A Quick Blog on… Uh…

Okay, so I don’t really have a topic for this week’s blog. I have a few things to cover, but nothing really to focus it around, so I guess it’s a status report, sort of?

  1. The Merrimack Event, Print Edition:  Still in progress.  I just had to order my (personal record-breaking) fourth print proof, though I would have approved the version I got from the third if Createspace had let me (long story as to why they won’t, but it’s boring and will provide no real insights into the printing process, so why bother?)
  2. My great-uncle passed away last week.  I didn’t know him well (I’d seen him a few times, but it was hard to visit him), but he and my mother were very close.  He was the last of my grandmother’s eleven brothers and sisters (they had a big family in those years) and the family patriarch.  We weren’t able to attend the funeral because we couldn’t make travel arrangements in time.
  3. KDP Print service is improving.  While they still don’t have expanded distribution (they note that this should be available at some point), they are now offering print proof and author copies.  That actually makes them a viable POD printer IF you don’t care for expanded distribution.  Maybe I’ll finally put together “This Book Cannot POSSIBLY Make Any Money” and test it out through them.  (I’m pretty busy with things, but again — putting that book together shouldn’t take any time away from writing my other books.  It might take time away from writing this blog, however. *sigh*
  4. It’s sounding more and more as if I’ll need both a new editor and a new cover artist for the Law of Swords series.  I hope to find an artist who can match Alex Kolesar‘s art style for the cover, but I’ll also need to focus on getting my House Style Guide ready to send to whoever the new editor turns out to be.  Again, I’m hoping to complete this without taking time away from my novel writing, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do that.
  5. By the way, speaking of Law of Swords, I’m FINALLY able to start working on the next book in that series again.  I had to set the book aside half-finished to work on A Gun for Shalla (my contribution to the Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders anthology).  Right after that, I got tied up working on The Merrimack Event.  In Division Imperiled (working title) is half-finished; maybe I’ll be able to at least get it out to the editor (whoever it is) by the end of the year?
  6. By the way, my aStore replacement was a bit buggy when I mentioned it during my last blog post (it was timed to go live at the same moment as the blog post did; unfortunately, the actual site didn’t look anything like the preview did, and some of the items couldn’t be clicked on or ordered).  The bugs have been largely ironed out, and a few more books were added in since then.  I’ll note it, here, whenever I add new books.  (it seems the new page is already more successful than the aStore was; not a huge feat, as I only ever sold two things through the old aStore and it was horribly out-of-date, but notable).
  7. I recently received an interesting book-related offer in my e-mail.  Nothing as exciting as a TV\Movie deal offer (I wish!), but intriguing nonetheless.  I’m currently running a few background checks to ensure the outfit contacting me is legitimate and not a scam, but I certainly need to consider it if they pass.  I’m being vague because I haven’t agreed to anything, yet, but I’ll probably talk about it more, whatever decision I make.

And that seems to be it (or at least all of the things I can think of before this blog goes live).  Until next time….

Books and Sundry

First, some updates. The second print proof of The Merrimack Event finally arrived and… well, they did a better job with the cover, but the more I look at it the more problems I have with it — I plan to call the printer on Monday and see if I can somehow get things straightened out.  I think the cover should fit as planned according to their documentation, and they keep saying the dimensions are wrong and changing them on me in ways that sends everything wonky.  I also still need to go through the inside text, again, and make sure that none of the changes I made last time have messed anything up.

Incidentally, I uploaded some corrections to the eBook based on my first run-through of the print proof (I did this a couple weeks ago, but never said anything); if you’re still seeing missing words and typos, try updating your copy. I need to figure out how to prevent these errors from going out the first time, but I think I caught them all. If you find anything else after updating, PLEASE let me know — don’t just leave a comment on Amazon about typos or dropped words; I can’t fix these errors unless I know where they are.

Despite all the complaints about the typos that I can’t find, the book is doing well.  Final numbers for the month of September were 51 reviews, 1,400 books sold, even (er… with five returns, making the real number 1,395) and 1,730,229 KENP-sized Page Reads.  (The book was 737 KENP pages — very different from what the print book will be — which means I had at least 2,348 people read the book at least part-way through using the Kindle Unlimited program).  I think that qualifies as a successful first month of publication.

Oh, and it’s raised the sale totals of In Treachery Forged and In Forgery Divided significantly… and if you go back to those three days in August that it was released, it seems to have inspired To the Rink of War‘s sales to DOUBLE its lifetime totals!  (This is not really that great of a feat.  To the Rink of War was an unmitigated disaster on first release, and has yet to receive its first review more than three years after publication)

But that’s not what this blog is, uh, SUPPOSED to be about.  I learned, recently. that Amazon is discontinuing the aStore program.  I do have an aStore (I won’t bother linking to it, because I think Amazon will be closing them before most of my blog readers trickle in), but it’s been neglected for a long time (precisely for the reasons Amazon is saying they’re discontinuing it — it’s nearly impossible for affiliates to push people through to the aStore sales with the way it’s set up).  So, I set about replacing my aStore with a very similar (but hopefully better trafficked and more frequently updated) page on the Fennec Fox Press site, which you can find here.  I’ve still got a few things to add to it, but there you go.  Edit:  And there appears to be a bug in the website clipping several of the link graphics.  I’ll be calling tech support tomorrow to try and get it fixed.  *sigh*  (Stupid website software that DOESN’T show the website correctly in the preview; I don’t even know how to fix it at this point)

…yeah, I don’t think this blog post is about what I intended it to be about at all.

Oh, and if you’ve been following my cell phone misadventures on Facebook and other social media hangouts, I do seem to have the problem fixed, so (assuming you have the number) you can start phoning my cell phone again.

Until next time, where maybe I’ll actually talk about what I intended to talk about instead of overshadowing it all with a status update.

Edit:  Comments shut down due to MASSIVE spam attempts.  (Seriously, spammers, you’re setting a blog record on this one!)

Future Plans

I had hoped I would be able to say “the print edition for The Merrimack Event has been released!” by now… but I’m still waiting on a second proof copy (hopefully one without a mangled spine, this time). I do have several milestones to note: I reached over one thousand sales and one MILLION page reads (actually, it’s about one and a quarter million page reads, at last check). In less than a month.

Uh… okay, that was a little unexpected.

So, my original plan, as far as future book releases go, hadn’t factored in The Merrimack Event. As fed up with it as I was by the time it was released, I was convinced it wouldn’t sell, well, anything. I was publishing it to get it out of the way, so I could move on to my other books.  I spent more to get it out the door than my other books, so my expectations could be summed up as “I hope it will break even or something.  And it won’t be holding up my other books, any more!”

Well, it did that… and a lot more.  And now I have to figure out where to slip a (still untitled) sequel into the “to do” list.  I have a plan for a sequel… uh, somewhere (it’s been thirteen years since I last looked at it, but I do remember that I’ve preserved it across several computer moves).  Even if I can’t find that outline, however, I can come up with a new one; I’ve just got to figure out when to get it started.

The original plan was to finish In Division Imperiled (or whatever I call the 3rd book of the Law of Swords series), and then move on to By Claw and Arrow (the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem.  I need to re-launch this book; it doesn’t seem right that my best-written book (both my opinion and by several objective standards) should also be my worst-selling book.  Getting the sequel out there would be an opportunity to do that).  After that, I was going to polish off To the Rink of War, turn it (and the unpublished serialized short sequels) and re-publish it as a novel.

I also had the idea of putting together a couple shared-world anthologies for a couple of my books, but that would have required some changes to Fennec Fox Press‘s business model (I’d be going from a sole proprietorship to a LLC, I’d have to change my accounting system so I can preserve money to pay other authors, etc.), so they were in a more nebulous “later.”  And, some day in the middle of all that, I was thinking of putting together that “This Book Can’t Make Any Money” blog project as part of a self-publishing tutorial on the side.  There were also a couple supplementary works planned that would slot in as they were ready — for example, the Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide, which is currently (in software parlance) in an Alpha version, but would need to be completed before I could even consider an anthology, and would be nice to complete before I send ANYTHING out for editing, again.

But now… all of that is out the window.  Oh, I’m still doing all of that, but now I need to slot in a sequel for The Merrimack Event.  And if I slot in a sequel for The Merrimack Event, I’ll have enough books in the list to need to account for book four of Law of Swords.  And as urgent as keeping those two series going is, maybe I’ll have to set aside those anthology plans until I’ve cleared up some other parts of my schedule.  And…

Well, anyway, I revamped my “order of production” schedule; see what you think.

  1.  In Division Imperiled (working title):
    The manuscript for this is already half-way done (or, well, I’m somewhere in the middle of it.  It’s gone pretty far off the trail set by the original outline, so I’m not sure exactly where I am in the story).
  2. The Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide
    The editor for In Division Imperiled has become overwhelmed with work, and may not be available for that book, so I might need to find another one.  If so, I’m going to need to have this ready for them.  This is a small thing, and can be worked on concurrently with In Division Imperiled.  It may wind up being completed first.  If released to the public (instead of just sent to the new editor with the manuscript), it would be a free download off the Fennec Fox Press website.
  3. By Claw and Arrow (Inari’s Children, Book 2)
    I still want to re-launch The Kitsune Stratagem, and getting this book out there is a big part of the plan for doing so.  So, while I’m anxious to get The Merrimack Event’s sequel out there, I’m still planning to get this out as quickly as possible, too.  If I start working on this and it gets bogged down, however, I’ll swap this with the next book in the queue.
  4. Shieldclads # 2
    Um, since I don’t even know where I put the outline for this, yet, I haven’t worked out a title for it.  But here is where I hope to slot it in.  Here is also where my original scheduled plan starts to diverge from the new one.
  5. This Book Cannot Make Any Money
    Another side project that can be done alongside other books (since most of the work will actually be done in the time allotted for working on this blog).  This could actually be ready any time before or after this point, but I’m guessing that I’ll have it done by this point.
  6. Law of Swords, Book # 4
    This was GOING to be The Rink of War, the novel-length version of the short story\novelette, To The Rink of War.  Instead, I have to juggle in the sequels to my more popular series, so here’s where Law of Swords 4 goes in.
  7. ONE OF:  Rink of War OR Nine Tales of the Kitsune
    Nine Tales of the Kitsune is the first of my planned Anthology projects.  IF I think I can generate the interest from other authors without too much trouble (one of the things I hope to do at my upcoming convention appearances is network with other writers), I may get this set up for this slot.  Otherwise, Rink of War (mentioned above) will be bumped here.
  8. Shieldclads #3
    Juggling two successful series is going to be difficult, especially with my other projects included.  This project and the next might wind up flipped, depending on how things work out.
  9. Law of Swords, Book # 5
    This should CONCLUDE the Law of Swords series.  I may revisit this world again, but with the series ended the schedule will be freed up for more “new” projects.
  10. Inari’s Children, Book # 3
    Current plans have this as the concluding book, but I’m not happy with the outline for this one.  If the relaunch of The Kitsune Stratagem is successful, I’ll rewrite the outline spreading the story into at least four books; otherwise, I’ll revamp it to conclude the series here.

And that’s all I can queue up at this point.  I still have more books planned outside of what you see here (including more Shieldclads, an anthology and possible sequels to Rink of War, some supplementary material for all of my series, and another sci-fi series dealing with a chubby pilot, his mind-reading girlfriend, and a space racing jalopy), and it’s possible one of those won’t let me go until I slip it in somewhere, but for the moment that’s as far as I have planned.

Edit:  Spammers are really going to town; I already have to shut down the comments on this one.

Observations From My First Experience with Kindle Select

We’ll get to a discussion of The Merrimack Event in a moment, but first I have a bit of news:  I must not have embarrassed myself too badly, because Ravencon wants me back.  That makes TWO conventions (both in the same Williamsburg hotel, oddly enough) willing to let a self-published hack (whose newly released book has been in the top-500 for much of this week, and was tagged as  Amazon’s number one hot new release in certain subgenre) appear as a guest speaker.

I haven’t yet requested a reading, book signing, table, or similar opportunity for hand-selling my books at either Ravencon or Marscon.  I’ve certainly considered it, but I haven’t had the technical capabilities nor (consequently) have I bothered to fill out the sales tax forms needed to hand-sell books.

I’m not sure I’ll have everything I need done by either convention, but I recently took the first step towards being able to (legally) hand-sell my books:  I upgraded my (old-fashioned flip-style) cell phone to a new (albeit inexpensive, starting-level) Android-powered Smartphone, with which I should be able to add a credit card reader of some sort (such as Square or Paypal. I want to talk to the bank (specifically, a financial advisor working for my credit union) before I decide on which one, just in case the bank has a special deal with one or another, as some do).  There’s been a bit of a a transition period (my new phone, uh, doesn’t actually work as a phone.  It makes calls okay, and I can hear people just fine, but they can’t hear me beyond a buzzing sound.  The microphone has been tested and works, and tech support says it’s something on their end… but they haven’t figured out what, yet, and they want me to wait “three business days” to see if they can fix it.  If I can get everything working in time (not just the phone, but the card reader and the tax forms), I might approach the conventions and request one of those hand-selling opportunities, after all.

Also, I completed the book block and cover for the print edition and sent them to the printer.  Ordered a proof copy… and got back a minor disaster.  Createspace somehow decided that my cover wasn’t conforming to their standards (even though it was set up to match their stated standards to the pixel) and “adjusted the size” of the text of the spine.  I… well, maybe I’ll let this photo show you just why that seems to be such a problem.

I’ll have to be making corrections for that.  I’ll also be fixing some minor typos in the manuscript of The Merrimack Event that were discovered post-ebook-publication, shortly.  I’ve already had one person e-mail me a set of typos they found, and my mother (heh) found another set.

Those corrections will be uploaded to KDP roughly around the same time I approve of the final print proof, to give myself (and any other fans who want to let me know of anything they find) a chance to discover any other possible issues.  While I try to put out the best quality book I can the first time, the final proof is done by just one person (me) and I do miss things, on occasion, and inevitably will have to issue corrections, so I do appreciate those people who point things out to me even after publication.

Now, for the post I’ve been working on for the past couple weeks:  As I mentioned at the time I first published it, I used the publication of The Merrimack Event as my first exploration of the Kindle Select Program. Now a few weeks in, I have some observations:

  • Reviews do appear to come faster from the book on Kindle Select than they have with any other book I’ve published.  I don’t know if that’s solely from the book itself or from the Select program.
  • For whatever reason, the charts on my KDP dashboard seem to update the “Page Reads” figure (based on the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages, or KENP; how it calculates the size of a KENP, I’m not certain) much faster than the sales figures.  There was one day when I went to bed (after midnight) with thirty-eight sales for the day and 50,757 page reads.  I woke up the next morning, and that day’s totals instead said I had sixty-five sales… and 50,757 page reads.  I noticed that happen more than once, in fact.  Incidentally, Amazon calculates The Merrimack Event as being 737 KENP long.
  • It is possible to increase your sales rank when your sales total drops, thanks to page reads.
  • In Treachery Forged had been my highest-ranking book ever, hitting the top-20 sales ranking in the SciFi-Fantasy categories and the top-2000 in overall Amazon sales ranking.  Strangely, at the time I’m writing this (I’ve been composing this post for weeks, now; I started it well before the post announcing my Marscon invite went up), I’ve overwhelmingly beaten it in the overall Amazon sales ranking (the highest I’ve seen, so far, was around top-500; I’m hoping it gets better before I post), but I’ve yet to even make the top-100 list for the overall SciFi-Fantasy categories.  I did break the top 100 of the Scifi-Fantasy\SciFi subcategory, however.  Probably has nothing to do with KDP Select, but worth noting.
  • In Treachery Forged sold about the same number of copies per day, if not more, at a top-2000 sales ranking (it’s first month’s release) as The Merrimack Event has at a top-500… but I’m guessing The Merrimack Event topped it thanks to page reads.  So if you were wondering if page reads factor into the rankings, it appears they do.
  • Speaking of In Treachery Forged, the success of The Merrimack Event has helped spark new sales for that and my other books as well.  The boost for my other books hasn’t been NEARLY as large as the boost that In Forgery Divided provided.  The other books are in a different genre (Fantasy vs. Science Fiction, which despite the effort of some people to convince people otherwise ARE different genre with different fanbases, even if those fanbases overlap and co-mingle), so that’s probably the difference.
  • If the page read totals remain high, I may decide to renew my KDP Select for another 90 day period.  Reviewing many of the KDP select horror stories, I intend to minimize my risks by never taking a book OUT of wide distribution to put it into Select, so for me that’ll be a one-way trip.  So, while I still intend to EVENTUALLY send it wide, it won’t be until the page reads drop to the point that sending it wide makes viable economic sense.

And… that’s it, so far.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the subject, sooner or later.  In the meantime… my Birthday is this Wednesday (September 20th), and adding a little signal boost pushing for more sales and reviews of any or all of my books would be a really good birthday present.

Edit:  Spammers are very aggressively moving back through my blog to try and hit the comments section.  Closing this one to new comments, too… (will they keep going back until they hit the posts that the software auto-closes comments on, I wonder?)

So… I’ve Got Some News…

I’ll be giving a bit of an update on The Merrimack Event below, but first I have a couple bits of news.

First of all, I’ve mentioned several times in the past few weeks that I’d been accepted at a guest at another convention. I haven’t said which convention that was, however, because it wasn’t posted to their website until recently. Well, if you’ve been keeping an eye on that convention’s website, you’ll have seen my name added several weeks ago, but I was FAR too busy getting The Merrimack Event out to talk about it here.

From January 12-14th, I will be appearing at Marscon in Williamsburg.  As an interesting side-note, the editor for The Kitsune Stratagem, Keith R.A. Decandido (who has written more than a few books of his own), announced today that he would also be at Marscon.  The panel list hasn’t been compiled yet (I’m not even sure the guest list is complete, yet), but I imagine we’ll be on a panel or two together.  That will be interesting, to say the least.

I haven’t heard back, yet, from one other convention I’ve applied to be a guest for, and there are a few other book-related events I’m trying to get involved with in 2018… but I’m starting to feel like a “real” career author after these guest spots.

Another bit of news:  As this blog goes live, so should a complete revamp of my Fennec Fox Press website, with a cleaner, less cluttered, more professional design.  Originally, I’d hoped to merge this blog and that website into one site, but that’s proven to be technically unfeasible.  At least this update will make updating that site a lot easier; the last straw for the old design was when I couldn’t add The Merrimack Event to my Book listing.  While its mostly a re-design, there is a lot of new content if you dig through it enough.

Speaking of The Merrimack Event, you might be interested to know how things have gone in the (slightly less than) two weeks since it’s been released.

First of all, I’ve been working on getting the Print Edition out.  It often feels like I have to relearn Adobe InDesign every time I put a new book out, but I’ve already finished the initial version of it.  I’ve ordered a proof copy, and I’m already aware there are a few minor fixes I’ll have to make once I get it.  Shipping is slow for proofs, so it will probably be a few weeks, still, before I get it ready.

As far as sales are concerned… well, it’s well into the top thousand best-selling books (on the overall list) at Amazon, and it has been in the top 100 sci-fi books on the Kindle, and it’s been in the top 10 in several of the smaller categories I have it listed in.  So… sales have been fairly good, so far.  It’s already broken even and is into profit.  Now I just have to sit back and see how far it goes.

For my next blog, assuming I have no more pressing news, I’ll be going into some of the observations and adjustments I’ve had to make following my decision to put The Merrimack Event in the KDP Select program.  And some day, maybe I’ll return to the “Ravencon Panels” blog series… (it’s been MONTHS; I don’t even remember what the next blog in that series is supposed to be)

Edit:  Yep, super-aggressive spambots going progressively further back in my blogs history, forcing me to shut down all the comments sections just to avoid innundation.  I dunno what’s going on.

BOOK RELEASE: The Merrimack Event

So, it’s not Sunday… or even Monday.  I’m a little late, but what’s a couple days after two years?  Or rather, thirteen years.  But The Merrimack Event has FINALLY been released.  Below I’ll copy the blurb and the acknowledgments (which tells a bit about this book’s history), but here is the book on Amazon.  If you’re using Nook or Kobo, you’ll have to wait 90 days; I’m trying out Amazon Select for the first time.

Blurb:

Once every four years, the Earth Alliance Naval Academy is included in a war game… or rather the Wargame: On a distant frontier colony, cadets must repair, recommission, and crew a fleet of old, mothballed warships for a simulated fleet action against a group of seasoned veterans using top-of-the-line warships.
After some meddling on the part of the Admiralty, many of the Academy’s best are assigned to the oldest, smallest hulk in the Wargame, the unfortunately named corvette Chihuahua. Thanks to a genius engineer, an Army veteran loaned to the Navy for the war game, and an unconventional captain, they make a new discovery which turns her into the most valuable warship in the fleet: The first ever Shieldclad warship.

The crew abruptly finds itself center stage in a real combat action, however, when Earth is attacked by an unknown foe, and a lone squadron of these once-mothballed ships is the Alliance’s only hope to respond…

 

Acknowledgments:
This book was an absolute nightmare to put together. For those of you who have not been visiting my blog or any of my social media accounts, you probably haven’t heard, but this book has been in the self-publishing equivalent of “development hell” for over two years. Editors vanishing on me, non-responsive cover artists followed by a cover artist I had to fire (and finally the one who produced the magnificent cover art you now see), the loss of one fully-edited version of the manuscript while attempting to make a back-up (resulting in my having to completely re-edit it from a much older version), and more.

However, even if you had been following my blog and social media, you probably were unaware that the original version of this manuscript was completed thirteen years ago – even before my debut novel, “In Treachery Forged.” And it was a horrible manuscript. After becoming a self-publisher, when going through my “older” work to decide what to try and publish and what to ultimately reject, this manuscript was the most borderline of the bunch. But I saw a diamond in the (really, really) rough, here, and I’ve been working to polish it ever since. If I were writing this book today there might be a few stylistic choices I might have made differently, but after all of the work that’s been done on it I think it came out pretty good. Of course, that’s for you readers to decide.

By the time I decided to be a self-publisher (even before the “development hell” situation), the manuscript had been checked over by several people, all of whom added touches to it. There were problems with this (I think, ultimately, people were trying to selectively edit certain sections to conform to six different style guides, but no-one in the process applied the same style guide to the whole text. Sorting that out was just one of the things that caused that development hell pain), but they all helped make it better in the end.

As usual, I would like to thank my family for all their help with this book. My late father inspired my love of books and, in a sense, taught me how to write. My mother and brother have both done everything they could to help, including acting as beta readers for a time.

I also want to thank Joel Christopher Payne for finally resolving the whole cover art mess. After having had to fire my previous cover artist, I was about to give up entirely on this book, but then he stepped up to the plate.

I also want to express my appreciation to the Society for Creative Anachronisms, for the use of their name, and Boosey & Hawkes, who let me know in e-mail that Sir Henry Newbolt’s “Old Superb” would be falling into the public domain before this book was to be published. (That was years ago, back when this thirteen-year-old book was still fairly new). Also, I would like to thank the anonymous person who provided OpenClipArt.org the free-for-commercial-use chess graphic I included.

Finally, as mentioned above, this book has been touched by numerous hands over its thirteen years of pre-publication existence. Some of these people may not even remember working on it, it’s been so long ago (a few I lost touch with before I’d even settled on a title for this book), but I would like to thank everyone who helped: Andrew “MageOhki” Norris, Ed “Kickaha” Beccera, June “KaraOhki” Geraci, all those people in chat whose real names I never learned (including the programmer of Akane “the Magic 8-Ball” Bot, who I’m not sure I ever met but whose chat bot provided a lot of laughs and even a bit of inspiration), Sarah Myers (if you ever see this, and remember designing that uniform, PLEASE contact me! I’d like to hire you again, but my old e-mail for you doesn’t seem to work any more), certain fellow members of the Washington Capitals message boards that I can no longer get in touch with, and anyone else who I’ve forgotten from across that thirteen year gap.

Oh, and a big “thank you” to everyone reading this book. Enjoy!

Edit:  And the spammers are forcing me to close the comments on this post, too.  Great.  *sigh*

Cover Reveal: The Merrimack Event

Okay, so I’m behind on my “Ravencon Panels (I DID do)” series.  I get it.  Maybe I’ll be able to get back to that, soon (hopefully I’ll finish the Ravencon Panels series before my next convention.  Heh).  But, in the meantime, I’ve got something else to discuss:

Today’s blog post is to announce that I FINALLY HAVE A (BLEEP)ING COVER FOR THE MERRIMACK EVENT!

The cover artist mentioned in my last blog post, Joel Christopher Payne, came through for me, providing me with the fantastic piece you see above.

This means that I can finally finish building the book and release it.  Now, I had an outside hope of getting that done by today (which would have made this blog post an announcement that the eBook, at least, had been released, and not merely a cover reveal), but between thunderstorms, a convention I’m scheduled to guest at asking me to pick the panels I want to be on (this will be the subject of its own blog post in a couple weeks; I’m finally listed on their web page), and a few other odds and ends, I haven’t had any time to work on it since I got the cover.  I should be able to get to work on it by tomorrow.  My next Sunday Blog Post (which I’m hoping will be next weekend, but shouldn’t be more than the weekend after that even in a worst case scenario) should be to announce said book release.

I have one last decision to make on the book, however.  Do I make it a wide release, as I have all my other books to date, or do I experiment with a Kindle Select listing (which requires Amazon exclusivity)?  I’m leaning towards setting it up for one round as an Amazon exclusive, just to see what the service is like from the inside (as opposed to my more vicarious observations of other authors’ experiences), but it seems every time I’m about to release a book, I start hearing of bad things happening with Kindle Select.  (Note:  This decision will have NO impact on the print edition, for those five or six of you who prefer to buy my print books).  Regardless of what I decide, it will ONLY be for the one 90 day period, and then (if I haven’t already) I will open it up to the wider release.

Stay tuned.  The book release will be coming here, soon.

Edit:  Seriously, spammers?  Comments closed here, too.  Dammit.

So, About that Merrimack Event Cover Art…

I wasn’t planning to do a blog this week, but some news came in that I had to share…

As I said in my last blog (and have talked about on Facebook a time or three over the past couple weeks), I’ve finally found a cover artist for The Merrimack Event. If things go according to plan, the book will FINALLY go out the door once that art is completed. The artist says he’ll get it back to me in August or September, so… soonish?

The artist I hired is not a career cover designer.  Technically, I suppose that applies to all of the artists I’ve hired for covers; even though they’ve all had past experience designing book covers (one of which is on retainer to a small press as their official cover designer), cover design is not their specialty.  In the past, I’ve worked with student artists (for concept designs, not covers), webcomic artists, and an illustrator, but none of them have primarily worked in cover art.  This guy follows that trend, it seems.

So, if you want to be technical, the artist I hired isn’t a cover artist.  But let me tell you what he is:

He started his artistic career at age 20, doing concept art for the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise.

He has been working for Disney since 1996.

He was named a Corel Painter Master in 2016.

He’s done background art for several video games, including some entries of the Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill, and Baldur’s Gate franchises.

He’s worked extensively on the animated Starship Troopers: Roughnecks series.

Oh, and he’s done some artwork for a small franchise — not sure if you know it — called Star Wars.

Now, I’m not sure if you’ll recognize the name of Joel Christopher Payne right away, and “cover artist” hasn’t yet shown up on that list (though he assures me he has done book covers, before), but I think his resumé is good enough to do the cover for The Merrimack Event.  What do you think?

A Few Things to Tide You Over….

Things have just been too busy for my next “Ravencon Panels (I actually DID do)” to be ready even by next week, and I’m over a week late already, so I figured I’d post something a little less labour-intensive to tide any regular readers of this blog over.  I need a longer block of time for those series posts, but I can block out five or ten minutes of time here and there to work on the blog.  If I manage that, I bet I can cover a potpourri of topics that wind up being longer than my average blog series post.

I. To start with, I may have FINALLY found a cover artist for The Merrimack Event.  He gave me some homework to do, first (which has partly been why I’ve been too busy for the blog, lately), but that’s finally complete and things are moving forward. Getting him has been a bit of a coup, given his pedigree. I’m still waiting on some paperwork to be completed before I announce just who it is, however.

II.  I’ve been seeing a lot of odd writer’s or sci-fi\fantasy focused events, lately. Things like An Evening With Neil Gaiman at the Wolf Trap Theater (I was hoping to attend this, but as of when I’m typing this, it doesn’t look like I’ll make it), Dune: The Ballet (seriously? This really exists?), a comicon-style cosplay event at a local bar (which was last week, which is why I haven’t included a link; I missed it), and a Harry Potter for Night for Adults from our local library (we’ll see if I do that).  No real point here — just an observation.

III.  Something that nearly inspired another part in my Weird Research blog post series:  I saw an ad for a booklet, 10 B.S. Medical Tropes that Need to Die TODAY,  on Facebook.  It was free at the time (regularly $0.99), so I picked it up.  It was very informative, and quite useful for certain genre, but it didn’t address my main concern with medicine in stories:  Useful medical treatment in a fantasy setting.  So, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve been able to pull a lot of medical research from the following sources:

For medication, I found an easy-to-understand compilation of modern-science studies on the effectiveness of herbs, botanicals, and similar products thanks to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For surgery or other medical treatment… I suggest that you read the sports pages regularly.  Search through them long enough and you’ll find a lot of discussion of treatments, healing rates, and the long-term effects of various injuries, and it’s all in layman’s terms — you don’t need to learn too much jargon to figure it out.  Of course, if you want something more in-depth, I still note that when it comes to broken bones, separated shoulders, muscle tears, and (increasingly) concussions, it’s the field of sports medicine that is generating the most studies.

IV.  I rarely talk about my novelette, To the Rink of War.  It’s been a big disappointment for me — I originally intended for it to be a series of connected shorts (the first of which being the one I released) that would expand into a larger universe, which I would then start opening up for a multi-author shared-universe anthology.  I have Part I published, and in rough form I also have parts III and IV complete (in need of editing), with V mostly finished and II… well part II needed a complete re-write, but I figured I could get that done well before I was projecting its release.

But that, obviously, never happened.  The initial release of To the Rink of War was disappointing — I had no budget for a cover, and what I was able to cobble together without a budget was underwhelming; it was very short, but at the time of the release the lowest price I could set for it on Amazon ($0.99) was the most popular price point for much larger self-published novels (while that price point still exists, I’ve noticed fewer and fewer indie writers charging that low), so it was no bargain.  And it’s been a while since I published, but I seem to recall I managed to (unintentionally) time its release to the lowest-selling week of the year for me (and several other indie writers of my acquaintance).

The failure taught me several lessons, but I was saddened.  I was really invested in that world.  It had the development of a new sport, Microgravity Hockey.  It had interesting characters (and I do mean characters) like Emperor Norton II (yes, based on the guy I linked to), who may not be quite as crazy as he is letting you believe.  It had a mining asteroid colony setting (sort of like the popular Expanse series, but I like my stories a little less dreary than that).  On the other hand, it was kind of labor intensive to write, requiring me to do things like plot a course between asteroids using Celestia, and then using math in ways I haven’t since my high school days to figure out the actual travel times between the asteroids my characters were inhabiting.

The horrifically poor sales and math-heavy worldbuilding weren’t the only things working against its sequel.  My release schedule was utterly wrecked when first The Kitsune Stratagem was released late, and then The Merrimack Event’s initial “development hell” moment pushed back several of my other books (a small part of the long delay between In Treachery Forged and In Forgery Divided can be attributed to my attempts to get this… situation, if you will, resolved).  Re-writing Part II for a story with such horrifically anemic sales as the Rink of War had seemed like a waste of time better put into getting the rest of my books out there.  It worked fine as a stand-alone (it was initially conceived as such), so if I never got out part II it would be fine.

Lately, though, I’ve been giving thought to reviving the story, revamping Part I and re-tooling parts II-V so that I wound up with something more resembling a novel.  Still thinking of exactly how to do that, but depending how things go with The Merrimack Event’s eventual release (please, let me FINALLY get that thing out the door!) and the completion of In Division Imperiled (Book III of the Law of Swords series) I might be able to find time to look into that some more.  Though I also want to get By Claw and Arrow (the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem) started, soon, so… we’ll see how things go.

V.  Speaking of In Division Imperiled, I’m thinking of returning its title to “In Division Deceived.”  Or maybe even changing that third word to something else altogether.  For those who weren’t here, or don’t remember the story, the Law of Swords series was conceived as a five book series.  In my efforts to better position my book for a Trad-Pub contract, I revised the outline to make it a four book series.  The title change was a result of the outline change, blending the title of book III and IV together.  Well, now that I’m self-publishing, I’m back to a 5-book outline.

But the outline has also changed significantly, as well, and the titles of the remaining books no longer fit the storylines explored as well as they had under the original outline.  At this point, the only thing I am certain of is that book three will have a three word title beginning with “In Division.”  I’ll see how the final word of the title fits once I’m done writing the darned thing.

VI.  My local library may or may not be hosting an event for local authors in October.  I may or may not be interested in attending, or even participating.  But the library is giving so little information about it (other than that it might be what they’re having this year as a substitute for Indie Author Day) that I have no idea what, exactly, the event is.  Or rather, they’re giving me the when, the where, the who, the how, but not the what or the why.  I may or may not revisit this topic once I know more.  You may or may not be interested.

VII.  I went from binge-watching the Guy Williams-led Zorro (1957) to binge-watching the Richard Greene-led Robin Hood (1955) to binge-watching the Raymond Burr-led Perry Mason (1957).  All of these shows were some I had seen before.  All of these shows were made well before I was born.  Somehow, however, I enjoy re-watching these shows a lot more than the bulk of my more modern favorites.  I don’t know if that’s from a subconscious bias towards the “classics,” or if the TV storytelling of the era just fits my interests more.  Something to ponder.

VIII. The point of a multi-author anthology like Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders is to introduce the existing audiences of each of the contributing writers to the works of all of the other writers.  I don’t know how successful that has been, so far.  On the other hand, it’s also the sort of thing that might have more long-term marketing effects.  Now, any time any of the writers in the anthology have a new release, that author’s new readers — exploring the writer’s other works — will see, and may purchase, the anthology… and be introduced to us other authors, as well.  It would help encourage those introductions, though, if the book had more reviews, so if any of my regular readers are willing to review that book it would be quite helpful.  (mentioning my story in the review would be nice, too)

IX.  I will need to update all of my Kindle eBooks, soon.  Apparently, something was changed in how Kindle interprets eBook files, so most of my scene separations are gone.  I’ll be introducing fleurons to restore those separations, so I’m open to making minor revisions in the files.  If anyone knows of or has found any typos in my books, lately, now is the time to let me know so I can make corrections.

X.  I may have mentioned this a few weeks ago, but I received an invite to be a guest at another convention (I haven’t announced which one, yet, and it feels like such an announcement deserves more prominent placement than as the tenth item of this slot).  I keep hoping for my name to appear on that convention’s website before saying anything, but it hasn’t yet.  It didn’t for the Ravencon convention I was a guest at earlier this year, either, until a couple months after I got the invite.  I guess this is a standard practice?

XI.  (written several days after topic VI, above, but not related to it) My local library had a “minicon” yesterday (Saturday).  It might have been an event that I would have been interested in, but I only found out about it after it was long over.  I keep myself tuned in to the library’s social media pages as much as is reasonable, but this isn’t the first time I’ve missed an event I might have serious interest in; in fact, I’d say it’s the tenth or eleventh… this year.  I wouldn’t even know about the October event from topic VI if I hadn’t queried them about Indie Author Day.  I’ve frequently found my library to be very supportive, but I really have to wonder what I need to do to be kept informed about their events.

XII.  As someone else said they had in the comments section of this article (which inspired this part of the post), I “broke my teeth” in writing with fanfiction.  I stopped posting fanfiction in 2005, but I didn’t entirely stop writing it.  I posted an update to one of my fanfics shortly after publishing my first book, trying to encourage my fanfic audience to seek my professional fiction, but that proved too ineffective to resume my fanfic career (even as a marketing gimmick for my professional fiction).

But I do have quite a bit of fanfiction stored… well, somewhere in my hard drive.  None of it is edited (not all that significant; my fanfiction rarely, if ever, got anything more than a spellcheck in the first place.  I was creating fanfics as a writing exercise, not as an editing exercise, and I never had enough constructive feedback to make effective revisions anyway).  Few, if any of them are finished.  But still, I probably have hundreds of thousands of words worth of various unposted fanfics just sitting there, gathering dust.

That article had me thinking back to those unfinished, long forgotten fanfics, and wondering if I should do something with them.  I considered “filing the serial numbers” off a few of them to try and make them publishable, but I believe my fanfics are too tightly wound into the original source for that to work.  It wouldn’t take much time for me to upload them to fanfiction.net and put them out there for people to read, but I have no intention of finishing any of them, and that might annoy people.

Still thinking about it all.

XIII.  Still undecided about what to do with my old convention calendar.  I thought writers and fans might find it a valuable resource, but it gets little traffic and almost no-one says anything about it.  It takes a great deal of effort to update and maintain, so if no-one’s using it there doesn’t seem to be any point.  Ah, well.

XIV.  And it’s time to post.  Hope you found something here to interest you….

Ravencon Panels (I actually DID do): Using Tropes to Tell Stories

Of note:  I am aware this blog is running late, even with the planned week off last weekend.  I’ve decided to officially reduce the posting rate for this blog to every other week (which is probably closer to how often I’ve really been posting my blogs, anyway), so my next blog won’t be until July 2nd, at the earliest.  Now, on to the interesting stuff….

As part of the promotion for the new World’s Enough: Fantastic Defenders anthology (which, contrary to my post last time, is still at the $2.99 “Balticon Special” eBook price; I’m not sure why it hasn’t gone up, but if you don’t have a copy yet that means you’re in luck), I participated in an interview with my fellow author Martin Wilsey. One of his questions asked about my favorite websites, and I just had to mention TVTropes.  I really do enjoy looking through it at times, and I’ve discovered a fun story or three I’ve never read, before, thanks to it… (but boy is it a time sink).

There are lots of ways to define tropes, but I think most people think of them, from a literary perspective, as a non-pejorative form of ‘cliché’.  In other words, they are a literary device that is observed in enough works as to be recognizable.  Or, rather, these could be seen as the “building blocks” for story construction.  I think it’s more that a when executed badly, this sort of thing gets seen as a cliché, but if executed well it is recognized merely as a trope.

As a writer, I think other writers should study the various tropes enough to be familiar with them.  Not only can it help you recognize the signals you’re sending your readers (you don’t necessarily need to follow the tropes, but you might want to find a way to tell your audience that you aren’t going that way), but they can give you a great frame of reference when trying to strengthen story points, or to figure out the important things to tell your readers when marketing your book.

Suppose, for example, you are trying to plot out what your villain (or even your hero, if you’re writing so-called “competency porn”) is planning to do.  You want to come up with a complex plan for them, but you’re just not quite sure you know what kind of plan to enact.  Well, tropes might give you an idea of what your villain is capable of.  Perhaps your villain knows your main characters very well — they might be capable of enacting a Batman Gambit.  Or perhaps your villain is very competent and would rather die than lose; he might create a Xanatos Gambit, so that no matter what happens he wins in some way… (though some ways might be preferable than others).  Do they make it all up as they’re going along?  It might seem like an Indy Ploy.

And then, when the book is done, knowing what a Batman Gambit is can help you in your marketing; you can explain the similarities between your villain and the oft-admired Batman-Gambit-using Star Wars villain, Thrawn, if you know what you (and your villains) are doing.

There’s a lot more I could say on the subject of tropes, but I think I’ll save that for the next time I’m speaking at a convention on the topic.  Speaking of which, I just got a guest invite to another convention; I’ll give the name of the convention and other details about this, soon, once certain things are taken care of.  Talk to you all again in TWO weeks.