Writing

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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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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Thanks!

VFF Banner for webThanks to everyone who came out to my event at Indy Reads Books this past weekend, despite the crummy weather. The staff was helpful and friendly, and I appreciate the support of everyone who came out to hear me read an excerpt from Zack Jackson & The Hives of Valtra or to get books signed.

My next local event will be Gen Con (Jul. 30th – Aug. 2nd), but before then I’ll be at ConQuesT in Kansas City (May 22 – May 24). I was hoping to debut book one of Scars of the Sundering, Malediction, there, but due to illness-related delays, I don’t think that will happen. Meanwhile, I’m over 30,000 words into the first draft of book three, Salvation (Lament sits, patiently awaiting the completion of Malediction).

I’ll have some art from Scars of the Sundering to show off in the coming weeks, and I’ll be posting snippets from the first chapter, as well.

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One Quarter into the Experiment & Upcoming Book Signing

VFF Banner for webBack in January, I pulled the entire Zack Jackson series from all sales channels except Amazon.com and made them all exclusive to that platform. In that time, my sales have actually increased. I can’t really claim it’s because of that, since sales increased across all titles, and my fantasy series is not exclusive to Amazon. One thing that I can attribute to the change in my strategy, is that I am actually get borrows through Kindle Unlimited now. Even though every book I’ve ever released has been exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days of its release cycle, this is the first time I’ve started seeing borrows.

I don’t know why that is. I did monkey with my keywords a bit, and I suspect that is the reason. I can’t prove it, however.

In other news, I will be appearing at Indy Reads Books on April 19th! I’ll have copies of all five of my novels for sale and will be reading from my upcoming novel Malediction, the first novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy. I’ve never done a reading before and I’m a little nervous about picking a piece of this novel to read. Hopefully, I’ll actually have an audience.

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Sojourn vol. 2 and other news

Sojourn 2 CoverI never actually announced that Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction volume 2 was released. It’s even bigger than the first volume with over 600 pages containing 32 stories by new and upcoming authors, as well as some veterans. My story, “The Pleasure Pools of Persiphia”, takes place in the same Seven Galaxies setting as “Forgotten Dreams” from Sojourn vol. 1. and follows the misadventures of the crew of the StarKnight as they take a much-needed shore leave on the popular resort world of Persiphia.

That description makes it sound like a light-hearted jaunt.

It’s not.

In other news, Scars of the Sundering: Malediction has moved into editing. There was a delay due to holiday insanity. The first draft of Scars of the Sundering: Lament is finished and I’m taking a break to work on a couple of short stories before diving into Scars of the Sundering: Salvation. Of course, I’m also working on Malediction revisions. Once I’m finished with the Scars of the Sundering trilogy, I’m going to get to work on the fourth Zack Jackson novel: Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus.

2015 is going to be busy!

Categories: Publishing, Scars of the Sundering, Seven Galaxies, Sojourn, Writing, Zack Jackson | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2014 In Review

I kind of slacked off on blog updates for the last 6 weeks or so. I had intended to update once-a-week through NaNoWriMo, but clearly, that didn’t happen. What did happen was I got involved in writing my manuscript an felt that any time I spent writing something else was time when I wasn’t working on my novel.

Ironically, I’m still working on that novel. I ended NaNoWriMo somewhere in the mid-70K range, so it was a successful event. I’ve been plugging away through December and am currently sitting at just over 109,000 words. The first book in the series had a 110,000+ word first draft, so I’m not surprised. I hope to finish this one up here in the next couple of weeks, then take a few weeks or month off to work on some other projects. The first book, Malediction, will undoubtedly need revisions during that time (and I’ve been tweaking it as required while I work on book 2, Lament. I anticipate work on book 3, Redemption (or Revelation, still haven’t decided), to begin near the end of February or early March.

Sales for 2014 were pretty sluggish. Granted, I wasn’t doing much to market anything. Royalties from my Seven Galaxies story in Sojourn turned out to be my biggest consistent money maker in 2014, so I have high hopes for the revenue from having two stories in paid anthologies. My sales at signings and conventions were pretty good, though. My Gen Con sales more than paid for my inventory costs this year, and I think, the costs of the table. It didn’t pay for the hotel though, but since I was going to go to Gen Con anyway and stay downtown in a hotel, that would have been an expense regardless of whether or not I sold any books.

Now, when I talk about revenues, I’m talking about numbers on the order of $25 a QUARTER as being my largest source. Obviously, I’m not pulling in enough money to quit my day job yet. Still, reviews have been good overall, so people who don’t like my stories obviously don’t care enough to leave negative reviews (the worst review I have is on Goodreads, and it is a 2-star, no-text review of The Foundation of Drak-Anor compilation I sold at Gen Con; the reviews of the individual novels in that omnibus average above 4.6 out of 5). I would like more reviews though. They really do help motivate me to keep writing.

For 2015, I’m looking forward to completing the Scars of the Sundering trilogy. I have already engaged an artist to do the covers for me, as well as a cartographer to update the map. Book 1 is in the editing stage, Book 2’s first draft is probably 10-15K words from being finished, and I have a lot of ideas for Book 3. I plan to write a short story for the as-yet-unannounced Sojourn 3 anthology, as well as, another Zack Jackson novel (Zack Jackson and the Secret of Venus). I’ve also been developing an urban fantasy setting (think along the lines of Hellboy/Dresden Files/Anita Blake before they focused solely on paranormal erotica) and a series of children’s fantasy picture books. I don’t know if anything will come of those last two in 2015, but development will certainly continue. There will be a few surprises at my public appearances, too.

One other thing that will happen in the first quarter of 2015 is another interview series with the authors of the stories featured in the second Sojourn anthology. Depending on how many I get, there will be 1-2 posted a week. It’s a larger book with more authors than the first anthology. If you haven’t checked out the Sojourn anthologies yet, you can get them from Amazon and other book stores.

Have a great 2015!

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Signed Books for Christmas!

If you want to buy a signed print version of any of my books to give as a gift, you can buy direct from me by sending an e-mail. Just click the e-mail link under Contact Me to the left. Include the titles, quantities, and whether or not you would like them signed and/or personalized. I’ll need your complete mailing address, including phone number for shipping. No P.O. Boxes, please. When I get your e-mail, I’ll send you a PayPal invoice for the total including shipping.

There’s still time to get books in time for Christmas if you’re in the United States (probably Canada, too). If you’re overseas, I will make the attempt, but cannot guarantee results.

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And Now for Something Completely Different…

THE GINGERBREADENING!

Every year, my wife and I build a gingerbread house, then have family come over to help decorate it. We try to follow the rule of “it must be edible,” though I confess to bending that rule a bit… tongue depressors are non-toxic, and non-nutritive, though other than some really rough insoluble fiber, they are edible. This is not for a competition, so it doesn’t really matter (and we’re not planning on ever competing).

So, before I show off our handiwork, some statistics:

  • 30 pieces of gingerbread, individually designed and baked
  • 8 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 3 lbs. Isomalt
  • LOTS of candy
  • 50+ hours of baking & assembly
  • 6-7 hours of decorating2014-11-21 20.42.21

First we see various stages of construction. The coffee cups and chopsticks are there to provide support while the royal icing dries. Assembling a gingerbread house is like assembling a house of cards, except if it falls down your wall breaks, and you have to roll out, cut, and bake another one. Don’t have any spare dough? YOU’RE SCREWED.

Have spare dough.2014-11-21 22.07.26

We always assemble the house the night before decorating. This gives the house 12-14 hours to dry before people start poking and prodding it.

There were a total of seven people involved in the decorating: my wife, my step-daughter, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, my mother, and myself. We had a variety of colors of modeling chocolate*, so some people concentrated on making decorations to put on the little town square area we built. I found the candy equivalent of googly e2014-11-22 14.55.23yes, so those got to put to disturbing use by my brother-in-law in making some of the little gingerbread men and penguins cyclopses.

We were inspired by one of our gingerbread books into taking ice cream sugar cones and piping green icing on them to make Christmas trees. My step-daughter spent a couple of hours decorating them, and then we set them aside to dry.2014-11-22 15.32.17

Meanwhile, I was running around being a gopher (and trying not to be grumpy; it was a long night and I wasn’t feeling the gingerbread house this early in the season; I felt it best if I avoided interpersonal contact). However, I did make a Minion! It was later pointed out that I should have put pants on the Minion. What can I say? Making him the way he is stretched my sculpting skills to the max.2014-11-22 15.13.52

Don’t judge. Maybe the Minion just ran from the shower to open the door only to find out he was being pranked… it could happen!

2014-11-22 15.50.22No gingerbread village is complete without a candy path. We also used yogurt-pretzels for rooftop embellishments. We also played with Isomalt and make a skating pond and fountain. It melts beautifully and is perfectly edible, though unless you’re constipated, you might want to restrict how much of it you eat, if you know what I mean. OK, if you don’t: the body treats Isomalt like insoluable fiber, even though it’s a sugar alcohol. You can develop a resistance over time, but most people generally have a reaction similar to eating WAY too much fiber the first several times they eat a sufficient quantity.2014-11-22 17.24.54

Not clear enough: IT MAKES YOU POOP A LOT.

Ahem.2014-11-22 18.12.51

You might see a little sugar craft TARDIS on the roof, and also a big TARDIS in the background. That’s because we’re awesome. Also, “Flatline” of Series 8 of the current run of Doctor Who showed the TARDIS can actually change size. You may spy some crystalline Daleks, too. you are welcome.mp3

And finally, we decided Crow T. Robot dropped in from the Satellite of Love (if you don’t know MST3K… I don’t want to know you) to oversee the town square from his rooftop bistro complete with a jammin’ snowboard.2014-11-22 17.28.48 2014-11-22 18.25.32Here’s the big secret… the snowboard is there just to prop up the umbrella ’cause the umbrella stand we made wasn’t strong enough.

It’s clever tricks like that that really bring the magic to the whole thing.

Well, it’s a thing, anyway.

Here’s a closeup of the fountain!2014-11-22 18.25.40 You can see the Daleks in the background on the path, and a couple of the snowmen my mother made.

And here, you can get a closeup of Crow T. Robot and his rooftop bistro.2014-11-22 18.26.01

If you’re thinking “What fine photos you have. Where I can get a camera that takes such fine pictures?” Then I would reply: “HA! Those are just from my iPhone. It does OK.” All pictures are copyright ME, 2014, etc. etc. Any resemblance to any people, animals, cyborgs, or robots, are purely coincidental, or covered under fair use since we aren’t making any money off of this. Please don’t sue us BBC or the Estate of Terry Nation… and I’m pretty sure Crow’s design isn’t copyright and Bill Corbett already saw it and favorited my tweet.

* Technically, it wasn’t chocolate since the “melting candy disks” contained neither cocoa solids nor cocoa butter. “Modeling chocolate” is easier than saying “modeling chocolate substitute candy substance” and more accurate than “modeling clay.” … work with me here!

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NaNoWriMo, week 1

Week One of National Novel Writing Month is behind us. As we embark upon week two, here are a few things to consider:

  • If you have not started yet, there is still time. You only need 2,500 words a day to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month.
  • If you started before today, that number is smaller.

November is a very challenging month. It is only 30 days. Camp NaNo in July gets 31 days. There is a major holiday at the end of the month, and while July 4th is a popularly observed U.S. holiday, for me, it is easier to get other things accomplished around July 4th compared to Thanksgiving. Of course, if you are the type of person to enjoy outdoor activities in July, perhaps November works better for you. I’m not one of those people; there are advantages to being an introverted hermit.

How did your Week One go? Writing in the evenings and weekend has gotten me past the half-way point already. If I keep this pace, I’ll hit 50,000 words around Nov. 18th. My novel won’t be finished at that point, though. It is book 2 of a trilogy. Book 1 clocked in at 110,000+ words before revisions. Book 2 will have to be about that length, so it behooves me to maintain a brisk pace. It is unlikely I’ll have a complete manuscript by the end of the month. I’ll have a beginning and an end, but the middle won’t be finished.

But that’s OK. As I said in my last blog post, NaNoWriMo is more about developing the discipline to write daily, which is the cornerstone of a successful writer. There are ways to boost your productivity. As with any bit of writing advice, this is what works for me: you may have different experiences.

Write in a distraction free environment. If you find yourself always finding just one other thing to do before you hunker down and write, change location. For example, I used to write at my desktop PC. The one that has all the games, in the room that has all my stuff. It was OK for a couple of years, but gradually became more and more difficult to get anything done. So, I switched to my laptop in my game room (for tabletop games… which I can’t play alone). There’s a Keurig so I can have hot beverages, a refrigerator so I can have cold beverages, and no games I’m currently playing on that computer. I can hook it up to speakers so I can listen to music and write away. It’s just across the hall from all my stuff, but it’s far enough removed that it’s much more distraction-free.

Don’t be afraid to take a break. Get up, walked around. Do something else that isn’t related to your writing. There’s no rule that says you can’t think about your novel while you’re doing these other things. I do a lot of thinking while I’m doing lawn work, cleaning, driving to work, or running errands. The majority of my writing prep is done in this fashion (which it why it probably looks like I’m distracted or talking to myself most of the time). When I’m doing this, I can build of quite a backlog in my head. When I sit down to write, it’s like opening the floodgates (Saturday, for example, I cranked out almost 6,000 words in probably no more than 3-4 hours of writing spread out over the morning, afternoon, and evening; it wasn’t one marathon session).

Engage the NaNoWriMo community. Need to bounce ideas off someone? That’s what the forums are for! I often do this on Twitter or Google+, too. I don’t find the Word Sprints and other mini-challenges appealing though. They’re often topical and not relevant to my novel. Recent sprints were things like “include the word escape” or “bear.” I would’ve spent more time trying to figure out how to work that into my narrative than actually doing the sprint. However, if you’re just totally winging things or are stumped, then these exercises can be valuable. It might be an interesting experiment one day to write something and incorporate as many sprints and word wars as you can. The narrative might be a hot mess, but it might be the next literary comedy masterpiece! You could be the next Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett.

As we go into Week Two, you may find it harder to stay on track, or maybe you’re just not feeling the plot. It happens, it’s part of the challenge. When all else fails, make something explode.

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Commenculate with NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month started on Saturday. I’ve participated the last seven years, and I participated in Camp NaNo this past July. The bulk of, if not the entire first draft of Wings of Twilight and all three Zack Jackson novels were written during NaNoWriMo. I wrote 3/4 of the first draft of the first book of my upcoming trilogy during Camp NaNo this July. So clearly, it works for me.

Many people criticize NaNoWriMo for convincing people who can’t write that they’ve written a novel for publication and therefore, anything written during NaNoWriMo is horrible, bad, and generally crap. This perception is not helped by people who think that their first draft is good enough to publish and they don’t need an editor, or worse, they can’t afford one so they’ll just publish anyway and fix things when they can.

The truth is, NaNoWriMo is more about helping people develop the discipline to write. Successful authors write pretty much every day. Sitting down and being productive as a writer is more involved that just banging out bad haikus on Twitter in between clicking Buzzfeed links and watching amusing cat videos…

heheheh… kitties

Sorry, I got distracted by a cat video.

I use NaNoWriMo as a way to knuckle down and write every day. After 8 years, I still haven’t developed the discipline to sit down and write several thousand words a day, but I can do it for a couple of months at a time. It’s true that what I write is intended for publication, but really, what’s the difference between doing it when hundreds of thousands of other people are doing it, or any other time of the year? My first drafts NEVER go public. Every thing I have ever published goes through multiple editing and proofreading passes before I put it up on Amazon.

If you want to try to develop the discipline to write novels for a living (or just for fun), or if you have a story scratching at the inner wall of your brainbox, begging to be let out, give NaNoWriMo a try. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t write a book, which is the same thing that will happen if you don’t participate. Maybe you’ll embark upon a life-changing journey.

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