May 292013

Ashes of Alour-Tan has now been out for just over six months. When I launched the book, I made the decision to pay little-to-no attention to my sales figures for that span of time, at which point I would look at the numbers and decide what they might indicate for future strategy.

A couple of notes before we dig in:

1. I am very happy with Ashes’ performance. As a debut, self-published novel my expectations for sales were quite low and it exceeded them handily. I would have been happy with one sale and made substantially more than that.

2. Ashes’ performance to date means little in the grand scheme of my long-term writing goals. Every self-publishing success story has the common thread of an author with many titles for their readers and I am not aware of any success story that centers on a single breakout title. Until I have at least five titles out and available, I don’t anticipate significantly better sales figures than Ashes garnered, and I am quite content with that. Of course, I do hope that each subsequent release will show progress.

3. I did very little in the way of promotion for Ashes. I announced it here on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Tumblr, on a handful of non-writing forums where I also added a link to the book to my forum signature, created author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, and…that’s it. I did not submit it to any book blogs, writing/author/self-publishing communities, or any other major venue for promotion. This minimal promotion decision was deliberate.

Right, let’s get to the numbers.
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Jul 272012

Four months!

A great deal has happened. 38 Studios closed, meaning the beautiful and amazing game I spent the last two years working on will never see the light of day. The studio’s closure hit some employees very severely, since it happened with essentially no notice and every expectation that the situation we were in was something we could emerge from. We couldn’t, we didn’t, game over. Cody and I don’t tend to be extravagant spenders, and her benefits are equivalent to mine, so we simply rolled onto her plan with no interruption.

We finally got a dog! We adopted Crichton (named for John Crichton, FarScape’s astronaut protagonist) from a rescue shelter that operates out of New York. He’s a German Shepherd mix of some kind (strongly resembles a Rhodesian Ridgeback, too), born tailless. He chose Cody immediately, and that was basically that. He’s been an amazing addition to our lives and it’s actually hard to imagine what life was like before him. He’ll be six months old on Cody’s and my second wedding anniversary.

I had the excellent fortune to work with many amazing people at 38 Studios. One of them, with whom I worked very closely, made mention to me that his wife’s company was looking for a PHP developer. “Why, I’m a PHP developer!” I thought. I’ve been paid for PHP work in the past (when I worked for Northeastern while attending school there, and when I worked for Blue Fang), I use PHP on a regular basis in my own web projects, and I have a technical mind as a result of working on software for the last six years. A month after 38 Studios laid us off, I started work at Surf Merchants in Boston. So far, it has been amazing. The people are awesome, the company is fantastic, and I get to work in PHP every day–and get paid for it! I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, probably as a result of spending six years in a very volatile industry.

Ashes is making steady progress, thanks in part to my new commute that has Cody drop me off at the commuter rail in the morning for a 30 minute train ride into Boston. I use that time to continue working on the third draft, and have hit the troublesome middle section I mentioned several posts ago. And it is, indeed, troublesome. I thought I was nearing the end of chapter eighteen, only to realize that I was going to have to re-re-tool chapters fifteen through eighteen to make everything flow correctly. This is what happens when you think you remember your story treatment, but don’t actually double-check.

Joined Pax Gaming, to which Cody already belonged, and have started playing both The Secret World (due to Cody’s exhuberance and a desire to play an MMO together again) and Star Trek Online. I was very pleasantly surprised by STO. Cryptic did a great job capturing the feel of the Star Trek universe. Kudos to them. TSW is a blast, too, and I really dig the flexibility of their system, and the general ambiance of the world–except for all the damn zombies.

Why is everyone so into zombies? I mean, I guess Ashes sort of has zombie-like creatures in it, but not really. It seems like zombies are part of the modern zeitgeist, and I do not understand the appeal at all. I suppose the same argument could be made about vampires, but vampires don’t bother me nearly as much (or, at all, really; I enjoy vampires). I wonder if there’s an element of appeal to the monster. With a vampire, it’s a creature that has power, that has traits that are desirable despite the drawbacks. Same with a werewolf in some ways. But a zombie? Where’s the draw there? Why would you want to be a zombie? Why would you want to live in a world populated by zombies? I don’t get it.

I mentioned it briefly above, but Cody and my second wedding anniversary is coming up in a bit under two weeks. Last year, we went on a cruise. That’s not so feasible this year, what with Crichton and all, and it’s left us somewhat stymied as to what to do instead. Every time we think of things to do and look at the cost, it seems so inefficient compared to the cost/benefit ratio of a cruise. Instead, we’ve talked about doing something smaller for our anniversary (a nice dinner, for instance) and something larger later on.

I came across a fun little program called Manic Time, which tracks your application usage and document/website usage by time. I want to use it as a motivational tool to show myself how much time I waste that I could be writing. With actual metrics staring me in the face, I think that’ll be a decent motivator to not spend so much time idling.

That’s about it for now!

An explosion of words

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Mar 032012

My, oh my. Where does the time go?

My astonishing silence around these parts is due in large measure to two things. First, holidays happened. Second, SW:TOR happened. Third, and most important, writing happened. I’ve collected as much beta reader feedback as I can hope to at this point and have resumed putting fingers to keyboard. The third draft of Ashes is underway at full steam. I am planning to have it finished before the month is out, at which point it goes to my wife for meticulous line-editing. Once she is satisfied that my word choices won’t result in horrific embarrassment for all time, it’s time to publish.

One of the recent1 impediments to proceeding on Draft Three was a problem of structure. While the beginning and end of the book are right where I wanted them, the middle got aimless and dragged. There was no flow to the largest Act in the book. I took a few steps back from it and did something I should’ve done from the outset: I wrote down the whole story as a point-for-point treatment; a glorified outline, if you will. In such a pared-down form2, it was easy to see where the story flow faltered. Less easy was figuring out how to fix it. Sitting with Cody and throwing ideas at her, we managed to sort through the chaff and find a thread along which the story makes sense. It’s resulted in some larger changes than I anticipated making in this draft3, but they are all changes I am excited about. The thought of editing this draft is exhilarating rather than daunting.

I’ve also started using the trial of Scrivener, which a number of authors that I follow swear by. After playing with it for a few days, I can see why. Once my trial’s up, I am almost certainly going to spend the $40 to buy it.

Related to the above, I have made the decision to self-publish Ashes once it’s finished. I’ve been waffling over whether or not to self-publish through Kindle / Smashwords / et. al. or to query agents/publishers. I’ve read enough horror stories lately about the Big Six, and seen enough success stories from self-publishers, that I’d already been leaning in that direction. The entire face of publishing is changing because of the sudden explosion of eBooks. I think I’d be a fool to ignore it. Coupled with thinking about my writing not only as a creative endeavor, but also as a business/financial one, it’s the one that seems to make the most sense. True, it means I won’t see my book(s) in a bookstore, but it also means that I don’t have to jump through someone else’s hoops to tell my stories, nor deal with some of the uglier aspects of traditional publishing.

Following Ashes, I have my pick of next projects. I have two more books that finish out the story that Ashes begins. Like Star Wars, Ashes can be read as a complete experience unto itself. You don’t get the full story without the other two books, though. In addition, I have an idea for a series of indefinite length centering on a female paranormal/supernatural investigator. Think Dresden meets Buffy meets the Winchester brothers, with a heavy emphasis on her relationships with the people in her life, and you’ll have some idea of that one. I’ve also got another set of stories set in the same world as Ashes, but far removed from it geographically, centering on another female protagonist — Belle LaMairian. Moving away from fantasy, I have a ton of sci-fi story ideas I could develop, as well. I think I’ll let Ashes sit for a bit and start working on the Dresden+Buffy+Winchester+romance+investigation smorgasbord next, since that’s an idea I’m excited about right now. That’s not to say the others don’t excite me; my mind is just active with that one right now.

All in all, things have been going very well. I’m going to try to post more regularly4, maybe even get into a *gasp* daily cadence! We shall see.

  1. As in, in the last week []
  2. A mere four pages []
  3. I cut an entire major journey, a major location, and and encounter with a political power. In its stead, I elevated the importance of a main character, completely destroyed said location, destroyed another location while I was at it, increased the political goings-on that happen around the main characters, and amped up the stakes for the climax of the book. []
  4. Ha, have we heard that before? []