Monday, December 31, 2012

Tons of Other Talent Out There

While the main purpose of this blog is to try and bring attention to my passions, it would be irresponsible of me not to mention all of the great people that I have had the privelege of rubbing shoulders with over the past several years.

Tania Elicker has made perhaps some of the biggest impacts on my love affair with sci-fi/fantasy.  Her novel, The Flame Weaver, is a brilliant look into the way her imagination works.  I urge anyone who enjoys the genre to peruse that book - she's one of those tortured artists that doesn't realize how adept she is at storytelling.  The more people who are out there and able to convince her otherwise, the better.

If high fantasy isn't your cup of tea, you could always check out Nace Phlaux's freshman release, Coincidence.  If you've ever stopped to think about life, you know how perfectly things manage to fall into place.  The love of your life could be just around the corner; a statement heard loudly enough by the wrong people could completely change your destiny.  Phlaux wraps his story up with a bow that could unravel with the slightest tug - it truly is an winding journey, but it is one that couldn't have unfolded any other way.

Finally, several years back, I had the opportunity to work with a guy whose real name I still don't really know.  SplashKhat had a tremendous influence on the direction my stories took.  Although he was in a completely different medium, it was one that I once ventured upon.  As time passed, and I realized that it wasn't something I was proficient enough to pursue whole-heartedly, I always looked back at him with respect and admiration.  At one point, I reached out to him on a whim, and we had almost collaborated on the final piece of his magnum opus.  At present, he's doing very similar things as I: trying to develop his own video games.

There are, of course, many other people that have had a huge hand in helping me to develop into the storyteller that I am today.  There are other writer's that I emulate.  There are masterminds of such caliber that I could never hope to match their talent.  Perhaps in one of the other blogs down the line, I'll highlight these folks.  They deserve their moment in the spotlight as much as anyone.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Ultimate Penultimate

I'm finally feeling like I'm making some decent progress on this damn chapter.  Several of the characters have taken their final bow for the trilogy (excluding the epilogue).  Most of the action sequences have been taken care of, and the final chapter is structured instead for exposition and a big reveal.

This chapter is monstrous.  I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  The last section I was working on was Steel Tip and his troupe, and just one section ran six and a half pages.  And I write incredibly small.  My written pages end up being longer than typed pages.  All told, this chapter is already 28 pages long, and it's still going.

When it gets to the point that I can see the end, I start to write more purposefully.  There's definitely a flow to my writing, but further up the river, so to speak, my habits tend to focus more on being more relaxed.  I write when it is convenient.  Now, with a sense of finality, my writing sessions are more structured.  I plan on sitting down and writing more often.  A reality where I am finished by the end of the year is completely justified, especially in the next coming days.

For now, I have to slay this massive beast that still stands proud and strong before me.  These final chapters are always a little meaty, but I've never been faced with one this enormous.  It'll feel like a huge relief once I manage to put it behind me, although I'm sure a little melancholy as well.  After all, this goodbye is going to be a long one.  It may be years before I get to write about some of the characters again, and that is a painful realization indeed.

In the meantime, there is always the need to push on.  This monster of a book is going to be done soon, and I hope that it is something that I can share with everyone. 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Sales Spike!

It might be a little presumptious (I've had people return copies of my book before), and it may be only slight, but I've had the best month in... well, months, in terms of sales.

Better yet, the attach rate for the series increased as well.  Typically, I get about 20% on a return readership.  That is to say, if 10 people buy The Bindings of Fate, two of them will purchase As Darkness Falls.  It will be very interesting to see how things go once The Enemy Within is out.

Last week, I spoke about sales strategies, and what I plan on doing regarding the first book in the trilogy.  Rather than do a few days of free sales, I'm thinking of permanently lowering the price of Bindings.  It's clearly my first book, and I want to get more people on board for something which is a decidely niche title.  Medieval superheroes hadn't ever been done before, to my knowledge.  I think some fans have envisioned the Avengers as such, but even that came out after May 2011.

Of course, as Bindings becomes more open to the public, with a cheaper price, I imagine I'm going to get hit with a massive amount of hate (or so it would seem, anyway).  More people will get their hands on it, but the attach rate will probably drop.

That % is just a number.  I don't really care about that.  If I couldn't impress 95 out of 100 people, I'd just be incredibly happy to entertain those five other people.  As of right now, it looks like I'm writing the Tellest series for 200 people.  If that's the case, I salute you all, and I'll continue to write for you.  Thanks for being on board thus far!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Culmination of Everything

It's been a while since I've posted an update, and that's because there's been very little to tell.  Still, I think it's important that people know how far along the book is, and how well I am in my mind.

Things are still on track for this book to be completed at the end of the month.  I have about four more sections to write in the penultimate chapter, and then one last chapter that will reveal the secrets of the universe (of Tellest).  I promise to explain why people are gaining these powers, and what that means to the other powerful beings of the world. 

After that, I'll type the final part out, and then put the entire thing in a drawer somewhere for a month.  Then, I'll pick it back up, and do a preliminary edit on it before sending it out to someone who knows better, and can better strengthen my voice.  After he's done with his red ink, I'll edit it one last time, put the final touches on it, and commission a cover to be made.  In May, it will be out and ready to be in your hands (or on your desk).

I'm struggling with a couple of the details for when it is complete.  This is going to be my longest book, by far, and because of that, I'm debating what I should do about the cost.  When all is said and done, I've put the most work into this, and I would like to think that I should be compensated for it, so I'm thinking about raising the price compared to the last one.  This one would be $4.99 as opposed to the $2.99 I've been selling the last ones at.  If anyone happens upon this blog, it is most likely because you're already a fan of the books in some way, so I'll leave it to you.  What do you think my book will be worth?

One of the reasons that I'm questioning myself is that it's been quite some time since I've received any kind of feedback on the books.  Sales have slowed dramatically as well, so I'm getting a much smaller indication of how much people value my writing.  Before, when I released As Darkness Falls, I could tell what kind of attach rate I had with my readers.  You can tell that I have about a 20% rate.  That is, about 1/5 of the people who read The Bindings of Fate liked it enough to purchase the sequel.  That may not seem like a huge amount, but, in my view, that's splendid.

You see, I know that my first book has a sinister lull.  I've talked about it before in one of my other blogs.  There are a variety of people who will pick up my book, but a special niche of the audience will tolerate my journeyman flaws.  Once people were able to trudge through one of the weaker moments in The Bindings of Fate (specifically between Chapters Ten and Thirteen, if you're familiar with the work), I believe they were treated to one hell of a ride.

You see, in those 20-some pages, I tried to force character development onto my protagonist.  I wanted to give the audience a little more familiarity with him.  Yet the whole time, it showed him as infallible and indomitable.  Kaos became a man with no weakness (with the exception of spiders, of course), who was able to do in one day what eight men could not do in decades.

Of course, that was a weakness that should reflect on me, not the story.  There were plenty of ways that I could have written those passages leading to the Valley of Kathka that would have made Kaos' success seem more appropriate - more realistic.

I didn't do that, of course, and it's hurt my reputation as an author in some regards.  It's also helped immensely, because I've been able to identify some of my biggest flaws.

One of my lowest reviews has this to say about The Bindings of Fate:

"Here is another issue that bothered me. The main character enters a tournament. Why? For treasure. In fact, he repeatedly calls it "treasure". Not money, not gold, not anything specific. Just generic "treasure". The treasure he gets? A treasure map to go find... treasure! And he's so excited about it, he goes and finds this lost treasure that a group of eight other men could not find in their combined lifetimes. In. One. Day.
The hero is stabbed through the leg with a spear? Two pages later - he's off saving the world... sprinting and leaping. The main character is perfect at everything, all the time, but he's also perfectly humble, perfectly handsome, etc. etc."

As I've said before, the realistic chances of Kaos finding anything that eight other men could not is a little beyond the realms of ridiculousness.  I should have said that no one really bothered to try looking, or that they had just recently come into possession of the map that would have lead to the fabled treasure.  The former is actually accurate to the story as well.  With the Knights of Virtue recently developing the City of Wonders, who could blame them for not wasting time trying to find a city that may or may not exist?

And again, the main character's flawlessness is brought under the lens as well - something I've not forgotten, despite that review being written a year ago yesterday.

Another reviewer actually threw down his copy on several occasions, and couldn't even make it through the book:

Throwdown 1: Our hero won 4 gladiator battles, found a magic gauntlet in a lost city and then sleeps with the Duke's daughter ALL WITHOUT TAKING A BATH. It wouldn't be such a big deal, but the author mentions how Kaos has blood and sweat all over him and the guy changes clothes, but doesn't even splash water on his face. Ridiculous. Also worth mentioning: all of the above happened within 48-72 hours. Really?
Throwdown 2: Our hero makes a deal with a necromancer that if he defeats his champion, he'll let the Duke's daughter go free. Kaos defeats the champion and now she is free. "Free to watch you die!" (insert evil cackle). This was too much cliche and I liked Twilight for the love of Pete.

Now these complaints I take odds with.  I've responded to the "your character never takes a bath" comment on other forums before, and frankly, it always strikes me as a little odd.  Why should I ever have to mention that the character uses a washcloth or cleans himself in any regards?  It should just be implied when he's clean in the next scene.  I don't ever write about any of my characters taking the time to urinate, but is that supposed to imply that they never do it?  Fake spoilers ahead: the antagonist of the story actually dies of a bursting bladder.

It's the comment about the cliche that actually makes me realize that I'm not going to please everyone, and I'm alright with that.

All that said, however, let me further explain what is going on in my head as I near the end of these books.  As I sat, quietly writing this morning, the creeping, nagging worry that I'm not as good a storyteller as I wish to be would ferment in my mind.  The echoes of those comments, specifically the first one, still resonate within me.  It has effected my confidence, and in turn has effected the speed in which I've proceeded along this last year.  Everyone has doubts about their abilities, and most of mine are fostered from these admitted flaws.

In spite of that, however, I think that my writing has steadily improved since I wrote the previous two novels.  In this third book, I wrote a very similar treasure hunting sequence as the ill-fated chapters 10-12 in BoF.  It was because of that complaint, however, that I identified that weakness, and for that, I say thank you.

So it boils down to this:

  1. Bad press has made me second guess myself briefly, but I'm still in the game.
  2. If anything else, the bad comments have helped to strengthen my resolve.
  3. This book is going to be a monster in length.
  4. Help me to price out this new book.  Do I keep it at $2.99 or do I ask for $4.99.  Do I do a early premium and then drop the price later?  The price is in your hands.
As more information is ready to divulge, this blog will be the place to visit for the reveal.  Thanks for your support!