Social Media Consolidation & Scars of the Sundering, book 2: Lament Update

For a while now, I’ve maintained two Twitter handles: @JediSoth and @hccummings. I started @hccummings with the idea that I should keep my writing separate from my gaming and personal life tweets. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The only problem was, keeping them separate meant I mostly tweeted from @hccummings when I was trying to drive sales. It was difficult to engage with my audience because to get everyone, I had to tweet from both accounts. People who followed both saw a lot of duplicate tweets.

So, this week I made the decision to go back to one Twitter handle. @JediSoth would seem to be the logical choice, since I had tens of thousands of tweets with that handle, but I chose to migrate who I followed from that handle to @hccummings, instead (a high-tech process of manually following everyone I wanted to migrate, a process that’s still on-going with some of the less-frequent Tweeters I follow).

I had a very practical reason for that decision: the new business cards I ordered have the @hccummings handle on them. As do my bookmarks. Also, I felt that if I want to be taken seriously as a writer, I should treat it seriously. My books are written by Hans Cummings, not JediSoth, so @hccummings is more recognizable as far as that goes. Fortunately, most of the people with whom I engaged on @JediSoth followed me over, for which I am very grateful. I’ve picked up some additional followers, as well, which is nice.

In other news, sales of Malediction have been relatively strong, and it already has two 5-star reviews on Amazon. I’ve been trying to finish up the new first chapter of book 2, Lament, a move necessitated when I changed the ending of Malediction. I’m finding it difficult to get back into the headspace of these characters at that point in their development. I was halfway through the manuscript for book 3, Salvation, when I stopped to publish the final version of Malediction. A lot has happened to Kale, Delilah, Pancras, and Edric in that time. My goal is to have the first draft of Lament finished by the end of the month and have it published by the end of Q1 2016. I also have a goal of finishing up the first draft of Salvation by the end of the year so I can get it published by Gen Con 2016.

Once I finish up Scars of the Sundering, I will work on Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus. It’s been a long break since Zack Jackson & The Hives of Valtra, but I think the series will be better for it. I’ve not been idle, and I do have plans. You’ll just have to be patient!

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Gen Con Wrap-Up – An Author’s Perspective

2015 was my third year exhibiting my books on Author’s Avenue at Gen Con. Over 61,000 attendees converged on downtown Indianapolis for four days of gaming and geekery. A percentage of them purchased my novels (it was a statistically insignificant percentage, but we’re talking numbers here). On Thursday I sold through half of my inventory of Malediction. On Friday, I sold very few copies of Malediction, but quite a bit of everything else. Saturday and Sunday were down overall, but I sold a good mix, and by the end of the day on Sunday, Malediction was sold out.

Based purely on impressions and feelings, Saturday and Sunday were awful and it felt like the worst Gen Con yet. Fortunately, my wife and I wanted evidence to support those feelings, so we crunched the numbers. Despite our impressions, I sold to a similar number of customers each year. Revenues were down, but that was a function of having sold through my The Foundation of Drak-Anor Gen Con Exclusive hardcovers. In other words, what I sold this year was less expensive than the last two years. I actually sold more books this year than last year. My sales were good enough to cover the costs of the table and the inventory I purchased to sell (not the hotel, but that was expected).

Still, most of my sales were to familiar faces. While I do appreciate their support (and am thrilled if one of them has a fanboy/fangirl moment), I’d like to increase my exposure. The statue of Ix I had sculpted was a good table draw. Having a table that faced an actual Dealer Hall aisle (as opposed to one that was fully within Author’s Avenue) helped. My vertical banner was visible from several rows over, so that helped, too. I don’t know if being featured in Nuvo with all the other Gen Con articles did anything for me or not, but I did notice a few Kindle sales (and someone seems to have blasted through the entire book they borrowed through Kindle Unlimited over the weekend).

I think the next step will be to actually become part of the Writer’s Symposium and take part in seminars and workshops. I’m going to have to figure out how to accomplish that for next year.

My decision whether or not to return to Gen Con next year will depend on how Gen Con handles Author’s Avenue next year, and whether or not I am an official part of the Writer’s Symposium. We weren’t able to rebook on site (and weren’t last year, either), so I have to wait and see if any policy changes are made. I have heard grumblings from other authors that are concerning, but these grumbles aren’t accompanied by evidence. One thing that will affect my decision is the fact that the income-to-expense ratio at ConQuesT was more favorable than it was a Gen Con; i.e. I made more money compared to what I spent to exhibit. I’m beginning to think multiple smaller conventions might be more advantageous than one huge con. Gen Con has a logistical advantage though, which cannot be overstated: it’s practically in my back yard.

 

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Gen Con – Where I Will Be

If you plan on looking for me at Gen Con (and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you?), then take a gander at this map. I’ll be at the little red square most of the convention. That’s table AF on Author’s Avenue, around 1250, if you’re proficient navigating by the row numbers dangling from the ceiling. Just look for the 6′ tall minotaur banner and my ruggedly handsome face!

ExhibitHall2015

 

I will have copies of all of my books for sale, including the first novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy, Malediction (making its world debut at Gen Con!). Purchasers of Zack Jackson novels will get their very own Junior Ranger patch, too! (I’d sell ’em, but Gen Con won’t let me at an Author’s Avenue table.)

You can also see Anna B. Meyer’s beautiful map in poster-sized. There might be a Valtraxian at the table, too. Hope to see you next week!

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Scars of the Sundering, Book 1 – Malediction – Pre-Orders Available!

SoS MaledictionAfter MUCH heartache, Scars of the Sundering, Book 1: Malediction is now up for pre-order on Amazon!

Pancras thought trouble waited at the end of his journey.

Shadow demons, chaos rifts, and petty archmages all conspire to disrupt his quiet life. Summoned to face a Mage’s Guild inquest over minor grievances, the minotaur wizard leaves home and travels south with his companions, the twins Delilah and Kale.

Harsh winter weather traps them in an unfriendly city where a run-in with a drunken bully leaves him dead and the trio in jail. Fortunately, the opportunistic prince of the city needs a wizard to curse his unwanted wife. The only catch is Pancras’s sense of honor.

As he stalls for time, the twins involve themselves in an uprising in the city’s salt mines. Pancras left necromancy behind him, but it’s looking more and more like he’ll need to break his moral code–and further anger the Mage’s Guild–to get them out of the city in one piece.

The paperback is also available at Amazon, and, of course, at CreateSpace (where I make more money per copy). I’ll have copies at Gen Con, of course, at table AF on Author’s Avenue (roughly row 1250).

I posted earlier (The Challenge of Malediction) exactly what I went through to get this book finished. It’s such a relief to be done. Basically, this book was delayed by multiple illnesses and deaths (yes, that’s supposed to be plural). It really lived up to its title.

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The Challenge of Malediction

mal*e*dic*tion
noun
:  curse, execration<the maledictions of great poets, whose hate confers an unwelcome immortality — John Buchan>

Origin of MALEDICTION

Middle English malediccioun, from Late Latin malediction-, maledictio, from maledictus (past participle ofmaledicere to curse) + Latin -ion-, -io -ion

First Known Use: 14th century

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Scars of the Sundering – Malediction

Edits are back for book 1 of the Scars of the Sundering trilogy, Malediction! Cover art is finished! The new map is finished! All that remains is incorporating some Beta Reader feedback and doing a final revision pass.

That means that I will have print copies to sell at Gen Con at the end of the month! Official, that’s Thursday, July 30th 2015. In the meantime, here’s the cover art, by Lily Yang.

Malediction Cover art - medium

Since the character went to new places and I fleshed the world out more than I had in The Foundation of Drak-Anor series, I decided to have the map updated, as well. Anna B. Meyer did a fantastic job updating the look of the World of Calliome!

Web

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Best of Indy 2015!

bestof_nomme-instgrm_800x800It’s that time again! Time to nominate me for Nuvo’s Readers’ Choice Best of Indy – Best Local Author.

From now until July 10, you can write in your nomination at http://nuvo.secondstreetapp.com/l/Nuvo-Magazine-Ltds-Voters-Choice-12/Ballot/ArtsandEntertainment. Unfortunately, you have to create a log-in, but if this isn’t a deterrent to you, then have at it! You can nominate ONCE PER DAY.

Actual voting begins on July 27th, but I need daily nominations before I even show up on the ballot!

Thanks for your support. Now, back to work on Scars of the Sundering: Malediction!

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Zack Jackson becoming reality

Though I was inspired by Star Trek’s replicators, I feature clothing fabricators in the Zack Jackson series regularly (in fact, these fabricators are used for most household items, like dishes, clothing, and furniture). I was very gratified to see this project pop up on Kickstarter: 3D Fabric Printer.

While the technology is in its infancy, it seems that within our lifetimes we may be able to order up and create our own cloth from the comfort of our homes. It’s commonplace technology in the 43rd century of Zack Jackson’s universe. Might it be commonplace sooner than that in our world?

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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 5

Finally, we conclude Chapter 1 of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction with our fifth preview. Good thing May has five Fridays! It’s almost as though I planned the whole thing.

SoS Malediction

Pancras realized Kale was in trouble when he caught a glimpse of the little drak dangling by his ankle but knew if he broke his concentration to help his friend, the magic he manipulated to seal the rift would be ruined and he would have to start over.

He repeated the words, over and over, pouring every bit of arcane energy he could gather into the rift. “Stenee pyealee, stenee pyealee.” He wasn’t sure the ritual would work. His experience with magical portals was limited to his knowledge of the portal in Drak-Anor. With the help of Delilah, he spent the last several years studying it off and on, and though he never tried to close it, he was confident he knew the theory behind the process, a theory he had, until now, not tested.

Kale sailed past him through the air and into the rift. Pancras’s heart skipped a beat, and it took all his effort to concentrate on the task at hand. If Kale was inside the rift when he sealed it, he would be trapped in the elemental chaos for eternity. He knew, however, leaving the rift open was far more dangerous to more than just one drak. It pained him to admit it, but closing the rift was worth the life of one drak or even all three of them.

The air crackled as lighting arced across the room. The kaleidoscopic colors gave Pancras a headache. He saw no sign of Kale but noticed Edric struggling with a veritable forest of toothed, suckered tentacles. Pancras felt the portal weakening. Its connection with the Mortal Realm was tenuous, at best, and with the magic he weaved around it, that connection weakened further.

As the wispy tendrils of shadowy smoke coalesced into a familiar, frightening demonic form, Pancras redoubled his efforts and ended the ritual. “STENEE PYEALEE!”

Splurrrt-woosh! Air rushed past them as the rift contracted, and then a sucking sound, reminiscent of viscous goo squirting from a wine skin, filled the room. Pancras felt something slam into him, driving the breath from his lungs. There was a flash of light, and then all was still. Edric’s sword clanged on the ground as the tentacles he fought vanished. The closing rift bisected the bloodmaw: the part in the rift gone, and the part still in this world mortally wounded. It slithered out of the hole in the ceiling and crashed to the floor with a grotesque, wet plop.

As he tried to catch his breath, Pancras fell to his knees. Smokey tendrils wafted from his limbs, growing more and more nebulous until they vanished completely. He no longer saw the shadow demon, but that was no guarantee he eliminated the threat. The dwarf was behind him, getting to his feet. He couldn’t see the drak. “Kale?” Pancras’s voice was hoarse and raspy.

“Ow.”

Pancras walked around the bloodmaw’s carcass to find Kale curled up against the wall. The drak held his head and moaned. Kneeling down next to him, the minotaur put his hand on Kale’s shoulder. The drak’s scales felt hot, feverish, and uncomfortable to touch.

“Kale? Can you move?”

“Can I?” Kale lifted his head as if lead weights were attached to his skull. His eyes seemed different to Pancras, though they had not changed their outward appearance. “Yes, but I don’t want to. I hurt, Pancras. I feel like I’m burning up from the inside out.”

“It’ll pass.” He helped Kale to his feet. I hope.

“What now?” Edric poked at the remains of the bloodmaw with his sword. The angular blade sank into the carcass like a knife into a quivering pile of jelly. He grimaced and yanked it out, shaking slime off it.

Pancras looked around the room. There was still no sign of the shadow demon. “Let’s try to head back to Ironkrag. You dwarves can probably deal with any remaining beasties down here. I recommend collapsing these caverns entirely.” He figured the dwarves would ignore his advice, but he gave it anyway.

“They sent me down here to get rid of me. I’ll bet they never thought I’d come back.”

“Why is the room all twisty?” Kale held his head and staggered as he walked. Pancras reached under his arm and picked him up and was surprised how light the he was, given his propensity for ale.

“If nothing else, you have quite a tale to tell.”

“Aye.”

The three made their way up the twisting tunnel back into the main chamber where Pancras destroyed the ghouls. The cavern was quiet and still, with only the phosphorescent glow of fungus providing light. Nothing stirred, not even cave rats, and by comparison to the cacophony in the cave earlier, to Pancras’s ears their breathing was deafening.

Kale’s body cooled, and by the time they returned to the tunnel leading to Ironkrag, he demanded he be allowed to walk on his own.

“I can walk! You can’t carry me into Ironkrag. We’d never live it down!”

Pancras lowered Kale to the ground before the drak squirmed out of his arms and fell. He kept a close eye on him, though, unsure of whether the effects of the chaos rift were permanent.

He took a deep breath as he saw the area of darkness at the end of the tunnel. “Let’s just get this report to the dwarves over with. Then we can go home.”

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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 4

Today is part four in my series of previews of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. As with the other previews, this scene follows immediately after the previous scenes posted.

SoS Malediction

As Kale listened to the minotaur’s chanting, he wished his sister could be with them. Deli would burninate anything that attacked us right now! He flipped one of his daggers in the air, catching it by the handle.

Edric gripped the hilt of his sword with nervous energy. The dwarf muttered to himself. “Should’ve stayed at the pub. Never deal with this stuff at the bottom of a bottle. Warm beds, happy whores, maybe get a job, pay off my debts, but not this. Never this.”

The air crackled with energy. Kale looked around the room. The walls seemed to undulate and pulse, but he wasn’t sure if that was an effect of the energy in the air or if the walls actually moved. What little he understood about raw chaos made him wish Pancras would hurry.

Something squished between his toes. Kale looked down to see the floor oozing up around his feet. Yelping, he danced around, shaking the goo off them. One of the walls erupted in a shower of blood and ichor, swirling toward the rift like a tornado.

“You have to stop him, Kale.”

Kale stopped and gasped when he saw who spoke. It was his twin sister, Delilah. Her crimson and ebony scales glinted in the sickly light of the rift. She leaned on her skull-topped staff and flashed her eyes at him, smiling.

“Come, Kale,” Delilah held her arm out for him. “Let’s leave this nasty place. Come away with me.”

Kale looked back at Pancras. The necromancer gave no indication he saw or heard her. It sounds like Deli… but it doesn’t. He walked toward her. She put her arm around him and hugged him close, her muzzle tickling his ear.

“It ain’t real!”

Deli jerked back as Edric pulled on her arm, hacking at it with his sword. She squealed as the dwarf sliced through skin and bone, black ichor spewing from the ragged stump.

“Deli!” Kale lunged toward Edric.

The dwarf caught Kale’s arm just as the drak stabbed at him with a dagger. “I told you, it ain’t real. Look!”

Kale’s attention wavered just enough for him to see Delilah dissolve into a tentacle that retracted into the wall. He shuddered and pushed Edric away. Two more tentacles shot out of the wall headed for Pancras. With a shout, Kale leapt toward them, slashing with his daggers.

Tentacles from the ceiling snagged Edric. The dwarf cursed and slashed at them with his sword. Each slash met with a splash of ichor, like grease bursting from plump sausages. One of the tentacles wrapped around Kale’s ankle, dragging him into the air.

Slashing at the tentacle which held him, Kale felt his dagger draw a line of burning fire across his leg. He cursed at his clumsiness and then screamed when the tentacle flicked him like a bit of mud on a shoe. He sailed through the air into the rift.

Kale’s world burst into flashes of green, yellow, and silver. He spun, wheeling through eternity in a realm where up and down were the same as left and right. He could see the flavor of ripe apples and roasted meat. Opening his mouth to cry out, Kale found he could only smell the sound of Pancras’s chanting.

Through to the other side of the rift he sailed, and as he crashed into a metallic wall, Kale’s world went dark.

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