The Blog Exotic.
Ideas and Things I Geek Out About.
In 2011 I sat in a Manhattan publisher’s office pitching my novel to several editors who were supposedly big deals in the publishing business. Everyone at the conference was trying to tie their novels into Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, or Ready Player One. My novel? Not so much.
"Where does your manuscript fit on the book shelves?" they asked.
"Not next to Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead or Ready Player One," I said. "Its more like Ten Commandments meets The Odyssey." Needless to say, I didn't land a fat publishing contract that week.
I can’t remember her name, but one publisher from that conference stands out in my memory. All the female authors who were pitching their novel to her were warned not to show too much cleavage in her presence. I had no cleavage, so I felt confident going in (though I can’t make that claim today). She listened to my pitch with a dour expression, like she had to pass a kidney stone, and then asked me if my novel (Black Sea Gods) was going to be a series.
“Three or four novels,” I replied. “The first novel is complete, the second well underway.”
“Too ambitious for a new author,” she scoffed, and summarily dismissed me. And thus ended my attempt to get The Chronicles of Fu Xi traditionally published.
Every new word added to the Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book IV’s manuscript is a blow against Anti-Cleavage Lady. Take that, mammary hater! Sometimes that moment in New York drives me onward, just to prove her wrong.
Actually, she was probably right. I should have started my writing career on something a little less ambitious, and a lot more commercially viable. If I wanted a traditional publishing contract, a historical fantasy, set in central Asia, and bordering on literary fiction probably wasn’t the place to start. Not that any of that matters now, I’m committed. The Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book IV is well underway. This story must be told.
I completed 2000 words this weekend and two more chapters in the can. That brings the word count to 22,000. The writing is coming easier now, and it isn’t. When I write, I have Books I-III open on my desktop, plus The Golden Princess, trying to avoid plot holes. It’s a Herculean effort to keep characters straight, events lined up, and everything in sync. I think it’s working. I’m back in the groove. Regardless, it's ambitious, to say the least. Anti-Cleavage Lady's warning echoes in my mind.
One major change came out of this weekend’s efforts…I’ve changed the last novel’s title. It was going to be “The Children of Fu Xi”, but I’ve ditched that. That title was suggested many years ago by an editor, and I kept it in my back pocket. I’m not going to divulge the new title until the publication date approaches. However, it ties the final novel back to the first novel and sounds great.
That’s all I have for today. I’ve got to keep my energy focused on the writing. However, if you haven’t picked up the series, you really should. There are three ways to start:
First, you can get copy of Black Sea Gods, the first installment in the series, Second, you can buy a copy of the prequel, The Golden Princess. If you really want a treat, get the Audible copy of The Golden Princess, narrated by the BBC’s Philip Battley. You will not regret it, he sounds great.
I’ll see you later this week for another installment of Photography Phriday.
If you enjoyed this blog, please like the post and leave a comment or if you're feeling brave, share it on social media. This platform is my entire advertising budget and is how I share the word on my books. Also visit my Facebook, my author page and check out my photography book from America Through Time, "Abandoned Wiregrass: The Deepest South's Lost and Forgotten Places."
#books #blackseagods #writing #philipbattley #audiobooks #epic #fantasy #epicfantasy
(...or "why it's important to know the difference between a kidney and a spleen)
I've finally started on the road to audiobook for both THE GOLDEN PRINCESS and BLACK SEA GODS. I've been hesitant to do so up to this point for several reasons. First of all, I didn't know how it all worked and I naturally fear change. Second, I didn't have the time to figure it out because I naturally fear work. Third, I knew it was likely to be expensive and I naturally fear spending money.
With the help of government-funded therapy I've licked the first two hurdles. I've made some time to research the process, and asked the opinions of some smart people who have travelled this road ahead of me. I listened carefully to what they said, which was for me to give up writing and remember what it was like to live again. I told them I don't remember the taste of strawberries and they should get bent.
But I digress.
So...I've chosen a production company and narrowed down the list of potential narrators. By the way, I've also chosen a private jet and a villa in the Swiss Alps for, you know, when all the money starts rolling in. I did, however, run some figures and come up with a basic budget for making an audio book. There is only one small problem...how to pay for it all.
Its good to have a budget. Its even better to have money. Scratch the villa and the private jet and focus on the audio book and how to pay for it.
Option 1: Revenue sharing. Brutal truth time - if I were a narrator, I wouldn't agree to revenue sharing on any of my books. In fact, I'd laugh if I asked me to share my revenue on my books. I know that's harsh, but I know a lot of indie authors can sympathize with me (can I get an Amen from the crowd?) While I believe strongly in the caliber of my work (especially when I've been drinking), I just don't sell enough books (yet) to make revenue sharing attractive.
I think, however, I could get a good narrator if I pay upfront. But it still leaves me with the conundrum of where to find the money.
Option 2: Pay with cash from my day job. That money is already budgeted for real-life stuff, like food and kid stuff and air conditioning. Like many authors, I do not have much excess cash to spend on writing. On that note, people often liken writing to having a mistress. I strongly disagree.
Other than being demanding and expensive like a mistress, they have nothing in common. A mistress is (optimally) sexy, and (usually) a secret. A mistress should also make you feel better (at least temporarily).
(BTW, what the hell do you call a male version of mistress? A misteress? If a lesbian has a mistress, is she still a mistress? If a gay man has a mistress, is he a Mister Misteress?)
I digress yet again.
Writing, on he other hand, is just demanding and expensive.
No, writing is less like a mistress and more like an old college buddy who is out of work and staying for "just a few days" until "he can catch a break." Your spouse knows all about him because he lives on her couch and she hates his guts and keeps asking when he is moving out because its time to move on and he is eating all the food and leaves beer cans all over the floor and scratches himself in from of the kids and the toilet won't flush and where the hell is the cat...
Did I do it again? I did, didn't I? Back to the topic.
Option 3: Sell one of my kidneys. I'm not sure either kidney is working at 100% capacity anymore.
Option 4: Sell one of your kidneys. Wanna go grab a drink? Ah, never mind. It's too much of a hassle to keep all that ice in the motel bathtub. Last time I tried it, my Chinese blackmarket connection said I removed the spleen, not the kidney. I didn't get paid and was out like, 40 bucks for all the ice and whiskey. The incident did, however, convince my old college buddy to move out.
Option 5: Crowdfunding. Crowd funding is a great idea for some things, like raising money for legal fees and getting former friends a new spleen. But getting the cash to fund an audio book does not qualify, at least in my mind, as justification to ask people for money, even if I give them something in return, like a slightly used spleen. I make no judgements on others who do so, but for me it feels like begging.
Option 6: Hold a telethon. Unfortunately, no one under 40 knows what the hell a telethon is.
Option 7: Sell a kid or two. Tempting... On one hand, I'd gain a new office, but then I'd lose the tax write-offs. I like those tax write-offs
Option 8: Writing hardcore erotica under a pen name. My doctor said my heart wasn't healthy enough (but he said I have the spleen of a 20 year old. He's right, I do).
Option 9: Lit Funding. Otherwise known as selling enough books to pay for the audio version. With the exception of all the other options I've listed, this the most realistic avenue to funding my audiobook. I've lit funded a cover or two. I've lit funded a lunch or two. But an audio book is another matter.
In order to make this happen I have to do some math. Since I don't like public math, I'm going to pull the curtain...I'll be right back.
(whisper whisper carry the eight whisper whisper seven to the eighth power whisper whisper E equals Eminem squared whisper whisper....)
I'm back. In order to pay for an audio version my latest novel I will have to sell 2,342 ebooks. That's just a teency weency (pinches fingers centimeter apart for effect) bit more books than I usually sell, like a 2430% increase in monthly sales.
Bottom line, one way or another I'll find a way to finance the audio versions of my novels. Its just going to take patience and a reckless disregard for the law. In the meantime, you can help my buying or renting my novels on Amazon. Every little bit helps. If you've already read them, please rate or review them on Amazon. Believe it or not, the number of reviews on Amazon greatly helps in book sales. If you've already bought and reviewed my novels, please spread the word.
If you've already done all this, thank you! I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate it. In fact, we should go out for a drink to celebrate. Say, I'm just curious, do you have both kidneys?
Brian L. Braden is the author of three fantasy novels: THE GOLDEN PRINCESS, BLACK SEA GODS AND TEARS OF THE DEAD.
Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book 3: Coming 2017.
I am working hard on this novel, and hopefully will have finished it by this time next year. He is a sneak peak of what is to come.
Two demigods roam a shattered world - one driven by conquest, the other on a mission of salvation. Caught in between are humanity’s last survivors.
From the south, marches Leviathan and his army of cannibal warriors. After surviving the Cataclysm and a voyage halfway across the world, the son of Poseidon is bent on establishing a new “Empire of the Gods.” The slave Amiran is locked in a desperate battle of wits to stop him. Amiran struggles not only to mask his conspiracies from Leviathan, but to hide his feelings for the beautiful woman who recently washed ashore.
From the west rides Fu Xi, son of the Goddess Nuwa. He must find the Man with White Hair before Leviathan does. Fu Xi also searches for the only family he has left, a half-brother he has never known. Along the way Fu Xi unexpectedly finds a survivor, a boy that could lead him to everything he seeks, if Fu Xi can keep him alive.
To the east Aizarg’s bedraggled people make landfall, but at a terrible price. Now the Lo must make their way through perilous mountains, desperately trying to find a promised land. The Lo however, are led by a new holy woman, one just as comfortable wielding a spear as a talisman. Sana and Aizarg must keep their people alive and united, as forces without and within seek their demise.
While Demigods and mortals are on a collision course, an ancient and dangerous force has awoken in their paths, one that could change the fortunes of both men and gods.
The end of the world is over, but the battle for the new age has just begun.
Just a few more days and The Golden Princess will be here. For those of you who have pre-ordered, thank you.
For those who are waiting for the release or haven't heard of my novels,
Here's a sneak peek of what's inside.
Sarah burst from the enormous gilded doors, just as she had done on the first day of Festival every year since she could remember. Excitement vibrated through her body, invigorated by the late afternoon sunshine. Rosewater and jasmine floated on the air as she dashed down the stairs and across the crowded courtyard. Brushing by the central fountain, she didn’t care if the spouting lions splashed her with icy water. Sarah had to see the wagon, to touch it before it departed to join the parade assembling just outside the palace gates. As with every Festival, Sarah pretended she would be a participant in the glorious event, and not just another distant spectator.
She glimpsed the beautiful wagon through the milling crowd. Between the wagon and the palace gates, she spied Asul barking orders at his warriors as they struggled to assemble the House Azubehl’s contribution to the Parade of Princes. Behind them, drummers and trumpeters warmed up, filling the palace grounds with music. Soldiers herded gayly dressed dancers, acrobats, fire breathers, and plumed horses to the head of the line. Behind them milled a bedraggled pack of chained slaves, her Father’s slice of the booty from Hur-ar’s many wars against the steppe tribes. All of these would precede her father’s wagon, announcing the power of the House Azubehl.
She ducked low to avoid Asul’s eyes, and weaved amid the crush of Hur-ar’s high ranking warriors and royalty chosen to follow the Prince’s wagon. By following the prince’s wagon in the annual parade, they announced their fealty to the ancient and powerful House Azubehl.
Tended by a small army of slaves, the nobles clucked excitedly to one another. Broad silver trays piled high with exotic delicacies from across Hur-ar’s vast trading empire twirled and danced through the crowd. The struggling slaves beneath their shadows remained invisible to privileged eyes.
Sarah, however, was not invisible. Noblemen occasionally ogled her despite her golden veil, but Sarah knew her status as First Daughter and betrothed to the Crown Prince kept her safe.
Her father had arranged for his guests’ every appetite. Scantily-clad slave girls and boys, rented from the city’s finest brothels, prowled the lush gardens at the courtyard’s edges. As her mother had taught her many times, Sarah averted her eyes from the goings-on in the shadows. While Sarah had no illusions what the men did with the slave girls behind the garden’s thick foliage, she felt uncomfortable at the thought some of the girls were younger than her.
The enormous parade wagon resting before the sealed palace gates commanded her attention. Slaves hurriedly put the final touches on the family’s contribution to the Parade of Princes, the Festival’s opening event. Long ago, it had been a heavy wagon used for hauling trade goods and ore up and down the steep Cliff Road to the Black Fortress. Standing almost twice as high as a man, her grandfather had ordered it rebuilt decades ago. Ornately carved stairs replaced the mundane wooden loading ramp on its side. Silk bunting draped over polished wooden slats and interwoven with silver and golden threads, bore images of the House Azubehl’s great deeds. Wooden wheels were replaced with gilded bronze spokes encrusted with glittering jewels. Atop it all, two gold and ivory thrones sparkled in the sun.
This is where her father and mother would sit as two snow-white oxen pulled the wagon up the Avenue of Kings. Only the wagons of the King and Prince Hector, first in line for the throne, would proceed them. The rest of Hur-ar’s nobility would follow in order of their Court status. All the great houses were expected to participate, each displaying their wealth and might. The parade would terminate at sunset at the King’s Palace in the city center. There, a gala feast would rage until dawn, marking the official opening of the Festival of Gold.
Sarah looked about, making sure Asul wasn’t watching. The High Prince and his First Wife, her mother and father, had yet to make their appearance. Noblemen drank and laughed around her, ignoring the High Prince’s daughter lingering in the wagon’s shadow. The slaves tending the oxen paid her no mind, nor did those tasked with shoveling manure from the cobblestones.
Sarah reached up and caressed the silky bunting, still as crisp and bright as she remembered it as a young child. The wagon held a special magic for her. In her imagination, she pictured it one day transporting her beyond the palace’s gilded prison. She could count on her fingers the number of times she’d been beyond the palace walls. In those times, she had been concealed behind thick curtains in a wagon, on her way to and from the family’s country villa.
Impulse overrode good sense, and she scurried up the stairs.
Perched on her Mother’s throne, Sarah straightened her white silk and chiffon dress, pushed up her golden bracelets, and firmly set her gaze on the closed courtyard gates. If the force of her stare could open the gates, it would. She imagined what it would feel like to ride down the Avenue of Kings with the entire city’s eyes upon her. Sarah wanted to see the people, to experience Hur-ar’s vibrant sights and sounds.
Her mother would have none of it.
Laughter shook Sarah from her trance. Afraid Mother or Asul might have spied her, Sarah slunk down and peered around. The crowd paid her no attention, everyone focused on the party’s latest arrivals.
A court page cleared his throat and shouted above the chattering crowd, “Announcing Her Highness, Ashtoreth, Eighth Princess of the House of Azubelh, and her son Prince Bal-eeb.”
With disarming smiles and leering eyes, the freemen flocked to Ashtoreth’s side. The women of court fell back, whispering to one another jealously.
“Witch,” Sarah heard several of the women hiss under their breath.
Hiding behind her mother’s throne, Sarah could not tear her eyes away from the woman who had arrived into their lives like a whirlwind only a few months ago. Her father’s latest, and eighth wife, Ashtoreth had become a powerful force in court.
Fully in control, Ashtoreth waded into the crowd, goblet in one hand. Her dress looked as if it were spun from black spider web, originating from her full left breast and radiating across her body. Golden silk beneath the black strands afforded minimal modesty and accentuated each dangerous curve. Diamonds woven into the thin strands gave the illusion of morning dew clinging to the black webs. Long ebony hair fell down her right shoulder, glistening in the sun and barely concealing her right breast.
Beautiful, Sarah thought. And then, with a hint of unease, Powerful. She watched the way Ashtoreth drew men to her, and manipulated them with a look, or a word. Sarah frowned, considering her own body, wondering if men would ever look at her that way.
Then she caught the gaze of another. From behind his mother, Bal-eeb grinned at Sarah.
She blushed and turned away, slumping deeper into the wagon, back pressed against the chair.
Her heart thumped wildly. She slowly snuck a peek, but he no longer looked at her and mingled with the crowd.
People said Bal-eeb had already distinguished himself in battle against the Scythians. Broad shouldered and bare-chested, he wore only military sandals and the traditional ocher waist wrap of a Royal officer. Tall, with a bushy black mane of hair and thick oiled beard, he resembled his cognomen, The Lion. Her father’s younger officers flocked about him, as did many of her step-sisters. The handsome prince had caused a great stir among Prince Azubehl’s many daughters since his arrival. Many of her half-sisters openly wondered if marrying their stepbrother would be permissible.
Sarah hated to admit it to herself, but she thought of it, too. Though she never publicly showed it, her mother had been furious when Prince Azubehl had taken a new wife who already had a son, and one so old. Everyone knew this presented an immediate threat to Ezra, the First Son. Sarah wanted to hate Bal-eeb, but kept finding herself stealing glances at the handsome Sammujad.
Brash, arrogant and savage, Bal-eeb represented everything Mother taught her was wrong, everything the ancient teachings of the Narim, the god-men of the Black Fortress, rejected. To Sarah, Bal-eeb was like spring thunder in the mountains. She knew he should be feared, but she couldn’t pull her attention away from his power.
“All Hail Prince Azubehl and his beloved First Wife, the High Princess Meribeph!”
A flurry of activity in front of the palace’s great doors foreshadowed the imminent arrival of Mother and Father. Sarah knew she must leave the courtyard before Mother spotted her. Backing down the stairs and staying low, she tried to blend in with the crowd. Then, her right sandal caught a stair, sending her tumbling backwards. She grabbed at the wagon’s edge, but only snatched air. She closed her eyes and braced herself.
Corded muscles caught her. Sarah’s arms naturally fell across an iron neck.
When she dared open her eyes Bal-eeb smiled down at her.
“You must be more careful, princess.”
Sarah’s face turned bright red behind the veil. Her mind battled between the desire to crawl beneath the wagon and curl up and die, or perhaps, to stay right here in Bal-eeb’s arms.
“P-put me down.” She added, “Please,” and then cursed herself.
“Of course.” He set her down, but inched closer, trapping her between the wagon and his broad chest. He snagged a goblet from a nearby tray, eyes twinkling playfully. He smelled of wind and steel and smoke and every fantasy she’d ever imagined of life outside Hur-ar.
She smoothed her gown and hair, struggling to regain composure.
Sarah struggled to think of something, anything, to say. Her years of training under the stern matriarchs of Hur-ar’s oldest families did little to prepare her for the likes of Bal-eeb.
“Are you enjoying the party?” She asked voice cracking.
Bal-eeb emptied the goblet in one deep swig, and tossed it to the ground. He stepped even closer, further invading her space. “You talk much. All of you city dwellers love to talk.”
“Yes. I guess we do.”
Ironically, Sarah realized this was the most they had said to one another since his arrival at the palace.
He placed a palm against the wagon, blocking her escape, and leaned even closer. “You’re different from your sisters.”
“Oh, really?” Sarah swallowed.
“A man might find you desirable.”
Sarah held her breath; her heart pounded. Desirable?
He playfully fingered her hair and toyed with the delicate knot holding her veil in place. “Your hair. Your eyes. There are no women like you beyond the wall.”
Sarah glanced around, but no one in the crowd seemed to take notice of them. Unexpected excitement washed over Sarah as his warm breath caressed her cheek.
“Princess, you should not be here.” A stern voice came from beside them.
Sarah turned to find Asul locked eye-to-eye with Bal-eeb.
“Hello, Captain Asul,” she exhaled, simultaneously relieved and disappointed.
“Be gone, guard,” Bal-eeb gave Asul a dismissive glance.
“Princess Sarah isn’t supposed to be here.”
“Go away,” Bal-eeb glanced at Asul the way a mad dog does before it snaps.
“She’s coming with me.”
Bal-eeb drew himself up and turned to face Captain Asul. “When does a commoner give orders to a prince?”
Those who took no notice before now turned and watched the two warriors face off. Bal-eeb hovered over her like a predator protecting its kill, Asul the unyielding interloper.
Asul’s tone never changed, his face impassive. “I am under orders from High Princess Meribeph. Take it up with her.”
Even though she seemed forgotten, Sarah tried to flatten herself as much as possible against the wagon.
Bal-eeb laughed and stepped back. “Who am I to oppose the will of the High Princess?”
The tension broke as Asul grasped Sarah’s wrist and pulled her away.
The crowd began to chatter again like crickets after a passing storm. Asul led Sarah behind the columns at the courtyard’s edge.
“Sneaking about again, my princess?” Asul said gruffly once they were out of earshot.
“A proper princess doesn’t sneak, isn’t that what you tell me?”
“Then I guess I wasn’t sneaking.”