Bringing It Home: a followup to last post

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For the last few years, I’ve been putting more and more of my thoughts into Twitter threads, and it’s time to pull back from that. The people on Twitter are great, except for the ones who aren’t, but the company is a parade of fail. What’s more, it’s all so ephemeral. If I write about a Star Wars reboot on my blog, it’s always available to me when the subject comes up. If I put it Twitter, it falls into the memory hole before the day is out.

So, more posts in spaces I own.

This is probably a terrible decision, considering how little traffic I get. But I’ve been on Twitter for seven years. That’s a lot of bullshit to type out, and a lot of time to waste. It’s time I reclaimed time, if you know what I mean.

And as a followup to my last post, remember how I said I was working on a 20P novella? I just turned it over to my agent.

At the moment, I’m as free as a bird to watch creature features and daydream a new project. And I have a tall glass of celebratory bourbon beside me.

Happy Tuesday, you guys.

State of the Book/State of the Self

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[I wrote this on Saturday night, before news struck of the deadliest mass shooting by a civilian in this country’s history. Rather than let it go live at the scheduled time, I’m just going to post it later in the week, along with my wish that sensible gun control be enacted in this country, starting with a lifting of the ban on CDC’s ability to study gun violence.]

You’ll be reading this tomorrow, but I just tweeted this:

If you’re not a long-time reader, let me explain: When I finish a draft of a novel I treat myself to a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Which means that I’ve wrapped up the zero draft of ONE MAN, and what a fucking relief it is. I started this book in March of 2015, according to the creation date of my Scrivener file. That’s a long time for me, even if you count the amount of time I spent traveling on vacation and taking a digression to work on side projects, like The Way into Fate, the rpg game supplement that closed out my Kickstarter campaign, and short fiction, too.

So, that’s a long haul, and I’m still not done. I have a list of 90-some changes that need to be made, from small ones like adding a couple characters to a scene or changing someone’s name, to systemic ones like giving certain characters their own slang. Then, once those changes are done, I have to manage the numerous comments I’ve left myself recommending I check various details in the book. Then, once THAT’s done, I have to reread the whole book, smoothing out the text, searching for word echoes, and generally prettying things up. If I were sensible, I’d do that twice.

Only then will this draft be truly done and ready for my agent to read. If you’re waiting for THE TWISTED PATH, which is the next Twenty Palaces story, you’ll have to wait until then. Sorry. Gotta get this book on the market.

Personally, I’m relieved to have accomplished even this much. This has been a difficult book, and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a fantasy with a made-up setting. It’s a crime story. It has a bunch of POV characters. It has stakes and magic and betrayals and secrets.

And if this book flops, too, I’m going to have to rethink my whole approach to writing.

Let me tell you about my ambitions, and why they don’t include Kickstarter (right now)

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Along with the release of the sales numbers of my self-published novel has come a flood of requests that I turn to Kickstarter to fund The Twisted Path (that’s the working title of the next Twenty Palaces book). Currently, I have no plans to do that, and I’m writing this post because I want to explain my reasoning to you guys and I want to have a post I can link to when people broach the subject. Because they do broach the subject. A lot.

I want to be a best-selling author.

What’s more, I want to do it on my own terms; I want to write the books I think are cool, and I want a hundred thousand readers to snap them off the shelves the first week they come out. I want to write thrillers with good characters and magic, along with A Few Things I Want To Say. I mean, not to jump up and proclaim that I want to be Stephen King, but I want to be Stephen King. It’s not about making a whole bunch of money, it’s about having my books in the hands of lots of readers from all over the world.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to copy Stephen King, or Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin or Gillian Flynn. I wouldn’t even try. I intend to write books my own way because honestly believe the things I think are cool will be cool to bunches and bunches of readers.

Or maybe not. We’ll see. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway.

How does this tie in to Twenty Palaces, a series that you, the person reading this post, quite possibly read and enjoyed? Well, 20P has dedicated fans, but not very many. As mentioned in the Twenty Palaces sales post, I sold over 3700 copies of my book, self-published. Couldn’t I sell at least that many if I self-published The Twisted Path? Or maybe even more if I turned to…

(dramatic pause)

Kickstarter?

Well, sure. Maybe. Maybe I could write two 20P books a year (or three in two years), and quite possibly the readers I have right now would be willing to pony up the cash I’d need for an editor, cover artist, copy editor, and the disreputable author himself (not to mention covering Uncle Sam’s and Kickstarter’s cuts). A Thousand True Fans, right?

Here’s the truth: I could do that. I could live on that money. I’d probably have to depend on 2.5K mostly-true-occasionally-false fans, but I’m still living on the advance money Random House started paying me in 2008, okay? I live cheap. I have no car, no cell phone, no new clothes, no new glasses…

Oh, wait, that part sucks. Anyway, I’m cheap as hell, I don’t need much money, and I could make that work, right?

Yes. Yes, I could. But you know what? That would be another year of not making my goal. That would be another year of working on a series that didn’t get me where I want to be. Every Twenty Palaces book I’ve written has sold fewer than the one before; do I want to keep going after fewer and fewer readers every year?

Several people have suggested that I could get new readers with a Kickstarter campaign, but I don’t consider that realistic. Take a look at these guys: their campaign has been fantastically successful. At the time I write this, they’re over 11,000% of their goal. However, they have fewer than 8,500 backers.

That’s huge for a Kickstarter but Circle of Enemies sold more copies than that and it’s considered a failure. When I look at fiction projects run by novelists, especially ones who are more successful than I am, the number of backers is usually in the low-three figures.

So no, a Kickstarter campaign won’t bring in new readers. It would sure please the readers I already have, though, and you know what? I want that. Wanting to be read by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world includes the people who already know and like my work. I’m grateful for everyone willing to buy a copy of my books or to recommend Ray Lilly to their friends.

But to stay with Twenty Palaces when I know the reading public at large–not just the ones who enjoy my work, but the wide audience–has rejected it would be to never move beyond my starting point. It would mean standing in this small safe place. I would be giving up the chance to grow and try something new.

If I were a different writer–someone who could put out 20,000 finished words a week–I’d write Ray Lilly books alongside whatever new things I came up with. I can’t do that. I’m not prolific. It has to be one thing at a time with me.

I just can’t get past the opportunity cost. Twenty Palaces novels are challenging: each one took me a year or more to write, and you know what? I’m not young. Look up at that third paragraph; did I say I wanted to be the next EL James or JK Rowling? Nope, it was “Stephen King.”

Because I’m old. Life is short, and I need to spend my years wisely.

So here’s my plan: I have already written a book in The Auntie Mame Files which needs to be revised. I’ve also written about 200K of The Great Way, which is the series name for my epic fantasy. Everything I’ve written so far has been aimed at publication through New York. Yeah, I know it’s possible (maybe not likely, but possible) to make more money by publishing books myself, but more money isn’t enough. I want more readers, too.

If I Kickstart or self-publish a new novel, it will be one of those books.

I won’t be returning to the Twenty Palaces setting until I’m honest-to-god successful. It’s only when I have, say, 100,000 eager readers buying my books that I’ll reintroduce 20P to see if the series can find new life.

So that’s it: the final word. I could self-publish or Kickstart The Twisted Path, but it’s not going to happen until after I succeed with something else. If you liked the Twenty Palaces books, I hope you’ll like the next thing I write. If not, that’s cool, too.

But please don’t argue with me about continuing the series, or try to explain to me what Kickstarter is, or insist that yes, in fact, truly, it would be the right move for me to write The Twisted Path next. The series is dead. It was starved of sales and died. I won’t be trying to revive it anytime soon.

Sorry if you’re disappointed by that–believe me when I say it hurts me even more–but that’s how it’s gotta be.

Added: As if he used his powers as SFWA president to read this unfinished blog post, John Scalzi put up a terrific post about writing for a living. It’s not just an art, it’s a job, too, and we all have to make realistic choices.

Plus, I’m convinced the dude has installed spyware on my computer or used a time machine to read this post in the future and then come back and pre-empt it. Hmf.

I recommend reading his thoughts on the matter, plus the comments from other pros in the comments. As an addendum: keep in mind that, looking at the numbers in this post, where he’s talking about the sales figures of Redshirts, John Scalzi, as successful as he is, has not yet reached the threshold I set myself for returning to 20P. Just sayin’


State of the books/trailer/shorts report

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Thanks to a comment I received yesterday, I realized that I’ve been putting people off for months now about the status of the books, the trailer, everything. And that’s not fair. So here is a quick rundown of where things stand on the projects I’ve been promising. And since this is long, I’m going to put in a Continue reading

Five things make a post.

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First, early reaction to the sample of A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is pretty good. I have to write much more of it before submission (it’s about 30% finished) but early signs are positive.

Second, there’s a gorgeous sunrise outside my window, all blue and pink. The sun will be above the cloud level soon, turning the day into the usual dismal gray, but this was nice.

Third, I’m making good progress on the synopsis of The Twisted Path aka Twenty Palaces 4

Fourth, I’ve seen exactly two of the movies on the Oscar nomination list, and both of those are up for less showy awards. I’m not particularly embarrassed by this lack but it does mean that I’m unable to take part in the blog discussions of it. See also:

Fifth, I skipped last nights State of the Union address, so I can’t comment on it. See? No blog material.

Back to work.

State of the Self Address

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It’s been a week since I screwed up my knee. Things are much improved, but I’m still a bit hobbled. I can bend my knee now, but not all the way. It also feels mostly swollen rather than deeply painful. It’s not a miniscus tear, since I can put weight on it. In fact, I can walk pretty well on it as long as I don’t get too ambitious and try to leave the apartment. In essence, it has improved to the point that it is back to the usual pain/impairment levels, although at the “bad” end of those levels.

In other news, the basic shape and structure of the fourth Twenty Palaces book fell into place over the long weekend, and like most revelations of this sort it looks so obvious in retrospect that I feel stupid for not putting it together sooner. As I said on Twitter, it’s all uphill from here but at least I know what hill I’m tackling.

And yeah, the new tag below is the working title for book four.