Sophomore Slump

I knew this day would come, one way or another. That I’d be here writing this post, even though goddammit, I KNEW it. Basically, I haven’t put metaphorical pen to paper in about three weeks. Not due to writer’s block, which is rarely an obstacle for me anymore, but because life has been crazy. I took a new day job because, surprise, people aren’t rushing out to buy a scifi book by a first-time indie author (NOTE: Not actually a surprise), no matter how well received it has been. And, for those of you who have paid attention to me for more than three seconds, you know I am incapable of doing things at anything less than full speed.

I published a book last year under similar circumstances, so I wrack my brains trying to figure out what is different. Part of it is, I’m sure, that writing is a job now, not a distraction- one I hope will be my full-time career before too terribly long. But it’s not just a distraction from a long day anymore, it’s work, and it’s not just writing. It’s marketing, planning, etc, etc, etc. So my instinct is less to jump on the computer and write until I pass out as soon as I walk in the door. I want a distraction from the distraction (which essentially sums up my personality, if you factor in booze).

There is also my complete lack of patience, wanting it all now (buy my book already), so focusing on actually, you know, writing seems a little more difficult when I wasn’t also trying to peddle my wares. Do I work on the book? Which book? A blog post? Where should I invest money? Crap, I don’t have enough money.

Short version, no excuses. I have to focus, and it will get there. I don’t have a magic pill that gets me, or you, over this sort of hump, and I won’t pretend to (there are plenty of writing blogs that do, if you’re into false hope). It’s work, and I have to work at it.

That’s the fun part, really.


Story Notes: Of Sabrina

***Spoilers Ahead***


Of all the characters in this work, the lack of attention given to Sabrina is interesting, at least for me. She is, I think, one of the more compelling characters in the whole thing. She’s smart, she’s strong, but she’s stuck, in Imitata. Not in your typical damsel-in-distress way, but the far more realistic political marriage, where it’s just what you do.

And Digger doesn’t save her. His character is, essentially, the guy who should save her- prince, scoundrel, rebel, old flame- but Sabrina doesn’t need saving. I thought for sure Imitata would give the whole damn thing away, but instead it got people guessing (which is what it’s supposed to do). Then it ends, and originally, back in the day when I was just posting drafts, that was it. fin. I really, really wanted to leave her fate ambiguous- everyone thought what they were supposed to think, that she killed herself- but there was an image that stuck with me, that sort of summarized everything that happened, and will happen. Digger walking away in one direction, Sabrina in the other, as the music dies in the house. Somehow, it just fit and the book didn’t feel complete without it.

3024AD: Now the Price of a Tweet

So yesterday my friend David Winchester, of Caffeine Forge (go read that post!), sent me a link to a service called Pay With a Tweet. The concept is simple- you make something, say, a book, available for download and instead of a paywall, you share it on social media, and then are able to download it. Not mentioned on that homepage, for whatever reason, is that you can set a download and/or time limit on it (they should really talk this up). The benefits are obvious- word gets spread, more people hear about it (it’s worth pointing out that they hear about it before the person obtaining is able to form an opinion of it, as with a review or them sharing it after they’ve read it).

At first I wasn’t interested in it- the lifespan of a tweet is what, twenty seconds? And what’s to stop every person who hears of it from downloading it too? People hearing about it is great, but if I don’t make any money off it, I’m hardly making a career of it, am I (this was before I found out about the time limit). But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. 3024AD isn’t flying off the digital shelves, but the people who have read it love it. Yet I hesitate to do the ‘free day’ because I’ve never heard of anyone who saw any significant increase in sales after. Also, I wrote a damn good book- it has value, and I’m not particularly interested in just giving it away. So I like this idea for that reason- ‘hey, my book is worth something- a few moments of your time’. I also hate the thought of it just sitting unread on someones Kindle, which is what I think happens with most free day books anyway- it has no value, so the person has no urgency to read it. This way you have something on the line- instead of five bucks, you just told everyone you got it, so you should probably check it out. Hope you like it!

Anyway, I chatted with David for a bit about it and decided to give it a try. So, now through August 31, 3024AD: Short Stories Series One is yours for the price of a share on Twitter and/or Facebook. Enjoy!


Writing Wednesday: The Question

At last count, there were more biographies of Abraham Lincoln than there are molecules in the universe. This only seems like hyperbole until you go into a bookstore and see that, in fact, there are at least several gazillion of them. Now, fascinating historical figure that he is, why do we need so many books on the man? It’s not like each and every one of them contains unheard of revelations unless you count made up bull-crap.

Fireside bookmark

Fireside bookmark

But the upshot of writing non-fiction is you rarely have to draw the reader in- if someone wants to know about Abraham Lincoln, well, there you go. With fiction, you have to get the reader to want to know about it in the first place. You have to get them to ask the question in the first place, answer it, rinse and repeat.

Over to the right, there is a bookmark of the cover art from Fireside’s second issue. The question which my cell phone camera refuses to do justice to-what next– are the fundamental question of fiction (at least, to me).

From the outset- indeed, even sooner, the blurb, the ‘elevator pitch’- the reader has to be hooked, at least to some extent. There is a balance to be struck- they don’t have to be thrown headlong into action, or lead by the hand, but there needs to be incentive to turn the page.

3024AD: Short Stories Series One is out now: Kindle | Kobo | Nook

I’ve written nearly exclusively short stories for the better part of a year, and am working on two long-form projects right now. When I started writing shorts, it was mostly to train myself to be more concise- I tend to get bogged down in details and technical descriptions- and it worked all too well. I’m writing much longer works that will clock in at between 70 and 100k words, and I have to remind myself I can spare a few words I would cut in shorter work.

But it did vastly improve me in one area- and that is focusing on that question. Where in a short story collection (particularly this one), there are myriads of opportunities for cliffhangers and suspense, while teasing the reader because they have to read the next story, which might not actually resolve the last, or does so only partially. I find it much easier to apply that now, and keep the story progressing swiftly and making it much more engaging.

It’s a simple question, really, one we ask all the time in a wide variety of situations, and really it’s why we read and/or write. Ask it, answer it, make your reader care what happens next in the story, to each character, and you’re well on your way to a good book.


3024AD: GoodReads Contest Time

3024AD is out now!

3024AD is out now!

We (I) need to get more eyes on 3024AD, so why not have some fun with it, right? So here’s the deal:

  1. Add 3024AD to your GoodReads shelf.
  2. Recommend it on GoodReads (and anywhere else).
  3. For every TEN people that add it, I will give away one copy (digitally)

That’s it! Just get other people to add (preferably buy) it and you could get a free copy. Tweet it, share it, however you want to do it!

Winners will be announced Monday, 5/13! You can, of course, buy it as well: Kindle | Kobo | Nook

Monday Morning Randomness

From 'The Crucible'

From ‘The Crucible’

Linky goodness for your Monday:

  • If this SciFi/Horror IndieGoGo gets funded, it will have a story by yours truly in it, plus a host of others. So chip in, yo.
  • BookRiot is doing Start Here 2: Start Harder (it’s not really called that), but you should ALSO give that your monies.
  • UPDATE: CaffieneForge has an excellent post on some miniature Kickstarter projects going on now.
  • It has come to my attention that you haven’t bought my book yet. Yes, you. Go buy it now: Kindle | Kobo | Nook
  • Then tell your friends to buy it, too
  • The infamous ‘Inner Goddess Journal’ by EL James is out. Read the sterling review here.
  • Saturday was May the Fourth, but today is Revenge of the Si(x)th, so for those of us of the Dark Side persuasion, this day is MUCH better.
  • I love the whole steampunk look SO MUCH. I’ll probably blog at length later, but it’s always hard to WRITE (and read) steampunk because it feels like you’re going out of your way to describe monocles and whatnot.
  • Related: Guess what my latest side project is?
  • It’s not really steampunk, but has some elements.
  • Even more related: I need more vests.

This has been your exceptionally random Monday Morning Randomness.


Let’s Talk About World Building

World building is one of my favorite aspects of writing, but I sort of hesitate to talk about it because it’s not as if there is a lack of authors talking about world building. But since I do like it, I thought I’d share what I do, think about and strive for in building my worlds.

My Goal:

What I want, when I tell a story set in a given world, is to invite the reader’s imagination to go beyond the story. I want it to be rich enough that they can enjoy the story they’re reading, yet have them ask ‘what else is going on’?

Saying this might be redundant, but it also has to be believable and consistent. In writing, you can write whatever you want, but if the rules are constantly changing or there isn’t a lot of congruity to the world, no one will want to read it.

3024AD is out now!

3024AD is out now!

3024AD: Short Stories Series One: Kindle | Kobo | Nook

What I Do:

Research cannot be overstated. What form that takes depends on what I’m writing, e.g., if I’m writing fantasy, there might not be too much research involved, but for science fiction, I might need to know what happens when someone gets their head cut off in a vacuum. It comes up, ya know? Even if it’s fantasy, though, there are things I want to get right. Say a scene takes place in a forest- what kind of trees are there? Underbrush? Animals? While there is tremendous license to make up whatever, little bits of reality will make a fantastic world much more believable and  therefore real.

I establish rules and guidelines for a world early on in the process, and refer to them often. For science fiction, are there aliens? What about faster than light travel? Some form of ‘the force’ or what have you? Establishing the boundaries of a world helps me avoid writing myself into corners that I then have to explain my way out of later or having to erase major portions of a book because it doesn’t fit (well, more so).

The other thing I, at least, have to do is remember to keep it simple. The whole world doesn’t have to be shown at once, and not every detail needs to be explained, even if it’s in my head. Show what needs to be shown for the story, maybe a little bit more to intrigue the reader, but overwhelming people with information will make the book less rich, not more.

Finally, I try not to sweat it too much. There are myriads of books out there, and you can tell when someone went way out of their way to do something that hasn’t been done before. It’s much, much better to make it yours and believable than it feeling completely forced. So be original, obviously, but not at the cost of the authenticity of the world.

Hope this helps! Happy creating!


Writing Wednesday: Getting Over Rejection

Rejection sucks. The next person who loves haring ‘no thanks, you’re not good enough’ will be the first. If you’re a writer, you get rejected far more than you get accepted. It’s never fun, but it’s part of the business.  So what can help ease the sting of rejection?

Stitch gifs help, too

Stitch gifs help, too

Perspective: There are a few things that need to be kept in mind. One, for most publishers and editors, it’s a numbers game. They can only afford to publish so many many stories, so out of hundreds of

submissions, they can only pick a few. Your story might be fine, it might not, but look at it from their perspective.

Rejection from one place is just that- one place. Submit it to the next place- maybe they’re a better fit for you anyway! Don’t get hung up on one, or two, or three (you get the idea). Remember there are more fish in the sea, and to quote the inestimable Dory, keep swimming.

Buy 3024AD: Short Stories Series One: Kindle | Kobo | Nook

Writing: Think of it like getting out of a relationship. Do some rebound writing. Writing is a pretty emotional thing, so take the emotions you have and write another story. Being productive will make you feel better and take your mind off the last rejection. And who knows? Maybe the story you produce will be better than the one that got rejected.

Be Bummed About It: Read the rejection. Have a drink, or chocolate, or whatever, and feel sorry for yourself. For a bit. Set a time limit on it, then move on and never think of it again. There’s nothing wrong with being unhappy about being rejected. Just do not allow it to cripple you.

Get Accepted: Easier said than done, right? But strive towards that goal. Improve your writing, your stories, just work to get better and you’ll get there and it will be awesome. Keep faith in yourself and don’t get discouraged.

Role Reversal

The last thing I wrote for 3024AD: Short Stories Series One was the ‘about the author’ bit. It struck me that in this age of social media, in a book that will be primarily distributed electronically, that this might be a bit superfluous. Most people will learn more about me from my twitter than they will from a couple paragraphs that say, essentially, that I went to school to be a mechanical engineer and that I kinda hate it.

So I wrote that and threw in a link to my twitter.

This is what you need to know about me.

This is what you need to know about me.

This, in turn, got me thinking that- at least right now- it is more likely that someone is buying my book because they follow me on twitter than they are following me because they bought my book. It used to be the only real glimpse you got in to an the life of an author was via those couple paragraphs at the end of their book and the occasional interview. At this point in my career, I have done more interviews than I ever read with any contemporary author (not saying mine are widely read, just that they’re much more readily available now).

For example, I love John Scalzi. I think he’s one of the best authors around, and I adore his work. But, thanks to the magic of the interwebs and his long-running blog (since before they were called blogs), it’s easy to get to know him. He’s also incredibly interactive on Twitter, so it’s easy to ask him a question and he usually responds. Ten years ago, you couldn’t call up your favorite author and ask him a random question, unless you wanted a lot of silly legal hassle.

Likewise, my friend Matt recommended Seven Wonders to me (by Adam Christopher) and since I’ve followed him on Twitter far longer than I’ve read his books, I really hear him in the book, and I’ll probably skip the about the author part as well.

This is, of course, to say nothing of Amazon Author Pages, GoodReads, etc. where all that information is even more accessible.

Maybe about the author should come first. I guess it already does.

3024AD is Finally Here!

April 23rd!

April 23rd!

I’ve been hinting at it, letting some things drop and building up to it, but this is it: April 23rd is the release date for 3024AD: Short Stories Series One. It is written, edited, formatted and ready to go. Review copies begin rolling out today (if you think you should get one, email me at deanfortythree at gmail or leave a comment).

To the right, you see the cover, by the excellent Johnny Atomic. I hope you like it a much as I do.

This has been a long time in coming- almost exactly a year, in fact, but more on that later- and I can’t tell you how good it feels to be ready to release this and share it with you all. It’s quite the step from just posting drafts for people to read on a blog, and hopefully it’s the first of many steps on this little journey.

But let’s focus on the now, shall we? The 23rd of April is about a month away, and there will be some fun stuff leading up to the actual release. For one thing, there will be a giveaway every week via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Tumblr, for an early copy of it. There will be even more contests around the release, including a chance to have a character in Chuck Wendig’s 12-part serial for Fireside Magazine named after you. There will be some live readings and Q&A type things, likely via Google+, in the coming weeks as well.

This has been a fantastic trip so far, and I am excited about what is to come. Thanks to all of you for being a part of it so far!