Reasons to be Irritated (this month) #63

Savage Mirror, part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens failed the Smashwords review because the title on the cover doesn’t match that in the metadata. The only difference I could see was that on the cover the series name is at the top, whereas the titles have the individual name first, which is exactly the same format as the rest of the series have used and been passed with.

The result of failing the review is that it can’t enter wider distribution (to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc.) until it passes.

After contacting them, it turns out this is indeed the reason for the failure, and I need to change one or the other. I also apparently need to do the same for the previous parts of the series.

Ignoring for the moment the fact that their review process is apparently so flawed as to allow the 11 previous parts through without the problem being noticed, I’m left with three options:

  1. Redo fifteen covers. Gah. Even if I could face doing so, I don’t think I’d be happy with how that would look.
  2. Alter the titles to have the series name first. This seems wrong, and since some retailers cut the name off in the display it’d mean they’d all look the same (the covers would have the individual name, but depending on the display size it could be too small, and the casual browser could have moved on by that point).
  3. Ignore it and direct potential buyers to Smashwords.

Given my dissatisfaction with the first two, I think I’ll just go with the third option. They offer it in all formats anyway.

The collected edition will be out on the 1st of October, so I don’t see it irritating many potential customers. Just me.


I don’t like flashbacks

While they can sometimes be useful to the flow of a story, and offer interesting possibilities for when to reveal information in a story, I generally feel irritated when I reach a flashback (a scene from the past, which is different from someone describing a scene from the past with which I have no problem). Fundamentally it’s because flashbacks stall the story.

This isn’t necessarily true, as the flashback may be progressing elements of the story, but it’s elements that are in the past. Maybe I’m just too linear in my storytelling tastes, but looking at past events I’m always waiting to return to the now.

Even if the flashback isn’t too boring, I still feel the same irritation the next time one turns up, and it can turn me against stories that I might otherwise enjoy, such as Lost (apart from the ending, obviously), Once Upon a Time (apart from being a bland rip off of Fables, and occasionally boring in the current time period stuff), and the Stormlight Archive (assuming the rest of the books have flashbacks too; which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Way of Kings, just that certain bits irritated me).

The first two of those are even more irritating in that the flashbacks are part of the formula, so the writers have to use them. While they can work better in a visual medium for distributing backstory, and using flashbacks because the story works best with them then is one thing, using them to force a story into a particular structure (while it may make an interesting exercise) just means I can make a reasonably accurate guess when the irritating part will occur.

[At least with TV programs if you’ve recorded them you could always fast forward through the boring bits and still get a general sense of what’s happening. Skimming a book and just reading the first word of each line rarely works.]

So I doubt you’ll ever see flashbacks in my writing.


Spirit Hunt, Part 13 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the thirteenth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Spirit Hunt:

SotH 13 smallSpirit Hunt, Part 13 of Shadows of the Heavens

Adajo has never really chosen his path. It always seemed so obvious. So how can he choose which mask he should be wearing? When investigating the increasing disappearances at local farms, the choice may be taken out of his hands.

A 7,000 word fantasy short story.


Savage Mirror, Part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the twelfth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Savage Mirror:

SotH 12 smallSavage Mirror, Part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens

Returning to Mirror of Heaven in disgrace, even his pariah status doesn’t protect Prince Kazuo from Politics. With no one seeming to understand the threat the rakshaa’s pose, what can he do to fight them?

A 7,000 word fantasy short story.


Stories, Short and Long

I occasionally read reviews of my stuff (masochistic, I know) for any constructive criticism, and while not criticism per se a number of my shorter stories have comments that they’d like to see novels of the stories or characters.

[Side note: if you want to see these then reducing your review by a star could be counterproductive. Casual customers probably just glance at the overall rating first and possibly not bother to scan the review text where it says you’ve reduced your rating for this reason. That could mean fewer readers, and fewer readers means less of an audience for a novel, so less incentive for the writer to put time into the project. Not that I’m as bothered by the potential audience as I probably should be. I write what I feel like writing]

In general I write the stories at the length they want to be, and I don’t personally see the preference for novels over short stories. I suppose you get to spend longer with the story, but I find I prefer concision. This view may be influenced by being a writer (and I can’t remember my opinion on the point before I started writing, it feels like so long ago now), since I generally know more about the setting than actually appears, only using what’s necessary for the story.

Redoing short stories as novels is generally unlikely. I have done it with Grey Engines, but the short story it grew out of, Mind/War Games, didn’t really get finished (or have a title I was happy with) as the ideas for the setting continued to grow. Short stories I’ve released are fairly fixed for me, so redoing them as longer pieces does not feel like it’d add anything.

Continuing the story or setting in a longer work is more likely, but depends on inspiration (Silent Echoes is one I’m intending doing a longer piece for, as I’ve got far more about the setting and magic system than was used for the story). And a gap in my workload, which currently has the next four or so novels roughly lined up. If an idea occurs strongly enough I might push things in (see below), but there’s also a number of ideas I have already percolating in the background.

A few of the Tales of the Thief-City series of short stories have had these requests for a novel, but there are a couple of factors arguing against it:

  1. The Tales of the Thief-City series is finite, and while not a serial there is an underlying story, and I know roughly how it ends. It may not be the end of the setting, but another series (Streets of the Thief-City, possibly) would have a different viewpoint character (take that to mean what you like about Rax’s chances of surviving Tales, although given it’s a first person viewpoint it’d be difficult to end with his death. Not impossible though). A novel would have to avoid the ongoing storylines and not leave anything dangling, since I’m intending collecting the Tales series in print when it’s done so I’d rather have those stories form a coherent block. So how do I avoid it seeming inconsequential?
  2. I’m not sure the style will last over a longer piece of work. It was done with a pulpy feel in mind, and I try to keep the stories as tight as possible. A novel would need quieter patches, and I’m not sure whether it’d feel too different.

Which isn’t to say I won’t do it, and I have started making some notes (tentatively titled Dreams of the Dead). It’d see Rax dealing with elements of his backstory that don’t play into the main series, although I’m still not sure it’ll work self-contained.

If it coheres in time I may try and do it as part of NaNoWriMo this year. I’m currently in the early stages of outlining the main novel for NaNoWriMo (Grey Enigmas), but I rarely last the whole month with just one novel. Of course I was hoping to do a round of revisions on Glyphwar before November, but that can wait. It would mean I could reach December with three novels in progress that are all parts of other series, pushing back my next planned stand-alone novel (Warlike) nearer the middle of next year.

The Bride’s Shadow, Part 11 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the eleventh part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, The Bride’s Shadow:

SotH 11 smallThe Bride’s Shadow, Part 11 of Shadows of the Heavens

Her life on hold, Jaid is forced to return home at the one time she needs to stay in her new life. Even with personal matters weighing so heavily, can her curiosity resist political intrigues in her homeland? Maybe, if they don’t hide things from her.
A 9,000 word fantasy novelette.


Savage Justice, Part 10 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the tenth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Savage Justice:
SotH 10 smallSavage Justice, Part 10 of Shadows of the Heavens

With no memory of his life, and a burning rage driving him, Xao comes into conflict with the harsh imperial law. He’s not alone, but is everyone in his resistance cell truly on their side? Is Xao?
A 7,000 word fantasy short story.