Edit, Write, Edit

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Note: This dork is NOT my Eddie, nor is this the cover.

So, I’ve been busier than usual. I wouldn’t have thought that possible, to be honest. First, my wonderful editor has completed work on my completed draft, The Brooklyn Trace, which some of you may remember began as “Skip Tracer” here on this blog. I’ve posted a sample below because … reasons.

The morning of our flight to New York, well before sunrise, a perfumed, naked Mina woke me up by slipping into the small bed with me. I remember being in a dream wherein I was an antelope being chased by a herd of cougars, and the next thing I knew I was completely naked and this gorgeous woman was kissing my neck and telling me to wake up because I’d somehow made her horny. In between kisses and being submerged in her oceanic expanse of passion I probed, trying to discover what I’d done to trigger her arousal.

Her answer was, “You can be so dumb sometimes,” followed by, “Hush. You’re spoiling the mood.”

Now, the way I see it, when a pretty girl wants to be in control and you are both nude, you yield. So I did. She was a tidal wave, this woman, lashing my shores until I feared that by the time she ebbed there would be nothing left of me but a driftwood shell. Afterward she rolled sweetly into my arms, smiled up at me, and fell into sleep. Even a hard case like me has to admit that was the best part.

Next on the agenda is to write a blurb, summary, and query letter. I think I’m going to try my hand at traditional publishing with this one because the plot is more mainstream and indie publication is just more work than I care to put into book selling. I have time to a) write or b) sell. I don’t have time for both. If I don’t get the type of response I’m looking for, then I’ll revert to doing it myself. We shall see.

I made my editor cry on this one, so I’m hopeful. (No, not because I failed to pay on time, smart ass.) It’s because of all the “feels” in the book. (I adore this editor, btw.) The book is funny, sexy, touching, full of action, and at times, sad. I like it, and think you will to.

Next up is my new girl.

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Jeanne Dark – coming soon! Look for her.

I’ve been in love with her for over a year, but she’s still playing hard to get. To break the tedium of all those seconds in between working at my day job, sleeping, and missing my angel, I’ve been slowly working on her book, which is named after my lead, Jeanne Dark. I’ve completely finished the plot outline, so it’s just a matter of writing the book. I’m 40,000 words in. You can find excerpts here, here, and here if you’re interested.

Technically, you can find them there even if you’re not interested. It’s like the tree falling in the woods question — it makes a sound whether you’re there or not.

But I digress.

Since writing Jeanne and Foss’s book is much, much harder than the previous books (there seems to be an inverse relationship between how hard it is to write and how proficient one is at it) I’ve begun editing Discovery.

Now, some of you may be wondering why, since it’s in its 2nd edition already. The answer is simple: I’m not happy with sales. My conscience has been telling me I’ve been marketing The Stream series all wrong. I must admit she’s right.

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Indeed, even the name of the series and the books will likely change in the new edition. Something distinctly more dragonish and fantasy evoking, I imagine. I’ll also probably seek out publishers in the UK. When the 1st two books were finished (2009 – 2011) the Fantasy Fiction world was ensconced with vampires, werewolves, and zombies. That’s all that sold (other than Harry You-know-who) and all people were interested in. Perhaps the time is ripe.

The Stream

The Stream is probably more Visionary Fiction than Fantasy Fiction, and I’ll try to make that clearer. It’s pretty obvious by the 3rd book. It was obvious to Maria right away, but less so to others. I’m thinking I might bring the dragons out sooner. They don’t appear until midway through the 1st book now. Of course, that would mean making it longer, which I don’t want to do.

The difficulty is that I’ve changed and my writing has changed. While I’ve always gotten good reviews for Discovery, I’m finding myself doing a lot of rewrites early on. Frankly, I don’t know who this Bill Jones guy is, but I don’t like his style much. (Well, I do, it’s just different than my more-evolved style.) It’ll be a line to touch up the rough bits without chucking it all in the rubbish bin. We’ll see how I make out.

Anyway, that’s me. What’s up with you?

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Doings

1. Hard as Roxx

I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks finishing incorporating readers’ comments into Roxx. And, finally, I’m finished!! I’ll take a few days’ break from this, and then begin the tedious exciting publishing process. Roxx will be available in eBook form by 19 August 2013, and in paperback form in September 2013 (exact date TBD). Here’s the opening paragraph:

05 May 2137 – 8:00 a.m. Central Africasian time.

A bloody Rembrandt this guy, God.

It was the seventh dawn since their escape, and Roxx had yet to acclimate to the stark Saharan sunrise. As light crept over the arid landscape, she was momentarily disoriented, unable to distinguish one low hill from the next. They were somewhere south of the ends of the Earth, and her daughters were safe. For now, alive and well was enough. She glanced down, pushed a button, and the navigational readout on her modified 1940 Indian Chief motorcycle displayed fourteen degrees, forty-three minutes north by eighteen minutes east. That put her location well into the Chadian desert. She smiled, and with one hand pulled a scarf across her mouth, shielding her nose and lips against the harsh desert wind. The nights were frigid here, particularly for a slender woman bracing against the biting air on the back of a motorcycle. Before her, on the hardened sand that passed for a road, long shadows clutched at the undulating dunes; black and reddish hues painted the landscape ahead like a madman’s abstract.

2. Weekly Writing Prompts

I make no claims to be a writing instructor. In fact, it’s safe to say I’m self-taught with every artistic endeavor I’ve tried. Still, I am a coach, a mentor, and full of useless ideas. So, I will be putting together weekly writing prompts (some visual, some abstract, some concrete). These are actually for specific people, but I figured this would be as good a place for them as any. Feel free to use the ideas, when posted, or ignore them.

Not the final cover art.
Not the final cover art.

New Book Releases

The paperback version of The Juice and Other Stories will be available within the next week. I’ll post a link when I get the final date from the distributors. It features 15 stories, including two only featured here on this blog.

I hope you’ll check it out.

Juice Cover Web

I only have 3 reviews thus far on Amazon, but they all been favorable – 4.7 out of 5.0 stars. (If you’ve read it, but haven’t reviewed it, I’d love 5 minutes of your time for a honest review.) I want to start writing a new set of stories, so it would greatly help my motivation if I thought people were actually reading the old ones.

The Juice and Other Stories is priced at $1.99 for the Kindle version, $10.50 for the paperback version. NOOK version coming soon (although Barnes and Noble is such a horrid mess, it’s hard to tell).

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By the way, Discovery, Awakening and Emprise are also available for the NOOK. It’s a surprise, since they never bothered to let me know they were available. Email much, B&N? Discovery features the old cover art, although I have NO IDEA why. B&N thinks my name is Edward and Bill. If you click on the ebook link for Awakening you will see links for paperback and hardcover versions THAT ARE NOT MY BOOK! What a horrible, terrible distributor they are. All of the books are $1.99 each.

Get them before Barnes and Noble (hopefully) goes out of business.

Next Up – Roxx

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I’ve finished the paperback version of The Juice and Other Stories, 2nd edition, and now all that is left is getting the proof and verifying that everything looks okay. Let’s hope so. It’s kind of a pain to pull together.

Now that it’s done, next on the publishing agenda is Hard as Roxx. My target publication date is 31 August 2013. Hopefully, I can pull it in by a couple of weeks, but I’m giving myself time since I’m already writing a web serial / detective novel, and start my next batch of short stories on Monday, 1 July.

Whereas Skip Tracer is developing into very much a “guy” story, Roxx is a science fiction novel targeted primarily for women. (Women who thought Mad Max would have been better if Max’s wife was the star.) I’m hoping men like it too, but feedback from early readers indicates my expected demographics are right. Roxanne Grail is a single mother who lives in 22nd-century Earth, in what used to be Zambia. It is now Africasia, home of as many descendants of Asian refugees as native Africans. Roxx herself is descendent of immigrants from the U.S. and the U.K. Roxx’s world is a complex mixture of post-apocalyptic poverty and astounding technology.

Think Mad Max meets the Planet of the hobots.

The Earth was ravaged by two 21st-century plagues, including the World Killer that almost wiped out the planet’s population. Humankind’s extinction was prevented only via genetic alterations that had the side effect of extending the genetically Enhanced populous by upwards of 150 years. It also spawned a brief, but violent, genetic war that left women — Enhanced and Unenhanced — the ability to have only one child. A second child, though long considered impossible, was a guaranteed death sentence for mother and child.

That is, until Roxx became pregnant with her 2nd daughter. Little Jessi James Grail, outlaw baby, is very much alive. Roxx intends to keep her that way, even if she has to leave a trail of blood across 3 continents to do it.

Roxx isn’t only about violence and sci-fi, however. It is at it’s core a love story, featuring Roxx and Trint, her new best friend, traveling partner, and 2nd mother figure to the girls. Trint fell for Roxx immediately. Roxx, as is typical of her, was far less cooperative.

Who is Roxx?

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She’s a little bit of this …
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A lot of this …
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and even of touch of this when she wants to show off.
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But inside, she’s a whole lot of that.

Trint is simpler.

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Basically, she’s this (plus a PhD at age 22 – but don’t tell anyone, she never talks about it.)
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and a head full of “clown hair” that Roxx secretly adores.

But don’t sell little Trint short — she’s tougher than she looks.

Well, off to another adventure. I’ve got to get my girls ready for their debut. It’s not easy to keep a 6’3″ bisexual Jeet Kune Do expert under wraps for too long. (Especially one with a penchant for 4-inch-heeled boots.) Roxx has been inside for 2 years, and she’s starting to get annoyed.

For more on Who is Roxx? Be sure to check out her Pinterest Page: Roxx’s Roost.

The Juice and Other Paperbacks

So, tonight I’ve finally started working on the paperback version of The Juice and Other Stories. Just in time too, since I had another positive review of the electronic book. The paperback version will contain all 13 stories from the Kindle version, plus a couple of bonus stories previously released only on this blog. I might even throw in Eddie’s first adventure from Skip Tracer, which is also on this blog.

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Ain’tchu lucky?

Anyway, I’m kind of excited to be able to have a real copy in my hands. In July, if all goes well, I’ll begin final edits on Hard as Roxx as well. That will be released in both electronic and paperback versions, albeit perhaps not simultaneously. (It frankly depends on how big a pain producing the paperback cover is now that the art is done.)

Anyway, I hope some of you check out the paperback of The Juice when it’s released. I think short stories are perfect summer reading, and these are no exceptions. No heavy fare here, just fun, romance, suspense, Sci-Fi, and a twist or two. Or 30.

You know how I do.

P.S. July is my short story month, and I will be starting on new stories all month. Here’s the theme. Don’t give me a lot of flack for the cover art, I just spent exactly 20 minutes on the title, art, and 1st draft of the cover. 🙂 I can already see I need to move the title.

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2013 Poet’s Market

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Believe it or not, there are still other places one can have poetry published than your lonesome blog. In fact,there are a lot of them. I’ve submitted to and been published in a few. The best tool I’ve found is the good ol’ annual Poet’s Market, which boasts 1200 journals accepting different kinds of poetry. The 2013 edition is the 26th, so they’ve been around quite a while. The Kindle edition is available for $15 from Amazon. I’ve always used the print version. Somehow, it just doesn’t feel right on a Kindle. For you who prefer a print version, Writer’s Digest sells them direct.

The book provides contact and submission info, often including what the journal is looking for. It’s usually a good idea to check out a copy of your submission target in advance, just to see if what they publish feels like it fits your work.

If you think you’re ready, give it a try. If you’re not a poet, there’s also a Writer’s Market, and a Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, although I’ve not tried either of those in a few years.

Good luck!

Available Now – The Juice and Other Stories

I have released my short story collection on Amazon! There are 11 short stories and 2 novelettes (10,000 and 15,000 words). I’ve previously posted a blurb, so I won’t repeat it here. I do hope you’ll check the anthology out. Only $0.99! Thanks.

Emprise (The Stream, Book 3)

Emprise is available on Amazon.com as an ebook! For my loyal blog readers, however, I will be happy to send you a free Kindle or Nook version, to up to the 1st 20 people who request one. Simply leave me a comment and let me know how to contact you for your copy.

No strings attached; however, a read and review would be appreciated. Also, likes and “tags” are helpful for getting the word out.

Haven’t read Books 1 and 2? No problem! First, Charlie Patterson and Robin LeBeaux, my two main characters are 16 in Emprise, and (almost) all grown up. The story builds on the first two books, but you need not have read either to appreciate Emprise. Still don’t like starting stories in the middle? No problem! Discovery (Book 1) and Awakening (Book 2) will be free for Kindle readers on Amazon from Wednesday, 7 November 2012 through Friday, 9 November 2012.

Pick up Discovery and Awakening for free, and then buy Emprise. Read all 3 for the price of 1.

For readers of the 1st two books – thank you! Emprise continues Charlie and Robin’s relationship as they face the normal high school rivalries, romances, and pitfalls. Oh, and there’s another minor problem: the fabric of the universe and the dream worlds are coming apart, merging into one chaotic mess. Now the two teens have to find the source of the problem, and fix it – fast.

Emprise features much of the same fantasy adventure as the first two books, but adds romance, humor,  and touch of spirituality. I hope you check it out.

Why I Self-Published – Part 1 – Double Agents

After completing Discovery, I briefly sent it to a few agents. In truth, I never expected a positive response. Rather, I wanted to understand what they would say. Here is a sample response. Only the name of the agency has been changed, to reflect the truth.

“Thank you for submitting to Bill Picked Our Name Out of a Bloody Hat Literary and for allowing me the opportunity to review your work. Unfortunately, we will not be requesting more material at this time. Please keep in mind we accept less than 1% of submitted work and the decision-making process is always difficult. We wish you the best with this and future works.”

Now the other responses were nicer, and only 2 of the 5 were form letters like this. However, this answer is why I ended my quest to for traditional publishing. They accept less than 1% of submitted work. Said differently, this Salesperson is proud that over 99% of her potential clients are rejected. In a nutshell, this means the agents do not work for you. Rather, their sole job is to screen for Big Pub, and try to find, and sell them more of whatever sold recently.

So, what other things have a less-than-1% success rate?

  • National Football League – Nope, sorry. According to statistics, around 215 of 9,000 college players go on to play pro football. That would be 2.4%. It’s twice as easy to play pro ball. Now, of course, if you look at the high school level, the figures drop to 0.2%. But we are making the assumption that few people expect to write a published novel straight out of high school. Some have, no doubt, but most of us actually learn to write well before plunking out a book.
  • People Attempting to Live After Being Struck by Lightning – Nope, wrong again. Approximately 66-75% of those struck by lightning will live. They will, however, have a really bad day.
  • Doctors or PhDs – Sigh. You’re not very good at this are you? Approximately 3% of the U.S. has a doctorate. I tricked you though – it used to be 1%, but we’ve figured out how to educate more people longer.

That does beg a question, though. Why is it that the percentage of people accepted by a large, premier literary firm never improves? Why are they satisfied with numbers that mirror the number of military officers that make General or Flag (Admiral) Officer? Why is it acceptable to fail with the same percentage as that of a high school athlete trying to make the NBA?

The answer is simple. They are not trying to get your book sold. They are trying sell books that the publishers have already decided they want to publish. In other words, they are simply trying to scout for the publishing houses, and sell them what is popular.

None of this is precisely why I decided not to try and go mainstream publishing. Nor is the reason the fact that the money isn’t better, or I doubted my talent. The simple reason is that most of the books big pub has pushed through in recent years have been formulaic, and not well-written. I can be bad all by myself, I decided. This is not meant to denigrate the 1% of authors who made the cut. Rather, this is about being a part of the 99%.

I, and other indie writers, think what big publishing has done – controlling the product, weeding out creativity, favoring the known over the surprising – has fucked up damaged literature. We are taking it back. Even if I were fortunate enough to have a lucrative publishing contract, there is not a chance in the world I’d be able to write fantasy fiction, science fiction, and then mystery, simply because I want to.

Sure, my books would be a little better edited (assuming I paid for it), and they would cost more (but I wouldn’t get the additional money), and they would look pretty on Border’s shelves  (er, never mind), but then I would have others telling me how to fix my books. They would take out the things that don’t fit, and add more of what does.

But see, the thing of it is … I put those things that “don’t fit” in on purpose. There is poetry preceding the violence. There is laughter amidst the tears. There is goofiness when concentration is called for. And there are lesbians, because, well, I like lesbians. And it’s my fricking book.

So, I decided I didn’t want to kiss butt, change my books, decimate my confidence, and chase rainbows with an empty pot of gold at the end, all to garner the attention of a damned double agent. When I go to sell my place, I hope the realtor doesn’t turn her nose up, and ask me, “Where have you sold your houses in the past? Can you send me a sample of the decor? And, you do understand, I’ll have to ask you to pay someone to remodel if I find a buyer.”

I’ve asked myself, what if someone “discovered” my books (most likely Roxx, which kicks ass), and offers me a deal? Would I take it? You know what? Only if somehow, it made my writing better. Which it wouldn’t.

So the truth is, what I would rather do is learn to write beautiful, simple, entertaining books, that sell like hotcakes. Then I’d go on tour denouncing what we have allowed literature to become, and hope to spearhead a movement to take it back. Yes, being a rich writer would rock. I could give 25% to my daughter and her future kids, 10% to fulfill my promise to God, take 5% for me, and throw the rest away.

Just to piss Big Pub off.

Pricing to Sell on Amazon – A Blog Survey

Jeff Bezos hawks a Kindle

According to a recent article from David Gaughran’s Blog,  66% of the Kindle Top 100 seller spots were held by Indie publishers. Of the 34% being sold by traditional publishers, HALF were titles at least 10 years old. That means only 1 of 6 titles being sold are new books from traditional publishers.

Analyzing the numbers, it appears that part of that is the fact that the traditionally published ebooks cost more. (Thus, their percent of revenue is higher.) On the surface, however, it suggests a troubling trend for traditional publishers. Either 1) they are still reluctant to issue new titles in ebook form, thus opening the door for wider acceptance of indie publishers, or 2) no one is buying their new titles, opting only for the older works.

The first scenario is great for author/publishers like me, as it gives indies a chance to prove our product is equal to big publishing’s product. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest it is much more innovative, as most of the editorial hurdles we must pass are self-imposed. That is to say, indie publishers do not need to care if a title is “sellable” (read, generic), we only need care that it is well-written and edited. Were I traditional publishing, I would be very cautious about allowing a new generation of web-connected readers to discover their product is not superior, despite the higher prices.

The second scenario is more troublesome for traditional publishing. If they are indeed offering their product in ebook form, in a timely manner, being outsold by lower-cost indies should rattle their cages a bit. It is doubtful traditional publishing will ever be able to meet an indie’s lower cost structure, but, in theory, should not a reader pay more for a better product?

Of course, none of these ebook sales figures state whether the books were actually read. One factor is that Amazon includes “borrowed” titles in their sales figures. For an Amazon Prime customer, a borrowed title can be free. Free books are very easy to download, even if you have no intention on reading.

For more sales figure info, check out Kevin O. McLaughlin’s Digital  Delta Blog post on this subject. McLaughlin broke out the SciFi Top 99 by price. Not surprisingly, all of the indie titles sold for $5.99 or less, while only 15 of 38 traditional sold for this price point. A similar story can be found in Fantasy titles, except the traditional price point is even higher. Why? Traditionals sell more Fantasy titles.

Bottom lines:

  • Readers will “try” an indie title, provided the investment is small.
  • Traditional publishers have a cost/revenue structure that makes it difficult or unappealing to sell below $6; however, they are beginning to figure out how to do so.
  • Kindle books have been outperforming print books since May of 2011. So, it’s a big enough market for traditional publishing to care.
  • If readers don’t buy cheaper indie titles, they can expect to pay $10 and up for traditional ebooks in the future. We indies are keeping the price down.

You’re welcome. 🙂