Why and How I Wrote Beginning

September 2, 2016

Cover - FinalHello again everyone,

Shortly after publishing Inca I wrote a blog post explaining what led me to write about that empire and its people. A year later when I published Zulu I blogged about what drew me to the story of that kingdom and its people. I suppose now that Beginning is in the process of going live across the various regional Amazon websites, the time has come to talk about why I wrote this book.

Unlike Inca and Zulu, where my interest was first sparked by looking for more information about a civilization I did not know much about, Beginning began with me being self-conscious about my work. I suspect most writers after they have written a couple of books start worrying their stuff is all of a type, and maybe not the type they would have chosen if they had to do it over again. I have written two lengthy novels about cultures that are relatively little-known to my friends and family. If I wanted to write something much shorter with a broader appeal, what would that look like?

Inca and Zulu, much as I love them, ask for a lot of a reader’s time and attention. You cannot do a deep dive into the history and culture of people who most people are unfamiliar with while worrying about word count. They are by necessity long and dense. If I was free to write something where I knew my readers would understand everything from page one, what would I write about?

I have come up with half a dozen answers to that question so far, and most of them exist as a hundred pages or so of abandoned first draft material. One of the primary hurdles about completing a novel –long or short—is that you have to be excited about the subject matter and the plot and the characters for months and probably years of research and writing before you have a finished first draft to start editing and polishing. There were a lot of false starts as I searched for something I was sure I would finish. For maybe two years I despaired of finishing a third novel for want of an idea I knew would hold my interest.

I firmly believe writers need to read widely and deeply to develop their own craft. One of the most flattering things I have seen in the reviews for Inca is when someone says they can see some of Gary Jennings’ Aztec in my own work. Zulu was very much inspired by the early few decades of Wilbur Smith’s work. So who should I take as my muse for my third novel? Who writes the shorter novels that I adore?

I cast about through a few options, but again and again I kept coming back to Kurt Vonnegut.

Let me say categorically that Beginning is not a Kurt Vonnegut-esque novel, much to my regret. I lack his brevity and his wit. I am just telling the story of how I got started, and I started with Vonnegut.

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My Third Novel is Now Published on Amazon

August 26, 2016

Cover - FinalHello everyone,

My last blog post was about a year ago now. I apologized at the time, saying I was working on another writing project that was more important to me. It is with great pleasure that I return to this blog, then, to say I have now completed my third novel, Beginning. The e-book version is available on Amazon as of this post, and I expect the trade paperback version to be available sometime next week.

I am very happy with how this novel came together. One of my proofreaders called it, “Some of your best writing, and certainly your most accessible,” which has to be the nicest way anyone can say that Inca and Zulu can be a little dense for people who do not read historical fiction on a regular basis.

I will be blogging on a regular basis for the foreseeable future to support this book, so I suppose I do not need to say everything all at once. As long as I am blogging, I also have some other ideas for content that might be fun to share on this site. We will see how those ideas develop, I am sure.

One thing I would like to encourage people to do if you are reading this blog because you enjoy my novels, please join The Novels of Geoff Micks page I set up on Facebook. I share pictures and links there that will not appear on this blog, and comments on that page board go through to my phone where I will actually engage with them, rather than the WordPress comments section that I clean out once ever six months or so.

Anyway, you can expect to hear a lot from me in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, best regards and have a great day!

–Geoff


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 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

Cover_AmazonHello 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 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!