Frequently Asked Questions
About the Noble Dead Series/Books
- What is a “saga”?
Our use of that term is slightly different than its accurate meaning.
In our case, we called the Noble Dead books collectively a “saga” for (1) lack of any other term that fit, and (2) the closest one we could find. It's not the same as (1) multiple series with separate stories set in the same world, (2) separate episodic tales that center on one set of main characters, or (3) just a main story told in multiple volumes.
The saga's multiple series chain together, just like the books in a single series, for a greater overall story told in sequential series as well as books. The saga's nested book, series, and saga level stories are interdependent, and any one level cannot exist without the others.
With that said, we work with our editor to make each book as accessible as possible to readers should they pick up a book without having read the ones that came before it. Some of the details of past events from previous books/series may not be evident, but the story in hand is comprehensible for its immediate core elements. We want readers to feel invited into our world no matter the point at which they enter it.
- Why did you choose to write a vampire story set in a high fantasy world?
Well, we would probably say the opposite: we wanted to write a high fantasy tale that happened to include the undead as a key element.
We started with our own take on Barb's discovery that dhampirs were real — at least in how we represented such in the start of S1B1: Dhampir. They were around for centuries as charlatans working the backwoods of eastern Europe, bilking villagers based on superstitions connected to original vämpyr — spirit entities who hijacked and used (for a brief time) the bodies of the recently deceased.
A fantasy (non-Earth) realm is pretty much where we always wanted to turn, so the mix was natural to us. We're really writing dark “high/epic” fantasy. It just happens to have as one of its main fixtures our own variation of higher undead, or what we call the “Noble Dead,” and vampires are only one kind.
- How are strange words and names pronounced?
UPDATE: As of 2015, the books are available in audio format from Audible.com [Amazon]. J.C. developed all fantasy languages in the books based on a mix of adapted Earth languages and provided extensive notes to the narrator(s) on pronunciation, and even he has difficulty pronouncing some of this. This is the only way you can get a close pronunciation, as we have retired the original pronunciation guide.
- What is a “Fay”?
It depends on what you mean — in the real world or in the saga's world. In the former, it varies but always outside of our normal space-time and elementally-related as a spiritual and/or mental entity or entities. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fay but take it with a shovel full of salt.
Researched popular definitions (let alone generic pop culture references) aren't historically or culturally diverse enough. Common folklore and legend portray such a being or beings as (pseudo-)anthropomorphic. In looking beyond this, nature spirits / entities / deities were imperceptible, indescribable, and unfettered by time and space. Fay, Fey, Fae, Faery, etc. is a generic and recent term for referring to such. We use the term(s) in this latter general sense.
Readers have their own vision of such, so the term “Fay” provides basic familiarity, until you understand it within the saga. Yes, be confused, because the one and the many are the same with such beings. Our use of the term “Fay” helps avoid an obscure made-up one, which would require lengthy explanation for every culture encountered in the saga's world.
It's the same principle by which fantasy writers use real world terms like “broadsword” and “tankard” instead of ones specific to their world's varied cultures and languages.
The best way to understand the Fay within the saga's context is to pay attention to Chap's and Wynn's interpretations, especially from S1B5: Rebel Fay onward. We stick to older, lesser known manifestations for what we label as the Fay. Indescribable and imperceptible, they/it can be anything within the natural world, should they chose to enter that world and be any thing at all. They perceive us in the way we perceive insects (or animals at best). It is unpredictable and potential unsafe to draw their focused attention.
- What is a “falchion”?
As a general definition, a group/class of European single-edged swords perhaps derived from a melding of European heavy straight blades with such as Middle Eastern scimitars and shamshirs. Contray to hard line claims, configuration varied by geography, culture, and period. The following links will give you some idea, though none are like Magiere's “hand-and-a-half” version. Falchions ranged in make beyond what is seen on these pages. (Please let us know if any links no longer function.)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falchion (WARNING: Always take Wiki entries with healthy doubt. Contrary to claims, public mass contribution does not lead to clean authoritative information.)
- Will the books ever be available in audio format?
UPDATE: As of 2015, the books of the Noble Dead Saga are available in audio through Audible.com (Amazon). Other past and future works from either or both of us are also pending in audio format, and links will be added to such in the “Books” section. The old answer to this question has been kept for those interested in the details.
Alternative formats are not the writer's decision, nor even the book publisher's in some cases. Ultimately, it depends upon complex rights covered in a book's original contract. Most rights include not only language and geography of distribution but also alternative format/media, such as audio. If audio rights are retained by the author, then it is still not a matter of the author(s) wanting to release an audio version. An interested audio publisher must be found in either case, and a contract is negotiated for a commercial audio production not possible by most authors. It is also a major financial investment at stake which must in the end pay for itself over a specified time frame to be viable.
If and when we learn of an audio edition of one or more of our books, we will immediately announce it on the site. Until then, we all sit in the dark on this one. We have heard of some Noble Dead books being “read” into audio formats for the visual impaired (in English and German), but that is a separate non-profit arrangement not available to the general public.
- Will the book(s) ever become film(s)?
Public perception of writers, their lives, and what happens to/with their books are based on film and TV characters. That includes when and how a book gets turned into a film. These writer characters are far removed from real writers and how things actually work.
The percentage of books optioned for film adaptation is very small. The number of those that actually make it to the big (or small) screen is even smaller. The number of those that are from SF/F/H books are smaller still compared to all other films based on genre of premise or theme.
In other words, don't hold your breath.
Authors generally have no say in this process. A production house must (usually) of its own accord approach the author's agent and/or publisher—whichever holds right of representation according to the book's contract. If a production house chooses to option story rights on a book, only then is a book on track to becoming a film or TV series. Even so, the vast majority never make it that far.
The purchased option sits in a file drawer gathering dust until its time limit runs out.
About Our Writing
- How do you share the work?
For our collaborative books, this is our most often asked question. The short unhelpful answer is that we just do it. We've been doing pretty much everything together since about 1989, including similar degree programs in university, etc. Some of it we don't even think about, and it just happens.
The long answer is too long to fully explain, though you might take a look at the next question below. One thing that is necessary is extensive planning and coordination of effort, including an expansive outline. Planning a book is something all professional authors do in one way or another, and in collaboration the process is triple what it is for most solo writers. We also keep lots of files on various aspects of characters, cultures, history, etc. We have a small household network and intranet database systems for some of this. We store everything therein, so the practical side of sharing resources and work is covered, including the actual files for each book.
- Do you surprise each other with different ideas then work together to meld them?
Yes, all of the time, as that is what collaboration within story-making is all about; it doesn't happen during the writing, or story-telling, for you do not start the writing until the story is complete. But just as often we'll come up with something similar at the same time. It's this kind of synchronicity, when it happens too often, that makes some people shiver. We just smile and giggle about it ourselves.
As we plan for a new book, we'll each put in a little something along the way, separately, in whatever preliminary documents are created for story-making. The other one will come along later to add something, stumble on the first one's entries, which in turn sparks more entries from the second. And the first will come along again, and it keeps happening over and over, until the story is complete and ready to be written (told). Sometime similar moments occurred during drafting, revising, and even editing, and that requires pausing to return to planning in a collaborative fashion. But new ideas — suprises — are foremost for creating the story, not for telling (writing) it.
In addition, we talk with each other all of the time... scheming, plotting, planning, dreaming, and even gossiping about what has happened, is happening, or will happen to the characters in our books. Oh my, sometimes it's like we're doing our own verbal scandal magazine, like the kind you see on the racks when you're checking out at the grocery store.
- What is the process for selling and publishing a book? How does it work?
When working with professional publishers, first the book must be contracted and purchased, and that (very) rarely happens at a professional publishing house without the involvement of an agent. The writer is offered a cash advance (against future royalties). Upon acceptance and signing of a contract, the writer may receive a third or a half of the advance, minus the agent's percentage and quarterly federal (and state) taxes at a high rate required for self-employment income. This puts the book into the publisher's hands and gets the writer working with an editor.
Next the editor goes over the book and starts making notes on what needs to be expanded, cut, reworked, etc., as well as stylistic and structural considerations. Yes, there are always rewrites. Our editors in the past have turned back 15+ pages of notes in some cases. With later books, not so much, because the writers and editor start to come into sync over time.
Once the writer completes all rewrites, two hard-copies of the manuscript and one on CD are submitted. Nowadays, once the writer and editor establish a sound relationship, they may work electronically, and both submission and revision processes can be done via word processing files and e-mail. The editor looks over the revised manuscript, and if satisfied, this is the point at which the book is truly “accepted.” Yes, you guessed correctly, for up to this point, if the work is not proceeding to the satisfaction of the editor, the “plug” can be pulled, the advance written off even, and the book goes down the proverbial drain. If accepted, and the advance is being delivered in thirds, the second third is now sent to the agent and percentages are handle as before.
At this point, an artist begins working with the editor and/or marketing department to develop the book's “packaging” (design, cover art, blurbs, etc., and no the writer doesn't usually get any input here). In the end, a book is a product to a publisher, not the writers work of “art.” Meanwhile the editor and a copyeditor begin line editing. The marked (or electronically noted) version of the manuscript is returned to the writer by registered mail (or e-mail), who then reviews all notes made, makes any of his/her own, and all working together produce a marketable final product. The editor still has the last say on the specifics, though most are very willing to listen a writer's reasoned concerns, who also has the ability to STET any changes/corrections.
By now, the artist has finished the cover art (hopefully), and typesetting begins. Once complete, the writer receives “galley” or printed proofs of what the pages will look like. This is the last chance to point out any anomalies that are found. Further rewriting, editing, additions or deletions are not allowed except in very, very exceptional cases.
The writer returns only those galley pages where comments, notes, and corrections were necessary. In the case of electronic submission, the entire commented version is returned. The book will soon go off to press. At this time, or in some cases upon actually publication, the last third or second half of the advance is paid.
Now you can beseech the powers that be and hope sales bring in enough royalties to buy out your advance quickly — at least within the first year, if you expect to sell another novel to that same publisher (or any other).
- Do you choose or have input on the cover art for your books?
99.9% of all authors working with a professional publisher have little or no say in what appears on the cover of their books. We've been quite happy with the work of Koveck and Steve Stone as the artists selected by our US publisher's marketing department. A book's cover and artwork are a strong factor in getting people to pick it up and consider it for purchase. First and foremost, that is what the packaging of any book is really about; it is not about illustrating book content. As with many books, the characters within our saga don't fully look or dress as they do on the cover. If you take note of descriptions in the books, you'll see what we mean. Some covers are closer than others.
As the years rolled on, our editor has shown us early renderings of book covers and asked for or accepted our input, which in turn has helped shape some details. But the ultimate design choices belong to the editor and cover designer creating the “package.”
- How do you get your cover comments from other writers?
The editor/publisher may lend a hand when it is time to acquire cover "blurbs," but often for mid-list and new writers, it is up to them to acquire such. The marketing department and editor then use parts of returned comments they think are best for sales potential. If you read the blurbs for S1B1: Dhampir, yes, we acquired two of those ourselves. Fortunately we know Mark Anthony (a.k.a. Galen Beckett) and Kevin Anderson, and Jennifer Heddle (our editor for Dhampir) worked with Mindy Klasky. All very nice people by the way, and we couldn't have asked for a better trio to back us up on our original debut.
About Other Stuff
- Can I quote from your books on my web site (journal, web log, etc.)?
Sorry, but no… absolutely no. One (part of a) sentence or paragraph may be within vague limits of "fair use" under US or international law, but no permission is hereby given for any of our book's content to appear in personal venues on the internet or elsewhere.
Such quotations or paraphrases produce too many spoilers, for one. And too many people go a mile when given an inch. Then there are others who copy what they find on someone else's site, thinking that it's fair game since you got to do it. The only two exceptions for internet (or other) presentation of book content outside this site or in contracted formats are:
- A professional organization or business involved in promotion and/or sales as authorized by the publisher, author, and/or our contracted representative, or...
- A contracted authoritative or scholarly critique/review in a professional publication.