Posts Tagged With: author-publisher

Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus

Making its debut in print Thursday, August 2nd, is the fourth novel in the on-going Zack Jackson series, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus.

Join Zack as he returns to for his second year at Cytherean Academy and reunites with his friends Ix and Jenny.

“Breaking news from Cytherea!”

“Cytherean Security is cooperating with troops from the Devoran Defense Force in a city-wide search for a 14-year-old student. If you see or know the whereabouts of Zack Jackson, please report immediately to the nearest authorities. Under no circumstances should you approach the suspect, he is considered armed and dangerous.”

It was natural for Zack to assume his second year at Cytherean Academy would bring fresh challenges and new friends. However, he never imagined being pursued as a criminal by the Devoran military. Meanwhile, something stirs beneath the city, in the crushing depths under the churning, acidic clouds.

What are the Devorans hiding about the secret of Venus?

You can buy it directly from me if you’re attending Gen Con, otherwise, you can purchase it for your Kindle or in print from

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Where I’ll be: Gen Con 50

If you’re coming to Gen Con 50 next month (it’s only about 3 weeks away as of this posting!), you may be asking yourself: How do I find Hans and his wonderful books*?

I’m easy to find at Gen Con. Sure, I joke a lot about how I always seem to be in the bathroom or on a food run when people come by to see me, but the majority of my time when the Dealer Hall is open is spent at my table on Author’s Avenue. Gen Con has a lovely interactive map of the Dealer Hall this year, and my table, AD, is clearly shown (with a label, even!).

I’m fairly close to where I was last year, just closer to a high-traffic area. That should be good for sales. You’ll know you’ve found the right table if you see a tall banner of a swanky-looking minotaur.

Pancras isn’t hard to miss. He thinks you should buy the conclusion to the Scars of the Sundering trilogy, Salvation, while you’re there. After all, if you don’t, you won’t find out his ultimate fate, nor that of the drak twins, Kale & Delilah.

Of course, if you haven’t read the previous book, Lament will be available, too. And if you’ve read none of Scars of the Sundering (*gasp*), well, all three will be available for a special price if you purchase the trilogy.

I’ll also have a con-exclusive short story, “Burble’s Big Day.” Conventions and my personal appearances are the only place you’ll be able to purchase this illustrated book suitable for ages 8 and up. It makes an excellent gift for young readers you want to introduce to fantasy.

* You may not be asking yourself that, but maybe you should. ūüėÄ

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ConQuesT 47

Are you going to ConQuesT 47 in Kansas City, MO over Memorial Day weekend (May 27 – 29)? I will be there all three days selling & signing my novels and short stories. But that’s not all! I will also be on three panels on Saturday.

Success vs Accomplishment SAT 11 AM
A philosophical, and hopefully informational, discussion about what it
means to make it as a writer or an artist. What are your goals? How do you
measure yourself? What do you need to do next? How do you get there?

Dealing with Writer’s Block and Other Hurdles SAT 2 PM
With every book I write, I find there are more than a few periods of
internal conflict where the story is trying to break free but doesn’t
quite make it to my keyboard. Writer’s block is something many struggle
with. Join me as we discuss what works for me, for other writers, and for

Independent Publishing 101 SAT 4 PM
A nuts-and-bolts primer in how to run a business as a 21st-century
creative entrepreneur — there’s more to independent publishing than just

You won’t get these topics at the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium! At least, not from me. You also won’t hear what I have to say about these subjects here, at least, not before ConQuesT.

… mostly because I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet. I’ll try to make it profound and useful. I hope to see you there!

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REVIEW ‚Äď Twitter for Writers: The Author’s Guide to Tweeting Success (Writer’s Craft Book 8) by Rayne Hall

Twitter for WritersI consider myself a fairly proficient Twitter user. I have two accounts (though I limit myself to @hccummings these days) and well over 35,000 tweets under my belt. So, not everything in this book was news to me, but there was still a fair amount of things Rayne Hall covers that I was unaware of.

If you’re an Author/Publisher or an Author just looking to drum up interest in your novels and you’re thinking about using Twitter, you need this book. It explains what Twitter is, how it works, how to use it, and common pitfalls of using Twitter. Sharing her own mistakes, Rayne Hall distills the pros and cons of Twitter into an easy-to-read guide. And believe me, if you’ve ever followed writers on Twitter, many of them¬†make the very mistakes she covers in this book. Don’t be one of those writers. No one wants a feed full of advertisements.

Using Twitter as a marketing tool is difficult and time-consuming. This book will help you make the most of your limited time and help keep you from being a nuisance on Twitter (it’s really easy to do, and most of us are guilty of at least one of the mistakes Rayne Hall talks about).

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NaNoWriMo – Week 2

So, how is your NaNoWriMo going?

Well? Poorly? Some where in between?

There’s still time. It’s only week 2.

Maybe you’re panicking. Maybe you didn’t write ANYTHING during week one because that pesky thing called “Real Life” got in the way. That’s okay, it happens.

You still have time.

The fact of the matter is, 50,000 words can be cranked out in a MUCH shorter period of time than 30 days. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re QUALITY words. I’ve seen people who claim to have completed NaNoWriMo by day two (probably, there’s people who say they’ve done it on day one).

Just remember one thing: if you don’t complete your 50,000 words by the end of the month, you still have more words written than you did when the month began. Even if you wrote one sentence, that’s more than most people write for creative purposes in a year.

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NaNoWriMo2015 – It begins! An Indie Author/Publisher’s perspective

It’s that time again! NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Some authors believe it’s a waste of time; nothing good can come out of 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Some authors think it’s great: it builds discipline,¬†it’s fun,¬†you’re writing,¬†creating!

If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, go for it! If you don’t, that’s fine too, just don’t crap on other people’s fun. Also, since we turn back our clocks today, you can have an extra hour to write!

Personally, I have no problem with a first draft written in thirty¬†days. Everyone writes at their own pace, after all, and I have seen authors decry the concept of doing 50,000 words in thirty¬†days and in the next breath claim to average 2,000-3,000 words a day (that’s 60,000-90,000 words in a month, folks… more than enough to “win” NaNoWriMo).

I do have a problem with people writing a first draft in thirty¬†days, calling it “done,” and trying to sell it to an unsuspecting public. Unedited work from independent authors gives all indie authors a bad name.

It’s one reason I shy away from calling my work “self-published.” It’s just not true. I have a publishing company (VFF Publishing) of which I am sole proprietor, and I do publish my own work, but I am hardly the only person who works on it. I hire (that means, I PAY) editors, designers, and artists. Each book I publish has at least three or¬†four other paid contractors working on it behind the scenes and two or¬†three volunteers (mostly Beta Readers). Each book is a team effort. For example, in the course of publishing Scars of the Sundering, Book 1: Malediction, I paid Laura K. Anderson for editing services, Lily Yang for cover art (and a few pieces of incidental art for marketing), Eric Hubbel for cover design, Anna Meyer for cartography, and I tried to pay Axel L√∂fving for heraldry, but he won’t send me an invoice.

The next book in the series will have a similar list of paid contractors. So, it’s not self-publishing in my mind. It’s certainly not fast. If I had wanted to publish my first draft, Malediction would have been released in September of 2014, rather than July 2015.

I am an independent Author/Publisher, and I participate in NaNoWriMo because I find it useful for focusing my energies on what I need to be writing. Frankly, I don’t want you to see what I produce during that time, because I NEED my editors and Beta Readers in order to make what I write better. It’s not cheap, but the results are worth it.

Of course, with all this rambling, I haven’t talked much about what my NaNoWriMo project is this year. As a working author, with projects I want to sell, I alter NaNoWriMo’s goals to fit my needs. I plan to write 50,000 words, but it won’t be a complete story. It will be the last half of the third novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy: Salvation.

I had about half of Salvation written when I had to stop to finish the production of Malediction so I could sell it at Gen Con. There was a lot of family drama around that time (some of which is still ongoing) and changes at my day job, so I never got finish my draft of¬†that book (I didn’t stop writing, though; I had to re-write the opening of Scars of the Sundering: Lament,¬†and I worked¬†on a short story for an anthology that ultimately got canceled, and I wrote a World of Calliome short story for next year’s Gen Con Author’s Avenue anthology). Now that all that is out of the way, I can concentrate on finishing Salvation.

Truth be told, I needed the break. I needed to think about where the story was going and how I was going to end it while staying true to the themes I’d established in Malediction and Lament. I split up my cast of characters in Lament, and while I planned to reunite them by the end of Salvation, I had to figure out a way to do it that wasn’t contrived or forced. In the course of doing so, I came up with a resolution for the series that I think will surprise readers and defy expectations, yet¬†still be satisfying.

So, write NaNoWriMo-ers. Write like the wind and create art! Create it for yourself, because YOU are the only person that matters when it comes to your art.

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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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Book Signing, August 2nd, Lake Geneva, WI

If you’re local to Lake Geneva, WI (or if you just want to come up for the day), I will be having a book signing at the Breadloaf Book Shop in Lake Geneva on the afternoon of August 2nd. I will have copies of all five of my novels, and possibly a limited number of the Sojourn anthology in which I have a short story.

For those of you new to this blog, I have two series available. The Foundation of Drak-Anor (Wings of Twilight and Iron Fist of the Oroqs) is a fantasy duology told from the point-of-view of the “monsters” as they struggle with finding acceptance in a world who just wants to kill them and take their stuff.

The Zack Jackson series is on book 3 of a possible 6-7 volumes. It’s a YA series (though suitable for all ages) set in the 43rd century as the Earth-Alpha Centauri Alliance considers membership in the Galactic Confederation. It follows Zack Jackson, a young boy from Wyoming as he goes on Junior Ranger trips to alien worlds, goes to school at the prestigious Cytherean Academy on Venus, and learns of a galactic conspiracy to ensure a defeated enemy is wiped out of existence. Things are not always what they seem, of course, and Zack discovers sometimes the defeated are not always the bad guys.

Hope to see you there!

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A Taste of Teaching

Last week, I stopped by Holy Name Catholic School in Beech Grove, Indiana to speak to two 7th grade classes about writing. I was invited by the teacher after she read my Zack Jackson novels. I’ve never thought of myself as a teacher, or indeed, as one anyone would want to take writing advice from, so the invitation was surreal. I wracked my brain thinking of what I could tell them other than the standard advice to read a lot and write a lot.

In addition to that type of advice, I decided to talk about generating ideas. So, I explained how brainstorming worked, talked a bit about free writing, and other ways to generate ideas. I then led the class in a short exercise. I read to them a passage out of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; the description of the chocolate room. In the first class, we brainstormed together a new room for the factory (the Peppermint Room), talking about the entrance, the machines, the exits, the dangers, etc. In the second class, each row of students worked together to come up with a room, then wrote a short description based on their brainstorming. They came up with the Skittles Room, the Laffy Taffy Room, and two Cotton Candy Rooms. It was very interesting how two groups came up with different takes on the same room, and some of those kids were pretty damn sadistic when it came to deciding the fate of the child who misbehaved in the room. That’ll teach ’em to steal cotton candy from Willy Wonka!

As one might expect in a middle school classroom, some students were more interested in what I had to say than others. There were a few in each class who really seemed to get into it; those are the future writers with whom I was trying to connect. Hopefully, some of the students gained something from it.

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2013 in Review and Looking Ahead

Last year, I set forth several goals for myself. In case you don’t want to dig through the archives, they were:

  • Publish Zack Jackson & The Cytherean Academy
    I accomplished this goal! HUZZAH! It was released on June 9, 2013. I’m really happy with the way this novel turned out; I think it’s my best work to date.
  • Publish Scars of the Sundering
    This goal fizzled. I wrote about 22,000 words and just could not get into the characters. The novel was supposed to, among other things, deal with the meeting, courtship, and marriage of the two main characters (against the backdrop of the main plot), but I could never quite figure out what Vasco could offer Aveline as a husband (other than companionship) that she didn’t already have. They just weren’t all that compatible with each other. An attempt to skip the courtship and have them be married at the start of the story didn’t help, either. I just wasn’t feeling it. I struggled with this most of the second half of the year before deciding to shelf the project.
  • Re-release Wings of Twilight on Smashwords
  • Release Iron Fist of the Oroqs & Zack Jackson & The Cult of Athos on Smashwords
    I accomplished both of these, though trying to get the formatting just right so their Meatgrinder (seriously, that’s what it’s called) software could process it just right for inclusion in their Premium catalog (which includes iBookstore distribution) was such a pain, I never finished it for Iron Fist and Zack Jackson. I haven’t had a sale on Smashwords since 2012 anyway, and I have yet to hit the royalty threshold where they’ll send me a check. I’m just not sure it’s worth my time to pursue this distribution avenue.
  • Release all my novels through Kobo Writing Life
    I did this. I’ve sold two books through the Kobo Bookstore. It’s as good for me as Smashwords, though uploading to Kobo is easier because they don’t make me run my books through a proprietary software that mangles my formatting.
  • Release all my novels through Drive-Thru Fiction (Wings of Twilight was previously offered there with distribution assistance from Rite Publishing)
    I did this. It’s not been profitable for me yet, but it does have an advantage over the other distribution channels: I can tie all the formats together and let customers pick how they want the book. Right now, I only offer ePub, mobi, and PDF, but that probably covers 99% of e-readers. If I wanted to, I could probably set up a POD solution there, too, but I’m happy with CreateSpace for that. Besides, people haven’t exactly been knocking down my door for more options on Drive-Thru Fiction. I think I’ve sold 2 books through that venue.
  • Write the first draft of Zack Jackson & The Hives of Valtra
    I did this. HUZZAH! The manuscript is currently with the first of my editors. It’s shorter than Zack Jackson & The Cytherean Academy, but it only covers a couple of weeks, rather than a whole school year. It’s very important to the metaplot of the series, though, and one can begin to see how things may develop. Of course, I’m not going to put any spoilers here, but I have some ideas that will take the series in a direction I think no one will be expecting (and hopefully not take it off the rails totally and leave people thinking “That’s it? WTF, man??”).
  • Get a good start on the first draft of the next World of Calliome novel
    When I wrote this goal, the novel I thought would be next is NOT the one I’m currently writing. Funny how that works.

One thing that wasn’t a goal that I accomplished was the writing of my Seven Galaxies short story, “Forgotten Dreams.” It will be appearing in an anthology being released by the good folks at Fear the Boot, hopefully in the next month or so (it was originally slated for last month, but they’re still waiting on one story from a rather prominent author from the RPG industry…one whom will probably drive sales just by his inclusion, so I get why they’re waiting on him). Once it’s out, it will mean that my fiction is no longer solely the product of self-publishing (I style myself an Author/Publisher these days, thanks to Chuck Wendig). I also managed to get interviewed by three podcasts (Jennisodes, UnderDiscussion, and Sci Fi Pulse Radio, though that last one hasn’t been released yet). I hope to do more of them this year. I hate phone calls, but I love talking on podcasts. Figure that one out!

When I started writing this blog post, I didn’t expect to see so many of the goals I set forth at the beginning of the year accomplished. What a great surprise for me! Of course, I have goals this year, as well:

  • Publish Zack Jackson & The Hives of Valtra
  • Finish writing and publish the next World of Calliome novel

I know that’s not a lot of goals, but based on how difficult accomplishing ANYTHING was in the latter half of 2013, that’s all I’m willing to commit to at this point. I want to have new things to sell at Gen Con, and I’m confident I can have a third Zack Jackson book out by then. I’d love to have the next World of Calliome finished by then, as well, but Gen Con is only eight months away, not twelve. Everything else, I’m just going to tackle as it comes up. There are a few secret goals in there (like revise & publish my superhero novel and finish Clockwork Cowboy), but I don’t want to jinx myself. (Oops, I guess they aren’t secret anymore, but since they’re not bulleted, I won’t feel bad if I don’t accomplish them :D)

To all my readers, thank you for your support in 2013! All I can ask is that you tell people about my novels that you enjoyed. Maybe throw up a review (it can be just a few sentences) or two if you haven’t done so. Apart from actually buying my books (which, as readers, presumably you’ve already done), it’s the absolute best thing you can do for me, or any author for that matter. Word of mouth helps.

Have a great 2014!

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