Unboxing The Red Man

Today, Amazon’s box with our copies of The Red Man and Others arrived! Again. We’d already had a box last week, but the box was a shambles; all four sides were split open, and only the tape over it held the box together. Cutting the tape made the box unfold like a lily, revealing a sad shred of padding paper and the 20 copies of our book, which were not suitable for reselling.

This time we fared better! At least, the books were not all warped!

Just one of them was as wobbly as the whole previous lot. And while our heroines Ymke and Kaila may not be, we do like our books to be straight! I’m still not sure what brought this on – possibly the damp when transporting the previous lot in a leaky box, possibly a badly calibrated glue machine: if cover and paper stock expands and contracts at different rates due to too much heat/not enough time taken, the book will buckle.

The people handling the press, glue or parcelling could also do with washing their hands more often. Some grubbiness here and there; this one to an unacceptable level.

I’m not sure what happened here, but there’s a weird ‘bruise’ in the cover as if the book banged into something.

Here’s another damaged bit, and an overall very ragged edge. I’ve worked with a industrial paper cutter in the past, as a student, and the one lesson was: the knife has to be sharp. Or perhaps it’s not the knife; perhaps the laminated cover hasn’t dried out enough? Too many books under the machine? Who knows. It’s not pretty, that’s for sure.

Here a folded corner, and another ragged edge. How did this even make it into the box?

And another damaged edge, with a nice ornamental curl.

For a moment I wondered whether I was being pernickety. Whether these are just minor flaws which I should accept. But no, we spent a lot of time and effort writing these stories, and we did everything we could to make these books look nice: illustrations, cover art, design… These books are supposed to be something to be proud of. If we picked up a book with these flaws in a bookshop, we’d put it down and choose another copy, so we’re definitely not expecting someone else to put their money down for them… including ourselves.

So, another call to Amazon it is, tomorrow. This is now twice that we had a bigger than reasonable number of deficient books. On behalf of all authors getting their author copies, I would recommend the Amazon department dealing with these (I assume that it’s done on a different production line than ‘normal’ POD due to bulk):
– Calibrate your glue machines; tend to your knives.
– Train your staff on proper handling of machines, time needed between operations, packing.
– Always pack books spine-to-spine, never spine to edge or – god forbid – edge to edge.
– Remind them to wash their hands! Nobody wants grubby books!
– Important: pay a decent wage! Demoralised staff will have less pride in their work.

Customer service does not start with the people of Amazon customer support. It starts on the production floor.

Support Your Indie Writers!

(That’s us.)

It takes much longer to write stories than to read them; plotting, drafting, screaming in frustration and starting again – never mind all the tear-stained pages on which we honed our craft, which will never see the light of day. We’re fortunate that it’s not our book sales that keep our cat (and ourselves) in kibble. However, when you buy our book, you help us to justify the time and energy we spend on the adventures of Kaila, Ymke and Sebastien. While we’ve been overwhelmed by the great reactions we’ve had on our book, it all comes down to this: do we have enough sales to make it worth writing their further adventures, or do we focus on other stories?

If you like what we’ve been doing with The Red Man and Others and would like to support us (or any other indie writer whose work you’ve enjoyed) you can do the following.

Spread the word on social media. This is an important one, if not the most important: if people don’t know our book exists, they can’t buy it. The indie writer’s social media reach is limited, and their friends-list will at a certain point be fed up with them banging their drum. So, they need to break out of their own tweet-circle. You can help by retweeting, and definitely by letting your own peeps know that you’ve read an amazing book, and why you thought it was amazing.

Give our book as a present. Did you read our book, and you think it’d be perfect for this or that friend or family member? Buy it for them as a gift. More and more authors these days are offering to sign bookplates remotely, and we hope that physical events will return soon, so we can meet you and sign and dedicate our book in person.

Let us know that you love our work, and what particularly spoke to you. We spend a lot of time behind our keyboards wondering whether we’re reaching people, whether our characters have truly come to life, and whether our messages have landed. Our egos may be tender, but they can really blossom with a well-placed kind word.

Review or rate our book on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and The Storygraph. Reviews help further sales, push us up the Amazon rankings, and help authors get (better) contracts or other opportunities. Do you write reviews for a magazine, website or blog? We’d be overjoyed with the exposure (if, let’s be honest, it’s positive) and will happily provide you with images and other info to present it well.

Read it with your book group. Perhaps The Red Man and Others is something you’d like to read with your book group? Let us know! We might not be able to provide you with bulk-discounted copies, but we can provide you with talking points and anything else that might make it a great group reading experience. If the stars align, we’ll even come by (through the power of Zoom) to chat about our work and answer questions.

Buy ebooks legitimately! Research showed that only a fraction of the books on the average e-reader were bought legally. People assume that big names can absorb the losses through piracy, and for a small number of bestselling authors that may be true, at least financially speaking. It affects publishers’ bottom line, however, and with it their willingness to support ongoing series or to take a chance on lesser known name. Ultimately, this hurts us all, authors and readers alike.

Buying a physical copy? If your indie author is lucky enough not to be beholden to Amazon for their sales, choose an indie bookshop that supports local authors. Two of our favourite local bookshops are No Alibis in Belfast, and The Secret Bookshelf in Carrickfergus. They’re both brilliant at helping readers find books they don’t yet know they’ll love.

Check their book out from the library, and if they don’t have it – ask for it. The UK has Public Lending Right, which means that authors get a bit of money every time their book is checked out.

Attend events like arts/lit festivals, book launches and readings. Sometimes, writers are allowed out in the wild, and they’ll be happy to see you in the audience. With Covid stalking the land, it’s even easier to attend events through Facebook, Zoom and other platforms; you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home and your pyjamas! If there’s a chance of a Q&A you might think of some questions to stimulate audience participation.

Connect with us! Visit our blog to read our thoughts on fiction writing, folklore and pop culture, and subscribe to our email newsletter to keep up to speed on what we’re working on, and with a grab bag of what we found around the ‘net. You can find all our useful links on Linktree.

…And of course, if you haven’t got it yet, you can still buy our paperback!

The Red Man and Others

ABOUT THE RED MAN AND OTHERS
In a divided city, two rogues try to get their own back on a religious cult; the small but tough sell-sword Kaila and the teenage con-artist Sebastien don their disguises and play their parts.
In the war-torn north of Cruoningha, Ymke and her father live in exile. When her father rescues a giant warrior, Ymke learns that strength is not a matter of muscle alone, and that sometimes the price of hiding is too great.
As Sebastien is elevated to sainthood on the rock of Otasfaust, the Kaila and Ymke find each other, and a new purpose for their talents.
Three journeys of self-discovery; three stories of loss, love and adventure.

WHAT OTHERS SAID
Ngo Vinh-Hoi, co-host of the Appendix N Book Club podcast: “… a bit like Robert E. Howard’s gritty historical adventures with a dash of Fritz Leiber’s insouciant humor, filtered through Adams’ and Van Straten’s own rueful yet hopeful sensibility… Issues of queerness, coping with disability, and found family arise organically within the stories, signalling not a deconstruction of sword & sorcery, but a broader inclusivity.”
Ricardo Pinto, author of The Stone Dance of the Chameleon: “Intimate, literate and touching scenes erupt into visceral violence; I was reminded of Poe’s Hop-Frog.”
Rogues in the House podcast: “Call it New Wave Sword & Sorcery… a reaction to the musclebound masculinity, the unbridled machismo that is found and often-times put at the forefront of Sword & Sorcery. It’s good stuff if you’re open to the idea of new takes on Sword & Sorcery.”
Black Gate: “I’m a sucker for modern heroic fantasy, so I was glad to take a look. And what I found was a well-packaged collection.”
Sword and Sorcery Magazine: “I felt hope the sword & sorcery genre has a future beyond rehashes of the genre’s past, and that it can expand and grow… there is a sense of roguish humor mixed with the odd, effective drop of tragedy that drives these stories… always from the classic sword & sorcery, bottom-up perspective of the outsider protagonists.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Over the past decade Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten have been mainly active in journalism, working for various local and national publications. They wrote about film, theatre and books, and interviewed authors like Neil Jordan, James Ellroy and Anne Rice. The biographical piece on Robert E. Howard they wrote for Fortean Times received a REH Foundation Award nomination.
Now they are focusing on telling their own tales, instead writing about those of others. These stories are firmly rooted in the green hills of Northern Ireland where Angeline grew up, and the heavy clay of the Dutch coast from which Remco came. They are steeped in their shared love for history and folklore, not shying away from treasured genres and format, yet are infused with modern sensibilities and a healthy dose of black humour. Their stories appeared in the Sesheta anthology Underneath the Tree, in Air & Nothingness Press’ The Wild Hunt, and in Dutch translation in Wonderwaan.

Angeline Adams is involved in disability activism and wrote about disability for various online magazines like The Toast and Disability in Kidlit.
On Ymke, the protagonist of The Red Man and The Return of the Uncomplaining Child, she says: “Ymke’s rebellions, like mine, have often been subtle ones: staying alive in a world that oppresses disabled people is also a form of resistance. But sometimes we’re both surprised by what we’re capable of doing when we really have to – and with the right person by our side.”

Remco van Straten co-created Waen Sinne, an anthology which had a lasting impact on Dutch SFF publishing, and was a jury member for the Paul Harland Award, Holland’s leading contest for speculative fiction. “I spent a lot of my childhood and teens reading, and discovering Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories was a watershed moment. I have always wanted to emulate him, and indeed the title of this collection is a hat-tip to his collection, The Dark Man and Others.”

WHY TURNIP LANTERNS?
Hallowe’en is one of our favourite festivals, and from childhood both of us have been fascinated with ghosts, monsters and other scary and mysterious things. Over the last few years we’ve gone back to the age-old tradition of carving turnips instead of pumpkins. The turnip’s texture is irregular, with lumps and bumps that decide the features for the carved face. Unlike pumpkins, turnips grow underground and hint at things hidden and slowly emerging from the soil. They symbolise the much older, much more forbidding tradition of Hallowe’en.

FURTHER RESOURCES FOR THE RED MAN AND OTHERS
Goodreads
Amazon UK and Amazon US
Book trailer
Short story reading
And find Angeline and Remco on Twitter

Track Your Submissions

As over the years we’ve built up quite a drawer full of stories, we needed to have a system to keep track of what went where, when. Our tracker is a living document, updated whenever we’ve got something to update, and sometimes we play a bit with the format. As it’s something we both use, and we’ve got slightly different thinking patterns, above all our submissions tracker had to be simple and intuitive.

Here’s a model of our tracker; I’ve stripped out magazine and story titles, so nobody need feel embarrassed.

On the horizontal axis we’ve got our story titles plus their word count. We pretty much know our stories, so that’s all we need. Vertically, we’ve got the magazine titles with the genre and the word count requirements. Tip: if your spreadsheet program allows, you can link the story title to its submission page on the ‘net. Not shown, on the right hand side, there’s a column with a little bit more detail on the specific quirks they have (“They accept horror but prefer it with speculative element”). Tip: lock your column and row with the magazine and story titles, so when you scroll they stay visible.

Whenever we’ve got a new story, we look at which markets it’s suitable for. Those which aren’t, we give a grey square. Whenever we’ve got a new market, we look at which stories we can potentially submit to them. These choices aren’t only based on word count and genre; sometimes you just know that a market won’t like a story. In practice, you’ll end up throwing things against the wall to see what sticks, and editor feedback (or the lack of it) can make you fine tune it. Tip: Don’t self-reject too quickly. Also: stories can bust genres, like when an editor normally doesn’t take horror but you feel that based on previous feedback they might like your horror story which is actually more a philosophical exploration.

Whenever we submit a story, we make the square for the story title dark blue, as well as the corresponding square in the row for the magazine we submitted it to, where we also type the submission date. That story’s now off the market until we hear an outcome. A market may not be open yet, or a story has been submitted, but we already know where we want it next: in this case we make the story/market square light-blue. You’ll see one story in orange there – we got extensive feedback on it from an editor, and we’ve decided that we want to rewrite it. Tip: Keep a record of your feedback in a separate tab.

And finally, there’s the red squares for “alas!” We don’t let them demotivate us: looking at them may help us decide what a magazine editor likes, and revise our greys and whites. Whenever we colour a square red, we do tend to look at “where do we send this story next?” and “anything else we can send them?”

So, this is our tracker. It works for us (though, this example shows that we can be a bit more ‘on top’ of it). If you’re serious about submitting, we strongly advise you to use a submission tracker. Of course, make it your own. Make it work for you!

Happy Birthday, Red Man!

As we’re nearing Hallowe’en, which certainly is Angeline’s favourite festival, we decided to celebrate The Red Man and Others‘ first (and a bit) birthday in style!

We’ve reduced the price of the eBook to £1.99 / $2.99 for the rest of the month, and you get a chance to win an original piece of The Red Man and Others art!

Of course we’re always happy with sales of our book (it’s a good incentive to keep writing the adventures of Kaila, Ymke and Sebastien), but what makes us extra happy is to hear what you think of it. We’ve already been lucky to have received kind words from some notable names in the field, but we’d also like to see your review on Goodreads and/or Amazon!

So, at 6pm GMT on 31st October, we’ll gather the reviews from Goodreads and Amazon (UK and US), and throw them in the hat. The winner whose name we draw gets to choose one of these pieces! Both are A3 size, done in ink and (the Kaila and Ymke painting) acrylics.

To make it fair on those who have supported us since the book was published, we’ll also include their names!

And, if you love our stories, why not give our ebook to someone else as a present? Click here for details – it comes with a certificate containing a mini-fic!

Spread the word!

Angeline & Remco