A Lesson in Propaganda

You might have read an article in the New York Times recently, reporting both a decline in ebook sales and a resurgence of consumer interest in print books.  The article, written by Alexandra Alter, bases its conclusions primarily on data presented by the American Association of Publishers:

Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.

Alter then goes on to note that “e-book subscription services [like Kindle Unlimited]…have struggled to convert book lovers into digital binge readers,” and that “sales of dedicated e-reading devices have plunged as consumers migrated to tablets and smartphones.”

Without citing sources for these statements, she then uses them to support the argument that “the surprising resilience of print has provided a lift to many [traditional] booksellers,” and goes on to discuss the ways in which major publishing corporations such as Hachette and Penguin Random House have invested in expanding their print operations.

The founding assumptions of this article seem so specious that they call into question whether it ought to have been printed at all.

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Sneak Preview of ‘Karthanas the Lesser’

Here’s a free preview of Karthanas the Lesser, the swordpunk novel I’m working on right now.  Comments and criticisms more than welcome!


The morning they took ship across the channel to Mesende Yor, Louvhena came to him in his rooms at the capital.  House Kinnd kept a residence in Lansium, a small palace on the mouth of the Renna, where it led out into Lansium Bay.  He had slept surprisingly well the night before and was enjoying his breakfast with a savor that he should have known was too good to last.

He hadn’t spoken to her since that night in her chambers: not the following morning, not over the next three days, not during the ensuing two weeks of travel between Vinerran and Lansium.  Louvhena had ridden closed up in a carriage.  Karth had been happy to ride with the house guard.  He ignored her during the welcome feast at the forum, and she cut him dead when Kantel made his address to the Provost and the gathered Senat.  It was an impressive game, on both their parts, he thought, though Louvhena would never have admitted she was involved in anything so petty.

The look on her face was mild, almost contrite—or so one less familiar with her might have believed.  Karth suddenly lost interest in his eggs and sausage and poured himself a glass of wine.  He did not add water.

“Karthanas,” she said.  He swallowed some wine and wondered, for what felt like the thousandth time, just what the hell he was doing here.

“Still here,” he said, the wine around in his glass.  He didn’t invite her to sit down.

“You leave today,” she said.

“I’d remembered, thanks.”

She made a harsh, cutting sound with her mouth and the mask fell away.  Louvhena was known for many things.  Patience was not one of them.

“That was short-lived,” said Karth.

“What was?” asked Louvhena.

“For a moment, I thought you might have come here to wish me well.”

“I did,” she said.  “Your insolence brings out the worst in me, Karth.”  She so rarely used his nickname that the statement took him by surprise.  Was it unintentionally honest?  Insolence was a trait he cultivated like grapes: he thought making wine with them was enough, but he never thought of the hangover.

“I’ve come to expect no better of you.  The worst in me seems to be your favorite side, though I’ve offered you the best.  Many times.”

Her words shattered his line of thought.  Whatever inclination he’d had to reconsider his own part in their relationship, such as it was, withered on the vine.  He looked at her, stern and cold, and clenched his teeth.  She’d worn a gown that managed to be both imperious and alluring, a soft creamy material draped over her breasts and hips and strapped with ribbon to cling in all the right places.

Anger, Karth found, was a destroyer of obstacles.  Under the cool influence of reason he felt only disgust for his mother and the response she expected from him.  The fact that she sometimes successfully inspired that response, the heavy-breathing lust that drove his mind into his cock and made him want to own her perfect body, normally kindled a shame so deep that he wanted to scourge himself with thorns.

But Louvhena inspired rage, also.  And under its spell, at times like these, that stifled, shameful desire broke free of its enclosure and flared to life.  Fueled, maybe, by the heat behind his eyes, he saw an image of himself tearing her dress to shreds and bending her over the balustrade on the balcony outside his window.  He felt could feel the soft white flesh of her breasts in his rough hands, felt himself twisting them cruelly, looking down as he parted her buttocks with—

Karthanas stood up quickly, shading his eyes with a shaking hand.  His boot caught the edge of his chair and almost toppled it, but the back of it hit the wall and sent its gilt wooden legs slamming back down onto the tiled floor.

“I hate what you do to me,” he said, swallowing.  His eyes never left the remains of his breakfast.  “I hate it.”

“I love you, Karth.  I’ve only ever wanted love in return.”

“No.  You want worship.”  Louvhena shook her head and turned slightly to look out the window.

“Love is worship, Karthanas,” she said at last.  “Hate is worship, too.  If I cannot have your love, I will accept your hate.  It will bring us closer, whether you want it or not.”  Karth gritted his teeth, but stopped himself from responding.

She looked at him for a long moment, then clapped her hands slightly.  The door to his chamber opened, and Karth narrowed his eyes in sudden concern, but only Sevensin entered, carrying a long parcel wrapped in black cloth.  Closing the door behind him, he nodded once to Karth and then presented the parcel to Louvhena, bowing over it.

She unfolded the black fabric delicately, as if some long, fragile infant lay inside.  Karth couldn’t see what it was, at first, but then she lifted it free and Sevensin stepped away.

Kindavyr gleamed in the soft morning light, its blade the polished silver of a mountain lake beneath a winter sunrise.

The sword was unsheathed, and Karth was tempted to make a crack about his mother bringing a naked blade into his room, but kept his mouth shut.  The blade had that effect.  Not for nothing was it the sword of their house, of House Kinnd, the peerage his mother held.  There were a lot of things caught up in that weapon that Karth would have preferred to let alone.  When Kullarno died he was happy to see it returned to its box in the family vault; a tangible relief almost overwhelmed him when he realized Louvhena wasn’t going to immediately offer it to him.

But there was disappointment, as well, which had undoubtedly been her intention all along.  Desire.  Just as the desire for her body was supposed to overwhelm his sense, his desire for the glory of a sword and the power of title that came with it was supposed to make him kneel before her and accept her blessing, accepting with it the burden of loving Louvhena el’Kinnd and being party to continuing her line into the wider world.

He wanted it.  He’d always wanted it.  Since he’d first seen it as a child, since Kullarno and he had first snuck into the vault to gaze at it as teens, and especially since their mother presented it to his brother, the gift of her trust, her belief, the gift she had never even deigned to give their father.  He wanted it and hated himself for wanting it.  And now she was offering it to him.

You are a demon witch, mother.  The lord of the underworld himself could learn a thing or two from Louvhena, daughter of Kinnd.

She walked toward him, across the open space of his chamber to where he stood by the window, and presented it to him hilt first.  She held the blade in her hands in such a way that if he wanted to he could take it and slash through her fingers and breast in one mighty swipe, slashing all of the confusing tangle of emotions she inspired in one stroke.  The message was clear, but she spoke anyway, to remove any shadow of doubt.

“Accept it, or kill me,” said Louvhena.  “The choice is yours.  But it is a choice that you will have to make, my son.  I grow tired of this game of ours.  I suspect you are tired as well.  Take it.  There is nothing easier than to take it.”  She tilted it slightly, and the pommel caught the light.

His hand found it and he took it from her, careful not to cut the delicate skin of her palms.  He held it up before him, the impressive length of it gleaming and perfect.  The grip felt like it was made to fill his hand, the curling quillons elegant in their utility.  Then he saw his face in its mirrored blade, the fuller marking a shadowed line that split the vision in two.  His breath caught, and time seemed to stop.

Then reality returned to him and he threw the sword to the floor with a loud clatter.  Sevensin gasped dramatically, and Karth had the passing satisfaction of seeing genuine surprise on his mother’s beautiful, deadly face before he stepped over Kindavyr and walked out.

GOP Whiskey Screed

Wherein I live-tweet the Republican debate last night on CNN.  (Displayed reverse chronologically.)

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‘The Doktor’s Spyglass’ Now Updated on Wednesday and Friday

For a variety of reasons, I’m rescheduling new updates to The Doktor’s Spyglass, my ongoing serial novel, to every Wednesday and Thursday.

You can read The Doktor’s Spyglass as it’s updated, section by section, on Wattpad (all you need to do is create a login), or you can wait until each chapter is completed and read them right here on jamesdcormier.com.  Chapters 1-8 are available in their entirety right now.

Whether you read it here or on Wattpad, The Doktor’s Spyglass is free, so click through and give me some feedback!

Part 2 of the Fantasy Book Critic Interview Is Up

Fantasy Book critic posted the second half of their interview with a dozen #SPFBO authors this morning.  Here’s a sample from one of my answers:

But the image of the concerned agent and editor, painstakingly working through draft after draft of a novel to make it the absolute best it can be, with the result being a polished gem…that seems a bit idealistic to me. There was a time when this was truer: viz., Tolkien and Allen & Unwin; Terry Brooks and Lester Del Rey. From the accounts I’ve read, an editor’s influence on a work accepted for publication at a traditional house tends to be somewhat minor these days. They’ve either read a manuscript that’s good enough to be published with only minor editing, or they’ve read a manuscript they’re passing on. The corporate culture absolutely plays a bigger role than it used to. The bottom line is of the utmost concern, in a way, I think, that would make the publishers of yesteryear blush. It’s not paranoia to say that it matters that the major publishers are all owned by large corporations. It affects their ability to take chances and develop new talent.

The influence only lessens from there: it doesn’t take a lot of research to discover that authors whose early work gets quickly remaindered don’t tend to score big future deals. It also doesn’t take a terribly keen eye to notice that the work of bestselling authors–and I’m talking the big ones, here–only gets less and less polished as time goes by. When you’ve already made millions of dollars for your publisher, your work is going to get published, even if it’s terrible. There’s a lot of successful writers out there making big money whose work would be (sometimes rightfully) deemed unpublishable by an unknown author. None of which is to say that there’s anything wrong with choosing traditional publishing. There are many legitimate reasons to do it, and at its best it still produces fine literature. I point these things out only to draw attention to the narrowing divide between the two methods. Consider the success many self published authors have had by hybridizing their work, and you see more clearly what I’m talking about.

ICYMI: here’s the first half of the interview and the short post I wrote about it.

Interviewed by Fantasy Book Critic

Mihir Wanchoo of Fantasy Book Critic interviewed me and several other SPFBO participants recently.  Click here to read part one of the interview.

Here’s a snippet:

Q] What were your expectations going into it and now that the first round is nearly over, what are your thoughts?

JC: My expectations for how well my own book would do weren’t terribly high, mostly because of what I perceived at the time as potential conflicts of taste–even after I decided that it was definitely fantasy, and that it therefore was eligible to be part of the contest, I still worried that the fact that it was in no way traditional epic fantasy (which seemed to be the bread and butter of most everyone involved) might hold it back. That aside, I was confident that anyone who read it with an open mind would enjoy the experience, and I’m very pleased with how well it’s been received, particularly for my first novel.

I’ve been absolutely thrilled to see how well it’s done: it’s one of Fantasy Faction’s top three in the first round. Even if it doesn’t move forward, I’ll always have the thrill of knowing that my novel got a good review on one of the biggest fantasy sites on the web.

 

‘The Doktor’s Spyglass’ Is Now Available on Jamesdcormier.com

I’ve updated the book page for The Doktor’s Spyglass so that you can now read it natively right on this website, in addition to being able to read it on Wattpad.

I’ll upload each new chapter to jamesdcormier.com at the same time I post them to Wattpad, so that readers will now have a choice of formats.

Wattpad is free to use, but you have to create a login first, and I figured there might be some potential readers out there who’d rather not have to figure out a new app.  So now you can get it right here!

The #SPFBO Enters Its Final Round

510zQwueCNL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Mark Lawrence’s Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off is entering its final round, with the last of the ten finalists due to be announced tomorrow morning at the latest.

Matthew Colville’s Priest narrowly beat out James Islington’s The Shadow of What Was Lost and my own Exile to be Fantasy Faction’s SPFBO finalist.  So first and foremost, congratulations Mr. Colville!

I had thought I would be far more disappointed than I am, but the honest truth is I had a wonderful time throughout this whole contest and look forward to seeing who wins.  I made several friends, got my work reviewed by a major fantasy website, interacted with a lot of wonderful people, and learned a lot about what it’s like to be a writer.  My heartfelt thanks go out to Mark Lawrence and all of the wonderful bloggers and authors who participated.  My dearest hope is that we will see the SPFBO become a regular event!

22860215Once the list of the top ten finalists is complete, each of the bloggers participating in the contest will read and review all of the top ten on their sites.  They will have another six months (if I remember correctly) to accomplish this.  When all of the finalists have been reviewed (and presumably given a score out of 10), the novel with the highest score will be announced the champion.

You can find a chart of the top ten finalists and their respective scores here.

Exile AMZN-EPUBAlso be sure to check out D. Moonfire’s excellent online database of all of the SPFBO entries.

I’ll keep reporting on the status of the SPFBO as the contest moves forward.  I’ve also participated in a couple of interviews, one with Fantasy Faction and one with Fantasy Book Critic, so stay tuned for links to those when they are posted.

Congratulations to all of the top ten finalists and best of luck moving forward!  You have my sword, and Islington’s bow (I’m sure), and Colville’s axe (undoubtedly), and…well you get the picture.