Unity of Vision in a Story Collection

Rhys Hughes, whose short story collection ‘Salty Kiss Island’ has recently been released by Immanion Press, shares his thoughts on creating a unity of vision in compiling a collection of short stories.

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My new collection of stories is my favourite among my books of stories, but I wasn’t fully aware of this fact until I actually held a published copy in my hands and took a deep breath. The sigh that came out was one of deep contentment and then I knew.

I have often said that such-and-such a book is my personal favourite and there have been many candidates for that distinction but Salty Kiss Island has a quality, I’m not sure what, that most others don’t have, an unplanned quality. Purity perhaps.

Not purity in the sense of lacking bite and darkness, but purity in the unity of the visions that the book assembles and disseminates. The stories just seem to fit together very nicely. They amplify each other. I feel great delight at the final sum of the parts.

We write stories over a long period of time, years, even decades, and when we collect them together into a book we can’t really know what the end result will be like. The stories weren’t written to be together, they are discrete pieces existing on their own.

And now they are suddenly required to appear with other stories, to dwell with neighbours between the covers of a book, and they are asked to do this because they have themes in common, or an approach or tone that categorizes them. They are allied.

How will they get along? This is impossible to predict accurately until the book is ready. Sometimes they will interfere with each other, quarrel, contradict, attenuate, decay. If they are juxtaposed like this, elements that weren’t weaknesses may become so.

For example, any repetition of ideas, moods, events and reactions will be plain to see. Such repetition may not be self-plagiarism on the part of the author, it may not be indolence, it might be convergent evolution, the same solution to utterly different texts.

But it won’t look that way to the reader, it will appear like a limitation or an obsession, unless the repetition has strong intertextual attributes and adds its pulsation to the bigger rhythm, to the heartbeat of the entire book, the general health of the fictive gestalt.

That is a difficult thing to engineer. It means that every time a story is being composed, the author responsible must take care not only with the aesthetic parameters of that particular work but also consider how it will unite with and complement every other story he or she has written or will write. This is surely too much to ask. The writer therefore must fall back on the emergency option of serendipity.

Happy chance can assemble a short story collection from many pieces that turns out to be harmonious, cohesive, synchronised. The stories may amplify each other in ways the author never imagined, reveal aspects that were hidden before the gathering. Such a story collection has the unity of a novel while remaining a true collection.

I never supposed that the majority of my fantastical love stories would appear in a single volume. It wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t even realise I was in thematic thrall while writing them. Each was just a new tale and a striving to express burning ideas, to get them out of my head and onto the page, where they would leave me alone.

But I truly believe it has turned out very well, better than I had hoped, and that Salty Kiss Island is an important stage of personal fulfillment on the somewhat rickety career ladder of my writing life. I am not especially successful in terms of sales, despite the critical acclaim my work garners, yet I am satisfied now. This book exists.

Every writer has a host of influences and inspirations. These might be situations and circumstances, remarkable people, abstractions, sensations, the desire to be different or to be the same. And other authors will always play a large part in the creation of a prose style, in the fundamentals of a writer’s vision and method. We attempt to imitate, then we rapidly go off on tangents, and our tangents collide and mesh with other tangents given off by other influences, and fly off again.

My fantastical love stories were influenced by my love of whimsy and invention, by certain individuals, by memories of (and yearnings for) the tropical life, by music from Brazil and Cape Verde, by the sea and stars, by the incredible writers Amado, Pessoa, Couto, Vian, Calvino, by hope and anticipation, and always by language.

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Is your author website a commercial website?

 

You write books. You have a website, where you offer those books. You also write blog posts and you consider your website to primarily be an information site. Actually, however, its a commercial site and the reason its a commercial site is because you are selling books on the site. If you sell a single product on your site, you now have a commercial website. The reason I bring this up, is because I think for many authors they don’t necessarily think of themselves as owning a business. They’ve written a book, and that’s what they think it is…a book, but the book is much more than just a book. It’s a product, a commercial good with your name on it.

Recently I was contacted by Getty Images because of a picture I used on one of my websites. You can read the story here. In their letter to me they explained that my site was a commercial website (which is true because its a business), but it got me thinking about my other website and I realized that was a commercial website as well and that the criteria for establishing if something is a commercial website seems to boil down to whether or not you are using the site to sell something (ergo you run a business).

You may not have thought of your website as a commercial site, but its worth considering that even if you don’t other people do, and this consequently effects you in certain ways. You may not be taking full advantage of business deductions related to your site or products. You may also not be accurately reporting information that needs to be reported for the purposes of taxes. It’s important that you recognize what your site is and treat it accordingly, as well as recognize that you don’t just have a commercial website, but also a commercial enterprise, albeit one that may be limited to selling copies of your books.

Another reason you want to be clear about this is because if your site is deemed commercial it can limit what you can use on your site. For example if you are using pictures on a site, but your site is considered commercial you need to be careful about what pictures you use and make sure that if you are using “free” pictures that they are free to use even if you are a commercial site (with proper attribution). That’s just one example of how website being categorized as commercial can effect your choices of what content you are putting on the site. So take a look at your website. Do you want it to just be an information site or do you want to sell your books on it. Know what the distinction is so you can make the appropriate choices.

The Reality of Amazon in Publishing

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Every so often, one of my authors will email me or instant message me and ask about something that has occurred on Amazon. Maybe they can’t find their book or maybe their book is being offered at a discounted rate, or maybe its something else. What they want is for me to solve the problem. However what they don’t realize is just what a complicated relationship there is between Amazon and publishers. Actually that’s true of distributors and retailers in general. The following may shed some light on the realities of dealing with any retailer, as well as some specific aspects of dealing with Amazon.

1. Publishers make prices, but retailers can change prices. A publisher can decide that a book is worth $20.99 and that’s what the book will cost on the publisher’s website. It’s also what the book will cost if you buy it direct from the author. But if you buy the book from Amazon or some other retailer, you may note that the price is sometimes discounted. Sometimes the discount is small and sometimes its large. This discount can effect royalties authors receive. The publisher has little control over the discount, because the book is being sold by a third party.

2. Kindlelicious. Another service Amazon provides is Kindle. Publishers can sign up for different types of kindle accounts. For example, you can sign up for a kindle account where you only offer e-books through kindle or you can sign up for one where you offer e-books through other sites. Obviously Amazon prefers you sign up for a kindle only account. There are some features you will get with Kindle only, but its always a toss up because not everyone wants to use Kindle.

3. Subscription based reading is becoming a reality. Amazon has set up a subscription service where you can read over 70,000 titles if you pay a monthly fee. The books aren’t free (the subscriber is paying a fee) but you won’t get as much royalties as you’d like because its essentially a library. This will become more of a reality for the publishing industry and you can’t do much about it because the retailer is still paying you for the content.

4. Publishers print the books and ship them out, but retailers sell the books and hold the balance of power. Publishing has always been an industry where the retailer holds the power. The retailer is the middle person in the equation and as such is for the most part dealing with the customers. Publishers accept this because of the exposure books get, but also accept that as a result retailers set a lot of the rules for the relationship.

Even if you self-publish, you still end up dealing with retailers of some type. For example, if you write a book and want to sell it, where do you go? Amazon, because you know amazon provides you an opportunity to get in front of your audience. But when you do that you also understand that Amazon is dictating the terms because you need them more than they need you.

My point in writing this post is just to explain that while publishers can and will do their part to represent their authors interests, they nonetheless have to deal with the retailers and that relationship isn’t an equal one by any measure. Knowing that can help you the author understand why some things occur on amazon and other retailer sites.

How I write a Book

 

Different authors have different approaches to writing books. I thought I’d share my approach, which may not work for every writer, but nonetheless may have elements that do work. Since I write primarily non-fiction books, it should be kept in mind that I’m writing from that perspective. Nonetheless, I do think Fiction writers can get some ideas as well from how various writers write.

Before I even start writing a book, I put together a rough outline of the book and what topics will be covered. If you’re writing a fiction book you might outline what events will occur in the book. The outline is put together to provide some organization to your thoughts and create a structure through which you can begin to write the book. However the outline shouldn’t be treated as set in stone. It is a suggestion of what can be done with the book.

Next I start doing research on the book. Research can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, because I’m usually reading what other people have to say about the topic as well as related topics. In the case of Fiction writers, you might end up doing research on a setting or the history of an area or time period to help inspire you. As I read books, I create a bibliography. I also extract the specific quotes and cites I’ll be using in the book and put them into a notes file.

When I’m ready to write the book, I take the notes file and start placing specific quotes and cites into separate files that represent the chapters of the book. This makes it easier to write the book and integrate the relevant quotes into it. If you are writing fiction, you might place notes you’ve taken about places or eras you’ve researched into chapters that you think will feature information along those lines.

Then it’s time to write the book. I focus on writing a chapter at a time. I don’t think about the other chapters until I’ve written the one I’m working on and I keep chapter files distinct and separate until the entire book is written so I’m not distracted by previous content or an urge to rewrite what I’ve written. This keeps the revisions down to a minimum while I’m writing the first draft.

After the first draft is written I combine all the chapters into one file. I then revise that the entire book, going through and making appropriate changes where needed. After that’s done the book is shipped to an editor and revised upon getting the edits back.

This is my process of writing a book. What’s yours?

Ten Years of Non-Fiction at Immanion Press

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Ten years ago, give or take a month, my book Pop Culture Magick was published by Immanion Press. That was the start of the non-fiction lineup, which eventually became the Megalithica book imprint for Immanion Press. When I first wrote Pop Culture Magick, I shopped it around to the big Pagan and Occult publishers. None of them wanted the book. I was told it had no market appeal, and that the topic was considered too controversial (Ironically enough now the topic of pop culture magic is quite popular and one of those bigger publishers has published books along that theme of thought). So I took the book to Storm Constantine, who had started Immanion Press up in the next year and asked her what she thought I should do. She looked the book over and told me I should publish it with Immanion Press. While it was true that they were publishing Fantasy and Horror, she thought the book should be published and she felt Immanion Press would be a good home for it. To this day, I’m grateful to her, because she not only helped me get my first also book published, she also got me involved in the world of publishing.

A few months later, Nick Farrell asked me if Immanion would publish his book Gathering the Magic, which was about group dynamics and leadership in magical orders. Although he had books published by bigger publishers, none of them wanted that book. I passed his book onto Storm and she OKed it, but afterwards she asked me if I would like to actually head up the non-fiction line. She realized that it could grow and that people already knew me. I agreed and became the managing non-fiction editor. Shortly after we published Nick’s book, Lupa gave us her first book Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic. Later on we published Tony Mierzwicki’s Graeco-Egyptian Magick. Years later, he would tell me that he’d shopped the book everywhere and gotten tons of rejections and had just about been ready to give up, when he came across us and sent it out one last time. We accepted his book and later on that helped him open some doors with larger publishers. Since then we’ve published over 3 dozen non-fiction books on esoteric topics that are for intermediate to advanced practitioners and cover specific niches or focus on social justice issues in Paganism, and we’ve got more books on the way!

When I think back to ten years ago, I remember how excited I was to open the first box that contained copies of Pop Culture Magick. Here at last, in manifest form, was the book I’d written, ready to be shared with other people. I still feel that way every time a box of books, and not just my own books, but the books of the authors who’ve chosen to publish with us. To know that Immanion can be part of the process for the writer is a humbling experience. I feel blessed to be able to participate in the writing and publishing of the books sent to us by the authors we work with.

Happy anniversary to the non-fiction line! It’s been quite a ride up to this point and I look forward to continue that ride for many, many years to come!

Why its important to blog

 

It sometimes surprises me when I come across an author who doesn’t have a blog. Blogs have been around for a while now and not having one is missing out on an opportunity to connect with people, while also practicing your writing. Truth to tell if you’re going to be a published author you can’t afford NOT to have a blog. A blog allows your readers to connect with you, with your writing, and stay up to date on the news about your appearances and writing. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, having a blog works. On my author site, I post two blog entries a week. Those blog entries provide fresh content that keeps your website relevant in Google and other search engines, and give your readers something to enjoy while waiting for your next book.

When you have a blog it is important to consistently update it. I recommend updating it at least once a week, if not more. With that said, you don’t need to write five articles a week either. In fact, you’ll burn out if you do that. But you need to do some writing and keep it consistent, week after week. You also need to make sure you share it on your social media sites.

When you write blog articles keep them short and concise. A most they should be around 1000 words, and at least around 300 words. If they are too short, they won’t keep people on your site, but if they are too long, you’ll lose people, both t the eye strain of looking at a screen and the simple fact that people like to scan and skim online entries. Make sure you have a space between paragraphs and don’t be afraid to use bullet points or numbered lists.

Blogs don’t have to be hard to maintain I do suggest turning your blog into a website, where you maintain the blog, but also have static pages, which include a bio page, a services page (if you offer other services) a media page, and any other page that might be relevant to your website and your choice to be an author.

 

 

Para Kindred Blog Hop – Day 10 – final day!

Welcome to day 10 – the final day – of the Immanion Press blog hop for the new Wraeththu anthology, Para Kindred. If you have read every contribution to the blog hop, answer all the secret questions about the posts, mail them to editorial(at)Immanion-press(dot)com, with the subject heading Para Kindred competition. You will be entered into a prize draw to win an item from the New section of our Café Press store. http://www.cafepress.com/immanionpress The winner can choose any item from this section. The closing date for entries is Friday 27th June.

Today’s featured author is Suzanne Gabriel. http://signsoftheseason.blogspot.ca/2014/06/did-you-expect-to-find-answers.html The secret question is at the bottom of this post, along with details of previous contributors’ questions.

If you’ve missed any of the posts, all the links are listed below.

 

Maria’s question: Where was Chenga’s servant Dolah planning to escape to?

Earl’s question: Who do the spirit wolves watch over, according to legend.

Storm’s question: What can Cherrah do in the mountains that ordinary hara cannot?

Nerine’s question: What birds fly past Taym’s window as he’s staying in the garret?

Wendy’s question: What is the name of her alter-ego?

Fiona’s question: What colour did Kethoak turn when he mused on the fundamentally linear nature of time?

Daniela’s question: What was the name of the first har who arrived after Sapphire and Julee had founded Serenity?

Storm’s question: What does the peacock har liken Ashmael and Fernici to before he walks away from them?

Martina’s question: Where have Satoru and Kiyoshi met again for the first time since they parted at Neo Osaka?

Suzanne’s question: What type of farming does Tobian see evidence of on the island?

 

Link to E. S. Wynn’s 16th June http://www.eswynn.com/2014/06/ghost-wolf.html

Link to Maria’s 17th June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/

Link to Storm’s 18th June http://dreamsofdarkangels.wordpress.com/

Link to Nerine’s 19th June www.nerinedorman.blogspot.com

Link to Wendy’s 20th June https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/6490018-para-kindred-blog-hop-day-4

Link to Fiona’s 21st June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/

Link to Daniela’s 22nd June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/

Link to Storm’s 23rd June https://dreamsofdarkangels.wordpress.com/

Link to Martina’s 24th June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/

Link to Suzanne’s 25th June http://signsoftheseason.blogspot.ca/2014/06/did-you-expect-to-find-answers.html