Bring the Heat

Wow, August is nearly here. Autumn is on the horizon. I love the autumn. Mostly because by the time September rolls in, I am sick of the heat and sun (I love living in an area with four seasons). Also, because my birthday is in October. Followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I am a fan of the holidays and it all starts with my birthday! 

But before then, we have August. And next weekend I'm attending the Willamette Writers Conference. My first time actually.  I have a couple of meetings; one to meet an agent. Wish me luck! It will be my first time pitching my book in person. I will check out the workshops too, which are always great. I have yet to figure out my schedule though. Should probably get on that. 

It is also another opportunity to schmooze with like minded people. But I am not that kind of person that can walk into a crowd of strangers and end up with five new friendships at the end the day. I understand, as an writer, we need to be selling ourselves, our capabilities and vision before we even have an opportunity to share our writing. But I have never been comfortable with that aspect of the profession. I just want to be the nerdy guy turning out quality work that sells itself. I have always avoided being a sales person. It always came across as superficial, that the sales pitch is always a means to an end, the sale, and whatever precedes it is hyperbolic or manipulative. Like the used car salesperson trope. 

I have learned sales is not always this way. Books don't sell themselves. People do. And when you are not a well known author, you need to talk to people to share your work. And once they read the book, and like it, you want them to talk to others, who will read and like it too! It takes effort and meeting people. I will admit, for me that is more difficult than writing. The thought almost makes me sweat. Like stepping out under the scorching August sun. We all like to be in the shade where it feels best, but it is those that acclimate that learn to enjoy the world. Thrive and move freely. 

I am telling myself, don't envy those people. Learn to be one of those people.

Fight Club

What does it take to be an author? One might ask.

I am living that experience. I can say it has been simultaneously exciting and disappointing, hopeful and discouraging, the best of times, the worst of times. I wrote a book, so what is the next step? No, really, what do I do next?

In my search for that answer (and an agent and a publisher), I found this blog from Brent Weeks (a fellow Oregonian) sharing his insights toward his path to publishing. If you are like me, this sharing of knowledge is such a precious jewel. And I recognize it as the gracious act it is; Brent is kindly giving back to the community he feels honored to be a part of. Thanks Brent!

I have made many mistakes, of course, from the writing side of being an author. But that’s fine, the mistake laden writing part. As with anything that requires improvement: Do, Fail, and Do Again; but do better with the knowledge of your mistakes. When applied, first write, then get feedback from those skilled in writing; edit your work, then continue writing.

Writing, I feel, is the easy part. Simple formula: Write, get feedback, write more, (hold yourself in a fetal position in bed), go back for more critique. You DO get better by doing this. In addition, read other authors or otherwise consume all other forms of media that tell stories. Study rap for rhythm and word play and all the neato slang. Watch plays for dialogue and pretentiousness. Watch cartoons for humor and space tentacles. It all informs you on the craft.

But this only addresses the artistic considerations of being an author. There is a business component that I waaaaaay underestimated as I was writing my book. I should have been a better student. Now that I want to count myself as a professional, I am paying attention.

Queries are not enough. Pat Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Jim Butcher…all of them found success by meeting their agents, face to face. You need to practice your log line, pitch and speak about your project in 3-5 minutes. This is/was super difficult for me, sharing my book in sound bites. I would ramble on about plot and themes. When you are pitching, you are supplying just enough information that you, 1) should set your story apart from those previously pitched 2) elevate the interesting parts of your story quickly, with the hope your audience will want to know more and ask questions. Brent makes all these points in his blog. Check it out if you want an expert’s perspective on what it takes to succeed. I have more work to do.

I will confess one experience, I tried a marketing strategy that backfired. I was able to get a booktube blogger to read my book in return for a review. The idea was that when she discovered the genius of my book, she would share with her entire audience and create buzz. As it turned out, she did not like it so much. And that’s what her audience took away.

She did follow through and reviewed my book. I still have not watched it. Not because I don’t listen to feedback, I do. I welcome it. It is just that I put so much weight on this one review being successful and attracting a wider audience, that failing was a kick to my gut. The stomping of my heart was my own doing.

That is what it felt in the moment. I could probably watch it now. Actually, I will. I want to hear her feedback. She was kind enough to take the time to read my book. Since that time last year, I have met others that have read my book and enjoyed it, leaving great reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. But I will be honest, that one review shut me down for a while. That is the true reason I haven’t been blogging. I needed time to recover. I needed time to regain my confidence. I wrote a book I’m proud of, not everyone will agree with the results.

That is the worst of times that I mentioned earlier. When you are so passionate about what you do, set backs can get amplified, though really, they are just doses of reality. And the reality about pursuing success is that it takes effort, time, and perseverance. And MOXIE. Maybe, mostly, moxie, (and an eye for awesome alliteration).

I always remind myself of that scene in Fight Club, where the recruits are standing at the door and Tyler Durden yells at them, tells them they are not good enough, that they are too something that they don’t qualify. Those that walk away are the ones that already agree with the criticism. They leave because they felt like they didn’t belong when they first got there. But those that got through, they knew they belonged, despite being told no and never. Or they refused to go back from where they left.

I know it is a strange analogy (mostly because those recruits turn out to become a misguided cult of young violent men; just set that aside for a moment). For anything we want to be successful at, we need to be willing to stand at the gate and be determined to get through. And we don’t need anyone’s permission to be there but our own. Remember that.

To being continued...

As I mentioned, it has been a year since I have blogged, but I have not been idle. I have attended some writing conferences. I am going to the Willamette Writers Conference at the beginning of August. I am meeting with an agent to pitch my already self-published book.

Why? You may ask.

Well, the simple answer is I want a career in writing books, no matter what the path, self-pub or traditional pub. This is what I have wanted for 15 years.

Self-pub authors have had success which have turned into careers, but trad pub authors just have more success. That is just the reality.

I self-pub my book because I got discouraged during the query process. I did not have one person request my MS; out of around 20 queries. And my impression was that my kind of fantasy genre was no longer desirable.

But I didn’t want to shelf my MS, as what we are told to do, then move on to another project.

So, I self-published with the intention of growing an audience organically (which I have already declared, not my strongest skill set).

Either way, self-pub or trad pub, it is now the author’s role to market their work.

I am about 80K words into the sequel. My last book was about 150k words in length. I am targeting 120k with this book. (By the way 150k for a debut fantasy book is considered a bit long).

Truth is, I was hoping to complete this book in 2018. So, I am way behind. I am now targeting 2019. Which is very achievable.

My greatest desire is to have more time to write and think about books. It seems as though I am doing less of that than I was 5 years ago. Sigh.

I have two strategies this year: try to get the interest of a lit agent and take a shot at trad pub. If not, continue with the series under InkSkald Press, then move on to other projects and trad pub. If I go with the latter option, I will venture outside classic fantasy and take more creative chances.

It is a romantic idea to go it alone as a self-pub business. I love my publisher name, InkSkald Press. But not only do I need to develop marketing skills and strategies, it is also another TIME suck when I must consider taking on another role at this point in my life. At some point, some important things start getting de-prioritized, and that is never good.

Independence Day

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July, 2018. I did. Having a holiday in the middle of the week is everyone’s favorite thing. (side-eye stare).

Wow, it’s almost been a year since I blogged. Obviously, I am terrible at this. At the blogging thing…and having an on-line presence…which does not help me grow my audience or get me closer to my goal of being a full-time writer. (Until I became an author, I never had Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads…any of that, because it’s sooooo millennial [emoji with tongue sticking out = fuchi]).

But in the past year, I have received some positive reviews from passionate readers (can I call them “fans?”). That has been great, and I appreciate everyone taking a chance on my book, but there is so much more work I need to do to grow my audience.

I need to meet my audience where they are. Which is on-line. On Twitter. Facebook. Instagram? I don’t know how to do this stuff. But I need to learn…and embrace it all. (I’m like a cave dweller stepping into the sun for the first time – “it burns us!”).

Honestly, one major reason why I have been avoiding having an online presence was due to the fact I have a full-time job, and the implications of declaring I am developing a secondary career has been risky. Pursuing a writing career could be (and has been) received by my employer as a conflict of interest. I have had internal interviews where the question comes up, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” If the answer is not related to the job you are applying for, if it is, “I passionately want to be an author,” then you will all likely not the best candidate for the job.

This has happened to me. It doesn’t feel great when your passion is viewed as a liability.

I can’t simultaneously keep my writing on the down low while expecting to grow my audience and my brand as an author. Therefore, I am going all in. I am not treating writing as a hobby anymore. Or a secret. It demands more. I am embracing what I truly want and signaling to all that this is how I will shape my life. I’m all in.

I still have to maintain my job though- mortgage, kids, insurance, food. Until I grow my audience into, like, 10,000 sold copies. (I’d take 5000 tbh). These seem like astronomic figures to me right now. But very achievable.

I believe in my talent.

I believe in my voice.

I don’t doubt my determination.

I’m not so clear on the path....   :/

But that is no excuse for not charging ahead.

I'm on BookTube!

Ok, not me, but my book, The Woodcutter King. Sam, from the youtube channel Sam's Nonsense, was kind enough to give my book a shout out and a chance to share it with her audience. I can't tell you how happy this moment made me. Pure happiness.

 

There are many Booktubers out there, but I really like Sam. She's from Oregon...not only does she love books, and fantasy books to boot, she is a gamer, como yo. And loves RPGs. This month she is participating in #TheReadingQuest, which is like an RPG-ish contest for readers. Sam explains it better than I could. It is a freakin' awesome concept. I wish I could participate. I would be a Rogue, but I can barely finish one novel in half a year. Seriously.

I just have too much going on. I only read right before I go to sleep, so it is not so productive. I envy those of you that can read a novel a week. 

Sam chose my book to be one of her first reads for the challenge. I am overjoyed. Crossing my fingers she enjoys it and can share her thoughts with all of you. Thank you Sam! Check her video out about #TheRedaingQuest.

 

 

Book Two

A word about the next project.

After completing The Woodcutter King, the questions was, what to write next? I always intended to write more about Edrick and Alaric. Theirs is a saga. But as I submitted my manuscript / query letters to agents and publishers, with utter rejection, the question was to soldier on alone, or shelf it (like recommended by those in the biz) and start anew.

I have lots of ideas. I was ready to go a new direction. This time, a female protagonist, less epic fantasy, simple- more focused story, quirky and artful. You know, do what an artist should do, explore their abilities and improve their skills by pushing personal boundaries.

Well, that never seemed like an option for me (abandoning the first book part, not the improving skills part). For some writers, that is the better option. If I were 30 years old, with one book written under my belt, I might have gone in that direction. Challenged myself to write two more books before I was 40, each time, going the traditional publishing route.

Every writer is looking for validation from those that came before them.

Yet, I will be turning 40 this year. It has been my goal since I entered college at a late age to be a novelist. Like my only professional aspiration. No backup plan, no alternative. I wanted my career to be this one thing. A writer. Stories have been my obsession for over 25 years. Redirecting an obsession is not an easy or fluid task.

I worked on The Woodcutter King for a total of seven years ( I might have mentioned this, I don't remember). Working another job, raising kids, all the other life stuff. I even stopped for a year as my mom succumbed to cancer and I went through a divorce, finding myself a single father of two. Getting this first book out took so much. Considering another period in my life where I start with a completely new project only felt as if my dream may never come true.

(Queue the world's tiniest violins playing just for me).

So I made a choice. I am putting all my chips on one bet. I could fail, but that is fine. There is no road to success without failure. What is important to me is that I position myself to fully commit my life to writing, as oppose as 20% of my effort and expecting 100% reward.

That means writing 5 times more than I had before (palm smack to forehead).

So my next project (I know, it took me a while to get to this point), is a sequel to The Woodcutter King. It is called….well it does not have a title yet. It will for sure not be the Woodcutter Queen, Prince or Princess, as clever as those titles might sound. Lol

It will take place 2 years from the end of the last book. I am planning three more books for this storyline. Each book taking place two years apart. They will continue Edrick’s and Alaric’s saga, but I am expanding the character stories to include the entire family.

In this second book, expect to read more about Elisial and her magick, Meghan’s training as a alhielda, and many other unanswered questions from the first book (sorry, trying to avoid spoilers, or else I can go into a little more detail).

We will still be in Athelyn, but the story takes us to other areas of the Gheldenmark and meet more if its inhabitants. You will encounter new creatures and powers. The world mythology will deepen and grow. I would like to promise that everything you like about the first book, will be present in the second plus more!

The tentative publication is Fall 2018! Not that far away. And yes, I am freaking out because I still have a day job, family and a life.

June Book Giveaway! pt3

The book giveaways are over. I was astounded to see 900 people sign up. Exciting to see so much interest. Congratulations to all the winners! For those that won the signed paperback, these should be hitting the mail by the end of this week and arriving at your doorstep very soon.

For those that did not win, just know, if you have Kindle Unlimited you can check it out for free! Go find it over at Amazon.

As always, please rate your reading experience on Amazon or Goodreads! Sharing your thoughts, as in comments, is better and helps attract other readers with similar tastes. And I can keep writing and delivering more books! Everyone wins!!

And for any Rothfuss and Martin fans, you may not have to wait years for the next book. How cool would that be? 

June Book Giveaway! pt2

Update - My Amazon Kindle give away is closed. Congratulations to all the winners!  ONLY 3 more days until my paperback book giveaway ends. 243 people have entered. I am super excited about all the interest. 

To those that receive/ received a copy, I hope you enjoy. Please share your reading experience by leaving a comment on Goodreads, Amazon or both! It will mean so much to me and lets other readers know if this is a book they can get to like...or hopefully love.

This may not be the last giveaway too. I am working with my illustrator Stelladia to create more character drawings because....well, just because illustrations are awesome. If things go well, there might me an Illustrated version of The Woodcutter King!  Follow me on Goodreads/Amazon to get new updates.