Newsletter, Pre-Order, and New Cover

Newsletter

I now have a newsletter. At least in theory. I haven’t actually sent any out, since no one’s actually subscribed yet, so it’d be kind of pointless. I’ll probably, initially, use it just for notifications of books out, sales, and any other sundry announcements. I’ll also provide progress reports on stuff I’m working on at the time, but will otherwise not clog it up.

This is mainly because a popular piece of advice from many authors is to have a newsletter, so I may as well try it. I can see it’s more useful for basic notifications than twitter, where tweets can easily be missed, and is less passive than hoping readers visit your blog or website soon after you announce stuff. It’s the kind of thing I really hate doing though, since writing in my own voice is a painful process (hence this blog’s slow death).

Signing up gets you a free novella, Contractual Obligations. It’s one that after finishing I happened to read another novel with fairly similar elements, so I’m reluctant to try selling it. But it was in a releasable state, so it’d be a shame to let it waste.

If you’re interested, you can subscribe to it here.

 

The Book of a Thousand and One Destinies Pre-Order

This novella will be out of it’s Amazon exclusivity period next month, and available more widely from the 3rd of August. It’s 99c for it’s pre-order period, rising to the regular price of $1.99 thereafter.

As it has been free on Amazon (and will be again on the 29th-30th of this month) you can get it for free on Smashwords using the coupon code GM96U (valid until the end of August). I don’t know whether the coupon works on pre-orders, or whether you’ll need to wait until publication day.

 

 

New Cover for To Hunt Monsters

While fiddling with other covers, I produced a new one for To Hunt Monsters. It had the oldest remaining novel cover of my stuff, and while the general design was okay, I’m less happy with the execution as time goes on. So I reworked it, coming up with this. I’m not sure I’m entirely happy with it, but it’s an improvement, and something to work from in the future.

Rewrites

A few months ago I took a couple of my early novel off sale, as I’m not confident they’re good indicators of my writing for readers who may never have read my stuff before. Basically, my writing craft has improved (relatively) since writing them, and I’m not sure they’re any good. I had vague plans to rewrite them, to see if they could be improved.

I’m not sure I’m capable of that. Apart from these, I also took another look at the first novel I wrote, but never published, a couple of months ago. Having just done an initial revision pass on Broken Worlds, I find myself in a similar position to where I was after that: I’ve no idea what to change, but I’m sure it needs something.

In the case of Broken Worlds, there are at least a couple of things that probably need changing.

  1. During the large fight near the end, I switch viewpoints a lot. It’s the first time out of the viewpoint of the main character. I could probably redo it to be purely from his viewpoint with little loss. But I’m not sure whether it’d also lose the frenetic chaos.
  2. The structure is very episodic, since I was going for a pulpy feel. Some episodes are smaller than others though, and it feels like it could generally be smoothed out.

Having finished the first pass, I’m sure there’s more that needs changing on a fundamental level. But as with Paragon Protocols (my first novel), I just can’t see what to change. They’ve become so fixed in my mind that it’s by this point difficult to imagine them being anything else.

Anything I could afford spending on editors, I’d sooner spend on my newer work. I’ve been looking at these as shorter projects between the new stuff, but that doesn’t seem to be working out.

I could always try rewriting from scratch. Which could well require serious changes to the structure of the story so that it feels new to me. At which point I have to ask whether it’s worth investing the time, rather than doing completely new stuff.

For Broken Worlds, possibly. It established background elements I’ve used in other books, and espoused fundamental elements of the philosophy underlying some of my work. The latter is the main reason I was so reluctant to take it off sale, and I’d still like to have it out there. If I can’t salvage the book, I’ll probably have to find another way to explore the ideas. Which would mean another thing to stick into the overfull queue.

I don’t know that I could face complete rewrite, anyway. The prospect of the amount of work ahead of you when you start writing a new story can be overwhelming. This lump of a story sits before me, waiting to be consumed one mouthful at a time by the craftsman part of my mind, and excreted as words on a page (virtual or real). Outlining helps view it as more digestible chunks, but the overall mass of it all still looms ahead of me.

Doing so with something I’ve already written once is even worse. It’s Sisyphean. It might be different if there was a chance of them selling, but since that’s pretty much just a fantasy now, I’m mainly doing this for my own amusement. So I’ll probably stick to producing new stuff. Or writing it, since producing implies releasing it to the wild.

 

Endings and TV Reviews

(Mainly a proof of life continued existence post)

 

I seem to have watched the endings of a number of TV series in the last few months. Only one of those listed below actually on broadcast TV (and that probably a bit behind US screenings), most of them being on DVD or alternate sources.

While you can’t really judge a series solely on it’s ending, it obviously play a large part in how you remember it. It’s been years since I’ve watched any Blake’s 7, and over 35 years since the final episode was screened, but I still have that ending seared into my memory (also, I feel old).

It can, of course, depend on the type of show. The more episodic type doesn’t necessarily need as satisfying a conclusion  as a serialised story, the latter justifiably having more expectation on it’s dénouement. Many series these days straddle the two.

One recent series I’m still undecided on is The Mentalist. They dealt with the big bad in the middle of season six, then went on for another season and a half . I can understand wanting to deal with the repercussions of the ending of the main story, but it made the later season feel like it was killing time.

 

Covert Affairs

I kind of wish this had finished with season 4. It’s big bad had been around since the beginning, and gave the series a feeling of a larger story than the season arcs it was composed of. Annie had a great arc for that season, faking her death and operating on her own, and it ended strongly. It felt like a good final act for her story.

But it wasn’t the end. Season 5 was fine, but it was mainly bringing in new plots. Possibly I felt let down by it not addressing some of the issues I hoped from the previous season. I know it was probably complicated by casting issues, but how did Annie deal with explaining to her sister (who hadn’t been around for a couple of seasons, but with whom she would have kept in touch) why she’d had to fake her death. A lot of the series had been based around the relationships, so it just felt an odd omission (understandable, in a way that drags you behind the fourth wall).

 

Continuum

The shorter fourth season made the ending feel a bit rushed, but it was an otherwise satisfying ending to one of the best SF series of recent years.

It was particularly good in playing up the moral ambiguity of who was in the right (or the less wrong) position, and the decisions they made. Time-lost cop hunting time-lost terrorists could easily fall into cliché, but the rounded antagonists helped make this good. And the ending, while rushed, hit the perfect final note of success at a cost.

 

The Following

To be honest, the story contortions probably started fairly early as they tried to keep this going after the first season. It was usually enjoyable, but the morally questionable situations in which the characters found themselves did start to feel like they were coming too fast.

It never really slowed down fast enough to feel more than a slight jarring from all the plot holes, and as long as you didn’t compare it to Hannibal it was enjoyable enough (I don’t know I’d say it was fun though).

The ending tried to give a kind of set up for future stories you’d never see, but for me it felt a bit, I don’t know, unfinished maybe. It made a kind of sense for where they’d taken the character, and was kind of in keeping with the feel of the show, but I’d have accepted a happier ending.

 

Person of Interest

While some moves in this long game seemed opaque, and at times it veered towards the formulaic, this series often managed to shift out of the formula as soon as you got too comfortable, and remained entertaining. Mainly because of the characters.

I’m not sure whether to class it as a hybrid SF/Crime Drama, or SF masquerading as Crime Drama, or whether it even matters.

Even with the final season cut short, they knew far enough ahead that they used it to focus on the main story, hitting all the beats they needed to and providing an ending that just felt right.

 

Penny Dreadful

The end of the final season felt a bit rushed. The entire season felt more disjointed than the previous ones, with having so many of the characters separated, having their own stories without as much interaction. Then it hurriedly brings them all together at the end. It feels like they were expecting another season, but had to quickly tie it all up.

It kind of works, but there were some parts I’d have liked to have gotten more room to breathe.

 

Endings

I doubt there’s much I can learn from these, since they’re so heavily influenced by their medium. Even if they have an ending planned from the outset, the practicalities of such complex collaborations probably require all kinds of compromise – both dealing with input from various sources, and the financial realities of what you can afford to create visually rather than just with words.

If a story is complete over one season, such as with True Detective and similar shows, you have greater control over what can be achieved. Multi-season series are more at the whims of viewing figures and other factors, often ending up unable to provide a satisfying ending, or having to cram so much in that you can feel the artificiality of it.

In prose, you don’t have those excuses for weak endings. It can still be worth thinking about why certain endings work well, though. You simply need to distinguish the story elements from the structure in which they’re presented.

 

 

 

The Book of a Thousand and One Destinies

I noticed a few months back that Amazon UK had a competition for stories to be published between Feb and May 19th on KDP Select (which I dislike because of it’s exclusivity, but as a one-off I’ll see if it does me any good). I didn’t have anything ready to go at the time, and I think I thought it was only for novels. Also a lot of it sounds like a popularity contest, and getting readers is a problem to begin with.

Noticing a couple of days ago it’s for anything over 5000 words, and having a novella that I probably won’t find anywhere else to try submitting, I decided I’ll try it. Since it needs to gain some popularity by the end of the month, I doubt it’ll get anywhere.

It’s something to try anyway, and I’ll be doing a free giveaway of it next weekend (12th -14th), giving me time to submit to a few of the places that promote such giveaways, hopefully getting some attention.

It’s a shameless homage of the Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night (Tales of the Arabian Nights), with the language aping it in being slightly archaic. it probably won’t be for everyone. Or, likely, anyone. But it was fun to write.

 

The Book of a Thousand and One Destinies

A paranoid Sultan, an Assassin found only in stories, and a Storyteller caught up in their battle.

Once upon a time, a great Sultan was plagued by an Assassin who struck at him with stories and lies. A young Storyteller is gathered with her colleagues, and forced to share her stories with the Sultan before their voices are stilled forever.
In a war of destinies, enslaved jinn, and comparative truths, the Storyteller must tread dangerous ground in what may be her final recital.
A fantasy novella.

 

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Rejected

I’m undergoing another phase where I think I may as well give up on writing, or at least publishing.

I’ve tried submitting a couple of things over the past few months through the more traditional (or modern versions thereof) methods.

Self-publishing probably requires someone more comfortable with selling themselves to achieve success, which isn’t me. Marketing my books will be a waste of time and/or money without a number of reviews on them to encourage visitors to try them, and reviews are hard to get.

It’s only been a couple of months since I applied my latest book to a few dozen reviewers, so it’s probably still too early to expect much. A few replied to say their lists are too long, or they’re not interested, and a few to say they were interested. But getting reviews seems such a long process without a recognised brand.

The self-publishing route seems to basically boil down to hoping against all reason that your work will get noticed, or being the type of personality who can get their work noticed.

So I’ve tried a few other avenues, in hopes of finding other ways to draw attention to my work.

Those rejections feel more concrete than the general ignorance with which my self-published work is greeted. I can always hold out hope of them being noticed later, but a rejection is more tangible. Even bad reviews can be ignored, when they offer nothing constructive, as just someone disinclined to like my work.

But an actual rejection from someone whose job it is to read such things feels somehow different (and having two in one day doesn’t help). Even if it could just be a matter of taste. None actually say my writing stinks, but is that just politeness?

As with most of my work, they’re of awkward lengths for the traditional channels: there are few venues for novellas, and the novel (by certain classifications) is way too short for publishers to consider.

There are a growing number of independent publishers starting to take advantage of the possibilities eBooks offer to consider wider ranges of material, and it was mainly those I tried. They still have a large number of submissions though, so maybe I’m just not standing out.

I’m left with a couple of novellas and a short novel that are probably in publishable form, but I can’t find the enthusiasm to put them out there. Without some other factor in the mix, there’s no reason to think they’ll have any more luck finding an audience than my previous stuff.

And I’m also having trouble writing new stuff, everything feeling so bland and lifeless as soon as I start the actual writing.

Hopefully the phase will pass. But I’m increasingly certain my work will never really be read anyway, so I may as well give up the extra work of publishing it.

 

Flaws or Features

With every story I finish I seem to see more flaws in my writing style. And then have to wonder whether they’re flaws or features.

For example: I’m not good on descriptions, and tend to make them brief when I do use them. Which means the prose isn’t necessarily as immersive as some might like. Conversely, they don’t slow the story down. So in that way it could be considered good.

If it’s not something I feel I need to, or can, change, then I’d probably have to consider it a feature of my style.

I’m becoming convinced epic fantasy is not what I should be writing, because it doesn’t really fit my style. Or anything that long.

The third part of Dwimmerfall (I think it’ll be four parts) feels like it has too many meetings. It’s an inevitable part of the story, since much of this part is world building based on the disappearing of the dwimmer (magic) that’s so ingrained into civilisation. A couple of viewpoint characters are leaders, and getting stuck in meetings is unavoidable.

Some problems I’ve shown, where the character (either the leaders or another) can go to an example of the failure, and do other things while there. But there’s some stuff where discussing it is more useful for the examination, and I want differing opinions.

In meeting scenes, I try to have some degree of different agendas, but I’m not sure if that’s enough. I don’t necessarily have much real plotting (characters plotting, not story plotting), where the viewpoint character has to get seriously involved and have a sub-plot that occurs during the meeting, or over a few meetings.

I’m not sure whether I should have something like that, or whether it’d slow the story down too much. They aren’t really necessary for the overall story, and I could easily lose control of things if I go too far along that path.

My inclination is that unless such a subplot can actually say something about the situation that otherwise wouldn’t be covered, to leave it out. But I also worry that without the added drama the meeting scenes may fall flat, dragging on without having any real punch.

They’re only in first draft at the moment, and it could be a while before they get any revisions (maybe not until after the first draft of part 4, sometime after I work out what happens in part 4), but it remains a problem I increasing think about: am I writing scenes with too little depth?

Which of course comes from the idea that there’s a proper way to write stories, which is possibly ridiculous. I need only as much detail as is necessary to tell the story I want to tell. Everything else is texture and flavour.

Or is that philosophy simply an feature of my style?

Should I Just Give Up?

[Warning: Another posting in my depression cycle. May include mopery.]

So I had this idea for a crime thriller, and thought maybe this time I’d try the traditional publishing route. Just to see if I could get any kind of traction.

Less than ten days from starting pre-writing to finishing the first draft, and it turns out All Roads Lead to Hell is only 40,000 words. So on the border between novella and novel (by some definitions), depending where revisions take it.

It’d need padding out to twice that length to be acceptable for submission to standard markets. There area a couple of extra chapters that could go in , and there’re gaps in the story where other stuff could be shoehorned. Maybe.

A quick look around doesn’t find many markets for crime thriller novellas, but I could always search further.

For the immediate future, I’m setting it aside to cool down while I get on with other work.

 

I have real trouble estimating how long a story will be. Even after breaking it down into chapters, I seem unable to call on past writing experience to properly gauge such things. And I’m not sure I really want to. The story’s going to be as long as it wants to be, and trying to force it to be otherwise to fit a certain standard seems dumb. Unless you want it traditionally published.

And I seem unable to write things of a commercially acceptable length (as defined by the traditional publishers). I feel part of the problem might be I’m too influenced by movies and television, so my storytelling muscle memory is drawing more from those than from other prose fiction. I’m not sure whether I can unlearn that though.

I also wonder whether writing so fast is part of the problem. I’ve tried slowing my writing rate slightly, but do feel an increasing desperation to produce more in a vain hope of breaking out of obscurity.

 

The not knowing whether I’ll ever achieve any success writing is causing increasing anxiety. I kind of want someone who’s opinion could be subjectively classed as authoritative to tell me I can’t write, and to stop trying. (More so than telling me I can, since I have trouble accepting praise.)

It’s tiring to keep pumping out stories that never find much of an audience. The readership for most of my stories is probably only in double digits (okay, some are in five digits, but that’s the free stuff). And even that might be too optimistic a view, since there’s no way of telling how many have been completed, or even read at all.

 

Of course I have no idea what else I’d do with my existence, so I’ll probably keep writing for now.

 

Behind Her Eyes – A Hype-Enhanced Reading

I can’t be the only writer, or reader, who takes the marketing of a book as having an ending you’ll never guess as a challenge. Which it basically is.

Can you outsmart the writer? Which is a stupid way of thinking of it. Because its the marketing campaign that’s making such a big deal of it. I doubt there’s many books where you can’t try to beat the author by guessing how it’ll end. But when the marketing campaign out and out challenge you like that, you can hardly not try to beat them.

Behind Her Eyes probably isn’t the kind of book I’d normally read. It sounds a bit too domestic, to be honest. But Sarah Pinborough had been entertaining at a convention I’d seen her at, and on twitter. And the book had good word of mouth. And there was that challenge. And it was on sale for a fiver in the first week (and not simply as the fastest in history to the bargain bin).

The writing draws you in, making it hard to put down. While the description makes it sound like a primarily relationship-centric story, the mystery behind it propelled me through the parts that may be less interesting to me. (Not that relationships aren’t at the heart of most stories, but it did sound a bit too soap opera-y for my tastes, and that kind of thing can rely on characters acting stupid.)

 

Looking For Clues

The pre-publication hype (of which there was quite a bit) and ARC reviews, while staying free of spoilers (that I saw), did admit there were supernatural elements. Which may be good, since it could discourage those inclined to dislike such on principle. It also gives a larger scope for what kind of things to look for.

And I found as soon as I had some ideas (and I had a few), I was looking for more buried beneath the obvious ones.

Since I did work out the two twists before they were revealed (around chapters 46 and 51 I got the end twist, and the deeper twist, respectively), I have to say it felt fair on the reader. No cheating, out of left field, surprises here. It was foreshadowed if you looked at it the right way. Admittedly a twisted way. Even then, though, I wasn’t certain I was right until the end.

It was only after finishing the book that I realised they were vaguely similar to twists I’d used in one of my stories, which may explain why I got them. And I can imagine the author had to resist the same impulse to laugh out loud when the idea struck.

 

Did the Hype Damage the Reading Experience?

Not for me.

I don’t feel that going in knowing there was, and looking for, a twist detracted from the story. If anything it may have encouraged engagement, getting me to look deeper than I might otherwise, in the hunt for clues. I did find myself admiring the way information was laced through the story, and how the pacing kept you moving too fast to necessarily focus on the clues.

I may well read it again soon, to deconstruct exactly how it was done.