Archive for April, 2013

A couple days earlier than expected, I’ve released Origins.

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In this book, the team continues on their mission to discover the origins of the xenovirus, and it has some very surprising twists, especially toward the end.

I had a lot of fun writing this book, and am ready to start Book 3 as soon as I know how to proceed.

You can find the book here.

Revisiting Book 1

Posted: April 26, 2013 in Writing
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Well, I’m kind of bored and need a break. I’m reading through Book 1 right now, trying to make it in line with Book 2. There’s not much to change. Must of the stuff is background, about the xenovirus, xenofungus, xenolife, etc.

I combined Books 1 and 2 into a master copy. So far, it’s 91,000 words. Officially, I believe this is the longest thing I’ve ever written. By the time I’m part way done with Book 3, I’ll be over 100,000 words, which is really cool.

I really do think I’m getting better. Reading over Book 1, I can even tell a difference. I think it will flow a lot better once I’m done with it, but this is just a light edit. It won’t change any of the content, per se, though I do go a little more in depth into the xenovirus in the beginning, to line it up with what’s revealed in Book 2, as well as to keep some consistencies.

I can’t wait for Book 2 to come out. I’ve been working on it so long, and from what my amazing beta readers have told me, it’s good. It’s edited, I could literally upload it right now. But I want to be sure the new version of Book 1 comes out, with a couple chapters of Book 2 stuck in the back as a teaser.

These next few weeks are going to kick my butt as things at work kick into overdrive. I am so exhausted, even now, that even the thought of writing is very difficult to deal with. I want to write, but it’s really hard when you’re so wiped from work that you want to go to bed as soon as you get home, even if it’s still bright outside.

Some form or other, this thing will get finished. I will do five books total in the series, as well as appendices, maps, a glossary, and a bestiary. I loved reading stuff like that at the end of Lord of the Rings, and there is so much action in the books that it’s hard to just pause and worldbuild, even if that’s what I want to do. I could literally write chapter after chapter of my world and how it works. Maybe ten percent of what my world is actually makes it onto the pages. It’s about finding the right balance, and I’m trying to keep things lean and fast-paced, for the most part. If readers want more, then there will be appendices.

Once all the books are done, the whole thing will get a rewrite. Think of it as a “special edition”, with deleted scenes and stuff added back in. By the time I’m done with Xenofall, the final book, my writing skills will be a lot better. Then, I’ll be able to go back and make the whole thing what it should have been…that is, if I’m not so burned out on it by then.

My next big thing after this? I’m going to give my fantasy series another try, the one I’ve literally started five times and have been derailed every time by something or other. This time, I’m going to kick that book’s booty.

If I were to tell my full story of life and writing, it would be many thousands of words. If I were to write this fifty years from now, it might be a hefty book (or two).

Now, I just want to concentrate on my thoughts of my writing and my life in the past few years.

For as long as I remember, I’d always been fascinated with reading. When other kids were out getting into shenanigans, I was in my bed reading J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, or whatever author I was into at the time. I would read whenever I got the chance, between classes, on car rides, wherever. By the first grade, I was a book junkie, and by high school, my addiction had manifested into the desire to become a real life writer.

Now, at the ripe age of 25, I’ve written five books, two of which are self-published (and a third that will be within a week). If I had started realizing my potential earlier, maybe I would have written much more.

In the past four months alone I’ve started taking this writing thing a lot more seriously. I’ve done more for myself and my writing than at any other point in my life. I was stuck in a rut, writing-wise, for a long time. I feel like there were a lot of years where I wrote hardly at all, and if I did, the book was never finished because I didn’t know what else to do with it.

In 2010, I finished my first real book, with my friend Jelani Sims. It took two years of outlining and writing to finish it, but it got finished. Looking back, it could have, and should have, been done a lot quicker.

We had no idea what we were doing. We just worked on it, taking our best guesses on what should be done. We stopped outright at several points, only to start writing on it again somewhere else down the line.

Then, I learned the job wasn’t over when the book was finished. I learned about the joys of editing, copy editing, formatting, and marketing.

Well, we really did not learn that (at first). We published Night of the Necromancer in early 2011. It was exciting at first. There was a lot of fanfare, and it got some press. I think even to this day the book sits somewhere in OU Gaylord’s illustrious halls (perhaps in the professional writing alcoves)?

But after the first string of sales, everything just…died. It became clear, a few months in, that it was only our friends and family that bought it. No one else was interested, and I had no idea why. The book was great…wasn’t it?

Yeah, the story was good. That’s what a few random reviewers said. But why wasn’t anyone buying it?

I’d read some articles about some authors who found a lot of success by lowering their book prices to $.99 in order to get exposure, so I thought that might be what the problem was. So, we lowered the price from $3.99 to $.99. We got a few more sales, but by the time all was said and done, the royalties about broke even.

Then, I just got depressed about it, because I truly believed that was all there was to it. You write something, it either works out or it doesn’t. I think that depression created a block from me ever writing. I would write, but the projects wouldn’t get finished. I vowed that my next book would see an agent next time.

I attempted a fantasy novel a few times, always getting slammed to a halt about 50,000 words in (always when they got to that dreaded oracle scene). I may have attempted a few other things, I’m not sure. I was also working a job that was just downright depressing and boring, which certainly did not help.

I think the overall feeling was one of powerlessness. I tried to make something work, and it didn’t.

I didn’t know anything back then. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but now I know exactly what I did wrong. And I’m learning what I’m doing wrong all the time. I’m still doing a lot wrong, but the most important lesson is learned: I have a sense of power, and I recognize that even if I make mistakes, I can correct them or at least do better next time. And as I keep on doing that, my writing will get better, and the way I get my writing out there will be better.

What I did wrong:

1. I had bad quality. My problem was not pricing, as I had previously thought. After all, who backs down from paying $3.99 for a book they want to buy? Hardly anyone. Actually, $3.99 is very cheap for a book, even an e-book. That’s just a little over the price for a gallon of gas. The problem was one of quality. Not quality of story, but the actual text of the story. The formatting was horrible and not user-friendly. There were typos galore. The cover art was good, but even good cover art can’t make up for typos. This is just a fact. There are hundreds of other choices within the same genre that a reader can go to. Yours has to stand out above the rest, and be professional, or you will not be taken seriously. Recently, a reviewer pointed out my grammar and typos, giving me one star. At first, I felt upset and angry. Then, I realized that it was my fault. Maybe I couldn’t fix my characters without a complete rewrite, which is something else this reviewer pointed out, but I could at least hire a copy editor to fix the typos. I did. And the book is better for it.

2. I did not stay updated with the industry. I did not read blogs, articles, or forums where other writers gathered to talk about writing and the promotion thereof. I wished every day, when I was not writing, that I had a great community of writers to learn from. For some reason, it never occurred to me to go searching for one online. I think as I read the Kindle forums, KBoards, and blog posts of other self-publishing authors, I started to learn what I was doing wrong. If I had done this earlier, I could have taken advantage of many opportunities to advance my career, opportunities I will never have again. Then again, I’m glad I am wise enough to keep updated with self-publishing related things, because now I am more conscientious of what I need to be doing to be successful at it.

3. I did not promote. You can write the greatest book in the world, but no one will read it unless they find it. And readers can’t find it unless there is someone to tell them about it, in some form or other, whether it’s the author his or herself, or a friend. I have done almost zero promotion for the past month, and it shows. If I had promoted a bit more, solicited more blogs, done more giveaways, or found new avenues for promotion, my sales would not be so slow.

4. I did not read enough. Reading inspires you to write. When you read great books, it makes you say, “Hey, I want to write!” It really is like magic. I find my writing flow is so much better when I’m reading constantly.

5. I did not write enough. It’s really hard to talk about all the steps, and how they work together, but this one is a biggie. I had major lack of motivation. I think it stemmed from the lack of success and discouragement of Night of the Necromancer (which came from a skewed perspective of what “success” was). Success is the journey, not the end. Truer words have never been spoken, because the journey never ends. Success is getting better, being better than you were yesterday, and not giving on something that truly matters to you. Give up on everything else, but don’t give up on something that matters to you – and only you can be sure of what that is. I’ve never doubted, for a moment, that writing was what I wanted to do. I have the talent, I have the drive…why not go for it? Why waste my short life doing things that don’t matter, in the end?  I sort of lost focus on a lot of things post-college, and it took a while to find my feet. It’s important that in whatever field you choose, that you make it your passion and learn all you can about it, and correspond with others in it.

It’s also important to recognize the brevity of life and to do what you want with your life, while you still have it. That realization was very big for me. I have other goals in life, too, but writing books is the main one for now.

I think it’s amazing that anyone can publish a book using Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc.. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books and completely trash it.

I know that I have been downloaded in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, among other places, I’m sure. The few giveaways of done where thousands of copies of my books were downloaded were mind-blowing. The almost two thousand people that requested copies of The Wasteland Chronicles on the Goodreads giveaways section was also mind-blowing. I’ve had real life successes that give me fire to go on, which was something I was lacking before. So far, I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my books. I don’t think I’ve hit the thousand mark overall, but I’m closer to a thousand now than zero. Not enough to live on, but enough to keep trying and to keep pushing. I feel like by the end of this year, things will be moving a lot faster. Even if they’re not, I’m going to keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. And that’s what I’ve learned to do.

Maybe self-publishing isn’t the right path for everyone, but it is the right path for me, at least at this moment. As long as you’re self-motivated enough, and you have the talent and the drive, you have a shot at succeeding at writing. Not a guarantee, but a shot. That’s what I want: to succeed at a job that I’ve always wanted to do, which is to tell stories that entertain, and hopefully, when I get better at it, make people laugh, cry, and think.

Since college, I’ve never truly wanted any other job, other than to write full time. I always just assumed it would happen, that a muse would drop out of the ether and God would somehow write through my pen. Don’t worry, I’ve come down to Earth a bit since then. I’m trying my hardest to succeed, and I am getting better at this. I’m not there yet, I haven’t really found my voice yet, but I will.

Hopefully, I can tell more of my story at some future date. Right now, the main goal I have is getting Origins online. I’ve incorporated my copy editor’s fixes and all things are go as soon as I give both books 1 and 2 a back to back read. That should happen on Saturday, at the latest.

After that? Time to write Book 3, Extinction. And hopefully update the paperback of Book 1 to get rid of the typos. And promotion. Always, always, promotion.

New Apartament

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Life

I just moved into a new apartment.

Craziness! Or perhaps, not so much. I don’t know, but I really like it so far. It’s a studio with wood floors and a spacious bedroom (at least, spacious compared to what I had before). No TV or dining table yet, but I got my computer and Internet hooked up now, and a new keyboard so now I can type (egad, Dr Pepper spills!). So far, I have maybe 90 percent of my stuff moved in, and 50 percent of what’s in the apartment put away.

Here are some pics (no furnishings yet):

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From living room, through kitchen/dining room, into bedroom.

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From bedroom into living room.

So far, I really like it! It is one bedroom, and it’s nice to have a place to myself. It’s in Jefferson Park, close to the Paseo. It was built in 1929.

Once it’s all put together, I’ll put some more pics up. Still need to move in my newly acquired television set and eventually a dining room table.

Now that I’ve finished the fourth draft of Origins, I am somewhat twiddling my thumbs. The break is good and well-earned, but I find myself wondering about my next thing. There’s a fantasy novella I halfway wrote about a year ago that I’d like to revisit. Some ideas have been developing in my head on that front. It would be a good break from the Wasteland, as writing Origins was more work than I expected. In the end, I think that was a good thing. It taught me to not underestimate the amount of work necessary to do a good job…or at least what I hope is a good job.

One of my beta readers has already read it. She got back to me within two days and let me know she really liked it and it was better than the first. This is really encouraging because I had no idea whether it was good or bad. Her feedback is having me rethink one of the characters and I already have some ideas churning in my head that I’ll need to sleep on. It would maybe add 5,000 words to the story and a reworking of the ending. Not that the current ending is bad, per se, but this would make it much better. Whenever there’s a trilogy, or in my case a four book series, there needs to be a dark moment where all seems lost. I’ve thought of a way to raise the stakes way higher than I had them before in terms of the characters and their relationships. Only thing is, I don’t know if I can pull it off, yet.  It could be the case that I write that scene in my next book, but I think it could work here as well.

I don’t know, my thoughts are kind of skewed on it, so we’ll see.

In the meantime I’ll be thinking of what to do next. Eventually I’d like to do a map and a glossary, and possibly appendices, that would go more in depth into the world of the Wasteland, its critters, and the science of how it all works. Not real science, this is fiction after all, but I’d like there to be more of a basis for how it all works. I’d have to sci-ency research stuff so I don’t sound like a complete imbecile, but I’m fine by that. This extra stuff would be about twenty thousand words or so, maybe longer.

I’ve also been thinking about doing a prequel to Apocalypse. I have title called Darkness in my mind, and it would follow the story of Alex’s grandfather and father during the Dark Decade, ending with them being holed up in Bunker 108.

I think a prequel could be very cool. It would add a lot of depth to a time period only alluded to in the series: what would it be like for the whole world to watch its demise approach in the form of a meteor over ten years? If nothing else, it would make interesting speculative fiction. A prequel would give me the opportunity to explore that.

I don’t know if I would write that one next, or after all is said and done. It would make the series five books total, and probably 200,000 words (or more). Appendices included, more than that.

I think adding a bestiary (nerd alert!) for all the different kind of monsters found in the Wasteland would be really cool. And there a lot of critters, and more are being added as I think of them. Apocalypse contained some infected wolves and ,of course infected, people, not counting plants, but the virus does some pretty crazy things to Earth life in book 2.

I think having all that done by the end of this year would be very, very cool. And granted I do get it all done, I will be a much better writer at the end of it. I can go on to something else that’s even better than this. Hopefully.

The perfect end to this year would be to have all (prospectively) five books in one volume, available in both e-format and physical format, with maps, appendices, and a glossary, as well as having them available as separate titles, with some slick formatting, a table of contents., and NO typos…typos shall always and forevermore be my bane, Achilles tendon, and kryptonite, pick your cliche. However, the prospect of doing all that is exciting. I’d like to hold a book thicker than War & Peace in my hand and say, “Yeah. This book thing. I wrote it. BAZINGA!”

Although, War & Peace is about 550k words, or so I hear, so it would still be twice as long as anything I wrote. It’s the principle that matters, folks!

And, there is always my romance novel I want to write. I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I guess an overabundance of ideas is a good thing for a writerly fellow like me.

The End

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’ve learned that a book isn’t done when you write “the end.” A good part of the work, about fifty percent, is editing. And I’m glad to say I’ve got the vast majority of editing done for Origins.

It took four drafts, and though my fifth book, Origins marks a first for me: it’s the first time I’ve written a book, start to finish, without taking any intermissions. I just sat down, from the end of January to now, working on it (almost) every day until it was done.

It took a lot of work, and hopefully it was worth it. I think it’s pretty good, although it has its problems. The last chunk of my editing will be incorporating the suggestions of my beta readers, who all have the manuscript in hand. And then, sending it to the copy editor, and then, publication.

There will be two more books in the series, but even the thought of starting book 3 is a little daunting. I’m not sure what I will do in the meantime, but it will probably not be The Wasteland Chronicles for awhile. I hope to have book 3 out by July, at the latest August. I want the whole thing to be one before the year is out. I should probably throw myself back into promo, now that the majority of this is done.

4/8/2013

Posted: April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

Didn’t do much, writing-wise. Edited a chapter and just a hit a block. Something about the beginning of the book moves really slowly for me. I don’t think it’s because it’s bad, per se. I think it just takes time for the plot to get into motion and have the new characters introduced.

Instead, I just ate and read and napped a bit. I feel like the Herculean strength I had in the fast few months is going away, and I need to take it a bit easier. It’s a lot easier to write on the weekends, while there’s still time. There are also other changes coming soon that will eat into my writing time as well.

It’s really hard to focus and finish something because life always gets in the way. This book will be done, and hopefully tomorrow I won’t be so tired and can actually sit down and get through at least the first third.