December 31, 2014

end-of-the-year wrap up

2014 was an interesting year for me.

Writing wise, it was nothing like I expected.

In January, I started writing and editing in earnest post-baby, and that in itself proved to be a challenge I was not prepared to meet. My production level was reduced by half, compared to pre-pregnancy, no-baby output, and for the first half of the year, my brain was still not totally committed to doing anything more taxing than making sure that I didn’t put diapers on backwards and remembering how long it had been since the last nursing session.

Writing and editing was difficult. My creativity was all but dead, and I had little to no motivation. But I soldiered on and did what I could, trying to edit The Wizard’s Heart to publish later this year.

December 19, 2014

a very Harry Potter Christmas

Inspired by the Harry Potter Christmas tree created by Jen at Epbot, I decided to make my own. She has several tutorials of how to decorate your own Harry Potter tree, like how to create snitch ornaments and how to make your own Hogwarts Express. As I don't have nearly as much time on my hands (and a tiny pair of baby hands that like to meddle), I decided to only do one major craft project and just try to find everything else already made.

Here is the finished tree in all its magical glory!

October 5, 2014

what i've learned...

It’s funny to realize how much I’ve grown as a writer over the last few years.

I used to think I knew everything about writing, that the "rules" were golden and never to be broken. I used to think that it was my duty to point out everyone else's "wrongdoing", to correct their mistakes, to criticize anything and everything I thought might could be improved.

I used to compare myself to this author and that author, wondering if I would ever be as talented as them, if I could ever reach their writing level. I used to fear that because I had yet to find my success that I would never amount to anything, that my writing was garbage, that I was garbage (though, admittedly, I go through phases of this still).

I used to look down on other writers, whether it was because of the genre they were writing in, their lack of talent, their uninformed rule-breaking, or their seeming lack of commitment.

It’s funny how someone can both think they're superior to other writers and yet suffer such debilitating doubt at the same time.

And in the last few years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that things I thought were true and absolute are a lot more wibbly-wobbly than the black-and-white picture I’d constructed in my head.

I’ve learned that the "rules" aren't golden. Grammar, mechanics, and such, yes, those should be followed, but in fiction, style trumps all. It’s not my place to point out someone else's mistakes unless they ask me to. Unsolicited negativity gets you nowhere in life.

I’ve learned that comparing myself to other authors, whether it's comparing myself to their voice, their style, their talent, their creativity, or to their successes and failures, is a waste of my time. That's time I should be spending cultivating my voice, my style, my talent, my creativity... time I should be spending working toward my success and learning from my failures.

I’ve learned that it's okay to aspire to someone else's ability to tell a story, as long as I don't lose focus on what makes my fiction mine. I’ll never write like Terry Pratchett. I’ll never write like Tolkien or J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or Rick Riordan or Diana Wynne Jones or the lovely Rae Carson. I just won't. I can't. I’m not them.

But I will write like Brooke Johnson.

I’ve learned that it's okay to feel a little jealous at someone else's success, but ultimately, someone else's success in the writing business is my success. Their success means people are reading. And to me, that's a good thing, regardless of the book.

I’ve learned that success will come to me if I keep trying. I’m not garbage, just an undiscovered gem that needs a lot of polishing and shaping.

I’ve learned that every writer starts somewhere, that everyone has the potential for a great story in them. It takes work, and it takes practice, but I shouldn't look down on someone because they don't approach writing the same way that I do. I shouldn't look down on someone who is earlier in their writing journey than I am, because of what genre they write, their lack of a daily word count or reliance on a muse, or because I don't much like their style of writing. That’s petty and rude. And the world has enough petty and rude people.

Like I said: I’ve learned a lot in the last few years.

And I know I have a lot more to learn, about writing, about storytelling. it's humbling in a way, to recognize how far I’ve come and still see how far I have to go before I’ll really know what the hell I’m doing.

But I’ll learn.

September 10, 2014

a big announcement!

I have some big news today!

I am happy to announce that I have signed a three-book deal with Harper Voyager Impulse, the digital-first imprint of HarperCollins’ Science Fiction and Fantasy division!

As part of the contract, Harper Voyager Impulse will be republishing the first book in my steampunk series, The Clockwork Giant, and my associated novella, The Mechanical Theater, (tentatively titled), as well as publishing a sequel, with an option for a third novel.

This would be why, if you happened to notice, I removed my books from the market a couple of months ago and once again joined the ranks of the unpublished. I wanted so badly to tell everyone what was going on (especially those of you who asked!), but I had to keep everything hush-hush until the contract was finalized. Well, after months of negotiations and contract revisions, the contract has been signed, and I’ve been given the go-ahead to announce.

August 1, 2014

a slightly depressing update

Well, August is here—already?—and I still don't have The Wizard's Heart ready for publication, even though I last said it would be ready no later than July. Well, it's not even remotely close to being ready. Beta-reader feedback was mixed, and I have since been working to address all of the issues they had with the book—everything from characterization to plot and everything between. It's been a labor of angst, frustration, tears, and cursing, but I am making progress, if slowly.

However, as a result of all this, I really do not know when the book will release. Once I finish the current draft, I'll have to read through the whole manuscript and make additional changes for clarity and consistency, and then I plan to send the book out for a second beta-read. It will likely be months from now before I receive feedback from a second round of betas, no sooner than the end of September. At earliest (assuming that I actually have a better book after this draft), I might—might—have the book ready by December. Maybe. Gosh, that's depressing. But it is what it is.

In other good news, I will soon be able to make a super awesome announcement regarding a super amazing thing happening next year. But until then, we can all be sad about the delayed release for The Wizard's Heart.

In other other news, Dark Lord in Training is coming along nicely. I'm really enjoying the change of pace and coming up with ridiculous situations to put my characters through. It is a nice distraction from the seriousness of The Wizard's Heart, and it's a lot of fun to write. If you want, you can read snippets week to week on Google+ at the #DarkLordinTraining hashtag.

July 11, 2014

a little bit about Dark Lord in Training

I was tagged in a little questionnaire exercise, and I thought why not? Something fun to do in an otherwise dull and unproductive week.

Because I’m not really in the mood to talk about The Wizard’s Heart right now—edits are beyond exhausting right now and me and the book are just not on good terms at the moment—I’m going to answer questions about Dark Lord in Training, the middle-grade fantasy that I am oh-so-slowly drafting.

1.    What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Alden Millard. Fictional.

2.    When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the Kingdom of Erilea, but most of the story takes place inside the Evil Lair of Ryxik Hathmor the Blackhearted. It’s a standard fantasy setting, upgraded slightly, because apparently they have decent plumbing and gas stoves. So, I don’t know. Maybe it’s like a weird mid-1800s tech-level fantasy world. That works, I suppose.

May 23, 2014

for those of you wondering what i'm up to...

I’ve been rather quiet as of late, but I’m slowly getting back into the swing of being social with people again. I’ve been swamped with freelance editing work in addition to working on my own stuff. I’ve edited five books since the beginning of the year, totaling approximately 265,000 words. I’ve run The Wizard’s Heart through another draft and have started the revision notes for the next based on beta-reader feedback. And, on top of all that, I’m taking care of a six-and-a-half-month-old full-time. So, you know, I’ve been busy.

But, as an update, I wanted to let you all know where I am on things.

Some of you will recall a bit of desperation when I received beta feedback for The Wizard’s Heart. I received a lot of negative comments—flat characters, predictable plot, dull setting, clich├ęd concepts, subpar writing, outright boring to the point that a good number of beta readers didn’t even finish the book. You know, happy stuff. I was angry. I was upset. I wanted to just burn the book and forget I ever wrote it. I’m tired of working on it. I’m tired of it not being good enough. I’m tired of trying to make it better. All of that led to a particularly whiny post that basically said ‘fuck it, I’m just going to publish this stupid thing and get it over with’. But with some distance and perspective, I realized that I can actually tackle the seemingly overwhelming edits to make this a good book—maybe even a great one.

May 8, 2014

in which i make up my mind about publishing a book

It’s a two-packets-of-sweetener-in-my-tea kind of day.

tl;dr: I have no idea what to do with my book and I just about want to give up on it completely because obviously, it’s not ready to be published, but… ::whine:: I want so badly to publish it, even though I know it’s likely to get a bunch of bad reviews if I do.

The long version:

So, I’ve received beta feedback for The Wizard’s Heart from all but one beta reader, and the commentary is very… divided. Some of them loved the book and think it would be perfect if I tweaked a little bit here and there, and others didn’t like it at all, thought it was boring or just meh. My editor and a couple of betas think it needs a complete overhaul, but they all have different issues with it. Two of my beta readers purposefully stopped reading because they just didn’t care. ::sigh::

And though there were beta readers who loved it, I can’t help but focus on the negative.

Of all the mentioned problems, there is no consensus. The character that some of the betas hated is the same character that other betas loved. Some people thought the romance was perfect, and others thought it was forced and unrealistic. Some loved the beginning, others thought it was slow, and so on so forth. No one really agreed on anything.

This leaves me with next to no idea how to improve my book for publication.

Just about the only thing that most of them did agree on was wanting more of the setting and mythology and how the magic worked, and those of them who enjoyed the story wanted to know more about the villain at the end. So, at least I know of a few things I can improve for the betterment of the book.

But when I think about working on my book, I’m immediately exhausted. I have worked on this book in one form or another four the last four and a half years now. I’m ready to be done with it. But I also want it to be the best book it can be. I don’t want to release a crap book. But I’m not sure I have the time and energy to put into it anymore.

The truth is: I don’t want to work on it anymore.

could. That much is certain. I could address all the issues my beta readers had with the novel. I could really dig in and work my ass off to make this a five-star book. I really could. I know I could. But it would take me at least another six months, maybe a year, maybe longer. That’s another book or two or three I could write. That’s another six months I could be improving my craft instead of trying to rework this novel to death.

So, really, I need to figure out what is important to me.

Do I want to rework this novel into a five-star book? Sure. But do I want to spend the time it would take to do it? Hell no, I don’t. So honestly, I probably won’t. And part of me hates that. I would knowingly publish something that isn’t the absolute best I can make it. I would be publishing a four-star book… again. And, I don’t know, maybe that’s okay.

I have to look at things pragmatically.

The Wizard’s Heart is not a bad book. It’s not like I vomited out a first draft without putting any effort into it. I put my fucking soul into this book. I have cried over this book. I have cried over the characters. I have agonized over plot and reworked certain chapters four, five, six times over. I have put more effort into this book than anything I have ever worked on in my entire life, and honestly, I’m not sure I have much more effort to give.

And honestly? I love this book. I absolutely love it. It’s the story I wanted to tell four and a half years ago, when I first started. And maybe that’s all that really matters. No, not everyone will love it as much as I do. I can’t please everyone, but I can please myself. I can be proud of this book. Even if I released it today, I would be proud of it.

I’m willing to work on it a bit more—better describe the setting, explain the magic system, set up the characters better in the first chapters, show the villain’s motive, and fix a problematic scene in the middle. Those are fixes that I can do and still maintain the integrity of the story I wanted to tell. Those would be true improvements, not just change for the sake of change. Anything else, and I think I would just be trying to please other people instead of myself. And if I’m proud of the book, then who gives a shit what anyone else thinks.

So maybe this whole thing has just been me making my mind up on what to do. I can’t let doubt and fear keep me from publishing a book that I love, a book that I’m proud of. I can’t let other people make me feel that way, whatever their intentions. I won’t let myself fall into the trap of endless revisions.

No. I’m going to publish this book.

And I’m going to publish it next month. That’s my deadline. Come July, I’m done with The Wizard’s Heart. I’m moving on. I’m letting it sink or swim on its own, and I’m not going to look back.

So, take that, Doubt.

February 27, 2014

evolution of a book cover

Since I’m both cheap and somewhat skilled in graphic design, it comes as no surprise that I design my own book covers. I wish I made enough money from book royalties to justify paying a professional cover artist to design my covers, but I don’t. Instead, I fiddle around for several hours in Photoshop Elements until I have something I would be proud to display on a bookshelf. I’m lucky that I have the skills to do this (hooray for taking art classes throughout high school and college!) because as we all know, most writers don’t. They don’t really have a choice but to hire someone to do their cover art or purchase premade covers (which may be an option for me in the future too, if I don’t think I have the skills to pull off a certain cover). Anyway, lucky me for being so darn talented at things and stuff.

So, since I’m not paying anyone to do my cover for me, I have to spend several hours doing it myself. This post illustrates just how I go about that.

January 13, 2014

2013 sales stats

It’s that time of year again—time to review last year’s book sales.

I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed with last year’s numbers. I sold more books than I did in 2012, but I made less money (combination of having a lower priced title and two sales over the course of the year). Anyway, here are the stats. You can click the spreadsheets to the right to see the breakdown for each month.

2013 Sales:

Total Sales: 99
Total Royalties: $223.64

The Clockwork Giant
Total Sales: 52
Total Royalties: $148.65

Sales Channel Breakdown:

Ebooks: 47
     Amazon: 38       
     Barnes & Noble: 3
     Kobo: 0              
     Smashwords: 4  

Paperbacks: 7
     Amazon: 3
     Extended Distribution: 3           
     Direct: 1

Le Theatre Mecanique
Total Sales: 47
Total Royalties: $74.99

Sales Channel Breakdown:

Ebooks: 35
     Amazon: 32
     Barnes & Noble: 1
     Kobo: 1
     Smashwords: 1

Paperbacks: 12
     Amazon: 7
     Extended Distribution: 0
     Direct: 5

As you can see, between two books, I sold only 10 ebooks outside of Amazon, so in December, I decided to join Amazon’s KDP Select program, making my books available exclusively at Amazon in exchange for their promotional programs. I did a free giveaway of both books at Christmas, giving away 988 copies of The Clockwork Giant and 336 copies of Le Theatre Mecanique. Since the giveaway ended, I’ve received four new reviews on The Clockwork Giant, all but one favorable.

I also had a boost in sales in July and December due to two sales. I reduced the prices of both my books by two dollars for two weeks (with the free promo in the middle of my December sale). Sales were slow, so it made sense to do the price-reduction. I can’t say if the boost in sales is because people knew it was a sale or because the $2.99 and $0.99 price points are more attractive for a novel and novella. I’m averse to reducing my prices permanently. I feel like $4.99 is a good price for my novel, and $2.99 for the novella, but maybe that’s just my pride and feeling like I deserve that much. ::shrug::

Other than the two sales and free promo, I didn’t do any promotion except the occasional post on Google+ when I saw a surge of new followers. Of course, there was the novella release in April, but it didn’t really affect sales of The Clockwork Giant, so I wouldn’t really consider it promotional.

My hope is that 2014 will prove to be a better year for book sales. I plan to publish two books, and one is the sequel to The Clockwork Giant, so maybe that will affect overall sales somehow. Maybe not. But maybe. I won’t know until I release it. The other release is a standalone fantasy novel, so I don’t expect much crossover between sales there.

I probably won’t do much promotion for the new books except for what I’ve already been doing, in addition to Amazon Kindle Countdown Deals every quarter. I don’t see the point in seriously promoting the Chroniker City series until all three books are out. Until then, I feel like it would be wasted. As for the fantasy novel The Wizard’s Heart, I can’t say. It might be worth making a promotional effort, but I have no idea what I’ll do, so stay tuned for that.