Medievia Mudslinger

October 18, 2004

Blades of War

"Chitter?"

Excrucior looked up. Mank stared at him and then back to the reams of paper on the god's desk. "No, I don't have a huge influx of articles," Excrucior told the imp. "It's a galley copy."

Mank scratched his head for a moment. "Chitter?" he asked.

"Not edible," Excrucior confirmed. He glanced around the office, aware that he was now the centre of attention for many imps. "That goes for you lot as well. This is not for eating, and it is definitely not for nesting material."

Mank strolled around the loosely bound sheets of paper, peering at them thoughtfully. "Chitter?"

"A galley copy is not meant to look like a ship," Excrucior said. "It won't float, nor will it carry passengers. This is part of the production stage in publishing a book."

Silence fell. Mank scurried over and picked some sheets up. "Chitter?" he asked, peering at the words and scratching his head.

"That's right, Mank. I've written a book." Excrucior turned his attention to the prologue.

"Chitter?"

Excrucior didn't look up. "It's not how to train imps," he said. "It would sell, but it wouldn't work, and I'd have loads of demands for refunds. Look out of that window. That's what it's about."

Mank dutifully scampered over to the window and peered out. "Chitter?" he asked uncertainly.

"Not about janitors fighting Scruff off," Excrucior said. "Medievia. Look out there and see Medievia and all the people in it. That's what I've written about."

Mank walked back slowly, his eyes wide with amazement. "Chitter?"

"Yes, I wrote it," Excrucior said. He sighed. "Stop laughing and make me a cup of tea."

Beverage in hand, Excrucior leaned back in his seat and smiled. It had taken some years, but now he had the fruits of his labours in his hands. Well, his labours, and Kostia's as well, he had to admit, and the labours of a fewother people. He glanced at the galley copy.

"Mank?"

"Chitter?"

"Get your teeth out of that," Excrucior said. "It's got to go to the publisher, and they'll print whatever's on there. Get something to patch those holes and leave it alone."

"Chitter?"

"You cannot taste characters, Mank."

"Chitter?"

"Not a hero, a heroine."

"Chitter!"

"Get your teeth out, I said!"

***

Leading the field in many areas, Medievia is now the only text-based game that can boast of an imminent full-sized novel. Written by our resident lunatic ... er, MudSlinger Editor, Excrucior, it tells the tale of Princess Berirea as she attempts to follow the path of a master warrior.

You want flashing swords? The book is called Blades of War, so you'll get flashing swords. You want spilled blood? You'll get spilled blood. You want savage fights to the death, valiant rescues, a hint of romance, and a story that keeps you guessing beyond its end? It's all in there.

The book is being published privately through the online services of XLibris (www.xlibris.com - a print on demand publisher), and it is financed out of Excrucior's pocket. Call it the ultimate fanfic, if you will, but it's a jolly fine read.

When will it be available? Soon, quite soon. Excrucior is currently checking the final galley copies for the publishers, and when they are ready, the publishers will do their magic. The services have already been paid for, and all that remains is the final checking.

A few expected questions in the vague hope of forestalling some of the flood of emails to certain inboxes:

Q. How much will it cost?

A. It should retail directly from XLibris at a little over twenty-one dollars plus postage for the trade paperback book - that's the large size of paperback, in case you're wondering. The average novel is roughly one hundred thousand words, but this one is a little over one hundred and fifty thousand. The hardback would be a little over thirty-one dollars.

Q. That's a lot for a paperback book...

A. I'm afraid so, but it's the large size of paperback, and it's the only full-length novel based on the game you love. The main reason for the cost is that Excrucior is going through a Print On Demand (POD) publisher, and that means that if someone orders a book, they print one book. If several people order a total of fifteen books, they print fifteen. Modern technology has brought the cost of this down to a relatively affordable level for small runs, but it will never be as cheap as a mass-produced run of books. Excrucior could have gone for that method, but going through XLibris takes care of many aspects: no piles of unsold stock, they deal with the delivery, they typeset it, they provide the ISBN number, they deal with the copyright issues, and it's affordable, which a mass-produced run would not be just now.

Q. Chitter?

A. There are no imps in the book, sorry. Hey - who asked that?

Q. How close is Blades of War to the game?

A. The prologue is a minor essay by Marious, to give you a little taste. That will be available on the XLibris website. Some things had to change out of necessity to provide a decent story, but you will recognise many elements from Medievia in the book. The book has Vryce's seal of approval. What more do you need?

The book is based on the game. There may be some slight influences on the game from the book, but that is not the purpose of publishing Blades of War. The book reflects the game, not the other way around.

Q. Is my clan in it?

A. No. I have used fictional clan names, and I have used the names of no current players.

Q. Excrucior is doing this to massage his ego, isn't he?

A. Modesty forbids comment.

Q. Hang on, won't Excrucior be making money out of the game? The XLibris site says that the authors get royalties.

A. Excrucior has spent roughly two thousand dollars to get this going. There is no guarantee that enough copies will sell to cover this cost, and he is prepared to admit that it may not return much at all. Considering that he is currently working on a short, temporary contract, this is risk.

On a related note, buying this book does not help Medievia in any way (barring publicity). If you want to help Medievia, donate to the game. If you want a good read about Medievia, buy Blades of War. In either case, play the game, enjoy it, and tell your friends :)

The upside to this is that, if Blades of War covers its cost, Excrucior will release the second book (title still under consideration) in the series.

Q. The ... series?

A. Excrucior has written the first draft of the fifth and final volume in the series. Its release depends on the success of the first four in turn. He estimates that it will require the sale of four hundred books to break even on each volume, at current costing. It will probably take at least a year to recoup the costs of the first novel, but time will tell.

Q. Wow!

A. Indeed.

Q. Where will the book be available?

A. The best way to buy the book is to buy it directly from XLibris. They also distribute through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and stores and libraries can order copies at a trade discount. Excrucior would suggest going through XLibris, if at all possible. It's cheaper, and it's probably faster than going through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, though it will be available on those sites as well.

Q. Is it any good?

A. Yes.

Q. Why did Excrucior write this?

A. He got bored. Send him Mudslinger submissions! There are other factors involved, but he just got bored and started writing. He just never finished.

Q. Hey - if it's that good, why didn't you go through a normal publisher?

A. The answer is a long story. In short, Excrucior did try going through an agent, but after a rather polite rejection letter, he realized that it wasn't as good as it could have been. It is now over two years since then, and the book is immeasurably improved. However, Print On Demand was mentioned within his hearing, and he considered this mightily. He will retain the copyright of the book and can sign a contract with a publishing house at any point. He may even try this in the near future, but the idea of striking it out alone is intriguing. If it sells well under XLibris conditions, it will add weight to his attempts to go the normal route.

The normal route is fraught with disappointment and pitfalls, not the least of which is the success of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. Thanks to these phenomena, everyone and their dogs consider themselves to be budding authors in fantasy fiction, and getting noticed in such conditions would prove to be more difficult than usual.

Q. Hmm, I just happen to be the director of a major publishing house, and I love playing Medievia...

A. You know my email address :)

Q. Is Excrucior mad?

A. He prefers to be known as 'expectationally different'.

Q. How will we know when the book is released?

A. Oh, there will be more announcements in the game, a few echoes, and so forth. We won't let the arrival of Blades of War go unannounced. It won't be long.

Q. What else can you tell us?

A. More closer to the time, more closer to the time.

Further Questions and Notes as of 18th October 2004

Excrucior has received more queries than those above. Let's begin with the ones he can remember...

Q. I could help read the book before it gets published - looking for typos and the like.

A. Thanks! I have had a couple of offers for this sort of free service, and I'm pleased that people have found it a sufficiently interesting project to volunteer their services for.

However, the first book has already been copyedited by Kostia, so if there are any errors in there, I think you can safely assume that it's something I put in after her ministrations - I tinkered slightly, something that is the curse of every author. As for the storyline, I already have three people who have kicked me when I needed to improve my ideas. Thanks, but your generosity is not required.

Q. Has your inbox overflowed since the announcement went out?

A. Oddly enough, no. It's not as if I hadn't cleared plenty of space and so forth, but my questions and answers above seemed to have stemmed a potential slew of emails. I'd still welcome any questions or comments about the book project, so feel free to write in.

Q. Do lots of people die?

A. Interestng question. The book is based around Medievia, so don't be too surprised if the death toll is significant.

Q. How does this five novels thing work?

A. The first book details Berirea's attempts to survive the path of a master warrior. The second deals with another class, the third with another, and you can guess the contents of the fourth. The fifth deals with her antics as a heroine.

I'm currently reworking what I have for the second book. When the first one has covered its costs, I'll release the second book. If the second book covers its costs, I'll release the third, and so on.

I don't have any more questions to answer that I can remember, but I think I ought to give you a progress report.

I received the first internal galley of the book about ten to twelve days ago. I went through it and noted an error or three. It has cost me to have them put right, but it's money well spent. The corrected version of the galleys arrived on Friday, though my journey to a friend's house has prevented me from poring over these new files too deeply. It's looking good at first sight, though. XLibris is working faster than it claimed it would, though I'm not complaining. It could still take a few weeks before Blades is officially for sale.

One of the problems in copyediting your own work is that you know it - often off by heart. You know how it should look, and therefore that's often what you see. I'm just glad that Kostia agreed to look through the files for me.

As I mentioned, I was at a friend's house over the weekend, and it's astounding what you can learn doing something like this. We had a game of Trivial Pursuit, and one of the questions my team had was along the lines of: "If the barcode number of your purchase starts with 978, what are you buying?"

I shrugged and said, "A book."

Silence fell. People demanded to know how I knew that. Even after explaining that I'd been investigating ISBN numbers recently, I still got some strange looks that night.

No change there, then.

If I receive any more questions that deserve a greater audience, I'll add them here, as I will any significant updates in the book's progress.

Excrucior

Further Questions and Notes as of 19th October 2004

Q. So, you're getting published?

A. I'm publishing my own work using a company that allows me to do that. Any idiot can publish through XLibris, which I am in the process of proving. The clever part is selling enough to cover my costs.

Update in progress: I sent off an email to my current contact at XLibris to approve the current version of the galleys for production. I received back a pdf of a form to print, sign, scan, and email back. I'll be doing that in the morning. Once that's done, they will send me a review copy in about two to three weeks - add an extra week for transatlantic posting - and I have to approve that. I get the approval form with the approval copy, and once they have that, the process is about done.

Phew!

Update - 4th November

XLibris emailed me to confirm my snail-mail address. Apparently, they're ready to send the approval copy out to me. Transatlantic postage is notoriously interesting when waiting for something, so I don't know when it will get to me.

Update - 13th November

The author review copies arrived - one hardback and one paperback. I have a little browsing to do, and then I have to approve them - or otherwise. I'm impressed with the rather swift postage, and first impressions are favourable.

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