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Crimson Son 2: Motherland – Cover Reveal!

If you’re on my mailing list, you’ve already seen this gorgeous piece of art from Johnny Morrow. (And if you’re on the VIP list, you got a peek behind the scenes at some of his concept artwork.) I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with the end result:

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Edits are coming along nicely. My VIP members should receive their Advance Reader Copies within the next two weeks. The full release will be available during the final week of June and I’ll setup a pre-order in the days to come.

I’m excited to share Spencer’s latest adventures with you. If I had to admit, this one drifts a little closer to the tried and true tropes of superhero fiction. Spencer’s still Spencer – crass, impulsive, but ingenious. This time though he’s surrounded by Augments and not locked in a bunker alone. It’s a Mr. Robot meets the Avengers sort of gig.

As always, there’s a subversive little twist and the real focus is the normal people caught in the path of these weaponized humans. And the setup for Crimson Son 3 is cuhraazy.

Yep, there will be more.

As Eric would say: “Buckle up bitches.”

Welcome your new gatekeepers…

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photo courtesy James Cridland

I’ve been wrestling with several publishing related issues lately (What do I mean lately? It’s become my life). Trying to get a feel for the market and how to reach the right audience with fiction which is professional, yet not written directly with “the market” in mind.

It’s a daunting task and flies in the face of all the advice an author receives – write to market (or at least a market – subverting genres isn’t the smart money move), find your niche before you even set pen to page, build a following.

I simply want to write stories and I’m aware that isn’t quite enough.

Lately, there’s an explosion of fiction on Amazon. An entire wave of authors are following the latest advice craze telling them to release as often as they can, as fast as they can, all in order to stay fresh in readers’ minds but also to stay on top of Amazon’s algorithm.

That elaborate puzzle has become a singular rite of passage. A holy riddle which every writer must seek to unlock and navigate if they are to ever make it in this brave new world. Thing is, I’m not entirely sure it is shaping a future I have a place in.

I’ve had decent success, don’t get me wrong. I’ve moved thousands of copies of my books. But I’m still running at a loss as I try to keep my production at professional levels and provide the kind of story I, as a reader, would like to see. Those kinds of stories take a lot of time. Deceptively dense, re-readable, and something more to be savored than devoured, I’ll likely never throw one together in a month or two.

Every time I stumble across a self published author doing exceptionally well on Amazon in my genres, I start to dig around. Knowing the paths others took to their success is supposed to be both informative and, in a sense, reassuring. If they did it, I can too.

Aside from blistering publishing schedules, most have one other thing in common – an audience built somewhere else and unleashed on the Amazon algorithms. Frankly, the end result of all this is that the quality of the product has very little to do with their success.

This is why the science fiction and fantasy lists on Amazon have become something of a clearing house for fan fiction. These writers very often draft their stories in open forums, build up supporters, and then publish straight to Amazon.

Another tactic (the one I’ve been experimenting with) is to build a mailing list. This entails essentially buying subscribers. You either give away product, pay for ads, or find other means of directing traffic to your subscription page. Eventually you have a mass of readers large enough to register a blip on those all-important algorithms through purchases and reviews.

(Yet, Amazon will squash reviews it deems from sources close to the Author. Many suspect they are trolling authors’ social media profiles for links though evidently they aren’t scouring Fan Fiction forums.)

There’s nothing wrong with either tactic. Both are legitimate ways to build a fanbase. What’s wrong, in my opinion, is that the effort often seems to stop there. Gather your loyal, uncritical horde, point them at the Amazon puzzle, and you’ve got no need to ever grow as a writer. Editing? Only if they care (and they mostly don’t). Professional covers? For those books created on fan forums, all your supporters have already seen it with the stock image you slathered with Papyrus so why bother?

Some might say I’m lamenting the loss of gatekeepers – which I’m not. I’m all for open expression, unfiltered creation, and the wild freedoms self publishing allows. But I do have to wonder, isn’t there a new gatekeeper in town? And how much of writing is about stories anymore rather than monetizing relationships?

I definitely don’t have the answers. Maybe those two things are one in the same or always have been. However, it seems clear the traditional path has been inverted in a terrible and wonderful way. Fans are in charge of your fiction, their whims writ large by an algorithm which can be as arbitrary as it is inscrutable.

None of this is news. These are (and have been for some time) the days of the crowd. Funded, written, backed, kick-started. But how long before they figure out the behemoth that is Amazon is just in their way?

Chat With Russ Linton This Weekend – Plus Superhero Stories!

Want to talk fantasy with me?

This weekend myself and twenty other fantasy authors will be taking over Kevin Potter’s Facebook Page. We’ve formed a fellowship of sorts. Originally, there were nineteen of us with works forged by elven smiths. Naturally, a twentieth (ahem) had to come along and try to take over. I’m going to have to ask for one of you to carry the burden.

Yes, before the day is through, one of you will bear the One Ring.

Come join us for paperback giveaways, discounted books, and games a plenty. I plan to giveaway both my Ring of Power -and- a free paperback copy of Pilgrim of the Storm! I’ll be making my virtual appearance at the following times:

**TIMES HAVE BEEN UPDATED***

12 pm CST
5 pm CST (Get packed for your trip to Mordor – The One Ring giveaway happens from 5-6!)

The link to the event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/268384733565040/

I look forward to getting the chance to chat with all of you.

Or maybe you’d rather read the latest Superhero Fiction?

You’re in luck ’cause I got both! Fans of Crimson Son and Empty Quiver, check out this great collection of FREE superhero fiction. It will be available through the entire month of May but don’t wait too long. You need to devour these and have your reading schedules cleared for Crimson Son 2!

http://remyflagg.com/superhero-promotion/

As always, thank you for your interest in my fiction. Make sure you’re following my Facebook Page for the latest on the event.

Thanks,

Russ

Subverting Genres One Bug at a Time

Reception of the Stormblade Saga has been good so far – most reviews falling around four or five stars. I’ve given away hundreds of copies of the first book, Pilgrim of the Storm. It’s an inexpensive marketing tactic for us independent publishers. As a relative newcomer to the well-established world of fantasy and science fiction, it lets the reader sample my style and decide if they’re off-kilter enough to carry on.

One thing I hoped to do with the saga was subvert the normal genre conventions like with my Crimson Son Universe superhero series. Tweak those expectations traditional publishers have drilled into you. It’s a risk for sure, but I wouldn’t be publishing independently if I wasn’t willing to take them.

The primary protagonist in the Stormblade Saga is a bug. Humanoid, so the territory isn’t completely unfamiliar to the reader, but there are complexities you may not notice at first. He emotes with his antennae, mandibles, and even his wings. There are no muscles in his face to form a smile, so he spreads his jaw wide – much to the horror of strangers.

He isn’t a hero. He isn’t even very sure of himself. Born in a human temple and raised by a kindly yet brash mentor, he’s even confused as to what he is. I fretted over the opening scene quite a bit because it isn’t evident immediately what Sidge is but it was necessary to share his identity confusion from the start. It’s perhaps the crux of the entire Saga.

Kaaliya, who emerges as a secondary but equally important protagonist is a female – another rare thing in traditional fantasy. Strong, resourceful, and confident, she’s everything Sidge isn’t. But he needs her and she needs him to complete this epic journey. It’s the balance of the scales of creation weighted long before the daily political rants in your Facebook feed or squabbles over literary trophies. She wasn’t added to satisfy a quota. She’s there because the story needed her and she stands strongly on the page as her own character.

There are other oddities about the world which may or may not jump out at you while reading:

The world has no name. This isn’t an oversight, it’s intentional. At best, the known lands are referred to as the Attarah’s Realm. But at the heart of things, this is something of an ante-deluvian tale set in a stagnant world with a future yet to be written.

The setting is a mutt. To borrow a phrase from board gaming, I’ll call it Ameritrash Fantasy. At the risk of being accused of cultural appropriation, I’ve taken my influences from Indus River Valley civilizations in everything from setting to plot. However, the characters, the dialogue, should be easily recognizable to a Western audience.

The people have no formal written language. You won’t see the typical references to scrolls, books, or any written work. In fact, I did my best to avoid any even descriptive words such as “papery” (I did allow myself “inky”, twice.) Why? There is no known system of writing in the Attarah’s Realm. The Mantras are just that – spoken phrases passed down generation to generation.

Magic is, well, complicated. Magic appears to follow both set, natural rules and it doesn’t. The copper and other conductive metals on the roofs of the Cloud Born’s wagons for instance. You could almost explain away storm calling magic as accidental science. But then, the Cloud Born also seek visions by bathing themselves in lightning and appear to call it directly from the source – the massive storm-riding dragon god, Vasheru.

It’s an odd entry in the fantasy shelf, for sure. With the alien race of the Ek’kiru, (explored more in Forge of the Jadugar) it maybe even incorporates a touch of science fiction. Plus, as you’ll see in Wake of Alshasra’a, the conclusion has a very unconventional quest “reward”.

Odd, but a journey I know you’ll enjoy if you give it a chance. For now, the first book’s free! What have you got to lose?

 

 

Wake of Alshasra’a has launched!

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Now available at Amazon and all other major retailers!

We’re up and running with the Wake of Alshasra’a launch and I wanted to share some of the wonderful reviews that have shown up on the web or landed in my inbox (please, feel free to share these far and wide!)

This author has sketched out a world and a belief system…that effortlessly draws the reader into the pilgrimage and does not provide any exits!

A very different kind of fantasy – the imagination and creativity of Mr. Linton is fun to read.

It’s that good I’m finding it hard to articulate! I can see exactly why your editor was enamoured, no chance of becoming bored during a reread, at all, ever.

Sales have been good out of the gate thanks to loyal readers and I’d love an extra push if you could please pass the word to any fantasy-loving friends. I really appreciate any and all feedback and look forward to hearing reactions from more readers now that the full saga is complete.

Thanks!

The thrilling conclusion of the Stormblade Saga available tomorrow!

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As a writer this has been a pilgrimage of sorts for myself. Setting goals, maintaining a pace, and meeting deadlines is tough when you’re the only one holding yourself accountable. It’s even tougher when you embark on new projects, larger in scope than any you’ve attempted before.

The Stormblade Saga represents 226,365 painstaking arrangements of letters and ideas. There are nearly an equal amount of words strewn out and left behind along the pathways that led here. I’ve agonized over this particular story more than any other. It has come to symbolize a metamorphosis not only for Sidge, but for the world he lives in, and for myself as a writer.

When I first brainstormed ideas about this world with a close group of writing partners, I never intended it to unfold into such an epic tale. I wanted to write one book about a “bugman” lost in a world to which he didn’t belong but desperately sought the approval of. As I wrote, more details emerged, the world grew, and I realized it wouldn’t only take an individual metamorphosis to correct this problem, but a societal one. The entire Realm had to change.

Could be that this is a metaphor for something else. Our own troubled times where people are at each other’s throats over often superficial concerns. Where there’s an urge to cling to the past, even though rewinding the clock isn’t possible. Where we desperately seek enemies to direct our rage onto, ignoring common cause for the easy outlet of anger and the comfort of uncompromising tribalism.

But really, this is still a tale about a lost soul trying to find his way. Anybody who has ever felt awkward or out of place or is just plain different, will understand. Then again, we’re all unique, some of us just hide it better than others. And some have no choice.

It’s a common theme I play with in all my work. Individuality, freedom, and escape from the norms. It creates odd stories to be sure – insectoid protagonists lacking in confidence or powerless people fighting in the shadows of superheroes, but it’s all part of my promise: fantastic worlds, unique perspectives.

Of course these worlds would be empty without you, the readers. I’ve really enjoyed sharing the Stormblade Saga and the Crimson Son Universe with you, and getting your feedback. In fact, a member of my Advance Reader Team even suggested a glossary which I’ve included in the back of each book in this saga. For anyone who already has their copy of the book, here’s a PDF of the Official Glossary.

Thanks again for reading!

Russ

 

 

 

Fiction in a Post-Truth World

Recently, Ursula K. Le Guin responded to an opinion letter in her local paper where a reader had compared science fiction to “alternative facts” which a certain administration has offered as an explanation for the disparity between their information and that of the media. Le Guin stated, correctly, that the two can’t be compared. That people who offer “alternative facts” aren’t crafting imaginary science fiction, they’re simply lying. And they aren’t inventing these for entertainment or enjoyment. They’re doing it to fool, scare or manipulate others.

However, why do so many of us -believe- those “alternative facts”?

For a while there, “post-truth” was all the rage. The furor has died down but I still catch a mention from time to time. More importantly, it hasn’t died down because it has gone away. It seems to have died down because people have fully bought into the notion.

I think it’s wrong. If anything, we are in an era of “hyper-truth”.

Truth is religion’s province. You don’t question it, you accept it as fact. It has no rational basis because in order to accept it you don’t need schooling or the IQ of Einstein, all you need is faith. You believe it and it is immutably true. Forever.

Rationality is what drives science. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive though as of late, many have tried to claim they are. However the methods used which you arrive at the foundations of each are entirely exclusive of each other.

It’s what pissed me off so much about the ramp up of creationism a few years ago. Clearly, the practitioners of this belief were trying to start from a place of absolute truth and use science to work their way back to it. They did this because they felt the current scientific theory of evolution did not match their world view.

But science isn’t about truth. It’s about questions. It’s about understanding reality, not creating a singular definition of it.

So whose truth is correct?

Nobody’s.

By definition they can’t be. They’re not proven, they’re based on faith. Neither right or wrong. And that’s the damn problem.

It isn’t a problem that people hold different truths. The problem is we are hyper-truth. We are post-rational. Where everything down to the average global temperature over the past hundred years is a “truth”. Meaning data, rational discourse, and discovery don’t matter. What matters is what you believe. Where you’ve placed your faith.

We’re trapped, living our own fictions. We’ve ensconced ourselves in little cloistered worlds which confirm only what we want to believe. Used to be that only happened in church and then you left that sacred space and had to confront the real world, returning weekly to reaffirm faith. Now, it’s a full time preoccupation.

Blame it on the constant flood of connectivity. Blame it on poor schooling. Or a population confined to desks and cubicles, car seats and couches, most of their waking moments, oblivious to the real world. Whatever the cause, we are living our fictions and need to snap out of it, fast, before things spiral completely out of control.

Leave the fiction to people like me.

The saga of the Space Piñata.

I finally saw Rogue One. (Maybe some minor spoilers plus a minor rant ahead.)

Look, characters make stories. Plot is fine and good and it needs to have its own logic and make enough sense for your characters to accomplish the Thing they need to accomplish. But it doesn’t need to do much more than that. Even in hard sci-fi where you have strict ground rules to follow and likely loads of explanation, audiences still ultimately want to see how the characters deal with their fantastic worlds and extraordinary circumstances.

The story of a moon-sized space pinata we’ve seen explode at least three times is only compelling if the characters make it so. Han, Luke, Leia, Chewbacca – after those movies I wanted to go off and have adventures with that motley bunch of rebels. I didn’t care about the logistics of Death Star flaws or whether or not a moon sized base can have hyperdrive. I cared whether Han got out of his bounty. Whether Luke ever manned up and figured out the force. Whether Leia could find a place in the rebellion and fight to avenge her lost homeworld. Whether Chewbacca used conditioner or not. That’s compelling storytelling (well, maybe not the last one.)

What isn’t compelling is wooden characters facing dire threats which are over-explained at the expense of their own development and who are stymied by attempts to attach them to an earlier, greater glory. Force Awakens had this same problem, but worse.

To date, I’m not inspired by any of the characters churned out by Disney’s run of Star Wars. There are quite a few “almosts” but no real delivery or connection. Finn, Rey, could have been amazing characters if they weren’t overshadowed by a story that wasn’t theirs and the bulk of the screen time devoted to nostalgia. (People that bitch about Lucas remastering the original trilogy should have similar gripes about Force Awakens…) In Rogue One, K2-SO, a robot, was likely the best of that bunch.

All I’m saying is there is a legacy and they simply can’t live up to it. Knock off the plots tied to and mimicking scene for scene the originals. Lighten up on the cameos (and for fuck’s sake, don’t resurrect people from the dead with CGI .) Star Wars encompasses an entire universe of ideas. There’s no excuse for not exploring it to its fullest.

Crimson Son Sale and a 15 Book Digital Grav Boot Stuffer!

Crimson SonEarlier this month I got the exciting news that Crimson Son had been selected for a BookBub feature. Most of you have probably heard of them – they have millions of subscribers – but for those not in the know, they are the premier place for book addicts to shop for deals. They only accept the best and are extremely picky about the quality of books they include because they want their subscribers to have absolute trust in their picks. Those picks now include Crimson Son!

Until the end of 2016, you too can experience a powerless kid’s attempt to fill some very big shoes for only .99 cents. Less than a dollar, you say? Nothing costs less than a dollar! Why yes, yes it does my intrepid readers. Until midnight December 31st, BAD ASS FICTION with superhumans, robots, and weaponized snark costs you less than a third of what you just paid for that grande gingerbread mocha with whip.

BUY CRIMSON SON NOW! Already have it? BUY IT AGAIN AND TELL EVERYONE WHAT A GREAT DEAL YOU GOT!

I’m sure all of you (ahem) have read Crimson Son, at least five times (and if so, spread some holiday gift giving love and leave an honest review here). But did I also mention you can get a sneak peek of Crimson Son‘s sequel FREE by signing up for my newsletter and getting the updated version of my short story collection, Empty Quiver?

A Merry Christmas, right?

Oh, I’m not done yet. Not even close.

I’ve also joined forces with fifteen indie sci-fi authors to offer a limited edition of Empty Quiver which comes with an exclusive high-res digital poster. Plus, every single one of those authors has kicked in free books of their own! It’s a sci-fi grav boot stuffer of cosmic proportions and it’s all FREE. Click here to check out the goods.

Who’s your Santa? Who’s your Santa? That’s right. Now go enjoy your grande mocha and a several months worth of fiction, on me.