This Friday, Nov. 29, my short story Into the Rift, will once again be free in all Amazon Kindle stores. There will be two more free days before the story leaves Amazon Select and moves to additional distributors, probably in early January.
In the post below, I originally used the entire quote, as I found it on Goodreads. That full quote is here:
“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
I came back later and stripped out the first sentence, because as I thought about it I realized the sentence bothered me. It struck me as wrong. I initially read it as Vonnegut making the joke that becoming an artist is as shocking as being gay, to an ordinary family. I suppose he was making that joke, and back when he made the joke it was probably a fairly mild one, not particularly homophobic but more playing on the social expectations of the time.
Given that “A Man Without a Country” was published in 2005 (a collection of essays that was Vonnegut’s last book), it’s telling that already the line feels wrong to me. These days most of us agree that a gay child is, or should be, far less shocking than an artist. I love that we as a culture are becoming less homophobic and more loving towards our gay and transgendered compatriots. I didn’t like the implication that a gay child is somehow wrong, or that it’s “nervy” to come out, or that you will hurt your family if you are gay and let them know.
So I came back and stripped that sentence away, but I didn’t want to do it without noting why.
Families of the world, embrace your gay children! And your artistic children too, whether or not they overlap.
The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
Here’s a quick update on Clary Books and me. Into the Rift is live and has had its first free days on Amazon. So far there has been one sale and fewer than 50 free downloads. Which means no one is paying attention to it and that is sad, though I have received a lot of lovely support from friends and family. I’m not worried because Rift is only the first stop on this particular journey. Onward into the future then.
Rift will be free again on Nov. 29, and then one day in December and one in January. After that, the story is leaving Select and will be published to all my other distribution channels. My other short story, Last Night, gets regular downloads on Smashwords and some of the sites they distribute to (mostly the Apple store and Sony), so I look forward to watching Rift in those channels. (Barnes and Noble occasionally sells one of my garden books, but has never moved a single copy of Last Night).
In the meantime, I am working on the next tale of Tahylam. The working title of the sequel is Faolan, which is the name of the young mage at the heart of the story. To begin, I sketched out a rough sequence of events and related notes. For the first time I used Scapple, brainstorming software designed by the creators of Scrivener. I love Scrivener and so far Scapple has been a good tool to help sort out my thoughts, which as usual are muddled.
The other tool I’m working with now is a book that I recommend to everyone, whether you’re a writer or not. It is called What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank, written by Krista D. Ball and published by Tyche Books, a small Canadian press. It’s subtitled “A fantasy lover’s food guide”.
This book is a delightful look at the historical record of food and drink as it applies to fantasy stories. How much food does a traveling army need, and where does it come from? What can your small group walking cross-country reliably expect to forage at different times of year? If they’re riding, what do they feed their mounts, and how much food can they carry? How do you keep the food from spoiling? And how long does it really take to stew a rabbit, or dress a deer?
Now that I write fantasy again, I struggle with the amount of world-building that must be done to flesh out the details behind every story. And these small questions of food reverberate across the culture. If a band of warriors steals food, that’s one kind of relationship to the people around them. If they expect tribute, that’s a different relationship entirely. If they stay at inns or buy food from farms, there must be certain class and economic structures in your world.
So thinking about the food and farms in Tahylam helps me understand the culture Vanessa lives in, and the customs and conventions of the Ranks. The funny part is that most background details are never shown in the story. But food (and drink) are always around and knowing where they come from affects everything you write, the whole arc of your story and the constraints of your world.
Krista’s book is great fun to read too, which is why I recommend it for readers as well as writers of fantasy. It is full of historical references without being academic or dry in any way. You’ll learn a lot, and see the worlds of fantasy with a deeper understanding.
As much as I love ebooks, you really should buy What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank in print because it has by far the loveliest cover of any reference book in the world. The book is not only intellectually but physically delicious. Try it.
Meanwhile, I’ll get back to writing.
On October 30 and October 31, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, my newest short story Into the Rift will be free. I haven’t decided yet when the next free days will be, but I’ll post here and on FB when I know.
So if you like sword and sorcery short stories, please grab a copy this week and let me know what you think.
Into the Rift is now live in the Amazon US store. I’ll add links to the other Amazon stores on the fiction page as they go live, too.
For three months (roughly, to Jan. 16) the story will be exclusive to Amazon’s Select Program. This allows me to use five free days over that period, so I can introduce the story to a somewhat wider audience. I’ll announce those free days here on the blog, and also post to my email list and on the Clary Books Facebook page. If you want to hear about new releases without the need to monitor my kind of random blog posts, please join the list! It is for announcements only, and we never use your email address for any other purpose.
After three months, I’ll publish the story at B&N, Smashwords, and through Smashwords to the Apple store, Sony, and other distributors. If you need a copy in .ePub format before it is available there, my email address is on the “About Clary” page. Just let me know.
The ability to publish your own work so easily and have it distributed to the world is a complete thrill for me. I’ve enjoyed working on this story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it.
Into the Rift is finally in its finished state, or as finished as it’s going to get anyway. I have to fiddle with formatting, TOCs, and back matter, but later this week I’ll upload it to the various Amazon stores.
I’ve decided to put the story into Select for three months, which requires me to keep the story exclusive to Amazon for that period. So it will be months yet before it gets published to the Nook, or into Smashwords for wider distribution. My hope is that having a few free days will gain some visibility out of the gate. But I don’t want to stay exclusive to Amazon for long, so after that first 90 days I will publish it elsewhere.
I’ll definitely post here when the free days are, so if you want to pick up a copy for free, please keep an eye on this space. Or, you can sign up for the Clary Books mailing list, and I’ll send a notification right to your inbox.
At any rate, the story will be available soon. I am a sadly slow turtle, but I do get there eventually.
So I’m working with Into the Rift a bit more after Mr. J delivered a second round of suggestions. And I’ve contacted an editor for a final line edit/proofreading run next week (maybe two. whatever). That means a new publication within a week from today. I’ll be glad to move on; I’m ready to be done with this story.
I’ve already begun the next story in the Tahylam series. The working title is “Faolan”, which is the name of the young mage at the center of the story. It feels good to be creating new words again. This series will be five stories, as I’ve envisioned it so far. Four more short stories will easily take up the rest of this year.
More news as I get it.
My short story Last Night is now free in the Amazon U.S. store. I’m very happy to make this short fantasy freely available to Amazon customers at last.
If you are in another country or need a different format, you can download the story free at Smashwords, where it is available in all formats. If you have a Kindle though, and a U.S. Amazon account, it is much easier to download through Amazon’s own site.
I am still working through the edits and cover for another short story, Into the Rift. I’ll post here and to the mailing list when that story goes live as well.