the Lovecraft Mythos (Cthulhu being among the most famous members), you are working with a large, collaborative work that has its basis in the mind of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Sadly, once you dig around in the that mind, you quickly run across his racist beliefs, which many have written of before. We think differently now about both casual and calculated racism, no matter how influential the author. Evidence of this is in the recent (and good) news that Lovecraft’s image is no longer a trophy that non-white people may hesitate to receive after winning one of the most prestigious writing awards for fantasy.

“A statuette of this racist man’s head is in my home. A statuette of this racist man’s head is one of my greatest honours as a writer.”

World Fantasy award winner Nnedi Okorafor, 2011.

No-one should have to receive a portrait or image of someone who despised or belittled them or their people at what should be a high point of their lives. We should not rely upon the oppressed and downtrodden to take time to carefully and delicately explain to us why we are doing something wrong, when even a modicum of thought says that some things of the past must be left in the past, if we are to find a better future. Learn and grow. Improve and be better, together.

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This is how many people voted to keep the Lovecraft bust Fantasy award as it was on a poll. The request to change it garnered 2,668 votes. That’s a pretty clear desire for change. (I note that the change request was to make it Octavia Butler but I believe the final decision was to avoid making it a person.)

Racism is stupid. Race, as many understand it, doesn’t even exist in a measurable way and the dividing of humanity based purely on appearance is nonsensical. But Lovecraft wrote of giant monsters, unspeakable ancient gods, that were utterly indifferent to the humans that they terrorised and crushed. He set a frame where all of humanity could be seen in the role of victim, a natural container for unity rather than division, and then he placed stereotype representation and paranoia in the mix, focused on a subset of the humans. He used structures and terms that could not have been much more offensive in their construction. As Moore notes, Lovecraft’s fears of the erosion of his own position may have been the basis of much of the horror he would have found in his work. The brute, the other, the thing that isn’t white… all of these are the horrors that, in his mind, would overtake his world.

But how small a view to take through any lens. You are scared of the dark and thus you must blame … that man over there, because he looks a little different. How puerile.

My opinion is that Lovecraft, privately and publicly racist, missed the point of his own work. The monsters he conjured up do not need a stereotypical African-American or a villainous Asian figure to ground their terror. Corruption happens to people, not to all members of a loosely defined racial group. If anything, the sheer scale of what was projected as our enemy was so vast that all earthly issues faded into nothingness. Why would you care what the skin colour was of the person fighting beside you, if you were fighting together?

The same monsters I have employed in the narrative engine of my own work, inherited from Lovecraft and his collaborators and Chamber’s progenitive “King in Yellow”, are terrible and deeply inhuman. Set against the rise of the Nazis, I did not feel that I could meddle too deeply with known history because, sadly, we know that it took the emergence of the full fascist Nazi state and their march across Europe to galvanise opposition. But monsters, rising in the shadow of the Great War? They could unite and provide an opponent that any sane human being should oppose. Note the italics.

Ah, I mentioned the King in Yellow. And thus he comes…

Thus, I have taken the path of reducing certain references in my work, despite knowing the terms that would have been used in a derogatory fashion. This is deliberate. There are early drafts with 1930s language, giving the villains the ability to appear more villainous. But I thought more on this, in the context of Lovecraft, and decided to remove them. There are references to corrupted humans in my work but I have tried to frame these as individuals who are following a path into darkness and, after their involvement with dark forces, have become something that is not human. It takes an anti-human mindset to unite with such innately destructive forces.

No, this is not realistic. But neither are giant monsters threatening London and the world, even if they are largely composed of allegory. If we can suspend disbelief for magic and Byakhees, then we can tolerate people being a bit less offensive and small-minded unless it is crucial to the plot. And, for this work, I didn’t feel that it was necessary. As noted in the Moore references above, sometimes a story revolves around the racism to frame the reaction of characters. This is, I believe, not such a work.

In summary, I do not condone or even really understand Lovecraft’s racism, given the frame in which he stated it. He put humans into a nigh-unwinnable war with an uncaring Universe and yet still focused on such petty quibbles as what someone looks like or the shape of their lips?

That’s farcically bathetic.

When we put it simply, we seem to all agree that we are one people and, in the face of a terrible enemy, we should face it together. I am always surprised that Lovecraft could construct such a terrible enemy and miss such an obvious point.


Supporting #indiepub #selfpub

I’ve had a number of people ask what they can do to support what I’m doing.

I immediately answer “buy about a million copies” but I think I know what they’re asking. I assume that a number of them will buy (and I hope read) the book but I suspect they’re asking what I expect of them and if I want them to do anything other than read it.

Let’s get expectations out of the way. I don’t expect anyone to buy the book just to do me a favour. I’d love it if people bought it because they’d like to read it but I’m not going to break into people’s iPads or Kindles to see if they have a copy. One of the great things about an eBook is that it can never physically be on a shelf. All your friends may have bought it or none may have and you’d never know by looking!

I also don’t expect people who do read it to do anything other than read it. If they like it and want to tell other people, that’s great but it’s not expected. If people want to write reviews then, whether they’re good or bad, that’s their choice. An honest review is an honest review. You can’t publish and not leave yourself open to that.

I won’t be putting up any reviews of my own. I don’t have the time or the inclination to set up enough sock-puppets and my usernames are predictably dull: velourfuture and nickfalkner.

What do I want? All I want from the people who wish to support me is for them to raise a toast with me when we launch the book and then whatever happens, happens.

Toast may vary by location, age, and inclination of user. May still involve yeast. Warning: this kind of toast is not a liquid. Do not drink this toast.

This is not going to make me rich or famous but it will make me happy. People who support me in this are wonderful and there’s nothing else needed.

Onwards to the launch!