Thursday, July 26, 2012

Misplaced Loyalty

Amidst all the hubbub over the legal proceedings concerning the largest publishers, I remain confused by only one thing:

Why are so many people so loyal to these companies?

Brand loyalty is something I've never really understood. There are brands that I trust, certainly. Brands that I have stuck with for some time because they are dependable or have certain quirks that I appreciate or various other considerations. But am I loyal to them? Hell no.

The closest I ever came was with processors, actually. AMD vs. Intel. I bought AMD processors to build computers with for years and years, but not out of habit. I did it because AMD processors were always the best chip for the price. As soon as Intel managed to catch up in quality for price, I switched. And I'll switch back if it changes again.

I find it funny in sports teams too. People are so rabidly dedicated to a team, and sometimes a player, when the player is usually just in it for the money and damn sure the team is. Sports - both professional and "college" - are just a business. Hell, even the Olympics is these days, judging by the antics in London lately.

...but I digress...

Publishers are a funny case, because they don't really leave a mark on their product - a marketing failing that has been pointed out again and again. I happen to know that Tor published many of the fantasy books I've loved the most, but I would not be able to tell the difference between a Tor title and a fantasy title from any other publisher unless I looked at the logo on the spine.

Furthermore, because I am also a writer and have been studying the publishing industry for so long, I know how backwards some of the practices of these companies are and how archaic their contracts and accounting continue to be. Even before I decided self-publishing was a viable option, I had a short list of "things to watch out for" should I ever get a publishing deal. I knew that publishers will not hesitate to screw a writer. If they have no loyalty to the people who they build their entire industry off of, I'm certain they have no real loyalty to the reader. Perhaps that's why they have so utterly failed to innovate over the years.

Needless to say, I won't be especially sad to see any of these companies die. If they fail to survive in the market, that is exactly what they should do. The ridiculous claims that this will somehow harm the publishing industry make me laugh. No, it will only harm the companies. Others will rise to fill the gaps, because there are still a shitload of people who want to read books, and they are willing to spend money to do it. So long as there is a demand, somebody will find a way to make money from supplying it.

Even more laughable are the claims that the DoJ proceedings will somehow harm culture itself...

Maybe I was wrong. If the Big 6 have managed to make themselves synonymous with culture, then they can't be so bad at marketing after all.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cracked the Surface of Clanless/Other News

I'm finally picking up some momentum on Clanless, which really helps my mood. The final chapters of TWIXT went so smoothly, as did many of the novellas of the Wandering Tale, that I forgot what it was like to really struggle to make progress. I spoiled myself, I suppose. After a few weeks of laboriously scratching a few words out each day, I think I'm finally beginning to peel back the crust of this story and get a real sense for how I want it to shape up.

I'm still trying to switch writing strategies by allowing the first draft to be rougher. I don't know how the experiment will turn out in the end, but I may as well try now. It is difficult to get out of the habit of editing every sentence to death as I write it, but I think that is more due to habit and perfectionism than it is to aversion to trying something new. Of course, if the new strategy doesn't result in higher productivity and at least the same quality, I'll ditch it and either try yet another one or go back to what I know.

This book requires more deliberate world-building than TWIXT, which was always meant to have a bit of a fuzzier, mythic feel to it. Clanless, on the other hand, is science fiction. It not only needs to be much sharper on the world details, it needs to have some reasoning behind it. The hardest part, though, is coming up with names for things that feel natural and blend into the story. Most of the other things I've written required little in naming beyond people and locations. Those are easy in comparison to naming fictional plants and animals. I'm keeping a text file with names and short descriptions, and I imagine I'll be changing some of the more ridiculous-sounding ones. However, I'm not willing to break the writing groove to come up with a good plant name.

In other news, I'm steaming away on preparations to podcast The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth. No details I can safely reveal yet, but for those of you who like audio performances: You may want to keep an eye out.

Friday, July 13, 2012

TWIXT is Half-Off at Smashwords!

I cannot believe I've forgotten to post this until now, but I've enrolled TWIXT HEAVEN AND HELL in the Smashwords summer sale. It is half-off until the end of the month, meaning that you can snag the entire novel for a paltry $3.50!

The Hardest Part of Ending...

... is starting again. Starting a new book is both an exciting and annoying time. Exciting because you'll finally be getting to another in the long list of stories you want to tell. Annoying because finding out where to start telling that story - and the manner in which you want to tell it - is freaking hard.

I've written the beginning to Clanless five times already. I thought I would never get it down the way I wanted it - then I had an epiphany.

I rewrote the beginning to TWIXT twice - after the first draft was done. It was better for that foreknowledge, too. I knew what I had ended up elaborating on, and what I had not. I cut out a lot of parts that seemed neat to me at first, but to which I had never returned.

There has always been a strong streak of perfectionist in me. I write slowly compared to a lot of other people, because I try to get it right the first time. I'm not one of those "real writing is done in revision" kind of authors. I do lots of revision, and editing, and rewriting, but plenty of the "first draft" survives until the end, because I spend a lot of time on the first draft.

Lately I have been considering trying a different tact. Speed through the initial writing and "fix it in post" as it were. I'm not sure that will ever work for me though, for the same reason I have never been able to start a story anywhere past the beginning and come back to write it later, as I've heard some writers do. I need to go in linear order, start to finish.

For this beginning, though, I'm thinking I'll let up on the internal filter a bit. Chances are I will rewrite the beginning, or at least tweak it heavily, once the book is written. I need to let myself pick up some momentum.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deleted Chapter From TWIXT

Following is an entire chapter that was deleted from the final version of TWIXT HEAVEN AND HELL. It is a pretty good chapter, and written well. However, it did not pertain to the main plot and centered on a couple of relatively minor characters. The subplot is never really revisited, and so I decided that the chapter was too much of a distraction in the book. However, it does explore some more of the characters and the world, so I wanted to make it available to people anyway.

If you have read the book (Hi Mom and Dad!) then know that this originally took place somewhere in the middle. If you haven't read the book, you don't have to worry about plot spoilers. There is nothing in this chapter that will ruin any of the story for you. Enjoy!


Preoccupied with the reports before him, Theodoric did not hear the sound of knuckles rapping upon wood. They sounded again, more insistently, and broke through the general's concentration.
"Enter," he said without bothering to turn. Likely it was just some errand boy.
He heard the door open and shut behind him, but no young voice begged his attention nor was there the sound of more reports being placed upon the table by the door. Theodoric turned, puzzled. Behind him was the Wizard Ethion. Theodoric stood immediately. They had known each other for long enough that such formalities should not have been necessary, but both men were aware that their friendship had soured of late.
"Please, Theo, none of that," Ethion said. He waved a hand and a chair upon the far wall slid close enough for him to sit.
"To what do I owe the honor?" the general asked, sitting again himself. He turned his chair to better face his visitor, knowing that this was not to be a short conversation. It was time to have it out, though Theodoric did not really see the point. Ethion was a wizard, Theodoric merely a general. What point could Theo make that Ethion would not simply overrule with some claim of arcane authority?
"Do I need a reason to visit you? We've both been superfluous since we returned, I thought we could burn a little of our boredom together."
The general swept a hand to indicate the sheets of parchment and hide on his desk. "I have found tasks to keep me occupied. Few of the generals like to bother with reports that aren't of the war itself."
Glory-hounding fools, Theodoric thought.
Ethion only raised an eyebrow, that famous gesture of wizards to let you know that you weren't telling them enough. Nevermind that you usually weren't telling them enough because you wanted them to go away and stop meddling with your business. Business which you could complete better without them around.
"Wanderer reports," Theodoric elaborated.
There had been a time, three hundred years earlier, when knowledge of what lay beyond Bastion's sheltering mountains was well-known. Contact with the tribes and villages that inhabited those mountains, and the grasslands and forests beyond, had been regular. Then came the Angels, and the Demons, and the War. Under the Angels' guidance, the strongest peoples had been united by great leaders in the period known as The Forging, when Bastion had been built and the War had started in earnest amongst the humans.
From that time on, contact with anyone who was not solidly friend or foe dwindled. As new peoples were rediscovered they were assimilated. Most, so awed by the beauty and power of the Angels who came with the men of Bastion, abandoned their villages and migrated to the city itself. The surrounding lands slowly emptied, and knowledge of whatever had lain beyond passed out of memory...
...until the callous destruction of the War demanded that new peoples again be searched out to lend their aid – and their men. Bastion always needed more soldiers than it had available. Some men, beyond the age of normal service, had been sent to explore the wilds and send back word of what they found.
By and large, that word was ignored. Aside from the men that were convinced to come to the city as soldiers, nothing outside the settled lands interested the people of Bastion.
"Is there anything worth our attention?" Ethion inquired.
Theodoric winced at the casual disinterest that had so poisoned the attempts of the Wanderers to inform their commanders of what existed far from the city. He had a surprise for the wizard this time, though. He lifted one of the thin sheets of hide from his desk and held it out.
Ethion took it and leaned closer to the window. The light outside was failing, but only one lamp was lit within the chamber and that was upon Theo's desk. Finally he looked back up with a blank expression. "We have known of these people for some time, Theo, have we not? They are intriguing, I'll grant you that."
New annoyance piled on top of old. Theodoric sighed to relieve the tension, reaching behind himself to grab the wine goblet that sat atop his desk. Ethion's eyes twitched as he did so – it was no secret that Theodoric seemed to have developed a healthy appreciation of wine since his return. Ethion had smelled it heavily on the man's breath when he sat down.
"Not just the people, Ethion. It's those beasts they use, the ones that carry them about. Animals like cattle, but taller, much swifter. There's a good drawing of them here somewhere..." Theodoric trailed off as he searched the stack on his desk. Finding it, he gave that too to the wizard, who perused it as the general continued.
"There's been a few men up with one of those tribes for almost a year now, learning their language, sending more and more to us as soldiers. They have learned a great deal. This is their latest report, Ethion." Theodoric handed over yet a third sheet, which Ethion also took and quickly read. Once more he looked up without understanding. It was just too much for Theodoric, who burst out of his chair and nearly yelled at the man, wizard or no.
"They use the things in battle, Ethion! Or what serves them for battle, skirmishes for food and such. They sit atop those great beasts as they go to war, throwing spears, using bows. Don't you see?"
Ethion was nodding now, but displayed none of the excitement Theodoric was showing. Though Ethion merely thought Theo was being overly dramatic on account of the wine, Theodoric knew better – or rather, he could see better. It maddened him that this man, this wizard who was supposedly superior to him, could not see the import of those reports as Theodoric could.
"You're saying we could do the same."
"I'm saying we should. I'm saying we must, and not just in battle – imagine if our messengers could be carried by these beasts, fourfold faster than their own feet can move them. We could make communication nigh as fast as the Globes to every outpost and fort, no matter how small."
It was a long term vision, Theodoric knew. He also knew it would require a great deal of time and resources, which Bastion may not be able to spare in the mean time. He had already presented this to the High Council, days earlier. They had thanked him for bringing it to their attention, and promptly done nothing. Theodoric expected them to continue doing nothing, and had from the beginning. If he wanted anything done in this matter, he would have to drive it himself. He was a General, after all. When he gave orders, men obeyed.
Contemplating his own plans, Theodoric fell silent, reaching for another drought from his goblet. Ethion sighed as he did so, and found the courage to ask the question he had come to ask.
"What is wrong, Theo? You've never been this surly – and you haven't drank this much since you were fifteen." Ethion should know, having occasionally sneaked drinks with his friend whilst still an acolyte, braving the punishment should he be found out. The ban against wizards imbibing alcohol was not a laughing matter.
Theodoric let the wizard finish, though a scowl grew on his face. He took another drink before he answered, and when his eyes met Ethion's they held anger – and accusation.
"You know well what it is, Ethion."
Ethion's face had hardened, and he spoke evenly, attempting to keep his own temper. "I made the decision I thought was correct. For all I knew - "
"You knew nothing!"
Theodoric's icy calm broke with that outburst. He leaned forward in his chair and stabbed a finger at Ethion as he spoke, his words slurring slightly from the drink.
"You came into my camp and ordered me to abandon an attack that you did not understand! I spent nearly a year there, gathering information, learning the rhythms of the enemy. I knew when they changed guards at outposts, when they sent out patrols. I knew how to take Cairn."
"I did what I thought was right," Ethion repeated evenly, controlling his ire at being shouted at.
His grievances aired, Theodoric seemed to settle down a great deal, settling back into his chair and breaking eye contact with Ethion. His scowl relaxed – into a sneer. "You were wrong."
"Yes. I was wrong. Is that what you need to hear? I'm sorry, Theo. I'm sorry I overruled you. I'm sorry we could not see your plan through. But I will not be made a villain based on nothing but hindsight!"
Shaking his head, Theodoric surprised Ethion by beginning to laugh – though it was a rueful, mirthless noise.
"Do you think this is about me, Ethion?" Theo asked. "About my pride? Yes, the plan was a good one, and I'm very proud of that. But the problem, old friend, is that you dismissed me without thinking. The problem is, you should have left the decision to me. I fought the Council to place the wizards in that army under my command, and only when they relented did I go forward. Do you know why?"
Ethion shook his head, troubled by the turn of the conversation.
"Because I have too often been dismissed by some robed fool who is interfering where he should not."
Ethion finally spoke up in indignation. "We always respect your expertise!" he exclaimed, speaking of all wizards and generals. His words only elicited more laughter.
"That's what you think! You pretend to listen, Ethion. You only pretend, and only here in the city. The young ones are the worst. I've had men half my age ignore my advice, blundering about and getting men killed who should have lived to go back to their wives. Ask any officer – it runs rampant, especially on the border. The wizards claim to keep our experience in mind, but from most of you the claim is empty. Even you, Ethion. You ignored me without a second thought, and you knew what I had gone through to get the Council to place me in overall command."
Ethion had not felt so distant from his friend since their youth. When Ethion had been found a wizard, both boys had known things would change. They had managed to stay fairly close, but now Ethion felt he had to defend his peers against these accusations. He found that he had nothing to say in argument, though. He knew Theodoric was telling the truth. He further knew that he had been guilty of the offense more than once.
In the end, Ethion glanced away from Theo and nodded curtly.
"Perhaps it is something we should bring to the attention of the Council, then."
"Hah! Yes, we'll ask the oldest and most prideful of you whether or not you misuse your authority."
"Come now, Theo. I agree that you have a valid complaint. They can be made to see it as well. You might be surprised by this, but we are all fighting the same war – it behooves us to solve any problem that has us fighting each other."


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Taunted, Teasers, and the Next Novel

Just about to head into week 2 of not looking at sales stats. That link is definitely calling me. I have clicked it out of habit a couple times in idle moments, though fortunately I stopped myself before navigating to the actual report. Gonna break this dang habit!

The TWIXT HEAVEN AND HELL audio teaser that aired on episode 18 of The Roundtable Podcast is also on Youtube.

In non-Twixt news, I have launched into my next novel, which just happens to be the story I pitched to the Roundtable in their second episode. I aim to have it finished by the end of the year, and published not too far into 2013.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Don't Watch the Pot

When I released TWIXT, I decided to not check the sales stats for a week. Then, in a moment of either stupidity or willpower, I bet myself I could go two weeks.

Well, I'm into day three, and I'm getting a little twitchy. The link is right there in my browser history. It would be so easy to click it and check up on my sales. Not just for TWIXT, of course - but all my books...

But I won't. Slavishly checking those numbers every hour is a waste of my time. It's a habit that needs to broken. I will continue my promotion efforts (poor as they are), but I won't try to analyze their results. I don't think I'm at a point where any effort I have will really have discernible results. Later on, there is always Amazon Author Central to track ups and downs in actual sales.

In other news, I'm intending to release a deleted chapter from TWIXT soon, along with the dedicated TWIXT HEAVEN AND HELL book page on the blog. It's a good chapter, but was axed from the book due to having only a tangential relation to the main plot. I think people who read the book will enjoy it.

Monday, July 2, 2012


TWIXT HEAVEN AND HELL is live on Smashwords and Amazon!

I've shown you the cover, and the cover copy (though that has been through some revisions), and talked about it plenty - and now it is out there in the world. Under the judgement of the public eye. As I've mentioned before, though, a poor reception for a self-published book really amounts to no reception at all. The book simply disapears into the depths of the internet, and never makes a splash.

I want to hear a splash, damnit. To that end I've prepared an audio trailer which I'll be trying to get onto various podcasts - fortunately, I have an ally at The Roundtable Podcast, and thus have one venue for the teaser already.

I would also like to thank the adventurous soul who was browsing Smashwords last night when my book first hit the New Releases homepage. Less than an hour after publication, somebody had downloaded the sample, liked what they saw, and purchased the book.

I am still blown away by how amazing that is.

Not merely the fact that somebody decided to buy my brand-new book on the strength of the sample (and, no doubt, the cover), but also by the logistics alone. I had pushed the button to publish only moments before, and then I had my first sale.

To whomever made that purchase, I hope you enjoy the book - and then I hope you tell your friends!