Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year in Review and a Look Ahead

I began 2012 knowing that I had interested a publisher -- Aziza Publishing -- but without having an actual contract to publish my novel, Aure the Topaz. But we began negotiating a deal which I signed in April. Since then I've been through two rounds of edits and have reviewed a book design brief. I'm expecting book cover designs by the end of this week, after which we will discuss promotions, book tours, and hopefully a book trailer. My novel is due out within the next three months.

I also began 2012 with a nearly completed draft of Book 2, Vorn, the Onyx. I completed that book in September and put it away. I expect to submit the book to Aziza in 2013. The exact timing is unclear but I expect it will be in the second half of the year so we can all focus on selling my first novel.

A draft of Book 3 was in progress when 2012 began and I completed that draft in March. I've gone back since to revise the novel and to clean up parts that were vague or didn't seem to ring true. I expect that process will continue through 2013 and I don't expect to put this book away until Vorn is in Aziza's hands.

Book 4 was started this year and I continue to work on it. I expect to complete a draft of the novel in 2013.

2012 was also a busy time on the short story front. I completed six or seven short pieces over the summer and submitted the best ones into competition in September (four stories in all). I will hear back on these in 2013 and will release them to the public thereafter.

I released three new stories to Smashwords and Amazon and came to realize that I really need to give these stories away for now so that I can get people to read my work and recognize my name. This is all part of an overall plan to sell my novels. Later I will collect my short stories into a volume and sell them through a publisher of my choosing.

And I continue to write poetry. I've got about 25 poems now in my collection and I'm working toward a goal of 50 or 100 pieces so that I can release the work to the public. No date is set for this.

Happy New Year, everyone!

And keep writing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Clarity in an Instant

I've been working on Book 4 and I finally reach the point where the action picks up and the writing is much easier. Usually when I reach these points I stop and look back, which is exactly what I did here. It was obvious to me that Iriel's reaction to killing her mother was not severe enough. Sure, the woman was a perfect stranger to Iriel after having been gone forty years but aside from a little consternation at the beginning of the book, you'd never know Iriel was affected by her actions.

So I stepped back and reasoned that if I made Iriel moody and unpleasant, a reversal from her normal self, that would suffice. Suddenly in an instant, I realized that this book is about Iriel's journey dealing with her mother's death and the fact that she, Iriel, killed the woman.

You might think that Iriel couldn't possibly have done such a thing. But in fact Iriel had many good reasons for killing her mother, the primary one being she was the enemy. The elves in my world are split by political differences and one group has gone to war with the humans as a result. Iriel's mother was one of these elves. She had to die or everything Iriel believed in and all her human friends -- including James -- would be exposed and at risk.

But that does not change the fact that should be side effects or some consequences to the character should he or she kill a parent. And so I decide that is Iriel's journey in Book 4 and it is resolved when later James nearly dies and she realizes what is really important to her.

In the meantime, all my other plots and subplots remain intact -- more or less -- so all I have to do now is revise the beginning of the book I've already written, add the rest of the story to my draft, and then shake well and serve.

That should keep me busy well into March I'm thinking. But we'll see. I'm just glad I suddenly realized what to do with this book because I had been struggling with it and it was starting to annoy me.

Keep writing everyone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hooking your Audience

I'm back actively writing Book 4. I'm about a third into it and the action has started to build. That's good. But as I look back on the whole book so far, I'm realizing my hook is weak. That's bad.

As a rule, you want to have a strong hook to start your story so that the reader will become engaged and keep reading. For example, in Book 2, I start by showing Amanda's attempted abduction by the witch. Afterwards we learn that the witch has already abducted four other children. Since harming children is troubling to most, it works as a hook because we immediately want Evan and his companions to rescue these girls.

In Book 4, however, I have no such hook. The reader may be concerned about Iriel -- she recently had to choose between the mother that abandoned her and her friends. But I dispense with that in a few pages. Iriel is fine -- but not really. She is acting more human than elven. But I'm not sure that's enough to hook the reader. And there's no real action.  Oh sure, each character has his or her own plot but that may not be enough either.

Of course, I'm talking about the fourth book in a series. So maybe I don't need a strong hook. Maybe the characters themselves are enough. But I don't think I'm going to rely on that. Time for some revision I think.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Week in Review

It is strange how the mind works sometimes. Case in point: many years ago, during my first attempt at writing creative fiction, I began work on a story. As you might imagine I ran into all kind of problems because I was new at this. The biggest issue was how to end the story. I couldn't find one that satisfied me so I abandoned the project and didn't try to writing a novel for another five years.

Now fast forward to the present. I woke up the other day and realized with an epiphany how to end my old story. I couldn't believe it and the answer was so simple. So I've dusted off my old files and have begun to re-read and revise them.

It is safe to say that I'm a better writer now than I was then and I expect some of the writing needs a little work. But the story was never really finished and had other issues that I need to address. So I've made it my back burner project so that I don't distract myself from working on Book 4.

I wrapped up my review of Book 3 last week and it will sit now for awhile. I shouldn't need to look at it again until Book 2 goes to the publisher and that won't happen until after Book 1 is released so I've got about a month or two I think.

I can still waiting to see book cover samples from the publisher. Supposedly they are working on this. And in the meantime, I thought now was a good time to have professional photos of myself taken. I need these for my media kit and for the back cover of Book 1. Fortunately, my wife is a photographer and has connections with other local photographers so she was able to get the use of a studio at no cost.

She is now reviewing and adjusting a few minor items, after which I will pick one for the back cover and perhaps update my Facebook page too. We'll see.

Keep writing everyone.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Violent Society?

Like many people over the last few days I've been watching the news about the event in Connecticut. Repeatedly I am hearing the talking heads say we live in a violent society. That's true but it does not have to be. I think it is time we reject violence we way we would a drugs in our community and find non-violent ways of handling life's challenges.

That will not be easy, of course. We are savages with 100,000 years of blood on our hands. But we can't we stop? Can't have a day where no one kills anyone? Doesn't being civilized means having non-violent ways to resolve differences and handle our internal conflicts? I thought so but the veneer of civilization is wearing thin it seems.

And yet I am hopeful that we can change and stop the killing. And we must change and educate ourselves and others about different warning signs for internal turmoil. We must look for individuals who have forgotten that in our society we often must compromise so that everyone gets something they want as we try to achieve the greatest good for the largest number of people or who do not practice tolerance for others in all aspects of our lives. We must love each other to the best of our ability.

Doing these things along will not solve the problems we have as our society, but I think it is a good first step and is something we can do immediately without the long debate that has already started on how do we avoid another tragedy of this kind.

You'll notice I have not said anything about policy changes or removal of guns. This is for others to examine and deal with. Frankly I am not sure we can do anything about guns and I'm not sure new laws will help. This is an issue of the most basic kind: how we help others who behave oddly? If the mother of the killer had gotten her son help immediately, the killings might have been prevented. But is it obvious to all want she should have done? Did she even have access to the proper healthcare services?

I don't know. But I do know that we must fight against violence in all forms and try to transform our society into one that is more tolerant, more caring, and one in which 6-year-olds can go to school without fear of being murdered.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cover Art

My publisher did send me a design brief on schedule but for some reason I did not receive the email. I followed up with them and they resent it. The brief showed my the fonts they were thinking of using on the cover and some sample images.

My reply was for them to create a crude cover so I could see the overall effect. They did this and immediately they realized one of the fonts was not going to work.

They are now in the progress of develop multiple cover designs for my review. My only real requirement for the artwork is that it be a scene from the book showing the gem about which all the action revolves. The title is Aure, the Topaz after all. It should be front and center.

That's my opinion; I don't know if the publisher agrees. We'll see.

I am also told that once we settle on the cover art, they will start looking at and discussing with me book promotion, book tours, and that sort of thing.

I can't wait. This is really what the last year has been about. Getting to this point.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Small Presses are a Writer's Best Friend

I read an interesting article in the Dec 10 issue of Time magazine about self-publishing. The article describes a new trend: the recent self-publishing blockbusters that have made lots of money for the writers involved. It goes on to describe how many other writers are trying to emulate that but the article admits many self-published writers are not likely to see that sort of fame.

Several points other were made too that I think are worth noting:

  • Amazon owns the majority of the self-publishing space. If your work in not in Amazon and available for the Kindle, it does not exist.
  • That in order to sell self-published work the price needs to be as low as possible. Making your work free may help you get an audience if that's your initial goal.
  • The audience for your work is small -- smaller than you think -- because there is so much content and so many people are writing and self-publishing now. The readers only have so much bandwidth; so you are a very small voice and a very, very large chorus.
But while the article confirmed several points I had long suspected, it was not a balanced piece. It only discussed two options for writers looking to publish and attract an audience: either traditional publishing with one of the six main publishers or self-publishing.

Obviously, no traditional publisher will look at a new writer (although Harper-Collins did run an event recently in which new writers could submit their work). And self-publishing is a hard road because you have do everything yourself or hire people to edit, create cover art, lay out the book, help with the promotion, and so on. You can end up working long hours with little or no reward to start.

But there's another road, one not discussed in the Time magazine article. You can find a small press to publish your work. A small press is like a traditional publisher but isn't, so you won't get a great deal initially for your work -- you are an untried commodity after all. But they will help with many things so you don't have to do them, like the cover art, and developing a promotion campaign, and so on. They will work with you to help make your book a success. You will still have to go out and sell the book. But you'd have to do that anyway if you self-published. 

And frankly, after having a taste of the self-publishing world, I think I prefer using a small press for novels. My short pieces I can give away for now as a sort of advertising of my work. But my novels will not be given away. I've worked too long and hard on them. So if you are not having success with self-publishing, you might try to find a small press and see if you have better luck there.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Following Your Own Path

I've written several blog posts on about writing. In my view, writing is a social thing. You tell a story to an audience and they react by liking it or not. In that way, it is like having a conversation. Writing is also entertainment, of course, and so it should entertain, allow the audience to escape for a time, suspend their disbelief, and so on.

I've also talked about how the business end of sell books for a newly minted author is like having a small business. I'll be the one carrying much of the load to sell, promote, and push my books into the hands of others.

But there's another aspect to all this which occurred to me the other day. Up until recently, I was a victim of fate in the sense that I used by skills and experience to deal with whatever came my way. I wasn't actively charting a specific course, I was just going whichever way the wind was blowing.

Oh sure there were brief moments where I made plans and saw them through but those were the exception not the rule.

But then I began writing and eventually I reach a point where I had a book that was worth publishing, at least I thought so and I began seeking a publisher. I've described some of those efforts here and how they met with rejection until late last year. Now, with my novel only a few months from release I see that I am in fact charting a course. A very specific one. One of my choosing. And this too makes me very much like a small businessman. It is the American ideal come to life, where a man chooses a path and follows it.

I won't belabor that or whip into some romantic notion. But the notion did surprise me because I think of writing as an art but you need to be part businessman too. It also is kind of exciting in a way. I hope it does well. But regardless of what happens I will follow this new path that I created and see where it leads. In a way, that makes me like a character in one of my novels, spelunking some dark caverns or exploring the wilderness to see what treasures might lie just beyond the next turn in the road.

Keep writing everyone.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'll Keep it Brief

I had hoped to have been able to share here some few details about the book design document my publisher said was coming last week. But I've not received anything so, of course, I can't. I've been told that the document will include information on the font being used in Book 1 and will give me my initial peak at the cover art.

That's where my interest lies. What will the cover of the book look like?

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that they are late again with something they have promised. They seem to run late on everything. The contract took months longer than I thought it would. And the first round of revisions weren't started until about a month after I gave them the final draft.

Perhaps that's normal; I don't know as I've not worked with any other publisher. But it seems to me if you set my expectation you had better meet that expectation. On the other hand, a few more days won't make much difference. Still, I think I will prod them a little to see what is going on.

And if I receive something between now and my next post, I'll share what I can.

Keep writing, everyone.