Category Archives: Amazon

Princess of Fire published and available

Princess of Fire is now available on Amazon Kindle. I can only say, thanks be to God. Twenty-two months (longer than it took for me to produce Princess of Shadows), a lot of doubt and confusion and false starts and long doldrums and restarts. Plus, tears and a last minute horror-show of changes. I believe, however, I’ve now gotten the book into a good shape, and the time has come for me to abandon– ahem, launch it.

I previously blogged that I would be starting on Horse Tamer after Princess of Fire, but it looks as if that is not going to happen. I will probably blog about why I’ve made the decision not to pursue Horse Tamer some time soon, but not just yet. I also won’t be starting Princess of Stars right away, either, but that’s because I need to take a break and do a little more extensive planning for the last book of the series, to make sure I don’t go through a repeat of the nightmare of rampant pantsing that was Princess of Fire.

In the meantime, I will try to do more blogging– I was on something of a hiatus during my last push on Princess of Fire— and I might try my hand at some other shorter projects I’ve had in mind. I will also be putting together the POD Createspace edition of Princess of Fire in the next week or so. And, once again, there is also the nagging issue of getting a day-job. Plenty to keep me occupied until I’m ready to start Princess of Stars.

A weight has been lifted, a monkey is off my back. Until the next project, that is….

Later.

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How to make money writing…or destroy yourself…

At the moment there is an active thread over on Amazon’s Kindle Authors forum, debating the best way to make a living writing. I’ve restrained myself from commenting on the thread, because I would be tempted to use words like “hack” in my response to the original poster. Name-calling does not foster reasoned debate. Besides, there has already been enough of that kind of thing.

The more I read through the posts, however, the more I start to wonder if the OP isn’t on to something– not necessarily something nice, or useful to me, but perhaps just a spark of truth.

The poster’s point– which he presents as rock-ribbed truth, rather than as opinion– is that, to make money as a writer, we need to identify the “niche markets” that are currently “hot”, and write in those niches. Our personal tastes and desire to express ourselves in our writing must, according to him, take a back seat, if not get shoved into the trunk. He says, “Do you want to write what you love to write or do you want to write what sells?” which just about sums up his attitude.

My initial reaction to this sort of assertion is disgust. I have to admit, though, looking at the current state of publishing, and, in particular, self-publishing, it is hard to argue with his basic premise.

Erotica on Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere sells well. The world of genre publishing is currently flooded with Hunger Games imitations. Supernatural romance/adventure, particularly involving vampires, zombies and werewolves, is everywhere. What’s left over seems largely occupied by people who want to be the next Diana Gabaldon or J. K. Rowling or Rick Riordan.

And, of course, we are all suffering through the Age of Fifty Shades of Grey, perhaps the greatest niche novel of them all. I recently saw a self-published author on Google+ advertise his novel as “Fifty Shades of Grey on Steroids!” The mind boggles.

It is evident a lot of people are trying to jump on a number of different bandwagons. This is, however, nothing new. There was a time when every new fantasy book seemed to be a re-tread of The Lord of the Rings (many still are). When Mickey Spillane was big, everyone wanted to do violent, hard-edged detective fiction. You can, in fact, trace this sort of thing right back to Homer– we know that subsequent writers/poets elaborated on The Illiad and The Odyssey.

There is, in short, an instinct in many writers to want to imitate what has succeeded before. It’s easier, perhaps, to adopt the formulas of others than to create your own, especially if those formulas appear to be lucrative. Hollywood, in fact, nowadays largely runs on this principle. And there has never been a shortage of writers willing to slot themselves into formulas that appear to pay dividends– who are willing to create material, not based on their own creative vision, but on someone else’s.

This all raises a central question– why, after all, do we write?

Perhaps, however, that’s too broad a question. There’s no accounting for all the different motivations people bring to writing. I can really only talk honestly about why I write. And when I focus on my motivation, the answer becomes clear.

I write because I have stories in me. And I always have.

When I was six or so my father bought a plastic model kit for a KC-135 Stratotanker. I watched him as he assembled it. He did a beautiful job on the model, working hard to put it together just right. When he was finished, he mounted it on a stand and put it up where I could not reach it and told me, “Don’t touch.”

I remember going absolutely mad with frustration.

Because I didn’t want to admire the model as a piece of statuary. I wanted to take it down and play with it; to make it fly, at least as well as my pudgy little child’s hand could make it fly. I wanted to go adventuring with it, going on bombing runs (the distinction between “tanker” and “bomber” being fuzzy in my six-year-old mind). Maybe there would have even been an encounter with a UFO or a crash-landing or two.

In other words, I wanted to create stories with it.

Most of my childhood play was story-telling in one way or another, and when I grew older, my play simply transmogrified into actual narrative. My earliest tales were, of course, derivative of Star Trek and Lost in Space and DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, and mostly narratives I told myself before I went to sleep, but they were explicitly stories, and before I was eleven I knew I wanted to write them down.

Eleven was a long, long time ago, and I hope that my tales have become a little more sophisticated and a little less derivative in that time, but they have all come out of the same story-telling impulse. And more and more, I have come to insist on writing down my vision, not someone else’s.

That is my basic motivation for writing. Would I like to make a living at it (or even just a noticeable amount of money)? Certainly, and at one time I thought that was a possibility. In the last year or so, however, that possibility seems to have dwindled away. It’s quite possible, putting it in the terms of the original poster from the Kindle thread, that my Divine Lotus series does not belong to any recognizable niche. In fact, as a novel about a teenage girl that’s not truly a young adult work, and a science-fiction tale that is as much about the impact of development and cross-cultural assimilation as it is about adventure, almost certainly not. It is entirely possible that this is why it has not attracted a noticeable audience.

If so, will I be re-writing these novels to fit some niche that’s currently selling?

$%#%@!%! no.

I could try to fit my writing to someone else’s scheme, but I can hardly think of a quicker way to destroy myself. I have written what I have within me; to try to do otherwise would be self-betrayal. Not that I have some tremendous artistic vision, worth of a Sistine Chapel– I just have mine, and that’s enough. And if that doesn’t attract an audience, well, I wasn’t planning on quitting my day job anytime soon, anyway.

So, perhaps there’s a grain of truth in the OP’s assertions. Making money from writing is not the same thing as expressing yourself, and never has been. We live in a cynical age in which a piece of garbage like Fifty Shades of Grey can, somehow, hit the zeitgeist’s happy button and make millions. If you come to writing just to make money, pick your bandwagon and hop on.

But that’s not for me. And I’m okay with that.

Later.

A quick emergence from my cave to squint at the sun…

And we’ve been having entirely too much of that sunshine stuff here in Seattle lately. I have a mind to the tell the Sun to knock it off.

A quick note, just in case anyone wondered if I had been kidnapped by aliens (I wouldn’t mind, if they looked like Gwenyth Paltrow)– other matters continue to pull me away from the blog, but progress is being made on Princess of Fire. I think I’m re-engaging with Kathy in a way I haven’t been able to the last few months. She’s starting to deal with the Deep Serious that’s about to land on her and the people she cares about, and the pace is picking up as I get excited about what I am writing.

On another matter, which I may talk about at more length in a near-future post– I have made a decision to resume the effort to seek traditional publication, in a small way. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that self-publishers are not eligible for SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) membership. As irritating as that is in one way, in another I totally understanding the logic. SFWA doesn’t want the slush pile to come knocking on their door….

This re-entry into the pursuit of trad publishing doesn’t mean my novels will be leaving Amazon– I plan to try my hand at short stories. And the first might be based on an idea I got from Chuck Wendig’s challenge from last week, which I started to write, and then realized I might be able to do something more with. Mixing and matching sub-genres is fun, and the two I got out of the random selection was “dystopia” and “superhero”.

I can do something with that.

More later, when it’s not my bed-time. Good night.

Work in progress hiatus

Princess of Fire is now over 96,000 words, but that’s not a completely happy thought. I believe I will use most of what I have written, but the structure of the novel as it now exists is an appalling jumble. I have to admit that this is one instance in which pantsing the draft has not done me any favors.

This novel has gone from “gosh, this is going to be easy” to trench warfare. In fact, I have the feeling that I need to put this project on hiatus, giving it a few days to rest before I think about my next steps with it. This is not something I usually do, but the scope of the problems I now perceive with Fire exceed those I had with Princess of Shadows, which at least had the benefit of being a good deal simpler in structure. I need to give this project some space to sort itself out.

But, in truth, there is more going on with me than just the issues I am having with Fire. Other factors are impacting my productivity and making it hard to stay focused on a difficult project– uncertainties in the personal space, employment issues, and, depressingly, one of my periodic funks in which I am sure my writing is the most godawful dreck in the history of literature. I do this every now and then. This time around it’s been bad enough to make me wonder if I should really be asking people to pay for my stories on Amazon, and whether I shouldn’t just offer them all for free somewhere.

Partly as a consequence I did remove two of my novellas from Kindle I decided were not up to snuff, but I finally talked myself into leaving my other stories in place. I think my stories are at least as good as the average run of self-published material. Considering what’s out there, I may be damning myself with faint praise, but I’m not going radically change anything, at least for the time being.

As far as Princess of Fire goes, I am going to let it lie fallow for a few days while I doodle on some other projects, and then see if I can come back to it with fresh eyes. To be honest, it’s not like I have a rabid fan-base pounding on my door, demanding the next Divine Lotus book. The only pressure I have on me with this project is self-imposed, and I need to give myself a break.

J. K. Rowling, Lynn Shepherd, and the misuse of the Amazon review system

I just came across this little brouhaha (as usual I’m late to the party). I don’t really care to address Ms. Shepherd’s opinion– I think she’s wrong, but she’s entitled to an opinion, and more than enough people have already responded to her article to make anything I can say superfluous– but I want to say a brief word about the fact that some thoughtless people have been leaving one-star reviews on Amazon for Ms. Shepherd’s books in retaliation for her article.

This is wrong, people.

Petty, vindictive spite is not what the Amazon review system is for. Anybody who uses it in that manner is wrong. Doing so devalues reviews for everyone. Ms. Shepherd clearly has a right to ask Amazon to remove such reviews. And, while I can’t speak for Ms. Rowling, it seems antithetical to the whole spirit of Harry Potter in the first place.

Rethink your attitude, folks.

A small detour….

I am north of 64,000 words on Princess of Fire. In the last week I’ve missed a couple of days of writing due to real-life demands, and so I’m a little off my previous pace. I’m not particularly worried about it, but over the next day or so I will probably lag even further behind. I’ve decided I need to take time to re-edit a novelette I had previously published on Kindle. Some weeks ago I got a review of the story in which the reviewer had major problems with the editing. I don’t recommend this as a course of action to be taken every time you get a little negative feedback, but in this instance I decided to un-publish the story until I had the opportunity to revisit the editing. I think I’m now at that point.

I don’t believe there was anything majorly wrong with the piece as it was, but I want to be open to improving my writing at every opportunity. It could turn out that the reviewer just has a burr under their saddle…or there could be some undetected (by me, anyway) problem that cries out for correction. Me being me, you have to leave the door open to the possibility that I screwed up somewhere, perhaps spectacularly. From what I’ve seen so far, however, it’s more likely that the reviewer was reacting to lingering passive language and over-long sentences (unfortunately, they were not terribly specific in their review). My hopeful thought in all this is that, perhaps, my ability to see these problems is an indication that I have improved, at least a little, as an editor.

I will not, however, be attempting to create a perfect edit with this story. I am firmly convinced that such a thing does not exist. At some point, a writer has to let go of the work and just get it out there. To do otherwise achieves only paralysis.

Once I am through with the edit, it will be back to Princess of Fire with guns blazing. And a few other things, as well….

A quicky quick update of the quick kind

I pushed through today and completed the line edit for Princess of Shadows. All changes are complete, thank God. I resisted the temptation to publish at once; instead I am performing one more check by creating a PRC file and reviewing it to make sure the formatting is correct. I should be able to get through that by tomorrow afternoon; unless I find something horribly wrong, tomorrow evening Princess of Shadows will be uploaded to Kindle. The CreateSpace file will follow in a couple of days.

I’d celebrate, but I’m waaaay too tired.

Later.