Author Archives: David Carrico

About David Carrico

David is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. He has been writing since 1977, but made his first sale in 2004. Most of his work has been written in Eric Flint's Ring of Fire universe, and has either appeared in The Grantville Gazette electronic magazine (http://grantvillegazette.com) or in the anthologies Grantville Gazette III, Grantville Gazette IV, Ring of Fire II, Grantville Gazette V, and the forthcoming Grantville Gazette VI and Ring of Fire III.

Promotion (in more than one sense)

Nothing serious today. I just wanted to take this Saturday opportunity to state once more that my first novel, a collaboration with Eric Flint entitled 1636: The Devil’s Opera, will be available in bookstores on Tuesday, October 1st. It’s the latest installment of the largest and longest-running alternate history series in print today, which began with Eric’s novel 1632, which was published in the year 2000.

I did Fictorian posts about the writing of 1636: The Devil’s Opera here and here. And I did a post about the publisher’s innovative e-book marketing approaches here, which mentioned the early availability of the e-book edition of the novel. So you can relax—I’m not going to rehash any of that. What I do want to mention is something else interesting that the publisher—who is Baen Books, by the way, one of the more innovative traditional publishers around, in my opinion—recently did in connection with the release of the novel.

1636: The Devil’s Opera didn’t appear out of thin air. It didn’t spring full-grown from the brow of a literary Zeus. No, the novel utilizes two different sets of characters that I had been writing stories about for and in Grantville Gazette e-magazine, and Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies since 2004. The novel is built upon the foundation of those earlier works.

What Baen did was have me gather all of the earlier stories, do an edit for consistency and to fix continuity errors that had been identified since their original publications, and publish them as an e-book under the title 1635: Music and Murder. Twelve stories, ranging from short story to short novel in length, amassing over 200,000 words, are now available in a unified edition which was released earlier this week.

This amounts to the creation of a prequel volume to 1636: The Devil’s Opera. I didn’t think about this much at first, because I was so pumped about getting the stories out in their own volume. But it finally dawned on me that what Baen has done is create a second volume very closely related to the novel, and pitched it as an e-book at a very attractive price point of $4.95. People who are fans of my characters—and there is a sizable group of those—will buy the e-book without even thinking about it much. That’s understood. But Baen’s perception is that the readers whose first encounter with the characters is 1636: The Devil’s Opera will more than likely want to read about their earlier days in the universe, and voila, Baen just happens to have that available as well. Smooth marketing.

So what can we learn from this? Well, the big lesson is whether we are publishing in a traditional model or an independent model, when we’re getting ready to release something new, we should look at our works inventory and see if there’s anything there that we can release or re-release or otherwise promote to leverage off of the new release. If we have related works, by all means put them forward. Failing that, promote works that are thematically similar.

It would be great if the publisher will get behind it, as Baen did in this case. But even if they won’t or can’t, there’s no reason why anything we have available for indie publishing can’t be promoted.

Leverage off the new work by any means you can. Take advantage of any attention you can get. It’s just good business.

So, in closing, here they are: 1635: Music and Murder and 1636: The Devil’s Opera. Feel free to acquire one or both, and let me know how you like them, either here at Fictorians or at http://davidcarricofiction.com/.

Enjoy.

1635-Music-and-Murder-ebook smaller 1636-The-Devils-Opera-smaller

There Are Ruts…

So the theme for September’s posts is supposed to be about getting out of the rut, or taking it to the next level. Well, there are ruts, and there are ruts.

There are the ruts where the well has run dry, and the words are not flowing. Judith Tarr talks about those times here. As it happens, I know exactly what she is talking about. I’ve been there, recently; I’ve felt those feelings; I’ve known the grief. I was very fortunate to come out of it after a year and a half, but even now I have not finished recovery to where I used to be. I’m not going to rehash Judith’s article. She does a much better job of discussing the issue than I ever would. But I will say this: if you are in that place, or if you ever find yourself in that place, know that there have been good writers—some of them very good writers, indeed—who have been in that same place, and eventually came out of it. You’re not alone. And it can be done. But it will take time; it will take perseverance; and you may have to change some things about you, about your surroundings, or about the company you keep to come out of it. Your true friends will support you, but only you can make those choices and walk that walk.

I could stop there, and have an article worth posting, I think.

But I actually want to talk about another kind of rut in which we as writers can sometimes find ourselves.

Do you ever feel that you’re growing stale? I mean, have you ever stopped in the middle of writing a story or a novel and realized that you’re not having fun; that you’re not excited about what you’re doing; that as B. B. King would sing, “The thrill is gone, baby…”?

Sometimes when that happens, it’s the normal and almost inevitable result of working in the middle of a long project where you’ve dug yourself into the hole but you’re not entirely sure yet that it’s going to turn into a tunnel. And the only solution for that is to simply keep putting out the words until you get through the middle and can see the progress that’s been made. Perseverance, in other words. That’s actually one of the most important tools in our writer’s toolkits; the ability to keep plugging away at a project until it’s completed, no matter how long it takes.

But other times that may be the back of your mind saying, “Dude, this is a whole lot like the last story you wrote. Can’t you write something different?”

Now formulas and templates for writing fiction have been around for generations. Most popular children’s series during the early and middle 20th Century were very rigidly formula based. And I can point you to a few series of fantasy and science fiction even within the last generation or so that have done that. And those series have their fans, who seem to like that each new story or each new novel seems to follow predictably the outline of the previous works.

But for writers, especially writers who want to grow in their craft and strive for art, I suspect that falling into the formula rut is absolutely one of the worst things we can do. It might make us money, but we won’t continue to grow or develop as writers as long as we’re in that rut.

Have I been there? Yep. Do I have some thoughts about how to get out of the rut? Yep, and here they are:

1. Make yourself use a different narrative style. If you’re consistently a third-person limited viewpoint writer, write something in first person. Or vice-versa, as the case may be. That may shake up the way you view characters and characterization.

2. Make yourself write something with a different story construction. If your previous works have all been single-thread-of-continuity stories, try writing a story with multiple story lines running in parallel. To really challenge yourself, you should make them non-interrelating until the end. Pull that one off, and you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment. This will also widen your thinking on plotting.

3. Make yourself write something in a different genre, or at least a different sub-genre. After writing several of what amounted to comedies of manners with romantic overtones, I actually had a friend challenge me to write something different. So after thinking about it, I started writing a series of police procedural stories. Wow, did that stretch me! Although I’m a moderate fan of mysteries and procedurals, learning to write them really taught me things about characterization and plotting that I had never considered before.

4. If you’re primarily a novelist, try writing shorter works. Challenge yourself to write something good under 5000 words. When you succeed at that, challenge yourself to write something good under 2000 words. Then try under 1000 words. That’s barebones storytelling. Every single word has to be weighed in the balance as to whether it’s really necessary to tell the story. You’ll learn discipline from that one. I have exactly one 2000 word story that I think works. I have yet to manage a 1000 word story that I think is good. I keep trying.

5. And if you’re primarily a short work author, try writing a novel. You may or may not like it, but it will force you to consider plotting and world-building issues that just don’t arise in a 7000 word story or a 12,000 word novelette.

I have a novel coming out from Baen Books on October 1, entitled 1636: The Devil’s Opera. It’s a collaboration with Eric Flint. And I’m convinced that I could never have written that story without having put myself through 2, 3, and 4 above.

You want to be a better writer? Challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone, and write things you never imagined you’d write.

Coming Soon to an Internet Near You

For those of you who are alternate history fans, if you haven’t checked out the New York Times best-selling 1632 series (a/k/a Ring of Fire series) created by writer Eric Flint, you are missing something. It currently amasses over six million words in print, with more being added on an almost monthly basis.

The first novel is titled 1632 (hence the series name), and its original edition can be downloaded from Baen Books (the publisher) for free in every common e-book format, and a couple that aren’t so common. Check it out here.

The newest novel in the series is 1636: The Devil’s Opera by Eric Flint and David Carrico (yours truly). It will be published in hardback edition for $25.00 and e-book edition for $9.99 in October, 2013. I did a Fictorians post about the writing process of the novel here.

The reason for this post is to let you know that you don’t necessarily have to wait until October to read it. Baen, of all the traditional science fiction and fantasy publishers, was the first-and for a long time was the only-publisher who embraced e-books. Beginning well over a decade ago, every book they publish is offered in every available e-book format (including Kindle and Nook) in addition to the hard copy edition. Every e-book that Baen has published since the very beginning was published without DRM security being loaded on it. And once you buy an e-book from Baen, you can install any and every format of the e-book on any and every electronic device you own at any time. Plus, they keep track of which books you have bought and you can re-download fresh copies anytime you need or desire to.

In other words, Baen has been doing the e-book thing right since way before most publishers even thought about doing e-books.

But in addition to the regular e-book edition, they offer a couple of additional options that no other publisher has provided to date that I’ve seen, and these are the things that you may want to take advantage of now.

First of all, there’s this thing called an e-ARC. ARC, of course, is Advance Reader Copy, and prior to e-books, that was a preliminary copy of the book based on the submitted manuscript without a final edit, printed quickly on cheap paper and often with no cover art, for the purpose of sending to reviewers. These editions are highly prized by certain collectors. They are also highly prized by rabid fans who want to know right now what happens in the book, without waiting until the official publication date. People have been known to pay hundreds of dollars for an ARC from a popular author. Well, several years before he died in 2006, Jim Baen, founding publisher at Baen Books, had a crazy idea and offered an e-book ARC edition of a couple of popular forthcoming books. As with paper ARCs, the content was lacking the final edit, but they could be had several months before the official publication date. He pegged them at $15.00, which was two and a half to three times his then-current regular e-book prices. As you may suspect, they sold amazingly well, and have become a part of the regular publishing cycle for many of the new novels published by Baen Book. The e-ARC for 1636: The Devil’s Opera can be viewed and ordered here. Just remember, if you spot a typo, this isn’t the final edited version.

The other option is this thing called bundles. Basically, beginning about three months before the publication date, Baen offers a bundle of all the e-books that will be published in that month for a reduced rate and for a limited time. You have to purchase the whole bundle at once, but you typically get the books for a much reduced rate over the $9.99/$8.99/$6.99 of the single e-book prices. For example, the October 2013 Monthly Baen Bundle is priced at $18.00, and it contains five new novels and one novel that is having its mass market paperback edition released in October. This is a significant savings over the $51.94 total single e-book pricing of the six novels. The bundle release process is a lengthy one: in the third month before official release, you receive the first half of each book in what is essentially the e-ARC edition; in the second month before official release, you receive the next fourth of the e-ARC edition; and in the month before official release you receive the full text of the final edited version identical to what will be in the hard copy edition. To view and order the October 2013 bundle go here.

All things considered, I’m proud to have my first novel published by Baen Books, a truly forward-thinking traditional publisher. And in Baen’s case, that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Those Who Came Before

I’ve said in previous Fictorian blogs that I’ve been both an omnivorous and a ravenous reader since as far back as I can remember. Oddly enough, though, as I’ve also previously mentioned, I was never someone who knew at an early age that I was going to be a writer. I’m not sure why, other than I remember being tremendously in awe of anyone who could write a whole book, and never dreamed that I could do that.

I did, however, begin wishing that I could write a book. And I can tell you exactly when it happened. In early 1963 I was in 6th grade in a school on Ben Eielson Air Force Base, just south of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Scholastic Book Program was in full swing by then, and every month or so a brochure would come out listing books we could order. I think it was in January that one listing in the brochure caught my eye. It had an intriguing descriptive blurb, an intriguing title-Catseye-and a cool cover.

David Cover 1

It was by Andre Norton, whom I’d never heard of before, but that was okay-I hadn’t heard of a lot of authors. I checked the space for it on the order form, and waited.

The day that it arrived, I brought the book home, plopped myself on my bed, opened the cover, and found myself lost in a strange and amazing new universe.

I had just encountered my first real science fiction. Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and Edward Eager’s Half Magic, charming though they were, lost me to a universe of interstellar civilizations, space travel, warfare, telepathy, sapient animals, and aliens. To this day, if I’m asked the “you’re alone on a desert island and you can only have the books of one author” question, Norton would be a finalist in my short list.

Andre Norton was actually Alice Mary Norton. She began writing at a time when it was very difficult for women authors to be taken seriously, and she used the standard tactic of the time to overcome that problem-she adopted a pseudonym. She actually used at least three over her career, but almost all of her output was published under Andre Norton. Bibliography She did eventually legally change her name to Andre Alice Norton.

Norton was a superlative story teller, and had a gift for creating characters that even today I connect with. Whether it was space opera, or earthbound adventure, or historical fiction, or fantasy, a book by her sucked me in. I would read by flashlight at night in order to finish a book after bedtime. And it was her work, first and foremost, that lit in me not the desire to write, but the wish that I could write like that.

Of course, once I found real science fiction, I started hunting for as much of it as I could find. The libraries on the base had some, and I found Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Lester del Rey, and a lot more. But the only other author who grabbed me like Norton did at that age-the only other author who resonated with me like Norton-was Robert A. Heinlein.

Both writers plotted gripping stories. Both could write very taut fiction that moved at a fast pace, yet had depth and characterization.

Both writers excelled at writing “coming of age” stories, which even today is probably the single most popular plot form in the young adult market.

It would be hard to find two better exemplars of novel writing for either adult or young adult markets.

But at that age, that wasn’t part of my thinking. I learned from them by osmosis, as I dove into their books again and again and again, reading and re-reading ad infinitum but never ad nauseam. And both of them, more than any other writers at the time, fueled that wish that I could be a writer.

To pick a work from each that connected with me very strongly, take Catseye from Norton and Between Planets by Heinlein.

David Cover 2

Both are coming of age stories. Both are not routine run-of-the-mill plots. And both are not “talk-down-to-the-kids” stories. Both include violence and death. Toward the end of his book, Heinlein’s protagonist is asked to man a “dead-man switch”-to commit suicide, in other words-to ensure that a space vessel is destroyed rather than captured if a battle doesn’t go their way. In Norton’s book, her protagonist is offered the return of a family treasure and heritage for which he has longed all his life, but only at a monumental and deadly price.

I can’t describe to you the impact those two novels had on me. I literally cannot communicate the feelings I had when I finished each one of them, the least of which was, “Oh, wow.”

But with each reading and re-reading of books by these two masters of their craft, that wish that I could write grew, until finally, sixteen years after I opened the cover to Catseye the first time, it became a desire to write, and I first set pen to paper-literally. It has been a long road since then to where I am as a writer today, and it’s one I don’t think I would have walked without the influence of Andre Norton and Robert A. Heinlein.

Thank you both.