Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Friday, June 29, 2018

Beneath the Lanterns Blurb

Procrastination is not a vice of mine. I hate having anything hanging over my head. So rather than wait a week or so to start my second revision, and with long summer days with little to do in hand, I undertook to go through Beneath the Lanterns a third time. I am happy to report that I found nothing terribly wrong, and managed to eliminate 1,000 words in the process. In short, I consider the story done. It will have to be proof read, my likely many typos corrected, and then offered to my beta readers for input and corrections. If all goes well, I should be able to publish the book by mid-September. I have a map done, but I have yet to tackle the cover painting. (The one above is actually Barsoom)

That being the case, I offer you the first draft of the blurb for Beneath the Lanterns.

The historian Kel Cam enjoyed a pleasant life living in Azera, the capital city of the Azere Empire. In the dark days, he taught classes at the University. In the bright days he traveled the steppes to Blue Order communities seeking ancient texts and the clues they offered concerning the long dead, and still mysterious, Elder Civilization. That life, however, changed when Ren Loh, the fourth daughter of the Empress of the Jasmyne Empire arrived in Azera. Rather drastically.

Beneath the Lanterns is an old fashioned novel of adventure, travel, and romance set in a richly imagined world. A world of steppes, forests, and valleys littered with the ruins of an advanced civilization that mysteriously disappeared long ago. A world where the bright days, under the Yellow Lantern are 16 days of daylight, and the equally long dark days are illuminated by the cool light of the Blue Lantern.

You are invited to explore the wide lands beneath the Lanterns in the good company of Kel Cam, Ren Loh and other, richly drawn characters in this complete, lighthearted adventure novel.

I don’t like blurbs that outline the story’s plot. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, so my blurbs are always rather vague. As it says in the blurb, I wanted to write a nice, lighthearted adventure story. If I have to live with a story in my head for a year, I want it to be a pleasant and enjoyable story. I write to bring a little happiness into the world, if I can. I was thinking today, after finishing it, that it sort of recalls the old Hope and Crosby Road pictures. Not quite as comic, but in spirit. I suppose I could have called it The Road to Lankara.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fantasy or Science Fiction?


The above chart has me re-thinking my marketing plans for Beneath the Lanterns. It is from Author Earnings’ presentation to the 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference (The complete presentation here: ) The chart breaks down the sales of fantasy books by sub-genre and who is selling them. Below is the same chart for science fiction. Together, they’ve given me much to think about.


My goal for this year’s novel was to write a novel that could be marketed to potential new readers -- fantasy readers, since I knew that fantasy was significantly more popular than science fiction. (And these two charts certainly prove that it is, indeed, the case.) What I didn’t know was why fantasy was more popular. The chart above tells us why. Vampires.

Urban and paranormal fantasy dominate fantasy sales. And while I’m sure the readers of fantasy read books in more than just one particular sub-genre, I've a feeling that Beneath the Lanterns has little appeal to vampire book readers. Epic fantasy, the second most popular sub-genre, concerns itself with great events, empires falling or clashing, great evil or black magic arising, often with many characters, and stories spanning generations -- in short, the polar opposite of Beneath the Lanterns and the types of stories I write. Taking these two readerships off the table, the fantasy market looks pretty much like science fiction.

In writing Beneath the Lanterns, I ignored a lot of the common fantasy tropes, and turned a few on their head. Indeed, I'd a hard time finding its place it in any of the many sup-genres of Fantasy.
(See the list here: ) My story is a fantasy because it is an adventure set in an imaginary land, a land without magic, trolls, or vampires. The most appropriate sub-genre in fantasy for the novel looks to be action & adventure, which is number 13 on the list with about 1 million copy sales. Adventure in science fiction clocks in at number two with sales of 3.7 million... So... I’m re-thinking my marketing plan.

I could market Beneath the Lanterns as either a fantasy or as a science fiction adventure. When I constructed the world for the story, I did so on a science fiction basis and laced it with little clues suggesting this -- just for my amusement. The clues have no bearing on the story. Nevertheless I, or  a reader who discovers what I did knows more about the world than the narrator, making the story science fiction. On the other hand, if the reader takes the story as told by the narrator, as I intended, it is a fantasy -- an adventure on an imaginary world. While I wrote the story as a fantasy (and not as a puzzle) this underlying science fiction premise allows me to list it as either fantasy or science fiction, or both. At Amazon I think I can list two genre. The question then would be, what category is the primary one?

Nothing is simple. The popularity of a category doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales since there is more competition. Steampunk has the number 18 slot on the SF list with sales of maybe half a million, while space opera has the fifth position with sales of perhaps 2.7 million. My steampunk book, A Summer in Amber has sold around 5,000 copies, while my space opera, The Bright Black Sea has sold around 8,000 copies. Part of the reason for the totals not reflecting the six to one genre balance is that, The Bright Black Sea was released six months later and has spent six months on the paid list as well. Still, that's not the whole story. This month, for example, the two are selling just about the same. The more likely reason is that in a less populated sub-genre like steampunk, A Summer in Amber is always in the top 100 list of free steampunk books, while The Bright Black Sea bobs in and out of the space opera list. In a market with millions of products, visibility is the key to sales. So even if fantasy adventure is far less popular than science fiction adventure, the book might well be more visible in fantasy than in science fiction and, as a result, sell better. 

The book is what it is, that’s not going to change. It is only the marketing that has yet to be decided upon. I'll look into what sort of overall rank in Amazon's free book list books need to reach the top 100 lists in either genre, and then decide just how to market Beneath the Lanterns.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Beneath the Lanterns

As you may have gathered from the title, my 2018 novel has a new name: Beneath the Lanterns. There were several reasons for this change. The first is that The 4th Daughter looked awkward in print, and The Fourth Daughter is already a book. The second is that I’d a feeling that I would end up having to say the title several times to everyone, “fourth, not force” and then explain it as well. What does birth order have to do with the story? So to have a cleaner, more elegant and intriguing title, I decided to go with Beneath the Lanterns. The lanterns in the title are the two celestial objects in the world’s sky, analogous to our sun and the moon. And, well, the story takes place beneath them. As an extra bonus for me, it reminds me of ERB’s first title for A Princess of Mars; Under the Moons of Mars. There is an album by that title, but I can live with that. So while the fat lady hasn’t sung the title yet, I think this is the one.

The next bit of news is that I’ve finished the second draft of Beneath the Lanterns. I finished up with version 35, so I must have been at it for 35 days, since each day’s work gets its own version to minimize any operator error. I had to rewrite, rethink, and re-choreograph a number of scenes, so the process took some time, but I think we’re close now. The story is clocking in at 127,000 words – a bit longer than I was shooting for, but I don’t see any place that I care to cut. Most advice I read is to cut, cut, cut – just tell the story as efficiently as possible so as not to waste a reader’s time. I’m not of that school. I don’t write fast paced stories. To me the story is secondary – necessary, but secondary. What I want is for a reader to come away from my books with a feeling that they’ve met and traveled with a new friend to some beyond their everyday life. Someplace you can’t get to from here. I want a story that readers are sorry to reach the end. Some people, like me, like that sort of thing, others, don’t. But you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. I don’t.

Up next for me is taking a break from revising for a week or two. After that I’ll covert the story to an epub version and load it on to an ereader or tablet. I see a lot more mistakes reading it on something other than the computer screen. Hopefully, by reading on an ereader I’ll not only catch all my typos (“That’s a joke, son.”) but all the awkward words and phrases that pop out as well. And, also hopefully, I only find awkward words and phrases in this run though and end up feeling that it’s good to go. If so, it goes off to my first proofreader, and then, with any luck, any beta reader who care to take on Beneath the Lanterns will have it in their hands early in August.

Between revisions here, I need to draw a map and hopefully paint a few pictures good enough to use for the cover. We’ll see. I haven’t painted in a while….

I’ll post several more updates in the coming days, as well as the first draft of the blurb for Beneath the Lanterns. Stay tuned.