All posts by Ruth Nestvold

Ruth Nestvold's short fiction has appeared in numerous markets, including Asimov's, F&SF, Baen's Universe, Strange Horizons, Scifiction, and Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction. Her fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella "Looking Through Lace" won the "Premio Italia" award for best international work. Her novel Flamme und Harfe appeared in translation with the German imprint of Random House, Penhaligon, in 2009 and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. She maintains a web site at www.ruthnestvold.com.

Aphra Behn and Chameleon in a Mirror

Usually I try to post every year on the death date of Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in the English language. I missed it this year (April 16) for a number of reasons, the main one being that I was preparing for the Villa Diodati Workshop, reading stories and writing critiques.

But I have a consolation prize this week: for those who have not yet read it, my time travel based on the life of Aphra Behn, Chameleon in a Mirror, is on sale for only 99c on Amazon until April 28. 🙂

Chameleon in a Mirror

Here’s a short excerpt, based on an incident from Aphra’s life:

Aphra entered the playhouse with more confidence than she felt. The portly playwright, poet laureate of the realm, was giving instructions to the actors and actresses. “Wait here,” she said to her maid. Katherine nodded.
She approached a dark-haired woman standing on the side of the stage. “Prithee, can you tell me where I might find Thomas Killigrew?”
“He’s not here right now, lass,” the actress replied. “But if you want a part in the play, you can speak with Mr. Dryden.”
Aphra felt a surge of sick disappointment. “Nay. I wanted to give him this.” Aphra took the linen cover off the basket she was carrying and pulled out a feathered headdress. The actress gasped.
Aphra’s courage returned. “I brought it and several others back from America. I heard the King’s Company was staging a play where they might be of use.”
“The Indian Queen,” the actress murmured, taking a colorful feather between her fingers. “They would be perfect.”
The playwright joined them so abruptly, they were both startled. “What is the attraction here, Mrs. Marshall? There is work to be done!”
“I had no lines, Mr. Dryden. And you must see what this young woman brought — perfect for The Indian Queen!”
Dryden took the headdress from the actress’s hands, staring at the clever arrangement of colorful feathers. “This is incredibly good,” Dryden said, looking up from the feathers and into Aphra’s face. “Where did you get it?”
Aphra made a hurried curtsey. “I am fresh arrived from the colony of Surinam, Mr. Dryden. I brought the headdress with me, and several others as well. I also brought an assortment of unusual insects …”
Dryden waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. “You can present those to His Majesty for his zoology collection. But this … this we could use.”
“I would be happy to present them to your company.” The words nearly stuck in her throat in her excitement. “When are you expecting the master of the company, Mr. Killigrew?”
“He did not plan to come to the theater today, to my knowledge,” Dryden said, and Aphra’s face fell. “If you leave the headdress with me, I will give it to Mr. Killigrew.”
“I had something particular to give him,” Aphra stammered.
“I am one of the shareholders of the company, Mrs. …?”
“Johnson.”
“I will make sure it gets to Mr. Killigrew.”
Aphra pulled a sealed letter out of her basket, along with the painstakingly copied manuscript of The Young King, and handed them to Dryden. “This is a letter of introduction from my foster brother, Thomas Culpepper, and a play I wrote while I was in America.”
“A truly American play,” Dryden said with a sarcastic smile. “Not like our London Indians.”
“Oh no, nothing of the kind,” Aphra hastened to reassure him. “’Tis based on a classical precedent!”
Dryden raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
The actress shook her dark head and smiled. “The times are changing, are they not, Mr. Dryden? Women are already actresses. Perhaps playwrights next?” Dryden didn’t look pleased, and Mrs. Marshall gave Aphra a conspiratorial wink.
“I will give these to Mr. Killigrew, Mrs. Johnson,” Dryden said in a tone of dismissal. “Good day.”
“Good day, Mr. Dryden, Mrs. Marshall,” Aphra said curtseying, and turned to leave.

The actress and the playwright watched the copper-haired woman and her maid leave the theater. “A woman playwright would be quite a novelty, would it not?” Anne Marshall said, baiting the playwright, not well-liked among the actors.
“That it would,” Dryden agreed.
“Enough of a novelty to mean serious competition?” the actress added, a malicious gleam in her eye.
Dryden glanced through the pages of fine handwriting, quickly skimming a passage. He was relieved to see that the writing was bombastic and artificial, and although the public was often pleased with much less these days, he probably would have little difficulty persuading Killigrew not to take it. “Only if she wrote better than this one does,” he said. “Come, Mrs. Marshall, it will soon be your entrance.”

One of the things I love about Aphra Behn is the way she managed to succeed despite the odds. 🙂

Testing Kindle Scout: Cutting Edges; Or, A Web of Women

My most recent indie experiment is actually based on something fairly old: my hyperfiction piece, Cutting Edges; Or, A Web of Women. I put the hyperfiction* version of Cutting Edges up on the web over 20 years ago, in a fit of literary experimentation when I still thought my future might lie in academia.

Well, it turns out that both hyperfiction and my future in academia didn’t have much of a future after all. Cutting Edges got a fair amount of attention at the time, but has now been languishing mostly unread for well over a decade.

So I decided to turn it into a more traditional novel and use it to test the Kindle Scout platform. You can check out the campaign here.

Cutting Edges

Lyssa Strutter only wants to make her magazine, Cutting Edges, a success. But then the unthinkable happens…

Mercy Kennedy Flunk is dissatisfied with her life and her marriage, but she feels stuck. And then the unthinkable happens…

Diana Archer is looking for a new band in need of a singer. But then the unthinkable happens…

These women and their friends respond with something unthinkable of their own: they organize a strike in bed in order to put an end to rape.

Sound like a fairy tale? It is.

But if we want to change our lives, we have to change the myths.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kindle Scout, it’s a platform where readers can browse unpublished books and vote for their favorites, thus giving them a better chance of being published through an Amazon imprint — including all the promotion that entails. The royalty rates are lower, but since Cutting Edges doesn’t really fit with my other published fiction (other than the fact that it’s feminist), I decided to run it through Kindle Scout. And who knows, with it’s theme of women’s reaction to sexual harassment and rape, it would be a good companion to the #metoo movement — if anyone notices. 🙂

* Hyperfiction is (or was) an experimental genre in which the narrative could be read however the reader chose, via the links provided in the text. If you are curious as to what I mean, you can try out my story “Triple Helix,” which was originally published in Ideomancer in 2007, but is no longer available on the site. You can now read it here: http://www.nestvold.de/helix/helix.htm

Recent Changes to CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing Paperbacks

I was wondering when Amazon was finally going to make their print service less crippled. 🙂

chrismcmullen

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing

Recent Updates to Paperback Features

Amazon has recently added new features to KDP’s paperback self-publishing option:

  • You can now order printed proofs from KDP. This is a vital step toward ensuring that your book is ready to publish.
  • You can similarly order author copies from KDP. This makes it viable to stock your book in local stores and libraries, and creates marketing opportunities like advance review copies, paperback preorders (through Amazon Advantage), press release packages, paperback giveaways, and book signings.
  • UK and Europe authors should be particularly excited, as KDP introduced a new feature that you can’t get at CreateSpace: author copies and proofs printed and shipped from Europe.

The first two changes simply bring KDP up to speed to make it a viable alternative to CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

But the last change offers authors in the United Kingdom and continental Europe something…

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Goodbye to a woman who revolutionized science fiction: RIP Ursula K. Le Guin

There are two books that that were integral to my decision to become a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and both are by Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. When I read those as a young adult, I was blown away at the way her thought experiments in those novels could leave me stunned and amazed — and considering the world in a very different way than I had before. One of the lines I absolutely loved (and I’m quoting from memory here, so it might not be accurate): “The king was pregnant.”

The Left Hand of Darkness

I used to say jokingly that I wanted to be Ursula K. Le Guin when I grew up. It was one of the greatest honors I have ever experienced when a review compared my fiction to that of Le Guin.

I read her revolutionary works in the seventies, and they may not be as eye-opening now as they were then. On the other hand, when you look at the present political situation in the U.S., revolutionary thinking seems to have gone by the wayside.

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin. May your brilliant thought experiments soon be revived and social progress not be in vain.

New Year, Old Problem: Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

Another important post for indie authors. *Sigh.*

David Gaughran

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard form letter about rank manipulation from Amazon KDP’s Compliance team, regarding her book Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s)…

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BookBub CPM Ads and Wide Distribution

Great info here! I may have to finally dip my toes in the water with BookBub CPM ads.

David Gaughran

I decided a while ago that I was going back wide with all my books. Sales were pretty anemic to begin with (readers don’t magically discover books), but then I put together a little marketing plan. I don’t want to invest too heavily in pushing my historical novels until I have a couple more books in my series out, but I was curious to experiment with a few different approaches for pushing wide books.

After nabbing an International-only BookBub Featured Deal for Liberty Boy, I decided to build a little campaign around it, particularly looking at sales internationally, and off-Amazon. When you are in KU, it makes sense to concentrate sales. As detailed in this post from August, visibility turns into borrows and the best place to do that is in the US Kindle Store, where you can be more aggressive with ads and bids and have some…

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Ygerna now available as paperback!

I realize that some of my readers still only read in hard copy, and I apologize that it takes me longer to get the paperback out than the ebook. The formatting is much more complicated, however. I’ve been considering getting the new add-on for Vellum, but I’m a bit worried about spending $100 for something without being able to test what the results will be.

So I continue to use the template I bought from Joel Friedlander. It takes a bit of copying and pasting, but I’ve been very satisfied with the look of the books I’ve been able to produce that way.

Anyway, as I stated in the title of this post, Ygerna is now available in trade paperback through Amazon. 🙂

Ygerna

A Tale of Two Marketing Systems

Very good analysis of the different strategies needed for going wide or going with KDP Select.

David Gaughran

Lots of people right now are asking themselves whether they should leave Kindle Unlimited.

I’m generally agnostic on it, and I think writers should do what is best for them and their books, but there’s no doubt this is the big question of the moment.

That’s partly down to falling pay rates, Amazon’s inability to deal with scammers and cheaters, or the increasing concern about having all your eggs in one basket when something like this (or this, or this) regularly happens. But I think authors are asking themselves the wrong question.

The real issue, I suggest, should surround how you are going to find readers on these retailers (or on Amazon, if you have decided to swim in the other direction). Because I often see people taking the wrong approach – using the wrong tools for the job.

I gave a talk at NINC earlier this month…

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