Archive for the ‘Fallen Cloud Saga’ Category

“Has John read your books?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? You guys talk about books all the time.”

“Well, sure. But not about my books.”

The above snippet of dialogue is verbatim from this past weekend, and it is Exhibit A in the case of Why I Absolutely Suck at Marketing.

In general, I do not know which of my friends have read any of my books. Yes, there are some exceptions to this—beta readers for a certainty, those who’ve expressed an opinion about a title—but if pressed, I know of only eight people who have definitely read one (or more) of my titles. And two of them are dead, so I’m really down to only six. That small list gets longer if I include people who I know have bought my books; but have they read them? One acquaintance told me flat out that she bought my books but did not read any of them, so I don’t take equate purchases with readers. 

Why am I so in the dark on this topic? Because it is how I was raised. And it’s also my nature.

A big lesson of my youth was, “Don’t show off.” My father was insistent about this. “You have talents,” he would tell me, “but don’t get cocky, don’t show off, because there’s always going to be someone out there who’s richer or smarter or more talented than you are.” The subtext, coming from the grandson of a charcoal burner (yeah, it’s a real occupation), was essentially “Pride goeth before a fall.” Humility, my dad felt, consistently won over more people than braggadocio. 

This fit well with my introverted mien. I have absolutely zero desire to “show off” and put myself in the spotlight (this blog notwithstanding), so self-deprecation and “hiding my lamp under a bushel” aren’t second nature; they’re first nature.

As a result, there are people who know me who don’t know that I’ve written nine novels (and counting). I don’t introduce myself, saying, “Hi, I’m Kurt. I’ve written nine novels. Heard of me? Want to read one?” In this age of self-publishing, being an accomplished novelist isn’t as big a deal as it used to be. Folks who learn of my bibliography might smile and nod, but the look in their eye betrays their unspoken reservations about the probable quality of my work.

None of this is to say I’m not proud of my books—I am—but there are just too many variables to the “Hi, I’m a writer” gambit. Nearly 20% of Americans didn’t read any books in the past year (print, e-book, or audiobook), and about half of the population has read fewer than six titles (and which ones do you think they’re going to buy? Mine?). Then there’s genre-preference, with “historical”-anything being at the low end of the popularity scale (and my stuff all being “historical”-something or other). Taken as a whole, there is absolutely no reason for me to expect that anyone I know is going to enjoy my books; the odds are simply against it.

Marketing is essentially nothing but “Look at me!” show-offery, and that is totally antithetical both to my attitude and to my nature. So, I suck at it.

However, this whole cover redux journey I recently began is nothing but marketing. Sort of. So, I’m a little conflicted. And a little anxious about the whole idea.

Still gonna do it, though.


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Over on Facebook, a reader mentioned a scene in FC:1 that she really liked. I like to investigate this sort of specific feedback–the good and the bad–to see what worked and what didn’t work for my readers.

I remembered the scene she mentioned in general, but not in detail. The main reason I wanted to investigate, though, was that her description of it as dialogue-free was not my recollection; I remembered it as being chatty to the extreme, as two swoony teenaged girls prattled on about how divine it was going to be to see Sarah Bernhardt on stage. (For those of you out of the 19th-century loop, Sarah Bernhardt was the Lady Gaga of her day.)

So, I pulled down my copy of The Year the Cloud Fell and tried to figure out what this reader had meant when she referred to the scene’s “shared communication and not a scrap of dialogue.


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Stack of BooksNow that’s a first.

A novelist friend was complaining about the names she’d picked for her characters (they’re historical ethnic names, and have several diacritical marks). She was wrapping up a long series with these characters, and was looking forward to never having to write those names again.

I thought that was a good topic for discussion. There are lots of bad choices for character names; some annoy the reader, some annoy the writer. Then, halfway through composing my own post, I searched the web for a reference, and got a hit on my own blog.

Oops…I’d already written a post on the topic of character names (and what not to do).

I suppose it was bound to happen; there are only so many one can broach on the subject of writing. Of course, I’m a good enough writer that I could have taken a new tack on an old topic, but I don’t want to recycle subjects…not yet, anyway.

So, instead of boring you with a slightly different discussion on what makes a bad name, how about boring you with a discussion on what makes a good name?

No? All right. Another time, then. 😉


Kurt R.A. Giambastiani

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It’s one of those things I dreaded. A reader of the Fallen Cloud Saga has asked me what species of dinosaurs I used in the series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s terrific that readers want this kind of detail and “behind the scenes” info, and I’m more than happy to provide it, but I know this will only give ammunition to Paleozoic anoraks to shoot holes in my world-building techniques. The row that ensued over my leaving Quebec under French control was epic. I can only imagine what will happen with this.

But, rather than just a cold list of species, I’ll give a little of my thinking to the scenario as well.


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Simple LivingIt’s pissing down rain in Seattle. The lecherous wind tugs and young women’s skirts as they tick-tock their high-heeled way to work, and the few who bothered with umbrellas wish they’d left them at home. The sky is locked down in gunmetal grey and the sun is a dim memory, consumed by the overhead drear. It’s already been a long work-week for me, having put in three days’ worth before the end of Day Two, and I haven’t slept well for worrying about my family, still roiling from our matriarch’s recent death.

And yet, inside, I’m sunny. (more…)

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Beneath a Wounded SkyIt’s always a thrill when other bloggers find enough interest in this blog to tag me in a post or give a nod for a blog-award. It’s gratifying to know that I’m not only reaching people, but doing so with value. And so I was pleased when Jon over at Jumping from Cliffs tagged me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.

TNBT asks a writer ten questions about their newest or upcoming work, and then hops on over to other writer’s blogs. These games of virtual tag are always fun because there’s always one or two questions in the stack that catch me off guard.

So first, the questions, and at the end, my five “tag-ees.”

What is the working title of your book?
My most recent book is Beneath a Wounded Sky, Book V in the Fallen Cloud Saga. My shorthand for it is FC:V.

What genre does your book fall under?
The closest genre for the FC books is Alternate History, but the hardline Alt-Hist fans will disagree. As with most of my books, it blends genres, and while it’s mostly alt-hist, it also has fantasy and spiritual elements.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
I shall try…

The Fallen Cloud Saga comes to a close as George Custer, Jr. rides with the Cheyenne Alliance to join forces from the Spanish Crown; together, they face George’s father, President Custer, Sr., and his American army, but their plans conflict with the vision seen by Speaks While Leaving, the Cheyenne seeress and guide.

How dat?

Where did you get the idea for your book?
The idea for the series started when I read The Great Dinosaur Extinction Controversy, by Officer and Page. That got me thinking about how dinosaurs might have survived into the common era (if North America’s inland sea had not receded). That got me thinking about how they might have adapted (smaller size) and what niches they might have filled (perhaps filling the niche that was filled by the Spanish horses). And that got me thinking about how life for the Plains Indians might have been different if, when the Spaniards arrived, the native peoples were already riding these smaller, horse-analogues. And that led me to wonder, “What would have happened if Custer didn’t die at the Little Big Horn?”

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This last book was inspired by the devotees of the first four books in the Fallen Cloud Saga. When the publisher dropped the series on book four-out-of-five, I was crushed and the fans of the series were orphaned. Then I had some health problems and had to get that in hand, but it took a long time, and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to write another book.

But the readers, they just loved those books. They sent letters, sent emails, posted on Facebook, made paintings of the characters. And they kept posting, year after year. They were never many in number (if they had been, the publisher would have jumped at FC:V), but they were so enamored of the books, the characters, the World of the Fallen Cloud. Their sincere wishes and gentle encouragement eventually got me back on track and got me writing again.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first books in the FC Saga I wrote quickly; each one took me 9 months to a year at most (I write longhand, with pen and paper.) For FC:V, though, this last book, I had several failed starts. All told, it took me about four years from Page One to final End, but that wasn’t constant writing. Once I finally got the gears working again, it went quickly, but total writing time was probably about two years.

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre?
Since my book is a blend of genres, it’s hard to find a comparison within the major heading of “Alternate History.” However, I’m not the only one who’s pushed the edge of the definition envelope in alt-hist. Orson Scott Card’s “Tales of Alvin Maker” series also blends history and magic, realism with spiritualism, all in a North American setting, so as far as those elements go, it’s a pretty close match. The stories are nothing alike, but the world and even our writing styles have similarities.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hehehe…Of course, Sandra Bullock would have to be cast as someone, just so I could meet her… But seriously…

I’ve never envisioned anyone in any of the character roles. I could name a handful of talented First Nations and Native American actors–Wes Studi as Limps, Irene Bedard as Speaks While Leaving, and I would have loved to see the late Will Sampson as one of my chiefs–but most names are not familiar to most movie goers. I’ve thought that in a few years Matthew McConaughey might work as my elder Custer (he wasn’t the fool you probably think he was). And I think Giovanni Ribisi could make a most memorable Vincent D’Avignon.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It is impossible to get an agent or a major publisher interested in the fifth book of a series that another publisher dropped. It is almost as impossible to get a small-press or e-publisher interested in it. I tried, for a while, but no one likes leftovers.

But I felt strongly enough about this book, about completing this long, epic story for myself and for the readers, that I decided to go ahead and self-publish. This was not going to be a money-making or career-breakout novel, though. The goal was to make it available for those fans of the series, and if I got a few new readers along the way, that’d be grand. It is a really good series, and the reviews of the fifth book have all been glowing.

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?
You might see the premise “Indians Riding Dinosaurs” and think the series was for kids, full of adventure and Western tropes, but it isn’t. While the setting might be fantastical, the characters are not, nor are the troubles they face. The conflicts are so much more than just cowboys and Indians, white man against red. They are the conflicts of oppression, and of a nation’s conscience in the face of a great and long-accepted wrong. They are conflicts of two lovers torn apart by politics. They are the conflicts felt by the sons of famous fathers, and by the fathers of precocious sons. Men and women, loves and hates, friendships and betrayals, allies and enemies, all are here, all are within these books. If you’re still on the fence, check out Chapter One.


And now, please leapfrog from here over to some writers that I follow:

All very different from one another; all worth the look.

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiBack when I had a writing career, I was given some advice. I was having lunch with my agent and the editor of the Science Fiction Book Club. (My first novel, The Year the Cloud Fell, had been a featured alternate at SFBC.) When the conversation swung around to my work, the editor said, “your books have too much history.” My agent nodded, sagely, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.

I’m very good at not reacting immediately to bad news. It’s a defense mechanism, really. Treat me with rudeness or disrespect, tell me my dog died, or drop a pithy little bomb like “your books have too much history,” and I shut down. The smile stays up. The amenities and little etiquettes are still observed. Platitudes and small talk continue to be exchanged. “How nice.” “It was a pleasure meeting you.” “Until next time.”

Meanwhile, my inner child is weeping, my reptilian brain has fled for a safe, dark corner, and my intellect has gone all blue-screen on me.

“Too much history”? That’s like telling Mozart his music has “too many notes.”


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