Ten Day Sale: 40% Off Ascension Point in Ebook!

That’s right, folks. To coincide with two promotions I’m running in the next week or so*, I’ve slashed the price of the ebook edition of Ascension Point by 40%. That’s down from $4.99 to $2.99 (or equivalent in other currencies), and I wanted to share the news with you lovely folks.

This is a limited time offer, though; you’ve only got until March 29th to pick up your copy. It’s available from all of the usual retailers–Amazon, Kobo, B&N, iTunes and Smashwords. Purchase links in the bar on the right.

Cheers!

* Ascension Point is ENT’s Book of the Day on March 21st, and a Kboards Featured Book on March 28th. I’ll share the results of those promos, of course, for the interest of my publishing-inclined readers.

Long Arc, Short Arc: Episodic Storytelling

There’s a new fad in sci-fi at the moment, which is actually a very old one: serialisation. The mighty John Scalzi is releasing The Human Division, the latest book in the Old Man’s War series, in episodic format. Each episode of around ten thousand words or thirty pages is being released one-by-one in ebook format for 99c, and there will be a bundled compilation–the whole book in one, basically–once the series is complete.

Reading about this got me thinking about episodic storytelling. It used to be a very common format in literature back in the days when newspapers and magazines were the predominant form of media. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are probably the most famous example; they ran in The Strand magazine from 1891 to 1930, with a brief interruption after Conan Doyle had attempted to kill off his hero, before outraged fans demanded his return.

(If you think fanboy rage was born with the Internet, you’re mistaken.)

But in recent decades it’s obviously television that’s taken up the mantle of episodic storytelling. Phenomenal, wonderful stories have been doled out, week by week, one hour at a time, with the best shows every bit the equal of classic literature. The Sopranos, The Wire and now Breaking Bad; each of them cast a bright, often harsh light on society and the human condition, with vivid characterisation and gripping, often shocking plotlines.

The reason the episodic, serial format interests me is the way in which the writer–to write episodically in a way that’s satisfying and compelling–must mesh two types of story arc.

The first is the macro, the long arcs of both plot and character which carry across an entire season, or series. The ‘big story’ if you like. A novel typically contains just these arcs, to take the reader from the start of the book to the end. The protagonist leaves home, kills the dragon, and learns something about herself along the way, in a nutshell.

The second is the micro, the arc of the story across a single episode. In television this arc can either be well-bounded and easily recognisable, in the case of a procedural series such as CSI or Castle; or more closely entwined with the macro long arc, as in ‘serialized’ shows such as Lost24 and the three aforementioned modern classics. (More on the distinction here.)

The challenge is in their combination. In telling a satisfying story that can stand on it’s own, setup, action and conclusion all wrapped up within the hour, or the thirty pages; but also developing those characters along their personal series arcs, and progressing the broader overarching plot, at the same time. It can’t be easy, and I’ve developed a newfound respect for television writers who pull this off week after week, season after season.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m going to write a series, of course!

For the foreseeable future most of my writing focus will continue to be on my novels–Venus Rising will be out in April, then I’ll start on the draft of the third book which is already outlined, with a fourth to wrap up The Unity Sequence coming after that–but I’m also going to start noodling away at a series. I’m not sure yet if it’ll be episodic literature in the style of Scalzi’s The Human Division, or my first foray into screenwriting, but likely the latter; I think shifting between prose to script will provide some refreshing variety, and I’ve always wanted to give screenwriting a try.

‘But Dan, what’s the point? You’ll never get a TV show optioned. You have to know people and–‘

I’ll cut you off there, my imaginary friend. Because it seems that indie publishing catalyst and retail behemoth Amazon is now in the studio business, too. All pitches welcome. Come one, come all–you don’t need to know anybody, you just need a good enough story. Man, it’s a great time to be a writer.

But what about you, dear reader: are you an enthusiastic consumer of episodes, or do you prefer a single, longer story? Or do you just combine the two and binge-watch an entire season of Homeland on a rainy Sunday?

Venus Rising: To The Editor!

I just sent the MS for Venus Rising to Lynn at Red Adept, and Misti–my editor–will be starting her edit this week. Very exciting. The process took about a month for Ascension Point, from Misti’s first look to the final proofread version, so if things go similarly well we’re looking at an early April release.

I’m a bit more organised for this release than I was the last time; namely, I already have the paperback cover and blurb ready, so I’ll be releasing all versions at the same time rather than over a few weeks. It’s a little more professional, and also gives all of my potential readers their choice of edition right from the off.

Then it’s on to book three! Rinse, repeat.

In The (SFF) News This Week…

A super-nerdy but awesome explanation of the Kardashev scale, which is ‘used to classify hypothetical alien civilizations according to the amount of energy at their disposal’.

‘This led him to speculate about a Type II civilization. For an [extraterrestrial intelligence] to reach K2, it would need to capture the entire energy output of its parent star. The best way to achieve this, of course, is to build a Dyson Sphere.

Conjured by Freeman Dyson in 1959, this hypothetical megastructure would envelope a star at a distance of 1 AU and cover an inconceivably large area of 2.72 x 1017 km2, which is around 600 million times the surface area of the Earth. The sun has an energy output of around 4 x 1026 Watts, of which most would be available to do useful work.’

As anyone who’s read Ascension Point knows, I’ve always been more of a Dyson Swarm kind of guy, but each to their own.

Next up, are you ready for season three of Game of Thrones? I know I am.

We should stop using nuclear weapons as a unit of measurement, says annoyed atomic historian.

“In general,” he added, “What I don’t like is … the idea that kiloton or a megaton is just an energy unit, that it’s equivalent to so many joules or something. Because you could do that. You could claim that your house runs so many tons of TNT worth of electricity per year, but it sort of trivializes the notion.”

Also at The Atlantic, a spectacular NASA video of three simultaneous solar phenomena.

…a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and coronal rain, “complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere,” NASA explains.’

Finally, in Dan-specific news, Venus Rising goes to my editor on March 8th, which means it should be out in just a couple of months!

What’s Going On (Right On, Baby, Right On)

It’s been a little while. What have I been up to? There are a few strands.

Venus Rising is mid-edit. I’ve got feedback from a couple more beta readers coming in the next week or so, and then some edits to make. After that, the MS goes to Misti at Red Adept on March 11th for a good tearing apart and putting back together again. Stephanie is working on the cover, and I hope to have that ready to reveal in the next week or so. Can’t wait.

Meanwhile, I’ve pulled together the outline for the next book. It’s going to be a novella, and the third book in the still-unnamed series. I have a title which I love, but which I’m not quite ready to announce yet; I’ve got three parts, and a brief summary for all of the scenes. I still need to expand the character bios and write those up, and then I’ll be ready to start the first draft.

But before I do that, I’m doing something a little bit random. I’ve realised that it’s got to the point where I can’t quite hold all of the important details of the Ascension Point universe in my head. It’s crucial for the continuity and consistency of the other books in the series (and the trilogy I’ve got planned after that–watch this space) that I keep track of all of the people, places, factions, groups, landmarks and technology that I’ve created. So to help me do that I’ve started indexing everything in an already-massive spreadsheet. It’s pretty damn tedious, but it should mean that when I’m halfway through a draft of my sixth novel I don’t spontaneously change the canon I set up in the earlier books. That’s the idea, anyway.

So that’s my update. I’m still on track to release Venus Rising in April, so look out for that!

(P.S. If you didn’t get the reference in the title, it’s from ‘What’s Going On’ by Marvin Gaye. Do yourself a favour, and familiarise yourself: Marvin Gaye – The Best Of Marvin Gaye.)

Interviewed by The Indiscriminate Critic

After posting a wonderful review of Ascension Point, The Indiscriminate Critic himself got in touch with me, and we had a pleasant chat. He mentioned he sometimes posts author interviews alongside his book reviews, and asked if I’d be interested; naturally I was, and we had a long email exchange earlier this week.

You can read the transcript here. We had a wide-ranging chat, covering writing from a foreign country, the editing process, the inspiration behind the Ascension Point universe and its technology, and where the series is headed. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it, and it made me think hard and articulate some thoughts and decisions which had been almost subconscious before, which was very interesting.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Successful Indie Author Lindsay Buroker on E-book Pricing

questionLindsay has a great post on her blog where she gives her views on how indie author-publishers might want to price their books.

Her rationale for pricing a novel happens to be exactly the same as mine, though I’ve never quite managed to express it this succinctly:

“I personally think about $5 per full-length novel is a fair price all around. It gives you far higher per-book earnings than traditionally published authors are receiving (even those whose ebooks are selling for $10+), it gives the readers a deal when compared to most traditionally published ebooks, and it’s often considered a fair price by those who feel that digital books should cost less than the dead-tree variety since paper, ink, and shipping aren’t a part of the equation.

“Lastly, it separates you from the legions of indie authors charging $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99 for their novels (often on the belief that they won’t be able to sell at a higher price because they’re not established names — I started out at $2.99 for just that reason). A lot of readers still walk warily around self-published books, so it can only help if you’re not giving obvious clues that your book was never vetted by a gatekeeper.”

Yup.

Dean Wesley Smith on ‘How To Get Started Selling Fiction in 2013’

I don’t always agree with the advice DWS gives on his blog. And that’s fine–he wouldn’t want me to. He wants writers to think for themselves, make informed decisions, and take control of their careers.

Today’s advice, though, I think is absolutely spot-on. It’s ‘an article on the good stuff and the bad stuff you face in getting to a solid career as a fiction writer‘.

Here are some snippets.

‘Examples (not all by a long ways) of some major myths in 2013 are:

  1. You need an agent to sell a book.
  2. You need an agent to sell a book overseas.
  3. You need an agent to sell to Hollywood.
  4. Traditional publishing gives you better quality in production and editing.
  5. If you lower your price to 99 cents on your novel, you will make more money.’

And the paragraph that really resonated with me, because it perfectly chimes with how I feel about writing:

The solution to [being in a hurry] is take a deep breath, focus on the writing and learning to write better stories and put the books out either indie or to editors or both and leave them alone. If you get a few buyers, great. If not, no big deal. Trust the audience and the editors to decide when you have graduated to professional-level storytelling.

I know ASCENSION POINT is a good book. I wouldn’t have published it otherwise. I had a professional editor tell me what was wrong with it–and there were a lot of things wrong with it. We fixed them.

Is it ‘professional-level storytelling’? Maybe. My readers so far have really enjoyed it. And I’ve got a few buyers, which is great.

Is it the best thing I’ll ever write? Not by a long way. And that’s fine. I want the last thing I ever write–at the age of ninety-two while living in a bubble city on Mars–to be that best thing.

But I’m getting there.