Category Archives: Writing

Thoughts on my experiences as a writer.

New Book Release – Troubled Space

Troubled Space ~ The Interstellar Adventures of an Unknown Indie Writer

After a prolonged delay to allow editors and agents to properly ignore the manuscript, the first ebook and paperback editions of this lighthearted space opera will be released on Friday, 15 May, 2020.

TS ebook cover 2020aTed Lester writes stories no one reads. Agents reject him. Editors ignore him. Frustrated, he self-publishes, hoping the world will find value in his books. Then, early one morning, as he is yet again attempting to compose prose that might attract the attention of…well, anyone, something remarkable happens. He gets an unexpected visit from an agent, but not one he has ever queried. This agent is from outer space, and it tells Ted that one of his books has become popular throughout the galaxy, and that he, as the author, can have everything he ever wanted: fame, fortune, and above all, fans. All Ted has to do is agree to go on an interstellar book tour.

Unfortunately, not all his galactic readers are admirers. Some want to kill him.

 

Digital editions are now available for preorder for only 99¢:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1019006
Amazon (U.S.) Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087X6PS16/

What’s the point?

It’s been months since I’ve written anything for this blog. The reason is, there’s not much to say. As far as my writing goes, I’m in a bit of a slump. For several months, I just can’t seem to muster the energy or focus my concentration. First, there was the quintuple bypass operation I had in October. And then my dad died in November (coronary artery disease), which, despite his advanced age (93), came as a surprise. And then our tiny dog died in December (kidney disease). The last few months of 2018 kind of sucked for me.

I’m feeling much better now, with just a few lingering minor medical annoyances, but getting back into my daily writing routine is proving difficult. I suspect I may be suffering from a mild case of ‘What’s the point?’.

I was very excited when an agent asked to see the full manuscript of my novel Troubled Space back in September. I sent it to her immediately, of course, but I haven’t heard back. I sent a polite follow-up a few weeks ago. No response to that, either. I don’t know why. Maybe she didn’t get it. Maybe she’s backlogged and hasn’t yet opened it. Maybe she didn’t like my manuscript and lacks the common courtesy to let me know. Whatever the reason, it’s kind of depressing, and it’s probably the main cause of my current deficit of enthusiasm.

But I still think Troubled Space is a great novel, so I’ve sent a query to one of the few reputable publishers who accept unagented submissions. They want three months to look at it before I send it to anyone else. So, until the end of May, my queries are done. I expect no more replies from agents, not even from the one who asked to see my manuscript. I do expect a reply from the publisher, and I’m hoping for the best, but I expect another rejection.

Advice to prospective authors: Writing is not a good hobby to take up if you need positive reinforcement to maintain a sense of self-worth.

But getting back to my current case of ‘What’s the point?’. Well, for me, the point is that I enjoy writing stories. Yes, I wish other people would enjoy reading them, and I can’t say that’s not important to me, but it’s not the main point. I simply like creating stuff….

Speaking of which…. At some point in the not-too-distant past, my dad decided he wanted to take up painting as a hobby. He bought paint, brushes, easels, and canvases, and, in the course of three years, he produced one small painting. When he died, I had to decide what to do with the unused canvases and art supplies. It seemed a shame to waste them, so I tried my hand at painting. I’m not very good at it, but it’s a creative hobby that I find I enjoy in the same way I enjoy writing. One advantage it has is that it takes nowhere near as long to complete a painting as it does a novel.

Query Quandary

It’s been eleven weeks, and fewer than half of the agents I queried for my latest book have replied. I’ve also heard nothing more from the one who asked to see my full manuscript. I sent it to her over seven weeks ago. A quick search of the repository of all human knowledge (Google) suggests that six weeks to two months is the average wait time for feedback after sending a full manuscript, but in rare cases, it may take much longer. (One comment in a forum mentioned sending fulls to two agents who failed to respond after two years.)

My tentative plan was to start sending out queries to publishers at this point, but I hesitate to do that if some agents are still considering it. I suppose I can wait a few more weeks. I appreciate that agents (like the rest of us) are busy. In the meantime, I’m creating new editions of my Warden’s World series. After that, who knows?

Query Status ~ Week 7

On the seventh week of queries, my email gave to me…
One more rejection.

…Actually, that was it, so I’m not going to try to come up with something cleverly musical. It was a polite rejection, though, possibly not even the agency’s generic default, although it wasn’t quite specific enough to believe it was personalized just for me. Still, any reply is better than none at all.

I still have 19 in that category because the reply I received yesterday was balanced by a new query to an agency I didn’t know existed when I began all of this. I found it mentioned in the Author’s Notes of an unimpressive book I recently read. Honestly, I didn’t care for the book at all (too much hit, not enough wit), but I figured any agent could make a mistake. Based on the fact that my books aren’t getting more enthusiastic replies, many agents do, so I collected the relevant data from the internet and submitted one more query to this newly discovered agent.

And in this short and boring tale lies a question. Why isn’t finding a literary agent easier? You’d think that businesses that need to attract clients would make themselves obvious. But I’d almost swear that some of the agents out there are trying to hide. The most obvious way is behind websites in bad need of a makeover. Some look like they were thrown together 20 years ago by the one person in the office who admitted to knowing a little html. I’ve come across a few that made me seriously wonder if there was a legitimate business behind them. Maybe it’s supposed to some kind of challenge. Only sufficiently motivated authors will prove themselves worthy, discover the agency, and earn the right to query. Or maybe there are so many good stories in need of agents that it doesn’t matter. But then I have to wonder where all these great stories are because I read over 100 books a year, and very few of them pass my “this is one I’d like to reread” standard.

Oh, well. It is what it is. I’m assuming I’ll see more query replies in the upcoming week. Several agencies indicated they have an eight-week window. After that passes, what next? I’ll decide later. Don’t feel like it right now.

 

(P.S. For those concerned or just curious about my recent bypass surgery, I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, but by possibly a slightly smaller truck than last week. I’m still having trouble doing basic things like thinking and typing, but it’s all slowly coming back to me.)

 

Query Status ~ Week 6

Some of the agencies I queried indicated that a response could take up to eight weeks. This obviously wasn’t one of them. No more manuscript requests. No more rejections. No word at all, which I’m actually okay with. As it turned out, I went in for quintuple bypass open heart surgery on Friday. I doubt my medical condition was directly related to my queries, but I still feel as if I’ve been run over by a radioactive triceratops, and it’s still a struggle to do much beyond peeing on my own. Revising a manuscript can be quite a chore. So is composing this post, so I’ll stop shortly.

But for those keeping score, 44% of my queries were rejected within the first few weeks, sometimes within hours of sending them. 2% got favorable replies, and another 54% are still carrying their full potential, not unlike the promise of unchecked Lotto tickets. For now, all I can do is wait. That, at least, I can manage.

Query Status ~ Week 4

It’s been a slow week for query responses, although I did get a couple more rejections. The score now is:
Queries sent: 36
Reply stating “closed to new queries”: 1
Rejections received: 15
Full manuscript requests: 1
Still awaiting replies: 19

So, nineteen more agents still have a unique opportunity to ask to see my amazing new manuscript. 🙂 Of the one who already has, I’ve heard nothing more, although I know this can take quite a while. I remain hopeful.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on revisions for new editions of my Warden novels. I recently republished the first of these in digital format. A new paperback will be following soon. It will be less expensive than the original because I changed the size from 5″X 8″ to 6.14″ X 9.21″. The pages are larger, so there are fewer of them, which means less cost. I hadn’t known this before, figuring the cost of the larger page would balance the cost of having fewer of them. Not so, apparently. This puts the cost back to something I would consider reasonable. The eBook edition will remain free until the publisher objects.

Here’s the new cover. I think it came out well. The other five books set in the same world will receive similar treatment in the coming months.

Query Status ~ Week 3

My queries have been out for three weeks, and the good news is that an agent has asked to see my full manuscript! (Yay)

Now, for the bothersome bits. My internet was down, so I didn’t see her email until late that afternoon. That’s not a big deal. It’s been going down every day for the last week, but it normally comes back up after a few hours. (The cable guy is coming later today to find out what’s wrong…I hope.) The really stressful thing was, I had to check my email on my Kindle Fire tablet because the day before she sent her reply, the laptop I had Troubled Space (and all my other books) on decided to crash. Yes, that created a moment of panic, I don’t mind saying. I had backed up my files of course, but the last time was about two months ago, before my final edits.

So…. I call the repair shop I brought my computer to that morning and asked if they could save that one file. They said they could, and I rushed there with a flash drive in hand, got the file, brought it home, opened it on my son’s laptop using the Open Office clone of Word he has on it, put my name and page numbers on the MS, and sent it back to her. I haven’t heard anything more from her since. I hope she 1) got it, 2) likes it, 3) agrees to take it on. I suppose all I can do is wait and hope.

Twenty-two other agents have not yet responded to my queries. The repair shop still has my laptop. (They’re putting in a new hard drive.) Unable to accomplish anything, and still feeling stressed, I bought myself a new tower computer. I spent most of the last two days configuring the thing. Of course, my internet went down several times while I was doing so, but it came back often enough to download the programs and drivers I needed. My new computer is now almost functional. I’m using it to write this blog post. Oh, and my doctor’s office called to say I had an abnormal EKG and is sending me in for some nasty investigative procedure to see how bad my arteries are clogged, or something like that. But compared to having an agent request my full manuscript, that’s a trivial matter. It’s been a great week!

Query Status ~ Week 2

It’s been two weeks since I sent out the last of thirty-six queries for my (as yet) unpublished book Troubled Space. The spate of instant knee-jerk rejections now seems to have ended. I got half as many over the last seven days as I did on the first week, now making a total of twelve. The bright spot is that two-thirds of the agents I queried did not instantly reject it. I can only hope that some of them may actually consider representing me. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Of course I’m not just waiting around for some unknown agent to acknowledge my existence. I’m also not diving into to writing my next book. I’ve decided instead to take time to produce new editions of my Warden’s World stories. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that they need new covers. I have five novels set in this world, and the covers don’t look much alike. I think they should, and soon they will. They also need a bit of revision. These were the first novels I ever wrote, and I was pretty nervous about publishing them. Before I did, I reviewed as much guidance as I could about the whole process, and I ended up following a lot of bad advice. Basically, I over-edited and ended screwing up the tenses and making the prose choppy. My goal is to correct the corrections I made trying to follow the ‘rules.’

The first book to get a makeover will the An Android Dog’s Tale. It’s a prequel to the others and probably the shortest of the bunch at around 75,000 words. It may also be my best seller. I’m not talking bestseller as in toping anyone’s charts, but it’s either in the top (or possibly the second top) sales spot for my books. It’s currently getting over 100 Kindle downloads per month and a few more in other formats. The revised version is almost done and should be out within the next month. (I considered showing the new cover in this post but decided against it. I have a proof copy of the new paperback sitting on my desk. Take my word for it; it looks damn good.)

So, that’s my writing time accounted for until at least the end of the year. I’ll be revising five books, creating new covers for them, and releasing new digital and trade paperback editions.

Oh, and I’ll also be waiting to hear back from agents.

Query Status ~ Week 1

Over the course of three days last week, I sent queries to 36 literary agencies. I am happy to report pretend that most of them are still seriously considering my latest book. Sadly, nine others must have illiterate monkeys with absolutely no taste monitoring their emails because they almost immediately sent back rejection letters (one within only a few hours of me sending the query).

Okay, that’s unfair. Perhaps they’re not actually monkeys, but they clearly don’t realize what a unique opportunity they’ve just denied themselves. (Listen, lying to yourself is something an author has to do in order to keep writing, so it’s either disparage the good taste and wisdom of some unknown interns at a few obscure literary agencies or curl up into a fetal position, drool into my bellybutton, and admit that I’ve wasted the last seven years of my life.) Regardless of who or what caused those rejections, I am sure that my latest manuscript could find a large and appreciative audience, if given a chance. It’s good. I mean, really good. It had me laughing and nodding my head when I proofread it, and I knew what would happen next.

Which makes me wonder….

We’ve all heard stories about how many agents and/or publishers rejected queries for books that later went on to being bestsellers and were sometimes even mangled into blockbuster movies. The current favorite anecdote is about how J.K. Rowling received ‘loads of’ rejections before she finally found a publisher for her Harry Potter books, and she is far from the only writer with a story like this.

A moment on Google led me to this site, which lists several:  http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/ It’s not the only one like this out there, and it mainly focuses on rejections from editors, but the point remains valid. Now, you may not agree that all of the listed books are good or even readable, but the fact is that each and every one of them did find an appreciative audience. The agents and publishers who rejected them missed out on amazing opportunities.

So I have to wonder. Are there consequences? There are for the authors, obviously. The snap decisions made by agents and editors can substantially change their lives. But what about for the people who made those decisions? Did those who rejected Rowling’s queries all keep their jobs? Do they still sleep well? Do their peers make fun of them? Do they look in the mirror every morning and see an idiot?

I don’t know. They may not even remember whose queries they’ve rejected among the thousands they get each year. I have a feeling, and I’m not sure I’m right, that agents are more afraid of taking on a book they can’t sell than they are of rejecting one that later goes on to be immensely popular. There are consequences for the first. If nothing else, they’ve wasted their time. But rejections might be safe. If the author doesn’t keep a record of these and disclose it afterward, who is going to know?

Somehow, this just doesn’t seem fair.

But, for now, 27 agents still have a chance to appreciate the opportunity I’ve given them. I do hope they don’t screw up.

Queries away!

I spent the last two mornings sending out queries. Twenty-seven lucky agents now have the opportunity to ask to ask to see my manuscript, or (more likely) to ignore me. All together, sending those queries took me probably eight hours, not counting the time it took to put together the template for the letters or writing the synopsis. Those took up all my allotted writing time for the last week or so. It’s surprisingly difficult to adequately summarize a 400+-page novel in two double-spaced pages. I know I didn’t, but perhaps I did well enough. I suppose I’ll find out.

As for the letters themselves, they’re not all letters. Forget snail-mail. Hardly anyone demands paper, although a very few will still accept paper as an alternative if you can’t use email. But some now use online forms. Like the requirements for the email submissions, no two of those are identical. All agents want to see something about your previous writing experience and a paragraph about the story you’re pitching to them, but some also want to see a two-page synopsis of the story. Some want to see the first three pages of your manuscript, or the first fifty, or something in between. This means you can’t just write one standard letter that works for everyone. Figuring out what each agent wants takes research and time. Some are even picky about the subject line for the query.

This kind of confuses me. Why is there such a difference? Agents are all in the same business, so shouldn’t they all want to see the same stuff? I especially wonder about those who only want to see a short query. I wouldn’t think you could tell much from just that. My first guess is that these agents aren’t all that interested in finding new clients, or that they are looking for something specific, something there is a known market for, such as fantasy stories about snarky dragons or sexy vampires of zombie detectives or something like that, but I could be wrong. The same goes for those who only want to see a synopsis, or the first three manuscript pages. Very few stories really get going in three double-spaced pages. Yeah, you can do a short story in that length, but the settings and characters for a novel require a bit more development, especially for science fiction and fantasy because the author is pretty much creating an entire new world. It would seem to me that in this digital age, agents might as well ask for at least the first fifty pages. That doesn’t mean they have to read all of them. They can still reject after the first line in the query letter, which I’m sure is not uncommon, but if they want to see more, it’s there.

Oh, well. That’s their job, not mine. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I just can’t help thinking that they’re probably missing out on some great stuff.

More Pointless Agent Queries

After a long and futile search for an agent to represent my ninth novel, I published it myself last month. I even sold a few copies. (Yay me.) I hope the people who bought it like it. I also hope some of them will write reviews, but that may be asking too much. I see (maybe) one review for every 500 to 1,000 downloads. (I don’t keep stats on this, but I really appreciate each and every review my books get, even if they aren’t 5 stars.)

Researching who to send queries to, creating a synopsis, putting together the letters, and actually submitting the things took time, of course, but once all that was done, it was simply a matter of waiting, hoping an agent or a publisher might call. That didn’t mean I had free time. I wasn’t idle. I was working on my next book. I began the outline for it about a year ago. Now, it’s done. I have a good final draft, anyway. It comes in at a bit over 107,000 words, and I think it’s the best one I’ve done yet (but I always think that).

So, what I am doing now? I’m sending queries again, of course. The first batch went out this morning. Yeah, I know it’s probably pointless, but a writer’s got to do what a writer’s got to do. Banging your head on the great wall of traditional publishing is part of the process.

The ironic thing is, when I began this project, I planned on NOT looking for an agent or a traditional publisher for it. I intended this to be an indie book about an indie writer. No, it’s not an autobiography. It’s science fiction. My chosen title is Troubled Space: The Interstellar Adventures of an Unknown Indie Writer. My one-sentence pitch for it is Indie author Theodor Lester never imagined his books might save the world, but one does, which he discovers when an alien who wants to be his agent abducts him.

Since it’s about an indie author who has some definite opinions about the publishing industry, I figured no agent would want to touch it. But once I completed the manuscript, I figured what the hell. It’s a damn good story. At least I think so, and who could be a better judge? I’m both an indie writer and a fan of lighthearted space operas. This is exactly the kind of book I’d want to read.

So, I did my research and compiled a list of agents who might appreciate something like this. I made note of their individual submission requirements, and today I began the quite possibly pointless process of tailoring and sending query letters. (I know alliteration is juvenile, but I like it.) My agent list is fairly short, but I expect it will be a few more days before I’ve sent the last query. Once I’m done, I plan to work on a short story I’ve had bouncing around in the back of my mind for a while. After that, well, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll be working on something.

Submissions are Futile

I write something every day. Most of it is work on my next novel, but I also write ten or so (normally short) book reviews for Goodreads every month. What I don’t often write are blog posts. After all, why should anyone care about the idle prattle of an unknown indie writer? Other indie writers might, I suppose, but even then, I can’t offer them any advice about how to achieve fame and fortune. I haven’t.

Still, there’s no point in having a blog if I don’t write something for it, so here’s an update on my attempt to turn my writing hobby into a vocation. In my last blog post, I told you that I submitted queries for my ninth novel to 28 agents. Ten of them have replied. I don’t expect any more will. All the responses were generic rejects. None of those 28 agents, not even the ten who had the courtesy to respond, ever read my manuscript. I doubt they even read any sample chapters. They based their rejections entirely on my query. (I’ll put a generic version of the query letter at the end of this post as an example of how NOT to write one. I’d loved to tell you what’s wrong with it, but I can’t. I don’t have a clue.)

I sought an agent first because very few traditional publishers accept unagented submissions. Some do, and I submitted queries to two of them. I waited six months. Neither of them responded.

So, my ninth novel will be indie published like all my others. That’s not so bad. According to reports from Amazon, downloads of Kindle editions of my books have been increasing steadily. They’re now up to 500 per month worldwide. That may seem a lot, but most of those are freebies. My books are also available from Apple iTunes. As best I can tell, they add another 30 or so downloads per month. Since most of my ebooks that aren’t free retail for 99¢, my monthly royalties seldom total over $10. That would be depressing if I was doing this for the money.

Of course I haven’t just been waiting around this year, hoping for agents and publishers to notice me. I’ve been working on my tenth novel. The protagonist of this one is an indie writer. I figure I know something about them.

~*~

*This is the query that did not work*

Dear AGENT (get the name right, and tailor the introduction and concluding paragraphs for each agent),

I hope you will consider representing my latest unpublished novel, The Elsewhere Gate, which combines elements of contemporary science fiction in an urban fantasy setting with likable young characters and a unique magic system. An underlying theme of wealth disparity provides real-world relevance. The novel is complete at 90,000 words.

Hurled from a private laboratory in Florida to a world where magic is money and airships fill the sky, a young man with dreams of college, together with the sensible daughter of a quirky professor, must flee a covetous moneylender who is convinced they hold the key that will open new worlds for him to exploit. Tom and Amanda don’t know where they are. It’s definitely not Florida. It’s not even Earth. It’s a place of magic, which is dangerous to use if you don’t know what you’re doing. Tom’s first attempt lands him in the care of three witches who run a soup kitchen. They help him recover and then hide him and Amanda from Lord Wilcraft, grandmaster of the moneylenders’ cartel and leader of the Syndicate, the closest thing to government this place has. Its sole purpose is to promote business and increase profits. Under Wilcraft’s direction, the Syndicate is building its own Elsewhere Gate. Wilcraft believes Tom holds the secret that will finally make it work and sends his enforcers to capture him. Failing to do so quickly, Wilcraft turns his unwelcome attention to those who have helped him and Amanda. Tom is determined to save his new friends, but the leader of the Syndicate has extreme wealth, unrivaled influence, and powerful magic. What can a poor college freshman from Elsewhere do?

I am the author of eight independently published novels, which have had several thousand readers across all books and outlets. These stories continue to receive excellent reviews, enjoying average ratings well above four stars on Goodreads as well as on U.S. and U.K. Amazon sites. My writing style is distinctive, but the tone and mood are similar to that of John Scalzi with considerable influence from Sir Terry Pratchett. It appeals to readers who appreciate Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts, the work of Jasper Fforde, or the last twenty or so Discworld novels.

I am providing … (Some agents allow you to provide sample pages or a synopsis, which I invariably did whenever permitted.) Thank you for taking the time to read my query.

Status on My Agent Search

With completion of my ninth novel, I decided to try turning my writing hobby into more of a vocation. After all, my previous books are doing all right. Reader reviews (for which I am immensely grateful) are averaging above four stars, and I am receiving small but consistent royalties. I wondered if it might be time for me to go from ‘indie’ to ‘pro.’ I figured the first step is to find an agent.

So, rather than jumping into designing a cover and reformatting my latest completed manuscript for publication, I began searching for an agent. There aren’t as many as I had thought. I found only 28 that: a) were open to new submissions, b) represented the types of books I write, and c) are seemingly reputable. I may have missed some, but using the resources available to me, that’s all I could come up with.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve sent queries to all of them. The last went out yesterday. So far, I’ve gotten six responses, all rejects. I appreciate those because about half of all agencies advise authors that they only respond if they want to see your manuscript, which means you end up maintaining false hope far longer than you need to.

It’s difficult not to feel discouraged by this process. If you’re an author, you know what I mean. You work on your story every day for a year or more, preparing outlines, writing draft after draft, revising, editing…. Finally, you’re done. You think your completed novel is great. You’re proud of it. You are certain readers will love it, but first you have to get literary agents, the gatekeepers to traditional publication, to look at it, and they won’t. And what’s worse, you don’t know why they won’t. If they grace your painfully crafted and personalized query letter with a response at all it’s a normally a generic form letter that politely says thanks but no thanks. They don’t even want to look at your book. Your work is rejected without anyone actually seeing it.

I suppose agents receive a lot of queries. There must be millions of people like me who have completed novels. Agents can’t possibly read them all. I understand that. I don’t like it, but I understand it, which is why I’m grateful to those agents who respond, even if it is only with a form letter. It’s better than nothing.

 

 

Growing a Story

booktreeIt’s been a month since I wrote about sorting through the story seeds I’ve collected. Life being as distressingly short and encumbered as it is, I could never hope to grow all of these into novels or even short stories, so choices must be made. I’m happy to announce that I’ve picked one to nurture as my next major project.

You sometimes hear authors talk about being ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’. Plotters carefully plan their stories, sorting out the major plot points and characters before composing any actual prose. Pantsers start with some ideas in their head and grow the story ‘by the seat of their pants’. And there are those who fall somewhere in between.

That’s not entirely BS, but it is deceptive. It’s the story that dictates the method more than the preference of the writer. A story that explores the inner feelings of a small group of characters, such as a romance novel, or a farce in which random stuff happens to some poor sap, are probably best done by pantsing. An epic fantasy or science fiction story that requires an intricate fictional setting and a sequence of interdependent events, however, needs to be plotted. At least that’s been my observation.

I’m currently working on plotting my next novel, which tells you a little bit about what kind of story I’m planning, and I think I’ve made some significant progress. I have a working title, sketches of the major characters, a few lines on some minor characters, and an eleven-page summary of the setting. This includes notes on the culture, economics, and magic system (which tells you it’s a fantasy). I also have a twenty-one page worksheet that documents my first thoughts on just about everything else. Yesterday, I completed my first draft timeline of the complete story, beginning with the first scene on the first day and continuing through to the last scene of the last day. I like how it came out. I think it has great potential. My next step in the process is to turn that timeline into a detailed chapter and scene outline. Judging from my previous experience, these can be fairly long, fifty pages at least, almost like a first draft of the novel.

I won’t say anything else about the story. It’s a work in progress. I will say, however, that I’m considering doing something I’ve not done before, which is work on a second novel at that same time as this one. That one is, in the immortal words of Monty Python, something completely different. I’ll be ‘pantsing’ that one…for the most part.

Story Seeds

All sorts of things can provide ideas for a story. Most of mine come from things I’ve read—fiction, nonfiction, news articles…. I make a note of those I find especially promising, normally just a few sentences, never more than a page. Sometimes it’s just a setting and maybe a few thoughts about a main character or a broad concept for a plot. I think of these as seeds that might, with some concerted cultivation, grow into pretty good stories.

I imagine a lot of aspiring writers do this. After a bit of weeding and hybridization, I currently have thirty-five story seeds left in my collection. This does not include a Warden’s World novel I shelved after drafting six chapters a couple of years ago (and still may get back to) or a series of short stories (of which I’ve completed three). I still don’t know which, if any of these, I will focus on for my next big project.

So the bottom line is, for the first time in five years, I’m not actively drafting a new novel. I don’t think I’m experiencing ‘writer’s block’ or some kind of creative burnout. It’s more like the problem I have at a full-service Chinese restaurant. There are too many tempting options. Choosing one means that I have to forgo the others. And it’s not as though I can come back tomorrow and pick something else. A good meal may last you a day, but writing a book consumes the better part of a year (or more). I doubt I’ll live long enough to turn all of the seeds I now have (or the ones I will inevitably add in the future) into completed stories, so I have to be selective. I have to weigh the potential of each of my collected seeds in terms of how good a story it will make, which would be most culturally relevant, and which might be most fun to write.

Right now, I’m still reviewing my options. Unfortunately, I’m also still collecting more seeds.

Boomenbust and the Shoemaker – A short fairytale of productivity

BoomenbustBoomenbust and the Shoemaker – A fairytale of productivity
by D.L. Morrese

 Once upon a time, a long time ago, a young elf by the name of Boomenbust, together with many of his elfish clan, worked for a kindly old shoemaker in a fairytale kingdom far, far away. A lot of stories take place there, so it must be a real place, unlike those we hear about from time to time that are just far too silly to exist, such as Europe or China or America.

Now, the shoemaker was very grateful for the elves’ help because their skill and dedication made it possible for him to make a great many quality shoes, one hundred pairs every day, and the shoemaker sold them all.

He paid the elves well from the profit, and they used their wages to buy modest little homes, shoes for themselves, and food and clothes and other things for their families, with enough left over for an occasional book they could read to warm their hearts and minds on cold nights, or to visit the country for a picnic when the weather was nice.

The shoemaker, who had become fairly wealthy, bought a new coat for his wife and new clothes for his children and a fine new house on a hill for them to live in.

The elves made even more shoes, and with experience, these shoes were of even better quality and were very popular. The elves were so good at what they did, the shoemaker no longer had to make shoes himself, but he did make more money.

ThisendupOne day, four men delivered a large crate to the shoemaker’s shop. Boomenbust the elf had no idea what it contained. The letters painted on the outside just said, ‘From: Gizmo’s Machines. Deliver to: the Shoemaker’s Shop on Feet Street.’ There was also an arrow pointing to the side, under which it said ‘This End Up.’

Soon after the delivery men left, the shoemaker arrived in a fancy new carriage pulled by a sleek black horse. He was wearing a silky coat and matching top-hat— the shoemaker, that is, not the horse. Not that it would be silly for a horse to wear a coat and top-hat. These things happen all the time. It is just that in this case, it was the shoemaker who wore them. They would not have fit the horse. The shoemaker had gained some weight over the years, but he was not yet so large that his clothes would fit a horse, unless it was a very small horse.

“This machine can make two hundred pairs of shoes every day,” the shoemaker told Boomenbust, “and it needs only one elf to operate it. You are my best worker, so I have chosen you for this honor.”

“What of all my friends and relatives?” the elf asked. “What will they do if only one elf is needed to run the machine?”

“Well,” the shoemaker said, “I no longer have work for them, so I must let them go. This is how business works, you know? I can’t pay people for doing nothing.”

“Um, will I be paid more, then?” Boomenbust asked. He felt a bit guilty about this, considering that the other elves would no longer be paid at all, but if he were paid more, perhaps he could help them out for a while until they found new jobs.

“More?” The shoemaker pretended to think about the question. “No. I don’t see how that would be right. I paid a lot of money for this machine, and I must make that good. Besides, operating this machine will be much easier for you than making shoes by hand, won’t it? It would not be right to pay you more for less work.” Boomenbust followed the path of the shoemaker’s logic, but it somehow seemed a bit twisty.

“Please let the others know about their jobs,” the shoemaker continued. “I’d do it myself, but I have to go now. I am taking my family to a very expensive restaurant for dinner soon to celebrate our new machine.”

With this, the shoemaker left, and Boomenbust sadly went to inform the others of his clan that they no longer had jobs. He asked them to help him unpack the box first, of course. He felt they might be less inclined to do so afterwards.

OperatorsManual“What’s this, then?” one of the older elves asked, eyeing the machine skeptically. It was a monstrous device with big cogs, levers, cutting blades, and chutes. It looked like something that might eat elves more than it did like something to make shoes. Boomenbust imagined it also looked hungry. A thick operator’s manual was taped to the side.

He told them what it was and what it meant.

“But, what will we do?” one of them asked. “We have children to feed and mortgages to pay.”

Boomenbust thought about this. He was not a quick thinker or even a deep thinker, but a simple idea presented itself for his examination, and he liked how it looked.

“Well,” he said, “the people who made this machine might have work for you. After all, if this does what I’m told it does, I imagine a lot of places would want things like this.”

The elves paused a moment to consider this idea, and then the quickest among them rushed out to find Gizmo the machine maker. When the last of them had left, Boomenbust unpacked the operating manual and began to read.

The next day, he learned that some members of his clan were given jobs with Gizmo. Others were not. He felt bad for them, but what could he do? At least some of his clan had found work.

elfshoebellsAs time went on, the elves working for Gizmo helped him make even better machines. The shoemaker bought one of these to replace the old one. This allowed Boomenbust to make more shoes even faster. He was very proud of himself because he had learned all of the quirks of the new machine, and the shoes he made were just as good as those the elves had once made by hand, perhaps better. He thought of all those shoes keeping feet safe, dry and warm that might otherwise be bare. He was doing something good.

The shoemaker was pleased, too. “We’re doing very well,” he told him one day. People all across the kingdom are buying our shoes. We’re doing so well, in fact, that I’m buying another of Gizmo’s improved shoe making machines and I’m hiring more people.”

This was good news to Boomenbust because the machine was not quite as easy to keep running properly as the shoemaker seemed to believe.

“Yes, now that we are such a big business, we need executives to help me manage it. I’m making my daughter the new vice president in charge of customer research; my wife will be vice president for marketing, and my son will be vice president for manufacturing.”

“Does this mean your son is going to help me run the machines?” Boomenbust asked, suspecting that he already knew the unfortunate answer.

The shoemaker raised his bushy white eyebrows in disbelief. “Run the machines? Of course not, my good elf. Executives don’t run machines. They manage. Managing is very difficult and important work for a business with as much, um, business as ours.”

The next day, the new machine from Gizmo’s arrived, and the deliverymen helped him unpack it and place it beside the other. It operated much the same, which came as a relief, and he soon had it running. He was now making as many as a thousand pairs of shoes a day, and the shoemaker may have been right about the new executives because they were selling almost all of them— for a while. But then, for some unknown reason, sales fell.

Then, they fell some more. The better shoes, those that were expensive and stylish and didn’t last long, still sold well enough, but they made few of those. Common shoes that regular people wore to work or to school or just to go out to shops or whatever had stopped selling well, and those were most of the ones they made.

elfshoesredyellowThe shoemaker’s daughter who was the vice president for consumer research thought they weren’t selling because they were ugly, so Boomenbust tried to make them prettier with different colors and fancy stitching. It didn’t help.

BuyshoesThe shoemaker’s wife who was the vice president for marketing thought they just needed to advertise more, so they did. They hung posters and put ads in the newspaper. This also did not help.

The shoemaker’s son who was the vice president for manufacturing thought that someone else might be selling shoes even cheaper, but he walked all over town and found no one who was.

Soon, it was quite clear that Boomenbust was able to make more shoes than the shoemaker could sell.

“I’m sorry, Boomenbust,” the shoemaker said to him one day. “I don’t have enough work for you anymore. I’m going to have to cut your hours.”

“Does this mean…?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. It has to come with a cut in pay. It would not be fair to full time workers if I paid you as much as them.”

“But you don’t have any—”

“That’s beside the point. If I did have any, I would pay them more. You’re a good worker and you’ve been with me a long time, but with sales not increasing as much as I would like, I just don’t have enough work for you to do anymore.”

When Boomenbust finished his four-hour shift at the shoemaker’s that day, he went to Gizmo’s machine shop. He knew his former coworkers would put in a good word for him, and, after all, two part time jobs were almost as good as one full time job.

The elf who met him at Gizmo’s shop was one who used to work with him at the shoemaker’s. He did not look happy.

“A job?” the elf asked. “I think not, my good Boomenbust. I am the only elf working here now, and Gizmo just told me he’s cutting my hours!”

“But why?” Gizmo said. “You must be selling a great many of his fabulous machines.”

“We are. We’re doing so well that Gizmo bought a big house on a hill next door to the shoemaker’s, but we’re also making a great many machines. You see, once we learned all about the machines by making them, we helped Gizmo make a machine that makes machines. It only needs one elf to operate, so he let all of the other elves go.”

“Oh, my!” Boomenbust said.

“Oh, me, too!” said the other elf. “I was hoping the shoemaker might have more work by now and hire me back.”

Boomenbust shook his head. “No. Sales are down, and we don’t know why, but the simple fact is that I’m making more shoes than he can sell.”

Both elves sighed. They did not know where else to go, so they went everywhere. They went to the tailor, to the potter, to the weaver…. All the shops and businesses in town were much the same. Productivity was up but sales were down, and no one was looking for more worker elves.

“On the positive side,” said Boomenbust who always tried to not feel negative, “we have more free time, now. Let’s go see how the other elves are doing. They must have found other work to do.”

So they walked to the elfish sector of town and past the small school where a number of pointy-eared children were running about on the playground. Now, neither of the two adult elves walking by was ever out this time of day because both of them were normally busy working in town. It is therefore not surprising that what Boomenbust noticed is something he had never noticed before. He stopped and stared. He could not believe it. Most of the children were barefoot. Those who were not barefoot were wearing worn and obviously secondhand shoes. How could this be? He made enough shoes for everyone. There should not be a naked toe in town.

“Excuse me, young man,” he said to one of the boys. “Why aren’t you wearing shoes?”

The boy looked at him as if the question was so simple a child could answer it, which he did. “Don’t have any, duh!”

“Why not?” Boomenbust responded.

“I’ve got no older brothers to pass any down to me.”

This was perplexing, so Boomenbust asked the question he probably should have asked to begin with. “Why don’t your parents buy you new shoes?”

“Shoes cost money.”

“Yes…?”

“Don’t have any, duh!” the boy repeated.

“Oh, I see. They lost their jobs, didn’t they?”

“Duh!” the boy said again, and then he ran off to join his friends.

Boomenbust asked a few more children similar questions, and their responses were always the same. Their parents were out of work because shops and businesses had become more productive. They could make all they could sell with fewer hours of work. The owners’ solved the imbalance by firing workers.

Boomenbust now knew why the shoemaker and the rest were not selling as many things as they would hope, but, as has been said before, he was neither a quick thinker nor a deep thinker, and he did not know how to solve the problem.

Do you?

© Copyright 2013 D.L. Morrese

Alpha/Beta readers for An Android’s Dog’s Tale

I haven’t been blogging much recently. I’d like to excuse this by saying I’ve been busy, and I have, but part of it must be attributed to priorities. I’m not really a blogger. I’m a fiction writer, and a dad, and several other things that all take priority over writing book reviews or posting updates to my blog.

Most of my behind-the-keyboard time over the last few months has been devoted to completing two novels. The first is the Gelfling Gathering, a short (52,000 word) young adult novel that I wrote for a contest being sponsored by the Jim Henson Company. It is a prequel to The Dark Crystal and takes place about nine hundred years before the events in the movie. My novel is complete, and I am ready (and eager) to submit a 10,000 word extract when the contest submission period opens in two weeks.

Once I felt satisfied I had done all I could in preparation for the contest, I resumed work on the book I laid aside when I learned of (and decided to enter) the Dark Crystal Author Quest. I completed the first draft of that novel a few weeks ago. I was only three chapters away from finishing when I stopped work on it to focus on the Gelfling Gathering, so this was not some kind of super accomplishment.

This novel, An Android Dog’s Tale, is also a prequel. It precedes the events that are related in the two stories that together comprise my lighthearted epic Defying Fate (The Warden Threat and The Warden War) and, of course, the novels that come after (Amy’s Pendant and Disturbing Clockwork).

This is the book description I’ve come up with for An Android’s Dog Tale and the ‘back cover’ blurb for the paperback edition.

Book Description:
The Galactic Organic Development Corporation searches the galaxy for primitive sentient species to save from extinction, and then transplants colonies of them to Corporation agricultural planets where they can live happily and safely. The transplanted species survives, and the Corporation Project planets produce some of the most expensive and sought-after food in the galaxy, which it sells to developed worlds with this guarantee:

Caringly grown, cultivated and harvested by simple sentient life forms.
No artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, or mechanical equipment used in processing.
Guaranteed 100% organic.

 Of course, keeping the primitives primitive enough to ensure the Corporation’s promise of natural purity can be a challenge, especially when they’re like those it found twenty thousand years ago huddling in caves and scraping a meager and precarious existence on a pale blue planet in the Milky Way’s Orion–Cygnus spiral arm. The humans keep trying to change things.

From the Back Cover:
His job is to observe humans and make sure they aren’t doing anything that will upset either their simple lifestyles or the profitability of the Corporation. But MO-126 is not a robot. He is a Mobile Observer android, albeit one in the form of a dog of no remarkable pedigree or distinction. Still, he has free will. He can make choices. After millennia of observing humans, he questions whether the Corporation’s plans for them have priority over those they might choose for themselves. His decision will determine how well he does his job as well as the fate of humanity on this planet.

When I posted on Facebook that I finished the novel, I was thrilled that several people living in different countries around the world offered to give it a test run as alpha/beta readers. I can’t thank them enough for volunteering to do this for me. I eagerly await their feedback, positive or negative. This novel is a bit different from my others. It’s shorter (about 72,000 words), and it follows a single character over a 15,000 year period through ten different stories. I was a bit hesitant about writing a book structured this way. It’s not revolutionary, but it is uncommon. I remain anxious about how it will be received.

I also did a bit of work designing a cover for the book. The one below is formatted for the paperback edition.
DogTalesPB1
How much editing needs to be done will depend on the feedback I receive from my kind volunteers. I look forward to doing the final revisions.

In the meantime, I have begun taking notes for future books. I have at least three ideas I would like to develop over the next year. One is loosely related to my previous novels. The other two are (as in the immortal words Monty Python’s Flying Circus) something completely different. One of the latter will probably be the basis for my next novel, but it’s too early to say more. All I will say is that I am still writing and more books are planned.

I offer my thanks to all who have read my stories and even more to those who have written and posted reviews. I really appreciate these. Reviews are probably the best way for obscure, independent writers (such as me) to become noticed… well, that and an outrageous number of sales. Most of all, thank you to those brave alpha/beta readers of An Android Dog’s Tale. I hope you like it.

The Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering – Update

DarkCrystalFacebookLogoToday I finished the first draft of the novel I am writing for my entry to The Dark Crystal Author Quest. The target goal for the finished novel dictated by the contest sponsors is ‘upwards of 50,000 words.’ My completed draft has 51,792 words (about 200 pages). This represents about 47 days of intensive effort. Fortunately, I had the freedom to do this, being a full time writer and not under contract with a deadline for anything else at the moment.

My next step is to review and revise what I’ve completed. I expect that this will take a few weeks. After this, I’ll decide what I will submit for the contest and make sure those sections are as good as I can make them. The limit for the submission is 10,000 words, and I’ll probably provide the first chapter (currently 4,912 words) and one of the middle chapters.

A few people who have read and enjoyed my previous books have volunteered to be beta readers and proofreaders, and I appreciate this. Unfortunately, the work as it is (although I think it is quite good) is probably not ready to subject to others just yet.

My thanks to all who have encouraged me in this endeavor, and I apologize for the interruption this is causing to my previous work in progress, blogging, book reviews, and other activities. But it’s the Dark Crystal. How could I refuse?

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The Gelfling Gathering – A Dark Crystal Prequel

DarkCrystalFacebookLogoAs those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter may already know, I have suspended work on my next book set in the world of the Warden to write a prequel to The Dark Crystal. I did not take this action without some hesitation. My Warden novels have received excellent reviews and I can even boast of having a fan or two. I am eager to complete the next one, but I have long been an admirer of Jim Henson’s work, so when my oldest daughter told me that the Jim Henson Company had just announced a call for submissions for a Dark Crystal prequel, I checked it out.

This open call for submissions is technically a contest, although I suppose all are when you get right down to it. This one has three distinct stages. In the first round, entrants will submit 7,500 to 10,000 words (about 27 to 36 double spaced pages), which can be “the first chapters, final chapters, a collection of middle chapters, or a short piece that would form the inspiration for a novel-length story.” These will be reviewed by the contest sponsors and five will be selected to go on to the next stage in which the authors will provide detailed outlines for their proposed novels. The one winner of this stage will receive a $10,000 contract with Penguin to provide a 50,000 word Young Adult novel.

I decided to go for it, although it does present some challenges. The first is that the submission period is between 1 October and 31 December 2013. That is not a lot of time to write a full novel.

But, I hear you ask, why write a complete novel when all that is required for the first round is what amounts to a couple of chapters?

That’s a good question, and the answer boils down to how I go about building my novels. They always begin with a rough idea from which I write an initial sketch of the major plot elements, settings and characters. Then I do an outline for the complete story that will be told in the novel. Once I have this, I begin work on the first chapter and go on to write the initial draft of the complete novel. After this comes revision, editing, and creating the final draft. But these steps are not as strictly sequential as they may appear. Each stage in the process inevitably necessitates changes to those that came before. I may not have an accurate outline, for example, until the final draft of the novel is complete. In order to have the best possible sample chapters and outline of the work I will submit, I must have at least a complete first draft of the entire novel.

I can see that several people are now questioning my sanity. I am, after all, committing myself to several months of intensive effort on a slim chance of earning not a lot of money. When you calculate the first prize value against the hours that go into creating the novel, you would be better off financially spending that time smiling and asking customers if they want fries with their burgers— and that’s if you win.

There is one other thing you may not have considered that will convince you of my madness.

The novel I submit will be considered a derivative work dependent on the copyright of the Dark Crystal, so if it does not win, I cannot publish it anywhere, ever. Discounting the experience and what I may have learned from writing it, all the months of intensive work will have been wasted.

Another challenge for me personally is that this is a work of Fantasy set in a world created by others. My previous novels are set in a world of my own imagination and they are Science Fiction , albeit in a setting more typical of Fantasy, but I have never written a story in which magic plays a central role. Also, at 50,000 words, the final novel required by the contract is shorter than the more epic stories I’ve written to date. My shortest, which is intended for a YA audience, is Amy’s Pendant, which has about 76,000 words. The time spent working on this Dark Crystal novel also delays the completion of my next Warden book, and I do not wish to disappoint my current fan base.

So, why am I doing it?

Well, I’ve asked myself that. The first prize contract is not terribly large. It’s certainly not feed for metaphorical chickens, but the money is not a motivator. The selfishly rational part of me says that winning this would be good publicity, and I believe it would be. I would love to have my name associated with that of Jim Henson and the Dark Crystal. This, I think, gets down to the real reason I’m taking a chance at this. I have always loved the things Jim Henson produced. In the media of film, no one could create thought provoking, insightful, and uplifting fantasy worlds that are as believable and intricate. I would like to see his work appreciated for generations to come. Extending what he began to original and well written new novels can help do this.

So, how am I coming along?

After researching all available information, I completed a sketch and initial outline for the story I have in mind. Some of the characters and details of the setting already exist, so I do not have to recreate these, although I do have to be faithful to them and have taken copious notes to help ensure that I do. The sponsors of the contest say they will be providing additional information, a kind of Dark Crystal encyclopedia, which should fill in some of the existing gaps. I look forward to seeing that, although it may lead to some revision of the work I have already done.

As for my first draft, I completed Chapter 7 last night. This brings the total word count to over 26,000, which is about the midpoint of the story. In other words, I’m on target to have it completed before the end of the submission period (and which is why I have time to write this post.)

If you share my insanity and you also wish to try your hand at this, a link to the Dark Crystal Author Quest site is provided below, or you can click on the image at the start of this post to see the Dark Crystal Facebook page. It also provides applicable links.

Update: I didn’t win, but you can read or download the completed novel here: https://dlmorrese.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/gelflinggathering5x8dlmorrese.pdf

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Rereading Pratchett — Gaspode

GaspodeThere as some books on my shelves that I reread every few years. Dragging out an old, dusty favorite is like visiting a favorite friend or relative. There is something comfortable, familiar, and relaxing about it. The books we find ourselves especially drawn to tell us something about who and what we are, and they can help us remember that when everyday life is doing its best to turn us into someone else, someone we may not especially like.

Pratchett’s style of writing is different. He violates several ‘rules’ of fiction writing, not least of which is the one against author intrusion into the story. His presence is always clearly evident. The stories are told from the outside looking in, by someone from our world observing one much like it, and he occasionally points out* how odd both places can be. The reader isn’t supposed to believe that the Disc is a real place or that the characters are real people. There is never any doubt that the stories are fiction, but there is also no doubt that the fiction is reflecting something about the real world in often very humorous ways.

Pratchett sums up this idea in the beginning of his novel Moving Pictures. Here is his description of the Discworld, which rests upon the back of Great A’Tuin the star turtle.

“On its back, four giant elephants. On their shoulders, rimmed with water, flittering under its tiny orbiting sunlet, spinning majestically around the mountains at its frozen Hub, lies the Discworld, world and mirror of worlds.
Nearly unreal.

The Discworld is as unreal as it is possible to be while still being just real enough to exist.

He’s letting us know that none what he’s going to relate in the story about to unfold is to be taken seriously in any kind of literal sense. It’s a fairytale, which, like all good fairytales, points out something about the real world and the people who live there.

Yesterday, I finished rereading Moving Pictures. At one level, this story is about the magically inspired development of movies on Discworld. At another, it is about the ability of people to believe unreal things and the dangers of doing so.

I picked this particular book from my list of favorites to reread now because it features Gaspode, a sentient but otherwise unimpressive mongrel, and I was searching for inspiration. I have a somewhat similar character in my books, although my sentient dog, Moe, is an android rather than being magically enhanced, but they share a similar, knee level perspective. Moe makes an appearance in three of my books as a minor character, but he’s more prominent in my current work in progress.

I plan to reread the other stories featuring Gaspode in the coming weeks, not so much for inspiration, but because I enjoy them. If you aren’t familiar with Discworld, you should visit. It’s the most believable unbelievable place you’ll ever read about.

_______________________

*sometimes in footnotes

Publisher’s Open Submission

As I’m sure most of the science fiction and fantasy writers out there already know, Harper Voyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Harper Collins, is currently having an open submission window that runs through Sunday, 14 October.

 The following is from their press release:

“In this time of perpetual evolution and advancement in digital publishing Harper Voyager is delighted to announce a new venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join the global science fiction and fantasy imprint.

For the first time in over a decade, Harper Voyager will open its doors to unsolicited submissions in order to seek new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines.

Voyager will be seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com.”

Most of the subgenres they are looking for are not those I enjoy reading, so they are not what I write. The subgenres of epic fantasy and general science fiction would both apply to my books, though, so I’ve submitted my four completed novels. If you’re curious, you can find more about them on the “Novels” tab of my website.

Note that this open period is for eBook publication only, although there is a possibility that the books they accept may be published in paper at some future time. They are also willing to consider previously published works provided that the author is not under contract with another publisher.

On Rejection

As you may know, I submitted queries for my third book to three publishers a little over four months ago. I just heard back from the last one. Another rejection.

It would be a lie to say I’m not disappointed. Actually, it would be a lie to say I’m not surprised. I am surprised. I think Amy’s Pendant is a very good book and I was cautiously optimistic that it would be grabbed by one of the three.

It is difficult not to take this as a criticism of the quality of my book. A person would have to be exceptionally thick-skinned not to. Whereas I can be fairly stoic, I’m not a robot (although there are some in my stories), and it twinges. But I’m adult. I can take criticism, so I must consider that there may be a quality issue, something about the plot or characters or prose that don’t quite measure up.

I read a lot, quite a lot compared to most, and if there are flaws like these, I’m not seeing them. My books compare favorably to those I’ve enjoyed most. When I reread them now, I can almost forget I wrote them, and I find myself wishing there were more books like these. Then I think that perhaps I’ve pinpointed the problem. It’s a matter of taste, and when it comes to books (and, quite honestly, many other things) my taste often falls outside the norm. I have enjoyed a few bestsellers, but more often than not, I’ve picked one up and wondered why it became so popular.

If this is the problem, I may have an insurmountable obstacle ahead of me. Taste is personal. It tends to change over time, but I can’t change a person’s taste to match mine, nor would I if I could.

I could, I suppose, write books like those that are popular, but I won’t. I won’t write what I wouldn’t want to read — and reread. An author will end up rereading his or her own work perhaps scores of times before it is submitted to anyone else, so they had better like it or have a fondness for aspirin an antacids.

I could give it up and just not write. This is theoretically possible. But it would redefine who I am, and I don’t wish to do that. I’m good with who I am, for the most part, although I wouldn’t mind being a bit taller, a few years younger, and considerably wealthier.

No, I’m going to have to continue as I have, writing what I like, and making it available to others as best I can. They can judge my books for themselves. Not everyone likes the same things. What a dull world it would be if they did.

My next step is to query agents. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m hoping I can attract the attention of a few. Agents have access to publishers that authors do not.

In other news, my fourth book is coming along well. I think I’ll be proud of it once it is complete, as I am the others. It may be done by the end of the year. When and how it will be published is another matter.

Related Posts:
My Self Publishing Adventure
Ode to an Overconfident Wordsmith

Ode to an Overconfident Wordsmith

Sleep would not come,
Although it was night,
So I went to my keyboard
And started to write.

Who knows what possessed me?
It haven’t a clue,
But I banged out some words.
And my confidence grew.

“Hey, this is good!”
I said to myself
As I grabbed the thesaurus
I had on a shelf.

My characters lived.
My dialog sang.
I kept right on writing.
The telephone rang.

“This is your boss,
You’re late in for work.”
“I quit! I’m a writer.”
I hung up on the jerk.

And each day thereafter,
I followed my muse.
I dreamed of the movies rights,
Sales and reviews.

I’d have a bestseller.
This was not in doubt.
I just needed time,
But my money ran out.

Bill payers called me.
I took out a loan.
I bought frozen pizzas
Then shut off my phone.

Just a bit longer
And all would be well.
The best novel ever
Would be mine to sell.

Manuscript polished,
I sent it to all
Publishers, agents,
Both big and small.

This wouldn’t take long.
I could endure.
They’d recognize genius,
I knew this for sure.

I waited each day
As the postman came by,
Delivering bills
But still no reply.

Then, six months later,
A letter to me
Penned in my hand
My SASE.

Clutching at hope,
I noted the day,
Tore open the letter
And screamed out, “No way!”

This wasn’t the offer
I’d waited for
But a form letter reject.
The next week, four more.

What were they thinking?
How could they say “No?”
Didn’t they read it?
Didn’t they know?

They were turning down millions
They were turning down fame,
I thought, vainly searching
For others to blame.

Idiots! Morons!
Purveyors of pap!
Wouldn’t know a good book
If it jumped in their lap.

I needed to write.
I had things to say.
My stories were good.
They just didn’t pay.

Starving is something
I’d rather prevent.
Art should come first,
But I must pay the rent.

Gulping back pride,
I called my old job.
The boss hung up on me,
Ungrateful slob.

I searched everywhere
To find a position
To carry me through
To my next book submission.

I’ve got a new job now.
It comes with a hat.
I smile and I ask,
“Want fries with that?”

But when I go home
My muse has the stage,
Encouraging me
To write one more page.

And someday I know
That others will state
That the stories I’ve written
Are simply great.

But for now I am doing
The best that I might.
I pay all my bills.
In my free time, I write.

I’m a great writer.
I know you are, too,
But don’t quit your job.
You’ll regret if you do.

(This ode was also posted in conjunction with Rainy Day Rambling’s review of The Warden Threat at http://rainydayramblings.typepad.com/rainydayramblings/2012/05/guest-post-with-dl-morrese-giveaway-and-review-.html)

The Importance of Book Reviews (Part 2)

Perhaps the most difficult thing an independent author must do is try to get their book noticed. I don’t belittle the amount of DIY effort it takes to write, edit, create covers, and self-publish a book. Trust me. I know how much work these are because I’ve done them, but all these can be enjoyable and provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Promotion, at least for me, is different. It feels like work. I don’t enjoy selling, never did, and self-promotion is unnatural and even a bit embarrassing for me.

I’ve done the things I’ve heard you need to do. I have a website, Twitter, Facebook, and author bios on Amazon, Goodreads, and others. While all of those are probably essential to creating a ‘platform,’ what I think may help sales of a book most are book reviews on Amazon. This is where many readers look for new books and new authors, and the importance of potential readers seeing what others thought of your work cannot be overstated.

Reviews also can be quoted as part of additional promotions in blog posts, Tweets, Facebook, or wherever you have a presence. Here are some extracts from the few reviews my first book received. You can easily see how valuable these can be to attracting additional readers.

  • “one of the best self-published things I’ve ever read.” ~ Tweet from @ViolanteAuthor 23 March 2012
  • “enough smiles and insights to please both young adults and discerning adults … A very entertaining read.” ~ Review by more4math on Amazon
  • THE WARDEN THREAT is a lighthearted epic fantasy parody with a science fiction twist that kept me engaged and entertained from page one…the story is humorous and fun … It was fun to combine both the science fiction and fantasy tropes in the story.” ~ Review by Enter the Portal on Amazon
  • “it’s laugh-out-loud funny…the grammar is refreshingly precise and the vocabulary, well, scrumptiousThe characters are believable and well-rounded…the whole book is filled with little gems… Usually, when I am reviewing a book for my site, I highlight and make little notes as I go, so that I’ll have a lot to say. In this case, I was too busy reading it; I literally read the entire thing straight through in one sitting. ~ Review by Maria T. Violante “Write, Read, Review” on Amazon
  • “shows the influence of Terry Pratchett in style and current events in the overall plot. The book is easy to read, but hardly simplistic…Occasionally laugh out loud funny, this book is definitely worth picking up.” ~ Review by M. A. Goethe “Margaret” on Amazon
  • “a complex tale about adventure…filled with dry, ironic humor that adds to the sense of growing up and finding depth in the world…interesting characters, and a realistically broad country…The tone of the book is funny, but not giggly or “LOL” funny. Irony is thick. Silly and stupid things happen, but they have too much purpose and truth to really cut up about. The thinking stops the laughing” ~ Review by Kate Policani on Compulsively Writing Reviews

In addition to being a form of free advertising, reviews can provide you with a considerable amount of satisfaction, especially when they are positive. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you learn someone has wandered your fictional worlds, hung out with the characters you created, and enjoyed the experience.

Reviews are also the best feedback an author can get about their writing. They can be exceptionally valuable at pointing out what you did well and not so well and, in general, how your writing is viewed by people other than your friends and relatives. If you listen to what your readers tell you, your subsequent books can only get better.

Getting those first reviews, however, is work. Last November, I sent out seventeen requests to review my first book, The Warden Threat. Eight of those prospective reviewers wrote back saying they would do reviews, and three, so far, have done so. That’s a success rate under 18%, but I was more than pleased to see all of them. I have also received a couple unsolicited reviews, and these are like priceless treasures to an indie writer. Any positive comment on something you have worked so hard to create can be a real boost to one’s flagging optimism, which begins to fall after initial publication of your first book and declines as time passes, wondering if anyone will ever notice your masterpiece.

I spent the last few months preparing my first two books for print release. As of this month, both are available as trade paperbacks. High on my priority list now, is to try to get more reviews. I don’t look forward to this. Like I said, I enjoy writing, editing, and creating covers, but anything related to trying to sell what I’ve created is far less enjoyable, and I can’t help feeling the time I spend on it is time I don’t have for creating my next masterpiece. 🙂

Reviews are essential, though, so I sent out two more review requests this week. I also have identified about twenty other review sites to try. Since I know others are probably in the same boat as far as trying to find reviewers, I’m compiling a list of sites I find. When it’s complete, I’ll provide it on a later post.

 

Related post:
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Six – The Importance of Book Reviews

Announcing the Paperback Release of The Warden War

The Warden War

The Second Volume of Defying Fate

by
DL Morrese

 

His nation is headed for war, his father thinks he’s imagining things, and his mother still regards him as a child. How can Prince Donald convince the king that the real threat to his kingdom comes from his most trusted adviser? The young prince has only his wits, his courage, and his friends, including two ancient androids, one of which has four legs and barks.

~*~

Book Details:
Word Count: 85,500

Page Count: 335
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Paperback available from Amazon.com
E-book available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, & Smashwords

 The Warden War continues the quest begun by Prince Donald in The Warden Threat. His father, King Leonard of Westgrove, has been told that the neighboring kingdom of Gotrox has discovered a magical means to animate a mysterious and gigantic ancient stone warrior, the Warden of Mystic Defiance, which it plans to use it to spearhead an invasion of his country. Donald is convinced this is a hoax carefully crafted by his father’s chief adviser to bring about a war to gain control of Gotroxian resources. Donald is determined to thwart him. It will not be easy. Chief Adviser Horace Barter has resources, connections, influence, and the almost unquestioned trust of the king. Donald, sadly, has none of these.

He is not without some resources, though. Although he does not realize it, two of his friends, well, one of his friends and the dog that recently seems to have adopted him as its new master, are androids. They were left behind by an ancient commercial enterprise established on the planet centuries before and have now decided to assist humanity, starting with the prince. The best way to help, they believe, is to reactivate the almost omnipotent artificial intelligence that once ran the now defunct alien business project. This could be risky. One of the reasons it was shutdown two-thousand years ago was that it was quite insane, dangerously so.

~*~

Technically science fiction, the first two Warden novels are almost anti-fantasies, which poke a fair, or perhaps an unfair amount of good-natured fun at the serious tone and dependence on magic common to many epic fantasy adventure genre novels. Because they are loosely based on the U.S. buildup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, they include elements of political and cultural satire as well. With their charming and truly likeable characters, witty, intelligent humor, and prose style blending humorous science fiction and epic fantasy elements, they are a fun read. I believe they will appeal to readers of these genres who may be looking for something fresh and different.

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