New Review on Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan

These kinds of things just make your day. After all, this is what its all about. Making people happy while making yourself happy too. And that, my friends, is more important than all the money in the world.

Piers Anthony says it on the cover “Starts mundane, and then gets wild!” The “mundane start” doesn’t last long and then it gets wild and keeps getting wilder!

A young American girl thrown willy-nilly into worlds of Werebears, naked Amazons, clones, “Flying Scotsmen” … I thought of Alan Dean Foster, then I thought of Heinlein – Glory Road, then Ron Hubbard, Mission Earth. And a little Farmer’s World of Tiers. There’s room for a sequel or a series …. what I want to know is “When is the next?”

If you enjoy any of these fine authors, Andrew Schwartz will resonate with you, and if you enjoy fantasy at all, this will definitely entertain you!

A word of warning: you may find it hard to put down so be prepared for long reads!

Prizm Review

Indie Versus Small Press, Which is Better?

Well, I got Prizm up. So, this little image on the side of the blog page here actually clicks through to the right Amazon page now. Hurrah! 

Can you pass the wine, dear, no not the bottle, the carton, thank you. It is truly cause for celebration. I mean, really. That book has taken quite the journey since its inception in 2007. Didn’t take that long to write, of course. It had other detours. Which leads me to this blog post. 

Some people may be wondering whether or not to self-publish (go indie) or go with a small press. I had that question too. I don’t anymore. In my mind there are two levels: big New York House and Indie. The in-between doesn’t work. Not for me and here’s why.

I have gotten two novels published with small presses. Each time I made the mistake of thinking that going with a small house would open me up to a fan base. I thought that if I was on their roster, I would be introduced to their loyal cult of eager readers. These things were assumptions on my part and I have no one else to blame. Really, I don’t. 

I was very hungry for validation. I wanted that seal, you know, the one that looks like a passport stamp and says, “This Work is Certified Good” displayed on my book covers. I wanted someone else to say, “Kid, you got a future here!”

Yeah…all that went out with the manuscript you wrap up in brown paper, tie together with twine and mail to yourself because you’re too poor and too romantic to get a real copyright. 

In order to understand this ridiculous mindset, you have to understand this next part. As a young man growing up, I loved bookstores. We had a B Dalton’s or something very similar in the local mall of my one horse town in Minnesota. And I would go in there and stare at the books, the covers, mesmerized and in love. When I found out about Dungeons and Dragons, well, no other places on earth could hold such wonder for me.

Every few months when I would visit my mom in dirty, stinking Minneapolis, down on Hennepin Avenue in that section eight apartment that smelled like boiled cabbage, after eating government issued cheese and powdered milk, we would go to the big bookstores. Well, it was Narnia all over again and better, Dark Narnia.

In those days, my parents (dad and step-mom) wouldn’t let me have that stuff. Now, get a load of this, it wasn’t drugs that I smuggled into my room, no pot or booze (though once I made a terrible, chalky wine out of apple cider in a glass jug at the bottom of my closet for six months) or even nudie photos. No sir, I smuggled in books. Novels and artwork.

Once my dad caught me bringing in The Art of Dragonlance under my over sized T-shirt. Long and tiresome (oh, my God) family “discussions” were had over the image of the dark wizard with a dragon’s head hanging in block and tackle behind him (Raistlin Mejere, in case you’re wondering) and so, I read my secret books at three a.m., my eyes wide, mind ablaze with all that wonderful, dark imagery. 

I remember staring up at the wall, the whole wall, where Piers Anthony’s books were displayed thinking: who is this guy and how do I get a wall of books devoted to me? I started writing Tales of Mulglania when I was twelve and got about two pages into, well, maybe four, handwritten…oh, it was so painful, I had no idea what I was doing and, well, I gave it up, but the images, the story, would bloom in my mind like some kind of angelic vision, and I would wander all around the parks and deserted farm roads, eyes cast skyward, divining visions and fancying myself some kind of other worlds prophet.

Well, my dream was and is to see my books on the shelf. To go into B Dalton’s or Barnes and Noble and see that wall of all my books. So, now you can see why, in going with a small press, craving approval and validation, played such a huge part.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I think artists need that. After all, they spend untold hours creating things with the purpose of having them viewed and appreciated by other people. That’s all it is. Not having your stuff viewed and admired…well, it’s like being a ghost, I mean, you’re dead. No one sees you.

Therefore, I went with two small presses and wish I hadn’t. Without slinging any mud, for this is not what this post is about, I found that what I can do, on my own, produces a far superior product. In the one case, no editing was done. Zero, zilch. I didn’t believe it, until I got the manuscript back and looked. Oh wow. Nada. And the cover, oh, as kindly as I can put it, was not competitive.

But then, who can I blame? In theory, I should never had submitted a manuscript with even one tiny error. Okay, true, but if I’m going to edit it myself, promote it myself and…the artwork I am commissioning now is (sigh) miles and miles and miles above what I was getting for “free.”  Only, it’s not free, you pay dearly. 

It is a hell of a thing, I suppose. A small press will want you to promote your books anyway, every step of the way. You will have to work harder at promotion too, because you won’t be able to do things like change pricing on Amazon, update descriptions and categories and otherwise steer the destiny of your book as well as if you owned the rights.

In one case I found that I had signed away audio rights. It’s too bad because my own voice is perfect for that piece. I don’t say my voice is perfect for everything that I write, but that one, it is. When I inquired about it, the publisher did not want to relinquish those rights and was conveniently absent when I asked about actually producing the audio book. I will eat my shoe if they make an audio book out of that thing. Without hot sauce too.  

But there again, my fault. I should have paid attention, should have…what, cared? I was too enamored that someone else thought the work was “good enough.” 

In the end, the work was always “good enough.” Better than “good enough.”

All that is the downside. The upside and it is an “up” is in one case I got to see how a pro editor operates. That helped me. Though honestly, the thing that helped me more was reading. It’s almost laughable, but if you just read a lot, so much of this stuff becomes apparent. 

I don’t think you should do it all yourself. I mean, you need perspective, you need someone to say, “air brush the nipples” so to speak and hunt for typos, tell you when one paragraph will work quite nicely instead of three. Well, I do, but you can pull all that together yourself. 

I still want a New York publishing contract (or several), not because I think it will help me produce a better product particularly, but because it will open up distribution lines and exposure. 

Yes, I still want to see that wall. 

 

 

Imprint of My Soul

It might come as a foreign idea to some that your work can be as intimate as your soul. Artists generally know that, but sometimes I think those are the only people who do. It takes a special person to come along and not only appreciate such a statement, but to also add their own expression to that original vision, that soul-print if you will.

When I began writing Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan back in 2006, I had no idea that this work would become so special to me. I had no idea that it would, in effect, capture a piece of me. I had been given various advice along the way, such as distancing oneself from the completed project in order to dispassionately market it, and so on.

I tried that and failed.

I had already received multiple rejections on the novel from traditional publishers, but unlike other manuscripts something in me wouldn’t let this one go. I can’t really explain it. I don’t really get it. This novel, this story became so much more than a book I wrote. It became so much more than a flight of fantasy, it became a mission.

But still, I had to move on. I gave over the rights in the main to stop myself from obsessing over it. You know, clear the air, get some space. I felt relief for a time, but when I saw that my vision, that imprint of my soul was, well, handled without the utmost of care, I couldn’t help but take offense. It hurt because the mission was so much more important than that. It hurt because it wasn’t my vision anymore.

I think any artist has to try and live up to the original concept that inspired him to touch paint brush to canvas, pen to paper or digital object to screen. Any artist has to try and make the vision real, do it justice, keep the integrity true while trying to stay commercial. Not an easy task, any of it.

So, my vision wasn’t being seen. Prizm was about to get swept under a rug. But then, this is Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan we are talking about here, let’s not fool ourselves, with a title like that this work has no intention of lying under rugs. I made a decision. A pivotal one. I decided that the only way to make my vision real, to make the intention stick was to do it myself, and by God, I am the only one who can. 

You see, crazy as it sounds, split personality as it is, I do believe and on some level just plain know that the characters of this book sought me out because they knew I would carry their message. They thought it that important. And so I wrote this thing, letting it pour out of me like some wild proclamation from another world, letting the characters take control and tell the thing the way they wanted to, the way they were meant to. 

And when it was done, I still didn’t know exactly what I had. Still don’t. Still trying to wrap my wits around what exactly it is. But I have this much today, I have a piece of the puzzle in sharp focus now for all the world to see at a glance. Taking matters into my own hands has brought me together with a very gifted artist, Amalia Chitulescu and do you know, she got the visual.

I mean, she saw the world and gave it expression. She brought out the aesthetic as only she could. 

I am happy today because I can show a piece of the world now, a real piece. Edits from the re-writes are being done now too and the re-launching pad is being built and it’s being done right, but I’ve got the show piece now and I couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Thank you Amy so much.

And thank you early readers of this work. Ron, Heather, Amber, Piers. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has ever given Prizm a chance because I don’t think it has ever really let any of them go either, at least not for very long. 

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The Best Way to Do It (on paper!)

Yeah, I was going to do a post about cliched sayings that it seems every book has to have, like when someone always ‘smells fear,’ but I decided to just go for the jugular and talk about a local favorite. (Don’t worry, this post has a Disney rating.) 

Let’s face it, sex in a book is kind of…usual. I personally kind of expect at least one sex scene. Our characters are supposed to be life-like and so, they do it. I also think we’d feel a tad bit disappointed if the two star-crossed lovers didn’t hit the sack at least once. 

What is the best way to portray this very human need? Do we…dress it up in the language of floral anatomy? I always loved the “his stamen” references. On the one hand you could say it’s pretty weird that anyone would draw an analogy between flower and human sexuality. And on the other hand, you have to admit it’s pretty cool that flowers are sexual. It’s like nature did that just for writers. 

You’ve got Heinlein who doesn’t really have sex scenes, but just mentions it throughout the story, a sort of novel-length tease. Piers Anthony too. I don’t call these sex scenes, so much as nudity. This is an okay method if you ask me, lets you do all of the imagining, which may be better than having it described in great length, ad nauseam.  

Erotica does it’s thing with the use of all the slang and four letter words. I guess that’s the stock solution to sex in a book. It’s effective in that it gets the job done. A good “down in the trench” engineering approach when you want a fail-safe method. But somehow it seems we should treat the subject with a bit more respect. 

I will never forget the sex scene in Stephen King’s It. At the time, I had been reading something about how you’re not supposed to say “feel” but describe the internal physiological changes taking place. So, instead of saying, “he felt excited” you would say “adrenaline flooded his brain” or some such. Well, in It that advice is taken way too far in the sex scene at the end. Reads like a medical manual, describing all the internal glandular processes that take place during the deed. No sir!  

I think the best writer on sex scenes is China Mieville simply because he doesn’t sugar coat and leaves a lot to the imagination. In The Scar he has a sex scene between this guy and his girlfriend who has her lower body grafted into a machine chassis, so her legs are metal caterpillar tracks. If you’ve ever read his work, you’ll understand. Anyway, the line is “and somehow they managed.” 

Whoa, I bet they did! You just don’t have to write anything else.

I’ve always drawn on the old romance model in my writing, I guess because that’s what I grew up thinking was a “sex scene” in a book. But I don’t really like it. I became a fan of Mieville’s, “And then they *&@*#” approach. Just come out and say it all crass and shameless.

There’s other ways too. Diana Gabaldon mixes in all the violence with it, which I can’t say does very much for me. But hey, maybe that’s historical accuracy. I’d be pretty upset if I was eating haggis too, I guess.

You’ve got the Philip Marlowe approach. Jeeze. He just takes and doesn’t care. You have to admire that only because the dames are always too happy. What a Svengali!

But in the end, I think I am casting my vote for Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witch Series. Pretty good on the steam, but not overboard on the details. A good balance of taste, I thought. Then again, I have not read 50 Shades of Gray, so…  

 

What do you think? Any examples of particularly good or tasteful sex scenes in books? 

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