Things and Stuff

sweeping

I seem to be in one of those moods again.  You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit).  I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy.  I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.

Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it?  I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness.  Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.

I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting.  I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!

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scully

I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend.  In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation.  I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go.  A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest.  Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*

Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**

Dude.  Really?

I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?

Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation?  Why would you want to?  There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.

I’ve seen writers get this a lot too.  I’ve gotten it a few times.  Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours.  We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy.  You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.

Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’  It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’  And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience.  Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.

If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses?  If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years?  Sure, that’s different.  We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better.  But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.

I know, I know…touchy subject.  Just something I had to get off my chest.

* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms.  This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.

** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining.  Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it.  And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators.  Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either.  It’s not well-meant criticism.  You’re just being a douche.

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kermit typing

WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT?  I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy).  I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects:  another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words.  Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.

I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know.  One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!

Onward and Upward!

*barely contains squee*
*barely contains squee*

I’ll be honest, just the mere fact that I’ve already got over two hundred downloads at NoiseTrade Books makes me an incredibly happy writer.  Thanks to each and every one of you!  I went into this gig knowing I had a good book that I think people would enjoy, but had little to no idea how well it would go over.  Seeing that many downloads over the course of one week confirms that whatever I did with the book, it looks like I did it right!

So, where to go from here?  Well, the subject line has been a bit of a mantra over the last few weeks for me.  The behind-the-scenes work for a writer (and especially for a self-published one) has been that there’s no downtime at all.  We’re constantly moving forward.  We’re juggling the writing with the promotion with the Day Job with the other mundane yet important things in life.  And let me tell you, the schedule has been rather busy as of late!

Fear not, dear readers, I am working hard on editing the book’s sequel, The Persistence of Memories, and hope to have it released via the same channels by the beginning of next year.  I hope you’ll enjoy the second book; it’s my favorite of the three, and there’s a lot of interesting and surprising stuff that goes on within.  Heck, I may even give you some spoilers once I’m further along!

What else do I have on tap?  Well, I do have my music book/personal memoir Walk in Silence, and I’m aiming for a late April 2016 release date for that one.  There’s quite a bit of work to be done on that one, so it’s going to need some serious TLC this winter.  [For those of you unfamiliar, WiS is about my love for college radio and how alternative music shaped me over the last thirty years.  I talk more about it on my other blog of the same name.]  I’m also working on the next Mendaihu Universe story in my spare time.  That’s been put on a brief hiatus while I work on self-releasing the Bridgetown trilogy, but it hasn’t left my mind!  I will definitely return to it once I’m caught up with the production end of things.

So yes…onward and upward!  I’m busy, but in an awesomely good way. 🙂

On Selling the Book: Who Is My Audience?

Kakashi from Naruto, @Masashi Kishimoto
Kakashi from Naruto, ©Masashi Kishimoto

It’s come to that point, and I don’t think I can avoid it anymore.

Who is my audience for the Mendaihu Universe novels? I admit it’s something I never really took took seriously while writing the Bridgetown Trilogy in the first place.  Sure, I bashed some of my ideas out with my coworkers while working at Yankee Candle, and I know a few of them have been waiting way too long for me to release these damn things.  I’ve talked about this universe here and there online for years.  I’ve had a small handful of beta readers over the years.  And then there’s me, the one who create the series, who loves writing within it.

And thinking about how to sell the thing to potential publishers, agents or readers is something I haven’t exactly wanted to think about too often, because I hate dealing in sales.  I had a telemarketing job back in ’93 and it was soul-sucking, and I lasted all of three months before I left.  Not that I can’t sell things I’m interested in — as mentioned earlier, I could upsell you records like no tomorrow — but it’s just not something I enjoy doing.  And come to find out, a lot of writers I know are in the same boat.

But seriously — who is the target audience for this universe, anyway?

I have a few ideas on who might enjoy reading this series, and though I’ll be shamelessly upselling to everyone in general, I know there are a few subsets of genre readers out there who might really enjoy the books, and I’ll be giving extra focus to those readers when the time comes.  [The actual upselling can be pretty tricky as well…there’s a fine line between selling it to a potential audience and billboarding yourself everywhere.  Something to think about.]

But who should I sell it to?

Well, that’s a good question.  I consider myself lucky that I’ve gone to various sff conventions, and that I have a reasonably large group of online friends and acquaintances so I’m familiar with what kind of readers are out there.  There are those who’ll read anything.  There are those who will only read military sf, or hard sf, or sword and sorcery, or paranormal romance, or what have you.  There are slow readers, speed readers, those who love short stories and those who love doorstop novels.  If I had to narrow it down, I would say my potential readers would be a mix of general genre readers, urban fantasy, and future sf, with a bit of fantasy realism in there as well.  [I think some manga readers/anime watchers would also enjoy the series, and that’s why you see Kakashi up there.]

Part of the trick is not so much to say “I want to sell to manga/fantasy/future sf readers” but to say “How can I capture the interest of this particular fantasy reader?” and adjust accordingly.  That’s part of what ‘knowing your audience’ is about: understand who it is you’re showing your wares to, and speak with them, not at them.  That’s something I learned in my day job, actually…don’t demand their attention, but pique their interest.  Your pitch will be a lot less stressful that way.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last few months — mind you, I’ve been doing a lot of research on this, not just hemming and hawing (although there’s been some of that as well).  I don’t want to do this half-assed.  I know if the response to the initial launch is crickets, thankfully I should be able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and launch it again, the right way.  There are way too many moving parts in this game, and I can totally understand that it can be frustrating, and one missed part can send the whole contraption falling down in an avalanche.  I’m hoping all this homework paid off, however, because it’s almost high time to get these things out in the world.