I Can’t Possibly Make Any Money With This Post…

(Note:  I experimented with typing this post in notepad and pasting it here.  It seemed to have a few bugs with paragraph returns; I tried to fix the formatting as much as I could, but if I missed something I apologize)

Well, last week’s poll didn’t work.  There seems to be a bug of some sort in the polling plug-in, because it kept closing fifteen minutes or so after I posted it, and nothing I would do would re-open it.  So much for that idea.

I would love to be able to give you an update on the status of In Forgery Divided or The Merrimack Event, today.  Unfortunately, there is nothing I can tell you that I haven’t already said.  I’ve heard nothing new from editor, and have nothing I can post from my cover artist.  So, both still have some time to go.

I’d still like to talk books, though, rather than go into a ramble.  I recall, a while back, talking about a project I referred to as “This Book Cannot Make Any Money!”  The idea was to, instead of writing another blog series on Self-Publishing, to walk people through the self-publishing process while I compiled and built a new book.

However, since I’ve already launched (or am about to launch) three series of novels already, I don’t intend to write anything new for it.  Instead, I’m going to make it a compilation of a things I’ve written in the past that, for one reason or another, aren’t worth trying to sell… (at least not on their own).

So, in this first edition of the “Can’t Possibly Make Any Money!” blog series, I’ll assess what I’ve got in terms of content… and why I figured they wouldn’t make any money in the first place.

The first thing is a short story entitled “Voices.”  Running only about 1,500-2,000 words, it’s not exactly large enough to self-publish on its own.  I’m actually very proud of this story, but it’s a hard sell to literary magazines as it’s experimental\paranormal fiction (in more ways than one).  The story was inspired by more than one English teacher saying, with absolute certitude, that “You should never write a novel from the first person omniscient perpective — it will never work.”  So, of course, I set about to prove them wrong.  I decided to give it a very ambiguous ending (you’re left to decide if the character REALLY was as omniscient as he claims).  Years ago, I tried shopping this story around, but it was always rejected (though I recieved nice handwritten rejections from the likes of the prestigious Atlantic Monthly for it; sadly, my copy of that rejection was lost in a move, but in it the editor said I should make the ending less ambiguous… which went against what I was trying to do with the story in the first place.  Ah, well).

The second item is an (untitled, but I’ll figure one out before publication) five page short story written entirely as an inside joke.  This takes a touch of background to explain:  I once joined a small writer’s group (The LCPS “Writer’s Circle”) sponsored by my local county’s public school system (why?  Because it was the only writing-oriented thing I could find near me open to adults).

It was a… very interesting experience.  There were five “enrolled” participants (including me) and the “instructor” (because it was operated by the Adult Education program of the public school system, an “instructor” was required; his being an “instructor” was a title of bureaucratic necessity, only).  My fellow enrollees were as follows:  A children’s book author who didn’t like children (she said so repeatedly and insisted she wasn’t joking), a woman writing a memoir of her battle against Lyme Disease (ugh), a blogger for “Voice of America” who never returned after our first meeting, and an octogenarian nurse on the verge of retirement whose only previous writing experience was writing reports for her job.  All four of the other enrollees specifically said they hated science fiction and fantasy stories, like the ones I had hoped to share with the circle.  Yay.

The instructor was fairly knowledgeable, however.  He was a thriller\mystery novelist, and enjoyed reading in the science fiction and fantasy genre.  He had appeared as a panelist at some conventions alongside the likes of Kevin J. Anderson, and for the most part knew what he was talking about (or at least, I agreed with many of his opinons on things).  However, there was one small problem.  We were all responsible for turning in five pages of writing every week for discussion, and INVARIABLY he had the same comment for everyone:  “You need more details about [the scene\the character\the setting\the background].”  If we made things as detailed as he wanted, though, it would take far more than five pages.  So, as a prank, in the last week of the Writer’s Circle I wrote a five-page story that was so focused on these details that there was only room for two lines of actual story.  Along the way, I used every synonym of the color red I could find to describe things.

He got the joke, and was amused… but his comment was “You spent all this time on the visual, but we never got any details on the sounds and smells!”  *sigh*

It’s all an inside joke, and being an inside joke I don’t think it could make any money on its own.  At least, not without some explanation.  An explanation I could type up for the compilation without a problem.

And then there’s the third item on the list of things I plan to include in this compilation:  Poetry.  Which, well, every author I know of says you can’t make any money selling poetry… and honestly, these poems are probably not what people who LIKE writing poetry would try selling.  And, honestly, I don’t like writing poetry all that much.

“Wait,” I know (some) of you want to say.  “Why have you even written poems if you don’t like poetry?”

Well, uh… the poems I plan to include are partly the result of high school English-class poetry assignments.  There are three High School poems (well, two high school poems and a tryptych  of linked theme poems, two of which were added post-high school), some haiku I wrote for my days as a fanfic writer (there is a character in a particular anime I was a fan of who always tried to speak in haiku; I always hated writing his dialog), and maybe one or two other pieces I’ve forgotten about which I’ll find going through my old records.  Not enough for a whole book full of poetry, but there is some.

And that’s it for COMPLETED work that might be included.  However, nothing says I have to just use completed work — in the many years before I self-published, I wrote a whole heck of a lot.  Much of it will never be published (in some cases, as with my fanfiction, it isn’t legal to; in other cases, I decided it just wasn’t good enough; with the upcoming release of “The Merrimack Event,” we’ll be through all of the work I thought was publishable in my past writing; In Forgery Divided is the first novel-length work I’ve written since I started self-publishing).  Some of that body of work, however, includes material which might still be interesting clipped out of the original work.  Keeping with the theme, though, it’s not likely you’d make any money as a writer trying to sell clippings of books you’ll never publish.

I’m not really sure what genre I’ll file a collection that contains paranormal, high fantasy, novel fragments, and poetry all together… but that’s another blog.  (Note:  Next week is Star Wars: The Force Awakens week.  I’m probably not going to work on this blog at all, so my first follow-up on this post won’t be for at least two weeks)

Edit:  Comments disabled due to spamming.

Back-of-the-Book Blurb POLL! The Merrimack Event

(I had three unfinished blogs in progress this morning, and plans for at least three others, but nothing finished.   I’m not sure which of the other posts from that set I’ll finish for next Sunday’s blog, but I have options.  I keep hoping I’ll have more news on the progress I’ve made toward publishing my books for you guys, but I’ve heard nothing from any editors or cover artists this past week).

So, it took several weeks, but I did finally get enough votes (with enough of a vote differential) to come to a conclusion about the “In Forgery Divided” blurbs.  In THAT poll, I think Blurb B wins out, but the difference I’m going to consider making a few tweaks to it.

But now it’s time to get some interest in “The Merrimack Event,” so let’s try the same type of “Back of the book blurb poll” for that one! Pick whichever you like.  And feel free to comment if you want to.  (Please?)

(Edited to make the poll work.  I forgot to test it before posting, and goofed up somewhere.  Sorry about that!)

BLURB OPTION A:

While the Earth Alliance Naval Academy is having a once-every-four-years wargame on a distant frontier colony, a surprise attack from a foreign star wipes out most of the Navy.  A daring plan to respond is made using a fleet of recently mothballed ships crewed by Academy students.  These ships are old and out of date, and their crews are half-trained and inexperienced, but they do have one advantage:  One enterprising young engineer has figured out how to combine the old technology of his century-old corvette and the now-standard modern engines to produce the first of the Shieldclads.

BLURB OPTION B:

Freshman Cadet Lieutenant Chris Desaix entered the Earth Alliance Naval Academy merely looking to round out a promising education in Engineering, but after he wins a campus-wide tactical competition his instructors start trying to convince him to change his major.  But when the Earth Alliance Navy is devastated by a surprise attack, he must use both talents to help them strike back.

Edit:  The polling plug-in appears to be malfunctioning somehow (it seems to automatically close after about fifteen minutes, even though it claims it’s open and is set to never close).  Sigh.  And now spammers are hitting the comments hard.  Since those comments require my approval, you aren’t seeing them, but they’re coming in numbers great enough I’m disabling comments.  Contact me if you want me to re-enable them.

Bugfix: Which blurb do you prefer

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Status Report

With Thanksgiving (and a lot of chores), I didn’t quite finish everything I intended for the blog post I had planned for this week (the “Merrimack Event”‘s back-of-the-book blurb). In its place, I figured I would do a status report for all the things I’ve told you I was going to be doing.

First of all, I’ve applied to be a guest at a few conventions. I haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, but I haven’t been rejected yet, either. I’m hopeful.

In Forgery Divided is still with the editor and cover artist. I haven’t recieved any information from my cover artist recently, but my editor says he’s through most of it, but there were a couple “problem areas” he’s devoting more attention to. I’m as tired of these delays as I’m sure my readers are, but I can’t put it out without a cover or any editing.

Over the last week, I’ve started approaching some more potential cover artists to get estimates for “The Merrimack Event.” Haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, but that’s no surprise in this timeframe. I’ve identified four editors to try and vet, but I have yet to approach any of them.

The Back-of-the-Book Blurb for “The Merrimack Event” should be posted next week, but I’ve got new ideas going from there. I’ve been cleaning out my office desk as I prepare to move my new computer from it’s temporary set-up to its permanent home. Found some fun things I could take pictures of (maybe. I hate taking pictures of any kind) and talk about here on the blog, including badges for well over a dozen conventions I’ve attended in the past — all from 2009 or earlier. And I’ve started a fun little research project I may discuss here, as well, even though it’s research for a story I probably won’t be writing for years.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving. And I’m giving you guys even more thanks for reading this blog. (I might be even more thankful if a few of you commented now and then when I was asking you guys for comments, but I’ll take what I can get).

Plans Going Out the Window…

Plans with this blog keep going out the window. I had a blog written and ready to go out last week, but decided to bump it to address an issue that had cropped up. This week, I’ve found that what I had planned for last week was rendered irrelevant (I’m not going to go into how), so again I’m improvising at the last minute.

I suppose I really should talk about “The Merrimack Event” some. “In Forgery Divided” has been the subject of several blogs these past few weeks, and my plan has been to release these two books at roughly the same time, so I should be giving the other book equal time, here.

The thing is, my plans in that regard are going out the window.  “In Forgery Divided” is much closer to release than “The Merrimack Event” (though there is still time for the later to catch up), so releasing them both at the same time is looking less and less likely.

It’s my fault, in a sense (though in my defense, I’ve had a lot of distractions crop up since sending “In Treachery Forged” out to the editor).  “The Merrimack Event” has fallen pretty far behind — I already have an editor and cover artist commissioned for “In Treachery Forged,” and both have sent me updates indicating they are part-way done, but I have yet to even identify anyone for doing those jobs for “The Merrimack Event.” To some extent, the hunt for these services was disrupted by my need to buy and build a new computer, but I’m done with that, now (for the most part; I need to replace a cable in order to connect my old second monitor to my new computer, but that’s on the way).

So, how has the search for the services I need to finish “The Merrimack Event” gone? Well, I’ve queried a single cover artist, who wasn’t willing to work in my budget (I was offering him double what I’ve paid any of my past cover artists, but it wasn’t enough for him). I haven’t even looked into editors (well, I did have a list of people to query in my bookmarks, but my bookmarks have been thrown all out of order when they were transferred to the new computer, and I can’t find them all that easily). And I’ve been putting off this hunt for over a year, now.

I’m not sure why I’ve been so reluctant, but that’s about to end. I’m dedicating this week to that editor and cover artist hunt. I’ll also try out a few back-of-the-book blurbs (which may wind up the subject of next week’s blog). And, hopefully, by the end of this week I’ll have finally started “The Merrimack Event” on that final stretch.

Wish me luck.

On Reviews…

I had a blog prepared for today, but I decided to bump it to next week. Instead, something came up this weekend I want to discuss (and no, I’m not referring to the horrific events in Paris right now — that’s not the sort of thing I talk about on this blog): Reviews.

There are two types of reviews.  Well, actually, there’s more than that, but I really only want to talk about two different kinds of reviews:  Editorial reviews and customer (or “reader”) reviews.  Editorial reviews, for the purposes of this blog, are reviews produced by professional reviewers (such as the New York Times Book Review).  These sometimes have to be solicited (you might even need to pay for them, and in this case it isn’t bad practice).  Reader reviews are produced by your customers, and should always be done for free (there are disreputable outfits who will sell you these kinds of reviews; Amazon has started filing lawsuits against these people.  For the record, it is NOT considered bad practice to give a free copy of your book away in exchange for a review of either type).

As a writer, you desperately, desperately want reviews — especially, when dealing with Amazon, reader reviews.  Reviews are your best source of “word-of-mouth” marketing, which is the most effective type of marketing for any writer.  Amazon is also known to provide you with some free marketing (in the form of “also-bought” recommendations, some e-mail promotions, and the like) once you reach a certain number of reviews, and more free marketing still if you can reach that number within the first month of publication.

But you should never respond to those reviews — it is considered unprofessional, in most cases (and yes, this is an unfair situation where one or more reviewers can abuse, sometimes even libel an author.  It is still considered unprofessional to respond).  Even esteemed writers have gotten themselves in trouble by replying to negative reviews.

In fact, it might be worth it to ignore your reviews completely.  Now, this can be hard (I’ve known several authors say “You should never read your reviews.  And if you can figure out how to do this, let me know too, will you?”), but it will probably do you a lot of good.

Some writers think that their reviews will provide them with wonderful insight into what their readers think, tons of constructive criticism, and hopefully even some encouraging words.  Now, the encouraging words is entirely possible, but the rest of it…

Yes, if you have a lot of people bringing up the same problem, you might be able to pinpoint a detail or two that can be fixed.  But… reviewers don’t necessarily agree on what the good and bad points of your writing are.  A few of your most vocal readers could be drawn to your writing through Aspect A, but vehemently dislike Aspect B.  Aspect B might also be the favorite thing that the silent majority of your readers enjoy.

Even professional reviewers won’t agree.  Now, I’m going to use an example from an entirely different artistic medium (in this case, quilting), because it’s partly what inspired this post, but it applies to editorial reviews, too.

My mother entered a quilt into the Houston International Quilt Festival.  This is a judged competition, and is sometimes compared to the Academy Awards for the competitive show quilt world.  The judges in these quilt festivals, in this case a team of three, are quite similar to those professional editorial reviewers in the writing world.  As I interpret the judges comments, and she mentioned on her own blog, the judges for her quilt thought it:

  1.   Was a good use of color.
  2.   Was a bad use of color.
  3.   Looked a lot like an illuminated manuscript, as set by an appropriate border.
  4.   Had a border that overwhelmed and detracted from the central figure.
  5.   Integrated the expected design elements well.
  6.   Integrated the expected design elements poorly.
  7.   Had a pleasing overall appearance.
  8.   Did not have a pleasing overall appearance.

Etc., etc., etc.  You get the idea, right?  These are trained, professional “reviewers” of quilts.  There are far more objective (or at least somewhat objective) elements for these “reviewers” to consider than what most reviewers of writing bother to consider.  And yet they are completely and totally contradictory from one another.

This is also why, as a writer, you don’t always have to agree with everything your editors tell you.  Editors are professionals, but they are not infallible.  You should at least consider everything they say critically.  Usually, what they tell you is something that needs to be fixed.  Sometimes they can point out a problem, but you might want to use a different solution than they provide.  Sometimes, however, your editor might be trying to fix a problem that isn’t there, though, and the solution is worse than your original text.

Editors at least make an effort to be objective in their edits.  Reviewers, however, aren’t reviewing your work to fix your problems like an editor is — they are giving you their entirely subjective view on what they liked and what they didn’t.  And everyone has different opinions about what they like and what they don’t, so it’s not worth it to try and pander to them all.  It’s a bit of a cliché to say it, but you need to write to please yourself.

You might want to have someone else read those reviews for you, though.  You write to please yourself, but you publish (or enter quilt shows, or sell your artwork, or whatnot) to make money.  If the majority of your readers have a problem with a certain aspect of your writing, give that issue a critical eye.  It might be something you’re determined to do, regardless, but if not it just might be worth it to address that issue in your future writing.

Edit:  Spammers are forcing me to close these comments for a while.  If you would like me to re-open them, please let me know.

Back-of-the-book Blurb POLL! In Forgery Divided

If you don’t follow my Facebook feed, you probably haven’t heard that I’m buying a new computer.  Still not assembled, yet, but it’s replacing the old computer on which I’ve written or completed writing all of my books (published and not), so far.  I’ve still got my laptop, but until I get the new desktop up and running I’m somewhat limited in the things I can do.

This shouldn’t delay any of my books at all, but it might disrupt future blogs a bit.  Depends how much time I need to set up the new system.  This blog, though, was mostly ready to go, so here we go.

I hope at least some of the dozens of visitors I get each day are real people and not spambots, crawlers, and the like (not that my comments sections are any proof of that, and last weeks poll didn’t exactly get many votes; I’d like to see at least a few more readers involved).  If you are a real person, prove it just by voting in this poll.

I’m trying out some write-ups for the “Back of the Book” blurb for “In Forgery Divided.”  I’d like to see which, if either, of these blurbs you prefer.  Now, “blurb” means two things, in a  literary sense — one is the one-line quote you can get from a fellow author, professional reviewer, or celebrity promoting your book (these frequently appear on the front cover, though sometimes you’ll see a compilation of them on the back).  The other meaning is the text on the back of the book that ostensibly tells the reader what the book is about — or rather, it’s the sales pitch for the book by the author.  It usually runs about 100-150 words, split among 1-3 short paragraphs.

Now, all I really NEED you to do is vote, but it would be nice to have the occasional comment on this blog now and then, so if you want to explain your vote, comments are open.  (Note:  I do have to approve your initial post so as to keep the spambots off of here; if you’ve posted and I accidentally deleted your post thinking it was spam, please contact me either through twitter, Facebook, e-mail… heck, a telephone call would do, if you know my phone number, and I’ll try and make sure to re-enable your ability to post comments).

Keep in mind this has to entice people who are unaware of the content of this book, and hopefully even people who are unaware of the content of book one.

BLURB VERSION A (this has been the “temporary” interim version used on the website; however, some seem to think it contains too many spoilers):

Maelgyn may have proven himself to be a High Mage, but he’s only one man.  His wife is captured during a massive battle, his new King turns out to be an imposter, and the Dragons are entering the battle.  Despite all this, Maelgyn has to turn his attention to a rescue mission which pits him up against an even bigger threat:  The Elves.

BLURB VERSION B:

With the defeat of Paljor, Maelgyn proved himself the strongest Mage in the Human world, but there are more powerful things than Mages he has to worry about.  He returns home to find that his old enemies can still hurt him while new enemies threaten to tear his kingdom apart from the inside.  The Law of Swords is supposed to protect them from this sort of internal conflict, but it is actually helping his enemies.  And then there’s the Elves to deal with….

(Note:  Comments are temporarily disabled due to spammers, but the poll remains open.  Please prove that you are human by voting)

Which Blurb do you prefer for "In Forgery Divided"

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Two Blogs in One: On Conventions (and a response to the news of the week)

One administrative disclaimer before I get started:  In the past week or so, a number of stories have popped up in the press or commentary (or comics) about images being used and\or hotlinked to without the artist’s permission.  The webcomic the Oatmeal (particularly the issue entitled “You’re doing it for the Expo$ure”, though I also saw a story about the Huffington Post deep hotlinking one of their comics without permission) is centered on a couple of these stories.

I do occasionally hotlink to artwork — webcomics or whatnot.  As a policy, however, I try to use those images appropriately.  Either I’ve read and am following the artist’s policy on hotlinking (many webcomics have one), or I find the artwork using a “free for use” search.  Similarly, when publishing, I might use fonts or fleurons that are labeled (or licensed) “free for commercial use.”  Or might read an eBook which is being sold for free on Amazon.  I always believe, in good faith, I have permission to do so… but there is always the risk that something has been mislabeled or stolen and released as someone else’s work.

So, if you ARE an artist of an image I’ve used, and you don’t want me hotlinking and\or embedding said image, PLEASE let me know and I will remove it (or change the accedition, or whatever else you want me to do with it).  I know I don’t want my work used by someone else without permission, and I would never knowingly do so with someone else’s work.

And that takes care of the news of the week.  Now that that’s out of the way….

A couple days ago, in addition to adding more books to my A-Store, I updated my Convention Calender by adding new 2016 (and a couple 2017) dates for twenty-three conventions.  As always, I have to remind people that no, I am not going to all of the conventions listed.  I don’t think it would be possible even if I had infinite funds and resources to try.

I do, however, intend to attend a few of them — I usually attend two or three a year, and 2016 isn’t going to be an exception… but I have yet to make final decisions as to which conventions I’ll attend.  As In Forgery Divided and The Merrimack Event are nearing publication, I’m considering applying as a guest to some local conventions.

It’s going to be a new experience for me.  If it works out, I might wind up writing a blog about it.  I’ll also be “tagging” some of the conventions I have listed to reflect whether I’m attending, attending as a panelist, attending as a guest, or (in the future, if I’m lucky) attending as a guest of honor.

Oh, and I’m testing something for next week’s blog post (which would have been this week’s, or even last week’s, but I couldn’t get the first plug-in that I tried for this to work):  POLLS!

Can You See And Vote In This Poll?

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Revamping my A-Store

I bet most of you don’t even know what an A-Store is, much less that I even had one. Well, I created one a few years ago, hoping to use it purely to help others source out research material.  Originally, that was supposed to help out some friends of mine involved with fanfiction, but it never got off the ground.

That plan fell by the wayside, so I let the A-Store fall into disuse. There might be a surviving link to it here or there, but I haven’t added any products (or removed any no-longer-available products) in years.

Well, it feels like it’s time to try and make use of it, again. This time, instead of just listing what was effectively research material, I’m going to include recommendation lists of books I enjoy (or books by authors I like; if I like the author well enough and like the write-ups I’ve seen, I might recommend their books before I’ve read them) and more “fun” things for you to consider.

That’s all it is going to be — a “book and fun thing” recommendation engine, with sales links to Amazon. I’m not removing the stuff I’d linked to as ‘research material,’ though, so you can still find some of that, too.  The link will soon be active on this site’s navigation bar, above, so keep your eyes peeled!

Note:  Comments for this post have been disabled because of excessive spam attempts.

A (slightly inaccurate) Map for “In Treachery Forged”

First, a progress report:

I have begun searching for a cover artist and editor for “The Merrimack Event, since I can’t have the same people doing that as I have working on “In Forgery Divided” and expect either one to be done any time soon.

Speaking of “In Forgery Divided,” my cover artist has sent me some concept sketches and my editor is… still only about a quarter of the way through the book.  Sigh.  I’m also investigating some marketing opportunities for all of my books, but I hope I don’t go as overboard as in this article. (I know explaining a joke can ruin the humor, but thanks to Poe’s Law and some writers who might actually go close to that far, I think I should warn you that the linked-to article is satire).

Now, on to the actual point of this blog as referenced in the title…

Now, I know I can be a little boring, but you might find this article interesting.  It’s on JRR Tolkien’s maps and sketches for the Lord of the Rings.

A lot of sword and sorcery\high\epic\whatever-you-call-it fantasy novels are accompanied by maps that show the world the story takes place in. Tolkien’s world is famous for its maps; I have one of them poster-sized mounted on my library wall, in fact.

Well, “In Treachery Forged” isn’t all that different — it, too, has a map. But this map hasn’t been included in the books, and probably won’t, for a variety of reasons.

To start with, it’s in color.  When switched over to greyscale, some of the boundaries marked on it aren’t distinct enough.  Also, some of the handwriting is hard to read, at least when reduced in size for a paperback\eReader device.  Finally, the map was made long before the book was completed, and there are a few errors in it, most of them very minor.

But it’s around… and, since the second book in that series is currently in the “editing and design” phase, I figured I could post it here, mention what the flaws were, and see if anyone thinks I should get it fixed up for the book.  (Please, actually COMMENT if you are interested.  No, really — comment.  It isn’t that hard)  I’m posting it full size, which might be slow to load on some systems, so click on the “read more” link to see it.

Continue reading A (slightly inaccurate) Map for “In Treachery Forged”