Nov 042018
 

It’s November, and for my fellow writers participating in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as most call it), I wish you all the best of luck.  For those of you who might not know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a movement wherein aspiring authors dedicate the month of November to the goal of writing an entire novel in a single month.  The goal is writing 50k words in thirty days.  I know a few authors who spend most of October getting ready for NaNo, plotting, planning, writing notes, and when November 1 rolls around, they hit the computer with a fury.

Simple math tells you that 50k words divided by 30 days means NaNo-ers must commit to an average of 1667 words every day.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Except it isn’t.  On days when there are no distractions or interruptions, sure.  Knocking out a few thousand words is no big deal.  But for those people who live in a world with children or a job, or even just the day-to-day minutia of regular living, it can be a challenge to do for thirty days straight.

And while I’ve never participated in NaNo, I know several people who have.  I know many who succeed in their goal every year… and I know many who have never quite made their goal.  Hell, I know a few who finish their 50k in less than a week!  In some of the writing groups I follow, writing 10k in a day is called a “Lowell”.  The term is named after Nathan Lowell, who regularly manages to do this in November.  Nathan is a very successful indie author, one of my favorites, as a matter of fact.  But even he admits that 10k a day knocks him on his tail when he does it.  Of course, there are some who claim to have done even more than that.  I know a couple of writers who claim to have written 20k, 25k, even 40k at a single sitting.  The only one I know personally, who backs his claim under the light of public scrutiny though, is Nathan.

But whether the goal is 50k in a month, or a week, my hat is off to all you NaNo-ers, (or it would be if I was wearing a hat). Go get ’em!  

 

Personal News

A couple of weeks ago, I had the surreal experience that most indie authors live for.  I had given a copy of Pangaea: Exiles to a neighbor.  He had given me permission to use his name in the story, but hadn’t had a chance to read the novel.  So I gave him one of my author copies and he took it on a hiking weekend.  When he got back, he tried to return the novel, thinking I had only loaned it to him, and during the course of convincing him that I had given it to him to keep, he said those golden words… one of his friends had seen the novel, and recognized my name.  He had already read Half Past Midnight, and on my friend’s recommendation, immediately went and downloaded PE1.  Someone recognized my name on a book!  I mean, someone I don’t know.  LOL.  Happy dance!

In other news, the contract job is done.  I finished the project Thursday before last (or at least, as much of it as I could do from a remote location).  Four months of a regular day-to-day (and the steady paycheck that goes with it) helped put life back in perspective.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend lunches with MBH (that was by far the highlight of the job), and work with a great group of people, and that was really great.  But while I really did enjoy the experience, as well as getting the opportunity to dip my toes back into the IT waters again, it really is good to get back to the writing.  I hope I’m not being overly ambitious here, but with the day job behind me for a while, I’m actually hoping to finish the first draft of AP2 by the end of the month. This also means that my Website Wednesday posts will actually go back to Wednesdays.  Which brings me to…

 

Writing News

Yes, I know there are going to be interruptions in the schedule, especially that turkey of a holiday in a few weeks.  But I already have the climactic scenes of AP2 in mind, and I’ve already built the framework to getting Amber Payne and her team to those climactic scenes.  So I really do hope I can stay on track well enough to get it done pretty quickly.

Of course, even if I do, at this point, the chances of actually getting it through beta readers, editing, and formatting, before year’s end are pretty slim.  I’m more likely looking at an early 2019 release date.  I have contacted Streetlight Graphics, the company I use for my covers, to get on their schedule.  We spoke for a bit, discussing cover ideas, and I’m confident that they’re going to have a fantastic cover well before the book is ready to release.  Remember “Cover art lesson #2” from my old “Cover art – from a writer’s perspective” post.

Learn to manage the timing of publication.  There are some tasks that are prerequisite to others.  For instance, the book must be written before it can be edited, and it must be edited before it can be formatted for publication.  However, the cover art can be done as soon as you know your novel’s theme, tone, setting, and characters.  Once you have a feel for what you want on the cover, I recommend that you begin working towards getting your cover done.  This will eliminate the frustration of having your novel written, edited, and files ready for publication while you have to wait on your cover.

At this point, I’m beginning to plan my next projects.  2018 has been a bad year for my writing.  The Year 12 audiobook completely fell through, Crazy Larry stalled at about 90% completion, and AP2, (the Streets of Payne sequel) fought me SO much more than I anticipated, and is turning out to be the longest book I’ve written.  When I look back on the year, I really did a poor job of it.  In fact, the only thing I managed to complete and turn in on time was a short story for an anthology.  And that anthology is currently five months behind on publication.  In short, I haven’t gotten anything published in 2018.  Nothing. 

But that also means I’m poised for multiple titles to be released in 2019.  My goal at this point is to publish three novels, and at least two novellas next year.  I have to contact a few people to hammer out details on what these next projects will be, but I have several options.  If one doesn’t pan out, another will.  My goal remains the same… three novels and two novellas.  As badly as I did in 2018, I plan to make 2019 my most productive year to date.  I’m thinking of it as an early New Year’s Resolution.

With that said, time to get to it.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.  :bye:

Nov 112015
 

WW20Reading –

I just finished reading In Ashes Born by Nathan Lowell.  I’ve been a fan of his “Trader’s Tales From the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper” books for years.  When I heard he had begun a new series set in the same universe, I was stoked.

Unfortunately, I only just got the chance to read it.  As with Nathan’s other tales, In Ashes Born does not disappoint.  The man has an amazing way with the English language, as well as with story telling.  If you’ve never read his books and like sci-fi and coming of age stories, I strongly suggest that you pick up Quarter Sharethe first of hisTrader’s Tales…” books.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked from that point on.  If you’ve already read all of them and weren’t aware of the new “Seeker’s Tales From the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper” series, well what are you waiting on?  You already know what an amazing writer this guy is.  Go get In Ashes Born.  Go!  NOW!   :rotfl:

And the picture?  It’s part of a Facebook campaign fans of the book are running.  If you want to know more about it, contact me.  If you’ve already read the book, you’ll get it.

 

Writing –

Work on Year 12 has  been coming in spurts.  I get into a scene or section and the words seem to fly out of my hands.  Then I hit a transition and I barely get a few hundred words per day out.  It’s frustrating, but I suppose it’s still progress.  Y12 is currently sitting at a bit over 70,000 words and still going.  At this point, it looks like the book will come in around 95-100k words.  Of course, that’s first draft.  There’s no telling what will happen once it goes to beta readers and then through editing.

 

Garden –

The garden is about done for the year.  There are a few jalapenos, poblanos, and a smattering of tomatoes left.  The only other things growing out there (besides the weeds) are the gourds.  Looks like I’ve got thirteen of them, and I’ll likely be cutting them off the vine in the next week or two.  Then the chore of breaking down the garden will begin.  And boy, won’t that be fun?!?   :-/

 

Personal –

MBH is on a business trip to Wisconsin this week.  She was looking forward to getting a chance to wrap her hands around something new, and when her company presented her with the opportunity to help out with a situation there, she went for it.  It’s just a few days, but she loves new opportunities.  And it gets her away from my ugly mug, so win / win for her, right?   ;-)

 

And that’s it for now.  I need to get more words written.  Take care everyone, and stay safe.   :bye:

 

Sep 222013
 

Status updates – I’ve been working on a few “smaller” projects recently.  The first of these, I just can’t talk about yet.  I thought I would be announcing this one today, but there has been a road bump, and the official announcement will have to wait.  As for the second smaller project… well, I can’t really go into much detail on this one, either.  However, you’ll notice a new widget to the side for a short story.  I’ve been invited to write for an upcoming anthology (yay!).  Better yet, all of the authors have agreed to donate the proceeds to charity.  Yes, I know anthologies don’t sell well, but once I was contacted about the theme of the anthology, I got an idea that absolutely demanded to be written.  So it will.  The story is currently going by a working title of “IMPs“, and the first thousand words jumped out of me last night.  It has to be finished by December, so there’s plenty of time for completion and polish.

Chucklers is proceeding slowly, but steadily.  The process on it has changed a bit, and it will likely take longer than Ed and I anticipated, but it will still happen.  In the meantime, Y12 has been clamoring for release, and I’m beginning to contemplate the idea of working on multiple projects at the same time.  I’ve tried to avoid working this way in the past, but the voices are getting louder.  LOL.

Controversy –  Some of you may know about this, but I imagine many of you will not.  It’s something that really only affects authors and reviewers, so it may not interest many of you.  However, there has been a recent article making the rounds that was supposedly written by someone who used to work for a company that sold reviews to authors in order to help their books climb the rankings and increase sales.  I’ve explained my take ad nauseam about the relationship between rankings, title visibility, and sales (see “In answer to Mike’s question…” from February of 2012, and “Answering Mike again” from March of that same year), so I won’t bore you with it here again.  The article in question (and I have intentionally not linked to it here – I won’t give it any more exposure than it has already gotten) accuses several well-known authors of buying reviews to elevate sales.  This comes in the midst of the Goodreads controversy in which reviewers have accused authors of stalking them in retaliation for bad reviews, and authors have in turn accused reviewers of banding together to trash their books for no good reason, lowering their rankings (and so their sales) in a form of cyber-bullying.

There has been rampant speculation regarding the veracity of the claims on either side of that argument.  After all, there have been authors in the last years who have admitted publicly that they did, indeed, purchase blocks of reviews.  Others have admitted to trashing other authors with sock-puppet reviews in an effort to damage their competition.  For some, their admissions came with an apology.  For others, they simply looked at the practice as nothing more than a cold-hearted business tactic that they used to make themselves more successful in the industry.

There has been speculation that the recent “outing” article was written as an extension of some of the Goodreads cyber-bullying.  I don’t know, I don’t claim to know, and I don’t really care.  It is what it is.  I will say this – I have seen examples of both sides of the Goodreads controversy.  Neither side is completely innocent.  There are some authors who behave badly upon receipt of a negative review.  There are also reviewers who have attacked authors for doing nothing more than daring to ask a them a question about what it is they didn’t like about their book.

And I’ve seen what some of these bullies can do when they band together.  I read a post from a budding author said she had actually decided not to publish her first book, because her reputation was trashed before the book ever came out – all because she dared ask a reviewer how he could give her book a one-star review before the book had ever been released.  His response was to gather a band of other reviewers who decided to “put her in her place” by posting several more one-star reviews – again, all on a book that had yet to be released.

I myself, recently received a one-star review for my recent release that was an obvious hatchet job.  Streets of Payne is a recent release, has received only three reviews on Goodreads (all five-stars), and seven reviews on Amazon (five were five-stars, one was a four-star, and one was the one-star).  The one star review simply said:

Don’t buy. There is a reason why Amazon “give” it for free. Boring……Amazon don’t offer good books. The r fooling us.

This same reviewer posted the exact same review for nine other books.  The exact same, word for word, review – remedial grammar and all.  Then he posted a tenth review, a five-star for another book:

loved it very much. its a great book. very special make you see the world in a different way. enjoy.

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about this reviewer.  I do note that six of the nine one-star reviews have since been removed from Amazon.

So why am I bringing this up?  What does an article that accuses a bunch of authors of buying reviews have to do with me grumbling about a bad review that I received.  After all, shit happens, right?  Move on.  Nothing to see here.  Right?  Right?

Well here’s the thing – when I read this article that purports to out a bunch of well-known authors for buying “at least 500 reviews”, there were a couple of names on the list that just absolutely pegged my bullshit meter.  Today, one of them spoke out.

Any of you who know me, know that there are a handful of authors that I reference repeatedly as gurus in the field of indie publishing.  You’ve seen me mention Nathan Lowell, Michael J. Sullivan, Imogen Rose, and others.  One you probably haven’t seen me list often is Hugh Howey.  Hugh is best known for his Wool, Silo, and Dust novels.  The reason you haven’t seen him mentioned much on my blog is that I only became acquainted with Hugh’s works in the last few months, and as you have no doubt noted, I haven’t been posting as much on this blog as I should.

But here’s the thing – I had the great fortune to meet Hugh at LoneStarCon a few weeks ago.  He won’t remember me, since he was constantly surrounded by other fans, but his take on the industry, on his successes, and his views toward his readers were almost exactly the same as mine.  He was a man who struck me as someone content to take the slow road, as long as it was the road of integrity.  He was an author who understands that the new model for the writing industry not only allows us as story tellers to connect directly with our audience, but it actually requires that we do so.  He understands that this is a business that allows some of us success, while others of us will continue to struggle, that it is a mixture of skill, persistence, and luck that determines who rides the wave, and who crashes beneath it.  And he absolutely understands that whatever your level of success, it can all change tomorrow.  In the end, all you can count on is the fact that you will eventually be left standing alone with your karmic debt.

I’ve listened to this man’s words on panels, and read interviews on him, and I follow him on FaceBook.  He is one of those few people in the industry that I truly look up to.  I’m a fan, yes.  But more than that, I respect the man.  Not just his writing, but his words and actions.

Today Hugh Howey responded to the accusation that he purchased reviews.  He responded with a well written, and thought out post on his blog.  One of the things that struck me in his blog post is his statement that he had tried for so long to remain silent as some people attacked him with trash reviews, or comments, or other open articles.  He has always viewed it as part of the price of fame.  And as he noted, he is lucky enough to have a large and loyal following that more than compensates for the small amount of negativity aimed at him.  Not many of us are so lucky.

But one of Hugh’s friends has also been accused of buying reviews, and he decided he’d been passive long enough.  Not because he was accused, but because a friend was.  Again, this is a man of integrity.

At the end of his blog post, Hugh makes a pledge.  He calls it his “Declaration of Integrity”.  Many of his readers have begun calling it the “Jolie Pledge”, named after a cherished pet that Hugh often refers to in his postings.  Hugh’s pledge says:

I, Hugh Howey, have never paid for a book review in my life. I swear this on my life and on the life of my beloved dog and faithful companion of ten years, Jolie. May she rest in peace. And may the accusers and accused alike find peace in their hearts as well.

I think this is a wonderful idea.  I like to think that I am also a man of integrity (or at least I try to be)  ;) .  I try to keep from commenting on or criticizing those whose views I don’t agree with, unless they enter into my “personal space”.  Yes, I keep the troll hammer handy, and will not tolerate trolls here on the blog.  But I encourage honest and open questions, comments, and debate.  And I will never belittle another person for their personal beliefs.

So I will also make my declaration here.  I will take the same stand that Hugh has taken.

I, Jeff Brackett, have never paid for, and will never pay for a book review. I give my solemn word on this.

And while Hugh wishes peace for the accusers and accused alike, I will simply say that I wish both the accusers and accused find the justice they deserve.

What can I say?  Hugh is a better person than I am.  ;)

That’s it for tonight.  Be safe, everyone.  :bye:

Oct 212012
 

Streets of Payne – My commute to and from the day job each day gives me approximately forty-five minutes to an hour of down time.  Rather than listening to music (which eventually becomes monotonous for me) or talk radio (which almost immediately gets me angry and has me yelling at the radio), I listen to podcasts.  In a way, that’s what got me serious about my writing.  I was listening to Podiobooks on my iPod and heard a sponsored ad in one of them about a podcast called The Dead Robots’ Society.  Their tag line was “for aspiring writers, by aspiring writers”, and I remembered how much I enjoyed writing.  I started listening to the Robots and began learning about the new business model that is modern publishing.  Since then, I have also become a big fan of Nathan Lowell’s Talking On My Morning Walk (personal tidbits from a fantastic indie writer), and Jack Spirko’s The Survival Podcast (because yes, I am very much a proponent of a self-sufficient lifestyle – call it “prepping” or “survivalism” if you like, but to me it’s just common sense).

My kids like to joke about my listening habits, often lamenting that Dad would rather listen to “the talkie men” than to music.  But the thing for me is that between those three regular podcasts, I’ve found a balance between keeping the creative juices flowing, learning more about the crafts in which I am most interested, and allowing my mind to wander just enough to keep the storylines percolating in the back of my head.

But on rare occasions, it stops working.  It usually starts with a slightly uneasy feeling that something is off.  I find myself unable to concentrate on what Justin and company are discussing on the DRS podcast, or on what Nathan was just talking about on TOMMW.  Sometimes I find myself getting too caught up in what Spirko has to say on TSP, and forgetting that I’m also supposed to be letting a plot air out in my hindbrain while I listen.  Whatever it is, I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms by now and whenever I spot them in myself, I know what I have to do.  The iPod goes off, gets packed into the console, and I refuse to allow myself to listen to any more of my “talkie men” until I figure out what’s bothering me, and what I need to do to fix it.

Just recently, I felt that niggling in my hindbrain… the lack of concentration that let me know something was off.  I’d had a decent run of writing, reached the end of a sub-plot arc, and then stalled.  Something was wrong and the plot wouldn’t gel for me.  In order to force my mind to focus, I decided that my commute time would be better served by concentrating on SoP and the problems I was having with it.  So I put the iPod away and began the mental exercise that forced me to openly concentrate on identifying the problem.  It took almost a week before I realized that the antagonist in my current work in progress (Streets of Payne) had some conflicting motivations.  He was acting against himself, and my subconscious had evidently been screaming to get my attention.

Finally!  Step one was completed.  I had identified the problem.  But that led to another problem.  Once I examined the character’s motives, it turned out that he wasn’t really the antagonist after all.  So who was?  What character had sufficient motivation and strength of character to serve as a worthy antagonist to my protagonists?  It took another week and a half before I was satisfied with my conclusions, but I finally figured out who it was.  More importantly, they told me how they pulled it off.  It’s taken some tedious rewrites to make sure the plot and character changes worked, but I’m pretty excited about the changes.

And I pulled my iPod back out.  Once again, my daily commutes are filled with the musings and teachings of my chosen instructors, and SoP is flowing again.  I still don’t get much time to write, but I hope to finish the first draft by the end of the year.

12P – What is 12P?  It’s the designation I’ve given to the HPM sequel that won’t leave me alone.  Part of the reason it took me so long to figure out the problems with SoP is that as I tried to work my way through the problems there, 12P kept intruding.  Every time I started my commute with the intent to hammer through my SoP issue, my mind would detour to what needed to happen in 12P.  It was both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.

SoP sequel? – Yes, to top it off, I had an idea for another SoP book.  Not sure when I’ll get to it, but there it is.  Yet another book for the idea factory.

All right, that’s it for now.  Time for bed and I really need that beauty sleep.  Stay safe, everyone. :bye:

Feb 152012
 

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.

Mike Oakes says:

Congratulations

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.

Again, congratulations.
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. 8-)

So Mike, I hope that answered your questions.  If not, just ask again and I’ll be happy to respond.

Be safe everyone. :bye: