Uncategorized – Parvus Press

Why I Love To Fall Among Vultures


One of the best things about being a publisher is that I get to find books that I love and then… publish them! We here at Parvus are a small operation, so there isn’t a book that we release that isn’t one that I personally finished, said, “I loved that book”, and then got to work on. I want to take a few minutes and talk about what I loved about our new military SF title, TO FALL AMONG VULTURES by Scott Warren.

But before we dig in, here’s the premise of the book: Humanity made our way into the stars and found a crowded galaxy full of species far more advanced than we are. Quickly realizing that drawing attention to ourselves was going to end up with humanity crushed like cockroaches, we decided to stay on the fringes of intergalactic civilization. Rather than take on our neighbors with military might, Earth founded a privateer corps to follow behind the battles of advanced alien species and scavenge their wreckage for tech we could reverse engineer. In TO FALL AMONG VULTURES, Vick Marin, the Captain of the Privateer ship Condor, finally sees an opportunity to cement a trading and military alliance for humanity and grant some security to our species. But to win that alliance, she’s going to have to choose sides in a war that ultimately means extinction for the loser.

TO FALL AMONG VULTURES is the second book of Scott Warren’s Union Earth Privateers series (Though it stands on its own as a self-contained story). Like its older brother, VICK’S VULTURES, this is a tight novel. At 270 pages, it’s a book you can knock through in an evening or on a rainy Saturday. But it never feels rushed. Scott gives you just enough detail to know that you are in a richly imagined world full of complex relationships and politics, but without diving into the weeds with naval-gazing side plots. The book moves at a good clip with a healthy balance of action and character development throughout.

Like the best military SF novels, it shows our heroes wrestling with what’s right and wrong in the midst of the complex mess of war. There are no easy or clear answers to be had in the world of the Union Earth Privateers, which fits the gritty setting Scott has built for his characters. While this is a story of war between advanced alien species, political machinations on a galactic scale, and the survival of the human race; it is ultimately and most importantly the story of Vick Marin, her crew, and their struggle to uphold their honor while serving humanity as best they know how.

This book asks some big questions of its characters and sets the stage wonderfully for the future of the Union Earth Privateers series. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have. Share your reviews on your favorite retailer’s website or Goodreads and feel free to reach out directly and let me know how you liked TO FALL AMONG VULTURES. My email’s right in the back of the book.

Thanks, as always, for being Parvus People.

  • Colin

Become One With the Hive Mind!


It's Dangerous to Go Alone

Howdy, Parvus People!

We have a BIG year planned for all of you in 2018 with some titles that we are incredibly proud of on the schedule. From fantasy to scifi, our first YA, and an anthology that we haven’t officially announced (but are very passionate about). We’re bringing you some new authors, some new books from our existing authors, and we’ll be publishing some authors you’ve been reading for years.

To pull all this off, we’re going to need some help from our community of readers. Being a small, independent publisher means we get to publish whatever we like and follow our passions, which means we get to work on some very cool books. But it also means that we don’t have the resources of larger publishing houses. We’re looking for dedicated readers to become one with the Parvus Hive Mind!

Members of the Hive Mind will help us as beta readers, ARC reviewers, and boots-on-the-ground spreading the word about our titles. As an integral part of Parvus, you’ll get inside access to our authors and editors, convention goodies, autographed Parvus books, and whatever fun giveaways we find lying around the office (I have a spare toddler if anyone wants. No? No takers?). Most importantly, you’ll be helping us bring cool books and new voices to fantasy and science fiction readers.

Interested in becoming one with the Hive Mind? Email me, Colin@parvuspress.com, and tell me a bit about who you are, why you want to be a part of the Hive Mind, and link to some reviews of speculative fiction that you’ve written so we can get a sense of what you look for in your books.

Thanks, as always, for being Parvus People. We literally would not be able to do this without you.

(PS – I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival tomorrow haunting the SFWA tent. Please feel free to stop me and say hi!)

Parvus Adds to Editorial Team


I think it’s time we address the elephant in the room. Parvus has been sorely lacking in one highly noticeable area since our launch. Just look at our “About Us” page and it’s clear as day when you see our first three team members; Colin, Eric, and John. Staring everyone right in the face.

Not one of us has a background in history! Well, it’s about time we address that issue by adding to the team.

Welcome Kaelyn Considine! Kaelyn is joining us as an Acquisitions Editor and is going to be focused on building out a killer catalog for us in 2019 and beyond. Kaelyn has worked as an archivist and finance maven and has a serious level of education in military and American history. Woe be unto the submission that tries to shortcut some tactics – Kaelyn will know! She has particular passions for American and Irish history, so bring a notebook if you intend to get her started on either topic.

Kaelyn is based in New York City where she spends her time reading, ranting about plot holes in movies, attempting to curse rival sports teams, and walking the city in a never-ending quest to try every slice of pizza NYC has to offer.

We’re incredibly lucky to have Kaelyn bringing her expertise, passion, and squad combat tactics to our team.

2017 Publisher’s Update


Good morning, Parvus People!

It has been an incredibly busy year for us and I’m happy to be able to pop the lid off of some things we’ve been keeping quite for a while now. But first, a bit about our development over the last 18 months…

I view the publisher-author-reader relationship as a sort of triad. As a publisher, we make a promise to our authors to give their book the best we can in terms of editing, design, and promotion. At the same time, we make a promise to our readers that they’re getting a book they can trust with their rainy days, the relaxation time they have after the kids have surrendered to sleep, or their afternoon under an umbrella on the beach. Accordingly, we have been very careful in how we grow Parvus to avoid getting out over our skis or taking on more projects that we can reasonably handle. We want to be sure we can stand behind each promise, each book, that we put our badge on.

This plan brought you Scott Warren’s action-packed military SF hit VICK’S VULTURES last year. This Fall, we’re bringing you the sequel, TO FALL AMONG VULTURES, and you’re going to go nuts when you read it. I was already a fan of Scott’s writing from the first minutes I had with Vick’s last year but the story of the Vultures and of the universe Scott’s built in his Union Earth Privateers series grows by leaps and bounds in the follow-up. I can’t wait to hear what you think. TFAV will hit shelves on October 3 and should be available for pre-order next week, so keep an eye on our mailing list for updates.

We’ll also be introducing you, this October, to Mareth Griffith and her hidden world contemporary fantasy COURT OF TWILIGHT. Set in modern Dublin, Court explores themes of family and obligation while unwinding a centuries-old mystery involving murder, magic, and the fate of an entire people that you never knew were living right under your nose. It’s a wonderful story that unfolds to gradually pull you deeper into a hidden Dublin. And it just happens to be written by one of the most interesting women I’ve ever met. Mareth is a modern day adventurer, having traveled the world and lived rough in some of this planet’s most remote wilderness. Ask her to show you her bear pictures some time. She spends more time around bears than her editorial deadlines are quite comfortable with. You can get your hands on Court on October 17th; unless you’re a subscriber to our email list (Which, of course, you are). Subscribers got a download link in their inboxes this morning and can read it right away!

And today’s biggest announcement is regarding our upcoming Steampunk/First Contact/Fantasy/Space Opera gem FLOTSAM by R J Theodore. This difficult-to-define debut novel is one of the best new series I’ve read in years. It also happens to be the third book we’ve published with a strong female lead; so it’s starting to look like a pattern for us. If you like adventure, you’ll love this book. If you like airships, you’ll love this book. If you like a scrappy team of folks living on the fringe and just trying to get by but damnit they just keep getting pulled in to save the universe, yeah. You’ll love this book. And we loved it so much that we asked Mary Robinette Kowal (of Mary Robinette Kowal fame) to narrate it; and she said yes. So FLOTSAM will be coming to your earballs in January, via one of the most talented audiobook narrators around. If you want a chance to read the book early, I’d recommend subscribing to our email list.

We’ve also got a throwback quest-adventure novel coming to you next spring care of the incredibly talented James Falstrom, but you’ll have to wait just a bit longer for details there. I’m not going to mention again that our mailing list is the best way to stay informed, though it is. And we only send out emails when it’s important or we want to give you free books. So, here’s that link one last time: Sign up today!

Okay, I’ve taken enough of your time. Thank you all for being Parvus readers and for supporting us in this venture. It has been a wonderful year for all of us. The wellspring of support for independent publishing has been humbling. As always, you can feel free to reach out to me directly via email (colin@parvuspress.com) or engage with us on Twitter (twitter.com/ParvusPress). Reader engagement helps make our books better and makes it easier for us to fulfill our promise to you; delivering books you love.

On behalf of all of us at Parvus, thank you,

– Colin

 

The First Fifty Pages – Science Fiction Edition Part 1


Logo for "The First Fifty Pages" blog post series

Greetings and salutations. With our first book, the amazing Vick’s Vultures coming out on October 4th (pre-order now at Amazon) I thought it might be useful to take a look at another batch of the “First Fifty”, this time pulled from some excellent Science Fiction books. As a reminder, the first two installments in our series can be found below:

The First Fifty Pages

The First Fifty Pages – Case Studies

 

Neither of these posts is required reading to understand what I’ve put together here, but they will definitely provide some context to help you get more out of this. And now, on with the show!

 

Old Man’s War – by John Scalzi

Let’s dive right in, with Old Man’s War.

  • Character Development
    • We meet John Perry on a day that he knows his life is going to change.
    • We follow John, one character, through several different chapters and several different locals. We see “supporting” characters come and go as they are needed, but it’s pretty clear pretty quick that this is not an ensemble piece. John Perry is our guy (the titular “Old Man”, if you will)
    • We’re clearly in for a first person narrative, and as such we get all kinds of sardonic and witty asides. Examples:
      • This attempt at marginally sarcastic humor went ignored and unappreciated, which has been par for the course in the last few years; good to see I had not lost my form”
      • “I had the strong urge to crack open a window and hurl Leon out of it. Alas, there was no window to crack;”

Scalzi uses a numbers of useful tools here in developing John Perry as a character. He gives his protagonist a dead wife to mourn, a son to come to peace with, and an adventure to go on (which unlike so many fantasy stories, he doesn’t get dragged into, or stumble into. God save me from upjumped farmboys…). Scalzi also uses a neato shortcut that I did not see at first read. It comes in the character of Leon, the racist bigot with whom John shares a ride on the Beanstalk. You want to build some quickie bonding between the reader and the protagonst? Create a throwaway character, make him an asshole and give him all the negative traits you can think of, and then have your protagonist hate that person.

  • World Building
    • We’re on Earth, with humans, in the future.
    • Earth is isolated from the universe at large, but we know that universe exists and that it’s not full of warm hugs
    • Regardless of how far in the future we actually are, we don’t see anything on Earth that we don’t recognize. The Earth of the future is much like the Earth of today.
      • This sets up the huge technology gap between Earth and the Colonial Union when we see the Beanstalk.
        • And just in case we missed this point, it is then explicitly shoved in our face

There’s a lot of good stuff to touch on re: World Building and Old Man’s War. My favorite bit is a throwaway segment early in the book, when Perry is sitting in the recruitment station on Earth. It’s this nice allusion to something called “The Crimp”, which was some kind of off-planet illness that caused one in three human men to lose their fertility and is ostensibly the reason for the planetary quarantine.

What’s great about this little story is that it feels so real. It’s a small detail given in an almost off-hand way that really makes it feel like there’s a whole world here. Scalzi only devotes a single paragraph to this, but it exposes us to all kinds of information. It shows that the governments of Earth are not in charge here, makes the universe seem a little more hostile, and gives us yet another opportunity to get inside John Perry’s head.

Also worthy of special mention is the conversation within the Beanstalk between John, Harry and Jesse. When you throw a bunch of people together at what they all know is the beginning of a journey into the unknown, they can talk about their situation in a very natural way. This allows them to share what they know (or suspect) with another without taking a big, steaming pile of exposition.

  • Voice and Story
    • As mentioned before, this is clearly one man’s story. The narrative never wavers from John Perry for a second, and the first person past-sense point of view lets us know that we’ll be riding around in Perry’s head for the duration.
    • We’re in for an outer-space adventure. We’re going to see the universe, meet fascinating creatures, and kill them.
      • Heck, the main “plot” doesn’t really begin until the Battle of Coral, 194 pages into a 311 page book. This is a book that is all about voice, character, and world-building.

 

Live Free or Die – by John Ringo

Man, I like this book. I grabbed this one to read on the plane when heading off to my honeymoon, and by the time I’d landed all I wanted to do was figure out if there was a Barnes and Noble in Maui. This was one of the first books I picked up in both print and on the iPad, so I could read it whenever. This book is all about world building, and I love me some world building. So what do we get in the first 50 pages???

  • Character Development
    • There’s… not a ton. We go through about half a dozen viewpoint characters in the first 50 pages. This is clearly not going to be one man’s story. We have characters who pop up, get fleshed in just a little, move the plot forward and then go away. I will grant that a decent number of those occur in the prologue, but so much happens in the prologue that you can’t just ignore it.
    • We get into the main viewpoint character in chapter 1, after 20 pages or so of really good prologue and we learn a couple of things that are going to make us sympathetic towards him:
      • He’s divorced but not bitter about it
      • He’s a hard worker (we see him at 3 different “jobs”)
      • He’s clever, ambitious, and far-sighted
  • World Building
    • We start at the start. The first day of this book could be today or tomorrow. That first day is a branching off point from Earth as we know it to one where aliens have dragged a gateway ring into space.
    • We see humans go from being fascinated by the ring to being enslaved by beings that issued forth from it. We’re told about the fallout that comes from the Earth having to surrender all of its platinum-group metals. We see the Glatun shrug and say “sorry, not our problem”, which hints at the kind of bureaucratic malaise in which they exist.
    • We go through the first exposure of the Glatun to Maple Syrup, which sets up the rest of the first arc of the story.

I had a problem analyzing the world building done in the first 50 pages of this book, because it doesn’t stop at page 50. Not even close. What’s fun about this is that the world building is our world, as it changes under the influence/introduction of alien technologies and human ingenuity in adapting those technologies. We learn more about the universe at large as well, but that is constantly changing throughout this story too, as we go from a period of galactic stability to one of conflict and war.

Part of this I know from having read a bunch of other stuff about this book, and the webcomic (www.schlockmercenary.com) to which it gives a healthy nod (something Ringo does in a lot of his books). It’s pretty clear that the author set out to tell a story about a set of events, not a story about a guy. I love the main character that he sets up, but frankly it could be someone with a complete different personality and the story would be more or less the same. This is not a criticism, merely an acknowledgement that some stories are not just us looking over a guy’s shoulder for 300 pages. In this way, Old Man’s War and Live Free or Die are polar opposites.

  • Story and Voice
    • Story and world-building are completely tied together in the first 50 pages. This is because we’re not in a strange land. We’re on Earth… we don’t need to be exposed to weird stuff we don’t already understand. All of the world-building we get in the first 50 drives the story forward.
    • For voice on the other hand… we get a lot. The first half of the first page tells you all you need to know. Together now
      • “It is said that in science the greatest changes come about when some researcher says “Hmmmm. That’s odd.” The same can be said for relationships: “That’s not my shade of lipstick…” –warefare: “That’s an odd dust Cloud…” Etc. But in this case, the subject is science. And relationships. And warfare. And things that are just ginormously huge and hard to grasp because space is like that”

This has a very Douglas Adams feel to it, doesn’t it? Anyone who uses the word “ginormously” as the 56th word of their novel is telling you something. And that something is: “Hey. How’s it going. Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you some hot coco? We’re gonna go on a fun romp together, you and I. Just sit back and enjoy, I got it from here.”

Bonus fact, the very best line in all of literature comes from Douglas Adams in the opening pages of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t”. If you’ve never read the Hitchhiker’s Guide, Don’t Panic. Just be a cool frood, grab your towel, and share this post on Facebook. We’ll select one of you to receive a Kindle edition of the book.

 

To Be Continued…

Later this week, I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the first 50 pages of Vick’s Vultures. I’m going to attempt to share with you the elements that jumped out at me, and made me want to publish the book. It’ll contain minor spoilers, and you may wish to wait to read the blog until you’ve read the book itself.

The First Fifty Pages – A Walkthrough


Logo for "The First Fifty Pages" blog post series

Hi Parvuteers! Last week we talked about how important the first fifty pages of your book are to me both as a reader and as a publisher. I thought it might be a useful exercise to look at a couple of well-known books and see where they are at page 50. For the purposes of this exercise I’m mostly grabbing paperbacks. The whole “page 50” notion is supposed to be more directional than literal, but since it offers a nice, definitive spot it’ll be a good point for discussion.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
I’m pretty sure this was the first Hugo/Nebula winner I ever read, and to say that it’s had a huge impact on my tastes would be putting it mildly. Let’s just say that from where I’m sitting, I can see the original version of Analog magazine where Ender’s Game first appeared as a short story on page 100.

I’m going to assume that if you’re bothering to read this, you’ve read Ender’s Game. If that’s not true, follow us and Twitter and Facebook and tweet us (@parvuspress) with the hastag #thereisahugegapinmyscificollection. I will send the first two people to actually do this a fresh copy of Ender’s Game straight from Amazon (not any of my many signed copies, you vultures).

Let’s take a look at all of the goodies crammed into the first 50 pages. I’m going to bullet this cause there’s so MUCH going on.

  • Character Development
    • Ender wants to be a normal kid, but he’s not. He’s a Third.
    • Ender fights with his mind in the most coldly calculating manner imaginable
    • Peter is an ambitious sociopath, and Valentine is the peacemaker
  • World Building
    • We’re on earth, with humans, in a near-future scenario
    • Earth has been attacked by Aliens, twice, and almost lost both rounds
    • The government monitors all children and recruits those with military talent to a special school in space. It also controls how many children a family can have
  • “Voice” and Story
    • Each chapter starts with transcripts, underpinning the idea that the government/military is watching everything and everyone.
    • We’re going on a “coming of age” kind of journey. It’s not a revenge tale, or a conspiracy story, or a planet-hopping space epic.
    • Ender leaves home, rides a spaceship, and arrives in Battle School

I had to restrain myself from penning a 10,000 word dissertation on what makes Ender’s Game so good, but it should be clear that there’s a lot we can all learn from how Mr. Card opened this novel. I will also point out that after 50 pages Ender has put a kid in the hospital, opined on how he wished here were a real boy, and traveled to/arrived at Battle School. There’s a ton of plot going on in addition to all of this other character and world building stuff.

Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson
Before he was “that guy who finished the Wheel of Time”, he was that guy whose sophomore work Mistborn had a pull quote from Romantic Times Book Reviews on the back cover. Seriously, they called it “an exceedingly satisfying book”. Anywho, Sanderson is well-known for his deep world building, engaging characters, and zany magic systems. He knocks all three out of the park in the first 50 (note that the first 50 includes the prologue cause, y’know… you read that too).

  • Character Development
    • Kelsier is a snarky, sardonic badass  who is laser focused on his own goal and he doesn’t so much care about the price he and others pay for it. It’s not that he’s heartless, but he recognizes that his real enemy is the status quo.
    • Vin begins the novel as a timid street rat with trust issues who thinks she needs to be part of a group to survive
  • World Building
    • We have a class-based society with corrupt nobles and an oppressed but superstitious working and serf class
    • Magic exists, and some special people can use it.
      • Also, there are “inquisitors” who walk around with spikes in their eyes!
    • There’s an active seedy underbelly to this city
  • “Voice” and Story
    • We don’t get deep into the main plot, but we get an appetizer by watching the first “crew” of criminals scam another crew and pull a fast one on the government. This is essentially a microcosm of the larger story we’re about to get.  It helps us understand that there’s going to be a lot of moving parts working together
    • You’ve got that Sanderson style of writing interactions between good friends. In addition to being a key part of his voice (he does it well in everything) it also helps us understand that this is not a lone-wolf story. Kelsier is not a “man apart”, but rather the respected leader of a team.

Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
Ah yes, the first book in the Dresden Files. No one has ever accused Jim Butcher of not being able to build a compelling world or write interesting characters, and the first 50 pages of this series sets up some relationships and character traits that have persisted through 15 books and counting. Go back and re-read these particular first 50 pages and see how much he crams in.

  • Character Development
    • We meet, and love, Harry Dresden. He’s a grumpy professional wizard working in modern day Chicago. Not afraid to stand up to folk and things who are… “bigger” than him.

Seriously, check out this amazingly crafted paragraph:
“Cujo growled at me in the rearview mirror again and I beamed at him. Smiling always seems to annoy people more than actually insulting them. Or maybe I just have an annoying smile”

Let’s unpack it:

    • Harry gives the bad guy’s henchman a silly nickname. This gives you great insight into his personality
    • Harry goes out of his way to antagonize the guy without actually picking a fight
    • Harry acknowledges that maybe he’s just annoying
    • We meet and get to take the measure of John Marcone. Yes, Butcher uses a shortcut here with a kind of soulgaze that allows him to exposit on Marcone’s character but in that same interaction we also get to see him act in such a way that bears out the exposition. He’ll be doing a lot more of that later in the series.
    • And of course, we meet Harry’s on again, off again, off some more, maybe on, back off, off for realsies, maybe on, someone dies now, on again paramour Karin Murphy. Butcher uses tropes and our pre-conceptions about hard-bitten detective types to give us some initial introduction, and then proceeds to do his own thing.
  • World Building
    • We’re in the “real” world
    • Some kind of magic exists and there are many practitioners  of it
    • There are references to several different kinds of magic, as well as the world of Faerie
    • We’re in for an urban setting
  • “Voice” and Story
    • It’s a detective novel
    • This thing is going to be told in first person, and it’s going to be by a sardonic, smart-ass with a mental smirk.
    • In 50 pages we investigate a murder, go for a ride with a crime kingpin, and take a case with the stereotypical damsel in distress. Not bad for a day’s work!

Each of these three books delivers a lot in the first 50 pages. Yours may not be quite as action packed, but make sure that you’re giving the reader enough to form some meaningful judgments about the rest of the work. If you can nail your first 50, you’ll have your hooks into the reader (and your publisher…) and they will eagerly follow your characters through the rest of the journey.