a burning green

Last night I finished this new novella, which I discussed a bit just the other day. I didn’t expect to be finished so soon, since I thought I was taking kind of a relaxed pace to this, but I finished it in about eight days. Which, I guess, is pretty relaxed for me, since I’ve finished novels three times this length in roughly the same amount of time.

The first draft is around 21,000 words, and it feels oddly satisfying to already have two novellas finished this year. I thought I’d be taking a long break from writing after finishing Songs of My Mother, but that seems to’ve unintentionally instilled some kind of work ethic in me, or at least a writing habit.

So hopefully I can keep this up, though the next idea I have is for something quiet a bit longer. Perhaps 100,000 words. It’s going to be sort of my largest statement about anarchism, in that I’m building a continent like Europe that will basically just be a bunch of functioning anarchic states.

It should be fun.

But this new novella, it had a pretty unpleasant name during the writing process, but I’ve landed on Born Under a Burning Green for now. It might change, and it might change often, but I like it right now, and it’s pretty appropriate.

It’s about 90% dialogue, really. Most of it is funny to me, though that might just be my own preference. But these two women with pasts that are only ever obliquely alluded to just talk about the world and their place in it. Sort of a pseudophilosophical text in a fantasy world. In many ways, it’s meant to mirror the standard epic fantasy quest storyline while also removing everything that makes that a typical story. So there is a quest, but the reader isn’t really aware of what it is. There are great actions taken, though many of those are left undescribed. And in most stories, these two would be villains, since they do little more than murder humans and monsters alike.

So it’s a black comedy, I think, but also kind of an aggressive text, in that it’s pretty unfriendly. Brutal characters who are, essentially, living in a peaceful world. They don’t so much fight other humans. They butcher them in an often gruesome manner, though a lot of that is left to the imagination. The only things they fight are the monsters which roam the continent. Strange, foul monsters.

But, yeah, weirdly proud of this, partly because of how peculiar it is, but mostly because it’s a very peculiar thing for me to write, and it’s told in a manner that’s unusual for me as well. There’s very little outside of quotation marks. So the whole narrative and world is given through dialogue, which is just kind of a wandering, fun, accidental experiment.

But, yes, it’s finished. I hope you get the chance to read it someday. And I hope you love it.

chasing and running

The night alive with moonbright butterflies swarming over the massacre. But for the screaming, the night was calm.

That’s the start to the novella I wrote this weekend. I spent a few hours hammering it into shape, and I feel really good. Really happy.

The image at the top is also very fitting for the novella.

The story may be terrible, but I tried a lot of new things here, so it was exciting. I planned on finishing it this Wednesday, but I ended up writing nearly 10,000 words yesterday because it was just flowing, so now it’s all finished and edited just two days after starting it.

But that’s how it always is with my writing, yeah?

It’s been a weird year for me, in terms of writing. I burst out of the year with a lot of productivity, but haven’t done much since finishing Dusk Country Blues way back at the end of January.

I think I made a big mistake in taking a break from the novel I was writing to dive into Dusk Country Blues, though it seemed right at the time. But, as is typical, me taking a short break becomes a long, long break.

Anyrate, I’m going to jump back into that novel tomorrow (or tonight), and hopefully finish it this month.

But, yeah, this novella. It’s called Runner (for now), which is kind of a poor title and is most likely going to change. But I did a lot of stuff differently than usual. It’s a chase narrative, for one thing, so there’s a kind of constant tension and my protagonist is having a pretty rough time, to say the least.

I also included interior, even though this is third person. This isn’t weird to most people, because everyone does third person with the interior of characters. But I haven’t written like this in maybe ten years. I have a strong rule against interiority in third person. But, for whatever reason, I wanted to try it here.

It made some things insanely easy, which is why I think I always considered it a cheat. But it was a useful experiment, and hopefully a successful one.

I’ve come to realise, too, that the length I think I work best at is from about 7,000 words to 50,000 words, which is the most awkward length of stories when it comes to publishing. Too long for short stories, too short for novels, and novellas are hard to find homes for. There’s always Tor, sure, but what’re the chances of me getting into Tor?

So it goes.

But, yeah, feeling good. Feeling productive.

If you want to take a look, give me a shout. I’m proud of it but also would like to get some extra eyes on it.

I wrote a lot of it to this song.

on writing books no one wants

I’ve written several novels now. Six in their final form, and I have a few others in various states of disrepair and incompletion. Two of my novels have been published, with another one coming out in a few months. It’s hard to say if anyone actually wants any of these books, though.

Mostly I want to talk about Twilight of the Wolves, which I knew would be a hard sell at first, which is why I’m offering a free novella to those who buy a paperback edition, and why the kindle version is currently $2.99. Even with all that, it looks like no one’s biting, which is, admittedly, quite disappointing. I think there are a few very big reasons for this.

I think part of it has to do with my built in audience, which is made up of the indie lit crowd. I deeply love these people and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and I’ve made some great friends within that community. The issue is, I suppose, that it’s a pretty small market, and that few of them have the money or desire to buy everything that comes out. But, I mean, who can do that? But the real point is that no indie authors are making a living off their words, which is why so many are also professors or currently in programs that will lead to them gaining teaching positions. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but it means that your audience is ridiculously small, and largely in conversation with itself. This means very little of what’s published by and within the community reaches past it to casual readers, or even the larger arena of readers, which is a small market to begin with. So what we have, in a sense, is the smallest market within a very small market. It means that very few, if any of us, are selling that many copies of our books. There are exceptions, I’m sure, and there are those who get a lot of great critical attention, especially lately. But I’m not sure how that translates to sales, but I’m sure Two Dollar Radio sells better than most publishing houses of that size because of how much attention their books get, which is a testament to the authors there and to the Obenaufs.

Part of the indie community’s mentality is the importance of high artistic appeal, which typically means that most of the books fall into the experimental or literary genres. Often times both. We love strong prose that plays with form and structure. I think many of the readers within the community don’t have much interest in genres like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror. There are exceptions, of course, but many of those writers who write genre but are critically beloved are considered transcenders–those who reach past the shabby limits of genre fiction and tap into the literary genre. Thinking of people like Brian Evenson and Matt Bell, though there are certainly others. By and large, the indie community is interested in literary fiction, which is exemplified by the presses associated with the community. I can’t think of any publishing houses that actively seek SF/F, though a few want horror. And it’s not that they necessarily discourage SF/F, but that’s not their audience, and they don’t really want to be a part of that conversation.

Also, before I get too far, I’ll just say this is all how I perceive the community [which should be obvious] and is in no way meant as a definitive description. If there are indie presses doing SF/F, I’d love to see them! Mixer Publishing is one, but I’m not sure how many others there really are. And that’s not to say that there aren’t indie genre publishers. It means that they’re not really a part of the indie lit community, as I understand it. Also, I’m not going to talk about journals or magazines, because that’s absurd to even discuss. For every ten writers, there’s a journal that exists.

Anyrate, moving past the community–which is the audience I can tap into most readily because I’m a member of the community–let’s take a look at the genre readers.

One peculiar thing I discovered when trying to mail ARCs to different magazines and websites for review or interview opportunities, I largely met a wall of disinterest. Most genre publications won’t even look at a book if it’s not published by a SFWA publisher, which puts a huge limit on your ability as an indie author to tap into that market. Beyond that issue, many genre readers are looking for more commercial fiction, something fun and exciting that’s also full of big ideas and complex morality. What they’re typically less interested in is difficult prose. What genre readers want is an open door that leads to a headlong race, a house of mirrors, or a labyrinth. I disagree with everyone who says that genre readers don’t want to be challenged by their books, because that’s just completely untrue and absurd. It is true, however, that they’re less interested in how you can play with the structure of a sentence. They want clear and clean prose that allows them into the complexity of the world you’ve created, where they can wrestle with the philosophical, social, and moral implications of your narrative. A Song of Ice & Fire isn’t difficult to read, but it’s an incredibly complex series of novels. The same is true of MalazanThe Book of the New Sun, The Dispossessed, and Neveryon. And even despite the disinterest in complex or experimental sentences, I think you’ll find few writers more talented than Gene Wolfe, Ursula K Le Guin, and Samuel R Delany, even on a sentence by sentence reading.

Anyrate, so these are the two worlds that Twilight of the Wolves is dealing with. In one, there’s a small built in audience, but the word fantasy cast a dark cloud over the novel. Then there’s the genre audience, which is huge, but is largely disinterested in books published by independent literary presses.

And Twilight of the Wolves very much falls between these two worlds. It’s an experimental novel with sometimes very caustic and aggressive and lyrical prose. It’s rooted in the postcolonial and surreal, and is a subversion of the fantasy genre while being firmly and definitely in dialogue with the fantasy tradition. It’s postmodern and it has a tricky structure with lots of surrealism and difficulty to overcome. It’s a book that demands you learn how to read it and rise to the challenge it presents.

Both of the reviews published about Twilight of the Wolves very much misunderstand even what happens in the novel. Both reviews didn’t even realise that a third of the novel is narrated by a character because of that character’s inability to use personal pronouns or speak aloud. I was grateful for both reviews and it made me proud that both of them loved the book so much. It didn’t even bother me that they missed what I think is a very important part of the book. The novel, though I often think of it as being very straightforward [lying to myself, surely], presents many challenges to the reader, and because of the thickness of the prose, it makes discovering the actual narrative a challenge I wasn’t expecting. And I’ve received only very positive feedback from the novel. People who read it and give themselves to it seem to truly love what’s happening.

But on the otherside of this literary/experimental/postmodern leaning, there’s the fantasy. This is very much a fantasy novel. I stand firmly by that. This is a world I’ve been dreaming my whole life, and it’s purely genre, despite the literary tricks and the playing with form. It’s a reaction to the tradition, but also a continuation of the tradition. I believe people who love George RR Martin, Gene Wolfe, Samuel R Delany, Joanna Russ, Ursula K Le Guin, and China Mieville will really love this novel. And while it’s silly for me to compare myself to any of them, I think I learnt a lot from each of them. Kyle Muntz once told me that the novel reminded him of Thomas Pynchon, but I always think the novel is much closer to Earthsea and Neveryon, and sort of the flipside of Game of Thrones, in that we’re only looking at the people at the bottom. The focus isn’t on kings and knights and ladies and prophecies. We’re looking at orphans: a eunuch, the only survivor of a plague, and a man cursed by a god. They’re powerless, and they don’t rise through the social or military ranks of the world. Instead they try to escape it entirely.

But this isn’t escapism. I didn’t think of it while I wrote it, but this book is very much influenced by Edward Said, Eduardo Galeano, Noam Chomsky, Taoism, Shintoism, and transcendentalism. Though this novel takes place on a different planet, in a very different solar system, it’s rooted in humanity, and its only real question remains: what does it mean to be human?

This, more than any of my other novels, is about what it means to live, which was the original title, and it’s the title I still think of it having. To Live.

And so I’ve written a difficult book that very few people want to read, but it’s the most perfect artistic expression I’ve yet created. It’s the novel that is perhaps most deeply me, most deeply autobiographical, most deeply everything I’ve ever loved and hated.

It will challenge you and perhaps it’s not worth it to you, but this is the book I had to write, and there are many more books set in this world, and they’ll likely all hit this same nebulous inbetween. Being both literary and fantasy, but belonging to neither.

I always knew this was going to be a difficult sell, but I really am disappointed with how it’s selling, and maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe I should be focusing on how those who read it love it. But I guess I expected more for it. It’s difficult putting your whole heart and life into a book and then watching it struggle to stay afloat in the ocean.

I stepped into this year hoping to become a full time writer. I’ve given up on that, I think. It’s very unlikely that this will sell much better. There’s a huge market for it, especially since Game of Thrones entered our television screens, but tapping into that giant market is no easy task, and it’ll likely be a few more books till I’m there, but this is where my heart is, which is sometimes strange to think about. I walked so deeply into the indie lit community only to realise the books I wanted to write didn’t belong there. I mean, I have a few books that still fit quite nicely there, and I think Noir: A Love Story is perfect for that crowd, so look for that in a couple months. July.

But I am disappointed, and I think that I may be shrugging off a lot of this extra stuff I’m doing and just get back to writing. My time has become split by a thousand obligations, and I want to cutoff most of those, and probably will soon. I need to focus back on the words and fight for these books.

So, for now, if you’re still reading this, there’s the promotion I’m doing for the month of April where you can get a novella with Twilight of the Wolves for free. After April, I think I’ll be going underground for a while and just focusing on what really matters with this whole writing business: the words.

something special for april

Twilight of the Wolves was released on Friday but now it’s April, and because it’s April, I decided to do a little special offer. So, for the entire month of April, when you buy any edition of Twilight of the Wolves I’ll also send you a digital copy of Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp.

It’s that simple. Just buy the book, show me the receipt, and I’ll get you my novella as well.

I thought this would be fun thing to do, and since they take place in the same world, I think they complement each other quite well as they both play with surrealism and fantasy. But, yeah, spread the word and buy a copy!

If you want more information about these two books, you can find them at their related pages:

Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp

Girl With Ears & Demon With Limp is a fast-paced, surreal rendition of a Medieval tapestry. Set within an infinite castle, from which a young wolven girl and an insane man wish to escape, it’s Kafka turned inside out. And like Kafka, these characters are seeking to make meaning for themselves in a world where meaning has vacated for other lands.

Christopher Barzak, author of Before & Afterlives

edward j rathke has given us a fable bright with language, an adventure story, a coming-through-pain endurance test – but most of all, a lovely and touching tale about the place two forgotten outcasts make for themselves in the world.

Amber Sparks, author of May We Shed These Human Bodies

Twilight of the Wolves

Like a Terrence Malick film set in a universe as rich as Game of Thrones, Twilight of the Wolves is a different kind of fantasy novel: endlessly inventive, thoughtful, and almost painfully beautiful.

–Kyle Muntz, author of VII and Green Lights

Twilight of the Wolves is an unusual and poetic epic fantasy, with a world, civilizations, and mythologies all of its own, yet unmistakably reminiscent of our past and current world. Best of all, Twilight of the Wolves puts on center stage the people and socioeconomic classes who are often marginalized, suppressed, or overlooked in other types of epic fantasy and secondary worlds, in a passionate and compassionate study of love, languages, and humanness.

Berit Ellingsen, author of Beneath the Liquid Skin

coverdraft3 Twilight of the Wolves - Edward J. Rathke

twilight of the wolves released today

Twilight of the Wolves - Edward J. Rathke

It’s finally available! Buy Twilight of the Wolves and earn my forever love! If you want to read more about the novel, click over to the page devoted to it where you can find reviews and so on. It’s being released by Perfect Edge Books, the brainchild of Phil Jourdan.

Blurbs:

–Kyle Muntz, author of VII and Green Lights

Twilight of the Wolves is an unusual and poetic epic fantasy, with a world, civilizations, and mythologies all of its own, yet unmistakably reminiscent of our past and current world. Best of all, Twilight of the Wolves puts on center stage the people and socioeconomic classes who are often marginalized, suppressed, or overlooked in other types of epic fantasy and secondary worlds, in a passionate and compassionate study of love, languages, and humanness.

Berit Ellingsen, author of Beneath the Liquid Skin

I think these two blurbs capture exactly how it feels to me, and exactly what it means to me. I’ve always said that I’m more influenced, stylistically, by film than I am by literature, and I’ve always strived to capture that beautiful cinematic poetry of Terrence Malick, and I think, with this novel, I finally reached it. It’s an aesthetic I’ve worked for years to reach, and Twilight of the Wolves is the most perfect representation of that. And then there’s all the postcolonialism surging up through the cracks in the novel. My whole life is in this novel. My entire heart. I’m so immensely proud of it that I want to share it with the entire world, but a part of me fears no one will love or understand it.

So, yeah, I hope you love it. I’d recommend it to fans of experimental and postmodern literature as well as people who just love fantasy. It’s everything I ever wanted one of my novels to be and I’m so very proud of it.

Kyle Muntz also had this to say today over on the book of faces:

I’d add that this book stretches fantasy to the limit–with beautiful writing, formal experimentation, lots of feeling, and a profound look at themes of post-colonialism and sexuality–while always remaining true to the genre, which I think is really important and difficult to do.

Basically: I hope everyone takes a look at this book. I think anyone who does will definitely enjoy it.

So don’t just take my word for it! Mostly, I hope people just give it a chance. I’ve found that publishing a fantasy novel on a literary press is sort of a marketing tool fighting against itself. Literary minded folk aren’t interested and fantasy folk think it’s too high-minded, or something. I think it’s a blending of the two, and I hope it’s enjoyable to fans of both high literary genre and gritty fantasy.

It’s not a book for everyone, but I think it should work well for fans of Ursula K Le Guin, Samuel R Delany, Gene Wolfe, China Mieville, Steven Erikson, and George RR Martin.

Also, join me tomorrow night for my first and maybe last reading ever at The Beat Coffeehouse in Uptown, Minneapolis.

And now promotion for the next novel already begins. I have some amazing secret news about that too.

so much selfpromotion

Makes you feel weird about yourself. Or it makes me feel weird about myself. It’s bad for the heart.

I think, for now, I’ve posted enough about Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp and Twilight of the Wolves, though I got some cool feedback and words about both yesterday.

I have some work I need to catch up on. This week has been difficult, to say the least. Hearts are fragile things. It started on a pretty unhappy note, and I don’t know if it’s getting better, but I feel like I’m able to be more productive today. Hoping to finish Part One of 13 Angels Screaming at the Mountain, which has been forcibly pushed aside for a couple weeks, despite my best efforts. After that, I want to start on the graphic novel.

Let’s talk about movies, since it’s been awhile since I posted about what I’ve been watching. I’ve been keeping up with my movie a day schedule, sometimes watching a few each day, and since I’ve watched so many since last posting about them, I’ll just do brief recaps, because none of them have been very exceptional.

Rewatched the entire Lord of the Rings in a marathon with the roommates. What’s funny about watching them all back to back is that you really get to see all the problems with them. The first one is clearly the best, and only because it’s structured just like a horror film, and uses a lot of horror techniques. The problems with the following two are related to their success and the time between releases. I think Jackson probably went back in with all the new money and tried to make them more epic high fantasy in tone, which also made them sort of hokey and awkward. Some of the funniest moments happen whenever the main characters encounter any other character. No one ever has a normal conversation, or even interaction. Everything’s piled with awkward and bizarre. Legolas is constantly saying the strangest things you’ll ever hear anyone say, and it all seems so out of nowhere. And then he’s always looking around, shiftyeyed. I can’t remember what else was funny/weird about it, but there are a lot of things. Everything in those films is super weird.

The Man of Tai Chi has some super awesome action sequences intercut with Keanu Reeves proving that he’s an alien. He clearly was raised by wolves and only learnt to speak human language as an adult, and he learnt from zeroing in on William Shatner’s Captain Kirk. Stick around for the fight scenes, but pay attention to Reeves. It’s the closest we’ll get to a truly alien performance.

Project A is awesome because Jackie Chan is awesome.

Rewatched The Dark Knight and it’s still awesome, and it’s really awesome in comparison to Equilibrium, which I watched for the first time a few days after. That movie is just hilariousbad.

Thor: The Dark World is as silly as the original, but it lacks the purposeful humor. Everyone’s still always wearing armor, and really weird armor, at that, but this time everything’s so serious. It really cripples the film. It always seemed weird to me that Kenneth Brannagh directed the first Thor, but now I see what he really added to it. He knew how to handle inherently silly material, but he gave us stakes that we sort of cared about by making us enjoy the characters. This new one’s too serious and, well, silly.

Airplane is just silly in a lot of the right ways, but, I mean, it has sort of 70s casual racism and sexism, so there’s that. But it’s hard to take anything in that movie seriously, as it’s just a series of gags and oneliners.

Cutie and the Boxer is a great documentary about art, and the sacrifices it leads to. It tore their family apart, but they’re still together, sort of wallowing in misery. It’s tough to watch at times because you realise what’s happened to them and why, but it’s also full of beautiful moments. It shows love in all it’s horror and perfection, which are often happening at the same time.

I can’t remember what else I’ve watched. Mostly silly things and action movies. Sometimes you need that.

Now to get back to the real work.

I’m lagging behind.

recent things with publishing

All right, so there are a lot of things to note in here. I’ll start with other people’s business and work my way to my own things.

J David Osborne, the man behind Broken River Books, has his short story collection currently available for free on the kindle.

Jeremy Robert Johnson has a sampler available on the kindle for just one dollar.

The awesome Chris Deal has his first full length collection available for just a few dollars on kindle.

Cameron Pierce has something very cool for free on the kindle right now.

It’s been a hectic time for free things on the kindle lately, and I don’t know really how to keep up. I have lots of reviewing to do soon, which means I have lots of reading to do now.

Anyrate, onto me.

Twilight of the Wolves - Edward J. RathkeI’m sure most of you are now aware that my novel Twilight of the Wolves is coming soon. If you want to get it early, you can check out the Goodreads Giveaway, or you can review it for SF Signal or Heavy Feather Review. There are several other places I’d love to see it reviewed at, and if you’re interested in doing that, please contact me, because I have a book with your name on it! And, if you’re willing to wait, you can simply pre-order it on Amazon.

 

 

coverdraft3As a sort of companion piece to Twilight of the WolvesI’ve released Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp, which is set in the same world, but is intended for a YA audience. It’s a novella available for one dollar on the kindle, for this month. I hope you love it. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written recently.

 

 

 

 

In a few months, I’ll also be releasing an illustrated paperback version with artwork done by the amazing Jazmyn Mares. Here’s  a quick sketch she did of the protagonist of Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp:

I’m crazy excited for that version to become real and alive for everyone. The story will remain the same, but it’ll have beautiful works of art inside.

Also, this is the first part of a series that’ll probably stretch for about ten novellas following her life. I’m excited to write the rest of it, and even more excited now that I have such amazing artwork to work with.

Up next, working on a graphic novel with Jazmyn and finishing my giant monster novel, which I’ve had to take a frustratingly long break from, because I need to make money sometimes.

So it goes. But, yeah, what else?