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Tag: indie publishing

Following the Threads

After a bit of a rocky start to the summer, I am moving forward more briskly with my sequel to Fester. The working title is Fall, although that is almost certain to change eventually. I had hoped that this story would be an easier one to write because I had somewhat of an outline.

The outline came from a series of local newspaper articles from Astoria, Oregon. It chronicled the final downfall of a once-prominent local family called the Flavels. And the end of their story was so weird, it seemed straight out of Fester. In fact, Astoria has some geographical similarities to my mental picture of Fester – save the three-mile-wide river mouth and the Pacific Ocean. I’ll save the story of the Flavels for another time, though.

I’m about 50 pages into the manuscript, which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but it is enough to give me a broad view of how the story is progressing. And I’m not particularly surprised to discover that the vaunted Flavel narrative is not the watertight outline I’d originally (and unrealistically) expected, but more of a loose framework.

I guess that is to be expected of an inveterate pantser. To Hades with the outline; we pantsers are allergic to them. However, what I do have, 50 pages in, is a number of narrative threads that will weave themselves together in ways I can’t predict and may not even want. Even better, I have a number of characters in interesting situations that have yet to reveal themselves. This is the best part of being a pantser: winding up the characters and observing what they do.

Seriously, I frequently have no conscious intention about a characters actions. I just watch and report. It’s like having a movie projector that only works when I hammer on the keyboard. Entertaining as hell, and also a little spooky sometimes.

Here’s how things are shaping up right now. Normally, I would be hesitant to give too much of the narrative away this early in the process. However, since this is the Shitty First Draft, what’s going on now may have absolutely no resemblance to the final product, so what the hell. Here are the threads that have manifested themselves so far:

  • Martin Prieboy has now been the Chief Constable of Fester for nearly twenty years. He has just lost his spouse to cancer, and finds himself bonding with a police informant.
  • Billy Snyder served several years in the state pen for his part in the events in Fester. Now he lives in the boondocks outside of town, where he sells military antiques – and plots revenge.
  • The land once known as the Wizard’s Woods has been developed into a mall. However, in 2014, malls aren’t doing too well, and Harold Todd, the mall’s owner, is starting to get worried about its financial viability. And there are some strange things going on at the mall after hours…
  • Michael “Bolly” Bollinger has successfully taken over his father’s automotive repair shop. His landlord, the Schmidt family, is once again hiking the rent on the shop, making Bolly concerned about his financial future.

What happens next? OK. I’ve got a pretty good idea what Bolly’s going to do now, and maybe some ideas about the mall, but that’s it. The rest will reveal itself as I pound the keyboard. That’s part of the fun of being an indie writer. That and the money. Woo-hoo!


We’re (Almost) Number 1!

I almost called this post “We’re Number 2!” but decided that the wording was a little too ambiguous. I want to tell you of my adventures with a run at bestseller status.

Keep in mind that I’m referring to Amazon bestseller status. This is quite different from, say, New York Times bestseller status. To put it into an athletic context, getting your book on the NYT bestseller list is like winning a gold medal in the Olympics. Getting a book on the Amazon bestseller list is like beating a marginally athletic second-grader in a foot race. Sure, you might not make it, but it wouldn’t be that hard to achieve.

In retrospect, the second-grader gave me a run for the money.

The NYT has ten slots for fiction in its bestseller list, which is updated weekly. Amazon literally has thousands of slots – or categories – under which a book might be considered a bestseller, and these results are updated hourly. For Amazon Kindle, there are several thousand categories of fiction, and with updates 24 times a day, there are close to 100,000 opportunities to make a bestseller list every single day.

Of course, choosing a category is key to success here. One needs to choose a category that doesn’t have a lot of competition. However, the category also has to be relevant to the content of the book. If you list a book under a completely inappropriate category to boost your ranking, the Amazon Police will be banging on your door soon enough, or so it is said. However, I found an appropriate category (you get to choose three) called Humorous Dark Comedy that was a great fit for Laughingstock, and low-competition.

Back when Fester came out, I’d gotten my mitts on a document called the “Bestseller Launch Blueprint.” I was rushed at the time, and didn’t have the time or inclination to follow through on the instructions, which seemed a little hokey to me at the time.

After Fester was published, I spent a fair amount of time and effort attempting to promote the book, with not a lot to show for it. As Laughingstock was ramping up for publication. I had a little more time and a little more inclination to see what came of applying this formula.

The formula itself is pretty simple: wait a few weeks after publication, then drop the price of the eBook to $0.99 and advertise the hell out of it. There are a number of websites and services that have subscribers who are on the prod for cheap-as-free eBooks, and they will gallantly allow authors to pay to advertise their book specials. The 800-pound gorilla of these services is BookBub, which has a huge subscriber base and is definitely an important outlet for indie authors looking to get the word out about their books.

So I went all-in on BookBub and a number of other similar services, and scheduled an advertising blitz for two weeks after the book was published. I had followed all the steps in the Blueprint, and was ready to see what would happen.

Damned if it didn’t work! Sales shot up immediately, and it wasn’t long before Laughingstock had cracked the top ten in the Humorous Dark Comedy category. I was pretty chuffed when the book first landed at #7, although I was still several slots behind a book of Great Memes of 2023, by a “Mr. DANK DANK.”

In a day I had climbed even higher, and on the afternoon of the second day, I had reached #2 in the category. “Suck it, Mr. DANK DANK,” I told the wall. Surely, I would soon crack the number one spot and brag my ass off.

Then I took a look at the book occupying the #1 slot, and knew I was boned. The book was called Shorts, by Caimh McDonnell. A closer look showed that the book had been published on the same day I had launched my ad blitz. Further, a quick look at Goodreads indicated that Mr. McDonnell had upwards of thirty titles, each of which had thousands of 4- and 5-star ratings. There’s no way I could compete with a brand-new book from this author. The guy absolutely dominates the Humorous Dark fiction category for Kindle: of the top 50 books in that category, McDonnell’s books currently occupy 12 of those slots. (Mr. DANK DANK’s meme book is #50; Laughingstock is #129. DAMN YOU MR. DANK DANK!)

Well, it was a good run, and my takeaway is to check your competition’s publishing schedule before starting your launch This overall worked out well in that I sold more copies of Laughingstock in a week than I did for Fester in the three years since it was published! I will wait a month or two and try the same Formula with Fester to see if I can claim the top spot.

I think I can still claim bragging rights. I’ve a friend in publishing who considers making the Top 10 good enough to put “Amazon bestseller” on the resume. Plus, I had this little recognition of being the #1 New Release in Comedy. For about an hour, true – but I’ll take it! It’s a dog-eat-dog world in indie publishing, and you have to grab whatever accolades you can.


Countdown to Publication

Counting down now – just seven days until the release of Laughingstock. For once, I’m not spending the weekend re-reading a hard-copy proof, so I thought I’d give a quick update/preview.

For the last four weeks, I’d been following pretty much the same routine: receive a copy of the proof from KDP on Friday, spend Friday night, all of Saturday and Sunday morning reviewing the MS for issues, and entering the changes on Sunday afternoon. This would allow just enough time to order a new proof in time for it to arrive the following Friday.

Most of the changes were for clarity: avoiding repeated words or finding more elegant ways of expressing ideas. However, I did (and continue to) find plenty of typos. This chafed my ass worse than snowpants with the seat cut out, since I paid both an editor and a proofreader to review the text. They both totally phoned it in, and I will not be working with either again. The kicker is that the editor I’d really wanted to work with originally contacted me several weeks ago to let me know that she was freelancing again. So it goes…

I’ve been trying to front-load my promotional efforts more than I have in the past. I’ve been trying to get some advance readers to generate early reviews. I’ve used the traditional method of pestering friends, family members and my not-particularly-extensive email list to read and review Advance Reader Copies (ARCs).

I’ve also been using a service called BookSirens. This is a service that provides ARCs to readers for free, with the notion that they will leave reviews for the books they have read. It’s free for the readers, and fairly reasonable for authors. Setup fee is $10, and for each reader who downloads a copy, the author is charged $2. So, for $20 you could end up getting 10 reviews. Compare that to sending out hard copies and badgering your friends and family to actually read it and provide a review. So, far, I’ve gotten three four-star or higher reviews. A pretty good deal, overall.

I’m also getting ready for an Amazon advertising blitz – provided I have any money left over after the tax bill is due. I’m brushing off the painfully-won knowledge of this incredibly complex advertising platform to boost sales as soon as it’s available. Which, by the way, it will be on

Sunday, March 31 – Laughingstock Release Date!

I’m also thinking about a promotional “launch” a few weeks after the official publication date. I’ll be running promos on BookBub at least, and maybe one or two other platforms. (PRO TIP: I’ll be dropping the price of the Laughingstock ebook to $0.99 for about a week starting ~April 15.)

I’m sure there will be other frantic, last-minute, chicken-with-its-head-cut-off activity in the next week as well. I’ll be sure to let you know all about it soon! In the meantime, I’ve still tried to keep producing words with my serial Dungeon & Dragon – be sure to check it out.


Now For the Real Fun!

I’ve gotten to the real fun part of Laughingstock – the one where someone else gets to do the work, and I can simply criticize and/or suggest improvements. I’m talking, or course, about COVER DESIGN.

Sure, it’s fun creating worlds out of my fevered imagination and bringing them to life. Not quite so fun revising and revising and REVISING, so that by this time, I’m glad to unwind at least a little. Of course, still apprehensive that the cover will not adequately pique potential readers’ interest, regardless of what I think. Then there’s the possibility of running into issues with Amazon Ads, as happened with Fester.

I’m going with the cover artist who bailed me out with the Fester problem – Stuart Bache. Stuart’s a consummate professional and a lot of fun to work with, so this is always a fun part of producing a book. We’re still in the preliminary stages, but I’ve already got some concepts to share. Here we go!

Concept 1

I like this concept, as it definitely hits the stand-up trope with the stool and the mic stand. At first, I was a little put off by the way the title is broken onto two lines, but the longer I’ve thought about it, the more it works with the content of the book.

Concept 2

Currently not as enthused with this concept, although that could change. The tragedy/comedy masks are compelling. It’s good comedy is dominant, but the tragedy mask is kind f a downer. Of course, there is tragedy in the story – I’m just not sure if I want to give it equal time on the cover. Bonus points for having the title on one line, though.

I’m looking forward to developing the design with Stuart. Right now, I’m leaning towards Concept 1, as it better conveys the stand-up comedy theme better than the masks.


Literary Limbo & A New Story

As this challenging year draws to a close, I’ve found myself in a sort of literary limbo. I completed five (count ’em – FIVE!) drafts of the new novel Laughingstock. However, due to a variety of personal reasons, both good and bad, I was a little late out of the gate arranging for some pre-publication services: cover design and editing.

For the cover design, I wanted to go with Stuart Bache’s Books Covered, who did a good job on the redesign of the cover of Fester after I started having trouble with Amazon Ads’ protectors of morality and righteousness. However, I should have reached out earlier, since Stuart’s shop is backlogged and won’t be able to start on the cover design until January.

Then there was the matter of editing. I really wanted to go with the editor I’d worked with on Fester, as she was a pro – and a hardcase, who twisted my arm to make changes that I originally didn’t want to make, but ultimately made the book better. Unfortunately, she is no longer doing freelance editing, as it wasn’t paying the bills (at least that’s what she told ne – maybe she just didn’t want to deal with me again). I reached out to the editor who had done Jackrabbit and Powwows, but she basically ghosted me.

I ended up going back on Reedsy and casting about for a new editor. I ultimately decided on a UK-based editor, after making it clear that I did not spell “color” with “u.” I sent her the manuscript nearly three weeks ago now, and haven’t heard a peep from her since. Perhaps it’s because that the MS has been polished to exquisite perfection over the course of five drafts and needs little work and is totally self-explanatory (I’d sure like to think so.) More likely, British editors perhaps don’t do as much hand-holding as American ones, and will just edit the bejesus out of the MS, and return it in bestseller-list shape (I’d sure like to think so). Anyway, the final payment is due next week, so I imagine I’ll hear something by then.

In the meantime, I’ve got some time on my hands now that I’m in literary limbo with Laughingstock. If I was really motivated and forward -thinking, I would be planning my sales campaign for the new book. However, as we’ve already established, I’m no good at sales and hate it.

I’m not a salesentity, that’s for sure – I style myself a writer. So I’m taking this time to work on a fun project that I’ve been wanting to do for a bit, and not worry about making it marketable or commercial. Writing for self-amusement, in other words.

Ever since I wrote the “short” story Reset, I’d thought there were possibilities for a sequel – or perhaps several. Reset was based on a very strange dream in which I was back in junior high school, but with all of my adult experiences and memories. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but this one was so freaky that it stuck with me for days, and persisted in my memory until I actually started writing it down. It ended on a cliff-hanger, which basically provided me with an open door to do something else fun with it.

So I did. In the new story, called Dungeon & Dragon, the protagonist, Scott Gray, wakes up (or comes to) in an entirely different and even weirder place. As the title implies, it is a swords and sorcery fantasy world. And that’s just the start! Next story, Scott could wind up on a spaceship, or in the Wild West, or the Golden Age of Rome. Sky’s the limit, y’all!

Since the point of this is to have fun, I’ve decided to post the sections as a write and revise them. Of course, reader input is welcome. Might as well make this a group effort. So check out Dungeon & Dragon, and have fun!


Fester
Fester – makes a great holiday gift!https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733269940

Wind ‘Em Up & Watch ‘Em Go to Unexpected Places

Hello friends! I’m enjoying what has so far been a very pleasant summer in Portland. I’m closing in on completing the third draft of a new novel, called Laughingstock. I hope to have it published by the end of the year.

Laughingstock is about two comedy nerds, Chuck and Duckie, who as teenagers psych each other up to actually try performing as a comedy duo. After some miscues, they find that that they’re enjoy it and are good at it. Just as their nascent career is starting to take off, Duckie’s family moves (to Fester, Pennsylvania, of all the awful places). As with so many long-distance relationships, they grow apart. They continue to pursue their careers separately, with varying success. Chuck makes the move to Los Angeles, where his star rises quickly and he lands his own network comedy show. Duckie, meanwhile, languishes in the comedy backwater of Portland, grabbing whatever gigs he can manage and paying the bills with dull third-shift jobs.

Just as Chuck’s show takes off, he abruptly disappears. Duckie undertakes a search to locate his old friend. His wild search involves many strange people and circumstances, including the legacy of Mickey Gross, a legendary comedian who supposedly died of cancer five years prior. Duckie’s search leads him to a remote island in Bristish Columbia, where he discovers a strange comedy secret that has been concealed for decades.

Compelling stuff, eh, kids? I sure hope so, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it. (Which is almost entirely the point; I sure ain’t in this for the money!) I’d really hoped to be done with Draft 3 earlier this spring, but it sure didn’t work out that way. However, just when I think I’m approaching closure, one of the characters goes off the rails and I have to figure out how to incorporate their unexpected behavior.

I’ve spoke before about my “pantsing” approach to writing: the flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to storytelling, as opposed to “plotting,” where most of the action is plotted out before Word 1 is written. I’m just too impatient to be a plotter; it’s pantsing all the way for this guy.

Which is a lot of fun, but not conducive to speedy writing. For example, in Laughingstock, Duckie meets the estranged daughter of Mickey Gross, and they unexpectedly fall into a torrid love affair. Honestly, I did not see this coming. Of course, it provided an excuse to write some steamy sex scenes, and diluted the “sausage party” vibe that comes from writing about male-dominated activities like stand-up comedy. (As a comedy nerd myself, I’m gratified to see more women rising to prominence in this field.) Good things come from pantsing.

Similarly, in Fester, Paul Plummer was originally meant to be a minor character who would sort of fade into the background after the first act. Instead, he ended up being on of the main characters of the novel. It was fun to sort of conceive of these characters and then set them loose to see what happens. I’ll also do this deliberately if I get a little stuck. For example, Laughingstock has a network executive named Don Bundy. I wasn’t sure what Don was all about, so just to find out, I wrote a scene showing what Don does in the evening when he goes home from work. It turns out that Don is a lot creepier than I’d originally thought. The scene was excised from the second draft as it didn’t really move the story along, but it provided invaluable insight into Don’s character which was very useful for the rest of the story.

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. The novel is progressing slowly – not because of authorial laziness (well, not entirely) – but because these darned characters act like they have minds of their own! Onward!


Intelligence – Artificial and Otherwise

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure

How amazingly unlikely is your birth

And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space

‘Cause there’s bugger-all down here on Earth!

Monty Python, “Galaxy Song”

Hola, amigos! I know it’s been a long time since I’ve rapped with ya, but I’ve been busy reading old editorials from The Onion.

No, actually, I’ve been busy doing things other than writing, alas. April was a bit of a mess, having to make a short-notice cross-country trip to deal with family issues, then getting the RSV virus, which pretty much laid me out for two solid weeks. No fun.

I had honestly thought that I’d been done with the third draft of my new novel, Laughingstock, at this point. Unfortunately, it’s not to be – at least not yet. I know there may be literally dozens of fans out there clamoring to read this. I can’t blame them, as it is shaping up to be pretty good. There are still a few rough patches that need to be smoothed over, but what I can’t take care of in Draft 3, surely the editor will be able to address.

Which brings me to another issue that is delaying the moving forward of the project – I can’t really afford to hire an editor right now, nor shell out for the cover art. It’s a drag, and I hope that I’ll be able to do so in the immediate future. However, one of the unfortunate truths of indie authordom is that the author has to pay for these up-front costs out of pocket, as well as ongoing advertising costs, etc. This is not a business for those looking to get rich quickly.

There are those who would have you believe otherwise. A lot of jibber-jabber in that direction nowadays revolves around artificial intelligence (AI). AI platforms such as BlowHard and SplatGTH have been featured on a daily basis since the end of last year. Most of these platforms are language-based or art-based, and I know a lot of writers and artists who have been having a blast playing with them.

I’m not one of them.

I’m taking a very cautious wait-and-see approach to Artificial Intelligence. Any technology that made Stephen Hawking nervous should be approached with extreme caution, I think. Seeing how much of a shit-show social media turned out to be, I think I’ll just keep my distance for a while. Maybe that makes me a Luddite – I really don’t care. I turned 55 a few months ago. I feel that gives me the right to be cranky and suspicious of new stuff. ‘Scuse me – I gotta go holler at some kids to get off my damn lawn!

Okay, I will admit that I can think of at least one area where I would be willing to entertain the use of AI in my writing process: proofreading. I did not have my manuscripts professionally proofread previously, and I came to regret it. For Fester, I just did it myself. In restrospect, this was silly. Sure, I caught some typos, but certainly not all of them. It’s not going to happen when you read the same 100,000 word MS over and over again. You’re too familiar with the words, and your eyes just sorta slide off of them.

The trouble is that professional proofreading can be expensive – usually a penny a word. That’s a cool grand for a 100K word MS. This was more than my editor charged! So I’m conflicted. On one hand, I’m leery of sinking more money into a project that I will most likely never make back. On the other hand, I’d hate to be contributing to literary people losing income due to the Rise of the Machines. On the third hand, I sure as hell don’t want to try proofreading my own novel again.

It’s a bit of a quandary, fer sure. However, given that I have yet to finish writing the thing, it’s all hypothetical, at least for now. So I’ll just quit bitching and leave you with a little treat: Stephen Hawking singing the Galaxy Song. Enjoy!


Welcome to “Book World” – Enter at Your Own Risk

In late 2020, fans of indie romance writer Susan Meachen got shocking news: she had recently died. Even worse, she had taken her own life, and it was intimated that online bullying had driven her to do so.

Meachen had been an active member of a number of online communities of indie romance authors. Any number of online author communities exist for different genres, and I can attest that they can get ugly. Just like any other part of the Internet – and especially social media – some people participate in such groups seemingly for the sole purpose of dumping on others.

Not surprisingly, the indie/romance world is especially drama-ridden. Meachen had earlier intimated about her struggles with mental health issues to her 700+ followers on her Facebook page – known as “the Ward,” a reference to a psych ward. Regardless, they were shocked when a post on Meachen’s account by her daughter in September 2020 announced that Meachen had taken her own life, and strongly intimated that online “book world” bullying had been a contributing factor.

Naturally, Meachen’s online fans and friends were devastated. Some pitched in to edit Meachen’s final manuscript for publication. A short story anthology called Bully King Anthology, which was dedicated to Meachen, with the tag “Let’s keep bullying where it belongs – In fiction.” There was also on online auction to help cover the expenses of Meachen’s funeral.

As the months after Meachen’s death rolled on there would be posts on Meachen’s FB page from her daughter, many calling attention to mental health issues. Eventually, a new admin called T.N. Steele began moderating and posting to the Ward. Strangely enough, Steele shared the same birthday and anniversary as did Meachen.

The mystery was solved on January 3 of this year, when the following post hit Meachen’s FB page:

Indeed, the fun did begin. Many people were outraged that Meachen had falsely reported her own suicide, then seemed to try to profit from it as well. One former friend contacted FBI’s cybercrimes unit. There was much recrimination about the anguish caused by the fake death announcement, and similar concerns related to mental health issues.

The media had a fun time with it, although mostly in a superficial, frothy “ha-ha-look-at-the-lengths-these-indie-authors-will-go-to” sort of way, perhaps with a soupcon of concern about mental health issues.

The mainstream “traditional” publishing industry weighed in with an unsurprising level of condescension. “Mainstream” book reviewer Laura Miller wrote the following in Slate:

While Meachen and the other writers who befriended her virtually refer to their community as “the book world,” what they’re talking about has little to do with what most outsiders would associate with that term: the mainstream publishing industry, the professionals who work in it, and the authors whose books fill your local bookstore. Meachen’s “book world” is the community of self-published romance and erotica writers who sell low-cost e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks, primarily through Amazon.

Snotty, yes – but the “book world” for indie writers is just as real – and drama-filled – for indie writers as the traditional publishing industry is for folks like Ms. Miller. The New York Times pointed out in an op-ed that the traditional publishing scene is not without its own scandals and drama. The point being that even if your glass house is a 29-story building on Broadway, you should be careful about chucking stones.

Then the NYT came up with a more nuanced take on the story that cast Meachen in a more sympathetic light. A resident of rural Tennessee, Susan Meachen found herself at loose ends as her husband Troy was away from home for long stretches as a long-haul truck driver. Meachen discovered her “book world” by immersing herself in romance novels, often going through them in less than a day.

Then she began writing them, and entered the singular purgatory of indie authorship. It can be a difficult world, one with a constant need for attention and validation. These, unfortunately, can be achieved for some by slagging other authors in online forums, on Goodreads, on Amazon reviews and elsewhere.

Add genuine mental health issues into this environment, and things can quickly deteriorate. Meachen had been diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder. The feedback of the indie/romance “book world” was a double-acting whipsaw, elevating the manic highs and depressing the dismal lows. Meachen’s family began to express major concerns about her well-being and possibility of self-harm.

In September 2020, while Troy was on the road, Meachen’s daughter checked in on her and discovered her semi-conscious, after having taken a large quantity of Xanax. Obviously terrified by the effects that “book world” were having on his wife’s mental health, Troy instructed his daughter to post the announcement of Susan Meachen’s death, hoping to sever the connection between his wife and an online community that was harming her.

This was the first of a series of questionable choices made by the Meachen family. Besides the (admittedly small-scale) donations solicited in Meachen’s name, there was also the issue of her apparently lurking amongst her mourners for two years as “TN Steele.” Meachen herself seems surprised at the controversy and attention that her resurrection has garnered. Apparently, the fuss has died an ignoble death, and Susan Meachen has been effectively canceled and cast into the outer darkness of social media nothinghood.

So what’s the point of this? I was actually hoping that something would come to me as I wrote this, but other than being a moderately-interesting but slightly-slimy tale of the intersection of social media and grimier parts of human nature. If anything, it’s an illustration of the uglier part of indie writing and publishing. There’s a lot of dog-eat-dog competition out there, especially in popular genres such as romance. A microcosm of social media in general, there’s a constant need for attention and validation that can be poisonous to even those who beam down to “book world” with relatively good mental health. It can be tough out there. As a wise guy once said, “Life sucks; get a helmet.”1


1 Note that this is not to diminish the problems of those struggling with depression or any other form of mental illness. “Helmet” is meant metaphorically to mean any mechanism to help mitigate from external harm, like turning off your computer and going for a walk.


Time for Some Fall Cleaning

Fester
All new Fester cover

Fall came late to Portland, but when it finally appeared it hit like a ton of bricks. Cold, wet, windy bricks. After a summer of amazing authorial indolence, I’m finally get up off of my keister and getting some things squared away.

New Book Cover

First, I have a new cover for Fester. I was conflicted about replacing the original, as I really liked it. My good friend Ken Huey did a superlative job on the cover. He gave me exactly what I asked for. The problem was that I didn’t really know what I should be asking for.

Fester
Original Fester cover

Right out of the gate, it was attracting flak along the lines of “you’d better hope than no lawyers from Warner/DC see that cover.” Apparently some felt that one of the figures on the cover resembled a character owned by a litigious multimedia conglomerate.

I shrugged that off, but the real hassles began when I started advertising on Amazon. The Amazon Ads content moderators felt that the cover was “gory,” for reasons I couldn’t discern and they wouldn’t explain. So, I yanked the ads and saved my advertising pennies to pay pro cover designer Stuart Bache to come up with a new design. I’m pleased with the new cover, even though I’ll miss the old one.

(And if you have a copy with the original cover, encase it in Mylar immediately and buy yourself a copy with the new cover. The original is sure to be a collector’s item in some alternate universes.)

New Novel Manuscript

I’m still moving ahead on the second draft of Laughingstock. I hoped to kick it into overdrive during NaNoWriMo this month, but alas it was not to be. First, a cross-country trip took the wind out of my sails right at the beginning of the month. Then, the ructions surrounding the cover redesign took up a lot of time that I otherwise could have spent writing. Finally, I’m a lazy bastard with dozens of excuses for doing other things when I could or should be writing.

So, what I will try to do is to have my own mini-NaNoWriMo in December. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to produce 50,000 words in a month. I know that that’s still a steep order, but I think I can crank out at least 30,000 words during December. I think it’s possible to do 1,000 words a day. Currently, I am re-writing the second act of the story arc, so those 30K words are going to have to be original stuff. Absolutely doable!

New Social Media

Given the poop-show that Twitter has become, what with the invasion of billionaire buttheads whose daddies didn’t love them, I’ve decided to bail on Twitter entirely. It is unlikely that many people will be upset or even notice. Seeing as how the plat form was little more than a timesuck (just like all social media), I doubt I’m going to miss it.

Instead, I will now be not-really-doing-much-posting to Instagram instead. The URL there is instagram.com/crawfordsmithauthor/

Keeping with the theme of moving away from the Sweet Weasel Words “brand” (shudder), and sticking to my own name, I will also shift to a new FB page: facebook.com/CrawfordSmithAuthor. I will continue posting on the SWW page for now, but intend to phase that out entirely by the end of the year.

Everybody have a great Thanksgiving, and I will be back soon with an update on all these marvelous doings!

Time to Drop the Pantsing?

Hola, amigos! I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but things have been muy loco here at Sweet Weasel Words.

First, I’ve been spending the last several months posting a serialized version of a novella, called For They Shall Hurt. It’s a chilling story of friendship, misplaced faith and murder. It was an interesting process, although not without criticism. Some readers didn’t like to have to wait a week to read the next chapter. I like to think that I was imitating other authors who serialized their stories. For example, Stephen King’s The Green Mile was originally published in six serial volumes in 1996. In turn, King references Charles Dickens’ novels, many of which were serially published in magazines or as standalone “chapbooks.”

This is where any resemblance between Your Humble Author and the likes of King and Dickens ends. My decision to publish FTSH in serial form had more to do with the feedback I received from my writers’ group. I actually finished the first draft earlier this year, but I didn’t post the chapters until I had received feedback from my writing peeps at each week’s meeting.

Now that the novella is complete, I’ve turned my efforts to my next novel manuscript, tentatively titled Laughingstock. Right now, the MS is topping 115K words, which is about 25,000 more than I’d like to have for the final product. Also, I still haven’t finished the first draft; another 10,000 words is not out of the question.

In a previous post, I discussed the difference between “plotting” and “pantsing” in story construction. I am absolutely a pantser, and have really been pantsing the hell out of this story. Especially as the story approaches its conclusion, I’ve basically been driving all of the characters to the same place and seeing what the heck they end up doing. Now, I think I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can see a clear path to the end of the story.

The question for me is whether I should try to plot or outline that path that I can see through the haze, or just keep pantsing to the end. Doing the former would most likely speed up the writing process, which is a good thing. On the other hand, pantsing has gotten me this far, and I am loathe to abandon it now; similar to the way some baseball players don’t like to change their socks when they’re on a winning streak. (NOTE: I change my socks nearly every day.)

So I guess I’m not going to drop my pantsing for now, seeing as how I’m in the home stretch. I hope to be able to give a definitive report on this approach shortly.