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!

New Book Trailer

We’d already made a book trailer for The Red Man and Others when it came out on Kindle. For this, we took the Red Man himself as a starting point, and then connected Ymke and the farm she grew up on to the Otasfaust, where she met Kaila. As we were launching the expanded paperback of the story collection (available here) we thought it’d be a good idea to give it a new book trailer. Here it is:

The idea we had was to focus on The Return of the Uncomplaining Child, as this is the longest story in the book, and the one in which Ymke, Kaila and Sebastien meet up. As it’s written from Ymke’s point of view, we decided to do it from her perspective, using the first lines of the story, as written by her. We’d already used a medieval style of drawing for the chapter headers of the paperback, and we felt that this would also suit the narrative of the trailer. So, I set to work doing the drawings from Ymke’s diary. I had fun with that, even though Ymke’s a better writer than artist!

We recorded the sound in GarageBand, with separate files for the narration and for the Brotherhood of the Wheel’s chanting. The bell is actually a dinner gong – our cat Polly doesn’t like the sound, and her struggle throughout recording and editing was real! The various Brothers were all me, chanting in different registers, taped on several tracks and then ‘audited’ and mixed. GarageBand is quite flexible, and where a Brother had a good voice but no rhythm, I could still go in and cut – his -track – up to match.

We filmed the ‘live’ bits in our library by candlelight. It’s not something I’d recommend, as the footage came out quite grainy, but if it’s good enough for Kubrick (Barry Lyndon) it’s good enough for me. It’s Angeline you see there, wearing quite a bit of jewellery appropriate for Ymke, like a northern Dutch bracelet with blood coral and a clunky Nibelungen-style armband. The goose quill pen came from a ‘medieval writing’ kit, but augmented with a modern nib. Various odds and ends from around the house, including the Lewis chess piece queen, made up the backdrop.

I edited the video in iMovie. First I laid down the sound, then cut the footage over it, which I’d first sorted into three folders: No (terrible), yes (stuff I’d like to include), maybe (not great, but some elements may work as a cross-cut). I also created the title card in Pixlr, a free, online Photoshop-like program: it’s black and white text on a green screen, which iMovie could then lay over the footage.

It’s all fairly straightforward, and nothing that takes a very steep learning curve: Google is your friend here too – it’ll direct you to ‘how do I do this’ pages and YouTube tutorials. This is all software that was free online or bundled with my computer, and when working digitally, imagination is the main constraint. If the result is rubbish, then scrap it and try again, or try Plan B. It’s absolutely possible to create something aesthetically pleasing, evocative of your book, and tempting to readers.

And – did I really burn one of my drawings? No, of course not. I’d scanned and printed it, and mounted the page in the book. I’m not very precious about my art, but torching it would go a bit far even for me!

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

25K!

That’s not Couch to 5 K; it’s the word count of the story of which I’ve just finished the first draft. It’s twice as long as anything we’ve done before, and we’re going outside our usual routine with it too. Normally, we’d discuss a story idea, then I’ll do an outline, after which Angeline does the first draft. I take over and complete the draft, including any bits in all-caps which haven’t been figured out yet. This time, I did the full first draft, while Angeline is concentrating on another story.

She did read the story while I wrote, gave feedback, spotted continuity errors and plot holes, and helped tease out the story’s themes. Her draft will further sharpen the characters’ voices, sharpen the prose and do anything else that make a story ‘work’. Then we’ll hand it to and fro a few more times, and the end result will be that the story isn’t mine; it’s ours. The characters, definitely, are from us both. It’s another story with Sebastien, Ymke and -most of all- Kaila. Both of us have similar ideas of who each of them are, and even where we’d ‘fan cast’ a different celeb in our heads for Ymke, they were remarkably similar in appearance.

At last year’s WorldCon in Dublin, Diane Duane and Peter Morwood described how they were asked to write an opening scene for the Nibelungen film they were working on, “like Conan’s forging or the sword”. What they came up with was two rods of iron, heated, twisted together and hammered until it becomes one bar of strong steel. We like to think our writing is like that; and if the two bars have slightly different properties; well, the visible textures give the resulting sword extra beauty, right?

Photos from Dr. Susie C. Rijnhart’s With The Tibetans In Tent And Temple

“Are you a plotter or a pantser?” is the question often asked amongst writers. We’re definitely plotters, yet that still leaves a lot of room for discovery. Going in, you know what happens, but what remains to learn is why it happens and how it affects the characters. This one definitely affects Kaila greatly, though without the story in front of you it’s of course of no use to go into details. The story incorporates three flash fics I wrote last year during October, using Inktober prompts, but sets them in a bigger context, finding more meaning for them. One of the story’s characters, in a ‘this happened before’ arc, is Kaila’s mentor. This at first gave us the notion that the story was about women: there’d be the maiden, the mother and the crone. However, at 19K words, Angeline having had her first thorough read-through of the thing without framing narrative, we mulled it over and figured that the story really is about family. As we’ve described Kaila, Sebastien and Ymke as found family, the family you choose instead of the ties that come with blood, this was just as well, and it was easy to write towards it.

It’s not going to be bogged down in philosophy though. At least, that’s the idea. The working title is The Wolves of Scorr. It’s actually a title from the Dutch Eric de Noorman comicbook cycle (one of my favourite comics – this year I bought the complete, deluxe, set!). It’s mostly set in the mountains, so I got to do research with the excellent Tresspassers on the Roof of the World, about the early Western explorers in Tibet and the race to Llhasa, and the primary sources mentioned in it, like Dr. Susie C. Rijnhart’s With The Tibetans In Tent And Temple. We also made use of the 1956 documentary Seven Years in Tibet (not to be confused with the Brad Pitt vehicle). Kaila’s mentor is from a region vaguely synonymous to Eastern Europe so we borrowed bits of Ukrainian, Scythian and Latvian (Baltic) folklore and myth. Stumbling upon a cache of cradle songs around the Baltic primal mother figure Mara, Google translate helped me putting together some decidedly dark songs for our character to sing.

The Roseau Stone: the mask of the ancient Russian goddess Jara, circled with runes, or a pitted pebble with a non-rune border? We’re writing fiction, so a goddess it is!

So, what we have is 25.000 words of framing narrative, a few flashbacks, flashbacks within flashbacks, an attempt to make the narratives distinct, and still quite a bit of work to do. As in the other stories set in what we lazily call Wheelworld, there are swords, and there is sorcery. We’re again not quite sure though whether Sword & Sorcery is the right label for this thing. While our adventurous trio is avoiding capture and being tied down, perhaps it’s for the best not to strive for the label too eagerly.

RvS

No NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a great concept, but it’s not for everyone. Northern Irish scifi writer Jo Zebedee already set out her reasons why she’s not joining the fray in her blog post. We’ll also not be joining, but we do offer an alternative challenge for November boost your writing and your confidence!

First some Public Service Announcements:

Item: This week we received our author’s copies of Underneath The Tree, the Christmas story collection which contains our story Special Dispatch. We’ve already dipped into it, ad it definitely makes good on its promise of “a diverse range of genres – from the gothic and ghostly, to the criminal, comedic and supernatural” and if this doesn’t convince you to get it; all proceeds are for the homeless charity Simon Community and the predatory bird sanctuary World of Owls NI.

Item: One week left to get our Heroic Fantasy collection The Red Man and Others at a discount (£1.99 UK, $2.99 US). Get in your review on Goodreads or Amazon, and make a chance to win a piece of original art of the book’s heroine Kaila, or of Kaila with her girlfriend-in-arms Ymke!

So, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is to complete a novel in a month’s time. Years ago we talked about doing it, but we discreetly fell off and never mentioned again. In our daily lives, never mind this particular year, we deal with too much pressure and expectation to want to add this particular one ‘just because,’ and we both know we work better the fewer simultaneous demands we have on our plates. A high chance of medically induced ‘off’ days would further throw any schedule into disarray, with little chance of catching up.

It also depends on the way you write. Some writers easily bang out thousands of words in a stream of consciousness. They may be rubbish, but they give them something to build on in the next draft. Our first drafts tend to already reasonably resemble the final thing, but it does mean that our writing pace is glacially slow. If we do rough it, it’s literally of the SEBASTIEN DOES SOMETHING FUNNY HERE placeholder variety. We’ve got to face it; producing 1666 words every day for 30 days is not going to happen. Not even between the two of us.

Then there are the demands that a novel has that shorter stories lack, like consistency, and a more complex structure. The longer the story, the more we’ve found we have to immerse ourselves in the world each time before hitting the keyboard. Imagine that writing is like having to dive for words. When writing flash fiction you can just take a deep breath and bob under the surface. For a longer story, you’ve got to get your goggles, your wetsuit and your breathing aparatus out. When you write a novel you’ve got to hoist yourself into the full metal-helmeted suit, and have two burly men cranking the air pump.

So. What is the alternative? If you indeed think that a full novel is not going to be for you, but you’re up for quick sprints, then consider what I did last year (albeit in October). Every year, October is known as Inktober, in which people use a daily prompt to make a piece of art each day. You can a prompt card, perhaps one from a genre you particularly like (I chose a D&D prompts sheet last year), and write a piece of flash fic daily. I did them out of order too, and just picked a prompt for which an idea came to mind. You set your rules.

Last year, I wrote 31 flash fic pieces of between 250 and 750 words. They were all set in the world of our story collection (did I mention it’s on sale and you could win original art?), and depicted moments set before, during and after the stories in the book. Some of these shorts, after some editing, are currently ‘doing the rounds’ hoping to find a home, others were combined and expanded into proper short stories, like the one that’s going to be appearing in a Dutch magazine, and others again will be absorbed in bigger works. In all, most of the fics will be used; I’m Dutch, and we’re a thrifty lot after all. And then there’s this one, Ferryman

Even if a series of short sprints is also not for you, then you could still ask yourself the question: in what way can I jumpstart or supercharge my writing, that would challenge me, but not overburden me? It’s been quite the year, so be kind to yourself. Use a project like NaNoWriMo to lift yourself up and boost your confidence, and not to create a rod for your own back!

(RvS)