Maps for My Novel, Inca (Minor Spoilers)

January 29, 2013

Hello again everyone,

I’ve had a few readers tell me they have some trouble following where my protagonist is in any given chapter. It’s a fair critique. One of my goals with this book was to have the narrator visit all four corners of the known world over the course of his life, and that can get confusing in fairly short order. I wouldn’t expect most people to have a firm grasp of South American geography, let alone pre-Columbian geography before the Spanish renamed everything. Here is the map included in my book:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

But that doesn’t really make it easy to figure out where things really happened, does it? There are half a dozen landmarks, cities, regions, and tribes to use as way points, but I still left it up to the reader to constantly flip back to the map for reference. That must be especially irritating in the e-book version. Accepting this, I started playing around with the map, trying to track down where Haylli went from chapter to chapter. For my own ease I didn’t line things up exactly with the Royal Road network or the available mountain passes –preferring instead to approximate– but even if I had the overlapping journeys would only have muddied the waters. This is what I came up with:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

That’s kind of a mess, isn’t it? A problem with drawing lines on a map of an empire 3,000 miles long and up to 500 miles wide based on a 70-plus-year narrative is that there’s a lot of repetition. A simple coloured spaghetti chart isn’t much help to the reader interested in matching up the story to the geography. It occurred to me a chapter by chapter breakdown is the only way to really bring clarity to the situation. I did my best to avoid spoilers, but there are some broad plot points that just can’t be avoided. With that said, here’s the prologue and the first two chapters:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

If this is an approach that will help you enjoy the book, I’m happy to show you the rest. Just click through the jump for the rest of the breakdown.

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Both of My Novels Are Now Available as Trade Paperbacks

December 30, 2012

BookCovers

Happy Holidays Everyone!

My office was closed this week, so to keep myself busy I set myself a goal: I’ve finally figured out how to get my e-published novels available as print-on-demand trade paperbacks. A copy of Inca and Zulu are in the mail to me as we speak. In the next week or so they’ll be available for sale through the various Amazon websites, but in the meantime they’re already available via CreateSpace directly:

Inca by Geoff Micks

Zulu by Geoff Micks

For any authors out there with e-books, I cannot say enough good things about the CreateSpace process. Formatting for print was a little time-consuming, of course, but if you have any kind of a graphic design background it is also relatively simple and totally free! That’s a far cry from the not-so-distant past.

Once upon a time, physical copies of self-published books were only available via vanity press: You bought a few hundred or thousand copies up front from a publisher, and it was up to you to sell them. There was a stigma to vanity presses, and the costs were prohibitive. Today, the stigma has been replaced with a spirit of entrepreneurialism, and making your books available costs nothing at all. When someone orders a book, CreateSpace prints off one copy and mails it to the reader. They deduct their costs from the price, and send me the rest as a royalty payment at regular intervals.

It’s a brave new world, and for the first time in a long time I feel lucky to live in an age where traditional publishing is gun shy of long works of historical fiction from new authors. This is better –so much better! I have total control over my novels in perpetuity, and I have the freedom to write what I like, format it as  I please, and publish on my own timeline. I even have the option of making the book available to bookstores and libraries, although that’s something I want to research further before taking that step.

This has been and will continue to be a journey, but I’m very happy with how far I’ve already come and the road still stretching out before me. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me set this course. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from a man who finds himself grinning ear to ear lately.

Cheers!


My e-book, Inca, is now live on Smashwords

August 14, 2011

Hello everyone,

In addition to Amazon’s Kindle store, My e-book is now also available through Smashwords.

For those of you with Kobo, Nook, Diesel, or Sony E-Readers, this should now work without any issues. Some of the formatting may be simplified during the conversion process, but all the prose is still there.

For those of you who are just running a search on Smashwords, apparently my book is being censored off the list for having adult situations. There’s enough sex and violence in the story that I ticked the box when they asked, but now that I know it limits my visibility I’m going to review the terms and conditions tomorrow to see if I can opt out of it.

I’ll have further updates and details on this soon. In the meantime, happy reading!

Addendum: As of September 30th, 2012, I’ve decided not to publish on Smashwords, focusing instead on Amazon.com. Cheers!

Further Addendum: As of December 30th, 2012, this novel is also available as a trade paperback at CreateSpace!


A note on my choice of spelling Quechua words in my e-book, Inca

August 8, 2011

Hello again everyone,

I thought I’d blog a little today about some of the choices I made when it comes to spelling the Quechua words, names, and places in my e-book, Inca.

Let me start off with a simple example: The holiest temple in Cuzco in the time of the Inca was called the Golden Enclosure or the Golden Courtyard; that can be spelled in Quechua as either Coricancha or Qorikancha. The first –which I use in my book– is how the Spanish Chroniclers spell the name; the second is how many modern Quechua speakers have chosen to spell it. Both are correct, of course, but I chose the first for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the premise of my novel is that the prose is being written in Spanish by a friar in roughly 1540, so I’d prefer the 16th Century spelling. For another, I find a Q without a U a jarring experience.

Before anyone jumps all over that anglophone phobia, let me give you another word: Accountant –literally ‘Quipu Master’– can be rendered Quipucamayoc or Khipukamayoq. One is the spelling preferred by Spaniards at the time of my novel’s events, and the other is a modern rendition that asks readers to use both k and q interchangeably when both are already a hard C.

To further muddy the waters of choosing a modern spelling, Quechua as a modern language is fragmented and still evolving. A standard alphabet was set in 1975 and then a major revision was made in 1985. This has been applied across a number of distinct dialects in an uneven way. If my work of fiction really had been composed in period-authentic vocabulary it would be in a language known today as Proto-Quechua. The Inca called it Runa Simi, The Language of the People, and they imposed it as a lingua franca over at least eighty tribes. With their fall, that language splintered and in many cases merged with the accents and vocabulary of earlier tribal tongues.

Look at the English language in 1500 versus today: Is Australian versus American versus British versus South African any more or less correct? Well, if I had chosen to forsake all original Spanish spellings in favour of their ‘correct’ modern option I would have had to further pick one dialect and vet all of my spelling decisions to conform to my favourite drift from the original. That would have been a lot of work for me with very little real benefit to my prose. To take a particularly glaring case as a reason to highlight and ignore a number of quibble-worthy examples, should I refer to Cuzco as Qusqu or Qozko? Isn’t that taking things at least a little too far for the sake of the good work being done to modernize the language?

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A High-Resolution Copy of the Map from Inca, My E-Book

August 7, 2011

(Click to enlarge.)

One of the drawbacks to e-publishing is that graphics do not always scale properly across all platforms. For anyone who wanted a better look at the map included in my e-book, Inca, please enjoy this high-resolution copy. It’s not an exhaustive cartographical representation of the Inca Empire, but it does include all the places and peoples visited by my novel’s protagonist over the course of his life. For anyone interested in a near-definitive map, I encourage you to hunt down a copy of the map that came in National Geographic’s May 2002 issue. It isn’t available online in a readable format, and of course I don’t have the rights to it even if it was, but it will not disappoint anyone looking to learn more about Tahuantinsuyu.

Now Available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com!


My e-book, Inca, is now for sale through Amazon’s Kindle Store

August 6, 2011

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to say we now have a working link. My book is currently the 155,423rd most popular e-book for sale in the Kindle Store. With your help, I hope to reduce that by at least an order of magnitude. There will be tons of updates and additional information in short order, but for the time being I’m just going to say that this is a big day for me. I feel about ten feet tall. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please tell a friend.

Cheers and happy reading!

Now Available at Amazon.com and CreateSpace!


Why I wrote about the Inca

August 4, 2011

Hello again everyone,

Amazon is still processing my e-book, so while I wait for the big news I thought I’d blog a little on what drew me to write about the Inca.

I am wholeheartedly and unashamedly a history nerd. I love it. It’s the story of humankind, and there’s always something more to learn. The Inca are tucked away in a little-explored corner of the historical zeitgeist, and for most of my childhood and teens I had them grouped in with the Aztec and the Maya as New World civilizations that did not survive the arrival of Europeans. At some point I heard the improbable story of Francisco Pizarro’s one-upping Hernán Cortés in audacity and rapaciousness, but really the Inca meant nothing more to me than a source of the silver and gold that filled those galleons English pirates and privateers hunted throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Inca as a people were a blank to me, and I was on a Roman history kick that I’ve never really gotten over.

Sometimes it’s the little things that draw your attention to an idea that will consume years of your life. There’s a great exchange in Seinfeld where George Costanza tells Jerry that his favourite explorer was Hernando de Soto.

“De Soto? What did he do?” Jerry asks.

“He discovered the Mississippi,” George replies.

“Yeah, but they were going to find that anyway!” Jerry protests.

The delivery of that line always tickled me, and one day I decided to read a book about conquistadores to see what all the fuss was about.  It turns out before De Soto led his ill-fated expedition into Florida and across the American South he had already earned fame and fortune as the leader of Pizarro’s horsemen against the Inca. I flipped to the chapter on Pizarro, and I read two things that got my immediate attention: First, the Emperor Atauhuallpa (I should mention there are several different accepted ways to spell his name. I’m using the one that appears in my book) was the winner of a recent civil war and indeed had not yet undergone his coronation when Pizarro’s men seized him and demanded the largest ransom in history only to kill him after it was paid; second, smallpox had hit the Inca years before the arrival of the Spaniards, and a quarter of the population had died.

Right there, I knew there was something more to the Inca than just the drama of Pizarro’s improbable conquest.

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Update on Inca: Amazon is Processing My E-Book

August 2, 2011

Hello again everyone,

My book is now in the tender hands of Amazon’s self-publishing department. I’ve been told it will be available for purchase within the next two or three business days. They want to make sure I’m not violating their terms and services, and I’m sure I’ll have a happy announcement to make very soon.

In the meantime, I want to walk back an  earlier statement I made: My original intention was to put this out for 99¢. An e-book is a different animal than a traditionally published work, and I was willing to keep the price down to the minimum above giving it away for free. While going through the process of actually uploading the book I was informed that the 70% royalty that is a major argument in favour of e-publishing is only available to works priced between $2.99 and $9.99. If I price my book at 99¢, I will only receive 35% of the proceeds of my work.

I’ve given up the idea of doing this for the money. There’s no advance in e-publishing, and there isn’t a marketing department at a major publishing house driving sales. My book is not going to pay my rent. If I’m lucky, it’ll keep me in coffee money from month to month. That said, 34¢ a book is a lot less than the 69¢ I was expecting. I have therefore decided to price my book at $2.99: The minimum that gets me the royalty my research told me to expect. I hope this doesn’t come across as overreaching. Some rough math says that every one sale I’m going to make at this new price will net me the equivalent  of six sales at my original intention, and I can’t pass that up.

For anyone who made up their mind to humour me at 99¢, I’d like to make the plug that $2.99 is still a great price. I am an avid reader, and my favourite genre is historical fiction. I’ve weaved a great story through true events that very few people have ever heard of before. There isn’t another novel that covers the Inca this way, and when I’m done no one will lump the Inca in with the Aztecs and the Maya ever again. While it’s not fair to mention another author and say you’ve produced an equivalent work, my heroes are James Clavell, Gary Jennings, Colleen McCullough, Sharon Kay Penman, Bernard Cornwell, James Michener, Gore Vidal, Lindsay Davis, Wallace Breem, and Wilbur Smith for his first three decades of brilliant work. I have done my best to honour their precedent, and I’m proud of the book I’m offering for your enjoyment.

Inca includes a map, two glossaries, a prologue, eighteen chapters, an epilogue, and an historical note. If I had kept better track of my research resources my bibliography would easily exceed a hundred monographs both from the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library and from my own personal collection. I started this book in 2000, and I’ve been working on it in one way or another ever since. In the weeks and months to come you can look forward to essays on this blog that will further enhance the experience of reading this book.

It’s worth $2.99. In a hypothetical world where the publishing industry existed today as it was when I was a kid, my one-time agent would have found my book a home and it would have been available in bookstores for around $30 two years ago.  Instead we find it here, and I’m just as comfortable asking for $2.99 as 99¢.

I look forward to sharing my work with you soon. It will cost a little more than I originally mentioned, but it will be a steal at thrice the price.

Cheers!

–Geoff

Now Available at Amazon.com and CreateSpace!


On Editing a Novel-Length Manuscript

August 1, 2011

As I mentioned yesterday, I am within days of e-publishing a novel. It’s about the decline and fall of the Inca Empire from 1470 to 1540, told from the perspective of one of the last survivors of the Inca nobility. I’ll be blogging about this quite a bit for the foreseeable future, and today I thought I’d talk about what it’s like to edit something of the length and complexity of a novel-length manuscript.

There’s an excellent quote by James Michener that I came across the other day. “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” For me, that’s the whole thing in a nutshell. People think finishing a manuscript means you have written a book, but nothing could be further from the truth. Completing a first draft is like having a baby, but you still need to bring that kid up right before you trust it to interact with the wider world outside of your supervision. If writing is procreation –with all the fun and pain that goes along with that– then editing is the long and tedious but ultimately rewarding process of parenting.

First, a Hard Truth

Let’s start with the complete first draft. You have hundreds of pages on a computer or on a stack on your desk, and there is a powerful temptation to call that ready to go. You are already so far ahead of the people who dabble and daydream about achieving what you have just accomplished. After all, it has characters, conflicts, memorable scenes of triumph and tragedy, and a satisfying heft to it. What more do you need? Well, for a start, I guarantee you it should be at least ten percent shorter. Twenty percent would be even better.

“Ouch!” I can hear you protest. “This is a finished work! Everything I’ve written is there for a reason, Geoff, and wait until you read this part about–”

Nonsense. The sooner you accept the fact that a first draft is an overwritten, meandering, amateurish piece of sputum –as Nabokov so graphically called it– the sooner you can roll up your sleeves and get ready to untangle the spaghetti-esque plotting and bleach out all that purple prose. You have to throw it into a pot and boil out all the sap. William Faulkner told you to, “Kill your darlings,” and it is going to be a long and bloody process. Somewhere buried under all that copy there is a story about people suffering, and it needs to be excavated out from under all that unnecessary dross you piled on top when you had to cover the blank page with all that ink so it would stop staring at you.

Okay, I’ll stop belabouring the point. Let’s get into specifics…

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I will be e-publishing my first novel, Inca, within the next few days

July 31, 2011

Hello everyone,

As I mentioned back in January, I’ve been researching how to go about e-publishing my manuscripts. I’ve been writing seriously for more than eleven years now, and it is long past time my efforts find an audience beyond a small circle of friends and family. I’ve fought the good fight to find a home with a traditional publisher. I even had a literary agent for a couple of years, but prospects are bleak for new authors who hope to see their efforts sit upon a bookstore shelf next to their heroes.

I have a dozen flattering rejection letters admitting that my work has a readable quality, but economic reality has tied the hands of acquisition editors.  The Jersey Shore’s Snooki can make the New York Times bestsellers’ list, but I am not as safe a bet. So be it. Rather than bemoan the barriers facing my work in the twilight of the old way of doing things, it’s time to embrace the coming dawn. The future is e-publishing, and I’m ready to take the plunge. My first book will be available on Amazon for $.299 within the next few days.

How much do you know about the Inca? Everyone has heard of them, but a sad truth is that most people can do little more than mention them in the same breath as the Aztecs and the Maya. A South American civilization every bit as impressive as the Romans disappeared less than five hundred years ago, and today the true story is all but lost to us: In just three generations the Inca built an empire three thousand miles long and five hundred wide across the second highest mountain range in the world; within forty years of their beginning, rebellions, smallpox, political purges, a civil war, and finally the arrival of the Spaniards left so few of the Inca nobility alive that very little unbiased and coherent information was ever told to their conquerors and recorded for posterity. While working my way through the conflicting histories I found myself wishing that someone had written about the decline and fall of the Inca from their own perspective, as Gary Jennings did in his masterpiece Aztec. After a great deal of research I have written the book I wanted to read.

Inca is the life story of Haylli Yupanki, a man who served three generations of emperors only to watch his whole world shatter and shatter again, leaving nothing behind but his memories and his pride. Hiding in the jungle with the last of the unsubjugated Inca, Haylli transcribes his memoirs from quipus –the Inca’s writing system of knotted string– into Spanish with the help of a captured priest. Beginning with a childhood of privilege and a youth spent as a fugitive from Imperial justice, through a successful career as the Inca’s most powerful bureaucrat, to an old age spent in the ruin of his life’s work, Haylli was present at all the important moments of his people. Through his words he hopes their story will be remembered.

Fans of historical fiction will not be disappointed with this book: It’s a sprawling tale covering more than seventy years to include almost everything we know happened between the zenith and nadir of Inca power. More than two-thirds of the characters are based on real people, and every corner of the empire is visited over the course of the narrator’s life: The plot has court intrigue, forbidden loves, triumphs, tragedies, rivalries, heroes, monsters, coups, prophecies, plagues, treasures, sex and violence –all before the conquistadors arrive to change everything forevermore.

You’re going to be hearing a lot about this in the weeks and months to come. I’ll keep you updated.

Best regards,

–Geoff

Now Available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com!


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