Eric Flint Newsletter – 6 JANUARY 2016

First, I need to explain some recent changes in my schedule of appearances. I was planning to attend comic cons in Miami and Pensacola in January and February, but that’s fallen through. The people organizing my schedule for those events didn’t have enough time to get it put together. Instead, they’re scheduling me for appearances at two other comic cons later in the year:

Salt Lake Comic Con, which takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 24-26.

Indiana Comic Con, which takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 29-May 1.

See the Appearances section in the web site for more details.

In other news of the day…
I just turned in the manuscript for The Alexander Inheritance. That’s a novel I wrote with Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett, with whom I’ve also collaborated on three novels in the Ring of Fire series: 1636: The Kremlin Games, 1636: The Viennese Waltz and the forthcoming (no date set yet) 1637: The Volga Rules.

The Alexander Inheritance is not part of the Ring of Fire series, but is related to it. Like the novel Time Spike, which I wrote with Marilyn Kosmatka, The Alexander Inheritance posits that another Assiti Shard strikes the Earth, this time in the near future, and transposes a cruise ship in the Caribbean into the Mediterranean just after the death of Alexander the Great. That period in history is often called “The Age of the Diadochi”—that’s a Greek term that means “successors”—and it was one of the most savage periods in human history. By the time Alexander’s generals finished carving up his empire, Alexander’s entire family had been wiped out—wife, sister, mother, half-brother, son, you name it—and only three generals survived out of the dozens who started the civil war.
Think of it as Game of Thrones on steroids.

I’m now back to work on The Gods of Sagittarius, which is a novel I’m writing with Mike Resnick. This is unrelated to any other work I’ve done. For lack of a better term, it’s a space opera—although one with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Think of it as Galactic Indiana Jones and the Alien Terminator Seeking the Divine Old Ones For (respectively) Enlightenment and Vengeance and you won’t go too far wrong.
Here’s an excerpt from an early chapter in the novel:

It took Occo less than fifteen medims to reach orbit and not more than another twenty to dock with their spacecraft.

Getting aboard the spacecraft was not difficult, leaving aside the task of squeezing out of the flyer itself. The spacecraft was also of Chlarrac design and manufacture, but the Naccor Jute had been willing to expend more credit to have it configured for Nac Zhe Anglan occupants. Senior castigants like Occo were hardly showered with luxuries, but they weren’t subject to the worst frugalities, either.

They received a few perquisites, too. One of them was the privilege of naming their spacecraft. When Occo was given this one after her ordination, she had named it Kurryoccoc: Shadow Wife.

It now needed to be renamed also. As she began the launch sequence, she pondered the possibilities.

Battan Kruy: Widow of Slaughter. That had a nice reek to it, like the stench of butchery.

Or possibly she should stray farther afield, sever all ties to her personal history…

Perhaps… Hrikk u Cha? Trader in Death?

Then a whimsical thought came to her. She swiveled her head to face Bresk. “What did you say that Human monster was named?”

“Grendel.”

“Grendel it is, then.” She brought her head back to face the computer. “Record name change of spacecraft. Eradicate Kurryoccoc. Replace with—”

Her familiar farted derision. “If you insist on pursuing this madness, at least name the ship after the greater monster in the legend.”

She paused. “There’s a greater one?”

“Sure. Grendel’s Mother.”

A new question occurred to her. “That’s right, I forgot. Humans have two genders also. Which was Grendel?”

“Male.”

That wouldn’t do at all.

“Ship,” she commanded, “rename yourself Grendel’s Mother. And set course for the wormhole terminus.” She didn’t need to specify which terminus since Flaak’s system had only one. Which, of course, was another reason it had been chosen as the location for the home cloister.

Again, in vain. Now that she was finally leaving, having settled on her course of action, she allowed herself to be flooded with sorrow.

To sorrow, alas, was added vexation.

“Oh, yes, Grendel’s Mother was by far the nastier monster!” Bresk enthused. “Just listen to this:

“                                Grendles mðdor,
ides, āglæc-wif                yrmþe gemunde
sē þe wæter-egesan        wumian scolde…”

Although I only write one story at a time, because I do so much collaborative work I’m always simultaneously working on other manuscripts, mostly in an editing capacity. At the moment, I’m engaged in three such projects:

Also with Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett, I’m working on a novel titled The Demons of Paris. This is something of a cross between alternate history and urban fantasy—allowing for medieval values of “urban.” Due to some sort of (as yet unexplained) cosmic disorder, two universes seem to have intersected with each other. One of the effects is to send a minivan full of modern teenagers back into a fourteenth century Paris which has suddenly been afflicted by demons. A number of these demons discover that modern gadgetry, mechanical as well as electronic, makes for a marvelous symbiosis.

So, the van is now Albert; one of the cell phones claims to be the angel Raphico, and a teenager with a hearing problem discovers that his cochlear implant is now answering to the name of Merlin…

Gorg and Paula are writing the first draft, and so far they’re up to about 80,000 words. Parts of it need a little reworking, but overall it’s shaping up very nicely.
I’m also working with Alistair Kimble on our (unrelated) urban fantasy Iron Angels. And I’m helping Anette Pedersen finish her novel in the Ring of Fire series titled 1635: The Wars For the Rhine.

I hope to turn in Anette’s novel soon. We’re just working on the final polish. Some of that is needed because I wound up using a character Anette introduced in this novel as one of the two lead characters in my short novel “Scarface,” which appears in Ring of Fire IV, which will be coming out in May of this year. This won’t be the first time in the Ring of Fire series that a sequel got published before its prequel, and I doubt very much if it will be the last.

In short, I am not idle. And thus, doing my bit to thwart the Debbil.

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37 Responses to Eric Flint Newsletter – 6 JANUARY 2016

  1. Gorg Huff says:

    I think Paris is for Demons is a better title but then I am a hopeless romantic.

  2. Gary D says:

    I’ll second Paris is for Demons very poetic .

  3. Eric Flint says:

    The problem with “Paris Is For Demons” as a title is that it automatically sets up expectations in the minds of possible readers. That’s a problem because, first, a number of possible readers won’t be attracted to what they assume is some sort of fantasy romantic comedy. And it’s a problem, secondly, because those readers who _do_ buy the book expecting some sort of fantasy romantic comedy are likely to be a little miffed because it’s really not. Yes, it’s a fantasy and it does have some humor in it and if you squint you can detect some sorta-romance. But the book itself really doesn’t match that title.

    The advantage of “The Demons of Paris” is precisely that it’s prosaic. It’s straightforward and more-or-less neutral. The novel takes place in Paris and it does indeed center to a large degree around the demons present in the city.

    • Bret Hooper says:

      . Eric: Then why Four Days on the Danube, which set up in the mind of this reader the expectation of water-borne travel (by boat or raft) on the Danube, when what I actually read about was travel on foot and by air for Four Days along the Danube.
      .

  4. Nguyen Gia Thai says:

    This explain why the recent absence of Gorg and Paula in Grantville Gazette.

  5. Gorg Huff says:

    No actually not entirely.

    Aside from the Alexandrian Inheritance which again I would’a called “Cruise to Alexandria”, followed by “Storm Wings” a space opera by Paula and I, “Anti Up”, and “Shuffle cut and Deal”. Two novels in our WarSpell multiverse that both take place on Twir’s world and the first half or third of “A Steam Punk game” Also in the Warspell multiverse but on an analog earth. Then “The Demons of Paris” which as Eric mentioned were at around 80,000 words into and getting ready for the zombie apocalypse.

    We been keeping busy just not as published as we would like.

    Gorg

  6. Don Koskelin says:

    What happened to the follow up on “Kremlin Games”? The one book that left me hanging in the 1632 series!
    Thank you,
    Don

    • Eric Flint says:

      The sequel to KREMLIN GAMES was finished and turned in to Baen quite some time ago. The title is 1637: THE VOLGA RULES. The reason it hasn’t been published yet is that there are two major issues involved:

      First, there are only so many lead hardcover slots per year — 12, to be exact — and Baen can only devote so many of them to the 1632 series. As it stands, we’ve been getting an average of two slots a year for the series for a number of years — and next year we’re getting three. Keep in mind that I have to share those 12 slots with all of Baen’s other lead authors, people like David Weber, John Ringo, David Drake, and Mercedes Lackey. And I publish other things besides the 1632 series, don’t forget. I’ve been averaging 3 hardcover lead slots a year — that’s 25% of the total — for the last five years.

      The second issue is that there are several factors involved in deciding which titles in the 1632 series get published in which order. Right now, by way of example, we have three books already finished and turned in, but which have not yet been scheduled for publication. Those are 1637: THE VOLGA RULES, 1636: MISSION TO THE MUGHALS and 1636: THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN. In addition, we have two more titles which will be turned in within a few months. Those are 1636: THE VATICAN SANCTION, which I’m co-authoring with Chuck Gannon, and the solo novel by Anette Pedersen titled 1635: THE WARS FOR THE RHINE.

      Of those titles, all but the one by Anette need to be given a lead hardcover slot. (Anette’s book, like those by Virginia DeMarce, Iver Cooper, and the forthcoming 1636: THE CHRONICLES OF DR. GRIBBLEFLOTZ by Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright, will get slotted as trade paperback.) And no slot will be available until after my 1636: THE OTTOMAN ONSLAUGHT comes out in January of 2017.

      So in what order do you publish them? Well, there are several factors involved. First, some titles are so central to the whole series that you can’t sit on them for very long without creating problems for the whole series. Two of the upcoming titles fall into that category: 1636: THE OTTOMAN ONSLAUGHT and 1636: THE VATICAN SANCTION.

      Secondly, I have to be careful not to publish too many “side line” novels in a row or the fans start getting cranky. Two of the novels named above fall into that category (not counting Anette’s book, which isn’t competing for a lead hardcover slot): 1636: MISSION TO THE MUGHALS and 1636: THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN. 1637: THE VOLGA RULES is in an intermediate category in this respect. It’s not really central to the whole series but it does continue a major story line already introduced.

      Thirdly, there are a lot of people involved in the 1632 series who have devoted a lot of their time and energy to it, and I have to keep their interests and desires in mind also. In particular, co-authors of mine who have never been published before like Griffin Barber (my co-author on MISSION TO THE MUGHALS) will get prioritized, all other things being equal — which they usually aren’t, mind you — over authors like Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett, who have already had two novels published and have two more in the pipeline. That’s especially true if, as is the case with Griff Barber, they’ve been waiting for a long time to see their book come out.

      Finally, of course, there’s the simplest factor of all — the chronological logic of the series itself. Obviously, a novel set in 1636 will take precedence over one set in 1637. That’s a minor issue, however, with regard to THE VOLGA RULES since what’s happening in Russia right now isn’t having much impact (yet) on what’s happening elsewhere.

      So…. What it looks like right now is that after 1636: THE OTTOMAN ONSLAUGHT comes out, the next title published in the series will be 1636: MISSION TO THE MUGHALS followed by 1636: THE VATICAN SANCTION. After that, I’m not sure.

      I realize this situation can get quite frustrating for readers who are particularly interested in this or that story line in the series and sometimes have to wait years before that story line gets brought back. Granted, that’s a problem produced by the success and popularity of the series as a whole, but it’s still a problem. I just don’t know any simple solution to it.

      • Mark L says:

        “I realize this situation can get quite frustrating for readers who are particularly interested in this or that story line in the series and sometimes have to wait years before that story line gets brought back. Granted, that’s a problem produced by the success and popularity of the series as a whole, but it’s still a problem. I just don’t know any simple solution to it.”

        Actually the solution is simple – wait long enough. It is just not a satisfactory solution.

      • Terranovan says:

        What? I thought history could get wide and messy and happening all over the place! :-D

      • Bret Hooper says:

        @Eric: You have mentioned several times, most recently just above, that “there are only so many lead hardcover slots per year — 12, to be exact.” But to the best of my knowledge, you have never explained why Baen can’t grow a bit. I am sure Random House, Simon and Schuster, and Doubleday can each manage to launch 13 or more hardcovers per year, and each of them was no doubt once upon a time smaller than Baen is now.

        So what catastrophe would result if Baen launched a 13th hardcover in 2016?

        • Eric Flint says:

          Sorry, I need to back up a little and explain the terminology involved. The key issue here is not the term “hardcover,” it’s the term “lead.” Baen can and has in the past published more than one hardcover per month. These days, they typically publish only one hardcover per month and two or even more trade paperbacks, whereas in times past they would most often have published two hardcovers and only one — if any — trade paperbacks.

          That’s because the market has changed and electronic sales are now the biggest source of income. You still want a print edition to serve as a sales anchor, so to speak, because having a book actually on the shelves of bookstores publicizes it in a way that doesn’t happen from just having an electronic edition. But a trade paperback serves that purpose just about as well as a hardcover edition.

          But regardless of how many hardcover titles a given publisher produces in a given month, only one of them will be the “lead” title. The term comes from the fact that publishers will provide distributors with a list of their titles that month, and whichever title is listed first in any given category is the “lead” title. It’s essentially an indication to distributors that in the publisher’s estimation, this particular title is the most important one for them to acquire in any given category. So if they’re only going to acquire one hardcover this month, they should pick this one. And even if they acquire more titles, this is the one they should acquire in the greatest quantities.

          There are broader and more subtle factors involved as well. An author whose new titles are regularly published as lead hardcovers is what is known as a “lead author.” An author who doesn’t get that slot — or doesn’t get it regularly, at least — is considered a “midlist author” and the title is a “midlist title.”

          To some degree it’s an issue of prestige, if you will, a way of continually signaling to distributors which authors, in the estimation of the publishing house, are the most important — the term “important,” in this context, being pretty much indistinguishable from “sells better than others.”

          Readers, by and large, are oblivious to all this. A reader doesn’t care if an author is considered by a publishing house or a distributor (or the man in the moon) to be “lead” or “midlist.” All a reader cares about is whether they enjoy that author’s work or not. But as Jim Baen used to say, his real customers weren’t readers; his real customers were distributors — because if he couldn’t get distributors to acquire a book, the readers would never see it.

          That’s still true, although electronic sales have undercut it a bit. But only a bit. Allowing for some exceptions — and not all that many of them — a book that doesn’t get fairly prominently distributed in a paper edition is going to have its electronic sales limited.

          To go back to where we started, the problem is that while Baen or any publishing house can certainly expand the number of hardcover titles they produce in a given month, only one of them can be the “lead” title — and they can’t expand the number of months in a year. So, willy-nilly, we’re always stuck with 12 slots.

          • Bret Hooper says:

            Thank you, Eric. I understand now why much of my above comment, albeit perfectly true, was irrelevant, and I appreciate the understanding.

          • Mark L says:

            You need to convince the publishing world to go to back to the lunar calendar with thirteen months. That would increase the lead slots by 8%.

            Hey, that is how the Royal Navy did their pay back in the 18th century.

          • Nathan says:

            It’s been a few years since I was in the book business, but I think I remember the lead title capacity issue being the point of having multiple imprints. I don’t know Baen’s capacity or business goals, but if their other lead authors are also overproducing (David Weber, whose Safehold series is being put out by Tor, comes to mind) or they have more lead authors than they can realistically accommodate, might they not want to pick up a few more midlist authors and start up a second imprint?

          • Eduard Klima says:

            Is there any reason to not release in e-book form as soon as the books are ready for print regardless of free slots in schedule?
            Or at least for Ring of Fire serie that already has lot of content in e-mag (Grantville Gazette).

      • steve stanley says:

        Going to be very quiet about PLEASE sort the British Isles out…..

        • Hutch says:

          Yeah, 1635: A Parcel of Rogues merely whetted the appetite. Still, looks like 2017 is pretty full (and another mainline and a fourth ‘Vatican’ novel is sweet), so I suspect it’ll be 2018 or 2019 before we see more of that cast of characters…not to mention France and the long-postponed Bohemia-Wallenstein-Roth story.

          Eric, did you ever think like the good Doctor, that you have created a monster?

      • FredinBoise says:

        Baen needs to increase capacity or hire time from other printers.
        Sell books while the irons and readers are hot.

        I need a (good) book a quarter!

  7. Braudel26 says:

    Thanks Eric, once again clear explanations on how “it” works.
    So, for very good reasons, a book like Volga Rules is going to wait more than 2 years between being finished and being available for the readers.
    More, since Eric you had the great idea to associate a lot of writers to 1632verse, this is going to get worse year after year, with many books with such a problem.
    Do the authors realize that if they accept to be published without the hardcover “status” with paperback only, they’ll sell ebooks 2 years earlier ? 3 years ago, it may not have had sufficient weight, but now ?

    • Eric Flint says:

      The problem isn’t the authors. They would all be quite willing to issue some of the volumes as trade paperbacks. I raised with Toni Weisskopf the possibility of issuing some of the titles in the 1632 series as trade paperbacks instead of hardcovers but she’s unwilling to do it except on one condition — that I’m not listed as a co-author.

      She said the problem with issuing any title for which I’m one of the authors is that Baen Books has already — and for many years now — established the 1632 series as a “lead hardcover” series. If we change that and start issuing some of the titles as trade paperbacks, the distributors will automatically assume that Baen is downgrading the series and they’ll cut their orders. Toni says it doesn’t matter what you tell them. They won’t believe you and they’ll act accordingly.

      The one condition under which Baen can release some 1632 titles as trade paperbacks is when it is crystal clear even to distributors that these books are in some way “sideline” volumes and therefore don’t affect the priority the publisher is giving the series. That’s why all the titles we’ve produced that don’t have me on the cover as an author have been released as trade paperbacks. So far, those are Virginia DeMarce’s 1635: THE TANGLED WEB and Iver Cooper’s 1636: SEAS OF FORTUNE, with a third volume coming out in August: 1636: THE CHRONICLES OF DR. GRIBBLEFLOTZ, by Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright.

      I’m afraid it’s a pretty intractable problem. About the only solution I can see would be if the series enjoyed a big boost in sales as a result of a TV series being produced — which is a possibility, but it’s by no means definite. At that point, the sales might be good enough that Baen could just more-or-less beat the damn distributors into submission. (So to speak.)

      • cka2nd says:

        There’s still talk of a TV series? That would be SOOOO cool, even if Gerard Butler and Natalie Portman have aged out of playing Mike and Rebecca, respectively.

      • Braudel26 says:

        ok thank you Eric, it’s a clear stalemate … for today. I still think this should not stay the same for long, …

  8. Randomiser says:

    If the distributors are really as small-brained as Teri believes then it is hard to see a way round it, but the system is clearly seriously disfunctional as it stands; the authors don’t get published, the readers don’t get to read the stories they are gagging for, and everybody in the supply chain is losing money, authors, publishers and distributors.

    The big publishing firms obviously manage to publish more than one hardcover by a well known author a month, otherwise they wouldn’t be big publishers. How do they get around it?

  9. David Hutchinson says:

    Although I expect most readers herein are already aware of it, the E-Arc for Ring of Fire IV is out. Haven’t read but 3-4 of the stories yet, including Eric’s (intriguing), and one I’m pretty sure was in a recent Grantville Gazette (or I read it somewhere..). But if you need a new fix, it’s there.

    • Bjorn Hasseler says:

      No, none of these were in the Grantville Gazette. But you may have seen some in 1632 Slush at Baen’s Bar.

      • David Hutchinson says:

        You may be right, Bjorn, albeit I don’t spend very much time at the Bar, do read the GG, and “Kinderspiel’ and “Love has a Wet Nose” give me feelings of Deja Vu…bur am much to lazy to go search right now.

        Have finished the E-Arc and am reasonably pleased, pretty solid stories all around–I even liked Ms. DeMarce’s story, which is rare for me, albeit her treating her plot like Jackson Pollock painted (IMHO–YMMV) is a bit off-putting.

        Still, well worth the investment.

  10. Randomiser says:

    With all the discussion of publishing delays above this may be a bit moot, but are there any plans for publishing the second half of ‘The Cardinal Virtues’? Only because its hard to see how the rest of the story can progress without some reference to what is going on in France. For me TCV was the most disappointing 1632 book yet and I’ve read a good percentage of them.

  11. Bret Hooper says:

    Just received RoF IV and of course the first story I read was Virginia DeMarce’s. (after all, I wrote “Letters of Thanks” (GG#61) specifically for the purpose of encouraging and facilitating more stories about Marc and Susanna.) Thank you, Virginia, but please, The Red-Headed League cries out for sequels (plural intended).
    The second story I read was Scarface. Another great story! I’m guessing that the character from Anette Pederson’s 1635: The Wars for the Rhine is Litsa.
    You also lose some sales by spacing out the releases so much. I will be 81 this year, and I definitely will not buy any that don’t get released until after I am dead or so incapacitated that I can’t order them.

  12. Justin Wang says:

    What is the plot or hints for 1636: Mission to the Mughals and 1636: The Mandate of Heaven?

  13. Is the Mandate of heaven taking place in China? Yes!! Yes!!!!!!! It’s about time!

  14. Just so I know what to look for while my tongue is hanging out in anticipation, what is the title of the follow-up volume to The Cardinal Virtues? I’m anxious!

    • Eric Flint says:

      At the moment, the working title for the sequel to 1636: THE CARDINAL VIRTUES is — brace yourself — 1636 or 1637: TITLE TO BE DETERMINED.

      Sorry, but that volume will be a while yet coming out. Walter and I are currently working on a project that has no relationship at all to the 1632 series. The title of the volume — which will probably change — is COUNCIL OF FIRE, and it’s the first volume in what we project will be a new series set in 18th century North America that combines alternate history and fantasy.

      The fact is that the outcome of the French civil war that got started in CARDINAL VIRTUES will not have as much immediate impact on the 1632 setting as several other developments under way — first and foremost, the Ottoman invasion of Austria that will be depicted in the upcoming 1636: THE OTTOMAN ONSLAUGHT. There are also major developments about to occur in the “Italian line” of the series, which will be depicted in the upcoming 1636: THE VATICAN SANCTION — for which no specific publication date has been set yet but will probably come out in the second half of next year. And there are also some important developments in the New World and Poland that will probably need to be depicted before we go back to the situation in France.

  15. Ah, thank you.

    Well, if Richelieu’s ultimate fate has no immediate bearing on the overall series (he’d HATE that) then I guess I’ll just brood about the Ottomans and the Rhineland and the Mughals (the WHO, now?) and all the rest.

  16. And what’s going to happen when the rest of the envoys from Asia arrive in Granville and what is going to happen in the process?

  17. Michael A. Times says:

    You and Charles E. Gannon came out with “1636 Commander Cantrell in the West Indies” in 2014. Will there be a sequel? If so when.

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