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:

 

 

 

Sep 142016
 

ww56Just a short post today.  I have a lot of irons in the fire, and all of them need tending.

I just found out today that my oldest granddaughter won her classroom spelling bee, yesterday.  Yay!   :)  The word was “concrete”, and I’m sorta tickled.  Who knows?  Maybe she’ll be a writer some day.  LOL.

On the writing front, I’m juggling two first drafts, and waiting for word from the publisher on Chucklers – Book 1.  Until recently, I’ve been pushing mainly on End Point Pangaea, and pretty much ignoring Year 12.  But considering how long it seems to take going through a publisher, I’ve decided to begin concentrating more on Year 12.  Money’s getting too tight, and I’ve got to do something to get an income stream going.  I’ve thought about my options, and since Y12 is going to be self-pubbed, it will take less time to get it edited, published, and start earning revenue.

So that’s taking most of my time now.  I know I’ll be jumping back and forth at times between Y12 and EPP, but Y12 will have to be my main project for a while.

In addition, watch for a new short story out in the near future.  In 2012, I had a short story published in an anthology called Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.  That story was The Burning Land, and it was pretty well received. The rights to the story reverted back to me last year, and I’ve been toying with the idea of self-publishing it since that time.

Of course, the catch to self publishing is the fact that you have to pay for editing, formatting, and cover art on your own, then hope you make enough in sales to earn that investment back.  Editing is usually the biggest cost, but this one was already edited before it went into the anthology.  The second biggest cost is usually cover design.  And in order to publish The Burning Land, I would have to invest money in a cover for it.  And since it’s a short story, I wouldn’t feel right charging more than Amazon’s 99¢ minimum price.

Now, if you aren’t an author, you may not know this, but Amazon slants their percentages to encourage authors to charge $2.99 or more.  The way it works is that an author charging $2.99 or more, gets to keep 70% of the money earned on the story.  Anything below the $2.99 price point only earns 35%.  AND they don’t allow you to charge less than 99¢ at all (with a very few, tricky exceptions).

So if I were to get a decent cover for this short story, it would likely cost me a couple of hundred dollars.  Let’s call it $150, for now, just for giggles.  If I charge the minimum of 99¢ for the story, for each copy sold, I get back 34¢.  At that rate, I would have to sell nearly 450 copies just to break even, and since short stories by unknown authors don’t sell well to begin with, that would take more time than it’s really worth.

But last month I won a contest.  The prize was a free cover by author and cover artist Denise Lhamon.  Woohoo!  And that means that I can afford to publish TBL after all.  So while it won’t make me rich, by any means, it will mean at least a little money in the coffers while I continue working on the other books.

That’s all I have for now. Time to get back to work. So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again next week.   :bye:

Jul 182012
 

Someone recently asked me how I came up with the world of The Burning Land.  I’m sure most of you haven’t read it, but the few who have, know that some of it takes place on a rather colorful world.  It’s a world of green skies and orange seas, where the jungles are filled with plants of various shades of red.  (And of course, if you want to read about it, it’s in the Dead Robots’ Society’s anthology, “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon“.) ;-)

Beta Carotene molecule - 3D representation

Beta Carotene molecule – 3D representation

It started with a dream in which my muse took on the relatively complex idea of interweaving two related stories told from two VERY different perspectives.  For some reason, the biggest question on my mind when I awoke was, what color would the sky be on this world?  Well, some of you may not know this about me, but I’m a bit of a research junkie.  I love to try and figure out how things work.  I’m not saying I retain that knowledge, mind you.  But when a question like that occurs to me, I have a tendency to start googling right away.

In this case, that simple question about the color of the sky on an imaginary alien world took on a life of its own, and what I earlier referred to as “a relatively complex idea” suddenly became EXTREMELY complex!  That one thought led me down a rabbit hole of research trying to determine how the various factors that affect the color of the Earth’s atmosphere could have turned out differently.  I read more than I ever wanted to know regarding atmospheric density, Rayliegh scattering, types of photosynthesis, Stellar classifications and the frequency of the various star types in our galaxy, molecular composition of transluscent atmospheric particulates…

I researched possible alternate conditions for an alien world capable of sustaining human life in an attempt to justify the world that I envisioned.  In the end, I had a system that presented enough viability for me to accept that it could possibly work.  And it answered my original question – the sky would be green!  And the thought processes dominoed from there.  You see, it seemed reasonable that changes in the visible light spectrum from an orange dwarf star being filtered through an oxygen rich atomsphere could ultimately favor beta carotene over chlorophyll as the basis for photosynthesis.  If that were to occur, then plantlife wouldn’t reflect green light, but rather reds and oranges!

My imagination went nuts with all the possibilities.  So much so that it was difficult to reign it back to a 5000 word short story, as was required for the anthology to which I was submitting.  But in the end, I did it (obviously) and the story was evidently intriguing enough for the editors.

And that’s it.  Not very exciting, but it’s a glimpse into the way my crazy mind works.

That’s it for tonight.  I know this is a rather short post, but my daughter is visiting for a few days, and I want to spend a little more time with her.

So forgive me for now, but goodnight.  And as always, stay safe. :bye:

Jul 092012
 

Well, it’s been quite an eventful week.  Starting with last weekend, my wife and I went shopping for a decent desk for me to work on.  I currently have an old Ikea computer desk that I really outgrew several years ago.  It has little surface area, and no drawers at all.  My better half convinced me that if I’m going to take this writing stuff seriously, I need a real desk with real storage in it.  So we went shopping and found a great U-shaped desk with a credenza, hutch, lateral file drawers, bookshelves, and about triple the surface area that I currently have.  However, since we’re also looking into getting new carpet, we need to wait for the furniture until the new carpet is in.

Oh well, patience is a virtue (or so they tell me).

Then on Monday, I was honored to be one of the guests on the Dead Robots’ Society podcast!  It was so cool to be part of the podcast that rekindled my interest in writing to begin with.  In case this is the first time you’re reading my blog, I was on DRS because I had a short story (The Burning Land) in their anthology, Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.  I urge you to get a copy, and not just because I have something in it.  I’ve read about half of it so far, and there are some really good authors represented in it.  And as icing on the cake (for me), the anthology has received its first review:

Jul 05, 2012

Anita King        rated it        4 of 5 stars false

As a fan of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast, I have long anticipated the release of their anthology project, and it does not disappoint.If I could give halves, I would give this a 4.5.
Overall, this anthology is a very enjoyable read. While a few of the stories have darker endings, the book carries a thread of hope and optimism throughout, especially appropriate for an anthology that focuses on exploration and the very human drive for discovery.
A couple of the stories near the end didn’t really strike a chord with me, but most of them were just what I was hoping for. A few that I especially enjoyed are “The Burning Land,” by Jeff Brackett, “A Mournful Rustling,” by Court Ellyn, and “Beneath an Orange Sky,” by Andrew Hawnt. This book has given me a whole new list of authors to look out for in the future.

Wow! I feel like pulling a Sally Fields – “you really like me!”  Thanks, Anita.

And of course, this week was also the 4th of July.  So belated Happy 4th, everyone!  It sucked that it fell in the middle of the week this year, but c’est la vie.  The worst part of it was that our dogs don’t much care for fireworks, so we got little to no sleep, then had to get back to work on Thursday. (sigh)

Thursday I saw a great piece of artwork online, and was able to find the artist.  I contacted Ana Fagarazzi about doing a cover for me for Streets of Payne, and will hopefully have the cover in a few weeks.  I’m really looking forward to this.  Ana’s artwork is phenomenal.

And I got an email from my editor regarding “The Road to Rejas.”  She says she’s finished the story, has her notes, and we are scheduled to discuss round one of edits tomorrow evening.

I just finished my first installment in “EBS”, the book that Ed Lorn and I are working on together.  It is shaping up to be quite the fun tale.  It’s finally reached the point where I’m no longer writing the characters – they’re now telling me how the story goes.  I’ve never been involved in a project like this before.  We have a cast of characters, and Ed and I have split them up.  He writes some of the characters, and I write others.  What’s really intriguing about this process is that we work off of each other’s pieces – Ed writes part, sends it to me, and after reading it, I write my character’s response.  Then I send mine to him, etc.  It keeps the story fresh and interesting for both of us.

And speaking of Ed Lorn, I mentioned a few weeks ago that he had asked me to write a guest blog for him on the subject of prepping.  Well, I finally did it, and he’s posted it on his website.  Read “Ruminating on: Jeff Brackett on Preppers” and leave a comment.

I’ve also gotten a little more done on Streets of Payne.  Working to get cover ideas to Ana has helped clarify some points about the protagonist, Amber Payne.

On a more personal note, my better half an I sanded, spackled, taped off and painted three rooms in the house.  We’re now officially empty-nesters, and are responding appropriately – we’re rebuilding the nest.  :)

That’s it for now.  It’s midnight, and I have to get up in five hours to go to work.  So until next time, stay safe. :bye:

Jul 012012
 

Cover for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon”

It’s out!  The Explorers anthology is finally officially available to the public.  Woohoo!!  :party:

On September 29, 2010, I joined the Dead Robots’ Society’s forum and began listening to their writing podcast.  I spent several weeks reading through the forum and noticed in November that they were putting together an anthology.  I didn’t honestly think too much of it at the time.  They’d had the call for submissions out for several months, and I didn’t figure I had time to come up with a story idea, write it, edit it, and get it submitted to them within the month that was left until the deadline.  Besides, I assumed that they probably had so many submissions by that point that they were already awash in slush pile hell.

Then on December 13 (yep, I’m geeky enough to look up the date in my notes) a story idea came to me in a dream.  Actually, it was two stories, intertwined to form what I thought might be a pretty good entry for the anthology.  I also remember thinking that I was insane to be setting aside my other writing projects for something that was basically a whim.  There were simply too many obstacles to getting it done in time.

First of all, it was the peak of the holiday season.  There was all the shopping, wrapping, travel plans, etc.  And submission guidelines required a hard word count limit of five thousand words.  Almost all of my writing up to then was long fiction.  At that point, I was one of those writers who was more comfortable writing a novel than a short story.  Writing a short story requires a concise writing style that is in many ways more difficult than the loose boundaries afforded by writing long fiction.  And most importantly, at that point, there were less than three weeks before the deadline!  Christmas season, three week deadline, and a writing format with which I was less than comfortable?  All in all, I figured my chances of making the cut were pretty slim.  Nevertheless, when you’re trying to make it as a writer and inspiration strikes, it’s sometimes pretty difficult to quiet the inner muse.

So I dove into the story as I could, and completed my submission on December 30 – one day ahead of the deadline.  I immediately emailed them:

from:  Jeff Brackett
 to: submissions@deadrobotssociety.com
 date:  Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 3:39 PM
 subject: Submission for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” – Jeff Brackett
 

Gentlemen,

Please find attached “The Burning Land”, my 4,989 word submission for your upcoming anthology “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon”.

“The Burning Land” is actually two intertwined stories that explore the relationships between vastly different cultures as seen from the perspectives of characters within them.

In one, Kapin Aric and his crew attempt to find a new land across an alien ocean with the aid of the holy man, Seer Uson Grogar. In the other, Captain Rayland Vaz and his First Officer, Layla Golden are forced to deal with an interstellar generation ship that is slowly falling apart after its four hundred year long journey.

I appreciate your consideration for this anthology, and I hope you enjoy “The Burning Land”. If there is anything further you need from me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Once again, thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jeff Brackett

What can I say?  I’d only been a member of the forum for a few months, and was trying to sound as professional and polished as I could.  8-)

At that point, I moved back to my other projects (namely the novel I was working on that later became Half Past Midnight).  Several weeks later, DRS announced that they hadn’t had enough submissions of a quality that they thought worthy of publication, so they were extending their deadline until June of 2011.  My heart sank.  I figured mine was one of those submissions that hadn’t made the cut.

Then on May 20th I received an email from Justin Macumber (lead Robot of the DRS):

from:  Justin Macumber
 to:  Jeff Brackett
 date:  Fri, May 20, 2011 at 6:02 PM
 subject: Re: Submission for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” – Jeff Brackett
 

 Jeff, this is Justin from the Dead Robots’ Society. I wanted to let you know that after reading your short story submission we would like to include it in our anthology, and we wanted to know if it was still available. If so, please let us know. The submission period is still open, so we’re continuing to work on putting everything together, but your story was enjoyed by the editors. Please contact us back if you’d still like to have this story included in our anthology.

Yours,

Justin Macumber

Well, by then I’d interacted with Justin a bit more, as well as the other DRS members, so I was just a little more comfortable in my correspondences with them.

from:  Jeff Brackett
 to: Justin Macumber
 date: Fri, May 20, 2011 at 6:28 PM
 subject: Re: Submission for “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” – Jeff Brackett
 

 Um, can I get a “Hell Yeah!”   :)

Er, I mean…

Yes sir.  “The Burning Land” is currently held specifically for your consideration and I most definitely desire to have it included your anthology.  I greatly appreciate your kind consideration and offer, and look forward to hearing back from you with further information and/or instructions.

Thank you again for your time.

Kindest regards,

Jeff Brackett

 

(See?  Sm1ley can do polite!)   }:^)

Since that time, DRS has had a few cast changes, and also learned what a hellish undertaking the publication of an anthology can be.  I’m sure they learned more than they ever wanted to know about layout and formatting for the various ebook venues, print, marketing, editing (especially when one particular contributing author kept finding mistakes in his manuscript that he should have caught MUCH earlier – and yes, I’m still REALLY sorry about that, Justin, Terry, and Eli) :-(

But it’s finally done!  The release date is today, and I can’t tell you all how excited I am about it.  I not only get to share more of my writing with you all, but I get to read some of my fellow writers’ works as well.  So please go out and purchase Explorers: Beyond the Horizon in your favorite formats via the links below.  And when you’ve read it, please take a moment and post a review.

Well, that’s all for now.  So check out the links below, and please consider buying a copy of Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.

CreateSpace Trade Paperback

Amazon.com Trade Paperback

Amazon.com Kindle eBook

Barnes & Noble Nook

Smashwords