Tag Archives: Awfully Appetizing

Bloody Banquet in Progress

So… I don’t remember exactly how much I talked about the whole Winlock experience.  Just to recap, my book was accepted, published as an E-book, then I was released from my publisher because of low book sales.  A lot more than that went on, the short version of which is that I’m very grateful to Monique Happy for her dealings with me, and a bit disappointed with the company to which she answers.

All of that aside, however, I had written a draft of book two in the Corpse-Eater saga, Bloody Banquet and started in on book three, Cankerous Cuisine (or maybe Curdled Cuisine, haven’t decided yet), before I found out that I didn’t have a publisher or a timeline anymore.

When I did find out, it sort of took the wind out of my sales, as these things are wont to do.  I set the books aside for a bit and have only just now really started digging back in to Bloody Banquet.  It’s a bit rougher around the edges than I remembered.  I still like most of it, and even have those wonderful moments where I stumble across something clever I didn’t remember putting in, but over all I think I need two or three more times through before book two is ready to come out.

What I really need, though, is a peer review group.  I want to get an off-line group… I just find it easier to deal with people in person, but I’m not sure that my book will be a good fit with most of the people I’m likely to find in a conservative Texas town.

I don’t know, I’ll sort something out, I suppose.

Promo Frustration

Maybe all the old people are right.  Maybe my generation never learned to savor anticipation.  Or maybe it’s just that when you look backwards you tend to look past the dull plodding hours of frustration and impatience.

So I did a little bit of promo work.  Nothing Earth shattering, but I did invest a bit of time and energy and money into putting Awfully Appetizing out into the world.  The thing is, my little foray into promotion is the kind of thing that takes time to bear fruit.  Several weeks at the very least, and closer to months if I’m being realistic.

But no sooner had I mailed things off (snail mail, mind you) then I found myself checking online to see if there had been any effect.  I think that the same excitement that helped me get the job done to start with has now mutated into an angry, whiny neediness that insists that, having done the work, I should get the reward.  Now!  NOW!

Just another example of intellect versus emotion.  I feel one way despite knowing just how stupid it is.  Another example of why I try very hard to avoid trusting my instincts.  Hey, your instincts may work for you, mine are three year old children that I lug around in a backpack.

All across the wall

I’m working on book three of the Corpse-Eater Saga, and I have to say, there is a lot of stuff to remember.  There are characters of varying importance who may or may not come back into another story later.  There are descriptions of people and places, which, though not important enough for me to remember all the time, would be embarrassing to get wrong.  There is the description of distances and drive times.  There are endless details.  And, let’s face it, I am not good with details.

Because of that, my walls are becoming increasingly crowded.  I started by drawing a map of the my imaginary city, Collinswood Colorado.  Then I wrote out very brief sketches for each of the nine books that I’ve agreed to write in the series.  Then I drew blueprints for a couple of buildings, so I wouldn’t find myself describing a place that can’t exist in three dimensions.    Now I have a couple more buildings to draw, and several character arcs that I’m going to be sketching out.  I’m also about to start a list of events that exist to foreshadow upcoming plots and stories.  I should’ve done that at the very beginning.

Dammit, I’m running out of wall space!

Short stories

Short stories are NOT my forte.  Let’s get that out of the way right up front.

My first attempts to write short stories were unsuccessful on many, many levels.  Basically it would start off with an idea.  I’d say to myself, ‘you know, this idea isn’t exactly worthy of an entire book.  I should make this into a short story!’ So I’d start in on the ‘short story,’ only to realize, after about fifteen or twenty pages (maybe ten or twelve) that I hadn’t even finished introducing the universe everything took place in, much less gotten to the meat of the story.

So I’d amend my plans.  No, not a short story, this would have to be a book after all.  Then, about five or ten pages later, I’d hit a brick wall and decide that I could come back to this story later and see if it was really worth getting into.

So I would fail to write the story, and fail to keep it short.

Eventually, I’d come back to it and, in most cases, fail to remember what the hell the story had actually been about anyway!

These days I’m a little bit better about it.  I mean, sure, I only finish about one in ten of the short stories I write, but let’s be honest, that is a massive improvement from zero percent,

But in order to do that, I rarely have a fully fleshed out story as the end result.

Basically, when I’m working on a short piece, I essentially attempt to establish a mood instead of really telling a tale.  Getting a full story arc into just a few thousand words is rather difficult for me, so instead I just find the emotional high of a story and attempt to capture that as powerfully as I can.

Another trick I’ll try is practicing a technique with which I am unfamiliar, or one which is difficult to impossible to maintain over the course of an entire book.  I’ve written a few where the entire story is dialogue written from one character’s perspective, that’s a good way to keep things short.  And it’s fun, too.

But I feel that I am missing out on something.  I’d like to be able to generate these more traditional pieces.  Unfortunately it requires a discipline and skill set that I largely lack.  Still, you should always push yourself.  I’m a big believer in that.

I’m going to make a concerted effort, over the next couple of days, to write a couple of short stories associated with my corpse-eater saga universe.

I’m inclined to think that having an established universe for the story to play out in will be helpful to me.  One of the traps I’ve fallen into in the past has been spending so long trying to tell all of these details that are unnecessary to the plot, but make the world as a whole work.  I’m hoping that the knowledge that I’ll be able to share these details, or have already shared them, in some other work will serve to help me focus my attention to the story itself.

Here’s hoping.

Book 3

I’m almost done with Bloody Banquet.  Fingers crossed, I’ll have it sent off to my second round of beta readers by the end of the week, and in the hands of my editor near the beginning of September.

Book 3 has me a little worried, though.  It’s not that there’s a problem with it, it’s that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing with it.  I’ll be honest with you, this is going to be the first time in my life that I’ve written book three of anything.  I got to book three once before, but I didn’t really have any reason to finish it so… I let it stagnate.  But now I have a contract.  I am required to make this work.

Okay, I am being a bit optimistic there.  Given how shitty my sales have been there is the distinct possibility that I’m going to get a polite brush off soon and find myself having to self publish any further books I want to write about a ghoul named Walter.

But let’s assume that, for whatever reason, my publisher decides to let/make me keep going.  Everything I had from here on out was just a vague idea.  I know some of the things I want to have happen, but now I’ve got to put them in order, make them stand up straight and behave themselves.  I’ve got to actually make the book.  And I’m kind of terrified.

Reviewers vs writers

I’ve been thinking a bit about reviewers lately.  Mostly it’s because I’ve been sending out oodles of requests for people to review my book (Awfully Appetizing).  There’s a longstanding love/hate relationship between writers and reviewers.  It’s kind of a parallel between the love/hate relationship between writers and publishers.

By the nature of what we each do, we are dependent upon one another.  Obviously reviewers need writers so that they (the reviewer) has something to do, while reviewers are able to present a book to a group of people who, otherwise, might never have even heard of it.  One might assume that there was a symbiosis between the two, and in a way there is.  But there is also a rivalry.  The rivalry is, I think, based upon an imbalance of power.  For every reviewer out there, there seems to be a thousand authors.  Or perhaps its just that every author is trying to contact every reviewer.

Whatever the reason, the effect is the same: the reviewers are inundated with requests from desperate authors.  When, inevitably, the reviewers find themselves unable to read every single book, the result is a collection of annoyed authors who feel that they’ve somehow been stiffed.  Not all of us, some of us have been around long enough to know that it isn’t personal, but when nine hundred people didn’t make the cut, some of them are bound to be resentful.

It’s an interesting situation.  And, frankly, it highlights some of the problems with the way the writing world works.

A manufactured Rush

So, I got some terrible news today.  It seems that in the three weeks since my book came out, I’ve sold a total of seven copies.

Now, in fairness, most of the people I know who are willing to buy a copy of my book for me are more into print copies of the book, and for the last three weeks no print copies have been available.  That said, seven books in the first three weeks is… pretty bad.

I talked to a friend and fellow author about the problem.  Jason Richter, who wrote Mating Rituals of Migratory Humans.  He suggested that I ‘arrange a rush’ on my book.  Basically I’m supposed to contact all of my friends who are willing and able to buy copies of the book and try to get all of them to purchase a copy on the same day at around the same time.

The theory, as I understand it, is that if you do that your amazon ranking shoots up, which, presumably, means that some amazon algorithm decides that your book is ‘hot’ and they market you a little bit.  Theoretically, you get a few extra sales out of the deal, I think.

Now, honestly, I don’t really get it.  Any of it.  But Richter is a smart fellow, and according to him it can work, so what the hell, I’ll give it a try.

The problem now is that I have to wait until I know for sure my book is actually in print, and then I have to contact everyone I know all at once.  Sadly, I am not the most organized person in the world.  At the moment, for example, my bedroom floor is a bit tricky to navigate as I have a sprawling pile of clean clothes that I really need to hang up, a pile of junk mail from the past couple of months that I need to shred, and a pile of dirty clothes that is slowly encroaching on the clean clothes pile.

Oh, and a giant roll of paper that I bought from the newspaper people so I could make diagrams to help me keep track of crap in my writing.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: writing is a passion, a calling, a lifestyle.  Promoting is a job.

Anyhow, if anyone out there who happens upon this blog is interested in reading a book about an anti-social ghoul who finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between neckbiters and crotchsniffers (that’s vampires and werewolves), please, head to amazon and buy a book.  You’ll make my day.

No, seriously, you’ll make my day.  I’ve got to have a ‘talk’ with my editor and a marketing guy in a couple of days.  It feels like I’ve been called into the principals office.

Rated! Judged!

So, my book got its first rating by somebody I cannot immediately identify.  Of course, we’re online, There’s really no way to be certain that it isn’t a friend or family member, but nothing about the amazon review makes me think it’s somebody I know.  So for the time being, I’m assuming that a stranger bought my book, read my book, and reviewed my book.

And they gave it four stars!

Sure, five stars would’ve been better, but they wrote a review and were pretty complimentary.  I’m stoked!

I’ve said it before, reviews aren’t really the business of the writer.  If I had the discipline I’d ignore them and just continue working on my own crap, but who am I kidding?  First book?  I’ll be watching amazon and goodreads like a hawk watching a rat-hole.  the second something pops up… POW!  I’m all over that.

Man that’s a bad idea… oh well, watcha gonna do?

Four stars!  Somebody read my book and enjoyed it!  BOOM!

First one star review I get I’ll be on here bitching and crying….

When you’re an artist, your art is sort of like your child.  You spend so long trying to turn it into something perfect, and then you send it out into the world and just hope it doesn’t end up in a ditch somewhere.  Or starting world war three.

That perfect twist

So, I’m watching this show called ‘Mr. Robot,’ and I’m rather enjoying it so far.  They’re doing some interesting things with the characters and the story arc… anyhow, about halfway through episode two I get this feeling in my head that they’re pulling a fight club on me.  I think that the main character of the show, who has mental problems and is on drugs half the time, is also at least one other character, the guy Christian Slater is playing.  He might be even more.  It popped into my head about halfway through episode two, so I kind of need to re-watch up to this point to see if there are any more indicators.  The biggest thing that makes me think that, however, is the style of the show.  There’s this helpless rage at the corporate machine, a sort of mind bending narration combined with self doubt.  The character is reaching out, trying to find something, trying to change who he is, or how the world work.  It reminds me so much of fight club that I can’t help but wonder.

Anyhow, that got me thinking about movie twists.  And whenever I think about twists in stories, I inevitably think of the twilight zone.  Not the recent reboot, but the original, with Rod Serling.  I used to love watching twilight zone marathons.  The thing was, once you’d seen a couple, you could pretty much guess the twists on the rest of them.  Well, not always, some were too random to really be guessed at.  The box of damaged toys being donated to charity?  Really?  That’s just a couple of writers getting drunk on the weekend going ‘what haven’t we done yet?  come on, there’s gotta be something.’

The thing is, the best twists, the most excellent, most interesting ones, aren’t the ones that come out of left field, they’re the ones that you should have seen coming but didn’t.  My favorite movies and television shows (twist-wise) are the ones where when you watch it the second time, it seems so obvious.

But there’s a delicate balance in there, I think.  It’s a dance between the writer and the reader, or viewer, or whatever.  Making a story where the ending is too obvious isn’t any fun, but you have to give enough clues that your audience can play the game, which means that some of them will see it coming.  A good writer of epic stories will set up a number of red herrings, each of which is possible, so that the conclusion they’re heading for is possible, but only one of several paths they can go down.  It keeps people guessing.

I think it’s a little harder in movies and television shows.  In books you have infinite time and space to work with… well, not infinite, but a lot.  In books and movies, every second needs to accomplish something.  Everything you do needs to have meaning.

My favorite twists to write are not the twist endings.  I mean, I like those from time to time, especially when I’m working on a short story, a little change of pace, a sudden shift in perspective, something that changes the meaning of everything that came before, it’s cool.  But in long stories, in a series, the things that interest me are less about the way things end and more about the way they began.  Sometimes the biggest twist is not where we’re going, but how we got here to start with.

And the some of the most satisfying twists are the ones that you make the reader wait for.  I’m reading the Dresden files a lot these days, and one of the things I’ve come to admire about Butcher’s work is how patient he is at doling out the payoffs.  He had his main character suffering debilitating headaches for several books before finally we discovered why.  And I’m convinced that Dresden will, at some point, journey through time… that he will be the one who fixed the problem with ‘little chicago’ in his basement all those years ago, that he is the person who he hears shouting ‘fuego’ in the battle at chichan itza… that he has had a hand in guiding his own life. All these things which have been set up over years and years, both in the story and out of it.  That’s what I’d like to pull off with some of my own writing.  I have some things set up for that with the Corpse-Eater Saga, but I’m not sure I”m as adept at that as I’d like to be.