Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: March 2014

The truth is I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m taking a break from my Stephen King binge to read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It’s been on my wish list for a while now and when I came across a (battered but readable) copy at the used book store the other day I snatched it up and since then I’ve been doing my very best to force myself to meet my responsibilities and obligations and not just lose myself in this book until I’m done. I don’t want to say too much about it yet — partly because I don’t want to spoil anything; you don’t read this book so much as experience it, and it’s really best if you come to it knowing as little about it as possible — and also because I get the feeling I won’t really know what I’m talking about until I’ve finished it. Anyway, it’s good. Scary. Scary good.

My patreon campaign isn’t going so well, which is discouraging, because to be honest this is kind of my last-ditch effort at being an indie author. I’ve been looking over my sales totals and, despite excellent reviews, despite decent publicity here and there, despite about a dozen other things, the numbers are just pitiful. I’ve said since I started this experiment that self-publishing isn’t for everybody. Now I’m starting to face the harsh truth that it might not be for me. At first I liked the idea of DIYing everything and being in total control, but the truth is I just can’t do it all by myself, and I don’t have the resources to put together a team to polish everything and make it look truly professional. And honestly, if you can’t do that, then you don’t have much hope of competing in this market.

I’ve been kind of depressed about this, honestly. Definitely discouraged. Trying to figure out where to go from here. With nobody showing any real interest in Intruder (apart from a small handful of Facebook likes) I’m wondering if I should back-burner it and focus my wee slivers of writing time on finishing Radium Town and then submitting it to agents. Or if I should start submitting Restless Spirits and/or Dominion of the Damned to some small publishing houses. Or maybe even submit them to agents. I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed and flailing, and this is why I think I might need an agent, so he or she can help me figure out what’s best.

Or should I just stick it out and focus on getting two more books out there and see what happens when I get to the “magical” number six? Six books seems to be the average number when sales really start to take off and royalties start to become a livable wage. Am I just not being patient enough? Not tenacious enough? I don’t know. I only know that I’m very tired and the technical production and design aspects of my books leave a lot to be desired and I’m barely finding time to write, let alone to market them effectively, and it seems that teaming with an agent and publisher(s) could help fix at least some of those problems, but I fear it would also create as many problems as it solves.

Just thinking out loud here. Maybe I shouldn’t, but there it is.

In other news, Hannibal and Once Upon a Time both kind of broke my heart this week, and the Walking Dead season finale was kind of uneventful. Right now on Twitter everybody’s talking about the How I Met Your Mother finale, but I don’t watch that show, so I can’t comment.

And now I’m going to make some cocoa and dive back into my scary book and try not to think about my even scarier sales reports.

Farewell, Tubey.

So NBC Universal is shutting down Television Without Pity (normally I’d link that, but I guess there’s really no point, since they won’t even be keeping an archive online). I haven’t actually been on that site in over a year (I think the last show for which I kept up with the recaps was Fringe), but even so, this announcement is stirring up a lot of nostalgia and remembrance. It’s funny how what began as a snarky little website that featured a handful of friends riffing on Dawson’s Creek every week grew into something so big and influential, and how many lives were affected and careers were launched because of it.

I started hanging out on the site when it was still known as Mighty Big TV. I visited it here and there for various show recaps, but I didn’t really get into the forums until Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically right after the episode Fool for Love aired, which marked the point where my fondness of the show (and the character Spike) ramped up to full-on obsession. My burning need to discuss it with somebody who wouldn’t just nod at me with glazed over eyes led me to the MBTV Buffy forum, which led me to several friendships. Most of those have, sadly, dissolved since then, but not before they led to me travelling to places like Nashville and Louisville and Chicago and San Jose and San Franscisco to meet up and have adventures and form amazing memories with some awesome and hilarious women.

The Buffy forum also launched my former fanfic career, so if you’re here because of my Spuffy fic, we can all thank TWoP for that. I still get more feedback and fan mail for my fan fiction than I do for any of my original novels, which is equal parts flattering and frustrating. Would I be a fiction writer now if not for TWoP? Certainly. I was already a writer when I came to it, so I can’t give it credit for that. But writing all that fan fiction, and having it vetted and beta’d by those aforementioned awesome women, taught me a lot about plotting, pacing, characterization, dialogue and other useful mechanics of building a novel. I might have still learned all that stuff by writing in my own sandbox with my own characters, but I wouldn’t have had half as much fun in the process.

Eventually, though, the forums devolved into a lot of drama, and I think I even got banned from them. If I recall correctly, some of my friends got banned, and then all of the rest of us flamed out and got ourselves banned in solidarity. Looking back, I know we all took both the show and the forums and the whole fandom (not to mention the whole Spike vs. Angel debate) just a wee bit too seriously. At least, I know did. But that’s fandom for you.

Which is all to say that, like many People On the Internet, MBTV/TWoP was a pretty big influence on my life, and because of this I’m sad to see it come to an end. Somewhere around here I’m pretty sure I’ve still got a Cafe Press mug made just for the Buffy forum that says “Snark, Snerk and Scoobie Snacks.” I think tomorrow I’ll dig it out and use it to drink a toast to Tubey.

Are you a former TWoPer? If so, I’d love to hear your TWoP memories in the comments. Also, if you’re still addicted to the recaps and this news has hit you especially hard, you should check out Previously.TV, a new iteration created by the original TWoP founders (they just opened a forum, even!). And for hilarious recaps by good-natured people who just really love TV, check out Hey, Don’t Judge Me!

How To Help Me Write Faster

Note: This post is a bit long, but if you consider yourself at all to be a fan of my books, please read to the end. Thanks.

I’d been kicking around the idea of doing a Kickstarter to fund the finishing and production of Intruder. At the rate I’m currently going on it, managing to squeeze in between 500 and 1000 words per week (on a good week), my thinking was that a Kickstarter, if successfully funded, would allow me to set aside some time every day to work on it without losing income, so I could actually get the book written this year. I also hoped to raise enough to have it properly edited and formatted by a pro, along with a professional cover design for both Intruder and Restless Spirits. However, I don’t think I have a large enough fanbase to come anywhere near the funding I’d need to pull that off.

So in researching other options, I took a deeper look at Patreon. If you don’t know what that is, Patreon is a crowdfunding site based on the old model of artist patronage. It allows fans to subscribe and contribute small amounts — as little as a dollar — on a regular basis to help support content creators and ongoing projects. I didn’t give it too much consideration at first because it seemed to be aimed primarily at YouTubers, podcasters and web comic creators, but quite a few writers are experimenting with it to fund their creative writing. Creators can either set it up as a tip jar, or they can set up a subscription model to accept payments in return for regular content and perks.

The latter model seems like a good compromise. I’m not really comfortable with the tip jar model, which would feel too much like living on charity. But a subscription model would be an exchange of money for goods. It would fill in the income gaps and allow me to set aside an hour or two each day to work on noveling. Not only that, but it would obligate me to do so — I’d not just be able to, but have to give my creative writing the same priority that I give to client projects.

But how does a subscription model work with writing a novel? I actually have several novels in my To Be Written queue — enough to keep me busy for years, even if I’m writing full time. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to serialize all of them for Patreon. If you decide to become a patron — which, again, you can do for as little as a dollar per installment (and you can put a cap on how many installments you’re willing to fund each month) — you’ll have access to each installment as I write them. You’ll also be rewarded with an e-book of the finalized book once it’s ready to publish. Higher levels of support will get you additional perks, including steep discounts on signed paperbacks and the opportunity to vote on which project you’d like me to write next. You can check out my Patreon page here to get all of the details, or just click the big shiny button below:

Become my patron on Patreon

If this takes off, I’ll figure out some more exciting rewards. For one thing, I’d like to be able to offer Google hangouts, but for that to happen I need to replace my computer with one that has a working webcam. But I hope to keep the lines of communication open with my patrons to figure out what they want so I can do my best to deliver.

And one more thing — even if you can’t (or just don’t want to) support my fiction in this way right now, some of the best support you can give me is word of mouth. Spreading the word about my Patreon page — and about my writing in general — will make you a Big Damn Hero in my book.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Sneak Peek: Intruder

Intruder, my followup to Restless Spirits (I really need to come up with a name for this series), is still coming along, veeeeeerry slowly. My word count’s still not up to the 10K mark yet. The slowness is frustrating, but at least slow progress is still progress.

Anyway, here’s a rough draft of the synopsis, and the first chapter to whet your appetite.

The synopsis:

Susan Daly’s abusive marriage ended the night she shot and killed her husband Reggie. A year later, just as she’s settling comfortably into her new life as a single mom, she’s once again assaulted by someone she trusts and cares about. But as the police and Susan’s family struggle to understand why Susan’s neighbor, Alan Doyle, would do such a thing, Susan knows Alan is innocent. She knows because she saw his face as he tried to strangle the life out of her, saw the rage and hatred in his eyes, and the smile on his face. Reggie’s smile. Her husband is back, and he wants her dead, and he’ll use everyone in her life like puppets to accomplish that goal if somebody doesn’t stop him. But how do you stop that kind of evil?

 

Now onto…

The Intruder: Chapter One

Rediscovering Stephen King

I’m still in an odd place where I don’t really know what to write about here. I think it might help remedy that if I can stop thinking of this as my “author blog” and just see it as my blog. I also think the creative part of my brain largely went into hibernation for the winter. It seems to be starting to awaken, as gradually and as grumpily as my box turtle, Matilda, as I try to prod her out of the hole she’s burrowed in and into the light.

My creative mind hasn’t been in total hibernation — and neither has Matilda; she wakes up a couple times a week to eat and bang around her terrarium before burying herself again. Similarly, my imagination has woken up a few times a week, long enough for me to bang out a few hundred words on my current novel before it slips back into slumber. I started in in January, hoping to have the first draft done by my birthday, but eking out time to write my fiction is as difficult as mustering up the energy has been. As of now, I’ve got about 5 chapters done, just short of 10,000 words.

What it is, by the by, is the follow up to Restless Spirits, tentatively titled Intruder. If you’re signed up to my mailing list, then you’ve already been shown the first chapter.

So as my creative brain is trying it’s best to drag its crusty self into the sunshine, I’ve been trying to feed and water it and give it vitamins and exercise to get it energized again. I’ve been doing this mainly by reading, and what I’ve mainly been reading is Stephen King novels.

I was a huge fan of Stephen King when I was a kid. We’re talking teen years, probably 13 or 14 to about 18, the ages they market YA to now, which is why I can’t get too bent out of shape when somebody complains about a YA novel having content that might be too mature for their 15 year old. I mean, I was reading The Stand at that age. The unabridged version, even. I loved many books before my Stephen King phase, and I’d done some creative writing by then (I actually think I wrote my first short story in first grade — it was about a sentient, anthropomorphic football, I think), but I think it’s safe to say that King was the author who made me decide I wanted to be an author, too.

Back then, it was all horror. I was a pretty big horror fan in general (that also went back to surprisingly (disturbingly?) early in my childhood), so King’s stories fit right in. In addition to The Stand, during those years I read It (or tried — I was too scared to finish it), Pet Semetary (ditto), ‘Salem’s Lot, Misery and, among others, Danse Macabre (not horror, but it was about horror, so that was alright; what wasn’t alright was my twelfth grade English teacher assigning us book reports on nonfiction and then sniffing haughtily when I turned in my paper, insisting that Stephen King never wrote any nonfiction and giving me an automatic F without even looking at the book). I devoured them every chance I got.

Once I got into college, I decided I needed to diversify my reading more, so I read less of Stephen King, and even less as I progressed through my twenties and into my thirties. The newer books I’d read, including Dolores Clayborne and Rose Madder, just didn’t pack the same punch for me, and I wasn’t sure whether I was just outgrowing him or he was losing his touch. At any rate, by the time I got around to picking up a beat-up copy of The Gunslinger at a used book store about four or five years ago, it had been years since I’d read any of his work, not counting On Writing.

I read it then, and I enjoyed it well enough, but as far as epic fantasy series go I was too mired down in one of my every-so-often rereads of  A Song of Ice and Fire to commit myself to another one. So it was another couple of years before I found the second book, The Drawing of the Three, at the same book store and gave it a read. Of course, that was around the time A Dance with Dragons finally came out, so I forgot about Roland and company for a while. Last year I picked up the third book, The Waste Lands, and added it to the big stack of paperbacks on my nightstand to wait until my life settled down enough to allow me time for leisure reading once again.

If you read my last book post, then you know getting through that big stack of books was one of my goals for the new year. I finally made my way through the stack to TWL last month. Since then, I’ve pretty much been on a Stephen King binge. I devoured The Waste Lands, and now I’m speeding my way through the fourth book, Wizard and Glass. In between (because I had to wait until the bookstore got a copy of book four in stock, and because it was already next in my big book stack anyway), I breezed through Stephen King Goes to the Movies, a collection of stories that have been adapted for the big screen. This includes 1408, The Mangler, Low Men in Yellow Coats, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn.

While I enjoyed the horror stories, particularly The Mangler (which reminded me a little of my short story Snack Machine), I’m finding that at this point of my life I much more enjoy his fantasy works and his more realistic dramas like Shawshank Redemption (in which the book’s narrator being described as a white, red-haired Irishman did not prevent me from hearing Morgan Freeman’s narration in my head as I read it). I particularly enjoyed Low Men in Yellow Coats, on which the movie Hearts in Atlantis is based, and which is part of the greater multiverse revolving around the Dark Tower.

I think what’s surprising me as I read these stories is the quality of the writing. I remember King being a great storyteller, but I don’t recall his prose being such a joy to read. It’s fairly straightforward, as he tends to get to the point and not linger more on description than he needs to, but at times it’s almost poetic without being flowery. The other thing is, although these stories still have their little moments of horror and squick and punches right to the gut, they’ve also got a lot of heart, and characters who are loveable despite being complex and complicated and at times downright despicable.

And that’s how, after a gap of more than a decade, I can go back to labeling myself a huge Stephen King fan. And now I’m going to go back to reading Wizard and Glass.

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