Category Archives: kindle

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.

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….

Disaster, disaster, too many disasters….

I am now at 48,000-plus words on Princess of Fire, and well positioned to reach my self-imposed goal of 50,000 words by end of day– assuming the very low-key celebration I’ve been invited to this evening doesn’t get in the way. I am not a drinker (Southern Baptist Sunday School does have an effect on people), so inebriation will be no excuse.

This little literary surge has been instructive, in a number of ways. With some extra effort I have managed about 2000 words a day most days, a very fast pace for me. Once day I hit 3000 words, which is unheard of (it also left me in pain. I need a better chair). As a demonstration of what I can do when I put my mind to it, it has been encouraging.

More importantly, though, in the process of writing as fast as possible, I realized that my conception of Fire may have issues. As I originally conceived it, the action focuses mostly on Kathy, having to act as a leader in a crisis– but her actions are often dependent on events far away, to which she is essentially a spectator. And so far that has had the unfortunate result that I am doing a lot of telling, and not showing– e.g., Kathy listening to broadcasts of remote disasters. You can only do that so many times before the reader starts to wonder if they’re reading about the actual protagonist.

The solution is probably to spread the narrative of what is actually a series of interlinked disasters, military and natural, out across several viewpoint characters, not just Kathy. I’ve done this before and I have confidence (egad, did I just use that word in reference to myself?) I can make it work, but it will entail major changes in the structure of the novel and the character set. But the really interesting point is that it was the process of actually writing the novel that revealed the flaw in my conception. That’s a lesson to take to heart.

Fortunately, though, all these changes are a problem for the second draft. On with the first. 🙂

Later.

The Writer’s Needful– Part Three– The Core of Persistence

In my previous post I talked about writers needing courage. This post is about persistence. I do believe for writers persistence and courage are linked, but I do not believe they are identical. Courage is about overcoming and surviving discouragement and disappointment; persistence is about the daily discipline that writing requires.

Persistence is actually a well-worn topic among writers and those who instruct others on how to write. Lewis Shiner once said that if someone can be at all discouraged from writing, then they should be. Bridget McKenna, years ago in a writing panel at Norwescon, told all of us eager young wannabe writers that getting published is 90% persistence (and if you can’t trust Bridget McKenna, damn it, who can you trust?). Google “writing persistence” and you’ll get a screenful of links to websites and videos on the topic.

But hold on– many of these sites talk about persistence in the context of getting traditionally published. Keep submitting, keep sending out your work, that sort of thing. But this is the new, glorious age of self-publication. Does perseverance mean anything when a new writer can take their very first ever short story and publish it online within 24 hours?

Yes, because persistence in writing has more dimensions than simply getting published. And it always has.

First, for the overwhelming majority of writers, learning to write takes time. Lots of time, lots of words, lots of trunk novels and short stories. Most of us learn to write by writing. To become competent as a writer, most of us need to persist and persist, through bad draft after bad draft, lousy grammar, awkward sentences approximately the length of the Great Wall of China, failed short stories and novel. The cliche is that your first million words are crap. The only variant I have seen on that is that it’s actually your first two million words that are crap.

The new opportunities for self-publishing have not changed this reality. If anything, this is proven by the quite simply enormous (and growing) pile of terrible-to-poor self-published works out there. If a writer wants to be other than a sad joke, they still need to learn the craft of writing.

Persistence is also part of the daily- or as near to daily as you can manage– discipline of writing. This is one of the hardest things a writer has to internalize. Writing is not dependent on inspiration or mood– it is a task you take on and do, the same way you go to a job or brush your teeth every day (at least, I hope you brush your teeth daily….). It took me years to learn this lesson myself, which is largely why I didn’t start writing in a serious way until I was well into adulthood.

If you are pursuing traditional publication, persistence is, indeed, needed, and, given the state of trad publishing, more than ever. If it was hard to get published thirty or twenty years ago, it is orders of magnitude more difficult now, as the publishing world petrifies into a living fossil, stuck in the adaptive rut of doing the same thing over and over again because it sold last go-around. The inability of traditional publishing to break out of that rut is leading thousands of authors to abandon trad publishing for self-publishing. It is very much like a torrent of water, dammed in one direction, finding an outlet in another. Another way to think of it is to say that people’s patience with a log-jammed process is not infinite.

Self-publishing, though, is not a golden road. Getting your writing in order, formatting everything correctly and uploading your story to Kindle or Smashwords is, unfortunately, no guarantee of winning an audience. The dirty secret about self-publishing– which isn’t much of a secret– is that getting noticed in the ever-widening sea of self-published material is very, very difficult. There is no sure-fire way to publicize a self-published work, certainly no one way that works for everybody, and building an audience takes time and patience– in other words, persistence.

Part of that audience-building is creating a body of work, instead of publishing a single story and retiring. That means more writing, and probably re-writing (certainly it does in my case). And so we come full circle back to the need to keep writing and to keep on learning how to write, because hardly anybody ever completely perfects this craft. In other words, once you’ve signed on as a writer, it’s for life.

Personally, I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

Next topic: Study.

Later.

Victory

Princess of Shadows went live on Kindle this afternoon. After 17 months of writing, rewriting, doubting, worrying, re-rewriting, cutting, adding, despairing and praying, the novel is done. There really were times I doubted this monster would ever be finished. I’m more than a little brain-fried– I expected that I would have a big emotional reaction, but instead I seem to be mainly just relieved.

As predicted, Shadows came in large, about 152,000 words. However, I did a little research and found that I am in good company– Emma by Jane Austen, is about 158,000 words. Watership Down, one of my favorite books of all time, is 156,154. Moby Dick is 206,052 words (it is indeed a whale of tale. Sorry). I think that, after the cuts I did make, the narrative moves along okay, though.

There’s still mopping up to do– I will be a few days at least formatting the CreateSpace file and getting it pulled together. And if previous experience is any guide I will need to be ready to provide updates to both the Kindle and CreateSpace files as needed. Having said that, this is the most thoroughly edited and corrected novel I’ve published to-date– I’m just leaving room for my all-too-evident humanity.

But otherwise I have a sense of tremendous relief, as if I’ve been carrying an aircraft carrier around on my shoulders that I’ve finally managed to unload into Elliott Bay. Once my shoulders stop aching, I’ll probably start on Princess of Fire, though there may be an extended period of doodling on other projects, as I engage in a certain amount of exultation in the sense of freedom I feel.

Now, if I can just get a day job….

Later.

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.