Tag Archives: David Carrico

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.

Collaborative Projects: How to Write Well with Others

I have written and sold one collaborative novel, and I’m in the middle of writing another, so I have some experience in this sub-specialty of our craft.

Once you’ve gotten past the “Let’s write a novel together!  It’ll be fun/great/a ball!” stage, reality sets in. First of all, forget the idea that it will be less work.  It will take more time and energy total between the two of you to write something than it would if one of you wrote it solo.  You’ll be fortunate if it only takes 150% as much time and energy as a solo work.  Second, this will be different from writing a solo work.  Trust me. Here are some of the practical matters you will need to deal with.  Some of the points are my own observations, and some are gleaned from other authors who do frequent collaborations.

1.  Check your egos at the door.  Really.  You are establishing a relationship here, and although you may or may not be equals in talent, knowledge, skill, and drive, you need to be on a personal basis of honesty, diligence, and compassion.  The old teaching of “Treat others the way you want them to treat you” comes into play.

2.  Determine your collaboration approach.  To steal from my May 28, 2012 Fictorians article “Anatomy of a Collaboration,” you need to settle on an approach like one of these:

  • If sections of the novel require certain knowledge or expertise, one author may write those parts while the other writes the remainder.  This approach seems to be most commonly used when both authors are of similar levels of skill.
  • More commonly, one author will write the first draft, while the other author will do the second pass.  If one author is newer to the craft, he will usually write the first draft while the more experienced/skilled writer will do the final polish/draft.
  • And sometimes one author will look at another and say, “You start,” and the story is built somewhat like a tennis match, with no prior planning to speak of and the authors volleying responses back and forth.  A lot of “letter” stories are actually written that way.

This step is where you agree on how the byline will be styled.  If it’s a senior/junior relationship, the senior author’s name almost always goes first.  This is also where you agree on how the revenue (and any expenses) will be shared.  And even if you’re friends, write it down.  It will save grief later, I promise.

3.  Decide who the tie-breaker will be.  If you arrive at a point where the two of you are in disagreement about something serious and you can’t continue until it is resolved, someone has to break the tie.  Determine who that person is at the beginning of the project.  It may be a senior author.  Or, if you’re writing in a universe created by one of you alone, then that person will probably be the tie-breaker.  But regardless of who it is and how you determined who it will be, if it ever has to be invoked, remember Rule 1 – check your egos at the door.

4.  Do any world-building that has to be done that will be foundational to the story.

5.  If both of you are outliners, you’ll need to write an outline.  If one of you is a pantser, you’ll need to write an outline.  If both of you are pantsers, you’ll really need to write an outline.  Seriously.  If for no other reason than to keep you both facing the same direction.  Especially if you’re doing the “you write this part and I’ll write that part at the same time” thing.

6.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Especially about the important stuff, but since it may be difficult to know what will be important twenty chapters down the line, it’s mostly going to be important stuff.

7.  Again, communicate, communicate, communicate.  If you’re the junior author or you’re working in someone else’s universe, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  And if you’re the senior author and/or the universe creator, don’t brush your partner off.

8.  Remember Rule 1.

9.  For the third time, communicate, communicate, communicate.  If there’s one area where collaborations can really be more difficult than solo work, it’s flexibility in dealing with change.  When you’re working on your own, if you get a brilliant idea when you’re 80% done with the work, backing up and rewriting twenty chapters is not so much of a much.  When you’re collaborating, however, especially if you’re using one of the parallel streams-of-creation methods, your idea may blow up your partner’s work in a big way.  So before you do anything with your Grand New Idea, talk about it-in-depth and in detail.  If the decision is Do It, you revise the outline.  You write it down so you can both be in agreement as to what the change is, what the effect is, and who’s doing what to implement it.  If the decision is No, you continue down the existing path with no looking back.

10.  Remember Rule 1.

11.  Set deadlines as to when milestones will be accomplished.  You may or may not attain them, but if you don’t set them, this thing could drag on for a seeming eternity.  As much as possible, hold each other accountable.

12.  Remember Rule 1.

13.  When the first draft is done, review it together.  Decide what needs fixing, and determine who will do it.  Execute the fixes.

14.  Determine early on who will do the final polish to smooth out the edges and establish a consistent voice.  This will usually be the senior author, the writer who owns the universe, the person who’s the better editor, or whoever won/lost the coin flip.

15.  And finally, remember Rule 1.

Okay, that’s probably not everything that needs to be thought about, but it covers the high points. Good luck!

The Devil’s Opera

This is a combined public service announcement and post.

My first novel will be published in October by Baen Books.  The title is 1636: The Devil’s Opera, and it’s a collaboration with Eric Flint.

The cover-illustration by the great Tom Kidd-is here.

David CPre-order from Amazon here.

That concludes the public service announcement.  On to the post.

Several of my fellow Fictorians urged me to give some idea of the process by which the novel was written.  To do that I’ll first have to give you a bit of background on the 1632 series of which it is a part.

In 2000, Baen Books published a novel entitled 1632 by Eric Flint.  The elevator speech version of the plot is a cosmic space-time warp rips a small blue-collar town out of 2000 AD West Virginia and drops in it eastern Germany in the year 1631, which just happened to be in the middle of the Thirty Years War, possibly the bloodiest European war before WWI.  The resulting series is about how approximately 3,000 regular people from the future not only survive the event, but begin to change history.

This was the beginning of what has become one of the most successful alternate-history series in publishing history.  To date: over six million words; twelve novels (including the above) in hard copy; thirteen anthologies in hard copy; and forty-six  issues of an e-magazine called The Grantville Gazette.

I don’t have space here to give you the history of this phenomenon.  If you’re interested, go to http://1632.org/ and read.  The short version is that Eric did something very bold and potentially risky:  he opened the 1632 story universe up to fan writers, and offered to publish and pay for the best stories that were submitted.  That was the genesis of the e-magazine The Grantville Gazette.

GG, as we call it for short, will publish anything that is a well-told story that fits within the guidelines Eric has laid down for stories in the universe.  Current payment rates are 5¢/word, which is professional standard rate by SFWA guidelines.  (See http://1632.org/ again if you’re interested.)

I started writing stories in the universe in 2004.  Within a couple of years I was part of what Eric considered to be a core group that consistently turned out good stories for GG on a pretty regular basis.  (My fifteen published solo works total over 200,000 words and range from a 2,000 word short short to a 52,000 word short novel that was serialized.)  Nonetheless, I was astonished when Eric approached me via email one day and said we should do a book together.

You have to understand that Eric is always on the lookout for writers he can help develop and help get a foot in the door in the publishing industry. Of the twelve novels published to date, I believe ten of them were produced in collaboration with seven different authors, plus I know there is another one close to completion with an eighth partner.

This is not a writing factory scam where someone else does all the work and Eric slaps his name on it at the end and collects all the money.  In one partnership, I know that Eric worked with another professional writer and they divided the work.  In the rest, Eric was senior author and the other partners were junior.  I believe those all followed essentially the same model Eric used with me, so from this point on I’m just going to talk about my experience.

After the idea was broached, there was a certain amount of discussion as to what the book should be:  a combination of stories from both of us, or a novel.  Eric settled on a novel pretty quickly.  So then we talked about what the novel should be about.  I have two different series of stories going in GG with different but intersecting character groups in the same city.  Eric said we should use one or both of the character groups in the novel in order to tap into the fan base that already existed for them.  I had just finished a 27,000 word novella with one of the character sets, so I sent it to Eric.  He agreed we would use that as the center pole for the novel.

The next step was to build the outline.  That ended up taking a fair amount of time, because what worked best for me was to sit in the same room with Eric and talk everything out, ask a lot of questions, and make notes, and it took some work to get our schedules to intersect.

I wrote the first draft.  That is Eric’s standard practice with junior authors, for them to write all or most of the first draft.

Eric read the first draft, decided what changes needed to be made. He fixed some things himself, which produced the second draft.  Then he assigned some changes to me, and I produced the third draft.  Then he did the final polish, producing a fourth draft (approximately 169,000 words), which he then submitted to Toni Weisskopf, the publisher at Baen Books.  And as announced above, Baen will have it on the shelves on October 1.

Someone asked me what Eric got out of the deal.  Two things:  he got to pay forward to a friend, and he got a good novel in his series with his name on it with much less demand on his time.

What did I get out of it?  A novel in a good series with my name on it.  🙂  And by working with and under Eric, I learned things about outlining, plot development, mystery novel memes and tropes, chapter size and arrangement, proper levels of descriptive language and dialog, and on and on.

I also got to demonstrate to one of the best publishers in the business that I can write quality work and deliver a finished product without going through the slush process.  Priceless.