Tales of Fortannis: A Bard’s Eye View

The new collection of short stories taking place in the world of my two novels is here!

TALES OF FORTANNIS: A BARD’S EYE VIEW is the first in a planned series. I’m very pleased with the stories collected here. There is a wide variety of tales being told in a myriad of styles.

“A Bard’ Eye View is a wild and weird collection of fantasy stories that present some of the freshest writing around. Derring-do with a great sense of fun. Highly recommended.” – New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry, author of THE KING OF PLAGUES and DUST & DECAY

“Rollicking good fun perfect for a beach read, subway read, airplane read—heck, just buy it and read it! Mirth, mayhem and magic in an intriguing world.” – Gail Z. Martin, author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series

“A Bard’s Eye View is a varied collection of adventures, whimsies, variously grim, grand and comedic; this book will appeal to fans of gaming and fantasy alike.” – Jay Lake, Campbell Award-winning author of GREEN and MAINSPRING

“You don’t need to know the background material to enjoy the range of stories from the talespinners assembled here. It has plenty of adventures that end with a twist that leave you shaking your head in pleased surprise. I’ll be happy to look for many of these writers in days to come.” – Jody Lynn Nye, author of VIEW FROM THE IMPERIUM and DRAGON’S DEAL

Here’s a short summary of the stories you’ll find:

The Zombie King’s Plan by Michael A. Ventrella: Squire Terin and his friends from the novels ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL journey to retrieve the last magical ring for a biata girl whose memory was stolen. As they fight through zombies, they begin to discover that something isn’t right…

Stealing the Sky by Danny Birt: A brave admiral — who, as a youth, had his arm bitten off by a gryphon from the lands of Thessi — has been planning his revenge for a very long time. Determined that no one else should suffer his fate, he gathers his army and, with the help of the dwarves, moves against the gryphons with his plan.

Listen to a Tale, My Friends by Mike Strauss: A traveling minstrel fascinates the local townspeople with a horrifying tale of a necromancer — and and provides a surprise ending.

Bad Debts by Bernie Mojzes: A simple job turns out to be anything but simple. An evil ritual, a nameless monster, a dead patron — and a young woman must come to terms with her ex-lover and his new flame before she can defeat the threat.

Grip of Chaos by Laurel Anne Hill: When his squire brother does not return from his quest to fight the Ice Queen, an untrained young man has to face his fears and confront the necromantic creature himself.

The Great Green Kettle Pie Recipe Caper by Roy C. Booth and Brian Woods: A timid hobling decides the only way to obtain his favorite pie from the baker who refuses to share is to break in and steal the recipe — but things never go as planned.

Behind the Bar by Mark Mensch: Nigel the tavernkeeper has a successful business. And he has a secret panel in his back room and a secret retirement plan — a plan that not one of his satisfied patrons suspects.

A Rock is a Rock is a Rock … Or Is It? by J. Thomas Ross: When a group of goblin children sneak into the human’s cave to see what riches the humans are mining, they find no gold or gems … but discover a strange secret.

The Messenger’s Trap by Matthew C. Plourde: A mercenary is not sure who to trust when he is released from prison after promising to deliver a simple message.

Faith by Tera Fulbright: A biata bent on revenge learns his true mettle when faced with a life-threatening emergency.

A Child’s Tale by Davey Beauchamp: The kids love to hear stories of their heroes Oliver Songbringer and Aramis Llyrr, but will they act as bravely when they encounter danger in the woods?

Suffer the Liar by Ron. F. Leota: Two con men who spin fabricated tales of mighty adventures suddenly find themselves in an all-too-real situation fighting ice trolls. Can they discover a way to save their skins from both the monsters and the townspeople?

The Long Sleep by Nick Bond: The ancient forest has awakened its defender, who must seek out the necromancers who have stolen its heart.

The Otherside Alliance by Jon Cory: A lazy knight, whose king demands that he arrange an alliance with Duke Frost or die, comes up with a brilliant plan to obtain the Duke’s support — so long as no one sees through the ruse.

J. Thomas Ross was the copy editor and the cover is by Sheila Haswell.

Next week the authors themselves will introduce themselves and discuss their stories here!

Click here to order your copy!

Interview with Jay Lake

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: I’m pleased to be interviewing Jay Lake today. Jay is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction, and has been nominated for numerous Hugo awards and World Fantasy awards. His web page is here.

JAY LAKE: Michael, thank you for having me here. I’m very glad to be sharing my experiences with your readers.jay-lake_author-photo_Tor

VENTRELLA: Jay, how did you get started in the business?

LAKE: I began with short stories. Sold my first story in the spring of 2001, and two more that year. Sold about a dozen stories in 2002. Since then it’s been a big part of my writing practice. Did that for a while, all the way through earning the Campbell nod in 2004, before I got traction on novels.

That’s not to say that short fiction is the way everyone should enter the field. In some ways, novels are easier to sell. And if one wants to write novels, one certainly should. Don’t force short fiction because someone like me said it was the path.

VENTRELLA: You’ve placed a few short stories on your web page for free; do you advise this approach for new authors trying to establish themselves?

LAKE: In my case, the stories on my Web page are either Web reprints of older stories that have been in print already, or occasional one-shots of short pieces that for some reason I didn’t feel were what I wanted to market.

For a newer writer, the appeal of a “free sample” approach can be powerful, but I’m not certain of its value. You’re an unproven quantity until you’ve passed through the gateway of an editorial proxy. And most of us don’t have a good sense of the quality of our own writing. Posting something that you and the world would later see as sophomore work migh be iffy. On the other hand, I’m all about being proud of who you are.

VENTRELLA: What are the legal and contractual limitations of doing so?

LAKE: Well, the primary issue is first rights. I’m not an attorney, and I don’t play one on the Internet, so this is not legal advice. But it is common sense advice. If you don’t already know how copyrights work, learn.books_mainspring

Basically, a copyright is a piece of property. You rent it out but you rarely if ever sell it. Each of those rentals is done by licensing a right. The rights are not explicitly defined in law. The rights themselves are defined on a case-by-case basis in each contract, and generally include such things as print rights, audio rights, electronic rights, ebook rights, gaming rights, film rights and so forth.

The first time a work is published is considered to be “First Rights”. While electronic publishing (e, appearing on a Web site) does not in fact expire the first print rights, most editors will view any prior publication as a first rights usage. So if you put someting on your Web site, you’re making it unlikely that anyone will be willing to buy it later for professional publication.

Note that aspiring writers are often concerned about protecting their ideas, or having their work stolen. While this can be an issue in Hollywood, it is rarely an issue in print fiction (defining “print” fairly loosely to include online, ebooks, and so forth). The reason that this is rarely an issue is that ideas are the easiest part of the process. Why would anyone need to steal your ideas when they can make their own?

Think about it. You write a fantasy about a quest through a magical kingdom by a mixed band of adventurers. Is that such an original idea that you’d be harmed by someone else writing such a book? There are already thousands of them in the market, an entire subgenre’s worth. Your fantasy includes a dwarf werewolf named Yoni who has a crippled foot from a sliver of moonsilver embedded in the sole when the wizard bar-Simon was assassinated by the Carmine Council. Is that such an original idea that you couldn’t make up another one just as good in the same ten seconds it took me to write that sentence? And probably better?

Short of outright plagiarism, which is quite rare for us, theft isn’t much of an issue. Where it does occur is in the area of unauthorized reprints, and ebook piracy, and those are largely concerns of established writers. To be blunt, if you have such problems it will be because you’re already succeeding.

VENTRELLA: All authors these days spend a large amount of time on self-promotion, from posting a regular blog to producing podcasts to appearing at conventions. What’s your opinion on the relative value of each?

LAKE: Writers write, first and foremost. The rest of it is just marketing, of little value if you have nothing to market, and of not much more value if you do it at the expense of further writing.

That being said, I’m a fan of doing anything to raise your profile and build your brand among readers, editors, reviewers and critics. But only if whatever you’re doing is fun for you, and more importantly, fun for the people who encounter you. In a professional sense, it’s not entertaining to read about your cat’s trip to the vet, or how many smoothies you made for breakfast this week. Likewise sitting around a convention bar griping about how your landlords keep screwing you on security deposits. But, if you can be relevant, or entertainingly tangential, in your blog or podcast or convention persona, you have a hook.

Plenty of people have done this. Mur Lafferty has made a niche for herself with her “I Should Be Writing” podcasts. I have my noisy-fat-guy-in-loud-shirt persona I wear around at cons. (And honestly, in real life, too.) Jim Van Pelt used to run a Campbell Awards Web site. Jeremiah Tolbert edited “Fortean Bureau”, and now “Escape Pod”. All of us did so while building our presence as writers. But we’re all having fun doing what we’re doing, and fun is contagious.

Doing something because you “should” is the kiss of death in this business. There are some exceptions: You “should” use standard manuscript format. You “should” enclose a SASE with postal submissions. You “should” read your contracts carefully before you sign them.

But in self-promotion, there really aren’t “shoulds”, there are only “coulds”.

Take me. I’m a demon blogger. I use my blog, across both LiveJournal and WordPress, with feeds to Twitter and Facebook, to talk about a number of things that interest me. I have regular content on a daily basis, special features several times a week, and continuing series about certain topics, such as my kid, writing processes and my journies through cancer. Some people read me for my strong leftie politics, some can’t stand that but read me for the daily round up of culture and science links. Some people follow me because they’re fans of my kid. Some people follow me for my fiction alone. I offer a range of content, all of which is interesting and engaging to me.

On the other hand, I’ve tried podcasting. It bores me. I don’t do podcasts much at all, because I can’t make them interesting enough, because they don’t interest me. If you like audio production, and expressing yourself through that medium, and have a lot to say, by all means, it’s a growing area. I’m probably missing out by not doing it myself. But it just doesn’t work for me.0765317095.02.LZZZZZZZ

As for conventions, I am of the first belief that one can have an entire highly successful career in this field and never set foot inside a convention. At the same time, writing is by its very nature a solitary act, and conventions are one of the few frameworks where we authors get to interact face-to-face with our peers, our editors and agents, and most importantly, our fans. If your social skills are on the outliers of the bell curve, this may not be the venue for you. Likewise if you are so introverted that groups of strangers are literally painful for you. (Both of those are true of many writers.) But if you can be personable and engaging and enjoy yourself, they’re a hell of an opportunity for networking.

VENTRELLA: How important is the social media (Facebook, Linked in, My Space and so on)?

LAKE: Ask me in five or ten years. Five or ten years ago, I couldn’t have given you a reasonable answer about how blogs would work out. I can tell you that far more people read my Twitter feed every day than read my blog directly, and that I have about as many Facebook friends as blog followers. I can also tell you that my Facebook feed gets more comments than my blog feed, at least most of the time. But the nuances of that? And the long-term value? No clue. Not yet. I do it becaus it’s fun, and because those are places where I can interact with people.

VENTRELLA: What trends in current genre literature do you hate? What vents your proverbial spleen these days?

LAKE: Enough with the vampires already. And I can rant for hours about how most magic systems violate Newton’s laws, as well as the basic rules of economics. But really? Not much hating going on. Taste, yes. I refuse to read TWILIGHT. But millions have read and loved that book and its sequels. I can’t hate on anything that gets people to look at print literature.

VENTRELLA: Who do you love to read? Who has inspired your work?

LAKE: Gene Wolfe. Ursula K. LeGuin. Jeff VanderMeer. Lois McMaster Bujold. Jeffrey Ford. K.J.Bishop. M. John Harrison. Terry Pratchett. Maureen McHugh. And so on and so on and so on. Our field is full of marvelous writers working from every direction, every theme, every plot.

VENTRELLA: Of what work are you most proud?

LAKE: That’s like asking me of which child I am the most proud. (Admittedly, I only have one child, so that question is not so hard to answer.) I suppose I’d point your readers to my latest Tor book, GREEN. It’s a coming of age story set in a secondary fantasy world, about a girl sold into slavery at a very young age who is trained to be a courtesan, while secretly being countertrained to assassinate the man she is intended for, a powerful Duke. green-jay-lake-largeShe rebels against both fates, tries to go back to the land of her birth, and makes a mess of a great many things before being forced to save a city, some lives, and even a god or two, in the course of repairing those messes. It’s courtly fantasy, with sex and violence and cityscapes, though not so much with the magic.

I wrote the book for and about my daughter, very much drawing from her character to build Green, the protagonist. Getting inside the head of a young girl of color with Green’s peculiar history was quite a stretch for me as a writer, but so far the readers have loved it. I hope you will, too.

VENTRELLA: What’s your opinion on self-publishing? Do you advise new authors to go this route, or is it better to not publish at all than to be self-published?

LAKE: I share the rather strong tic again self-publishing which can be found among the community of professional writers. Especially for aspiring or early career writers.

Here’s the simple reason. You don’t have any real idea how good your work is, or what its flaws are. Nobody does, especially not early on. That’s what editors are for.

I’ve been publishing professionally for almost a decade, and I’m only beginning to see it in my own work. That story of yours that is brilliant, better than anything you’ve seen in print this year? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But you’re not likely to be able to judge that.

What the self-publishing route does is three things. It allows you to commit work to print that you will quite likely later come to question the wisdom of. If the work is as good as you believe, you’ve lost the ability to sell first rights by self-publishing. And it will reduce your standing in the eyes of professionals in the field, especially editors.

Note that for some purposes, self-publishing is a brilliant tool. Family histories, local interest cookbooks, private editions for a holiday gift, etc. But as a success path for commercial fiction? Not so much. And yes, there’s always a story about this author or that who got a huge contract after a self-published success, but no one ever tells you how many people didn’t.

Remember, editors and agents aren’t out to publish their friends, or suppress new talent, or any of the other things you hear people grumble about it. Quite the opposite. They want nothing more than to find hot new talent, and be the one to bring the work, and the author to market. And they do have an idea of how good work is, and what will succeed in the market.

Publishing is a meritocracy, but it’s not a just meritocracy. Nothing is ever quite fair or sensible. But if you want the credibility and impact of being commercially published, you need to follow the routes that work to enter commercial publication. And yes, it’s a game whose rules change all the time. So far, the rules haven’t changed to include self-publishing as a strongly valid option.

VENTRELLA: You’ve blogged about your fight with cancer. (As my wife is a cancer survivor, I certainly can relate in some small way.) How do you think this will affect your future writing?

LAKE: Cancer will indelibly affect my future writing. It already has. My voice, my themes, my view of myself and the world have been bent in a new direction. Not one I would ever wish on anyone, least of all myself, but there’s a lot of passion, power and pain in cancer. As I write this, I’m two weeks from surgery to remove a metastatic tumor from my lung. Second trip through the cancer mill. Believe me, I have learned new lessons in fear and terror, but I have also learned new lessons in hope, glory and blinding love.

That cannot help but change everything. Once again, I won’t know how til years down the road.

VENTRELLA: What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first began trying to break into the business?

LAKE: Really, I got plenty of good advice. I mostly wish I’d taken more of it.

I think most aspiring writers go through phases. One phase is “I’m an undiscovered genius”, and it’s characterized by a lot of hot pride. Another phase is “publishing is a conspiracy”, characterized by fear and resentment. Another phase is “I suck, and I’ll never make it”. You get the drift.

Each of those phases brings with it a certain wilful deafness. I wish, when I’d been in those phases, that some future me, or someone wise enough to speak in a way that got past my defenses, had simply said, “Shut up and write.”

Because “get back writing, then write more” is the only real advice.

In fact, it’s what I’m going to do right now. Thank you.

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