Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Friday, October 11, 2013

Comes The Conqueror: New epic fantasy serial

New to everywhere but the inside of my head: Comes The Conqueror, an epic fantasy in serial form. This one I started more than a decade ago, but it was so vast in scope, and so strange in its premise (no spoilers, sorry) that it frightened me, and I shelved it.

Things are different now. I can write it, which I had no confidence in being able to do more than a decade ago. I can also self-publish it, which means I don't have to rein in the weirder aspects of the story in order to get it published by a traditional publisher.

The first two episodes are free, and live at Smashwords in your favorite flavor of format:

Episode 1: Blood & Roses

Episode 2: Dead Birds

Episode 3, in case you were interested, is called "The Knot" and will be available in a few days.

Oh, and Episode 3 is where the weirdness really starts to kick in.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

37,109

After years of telling authors they could not give out the numbers of free downloads at the Apple iBookstores, a few days ago Smashwords downloaded all this information to authors' accounts, apropos of nothing. I won't get into bashing Smashwords; it does no good and changes nothing. Instead, I'll focus on the numbers:

My 2012 Apple sales (free and paid), were 37,109. Subtract the 385 paid downloads I had there last year, and that's 36,724 ebooks given away at Apple, globally. Throw in another 8,000 and change from Barnes & Noble, and I gave away damn near 45,000 ebooks.

I'm still trying to figure out what this means, to be honest. My stated goal was to break out of obscurity. I don't see how I could have done much better than that: There are tens of thousands of people who've read (or at least downloaded) my stuff now, who hadn't in 2011.

Maybe this means it's time for 'free' to come to an end. Maybe I should be contrarian and give even more stuff away for free. Maybe it means nothing at all, except people will, hoarder-like, take whatever you're passing out, whether they intend to read it or not. I don't know.

I do know that I've got some writing to do.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Amra #3: An excerpt


When Hurvus returned it was full dark. He’d obviously filled his skin while he was out. His hands had stopped trembling. He brewed a willow bark tea for the boy and forced it down his throat, then put some foul-smelling plaster on my cheek and a liniment on my hands. Then we ate, he and I. Black bread, clam soup from a clay pot, a quarter wheel of a young gray cheese. When it was plain that Kiel wasn’t going to be eating anything, Hurvus ate his share of the soup and more of the cheese as well, and wrapped the rest up in cleanish linen.
When he’d sucked the last crumbs from his graying beard, he looked up at me with those bloodshot, still-clever eyes of his and said “People looking for you. At the public house.”
I felt a knife of fear slide into my guts, but didn’t let it show.
Do they know where to find me?”
No. Not from me.”
Why not?”
You still owe me two silver. Besides, didn’t like the look of ‘em. Or the smell.”
Blacksleeves?”
He shook his head. “No. Don’t know what. Don’t know what you’re into. Don’t want to be part of it.”
We’ll be gone in the morning.”
He nodded his head, then stoked up the fire a bit. With the falling sun, the temperature was dropping. After a time he put the poker away, put a bottle of cheap stuff by his chair and settled in.
What did they look like, these people who were looking for me?”
Two of ‘em. One a bruiser, shaved head. The other a weaselly merchant type, expensive clothes, silk and ermine and lace. The both of ‘em smelled like the marshes. Were asking after a woman looked hard, maybe with an injured gutter boy, maybe alone.”
Marshes, eh?” Smugglers? Who knew? “Did anyone else pipe up?”
They weren’t offering a reward, only threats. People ‘round Hardside, they don’t pay much attention to such. Unless they got a personal stake.”
That much at least hadn’t changed. I sat and stared at the fire while he filled his pipe, thinking. They’d get around to checking bone-setters soon enough, whoever they were. Hurvus would be on their list. Best I moved on with Keil before dawn. I couldn’t just leave the kid. He didn’t know anything about me, but that wouldn’t stop them from beating him to death to find it out, most likely, if they had anything to do with the fire. And I still had questions to ask him. I had too many questions all around.
They must have set someone to watch Keil, else they wouldn’t have known I might be with him or that he was injured. That they didn’t know if I was still with him probably meant they’d lost track of us in the confusion following the explosion. In any case, they had the brains to search Hardside. Which was too bad, really. I prefer any possible enemy to be as stupid as mossy rocks.
Well, if they were looking for me low, and I wasn’t ready to face them, then I’d hie myself up on high. I had enough to take a room at one of the posh inns near the top of the Girdle. And I had enough to hire a few thugs of my own, if it came to it. I just didn’t want it to.
Mainly what I needed was information. There was too much going on, and I didn’t understand any of it.
I glanced over at Hurvus. He had nodded off in his chair, pipe gone out and dangling from his mouth. I gently nudged his chair with a boot tip, then harder when that had no effect. He sat up, snorting and blinking.
I have a few questions. I'll give you gold if you can answer them.”
He wiped his eyes with a thumb. “I'll answer if I can.”
You heard of anyone masquerading as Ansen lately, come back from the dead?”
He snorted. “Every year, it seems. The Syndic and his Council don't get any less popular as time goes on only because once you hit bottom, there's no further to go.
So what's the story of the latest Ansen, then?”
I honestly couldn't say, beyond slogans scrawled on walls. 'Return the people's power' and such like.”
All right. What about the Child Robber?”
His face got a little hard. “Some monster's snatching children, has been for at least two years. They disappear, no sign, no clue left. And they disappear utterly. No bodies have been found. Makes me think slaver, but who knows? The marsh is frightening deep in places.”
I grunted. He wasn't wrong.
If I wanted to find somebody, on the quiet, who's the best person to talk to?”
The Hag; who else?”
Kerf's crooked staff, she's still alive?” She'd been ancient when I was a girl, and more than half legend. But I knew where to find her. Everybody in Hardside knew where to find her. It made it easier to avoid her.
Let me ask you a question,” Hurvis said. “Why do you want to know all this?”
I thought about it a long time before I answered him. Decided to be truthful, Kerf only knows why.“I was born and raised in Hardside, Hurvis. I know you know it; you can hear it in my speech as surely as I can hear it in yours.”
He nodded. “There's no mistaking the Hardside drawl, sure. Though yours has gone soft around the edges.”
I've been away a long time, and coming back's not something I ever planned on doing,” I replied.
So why have you? I know it's your business and none of mine, but if I were less of a wreck and managed to climb out, nor hells nor the dead gods could drag me back. But it's too late for the likes of me.” He took a swig from the bottle, as if to prove his point.
I have a debt to pay,” I told him, “and the marker finally got called in.”
He looked over at me, and even drink-fogged, his eyes were keen. “You sit there in your raw silk trousers and doeskin tunic, carrying knives the like I've never seen except on noblemen who had no least clue how to use 'em properly, wearing boots that cost what most people make in a year, offering me gold to telly you what anyone would tell you for the time of day, and you tell me you came to Hardside to pay a debt? Don't talk rubbish. Whatever you are, however you made your moil, you could've sent somebody else to settle it.”
I shook my head. “It's not that kind of debt. And coin won't cover it.”
What will, then?”
I don't know. Maybe nothing. Maybe blood. Probably blood. Maybe my life.” Whatever Theiner needed, I owed. And would pay. And that, I finally admitted to myself, was why I hadn't wanted Holgren along.
He was quiet for a while. When he spoke, his voice was rough with drink, and with some obscure emotion. “I had a debt like that, once.”
I cocked my head. “How'd you settle it?”
He smiled, but there was nothing of humor in it, just some old, private pain. “I never did. Or I still am. Can't decide which it is anymore.” And he took a long, long drink from the bottle and stumbled off to his bed without another word.
I banked the fire and dug out a blanket from my pack, then went to sleep there on the floor, one of Holgren’s gift-knives in each hand.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Status: Editing

Just a short note, Dear Reader, to inform you that I am still alive, and working, if only tangentially. Mostly what I'm doing is editing, going back over previously released material with a fine-toothed comb, and finding an embarrassing number of typos, especially in The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids.

It started out as a general once-over in preparation to get on with Amra #3; looking for continuity issues (did The Blade That Whispers Hate scar her hand permanently or not? That sort of thing).

I don't know if I'm avoiding the writing with the copy editing or not. I just know it needs to be done.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Status Update: functional, if not optimal

Dear Readers,

I'm alive. In some ways I'm healthier than I've been for years. I've lost a fair amount of weight, most of it fat, through a changed diet, exercise, and admittedly a certain indifference towards the gustatory arts. Physically I'm stronger and have more energy than I have had in years. I'd like to put some more weight on, this time muscle. We'll see.

What else? I sleep more now. Enough to give me mental balance, evenif it isn't unbroken or untroubled. I dislike having to resort to pharmacology to get it, but I'm not silly enough to argue with results. Emotionally I'm still pretty raw, but I've gained some real insights into what I feel and why. I no longer feel as if the simple act of waking up is waking on the edge of a precipice. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, I have only a little advice, but it is heartfelt: be honest with your self. Thoroughly honest. But infuse your honesty with compassion. Often the pain, guilt or shame you feel has its roots deep down, and springs from the actions of those around you when you were small, or vulnerable. Find compassion for the self that endured those misfortunes, and see your actions in that light. Then resolve to to act with compassion, for yourself and those in hour life, moving forward. Whatever guilt or shame you bear, don't let it smother you. You can only make amends going forward. You cannot change the past, much as you want to. You can only let the past inform your future.

Finally, writing. I'm doing a little. I write when I am moved to, on subjects that catch my interest. I'm not forcing it. I was truly afraid for a while that I would never write again, and am still easing back into it, so I have not forced deadlines on myself for all the various projects I left in medias res. they will come, in time, if they are meant to. Amra and Holgren especially I have no doubt will continue to report in, though their adventures may well not be what readers might expect. And Marie from Waste Land has been on my mind lately. When it's time for me to pick up the pen again for them, I won't keep it from you.

Before I work on their stories, though, I have to work on mine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Grimdark: excerpt

An excerpt

They came through the Riddlemarch, as they always did, at the tail end of winter; enough had grown hungry by then to consider their offer. To see them in worn but warm clothing, riding instead of slogging through the muck, to smell venison or rabbit roasting on the spit over the fire of their camp on the village swards, and to think the dangers of the Grimdark were not so fearsome, perhaps, as the brutal chill and the gnawing hunger that was a fact of life on the borderlands.

Still, most would think once, twice, and turn their faces away from the men Lord Coalstar sent to recruit. There was a price to be paid when you took the coin, and the clothes, and the mount, and the food. There was a price that came with the plain, wicked-sharp sword, the bow of yew, the cold-iron mail. A price that, soon or late, would only be met when you breathed your last.

Many considered in the cold and the muck of the late Riddlemarch winter, but few consented.

Some, too young to consent, were given over to the lean, hollow-cheeked mean who wore the badge of Coalstar on their breastplates or tabards, and the red-gold coin was passed to a parent's grimy hand. Some cried; parents, children. But not often. The Riddlemarch was not a place that encouraged tears. And when Coalstar's men rode away with their new brother- or sister-to-be, not as many as you might think looked back on what they left, which was little enough. Yet few looked forward, either. What lay ahead was the Redoubt, and eventually, when they were deemed ready, the Grimdark. 

Jorig was one such. Neither looking forward nor back, he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the deep green woolen cloak of the man he was mounted behind, and pushed away his mother's face, and the sullen faces of his older brother and sister. Too, pushed away the words spoken by his mother when Coalstar's man had approached her.

"Aye, you c'n have him. This one thinks. Has dreams. No place for such a one here, innit? Takes him, an' I'll feed these two other posts with your lord's gold. For a time, at least."

And so it was done. 

None had spoken to him, and none would until nightfall, when the camp was set.

Jorig was the only recruit that season.

Friday, March 15, 2013

This is why I write

This 5 star review from persephone/kor at the Australia iTunes, the second Amra book. This is why, when somebody gets what I'm trying to do:

Short version: Awesome. Love love love love love and adore.

Long version: Have fallen in love with intriguing characters who seem real despite being much more awesome (or interestingly and somehow endearingly awful) than reality allows for. Fallen in love with a world created from the ground up, with a class system and values familiar enough to grasp but different enough to enjoy. Reminds me of many of my favourites, but not enough to spoil the story. Michael McClung, if you die without finishing this series, I will track you down wherever you end up and shake you. Kidding. Mostly.

Thank you, Persephone/kor. Tonight you gave me a little strength to keep on :) I hate being shaken.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

status: rebooting

What is the definition of insanity, according to (I think) Einstien? Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

So I'm currently in the process of evaluating my life and finding the crazy bits. And hopefully eliminating them. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, remember that I love you, Dear Reader, and not at all in a creepy way.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Hiatus

My friends,

If you've been following this blog over the last few months, it will come as no surprise that I've been having a hard time of it lately, for all sorts of reasons. I like to keep most of my personal stuff separate from the blog here, except for general noise. SomethingSticky, in this latest incarnation, is about my writing, and associated posts. But when my personal life affects my writing life, then I feel it is appropriate to give those who visit here a heads-up.

So heads-up: I doubt I'll be getting much writing done any time soon. Life continues to kick me in the guts, which makes it difficult in the extreme to concentrate on plot, characterization, dialog etc. My head and my heart are not in it right now, and even if I were to force myself to write, I would either turn out inferior prose, or would believe I was, which functionally amounts to the same thing. I'll keep you posted, and thanks for caring.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ignore this post

No really, ignore it. I'm just writing it because I need to write something. Anything.

My teeth hurt. Left side molars, up and down. The kidney stone(s) chime in occasionally, like a Greek chorus of pain. The pain medication is 1) not terribly effective and 2) makes me feel like I have a fever coming on. In addition, I've got a fever coming on.

Money. I have none. I've been here before, I'll most liekly be here again, but it never gets any easier. And I've got bills to pay and obligations to attend to that require money. Not to mention a few medical things that require money that i do not have. It's never far from my thoughts, a low-grade anxiety that just doesn't let up.

I need a haircut. Also, I now have, suddenly, gray hair. Less suddenly, a paunch.

And I can't write.




Saturday, February 09, 2013

Draft 2 Digital vs Smashwords: No contest


So I've been testing out Draft 2 Digital, and can honestly say that up to this point it blows Smashwords away in three very important areas: Ease of use, reporting, and customer service.

Ease of use: You don't need to know how to do anything except make a word document. You send it to them, and it will automatically be formatted. You choose what sorts of extra material you want- dedication, teaser pages, etc- and these are generated for you. All this vs Smashwords' meatgrinder.

Reporting: Smashwords' philosophy seems to be you'll get what we decide to give you, when we decide to give it to you (if we decide to give it to you).

D2D is radically different. Near-real time reporting for every title at every outlet, be it publishing or sales, paid or free. This difference alone absolutely crushes Smashwords, and shows just how pathetic their reporting 'ability' really is.

Customer service: Smashwords' Mark Coker has made a big deal about adding staff to his customer support, and has absolutely ignored the fact that (At least for me and according to others' anecdotal experiences) just because your customer service request is responded to faster, doesn't mean your problem is actually resolved faster- or at all. Smashwords' customer service is essentially kabuki theater for every issue I've ever brought to them. I've stopped trying.

D2D on the other hand a) actually responds more quickly than Smashwords, b) demonstrates that they actually understand what the problem is, and c)either does something about it or tells you they can't, and why, and what you should try instead.

As the volume of users increase, will D2D be able to maintain this level of service? I fervently hope so. But the truth is, no matter what happens, they can't get any worse than Smashwords. They just had to show up to win this race.

This only leaves one question in deciding whether to dump Smashwords completely, but it's a big one: Gettin' paid. The fact is, I have never had a problem getting my money from Smashwords, while D2D is still a cypher. But I can't imagine putting in the kind of work that obviously went into making D2D such a winner, only to fall down when it comes to the one thing people will have no patience for if you screw it up.

In my opinion, Smashwords is toast unless they do a lot of soul-searching. Given my experiences over the last 18 months or so, I don't really see that happening.

Friday, January 25, 2013

This space intentionally left blah*

What happens when you have a few days of enforced idleness? In my case, the expectation is getting some writing done. Did that happen?

Not so much, it turns out.

Today was a day where absolutely nothing had to get done in my life - a rare thing indeed. It's now 10 pm. I got no forward progress in on any of my fiction. I did edit, format and upload my (free) phonics primer, but that's work that has been done for some time, creatively speaking.

I need to get Amra #3 moving. All I've gotten done all week is a map of Bellarius that I didn't actually need, and only drew out to confirm that, yes, I knew the layout and yes, I'm a sucky mapmaker.

I need to get the Waste Land sequel moving. Zilch.

I need-- oh, you get the idea.

*I can't even create a decent post title right now. I think something has eaten my creativity.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013


Previously I listed out how many sales I would need to make at different price points in order to make it to minimum wage money as a writer. And that was instructive and all, but sales are not something that are easily corraled. Like cats, they come when they feel like it, an there is only so much you can do to coerce- er, influence sales to come your way.

With 2012 all over but the crying, it's time to consider what to do about 2013, writing-wise.

The accounting department* has informed me that in the last quarter of 2012, my sales rose to 10.5% of minimum wage- the closest I've so far come to that lofty goal. My monkey brain immediately siezed on this nearly round number and informed me that this means I will need to write and release the same amount of material in 2013 as I did in 2012 to make it to 21% of MW. Sounds reasonable. If I can double my output in 2013, then I should be making 31.5% of MW, and so on.

But here's the thing: not all of my titles have been particularly successful. Short stories in particular have not sold for me. When they're free, they get downloaded, which might well lead to follow-on sales, but even at the low, low price of 99 cents (you can't actually price them lower than that, folks; the retailers won't let you) they just sort of lie there, gasping for air.

So, lesson for 2013: don't bother releasing shorts unless they're for free, or as a sequel to a successful free short. If you're giving 'em away for name recognition/exposure, make sure they're awesome, and tie them into a short story collection via an author's note at the end of the short story. Which leads me to short story collections, oddly enough.

They also don't sell all that well. Better than single short stories, though, and you can charge a little higher for them. So if you must write shorts, gather them up in a collection, put one or two out there for free, and point the reader of the free to the collection.

Novels. They're a lot of work. They're also what people are looking for. Learn to write them faster. Don't sacrifice quality, but don't whine that they're taking forever if you're wasting time having a True Blood marathon instead of writing.

I've got one that I have to finish – the third in the Amra series. Fantasy series don't take off, really, unless they're a trilogy at a minimum. So once I've got the third Amra book out the door, I can assess whether there's any monetary reason to continue with that series. Personal reasons are something else.

Nonfiction. A consistent seller for me is the reading instruction series I started. I will likely continue to release titles in this series because I (more or less) enjoy it, it's a good mental break from writing adult fiction, and each project is limited enough that completing them isn't too much of a hassel.

And for 2013 I'll be experimenting with a new story format, the serial.

I'll be honest- I'm not all that fond of serials, as a reader. Too many writers use the serial format (badly in terms of structure) in order to extract more money from the reader. They take a novel-length work and chop it up into pieces in order to generate more sales. But a serial has its own structure that's distinctly different in important ways from a novel. In 2013, I'm going to try to write a proper serial (as I see them). Two, actually, with distinctly different structures, as I experiment with the serial format.

So. 2013: 1 novel, 1-2 reading instruction books, a short story collection, and an experiment or two with serial format fiction. That's my minimum, writing gods willing. I think that I can hit 30% of minimum wge this year if I do that. I'll keep you posted.

*Right next to the monkey brain department

Friday, January 11, 2013

Obviously, I'm not writing for the money.



2012 went in the right direction. No breakouts, but quarter-on-quarter sales continued to increase. Honestly it would have been freakish good luck to break out of triple digit dollar sales with only one full-length title, one short story collection and a handful of shorts on offer. 2012 was mainly about exposure.

2013, if things go well, will see the Amra series boosted to three titles, a second short story collection, and an experiment with a serial or two. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here's the first cover for the Tarqis project: