One Man Audiobook Drops in a Few Weeks

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On May 19th, this will be available:

Yep, the folks at Tantor Media have signed on to make audiobooks of some of my work, starting with this one.

Then, in June through September, they’ll be releasing the four core Twenty Palaces novels:

June: Twenty Palaces
July: Child of Fire
August: Game of Cages
September: Circle of Enemies

And once The Iron Gate and The Flood Circle are finished, they’ll be coming out, too, with “The Twisted Path” piggy-backed onto Iron Gate.

So, that’s a lot of my words to put into the auditory centers of your brain. And… that’s it. That’s what I have to say. Audiobooks incoming. I hope you are keeping safe and comfortable.

5 Things Make a Post (nostalgia remix)

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1. Remember the old days when a person would simply turn to their blog and record a bunch of thoughts, instead of giving them away to a profit-free social media company like Twitter? Man, those were the days.

2. I’ve reached a tricky part of The Iron Gate. That’s not a bad thing (the exact opposite, in fact) but this is a part of the narrative where I’m going to be second-guessing myself and jumping around, trying to iron out a decent sequence of events so that things are fun and also cool and also make you want to keep reading. Every once in a while I see writers talk about writing a first draft and just going out with it, and I wish I could do that. Never happen, though.

3. Watched Ernst Lubitch’s final completed film last night: CLUNY BROWN. It’s a rom com that doubles as a satire of upper class British manners. (“Darling, if I trust you now, I’ll always have to trust you. And I won’t.”) Often, when a movie criticizes social mores, it makes itself a period piece. Its much more palatable (marketable) to GREEN BOOK racism than to address racism in the here and now. But CLUNY BROWN, released in 1946, was set in 1938. Anyway, it’s a funny, clever film with terrific performances. Worth watching.

4. Two weeks ago, I asked you guys to please review One Man and my other books, too, and you have really responded. Before I that blog post, sales for all my work on the Kindle store were in the mid-20s. Almost immediately, they jumped to the high 50s or low 60s, and now One Man is only 8 ratings/review from that sweet 100 mark on Amazon. Thank you all. It really makes a big difference to discoverability and to overall sales. If you’ve been meaning to post a review but haven’t gotten around to it, the links at the bottom of the main post should make for easy clicking. Thanks again.

5. My son has been working on a novel and has given me his first draft. It’s pretty good for a first effort, although no where close to ready for public consumption. But every moment I spent doing something other than editing his book or working on my own makes me feel guilty, like I’m slacking off. Luckily, guilt has never stopped me from being super lazy, so I’m going to log off, make a couple of notes about our respective works, and then put in the library dvd for TITANS, which I’ve heard is terrible. If so, I can turn it off after ten minutes or so and never be tempted by it again.

One Man Reviews and Discoverability

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One Man has been on sale for nearly two months, and while sales have not been life-changing, they’ve been holding fairly steady. And that’s mainly because of the reviews.

The reviews so far have been very positive, with a number of people saying One Man was the best fantasy they read all year. To which I have to say:

Wow, thank you.

I spent two years on this book. I’m not what you’d call prolific, and I thought it might be wise to stop trying to be. What if, I thought, I stopped streamlining and started dawdling. What if I gave it extra time and attention to make something complex? What if?

Well, publishers said Meh, which has me thinking that what I want to see in a second-world fantasy is not exactly in the mainstream. (Like all my other books, I guess.) But still! There’s space outside the mainstream if I can connect what I love to the readers who would also love it.

Which is why I’m so grateful for the reviews you guys leave, and why I keep asking for them. Last week, One Man passed the fifty review mark over on Amazon, which is a huge boost to discoverability. Amazon likes to prioritize books that get a lot of reviews, and I’m hopeful that One Man will pass the next level for Amazon’s algorithms, which is 100 reviews. Child of Fire has over a hundred, and so does The Way into Chaos.

However, Game of Cages, Circle of Enemies, and several other works of mine have not, so I have to keep coming here to talk about this and ask you to drop a review if you haven’t already.

Amazon makes that easy. When I enter the book title “One Man” into their search function, the results actually include books with that title. It puts them at the top, even.

It’s different for Goodreads, though. Goodreads’s search algorithm seems like it assumes you don’t actually know the title of the book you’re searching for, and throws up a lot of weird results. For example, when I type “One Man” into a search window, the auto-complete looks like this:

autocomplete includes book titles unlike the search string I entered

What you get before you press enter

I get that Camus is more popular than I am, but are they really putting in a book that I didn’t search for instead of one that I did?

What happens, you may wonder, after I press ENTER to see the results?

Search for One Man, get a lot of books with a different title

It’s like they’re ignoring the title I actually entered.

This shows the scroll bar on the side, and you won’t be surprised to hear that my book doesn’t appear on that first page at all. In fact, it doesn’t appear on pages two through five, either.

The reason I bring this up is that some folks have said they had trouble finding the book on Goodreads, especially when it first came out. You’ll have to throw my name in there to actually find the right page, at least until Amazon brings the search algorithms on Goodreads up to the standards of their online store. Or click this link.

And thank you again for the reviews you have already written. I’m incredibly grateful.

By the way, if you want a direct link to an online vendor to drop a review, see below:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo | Mysterious GalaxyPowell’s | Smashwords

One Man at One Week

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Publication day for One Man was Tuesday, November 26th, which means that yesterday marked the end of the first week of sales. Honestly, it’s the most important week.

So how has it gone?

Honestly, not all that great!

First Week Sales for One Man

 

“But Harry,” you say, “that’s eight days.”

Yes, but I’m on Pacific time, and the pre-orders ship out on midnight of publication day, so people in New York, for example, were getting their pre-orders while it was only 9pm on my time. Therefore, 211 pre-orders out of 249 were delivered (and registered) on the day before.

My usual practice when posting these sales graphs is to cut off the Y-axis to obscure the actual numbers. That’s because I usually talk about trends. But let’s talk numbers

Ebook sales through Amazon for the first week: 492
Paperback sales through Amazon: 4
Ebook sales through B&N: 19
Ebook sales through Kobo: 24
Ebook sales through Smashwords: 14 (higher than expected, honestly)
Paperbacks shipped from Ingram Spark: 26

Those Ingram Spark paperbacks are heavily discounted and fully returnable, so they should also be available to anyone who walks into a bookstore and asks the clerk to check for it on their computer. I’ve also added Powell’s, Mysterious Galaxy, and Indiebound to the bottom scroll of online vendors to give paperback buyers a few options other than Amazon.

What does this mean? Well, my newsletter, which is designed specifically for people who want to know about my new releases w/o following me on social media, went to 1349 addresses, announcing the pre-order. These are the people who presumably want to buy my new work, and I was hoping to turn at least half into sales.

One Man is, I believe, the best work I’ve ever done. The thought that it might reach a portion of my existing readers and only a scant few beyond that is, frankly, disheartening.

On the upside, that graph slopes down and then up again. The upsurge in sales corresponds with the appearance of early reviews.

I don’t have a big marketing budget here. The book is out for reviews at a few places, but the only way it’s going to reach new readers is through word of mouth. Reviews, recommendations to friends, a thumbs up on social media… that’s what drives sales.

So, if you have bought the book, please read it. Then please give it a review. I think this is the best book I’ve ever written, and I hope it reaches the widest circle of readers possible.

I think that’s called “burying the lede” but there you go.

Thanks.

Welp, It’s Black Friday

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Today is Black Friday, and if you’re planning to visit a bookstore to do any of your holiday shopping, I just want to make note that you ought to be able to order One Man through Ingram.

I hope so, at least. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Thanks very much to everyone who bought the book and everyone who has written an online review. Right now, the book is selling to people who already know and like my work, but spreading the word will help this book (and my backlist) reach a larger audience.

At which point I should just say: Happy Leftovers Day. As soon as I finish this, I’m having a turkey sandwich and a slice of apple pie for breakfast, then I’m heading out to work on The Iron Gate.

One Man Sample Chapters

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CHAPTER ONE

On the day after the summer solstice in the year 403 of the New Calendar, Kyrionik ward-Safroy defe-Safroy admir-Safroy hold-Safroy attended his own funeral.

As a noble family, the Safroys were expected to hold two ceremonies. One would be private, reserved for family, close political allies, those in the High Watch who thought it prudent to show respect to a member of a rival faction currently out of power, and however many of Kyrionik’s former friends his mother felt obligated to invite.

By tradition, it should have already happened. Somber guests would have worn their mourning whites. Servants wearing hoods of muslin gauze would offer each a cup of bitter tea, to represent grief, followed by drams of honeyed brandy, which represented happy memories of the loved one who had passed. After a few moments of silence, polite guests would talk about family, friends, newborn babes, aging parents—anything concerning the way people live their lives—to remind the grieving family that life goes on. Impolite people would try to talk business.

Kyrionik’s mother was a former member of the High Watch, the parsu of the Safroy family, and a rich, influential woman. She was always surrounded by impolite people.

The private ceremony was ordinarily held at home, usually in a garden or courtyard. For the Safroys, that meant everyone would be high enough on the slopes of Salash Hill that the family could mourn in direct sunlight, without the unpleasant tint of the light from Suloh’s bones. Perhaps they’d gather in the east hall, with its floors made from smooth white marble imported from Koh-Gilmiere. Or maybe on the southern deck, with its skywood and commanding view of the sea. Or the gardens, where Kyrionik and his brothers used to—

No. Those memories were from his old self. The one who lived among the wealthy, high-born Salashi. That man was long gone. Kyrionik had a new name now.

Now he was Kyrioc, child of No One, which marked him as lower than a commoner. He was an orphan. Unlike the high-born Kyrionik, poor Kyrioc had no family, no titles, and no inheritance.

But he did have an obligation.

The public funeral for hapless young Kyrionik was being held in High Square, at the southernmost end of the Upgarden deck, and Kyrioc, child of No One, stood in the long, long line of complete strangers waiting to pay their respects.

Kyrioc could not have attended the private ceremony without revealing himself. Without reclaiming his old name. The idea of reuniting with his family, of the joyful tears, the celebrations, the calls that he explain where he’d been and what had happened…

What he’d done…

And they would embrace him. His hands, responsible for so much death, would touch his mother’s small frame. They would feel her warmth and movement. Her breath. Her life.

Just the thought of it made him flinch and close down. He shut his eyes and stopped shuffling forward with the rest of the line. He could hear screaming, as fresh in his memory as if he’d heard them that morning. Then he remembered burning figures running through the jungle at night, then the darkness itself coming to life, and the sound of steel on flesh, and the smell of blood, and—

“Good sir?”

Kyrioc jumped, hand reaching for a weapon he no longer trusted himself to carry.

The woman who had spoken was a Free-Cities merchant. She’d dressed in an open green linen robe over cream-colored tunic and trousers. They complemented her bronze skin, setting her apart from the dark-brown faces all around her. Instead of a hat, she had pinned a small block of perfumed wax atop her rather ordinary bun. It had barely begun to melt into her hair, but the sharp, flowery smell was overbearing in the still air.

Her right eye was surrounded by a web of scars and was dark brown. Her left eye was hazel. If she could afford to replace her eye, she probably did not spend much time around people like him, but funerals bring together the high and the low.

She was gaping at him. He lowered his hand.

“You stopped walking,” the woman said with more kindness than he deserved. “Are you all right?”

“I’m sorry, good madam. Bad memories.”

“Ah. I thought you were grieving, and that perhaps you knew the deceased personally.”

Kyrioc wasn’t sure how to respond. “I would have been a stranger to him.”

The line was still shuffling forward without them. Kyrioc mumbled another apology and hurried to close the gap.

For the day, Kyrioc had worn simple black trousers with a black cotton tunic and vest. They were the funeral clothes of a poor man—a man with disfiguring scars and shaggy black hair hanging in his face—and they were supposed to let him blend in with the crowd.

High Square, where the Safroys awaited the long queue, was nearly two blocks away. Kyrioc could not let himself fall into a reverie again, not if he was going to hide himself in this long line of stitches.

He wished he could summon his cloak of mirrors, but that was impossible in the midday sun.

Kyrioc looked up and down the street, checking for Safroy guards. There were none this far from the square itself. Instead he saw city constables, private shop security, and the usual flash and bustle of the main street of the Upgarden deck.

Here at the southern end, with High Square and the terminus of The Freightway nearby—and with the gate to The Avenue just behind him—Upgarden was at its most luxurious. Not only were the streets themselves constructed from pale, beautiful skywood, so were many of the stores. This close to High Slope, the shops sold only the finest goods from around the Semprestian: silks from Carrig, spices from the Free Cities, furs from Katr nomads, jewels from Koh-Benjatso, Koh-Gilmiere, and Koh-Kaulma. If there was a piece of finery with the poor taste to have been made right there in Koh-Salash—or anywhere along the shores of the Timmer Sea—it was sold downcity, where the shops were made of ordinary wood and people walked about in the pale orange like of Suloh’s bones. Continue reading

The One Man Post

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One Man is a superbly realised story set in a rich and fascinating world. The horror grips, the fantasy delights and the characters remain vivid and real to the end.” — Justina Robson

It’s been four years since I released a new novel.

Four plus, actually, and I’m a little embarrassed that it’s been that long. There was the Twenty Palaces novella, The Twisted Path, of course, but still. Four years.

This book is the reason.

I spent two years writing One Man. It’s is a big book, over 150,000 words. It’s complicated, with lots of POV characters and locations. The setting is limited–almost every chapter takes place in a single city–but it’s complex.

Which is another way of saying that a lot of time and sweat went into this novel, and I’m proud of the result.

Here’s the back cover description:

———–

One Cursed City. Two Dead Gods. Ten Thousand Murderers and Thieves. One Orphaned Girl.

As a child, Kyrioc was groomed to be the head of one of the most powerful noble families in Koh-Salash, a city built inside the skeletons of two murdered gods. Kyrioc himself dreamed of becoming head of the High Watch, the highest political position in the land.

Those dreams have turned to dust.

Presumed dead after a disastrous overseas quest, Kyrioc now lives in a downcity slum under a false name, hiding behind the bars of a pawnshop window. Riliska, a nine-year-old pickpocket who sells stolen trinkets to his shop, is the closest thing he has to a friend.

When a criminal gang kills Riliska’s mother and kidnaps the little girl, Kyrioc goes hunting for her.

He doesn’t care about the forbidden magic the gangs are fighting over—the severed ear of a glitterkind, a creature whose flesh contains astonishing healing powers. He doesn’t care about the bloody, escalating gang violence. He doesn’t care about the schemes of power-hungry nobles.

In a raging city on the verge of civil war, Kyrioc only wants to save his friend. He will risk anything for her, even awakening the powers that murdered the gods so long ago.

———–

See, I wanted to try an experiment. Most fantasy novels have huge stakes: A Dark Lord trying to conquer all. A usurper seizing the throne, pushing a kingdom toward civil war. A world-shattering magical cataclysm. Invasion of monsters. Return of monsters. Whatever.

But what if I wanted to create a fantasy story about a quest for something small. Something important, but not world-shattering. For instance: the life of a single little girl. Not even his own, just someone he knows.

I wanted to see if I could make a story like that as compelling as one where millions of lives were at stake. The consequences of the protagonist’s actions were wide-ranging. They had ripple effects. The other POV characters have their own quests, and as the status quo of the city crumbles, the dangers escalate.

But for the protagonist? He just wants to save one life.

If I’m being honest with myself, I felt sure that NY publishers would really respond to this novel. I expected the mix of genres, characters, and setting to hit the bullseye. Probably, you could say that I was being ambitious.

I was wrong. One Man was on submission for over a year and a half and, while it earned me the nicest rejection I have ever seen (or even heard about) no one wanted to publish it.

It’s probably a mistake to admit that, but fuck it. I think it’s a good book. A thriller with strange magic, desperation, betrayal, and murder. But it’s an odd book, too, with bourgeois hobbit vampires, and sleeping giants whose flesh can heal you, and a sprawling city built inside the skeletons of two gods who were murdered while fucking.

What I’m hoping, if you’ve read this far down the page, is that you’re interested in a big, odd, ambitious book about crime and magic and a screwed-up guy who has one last chance to do something decent in this world.

Cover for One Man

The trade paperback should be available to order from Ingram, if you want to buy from your local bookstore, but obviously you could also buy from one of the online vendors below.

Sample chapters here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo | Mysterious GalaxyPowell’s | Smashwords

Cover for The Iron Gate

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It occurs to me that I have shared this all around but not here, which is dumb.

On the first morning of the campaign, Fred Hicks sent me a mockup he’d done of the cover and I liked it so much that I’m going with it. Here we go:

Cover for The Iron Gate

And that’s why Ray Lilly will be wearing a tie in the new book.

The campaign is winding down, obviously, but it’s already met its goals. What’s the opposite of “stressing about it”? Hmm, it seems like there should be a word for phrase that means the opposite of stressed but gosh, I haven’t had a use for it in so long…

Anyway, the lack of stress is thanks to everyone who backed the campaign and shared it with their friends.

Other updates: Writing on The Iron Gate continues at a decent clip, and the copy editor is hard at work on One Man. Later today I hope to work on the cover for OM with my son. Work continues.

Here’s the latest status on the campaign:

Long Time Readers Will Know What This Photo Means

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Arrogant Bastard

But damn… A can?

I used to buy Arrogant Bastard Ale in a 22 oz bottle, but everything’s in cans now.

Maybe this makes me an old, but cans still feel cheap. The beer tastes fine, but it’s not as pleasurable to drink.

But yes, this means that my latest WIP is sitting in my agent’s inbox, after 8+ months of work.

It may seem that I haven’t released much new work in the last few years, and you’re not wrong. Since putting out The Great Way and Key/Egg in 2015, I’ve only released that new Twenty Palaces novella. One Man took nearly two years to write, and it floated from publisher to publisher for a year and a half before the submission process ended.

I have to give it another revision before I decide what to do with it, and it’s going to take at least as long as my revisions for the WIP. One Man just needs another polish, I think, but it’s also 50K words longer…

Plus, there’s a mystery that I need to polish and release. (This is going to sound weird, but I can’t remember the title for it. I’ve had so many they’ve become a blur.) It’s a good book, but I’m going to have to publish it myself.

Once those are done, I can pounce on the next Twenty Palaces novella, which exists as a rough idea in my head but needs a bit of work to tease out. And mixed in with all of that is the next draft of the WIP… based on my agent’s notes.

So, I’m busy and things have not been auspicious in my writing career. Still, it’s important to celebrate the little milestones.

But cans? Sheesh.