Sep 212016
 

ww57How’s that for a post title?  Beginnings and Endings… sounds like I’m talking about writing, doesn’t it?

Well, not exactly.  At least, not the way you’re probably thinking.  I’m talking about writing-related activities, but not the actual act of writing.  (Yeah, that clears things up, doesn’t it?)

Okay, I’ll start with the “beginnings” part.  I’m going to begin a new habit.  Or rather, I’m going to resume an old habit that I swore off back in 2011.  I’m talking about reviewing other author’s works.  For those of you who don’t know, I haven’t reviewed a book in five years.  It’s the result of my having critiqued some fellow author’s books as peer critiques, but posting them as book reviews.

For those who don’t know the difference, a peer critique is a very blunt, and usually critical, synopsis of weak points that one finds in a story, whether they be spelling, grammar, plot points, characterization, or whatever else.  They are often (or they used to be) exchanged between writers during the development of a story, during critique gatherings or writers’ group meetings.  I used to be a member of several such groups, both online and in real life, and got used to that style of criticism.  It was a valued tool that we used to hone our craft.

However, they were NOT presented to the general public, and certainly not as a review after publication.  No, a book review is another animal altogether.  Think of it like this… a tough critique is the doctor warning you that there may be some complications with your upcoming procedure.  A bad review is someone telling you that your newborn looks like a monkey, and smells like it’s been flinging its own poo.   :footmouth:

I made the mistake of posting some reviews that were more critique than review, and in doing so, ended up insulting some people who didn’t deserve it.  I was a rookie in the business, and it was a rookie mistake.

Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also those who view authors giving favorable reviews to other author’s works as cow-towing in an attempt to curry favor with one another, or simply trading good reviews in order to boost sales.  Either way, the reviewing author was sometimes caught in a no-win situation.  So, rather than worry about what I should and shouldn’t say, I simply stopped reviewing books completely.  As a matter of fact, the last review I did was a review of Fiends, a collection of stories by Paul Cooley.  I wrote that review five years ago, in July of 2011.

But lately, I’ve come to realize that I’m short-changing some of my fellow writers. Some of their works really deserve to get some attention.  Some of their work is really good.  For instance, there’s a book I’m reading right now, that really deserves a good review.  And in thinking back, this same author wrote another book that I read a few years ago, and that book was also really good.  He deserves to know it.

I read quite a bit, and most of it is either indie published, or one of a few select traditionally published authors.  Why?  Back in the day, I could spend hours at a time in bookstores, exploring various books, thumbing through them to see what looked interesting.  I would stack four or five at a time, often more than that, and buy them because they looked like they might be worth the time investment.  Of course, the books were four or five dollars at that time.

At today’s prices, I can’t afford to just buy any trad-pub book that looks like it might be interesting. If I don’t already know the author is fantastic, and writes stories I’ll like, I can’t afford to take the chance.  For that matter, there are some authors who I know are fantastic, and I still can’t afford to buy their works unless I find them in a used bookstore.  Jim Butcher is a prime example.  I really like his Dresden books.  Unfortunately, I can’t afford them.  The Big 5 publishing houses have priced themselves out of my wallet’s reach.

But good indie authors who cut out the middleman (because that’s what the Big 5 have become), are selling books at prices I can afford.  Many have discovered that putting a book out for free is a good way to get their foot in the door, introducing their work to new buyers, much like the stereotypical drug pusher who lets you have the first sample for free.   ;-)    Now admittedly, some indies are pretty dreadful.  But many others are good… every bit as good as the mid-list authors that are traditionally pubbed.  Better yet, there are some who are every bit as good as some of the best Big 5 stuff that’s out there, and I’m coming to realize that they deserve to be recognized.

So I’m going to start reviewing some of the better books I’m reading.  I may even go back and review some of the books I’ve read in the past, if they stick out in my mind… books that have made such an impression that I want to let the world know how much I like them.

And that’s the “beginnings” part.

As for the “endings”, that’s a real bit of good news.  Things have fallen into place for Year 12, and I hope to be finished with the first draft within the week.  I have several beta readers lined up, am on the schedule for my cover designer and formatter, and I happened to call at just the right time for my editor of choice.  It turns out that they had just had a cancellation, and I was able to fill that slot.  Good news for me, though my beta readers might not agree.  It means that, while I thought I would be able to give them a month to do the beta read, it now turns out that it will be more like two and a half weeks.   :struggle:  But that’s the way of things in this biz.  I’d rather get it out sooner than later.

I also got word from the publisher for Chucklers.  It seems there was a misunderstanding on the editing.  They didn’t realize I had already turned in the last round of edits a month ago, and thought they were still waiting on me.  That’s both good news and bad.  It’s good because it means the book should now be in the final stages of being published.  It’s bad because we lost a month, and it might have already been out, if not for that lost time.

Like I said though, that’s the way of things.  I think we’ve got everything straightened out now, and it actually looks like I’ll have three titles out before the end of the year now.  I’ve got Chucklers (the apocalyptic horror novel being published by Severed Press), Year 12 (sequel to Half Past Midnight), and The Burning Land (the short story previously published in the “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” anthology).

So here’s my little plug… if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, please consider doing so now. It’s the easiest way for me to keep people informed about when I have new titles coming out.  I’ll never give your contact information away or sell it, and I ONLY send out a news blast when I have a new title coming out.

And that’s it. I still have a lot of writing to do, so stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

 

 

 

Dec 022015
 

The new homesteadEach day on Facebook I get a reminder and a link to a set of posts that I made or participated in on the anniversary of the date.  Today’s reminders contained a link that started this reflective mood.  One year ago today is when I first posted about having turned in my notice at a job I had held for seventeen years.  I wrote about it on this blog in the post titled “Rebooting My Life“.

Reading back on that post made me reflect on all the things that led up to that decision.  More than that, it made me look back on the year that has passed since then.  Needless to say, not everything in the last year has worked out the way I expected it to.  Some of it has worked out better, some worse.  Of course, I suppose that’s pretty much the way life is.  No complaints.  I’ve got a good home, good life, and a wonderful wife to share it with.

Sure, there are things that I wanted to accomplish in 2015 that didn’t pan out the way I planned.  There’s the book that I spent the first several months of the year writing.  Chucklers now languishes unpublished in the virtual drawer awaiting a fresh perspective and rewrites.  My second writing project of the year is Year 12, the sequel to Half Past Midnight.  If things had gone according to plan, it would already be published.  But it’s also still unfinished.  In fact, the only thing that I’ve managed to publish this year is a horror novella that I wrote in 2014.  It sold well for Halloween, but now is barely moving.

Then there’s my gardening.  I had high hopes that I was going to be able to help cut costs on our groceries by bringing in all sorts of fruits and veggies.  Instead, between the bad growing season we had this year, and the money I spent on getting good soil into the garden, I think I probably managed to cost us a couple of hundred dollars more than what we would have spent just buying the groceries.

But here’s the thing… I learned what to do next year.  I learned where I messed up by planting too early, and so stunting some of my veggies.  I learned that the huge garden I have is simply too big for me to handle.  So I’ll be scaling it back for next year, and I’ll hold off on planting for next year until late April or early May.

And for my writing, I should be set up pretty well for the next year.  My plan for Chucklers is to clear up the confusing timeline issues by splitting it into two different books.  And the first draft of Y12 should (hopefully) be finished by the end of this year, setting it up for publication next year as well.  If all that goes according to plan, I could have three new books published by this time next year.

But not if I don’t get my phatass back to work.  So enough reflection for now.  Be careful everyone, and stay safe.   :bye:

Oct 142015
 

Critter notes –

Last week I mentioned some of the furry critters we’re learning to share space with.  Some are harmless, like the rabbits, deer, and armadillos.  Others are nuisances, like the opossum from the other night, or the moles that dig in the yard.  And of course, some are downright nasty.  Just ask Bella and Cricket about that skunk.   :pain:

Brown Orb WeaverSomething else that we’ve noticed lately though, doesn’t exactly fall into the furry critter category.  There are some BIG spiders here that seem to be relatively common.  Now, we’re used to the little grass spiders, wolf spiders, etc, that are common in the Houston area, but these suckers are huge by comparison.  I’m pretty sure that they’re Brown Orb Spiders, but since I’m no expert, I could be wrong.  This not-so-little beauty keeps weaving its web just to the side of our front entrance.  I’ve knocked the web down when it gets too close to the walkway, since MBH is considerably less tolerant of our eight-legged neighbors, but he keeps building back up in the same general area.  I generally don’t have much of a problem with them, and I’ve noticed them all around the neighborhood, so I guess they’re simply more common here.

Cricket has a couple of hot spots on her back, and she’s chewed strips into her fur with all the gnawing.  I looked online, and found that a vet recommends treating it with diluted povidone iodine.  So I made the diluted solution, took her on the back patio, and swabbed the affected areas.  (I’m supposed to do this twice a day until the spots clear up.)

Coming back inside though, I saw this little guy on the left. Black Widow-01 And while I don’t mind sharing space with Orb Weavers, a Black Widow is another thing altogether.  First came the bug spray. Black Widow-02 That was quickly followed by my size twelve spider stomper.  I might not mind spiders, but I’m no saint, either.   :shock:  I have several friends who usually mention spiders and flamethrowers in the same breath.  Black Widows are enough to make me think they just might be right.

So, on to writing notes…

Giveaway notes –

Last weekend was the big giveaway.  Okay, maybe not all that big, but it was a giveaway.  Friend and reviewer, Carol Conley from the “I’m a Voracious Reader” book review blog, contacted me a few weeks ago to let me know she had read Ghost Story, and wanted to know if I would consider running some free days to coincide with the release of her review.  Now, I generally don’t like doing free days, since my experience with them has been mostly negative in the last couple of years.  They worked really well for me back in the early days of Amazon’s KDP Select program, and I’ll never forget that first nail-biter when I put HPM up for free shortly after it released.  In a single day, I gave away more than 11k copies of Half Past Midnight.  That giveaway, and the reviews it sparked, shot followup sales through the roof for the better part of the following year.

For a new author, just getting his feet wet in the world of indie publishing, it was nothing short of miraculous!

Of course, shortly after that, Amazon changed their algorithm, as they so often seem to do.  The next time I ran a book for free, it didn’t do nearly as well, but wasn’t a total loss.  So I tried it again later.  The third time I did it was with the release of Streets of Payne.  This time, not only did I not get as big a response, I completely lost all momentum and sales actually went down.  When I checked into it, it seemed that moving from the Top 100 Sold, to the Top 100 Free was a sales killer.  Since “free” was not “sold”, SoP‘s sales rank dropped like a stone.  No visibility, no sales.  It was the exact opposite of the Ouroboros Effect I wrote about in an old post “In answer to Mike’s question…“, and this time instead of boosting my sales, it actually killed them.

So no, I don’t like doing free days any more.  But Carol is a friend, Ghost Story is just a novella, and it’s not like it was really selling all that well anyway.  So what did I really have to lose, right?   :-/   And while I was putting Ghost Story out there for free, why not also throw SoP out again?  It wasn’t selling either, so what could it hurt?

As it turned out, nothing.  It didn’t hurt, and there actually was a slight bump in sales afterwards.  Not huge, but a few extra sales is a few extra sales.  Yay team!   :-)

Year 12 notes

I have problems with what I call “transition scenes” when I’m writing.  I get scene “A” pretty clear in my mind, and I go after it, flying through it like there’s no tomorrow.  I can see in my mind where scene “B” is, and how it should run.  But the transition from “A” to “B” stumps me.  For whatever reason, I get hung up in the minutia of who says what to trigger what, and why did this do that, and… I get stuck.  I just got through one of these transitions yesterday, and I have to say, I get a little frustrated with myself.  I feel like I should be able to knock out three or four thousand words a day.  Instead, I’m lucky if I average over one thousand.

Yeah, I have problems.  But I’m progressing.  Not as quickly as I want, but I’m progressing.

Speaking of writing, I need to get back to doing just that.  So time to stop whining, and get back to work.  Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you later.   :bye:

Jul 152015
 

Mailchimp signupYay!  I got the visual editor for my website working again (mostly).

Just in time for Wednesday, too.  And I’ve got a lot going on with my writing since the last blog post. First and foremost, you will notice a new signup field on my site. If you’re reading this on the actual site, you will see it over there on the right. The header presently reads “Sign up for new release notifications”. If you’re getting this in a feedburner email, the signup form looks like the picture accompanying this post. At the moment, it’s not much to look at. Maybe I’ll be able to pretty it up later on, but for now, I thought it was more important to get it up and active.

Now that last sentence will likely get a “huh?” out of a lot of you. In other words, why the push to get the mailing list going?

Like I said, I have a lot going on with my writing now. And ironically, a lot of this is due to an inspirational roadblock I hit on Year 12. Without going into a lot of detail, I hit a brick wall with the plot on Y12… lost the flavor. There was a day of panic, hair pulling, and chest beating before I decided my time would be better spent moving on to another project. Not wanting to actually start a whole different book, I instead began a project that I’ve had percolating for quite some time. It will be the story of how the antagonist from Half Past Midnight managed to roll into Rejas at the head of a small army. The story should be another novella, similar in length to The Road to Rejas – possibly a bit shorter. I’ve tentatively titled it Crazy Larry.

Additionally, I have another project that I’ve been slowly working on. It’s going to be a short story collection, and it came about because there are a few particular stories that some of you have asked me to publish, but I’ve not felt right about. Not that I don’t think they’re good, it’s just that I don’t feel right charging a reader 99¢ for a short story that will only keep them occupied for a few minutes. Yet 99¢ is the least amount that epublishers will allow you to charge. And let’s face it, after paying for editors, cover work, and formatting, I at least need to recoup my expenses on the work, right?

But if I put them all into a collection together, along with some that very few people have ever seen before, then I have a single edit, one cover, and can sell it in good conscience, knowing that I’ve given the reader their money’s worth.

And since the story collection is a bit shorter than most of my work, I’ve decided to throw in the beginning of something else a lot of you have been asking for. I’m adding the first chapter for the Streets of Payne sequel (working title Payne and Suffering).

So if you want to receive announcements about these, or any other writing I do as it nears release, please sign up for the mailing list. I’m not going to spam you, or bother you with the day to day miscellany. I figure, if you really want to torture yourself with that stuff, you can just read my blog, right?

And that’s it for now. Back to writing.

Stay safe, folks.  :bye:

Apr 052015
 

So much for my vow to post a minimum of once a month. Shortly after I posted that vow, my father’s health took a turn for the worse. He passed away on February 25th. All I’ll say is that this is not the place to dwell on it.  I’m just glad I got the chance to get up here and spend at least a few months with him before he left us.

But this is my writing blog, so I’ll try to keep to it on subject. As the title says, Chucklers has been submitted to a small press. I won’t post any specific details yet, because I don’t know whether or not it will be accepted. There is a blind acquisition process where the manuscript will be stripped of any identifying information and will go before a group of editors who won’t know who wrote it, judging it based on the merits of the writing. I like that idea, but it also scares me. It’s the old fear that at some point, someone is going to read my stuff and figure out that I’m nothing but a hack. I think many, if not most writers go through the same feelings of self-doubt. I would imagine that any sort of craftsman or artist does. Or am I just that insecure? :-/

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve submitted to a small press. Until now, everything I’ve done has been indie. So I called to talk to them about the process in hopes of learning what to expect, and just as importantly, what to NOT expect. I already knew the basics. Assuming the manuscript is accepted, the publisher takes care of the editing, cover art and cover design, formatting for e-book and print, and the headaches of the actual publishing. That means I wouldn’t spend the money on outside services that I normally spend on my books. However, it also means that I surrender a significant amount of control over the process, as well as fifty percent of whatever money the book brings in. I also have to get over my nearly obsessive daily tracking of my sales numbers. What it really boils down to is that if they accept my work, they are agreeing to be an equal partner in the business venture that Chucklers represents. In short, they become an investor in the book. It will take some getting used to, but my insecurity is my own. This is simply the way small presses work.

When I sit back and really think about all the ins and outs, the only real concern I have is with the schedule. When I put the money up on my own, I pay for outside services (editing, cover art/design, formatting) and as soon as it’s done to my satisfaction, I publish. Assuming I don’t take too long with my edits, the time from manuscript submission to the editors to publishing the finished product is usually three or four months. Going through the publisher, it’s going to be closer to a year… possibly longer.

Now, that doesn’t mean I sit on my thumbs and wait for a year. It simply means that I have to put Chucklers out of my head for however long it takes to get word on whether or not the manuscript is accepted. It means I need to shift to other projects and get them moving. I need to do things like set up a Mailchimp mailing list, get some backlisted editing done, and get other works written and ready for publication. I received a phone call a few weeks ago reminding me that I had unfinished edits on the short story Ghost Story. I need to pull that out and brush it off. Get it finished and ready for final publication. And it’s time to get going seriously on the sequel to Half Past Midnight. For those who may not know, the name of the sequel is Year 12, and it’s officially going to be my top priority writing project.

There are also a few other writing projects I have in mind, but until I see how things go with Chucklers, I won’t know when I’ll be able to start them. All I can say is that I HOPE to get them done this year. But if I can get on schedule here, I stand poised to get two more novels written (and hopefully published), publish Ghost Story before Halloween, possibly publish another short story, and possibly write & publish another novella in the HPM universe.

So wish me luck. This year promises to be a completely new learning experience on many levels.