August 2009


I don’t mean the kind of fanfic that many of us have written in our time, the sort of fanfic in ‘zines and online where we aren’t making any money.

But the rash of fanfic that seems to be sprouting like mushrooms, particularly in the historical novel sections of bookshops.

Following successful sequels and prequels such as Scarlett and Wide Sargasso Sea, and the courts allowing sequels of Les Miserables,  a bandwagon has been cobbled together, people have leapt on it, and now we have derivative works/pastiches/call them what you will, all over the place.

Just look at this list of Austen “inspired” fiction. It’s staggering.  Now I know that Austen lovers hoover this kind of thing up, but what what do you think?

On a purely personal level, it gets me rather hot under the collar.  Most of the writers I know are slaving away with their books, sweating over plot, screaming when their own original characters misbehave, tearing their hair out over locations.  And then there’s THIS stuff.  Which is a bit of a cheat, imho.  Having written fanfic, I know how much easier it is.  I used to write Harry Potter fanfic and compared with original fiction it’s so much easier.  Want to know what your characters are wearing? No problems, JK Rowling has already given you the styles that were around.  Want to know what your characters look like?  No problems – the description is already there.  Want your character to travel from A to B? No worries, there are many devices. Just choose one. Floo, broomstick, apparating, and so on.  The writer doesn’t have to work a fraction as hard as the original writer because they are simply piggybacking on what’s already in place.

Now we have the Austen-horror sub-genre, which seemed to have started as a bit of a giggle, and now we have everyone writing it as fast as they can.

I can’t help but feel, why do I bother?

What inspired this rant?

THIS.  James Fairfax by Jane Austen!!!  and Adam Campan which is (as far as I know) the first gay Austen inspired novel.

Apparently, it has caused a bit of a flurry in the Austen plagiarist inspired writers’ camp because NO NO NO we can’t have homos in Austen-Land.  I don’t know where this kerfuffle is occurring however. Hayden Thorne pointed the book out to me and said that there has been an adverse reaction to it.  If it portrays gay marriage, then I’m not surprised, though.

I find myself very conflicted.  On one hand of course I’m pleased that there’s another gay historical, but on the other (and this hand is weightier) I feel that – gah! – if you are going to the trouble of writing it – make it original.

Lots of people write fanfic of original works, and the classics are very popular. Here’s a few figures (courtesy of Tracey Pennington) to show how popular they are on FanFiction Net.

Jane Eyre 166.
Wuthering Heights– 59
Les Miserables –1,771
Count of Monte Cristo–24
Of Mice and Men–66
Hunchback of Notre Dame–239.

Fanfic is fine. Fanfic is great!  I loved writing it.  I’m not saying for one minute that fanfic can’t be creative, but the one tenet that was dinned into my head was “you don’t make a profit from fanfic. You do not make a profit from OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK.” The best place for fanfic is in fanfic forums. Not on Amazon.

For me, whether it’s in copyright or not doesn’t come into it.  I had a great idea for one of Shakespeare’s plays and I really really wanted to write it, but I can’t now.  I just can’t.

After all – Lord of the Rings is out of copyright in a year or two. There are over 40,000 stories on FFN for that fandom.  What will we see in a couple of years?  Aragorn, Legolas and the Zombies?  The Haunted Hobbits?

Where does it end?

In the interview posted yesterday, I stated that the very first book the Bristlecone Pine Press published was L.A. Heat by P.A. Brown which was wrong. Two months prior, I had launched Bristlecone with The Erotic Etudes by E.L. van Hine, a lyrical and deeply moving story about Robert Schumann, imagined from his diaries and writings. Erastes favorably reviewed the book on Speak Its Name; her review can be read here.

The Erotic Etudes can be purchased in a Kindle version from Amazon.com; for a variety of devices from Mobipocket.com and in print, also from Amazon.

My apologies to the author, E.L. van Hine for the error and oversight. Certainly I should have known better!

Leslie

It is quite often that we hear of the launch of a new epublisher, but Bristlecone Pine Press is not your typical epublisher and its raison d’etre and modus operandi are both unusual and (in my opinion) a pretty damn good idea.

Bristlecone Pine Press are producing the ebook versions of Frost Fair, Ransom and Winds of Change in tandem with the print release from Cheyenne Publishing. I grabbed Leslie and put the same questions to her as I had asked Mark:

What made you want to get into publishing?

A number of factors came together at the same time; it was, as they say, “a perfect storm.” First, I bought an Amazon Kindle in 2008 and was excited about the new technology. Although ebooks have been around for many years, widespread acceptance has been slow in coming but I think we are finally at the tipping point. Amazon has been supportive of small publishers by having minimal barriers to entry to distribute Kindle books through their catalog. Second, I own my own business (Maine Desk LLC, founded in 2001) so creating a publishing imprint as a division of the business was easy to do and a natural fit as a new venture of the core business. Third, I am, by profession, an editor (and nurse), so I know the nuts and bolts of the publishing business. Last, over the past few years I have been more involved in fiction (writing my own as well as editing/supporting others). Bristlecone Pine Press provided an outlet to distribute some of these products.

What’s it like on the other side of that publishing/writer divide?

To me, the publishing side is where I’ve been for years and years. I am having more fun exploring fiction writing and getting my feet wet in that department.

What made you choose these books for your big launch?

Mark’s answer to this question really sums it up. Because of our collaboration on the military history anthology, as well as his bringing out L.A. Mischief in paperback, we knew we worked well together. When the opportunity to take on these new titles presented itself, I said to him, “Let’s go for it.” He agreed and we did.

Where do you see your firm in five years?

Right now, Maine Desk is the core business and Bristlecone is a very small part of it—almost a sideline. I’d like to get to the point that BCPP is generating 50% of the revenue for day-to-day business expenses, so that I can really spend the time I want with authors and their books, helping them produce very high quality products.

What do I do if I want to submit a book to Bristlecone Pine Press?

My original vision for Bristlecone was that I would publish ebooks for print books that did not have an ebook counterpart. The very first book I published was L.A. Heat by P.A. Brown, which fell into that category. I published a few others and then Pat surprised me by telling me she had an original, unpublished Chris and David story (main characters in L.A. Heat). I read it and it was very good, so I decided to publish it, even though it was not in print. That book is L.A. Mischief. Six months after the ebook was published, Mark and Cheyenne Publishing brought it out in paperback, and I am pleased to say, it’s been selling like hotcakes.

That’s a long answer for saying…if an author has a published print book that doesn’t have an ebook counterpart, please follow the guidelines at http://www.bcpinepress.com/htdocs/submissions.html to query me. If an author has a new, original book that has not been published, send a query to publisher@bcpinepress.com and pitch the idea to me. I might take it on if it tickles my fancy.

It’s not often there’s a new publisher in town, and even less often when you consider that this is a publisher specializing in GBLT historic fiction. I managed to catch Mark on the eve of Cheyenne Publishing’s relaunch of some of the most prestigious novels of the m/m historical romance genre to ask him a few questions about this new direction. In addition to being the owner of Cheyenne Publishing, Mark is the author of The Filly, the gay YA novel which was one of the books at the center of the Amazonfail bust up this spring.

Many thanks for agreeing to this interview, Mark.

What made you want to get into publishing?
First and foremost—my love of good literature. My mother was a voracious reader and she instilled that value in me when I was very young. Secondly, because gay-positive books were not readily available when I was growing up, I wanted to do something to fill that void. So I wrote a gay young-adult novel of the type that I would have liked when I was younger. The publishing part came about when I wasn’t able to get my story published; I decided to start my own publishing house and then later, when people started asking if I would consider publishing others, I thought, why not?

What’s it like on the other side of that publishing/writer divide?
Well, having been on the other side I know what it’s like to have door after door after door shut in your face with a flippant “Sorry, not for us” tossed at you. And now I have authors contacting me to consider their work. So here I am in a position I really don’t like where I have to turn authors down, and I know how frustrating it is for them. But on the other hand, finding a fresh new talent is very rewarding. The submission call I did in collaboration with Bristlecone Pine Press for the military anthology, turned up a very talented young writer, Jordan Taylor, who hadn’t been published before and was selected over many other applicants who had been previously published.

What made you choose these books for your big launch?
I was acquainted with Erastes and Lee Rowan though some online writing groups that we all belong to, and I’ve been a fan of their work. Frost Fair and Speak Its Name were books that I personally felt were examples of some of the best historical gay fiction that had been published in the last few years. I heard that they were looking to move these books to a different publisher. Leslie Nicoll of Bristlecone Pine Press and I were collaborating on a couple of projects where Cheyenne was publishing the print books and Bristlecone was publishing the digital counterparts, so she and I discussed it and mutually decided to make an offer to pick up all of Erastes’ and Lee’s books from this other publisher. And we were quite overjoyed when they both accepted our offer.

Where do you see your firm in five years?
Probably not where you’d guess. I don’t want Cheyenne Publishing to have grown into some huge company that gets bought out by another bigger publisher. No, I’d still like to be running a small publishing house, but to have attracted enough of a consumer base to be able to grow some. In five years I hope to have built up a strong line of gay young-adult titles that are predominately rooted in the historical genre. I’d hope that maybe by then when readers are chatting in forums about gay historical books, the name Cheyenne would be one that gets mentioned often as a favorite.

What do I do if I want to submit a book to Cheyenne Publishing?

For Cheyenne Publishing, all you need to do is email a query letter with a brief synopsis. If I like what you have to offer, I’ll invite you to send in a partial or perhaps even the full manuscript.

Join us starting Tuesday at Speak Its Name http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/SpeakItsN ame/ for a celebration of the relaunch of some popular m/m historical titles and a sneak preview of a new m/m historical anthology. We’ll have interviews, chats, excerpts, and prizes!

covers

Cheyenne Publications, a small GLBT-oriented press helmed by publisher and author Mark Probst, will be publishing the print versions of Erastes’ Frost Fair, Lee Rowan’s own Royal Navy series (formerly the Articles of War series), and Speak its Name, a trilogy that includes Charlie Cochrane’s first published work, Aftermath, Erastes’ Hard and Fast and Lee Rowan’s Gentleman’s Gentleman.

Leslie Nichol, head of Bristlecone Pine Press, will handle the e-book editions.  Frost Fair, Ransom and Winds of Change are available as ebook versions in all the normal places. Both publishers will be on hand to answer questions, so if you have questions about the nuts-and-bolts, here’s your chance!

Tuesday: Publisher interviews, Author chats with Erastes and Lee Rowan and excerpts from the three releases: Frost Fair, Ransom, and Winds of Change.

Wednesday:
Spotlights on Eye of the Storm and Speak Its Name Trilogy, coming September 14 and October 26.

Friday: What else is coming from Cheyenne Publishing and Bristlecone Pine Press — Hidden Conflict: Tales of Lost Voices from Battle.

* * * *

The lineup from Cheyenne and BCPP (and yes, print and e-books on the same schedule!)

August 1, 2009: Frost Fair, Ransom and Winds of Change (Royal Navy series)

September 14, 2009 Eye of the Storm (Royal Navy series)

October 26 2009 Speak Its Name Trilogy

November 11: Hidden Conflict: Tales of Lost Voices from Battle

December 7, 2009 Walking Wounded

January 1, 2010 Home is the Sailor (NEW Royal Navy novel!)

March 1, 2010 Sail Away (anthology, Royal Navy series)

If you’re not a member of Speak Its Name, all you have to do is request membership —  it’s invite-only to keep out the porno spammers.  (And hey, how many of us really want or need to enhance our male members or look at grainy pictures of ‘slutty housewives’? )

See you there!

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