The Flood Circle

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Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Audiobook download:  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy


I have already described the origin of The Flood Circle in my post about The Iron Gate. Kickstarter. Backers. Fulfillment. Novel. A few people have expressed surprise that I am releasing another book so soon after the previous one. Well, I wrote both together, sort of. First draft and revision for The Iron Gate. First draft and revision for this one. Second revision then second revision. Beta read and then beta read, and so on. The real question is why has the delay between books been so long?

But when I sat down to work out the story, I had to ask myself: Is this the last Twenty Palaces novel?

I could have cut things short. Definitely. I could have tried to arrange the story so that the finale of this book was the midpoint of another, very different book. Then I could have wrapped everything up in a single novel.

It was tempting. I recently discovered that I am not, in fact, growing younger as the years go by. In addition, I like a fast-moving story. Why not put Ray and Annalise through the ringer? Why not… I don’t know… turn my final idea for a novel into a ten thousand word epilogue or something?

It wouldn’t work, though. There was still too much story to tell. There was too much I wanted to get done, and the danger of rushing a story is that it loses its emotional impact.

So there’s going to be one more book after this one, called Twenty-One Palaces. I know the general setting but I have zero plot beats figured out. The stakes, the tone, the supporting cast are all a mystery.

But that’s for the future. For now: The Flood Circle

The Flood Circle Cover

Here’s the synopsis:

The three original spellbooks, source of all magic in the world, have been found, and Ray Lilly has already “acquired” one. Now he and Annalise are on a historic mission to get the other two and they’re ready to kill anyone who gets in their way.

If they succeed, the Twenty Palace Society will become more powerful than it has ever been and could truly safeguard humanity from both extra-dimensional predators and the people who summon them.

But this time their enemies are more formidable than any they’ve ever faced before. What starts as a covert mission to hunt sorcerers quickly collapses into a desperate—and very public—struggle to survive. Can Ray and Annalise track down and kill these sorcerers before they execute a plan to drive the human race to the edge of extinction?


As usual, I’ll be turning the buy links below into actual links as the book appears on each site.

Tantor is still doing the audiobooks, and they’re planning to keep the narrator from previous editions of Twenty Palaces. I’ll add those links as they appear.

You may have noticed fewer options for a print copy this time around. Normally, I set up a print version within Amazon and through Lightning Source’s Ingram Spark system. Ingram’s distribution system is very wide, allowing you to walk into pretty much any bookstore in the English-speaking world and say “Can you order a copy of The Flood Circle for me?”

It also gave readers a lot of choices (for print) that were not Amazon. Bookshop.org and Indiebound both explicitly support independent bookstores. And while the markup at those two shops can be intense, supporting indie stores is a worthwhile goal.

Except it mostly never happens. My most recent bestselling book through LSIS has been Twenty Palaces, and that book sold only twenty copies. Over two years.

What’s more, LSIS wanted to charge me eighty dollars to put the book up for sale.

The POD print editions are already too expensive for readers, and the system is too expensive for me. It’s weird to think of a $80 fee as a negative advance that I’ll never recoup, but I’m sitting here facing facts and accepting it for what it is.

I’m also thinking that they set the price that high to discourage long-tail idiots like myself, and I’m a guy who can take a hint.

So this time around, the only print options will be Amazon and B&N. Sorry about that.

And please, if you like my books, please tell your friends. In person, on social media, posting a review somewhere. Anything. Please spread the word.

 

Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Audiobook download:  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

The Iron Gate

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Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy  |  Powell’s

Audiobook download:  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

—-

Some time ago I started wondering how much actual interest there was in a continuation of the Twenty Palaces series. I’d tried the novella route with The Twisted Path, but sales were unremarkable. When I first started publishing with Del Rey, I’d thought I was a mid list writer. Later, it seemed I’d become a writer with a small following, then maybe not even that.

What was the point of trying to plan a career when my choices kept sending me in the wrong direction?

When Kickstarter got around to their brief “Break Kickstarter” idea, I had a really dumb idea: What if I started taking pledges for new Twenty Palaces fiction, but instead of offering a specific goal, I let the backers choose it. Break Kickstarter was meant to encourage people to use the service in a new way, so I set a rate of five cents a word and promised to revisit the series at whatever level of enthusiasm readers chose. No stretch goals. No pledge tiers. For every dollar a backer pledged, they could pick twenty words to call their own.

So, if I made a fifty dollars in pledges, I’d write a thousand-word short story. If pledges were higher, I’d write more, with a cap at two complete novels because I really had no idea how much or how little interest there was.

Well, pledges did hit that cap, and I owed my backers two full novels of at least a hundred thousand words each. The first, called The Iron Gate, is out now.

Cover for The Iron Gate

The Iron Gate

Here’s a description of the story:

Stormy Bay is a dying town nestled against an eerily placid ocean, and Ray Lilly is trapped in it. He can barely remember his name let alone his mission for the Twenty Palace society. Worse, he realizes that for some time now he’s been living as a puppet, his body and mind under the complete domination of an unknown power.

And that power can still seize control of Ray’s body at any time, forcing him and the people around him to playact in nonsense stories that center around a mysterious boy and his monster dog.

The town and its people shift and change, but only Ray seems to notice. He has no idea what sort of magic has imprisoned all these ordinary folks in Stormy Bay, but he does know he needs to get them, and himself, out.

But that might mean crossing a line he has never crossed before. While Ray has certainly taken lives in his work for the society, it was always in self-defense or in the desperate moments before impending calamity. Can he bring himself to commit cold-blooded murder, even to save dozens of lives?

Next up, after The Iron Gate, will be The Flood Circle, hopefully released sometime next month.

After that, I’ll be writing something else to let the creative energies renew. At some point later, finally, I’ll be ready to write Twenty-One Palaces, the final Twenty Palaces novel, The one that wraps up the series.

In the meantime, here are buy links to online vendors below. I’ve hit a few glitches here and there, and will connect to the books as they appear on the various sites. Apple Books is being Apple.

If you want a print edition, options are limited for the moment. I’m waiting for other vendors to connect their catalogs to Lightning Source before I can add them.

As for audio, Tantor will be creating an audiobook that combines The Iron Gate with The Twisted Path, since the latter is a novella and is too small to be on its own. I don’t know when that will be available but I will let you guys know.

And I can’t wait for the book to be fully out, so I can edit these last four paragraphs out of this post.

In the meantime, if you read the book, please write a review.

—-

Buy links:

Ebook:  Amazon  |  Apple Books  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Smashwords

Print:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy  |  Powell’s

Audiobook download:  Apple Books |   Barnes & Noble  |  Bookshop.org  |  Kobo  |

Audiobook cd:  Bookshop.org  | Indiebound  |  Mysterious Galaxy

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.

For Every Failure, an Opportunity

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If you’re backing my Patreon, you may have noticed that it has been switched back on. That is, it’s back to a monthly basis, charging credit cards at the start of every month. I’d turned it “off” because I’d started a new job. As of this week I’m no longer working there, so it’s on again.

I’ve never been fired for being bad at a job before, but you know what? It was the right thing for them to do. I absolutely should have been let go. And I’m glad for it.

In previous posts I was a little cagey about where I’d been hired because it was a six-month contract at a game company, and I was sure how it would go. I’ll say now that it was the Valve Corporation over in Bellevue. I’ll also say that they asked me not to talk about the games I worked on/heard about/whatever outside of their offices, even to my own family. I haven’t done that and I won’t start now.

How it happened was this: Gabe, the founder of the company, liked my books and invited me to lunch. This was back in, I think, 2012? 2013? Several months before my Kickstarter for The Great Way, at least. I’d heard of Valve’s games but hadn’t played any, and I honestly thought he was going to ask if I would write a novel for the company. But lunch wasn’t just me and Gabe, we were joined by a bunch of writers already working for the company, and I was all What am I doing here? Nobody needs me to write a novel when they already have Marc Laidlaw sitting right there.

It turned out the offer was to work at the company on the actual games, which I had to decline. I didn’t play many video games because a) they were often asking me to do shit that was illegal and immoral, which I hate and b) too many games were boring, making me quit early, and most of all c) if I did like them, I could be obsessive about it. I mean, Freedom Force and its sequel were scads of fun, but playing them, I spent hours with my back to the living room, and every other aspect of my life suffered. I’m not exactly Mr. Moderation. My wife was especially unhappy to be ignored evening after evening while I shot pretend ray guns at cartoon people.

After that lunch meeting, I started playing (and enjoying) games a lot more, and Valve was a big reason for that. I love the Portal and Half-Life games–like, genuinely loved playing them–because they didn’t ask me to run errands, murder innocent people or navigate lots of high places without railings (seriously the worst). As my son got older, he started recommending games that suited me better, and so I felt I understood them a little better. I never became good, but they made sense in a conceptual way

Then we came to the end of 2018. I’d taken a big gamble after The Great Way and Key/Egg came out. I put two years into a fat fantasy with a cool setting, a plot that was a little out of the ordinary, and badass characters. The plan was simple. Write a book that stands out, place it with NY publishers, and let the backlist bump spill some extra coins into our savings accounts.

Except it didn’t work. Publishers passed. The book was too different, or too something, and there was no new contract and therefore no bump.

At that point, we’d been living off the money from The Great Way for too long and our savings was getting low (not to mention rent increases and a possible eviction in the coming months), so my wife asked me to find a day job, and I thought about Valve, and I reached out. Did, maybe, I have something to contribute there?

Nope! But I didn’t know that at the time.

Gabe and his people were nice enough to give me a chance though, working on a multiplayer team-fighting game that was in the very early stages. I was to do worldbuilding for them.

Which meant: Where and Why.

Where are they fighting?

Why are they fighting?

Those were the two questions I was supposed to answer, and over the course of two months, I couldn’t make a suggestion that both matched the criteria they’d given me and also made the rest of the team excited. Two full months! Of course they let me go.

As a writer, I’ve had my share of one-star reviews. And you don’t grow up in a family like mine and get all tender-hearted about what people think of you. But when you’re sitting in a meeting, and everyone looks miserable because of you–because of the mouth-sounds you’re making–well, that suuuuucks.

You guys should have seen some of the body language in the room for that last meeting. Picture, if you will, a person sitting on a bench at a bus stop at night. They’ve forgotten their jacket, and it’s sleeting. That’s exactly some of those guys were sitting: hunched over, head down, waiting for all this to just be over.

And that was my fault.

See, it doesn’t matter if it’s a great company, or that the money was good, or that there was a free salad bar at lunch every day with chick peas you could scoop right into the bowl (seriously, so fucking delicious). None of that shit matters if the work itself is a waste of time to everyone on the team, including the person doing it. That’s demoralizing as hell.

Me, personally, I think the setting I created for that last meeting would be a home run in all sorts of media–books, animation, whatever–but not in computer games and certainly not in the game they’re working so hard to create. It just didn’t fit. And at this point, I don’t care where my proposals came up short or if they went too far or what was actually wrong. All that matters is that it wasn’t successful, and Valve owns it, and I hope they can cherry-pick a few things out of it that they find useful. And if they can’t, sorry, guys.

Where does that leave me? Not unemployed, exactly, since I’m working for myself again.

Those two months helped refill our bank accounts a little, and I have three completed, unreleased novel manuscripts. One is that big gamble. Another is a mystery/thriller with no supernatural elements. Another is the fun fantasy adventure that needs a little bit more tweaking before my agent takes it to NY publishers.

I’m composing this during the time I’m supposed to be writing a novelette for an anthology I’ve been invited to, but I put that off because I feel like I owe you guys an update on where things stand, fiction-wise. I’ve spent the last two months squeezing my own projects into the hour before I went into the office, but now that I’m back on my own time, things will go faster.

My fun fantasy will go out to publishers (“Funpunk”! You heard it here first, folks). My big gamble book and the thriller will be self-published. Kickstarter maybe? We’ll have to see. I also have to write the next Twenty Palaces novella. And at some point soon, we’ll look again at our bank accounts and maybe I’ll grab another day job.

So I wanted you to know that, even though I haven’t published a new novel since 2015(!) I haven’t stopped writing. I haven’t stopped working hard. There’s new stuff on the horizon and, you know, maybe I won’t try those big gambles again.

Thanks for reading.

Moving Past the Trope: Creativity Through Lists

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At the moment, I’m brainstorming for a new novel, and I thought I might help myself along by writing about the process. (And by “help myself along” I mean make myself stop goofing off on Twitter.)

In the moment that any writer looks at a blank page without a good idea of what to put on it, the possibilities are basically infinite. I could write about anything, really, including a random jumble of geometric shapes and nonsense squiggles.

But I don’t, because I’m a fiction writer. And I like magic and crime. And I’m a white dude living in America 2017.

And each of those things narrow that range of infinite possibility, because there are some things I’m more likely to write than others. Sounds obvious, right? Sometimes it helps me to think through obvious things.

Other times, I narrow that range with an easy answer. So the question: “Who will be the main antagonist in this book?” could be answered quite easily with a trope: A vampire. A werewolf. A Voldemort. A Lucifer.

And that’s fine. Some people love those tropes and want to play with them. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s the intent. For me, it’s not the intent. I’m hoping to find something on the far side of that trope. Something weird or unusual that readers maybe haven’t seen before.

Some readers don’t like that. That’s fine. But for me, the question is always How do I get there?, and the answer is almost always With a list.

I came across the idea of using lists for creative purposes in a book about writing comedy, especially a standup comedy routine, and it’s served me well in my fantasy/horror books ever since. The first step is always to identify the question. The second is to list the easy answers I won’t use in my book

So, “Who will the the main antagonist in this book?”

Possible answers:

1. Werewolf
2. Vampire
3. Voldemort
4. Lucifer
5. Ghost
6. Genius Serial Killer
7. Shadowy Gov’t Agency

And on and on.

I put them on the list because I want them out of the way. I don’t have to think about them anymore because they’re already on the list.

And let me say once more that I’m not bashing these tropes. I’ve written two novels with werewolves in them, so I recognize that they exist to be used and they persist because of the readers who love them. But sometimes that’s not what I want.

Next, I force myself to keep going. I write down terrible answers, like “ghost horse” or “newborn god of public transit who’s sick of waiting for his human sacrifices”.

Eventually, I get to weird stuff, like maybe “super-intelligent hive-mind of wharf rats”. What do the rats want? How intelligent are they? Will they join the longshoreman’s union?

It’s weird. Twenty years ago, if you told me my most creative work would come from a nearly rote exercise of making lists, I would have been horrified. And yet, here I am, writing a book about a rat colony that share a single mind.

(Obviously, I’m just kidding. No way am I writing a rat book. The research alone would give me the heebie-jeebies.)

The State of the Novelist Address: I just sent a book to my agent

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I thought I’d pop in and update things for folks, writing-wise.

First, earlier this week I sent a new novel to my agent. It’s a crime/mystery novel, a genre I’ve been reading for years. This isn’t my first attempt at this style, but it is the first one that I feel comfortable with. Some aspects of it fall right down the middle of the genre, while some are probably all wrong and will make me tear my hair out in revisions. We’ll see! But it feels good to start a book and send it to her in under six months. I’m not usually that prolific.

Which means I’ve returned to revision on my Twenty Palaces novella. I know I’ve been talking about this for a while, but this mini-book has resisted several attempts to write it. At this point, I feel I’ve solved most of the problems and hope to have it on sale before the end of the year.

Once I finish that, I’ll be working on something new. No idea what it will be, but I’m just going to pick an idea that sounds cool and run with it.

Thank you for reading this, and being here.

It’s how you spend your free time: the power of small decisions

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One of my friends said something really smart on Sunday, and I thought I’d share it.

She and her partner live in Denver, and my son (who is 14) is planning to spend two weeks with them to pick their brains about Photoshop, After Effects, and a number of other programs they use. They make their living using all sorts of fancy software that I don’t know anything about, so he has a lot to learn in those two weeks.

ANYWAY. What she said, which I have to paraphrase because it was during an extended conversation, was: “What matters is how you spend your free time.”

To which I say: Yep.

Her story is that she was in college some years ago, learning software as part of her design class. I think it was Photoshop, but there was some cross-talk. Anyway, it was relatively new, and she and her friend were so fascinated by it that they spent their free time on a deep dive into the program, learning all the things it could do. In not time, the professor realized that she and her friend were more capable of teaching the software and asked them to do so. When she graduated, they offered her a teaching position.

It wasn’t because she was so good in class; it was because she was so engaged outside of it. The same is true of any kind of challenging field. If you want to be great in the arts, you have to cut out time from your daily life to practice and improve. That’s time you could be spending watching TV, going to the gym, sleeping in, playing video games, or making money.

If you click on the Tweet below, you’ll get a thread by comics writer Gail Simone on this very subject.

[Update: she deleted the whole thread. The gist was that people determined to be writers have to make the time to practice.]

I’ve tried to explain this to my son, because he acts like his great ambition is to be the best Overwatch player ever. It’s gotten to the point that I’m tempted to take away his computer games for good, even though he and I built a gaming computer for him just this past January. (Personally, I try to avoid most games because they’re addictive, and I’m vulnerable to that.) Choosing to spend all his free time playing video games is essentially choosing to be a regular joe with a joe job, and the US culture and economy squashes people like that now. If he’s going to be squashed, he ought to have the satisfaction of making art (or something!)

And what of myself? Thinking about spending down time always makes me audit myself, and I have to confess that I’ve been obsessing over Twitter and the election these past few months. It seems like my duty as a citizen to be as informed as possible, but how much of my time and energy do I REALLY need to devote to this? How much can I push off onto other citizens?

Clearly, I need to cut back and focus more on my work. The book I’m revising is complex and I need to get it to my agent so she can sell it. But Twitter is soooo tempting, almost like a video game.

And that’s the power of tiny decisions. Not the big stuff, like Where should I go to college or Should I quit my current job for that new one? No, the really important decisions are the huge clusters of tiny ones that we all make every day. Should I work on my book, or should I watch this tv show/go to the gym/hit the pub/etc?

Obviously no one can spend every spare moment of their lives writing (nor should they) but if you never choose writing over those other things that’s a clear statement of priorities.

[Added later: See also: Twelve Years from Hobbyist to Pro]

Sitting in the train station in Los Angeles

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Awaiting my last train ride home. In an hour, we board the Coast Starlight which will return us to Seattle about 35 hours from now. I’ve enjoyed the trip, but I’m so very ready to be home. I guess that means a 30-day trip was exactly right.

We slipped out to Olivera St.–the “Mexico replica” street beside the station, but every place was closed except one. We had delicious Mexican breakfasts and bought burritos for the train. I loved it, although my son scorched his tongue and the experience was therefore ruined.

I haven’t been following blogs, or LiveJournals, or anything except Twitter, and even that has been pretty sporadic. You can see some pretty terrible pictures at https://twitter.com/byharryconnolly/media mixing in among my other stuff.

As for my books, I’d hoped to finish One Man on this trip, but it’s too hard to write on the train. Too chaotic and distracting, even with my headphones on. Plus, a month of iffy sleep hasn’t left me at my best.

Soon, it will be over. I’ve really enjoyed this trip, but I’m ready to be back at my book in a big way.

Huge delay in my next book

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not going to hit my NaNoWriMo goal. No big deal; I was just using it as a goad to pick up momentum with ONE MAN, my current WIP which has stalled.

It was a new thing for me, and it didn’t work.

What I realized on Wednesday was that I needed to start over. I plan to keep most of the 65K I’ve written so far, but I need to revise it extensively. The protagonist need to be someone else. I’m even going to give him a new name.

So today is the second beginning of my book. It’ll be a deeper, stronger story, and I’ll be able to make serious progress on it.

Sometimes I wish I could be one of those writers who finish a paragraph, tweak it here or there, then never look at it again. Sometimes I would like to be one of those writers to takes five years for a single book, and just keep revising like mad until it’s perfect.

Unfortunately, I’m me, and tossing a book so I can start over is part of how I work.