Yeah, I know. I am absolutely terrible at self-promotion…but then again, there really isn’t any one way to go about it, is there? Maybe I should stop trying to dive into the overcrowded pool of self-published writers trying to get your attention and lean heavy on what comes natural to me: the outsider this is kind of weird but fascinating mystique…? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
ANYWAY. All five of my novels — The Bridgetown Trilogy (A Division of Souls, The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light), Meet the Lidwells! and In My Blue World — are available for FREE at Smashwords this week, so if you haven’t downloaded them already, have at it! You can find them here at my profile page:
So the original idea came to me after reading multiple romcoms in a row: what about an older woman who, after a successful career in the late 80s and early 90s as a young pop singer and an adulthood stuck in terrible relationships and bad business decisions, has a meet-cute with an equally jaded John Cusack type of guy who runs a record store in the small town she escapes to?
I bring this up as I’m feeling incredibly burned out from my work on Theadia and Queen Ophelia, both of which probably need complete rewrites. As I said to a friend this morning, there comes a time when it feels more like I’m shoveling mud than actually making a sculpture, y’know? It’s obvious that my writing sessions for both are becoming infrequent enough and hardly any work is being done (cat-sitting aside) that it’s obvious that I’m not happy with the stories at all. Added to that, I do nightly rereads of passages as part of my revision process, and lately it’s felt like I’d rather be reading something else. I don’t hate these projects, they’re just not where I need them to be right now, and I’m not ready to devote even more time and brainspace for it. I need to take a break.
That said…the possibility of me writing a meet-cute romcom filled with 80s and 90s easter eggs, music references and other goofy things is something I think might work. And here I thought Meet the Lidwells was my nerdiest story idea…
(Image courtesy of K-On!, by the way. I really need to start watching that series.)
The other day I was thinking about how my list of active story and project ideas seems to fluctuate. This time last year I felt kind of frustrated and empty-headed for various personal reasons and trying to write anything felt like an absolute chore, but now I’m champing at the bit to get multiple projects up and running!
A lot of the time it can be a reflection of what’s going on with me in real life. This can be on the macro-level — such as my frustrations with the former Day Job — but it can also be on the micro-level as well, and it’s the latter I don’t often talk about. I do have days now and again where I just can’t get my shit together mentally, and working past that can be hard. Sometimes it’s because I’m heavily distracted, whether it’s by simple fun things or by lack of focus. I try to soldier on regardless, even if it feels like an uphill battle at times, but by the end of the day I might end up having completed a hell of a lot more than I expected.
The few times I’ve actually had nothing on my plate — or having cleared off a majority portion, such as when I’d finished and released the Bridgetown Trilogy — can feel a bit unnerving. With the trilogy done and away by 2017 (just in time for a twentieth anniversary of its creation), it took me a long time to get used to not having a major epic project constantly in the works. This was precisely why I chose to write multiple shorter and self-contained stories…I knew if I tried writing another large-scale project right away I would burn myself out and fail. But that initial time of a year or so, when I’d started playing around with Meet the Lidwells and In My Blue World and Diwa & Kaffi, I focused on smaller projects. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to see them through, to be honest. All I could do is just keep going, day by day. Rewire my writing brain and create new styles and processes. In the end, I was extremely proud of all three.
Right now I’m actively writing two novels in tandem*, which I know I can do, having done it with IMBW and D&K. In addition to that, I have two further book projects I want to work on that are in pre-production mode (notes and ideas, maybe a few outtakes and a mixtape, but no major writing just yet). So right now I’m in a good place — consistently busy working.
[* – These are actually temporarily on hold while I finish the D&K revision, but I’ll have them back up and running in about a month.]
Do I worry about running out of ideas (or fuel, for that matter)? Not really. I’ve worried about that before, but I’ve always bounced back eventually. Something will eventually inspire me to start something new.
All five books are available in multiple formats, so you can read on any PC, laptop, or ereader! Because I like looking out for y’all.
Second of all: chances are I might not have too much to ramble on about in the next few weeks as I’m most likely going to just keep busy offline with my other projects as well as celebrating the holidays, so if you don’t see any posts in the next few Monday/Friday go-rounds, that’s the reason. It’s not that I’m busy, it’s that I’m enjoying not being busy!
I’m happy to say that late last night I came up with an idea that could significantly improve the opening of MU4, which I’ve been struggling with the last few weeks. As usual, it revolves around my penchant for starting the story at the wrong time! Of course, I’d already logged off, and had even turned off the bedside light to go to sleep when it came to me, but thankfully I was able to remember it this morning, so that will be part of today’s work. Yay for breaking through a block!
I’m still plowing through my music bios and it looks like I’m down to maybe 15 unread books at this point, which blows my mind. I never thought I’d be that caught up! Speaking of reading, I’ve done a factory reset of my e-reader (somehow the keyboard had stopped working) which wiped a number of apps that I’d had on there that I probably didn’t need and never used, but on the plus side, I’ve filled it up with a number of cheap or free e-books that I plan on hitting next year. My average books-per-year has hovered around 70 or so and I’d like to up that. (Why so low? Primarily because over the last few years I’ve been spending a considerable amount of reading-in-bed time doing project revision, and that can take up to a few weeks at a time. I currently do not have any projects at that level at this point.) I can zip through a good-sized book in a few days so for next year’s GoodReads challenge I think I’ll set it at 100 and see how far I get.
Speaking of reading, what was my favorite books I read this year? Good question. I’ll need to refer to my GoodReads list and get back to you on that. That could be a good post in itself!
…and that’s all I have for now. Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas holiday!
Starting a new project can often provide its own set of obstacles and trip-ups. My first few chapters are always a hot mess, primarily because I’m still feeling my way through it all. There’s the fear that I won’t be able to expand on this new idea past a couple of flashy scenes. There’s the reminder that I’m proud of my last project and that I really want this new one to be just as great. There’s the nagging reminder of past goals I’ve reached, such as hitting over a thousand words a day, every day, or writing two novels in tandem, and wanting to immediately recapture those goals again with the new project.
Instead what I’m doing is ignoring those trip-ups. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s doable. I remind myself that this is a Brand New Project that can’t and shouldn’t be personally compared to anything I’ve done in the past. If that means that I’m only hitting maybe two or three hundred words a day instead of eight hundred or a thousand, so be it. I gently remind myself that I’ll get back up to that count soon enough, once I feel more secure and confident about the project.
Each project creates its own mood, its own set of habits and goals, which are different from those of the past. Because of that, and unless I’m writing a sequel or a story in an already created world, I have to treat this new project as its own entity. It’s part of why I make mixtape soundtracks for them. It’s also why I’m my own worst enemy when I feel like I’m not writing enough or as strongly and fall into the trap of “why can’t this be as fun as Lidwells or as easy as In My Blue World?” Those are questions I should not be asking myself.
I should be asking better questions: Who are these new characters? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What would they do in this particular scene I’m about to write? And once they do it, what are the consequences? And instead of focusing on the word count, I should be focusing on nailing the arc of the scene I have in my head. I have to relearn the process every single time, because the process is different for each story I write.
It surprises me how often I need to remind myself of all this, every single time I start a new project. I understand that it’s part of wanting to repeat a personal success, and sometimes that’s the right way to go, but not always. Every project starts off with its own unique rules and creates its own paths to completion.
If that means I’m only hitting a few hundred words instead of a thousand or more for the time being, so be it. As long as it gets done.
As I’d mentioned earlier, I’d done a recent reread of the Bridgetown Trilogy for possible future Book 4 ideas. One of the unexpected things I’d noticed was a distinct difference in influences. These three books are definitely different from Meet the Lidwells and In My Blue World, and not just in mood and length. I knew that going in of course, given its long and rambling history.
One of its early influences was of course Stephen King. This was my ex’s doing, having suggested I read him to understand how to write a large ensemble piece. I read The Stand (the unedited version, which I actually find more enjoyable than the shorter original release) right about the same time the 1994 tv miniseries had been released. It made sense to read this particular story and study it a bit, because I already knew that my idea was going to be about an event that affects scores of people and not just the main characters. [I was big on the Big Idea plot at the time.]
While the trilogy changed and evolved in numerous ways over the two decades I worked on it, so did the influences. I’d started reading more fantasy and science fiction, starting with Holly Lisle and CJ Cherryh and moving then to Kate Elliott. [This was about the time I’d started making my frequent road trips to Toadstool Bookshop in Keene and Barnes & Noble in Leominster, with my book buying habits growing exponentially.] The rewrites in turn became less action-oriented and more character driven. The end result, so many years later, is a mishmash of all those years of influences.
Reading Meet the Lidwells so soon after, on the other hand, was quite the whiplash. That particular novel has one influence only: rock history books, many of which I’d been reading either for pleasure or for Walk in Silence reference and research. I’d also written it to prove to myself that I could write a book less than 100k words! I haven’t reread In My Blue World yet, but I already know that novel’s influences was the YA fantasy I’d been reading. And as I’ve mentioned many times before, Diwa & Kaffi‘s influence is Studio Ghibli. I knew I’d had to severely change my thought processes once I finished the Bridgetown Trilogy project…but seeing the change now, a few years later, it surprised me at how much it had changed.
I suppose in a way this is why I’ve left future possible projects up in the air this year…I’ve caught up with all the ideas I’d been wanting to work on, so once D&K is out and away, it will truly be a clean slate. Which means one thing:
I have about five more chapters’ worth of revision to go before I can call this second go-round of Diwa & Kaffi done. I’m still on schedule, hitting about one chapter per evening while we watch British gardening shows. [They’re quite soothing after a long day at work, and perfect background noise for my writing sessions…although I do get occasionally distracted!]
I know I’ve talked about what The Next Project will be, but right now I’m not thinking too much about it. All my focus has been on revision, and the next step will be submission research. Right now if feels right for me to dedicated as much time and attention on this project.
In the past this would have bothered me…the fears of running out of ideas and falling out of practice, mainly. Over the years, though, I’ve realized that these fears will only manifest if I let them. I’ve cleared the table of nearly every story I’d put in backburner status, holding onto maybe two or three. They’ll be there when I come back to them. And if they no longer hold my interest, well…I’ll come up with something else eventually. I’m not worried.
Part of this comes with having done a reread of My Work to Date. I’ve reread all three books in the Bridgetown Trilogy as well as Meet the Lidwells over the last few months. It does kind of blow my mind that I’ve already self-published five books and I’m about to submit my sixth to a publisher, all within the space of four years. That’s a hell of a lot more productivity than I ever thought I’d have, to be honest.
So if I have a bit of a dry spell after D&K is out and away, I’m not going to worry too much. As long as I practice.
First of all: If you’re here visiting for the first time after downloading any of the books in the Bridgetown Trilogy from Smashwords during its July book sale, hello and thank you! I’m thrilled that you wanted to check my books out! I hope you enjoy them! And by all means, if you like them, please post a review on GoodReads! That will make this writer very happy indeed. 😀
SO! I’m sure some of you out there are wondering…why did this weirdo, who spent far too many years writing this damn trilogy, give it away in e-book form for free a few years after he FINALLY released it?
Good question indeed. I have a few answers for you:
Some time ago I put A Division of Souls up for free and kept it free, as a way to bring people into the Mendaihu Universe. This by far has been my most regular seller, for obvious reasons. It’s the enticement product. It’s the register endcap. It’s the book that says ‘hey, check this out’ and ‘if you like this, there’s two more sequels’. I regularly get at least a few downloads a month for this one.
The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light are at an already reasonably low price of $2.99 each. I think of this as an analogue to mid-price cds you find at record stores…back catalog titles that are no longer consistent sellers, but are consistently available at an affordable price. Again, this is part of the ‘long game’ process, and it’s actually worked to my expectations. I might not get a big payout, but I’ll get at least one or two purchases every month or so.
The sale is only for one month, and I know there are readers out there who, like me, get involved in a series and want to either buy the entire thing in one go, or at least be able to find and download them easily. And everyone loves free things, right?
It introduces new readers to my work. Though I only got a few purchases since it was released, I did get a bit of interest in Meet the Lidwells, with a few sample downloads. That right there is a learning experience; perhaps it’s that they weren’t interested in the story I had to say there, or perhaps the formatting wasn’t to their liking, or maybe it’s just not a book that many are interested in. I’m okay with that; it’s not a science fiction novel, but a straight fiction novel in the format of a music biography. It’s up to me to work on new promotional avenues for that one.
I haven’t yet looked at the stats for July as a whole, but from the email notifications I’ve received, between all three books I’ve gotten a good few dozen downloads and even more sample downloads. Not bad at all.
In the meantime, I’ve put the url for this blog both on the books and on the freebie cards I’ve made. [That’s the front of the freebie card for the trilogy above.] I’ve been doing my best keeping this particular blog on a timely and expected schedule — and crossposted to Twitter and Facebook at that — and that has helped me gain new readers as well. I spread out my freebie cards at all the conventions I’ve gone to as well. All in all, from what little I’ve done so far for promotion, I’ve gotten a hell of a lot more response than I ever thought I would, so that’s saying something. I can only imagine what the response would be once I restart the email list and start upping my promotion game!
So yeah, I’d say even though I didn’t earn a single penny this month, I got a lot of new readers, and I think that’s pretty damn cool.