Thursday, May 2, 2013

my novel is finished

The fantasy novel I'd mentioned before, which I've given the title Blood Brothers, is finished. It came in at about 111K, or 375 pages. And despite the lack of success I've had with my previous attempts, I've decided to self publish it. It should be available on Kindle by the end of the month. My hope is that, because of certain differences, this title will find success where my other titles haven't.

Why am I hopeful that Blood Brothers will find success when my other titles haven't? There are several reasons, but here's the most important:

Blood Brothers is, in my humble opinion, the best thing I've ever written. It's visceral and immersive and thrilling and horrifying and moving. It has moments of violence that are capable of upsetting even the jaded minds of the masses, and it has moments of utter bleakness and despair, but it also has moments of redemption and hope that feel more real, and more earned, than what appear in the vast majority of books in any genre. And it's got ideas that are big enough, and radical enough, to turn people's worldviews upside down. I'm hoping, almost desperately, that Blood Brothers will find success because I honestly believe that it's a book that deserves an audience.

Monday, January 21, 2013

back in action

For the past six months I've been out of the country, and away from my computer. Now I'm back in the United States--though no longer in San Francisco--and I'm getting back to work on the fantasy novel too. It stands at about 96K words, and I'm hoping I can bring it to a close in less than 15K more. I've set myself a deadline of February eighth for the completion of the first draft, and I'd like to have it revised and finished less than a month after that.

I'm still on the fence about what I'll do with it then. The two books I've self-published on Kindle still haven't achieved any significant number of downloads, and I've been unable to discover a way of getting more exposure for them. Because of that, I have little confidence that publishing the fantasy novel will be any different. But I remain ambivalent about the traditional publishing process, too. It seems like a tremendous amount of additional work, with more compromises inherent to it, and relatively little chance of greater success. The plus with Kindle is that the book can be made available to a worldwide audience pretty easily, with no unavoidable cost. The drawback is that you end up with your book in a sea of other titles, and so far I haven't been able to find a reliable way of making a book float to the top of that sea. I've gone the Kindle route twice already. Maybe it'd be worth exploring the other option.

In any case, as I continue to ponder the benefits and drawbacks of either form of publishing, I also continue to move along with the book. Besides continuing the story itself, today I spent some time working on a teaser for it. Here it is:

Ostracized from society because of the birthmark that mars his face, Grillis Bloodborn has come of age in the forest, cutting wood and tending pigs. Upon the death of his grandmother, the only family he has ever known, he sets out on a quest to find favor with the gods for her soul. This single, well-intentioned desire provokes a chain of events that transform Grillis into a fugitive, and throw the fate of an entire people into peril.

Athemon Arnmakh has lived all of his short life as a second-class citizen, condemned to squalid poverty and brutal persecution. When the treatment he suffers reaches levels of unprecedented violence, Athemon begins to hear a voice in his head—a voice that tells him not to take any more abuse, a voice that offers him the power to punish his tormentors. Eagerly, he claims that power, using his own rage as a fuel. But Athemon will learn that payback comes with a cost of its own.

In the depths of the unconquered forests a tribe lives in harmony with nature and with their gods. Verlvik is of that tribe, and yet he no longer belongs to it—the Great Goddess has chosen him for Herself. Expelled from the lands he knows, and thrust into a mystic journey of visions and miracles, Verlvik begins to discover the answers to questions he never before thought to ask. And what he learns may change the world forever.

Three young men, rejected by their peoples and thrown together by the fates. Read their story, and join the brotherhood.

Friday, July 13, 2012

trying out a new cover

The first book I put up on Kindle, a hardboiled sci-fi novelette called The ElectroLive Murders, has been available for over a year now. I think around 30 copies have been purchased, and more than 500 copies have been downloaded for free, but I still feel like the book hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. A lot of the successful self-publishers I read about emphasize the importance of changing things around with books, and trying new ideas, even after those books have been released to the public. So, in the spirit of experimentation, I'm trying out a new cover.

Here's the old cover:

And here's the new one:

It should be showing up in the Kindle store within the next 24 hours. I'll be sure to follow up with details if the new cover impacts sales in any significant way.

Also, I feel it's worth noting that the images used on the new cover were found through an image search of files marked as Creative Commons material. The Creative Commons website is a pretty incredible resource, grouping millions of photographs, songs, drawings, and other stuff together--all of which have been labelled as free to use (with certain restrictions) by their creators. The photos I used, of the monkey and the circuitry, were taken by Antony Grossy and Dom Pates, respectively.

P.S. Today and tomorrow my horror novelette Cool Blue is available for free download on Kindle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

reassessing self-publishing

I've kicked into a higher gear with the fantasy novel, trying to finish the first draft before mid-August, when I'll be leaving the country for a few months. I'm currently at 76K words (about 250 pages), still hoping to wrap up somewhere around 100K, though throughout the process of writing this book it's taken more words than I'd predicted to carry out certain events. Maybe it'll take 120K to tie off the plot, in the end. If it does, I'm not sure how I'll manage to write that many words before my mid-August deadline.

Anyway, assuming I do, somehow, manage to finish the first draft, the plan is to let it rest for the months when I'll be out of country, and then come back to revise and polish it into a more-final draft. After that... I don't know.

When I started this blog on February 24, I'd just taken a heavy dose of J.A. Konrath's cool-aid. Read his blog and you'll feel like the money starts raining down the moment you self-publish on Kindle. The guy's had incredible success with his own self-publishing efforts, and he preaches that the eBook revolution is Shangri-La for authors.

There are several other high-profile cases of self-publishing success to bolster Konrath's position--it was Amanda Hocking's story that initially got me all excited--but even the idea of several dozen authors earning a living from self-publishing seems a bit less impressive when you start to consider the hundreds of thousands of other authors who have thrown their hats in the ring. And research is starting to emerge showing that 50% of all self-published authors never even earn $500. Furthermore, a lot of the people who are benefiting most from self-publishing already have a fan-base developed from previous books that were traditionally published--J.A. Konrath himself being a good example.

But traditional publishing still seems like a pretty shitty deal, too. The average advance for a debut novel in the fantasy genre is supposedly about $5K, and advances aren't always a good thing, anyway, as you can be held liable if you fail to earn out. If you're earning 6-8% percent of the cover price on a book that sells for $6.99, earning out that advance might take a while (you'd need to sell 10,000 copies, at 50 cents a copy, to do so; and keep in mind that if you do sell those 10K copies, the book has made as much as $70K, and you've only been given $5K of that money). Worse still, traditional contracts usually compromise authors to the point where they no longer even own the book they've written. If the publishing house fumbles your book and you want it back, you'll probably need to lawyer-up and prepare to go to war to get it.

So, while I'm working away at the novel, I'm also wondering what I'll try to do with it when I'm finished. I don't imagine that I'll find Shangri-La by publishing the book with a traditional press--assuming I'd even find one interested in taking it--but the experiences I've had with self-publishing, and the more-balanced view of it I think I'm getting now that I've looked beyond Konrath's blog, make me wonder if pursuing the traditional publishing venue might be worth considering.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

poor returns

So far I've made my novelette THE ELECTROLIVE MURDERS available for free on 5 days, and a total of 576 free copies have been downloaded. Since the first free day, 11 copies have sold, and two new reviews have been posted. While I'm happy to think that more than 500 people thought my novelette looked interesting enough to download, I wish more of those downloads resulted in reviews.

How do you get the ball rolling with a kindle book? How do you pull lightning toward it, and make it catch fire? I'm still trying to find out.

The free downloads seem to be the most effective thing I've found so far, but they're still not especially effective. And trying to get bloggers to review the book has resulted in a lot of work with virtually no payback (of the 15 blogs contacted, only one blog wrote a review).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Still at work on the fantasy novel. About 67K words/217 pages in, thinking the first draft will finish at 100K words/320 pages--so I'm guessing I'm 2/3 done with the first draft. Hope to finish by mid August, then let it rest for a few months before revision.

Already imagining the next project. I'm thinking zombie apocalypse. Lurchers, not runners. Zombie condition provoked by stimulant-use to deal with chronic overwork amongst upwardly bound young professionals--tainted caffeine pills, or energy drinks, or something. So: yuppie zombies. Looking forward to a chance to splatter some yuppies.

The two novelettes I've currently got up on Kindle both have zombie-elements, though neither is a classic zombie-style story. The idea of dead or brain-dead people cursed to continue walking the earth, unable to rest, has deep resonance for me. And not just for me. Lots of people are fascinated by zombies.

Lots of horror ideas relate to zombies, or un-death, too. Vampires are sort of like zombies. Robots can also be like zombies--moving and acting without life.

Recently, in the news, a story of zombie-like behavior in our world. Horrific, scary stuff.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grant Morrison and uninhibited imagination

About a month ago I put up a post about a book I like called Writers on Comics Scriptwriting. The book is a collection of interviews with people who write for comics, and it brings together perspectives from a lot of really great writers. One of the most entertaining interviews in the book is Grant Morrison's, who wrote The Invisibles and We3 and All-Star Superman. Like the other writers, Morrison's got a lot of useful info about the peculiarities of writing for the comic book medium, the challenges and rewards of working with artists, etc., but the interview gets really interesting when he starts talking about how he was abducted by aliens, how he uses the comics he creates as magic sigils to affect his real life, and other far out stuff like that. The guys an interesting character, to be sure.

He's so interesting, in fact, that some guys made a movie about him called Talking With Gods. Here's the trailer.

I watched the movie a few weeks back (you can watch it free on Hulu), and then I checked a whole bunch of his comics out from the library, and I've been reading Grant Morrison like crazy since then.

Not all of his stuff is perfect, but at his best Morrison's stories are exhilarating and intriguing and--to put it plainly--a whole lot of fun. Probably the work I liked best was All-Star Superman, which is all the more significant because I normally am not interested in the Superman character at all--he's just too boring-ly perfect and omnipotent to interest me. Morrison's story, though, manages to take the omnipotent, uber-grand scale of Superman, and frame a story to meet those dimensions. What I mean is: Morrison deals with Superman as an archetype, as an idea more than a person. The world Superman exists in, consequently, is a fantasy world, a place to explore ideas about our reality--and about the values and perspectives we develop to help us deal with that reality--without attempting to recreate something that feels authentically real. The story becomes a parable, but a parable of epic scale. And, partly because of that, Morrison captures some of the wonder and optimism we feel as kids, but he does it with a story that has no taint of immaturity.

Reading All-Star Superman, and watching the Grant Morrison movie, has helped remind me of how much fun it can be to just dream big dreams, to let my imagination run wild. It's easy to feel obligated to write stories that try to stay true to reality, but that can be inhibiting, too. Why not go all in for fantasy? There's joy to be found there, sometimes.