25 February 2011

Book & Print Friday: Posters, Intro, Secret Possibility

Alas, I can't think of anything to alliterate with "Friday" that means "books and letterpress printing."

As usual, I have a big backlog of half-finished bookbinding projects. I started working on a larger version of my "steambook" blank notebooks, but I need to get some longer eyelets to finish them. Alas, I'm on a somewhat restricted budget at the moment, so ordering those will have to wait, especially as I want to order an etching tank from the same retailer. I do have the fish skins now that I needed to compete the other 2 of the edition of 3 of my little book of improbable fish prints, so I hope to get those done shortly.

In the "things completed" category, I've finally finished all 9 in the edition of Waterlily books I printed over a year ago. They're letterpress printed from hand-set metal type with three classic Japanese haikus about water, hand-folded into origami lilies and hand bound in hard covers with chiyogami paper on the covers. I haven't managed to get them listed in my Etsy shop yet, but it's on the to-do list.

As for letterpress, I haven't done much since the holidays. I have polymer made up for a fox and bamboo card (that's the digital proof, below), and I will be using the sea things plates from my calendar (which is nearly sold out) to print cards on watercolour paper that I will then hand-colour.

Next week I start teaching an Intro to Letterpress class for Extended Studies at NSCAD. It's Thursday evenings for seven weeks. The last class I taught (on wood type) was an absolute blast, so I'm really looking forward to this one. It will necessarily be a little bit more technical than the wood type class, but I still plan to focus on printing printing printing. I'll probably be teaching the same class again in May/June, but I'll post again when I know for sure.

And finally print jobs for other people. I originally had a job lined up for a repeat customer to be printed in early January, but they ended up needing it much earlier--right when NSCAD (and thus my printing space) was closed and I was on my way out west for the holiday. Fortunately, I know some other letterpress printers and was able to pass the job on to Micheline Courtemanche of Betty & Bing. For the immediate future, I have a small run of posters to do next week from hand-set type. It should be fun, even thought the timeline is a little tighter than I'd like. And I have one other potential job that I'm pretty excited about, but which may not go ahead, so I won't say anymore. Well, I will say it will have me printing on St Armand handmade paper, which is one of my favourite things to print on ever.

And that's it for the moment, I think. I used up my writing notebook two days ago and have to make a new one. I found one in my stash that's sewn, but has no covers yet, so I've been writing in that. Maybe today I'll get some time to put a cover on it.

23 February 2011

Writing Wednesday: More Goals, e-Publishing, Words

Hey look, it's my first Writing Wednesday post. If you come here to read about books or letterpress or craft or the birds in my backyard (which probably occupy most of the photos I've posted in the last year or so), go ahead and skip this entry. The next one, in a few days, will be all about crafty things (and maybe a bird or two).

First off, some announcements. Two of my short stories are now available as e-books for $0.99 each from White Raven Press. At the moment, they're only available via Smashwords, but eventually you'll be able to get them from Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well, and maybe iBookstore. There are a bunch of different file formats, so you can read them on just about anything, from Kindle to iPad to Nook to Kobo to your computer screen.

Newfoundland is thick with fairies, if the old stories are to be believed. So what happens when a graduate student from away follows an old folklore text to a peculiar rock formation known as Puck's Chair? Will she return a poet or a madwoman? Originally published online in a little semi-pro zine called Fables in 2001 or 2002.

"Burnt Offerings"
 Frank Swann is a celebrated poet who only ever writes a single copy of each poem. He holds his audience enthralled as he reads it to them, and then he burns the original, destroying the poem forever. What compels him to destroy his work, and what would happen if he stopped? Originally published in Quantum Muse when it was a semi-pro market in 2001 or 2002, it's a sort of sequel to "Come-From-Away" in that it shares a character, but both are stand-alone stories.

Friends who want to read these but don't want to shell out the 99 cents let me know and I'll see if I can figure out the coupon system for Smashwords. If you want them in print, you'll have to wait until I have enough stories for a collection, at which point they'll be available in trade paper.

Also, I just got my printed copies of Fey: Drawing Borders chapter 1, and they look great. Two copies en route to the National Library as soon as I get them packed and get out of my hermitage to a post office. They're available from Indy Planet, and I hope chapter 2 will follow in a month or two (depending on how good my time management is). The whole story will eventually be available as a paperback, but first I have to finish writing and drawing it, something at which I am notoriously slow.

And now, a progress report. I've managed three straight days of an hour of writing, and on day three I did two hours. Then I missed yesterday. I don't know how many words that is, because I had a false start on the word processor and switched to longhand (the intention was to do it temporarily so I could more easily write in bed, but it sort of stuck). It looks like a lot of pages on "Brother Thomas's Angel," an old story idea I started over with. So far not a lot has happened--not even the discovery of Brother Thomas's body (his angel was discovered in the first sentence, fortunately), so it's looking like this is going to be a long one.

I also turned in my second "Creator Spotlight" for the anime/manga section of Mania. I'm not sure when that will go up. My second folklore/myth article will be finished by the end of today.

And finally, a few more goals and decisions. First off, I realized I've been sending the same stories out over and over again, and while I haven't actually exhausted every possible magazine and website that might pay for them, I think that might be contributing a little to me not writing much new. So, I addition to my writing at least 5 out of 7 days a week and producing at least one new story a month, I've decided I need to clear the deck. So as soon as the last couple stories come back with rejections (or, you never know, acceptances), I'll retire them all from print submissions, and have them come out via White Raven Press and e-books. Some of them, I think, I will release as chapbooks or artist's books because my dream has always been to make books--words, pictures and binding all.

Then I won't have any stories sitting around waiting for someone to magically publish them, and I'll have to write more. Some of them may be suitable for magazines, and some will go straight to e-books where they won't be required to fit a specific genre or mold.

And that ended up being a much longer post than I intended, so I'll stop. Next time: what's happening with Niko and letterpress printing and how are all those bookbinding projects coming along, anyway?

19 February 2011

New Writing Goals

While I've always been pretty good at self-motivating, even I need goals and deadlines sometimes. So, I've decided to give myself some writing goals. Not just the usual general "work more on such-and-such" sort of thing I usually do, but solid goals I can actually make myself stick to. So here they are:
  • I will write one new short story a month. Sometimes they will be very short, and sometimes more like a novella. Sometimes they might even turn into a novel, which will make the monthly goal a little unrealistic, but I'll deal with that if it ever happens. But every month, a new story.
  • I will write fiction for at least an hour, 5 times a week. I actually think this is a fairly modest goal, but I figure it's better to start small and find myself exceeding the goal than to aim to high when I'm out of practice at regular fictioning. Sometimes this will go towards the monthly story, sometimes toward a novel, and occasionally I might switch from fiction to creative non-fiction, but it will all be personal work (as opposed to my paid reviews and articles).
  • I will blog at least once a week, but aim for three times. Why three? Because I know different friends and followers read this blog for different reasons. Some are interested in my bookbinding and letterpress, some in other craft, some in writing and some in personal stuff. My ultimate goal is to do one round-up sort of post on what I've been doing in each of writing, bookbinding/letterpress, and miscellaneous craft/life in general. So expect more frequent posting from me, but mostly shorter posts. I will also try to post pictures more regularly, because everyone like pictures.
There are other things I'm aiming for, too, like getting my website properly updated. And I've decided to venture into indie publishing (or farther in, really, as I've done little chapbooks and artist's books from time to time over the years, under my "White Raven Press" name). I plan to start with those short stories that are sitting there on my hard drive. Some were published in small or semi-pro e-zines and others got very nice personal rejection letters from big magazines. I'm going to make them available in electronic format. My idea is to have one free one every month, changing it each month. The others will be 99 cents. Once I have enough of them up, I'll release them as a collection as an e-book and POD.

I'll probably go a similar route with the YA/middle grade books I have done, but I'll figure that out as I go along. I'm not planning on making pots of money, or any money, really (though that would be nice).

So, since this post is already longer than I thought it would be, I'll end with my immediate plans:
  1. put together a simple but eye-catching cover for short story #1: "Come-From-Away," either photo-based (it's set in St John's, NL) or something I drew. 
  2. Get the story formatted properly for e-pub. 
  3. Get myself registered on the appropriate sites and publish away. 
If all goes well, it may be up by the time the weekend is over. Or it might not. But eventually, watch for "Come-From-Away" by Niko Silvester on Kindle, Sony eReader, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and maybe others. For free for a month, then for 99 cents.

14 February 2011

Some Thoughts on Self-Publishing

I've been thinking about self-publishing a lot lately. I'm old enough to have a definite prejudice against it, at least for prose books--especially fiction. But I'm also old enough to have seen how self-publishing in comics produced some of my very favourite books. ElfQuest, for example, a series which won critical acclaim (and which had more influence than just about anything else on my drawing style--something I have been trying to overcome for ages (though not because of the quality of the original, simply because anyone who looks at my drawings can see the influence immediately) ), was self-published.

Back then, self-publishing was hard. Now, it's easy. For some people, it means that self-published books are even more a sea of crap than they ever were, which is perhaps a reasonable argument for sticking with traditional publishing. One the other hand, readers will read what they want to read and work of mouth is a powerful thing, so good books will eventually become known and bad ones avoided, however they were published.
So. Last month I released the first chapter of my still-unfinished comic series Fey on the print-on-demand indie comics site Indy Planet. I also made it available on the Comics Monkey site, which distributes to the wholesale market. Except for the copies I bought myself to have on hand, I haven't sold a single copy yet, but that's OK. I haven't promoted it either. I just wanted to get it done and out there. Indy publishing in comics has a longish and fairly well-thought-of history. At some point, I'll get organized and actually promote and see if I can sell some, but I want to get back into drawing it first, so I can be confident that it will, in fact, actually be finished some day. To that end, I'm almost decided on getting a table in artist's alley at this year's Hal-Con science fiction convention.

My aversion to self-publishing my fiction remains, but it's decreasing every day. There are a lot of downsides to it. For me the most significant is promotion. I can handle the writing, I can find people to read it and give feedback, I can make reasonable cover art, and thanks to this latest degree, I can even design a passable (though not brilliant) book cover. But promoting myself and all those other little tasks a traditional publisher is supposed to do. . . . Well, I guess I can learn. And I think I just might give it a try. The worst that can happen is my books rot in obscurity like thousands of others.

I started writing because I wanted to tell stories, and also because I wanted to make books. I learned hand-bookbinding, printmaking, letterpress printing, design and even photography for the same reason. And self-publishing will let me make my own books. If other people like them, that's cool. Heck, if I could make a living doing it, that would be great. But I won't count any chickens before I even have a basket to put the eggs in.

Things that got me thinking (more) about self-publishing:
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch's post on the changing business of publishing, especially the one on new writers
  • Dean Wesley Smith's posts on the myths of publishing, especially the one on "Self Publishing is a Bad Idea"
  • an email from friend and teacher Heinz Insu Fenkl in which he suggested self-publishing as an increasingly legitimate path for many writers