Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Update and a Bowing to the Ancestors

 Greetings all!

Book is currently in the final processes of revision. Have some good friends reading and pointing out all the minor spelling-and-formatting problems, of which there are a fair amount. I've been reading about the tendency of self-published books to contain spelling errors and bad formatting, and want to make 'Tamrel' as flawless as possible. It's not just anal retentiveness - I understand completely how a bad typo can jettison you out of a book. When I was younger I read a huge chunk of the Dragonlance canon (no shame, Raistlin and Caramon were very formative characters for me). When Wizards of the Coast bought out TSR, suddenly all the new books were riddled with errors, at least a typo every five pages; this, combined with the fact that the world was becoming less and less interesting, led me out of my delightful crap-fantasy rut on to other frontiers. Hopefully the final version of Tamrel will be free of any error save what you think of the story, which is entirely up to you. I've done my best.

In short: if you're self-publishing be sure things are spelled right and arranged without formatting disruption. Trust me, your readers will appreciate it. To give you an idea of the errors you can expect there's a whole half-page sentence jump in my proof copy, some italics that got un-italicised, other breaks and jumps in the middle of sentences, and (taking the physical copy into consideration) pages printed too close to the spine for easy readability.

Over the last three years I've been delving into the unjustifiably dusty corners of genre fiction, and have found wealth beyond imagining. When I was younger I found it difficult, as many people do, to break through the lowest-common-denominator crust of art (though thankfully I did find Madeleine L'Engle and Ursula K. LeGuin, two very formative presences in my early psyche). Three years ago I started reading H.P. Lovecraft, and was completely devoured by The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. More exploration followed: Theodore Sturgeon with all his lovely twists and vagaries, Michael Moorcock the Indefatigable, whose multi-dimensional breadth continues to be a dazzling inspiration, the non-Dune work of Frank Herbert, which is vivid and often feverish, raw and achingly loving. There's a whole slew of folk I know theoretically, but not practically: I've been collecting books by Dunsany and Eddison and George MacDonald. Only two weeks ago I stumbled across the existence of James Branch Cabell, and am currently reading his 1929 novel Figures of Earth. Philip K. Dick rests on the bookshelf, beckoning and cackling with maniacal revelation. I have long worshiped at the altar of Tolkien, but feel that his particular expression of the fantastic became a little too iron-clad amongst his many followers and venerants. Delving into the pre-Tolkien vein, getting back to the seminal visions of the great lost fantasists has been a overwhelming experience, and I find my mind getting blown and expanded on a daily basis. For anyone out there who loves fantasy/science fiction, go spend some time with the great sages of the craft. They love you, and they have much to teach.

And now to end with a quote, from a letter by John Keats.

"I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.......This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When I Was Born

When I was born I was
That the old gods were dead
That no mystery beat in the molecule
That the medium of space was clotted
           with formaldehyde

And I tried to believe
because their truths seemed singular
though their words were often fearful
and I sacrificed the gods at the cost of God
and sought to sunder the altar
           of my being.

The deaths were many
as were the births -
the placenta eternally sloughing
to yield some rough beast -

Bestial, base, reason's antithesis
is the reason for reason
and the dross is sacred
for it harbors the seed.

My slain gods rose singing
from the altar-stone
and I was cloaked in the blood
of their slaughter -

The primest fruit is rotten.

Hell and High Heaven
nurse their savage war.

Babylon swims in the tide
         of our semen
But the clay is crumbling fast.

Copyright Scott J. Couturier 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Self-Publishing - Why?

When I was coming of age in the 90's I was constantly working at my craft. I wrote and wrote and read and read, all the while wondering exactly how I was supposed to make a living by stringing words together. The prospects were seemingly bleak - gone were the days of pulp magazines, when a 'genre' writer could make a modest half-living publishing short fiction while simultaneously honing their skills. I went to several publishing seminars in my teenage years, came away far more defeated than enlightened. The publishing industry, it seemed, had ossified - the old publishing houses were massive, bloated beasts, far more interested in cultivating their staid stable of authors than taking risks on up-and-coming writers. I found myself with an unquenchable desire to write and no apparent means of even attempting to make a living doing what I loved. So I did what every respectable wannabe writer does: I went to college. Eventually I earned a degree in Creative Writing and English Lit, but found myself no closer to actually publishing anything. In fact, the fruit had begun to wither on the vine, and for the first time since I was five years old I began conceptualizing a future for myself that did not involve writing.

I had many close friends that were aspiring writers. They spent massive amounts of effort learning how to navigate the industry, mastered the means of submission, and collected rejection letters by the score. What came to my ultimate attention was this: when you send out a manuscript it will be rejected. If you are incandescently lucky the rejection will include suggestions of modifications to the story, which, if made, might sway them to consider publishing your work. Then you enter into the indentured servitude of publishing: 5% royalties, little control over packaging and cover art, etc. To have a skill, a passion, a desire in this world that has no seeming outlet has the potentiality of driving you either insane or plunging you into crushing depression. I chose the latter course, but never stopped writing, even as I considered seeking out and finding some kind of respectable career. I couldn't stop. Woven into my genetic stratum is the need to tell stories. I worked on accepting this, even as I surrendered any thought of a book of mine seeing the light of day.

The fresh new millennium came in due course. I began working on the Magistricide in 2005. Kelrob and Jacobson came to me when I was thirteen, and I still have reams of old adventure stories starring the duo. I wanted them to have a true transformative narrative, wanted them to rattle around each other like dice in a cup. The story and worldbuilding went through numerous overarching changes - as I labored things became increasingly clear, and I read many formative works that are certainly not taught in college. I found Theodore Sturgeon, H.P. Lovecraft, and Tom Robbins, among many others. My perspective on what fantasy could achieve expanded beyond the classical post-Tolkienic norm, and I found myself writing in an entirely new and self-expressive mode. And still there seemed no outlet, no conclusion to the process that resulted in people reading my book and actually possibly paying me for it.

Enter self-publishing. It's still a new market, or at least new in its current digital incarnation. I became aware that many aspiring authors were finding ready, hungry readers via the eBook market, and that many of them were actually able to make a living through consistent output and promotion. I began investigating the possibilities, was shocked at what I found: the old, petrified, inflexible standards of the formal publishing industry were fading away, displaced by a new marketplace where absolute self-expression and artistic control were not only possible, but the norm. I started writing with renewed vigor and hope, daring to believe that there was actually a receptive platform for my efforts. The final version of The Mask of Tamrel reflects this newfound vigor: I was once again a creature with purpose, who had (for the first time in my life) a potential marketplace to engage with.

Now, the words have been written, refined, inscribed on tablets of metaphoric steel. I am a writer, have always been a writer, and hope to find a means of making a living doing the one thing I love above all else. Actually completing The Mask of Tamrel and putting it forth is the first step on my refurbished creative path: I have three other books in the wings not including the completing of the Magistricide. How successful the book will be, whether or not I've actually stumbled on a means of making money for performing my inherent function, has yet to be seen: it seems that self-publishing rewards industriousness, and that the author willing to put in the time and energy can actually find financial reward at the end of the long-flickering rainbow. I would strongly urge potential writers to consider self-publishing as not only a valid career path, but as a new paradigm which is quickly subsuming the old modes and restrictions of legacy publishing. eBooks have opened a bold new frontier which is strangely similar to the old pulp publications of the 30's-40's-50's-60's - they make up a sizable bulk of current bestsellers, and allow the author to actually receive the majority of their royalties. As for myself, I am only beginning to tread the path, but the actuality of my book being distributed, read, discussed, and enjoyed overwhelms me. I hope this is the beginning of a lifelong journey, one that I have been preparing for since I first comprehended the meaning of words.