Indie Author Digest #103

I thought it time that I put up a new blog post. Mainly, because I haven’t done that in a while. I believe this one will be Indie Author Digest #102. I think. I will have to check and make sure it isn’t #103.

That makes it look like I have posted over 100 posts on Indie Authorship and that just isn’t true. I just started with #101 because that is what you’re supposed to do with checks because no one wants to get check #1.

I have also been writing this blog entry in my head for about a week, which is always an indicator that it’s time to actually write it.

So, what’s new? Well, I have right now, not gotten any of my novels up online yet. It feels so painfully slow I can’t tell you, but I am unwilling to “just throw things up” and feel compelled to make sure those manuscripts are as good as they can be. I am not trying to change the plots or re-do the characters. I am simply trying to get my style in, root out passive voice, fix typos and otherwise add in the missing pieces as I see them.

Well, I feel like if I don’t do that, I will be letting things slide and there is no reason to do that. So, what I have on the launching pad right now:

Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan, Book One of the Jen Cycle: That’s not an erotica book despite Dominatrix being in the title. I was once counseled not to include that word in the title and took it out when I got it published with Double Dragon Press–oh, that reminds me, I got the rights back. Yay! Anyway, Dominatrix because, well, this particular story is, in part, about the fall of the Dominatrices of Sulan. A line of cloned, celebrity dominatrices had been useful to the State (the confederacy of Sulan) to control the population and this book takes place when those clones’ usefulness is no longer valued. The second book in the series is Prizm: Liberator of Sulan and has yet to be penned.

Anyway, I rewrote this manuscript and had it edited and now am having it proofread and edited again and it is on the schedule to go live by Feb 5. I am setting up a blog tour with: http://nerdinthebrain.wordpress.com/ and Ashley Nemer at http://www.ashleynemer.com/. And am looking for other blogs to tour. I have never done a blog tour so should be fun. I am going to do a “pre-sale” so that people can pre-order a copy before it comes out. I am told this is a “best practice.”

Next on the list is Poppycock: A Midsummer Night’s Mare, by A. Michael Schwarz.

A. Michael Schwarz, by the way, is the demon in my head that writes horror, Andrew Michael Schwarz writes dark fantasy and sci-fi, but not horror.

Some people have a problem with A. Michael, I think. Well, because he’s dark. And writes horror. Anyway, Poppycock is crude and charming and fun and surreal and real and messy (which is to say bloody) and interesting. It’s about the lengths two self-respecting faeries will go to stay corporeal and is based on the idea that fear is the most real belief there is.

I just went through that MS and found it to be in pretty good shape. I had actually edited that thing a ton back in 2009 and so, it was pretty good. I sent it on to my editor.

I have to mention Heather McLeod Anzalone, she is wonderful. Edits my stuff. First Reads for me and tells me when I’m being a lunkhead and when I did it right. Invaluable. Really, my proverbial top hat and fedora go off to her.

So, Poppycock will go up in weeks not months and I am pretty excited about that one. I just love that book. I had forgotten how much I love it and had thought it sucked and had remembered a lot of painful editing scenarios, rejection slips, and horribly long bouts of wondering how to blend certain parts of the story. I also recalled really hopeless lopping-off of huge, and I mean huge, sections, like cutting off limbs.

I guess such savagery is only right for that book; it is after all about a serial killer, among other things. Well, it looks like my labor has paid off because the damn thing is tight and hits you like a pro-boxer going for the knock out.

I have covers now for just about every MS I have and the ones I don’t have are pretty far from self publication, which is good because I don’t have any money for covers right now anyway.

After those two, or simultaneous with those two (Prizm and Poppycock), I have a collection going up I decided to call Detective Story. It is a collection of speculative fiction detective stories. I have a robot prostitute one, a memoir one, a possession one and the last one: a New Weird, other world, dystopian fantasia called Shark Bait. So, that will go up as soon as I have Shark Bait back from my editorial genius.

When Heather and I started working on Shark Bait it was in a real quandary. I had never really finished the story. I had added in a bunch of filler and called it the end.

Well, we worked that sonovabitch over and over and excavated the gold. Story and plot really shine now. And the end came natural too. That’s how it works if you have done the plot right, the ending just is. No effort. And with Shark Bait it went from Reaching for More Weird Shit to Clever and Simple and that’s always better. There was already so much other world stuff in Shark Bait I really didn’t want to throw in another bout of Strange so I was happy we worked through that. And I think I will release Detective Story as A. Michael Schwarz because of a preponderance of horror elements and Strange in it.

And that’s what’s coming out in the next two months or so. Maybe one month. It might go really fast since everything is starting to enter the last phase of whatever its in, like the last phase of editing, of proofing, development, etc.

Now, since the last post, I had put up two “books” on Smashwords. They are short books. One is one short story and one is a double-feature short story collection. I was interested to see what would happen with these books. I designed the covers myself on those and chose stories that had been published before elsewhere. And they are free on Smashwords and I am uncertain if I will keep them free.

Anyway, both enjoyed a rocket ride launch with downloads at around 20 per day or so. That lasted for a few days and then slowly over about a month they both petered out to 1 or 2 or 0 a day. The first one I put up, Behind Cold Walls, A ghost story, is sitting at about 150 downloads and 4 Facebook likes, for whatever FB Likes are worth. Love and Magick is sitting at about 66 downloads with 10 FB likes.

I was pretty happy that people were downloading them, but only one review came in that I prompted or asked for. It’s a great review, though.

And that leads me to the painful subject of reviews and Demon of Montreal. I had mentioned that I did a LibraryThing give away and gave away 69 books. Well, I have gotten two reviews. Yesterday was the official 60 day mark after the giveaway. No one is late yet, since they have 90 days, so that’s cool, but we continue to wait and see.

I mentioned the one review already, from a non-horror reader. And the second one is also from a non-horror reader, but this review was much better and the reader enjoyed the story and the dark creepiness. Well good! Isn’t that what horror is supposed to be?

But, I am not happy that I have so little action on that book. I feel like I am pushing that boulder uphill right there with Sisyphus. I am not really willing to take time off from everything and go single-minded and hell-bent to promote it and go do library readings and sell at fairs and stuff. Maybe I should be. Maybe I will become so, but right now I am just intent on getting ALL my stuff up and hoping that more books will promote my other books.

And I have a lot of material, so it isn’t going to happen in an afternoon. Still, I want horror readers to read Demon. I want the audience for that book to come forth or be found or mystically be created. I don’t know. I just want the audience for that book because for sure there is an audience for that book and it is not everyone, this I know. It requires a special appetite. You know, sometimes you want dark chocolate and sometimes you want vanilla ice cream. Sometimes you want both. Well, Demon of Montreal is 85% cacao and no vanilla anywhere. It’s dark and if you like that kind of thing it’s dark chocolate.

Sometimes I think I should write nice stories about mice with swords and cloaks and you know, maybe someday I will. Maybe I will. I could, though I would add in dark magic and for sure they would be wizards and necromancers and other things and oh, doesn’t that sound cool?

Today my wife was watching the story about the Peter Rabbit author and I felt ashamed that I don’t write those nice stories for children and that my stories are dark and not for kids and…and then, I remembered what I am trying to do and what the aesthetic is in my work and what these dark stories mean to me. They mean a great deal to me, they have truth in them, so much truth I can’t really explain it, and they are for some reason very important to me.

So, we shall see what happens after I have novels for sale online. I am not expecting thunder bolts, but I want these books to find their audiences, I really do and I feel for the first time that they can.

I am happy that I have “gone indie” and I am happy that I have a chance to reach readers. Writers and readers are not so very different, you know. For instance I read all the time and don’t even own a TV!

I will say this next here because I feel this is a safe place to speak my mind, mainly because if you are still reading this monologue at this point, my God, you’re committed and I applaud you.

I am not writing these journals for speed or even entertainment. I am just putting my soul on display with LED backlights. Anyway, I am supremely frustrated with Facebook. It seems if I am not uploading pictures of puppies or babies, then no one is interested. Well, I don’t have either puppies or babies and I don’t even want my personal life on that site. I don’t. I want it for my writing and it does not respond to that. It seems to reject self promotion or even self mentioned work like a plague in the twelfth century. If you’re famous already you can say anything and get 98 Likes, or more, but…well, you gotta start somewhere.

Otherwise, I shall bid thee ado, for now, and say these as my parting words: I am happy as a writer. I haven’t sold one lousy copy of anything as an indie author yet, but I am happy. I am happy that I can write what I want, edit it and oversee the cover design. I am happy to work with the talented people who are helping me because they believe in my work and that means the world to me, it really does. You know who you are.

Thank you.

Andy

Indie Author Digest #102

So many developments since I decided to jump out into the abyss I figured I should install an update. I was going to wait for some major achievement, but it’s the little steps that are so important. 

For years I had been doing this thing as regards my art: trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Man, what a sink hole that is. You get so desperate for feedback and approval, it reduces you to a lump. And that’s how I had approached my art for several years. 

As a lump. 

Once, my wife said to me, “I can count on one hand the number of days your writing has made you happy.” 

My God, what a statement. What a statement. I wondered how something that is supposed to bring me such joy and happiness and fulfillment only brought such heartache. 

Last year when Damnation Books offered a contract to publish DOM, I cried. I cried. Because finally something was good enough.

Recently, I’ve changed on the subject of my writing. And its good. A couple things happened. One, I decided to just do this indie thing. I mean, no more doubts. Off into the water. That alone brought relief. Because the absolute worst thing is doubt. It will stop you more than any cement wall. You just end up holding yourself back. So, I dispensed with the Doubting Thomas routine. 

Second, I decided to blog about the intimate details of it. To hell with trying to keep some public facade going. All sunshine and rainbows. No, I will give the real nitty-gritty. The hope, dreams, loss, hopelessness. All of it. Well, doing that made me real. At least to myself. I’m not a clown trying to make the kiddies laugh at my jokes, anymore. I’m the drunk clown now, getting grease paint all over my cigarette. 

(joke)

Third, I decided to do this: experience my emotions and see what happens. That is strange. I was so used to reacting to the situation and feeling bad about not being some famous icon that I was just drowning. So, I sat back and let them go. This last week I just roller coastered between hope and despair. I considered giving up. For real, just saying “fuck this” and making more money or feeding the homeless or something. Then I thought, Yeah, you’d just go out and write a fucking novel. 

That didn’t let me off the hook.

Then I realized. I am a writer. I just am. Always have been. Always will be. I’ll be a writer even if no one ever reads anything I write. That put some demons to rest. The demon that just loves to tell you how much time you’re wasting. And the other sonovabitch that tells you what a loser you are. I’m not a loser, I’m a writer. 

This is all rather personal melodrama, I know, but I am putting it here because these are MY barriers. These are the reasons I haven’t succeeded the way I want to. 

Then at some point this week, I became enamored with another idea: opportunity does not always appear in the guise you think it should. I had watched something happen with my business. Something magical that I had never dreamed of and it meant taking my day business in a direction that was profitable but not what I had planned. But who cares? It’s still opportunity. 

Well, the internet gives a lot of opportunity to writers. You can publish your stuff. Duh. So, I decided it was okay to accept the opportunity, rather than fight it because it didn’t or hasn’t appeared in the form of me being miraculously discovered and given a $100,000 advance, or a Twilight or Harry Potter phenom. Because maybe I’m not writing that kind of book anyway.

The Buddhist principle of being like water became my new philosophy this week. Flow like the river, not crack like the oak tree.

And then I decided to communicate en mass. To just let it go and not be ashamed of what I had to say or write. To not worry about whether I am being socially acceptable, presenting a “right face” or whatever. But to be genuine, to be myself as a writer and an artist.

These things have been plaguing me for so long, I can’t tell you. I didn’t really even know what they were. I was just…punishing myself, I guess. 

Then I got to work and started playing around with cover design. I never knew MS Word could do so much stuff. I designed two covers for short stories and cut my cover design bill down from $200.00 a pop to $15.00 for stock imagery. I would post them now, but haven’t bought the images so don’t think I’m supposed to yet.

This was huge for me.

I had thought that I HAD TO HAVE an artist. And could not do it without an artist. Well, actually, I had been designing covers and telling the artist what to make already. So…if I could just learn a little bit about MS Word’s design templates, I just might be able to do it.

The first one got a thumbs up from the wife straight away, while the second one got shot down out of hand. Then I redesigned it and got a “Wow.”

This, for me, is freedom.  It takes the limit off what I can post on Amazon. It takes the stress off, financially. You have to realize that I have about 1,000,000 words of material that I have been saving to my hard drive. Some of it is previously published, most not. That’s a fair amount of material and it all needs covers.

I also began formatting my first Smashwords short story. I am using Mark Coker’s book called Formatting for Smashwords, or something similar and he just walks you though it. There again, I found, hey I can do this. I am learning all about Word too and feeling better. 

 

Then I went back to DOM. It just isn’t getting reviewed. And it actually galls me and breaks my heart at the same time. You see, I know it’s a good book. I just know it. But…nothing. Makes me crazy.

So, I decided to apply my new attitude to the problem and went online to see who the hell reads stuff. I found this: I am all about helping you out in any way I can. I would also love to do interviews to go along with your reviews if you are interested. I would love to help promote your book in any way that I can.

I about fell out of my papasan chair. And that is not easy to do. You can break the base, but hard to fall out. Anyway, the penny dropped.

I have been barking up the wrong tree.

Next penny.

I have been engineering my own defeat.

Next penny.

I have been making the whole world responsible for my failure.

I would do this: approach my friends to read my book. Well, they are my friends, right? Wouldn’t they, shouldn’t they read my shit?

Yeah, but they’re not readers. Many even say, I just DON’T read and I feel bad about this?

I feel shunned about this?

You hear all the time, know your market. I never knew what that meant.

I looked up someone who agreed to do a review for me awhile back. A reader. I found 2,000 books on their to-be-read list. What?

I started to understand.

Stephen King calls them the Constant Reader. Well, they read ALL THE TIME. That’s who you want. Not the mother-in-law if she’s not also a reader. Not the Non-fiction reader. Of course, if you bark up the wrong tree all the time, you’re going to be disappointed all the time. And you have to understand that readers have huge lists of books to read. I do too. I buy books I never read. And I only review because I am a writer and would want someone to do the same for me. I wouldn’t normally write a review. 

It made me stop taking it all so damn personally. 

 

And I am not talking about being the obnoxious social media guy who only wants to talk about his book to every would-be reader he can find. I just mean, there are people who want to help and you should approach those people.

That’s it. Makes it pretty simple. No more banging my head against the wall because all my Goodreads friends don’t go out and buy my titles or whatever.

Anyway, it’s the simple things. This week saw a lot of simple, but powerful changes in me as regards my writing, my writing career and what I am doing.

I am taking control back from my demons. And I’m pretty sure that has to be done before anything else can be. 

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps someone else out there who may be feeling…well, frustrated.