Sunday, February 27, 2011

Short story-- The Gene Priests

I am close to completing a new short story called "The Gene Priests". I am trying to decide whether to publish it as a stand-alone short, or whether to wait until I have a few more shorts ready, and publish them as a small collection. I am leaning toward publishing Gene Priests as a stand-alone, but also including Economicon and a preview chapter (or two) of Hemlock and the Wizard Tower with it. I think that this could be an effective marketing vehicle in addition to getting the new story in readers hands sooner than later.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New cover

I am excited to unveil the new cover for Hemlock and the Wizard Tower (see right column of this blog, if you haven't already been blugeoned by the large image over there). I'm thrilled with the result of working with the talented Elena Dudina.

It will be interesting to see how the new cover affects people's reactions to the book. I've already posted about my beliefs regarding the importance of a powerful cover for an ebook. Regardless of the outcome, it's always cool to be involved in an art project--especially one that produces as cool an image as this one did!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The nature of misfortune

Misfortune. When bad things happen to us, do many of us view them in a mystical context? Do we question whether the universe is frowning upon us, or whether the effects of some karmic energy that we've stored up are being wreaked upon us? I tend to do this.

One thing that I often experience is a strange sense of relief when something bad happens (provided it's not too bad!). I figure that something bad was bound to happen to me eventually, so if this is it--maybe it's not that bad after all. I haven't figured out whether this is just a psychological coping mechanism, the product of metaphysical wisdom, or some mixture of the two.

I find myself trying to straddle two philosophical fences. The first is a strong belief in objective science: things are causally based, a leads to b and things happen as a result of real and measurable conditions. The second is a belief (perhaps even a bit of "knowledge") that the set of conditions in the world (that can be measured by science) collectively move to the orchestration of higher forces (divinity, etc).

So when something bad happens, I am left feeling simultaneously that something happened because of a set of measurable causes and that it may have happened because of some higher aggregation of fortune, karma or whatever you want to call it.

I think that the fantasy genre speaks to the latter of these tendencies. It is an outlet for the mystical thoughts and feelings that I think many people have, but that the modern world of science has somehow rendered taboo.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Amazing things...

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I am amazed at the ideas that pop out onto the page. While I have spoken at some length about my process for my next book, and the protracted mental "design" phase that I am in, I haven't really talked about the virtues of spontaneous writing.

Today, when I sat down to tentatively write down some ideas, a scene and an entire plot arc all "snapped" into place for me. It's an amazing feeling. A major character had one of his key plot points solidified in the passage that I wrote today. I'd love to say more, but I don't want to spoil any surprises.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New cover preview

I got to see a preview of the forthcoming revised cover for Hemlock and the Wizard Tower. It is coming along fantastically (no pun intended)! It's really a privilege to get to see something that you've imagined get rendered into an image by a talented artist.

I'm probably on a "cover high" right now, but I am feeling that in some ways this image will be critical to the enjoyment of the story for many readers. The cover image serves as an initial and recurring window into the fantasy world. As was said so aptly by a poster on the forums (and I am paraphrasing): the cover image instantly connects you to the context of that fantasy world. It serves as a sort of reference point.

Perhaps that's one downside of an ebook. If I am reading a physical book, I get to look at that cover every time I pickup the book and start to read again. When I pickup my kindle, I never see the cover except when I first start the book (and even then I have to go back to it under the default settings). I'll have to check and see whether I can change any of these kindle behaviors related to viewing covers. Because as of now, I am madly in love with cool covers!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good enough vs. Great

There will always be plenty of room in the world for "good enough". Some products are designed to be good enough, and they are very successful. Examples of this would be fast food hamburgers, mass market delivery pizza, powdered iced tea, etc., etc. The world would probably be worse without these products, but they clearly do not (despite how they may be marketed) aspire to deliver superior quality.

I've been thinking about my writing, and I am trying to deliver a "superior" product in my books. Whether I am succeeding is a matter for debate, but I am trying. A significant part of my definition of superior is original. I want my books to be fresh and not fall into genre cliche. That's not to say that I don't unconsciously recycle concepts from authors that I admire (because I do).

Maybe the difference is risk taking. I'm not afraid to take some risks in my writing--to write plots that may be unusual, to include details that some may consider trivial, or to adopt a style that may be unorthodox. Some of the content and style choices that I made in Hemlock and the Wizard Tower have, at times, met with criticism and/or apathy (verbose description, characters "talking" to themselves a lot, complex metaphor). I will take some of the criticism to heart as I work on my next book, but I also will continue to take risks.

As an indie writer with a very small audience, I feel that I have to experiment. And I want to experiment. I've never wanted to produce a book that is "good enough", and take the mainstream by storm. There are plenty of great writers doing that already.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I have made the statement from time to time that I do not outline my books prior to writing them. I was thinking about this statement today, and I think that I need to clarify it a bit.

I did not outline for Hemlock and the Wizard Tower at all. I believe that this was easier to do because it was an original story - i.e.: not a sequel.

What I am finding as I work on the next book is that I am having to plan out the plot a bit more. What I am doing is taking some existing context from the first book and building from there. What I am not doing is creating a story arc and then filling in the details around it. I am still letting the story unfold organically. The difference is that now I have several well defined points of origin for the story. And this requires some notes and planning to orchestrate.

I still feel that this is not an outline in the tradional sense. It's still like micro brewing versus mass production, if you'll indulge my beer simile. I'm very devoted to the "micro" process...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things are good...

I'm pleased to see that sales of Hemlock and the Wizard Tower are starting to pickup a bit. Very cool. I have yet to announce my recent new review as well, so I am looking forward to the additional exposure that that announcement will bring. I also have an upcoming author interview coming on the IndieBookBlogger blog. He asked me some cool questions, so I am looking forward to reaching some new readers when that comes out, as well.

Ideas for the new Hemlock book are coming along. I'm starting to get anxious to begin writing the draft. I think that is a good sign. I'm also in the process of getting an updated cover for Hemlock and the Wizard Tower. I'm spending a significant amount on it (relative to what I could recoup via sales). It's partially a vanity thing... But, who knows? It could really stimulate sales, and will be an interesting experiment.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Groovy review

Sorry for channeling the '60s by using the term "groovy". But I do feel groovy. Hemlock and the Wizard Tower just got a 4 star review from a new fantasy review blog. Cool. I'm going to be featured in an author interview on the same blog soon as well. Fear not--I will be sure to blather on about it here, once it comes out.
Groovy Link.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ideas flowing, kindle readthru

Today was a good day for story ideas for the next Hemlock book. I always feel happy when the ideas are flowing.
It will be interesting to see how the writing phase of this book goes versus the first one. I had a much, much rougher idea of where I was going with the story as I wrote the first book. So it was much more organically grown (vs. planned).
With a sequel, you can't be as free with ideas since you are constrained by what has gone before in terms of plot and characters. Also, you are somewhat constrained by the tone of the former book. I keep thinking to myself to make sure this next story is a "Hemlock story". This means swords and sorcery combat, etc, etc.
A lot of the first book was written to a soundtrack of hard rock and heavy metal. I'm currently listening to more New Age and 60's rock. I'm not sure how this will impact the new story, but this is where the "Hemlock-ization" may come in. I have to make sure it's still a Hemlock story...

On a less happy note, I impulsively decided to read through the first book on my Kindle tonight--and I spotted a number of errors. I didn't get my kindle until after the book was published. I later read that you can spot errors more easily on the Kindle. I'm a believer now. What is nice is that you can annotate the errors as you go and then refer to them easily under "My Clippings". That's a really nice feature for editing.
I am very bummed out about these errors though. How many people have read my sample and stopped due to these errors? Frustrating. I will continue to read and will probably publish an updated version asap to at least address errors at the very start of the book. Many of these errors are a direct result of an edit I did for the last revision to make some tense changes in the flashbacks. I guess I did a poor job of editing my edits. Sigh.