I hesitate to even say its name, but COVID 19 has really caused a fair share of chaos. Its effects have stretched from trivial to substantial, and we haven't seen the end of it yet.
I'm reminded of those sort of events in history that affect human leisure and art. Fans of music may have read about how Ska, an indigenous Jamaican genre that mixed American R&B with high energy dancing. It peaked in the late 1950's, and was permanently changed by a massive heatwave. The dance halls were too uncomfortable for the uptempo revelry, so the music morphed into rock steady and the roots of what we eventually just call reggae.
I'm looking down the barrel of no baseball this spring and I hate it. Even as I type this the cancellations of conventions and events are rolling in. But there is an exciting aspect to this; the part where us dreamers play "what if?" What if the world has to stay indoors and away from crowds? Will board games experience a boom? Will video games experience an evolution in style and audience? Will people read again?
The prospect of book sales, book talk, and book stores all increasing while sports decrease is a little satisfying, in a fiendish way. COVID-19 is nothing to make light of, but in a way, it is a very nerd-friendly pandemic. Especially for anyone who feels even slightly introverted.
Order some books, comic, or games from your favorite independent and/or locally owned shops. If you need the name of a few, or any suggestions, hit me up!
Of course you could always buy one of MY books... available on Audible, Amazon, and Kindle as we speak...
I make a ritual of going to the book store every two weeks. Of course the main goal is to find treasures for my own collection, but I do spend a certain amount of time and energy on research. By research I do not mean taking What Life Was Like In Roman Times into the store restroom with me, but instead I mean investigating the world of published works.
There are a lot of books out there, each one representing anxiety and legwork. An editor and an agent and a writer and a publisher all had expectations and demands for each shelved novel. What I like to do is look at the execution. It's no secret that every book that is published isn't great. This gives me hope and anxiety at the same time.
One of the first thing I pay attention to is how the book looks. I try to look at the layout of the cover and the placement of the title, author name, publisher's logo, and blurbs. Of course I try to evaluate the art and design to the limits of my untrained eye. I try to find patterns of styles and formats that seem to have become a standard. This means an idea has been shown to work or has at least not been deemed a critical mistake.
My biggest investigation, especially in the sci fi and fantasy area, is genre. All writers have a little anxiety about their work. They have a big idea but fear no one else will see the brilliance in that same idea. The last thing you want to do is finish a novel that folks find boring or derivative. You want it to stand out and to be fresh.
As one walks through a fantasy section, it would appear that the world could survive just fine if another epic fantasy novel is never written again. So I try to pay attention to what has been done. It isn't enough to find something under served though, because sometimes a premise is not repeated for good reason. If the market does not have enough demand for an idea, the idea will not sell.
What I have discovered is encouraging for the projects I have on the to-do list. There are not a lot of western fantasies, and the ones I have discovered seem to lean more towards steam punk (or oddly enough, soft erotica). My upcoming debut of my New West setting looks to be unique enough that it may work as a salable concept.
Another thing I was able to isolate is that Ancient Rome hybrid genres have a faithful readership. Like westerns, I suspect the audience can smell a Wikipedia cut-and-paste a mile away, so there is a lot of dedication to research required to tackle this genre. I still intend to do a follow up to Carthage, and am encouraged to see a few books here or there utilizing historical Rome.
One last observation I'll share regarding fantasy; it is fiercely competitive and difficult to stand out without being top tier. I feel like Cardinal Fates has a chance to find an audience as it will offer an less-traveled setting, but ultimately I am not encouraged that I'll be Tor's next big thing. There is a lack of Egyptian or pirate flavored fantasy, and horror pulp adventure is sorely under published. It seems to be decades ago that there was any real trend to Burroughs-esque fantasy adventure.
What is a genre you wish there was more of? Is there a setting you love that you feel is under published.? Is there a genre you have gorged yourself on and wouldn't seek out, even if highly regarded?
As some of you are aware, I just finished writing a novel, known publicly as "the vampire novel" but in private as "what am I going to name this?" It's an adaptation and expansion on the script I wrote for Horror of Loon Lake, and I'm very pleased with how it developed as prose. It's an entirely different story: it's the Armageddon to the comic's Deep Impact. Anyway, it is in beta reading phase now and I hope to have more news on it soon.
I will begin soliciting for three beta readers to tackle the current draft. They will be reimbursed in the form of gift certificates to a popular and incredible comic shop called Escape Pod Comics (they ship, so don't feel like you're excluded if you like outside of Long Island). Once the readers return their notes, I will complete another round of revision then will submit the draft to an editor. After that, there are options.
While the vampire novel undergoes polishing, I am working on a fantasy western. It's technically a second draft, but there's a point early in the story where it got away from me, so it'll require full rewrites. The good news is I now have a whole second story developed for a later sequel. The even better news is the novel is really shaping up to be very fun.
Of course work continues on the Blackhawk project. The third volume will begin assembly soon and the writers contributing to this edition of the horror anthology are finishing their pieces as I type this.
Work continues on the delayed-but-progressing PWPA Action, a children's puppet show being developed for YouTube. It's been a lot of fun to tell stories in a different manner, and the opportunity to spotlight the joy of literacy and DIY "Maker" projects has been a blast.
Lastly, I am tweeking a tabletop game system. It's an evolution of Play Your Own Adventure, a RPG I tried to launch two years ago. The game and the puppet show both scratch different itches that my usual writing just doesn't placate.
So that's the current list. Anything you feel is missing? What are you mist excited for? Feel free to comment below!
Lake Lord Publishing
A home for the projects of Carl D. Smith - writer, dad, pharmacist, substitute teacher, Chicago Cubs & Dead Milkmen fan. Consistently clever, occasionally humorous, intermittently productive. Proud native of