Cover Reveal: Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles

FictionReboot2Not every author is given the opportunity to design a book covers. Let’s face it, not every author wants to! On the other hand, if you are an artist yourself, it can be difficult to refrain from leaping into the ring and making suggestions. I spent part of my young life doing portraits and graphic work, as well as freelance web design, and I’ve done illustrations for other publications. As a result, I have a tendency to get the finger-twitch when it comes to cover design. Luckily for me, my non-fiction publisher (Elliott and Thompson) employed a truly gifted artist for my upcoming cultural history of death–but more than this, they asked for and listened to my input. (I’ll have a cover reveal and press release on the Daily Dose soon for that, I promise).

Feeling that your publisher understands you (and your story) remains one of the keys to a successful relationship. After speaking with the editor of Cooperative Press about ideas for the upcoming fiction trilogy, The Chronicles of Jacob Maresbeth, I was encouraged not only to participate, but to design. We collaborated, working with templates, and after several mock-ups the first book’s cover took shape. I am happy to present the result–not as my lone artistic vision, but as a happy collaboration with people I trust and admire:

high-stakes-frontcover
My usual medium: colored inks and paper, hand-drawn

This is still an uncorrected proof (text font will be different), but you get the idea. We are presently working on the cover of chronicle two, and I’ve already done the mock-ups for cover three. It has been a delight to work closely with my publisher and editors at Cooperative Press, just as it has been wonderful working with Elliott and Thompson. I know there are plenty of bad experiences to be had, but we should celebrate golden moments when our interests and those of our press align.

Happy writing!

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Remember, Remember, to write in November??

FictionReboot2A heavy cloud rolls over a spiked sky-line, catches on a steeple, and rips open in torrents of cold, gray rain. I can hear it outside my window, ancient panes that keep out water and little else. I don’t mind; I like to hear the outside trying to get in. November weather doesn’t bother me, but it is a haunting month…

Just Listen. Can you hear it?

Go ahead; press your ear to the glass:

Out there, on the wind, is a low sighing. It winds up, slows down, echoes along the streets and under sodium lamps with its cold questioning: Remember, remember, to write in November! Are you writing, writing, writing?

That’s right. It’s National Novel Writing month. AND its Academic Writing Month. It’s probably poetry-and-play-writing month, and maybe even obfuscating-fine-print writing month. The point is, if you own a pen, your supposed to be using it between Nov 1 and 30. It is supposed to offer support to the writer, a reason to buckle down and produce text. But frankly, I just find it unsettling.

Oh, it isn’t that I dislike the idea, of course. Who wouldn’t love to have a month for writing? The trouble is… who has a month for writing? Not me, as it turns out. And I’m not just whistling Dixie. I am the managing editor of a medical anthropology journal, the research associate and blog content writer for a museum, a professor teaching medical humanities and gen-ed courses, the co-editor of a volume of essays and a review writer for Huffington Post (I also write for InsideHigherEd).

The point is, I write. A lot. When, in the midst of all of that, am I to finally return to my lost love, my sweet fiction that languishes on the shelves, bleeding a quiet death from my negligence?

Ah. I know what you are thinking. She just hates novel writing month out of bitterness at not being able to enjoy it.

Well, yes. Of course. But I do have another point to make here, and it’s for those out there who–like me–find themselves hard pressed to find a moment for a limerick, much less a monograph (though I am, in fact, in the midst of writing one of those, too). I have some news: a kind of candle in the window, or cotton for the ears to block out the whispering remember, remember!!! Ready? Here it is:

Every month is a novel writing month.

Every week–every day–every sunlit morning when you choose not to turn on the TV or the PC or the RSS feed–every long afternoon when the shadows lay long and seem full of promise–every dark night before shutting your eyes on the day: If in any of those moments you have space and nearby scratch paper, dare to dream. Yes, dream. Busy people get things done, they say. But in the ‘getting done,’ we should make space to breath freer air. Fiction, for me, is the promise of that freshness. But in making space, let’s not turn it into another deadline we must meet, lest in failing to meet, we sink under failure.

In the end, don’t worry about the word count. After all, that isn’t what made you fall in love with words in the first place.

Introducing Fireside Fiction Company: Reclaiming Stories

Forever artWe all want good stories. From the time we are children nestled under covers with flashlights, we await the next stupendous telling with anticipation. And we told good stories back then, too, didn’t we?

Then comes adulthood. The hurry and impatience of our lives, the demands upon our time and energy, and a feeling that somehow we should be doing something more important than story hour. Or, if we keep that flame alive, we feel overwhelmed by the prospect of a book (a whole book? when would I have a chance to finish once I start?). On the other hand, maybe we are story tellers–but the fortress of publication seems unbreachable, the walls too high to climb.

Well. There comes a time when we must reclaim lost loves, and in an ironic twist, the busy digital world might actually be providing the outlet instead of mere distraction. Just recently, I posted about Hic Dragones, a new independent publisher. They are small–right now–but their voice is powerful and it is joining with many others. Independent presses are making their way–and they are offering something the bigger houses sometimes cannot: fresh new perspectives that break the boundaries of genre. Today, I would like to introduce a new fiction magazine–a new place to hear good stories. Their mission? I quote: Many genres. No limits. Just good stories. The Fiction Reboot presents Fireside Fiction Company.

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0?view=att&th=140a17da4aa2d72b&attid=0.1&disp=thd&realattid=f_hkmp2po72&zwAbout Fireside

Fireside Fiction Company started in 2012 as Fireside, a Kickstarter-funded fiction magazine. They had two goals: to find and publish great stories regardless of genre, and to pay our writers and artists well. One of their core beliefs is that creative people should be able to make a living from their work. Fireside pays 12.5 cents per word, well above the 5 cents considered to be the minimum professional rate.

Funding each issue on Kickstarter wasn’t sustainable, of course. So they had a BIG Kickstarter to raise enough for a monthly magazine, available online and as an ebook. They are moving forward as a subscription to keep the mission of fair pay for creators and great stories for readers. They also chose a new name (from Fireside Magazine to Fireside Fiction Company), indicative of plans that go beyond magazine work. Want a look at Year Two of Fireside magazine? of course you do; it includes flash fiction, short stories, a serial by Chuck Wendig, and art by Galen Dara. Want to read more about their mission and ideas for the future? I thought so. Check out the latest blog post. They aren’t accepting submissions at the moment, but check back–as this new magazine gets off the ground, they will be looking for sharp, fresh perspectives and, like the subtitle suggests, just good stories.

Get out the flashlights. Maybe some marshmallows for toasting, while you’re at it. Welcome back to story hour.
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About the creator: Brian White’s day job – well it’s really a night job – is as a newspaper copy editor. He has a healthy obsession with bourbon and fedoras. Brian lives in the Boston area with his wife, Lauren, and two cats: Bast and Peep. He tweets @talkwordy. His email address isbrian@firesidemag.com. He was kind enough to stop and chat with us about the new market of online magazine fiction. Have a look and see what Fireside has to say about digital mediums!

1. As an academic and a fiction writer, I really appreciate the integration of smart and edgy work in your collections. Could you tell us more about your ethos? What sort of writers and readers do you hope to attract?

When I was starting to think about putting Fireside together 2 years ago — wow has it really been 2 years? — I had been reading the anthology Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, which was built not around a genre or theme, but on the idea of finding good storytelling. I always quote a line from Gaiman’s introduction, in which he was answering a question about what quote he would put on the wall of a library’s children’s section:

I’m not sure I’d put a quote up, if it was me, and I had a library wall to deface. I think I’d just remind people of the power of stories, and why they exist in the first place. I’d put up the four words that anyone telling a story wants to hear. The ones that show that it’s working, and that pages will be turned:

“… and then what happened?”

There are a lot of genre-based magazines out there, and I wanted to do something a bit different. So I decided Fireside would publish stories in any genre — sci-fi, romance, crime, non-genre, fantasy, anything — so long as they had that “what happens next” element. It’s been very cool building a magazine where each issue has a different mix and feel of stories, and I think our readers have been enjoying it as well.

Our second major goal is fair pay for writers and artists. Fireside pays 12.5 cents a word, which is well above the rate of 5 cents a word that is considered professional. It means we pay $500 for a 4,000 word story, which we hope is a fair reflection of the the amount of time that goes into writing and revising a short story. This does mean Fireside isn’t cheap to produce, but our Kickstarters gave us the backing we needed to pay creative folks well.

2. I note with interest the rise of indy and small presses; what are your thoughts on the new trend?

It’s inspiring. And I mean that literally. The idea for Fireside kind of popped out of my head of months of sitting in a stew of ideas I was reading about on Twitter and blogs — the new avenues for indy creative projects, pay rates for writers, the ease of publishing digitally, using crowdfunding to start a new venture. I think that if you have a solid idea and plan, you really can try almost anything in publishing these days. The barriers to entry are so low.

The other big thing, I think, is the widespread use of mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — and e-readers. The devices mean two things: one, that people can read anywhere, anytime, and two, that they WANT things to read (or listen to, or watch, or play) all the time. There’s a big opportunity there.

3. For a while, I feared that the fiction magazine (in general) was a dying art. Now the digital world seems to be breathing new life and possibilities–can you say more about your place in this new online world of writers and readers?

I think that digital is giving people a lot of room to take risks that they simply couldn’t have in print. The cost of even doing a small run of magazines — which we did for our first three issues — and then shipping them can run into the thousands of dollars. With that cost removed, there is a lot more space to experiment, which is what we are doing with our current year of Fireside. By ending print publication and focusing on a new website and ebooks, we have been able to shift to monthly publication.

In addition, for Fireside at least, we wouldn’t exist without our community of readers. Fireside was built with crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter, and Twitter was the backbone of success of those campaigns. Having the engaged, excited audience is, I think, really key to any kind of success online.

4. I know that Fireside is just getting its legs, but if you could look into the future of this venture, what would you hope to see?

Our main goal right now is to shift from being a Kickstarter-supported publication to a subscriber-backed one. Kickstarter was vital to getting us started, but repeated fundraising campaigns are exhausting, both for our readers, and for us. Having a full year funded gives us the breathing room to work on that.

Aside from that, we are hoping to grow enough to add more stories each month, especially more serial or multi-part things. And more art. More everything!