Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Gods in the Jungle: iPad version are doing lots of stuff to get eBooks ready for listing on Apple's iPad when it goes on sale next month.

To get my tome included in the initial listings, I've had to relent - the eBook version of The Gods in the Jungle now has an ISBN: 978-1-4523-0272-0. This will list smashwords as publisher of the tome rather than Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press, which is a pity but nothing I can't live with.

Let's just hope the tome looks good on the iPad ...

PS: iPad supports pdf files. You can download all my poetry chapbooks from the RikVerse website in pdf format for free. And I know for a fact that those chaps are going to look fabulous on your new toy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Rik Publications

... from Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press:

Poetry chapbooks
22 Facets of my Father - £2.49 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook
Play Time - £2.49 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook
From Each Skull, A Story - £1.99 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook
Poems to Quote to your Lover - £1.99 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook

The RikVerse: volume 1 - gathers together all four of the above chapbooks into one single, sparkly book. Also a lot cheaper than buying all the chaps individually. £4.99 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook

Links to all these goodies are now to the right hand side of your screen.

The eBooks are in pdf format, thus readable by most (sensible) eReaders. They are also available from my Issuu page.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revised poetry chapbooks

Here's the covers; details to follow:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guess what's coming ...

Yep, I'm re-doing the RikVerse book. This new book will:

- include all four chapbooks - Play Time; 22 Facets of my Father; From Each Skull, A Story; and Poems to Quote to your Lover (that's almost double the amount of poetry compared to the old book);

- be available in both hardcopy and eBook versions;

- have a nice new nifty cover - bye, bye chicken; and

- be on sale for £4.99 (hardcover) or $2.99 (eBook) - vastly cheaper than the old book!

What the book won't be is available through Amazon - pushing a book through the Amazon route will automatically double the price of the book, so Amazon can do their '50% off' offer thingy. Bugger to that - who in their right mind would pay a tenner for a book of poems, huh?

Anyways, more news later, alongside links and stuff. Everything has to settle before NaPo strikes us all down ...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The costs of independent publishing

For those who are interested, here are the breakdowns of the costs of self-publishing my tome.

Writing/revising/finalising the book:
4 years; £0.00 (costs of medications and alcohol excluded)

Preparing the book webpage:
1 week; £0.00 (I love coding websites)

Formatting the book for hardcover publication:
3 days; £25.00 (the cost of two books for proofing)

Formatting the book for eBook publication:
2 hours; £0.00

Preparing the cover:
2 days; £0.00 (maybe spend some cash on this in due course)

Cost of distribution packages:
£0.00 (no need for an ISBN with my distribution channels)

Publishing hardcopy (
2 hours; £0.00 (did the process twice)

Publishing eBook (
1 hour; £0.00

Promotional spend/budget:
£0.00 (ain't got no cash to spend on promotion)

Total cost: £25.00

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Published: The Gods in the Jungle

The Gods in the Jungle
a Kalieda novel by Rik Roots.

The jungle city of Bassakesh holds the keys to the future of the Vreski Empire. It is the sole source of the valuable Vedegga dye; it is also home to the mysterious Servants, who harvest the dye.

Delesse, the Bassakesh Governor's daughter, is marrying Loken, heir to one of the most powerful Clans in the Empire - whose leaders, Loken's own Father and uncle, are plotting to disrupt the dye harvest as part of their wider plans to win the aged Emperor's throne.

When those hasty plans go awry a terrible plague is unleashed across Bassakesh, bringing widespread death and chaos.

Aided by a collection of survivors and Servants, Delesse and Loken must travel through the jungles to face down and defeat the people who not only threaten the Empire's stability, but also ruined their wedding.

Set on a planet far from Earth, The Gods in the Jungle is an investigation of the drives and desires, fears and beliefs of the various peoples and classes of a crumbling society, through the eyes of those immediately involved in events which threaten to bring an Empire to its knees.

Published by Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press. Now available online (part), in various eBook formats and also in hardcopy.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Gods in Jungle publication #3

New cover? Check!
Better maps? Check!
Margins sorted? Check!
Text justified properly? Check!
Widows'n'orphans dealt with? Check!
Blank pages blank? nah - I'll leave headers and page numbers on 'em.

Number of pages added to the book as a result of these changes? 21 (now up to 365 pages).

All-in-all, not a bad day's work. Now for the proof reading ...

Gods in Jungle publication #2

A little earlier than expected, the proof copy of the hardcopy version of the book landed in my grubby little mits this morning.

Only a few immediate, obvious changes needed:

- The cover absolutely does not work; it gives completely the wrong feel about the book and - I hate to say this - it looks amateur. The cover must change.

- the maps are too dark; they shall be changed too - though that should be an easier job.

- the margins are just off; the inner margin (next to the spine) needs to be a centimetre or so wider to make for a more comfortable read.

- text justification ... I forgot to fully justify the text. Oops. Also, there's some orphan words and lines at the end of a couple of chapters, but that can all be sorted out at the same time as I do the margins and check through the file again to make sure each chapter starts on an odd-numbered page.

- headings and page numbers are appearing on the blank pages - this I don't mind so much, though best practice is for blank pages to be, well, blank.

In the good news zone, the redesign of the website to accommodate the book goes well.

QUESTION: is this cover better?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The why of conlanging, part 94

The good readers of the New York Times have been posing questions about constructed languages to a couple of conlang experts. Never one to miss an opportunity to fill out a questionnaire, here are my answers to some of the questions raised:

What is the process for "making up" a language? Do you just go on inspiration, or is there some preconceived structure to your work? In what order do you proceed? Where do you start?

There's lots of ways to construct a conlang. Some people like to follow a set of instructions or guidelines (such as the ones given in the Language Construction Kit), others prefer a more freewheeling, iterative approach to the endeavour, tackling whatever problem or issue takes their fancy at that time. Some people like to create language families, starting with an ancestor tongue then deriving new languages through shound changes (diachronics) and the like. I'm an iterative conlanger, myself, though I have used the cookbook approach on occassion.

Is any care taken to design the language around (or specifically avoid) the rules of Universal Grammar?

I tend to avoid all things Chomsky - on the rare occassions that I've wandered into linguistic theories I've found cognitive linguistics has been more helpful. Linguistic Universals, on the other hand, are much more fun - especially when it comes to working out how to break some of them in a conlang without breaking the conlang itself.

Do you create an alphabet first? When languages are invented, how do the creators choose the set of vowels and consonants the language will have? Do you utilize the International Phonetic Alphabet?

For my first conlang (Gevey), which I started working on when I was 12, I used the tools I had to hand - namely the sounds of the English language; as time goes by the phonology and orthography of the conlang have changed to meet my changing needs and desires for it. For more recent conlangs (such as Ákat) I've made more of an effort to decide on a phonology and sonority rules (for the syllable stuff) near the start of the construction process - if only to save my sanity: changing the phonology and orthography for a well-developed conlang can be a right bugger, especially if that conlang already has a significant web presence.

IPA is, in my view, an essential tool for any serious conlanger - it's the simplest way of describing the sounds of a conlang without having to resort to recording and posting snippets of the language.

How much (of a language) does one have to INVENT before constructing simple sentences?

Surprisingly little. The simplest conlangs are 'naming languages', for which all you need is a few ideas about how the conlang should sound together with a few roots and derivation rules allowing you to pull together nominal words and phrases for naming landmarks and settlements. Adding verbs into the mix is the point when things start to get interesting.

How do invented languages make room for pidgin or dialects or other natural language developments?

That's entirely up to the conlanger: what do they want their conlang to do, how do they want it to do stuff. Gevey has room for dialects, though I haven't done much work to develop them (yet). Ákat is a different matter, as I designed it to be a language constructed by philosophers within my constructed world Kalieda.

Do you invent a language from scratch without using one or more existing languages as models, or do you base the syntax or grammar on the syntax or grammar of an existing language?

My track record of learning natural languages other than my birth tongue is embarrassingly poor; all my conlangs are a priori, developed from scratch.

Is it preferable for a language (invented or non) to have a relatively small vocabulary?

This depends entirely on what the conlanger wants from their language. Having a well-developed set of derivation and neologism rules can help overcome the need for a large stock of original roots. Deliberately restricting the number of roots available was a key design strategy for Ákat, while no such constraint exists for developing the Gevey lexicon.

Given the mixed success (ongoing but limited speakership) of constructed languages like Esperanto meant to be used in daily life, what room is there for future constructed languages outside of the realm of science fiction/fantasy? Why else would someone construct a language, and how could one feasibly catch on without, say, a spaceship or Peter Jackson involved?

I approach conlanging as an art form; my conlangs are artlangs. I would be astonished if someone told me they wanted to learn one of my languages: I'd probably think they were nuts. I've never had an interest in developing an International Auxillary Language - with all due respect, IAL enthusiats scare me. I see my work on conlanging as a sort of Outsider Art; it's important to me but of little or no interest to others, which is fine.

What’s the best way to create a language for a book or series? … What are the most important things that readers would need as signposts to understanding?

A good naming language can really help add flavour to a book, as can throwing in the occasional oath or invocation. But too much flavour can ruin the narrative. Like most things in life, there's a balance to be had, and what works wonderfully for one reader will lead to another reader hurling the book across the room in frustration (book-wall interactions, as I like to call them).

How long a shelf life do movie languages have?

To be honest, not long. Of all the conlangs, philosophical languages and IALs developed in the centuries prior to the mid-20th century, only one continues to exist beyond the realms of a few diehard enthusiasts. Maybe the internet will change the average half-life of conlangs, maybe not. We'll see.

Wouldn’t it be fair to say that regardless of their inventiveness or complexity, and regardless of the work put into developing them from the "top down," none of these artificial languages (from Klingon and Elvish to Esperanto itself) will ever be more than an elaborate game of codification and translation, until a generation of children grows up speaking it from the "bottom up" (i.e. as a first language)?

This question only refers to IALs, yes? Like I said, why would anyone want to learn my conlangs? The beauty in a good artlang depends not in the numbers that speak the language (often 0 - I can't speak my conlangs fluently) but rather in the inventiveness of the conlanger's imagination and their ability to translate their vision into the concrete reality of the conlang itself.

What are the benefits of learning a constructed language that relatively few people use instead of a non-invented language that could help one communicate with others across the world?

Beyond self-satisfaction, there are no benefits to learning a conlang. Some people study natlang grammars for the fun of it.

What makes one invented language "better" or more realistic than another? Which constructed languages do you think have the most complete grammars?

See above. There's dozens of conlangs with comprehensive and well-written grammars online. For my part, I prefer to display my conlangs in a less formal manner.

Do people who invent and study made-up languages get grief from those who study dying "natural" ones?

No idea. Most conlangers I've met online are not linguists, though some younger ones have been inspired to study linguistics at college as a direct result of their conlanging interests.

Why not revive and disseminate an endangered language rather than make up a new one? Why would one choose to invent a new language (aside from the whole "wildest academic dreams" thing) rather than revive a "dead" language or a dying one, like Cornish or Manx?

'Reviving' a natlang is more a scientific and social endeavour than an artistic one. Heck, I failed my French exams twice: what hope have I got for leading the revival of a near-extinct language. For what it's worth, the best placed people for reviving a near-extinct language are probably the people from the communities that used to speak that language - why not give them the tools and support and see what they can do?

Why waste time with a language that has not aged, like a good wine, in barrels of love and passion?

My conlangs are aging very nicely in a bodega of love and passion, thank you for asking. Though my wine probably tastes like drain-cleaner to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gods in Jungle publication #1

So the publication process begins.

The book has been formatted for hardcopy publication on - that includes front page stuff, copyright notices, a couple of maps, dedications and author notes, consistent indentation and punctuation, and an appendix at the back - because my Other Half told me the book needed a list of who's who and what's what.

Oh, and a cover. I can't afford to pay a talented person to design a cover for me, so I've had to do one of my own. I don't like the cover design wizard served up by - this is All Rik's Very Own Work:

What do you both think?

Next up: proofing the hardcopy version - nobody gets to see this little beauty until I'm completely satisfied with the way it looks off the presses, inside and out.

After that, I can start on the pleasurable stuff of redesigning the rikweb website for the promoting of the book. I'll also need to do a lot of work on the lands database to bring the Vreski Society stuff up to spec.

Then in a weeks time the proof version will be in my dirty little mitts so I get to do some reading and finalfinalfinal revisions. At that point I can also format the tome for its eBook versions and play with the Smashwords website.

I'm already thinking about pricing: I reckon the hardcopy version ought to sell for £9.99 (around $15 US), while the eBook version should go for $9.99 (around £6.50).

Comments always welcome ...

At the crossroads: decision time

As you both know, I have been writing a book. I started writing the book before I took the redundancy money and ran away from the civil service, and I have continued writing the book since then. Over the past year I have been touting the book around agents and publishers, looking for someone to legitimise my wastrel pastime by agreeing to publish and promote my tome. It has certainly been a learning experience, and not only in futility.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end; as the redundancy money runs out I find myself having to review my goals and reassess what I want to achieve from my endeavours.

And what I most want out of life is for people to read - and enjoy - my book.

Things that don't seem so important to me at this point in time include:

  • Recognition - it's the book that's important, not me

  • Acclamation - while a small bucket of kudos from fellow writers would be nice, it isn't the keystone of my desires

  • Wealth - being able to support my wastrel existence on the back of book sales was (and still is) a nice dream, but was never likely to unfold into a new reality for me

The timescales of getting a book published annoy me. The book publishing industry is built on one of the strangest commercial models I've ever come across - acceptance of the product, its further development, deployment and promotion: it's all a barrel of wierdness, I tell you. The pricing and return strategies are a whole different planet of surreality!

Add to the mix a good dose of disruptive innovations such as the eBook phenomenon and new retail strategies such as the Agency model all the publishing blogs are chattering about ...

I've come to a decision. Over the next few weeks I'm going to self-publish - sorry, independently publish my book, The Gods in the Jungle. This is not me quitting on my original aims; rather I'm adapting to evolving circumstances and realigning my hopes and desires for the book.

I'm not alone: look at what John Wideman's doing.

So, over the next few weeks I'll be finalising the book for publication in hardback format via - and only available for purchase from, because I don't see why I need to double the retail cost of the book just so Amazon can offer 50% discounts on it; I'll also be providing eBook versions for sale through Smashwords because, as Nathan says, it's the future, innit.

Also, I'll be updating the Kalieda Encyclopaedia section on the Vreski Society, as that is where the story takes place, and additionally developing a brand new section of the Rikweb to give the book it's own home page - with all the information that would otherwise have to be stuffed into appendices and the like (which would drive up the cost of the book).

After that I might dabble in a little promotion work, but my main priority will be to get on with finishing my other two (or three) books - with a goal of publishing them before the end of the year. Oh, and finding paid employment I suppose. Gotta keep up with the calorie intake else nothing's gonna happen.

(With thanks to Reb for helping to clarify things for me).

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

The shortlist for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry thingy has been published.

Typically, in the eligibility and rules section, we find the following:

Self-published work is not eligible