Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Sigma of the Stigma

I've been catching up on some writerly-world blogs lately, including Dean Wesley Smith's. I just finished his sum-up of the year 2013 in publishing. Plenty of good thoughts and observations in there, as is expected from this particular industry vet. If you haven't yet, definitely peruse his and his wife's blogs: they have lots of info for aspiring authors of all stripes.

A few of the comment's to the post I was reading sparked my memory of a topic I'd wanted to revisit for some time now. The stigma of self-publishing: how it continues to affect reader perceptions and how it is changing. Especially in the area of copyediting.

I can say without a doubt that two out of the last four traditionally-published books I've read recently had a higher rate of typos and other proofing errors than my own offered books. I've been hearing more and more from non-writers who are beginning to notice this downward trend in quality from the major houses.

Yet, in most reviews I see of trad-published books, such a thing as a typo is never mentioned, whereas in reviews of indie-published books they are mentioned with a high frequency even when it is to say "I didn't find many."

In many ways, the stigma of the self-publisher is dying. People rarely bat an eye anymore when I say I'm self-published as opposed to traditionally published. The world of the serious indie publisher is becoming more refined and polished, with business and production practices trending to a standard much closer to the major houses. In a lot of cases (including, I hope, my own) you cannot tell the product of one from the other.

Except, it seems, in the case of editing, in which self-publishers are taking the lead in quality. Because we have to. When a reader stumbles across an error in a book they know is self-published, it becomes a major event. That still-present stain is seen more clearly; the book feels soiled in their hands. It becomes a confirmation of the "not-quite-there-yet" status of the indie crowd.

But the same reader takes no similar notice of errors in traditionally-published books, even when present at a higher rate. With indie published work, the reader is on the lookout for that confirmation of a second-tier status they still believe in. Thus to be taken seriously, self-publishers don't have to be "as good as" a traditionally published work.

They need to be better.

I Made a Top Five List! and other things

I managed to rate a mention over at the Fantasy Review Barn with their 5 Self-Published Gems of 2013 list. Yay for the Wandering Tale!

There should be more of the Wandering Tale published next year as well - I'm hoping to finish at least two additional novellas, and one of those will be continuing the saga of the malevolent blade, Peace.

On the immediate writing plate I have a story I'm writing for a contest submission (alternate history) as well as the ongoing effort to gather enough SciFi shorts for the anthology I mentioned in the last post. Following that, I intend to make it a priority to get the first Wandering Tale collection and Twixt Heaven and Hell out in paperback. I've been dragging my feet on those for too long.

Speaking of the Science Fiction anthology, if you happen to know of any good scifi artists, please put me in contact with them! Browsing DeviantArt is fun, but a lot of those guys are hard to get a hold of...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Back From Another Blogging Sabbatical

Forced sabbatical, really. Another semester down, and finally the degree is within reach. That should be the last time I can accuse school of pulling me away from other things. I'll need to find different excuses in the future.

Fortunately, despite not blogging over the last few months, I was still doing plenty of writing. 13th Night is not complete - I and the professor decided to amend our goals to three completed acts rather than an entire five-act play, which turned out to be a bit too ambitious given both of our schedules. So, yes, I have about half of a play. It needs a lot of work, but it was definitely cool to be able to get credit for a creative project. I wish I'd clued in to the possibilities of Independent Studies ages ago.

I've also completed a couple of short stories and made beginnings to several more, in anticipation of publishing the SciFi shorts anthology sometime next year. I still don't have quite enough finished material to round out the entire anthology in the theme that I originally intended. I may decide to loosen up the theme itself, or simply work on writing more stories that belong within it.

Consciously attempting to think up stories that conform to a certain theme, or feeling, is an interesting experience. I've never lacked for a pile of story ideas to start my next project with, even after discarding many as simplistic, unworkable, or more fit to include as subthreads within another story (a planned fantasy series of mine has absorbed a lot of stories into itself over the years). Now I find myself actively trying to create concepts that revolve around this unifying idea, and it is... more difficult than I expected. A lot of the ideas end up being too similar, derivative. I'm okay with a certain amount of subject bleed - there's no harm in revisiting topics more than once, so long as each story stands on its own feet. Too much repetition, though, will just harm the entire group.

So, can't really say when the anthology will be published. Once I have most of the stories written I'll start putting them out individually to some beta readers, and then I'll start thinking about getting feedback on story order and other formatting issues. I'm already thinking about the book cover - artwork always weighs heavily on my mind as it's the one part of a publication where I'm not much use.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Of Course You Can

This is a quibbly, nitpicky thing, but I really wish people - generally beginners - in the arts would quit asking "Can I do <X>?"

Of course you can do it.

What you should be asking is: Should you do it? Do you have the ability to do it effectively? Even if done effectively, will it achieve the goal you want? What will be the consequences?

Naturally, a couple of the above are technically impossible to answer accurately, such as the "do you have the ability..." one. Can't know until you try - and even then, you'll get mixed reactions.

The "Can I..." question smacks to me of asking permission, and for some reason that really gets under my skin. I realize most people are probably actually asking "Can I... effectively?" which is an altogether more productive line of inquiry. Even then, though, the answer is almost certainly "Yes, if you're good enough."

So I suppose what I'm really trying to encourage artists to do is forego asking the "Can I" question. Instead, do whatever it is you wondered about, and do it as well as you can. Then take that work to people whose opinions you trust, and ask this question instead:

"Have I done <X> effectively?"

Then all you have to do is reconcile the many conflicting opinions you'll get in return...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hatching Old Eggs

It's pretty common for  me to incubate story ideas for quite awhile before actually writing them. I'll pound out a beginning - a couple of chapters or a few thousand words - and write up an accompanying outline of where I think the story might go, who the principal characters are, etc. Then I'll find that the idea hasn't formed enough in my head to be really confident writing it yet. Thus, it rests in a file somewhere until I'm perusing old ideas looking for the next project to finish.

I've got dozens of those, but there are always the principal ones which tend to be often on my mind. One such that I've mentioned here before is a play called ThirteenthNight. It is a sequel to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, dealing with a revenge plot hatched by the wronged Malvolio.

I wrote the opening pair of scenes to 13th Night almost two years ago. A couple days ago I added the first new words since then. It always feels good to take up an old project - especially when new ideas come rolling in more easily than they had when you began.

I don't really intend to become a playwright. The stories I like to tell, by and large, wouldn't translate well to the medium of the stage. Still, there are certain elements to any form of creative writing that are transferable. Attempting to mimic the style and quality of Shakespeare is a formidable task (some would say I'm guilty of hubris for even trying) but I'm confident that in this case, even failing to do it well ought to be pretty damned hilarious.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weeding the Garden of my Mind

Vis a vis that last post: I think a lot about biases and faulty judgement, because I'm of the opinion that all human beings possess them. Some will, once revealed, cling to them and deny evidence that there is anything faulty about them in the first place. Having seen this several times, I resolved to always try and rid myself of them without regard for my own pride. Even assuming that I'm able to do that in each case, I first need to be made aware of them in order to excise them from my thinking.

This always leads me to wonder what sort of biases still lurk in my mind, completely unknown to me...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Will My Writing Age?

I've been reading some Heinlein, lately. He's one of my favorite Science Fiction writers and I realized that there is still far too much of his portfolio I have yet to experience, and set out to fix that.

He's the sort of writer who, even for his less well-received works, I'm likely to come away glad I read it. He dwells upon many of the issues I find interesting, he was extremely smart, and did not seem to hold any ideals to absolutism (though there are many who would argue otherwise), so even when things get a little clunky in the execution I enjoy his work.

While reading Methuselah's Children, though, I find myself noting how the customs of his time have made their way into the future in a way that I would now find laughable. For instance, language that betrays the far more standardized gender roles of fifty or so years ago persists, even in a society he seems to be positing as possessing greater equality.

All this makes me wonder how my writing will eventually show the differences between my time and whenever the reader is from (assuming - with cheerful and unwarranted optimism - that people will be interested in reading my books after any significant span of time). What mores will it reveal that I myself don't even consciously know about? What assumptions? What biases?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Still Flirting With Validation

For a time, just after I made the decision to treat self-publishing as my main avenue, I wondered if I'd even bother to submit things to any traditional venue. I was pretty much done with the large publishers and the agents that basically enabled one to pursue them, but what about smaller publications - in other words, the magazines?

Well, apparently I'm not done with them yet. I've decided to rack up a few more rejections and have been sending some short work off to such prestigious rejectors (shut up, it's a word now) as Asimov's and Clarkesworld. I'll probably stick to a smaller number of reliable and successful magazines. Researching the others bulk of the sector, with many magazines which tend to rise and fall pretty quickly, takes more time than I'm willing to give it. And each one will have separate formatting preferences. If there's one thing the industry needs to standardize...

In any case, I'm aiming for maximum efficiency in time, even if the trade off is minimum likelihood of acceptance. Now that I've relegated traditional channels to the backburner, I can afford to keep my standards high. The time I'd otherwise spend researching and sending off story after story can be better spent writing.

There is one other project I'm looking at submitting to, though. Antimatter press is running a little novelette pitch contest, and given the (relative) success of my Wandering Tale series I think dabbling a little more in the short-form pool couldn't hurt. Only problem is, now I have to look through my catalog of "stories-to-tell" and figure out which one would work best as a series of novelettes, rather than as a novel. Though as I found with the Wandering Tale, switching the format can be rather invigorating to the story, so I'm looking forward to the experiment.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why Not? Let's Make Some Dick Jokes

I don't really believe in so-called Writer's Block.

I think that anybody who sits down at a computer really wanting to write can put words on the page. Perhaps they won't be great words. Perhaps they'll need to be changed or cut later. Still, they'll get out of you and onto the page, and you'll have written something.

Most of the time I feel that Writer's Block is really just a lack of motivation to do the work of writing. It's a person - who fancies themself a writer - sitting down not to write, but to be brilliant. We can write whenever we want to. We can't always write well whenever we want to. However, if you aren't prepared to write badly every now and again you're going to have a hard time making steady progress.

I know this. I believe this. And yet, I often find myself unwilling to write badly. It is a holdover element of my old perfectionism that if I let a word remain on the page for very long it needs to be good. It can't just be serviceable. It can't be "I'll replace it later." It can't be "Let's just get through this portion and come back to it, when the rest of the book can inform it better."

It's a bad habit, and I need to break myself of it if I ever want to get all these stories out of my head. I've decided that I will first start with renaming the problem. I don't like Writer's Block.

I'm going to call it E-write-tile Dysfunction (EWD). Yes, I am basically writing this post for the sake of that joke alone. Sue me.

I've had a bad case of EWD for awhile now, but I think I'm getting through it. My commitment is firming up, you might say. I'm ready to go at it hard and fast. Once I've covered the page, I'll take a second look and see what sticks. But rest assured, at the end of it all I'll make sure my audience is satisfied.

Yeah, I'm done now.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Talk to Me in a Different Setting

Not that you talk to me much here. Would it hurt to call now and then?

That of course doesn't apply to those of you who do, in fact, talk to me here. And elsewhere. Love you guys.

In any case, I'm the Reddit Fantasy Writer of the Day over at /r/Fantasy. Basically it means I get to shamelessly self-promote for a day and answer some questions. Stop on by if you'd like to ask me something!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Short Stories: Complete Arc vs. Slice of Life

Personally, my definition of what constitutes a "short story" is pretty loose. Observe:

A short story is A) Short and B) ... nope, that's it.

By which I mean, I don't really have any expectation that a short story will give me a complete character arc or a complete "story" in the traditional sense. Many of my favorite short works serve largely to enunciate some idea, or to sketch a picture of an interaction that is more or less fully sensible without further context.

This means that a lot of my favorite short stories can easily be pieces of a larger work - which is A-OK by me. In fact, my first introduction to Ender's Game was through an excerpt included in the anthology There Will Be War. It stood perfectly well on its own.

My freely-available short "Le Morte d'Arthur" has garnered a number of reviews, most fairly positive. The most common negative mentioned, though, is that it is "too short." Now, I'm fine with this - first of all because nobody ever says a terrible story is "too short" so at least I know they wanted to read more. Second of all because most of the elaborations mention they don't think it constituted a full story - that it read more like the first chapter of a book.

To which I usually respond (silently): "Sometimes that's what a short story is - the first chapter to a book that hasn't been written."

I find it wonderful that so many people have expressed desire for an extension to that story. I'll gladly write it (I aim to please. If there's an audience for a story, I'm going to give it to them). However, I disagree that it needs it in order to be complete. The idea has been enunciated. The picture has been formed. As a short, I don't think it requires a complete character or story arc in order to stand alone.

This has come up a lot with me lately as I write additional short stories for a planned collection. Some of them are complete stories in the traditional sense, but many of them aren't. I keep wondering whether or not to address this issue within the collection itself through some kind of authors note. I suppose it must be a consequence of being an indie publisher that makes me want to prepare the reader's expectations so much...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


There is an old concept in SFF called the "Mary Sue/Gary Stu." These are characters which act as self-insertion and wish-fulfillment vehicles for the author. The phenomenon is originally named for a common element of Star Trek fanfiction.

But of course, this sort of thing is not limited to fan fiction. To a certain extent, a lot of main characters are vehicles of wish-fulfillment. Indeed, I use the obviousness of the self-insertion of the author as a sort of unofficial barometer of the "maturity" of a work of fiction. The more I get the feeling that a character is living out the author's personal fantasies, the lower the story falls on the rating system (this does not necessarily indicate displeasure with the story itself, though it certainly corresponds strongly).

However, the primary problem behind the Mary Sue/Gary Stu is getting muddied. We're now seeing it applied to all sorts of characters who have a variety of talents and seem generally all-round awesome. My problem with this conceptual drift is that the problem now seems to apply to just about every protagonist ever written.

We like to read about exceptional people. They feature as the main character in a helluva lot of stories. Even the quintessential "everyman" character generally has some extraordinary skill or manages to save the day due to a sudden (and often unlikely) stroke of genius. None of these necessarily merit the label of self-insertion.

In order to restore the trope to its original meaning (or perhaps to do away with that version of it altogether, due to some stick sexism-related issues) I've come up with the concept of Overcompetance.

This is meant to do away with the discussion on self-insertion. I don't really care about it, as I assume self-insertion is happening in some ways (the good authors just disguise it well). Thus all I care about is whether the range of skills and talents displayed by any particular character feels real. At the point where it begins feeling artificial, there begins a display of overcompetance.

Obviously this is a highly subjective assessment (as is everything else in literature). I generally ascribe it to characters who manage to miraculously "discover" several new talents during the course of a book. Encounter magic for the first time and you're already really good at it? Okay. Wait, you only just started riding horses and you do it as if born in the saddle? Hrm. Hold on, you've never held a weapon in your life and after a month with a sword you can best experienced soldiers? Sorry, that's one too many. You fail the test.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Concerning That Whole "Rewriting" Thing

I've never been much of a rewriter.

I'm usually the sort of writer who obsesses over each word before it hits the the page. Thus I I rewrite less than other whose first drafts might have been a little breezier in the making. For me, completing the first draft represents the bulk of the work. I'm thinking about a lot of stuff during its creation that a lot of writers leave for the latter part of the process.

I never planned it that way. It's just the way my writing habits evolved. Polish the first draft as much as possible - fix problems that arise along the way, including going back and rewriting chapters as needed to resolve continuity issues and the like. It takes a lot longer to get a finished story, but then you only need to iterate over the writing to bring the rough parts up to the level of the good parts. Major problems should be mostly taken care of by that point.

With Clanless I'm trying something else, as I believe I've mentioned in the past. I'm attempting to focus on getting the story onto the page faster and trusting in my ability to rewrite it up to quality. I don't know if this method will be faster in the end (and to be honest, the patchy amounts of time I'm able to devote to writing make it harder to judge) but I do want to give it a try.

So far, progress has been... odd. I've skipped entire element of the story to fill in later. I have a myriad of bolded passages telling myself what needs to be added, or what will need to be reconciled if I end up going a certain direction later. I also have a number of passages emphatically marked for replacement because even as I finished them I was cringing at how bad they were. Normally, that kind of thing wouldn't stand with me, even in a first draft. All in all, I estimate I've left a good 15k-20k words to be "filled in later." That's out of 35k words written so far.

Yeah. Not my normal MO. I guess we'll have to wait for the final product to see how it the process helps or hinders - and even then, it's rather hard to control for the effect of any single variable in the writing process. Just too many to account for and "life" is not the most stable experimental environment.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Needed Cover Makeover

The Giant of the Tidesmouth has a new cover by the always-wonderful Graham Hanks.

It may take a few hours for it to trickle through Amazon's system and be reflected on the page, but soon enough this beauty shall replace the old, do-it-yourself-because-you're-too-broke-to-pay-an-artist beast.

Let's all just forget how the other one looked, eh?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hero Gender Bender

I undertook a fun little mental exercise the other day. The ongoing discussions concerning gender equality in the SciFi/Fantasy community (for instance, this excellent thread on Mythic Scribes) got me thinking about some of my own characters. Personally I do tend to default characters to male - that is to say, unless there is a reason for a character to be female they are written as males. This has resulted in what even I can admit is a noticeable deficit of female characters thus far. Whether this is because I myself am male or because of cultural programming, I leave to others. It is a situation that I intend to change, though.

Anyways, back to that exercise: I went through a few of the stories I have in my head and flipped the gender of some of the main characters, trying to imagine the difference it would make in the story.

By and large, in many of my works of fantasy it makes quite a difference (though not all). This was usually attributable to the societies in which these characters exist having strongly defined gender roles. So, that's a predictable and fairly boring finding.

The fun part came in when I specifically took a look at the main characters where A) the society had enough gender equality to shrug at the flip and B) the character was dear to me, personally, for some reason. There exists a particular fantasy doorstopper series I eventually want to write with a pair of main characters whose character arcs complement and comment on each other. I took the one I liked best and tried this little game.

It definitely caused some differences. Various characters interactions would need to change, and at least one would be probably more complicated. At least two romantic subplots would change because the significant other of those relationships would have to be flipped (well, I guess I could make the MC bisexual or homosexual, which choice would have additional consequences).

The end result of all this was my realization (which will no doubt seem rather banal to most people) that pretty much every consequence of changing these details about a character sprang from how their society would view it.  There is, of course, nothing intrinsic about a woman that makes her less fit for practically any task. The only possible exception is melee combat, when having a great deal of muscle mass comes in handy - but of course, there are plenty of very strong women (and plenty of martial roles which don't place so much emphasis on brute strength), so that's out as well. Same goes for homosexuals, especially concerning the romantic involvements. I've seen nothing to suggest there is some intrinsic difference, emotion-wise, between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

What does all this mean? Well, it means that ideally a reader should identify no less with a hero of the opposite gender or a different sexuality than they would with a hero who is "like them" in these respects. The range of human reaction and emotion has no such boundaries.

That is, in an ideal world. In more realistic terms, given two heroes A and B of which A is a woman and B a man (and sure, a third hero C which is transgender), a male reader might identify more with a male character simply because he assumes the female experience is different - even if every other aspect of their story is identical.

I suppose that could be one of the benefits of well-written fiction that is aware of such issues - it will instill such awareness in the readers. Does that mean I have the guts to actually change the gender or sexuality of any of these characters? I suppose that remains to be seen.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Investing In a Book is Not the Same as Buying One

A lot of authors are kickstarting (or, I can only assume, Indiegogo-ing) novels these days, essentially doing what established writers have been telling wannabe's not to do for years: attempting to sell the idea of a novel before having the novel itself.

Obviously, this was advice mostly given to those who had written very little in their lives and thought that a great novel idea was somehow a ticket to stardom - as if they actual work of writing the novel were trivial rather than the actually valuable part of the whole package. Same went for making videogames, in case you were wondering. I see that same trends and same advice repeated ad infinitum in both spheres to the hopeful masses.

I have to admit that this irked me at first with novels where it did not with games. I have proudly backed several games on Kickstarter and intend to continue doing so, as creating a videogame often requires investments beyond the bounds of a single creator laboring away lonely in their basement. Multiple team members, proprietary technology, art and sound resources, etc etc.

But novels? Generally the only thing standing in the way of their completion is the author finding the time to write them - a problem which would seem to be nonexistant for authors who have already "gone professional" and assumedly spend a fair deal of their time writing. Thus I scoffed, at first, at the idea of professional authors kickstarting novels they hadn't written yet. Most of the ones I looked at didn't even have so much as an opening chapter - just some concept art and, indeed, a fairly bare "concept" of the plot.

Of course, being the "live and let not-give-a-fuck" sort of fellow that I am, my reaction to all this wasn't of the they shouldn't be doing this variety. It was more of the would I ever do this? sort, with a decisive lean towards no.

Having thought about it some more, I can't be so sure. I generally see Kickstarter used for novels by fairly niche authors, who have a small but devoted following. These authors aren't getting filthy rich on their books. They make a modest but livable income. They have a proven track record of providing quality products (this is the most important thing in crowdfunding, for me!). Only an utter idiot would throw that reputation away in a scheme to get quick 10 or 20 grand (or whatever the number) up front.

I haven't heard of any audiences being burned on kickstarting a novel, whereas I have heard sob stories from nearly every other sector. Furthermore, it does open up some rather exciting options - offering cool things like big, silk-screened maps to backers without worrying if it'll earn out the investment you made up front.

Of course, when I think of doing such things myself, I remember that I can kickstart extras-packages like that without kickstarting the novel itself. Somehow it seems more honest to do it that way. After all, I don't really intend to write anything I don't think there isn't paying audience for - nor do I intend to write anything just because there is a paying audience. That is to say, I won't write anything I wouldn't enjoy writing (what is the point of pursuing professional authorhood, after all, but to truly enjoy what we do for a living?).

Obviously, I'm a long ways from actually needing to make any decisions on the subject. My thinking, though, is constantly evolving, leading me to repeat something I've been saying a lot:

I'm so excited to be in the game now, while everything is changing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Critics Burn Inferno. Nobody Cares.

The release of Dan Brown's new book Inferno was followed by its predictable trashing by the literary critics, which in turn was followed by the equally predictable sound of millions of readers not giving a fuck what literary critics think.

I have not read any of Brown's books, so I can't give a personal opinion over how good or bad his prose is. However, whatever the quality of his writing, I can say without a doubt that it is "good enough."

Same goes for Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame, or EL James (50 Shades of Grey), or - to go back a ways - Christopher Paolini (Eragon).

Writing is the medium. The story is the message. So long as your message is compelling, and your writing is good enough to get it across, you'll do fine. (Sometimes much more than fine, as the above authors can attest). The message is more important than the medium. The story is more important than the prose. The toy is more important than the packaging.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Map of The Wandering Tale

Or rather, of the area covered by/mentioned in the stories so far: The continent of Eretar.

It isn't quite done yet, but it is pretty representative of where I want to go with it. Click to enlarge - the image itself is quite large and you can zoom in a bit (even though the only detail that will be clearer is the red-dotted locations, which are specific locations from the Tales themselves).

Most of the skills, tricks, and techniques used to make this map were learned by perusing the resources available at The Cartographer's Guild, a fantastic place for any map enthusiast. I'm not enough of an artist to do my own cover art, but I think I can develop the cartographic skills necessary to make my own maps.

Still plenty I have left to learn - like how to make attractive and unobtrusive political borders and labeling. The borders I've tried so far ended up looking terrible, and I'm not quite happy with how the labels look either. I'll have it all fixed up for the first Wandering Tale collection.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


As I crawl towards the halfway mark on the first draft of Clanless, I've begun to spare a bit of thought for thinks like cover art - and marketing. It seems the prevailing wisdom is to make sure your name is associated with one genre and one genre only - in which case I'd want to publish Clanless, and any future works of science fiction, under a different name than Tristan Gregory. Which is itself a pen name.

No doubt keeping things simple for my readers is worth making them confusing for me.

I'm still not sure I'll follow the prevailing wisdom in this case, though. Most of my very favorite authors have published work in several genres, and I like to think that readers are pretty smart. Certainly they can clue to the face that certain books  are unrelated to each other unless specified... right? I can always start including a "other books by" section in my front matter which breaks my titles down by fantasy and science fiction, I suppose...

Still, all the talk about "building brands" is fairly influential. I don't have a lot of marketing clout to leverage, and so any trick I can use to keep  my efforts focused on my most likely readers is a good thing. Then again, I kinda hope that even readers who find me through my fantasy novels might want to try out my science fiction. Personally I've always seen it as one and the same, as summarized by The Third Law and it's corollary.

I suppose it's comforting to know that I can always change my mind and switch the name on the cover. Unless of course I get successful enough that people would notice that kind of thing. In which case... mission freaking accomplished.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Making Some Marketing Noise

While I'm still far more concerned with writing new books rather than promoting older ones, I'm going to be rattling a few cages this summer in hopes of stirring up a few more reviews for both Twixt Heaven and Hell and The Wandering Tale novellas.

To that end, I'm giving away a few copies of Twixt to folks who think they might be interested in reviewing it. You can get more details in this post I made on reddit, but the long and short of it is: If you want a free eBook of Twixt, email me at and tell me what format you'd like it in.

Offer is open for a week or so, or until I've given out twenty or so copies. Response so far has been decent, so I'm not sure which will come first!

Edit: I'll also mention that I've pulled Twixt from publication on Smashwords and downstream channels for awhile in preparation for trying out the KDP Select program. Despite my dislike of the exclusivity thing, I'm gonna be doing a lot of experimenting this summer and this is one experiment that was too obvious not to try. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Some Love from the Library

It's been a quiet April as I finished up the semester's classes and started to switch gears for the summer. I'm looking forward to being able to devote a good deal more of my time to writing in the coming months.

I've recently finalized a contract with the Ann Arbor District Library to make my books available in their electronic catalogue (basically eBook downloads for library members). I found the deal very encouraging, as the library represents some of that "outside approval" that self-publishers so acutely lack in the beginning. Here's hoping that some portion of the AADL's 60k+ membership are approving as well.

I intend to use this as a springboard in order to contact other libraries in Michigan and see if any are interested in a similar arrangement. Once I have my books in actual print (which is rather high on my summer to-do list) I aim to supply at least the AADL with a couple copies (should they be interested). Always nice to have some presence on the physical shelf-space as well.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Build Your Own Adventure

The kind of game I love best is the one that lets me tell my own story - or one that helps me build a new one.

Most games tell a story, of course. However, it is pre-written, with the player simply going through the motions of the narrative. If the game designers have done their job, "going through the motions" is a lot of fun - take Half-Life, for instance.

Then there are those games which give the player some control over the minutia or even the outcome of the story. Deux Ex is a favorite, though the "multiple endings" part was pretty weak. However, through your actions you could definitely affect various game events.

I have yet to play a great game where the player can have truly dramatic impact on the story itself; Understandably, as this kind of feature would be a massive undertaking as the chaos effect takes over - each choice begets more choices (branches within branches within branches). Still, it would be fun to see it pulled off.

More and more, though, I find that my favorite games are all ones which have no built-in narrative at all, but they serve very well for letting me create my own. Recently (well, in the last few months) I've been playing the hell out of a game called Crusader Kings II. This is a grand strategy game partially in the vein of Europa Universalis (same studio, I think) - however, the "personal politics" portion of the game has been expanded dramatically, and it is beautiful. You can start as Holy Roman Emperor or as a lowly count, and from there you try to expand your lands, accrue titles, keep your vassals in line, and avoid conquest by rival powers. Arrange political marriages, grow the prestige of your family dynasty, install friendly claimants upon various thrones, etc etc.

My first game saw me take the reigns of Hungary in the year 1066. I conquered parts of Croatia, then was stomped into the dust by the Ottomans. However, my character was not relieved of my ducal titles, so I still ruled a duchy within the Ottoman Empire. I navigated the politics of this foreign conqueror successfully enough, and the senior branch of the Árpád dynasty adopted Egyptian culture. Later on I sabotaged the internal politics of the Empire (yes, you can do that) enough so that I and a number of other territories declared our independence. I went on to reconquer Hungary's old territory and reclaim the crown, and then some. By the time the game ended in 1450, Hungary was one of the preeminent kingdoms in the world, controlling both her traditional lands as well as most of Croatia, Serbia, and parts of the Balkans - including, in the closing years, claiming Constantinople in a Crusade and creating the Latin Empire.

Phew. Now that was a helluva story (no doubt more fun played than retold in brief, but you get the point).

And that's only one game. Plenty of others exist and give totally different experiences and types of stories to cook up. Mount and Blade and Dwarf Fortress are another couple of favorites. Dwarf Fortress, especially, is famous for delivering some of the most hilarious and twisted stories gaming has to offer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kind Words for the Wandering Tale

Pauline M. Ross of Fantasy Review Barn (and who had also reviewed Twixt Heaven and Hell last year) has posted a review of all four Wandering Tale novellas.

I especially like the part where she refers to the recently released The Crown Unconquered as "absolutely perfect." I don't know. Something about the way she phrased it... just rolls off the tongue. ;)

Pauline also mentions the lack of a map, and to both her and you I promise that a map will be coming soon. It will be included in the first Wandering Tale collection along with a few other extras - but the map, at least, will also be posted to this blog in a larger format than it can appear in an eBook.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Launch: The Crown Unconquered

The Crown Unconquered is officially published and available for sale on both Amazon and Smashwords. In a couple weeks it should be available in all major eBook retailers as the Smashwords gears turn. If you like stories of court politics and intrigue, you'll love The Crown Unconquered.

"Since its destruction, the survivors of the Kingdom of Valec have labored to restore their homeland. As the last member of the royal bloodline, Count Daven has been their leader. He has kept them safe and secret from the many enemies of the fallen kingdom, even as he seeks to pass the burden of rule on to other men.

Now the time for secrecy has passed. Trouble between their old foes calls Daven to a foreign court, where he must convince the King of Normarch – who played a prominent part in Valec's downfall – to recognize the rights of his people. If Daven can make new friends of old enemies, his people will have a future.

If not, then the fast-approaching war will reduce his people – and their fledgling kingdom – to ash."
 Buy it on Amazon here.

But it on Smashwords here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Slightly Bumpy Book Launch

Wheeew. That was more of a chore than usual.

Being a rather tech-savvy person (not to mention a pretty decent programmer), I haven't really had issues with eBook formatting before. Sure, it took a couple hours at the beginning of it all to learn the ropes, but after that I never had much trouble getting my books to look the way I wanted. Until yesterday.

So long as you upload a .doc file, Amazon's conversion process is a breeze. The only other version I tried was uploading .html, and that had some issues - mostly because the HTML output from both OpenOffice and LibreOffice is extremely flawed. I was about to dive in an fix it manually when I remembered I could just go with a .doc. I wish they'd just start supporting .odt, but oh well. Can't have it all.

Smashwords, on the other hand, is a different beast. A lot of people decry the Meatgrinder, but I've never had too bad of an experience. The only real beef I've got with the output is that their "Online Reading" view (accessible from the Smashwords store itself) butchers text stylings. It can't seem to take text alignment from the text styles, so all the centered text displays improperly. It makes the book look horrible right from the title page. Fortunately, not many people buy directly from Smashword's site, and the epub, mobi, and other formats all look fine. People who find my books on Apple, B&N, and the other stores will have a properly arranged product.

Still, it annoys me. I'll probably see what I can do about it later this year (maybe just start a conversation with the Smashwords people themselves and see if they can fix the way their Online View is put together).

The most... erm... amusing lesson of yesterday and today's formatting issues is that the epub validation process (required for distribution to Apple) can get a bit wonky. I don't know a vast amount about the process, but apparently it can mistake your style names for html tags and think that the file is malformed. I had a style called "blockquote" because it was for freaking block quotes and other text formatted like them; for instance, a missive from one king to another, printed verbatim on the page.

I ended up changing the style name to the more fanciful "LetterScribe." That fixed the problem. Still, it took unzipping the epub and going into the text with Notepad++ to find the source, and that was rather annoying.

Still and all, it's done. The book is published on Smashwords and being vetted on Amazon as we speak. Once Amazon comes through and tells me the thing is published for true, I'll be making the official announcement.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Forgot My Own Advice

I did it again.

I waited until the day of publication to write the cover copy for a book. I've given the advice to many many people to start writing it as soon as you start thinking about publication. It needs to be written and rewritten, polished and perfected by the time pub day comes. (Speaking of pub day, a happy St. Paddy's to everyone!).

This is one of those "Do as I say, not as I do" situations, kids.

Well, hopefully I'll be able to get something that I like down in time. Even if I do, there's a good chance I'll rewrite it a few times. Another of the wonderful parts of E-publishing - I can change it as often as I need to.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

More like SimShitty, eh? Eh?

An interesting thread here on reddit supporting my suspicion that at least some of the worst changes to SimCity (always-on DRM and tiny maps) were either late changes to the game forced on the dev team or taken out in order to provide for DLC later on.

Not the way to make a game, folks. Not the way at all. And implementing the changes in Javascript, client-side? That's just bizarre.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SimCity: A Lament

It's been very sad to see the kerfuffle surrounding the recent SimCity launch. Although at least it gave me the excuse to use the word "kerfuffle."

SimCity is a venerable brand. I've played many of them, including an old SNES version which, as I recall, was actually my introduction. The engineer in me loves learning the systems and making things run along, and solving problems when they come up (in fact, my biggest complaint is that SimCity never gave you enough realistic problems to deal with). SimCity 4 was fantastic, introducing the regions that you could tie together with various transport methods. I spent stupid amounts of time just sculpting landscapes.

Of course, EA wasn't content to let a good game be made. They wanted to engineer a revenue stream, making sure their players' gametime was filled with "oppurtunities" to buy extra stuff RIGHT AWAY. Hence the always-on connection requirement. More control, larger audience, more ways to suck the cash out of the customer. EA has grown so large they've lost the institutional focus on actually providing great games. I feel sorry for the folks at Maxis. I'm certain a lot of these "features" were demanded from on high.

This reminds me of what happened with SPORE, the Will Wright masterpiece that ended up being a pretty hum-drum little disappointment. Reading Will Wright's vision for the game and seeing some of their early demos, the game looked amazing. Plenty of buzz was building. In steps EA with DRM demands and modification designed to make the game "accessible."

In case you haven't cracked the code, accessible generally means boring. I've heard from several people that SimCity - in the brief moments they can play it - is also pretty shallow compared to earlier versions.

EA, please stop ruining good games. Stop "suggesting" changes. Stop demanding fussy DRM. People, stop pre-ordering games from EA. How many times do they need to abuse your trust before they lose it?

I never did buy SimCity, even though I was hopeful that it would turn out well. SPORE (along with others) taught me a valuable lesson, and I never pre-order games anymore. I've begun to back some on Kickstarter - we'll see how that turns out in the long run.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Story Reconstruction Blues

I've been editing The Crown Unconquered for a couple weeks now. It's been hard going. My beta readers were pretty much in agreement with me on the main problem spots, which means those things need to get solved, hard. Sadly, I've been in a funk this last couple of weeks as well, which never makes writing easy.

The process goes as follows:
-Get charged up to fix the story, sit down to edit
-Make some progress
-Grow daunted by the task in front of me and unsure of my own skills
-Despair sets in, walk away from story confident I'll never get anywhere with my writing
-Do other things, dwell on story
-Remember how awesome the story will be once I fix it
-Get charged up, sit down to edit...

Rinse. Repeat. Low moods never help, of course. I feel myself emerging from that, so I'm still confident I can get this story fixed and published by the end of the month.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hedmund's Armor

I used to draw a fair amount, but I never got particularly good at drawing anything except melee weaponry. Every now and then I managed to sketch a pretty good dragon. It's frustrating to see images so clearly in my mind and somehow not be able to translate that into a good image.

Thus, when I do manage to sketch something in nearly the fashion it existed in my head, I get very excited. Sadly, I often manage the best drawings on the worst mediums - in the margins of text books or at the top of class notes, for instance. Never in the center of a nice clean white sheet of paper...

I've been doodling Hedmund's scale armor (from The Giant of the Tidesmouth) for ages now. Somehow, this one time I got it almost right. For any real artist it's mediocre - for me it's hall of fame. Thus, I share it with you all. Yes, it was drawn on a yellow legal pad - I tried to clean it up a bit in GIMP, but the end result looked worse than simply sharing the direct scan.

I present to you Hedmund's Armor:

Hold the laughter, please. I'm proud of it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Could Apple Beat Orange in a Fight?

I'm going to ram my head into the wall every time I see another "Gandalf vs. <Some other wizard/magic-user>" discussion. Seriously, I can't stand them. Generally for phenomena that exist purely for fun I can put aside the logical quibbles I have with them, but this one is just so.... so fundamental I can't help but be driven crazy by it.

To every fanboy out there: Unless you are arguing about characters within the same mythos (and preferably written by the same author - looking at you here, Star Wars fans) you have no basis for comparison. I can't tell you whether Gandalf would win in a fight against Voldemort, because the entire fundamental rules of their realities are different.

If I'm being glib I'll just pick the character I like better, but if someone were to - in all seriousness - ask me to decide the question, I'd demand a lot of money for all the time I'm going to need to spend constructing the logical/physical/magical framework that translates one world into another. Most of that would be pulled straight from down under, and thus the decision is still arbitrary.

Technically the same applies even to mundane warriors, though at least there you can kind of trust that they need to follow basic physics. However, given the prevalence for fiction authors (myself included) to have their characters do some pretty improbably stuff, they become just as impossible to compare.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Playing with the Price

I'm considering conducting another experiment with pricing. In the course of the last experiment I noted little to no difference in my sales. Of course, my sales are still slow enough that I have only a few data points to go on, and chances are price isn't really influencing them in the first place.

This time, however, I may accompany the pricing experiment with a few announcements on various boards and social networkings sites. It's been over six months since the book was released and I rarely mentioned it (save here on the blog) - I figure I've earned myself the right to do a little advertising.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Keep it Short

I've never been that great with short form fiction. Everything I write tends to grow longer and longer, and even my short stories tend to claw their way towards 10k words pretty easily. This happened just recently, and now that story is undergoing some dramatic restructuring in an attempt to bring the word count back under control.

My published (free) short Le Morte d'Arthur is one of the best I've written, largely because it stayed short. This is one of the few occasions where I didn't leave out many of the ideas I'd had for the story - it was always as succinct as it turned out. Not my usual MO. Generally there are a thousand little details I want to expand.

Ironically, a lot of the fans of that story have told me they'd like to see a longer piece featuring Morte. Hm.

Now, in the last week, I've jotted down two stories that managed to weigh in at under a thousand words and still work well. One I will be rewriting in a slightly less brief form, but I don't anticipate it will expand too greatly in word count. Might even stay under 1k, though the concept behind it could probably drive a novel. The other one probably only works as a short piece.

I haven't yet been able to pin down a set of traits for short stories that only truly work as shorts. It's a question I've been puzzling over for awhile now, and quite frankly I haven't made much headway. Anybody know of a good discussion of the topic?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Science Fictasy

As I make the transition between writing one of the Wandering Tale novellas and going back to work on Clanless, I've been thinking a lot about genre. 

A lot of people lump science fiction and fantasy together. I don't know the original reasons for that pairing. On its surface it seems like they should be very, very distinct. In practice, of course, most fiction billed as Sci Fi is actually just fantasy with a different feel. Space ships, laser guns, and aliens instead of castles, swords and monsters - but equally as realistic.

Science Fiction has always held a special place in my heart due to my more exacting expectations. I can make up a gun that shoots light. I can state what it's limitations are, its energy sources, how common or uncommon it is and why. I can tell you manufacturing principles, dangers of failing to maintain it. Effective countermeasures and protection. I could tell you all sorts of technical details - but that doesn't make it science fiction. If I'm pulling all of this straight out of thin air, that laser weapon is a product of fantasy.

My personal definition of "Science Fiction" has a greater burden of thought attached to it. It has to start with physics as we know it. Then it should predict, extrapolate, build on and develop a new world that logically follows from the old. To some people this may sound like I want all my science fiction to sound the same, which couldn't be further from the truth. After all, the author can still introduce many elements that exist only on the fringes of the physical world, or that lie in the thinnest slices of the bell curve. Improbability is not only forgivable, it is often one of the most interesting spaces to explore.

This makes true, hard science fiction (pure science fiction?) a rare creature indeed. Clanless will not be true science fiction. It will, like most popular science fiction, be a hybrid. Much of it will be rigorously thought out, but there will be fantastic elements that exist for the sake of the story or for the sake of making the universe more interesting. This is as it should be. In the age of quantum mechanics, I wonder how much of the science fiction writing crowd even has the brainpower to write pure science fiction. I know that every time I try to read a Wikipedia article on quantum physics, I go cross-eyed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Tale Wanders Farther

Well, the fourth novella of the Wandering Tale - tentatively titled The Crown Unconquered - has cleared draft status and has been sent out to the beta readers. As usual I will be trying not to read, edit, or even think about the story until I've heard back from some of them.

Sometime this year I will be gathering the first four novellas into the first Wandering Tale collection, as they all treat with a greater meta-story that was developing behind the plots of the four stories themselves. I anticipate starting a new meta-story with the fifth, and developing it for as long as it needs to be developed in order to be both coherent and entertaining.

I have not quite decided exactly what the fifth story will be about. I'm afraid I must admit to all three of my fans that it is not yet the continuation of the Three Fingers of Death cliffhanger. That will come along in either the sixth or the seventh entry. There are a couple people who may be angry at me over this, including - and I kid you not - my own mother, who was so eager to hear more about what happens with John the Smith and his magic swords that she choked me when I told her the fourth story doesn't deal with it. Yes, choked. But only a little.

Love you, mom!

That cliffhanger was almost a violation of the whole idea behind the Wandering Tale - to slowly explore a new fantasy realm in a casual way, creating a loosely-connected series as I went. However, I think most will agree that ending the story in any other way would have been a mistake.

Returning to the subject of The Crown Unconquered, this story brings a different sort of characters to the foreground - the nobility and rulers, who I've generally only dealt with tangentially. It deals with politics and intrigue, which made for a slightly more complicated plot and a longer novella (the draft weighs in a 28k words, about 10k longer than Swordsman of Carn Nebeth).

While I think the story works well, I think I will return to the lower ranks of society in the future of the Wandering Tale. Court politics and diplomacy is fun and all (yes, it is), but it necessitates a larger cast of characters as well as a more complicated story. Crown has turned out well, but I think the spirit of the Wandering Tale lies more truly with the more humble folk of this fantasy land.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Players and the Masters

I have always wanted to get into some form of pen-&-paper RPG. It seemed to be right up my alley - a medium where my love of storytelling and performance dovetailed nicely with my love of cooperation, competition and emergent experiences. Combined with a few like-minded individuals I thought this kind of gaming would make for hours of memorable entertainment.

Sadly, I only ever gave it one try, and it turned out that the group of people who'd invited me were not so much interested in the roleplay or storytelling aspects. Rather, they were the D&D equivalent of powergamers. They were after the loot and the experience points, and their Dungeon Master obligingly doled them out. Every character went up one level per adventure, they said. Every character got one piece of new useful equipment.

I tried to mix it up a bit, which weirded them out to no end. When my half-elven fighter tried to fling a bronze gong at an orc, they were pretty stumped.

To be fair, it wasn't really until I met these guys that I clarified what I was looking for in a pen-and-paper experience. I suppose, when it comes right down to it, I would actually prefer a malign dungeon master to a benign one. I don't want a steady flow of loot and treasure - I want challenge, danger and adventure. I want a world that responds to my inventiveness.

No doubt it is my evolving love of storytelling that has led me to think I would enjoy the role of the Dungeon Master more than the Dungeon Delver. I tried to learn the rules of D&D - but frankly, I think they've become too convoluted for pen and paper. They are now native to the realm of computer gaming, which is really where all my familiarity comes from. Lately I've been looking up other rulesets which tend more towards simplicity. There have been plenty recommended to me - Seventh Sea and Burning Wheel being two prominent candidates - but I haven't shaken the feeling that I probably won't be happy until I've designed my own. So I've set out to do exactly that.

I don't know when. I don't know with whom. But someday I will lead a selection of adventurers through a terrible and wonderful landscape. Oh yes I will.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Fantasy Author in a College Creative Writing Course

As some of you know, I am nearing the end of what has been a very, very long journey to a college degree. In that time I have majored in three different subjects and accumulated enough credits to earn a pair of degrees (albeit if those degrees had requirements as eclectic as my own tastes).

However, despite my copious and varied experience in college and despite the fact that I have been writing fairly steadily since I was ten, I have never once taken a creative writing course - until now.

Why? Because fantasy writers do not fit in with academic creative writings courses. Because Science Fiction writers do not fit in with academic creative writing courses. And, to a certain extent academic creative courses are not designed to create professional authors. They are designed to create professional "critics and academics," as the excellent Kathleen Rush puts it. I will let her blog posts (which I just linked) do the heavy lifting on those assertions. Suffice to say that I agree with her on most points in which I have any basis for comparison.

This semester, however, I decided to take a chance on a creative writing course. On the one hand, thus far it seems pretty nice. I get to write whatever I want, as much or as little, and the prof will attempt to grade me based on the portfolio of work I have submitted by the end of the class.

On the other hand, it does not seem that the class is going to overturn any of the preconceptions I had about a college-level creative writing course. After sharing some of my first submission to the class, the professor was upfront about not 'getting' why people read Fantasy. It struck me as an odd question from a college literary professor.

People read their preferred genre for a lot of reasons, but I've always believed that the basis for every genre is the same. Characters that feel real to us, and a story that entertains us.

I should say that he was in no way condescending. I actually rather like the professor; to a large extent because of how honest he was about his lack of understanding. But there has never been a genre that I simply did not get the appeal of. It may not hold that same appeal for me, but I can at least begin grasp why others read it.

I digress. My point is not to say that I think the class is bad - in fact, I think I will enjoy it. Partially because of my little ongoing experiment to see how an author like myself is received in a class like this. (I may even try to stray outside of my own genres, to give them a rest and maybe even to grow a little as an author). However, as I suspected, I'm the black sheep of the class - at least at first glance. And I don't really expect there to be much concern with how to get work published despite the fact that we have several talented writers and at least one whom I know is concerned with publication.

It ought to be an interesting semester. I might even try submitting some things I intend to publish.

Great Article on Army Sizes in Fantasy

I was just pointed to this fantastic article concerned with just how large a fantasy army can get, assuming the usual pseudo-middle age setting. It has some good details, I recommend it. I would add to that this website - which I may have linked before - which has a series of articles about putting fantasy settings on a sensible basis.

It must be the strategy gamer in me that keeps me thinking about these aspects so much. While I was writing Twixt Heaven and Hell I often had to remind myself that not a whole lot of readers are likely to be interested in the logistics of how soldiers are supplied and organized - but I was thinking about it. That's why I was delighted to get an email from one of my very earliest readers asking if I had some explanations for possible discrepancies. I was happy to send him a lengthy response on my reasoning for why Bastion can field so many soldiers at once compared to why Pyre developed the transportation magic before their enemy.

This is one reason that part of the extras included in the first Wandering Tale collection will include what some might refer to as "historical matter." Because while it would be dry and somewhat boring to a lot of people, readers who love the world of the Wandering Tale might love to know more about the history and setting. Maybe almost as much as I love to write about it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A few clerical details

While I mentioned I might not be too concerned with promotion this year, there are a few little administrative details I intend to invest some time in. A self-publisher is basically a small business, and it would probably be a good idea to add a little more method to my madness. So, here's what's on the docket vis a vis organizational improvements:

Set Up a Clear File Structure for Ebook Files
I made a couple quick attempts at this, but I really need to go through and standardize how I store my eBook versions and master copies - for instance, so I don't need to fix typos in multiple versions of a file. This one should be quick once I actually get around to it.

Set Up a Mailing List
After reading one of David Gaughran's posts last year I went ahead and signed up for a (free) Mailing List management service called MailChimp - but I still haven't gotten around to configuring it, or really learning anything about it at all.

Set up an Accounting Spreadsheet
Amazon and Smashwords create large and data-rich spreadsheets on earnings and sales. That's great and all, but I intend to maintain a rather simpler one containing only the crucial data for fast reference.

Improve Existing Ebooks
Not exactly administrative, but related. Mainly I intend to prepare a somewhat longer author's statement to include in the end of my ebooks. The blurbs I have right now seem a bit hasty.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Year Ahead

I do not know - and hold no expectations for - how 2013 will turn out, business-wise. Much like last year, I intend to concentrate on putting good, solid stories down and presenting them attractively.

Immediate Goals:

My projects for the start of the year are really the same projects I had at the close of 2012, which I left largely unfinished.

  • Finish (and find a new title for!) the 4th Wandering Tale novella
  • Release the first Wandering Tale Collection, complete with a nice map and some additional goodies for those that like invented history and world-building.
  • Record Le Morte d'Arthur for release as an audiobook (nearly complete already).
For the year at large, these are what I like to think of as my "realistic" goals. Some less-likely ones may come up in a later post.

Finish that second novel (and with luck, a third as well)
Clanless will be my primary writing project once I'm done with the Wandering Tale collection. I may have missed being the first on the Roundtable Podcast's "Knights of the Roundtable," but I for damn sure won't be far behind! Furthermore, as they themselves made clear to me, Clanless will require a sequel.

Begin recording The Wandering Tale
Though I had grand plans for a multi-voiceactor recording for Swordsman of Carn Nebeth, I see now that I simply don't have the time to orchestrate such an undertaking without putting aside too much else. Thus, it will have to wait - and in the meantime, I'll just do a single-voice recording featuring yours truly. It will require multiple accents and some funny voices.

Release books in print
This only applies to novels or novel-lengths. I do not currently intend to release individual Wandering Tale stories in print (that's part of what the collections are for). It will require further proofing and design, so chances are this will happen later in the year.

It's going to be a good year, methinks.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My First Year in Publishing

It has been roughly one year since I began self-publishing. In many ways that year has been a success. I wrote more than in most prior years despite having a tighter schedule (more on that below); I have learned to attractively present my work to the market (already have some gorgeous covers in my portfolio - I'm as proud as if I'd done them myself); and most importantly, my work has been well-received.

Quite well, in fact. Better than I had expected. I've managed to wrangle some book blogger reviews as well as a number of non-solicited reader reviews (those always feel good). I've been personally contacted by readers who want to know more, and I've had some directly request a sequel to Twixt Heaven and Hell. Chances are I'll end up writing one, even though I'd not originally planned it. Hey, you give the people what they want!

I did experience some setbacks, of course. My sales for the year were, again, better than I really anticipated (I anticipated next to nothing). However, my net income on self-publishing is still in the negative due to the only real expense I have - purchase of cover art. Not that I regret making those purchases. Frankly, they're worth more than I paid.

Then, of course, there was the minor burn-out at the end of the year. I didn't really stop writing, but I certainly wasn't keeping up the pace that I had set. I don't regret it, honestly - I needed the break, and while I do need to get used to keeping self-imposed deadlines I can also remind myself that I'm not in any hurry. Better to lay down a solid foundation than rush the process.

All in all, a good start accompanied by a couple encouraging trends. First of all, my sales are increasing. Veeeeery slowly, but surely. Secondly, whenever my books do gain some small measure of exposure there is a marked uptick of sales - a miniature "press effect" that is so valuable to book sales. This gives me hope that should I ever embark on a real media campaign it might have some real effect. That, however, is still a ways in the future.

Publishing 2012, by the numbers:

Books Published: 5 (3 Novellas, 1 Novel, 1 Short)

Sales Made: ~300 (Sales, not free downloads!)

Reviews Earned (or Cajoled): 22

New Words Written: ~115,000

Old Words Cut: ~40,000 (Mostly on TWIXT)

Drafts Finished: 9

New Stories Started and Not Finished: 7 (1 Novel, 1 Novella, and 5 Shorts)

Tomorrow, we focus on the year ahead...