Category Archives: Status Reports

I Promised a Post This Week…

So, I promised a blog post this week, and here it is.  Unfortunately, it’s not the one I was hoping for — namely, a blog on the panel topic, “Mythology as the Basis for Speculative Fiction.”

It’s already a week and several days late, and it really isn’t moving as well as I was hoping.  I have a lot of things to say on the topic, but my views seem… disconnected, somehow.  I’m having trouble finding ways to transition from point to point.

If these posts on the panel topics were REAL panels, there would be no issue.  I’d be led by a moderator through his questions.  Or if I were the moderator, I would be asking different questions — ones which regular followers of this blog would have already heard my answers to several times.

I mean, if you don’t know (for example) that, when confronted by an editor who insisted that Elves and Dwarves and Dragons were played out, I drew from the mythologies of Japan, Finland, aboriginal Australia, Inuit, and Shetland Island folklore to fill out a replacement set of mythological creatures (Kitsune and Wulvers and Bunyips, among others) as I constructed the world for The Kitsune Stratagem, then you haven’t been reading here very long — I’ve certainly mentioned it often enough.  In front of a new audience like a convention panel, however, I could expound on that and, for them, it would be fresh material.

Again, though, I still had a number of points to discuss; things on mythological allegory, things on the different types of Elf you can find in mythology (High Elves from the Norse, brownie-like Elves from Wales and Elizabethan England, etc.), a discussion of the different mythologies that were brought together for Tolkien (he drew from Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Arthurian myths, among others, while putting together what he considered a “British” mythology.  Finally, I wanted to talk about how the fiction popular in modern geek culture was re-interpreting or forming mythologies of its own, citing fiction like Dragonball, Superman, and Star Wars in the process.

But… none of those points seemed to fit together.  I’m not happy with what I have, either in the structure or in the depth of my content.  I’ve been working on it for two weeks, and it’s not worth posting.  It’s been distracting me from my other writing projects, and it’s already too late to start a different blog to be ready Sunday.

So… this is it for a blog this week, no blog will be available next week, and if I do continue this series I’ll be skipping this panel and moving on to “Using Tropes to Tell Stories.”

Finally, some business:  I just learned that the current ebook price of the new anthology I’m in, Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders, is a special introductory price.  It’s expected to go up THIS THURSDAY, first to a (still discounted) $3.99 and ultimately up to $4.99 in another few weeks’ time.  So, if you haven’t bought it yet, NOW is the time to get your ebook copy.  (Or you could go ahead and get it in print, but any discounts of that will be Amazon’s call)

Ravencon 2017 Recap

I’m going to start this recap with something that happened after the convention ended: I got con crud.  I’m usually very good about avoiding that, but somehow it hit me this time.  Ugh.  If this blog is less coherent than normal, well, that’s why. But for now… back to the beginning.

THURSDAY

I left for the convention on Thursday.  It’s about a 3 hr drive from my home to Williamsburg (a little less, actually, if you drive non-stop), and I got to the hotel a little before 2pm.  I found a full parking lot, because the previous event (some sort of meeting for Greenway planners, I think?) hadn’t broken up, yet, and my room wasn’t open right away.  I was told to try again an hour later, so I ducked into the hotel bar to wait it out.

You may recall, if you read my post on last year’s Ravencon, that my biggest complaint was the dining.  The food wasn’t bad, but it was slow.  I made efforts to prepare for a repeat of that experience, actually buying a microwave and lugging it down to Williamsburg with me (complete with a half-dozen cans of soup) so I’d be sure to be able to eat something as the convention was going on.

But, until I had my room, I couldn’t pull out that microwave, and I was trying to kill time anyway, so I figured I might as well have lunch.  The bar was empty, save for the bartender.  I let her know I was there for Ravencon, and asked whether they would be opening the restaurant this time.  I was told that it would, with buffet dining and a special Ravencon menu for most of the weekend.  “We learned our lesson from the last time,” she told me.  As it turns out, she was right — I never wound up using that microwave during the convention, and the food was actually much better than I remembered from last year.

After lunch, my room was ready for me to check in.  I let my Facebook friends know I was there, then unpacked, and rested up a bit.  I tried to make contact with some family who lives in the area to see if we could meet up, but that proved impossible.  I also tried to get to my e-mail, but found that the hotel wi-fi servers and the webmail access for my usual e-mail server were incompatible.  This proved to be important (as I’ll discuss later), but I spent about an hour trying to get things to work unsuccessfully.  So, with nothing else to do, I decided to try and find the spot where Con Ops was being set up.

I’d received an e-mail saying Con Ops would be in “Room M.”  I checked the hotel map — there was no Room M.  I checked the hotel’s posted activities list, and saw there would be set-up in Room J… but that room was empty.  I tried a few other locations I thought it might be at, but couldn’t find any evidence of the con set-up.  I finally gave up and (my settling-in having taken several hours) decided to have an early dinner.  So I was back to the bar.

Dinner was fine, but uneventful… until I was on my way out the door, where I ran into another Ravencon guest (and fellow panelist), Jennifer R. Povey.  I mentioned that this would be my first convention as a professional guest, and we traded stories about travel and conventions past.  I then joined her to again try and find Con Ops.  Which we did find… but only after Con Ops had shut down for the night.  It was in Room 8.

And that was it (for the con-relevant part, anyway) for Thursday.

FRIDAY

I learned why there was so much confusion about the rooms early on:  The hotel’s convention rooms are nice and laid out okay, but the normal room number system was confusing.  The Ravencon staff, after the problems from last year (another thing I mentioned in last year’s Ravencon Recap), decided to re-label the hotel’s room numbers to make things less confusing.  Which is fine, but they didn’t have those new room designations up Thursday… so Con Ops was in Room M, but only after the rooms had been relabeled on Friday.  The new room numbers made a lot of sense, actually, but that didn’t help on Thursday.

Badge pick-up was supposed to start at 1pm.  I met Jennifer R. Povey again at Badge Pick-up about five minutes before then, and started waiting.  And it did open at one… but not for guests.  The “guest packets” hadn’t been put together, and so we couldn’t pick up our badges.  While frustrating (and somehow tiring; I was more worn out waiting for my badge to finally be made available than anything else that I did over the weekend), the time wasn’t a total waste; instead, I learned a few tips about being a panelist from someone who had been on a few panels, herself (the aforementioned Jennifer R. Povey).

It was about three hours later that I was finally able to pick up my badge.  The guest packet included our badge, a copy of the programming booklet (which is the same whether you’re a guest or an attendee), a few letters to welcome the guests, our “final” schedule, and a folding paper nameplate.  Following one of those tips, I’ve kept the nameplate for future conventions which might not be quite as well prepared.

Now armed with a badge, a schedule, and a nameplate, it was time for the convention to begin.  The first event was authors-only:  A meet-and-greet in the Green Room.  I had high expectations for this, but it started out a bit dull; there wasn’t as much meeting and greeting as I had expected (possibly because there wasn’t enough seating for everyone to eat while they met and greeted one another, or possibly because several of us just trying to get something to eat before our panels).  After having a few snacks, however, I noticed a couple of people that I thought (correctly) would be on my first panel sitting — Jeanne Adams and Nancy Northcott — and went to introduce myself.  I was scheduled to be moderator (again, my first panel as a professional and I’m moderating?  Ack!), so I took the opportunity to briefly go over my plan for that panel (as Ravencon’s moderator instructions recommended.  I will note that, in the five other panels I was on, the moderator only did this once).

The meet and greet was interrupted (for me, Jeanne, and Nancy) for that first panel of the evening:  Swords Not Required, a discussion about arming your fantasy characters with weapons other than swords.  The three of us were joined by Chuck Gannon, the Literary Guest of Honor, adding just a touch of star power to my first-ever panel.

Now, over the next few weeks (health and time permitting) I intend to write blog posts on each of the panels I worked at Ravencon, so I won’t be covering the contents of each panel today, but I AM really looking forward to covering this one.  As moderator, it was my job to manage time while keeping the panel on topic and direct questions (either my own or the audience’s) to the panelists.  I figured I would let the panelists introduce themselves, then go through four or five of my own questions, and try to preserve about ten minutes for audience questions.  I was keeping a very close eye on the time.  While the panelists had plenty of time to come up with answers to my questions, there was no time left for me.  I was willing to cut people off if time was going to be an issue, but I wasn’t going to cut people off just so I could speak.  So… I never got to give my own answers.  Well, that’s partly what next week’s planned blog post is for — I’ll be answering giving my own viewpoints on the questions I asked my fellow panelists.

I think the panel went well enough.  My fellow authors, as well as some of the people from the audience, all gave me kudos for handling the moderation duties well.  I… well, my own case of imposter syndrome has me thinking that most of that praise was just people being polite to the newbie, but I’m willing to accept that I didn’t mess things up too badly.

After that panel it was time for the opening ceremonies.  Now, this may have been my first ever convention as a pro, but obviously I’ve been to conventions as an attendee (and, many years ago, as a fanfic panelist) many times over the years, having attended a few dozen conventions all told (I stopped counting at twenty or so).  However many conventions I’ve been to, however, I’ve ALWAYS skipped the opening ceremonies; they’ve never held any interest for me.  But I was a guest, and they were expecting me to attend, so there I went, not knowing what to expect.

Ravencon has over a hundred guests most years, and they promote a lot of guest turnover from year to year.  I figured I might have to stand up and be seen, but with so many guests — many of whom were, like me, first-time guests — I was NOT expecting to have to say anything.  But no, there I was, being asked to introduce myself (alongside twenty or so other new Ravencon guests) to a crowd of people interested in the convention guests.  I drew a complete blank about what to say, only mentioning the basics (that I was a self-published author and would be doing several panels that weekend), and was very glad when it was over.  Of course I thought of a million things I COULD have said, far too late to say any of them.  Next time I’m a guest at a convention, I’ll have to remember to be prepared to speak at the opening ceremonies, even if it seems like it would be impossible for me to do so.

Off the proverbial hot seat and with opening ceremonies (thankfully) over, I rushed off to the restaurant for dinner.  I’d had some snacks at the meet-and-greet, but those were just to tide me over.  I only had two hours until my next panel, and remembering last year I was afraid I barely had enough time to eat.  As it turns out, I had plenty of time:  I got to the hotel restaurant, and was shown a nearly empty buffet with no lines and almost no wait time for the staff.  The food was excellent (I had both the fish and the chicken; neither were overcooked, neither were dry, and both were well-seasoned and flavorful; you can’t ask for more than that from a buffet) and I was done with much more time to spare than I thought possible.

So, I went to attend my first panel on the “fan” side of the table, the “Economics of Self-Publishing” panel.  Ravencon has had this panel for several years, now, and it was moderated (as it had been last year) by the inestimable Chris Kennedy.  Now, for a very long time, the draft schedule for the convention had me listed on this panel; it was only in the last few weeks before the convention started that I was dropped from it.  That was fine, as it wasn’t my favorite aspect on the topic of self-publishing to cover (I was scheduled for a different panel on self-publishing later in the convention, which I figured was more my speed), but I’d been mentally preparing for this panel for weeks.  Most of what was covered by the panelists were things I was already well acquainted with, and there were a few things I’d thought of that I never heard mentioned during the panel.  It kind of made me regret not pushing harder to be on this panel; I think I could have contributed.

And then it was time for my Mythology as the Basis for Speculative Fiction panel.  Again, I will discuss the contents of the panel in a later blog post, but here are a few off-topic comments on this panel:  This was my panel alongside Guest of Honor Mercedes Lackey.  That was a great experience, but it’s entirely possible that I caught the con crud from her:  She had a cold (well, I gather it was a little more serious than a mere cold), and was warning people that she would be our “patient zero” for the convention.  Even the moderator said that we should keep at least two seats between her and us while we were setting up.

Other than Mercedes Lackey, my fellow panelists included Jennifer R. Povey, Christopher L. Smith, and moderator Bishop O’Connell.  The difference in experience between the Guest of Honor and the rest of us panelists became stark when we started talking about our publication credits.  A few short stories and anthology credits for a couple of them, four books for the moderator, three books for myself (and an anthology story theoretically coming out at Balticon in May, and one more novel I nearly had ready before Ravencon.  I mentioned a simplified version of why I didn’t get that book out in time during my panels, but the full story of what’s going on with that is worth a blog post on its own).  Then Mercedes Lackey mentioned her book total:  128.  (Well, she pointed out, 129, but the 129th wasn’t yet available for sale)

At any rate, all of the panelists had something to contribute to the panel, and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves, so I’d call it a success.  And as for me, it was the end of my evening.

SATURDAY

I started the day by ordering a room service breakfast that actually arrived in time for me to eat it (another sign that the hotel learned some lessons from last year).  I needed it fast, because I had a panel first thing that day:  Using Tropes to Tell Stories.

The panel consisted of myself, Bishop O’Connell, and Jim Bernheimer.  We were short a panelist (someone must have cancelled at the very last second), and it started a bit slow — we all needed coffee or something, I think — but we rallied, and in the end it was a success.

I went back to my room after that and had that cup of coffee (hotel room coffee… which wasn’t as bad as what I’ve had from some hotels, but still wasn’t great), spending the next hour getting myself better prepared for my next panel:  Building Worlds for Fiction with Dave Joria, Rob Balder, Mark Wandrey, and myself.  It was an interesting panel, though I kind of wish I had been moderating this one for one reason:  Two of us panelists were novelists, two were in webcomics.  I was hoping to get more about the different perspectives on building a world when writing prose versus when you could use illustrations for a portion of your worldbuilding.  I don’t think that topic was touched on, much, during the panel.

I had a long break after that panel, and decided to go to the hotel restaurant for lunch.  I almost chose to use the buffet, as the dinner buffet from the night before had been so good, but I wasn’t all that enthused by the buffet menu and went into the bar, instead.  This may very well have been the most fortuitous decision I made during the entire convention.

The bar waitress was showing me to my seat when, from what was the largest table in the room, I heard someone call, “Hey, are you here by yourself?”  I wasn’t sure they were talking to me at first, but once I was sure I indicated I was.  “Well, then, get your butt over here!”  I was being invited to sit at his table.

The person calling me was Baen Books‘ consulting editor, Kelly Lockhart.  Also at the table were Baen Books science consultant (and proponent of scientific outreach) Dr. Tedd Roberts, and Baen authors Mike Massa, Kacey Ezell, and Christopher L. Smith.  (There were also a couple other people at the table who I have yet to identify).

There were discussions about a number of things — other Baen authors, other conventions, a few scientific anecdotes from Tedd Roberts, and far too many other things to discuss in this post.  There were interesting conversations going on all sides of the table, and it was hard to keep track of everything being said.  Needless to say, this was an unexpected and welcome event in and of itself.

But lunch eventually broke up, and it was back to the convention proper.  I’d signed up for a wine and cheese tasting at 2pm, largely because the wines involved were coming from Three Fox Vineyards (as my self-publishing company is called Fennec Fox Press, you might guess that I have a bit of an interest in foxes), so I went straight there.  Unfortunately, things were horribly disorganized at first — I was “carded” three times, by three different people (twice by the panel organizers, once by someone sent down from Con Ops just to ensure everyone had been carded), they didn’t have the cutting board they needed for the cheese selection, they had to get the hotel staff to find them a couple pitchers of water before they could start, and so forth.  With the tasting running long, I wound up having to leave in the middle to make it to my next panel.

That panel was Self-Publishing 2017, with fellow authors Thomas A. Mays, Toi Thomas, myself, and (replacing the two expected panelists I mentioned in my last post) Christine McDonnell along with moderator Jim McDonald.  Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not going to be discussing panel content in this write-up; that’s for follow-up posts over the next few weeks.  There’s not much to say about the content of this panel which wasn’t mentioned somewhere in my Self-Publishing Roundtable blog series from a couple years ago, anyway.  There was something I wasn’t able to discuss at this panel, however, which will be in that topic:

In preparation for the convention, I had contacted my local library system about resources they were making available to self-published authors.  My local library is very supportive of the local author scene, and I wanted to know if there was anything they particularly wanted discussed.  I got an e-mail with all of that information… on the 28th, when I was already at the convention and couldn’t read it.  So, in place of a “Self-Publishing 2017” blog post, I’ll be making a “Self-Publishing and the Local Library” blog that week.

After the Self-Publishing 2017 panel, I had a brief break.  After my lunch at the “Baen table,” I very nearly stopped by the Baen Books Traveling Roadshow (a regular panel at many conventions I go to).  That panel wasn’t supposed to actually start until 4:30pm, though, and I had a panel at 5; I would have had to leave shortly after they started.

My 5pm panel (my last as a panelist, this convention) was on the Mechanics of Magic in Fantasy & Science Fiction, coming full circle with fellow panelists from my first panel Nancy Northcott and Jeanne Adams.  Along with us was Joe Wetmore, one half of the Instant Replay Live Youtube channel, which does lets-plays and game reviews (an odd panel for such a guest, but it worked out well for us).

Now, I had planned on attending a bunch of other panels after that, but I was exhausted.  I went back to my hotel room, rested up a bit, had dinner, rested up some more, went to sleep… and overslept the next morning.

SUNDAY

Well, “overslept” may not technically be right (I didn’t set an alarm, or have any particular place I had to be that morning, so I didn’t miss anything; had I been scheduled for a panel, I would have had alarms set and room wake-up calls going before I went to bed the night before), but I woke up so late that I couldn’t go to any of the morning panels.  After a much less eventful lunch than Saturday (skipping breakfast because I woke up so late), I went to a final convention panel as an attendee:  The Mad Scientist’s Revenge!

This panel consisted of Carolyn O’Neal, Samantha Bryant, Tedd Roberts, and his grad student going by the psuedonym of EvilPenguin.  Two writers, two mad scientists.

I felt a bit sorry for the writers.  The moderator (who was one of the writers) didn’t seem to recognize that this wasn’t going to be a different kind of panel.  She was trying to ask questions as if this was a standard writer’s panel, but based on the write-up (“Presenting preposterous theories for world domination and evil conspiracies”) it was intended to be more of a silly, story-telling humor panel to close out the convention with rather than “education for creatives” like so many of the other panels were.  Tedd Roberts and EvilPenguin, however, had such strong personalities and such interesting anecdotes that the panel worked more as I believe it was intended than it otherwise might have.  The other writer, caught between the two big-personality scientists and the moderator who didn’t understand what kind of panel she was on, barely got a word in edge-wise.  Still, from the audience’s perspective, it was fun and entertaining…

And then the convention was over.  Well, for most of the attendees, anyway.  There was one more event:  The Dead Dog Dinner.  Basically, as you might guess from the name, it’s a dinner, at which guests and staff who were staying at the hotel for the night could get together and chat about the convention.

I wound up sitting at a table with the programming director, the assistant to the con chair, and several other staff members; there were other panelists at the dinner, but somehow all of them wound up at different tables.  Still, it was nice to be able to have a conversation breaking down some of the things that happened during the convention with the staff.  (And I got some “gossip” about the state of the convention which I won’t discuss here, because I’m not sure how much of that was in confidence).

And then I was done for the day.  I spent the rest of the day packing and resting up, and then returned home on Monday.

And by Tuesday I knew for sure I had come down with con crud.  *sigh*

Health permitting, next week I’ll start my next blog series on Ravencon Panels (I DID do).  Until then…

Sick Days

You know, when you’re self-employed, you don’t get such things as sick leave or the like. You do, however, still get sick, and sometimes it’s so bad you lose time.

For the last week and a half (almost two weeks), I’ve been fighting off the worst head cold I’ve had in years (surprisingly, I had all the symptoms of a case of the flu except the usual accompanying fever. I wasn’t always coherent during the worst of it, however). I haven’t been able to write at all, not in my book or on my blog (though I was able to manage a Facebook post or two).

During that time, my mother won a blue ribbon for one of her quilts at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza.  During one of my less lucid days (the early phase of the cold brought on a bought of insomnia that left me unable to get much sleep for several days on end; I think this was about when I finally started getting some sleep, but I was still perpetually tired when I was awake), I also had my 39th birthday (egads!  When did I get that old?).  And I’m sure there were other “life goes on” moments that I just can’t recall right now…

The kicker is, though, that I missed last Sunday’s blog, and don’t really have much more of a blog than this for today.  I’m still a little under the weather (though I am VASTLY improved), but I hope to get back to writing this coming week and I think I’m still on track to get at least one, maybe two more books out before my appearance at Ravencon.  Wish me luck!

Keeping Up With the Joneses…

I am sure people here recall me mentioning “The Merrimack Event” on this blog on occasion. Maybe not — I only bring it up every third or fourth blog post. Some day in the not-so-distant future (as in, between now and Ravencon), I hope to get this book out there.  But it is still in the “needs work” category.

The thing is, “The Merrimack Event” is old.  It’s actually older than In Treachery Forged (well, sort of; I started The Merrimack Event first, then wrote most of In Treachery Forged, then finished The Merrimack Event, then finished In Treachery Forged).

When I decided to turn to self-publishing, I sat back and evaluated everything I’d ever written, seperating it into several categories.  There was the stuff that just needed a polish before it was ready (sadly not that much; there was In Treachery Forged, which was the first book in a novel series, and the Rink of War, which was the only “ready” story one out of a much larger collection of novettes, novellas, and short stories taking place in a shared universe, and Voices — a very short story (just barely above “flash fiction” length) which I still need to find a place for), stories that were looking good but weren’t finished yet (the novel now published and entitled The Kitsune Stratagem, plus a few other things which I’m not discussing yet as I still haven’t worked on them since), and a depressingly long list of things I rejected as unpublishable.

(Yes, that’s right — as a self-publisher, you have to learn to reject your own manuscripts if they aren’t good enough).

Most of the rejections were short stories, barely begun unfinished works, and the like, but there were at least three works which, while not necessarily finished, had already reached full novel length.  The first was a historical fiction entitled “The Little Ring-Giver” about a barbarian mercenary hired by Rome to fight against Attila the Hun; it ended tragically (the hero is killed before the end, so his lover disguises herself and plots to marry Attila and murder him on their wedding night).  It… well, let’s just say it had a silly plot, overly purple prose, and a poor grasp of the “historical” aspects of historical fiction.  The second was a prequel to Oedipus Rex (I may have mentioned this here, before — in High School, I was required to read this play several times; when I was forced to read it one too many times in College, in an act of self defense I decided to do something to make it (a) more interesting and (b) to make sense of Oedipus’ punishment (if it were modern times, I think he could argue the situation the Greek Gods put him in was entrapment of the worst kind).  The problem with this one was I couldn’t decide whether it should be prose or script, and wound up with an awful amalgam of both.  The third novel-length manuscript of my own I rejected was another historical fiction; a highly improbable bit of Naval combat during the Napoleanic wars.  I actually might still write a novel with the same premise of this one, some day, but just about everything else from this book (bad research, bad dialog, purple prose, improbable plot twists,and more) means I’ll have to start over from scratch.

The Merrimack Event was the only significant item of a final category, however — things that were “not publishable yet, but still salvageable.”  It was in… rough shape, and had a lot of dust on it, but there was a lot of promise in it as well.  It had been through three or four revisions already, at the time, and with all of that work into it I was loathe to abandon it entirely.  So, after “In Treachery Forged” was released, I dusted the cobwebs off of The Merrimack Event and started to revise it… again.

It needed a LOT of work just to get it good enough to send to an editor, and it took me almost as long to get it to that point as it would have to write the thing over from the beginning (only for my chosen editor to vanish without a trace before I could get him the manuscript, which is a good part of the reason why it’s not already come out), but in the end I felt the story had been “salvaged.”

Which brings us to the title topic of this post.  The Merrimack Event still needs editing, but at this stage I’d say it is a “publishable” book.  Or, well, it was when I last touched it… but, uh, there’s a problem, as I was reminded earlier this week:  It’s a scifi novel, but some of the scientific tech that was in it has, well, proven not to be so fictional at all.  The book hasn’t “kept up with the Joneses,” so before I can do anything with it I  need to go back into the book, dust off the cobwebs, and “update” it, so that things that either looked unfeasible but weren’t, or which I figured wouldn’t catch on but did, don’t get so emphasized as “new.”

For example, I need to make sure that the engineer doesn’t call touchscreen keyboards a poorly adapted “new” technology (a real example from the book), even though… well, if you’re reading the blog on a Kindle Fire, you’ve probably already got one in your hand.  Back when I first wrote that scene, touch screens seemed a lot more impractical (something which might work, but no-one would favor a touch-screen keyboard over a tactile keyboard).  Obviously, time has proven that my read on that was wrong, but even though the story has been edited many times since it became clear that touchscreens were here to stay that scene has never been changed to reflect reality.  Now, the character discussing it was talking about how his service was being forced to adopt new technologies before the bugs had been worked out, and how he prefered more retro technologies in these cases, but given that this story is supposed to be set hundreds of years in the future one would think that any of the bugs he discussed would have been worked out by then.

I’m not alone in having this difficulty.  During the 2009 Marscon (a good convention, but that year it was at a horrible hotel; I didn’t go back until they changed hotels), author John Ringo (who really would have a worse time of it than me, considering he was writing “near future” science fiction and The Merrimack Event is more distant-future space opera, so the stuff I can write about can be even more off-the-wall) pointed out that there were one billion engineers and scientists on Earth (note: I don’t know if this number is even close to accurate, but the point stands even if it’s a lot less), and there’s only one of him trying to stay ahead of them all.

And Authors are not alone in this...
And Authors are not alone in this…

This is a fixable issue, and will be corrected before the book goes out the door… but the next time you read a science fiction book, and something fairly everyday is discussed as impractical or impossible, remember that technology can advance in unpredictable ways, and unexpectedly fast.  And that the technological prediction might have been made longer ago than you might realize….

A Quick Sunday Blog

Just a quick blog, today (because I got out of the habit and almost forgot to write one), where I’ll give a bit of a status report.

I. On Conventions…
I have nothing new to say about Ravencon (outside of a second reminder that I’ve been invited to be a guest there next year). It’s still more than half a year away, and I really don’t expect a lot that I can tell you for most of that time.
That said, it occurs to me that it’s been a while since I updated the convention calender. I think I’ll be doing that over the course of the next week, so if you know of any new sci-fi conventions, or local conventions I may not have heard of, PLEASE let me know. (I’ve been making this plea for several years, now; I’ve had exactly ONE person ever give me any info, and it was for a convention I already knew about. Still, hope springs eternal).

II. On my future books…
I’m currently writing In Division Imperiled, Book III of the Law of Swords series. I figured that, with the way I ended In Forgery Divided, you readers would want me to get that out as soon as possible.

It’s going well and I’m writing steadily, albeit much slower than I’d like, but I fully expect that there will come a point that it stalls out and I need to take a break from it (it’s happened in the middle of every book I’ve ever written).  When that happens, I will set it aside and FINALLY start pushing the long-delayed “The Merrimack Event” out the door.

When both of those things are done, I think the next project will be By Claw and Arrow, the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem.  For some reason, even though I personally believe this is better written than In Treachery Forged was, this is a less popular series.  If I’ve learned anything from In Forgery Divided, however, it’s that releasing Book 2 can inspire new interest in Book 1; here’s hoping that’s the case, here.

And I’m not projecting my plans past that.  I tried that when I started this whole self-publishing thing, and I fear trying to keep to those plans was partly why In Forgery Divided was two years overdue.

III.  Other News

I don’t really have any other news.  I do have other creative projects I’m doing outside of writing — some I’m doing myself, others I’m waiting for other people on.

For example, my mother is writing some (non-fiction, in case it needs to be said) books on sewing and quilting; eventually, she may finish one of those, and I’ll be helping her publish those.

For another example, I had an idea for a computer game, which I’m working on during my “off hours” (i.e., hours where I am not able to work on my books).  The best way to describe it, I would think, would be “Sid Meier’s Pirates meets Skyrim.”  It’s so far outside of my capabilities to create a computer game of this scope I don’t even know why I’m bothering, but I’m hoping I can at least get enough done on it that maybe it would be worth something to someone who could do it.  If anyone has any suggestions for what to do after I’m done with the part of the game design I’m capable of doing (which would include, uh, none of the programming), please let me know.

And that’s it for this week.  Maybe I’ll have something more interesting next week.

In Forgery Divided, Two Months In

It’s been (very roughly) two months since In Forgery Divided‘s release, and I thought I would do a little comparison and contrast for the sales between it and it’s predecessor, In Treachery Forged.

First, a few differences in how the releases went:  When I released In Treachery Forged, it only took me one month to get the print book out.  Two months in and there still is no print edition for In Forgery Divided, and the biggest delay has been the cover.  (I just couldn’t bring myself to approve that cover.  I went back to my cover artist to see if he could help, and he’s sent me a “watered down” version that might not become quite so blacked out in print.  A new proof just arrived, and it actually looks like it’s supposed to.  I’ll have to make a quick check to make sure nothing odd has creeped into it since my last proof, but I should be approving it this week regardless).

The world has changed some; namely, taxes on eBooks in Europe have gone up significantly (they used to be a negligible sales tax; now they’re a 20% VAT tax)

Also, I attempted a few more new-release promotions, trying to get advertisements on Awesome Gang and another company (which I’m not linking to here; from what I can tell, they never showed my ad after agreeing to do so, negotiating a fee, and scheduling a date to show it.  They also never charged me, however, so I suppose it’s no harm, no foul).  I should also note I have twice as many Facebook followers, twenty more mailing list members, infinitely more twitter followers (I opened my twitter account for the first time a few months after In Treachery Forged’s release, so one person would be infinitely more), and… oh, yeah — this blog.

Some things remain the same.  The prices for both are identical at US$5.99, and I haven’t (for either book) run any price promotions; I will note that some portion of oversees books (mostly in Europe) will cost readers more because of the aforementioned changes in tax laws.  Both times, I submitted the cover to the Monthly Indie eBook Cover Design Awards (one difference:  For In Treachery Forged, I was able to submit the cover such that, by a fluke, it was shown by these awards during its first month of release.  For In Forgery Divided, however, it only showed up on the awards well into the second month after publication).  Both books have been given wide releases; I have never availed myself of Amazon’s KDP Select marketing program because of the exclusivity demands.

With that out of the way…

Two months in, with In Forgery Divided, I had sold a total of 1,505 eBooks (and a lone print book, but we can ignore that for now).  Or, rather, I sold 1548 eBooks and had 43 returns for a net of 1,505.  Most of them (1,406 of these net sales) were purchased on Amazon.com’s US store.  I also had 8 net sales on Amazon.uk (curiously, I had 4 returns, so 1/3 of my gross UK sales were returned at that point — by far the largest percentage at the time.  This trend did NOT continue, but at the time I was wondering if something odd was was going on), 20 net on Amazon.de (Germany), 2 from Amazon.fr (France), 4 net from Amazon.in (India), 1 from Amazon.bs (Brasil), 26 net from Amazon.ca (Canada), 27 net from Amazon.au (Australia), 7 from Nook (two of these sales are not technically part of the 1,505 figure even though they did occur in the first two months; the explanation for why is too long and involved for here), and 6 from Smashwords.  (I may have sold as many as 3 additional copies through Apple iBooks via Smashwords during this period; those weren’t credited to my account for another month, however, so I couldn’t count them here. I now go to Apple directly, thanks to my brother owning an Apple computer).

Most of those sales didn’t start until the book was in its second week of sales, but when it started selling it went right up the charts.  I do not have screencaps, but in 2014, I had a few weeks in the top-50 (topping, for one day, in the top-20) on several genre list bestsellers.  At the peak on those lists, I was getting 50-100 sales a day.

I will note that those 1,505 sales were roughly half of my sales of In Treachery Forged prior to publishing In Forgery Divided (which sparked a resurgence of sales in the former).  Another thousand (roughly) were sold over the next four months, and since then the sales dropped to a mere trickle, selling a mere 500 copies over the next year and a half.  So, what my experience with In Treachery Forged suggests is that the “New Release” burst of sales, even when successful, only lasts about six months (to a degree, I saw the same pattern with The Kitsune Stratagem, but that book never had the sales of In Treachery Forged).  Ideally, I’d have another book out before then… but it took over two years for Book 2 to come out.  (I’ll try to be faster with Book 3)

Unsurprisingly (given that not everyone who buys the first book of a series will buy its sequels… especially after a two year wait), sales for In Forgery Divided have not been as strong (on their own, anyway; as I said, it inspired a resurgence in sales of In Treachery Forged, which is making up much of the difference).  They’ve been pretty good, however, considering how long it took me to get book 2 out.

In Forgery Divided’s sales started strong, with its heaviest day of sales occuring just a week and a half after it was published.  The totals for the (roughly) first two months of sales are as follows:

Total Gross Sales:  702 (note: Amazon gives you three different ways of checking your sales; your ranking on the sale page, a graph on your sales dashboard, and a full accounting of your “month-to-date sales.”  These all report at different rates; I’m using the month-to-date sales for these records, because it’s the only one of these that also lets me know about returns… but it’s also the slowest one to report.  I think I have somewhere between 3-5 more gross sales that haven’t been accounted for in this record, yet)

Total Net Sales:  694 (only 8 returns, total?  That’s a real improvement over In Treachery Forged’s initial release)

Net Amazon.com (US) Sales:  603

Net Amazon.co.uk (UK) Sales:  31

Net Amazon.de (Germany) Sales:  18

Net Amazon.fr (France) Sales:  1

Net Amazon.ca (Canada) Sales:  8

Net Amazon.au (Australia) Sales:  27

Net Smashwords sales:  2

Net Nook Sales:  3

Net Apple iBooks Sales:  1

Far fewer returns, even accounting for the fewer sales.  I guess people who read book I are less likely to return book II.

UK sales are much stronger (the UK did, eventually, become the #2 purchaser of “In Treachery Forged,” but for some reason most of those sales didn’t start coming in until four months after its release), and there are even small improvements to sales in Australia and Germany.

It’s only in the US (both on Amazon and with the other vendors) where my initial sales are significantly weaker.  And much of that gap is being compensated for by sales boosts for my other books — over the past two months, the boost in sales to In Treachery Forged can account for approximately five hunded eBooks sold, and even my unrelated novel, The Kitsune Stratagem, has had another twenty or thirty sales generated by the new book release.

I’m not really sure what to make of these numbers, just yet, but as time goes on and I get more data ponts to go on, these numbers might start to mean something.

In the meantime, I’d better keep writing — I want to know what effect Book III will have on sales.

Jury Duty! (And Some News on the Print Edition)

I was scheduled for Jury Duty this last Thursday. I didn’t think much of it, as I’ve been summoned for Jury Duty five times in 12 years (You aren’t supposed to be scheduled less than 3 years apart, so somewhere along the line I was summoned when I wasn’t eligible) but never had to report in person — a phone call the night before has always been enough to “fulfill my commitment” before. But I had to, this week, and that  took away a couple days I needed for my planned blog post for this weekend.  I do have some news, however.

Despite the jury duty issue, I was able to get in some work on the Print Edition of In Forgery Divided.  I made a few more tweaks to further lighten the cover, and I discovered a small section in the book block that I must have accidentally skipped my first trip through (again, these are all purely book-design issues; they aren’t even typos — the only problems I’ve found this round were where the kerning needed some very slight adjustments).

I’m uploading the corrected files tonight, and if there aren’t any problems then I MIGHT decide to skip the “order a new proof” step and print it after all.  I don’t know — I was burned trying that once — but I can’t think of anything I’m changing which would cause any unexpected problems.  (Then again, if I could think of something, it wouldn’t exactly be an “unexpected” problem, would it?)

I have something close to 24 hours to decide (from past experience, it takes roughly that long for Createspace to approve any files).  If you’ve got an opinion on this, you’ve got about that long to tell me.

So, there’s that.  Meanwhile, the more interesting post I had planned involving research, a travelogue done by a Monty Python alum, and more will be coming out next weekend… barring some other crisis, at least.

Planned Future Articles for this Blog

Please note: The bulk of this post was written prior to my attending Ravencon, last weekend. If I’d successfully figured out my blog software well enough (I’ve been doing this over a year now, and I’m still a complete newbie. I keep trying to figure out how to disable the horrid auto-hyphenation that this theme enforces, for example, but have had no success), it would have auto-posted last Sunday. Instead, I’m just going to tweak the post a bit and send it out today.

So, before I started ramping up the publicity machine in the advent of In Forgery Divided‘s release, I had several ongoing blog series I was pursuing.  I hope to resume some of them, soon, including:

I.  The Self-Publishing Roundtable

The bulk of this series is complete, but I’m still coming up with new addendums for it.  Some of the things I learn at Ravencon may inspire articles for this.

II.  Wierd Things I’ve Had to Research

Honestly, I’d like to resume this one the most.  However, looking back over the articles I have already written, I’m a bit disappointed in myself.  Among other things, it seems like I’m doing a lot of linking to Wikipedia.  I don’t hate Wikipedia, and think it is a perfectly fine research tool if you double-check its references and understand its limitations, but this wasn’t supposed to be a survey course on using Wikipedia.  I will have to think of new ways to approach this series, but I do have at least one thing to start with: Using travelogues for research.  And the travelogue I’ll use will be the Michael Palin travelogues — Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle, and Himalaya.  I may start these in a couple weeks.

III.  This Book Cannot Make Any Money

For newcomers, this was a bit of a project taking otherwise useless scraps of writing I had done (a few fragments of poetry, much of it from my High School days; a single very short (but still too long to be listed as flash) short story set in genre (experimental, paranormal) that I have written nothing else in; a fantasy short story written entirely as an inside joke for a writing workshop; story fragments of various genre from permanently abandoned larger works; that kind of thing) and to use it to walk people through the self-publishing process on a budget of $0, eventually releasing is as an eclectic collection of stories through both Amazon and Createspace.  This project froze because I didn’t have time to finish the article on cover art while also completing the final details for In Forgery Divided.  It will resume the next time I’ve sent something off to an editor and I’m waiting for them to get back to me.

IV.  Convention Calender Listings

I’ve neglected this part of the website for too long.  I plan to update these at the end of this month.  I think I’ve covered most of the major fan-run conventions, but I know I don’t know about some of the more obscure smaller conventions, one or two-day conventions, and new conventions.  If anyone knows of conventions I’ve missed, please let me know.

V.  Reviewing Software for the Self-Publisher

This was a proposed series in a past blog article.  There didn’t appear to be any interest (while I never seem to be able to convince anyone but spammers to comment on my blogs here, I often get comments on my articles in private messages, Facebook comments, Twitter comments, real life, etc.  This proposed series generated none of those, however), and so has been abandoned.  Unless there’s someone particularly interested in it, now?

VI.  Getting the Print Edition Out, And Future Publishing Plans

While In Forgery Divided has been out for over a month now in eBook form, I’m still working on getting the print edition complete.  I’ve just ordered a proof on a corrected copy, so I’ll probably have a blog post announcing the completion of that.  Also, I intend to have another status report-type post some time in the next few weeks where I discuss which books I’m going to be focusing on for the near future, which books will be put on the backburner for a while (but not abandoned), and which planned books I’m going to be dropping entirely.  Also, I’ll be discussing a few plans for some experimentation in my marketing strategies, the difference between a short story collection and an anthology (as I’m planning for one or the other to be added to one or both of my two currently ongoing Fantasy series, plus a third Sci-Fi set that I thought of at Ravencon), and more.

VII.  Lessons Learned From Ravencon

This will be coming out next Sunday, and will feature everything I’ve gleaned from my notes on the various Ravencon panels I attended.  Not all of the things I learned were explicity said by the panelists, however, and not all the  panels were useful (hint: If you don’t know that Ingram Spark and Lightning Source are the same company, or you think you have to pay Createspace for expanded distribution, or you think Smashwords regularly distributes to Amazon, your information is old\incorrect and you shouldn’t be on a panel about self-publishing.  I’m not going to be shaming any of the panelists, but some of the things being said (especially things that went uncorrected by the other panelists) has me questioning the expertise of some of the panelists.  At least no-one recommended Author Solutions, which I suppose is a good thing).  So I won’t necessarily break down the things learned to the various panels I attended.

The Print Proof Has Arrived… But I’m Not Happy

Okay, so the print proof for “In Forgery Divided” has arrived (as of last Friday), several days ahead of schedule. It’s a huge book, and will take me some time to go through it: While not a true proofread in the sense most people use the term, I do have to look at every page and every line (I don’t have to actually read anything; I need to look at the first letter of each line, the kerning (space between words), the margins, the fonts, the widows and orphans, etc., just to make sure everything looks nice and legible).  I figure I’ll still be just half-finished when I get to Ravencon next weekend.

So why, as I said in the title, am I not happy with this fast service?  Well, there’s a defect, and I’m worried it’s symptomatic of a quality control issue that may force me to make a decision I’d rather not.

I wanted a matte finish cover; both of my previous books have been matte finish, and I like the look of matte finish covers (especially for Fantasy novels).  It was a great boon for self-publishers when Createspace started giving a matte finish option.

However, my cover arrived with a defect; the matte cover finish had a bubble in the lamination, leading to a discolored bar traveling from the top to the bottom of the front of the cover.

Now, I could let Createspace know about the defect, and from what I understand they’ll replace the book free-of-charge (at least, that’s what their reputation says; I haven’t needed to contact their customer service before).  I don’t really think I need to, however — this is a completely disposable copy that I’ll be marking up, anyway, so no big deal.

Except… I’m now hearing that this lamination issue is becoming increasingly more common with Createspace’s matte finish covers.  That worries me; I don’t want my customers buying defective books.  I don’t want to be buying defective books, either, when it comes to purchasing review, consignment, and giveaway copies.

So, I may have to consider a glossy cover, instead.  I need to order at least one more proof before I put it on sale (I learned you should never assume the electronic proof, even for the “second” proof, is accurate, after the cover for “The Kitsune Stratagem” turned out to be misaligned by less than a quarter of an inch after I was finished with the first proof, even though I never did anything to the cover.  So, from now on, if I make changes I order another proof), so maybe I’ll change it to gloss and see what I think.

There may not be a blog next weekend.  I will be attending Ravencon (my application was too late to be considered as a guest, but it’s always a fun and educational convention, regardless), so I probably won’t have time to post anything.

Edit:  I accidentally hit “post” instead of “save draft” when I was working on this on Friday.  Oops.  If you’re the one person who my statistics plug-in says saw this early, that’s why the post vanished on you.

Odds and Ends

I had three possible posts I was getting ready for today, but none of them are ready. So, I figured I’d do a quicker blog covering some odds and ends…

I.  Print Edition Progress

The Print Edition of In Forgery Divided is compiled and a proof has been ordered.  There are certain design issues that cannot be checked or corrected until I’ve recieved my print proof (for example, I need to know what the cover looks like with a matte finish; from past experience, I know there can be contrast issues that don’t show on a computer screen).  It should arrive just in time to have it with me while attending Ravencon.  (Probably a good thing I applied too late to be a guest, there — I’m probably going to be going through the proof while I attend panels).

Of note, I am breaking my own pricing policy with this book.  In my Self-Publishing Roundtable series, I note that most physical bookstores won’t agree to carry your book unless you charge enough for them to make a profit — another writer\blogger calculated that if you (the writer\self-publisher) are earning a $2 royalty per sale in expanded distribution, the bookstore can earn a profit selling it.

However, to get that royalty amount, I would need to charge at least $20.80 (I used Amazon’s royalty calculator to narrow it to the nearest penny).  This is mostly because the book is that much bigger than my past books.  BUT… I’ve decided not to cross that $20 line; I’ve never seen traditional publishers charge more than that amount even for the most expensive of trade paperback books, so I won’t either.  Instead, I will keep it at the same cost as Book I, charging only $18.99 a copy.  I don’t exactly earn many royalties selling it at a price like this, but I’m still making a print edition made available for those of you who want one.  Just don’t complain about the price, please — I really can’t go much lower.

II.  Sales

In Forgery Divided had the strongest launch of any book I’ve released, at least in terms of day-one sales.  Sales have remained fairly steady (though there has been a surprisingly steep dive in sales so far, today).  Of course, a few good reviews can really help with that, so please review!

The most surprising thing, though, is that it really has lifted sales for my other books.  In Treachery Forged, book I of the series, hasn’t sold this well since May of 2014.

Even The Kitsune Stratagem (which has always disappointed me with its weak sales, even though I believe it’s my best written book to date) has posted more sales than it has since December 2014 (and may end the month even better).  I guess it proves the old adage correct — “Nothing sells Book I like Book II.”

The third bit of sales news is a peculiarity:  All of my sales have come through Amazon.  This is peculiar because it’s also available from Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.  In my past books, these stores haven’t been all that large of a percentage of my sales, but they were significant enough to be worth listing there.  So far, not a single sale on any of those has shown up.  I don’t know if this is because my past customers from those stores haven’t gotten the word, or if it’s because these ebook stores just aren’t selling anything, any more.  I’m strongly considering listing my next book with KDP-Select (the exclusive-to-Amazon program), just to test some of that program’s marketing tools I’ve sacrificed to keep my books available in wide release.

III.  Ravencon

As I mentioned earlier, I will be attending Ravencon from April 29th to May 1st.  As you might imagine, it’ll be a bit difficult for me to release a blog that weekend, but I’ll see if I can’t get something ready before I leave and set it to auto-release.  And, of course, I still should have a post for next week, as well.

IV.  Coming Plans

I’m not 100% sure which book, in my “to by written” list, will be next.  I hope to move straight into Book III of the Law of Swords series, but we’ll see.  I like the idea of it, but I was feeling a bit burnt out on things by the time I finished In Forgery Divided.

Hopefully enough time has gone by that I’ll be able to work on it again, but if I find myself staring at a blank page for weeks on end I’ll probably move to something else rather than just let my writing stagnate.  I also hope to eventually get The Merrimack Event out, but of course it still needs a round of editing and some cover art, as it has for over a year now.  My mother has offered to try her hand at the cover art (It sounds a bit lame to say “my mother made my cover art,” but she does have a resumé to suggest she can handle it.  She had collegiate training in artwork and design (had she not transferred to a different college to finish her degree, she would have earned a minor in it), and has continued her education in artwork all of her life.  Her career had included design for fashion in the past, and now uses her art background in her award-winning quilt designs.  I’m just not sure it all translates well to cover design), so we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, of course, I’ll be continuing this blog and working on… whatever I decide to work on.  See you all next week!