Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ghosts of Innocence is on sale

I finally bit the bullet and clicked "Publish".

After 7 years and 2 months in gestation, Ghosts of Innocence is now available as an e-book in most standard formats here.

You can also find out more about the setting and backstory on my web site here.

Master assassin Shayla Carver has killed many times. That's what assassins do, nothing to lose sleep over, but this mission is different.

She's never killed a whole planet before.

In a time when Earth is little more than a legend, life is dangerous for wayward colonies. Everyone fears the Emperor’s power to order a Cleansing, the burning of all traces of civilization from the face of a planet. Shayla's own home world was Cleansed, and now, years later, she's ready to exact payment in kind.

But her meticulous planning didn't prepare her for living undercover amongst some of the two billion people she's about to slaughter. Ordinary people. Not the strutting Imperials readily dismissed as legitimate targets or collateral damage. Then there's the Emperor himself. An ordinary man with troubles and dreams of his own.

Did this man really order the slaughter of innocents?

Can she?

Now she's starting to lose sleep.

You can preview and buy the e-book here. I am also working on a paperback version which will be available soon.

Incidentally, this is also my 400th blog post. Blimey! What a lot of nonsense to inflict on the virtual world!

Monday, May 19, 2014

How I found the write path

This post is brought to you via the special blogfest, How I Found the Write Path, hosted by Carrie Butler and PK Hrezo.

The Prompt: Write a letter to yourself when you first started writing toward publication. Details here.

Dear Budding Botanist,

It's exactly ten years on since you put first halting and painfully self-conscious words on the page, when you decided (and Space only knows how the heck that happened) that you could write a novel.

In those first months, as the pile of words grew, you were convinced that the literary world would beat a path to your door, lapping up the sheer beauty of your glowing prose.


I've got news for you, and you ain't gonna like it!

Publication is a cold, uncaring, profit-motivated business. It doesn't care about you or your stories unless it can see a clear and sure-fire path to making money out of you. I'm not knocking this, it's a legitimate business model especially given the vast number of talented writers out there, but it does lead to behavior that makes it enormously difficult for new writers to break in.

The good news is that the world of writing is a wonderfully diverse and supportive community. All real writers know how hard the publication process is, and they band together to help and encourage each other. I don't think you'll find anything like it elsewhere in the creative arts.

So, here are some things you should know to help you on your way.

Have fun

This is paramount, and it is not some feel-good wishy-washy idealistic crap. Readers can tell when you're having fun and when you're just going through the motions. The parts that you had most fun writing will often also be the most enjoyable to read.

Take the opportunity to torture your characters. Make then act in ways that you would never dare. Bring the reader into your mind and share the wonders of your imaginary world. Write what you enjoy and make your enthusiasm shine on the page. Have fun.

Know your own mind

Throughout the writing and publishing process, you will be bombarded with advice. The more advice you hear, the more confused you will get. For every "thou shalt" you read about, there is someone equally experienced preaching the opposite.

For the most part, there are no absolute right answers. Sure, there are some answers that are more or less likely to lead to a good outcome, and some that will almost certainly torpedo your efforts, but there's a vast no-man's-land in between where it's largely a matter of preference.

So, what to do?

The most important thing to remember is that this is your journey. Not somebody else's. If you heed some advice and it doesn't pan out, the only person to blame is yourself, so become self-reliant and take responsibility for your own destiny. All I can advise here is to read and research and draw your own informed conclusions. Know your own mind and work out what's right for you.

That's not to say be obstinate and insist you know best, but choose carefully which advice to follow and which to set aside. Do so knowingly, and own the outcome.

Pull your finger out

Your story is doing nobody any good sitting on your hard drive. You are in danger of wasting years on the agent query lottery and there are respectable alternatives to traditional publishing. You are living in times when technology and social media are connecting people like never before, and shaking the foundations of brick-and-mortar bookselling. Be a positive part of the revolution.

The onus is still on you to craft the best product you possibly can. Don't take shortcuts. Polish your story until it is something you are proud of, until you reach the point where you find you are editing but no longer really improving. Then...

...Get off your sorry butt and get it out there.

Good luck and best wishes
Old and Creaky Botanist


Ian S. Bott

I give my permission to use my entry in the e-book compilation. 


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors May 18

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

This week we hop ahead a little bit. Chalwen is in conference with her three most senior commanders, Paul, Fleur, and Henri, discussing the measures taken to defend one of the planet's major cities against the falling ship.

Paul speaks first, in response to a question from Chalwen.

Creative punctuation alert!


"Inside the perimeter we have five Implacable-class, lots of smaller units, but nothing with firepower to completely vaporize a starhopper in that short time. There would have been lots of debris, some of it big."

"I don't like having our planetary space so bare, I said it would be a problem. I'll seek an audience with Admiral Kuvar and insist he pull back a couple of Sword-class ships."

"He won't like that." Fleur's voice gave the impression that everything in life amused her. "They're his favorite tool for showing the flag around the provinces. There's nothing like a Sword hovering overhead to remind people how grateful they are to their Emperor."


Ghosts of Innocence will be on sale soon. Now in the final rounds of proof-reading and tweaking the cover design.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Anatomy of a book

One of the first things you realize when you want to publish your own book, is that there's more to a finished book than just the text.

If you want your book to present itself as a professional product (and that is essential if you hope to see it on bookstore or library shelves) then you need to realize that those additional parts are not just random adjuncts. They each have their purpose and, while there's a lot of variation, there are also some expectations around what goes where. Get it wrong, and it will scream "amateur" to anyone in the book-buying business.

The most obvious thing wrapped around the text is the cover.

The front cover is familiar enough and deceptively simple: artwork, title, and author. I'll talk another time about the benefits of a professional designer, but suffice to say that there's a whole website here dedicated to what can easily happen if you try to go it alone.

For print versions, you have to add the spine (title and author again) and back cover. The latter will usually carry at least a blurb, ISBN barcode, and maybe author bio and photo.

Of course, once I get past the cover, I typically flip to chapter 1 and start reading. 

But wait! Back up a bit. What are all those pages I just flipped past?

If you look more closely, a typical book starts with several pages that have always looked random and confusing to me, but I've learned there is order and structure hidden there. These pages, collectively, are called "front matter".

At the very least, there is a title page, showing the title, author, and publisher. On the back of the title page is the copyright page.

Most of the front matter is fairly straightforward, but the copyright page is worth a special mention.

The copyright page typically contains legal statements ("All rights reserved, blah blah blah" and "This is a work of fiction, so, no I'm not writing about you, dumbass!"), author and publisher information, and ISBN.

Most of this is self-explanatory, but there's often a couple of confusing elements. Most professionally-published books in USA and Canada will have cataloguing-in-publication data. This is provided by the US Library of Congress or Library and Archives Canada, and tells libraries how to catalogue the work.

Here's an example:

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bott, Ian S., 1960-, author
          Ghosts of innocence / Ian S. Bott.

Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 978-0-9937242-0-6 (pbk.).--ISBN 978-0-9937242-1-3 (html)

          I. Title.

PS8603.O9183G56 2014              C813'.6             C2014-902878-4 

The best bit about this section is that you don't have to worry about the content here. In fact, you mustn't try to alter it. You must include it exactly as given, weird spacing and punctuation and all.

At the bottom of the copyright page, you will often see a string of numbers. This tells you which edition of the work you are looking at. Why have a whole list of numbers (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3) rather than just saying "Edition 3"? This harks back to manual typesetting, where it was easier to set up the copyright page once, and just remove a number from the end whenever you prepared a new edition.

The main thing I've learned about the copyright page is to look at lots of examples, search for suitable templates, and include the wording that makes sense to you.

Other front matter elements: The title page is often preceded by a half title page (just giving the title), and can be followed by many pages of: dedication, table of contents, foreword, preface, and acknowledgements.

For Ghosts, I am keeping it simple with a half title page, title page, copyright page, and dedication. Then into the meat.

At the back of the book, there may be more pages, oddly enough called "back matter". This includes things like appendices, end notes, glossary, bibliography, and index. Most of these sections are more likely to be used in non-fiction than in novels. I have not included any back matter in Ghosts, although I have posted a glossary on my web site and may consider adding it into a future edition.

The overall thing I learned here is to consult professional book designers, some of them have information and suggested layouts freely available on their websites. Use their guidance to learn what goes where, and pick what's right for you.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Last week we met Chalwen ap Gwynodd, Imperial Chief of Security, who's just been woken with the news of the sabotaged starship. She's just entered the cavernous security operations center...


A whisper behind her didn't quite escape her keen hearing: "Essence of Unity, this is going to be rough."

Chalwen paused near the top of the aisle, and turned, ignoring the quaking personnel nearest to her. Vast wall displays stretched in an arc across most of her view. A map of Magentis to the left. To the right spread the inhabited worlds of humanity. In between was a schematic of planetary border security.

Chalwen glared at the livid starburst denoting a security breach. Lips pressed tight and nostrils flaring, she pointed a stylus at the starburst and watched information flow across the face of her notepad.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

After after "The End"

Anyone who's tried to write a novel, and especially anyone who's joined a critique group, knows that writing those two little words "The End" is a very long way from being the end.

After "The End", there's endless rounds of editing and polishing, revising and editing again, which is likely to take you several times longer than writing the actual story.

But eventually you finish up with a story that you are happy with. Typo-free, grammar-perfect, every word in its place, every paragraph sings.

It's ready.

But what about after that?

Once you get past that shedload of work after "The End" there's yet another whole after world of strangeness and hard graft waiting for you.

Now that I've chosen to go it alone, and getting close to putting something out there for real, I wanted to share some of the things I've learned through this part of the process.

I'm not trying to give advice! Let's be clear about that one point. Apart from the small matter of who the heck do I think I am to be giving anyone advice, seeing as I'm not even published yet, and it might all fall flat on its face and you'd be better off not listening to me, there's also the oft-repeated idea that everyone's writing journey is different. What works (or not, let's wait and see) for me may not be right for you.

So, I'm not giving advice. All I'm setting out to do is describe some parts of the journey, why they have been important to me, and what I've learned along the way.

To save you some mental indigestion, I'm planning to break this up into a series of posts over the coming weeks. And if you want me to touch on any aspect in particular, please feel free to ask questions in the comments and I'll do my best to respond in future posts.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

We left Shayla escaping from a falling starship and enduring a rather bumpy ride down. It's time to switch tracks and introduce Shayla's nemesis, who's just been woken with the news of the starship sabotage on her doorstep...


Sentries on either side of the door to the security operations center came to attention. Imperial Chief of Security, Chalwen ap Gwynodd, straightened the tunic of her uniform as she approached. Red-rimmed eyes peered briefly back at her from a rough and ruddy face mirrored in the armored plastic of the door before it slid aside.

Chalwen's massive silhouette eclipsed the light from the corridor, hushing the buzz of conversation in the cavernous room ahead. She pursed her lips and surveyed the terraces of desks and lecterns rising towards the back of the room. She, in turn, felt a hundred and fifty pairs of eyes assessing her. Measuring her mood.

She paced, slow and steady, to the nearest aisle and began to climb.

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