Another late post, and not a lot to report this week. I think this one is one of those “quality over quantity” posts, in that it’s all good news. First of all, my wife and I went to visit my parents last weekend. We took a couple of vacation days and made a four-day weekend of it. Me, my wife, and our two fur-babies spent some good quality time with my parents. In addition to the quiet of lakeside living, my dad and I took some time to enjoy a car show. All in all, it was a great weekend.
The only other thing I really have to report is that I actually took some of my own advice. I submitted The Road to Rejas for editing. I’m still not completely happy with it, but I think if I wait for that to happen, I’ll just end up with a lot more gray than I already have – and still no story. Basically I just decided it was time to get off the pot. Unfortunately, I waited so long to send it in that Lynn is swamped with other submissions, so it may take several weeks for her to find an opening for it.
Oh well, that’s what I get for procrastinating, right? Still, it’s off my plate for now, and I’ve moved on to a few other projects. There is Streets of Payne. I’m about 40,000 words into it, but they’re pretty rough words, so it remains to be seen how much of it will make it into the final manuscript. The novel may end up being as small as 60 – 65K words, but que serra, serra. There is also a collaborative piece that I am beginning with Edward Lorn. It’s embryonic at the moment, not much more than a rough idea and some character sketches, but it’s captured my interest. I’m curious as to whether we can put an interesting twist on a sub-genre that I normally don’t much care for. It is a writing challenge, and Ed has definitely piqued my curiosity. I currently have it listed on the computer under a working title of EBS, and that’s about all I can say about it for now.
The only other thing worth mentioning is that the HPM sequel I mentioned in my last post keeps haunting my dreams. All three of my brain cells keep wandering back to how this will happen, or what makes that character want to do that?, or how does this tie into what already happened in HPM or R2R? And every time another piece of the puzzle falls into place, I get more and more excited with the possibilities. I know who the main character will be, I know the theme, and I know the setting. But, while I know the main motivation, I don’t know the details of that motivation. And while I know some of what I want to happen, I don’t know how to lay the story out where some of those details will logically come into play (yet). But each day a new tidbit falls into place. So yes, HPM2 will almost definitely happen.
So that’s about it for now – visited my parents, went to a car show, submitted R2R for editing, 40k into SoP, embryonic EBS, HPM2… I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting back on track.
We are our own worst critics. I’ve heard it said time and time again. Now, based on some of my more critical reviews I know that little adage isn’t necessarily so.
However, for the most part, I do tend to worry excessively over whether or not my writing is “ready” to send out. Road to Rejas is just the latest example. I started out working on what I imagined would be about a twenty thousand word novella, and ended up with almost thirty thousand words and counting. The story is basically done, but it still needs a lot of “polish”. Said polishing means adding sections to clarify the plot, removing sections that are redundant as a result of the new additions, tweaking unrealistic dialogue, checking the pacing that “just doesn’t feel right”, and a myriad other things that slow me down.
But the harsh reality is that the real impediment to rapid progress is none other than yours truly. You see, I have a really bad habit. I tend to procrastinate on projects like this for fear that it isn’t going to be “good enough”. As long as the project isn’t out there for public criticism, I don’t have to face the possibility that everyone will tell me that it’s complete and utter crap.
So I find other things to slow myself down. For instance, I tell myself I have to pay attention to my “marketing”. For the first months after HPM was released, I was hitting Twitter, FaceBook, GoodReads, posting on my blog, and posting on some topic relevant forums as part of the “advertising campaign”. I recently sat down and put pen to paper (or fingers to calculator) and realized that I was initially spending about twenty to thirty hours per week on various social media outlets. That may have been a good idea immediately after HPM‘s release, but there’s really no need for that to go longer than the first month or two.
I’ve done this before. When I tried to get serious with my writing back in the ’90s, I found myself in a new world, making friends and inroads into the local writing community. I was convinced to enter some regional amateur authors’ writing competitions and actually did pretty well. I had an editor at St. Martin’s Press after me to finish the manuscript I had entered (an early version of what would later become Half Past Midnight), and another editor for a new TOR imprint (new in 1996, that is) after me for completion of another novel I had started (an urban fantasy with a working title of “Soul Eater” – currently on indefinite hold due to a saturated market). I had won or placed in three different writer’s competitions, was president of a local writers’ group, chaired or co-chaired a few of that group’s writing conferences, wrote a monthly column for the group’s newsletter, and hosted a BBS called The Writer’s Workshop (and yes, I said BBS – it was the ’90s, after all). In short, I was spending more time writing about writing, than I spent actually writing.
In those days, it was a commonly bandied about stastic that fewer than two percent of the people who tried to make a career of writing were ever able to do so. And the truth of the matter is that statistic terrified me. The thing that really bothered me was that there was very little a writer could do to affect those odds. Everything was in the hands of other people. An agent had to decide whether or not your work was good enough to shop around. An editor had to decide whether or not the manuscript handed them from your agent was good enough to pass on to the senior editors, who then had to meet in committee to determine whether or not the work filled a niche that they needed for their business strategy for that year. And even if you managed to pass those hurdles, it would be a year or two before the manuscript you handed them would ever see print. “Luckily” for me, I ended up with a major career change and decided that I couldn’t afford to “waste time” on a pursuit that had such a low chance of success. In short, I chickened out.
Then in 2010 I stumbled across a podcast “for aspiring writers, by aspiring writers” called The Dead Robots’ Society. Listening to those folks rekindled the old flame. In listening to them, I found that the writing business had completely changed. If I wanted to write – if I really wanted to write, changes in technology and business practices would allow me to bypass the old traditional roadblocks. In short, there was nothing to stop me from publishing but a relatively small monetary investment, and my own lack of courage.
I decided it was time to put up or shut up. I tentatively broached the topic with my better half, who immediately gave me the encouragement I needed (more like kicked me in the seat of the pants and asked what I was waiting for), and I went for it. I researched and found Lynn O’Dell, the best editor I could ever hope for, and through that association fell in with a really great group of authors with the Red Adept Select group. These folks have been amazingly helpful in teaching me the ropes.
It is now six months post publication and I have found things changing for me. I recently realized I was beginning to slip back into procrastination mode. So I had a good talk with myself this morning on the way in to work, and I’ve decided I need to make some changes. Until Road to Rejas is out, I have to cut back on the social media interactions. I’ve decided to make the following adjustments:
Twitter – I used to spend an hour or two per day culling through my Twitter feeds, but lately it seems to have become nothing more than a constant barrage of authors, agents, publicists, and cover artists trying to sell me their wares or convince me of their political views, and I don’t have time to sift through the crap for the real conversations. I will cut back to perhaps an hour or two per week. I may even drop it completely.
Facebook – This one I still use consistently. It allows me to post a significant amount of data, show pics and links that *I* believe show more about “who I am” without worrying about that pesky 140 character limit. However, I have found myself spending way too much time there, also. Time to cut back.
GoodReads – I really like the GR crowd. They’re a smart and savvy bunch of folks, but GR is primarily a book review site. Since I try to avoid reviewing the work of my peers, that makes it difficult for me to participate in many of the conversation threads. Truthfully, they’ll probably never miss me there.
Blogging – To me, this one is still a must. Whether or not anyone is actually following me is irrelevant. Regular posting is a constant reminder of why I am writing, and it lays the groundwork for those readers who may pick up my work, decide they want to know more about me, and look me up. After all, I don’t want someone to find me, go to my site, and find that I have absolutely nothing more to offer. I look at this as the “behind the scenes” information – like the DVD “special features” section, and some folks are interested in it.
Posting on topic relevent forums – For me this is something that I truly enjoy. Since I wrote a PA novel, and my protagonist was a survivalist (or in today’s vernacular, a “prepper”), it was a no-brainer that I should look up and join some of the prepper forums. Now, in truth, it was a topic in which I was already interested, had already researched, and was pretty familiar with, so this was not a marketing thing for me. But since I am an author with a novel in the genre, I have to make sure I avoid even the appearance of trolling for sales, as I truly want to be considered part of their community.
Currently, arithmetic shows that I spend 45-50 hrs/week with the day job, about 15-20 hrs/week with the various “marketing” venues listed above, and about 10-15 hrs/week on actual writing, culminating in a 70-85 hr work week. You’d think I could get more accomplished in that amount of time. But not when my priorities are bass-ackwards like this. So I’ll have to spend less time on the marketing side, and more on the writing. After all, as I’ve heard repeatedly on The Dead Robots’ Society, “your best advertising is the publication of your next book.”
So it’s time to change. If I don’t want to fall back into the old procrastination habit, I have to get my ass in gear. I will release R2R by mid-July. I also hope to have my next novel out before the end of the year. It’s a completely different genre, so I don’t know how it will do, but I’m already too far into it to stop. After that, I’ve got an idea that I’ve been toying with for a sequel to HPM. It’s not fully fleshed out yet, but I think that will be my next major project.
So that’s it – my mission statement, if you will. Basically, I have to cut back on some of the social interactions in order to get the writing back on course. So if you’re on one of the sites I mentioned above, and if you notice that I appear to be less active (or completely MIA), please understand. This is what I need to do in order to get the writing back on course. I hope you think the end product is worth it.
The title pretty much says it all, though it likely seems a bit confusing at the moment. It’s simple, really. First of all, I owe you all an apology. I typically post on the weekend, and here I am at the close of the day on Tuesday, just getting my post out there. I’ve been sick, and let myself get a little run down. No big deal, but after work, I have all the energy of a wet washrag.
However, I noticed something today. I checked the hits on my blog here and found that the number of visitors here just took a big jump. I can only assume it’s related to a message I got from Lynn McNamee (formerly Lynn O’Dell – more on that below). Her message was a bit cryptic:
Of course, I followed the link and read the review… All I’ll say is… Woohoo! Just follow the link and go read it for yourself. Whether or not one event had anything to do with the other, the number of visitors to my little blog here spiked at almost triple my normal average. So to all you new folks, if you’re still checking in here… welcome! I hope you keep dropping by.
Now, on to the celebrations. This last weekend, I got the chance to meet some of the Red Adept family when Lynn O’Dell celebrated her marriage to Chuck McNamee, and we were invited to share in the celebration. While there, I also had the chance to finally meet some others of the Red Adept family in person. I met Jim Chambers, who saved my bacon in the proofreading stage of HPM. He is now a publicist for the newly opened Red Adept Publishing. I also got to meet with Ed Lorn, fellow Red Adept Select author, and vangard author for Red Adept Publishing. We had the chance to discuss story ideas, and it looks like we will be working on a project together in the very near future. I’m really looking forward to it.
And of course, Sunday was Memorial Day. I hope you all had a fine time, but still spared a moment to remember the real reason behind the holiday – our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in the name of our freedom. We all owe them so much!
And now for the goodbyes portion. A friend of mine from work has been battling esophageal cancer for the last few years. Each year the doctors told him that he needed to get his affairs in order, that he wouldn’t make it to see another Christmas. And for the last two years he proved them wrong. This year, they were right. He went into the hospital last Friday for an upper GI obstruction. He didn’t make it out this time.
So long, Jim. I’ll miss you, my friend. May every day be Beer Friday for you now.
Below is the interview I had with new author, Edward Lorn. I “met” Ed (as much as you meet anyone on the internet) as a fellow client of Red Adept Publishing. I used Red Adept editorial services before they had an actual publishing arm, and now that they’ve launched as a full-fledged small press, Edward Lorn was one of the first authors they snatched up. His latest release, Dastardly Bastard , is currently for sale in electronic format, and should be out in print later this month.
The book description of Dastardly Bastard follows:
JEFF: I’ve recently had the opportunity to read both Bay’s End and Dastardly Bastard and my immediate impression is that your writing strikes me as very “Stephen King”-ish. I assume that King is one of your writing influences. Would you agree?
ED: I’m a huge Stephen King fan. With that said, I don’t really try to emulate him, so much as learn from his successes and mistakes. The man has this ability to give life to characters on a page. They transcend the novel you are reading and become a part of your life. You know these people, love them and hate them. I only want to write the best characters I can without using stereotypes or cop-outs.
JEFF:Who or what are some of your other influences?
ED: Richard Laymon is, by far, my favorite author when it comes to no-holds-barred horror. Before his death in 2001, Laymon saw success in the UK only. His books were always brutally violent and sexually graphic. I’m no prude, but he’s made me blush on more than one occasion. Everyone seems to liken “Bay’s End” with Stephen King’s novella, “The Body,” but a better comparison would be Laymon’s “The Traveling Vampire Show.” I won’t spoil anything about Laymon’s coming-of-age piece, other than to say that the book has absolutely nothing to do with vampires. The novel is about two boys and a girl, friends till the bitter end, and the struggles they must go through. “The Traveling Vampire Show” deals with sexual awakening, jealousy, the curiosity of young teens, and an event that will change them all forever. Yeah, Laymon was a master, though highly underrated. He normally scares new readers off within the first chapter or two. Fun times.
JEFF: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
ED: I started as a horrible liar. Everything that came out of my mouth was either terribly exaggerated, or completely false. From the time I could form sentences, I was telling stories. I got in quite a bit of trouble around school—I told one class my baby brother had died over the weekend, and I’d never even had a brother. My first grade teacher offered my mother a venue for my tales. “Have him write these things down. Let him get them out, and maybe he won’t feel the need to tell everyone every little thing that pops into his head.”
JEFF: Here’s one that most authors are asked at one time or another – where do you find your inspiration for your stories? I mean, you write about some pretty messed up stuff. I assume they’re not stories of your summer vacations.
ED: My inspiration is life. Everything has a story behind it. You just have to show enough interest in it, and it will cough up its wares.
As far as the darker content in my stories, I grew up in southern California in the ’80s and ’90s. My memories are filled with twisted things.
When I was ten, I saw a young man hit by a truck while trying to cross the street on his way to school. The vehicle knocked him down, and he was dragged under the chassis. The back tire treated his head like a piñata in a vice.
I lived through drive-by shootings, witnessed fights where knives were brought out, and even saw an overdose victim with a needle still in his arm. Years later, I do wonder if I ended up becoming a product of my environment, or if writing saved me from what I might have become.
I have no problem with being looked upon as twisted. But I would have people know that I don’t enjoy these things. I only know that they exist and choose to shed a light on them. If I can give away some of my nightmares, maybe I can start sleeping better at night.
JEFF: Getting back to your writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?
ED: What do you mean by pantser? I’ve never heard that term. I know I’m not a plotter, so I figure I’m a pantser.
JEFF: Ah! Sorry. It’s a relatively common term with writers these days. I mean do you plot your stories out, or do you write “by the seat of your pants”? I’ve also heard it called “Discovery writing” or “Intuitive writing.”
ED: Then yeah, I’m a pantser. Plotting kills my creativity. Every time I plot, one of two things happens. Either I grow bored with the story—because, heck, I already know what’s going to happen—or the plot changes so drastically, an outline was a complete waste of time. “Bay’s End” just kind of happened. I don’t know how else to explain it. I didn’t plot a single line of that book. I trusted my characters to tell me what was next. When Eddy walked in with those cherry bombs, I was just as excited as Trey was. I know, I’m crazy. But I love being insane. It’s so much more fun.
JEFF: You were chosen as one of the vanguard authors for the new Red Adept Publishing small press. What has your experience been like working with them?
ED: The entire crew has been a godsend. Lynn O’Dell is a fabulous editor, but she’s an even better human being. When you delve into the creative arts, family and friends are absolutely no help to you. They love you and do not want to hurt your feelings. Well, that kind of crap doesn’t help you grow. Lynn lays it out like it is, as does Michelle Rever, who did the initial content edit for “Dastardly Bastard.” I don’t need someone to tell me what I did right. I need to know what I did wrong.
JEFF: Why have you chosen to publish your books via Indie and/or small press, rather than via traditional publishing?
ED: If I had never met Lynn O’Dell, I would have stayed Indie—actually I never would have published anything of quality from the jump. I have no doubt about that. Once I heard she was starting up with the publishing side, I had to get in. With the bigger publishers, authors like me get lost in the mix. My book’s too short, the content is too controversial, blah, blah, blah…
Another big thing is length of time between novels. Lynn hasn’t—not yet, at least—put a cap on how many novels I can put out in a year. I write a lot. So that’s a good thing. I believe she’s of the same mindset as me. As long as they’re quality works, get them out there. No need to be a tease.
JEFF: Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
ED: Of course.
JEFF: LOL. Can you share a little of what it’s about?
ED: I don’t know, really. It’s hard to tell what will be next. I can keep up with three different books at a time. Right now, I’m doing just that. I have one that I’m working on more than the other two, but I have no idea if that will be my next book. I’m unearthing everything as I go. I am trying to give my readers something a little more substantial as far as length is concerned. There’s nothing wrong with a short book, but I know people like to get lost for a while. Up until now, I didn’t have a long story to tell.
I will add this: We’re going back to Bay’s End. I can guarantee that.
JEFF: For those of us who are beginning to learn our way around in the ever-changing business that is non-traditional publishing, are there any lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share?
ED: I’m still learning myself, brother. I would love to divulge secrets, but I’m not privy to them at this time. Sorry.
JEFF: Any other thoughts, comments, or advice you’d like to leave us with?
ED: I try to lend an element of humor and truth to everything I write. If you can make someone believe your characters are real, that reader will follow you anywhere.
It’s really easy to fall in love with a person if they’re funny. Ask just about any woman on the face of this planet what she looks for in a man, and most will respond with “He has to be able to make me laugh.” They’ll have other criteria, of course, but that one’s almost always present. It’s how I managed to woo my wife, because Brad Pitt, I am not.
With truth, people must believe the motivations that drive your character. They don’t have to agree, but they must understand. The hardest chore I have as a writer is to not add my own reactions and emotions to a situation. Just because I would run from the beastie in the shadows does not mean my character would. There are plenty of people with more strength and will power than I in this world. But there are also weaker souls. Continuity is key. If your character acts off type, there has to be a reason. Have they finally broken? Has something presented itself to embolden them?
Good fiction finds the truth in the lie.
JEFF: Thanks, Ed. I wish you luck with Dastardly Bastard, and look forward to future books from you.
Mike Oakes is a fellow Dead Robot Society forum member, and he left the below comment after my last post. I started to reply directly to his questions, but I quickly found that my reply was becoming longer than the post on which he’d left them. So I decided I would simply create a new post on the topic. Read his comment below, and my reply after.
I read the first few chapters of your book when you had it in the crypt of the DRS forum. It stood out to me as a book that could get published. When I saw that you were releasing it, I was excited to see how a skilled first time writer would fare in the open market. I’d say breaking even in two months is faring pretty well. It gives me faith that good work will at least usually be rewarded.
I get the impression that your sales have ramped up and are still going strong. Is that true? A post on any specific sales figures would be very interesting.
And good luck in the future.
Hi Mike. First of all, thanks for the kind words. They mean a lot to me. I’m still getting used to the idea that people actually like my writing, and every note I get from someone makes me smile at the thought. So thanks for today’s smile.
As for the sales of Half Past Midnight, yes – sales are still going strong (knock on wood), or at least what I consider strong. There are plenty of folks that have paved the way before me, and I’ve tried to study what they’ve done to maximize my results. If you want to see how the big kids do it, I strongly suggest you read the blogs or listen to podcasts of people like Nathan Lowell, Robin Sullivan, Joe Konrath, and a whole host of others. They are the folks that can really show you how it’s done.
Me? I’m still very new at this business, so I’m not sure what the veterans would consider strong sales. I can tell you that I’m not about to quit the day job and pursue my writing career – at least, not yet. I’m even less sure how to respond to the question regarding whether or not my sales have ramped up. It’s just not a simple yes or no question in my case. Let me explain.
HPM sales started pretty slow when the book first released in mid-December. That was pretty much as I expected. Like I said, I’m a new author with no following, and there are tens of thousands of other new authors on Amazon. So during my first two weeks, HPM worked its way up to about ten sales per day. My math showed that 95% of those sales were on Amazon. So on January 1, I removed the book from Smashwords, Nook, and other venues, joined Amazon’s KDP Select program, and sales stayed the same – still about ten per day. Then came what I call “The Great Experiment”.
Let me preface this part by giving credit where credit is due. You see, I was lucky enough to have also had my book chosen as a Red Adept Select title. Up at the top of my page here, you will see a carousel of books entitled “Red Adept Select Titles” (and I would encourage you to read any of them that strike your fancy – they are all extremely well done). Suddenly, I was in the same “room” as these fine folks, most of them well established writers with a wealth of knowledge and experience that they were more than willing to share. It was these fine folks who convinced me to try The Experiment.
On January 3, I took a gamble based on their advice. I posted an ad, made a couple of announcements on social media sites, and made the book free for a day. Suddenly “sales” (which I put in quotes, because giving something away for free is not the same as selling it) completely shot through the roof. Hell, they blasted the roof completely off the house, left the atmosphere, and destroyed a nearby asteroid! On that one day, I gave away more than 11,300 copies of the book. That’s more than eleven thousand, three hundred!!!!!
And that’s where the magic started. Those 11,300 “sales” shot my book to the number two spot on the Amazon “Top 100 Action and Adventure – Free” list, and into the twenties of their Top 100 of all free books. That, combined with the two ads, gave me some incredible exposure. More importantly, for the next week after the book was no longer free, HPM continued to sell at a rate of more than 100 copies per day. That kept it in the charts, but now it was suddenly in the Top 100 Action and Adventure – Paid list. In fact, for three days, it stayed in Amazon’s Top 100 of all paid books! This triggered what I like to call the Ouroboros Effect. The more visible a book is, the better its sales, which keeps it visible in the charts, which triggers more sales, which keeps it visible in the charts, which…. well, you get the idea. Half Past Midnight rode the Ouroboros express for about a week, and then began to taper off until after a few weeks it finally leveled out at about twenty sales per day.
… Until this week. For some reason, sales are now climbing again. I’m pretty sure I understand why it did so well immediately after The Experiment. I think it was simply a combination of having published in a genre that was hungry for new material, following a good marketing strategy, and pure luck.
But I have no idea how to explain this latest bump in sales. For some reason, sales have gone back up to around fifty per day, and I haven’t done anything to promote it. There is nothing that I can point to and say, “here’s why sales are increasing”. Yet for the last few days, Half Past Midnight is once again in Amazon’s Top 100 Action and Adventure-Paid on both the Kindle (now #66) and Book (now #82) lists. It’s not back up where it was before, but it’s there nevertheless. I was expecting a bit of a bump toward the end of February, because I have an ad scheduled to come out then. But this latest bump is a complete mystery to me.
UPDATE – Before I posted this, I spoke to my editor, Lynn O’Dell. When I expressed my puzzlement over the recent uptick in sales she checked and pointed out that Half Past Midnight is now linked in Amazon’s “Also Bought” lists to other post-apocalyptic novels such as William Forstchen’s One Second After, Des Michaels’ Terawatt, Ray Gorham’s 77 Days in September, and David Crawford’s Lights Out, all of which have significant fan bases. It’s something that sometimes happens when an intermingling of fans occurs. I have no idea if it will continue – if it will result in a continued sales increase, or if it’s simply a short-lived phenomenon. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another twist on the roller coaster – and I’m going to continue to enjoy the ride for as long as I can.
So Mike, I hope that answered your questions. If not, just ask again and I’ll be happy to respond.