As a Sequel to a Recent Post: One Kay for The Flood Circle

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The Flood Circle reached one thousand copies sold (counting Amazon sales only) as of yesterday, 11/29. The Iron Gate hit this same milestone on in early November, so copies of TFC have moved a little faster.

I’m sure that’s because of the cumulative effect of promoting the previous book.

And while reviews of The Iron Gate have been terrific, I was concerned that some readers would have been dissatisfied with the plot and would just quietly stop buying. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

::dabs brow with hanky::

Also, I’ve posted a note on Twitter about the order of the stories in the Twenty Palaces series. Here it is

With luck, that embed won’t be a dead link in two weeks.

Anyway, the reading order is the order on the front page of my website. The only exception is the novelette “The Homemade Mask”, which is included with my short fiction collection. It comes after Circle of Enemies but before The Twisted Path.

“The Homemade Mask” isn’t what I’d call “essential” to the series as a whole, but if you’d like to read a story told (partially) from the POV of a predator, that’s the place to go.

I’ve also dropped, for a short time, the price of the first book in the series to 99 cents. At this point, there isn’t a lot of promotional stuff left for me to do, unless I start buying ads or whatever, and that has been a decidedly mixed bag for me. I mean, I have basically one social media platform that I use with any regularity, and there’s only so many times I can tell the same group of followers that I have a new novel out.

Which is why I ask once again that, if you haven’t already, please post reviews on your online spaces, on the sites where you bought the book, and even in face-to-face encounters in the real world, assuming that still happens.

Finally, I’m currently at work on my next book, which I’ve mentioned before will be a stand alone. The story and tone are coming together slowly, but I knew this new project would be challenging, and a new challenge is just what I need.

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

Who Cares about Barb Holland: Nothing Characters and Fictional Death

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In my previous post, I said I was going to start trying to write shorter blog posts, which I would be able to finish in a reasonable length of time and which would then, with luck, actually be posted. That’s preferable to writing long, complex posts about six related topics that need to be reorganized four or five times and therefore never actually get finished.

Also in that previous post, I pointed out some errors in a particular review of Stranger Things 4, arguing (once again) that disinterest makes reviewers inattentive. But there was a section of the review that was wrong for a different reason, and I would rather talk about the issue separate from the review itself, because I’ve seen it echoed elsewhere more than once.

It’s the idea that Barb Holland is a “nothing character” and her death shouldn’t be such a big deal. 

I’m not surprised that people make this mistake. It’s commonplace for horror or thriller shows to introduce a character solely for the purpose of killing them off. It’s a clear and easy way to establish the threat the villains/monsters/whatever present. And Barb is that character. She’s dead by the first few minutes of episode three and up to that point she’d had maybe 30-some lines of dialog. 

So, a throwaway, right? Motivation for the plot, an excuse to show two frames of the monster’s face and another mysterious disappearance for everyone to scratch their heads over.

And maybe she would have been, if this show had been on the CW or something. The CW would have cast a thin, pretty underwear model, hung some nerdy/preppy accessories on her, and when she died she would have been completely forgettable. 

The Duffer Brothers went another way. They cast Shannon Purser, an attractive but overweight actor, then dressed her all the way down in the uncoolest clothes, glasses, and hairstyle they could manage. She defined Barb with in her big jeans and high frilly collar and giant glasses, clutching her schoolbooks to her chest and calling Nancy on her bullshit.

She was different. Vulnerable. Smart. Excluded. Specific. And a big segment of the viewers saw themselves in her. Barb was created to elicit sympathy in a way that the Lab Coat Guy, who appeared in the very first scene in the series, could not. Also, as Nancy’s best friend, as I’ve talked about, Nancy’s concern for her completely upends the teenage romantic plot that the show was building from the first two episodes.

Barb mattered to the characters onscreen and to the audience offscreen.

It’s not like Stranger Things doesn’t have nothing characters. Lab Coat Guy was one. The broken bodies strewn around Hawkins Lab in season two or the hospital in season three were not personalized, for the most part. They were extras dressed in blood spatters. But they didn’t have personality or specificity.

When I was writing Child of Fire, I wanted that first “death” by the side of the road to be memorable. And, judging by people’s reactions, it was.

But as much as I tried to turn it into someone no one had ever seen before–to the point where the kid doesn’t even really die–I didn’t take the time for him as a character. The circumstances of his death are memorable (as are the circumstances of Barb’s death, since it’s the first scene set in the Upside Down) but not him. I sort of wish I’d done what the show did, and gone for both.

The conversation reminded me of a comic book, number 12 in the run of Grant Morrison’s “The Invisibles” which some people have called the greatest single issue of a comic book ever. In the first issue of this run, the villain/anti-hero King Mob shoots a guard while he’s invading some facility or other. It’s a single panel (maybe two, I haven’t seen it lately), and he doesn’t even pause in his dialog. It’s a moment designed to show King Mob’s ruthlessness as he guns down a nothing character. 

The story continues until issue 12, when it stops and returns to this nothing character. It portrays his life, all jumbled up, showing the abuse he suffered as a child, the abuse he perpetrated as he grew up, the people he cared about, how he hurt those people, and how he died. At which point, he wasn’t a nothing character any more. 

And really, none of them are, but depending on the genre, the story has to treat them like set dressing sometimes, because there have been so many and we can’t delve into the backstory for all of them. 

That was the case for the kid in my book. After he’s gone, Ray and Annalise dig through his home, looking for clues about who he (and his family) were and what happened to them. After that, he faded away. He wasn’t nothing, even after the story was done with him. 

The same is true for Barb, although judging by season four, the show is not done with her yet.

In personal news, I’m working through the notes I received for The Flood Circle, making sure all the story beats are clear and every important moment has the emphasis it needs. I’m also fussing with the text.

If you’re a Kickstarter backer for these books, expect a somewhat more detailed update around the start of August.

I’m also trying to work out what project I’ll tackle next. There’s an idea that’s really nagging at me but I don’t think I’m the one to write it. Also, it turns out that my son is already tackling a very similar project, and under no circumstances should his dad bigfoot his latest thing.

A Finished Draft of a New Twenty Palaces Novel, and More

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If you’re a Kickstarter backer for the two new 20P novels, you’ve likely already received the announcement that the zero draft (aka: the vomit draft) of The Flood Circle is done. That means both this new book and The Iron Gate are ready for revisions, and since they sort of tie together, it’ll be good for me to tackle them together. So, Yay for that, and also I wish I wrote cleaner first drafts.

In other pleasant news, my months-long plan to say “Or we could just play Jinkies” every single time my gaming group was about to try a one-shot or switch games has had the desired effect. One of our players is taking a holiday trip, so I get a chance to try out this game I’ve had in my personal, figurative on-deck circle for months. It’s like getting an extra Giftmas present a week before the holiday.

In less happy news, I had to switch to a new doctor this year, and my wife convinced me to make an appointment for a minor health issue that’s been bothering me for (literal) years. Basically, I break out in itchy hives any time I get slightly warm. A hot shower will do it. A walk to the grocery store will do it. A tense conversation with my wife will do it. On the advice of my previous doc, I take an OTC allergy med, but that only eases the itching, it doesn’t eliminate it, and it does nothing for those ugly fucking hives. It’s just so gross and embarrassing, and it’s been getting in the way of my exercise plans for literal years.

So I went to the doc. I told him I’d spent months working hard to lose weight and had dropped 40 lbs. Then I went to my father-in-law’s house to help my wife deal with his estate, and the place was not exactly clean. (Which is not a dig on my f-i-l. He was a good guy, but he was in his eighties and his health had been terrible for years.) It was there, cleaning out that house, when I started breaking out in hives, and it took me weeks to figure out why. (Finally, I googled “I am allergic to my own sweat.” — It turned out I wasn’t actually allergic to my own sweat, although some people can be. It was just body heat.)

That was in January, 2012.  My appointment with the doc was last July, and after I ran through the whole thing, he ordered the usual tests, then said nothing about the hives. When I sent a note asking about it, he told me I’d need to make an appointment for it.

Which I already did. Last July.

I suspect he’s over-focused on my weight, which has indeed gone up now that any sort of exercise makes me look, feel, and act like a leper with fleas.

Eventually, I’ll have to go in for that followup appointment to cover the actual issue I went to see him for in the first place, but the holidays are busy and I have writing to do and whatever. I’d be more willing to go if I thought something good would come of it. Very discouraging.

On the plus side, the internet assures me that this issue usually goes away by itself in three to thirty years, so really, this will might be fixed any day now.

Anyway, that’s it. Take care of yourselves and happy holidays.