Dragonsword: Live today!

It’s here!

I want to open with this, because it’s important to me: Dragonsword is my favorite book, of the ones I’ve written so far, including 17 novels and a basket full of shorter work.  The world of Sam & Sam continues to pick up new characters, and this is the cast that I’ve really been looking forward to.  There are also a number of continual character transformations that are really important, over the course of this book.  Makes this book, among all of my Sam & Sam books, their offshoots, and my other books, feel like home.

After the tumultuous formation in the first four books, Sam, Samantha, and Jason have hit their identities.  The problem is that there’s a reason Samantha ran away from all of this in the first place: New York and its political intrigue is messy, dirty, and violent, and the more powerful you are, the more involved you are, whether you like it or not.  And while Samantha may not like it, she’s not going to back down.

You can get Dragonsword on Amazon here.  Don’t want to dive in in the middle?  Start with Rangers, for only $0.99.  Prefer to read paper?  Watch this space: Sam & Sam in paperback is coming soon!

dragonsword-preview2

Borrow My Book

Among the things that authors war over, the existence and use of Kindle Unlimited is way up there on the list of things that they are unable to reach agreement about. Some authors think that it’s anti-competitive, because Amazon requires exclusivity on the part of the authors who participate, diminishing the competitiveness of the other book-selling platforms. Other authors believe that it devalues books and sends book prices into a downward spiral toward free as readers get used to the idea that they ought to be able to go online, choose any book they want, and read it at no marginal cost to them. A third group resents the lack of control they have over their pricing and the fact that they are losing the opportunity to grow a readership on the other sales platforms.

I was doing some editing work last night and came across a character who, in the face of three brothers who believed that justice, bread, and faith (respectively) were the basis of civilization, said that they were all wrong: that money is the basis of civilization. If you’ve followed my blogwork at all, you’ll hear that my voice harmonizes with hers. With intense respect for the value of all three of the others, I believe that a dispassionate investigation of economics often reveals the most virtuous decision, and I think that that’s the case, here.

My books are in Kindle Unlimited, today. Where there are legitimate arguments against it (particularly the one that complains that I have no idea what a borrow is going to be worth until after it happens – that’s a wild business model: I send you product, and you sell it, and then you tell me what you’re going to pay me for it… hmm…), the economic incentives favor being there over not being there, and so I stay. The moment that those incentives tip (well, within the three months after that), I’ll drop and sell everywhere. In the meantime, if you are in the market for a book and faced with what is sometimes cast as a moral decision between buying my book and borrowing it (Did you know that you can borrow one book a month using Prime? You do now.), let me say quite happily: borrow it.

The way that Kindle Unlimited is currently stacked, short books get penalized for each reader who chooses to borrow over buy (assuming that reader actually reads the book…), but longer books have to be priced pretty dearly before that ratio shifts over.

And I write long books.

Going over my list of novels that are presently available, all but one of them make more money for a borrow than a sale. Looking at the list of ones in the production line, there are another three that make more for a sale, compare to seven that prefer borrows, but that doesn’t entirely capture it. For a book like Portal Jumpers – not just long, but very long – the ratio approaches 50% higher for a borrow than a buy. For all of my written work, there’s a difference of 15% between KU and a regular purchase.

Not only that, but KU gives me an opportunity to reach readers who might not otherwise be willing to risk a new series and a new author. A very large fraction of my readers are using KU, and I’m grateful that Amazon gives them this path to reading my work that’s more akin to a library experience than a bookstore experience. I get paid (pretty well, actually) so long as they like my work and actually read it. And these particular readers tend to read *all* of my work, if they like any of it.

Score.

That’s a relationship I love to have.

I’m sorry to miss out on the Apple shoppers, and the ones who prefer to use Nook or Kobo to get their books, but that ease of interaction that Amazon gives me and my readers – they’re not going to get any complaints from me about that.

Now. I’d love to know what I’m going to make on the things I’m selling before I sell them. I’d love to see more consistency from book to book on what my per-read compensation is (I have a 10% variation across my current library, and that’s after a 20% devaluation earlier this year that I never found an explanation for). I’d love to get more transparency on how Amazon calculates the length of a book. (And no secret devaluations, dawgonnit.) I’d love to have a book market where Amazon’s competitors were stronger and made this a bad economic decision, because Amazon having to compete for my products is better for me. But I also believe that subsidizing a poor business model that doesn’t efficiently put in front of readers books that they absolutely want to buy is not in my best interest, because it diminishes the pool of readers. (If everyone could find a book they could not put down until they finished it, a lot more of them would buy books instead of watching movies or TV. First-world consumers have plenty of entertainment dollars to compete for in aggregate, and the book market is not exactly a stellar example of how to do that, outside of Amazon. Strictly my opinion.)

I have similar complaints about the audiobook market, though, and notwithstanding those complaints, I will jump in with two feet the very moment it appears that using the best tools-to-market for audio is going to generate revenue in alignment with the effort it takes to generate it. I certainly wish I had access to mass market paperback distribution channels, but I only have access to trade paperback, and so I will put my books out in trade paperback – slowly, compared to e-book, because the revenue per effort for paper is much smaller than e-book, but inevitably, because I want my books to live on my bookshelf – and I will be glad to have the readers I get in that format.

I have to take the world as it is, not as I wish it would be. So does everyone else. Should I try to change it when it’s unpalatable or unfair? Sure. But only when the other option is better. KU is a great option for me, right now – bonus – and I’m glad for the opportunities it gives me.

So borrow a book.

Read it.

If you enjoy it, there are more where that came from, and I’m endlessly glad that we got a chance to meet.

 

Shameless update: Dragonsword, book 5 of Sam & Sam is due out any day. Keep an eye out here or on Amazon for the release, or check out book 1 (Rangers) for only $0.99.
What I’m reading: La Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory
What I’m watching: Chopped (it’s good dinner fare)

Sam & Sam: Need to Know

In December, 2014, I published 4 books.  They were Rangers, Shaman, Psychic, and Warrior, the first four books of the Sam & Sam series, a plot, a set of characters, and a universe that I am persistently preoccupied with.  After that, life happened for a while and I didn’t publish anything again until King of Miami (A His Dark Mistress novel) in May of this year.  Near as matters, a year and a half without publishing.

I did not stop writing.

I’ve been promising Dragonsword, book 5 of Sam & Sam, for a long time, and we finally have a concrete plan to get it published sometime in the middle of next month.  The tentative date on the calendar is September 15.  I have a cover.  (I even have a print cover.  Zounds.)  I’ve written the blurb.  The final word-level edits are in process, and then I’ll hand it over to JJ for the obligatory button-pushing.

He’s very good at that.

And so it is time for my introductory piece on Sam & Sam, since I have not ever written anything *about* this series, other than what exists in its cover copy. Continue reading “Sam & Sam: Need to Know”

Dreams

This idea has been with me for a very long time. Most authors have something to say about dreams, or they’ve written something that was based on a dream, and here’s mine: I’m deeply jealous of my dreaming self. She’s so much more creative than I am – she tells better stories than I do, ones that are so removed from any of the rootstock of my own fictional life that they look and feel genuinely creative and new…

I went through a phase, maybe six weeks, when I did not dream. I didn’t do anything while I was asleep but sleep, and I would wake in the morning, clear-minded but without any sense that time had passed since I’d fallen asleep. (I am not a morning person, normally. I’m muddled and drunk on dreams.) I’d get up and go through my day without really looking forward to going to bed at night, because I didn’t get that basting time in my own mind that sleeping usually represents. The time was just… gone.

This phase terrified me. I still fear it coming back, though it was many years ago and it didn’t last that long, in the scope of things, but it was like forgetting how to speak or suddenly discovering that my best friend was imaginary. The first night that I returned to the swirling stew of dreams that is a normal night’s sleep was a relief that I can’t begin to describe, and I’ve never taken dreaming for granted, since. Continue reading “Dreams”

Portal Jumpers: Live!

So, it all happened a lot faster than I expected.  I got my notification that Scout was going to decline the contract, and JJ turned around and got Portal Jumpers prepped for launch.

It went live this morning.

Portal Jumpers Cover kindle

You buy your copy here.  Prefer to read with Kindle Unlimited?  Portal Jumpers is enrolled, right now.

Scout was a great experience, and I’m so grateful for the support I got, but I’m really excited to have Portal Jumpers up and available or sale.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Kindle Scout: Portal Jumpers is Complete

Well, it’s over. My thirty days of Kindle Scout exposure for Portal Jumpers have come to an end, as of about midnight last night, my time. The big results won’t come out for a little while – Amazon reserves the right to take up to 15 days to make a decision on publishing the books that go through Scout – but the small results have been notable all month.
First, I am not a networker, a promoter, or a campaigner. Shocker, there. I write under a pen name that very few of my friends or family know, and I maintain a separate e-mail account, Facebook account, and bank account for. (I have a DBA that makes my signature as Chloe Garner legal. This pleases sixteen year old me.) I knew, going into my Scout submission that I was going to be missing one of the big planks of a Scout campaign: people I’ve met in person. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be willing to go to a bunch of shouting rooms and post digital posters asking people to nominate my work. I have nothing against people who use those spaces the way they were intended to be used – the people who shop there expect exactly what they’re getting – but it feels impersonal and out of character for me.

-So I found KBoards, where the crew has been nothing but encouraging to every single author who ends up there, and where the experience runs deep. Those are good people.

-I found a thread on Goodreads, which was smaller, but where the people were no less sincere in the interest of supporting and encouraging each other.

-I e-mailed my mailing list and I e-mailed a few beta readers and other ground-level promoters, and I heard back from some of them that they forwarded on that e-mail.

-I posted to a couple of Facebook groups where there was an open invitation to put up that kind of information, and I posted to my wall.

-The night before my campaign ended, I posted to Twitter.

And that was it. Continue reading “Kindle Scout: Portal Jumpers is Complete”

10,000 hours

This has been one of my favorite songs for a long time. It’s about everything. Just everything. This isn’t a music video post, so stick with me. I’ve got a lot more to say, but it’s definitely worth letting the words of this one sit with you for a minute, if you can.

Ten thousand hours.

It’s a rule of thumb that’s been applied to artists for nearly 25 years, now, as a definition of expertise. If you haven’t invested ten thousand hours into your art, yet, the theory goes, you’re still working it out, getting there, practicing. You aren’t an expert. The experts are all out there beyond that milestone. Lots of caveats go into this, qualifying the type of practice you have to do – deliberate practice is the term going around here in the last decade – and then there are the conversations about whether or not it’s a rule of thumb for graduation, or kind of a half life – some substantial fraction of people will be experts in their fields by the time they hit ten thousand hours – or if it’s really not even a contributor.

Opinions abound.

This is mine.

The original study was looking at musicians and how many hours of practice the elite players had accumulated by the time they were twenty. Why twenty, I’ve wondered. I think what they’re looking for is density of practice, rather than an assumption that most experts started young. At any rate.

The highest-ranked elite musicians hit that ten thousand hour mark, with various practice-hours tiers below them for less-accomplished musicians, and this has been used to imply a sort of cause-and-effect ever since. Want to be great? Do the time. All the greats do.

And there’s something sterile and unintuitive about that, to me. Not that I’m saying that writers are born as writers, or that the first piece of work you finally finish (yay!) is at a level that you’re going to be proud of it, in ten years. (Proud that you did it? Every day of the week. Proud of it as a part of your portfolio? Probably not. Unless you quit shortly thereafter.) The number is not quite so much what bothers me as this idea that if you go away and do something enough, you’ll come back and everyone will love you. I much prefer how Macklemore puts it: the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint; the greats were great because they paint a lot. That. That I can get behind.

Want to be a great writer? Do it a lot. Write all kinds of stuff. Stuff that you want to be able to do, but you’re pretty sure you can’t. Long, short, light, dark, heavy, trivial. (I think if you look at something and think, ‘I don’t want to do that’, and it’s really because you don’t like the outcome – I don’t want to write in second person, or first for that matter – there’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t want to do it because it’s hard and you’d rather do something more fun? Give that one another look. I’m pushing myself hard to write shorter work because I want to be able to contain a full story in fewer details. It’s something I want to learn. Boy, oh, boy is it hard…) Write. Everything that you write, particularly everything that you finish, is going to contribute to your ability to do the next thing. Everything that you try is going to be a skill that you hone, and with enough attempts, it’s going to get better and then it’s going to get good.

I don’t want to get distracted, here, with the difference between writing and angsting, writing and editing. I think that editing is necessary to finish a piece of fiction. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to create a piece of fiction. Different writers live by different rules, and I’m not going to look you in the eye and tell you you’re wrong so long as you give me the same space. Cool?

What I will nod to is that there are a few different versions of this standard for writers. There’s a ten thousand hour rule that everyone uses, regardless of artistic endeavor. There’s a standard that (I think) Stephen King created called the million words of crap. You’ve gotta write all of them before you can write anything else. So go plow through your million words, because there’s a ton you learn by doing it. If you know, in advance, that your first million words are going to be for practice, you can take the pressure off of them. This was such a relief to me, when I put it into my head. A million words before you should even begin to expect quality out of them. Don’t look at it as a mountain to climb; look at it as a hall pass to create unscored work.

The last one is one I can’t cite a specific source for, but it’s a feeling that ties these other two together. It’s ten years. I think that maturity takes time and that you need to sleep on stuff for enough times in a row before your brain is really going to internalize it and make it part of your personal mythology, your way of experiencing the world. And art is exactly that. You create art out of what you believe about the world, and you tie those together through what you believe about art. If you don’t have an established, mature relationship between art and what you believe, things feel fake. That feels very vague and very circular, even to me, so let me take another swing at it, with more concrete examples.

You write about people. Even if you write about gelatinous, effluvial hermits from the dark side of Pluto, you’re writing about people. And you can’t do a good job at that unless you are able to communicate what you believe about people in a way that is engaging and insightful and elegant and subtle. Allegory is great, but even it has to be careful not to be too much of a sledgehammer or else it’s just propaganda. Art is about capturing reality in a way that is novel and insightful, and you can’t do that if you haven’t yet figured out how to make your gelatinous, effluvial hermits act like real live people.

And I sincerely believe that takes time.

Our world likes to toast the prodigies, the fifteen year olds who beat the chess masters, the seventeen year olds with movie contracts on their four book space operas. If you’ll forgive me, and with all the love in my heart for the creative energy of young writers, I think it’s marketing. I think that a writer who has been pursuing fiction hard for most of their life could very well be creating world-quality fiction in their twenties. And I think seventeen year olds have important things to say. But I think that it takes time to get to the mature work that you’re going to be proud of your entire life. I do.

Maybe, for the right person, I’d walk that back. I don’t know. But I very, very sincerely believe that for most writers, they’re looking at ten thousand hours, a million words, and ten years to get there. Maybe they only need two of those things. Maybe a few of them only need one. I don’t want this idea to be about ‘no’. I don’t want to say that because you’ve only written eight hundred thousand words, your work by definition sucks.
I want this to be about ‘yes’.

“I don’t like my work, and neither does anyone else, but I desperately want to be a writer. Am I ever going to make it?”

Have you put in your ten thousand hours, your million words, your ten years? No? Then don’t sweat it. Keep writing, keep playing, keep learning. There’s no reason to believe that you aren’t some measure of endurance away from things you’re going to shock yourself with.

Ten thousand hours.

A million words.

Ten years.

Line ‘em up. Knock ‘em out.

Steady on.

 

What I’m reading: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
What I’m watching: The Martian

 

(Edited to correct typo.  I’m shameless.)

Portal Jumpers: Scouted!

If you want to check out my Scout campaign page and nominate my work (please, only if you enjoy the sample; I mean that!), you can check it out here.

Remember: if I get picked up by Amazon publishing as a result of the campaign, you’ll get a free copy of Portal Jumpers!

Portal Jumpers Cover 1