These Books Are Partially My Fault

And I mean that in the best way possible. Marko Kloos, the author, was a student of mine at Viable Paradise a few years ago, and among other things I did there, I critiqued part of what would become Terms of Enlistment. Marko finished it up and released it first as a self-pubbed book and then through 47 North, which also picked up the sequel, Lines of Departure. I believe a third book is on the way, too.

Can’t tell you how cool it is when someone you taught goes on and publishes. I taught three years at VP and a year at Clarion, and each of those classes were filled with writers who were smart as hell and genuinely fine wordsmiths. Several have gone on to publish — and I’m absolutely delighted each time it happens. One cannot take too much credit for other people’s work (and besides there were several other very excellent instructors both at VP and Clarion), but one can still feel pride in their accomplishments.

(I also feel proud when people who I gave their first pro sales to go on to do fantastically, like Rachel Swirsky and Ann Leckie. They would have done well without me opening that door, of course. But I still opened that door, and am glad to have been able to do so.)

Marko and all the other alumni I had the honor of teaching at VP and Clarion are one reason I don’t worry too much about the future of science fiction and fantasy. Smart and talented people continue to come in the field. They write excellent work. It sells and gets talked about. And the process continues. As a reader and a fan of the genre, that makes me very happy.

Incidentally, this is an excellent place for me to you let you know that both Viable Paradise and Clarion are accepting applications for students for this year. Clarion is excellent if you have six weeks to devote to workshopping; VP is where you want to go if you can spare a week. Both are wholly worth your time. Click on those links to go to the Web page of each.

31 Comments on “These Books Are Partially My Fault”

  1. Just so you know, John, your critique was the one that made me feel that publication of what I’m working on is possible. So, thank you for that. :D

  2. “One cannot take too much credit for other people’s work” = “You can’t put too much water in a nuclear reactor.” :)

  3. I’m lucky enough to know that guy in real life. I enjoyed the first book very much on Kindle, as well as both short stories set in the same universe. Looking forward to devouring the next one, this afternoon. I can’t speak for anyone else, but people who read and enjoy Scalzi’s books, will also enjoy Marko’s. I know I put them both in a sparsely populated category of “buy and read, immediately” by default, now, along with James S.A Corey, Pat Rothfuss and Richard K. Morgan.

  4. WhoReallyCares:

    “a self pub that worked out?”

    Indeed. And of course I will note that I self-pubbed Old Man’s War here on Whatever before it was traditionally published. It’s possible!

  5. I think there’s a mistyped sentence here. Could you please say what you mean by “I also feel proud when people who gave their first pro sales go on to do fantastically…”?

    Very cool!

  6. Funny coincidence. I didn’t know about your involvement in promoting the books, but last week my Kindle recommended “Terms of Enlistment” to me (because of the proximity to OMW and Haldeman’s “The Forever War”) and I’m really enjoying it. I will say, it initially felt so similar in style to those books that for the first fifty or so pages, I was having “déjà lu”.

  7. I read Terms of Enlistment on Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library. I enjoyed it and I’m glad to hear Kloos has sequels.

    But I’m curious, how does the Lending Library compensate the authors? Does it give them a one time check to include their work in the library, or is it a pay per download? Or does the author participate pro bono?

  8. Michael R. Johnston – Sacramento, CA – Father of an eighth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-nine years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
    Michael Johnston

    I was a student at Viable Paradise 17, just last year. I highly recommend it for anyone who aspires to write professionally. I’m still working towards publication, but the atmosphere, instructors, and classmates at Viable Paradise were incredibly helpful to my craft.

    Anyone who wants more information on VP should feel free to email me directly at johnstonmr AT gmail DOT com.

  9. Just read Marko’s sequel to TOE, Lines of Departure. Enjoyed them both and can’t wait for the Grand Finale! When I read TOE I was impressed by the polish of the book; now I know why.

  10. This reminds me that I learned about Viable Paradise from your blog. I attended Viable Paradise 17 last year and it was one of the best things that could have happened to me as a writer – which means as a human, too, since being a writer is part of who I am. (And man, does attending something like VP make accepting that so much easier!)

    So, a belated thank you, John, for introducing me to Viable Paradise!

  11. Amstrad

    RE: KOLL (Kindle Owner’s Lending Library). Authors are paid basically a share of a fund created by Amazon for enrollment. Basically it’s a subscription receipts royalty, except without any direct correlation to paying subscribers (money is probably drawn from Kindle device sales and Prime subscriptions). Amazon sets aside a lump sum, and authors enrolled in KDP Select (which places the book in KOLL, among other programs) get a pro-rata share of the monthly lump sum based upon how many times their book was borrowed (in January the lump sum was $1.2 Million). I also think it’s a situation where the author receives either the greater of the pro-rata payout, or their base download royalty. So don’t feel guilty about using KOLL, the authors are getting paid, usually at the expense of Amazon investors. : )

  12. Aibird – Open the door, step inside. Here you find a forest, teeming with animals and birds, which sweeps up the sides of snow-capped mountains. Here in the small pocket of beauty, one finds the essence of my soul. A writer at heart, I delve deep into the finer details of humanity's spirit, and seek to share with others what gems I uncover. I find life exciting and full of interesting surprises, and despite the great pain that often confronts me, I persevere with the joy in my heart still bubbling, and the light of my soul still aflame. There is a time and a place to introspect one's self, but often enough it is best to not look back in regret, but leap forward in the present toward the achievement of one's deepest dreams. I am a wanderer. An explorer. One place cannot contain me for long, but to my friends and family, I remain loyal, for love is not bound by time nor place. Once cultivated and nourished continuously, it binds people together on a journey through the unknown reaches of life.
    Aibird

    Heavens, the price tags on these conferences are tremendous. If you add in the price of the conference and application fee plus the ridiculously high rates on the hotels, this ends up being 2,185 dollars. I’m lucky if I make that much in two months! The Clarion looks like it has a scholarship, but the Viable one — I’m not finding anything about a scholarship. As much as I’d love to attend one of these some day, I just don’t get paid enough to save up for this — I barely get paid enough for food and shelter. I’ve been writing and trying to get published for a good twelve years, but all these fancy conventions and writing workshops are just out of the price range for someone poor like me. Any advice?

  13. Aibird – Open the door, step inside. Here you find a forest, teeming with animals and birds, which sweeps up the sides of snow-capped mountains. Here in the small pocket of beauty, one finds the essence of my soul. A writer at heart, I delve deep into the finer details of humanity's spirit, and seek to share with others what gems I uncover. I find life exciting and full of interesting surprises, and despite the great pain that often confronts me, I persevere with the joy in my heart still bubbling, and the light of my soul still aflame. There is a time and a place to introspect one's self, but often enough it is best to not look back in regret, but leap forward in the present toward the achievement of one's deepest dreams. I am a wanderer. An explorer. One place cannot contain me for long, but to my friends and family, I remain loyal, for love is not bound by time nor place. Once cultivated and nourished continuously, it binds people together on a journey through the unknown reaches of life.
    Aibird

    Correction, 2,185 dollars for the Viable one. The other — Clarion is 4,957 dollars, and their scholarships range from $500 to $1500, not enough to help cover much of the expenses. What a pipe dream.

  14. I read his book Terms of Enlistment before John had mentioned it here on my kindle, and it is an excellent read! I am really looking forward to reading his next one!

  15. @Airbird Keep writing, get a few online friends to beta, and keep submitting. If something doesn’t sell, consider picking a nom de plume (or use your own name) and self-publishing. (If it’s on your hard drive, it garners nothing. If it’s on Amazon and/or Smashwords, it has the potential for an occasional sale.)

    Another thing to consider with these courses is if they would work with your process! (In my case, I have a feeling Clarion and Viable Paradise would totally work against my process and make me unable to write at all for a while. However, I’ve self-pubished a few books and so far my core duology has netted the lion’s share of what would be a pretty decent advance from a publisher, and they’re still selling decently enough for a self-publisher.)

    There are many paths to success. Most of them involve plugging along and being alert for when there might be a stroke of luck. And on that note, I thank Mr. Scalzi most gratefully for allowing the self-promotion thread before Christmas. December was quite good to me this year and I think that’s why. (Also, I thank anyone who picked up a copy! You’re all great. :)

  16. E.D. Walker – California – E.D. Walker (a.k.a. Beth Matthews) is a Southern California girl, born and raised. She’s a total geek, a movie buff, and a mediocre swing dancer. She lives in sunny SoCal with her husband and two of the neediest housecats on the planet.
    bethmatthewsbooks

    “Incidentally, this is an excellent place for me to you let you know that both Viable Paradise and Clarion are accepting applications for students for this year….Both are wholly worth your time.”

    As (yet another) member of the most recent VP graduating class I can attest this is 100000.000% true. :)

  17. As a mildly absurd exercise in sampling new stuff and learning about unfamiliar writers, I’ve been spending a few days every month trying every available Amazon preview linked in SFSignal’s galleries of new SF/F/H and picking a few to call out on my web site.

    In January, I chose Marko Kloos’s Lines of Departure as one of 7 out of maybe 140-170 book previews to highlight. I liked what I read of the first book too, but the sequel happened to be the one with the starting point that really grabbed my attention. I’m guessing it’s all spoilers for the first book, but it lays out an overall situation I remember pretty vividly still. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll read it, but it just arrived on Saturday!

  18. BONUS REVELATION: The audiobooks of Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure are read by Luke Daniels, who also narrated the Iron Druid books.

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

  19. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    changterhune

    I was part of your first VP class (VPXII: THE DIRTY DOZEN!!!). I know Marko from there and we’ve become good friends. The insights you and the other instructors gave us were profound at the very least. They may not have been welcome at the time but they were right.

    I’m not talking out of school when I say that there was buzzz about Marko’s book back then. And it was justified. TOE is a great SF book and a really great military SF book.

    Then when I read LOD I realized he took his game and upped it to an infinitely higher level. I’m not kidding when I say he’s written a classic SF novel and a classic military SF novel along the lines of Old Man’s War, The Forever War and Starship Troopers.

    Avoid it at your own peril. Read it and blow your own mind.

  20. I read both of these books this weekend. They are quick and engaging reads. I recommend them to anyone that likes space opera.

  21. Regarding the costs of Viable Paradise: people tend to share rooms as the Inn is really a set of small apartments and townhouses. 3 to 4 people sharing a room was pretty typical. The tuition includes a delicious meal a day (usually dinner) and there are kitchens in the rooms so you can make your own food the rest of the time. This may not make a difference as to whether it’s affordable to everyone, but for some folks it might tip it, so I wanted to provide some more data for people trying to estimate costs.

  22. I read Old Man’s War, Terms of Enlistment, The Forever War, and Starship Troopers back to back. Never go to boot camp, was my takeaway. It does not seem to end up well for anybody but the main character.

  23. So I finished Terms of Enlistment today, after hearing about it in this post.

    I didn’t read any of the back text or anything, and so maybe it would’ve led me to expect where it went… but I’m just as happy I didn’t. The book was well paced, showing us just enough of everything to get us interested (I imagine the Marines are shown more in Lines?) and relatively informed about the world. The technology part was handled well, enough detail to be interesting, enough space to not get me thinking too much about possible coincidences.

    All in all, one of my favorite sci-fi books of the past few years. Looking forward to Lines for sure.

  24. Hooray for something new to read! Terms hits the spot dead on. Just the right amount of detail and the pace keeps you moving. Just ordered the second book the series.

  25. I would love to attend one of these workshops, but the price is over 2/3 of my monthly income, Which means I wouldn’t be able to have rent and food.

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