Thursday, November 19, 2015

Not a Review

I just finished reading The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell and I need to chew on it for awhile. It is a well loved book by most readers and I am curious about what appeals to them.

This is a well researched book with too many battles for my taste. I guess that is one of the things that will appeal to other people. The world at that time, post-Roman Britain, is brutal and Cornwall describes it in painful detail.

World building is important for a fantasy book. I will say that his is extremely well done. The people are coarse, ignorant and superstitious. The politics are conniving and cruel. All in all, a world too dark for me to enjoy reading about.

This felt like more of a historical treatise than a novel. In that, I think my father would have enjoyed this book.

The things that poked at me, aside from the casual brutality of the time, were the thin characters. Everyone had one overriding characteristic that beats a monotonous drum. Perhaps because there are so many characters in the story, none of them can really expand or grow. None of them last long, because of the constant warring. Also the simplistic depiction of their Druids, hopping on one foot, throwing pebbles and spitting to curse or bless something. I felt that the author thought them foolish and held a certain contempt for all the religions presented.

I have to admit that I skimmed through the pages and pages of warriors hacking each other to pieces, the rapes and looting. It made me wonder how there are any of us left alive. And it made me realize that we have been fighting over land since the beginning of time. Both the Franks and the Saxons, in the novel, are killing off rivals for farmland and bringing in their own people in to settle those stolen parcels of land.

I prefer a character driven story. The narrator, Derfel, is barely visible in some scenes as he describes the action. He is the right-time, right-place kind of character that gets to see and hear everything of importance. But I hardly know him, other than he's good with a spear and will fight to death for his companions.

This is supposed to be a more historically correct account which tosses in some names I know in an completely different order. That sent my brain scrambling to try to sort out who was who and how they had been portrayed in other stories. I think that confused me enough to make me a little defensive while I read. Plus, the most disappointing part of all--no magic.

I won't be reading the rest of the series. As a historical writer, he's very skilled, but this story just doesn't appeal to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Books Away!

All the books for the Goodreads Giveaway are in the mail! 10 lucky winners will be receiving a print copy of Scattered Seeds.

I set up the giveaway automatically because it's on my marketing list. But then I had second thoughts. Each time I do a giveaway, I seem to be getting less reviews. I upped the number of books to try for more favorable averages, but it doesn't seem to be helping.

This giveaway had the least amount of people sign up for it - 514. That might be because it is a sequel. But I have noticed a down trend in people requesting my books. On the bright side, 219 people put it into their To-Be-Read pile. So that's a good thing, but that number is lower than the others also.

I guess it's time to investigate a few more avenues for getting the word out about my books.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Story Changed Itself

My work in progress is coming along nicely, but it isn't the story I thought I was writing.

This story has been around for a long time. Rewriting it was not going to fix it, so I took one plot line and did a very simple outline for it. As I wrote, the plot shifted. It's still heading in the direction I wanted it to, but I'm going to arrive from a different starting point.

All of the previous writing I did has been invaluable. I know the galaxy and the politics of the different planets. I have backstories on all of the characters. I know them intimately. But this time around they are surprising me. I'm letting them run.

Instead of info dumping, I am building the information into the story. It's a lot of fun. And it is so much more organic to the growth of the world. It's a big world and there is a lot to know about it. But tossing all that information at the reader is overwhelming and at this point, useless.

The world grows as the characters move through it. There are 20 planets in my world. But not all of them are involved in the beginning of the story. It's like writing a novel based in Bangor, Maine, but spending time talking about the other 49 states. The reader doesn't need to know any of that right away, or maybe at all.

In one of the previous versions, one of my beta readers said she couldn't keep track of the places and people. I know I had way too many characters, but I couldn't understand why the places were confusing. Partly I think it's because I made it too complicated. Every stopover had an incident, politics and new species. Those things might have enriched the world, but they didn't move the plot forward. I was heaping whipped cream and fudge sauce on top of a tiny sliver of ice cream. The window dressing took over.

As I write out the bare bones for this story I am enjoying the new freedom my characters have. They are acting like people now that I have removed the strictures of the previous plot requirements. And some new skills I've picked up in the last few novels are helping make it into a much more interesting story.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fingers Crossed - It Might be Working

I may have found my path. At least for this moment. The sales and reads of my books are increasing. I almost don't want to say anything because I have become ridiculously superstitious about this, and don't want to jinx anything.

There is no path to success anymore. In the beginning of e-publishing it was a breeze. Write it, publish it and a million people bought it. I wasn't in on that. Every day I see a new "How To" article that explains how a certain author achieved success. Most of them won't work for me. Sometimes it's the wrong genre, or sometimes it suggests methods that would be a chore and I know I couldn't keep it up.

My method has always been to work hard and keep improving. I think that goes without saying for most writers. Social media is very hard for me. I'm such an introvert. And my hobbies aren't very flashy. Nobody gets overly excited about gardening. Maybe if I got involved with martial arts or took up parasailing... Even when I was involved in the theatre, all my work was backstage.

As I said in a previous post, Hugh Howey's blog convinced me to give KDP Select a go. I put the 2 books of A Changed World series in there. And they are slowly selling. For an unknown author, I think this is a good way to get a following. Once I start selling at a consistent rate, I can consider whether to go wide. Right now I am a drop in the bucket of publishing. I am competing against all the other books out there and I need some sort of edge. Being in Select gives me a small edge and I'll take it.

So for right now, at this point in time, this seems to be working for me. If you want my books in a different format, let me know in the comment section.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Booksick - like Homesick

I just finished the 2nd book of an unfinished trilogy and I am booksick for the next one!

There are authors whose worlds I slide into like greeting an old friend. So happy to be back there and mingle with the familiar characters. I know the countryside and who to be wary of. There are things that I can expect and surprises that will enrich this special world.

I gallop through the book eager to take it all in. And yet I measure the pages left wishing them to not dwindle. Even a distraction of a secondary character is okay as I follow that streamlet eager to see where it will blend into the river of the story.

I stay up too late and read through my lunch time. I cram every spare minute into devouring the book. But I don't want to get to the end.

When I turn the final page and fall out of the dream, I pine for the next. The characters follow me around for days suggesting where the plot might go. And I lie in bed at night and worry about them.

Thanks goodness I have so many new authors to turn to for consolation. But I can't leave the previous world just yet. I'm not done thinking about them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bits and Bobs

Here are a bunch of random items that I keep forgetting about.

Scattered Seeds is now available in print.
Amazon          Barnes and Noble

Lethal Seasons has finally been removed from Flipkart! Yay! So that means it is now exclusively at Amazon and can be read for free through Kindle Unlimited. If you don't have an Amazon Prime subscription, it is only .99 right now.

So my experiment of having the science fiction books in KDP Select can now get off the ground. Fingers crossed that it brings in some new readers.

White Lies and Dark Deeds have been shifted over to Draft to Digital for Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. So far I haven't had any new sales through the new channels, but it's only been a week. I may lower the price on White Lies next month to see if that helps.

The garden is winding down for winter. We haven't had a frost yet, so everything is still thriving. Well, except for the tomatoes. The full week of rain we had pushed them all over the edge. They turned black and blighty almost overnight.

I bought some winter veggie starts and they are doing well. My garden doesn't get much sun in the winter, so I can't do a lot. The bok choy plants have already contributed to a stirfry. I am hoping the broccoli and Brussels sprouts will manage to produce something before the really cold weather sets in. I also got some lacinato kale, one of my favorites. Looking forward to some of that soon, too.

The work in progress - Façade - is coming along well. I decided to not try to rewrite the same failed story. So I picked a plotline and changed one character. I made her smarter and stronger and that immediately dictated a whole new story. She became smart and strong in the original doorstop, but it took too long. And I realized that I had rushed to get to the point where she achieved that, which caused some weirdness and some boring bits. So I dropped that all out and started where it should be. It's still just bare bones, but I have a good feel for it now.

The weather has been gorgeous this week. I have been wanting to get a lot of outside work done but something always comes up. Today I promised myself some time in the garden! So off I go.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Cheese Keeps Moving

Think of a maze where the paths shift around, new ones appear and old ones become dead ends. That's not the plot for a new horror story, it's the playing field of self publishing.

Tried and true only seems to last for a few months, symptoms of an emerging industry. When you think of how young self publishing is, you have to expect bumps in the road. A new ereader could hit the markets tomorrow requiring a brand new distributor. Or a new distributor could wrangle a bigger hold on the market making authors migrate as quickly as possible because the first ones over always have an advantage.

Free isn't as big a boost as it used to be. Advice on sweet spot pricing ranges are all over the map. Every day I read another article or blog post with advice that is immediately poo-pooed in the comments as being old hat. Which comes down to the truth of the matter - nobody really knows.

What worked last year doesn't always work this year because everything is evolving. From formatting to distribution to discovery, things change so rapidly it's hard to form a roadmap.

Last year I tried just about everything and failed at most of it. I was reading the "Get Out There!" articles and going against my nature to do it. This year I dropped the ball in January when I got the flu-from-hell. By the time I felt up to tackling the dreaded marketing again, I knew I needed to reassess things. I did a very basic Return on Investment analysis. Were my sales up from all this flailing about in social media? Nope.

So I dropped the things that were painful or that I didn't understand well enough. I had spread myself thin joining up to every new site and forcing myself to post something somewhere. I think I have an adequate internet presence that anyone could find me easily. I'm not going to tie myself in knots to be on any site that doesn't come easily.

And I will keeping on doing what I think is the simplest and best advice - keep writing and publishing good books.