Hi everyone, and thank you for tuning in to another episode of the We Make Books Podcast - A podcast about writing, publishing, and everything in between!

We Make Books is hosted by Rekka Jay and Kaelyn Considine; Rekka is a published author and Kaelyn is an editor and together they are going to take you through what goes into getting a book out of your head, on to paper, in to the hands of a publisher, and finally on to book store shelves.

Like last week, this week we are doing something a little different.  First and most exciting, we have our first guest!  Christopher Ruz, author of The Ragged Blade joins Rekka this week to talk about his book’s long road to publication.  Second, that’s right, it’s just Rekka on this episode.  As Kaelyn will explain in the intro, she’s Ruz’s editor at Parvus Press and wanted to give he and Rekka the opportunity and space to talk about what it’s like working on your own verse with an editor.  They had a great conversation and we think you’ll really enjoy it.

The Ragged Blade is currently in stores and online and you can (and should) find Christopher Ruz online @ruzkin on Twitter and www.ruzkin.com.  Check him out and tell him that Rekka and Kaelyn sent you.

We Make Books is a podcast for writer and publishers, by writers and publishers and we want to hear from our listeners! Hit us up on our social media, linked below, and send us your questions, comments, concerns, and any lingering thoughts or feelings about Endgame that you just can’t get out of your head.

A transcription of this episode can be found below.

We hope you enjoy We Make Books!

Twitter: @WMBCast  |  @KindofKaelyn  |  @BittyBittyZap

Instagram: @WMBCast 

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=== Transcript ===

 

 

Kaelyn:00:00 Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the We Make Books Podcast, a show about writing, publishing, and everything in between.  I’m Kaelyn Considine and I am the ‘editor half of the podcast and this week we decided that we’re going to do something a little bit different.  Uh, the first part is that we have oh first ever guest, author Christopher Ruz, whose book ‘The Ragged Blade’ was released a week ago today, which would make that June 4th for those who might be listening at another time.  Um, the second thing is that I’m not on this episode, and the reason for that is that I’m Ruz’s editor at Parvus Press and we wanted to have Ruz on because he had a really interesting journey of getting his book published.   Um, you’ll hear all about it in this episode but it went from a short story, to a self-published novel, to a traditionally published novel,  by my publishing company, Parvus Press.  And we wanted to hear all about everything that led up to getting this published, and uh especially working by yourself to self-publish verse working with an editor.  So, in the interest of podcasting journalistic integrity, I recused myself from the episode so that Ruz and Rekka could have a conversion on the real ups and downs of traditional verse self-publishing and working on things on your own verse working with a professional editor.  Um, it’s a really interesting conversation, they both have some very interesting stories about how they got to where they ended up in their publishing careers.  So it’s a really great episode, it sounds like Rekka and Ruz had a lot of fun recording it, um, I gave them carte Blanche to uh, talk about anything they wanted, including me, and uh, they did not hold back.  And u, as always, we’d love to and want to hear back from our listeners.  Any questions or feedback, or just general feelings you have about what you’re listening to – you can find us on Twitter @wmbcast and on our website, ‘wemakebookspodcast.com’ and you can email us there if you want it send us a question or a comment and we’re always happy to happy, if you’d like to have them remain anonymous.  So, I think that’s everything, and we hope that you enjoy this episode with author Christopher Ruz.

02:02[Intro music]

Rekka:02:17   All right. So today I have snuck out of Kaelyn's supervision and I have uh, gone behind her back to speak to one of the authors at Parvus that Kaelyn edits for. I am speaking today to Christopher Ruz who is the author of the ragged blade, which as we are releasing this episode on June 11th, is now a week old. And so we're going to be talking from the other side of the release date. So um, Ruz has zero insight as to what it is like to have had the book out for a week. So we won't get into that unless you want to design your own fantasy week. Like, oh, it's amazing. 1 million copies sold in the first day. This is just astounding and I'm so touched.

Rekka:03:01   Well look,

Ruz:     03:02   Say it into being Chris.

Ruz:     03:04   We've all got our fingers crossed for that. That um, we'll just, I'm just going to wait and see right now,

Rekka:03:10   RIght.

Ruz:     03:10   Right now, a week before it launches, we're recording this. I'm in this weird sort of nether world where I don't know whether to be excited or scared and I'm just waiting for the publishing train to run over me and see what comes out of here.

Rekka:03:22   Sorry. The correct answer is why not both?

Ruz:     03:25   Yeah, probably yes.

Rekka:03:26   Um, frightened. Terrified. Uh, elated. Excited. Why aren't more people paying attention to me? Because don't they know I have a book coming out. And how is everybody just going to the grocery store and walking their dog? Like normal?

Ruz:     03:43   Yeah, I've gone through that a couple times. Yeah, just counting down the days. Um, so here in Australia, I think the book comes out on my Thursday and the US's Wednesday, so that's also really frustrating that I can't actually celebrate simultaneously with the rest of the world. But is what it is.

Rekka:03:58   Well, I mean you could, you just have to forego sleep.

Ruz:     04:01   I just have to, but I like sleep.

Rekka:04:03   Yeah. Sleep is wonderful.

Ruz:     04:03   I really like, I really like my sleep.

Rekka:04:06   That's, that's good. That's healthy. All right. So you might survive if you do uh practice. Good sleep efforts to, uh, to write the entire series as opposed to, you know, petering out because you've gone without sleep for the last two years.

Rekka:04:22   [laughter]

Rekka:04:22   I mean, I know Kaelyn can be awful, but um, I'm hoping, you know, she lets you sleep occasionally.

Ruz:     04:28   She's been pretty good with that so far actually Kaelyn's been very relaxed on deadlines. I don't know how she is for her other authors, but to me she seems to give me a little bit more slack so I'm maybe I'm special. Or maybe,

Rekka:04:40   I have the benefit of not being one of her authors, so I just assume the worst of her

Ruz:     04:48   [laughter]and you assume right.

Rekka:04:50   Exactly. So I'm sorry Kaelyn, who is going to edit this episode and for, so our audience knows if she left that in, it's because she is the worst and she's proud of it.

Ruz:     04:59   [laughs]

Rekka:04:59   Um, so your story, I mean like we're not just having you on because we have easy access to you as a Parvus author. And we could always just say like, hey, we're not going to put your book out unless you come on and talk to Rekka on We Make Nooks, but, um, we really want talk to you. And by we, I mean the royal we obviously, um, about the path that this novel has taken because it is not a typical story of uh novel publishing. And, um, I think it's, it's one that's really interesting. It's going to give some people some hope, I think. But it's also like, um, it's just a really interesting story that the path that this novel has taken. So I'm gonna let you introduce it. Um, why don't you give us your latest, um, elevator pitch because I love it.

Ruz:     05:49   [laughter]

Rekka:05:49   And, um, then also like tell us the background, the, and I'll just interrupt as I do to ask questions.

Ruz:     05:58   Yeah, no problem. So the pitch that we've worked out, which only came to us in the past week is essentially, um, it's an epic fantasy novel where a Bi guy and his young daughter are running away from extremely clingy ex boyfriend, who also happens to be a magician and the dictatorial ruler of his small kingdom. And so father and daughter are running away across this huge, wild, untamed desert, full of magic and demons and monsters. While his magician boyfriend is in hot pursuit along with his Zombie tracking dog.

Rekka:06:36   I mean, that's like every Tuesday. But you met us to tell it in a way that's new. No.

Ruz:     06:42   [laughter]

Rekka:06:42   Um, I am, about 11 chapters in 12 chapters in, as it turns out. Um, and I have really been enjoying the, like I feel the sand, you know, I can feel the sand in the narration and the, um, exposition and this experience of the main character, Richard, who is escaping somebody that is so clearly, he's not just a magician. He is pretty much the magician. Right.

Ruz:     07:13   Yeah.

Rekka:07:13   And that's an ominous threat that's in every scene. So every time he like stops to pick a rock out of a shoe, you're just like, no, keep going. Keep going.

Ruz:     07:25   [laughter] Yeah. That, um, that sort of atmosphere of constant dread and um, and that very, very tense pursuit to something that I tried to keep up through the whole novel. Uh, it's, it's very mad Maxy in a way, even though, um, even though fury road came out well, well into the, the writing of this book, I think it actually has that same sort of feeling of never being more than, you know, a couple of steps ahead of this incredible force that's pursuing you. Um, and it was really cool that you, you mentioned that you really feel what it's like to be in the desert because I tried to channel a lot of my own experiences into those scenes. So,

Rekka:08:05   And that's just between your house in the mailbox.

Ruz:     08:08   Little bits. So I grew up obviously in Australia, um, but my parents house backed onto this massive wild nature reserve, which is just kilometers and kilometers of completely untouched Bush land. And I just got there and get lost for hours, deliberately get lost and then wander in circles in the heat and the scrub and try and find my way back home. And so I'd actually developed a system of creating landmarks and attaching stories to little landmarks that I found along the way and essentially built up my own little fantasy map in my head that would let me navigate, you know, from my parents' house, six kilometers west into the bush and then back again. And so that's the sort of feeling that I was always trying to channel is that, um, the potential in the landscape and the danger that's always looking around every corner and just try to pick your way from one landmark to the next in order to stay alive. Except in my case, the threat was if I wasn't backed by a six o'clock, my parents would, you know [laughter] it wouldn't be good

Rekka:09:14   It wasn't a zombie canine chasing you.

Ruz:     09:18   No, but it felt like it.

Rekka:09:19   Something a little bit worse.

Ruz:     09:20   When you're seven years old. Yeah. Your parents

Rekka:09:23   Getting sent to your room.

Ruz:     09:25   Yeah. That's a scary prospect. So hmm.

Rekka:09:28   So this is, this book is coming out through Parvus press, but it is something that you have previously self-published. So that's like, that's the really interesting part. I mean, obviously the book is interesting. As I said, I'm, I'm a third of the way through it. And obviously, I'm like, okay, shut up Ruz. I need to go finish this now. But, um, the, the story of how you self publish this and then ended up, uh, well not re-, but like submitting it to Parvus and then going through Parvus to turn it into something entirely new, almost with just like, well, I'll let you tell it as I said, but, um, that's the story I really want to draw out of you today because I think it's interesting. And I, as I said before the call, we have clearance from Kaelyn to talk about every aspect of this. I have had authors on before whose work was published after it was self-published, but they have been told like, you do not speak of this. So I think it's just really interesting to get this side of the story from somebody who has permission to talk about it openly and freely. And you know, like there may be as much like black sharpie over this episode as you can imagine in a Mueller report. But let the, while you and I are talking

Ruz:     10:41   Right, keeping it topical Yup. Um, yeah, yeah. Let's go into it. Um, so if you go way, way, way back, um, this whole trilogy started as a short story. Um, so one of my first successful short stories, I think I've been writing for quite a while, but this is the first one that I actually felt like, you know, when you finish your first thing and you look at it and you're like, Hey, this isn't actually terrible.

Rekka:11:07   Yes.

Ruz:     11:07   And you have that moment where you're like, oh, I've graduated from awful writer to semi awful.

Rekka:11:14   I'm cogent.

Ruz:     11:16   Yeah. So I had that moment. And, um, I love the short story, which is just - this story forms, which is the, basically the backstory of the Ragged Blade. So if you're reading the ragged blade, you'll find that the present narrative jumps back into the past at various points where we're falling two stories simultaneously. And the short story was what is now the backstory. And I loved it. And um, sent around it didn't get published, but it picked up a Writers of the Future, um, award, which I was pretty stoked about. And so I thought, all right, how can I expand this? Spent a lot of time expanding it into not just one novel but three. So I, I already had this large plans sort of mapped out. So I smashed that out, um, over a period of a couple of years. And this is going all the way back to like 2007, 2008. So this has all been a long time in the cooking and I tried to sell the books everywhere. I think I queried everybody on um, agent query ran through the whole list, of publishes and nobody was biting. And looking back on it, it's pretty obvious why it wasn't that great of a book at the time. So I think it was about 2010 I gave it one more editing pass and self published. And so that was the start of my big self publishing career. Um, I say big self publishing career, it hasn't been

Rekka:12:35   But you do have many titles like, you know, compared to what a traditional, um, well this let's say this is your first traditionally published novel.

Ruz:     12:45   Yeah.

Rekka:12:45   You quote unquote debut as a traditionally published author, but you already have a whole stable of stories that you've written and released and gotten reviews on and it's, it's not like you've just been, um, quietly publishing into the void this whole time.

Ruz:     13:02   Yeah. Yeah. I do have, um, a bit of stock there. Yeah. It since I first published the ragged blade on back then it was called century of sand. Yeah. I've put out, um, and other I think four horror novels. Um, 10 or so spy novellas like I kept stacking up, but honestly my heart was always in Century of Sand I really wanted it to go somewhere and um, and people were enjoying it as I self published it, but there was still something missing. I think I still needed some professional eyes on it. And so it had been self published for five or six years when Parvus put up their first uh, roll call on Reddit that we're looking for people with a novel to pitch. And so I spoke to Colin there and I showed him century of sand and he said this isn't bad but it's self published. Um, we're not super interested in that at the moment and honestly

Rekka:13:55   Which is the response that is going to be typical for most authors. You've already self published something that a publisher is going to say, yeah, we want it to be the first ones to release your book, not the second ones.

Ruz:     14:05   Yeah. And I think that's perfectly fair. It was, it was a fair response. Also, we had chat about the amount of work that we need to go into it and he said, okay, if we were to take this on, we're going to have to break it into tiny parts and rebuild it from scratch. And I, maybe this is, this is arrogance, but I was really hoping he'd just say this novel is Great. We love it. We are going to buy it. We're going to do a spell check and send a straight out there and it's going to be beautiful. It turns out that was not the case.

Rekka:14:31   No,

Ruz:     14:32   It was, it was nowhere near that state. So yeah, me and Parvus we parted ways very amicably. And um, I kept in touch with Colin and we talked about different writing advice and publishing advice. So I think about two years after that, just every couple months we'd say hi and um, I didn't know Kaelyn at the time, but to any listeners, I can really recommend that if you are pitching you should pitch to Parvus and Colin because Colin is just lovely.

Rekka:15:01   Um, as compared to Kaelyn.

Ruz:     15:03   Kaelyn is, Kaelyn is terrible, terrible and terrifying, but Colin balances around a little bit. So, um, so yeah, I kept writing and started pitching another novel. I'm a Scifi story called God Factory and Colin had to read through that at some point and he came back to me and said, hey, I think your writing is actually improved quite a bit in between writing Century of Sand and writing God factory. If you could go back to century of sand and revise it to the same standard as God factory, we might take another look at it. And at that point I'd, I think I'd woken up at to the actual realities of publishing what goes into it and what goes into the editing process. So I was much more open to the idea of just trashing century sad down into its component pieces and building it up again. So it was with that promise and also the fact that I had the other two manuscripts for this entire trilogy ready to go. You know, me and Colin were able to shake hands and, and make the deal. And then we started the process of editing and Oh my God, it was even worse than I thought

Rekka:16:15   [laughs] You thought you were just going to take it down to paragraph level -

Ruz:     16:17   Just a nightmare.

Rekka:16:17   and put it back together.

Ruz:     16:19   Yeah, I thought, you know, oh well we'll check out some dialogue, visit some themes. Cut out some bad scenes. Holy Crap.

Rekka:16:28   [laughs evilly] Yeah. um Parvus may be kind of, you know, quote unquote new in town, but they, they really will like put a book through its paces in order to get it to the point where they feel like, yeah, no, we want to put her name on this. So even when they say like, yeah, we want to buy your book, they're like, yeah, just you wait.

Ruz:     16:47   Yeah. It made me realize that even after I think seven or eight rewrites for me to get it to the point where I was happy to sell, publish it, it was really still just a larval stage. There was so much in it that I hadn't seen. Um, there's so much that you can't see when you just head down in your own book for years.

Rekka:17:07   Yeah. We absolutely way too close to it.

Ruz:     17:10   Yeah. Um, and the changes that they recommended, it thought I, at first I thought that they were insane.

Rekka:17:18   [laughs]

Rekka:17:18   I'll say the first time I got into a Skype call with all the, um, the team at Parvus and they recommended some of the most sweeping changes. Um, I guess the books already out, so I can probably discuss some

Rekka:17:28   Mm hmm

Ruz:     17:28   Umm, minor spoilers. Um, for example, the first change they wanted was that I take two major characters and combine them into one, which is not impossible usually, but these two characters don't even run in the same timelines.

Rekka:17:42   Right.

Ruz:     17:43   So in the original book, there was a mentor character essentially like you call them an Obi-Won -

Rekka:17:48   Right

Ruz:     17:49   Style character who goes on an adventure with the magician over this long period. And then eventually meets another young soldier called Richard who he trains up. And um, Richard eventually takes on his mentors mantle. And this is two overlapping storylines of about, each one's about a 30 year storyline and they only meet for about five years in the middle.

Rekka:18:16   Mmm hmm.

Ruz:     18:16   And so the first piece of advice I got was we need to merge them into a single character, in a single storyline. And like that's not a couple paragraphs here and there. That's just,

Rekka:18:27   Yeah, that's like the entire frankensteining essentially of two halves of a story.

Ruz:     18:34   Yeah. Um, so yeah, a 60 year story got squeezed down to about 20 or 30 years. Two major characters who only ever intersected for few years suddenly became one. Motivation's got tangled, storylines all got tossed around and I hated it at first. I thought it was insane and it was not going to work and we're just going to tear the heart out of my book. And by the time I was done with that first editing pass, I thought their geniuses,

Rekka:19:03   [laughter]

Ruz:     19:03   This is so good now. It was in every respect.

Rekka:19:07   Mmm hmm, so it became a much tighter story as a result and, and you had to figure out motivations as you said. But I assume that means like everything became a lot more clear as to um, what you know was driving the story.

Ruz:     19:23   Yeah, everything was clarified because basically as I was speaking to the editing team, they'll pointing out that one character, the, that Obi-Wan style mentor character he had a stronger emotional bond or emotional tie with the primary villain. Then my new character Richard. And if I transpose the two characters and actually imported motivations from one end to the other, suddenly we have this incredibly, um, uh, it would be become a story driven by relationships as opposed to plot circumstance.

Rekka:19:50   Mmm hmm.

Ruz:     19:50   And as soon as I started making those changes, it actually, it was like a flower sort of unfolding. I saw all these potentials in, in these previous scenes and the way they'd spiral out across the whole book and then across the whole trilogy. And yeah, I loved every change I made after that.

Rekka:20:05   Now ....

Ruz:     20:05   I didn't like that I had to write the changes

Rekka:20:08   Yeah, exactly.

Ruz:     20:08   But I liked what happened after I'd made the changes.

Rekka:20:11   [laughter] So as you said, you've already had written books two and three of this trilogy now and, and this little change, um, or not so little, but you know, like this one change rippled out. And so, um, I know from watching you and Kaelyn interact on, on Twitter that you've been working probably just as hard on books two and three as you did on book one to get everything back into line. How is the, um, continuity, like are you having a lot of trouble getting to a point in going, oh God damn it. No, I changed that too.

Ruz:     20:45   Um, it's actually been okay.

Rekka:20:47   Okay.

Ruz:     20:47   I was really surprised that there was even more editing work to be done in book two.

Rekka:20:51   Mmm hmm.

Ruz:     20:51   Um, but because we finished book one before we even opened up the manuscript for book two, um, little actually flowed reasonably smoothly. I had a nice roadmap to work from.

Rekka:21:04   Mmm hmm.

Ruz:     21:04   Yeah. Book two was a mess as a result of these major changes because, um, as you notice in book one, we've got these dual storylines running and that continues through books, books two and three. It's the same structure for all of them. It's um, it's a present day adventure with storytelling, which takes us back to the past. And that's this running theme and the storytelling part in book two is massive. It's probably a third of the book as opposed to a couple isolated flashbacks and I just have to trash the whole thing.

Rekka:21:33   [laughs]

Ruz:     21:33   I was like 40, 50,000 words straight in the, in the bin.

Rekka:21:37   As a result of losing Obi-Wab?

Ruz:     21:40   Yeah.

Rekka:21:40   Yeah. Okay.

Ruz:     21:41   Cause yeah, he wasn't there anymore.

Rekka:21:43   Yeah.

Ruz:     21:44   Obi-Wan didn't exist. His mentorship and training didn't exist. Um, my new character, Richard suddenly had all these existing motivations and fears and doubts. So yeah, we started pretty much from scratch and so Kaelyn is holding onto a manuscript of a revised manuscript of book two at the moment and there's almost nothing left from the original

Rekka:22:07   Of the original. I've done that.

Ruz:     22:08   A couple of cool a couple cool fight scenes.

Rekka:22:10   Yeah,

Ruz:     22:11   That's about it. I think we retained like maybe 20,000 words out of 140, so it was just a butchery.

Rekka:22:20   That's a - that's a nice bite that you got to keep.

Ruz:     22:21   Yeah

Rekka:22:21   When I rewrote Flotsam, I think I kept all of three paragraphs

Ruz:     22:26   Oh wow.

Rekka:22:26   Of the entire original manuscript and, and you know, I think some character name stayed the same, but um, yeah, I mean mine's a whole long backstory of its own. I worked with the editor that I was eventually at Parvus when I, um, before he was at Parvus and I had hired him to help me work on it on its own. And, um, any we did, we like took the entire massive thing that I've been working on for like 10 years and just said, okay, we're just gonna put that over here. It's safe, it's fine,

Ruz:     22:55   [laughter]

Rekka:22:55   You know, but, um, you know, how about, how about we do a new first chapter and go from there. And so I did, I did the same thing. I ended up rewriting the whole thing just about from, and then, um, this was before I submitted it to Parvus and then I wrote book two again, still before I submitted it to Parvus, submitted it to Parvus, they had some more changes, which were small, subtle scenes that affected a whole heck of a lot.

Ruz:     23:21   [laughter]

Rekka:23:21   And then, um, and then now I'm like basically every written book two again. So yeah, a whole lot of empathy for you there. And that's anyone working with Kaelyn. I can't even imagine. What Kaelyn would do to me. I'm sorry Kaelyn. She- she assigned to the task of torturing you. But instead we're just like talking about her. [laughter]

Ruz:     23:40   I think it wouldn't make me so angry if they weren't always right.

Rekka:23:43   Yeah. That's the worst part.

Ruz:     23:45   But they are always right.

Rekka:23:45   They're just terrible people. Just like knowing stuff. And having good advice and seeing it from a distance and also, you know, from a marketability, it's, it's always good to have somebody who's got like a little bit of that, um, market in mind. You don't want to necessarily let that dictate everything, but it definitely, like when they're reading a book, they're thinking, is the audience gonna make it through the scene or do we need to tighten this up? And that makes very frustratingly effective, you know, method for like going over it and editing again. So we hate them, but we love them, but we hate them.

Ruz:     24:23   Yeah. At the same time, all the time.

Rekka:24:25   Yeah. So, um, how long, like is this whole process you said like 2007 ish. You were releasing it for the first time, sorry.

Ruz:     24:34   No, no, 2007. I started writing.

Rekka:24:36   Started it. Okay.

Ruz:     24:38   Yup. Um, can't remember the exact date, but I know it was in 2007 or very early 2008. Um, wrote it over about a year, revised it and then started submitting.

Rekka:24:53   Shopping it, yeah.

Ruz:     24:54   Yeah. Maybe around end of 2009 and kept it up all through 2009, 2010 until I decided to self pub. And that was right at the beginning of that early kindle revolution.

Rekka:25:06   Boom, yeah.

Ruz:     25:07   Yeah. Unfortunately I didn't quite get to ride the kindle. Boom. It turns out it turns out that even during a boom, it's a very selective boom.

Rekka:25:14   Yes

Ruz:     25:14   So, um, but I had a lot of fun self pubing and I learned so much through the process. So no regrets there. And then

Rekka:25:24   Yeah you had covers you had layouts. Um, now you are also a graphic artist.

Ruz:     25:31   I am a pretty average graphic artists. Yeah, I know some Photoshop. Um, I'm an art teacher from my nine to five, so that helps a little bit. So I understand composition and color theory and everything, but the, the real nitty gritty I'm not an expert on. And so for those covers, I hired an artist off deviant art to do, he did all three covers at the same time. Um, to the best that my, my budget could

Rekka:25:57   Right.

Ruz:     25:57   stretch at that time. And um, I, I love those covers still. They're pretty rough.

Rekka:26:04   Yes

Ruz:     26:04   But they're still pretty cool.

Rekka:26:04   You had three covers that you, um, commissioned on your own. And did you, um, did you hire layout artist? I mean, how much of the production process did you get to learn as a result of doing this that then sort of helped you, uh, understand where like Colin was coming from, when, when he'd later say like, oh we have to do this, this and this.

Ruz:     26:25   Okay, so for the self pub process, um, as said, I paid an artist to the covers but I do the topography and myself. Um, and I also put turn those covers into full paperback wraparound covers. So I only commissioned a standard ebook cover size, so I had to adapt those. And then, um, my wife does web design and she was the one who realized that kindle documents are just web documents. Yeah. So she converted my book into a Nice html and then everything else was me. So compiling, publishing, promoting, um, I just figured that out as I went along and it was awful.

Rekka:27:09   [laughter]

Ruz:     27:09   It's just a horrible process and I'm so glad that it's somebody else's problem now.

Rekka:27:14   So that's an interesting point. Like you have books that are self published and it looks like you probably can plan to continue self publishing at some level. Um, cause you have series that are, are self published, um, that you did not enjoy the process and it's not something where you're thinking to yourself, oh, you know, it's nice that Parvus wants this, but like I hate waiting on them to do a thing or I like I would have done that differently. Is Not something that's entering your mind at this point. You're just really glad to have a team.

Ruz:     27:48   Yeah, I love having a team and there are definitely parts of the self pub process that I love. So the immediacy of it. Um, being able to just smashing book together and run through it myself and then throw it out into the void is brilliant and obviously no waiting.

Rekka:28:04   Yeah,

Ruz:     28:04   Is brilliant because it's been a two year process from the time when I signed the contract with Parvus to The Ragged Blade actually coming out. Um, but at the same time working with the team there and actually having professional editors has done so much for the quality of the book, like a Ragged Blade would not have been a good book without their help. Um, and I love, I love what it's become as a result and I really wonder what would happen if I had that same professional input and uh extra sets of eyes on my self published work because for me the only thing that matters is telling the best story that I can.

Rekka:28:40   Right. Yup. I feel you there. That was definitely a thought when I, um, was trying to decide what to do because, you know, I was also thinking, oh, I'll just self publish this. I don't want anyone else's, you know, um, decisions or like neglect affecting this book's ability to be out in the world. Because I knew long it took to get a book published through traditional publishing and I said this, you know, I'm not going to wait that long and they're going to want change stuff. Stuff like, you know, those usual thoughts that I think lead to self publishing a lot. It wasn't even so much the like, oh, it's, it's terrifying and painful to put myself in front of other people and like hope that, you know, I get approval from somebody.

Ruz:     29:18   [laughter] Yeah, yeah ...

Rekka:29:18   It was just more like, I don't want anyone else's opinions in the way, but let me tell you, other people's opinions are fantastic. Sometimes it's really nice to have other people's opinions and also, you know, like the resources where, um, it's a lot of work to commission a cover artists and, um, do the art direction, do the layout. So I think it's interesting. Um, I think it's interesting that like you and I, well we ended up in the same place. We even sort of took the same steps, but at the same time, like for totally different reasons where I was just like, I don't, I don't want anyone else's approval. I just want to do this. And, and you would have been very happy with someone else's approval, but you also got tired of waiting around for it.

Ruz:     29:58   Yeah, pretty much.

Rekka:29:59   So just to recap the timeline, um, because we did start to trace it in detail. So in, um, 2010, you said you self-published and then

Ruz:     30:09   2010 or 2011, I believe.

Rekka:30:10   Somewhere around there, right around that time, which is funny. That's the same time that I decided that I was going to self publish this in 2016 is when Parvus opened. So their first call was when you, um, submitted to them and then it was 2017 when you had the relationship with them where you had sort of stayed in touch and they were keeping an eye on what you were doing. Like some weird creepy uncle and told you .

Ruz:     30:40   Yeah. That's about it, yeah. I think it was mid 2017 and it happened because I got back in touch with Colin. I just finished, I just finished polishing and polishing, polishing, um, the final book in this Century of Sand Trilogy. And I was looking at how will I was doing on Amazon with my self pub and it wasn't going so great. And meanwhile, Coin and Parvus had just released, um, I think at that time they'd put out Vick's Vultures, maybe one and two.

Rekka:31:06   Okay.

Ruz:     31:07   And

Rekka:31:08   Court of Twilight then.

Ruz:     31:10   Yeah, I think this was pre flotsam.

Rekka:31:13   Yep.

Ruz:     31:14   And they were doing really well. And so I messaged Colin and I actually got in touch by saying, okay, my books aren't going so great, but I've got the third book ready. So the trilogy is wrapped up. So it's a whole sort of trilogy product now. Um, what would you recommend for me really getting this off the ground? You know, should I commission new cover artists? Um, should I start a marketing program? How much should I invest in these various areas? And that was the trigger where he said, Oh, you finished the book book three now and I've seen your recent writing. That's not too bad. Let's have a chat. And so yeah, that was mid 2017 and then it was the third quarter of 2017 when the contract came through and I printed it off on my school printer and, and snuck away to my cubicle to sign it and scan it before anybody caught me misusing school property.

Rekka:32:01   So yeah. So it's interesting and that's actually advice that Colin has always given is don't be afraid to ask questions of other people in the industry because everyone in the industry wants to help and they're interested in, you never know what could happen as a result of like asking, you know, starting up a conversation and you didn't go in with it like, Hey, you rejected me once, but now I've got three of these. So you know, like it's going to be three times as good or, or whatever.

Ruz:     32:27   [laughter]

Rekka:32:27   Someone might've said, um, it was, hey, you know, you've been really helpful over these past couple of years. Would you mind giving me some more advice? Basically, you know, I appreciate your time, etc. I'm sure you were very polite, but, um, and, and that turned into an unexpected conversation with Colin of, Hey, I've been thinking about that book in the last year and a half or so.

Ruz:     32:50   Yeah. Like keeping in contact with people in, in the industry, in all respects is essential. And I have never once encountered anybody in the industry from authors up to publishers and promoters who doesn't want everybody to succeed. There is, there's no competition here. I mean you might see competition between big publishers vying for top spots on New York Times bestsellers list

Rekka:33:14   Of course, yeah.

Ruz:     33:14   But when you get down to down to the human level, everybody here wants everybody else to win. And there is nothing lost by just making as many friends, like genuine friends as you can and keeping in touch and lifting other people up because it leads to unexpected things for you and also for them. So yeah, really glad I didn't lose Colin's email. Really glad that I just chatted with him like a friend. I didn't expect any publishing deal to come out of it. I just wanted a friend's advice on how to proceed and he was lovely and he gave it. And I've gotten that same feedback and help from everybody who I've ever talked to in the industry.

Rekka:33:51   That's awesome. And we just recently had our episode of interviews from the Nebulas where, um, we talked to over 20 people. Not all of them had sound quality that made it into the episode, but we talked to over 20 people and from um, you know, the new authors who were coming there to meet their agent for the first time or, and hadn't sold their book yet to authors who had been around the block a few hundred times. You know, John Scalzi you know, like everyone there was just everyone here's friendly, don't worry about it, you know, talk to people on a like relate on a personal level and you are going to find so many people that can help you or just like be friends and be a friendly face. So, um, yeah, I definitely, I would echo what you're saying. And speaking of John Scalzi since we just, um, got off Twitter before we got on this call.

Ruz:     34:48   Yeah, yeah.

Rekka:34:48   You had the, the fun experience. This is one of the, like the nice things about being traditionally published, I have to say is going Twitter and seeing a stack of books that has arrived at John Scalzi's house and he takes the photo and he throws it up on Twitter and there's your spine. And how's that feel?

Ruz:     35:08   That was just really weird because I've been following Scalzi for years. Again, really lovely guy. I met him for like five minutes back at Worldcon 2010 and he at that point, he was, he's just blowing up everywhere.

Rekka:35:25   Yeah.

Ruz:     35:25   Old Man's war. And I think the second Ghost Brigades was out and he was the name everybody knew and he was just such a chill guy.

Rekka:35:32   Yeah.

Ruz:     35:33   As everybody is. And so I've been following him for years and watching this, his ARC piles turn up on Twitter. I'm thinking one day maybe,

Rekka:35:41   Maybe.

Rekka:35:41   One day, Nah, Nah, impossible. Ridiculous. And then I wake up this morning and people are re tweeting Scalzi's book pile and there's The Ragged Blade. And I actually got this sort of full body, weird contraction, like the whole universe is just pressing in, just going it's appening. So I freaked out a little bit and then I sat down and had a cup of tea and tried to calm down prior to this interview. So yeah, that was cool. And um, and it obviously it does happen. Don't let go of your little, your dreams to turn up in other people's ARC piles cause it happens.

Rekka:36:19   Yeah. There's something like, I love that. Um, I love that everyone is so like environmentally conscious now that they're like, oh, you know, maybe ARCs are sort of not the thing that we should be just mailing out unsolicited things like that. But so it's so nice to see a book just randomly appear in a pile of, you know, books that maybe it's, it's not even so much like that person's influence on social media, but just someone you respect and someone that um, does something like that, so nice for the community. Like, um, loves to get excited about new releases for other authors. And that's something I don't really think you get on the self publishing side is, is that sort of like, um, like community shiver of an, of an ARC pile, you know?

Ruz:     37:09   Yeah. I think if we go entirely e ARCs from, from here on the, it's going to be a massive loss.

Rekka:37:18   It's so sad.

Ruz:     37:18   There is something very communal about sharing those books around and being able to pass books physically from one hand to the next and, and let this, you know, people's stories escape into the wild like that. I am an environmentalist but I'm never going to give up my paper

Rekka:37:36   Right, I know

Ruz:     37:36   book until I die. Sorry guys.

Rekka:37:37   Yes. There are industries out there doing much worse for the forest than, than our little books. I have to say that.

Ruz:     37:42   Yeah. Yeah. Sorry everybody. But I love my books.

Rekka:37:45   I do like that my um, Star Trek level data pad can hold like all these books and that's very handy. But yeah, it's, it's just there's the cover art and an ebook and an ereader. It's just not the same. And the spine.

Ruz:     38:02   It will never measure up. Yeah. We have, in this house we have two kindles and my wife and I both have, you know, reading apps on our phones and we still spend like 10 times more on paper books than we do on ebooks. So

Rekka:38:16   Yeah,

Ruz:     38:17   I'm sorry. It's an addiction. It's never going to stop.

Rekka:38:19   Yeah. And that's not one that I think anyone should ever give up. That would be terrible for us.

Ruz:     38:23   Yep.

Rekka:38:24   Alright. So you have, um, okay. You have traveled to the future where your book is already out.

Ruz:     38:31   Yup.

Rekka:38:31   Now is the time to ask your future self and maybe like you'll hear the echo in a few days and be able to answer yourself. Um, what questions do you have for yourself that you would ask June 11th, Ruz?

Ruz:     38:47   What I want to know from June 11th Ruz besides the obvious, you know, did it sell well? Is the sort of,

Rekka:38:54   We're just assuming a million copies on the first day.

Ruz:     38:59   Um, I'd like to know how to ignore what's happening with the current release and keep my head down on editing the second book.

Rekka:39:08   Yeah.

Ruz:     39:08   Because I think it's going to be really easy to just get carried away with obsessively checking reviews and sales numbers and lose myself in that instead of,

Rekka:39:17   Absolutely.

Ruz:     39:17   Yeah. Instead of focusing on the actual important tasks of just telling the next story. So,

Rekka:39:22   Well I will, if you need me to.

Ruz:     39:24   Future Ruz, get to work.

Rekka:39:24   I will be sending you direct messages on Twitter because I saw your little, um hint at what your next story was and I absolutely want to read that. So I will be bothering you on June 4th to say, hey, how's that story going? What's your word count?

Ruz:     39:37   Uh, that one. I don't know if I'm going to start that one until Century of Sand three is most of the way done right now. I'm just in the researching stage. I know, I'm sorry.

Rekka:39:49   That's the worst thing about knowing writers is hearing what their project is and knowing you're not going to read it for like three or four years

Ruz:     39:55   Minimum.

Rekka:39:55   Just for the record. Now you're the worst.

Ruz:     40:00   I knew that already though. I've been the worsr for a while.

Rekka:40:04   So do you have, um, I, I didn't ask Kaelyn already. Do you have release dates that you know, ballpark release years, for books two and three then?

Ruz:     40:13   Um, hopefully very ballpark. We're looking at book to coming out at the same time next year, so May to June and book three the year after that.

Rekka:40:21   Okay.

Ruz:     40:22   So we'll keep you on a pretty tight schedule.

Rekka:40:23   Yeah, yeah. Perfect.

Ruz:     40:25   Having having the manuscripts already ready in a embryonic form helps a lot and also having a rough plan for editing helps a lot.

Rekka:40:33   Okay. Have we not covered that this isn't even an embryo. This is a string of DNA.

Ruz:     40:38   Okay. So with the second book I've already, I've already run through the second book. Okay. It has been polished to the new Parvus plan and so now it fits all the timeline changes that we made to the first. Um, it's still pretty rough like it is, it is a mess, but at least it sits in the same timeline and continuity. And so Parvus has that now hopefully they're going to get that back to me within a couple of weeks to a month and then they want that one wrapped up hopefully by the end of this year. So then we'll have a six month lead time for printing promos, line edits and everything. Fingers crossed. So yeah, hopefully one a year, which is a really scary schedule.

Rekka:41:21   Scary for the self publisher or scary for like, oh my God, I put 18 months into the ragged blade. How am I going to do the rest of this in eight months?

Ruz:     41:30   Oh, if I wasn't working, if I was, if I was a happy little fulltime writer.

Rekka:41:36   Yep.

Ruz:     41:36   Then this would be no issue because there was a time when um, when I was self publishing and I was having some success, I quit work and for a year and a half I just wrote and I was putting out three full length novels a year, really happily plus short stories and promos and novellas and that was no issue. But now I, I'm doing a grownup job,

Rekka:41:58   Not just the grownup job. This is not a nine to five. You are teaching students and so you've got lesson plans like you, this is not a job you get to leave at work.

Ruz:     42:07   Yeah. So I am horribly, for anybody listening, I'm a part time teacher so I'm only actually in school and being paid four days a week and I think I clocked a minimum 70 to 75 hours a week every week

Rekka:42:23   Pay teachers more, everyone who can hear me.

Ruz:     42:26   Yeah, so, so you can do the math on that as to how much time I spend working out of school and then try to figure out where I fit writing in between. But looks, if Stephen King's can pull off being a high school teacher and raising three kids in a caravan, then I should really not complain.

Rekka:42:45   Yes. But eventually you will aspire to become Stephen King and then you can quit the teaching job and become a full time writer and go up to a cabin in the, in the snowy hills and finish your book.

Ruz:     42:56   Oh, that's what we're all aiming for. I suppose. You know, everyone wants to hit that point, but I guess the reality for pretty much every author is that there's always going to be the, the nine to five in the background.

Rekka:43:08   Okay. So you bring up a good point. Um, you used to write, um, significantly more output in a year and I saw you had some really great advice in a blog post on your site about how you reapproached after you became a teacher because as you said, it's very difficult to find those times where you can dedicate to your own work. So what was the advice for one, you know, run through the advice that you had and, and you know, it's, it's been awhile since you wrote that blog posts. Like how is it going? Cause there's always updates and life always changes, behaviors are easy to settle into.

Ruz:     43:46   Yeah. So I think the advice I gave was mostly um, cutting out distractions, really compartmentalizing your time, um, finding really small achievable goals and just repeating them over and over. I'm setting time constraints. So what this all means is that sit down in front of your computer, disconnect the Internet, set yourself a a hundred word goal, right? Just 100 words within two minutes or three minutes or whatever time you want to use. Like I usually aim for 500 words and half an hour. That's my approximate thing. And keep an eye on the clock. So if you get distracted, you can, you've always got somebody looming over your shoulder, you know, the time is looking over your shoulder. Um, and there were, I can't remember all the tips off the top of my head, but they really just

Rekka:44:38   One was a dedicated writing space and you know, be aware of where you write best.

Ruz:     44:41   Yep. Yeah, that was something that I found, um, I really lost track of as I became a teacher was it, I'd come home from work and I'd sit in the living room doing marking until like eight or nine o'clock and then I'd open up my laptop and try and sit there still in the living room writing on the couch and it was terrible. I just couldn't get anything done because it just didn't feel like a professional writing space. So you have to find the space that actually feels like the professional space with that's your shed out the back or study or, um, I, I found that I write really well on trains because I can't get internet.

Rekka:45:15   Yes.

Ruz:     45:15   So yeah, find the space, cut out all distractions and such and then instead approached in tiny little bite size pieces of achievement. And that worked really, really well for me for awhile. Um, so in my school holidays I was, I put out, I did an entire rewrite of Century of Sand 2 and wrote a fresh novella in the space of a couple of weeks using that method, which was amazing for me. And then I got back to school and I got given unexpectedly a whole bunch of new classes to teach. Um, and they've just eaten my life since then. So that method has its gotten fractured a little bit. Yeah.

Rekka:45:55   It's often that the methods wrong though, I think. Um, it's just something you have to rededicate yourself to because as you said, like you had this moment where like not only were you returning from a holiday but you are returning to like a entire structural shift in your schedule. So rather than say like, okay, I need to like I have this chance to, to set my schedule going forward. That includes this time you just sort of went, Whoa, what is happening? And then like you let the schedule get away with taking over is what it sounds.

Ruz:     46:32   Yeah.

Rekka:46:32   I didn't mean to couch you just now, but I'm just like, I just didn't want you to disparage your own advice because I think it's your advice is even more important now. It's just a matter like we have to be constantly self evaluating and be mindful of like what we're allowing ourselves to get away with. Because as I said, writers do tend to be a little bit distractible. And if you could sit on the couch for 45 minutes and think that you're still going to get your writing done, you absolutely will. Right?

Ruz:     46:57   Yeah. Yeah, no look, you're right. The method is fine. It's me that is not living up to my expectations.

Rekka:47:04   I didn't mean to really go there. But you know,

Ruz:     47:06   No, no, you did.

Rekka:47:08   I was told to torture you.

Ruz:     47:09   Yeah. Yeah.

Rekka:47:11   I have now achieved that. I feel good.

Ruz:     47:14   If I ever get a chance to sit down and reapply the method that works great. So, um, like right now I've, I've got an amazing six day weekend, which is ridiculous concept. So I'm going to, I'm going to sit down and block out distractions and try and smash it out, some edits on a novela project and see if I can get myself back into the headspace. So fingers crossed that I still have that particular magic.

Rekka:47:39   Now, not to mention...

Ruz:     47:40   And you yelling at me on Twitter will probably help,

Rekka:47:43   I will yell at you on Twitter. But of course like at the end of the six day weekend is also your book launch.

Ruz:     47:48   Yeah. [laughs]

Rekka:47:50   So this is the perfect time to take my advice and not let like major shifts like get you off course when you finally, you're setting yourself up. So

Ruz:     48:01   Yeah.

Rekka:48:01   Cause I have to, I have to leave with some advice here. So

Ruz:     48:05   Yeah. Um,

Rekka:48:07   Of course I don't have a book coming out on Tuesday,

Ruz:     48:10   [laughs] Yeah, but you've been through this, you know, you've been through this yourself now more than once. So yeah, breaking down big goals into nice, manageable smaller goals doesn't just make them more achievable. It, um, I think it actually removes a lot of the weight ]

Rekka:48:23   Yeah ...

Ruz:     48:23   That sort of psychological weight attached to them. So it makes you feel like you don't have to be perfect with each one. You just have to get each tiny step out of the way and it

Rekka:48:34   Right and the first draft doesn't need to be edited, you know, like

Ruz:     48:37   Yeah.

Rekka:48:37   That's just not the order of the things happen ever. Like it never works that way.

Ruz:     48:41   Just has to exist

Rekka:48:43   Yeah.

Ruz:     48:43   And it exists one paragraph at a time and that paragraph doesn't have to be perfect. You just have to put it down. So yeah, that's if, of all my advice, that'll be the most important part is just keep nibbling away at it steadily and don't worry about quality, just get it done.

Rekka:49:02   Perfect. That's true. And now you can go follow it

Ruz:     49:06   Yeah ...

Rekka:49:06   While you're trying to keep that Internet unplugged next week, which is going to be torture for you.

Ruz:     49:13   Yeah, I'm not looking forward to that, but it has to be done.

Rekka:49:16   Yeah

Ruz:     49:16   Um, and if you really want, since you're so psyched about it, I will write a tiny little intro teaser to this new project that you really want to see.

Rekka:49:25   Yes.

Ruz:     49:25   So at least then I'll have, I'll have something concrete and I can start adding to it instead of just being a nebulous concept.

Rekka:49:32   Exactly! Awesome. See, I'm so helpful. I love being helpful and also I get stuff. So awesome. I'm looking forward -

Ruz:     49:41   It's also blackmail.

Rekka:49:43   Well no, it's coercion at the worst.

Ruz:     49:45   Yeah.

Rekka:49:45   Um, so I am looking forward between now and your launch day to read the other 60% of the book. Uh, the Ragged Blade, which again launches in the US on June 4th. And um, and I'm looking forward to writing a review to add to the pile of reviews that you can watch, uh, go up on launch day when you are totally not plugged into the internet at all. And um, everyone else can go check it out. It's um, at uh, ruzkin.com

Ruz:     50:15   Yup, R - U - Z

Rekka:50:15   is the website which would be newly launched, you say?

Ruz:     50:18   Yeah, R-U-Z-K-I-Ncom. And we're hopefully going to have a new version of that up in the coming days before the launch because my current website is a tragic mess, but you'll never see that mysterious listeners.

Rekka:50:33   You'll have the new one ready.

Ruz:     50:33   Yeah.

Rekka:50:34   So that will, that's good. That'll keep you busy between now and then. Just remember tiny steps

Ruz:     50:39   Yup.

Rekka:50:39   And, and so a good luck on the launch and of course, uh, from the future. It was wonderful and we're also impressed and everyone loves it. And um, obviously we can't ask Kaelyn if she has any other questions or comments because she was not allowed in this interview. She had to recuse herself as your editor from trying to lead the witness and in all those terms. Um, so yeah, good luck and congratulations

Ruz:     51:05   Thank you so much.

Rekka:51:05   and thank you so much for your time and I hope that you are able to enact your, uh writing plans so that we can see all the other stuff that you're going to bring into the world.

Ruz:     51:18   Appreciate it. Wish me luck and um, you have an awesome week as well, hope you enjoy the rest of the book.

Rekka:51:23   I will let you know if I don't.

Ruz:     51:25   Yep, I trust you. Be Honest.

Rekka:51:28   Exactly. Thank you so much Ruz for your time and um, I yeah, it's Saturday morning there, so enjoy the rest of your day

Ruz:     51:36   Yup, will do.

Rekka:51:36   And your holiday.

Ruz:     51:39   Thank you. Thank you.

Rekka:51:40   We will let people know how that launch is going to, I'm sure.

Ruz:     51:44   Fantastic.

Rekka:51:45   Thanks, Ruz. Bye.

 

 

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