Posts Tagged ‘r a carson’

Apologia Cover

In the seventeenth century B.C. Amun is a young Egyptian librarian who loses everything when the library in Avaris burns down. He mourns the loss of his beloved books, and is sent to work at the temple of Set. After being initiated into the dark magic of the cult he rebels against it. He doesn’t want to use necromancy to speak to dead people, that’s horrible and dead people are boring. He modifies the magic to read dead books instead…

Apologia is a novella appropriate for middle readers through adults. It is set in a magical version of ancient Bronze Age Egypt during the twelfth dynasty.  It’s available at Amazon for the current discounted price of 86c.

So, as most authors do, I set out to write a story that I would like to read.  If that sounds wanky it is, ultimately very much an exercise in self-gratification.  *cough*

//taps microphone//

Is this thing on?  Oh?  Good.  Right.

Hi Jan.

Thanks for agreeing to have me on your show.  Me love you long time.

Wait, what?  Oh.  Oh is [b][i]that[/i][/b] what it means?  //blushes//

Right, so, starting over properly this time.  //coughs//  Yes, I’m just … getting into character.  Right.

Hi Jan.

Thanks for indulging me.  //glares at producer//  No, not like that.

So anyway, I hate series. But if I hate series, why write a series?

One of the reasons I hate series is because you can never get ahold of book two or three, and I’m just the sort of person who finds that really annoying.

E-books kind of solve that problem.  You should always be able to get ahold of book N in the series, because there’s no reason for e-books to go out of ‘print’.

So let me just talk about the series.  Oh, and before I do, let me say something about length.  They are novellas, roughly 30-40,000 words, so in aggregate all six of them are smaller than your typical bag-busting 250-300k fantasy novels that seem all the rage these days.  I’ve ‘finished’ each of them, which is to say that first drafts are done, but books 2-6 need revising and editing.

For book two (Pyramidia) essentially the protagonists race to build a pyramid.  //slowest race in the history of mankind ever//  Originally I’d described it (teasingly) as racing pyramids, which I suppose would be like racing camels only with a lot more masonry.  Unfortunately, that’s a _way_ cooler idea than what I wrote.

To spice it up a bit I added political warfare, economic warfare, religious warfare and topped it off with an undead army.  Yeah.  Now the whole racing pyramids thing still seems like it would be a good idea, perhaps for another, much sillier book.  Despite what you might think from reading this faux-terview the series actually has a serious tone, I’m shooting for magical realism.  But the one I wrote _earns_ the conflict tag on the front cover.

For book three (Mysteria) Hagrid turns up and says “Yer a wizard Horus Ptah!” and whisks him off to wizarding school.  Okay, _maybe_, strictly speaking, he has to flee Egypt because of (insert politics here), and he flees to the Academy on Atlantis.  But the good thing is that it takes so long to build a pyramid that by the time our protagonist gets there he’s an adult student, so we totally bypass the teenage angst thing (now _that’s_ magic).  Anyway, as a foreigner he’s not popular, and so at the end of book 3 he gets forcibly ejected from Atlantis.

Book 4 (Tragedia) he meets up again with Shoshana, a Canaanite woman who is a compassionate and extraordinarily gifted linguist.  (No!  Not a cunning linguist!  Sorry but I wanted the PG rating, so there’s very much a ‘no sex please we’re British’ thing going on) and he’s started this search for immortality.  He has access to the entirety of the Egyptian and Sumerian records on the subject, so he knows that it used to exist, and there are common elements to the legends, but they don’t have the right recipe.  So he and Shoshana journey east to the lands of Meluhha (India).  Not finding what they were looking for in Meluhha, they have to try to get to the land that silk comes from.  But the triple chain of improbably large mountains (read as: the Himalayas) kind of gets in the way, so they decide to sail the long way around.  Along the way they are shipwrecked and acquire a pet Arabian pirate captain.

In book 5 (Orientia) the tone changes slightly, we’re ratcheting it up the fantasy scale now, because they meet up with a river dragon called Pandi (who’s name basically means “Oh gods, not another girl, why does the universe hate me?” – which probably doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know about how women are viewed in certain cultures.  *cough* *cough* ).  Now the magical protagonist and the Arabian pirate have cooked up a scheme to become the richest men in all of China, so that they can buy up their myths and legends and try to put together the puzzle of immortality from them.  The plan has multiple stages, including making a lot of salt in order to buy tin so that they can make good bronze, but it comes off the rails somewhat when they go to extract the salt from Qinghai Lake.  The Dragon King of the lake takes a disliking to their salt production plans, and a liking to Pandi, so he kidnaps her.  They try to get her back, but the Dragon King’s magic is much more powerful than the protagonists.  Also, the King of Yin has heard about their treasure of salt, and is marching on their position with his army.

In book 6 (Immortia) the heroes try to steal the nine tripod cauldrons which signify the mandate of heaven, and overthrow the current Emperor.  However this guy turns up and tells them that they are wanted at the court of the Queen Mother of the West so that Pandi can answer for her crimes.  Celestial courtroom drama ensues.  It’s pretty safe to say that at this point we’ve left high fantasy and are moving into mythic fantasy territory.  When they fight Monkey he kicks their asses seven ways to Sunday and boots them out of heaven, which is unfortunate, because they were this close ->.<- to the secret of immortality.


I read somewhere that Joss Whedon said that on Firefly Kaylee is ‘the heart’ of the series.  Shoshana is like that, even though she’s not the main protagonist.  Without her extraordinary linguistic ability and diplomacy, the other protagonists would have been completely unable to function in foreign lands, so she’s crucial to the series even though she doesn’t really appear ‘on stage’ until book 3 (I drop hints in book 1 😀 ).

Pandi is by far the most physically strong character, and I get to pay homage with her to one of the most amazing sporting feats in history, which was performed by a teenage girl.  She’s young (for a dragon).

The pirate is mainly an easter egg.  He doesn’t do a huge amount, he’s the token ‘strong heroic barbarian type’ until Pandi shows up and overshadows him in that role.

The main protagonist has significant flaws, (including but not limited to not sharing information and not being very good at asking other people for help) which is why he needs Shoshana to serve as the moral compass, to drag him back onto the right path, when she can beat out of him what his plan actually is.

Influences on the series would be books like Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, pretty much anything by Diane Wynn Jones (of Howl’s Moving Castle fame) and especially in the last two books of the series Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds.

They say that the first million words you write are mostly crap, so two years ago I sat down to get those out of the way.  I’m over two thirds of the way through that.  The Apologia Necromantica series is part of those first million words, so why not just biff them away?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Because they also say that once you’ve revised a book a half dozen times you’ll start to hate the book and all the characters in it with the fiery burning passion of a thousand suns.  I’ve revised Apologia eight times and I’m still in love with the story and the characters in it (despite how horribly I treat them).  So maybe in the crap somewhere there is a nugget … you know what? … I think I’m done with that analogy.  Next!

I called the series Apologia Necromantica because each novella is contained within a framing story, of someone who has been accused of being a necromancer by the inquisition, and he is trying to defend himself against that charge.  Trying to make the inquisitor see things from his point of view.

(An apologia is an intellectual defence)

I decided to use the author name R.A. Carson, since R.A. (my full initials) is a play on Ra, sun god of the Egyptians, yada yada hilarious I know.

What I didn’t realise at the time was just how many apologetics books there are.  Apologetics is where one tries to defend one’s religious beliefs (mainly Christian) in a rational manner.  To make it worse, there’s another author called R.A.G. Carson who wrote a bunch of Apologetics books in the late 70s.

My Apologia is _not_ a book of christian apologetics.  I am _not_ that R.A.G. Carson.  I wasn’t writing religious treatises when I was six years old.  (I read Dune when I was eight or nine if I recall correctly, that should be impressive enough).

Anyway, because of that, if you search for Apologia on Amazon my book is buried on page two.  **Epic fantasy facepalm**

Currently the first book of the series is only available on Amazon.  That is because it is essentially an experiment.  Amazon’s pricing schemes are far more intricate than the other e-book vendors, and they offer you various incentives for going exclusively with them, amongst other things in certain markets in order to get royalties __almost__ as good as you’d get on Nook or the iBook-store you have to be exclusive to Kindle.  Which sounds kind of stupid.  One of the things I’d have liked to do is to price the books at $2.99 on Amazon (the minimum to qualify for the threshold of being the same-ish royalty as everyone else) and then sell them for 99c on the iBook-store.  But Amazon will whinge about that, and they _insist_ on price matching (they’re super aggressive about it), and so my royalty on Amazon would drop nearly 90%.  So why not just tell Amazon to take a flying leap?

I’m glad you asked.  Amazon has this thing called Amazon Prime.  The idea being that if you are a colossal Otaku of everything Amazon related, you can pay them $80 per year to be a member of their fanclub.  And Amazon’s fanclub has this one special privilege which interests me, their lending library, where they essentially give your book away for free.  Obviously the royalties on $0.00 are going to suck, right?  But no, this is Amazon, which spits in the face of paltry considerations such as selling things for a profit.  What Amazon has done is set up a ‘prize pool’ of money.  At the end of each month, you get N% of the prize pool where N% equals whatever percentage of the number of books which were borrowed in this fashion.

Last November the authors involved in this were saying that they got $1.80 per lend.  That’s right.  Amazon wants to take my 99c e-book, and give it away for free (denying me my twenty-four cent royalty, those bastardos!) and then pay me a $1.80 royalty for the privilege.  Hey wait.  ‘You know, that doesn’t sound so bad…’ I thought to myself.

Now that I’m behind the Iron Curtain as it were, I can see that the total prize pool for February is $1.2 Million.  Which actually doesn’t sound like a lot of money.  Nobody has borrowed my book either, so I won’t know how much each lend is worth unless someone does.  If any of your readers are already Amazon Prime customers, I’d prefer them to borrow the book instead of buying it.  (Amazon may spit in the face of puny economics, but in my world $1.80 is greater than 24c).  If nobody borrows my books within the three month trial period then obviously I’ll jump to other platforms and push those (because they offer the same service but better royalties).

I have another series in the works, which is predicated on the notion that what if the mentor in a story found out that mentors in stories normally die, and was crusty on the inside as well as the outside (no heart of gold) and so flat out refused to train the hero?

Like Apologia the first book in that series is a relatively short stand-alone novel, so if you borrow the first one and it’s not your cup of tea you haven’t lost anything.  It’s set in a post-medieval alternate Europe, the main difference being that fortune telling magic actually works…

I’ve got some plans for science-fiction books as well, including a universe where light speed is the law not just a suggestion, one where time travel shapes the galactic politics, and something where I’m shooting for a more traditional ‘space opera’ feel.


You can find Rick at Amazon or comment on this post and I’ll pass it on.