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 Favourite 12 Tweets of 2012

December 29, 2012

twitterHello again, everyone!

It’s been another great year, and I continue to enjoy Twitter –my account is @faceintheblue– beyond my wildest expectations: I’ve live tweeted political debates and playing tourist in foreign cities; I’ve complained about the weather and my distaste for shoe shopping; I’ve championed things I like and rubbished things I don’t; I’ve made new internet friends, and entertained some of the people I know in real life; most of all, I’ve killed time waiting for a bus, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

A few years ago I started a tradition as New Year rolled around. I blogged my favourite 10 tweets of 2010 and my favourite 11 tweets of 2011. Now another year has come and gone, and my foray into micro-blogging continues to distract and amuse me in odd moments that I would otherwise have wasted while waiting for something to happen. As I did last year and the year before, I’ve put together my top twelve tweets of 2012. Here they are!

January 27th

Who decided to give the CP24 traffic cam guy the ability to draw arrows on the feed? “No kidding? The cars go that way? Top-notch analysis!”

February 6th

What happened to you, Monday? You used to be cool. (Don’t ask me to cite examples right now. That’s such a Monday thing to do.)

March 7th

Just watched a baby snatch a set of jingling keys out of her mother’s hand and hurl them the length of a city bus while Mom wailed, “Nyet!”

March 31st

“Sara Three Cats: That’s a great name for a pool shark,” I said to Sara Three Cats as she proceeded to hustle me.

April 18th

Sorry, I never do this, but my April morning is cold: Please send it back to the kitchen, and I’d like to speak to your manager. #Toronto

July 17th

I’m not an incompetent hyperbolic scientist, but I play one on Twitter: If my calculations are correct it’s a billion degrees out today!

July 21st

Random Thought: If plants had ‘the sex talk’ it would literally be about the birds and the bees. Practice safe pollination, saplings…

September 14th

I just saw a squirrel panic at my approach & try to bury a nut into interlocking brick. Conclusion? Winter is coming & squirrels’re idiots.

September 19th

Cooking a premade frozen pizza that promises, “No unpronounceable ingredients!” I am not reassured: I can pronounce lots of awful things…

October 11th

The new guy at work just asked if I stayed late last night. I did. He laughed and said, “Classic Geoff!” Not sure how I feel about that.

November 23rd

Walking through a mall, my buddy mocking all the Black Friday shoppers. Mid-sentence he stops, and now we’re shopping for luggage.

December 1st

I’m sitting next to Typhoid Mary –patient zero of an Irish Wedding that saw dozens fall ill– but she coughs into her elbow, so we’re cool.

- – -

My criteria for the top tweets has evolved this year: They need to be self-contained and stand-alone, flippant, and ideally people enjoyed them on my Facebook newsfeed as well. There were half a dozen more that could have made the cut if only this were 2018. Ah, well. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just mind find you get what you need. I look forward to continuing with it in 2013. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!


An Essay on Writing by Way of The Time Traveler’s Wife

November 25, 2012

I have just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Some months ago I co-founded a rather studious book club, and this one has been nominated a number of times without ever being selected for group discussion. I had a vague understanding of the premise, and it sounded appealing. I decided to pick up a copy and see what all the fuss was about.

My goodness, there is a lot to fuss about.

Just to emphasize my emphasis, I bought the book less than twenty-four hours ago. Fifty pages in I knew whatever else I planned to do with those twenty-four hours was going to have to be put on the back burner. I needed to see this thing through as quickly as possible.

The book was published in 2003 to rave reviews and was made into a movie I’m told I shouldn’t watch in 2009, so I imagine many of you reading this already know what it’s all about. For everyone else, the novel is about a man named Henry DeTamble with a rare genetic disorder that causes him under certain stimuli to become unstuck in time, flashing forwards or more usually backwards through a span of roughly a century to any number of places throughout the United States’ Midwest. He cannot control where or when he appears, naked and disoriented, but the journeys are guided in some way by his subconscious. More often than not he appears in the vicinity of people and places who have great importance in his life: His mother who dies in a car wreck; himself at a younger age; the Art Institute of Chicago, but most often –or at least it features most prominently in the novel– in the meadow behind the house where his future wife lives.

Clare Abshire first meets Henry at six years old, and over the next twelve years their friendship evolves from an almost imaginary friend through to a guardian angel, and then eventually and inevitably into a crush that moves through her teenage lust into something adult and mature. On her eighteenth birthday he tells her they will not see one another again for two years and two months, and the Henry she meets at that point will be the Henry in the here and now –a Henry only eight years older than her who lives in Chicago– and he begs her to have mercy on him. He isn’t the man Clare knows yet, but he will become that person with her help.

Clare does meet the contemporary Henry after beginning university in Chicago, and their life together begins in both an ordinary and extraordinary way. Throughout their lives together it is understood that at any point he might disappear almost without warning, leaving a puddle of clothes behind. Sometimes he’s gone minutes, and sometimes hours, and sometimes days. When he reappears, he often bears the scars of his misadventures. She likens the waiting to women of previous centuries who married men who went to sea and spent long periods waiting and worrying and watching the horizon for a distant sail.

More than that I will not say. Read the book. You will not regret it.

Now I entitled this blog post, “An Essay on Writing by Way of the Time Traveler’s Wife,” and I do want to talk about writing in some depth. Many of you know that I’ve written a couple of novels myself, and when I read a book now, I read it as an author admiring another author’s craft. There is a bit of armchair quarterbacking involved, of course, but there is also a deep appreciation for the process and the art. I once had a trumpet player tell me I couldn’t be a real Beatles fan because I wasn’t a musician. I find that a laughable claim, but I will admit in the same way musicians can enjoy music with a fuller understanding of the mechanics involved, so too do writers appreciate books in a different way than other readers. We ponder motive, pacing, plotting, character arcs, prose, perspective. We wonder why something was done this way and not another. We peer between the lines to look at the author on the other side and ask, ‘What are you really trying to say?’

Read the rest of this entry »


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

May 14, 2012

Cover_Amazon

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to say we now have a working link. More importantly, my mother has bought the first copy, so I can now tell everyone else about it. Zulu is currently the 218,622nd most popular e-book for sale in the Kindle Store. I’m pleased to see e-publishing is thriving. With your help, I hope to climb at least an order of magnitude in the rankings. I’m sure there will be a number of updates and additional information in the near future –including a Smashwords link for those of you who do not favour Kindle e-readers– but for the time being I’m just going to say this is a proud moment for me. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please tell a friend.

Cheers and happy reading!

Now Available at Amazon.com and CreateSpace!

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


I Will Be E-Publishing My Next Novel, Zulu, Soon

April 30, 2012

Hello everyone,

As many of you know, I e-published a work of historical fiction, Inca, last summer on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and  I’m pleased to announce in the next few days I will be publishing my second novel. I’m just waiting for the ISBN number to come through, and then there will be a short delay while Amazon processes the file. I expect I’ll be blogging quite a bit in the next couple of weeks as everything comes online.

When I was fourteen years old I watched a movie called Zulu starring a young Michael Caine in his first major role. The film is an African Western –if that’s a thing– loosely based on the true story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, a minor siege that saw a hundred and fifty British soldiers defend a mission station against four thousand Zulu warriors for a day and a night. The redcoats won eleven Victoria Crosses for their heroism, but I came away from the experience with a lingering question, “What would make a man get up out of the tall grass and run against a fortress over and over again, armed only with a spear less than four feet long?” The redcoats fought for their lives and only survived thanks to breech-loading rifles and makeshift barricades shoulder-high. What were the Zulu fighting for?

Being a bookish sort, I went to my library in search of answers. Everything I read left me wanting to learn more. The Anglo-Zulu War was not a straight parallel to the Apache or Sioux wars made famous by American westerns: The Zulu were an iron age pastoral society with a strong monarchy, a thriving economy, and a culture that celebrated service to the State. The assault on Rorke’s Drift was fought exclusively by men in their late thirties and early forties who had missed an earlier  battle where their sons and nephews had won a victory that made the Little Big Horn look like a church picnic. The older generation defied the orders of their King and crossed into British territory to attack Rorke’s Drift so as not to go home ashamed at their lack of accomplishment. They threw their lives against the British fortifications because it was better to die than have their children think less of them. The tragedy of that, the stubborn pride involved, humbles me.

The Zulu Kingdom went on to hold off a quarter of the globe for six aching months, and their final defeat saw their whole world collapse into an anarchy of ashes and dust for the hubris of wanting to live free in their own land under their own laws.

Much more so than the Ashante or the Xhosa or the Pashtuns or any other people ground under the Victorian heel in the later half of the 1800s, the Zulu have echoed through history for more than a century for their proud, doomed struggle. It frustrated me as a fan of historical fiction that nothing has ever written from their own perspective: Every story I found was written from the British perspective, and the Zulu were rarely more than a mass of humanity seen over a set of iron gun sights.  They deserve better than that, and I began writing a story at seventeen that I’ve been tinkering with ever since. I hope it does them justice.

Zulu is the story of four young people: Mbeki and Ingonyama, the sons of a blacksmith; the exiled Matabele prince Inyati, and Nandhi, the daughter of a Northern baron. They grow up in a kingdom on the cusp of a golden age. Their lives are far from perfect, but they make friends and enemies at the Royal Court that draw them into the great events of a people with a culture and history as rich and deep as anything medieval Europe can boast of. The abrupt collision of their civilization with an aggressive foreign power armed with the fruits of the Industrial Revolution becomes their highest glory and their deepest tragedy.

If Inca was my attempt to follow in the footsteps of Gary Jennings’ Aztec, Zulu is unabashedly my homage to the early works of Wilbur Smith: There are love triangles, power struggles, boxing matches, elephant hunting, brush fires, and battles. While most of the main characters are fictional, the incredible events they find themselves caught up in really happened.

I’m excited to share that story with you. Best regards and happy reading!

–Geoff Micks

EDIT: As of September 30th, I’ve decided to stop publishing on Smashwords and focus on Amazon.


My Top 11 Tweets of 2011

January 8, 2012

Hello everyone!

Another year has come and gone, and my foray into micro-blogging continues to entertain and distract me in odd moments that I would otherwise spend staring into space waiting for a bus. As I promised this time last year, I’ve put together my top eleven tweets of 2011. Enjoy!

November 5, 2011

Sudden thought: Why is there a jail in Monopoly? I’m playing a capitalist with huge swaths of real estate. My kind don’t go to prison…

October 27, 2011

Lipton could bottle today’s weather and market it with a series of claymation parodies (it’s brisk, I guess is what I’m trying to say).

(For those of you who don’t get the reference, here’s some context.)

September 6, 2011

My reaction to the first day of school: “That will take care of all those troublesome kids.” I think I’m becoming a Scooby Doo villain.

August 28, 2011

Got my good deed for the day out of the way early (caught an escaped dog for an older lady). Now I can dedicate the rest of my day to evil.

August 21, 2011

I’m in a used bookstore. Along one wall are shelves for Religion and for Science. The bookcase between the two is labeled ‘Unexplained.’

June 4, 2011

Things you learn at 1 a.m.? Card-carrying communists bring tambourines to karaoke. Who knew?

April 24, 2011

Bachelor achievement unlocked: I have worn out my can opener.

March 28, 2011

Geoff of the Future? Buy cat food. The natives are getting restless. Sincerely, Geoff of the Past (your biggest fan!)

February 14, 2011

I like the word lampooning: It’s like harpooning without the attempted murder. You’re only stabbing someone with your words.

February 8, 2011

Okay Tuesday *rolls head left and right until a pop-click sounds from both directions* let’s dance!

January 8, 2011

Had some company over to see the new apartment. Best compliment? “Now there’s the television of a man who reads books!”

- – -

Anyway, I make no claims to any of this being great writing, but I have a lot of fun with Twitter, and I look forward to continuing with it in 2012. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!


I’m Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo 2011

October 31, 2011

Hello everyone,

I’ll be trying by hand at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year. As you may remember from last year, it’s an internet community project where thousands of people around the world try to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1st and November 30th. Last year I only managed 34,000 words, but I have high hopes of hitting my goal this time around.

I’m going to deviate a little from the original premise of the contest, in that I’m not planning on doing an original project from scratch. While I enjoyed the exercise last year –and it definitely helped shake some rust off the old writing toolbox– I’ve found myself wishing I had put those hours into something I plan to finish. I don’t think I’ve made it a secret that I’ve written a couple of works of historical fiction already (one of which I have e-published), and a third project has been in the works for the better part of four years now. I will produce tens of thousands of words of first draft nonsense towards that project in the next thirty days, and I’m sure some of it will be of some use towards a finished third novel.

Wrimos, as we are apparently called, keep in touch through the website, blogs, and hopefully meet up in early December at bars all over the world to commiserate and swap war stories. My profile on the site is also calledFaceintheblue, so I should be easy to track down; I encourage anyone reading this who is also doing NaNoWriMo to add me as a buddy. A community is only as rich as its members, after all.

I also encourage you to follow me on twitter here, as I’m bound to complain heartily over the course of the month, and everyone likes to hear colourful rhetoric in the place of thoughtful prose from time to time.

For anyone who’s interested but not already involved, you can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Perhaps we’ll fail spectacularly together, but I suspect we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it.

Good luck to you, to me, and to all of this year’s Wrimos. Cheers!


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?

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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!


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