I Survived & Progress Update

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. My family always takes the week to go to the beach in California–one final burst of warmth and sunshine before the dreary Midwestern winter sets in. We meet up with all the family on my wife’s side and snuggle into a little beach house together.

This year there were 16 people in the house–fewer than on some other years, but still a good number.

Now, remember in high school history classes, when they talked about industrialization, migration, and urbanization? People crowded into apartment buildings. Then, when they got sick, the sickness could just spread like wildfire, the people were so cramped.

Well, I suppose you can see where this is going.

On Wednesday, the first person got sick.

On Thursday night, three more people were sick.

On Friday, six more people were sick.

On Saturday, one more person got sick, and we all went home. That makes 11/16 people sick, a pretty decent infection rate. I’m sure it will remain the defining feature of this year’s Thanksgiving vacation.

Miraculously, I was not one of the ones who fell ill, and neither were my two children. We still had a lovely vacation, even though it we were haunted by the fear that one of us might be the next to fall victim to the plague. Because, seriously, that’s kind of how it felt to watch it spread through the house.

Anyways, enough about that.

Being on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but instead devoted some time to checking out other people’s book/writing blogs. Met some wonderful folks. Seriously, the book-blogging community is a lovely place, generally speaking. Sometimes things can get a bit heated, but that’s because it’s a community made of people who are passionate about the things they blog about.

In other news, I finished Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. I might just write up a proper review for it. It is, I’m coming to realize more and more, my favorite novel. I find it deeply meaningful and symbolic, without being remotely stuffy or pretentious. A masterwork. Can’t decide if watching the movies would be a good idea or a dreadful one.

Final news is that, although I didn’t do much novel writing this week, I think I did strike upon a story idea I want to run with. It won’t be my next novel, or the one after that, but perhaps the third novel release from now (and my fifth overall). Hooray!

Hope everyone else stayed healthy out there!

Not Today

My last post was all about how I have this microphone, and that it sits on my desk as a constant reminder that I need to do an audiobook recording.

Well, today I tried. Again. And was rebuffed by the universe again.

I tried to convert a motor home into a recording studio. Anyone who knows a great deal about audio recording is probably laughing at me for even bothering–but then again, maybe a motor home is actually a great place to record, and I just have no idea what I’m doing.

It took a while, but eventually I could get a recording whose quality I felt good about. But see, this is how it always goes: I set things up, get a good audio sample, and then figure I’m ready to dive right in. Then afterwards, go back and realize that what I recorded does NOT sound like the audio sample I pulled immediately before recording. It’s a strange, inexplicable thing, but it’s what always happens.

So anyway, in I dove.

I recorded for several hours. It ended up only doing 25 pages of Cleaving Souls, because I had to contend with the freakishly loud traffic, my neighbor deciding it was a great time to putt-putt around on his tractor, and a splash of rain pelting the top of the motor home.

Then I listened to it, and it all sounded like rubbish anyways. I’ve come to this conclusion: not now. Not today, or anytime soon. As much as I would love to create an audiobook to share with people, I can’t. I lack the expertise, funds, and possibly talent. Someday, those might change, but not today.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately, I could choke it down with some comfort food–delicious potato wedges. I’m a simple man, with simple tastes.

I ate the wedges with a frown, but feel much better now.

If there is to be an audiobook anytime soon, it will be rife with background noises. Heck, I might even leave in the sounds of me sniffing and stumbling over words. It would be free, but I’m not quite sure I should bother bothering.

Today’s the day: Book Launch

Today is October 10th! That means that Cleaving Souls is officially released. Hooray!

I first started working on Cleaving Souls back in February of this year. Then, it was just a very, very rough idea. However, those basic elements stayed with the book. It took about forty-five days of concentrated writing to produce the first draft, and then it went through four additional rounds of draft revisions and edits.

I’m very pleased with the final product. I take pride in only publishing stories that are ready and worthy of publication. Making them that way is a long process, and depends on the help of many other people. Since there is no acknowledgements page for Cleaving Souls, I’d like to make some acknowledgements here, as well as talk about the process the manuscript goes through.

  • Becki – My little sister Becki is my first-reader and my “crap-filter.” She’s a bookworm with a good sense of when a story is entertaining and when one isn’t. If she says a story is no good, then that’s as far as it goes. It’s waaay too much power for her to have, but so far it’s worked out all right.
  • Becky – After I work with my sister’s notes, I hand the manuscript off to my wife. She’s got a sharp eye for typos and continuity errors, and once she’s read through a story, I can hand it off to others without worrying too much about readability.
  • Mom & Dad – My mom reads the story out-loud to my dad. Together, they give invaluable feedback on story and readability. You notice different things when a book is read aloud, so their contributions help a lot with keeping the prose smooth and natural.
  • Kevin, Laura, and Tammy – Any lingering typos or issues are hunted down by this final group of readers. Each of them caught a few small issues, and a few bigger ones as well. They also made excellent suggestions for things to add into the story, areas that needed to be clarified or explained, or parts which needed their pacing to be adjusted. They helped give Cleaving Souls its final polish and turn it into a great product.
  • Aside from being enlisted as editors, these people also offered invaluable encouragement. I’d also like to mention Stacey and Zoe, two people who I have never met, but who enjoyed Home To Roost and were ready to read and review advanced copies of Cleaving Souls. Their enthusiastic praise for Cleaving Souls made my week.

So there you have it: a little snippet of the editing process that Cleaving Souls underwent, and an idea of where the credit goes for this story. I may have written it, but without the help of these people, it probably wouldn’t have been much good. Thanks to their help, I’m very pleased and proud to present Cleaving Souls.

Some dangers you cannot outrun. Some nightmares do not end when you wake.
Something is watching Katherine Harris. She can feel it when she goes out. She can feel it inside her home. She feels it in her bed. Her husband, Alex, wants to blame her anxiety on her pregnancy, but he’s often away for work. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be stuck in a small town, to be trapped in a tiny house on a run-down street, to be alone. Kat does, and the feeling only grows worse.
Whatever is going on, Kat’s certain that it’s far more serious than pregnancy jitters. When Alex takes Kat on a second honeymoon to get her mind off things, it becomes far more dangerous as well.

A Nightmare & An Update

Dreams are strange things. I don’t worry too much over what they might mean, but I certainly enjoy talking about them.

The other night I had a dream. It turned into a nightmare, but from my experience that’s how all nightmare’s go. You never start out in a nightmare; rather, a dream becomes a nightmare. Sometimes it happens slowly, and sometimes the change feels instant. I guess it’s just a reflection of life in general. Fortunately, not all dreams become nightmare–another reflection of life.

In my dream, I was visiting a high school literature class to discuss my writing with them. The entire junior class was reading one of my books (though I honestly can’t recall if it was Home To Roost or Cleaving Souls).

At first, it was very exciting. But then the longer I talked with them, the more I realized that very few of them cared what I had to say. It dawned on me that my book had become another one of those much-loathed required readings, like A Separate Peace or The Scarlet Letter. And if that were the whole dream, it would have been strangely sad, but I wouldn’t have called it a nightmare.

The nightmare began when I noticed that even the teacher thought my story dull and drab. She said that the only reason that they were reading it at all was because someone in the school district was making them. When I asked more about it, the teacher said that someone (she never said who) had basically destroyed their family and their finances in support of my book, and bought copies for the entire district. It had wrecked that person’s personal life so badly, that Child Protective Services had to take their kids away, and now the school had to take care of the kids all the time.

So that was pretty awful.

But then the teacher released the class for the day, and took me to the room I would be staying in, courtesy of the school. Where was it? At the school. What was it? The school cafeteria.

The high school emptied and made that magical transformation from a lively school to a dusty mausoleum (and if you’ve never been in a school after everyone else has left, then trust me, that’s exactly what happens). Also, it was suddenly night time.

The school had provided me with a sleeping bag that smelled faintly of urine, and had me bed down atop one of the cafeteria tables. All the lights were off except one: the lights to the adjacent hallway, visible through a series of windows set in the far wall. The rustling of the sleeping bag and sound of my own breathing echoed in the cavernous room. Rather uncomfortable, but not necessarily scary.

But then I heard children crying. Not high-school age, but small children crying for their daddy. I realized that they must be the children of my patron, now wards of the school district.

“Your daddy isn’t here,” someone said, “but the man who made him go away is. Do you want to see him?” Somehow, I knew that he was referring to me, and I prayed that the children would say no.

They didn’t.

The lights were still off, except for the hall light. In the quiet, I could hear the fast drumming of little feet running, and a series of too-thin shadows scurried down the wall of the adjacent hallway, flashing from one window to the next as they ran towards the cafeteria’s doors. The kids weren’t crying anymore; they were coming for me.

I wanted to shout out that they couldn’t come in–that I didn’t want to see them at all–but I couldn’t speak.

The cafeteria doors banged open, but nobody stood in the doorway.

I heard little feet again, this time close by, moving slowly in the darkness. I could feel eyes on me as I lay atop the cafeteria table.

Then one of the kids whispered, “We want to touch him.”

I tried to scream, tried to yell for them to get back, but I couldn’t. All I could do was breath, and so I breathed as loud and as hard as I could, until I woke up panting.

Now, it may sound like a pretty stupid dream, but in that moment, it was terrifying. However, once the moment was over I was able to calm myself and go back to sleep. Sometimes silly things are very upsetting. Being silly doesn’t make them not upsetting, and being upsetting doesn’t make them not silly.

Makes me think of my three-year-old daughter. She gets upside-down about plenty of dumb things, but in the moment they’re very upsetting to her. I’ve found that it can be helpful to her if we show that we understand her feelings, and then try to put those feelings into perspective for her to see. She’s often able to recognize that whatever is upsetting her really isn’t a big deal and actually can be managed, and she calms down.

It seldom goes as smoothly if we skip the part about sympathizing.

So my thought for today is that we should try to understand and sympathize with people. Before we jump in and tell people what they should or shouldn’t do, or how they should solve their problems, we should first take a moment to try and understand what they’re feeling and thinking.


And now here’s my update:

Cleaving Souls is almost ready for launch! It’s going to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in both ebook and paperback format. I’m pretty excited for that, especially since some great reviews have already rolled in! (And few things are sweeter than a positive, unsolicited review.)

The only thing left to do before the release is revamp the blurb. It’s not too bad now, and I might end up keeping it, but I’m still stewing over making it a bit longer and less generic. But I’m not sure. Blurbs are tricky for me, because I really don’t want to take away anything from the story–I’d rather my readers gets to discover everything for themselves.

For anyone else who’s excited enough to want to post about it, I’ve made some simple promotional material. Feel free to use any of it on whatever social media platforms you use.

In other news, I won a self-publishing book cover art contest (first and second place in the horror category, and first place in the thriller category). As you may or may not know, I go against all sound advice and make my own book covers. I think they turn out well, and I have a lot of fun doing it. Perhaps sometime I’ll have to make a book-cover-creation-process post, featuring different iterations of one of my covers.

That’s it for now. Happy readings!

Moving Forward

Hello there!

Well, my last post was a rather sad one, about having to scrap 30,000 words worth of manuscript. Still kinda feel that one in my gut, to be honest, but I’m also happy to say that it was definitivamente the right thing to do. Also happy to say that I’m at 16,000 words for the newer manuscript, which hopefully is something like 1/5 of the way done.

This new pass at the novel is far more streamlined, has an adjusted point-of-view, new personalities on my protagonists, a lot of complication cleaned up, and a different age for the reader. A lot of changes, and all for the better.

In other news, Cleaving Souls is nearly ready for publication. I really probably only have an hour or so of editing left to do on it, then send it out to as many beta readers as I can get my hands on while I mull over the official blurb and back-cover material. Oh, also, I’ll need to typeset the print edition, and make sure the e-book is clean and shiny. But I did those things myself for Home To Roost, so they shouldn’t take too long. I haven’t heard any complaints from my readers regarding formatting for Home To Roost, and I’ll assume that means I did a good (enough) job. It looked legit to me, at least….

Tough Decisions

There’s a principle of economics called “Sunk Costs.” The way I understand it is this: even if you put a bunch of time into something, if the end product isn’t going to be worthwhile, then ditch it. This can be painful because of all the time you’ve already invested, which will now essentially go to waste.

Unfortunately, knowing about sunk costs and the math behind it doesn’t make it any less painful.

Earlier this year, I was working on a space opera. I had mixed feelings about it. Writing was going slow in places, but I persevered. I finished it, and then… chucked the whole thing. 120,000 words. But it wasn’t good enough, I won’t publish something that isn’t good enough.

The flaws were too deep for mere editing to get them out, but I plan on coming back and rewriting the story someday. Just not today.

Well, I’m having to scrap something else right now. I’m 30,000 words into a novel, and I realized that I’m telling it the wrong way. I need to change the point of view, get deep into one of my character’s heads, get rid of a bunch of the cast, and then change the tone of the story. Once again, too radical for edits to fix. Just start from the bottom.

It’s painful, but I believe it to be the right call. Time will tell.

Book Release Plans

Ta-da! Cleaving Souls is almost done. Rough draft. Check! First round of edits and revisions. Check! Second round of edits and revisions. Check!

Now I just need to contact early readers, distribute copies to them, plan the release schedule, makeup release materials, contact book bloggers for a blog blitz or tour, organize with said bloggers, and record and edit the audiobook.

Geesh.

I’m also expanding out and trying my hand at editing some other people’s work. Gotta keep those editing skills sharp (or sharpen them up, as the case may be.) And I’m still plowing into the rough draft for The Glass Heist.

It’ll be interesting to see how my hard-earned experience with publishing Home To Roost affects this next book release. Fingers crossed for good things!

And speaking of good things, I’m looking forward to another blogger’s review of Home To Roost, this time on Southern Today, Gone Tomorrow.

In more personal news, we saw some family for the eclipse, which was great. There was a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t see the eclipse, which was less-great. But oh well. We’ll just plan more carefully for the 2024 eclipse, I guess.

Review Thoughts

Okay. So, I have an idea, and a complaint. The idea, I can do something about. The complaint… well, it may just be the way things are.

But first, the idea.

I think that one of the biggest challenges is getting reviews. It’s this circular scenario where, to get a sale, you need a review. To get a review, you need a sale. Sure, you can twist some people’s arms and get them to read your book ahead of release, and then hopefully get some more reviews after release, but it’s still a tricky thing. I only got reviews from about 25 percent of my early readers, and thankfully have added a few more since then, but there needs to be more for this to work.

But life is busy and tricky, and when I’m asking someone to read my book, I’m competing with busy social, professional, and family lives for my potential reader’s attention. You’d either have to be an egomaniac or an idiot (or both) to expect people to give up that much time. Honestly, it’s totally awesome whenever anybody does it. I mean, if they read your story, they’re choosing that as entertainment over many, many, MANY other options.

So, I’ve had an idea. It seems to me that part of the problem is that people’s time is limited. However, people far cleverer than I have had ideas about how to get rid of that problem–multitasking. And the best way to multitask while “reading” is to not read at all. Nope! Instead, listen to an audiobook!

Now, I tried doing a professional reading of Home to Roost back before I’d even released the print/ebook edition. But I dropped the project. I have the materials available to do it (I think), but I’m not entirely positive that it would be high enough quality for Audible, and right now don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out if it is or not.

But my epiphany was Hey! Why not do a good-enough audiobook? Not one to sell, necessarily, but one for my early readers? Maybe, just maybe, that would help expand the number of early readers that I have, and hopefully by quite a bit. Then (again, hopefully) I’d be able to get more reviews early on, and have more success with selling to other potential readers.

The nice thing about it is that I already do an out-loud reading as my final read-through before publication. All I need to do is setup a microphone and do some editing afterwards.

Anyways, that’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes.

My complaint is this: I got my first one-star review. It sucks. The reviewer warned all potential readers not to “waste their time” on Home to Roost.

Oh well. I knew that not everybody would love my work. Still stinks, though. She said it was too weird and dark. Of course, based on her Goodreads lists, it was the first time in her life she’d ever picked up a horror book. Unfortunately, my book was the one where she discovered that she didn’t like a genre.

The other thing is that Amazon gives me reports on how far people are reading in my books. It’s not that detailed of a report, but it gives me a solid idea. I know that my one-star-reviewer didn’t finish Home to Roost, and that’s perhaps the most upsetting bit. She read 75 percent of it in 3 days, which is way faster than I read most books–and especially faster than I read books that I don’t even like. But, then she stopped reading and warned others to do the same.

And that’s just lame. It’s like walking away from a joke before the punchline, and then telling people that the joke wasn’t funny. It’s like watching a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, then shutting it off halfway through and saying, “Yeah, that guy was totally lame. He showed promise early on, but then after the Mexican-American War was just a drunk and a failed businessman.”

Bah! And, by the way, she did say that my book showed promise early on.

Okay, complaint over. I’ll try to never do that again on here.

Lions and Tigers and Publishing

It’s almost been two weeks since I published my first novel, Home to Roost. It’s been quite a learning experience. For one thing, even when you’re publishing online, the actual process of publishing can be fairly involved. I don’t know what else I was expecting.

For indie publishing, a lot of people who are publishing on Amazon will use CreateSpace to do a paperback run of their book. It’s really easy to find reviews of CreateSpace’s services. I chose not to use CreateSpace, and instead used Amazon’s KDP Paperback program (it’s still in beta). Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon anyways, I figured that the services wouldn’t be all that different.

Having never really used CreateSpace, I’m probably not qualified to do a very detailed review. However, I can say this: I’m perfectly happy with KDP Paperback. If you have a handle on formatting, are willing to look up a few terms, and have a couple of hours to fiddle and tinker, then you can get a fine paperback copy of your book printed.

As for royalties, I’ve seen quite a few people confused about how those would work for KDP paperback. I think I can break this part down:

You get 60%, minus production cost.

So, if your book costs $10, and costs $4.50 to print, then you’ll get $1.50 in royalties for every copy sold.
10 x 0.6 = 6 ; 6 – 4.5 = 1.5

It’s pretty simple.

For Home to Roost, I just set my prices so that I’d get roughly the same amount from royalties, whether a reader decided to purchase the paperback or the ebook edition.

Now, I had assumed that there would be much higher numbers of sales for ebooks compared to paperbacks–after all, $3 is quite a bit cheaper than $11.50. But I was wrong. They’re actually pretty even. I think that unless people own an e-reader, ebooks are just too uncomfortable for many people to read.

Anyways, I’ll do some more focused posts on what I’ve learned later. Be awesome til then.

 

Current Word Count: 354, 345