Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Featured a Strong Finish

To say that 2012 was a big year for me as a writer would be a gross understatement. No matter what else may have happened in the past twelve months, this year I accomplished the biggest goal of my writing life so far--I published my first book.

I’m still in somewhat of a state of disbelief. Courting the King in Yellow was a story I had written over five years ago, and one that I wasn’t sure would ever see the light of day. But it’s out there now, in the wild. The past couple of months have been a blur, filled with excitement, disappointment and a ton of lessons that will not only make me a better writer in 2013, but will also inform how I approach publishing my next book.

Self-publishing is an amazing experience. You have a level of control over your creation that is unparalleled. You also have to do everything yourself, from choosing distribution channels, to marketing, to monitoring the market and adjusting your price point. Writing the book is really just the beginning, and this year I found out that writing a novel is a lot easier than getting anyone to care about it.

But here’s the thing--I love every part of it. I love that I get to share my story with other people now. I love that some folks have picked up the book and really enjoyed it. I love building my author platform and engaging with communities like Goodreads. Most of all though, I love spending so much time focusing on something I love. Writing has always been a hobby of mine, but making a go of being an author is something I have dreamed about for a long time. This is truly a case of enjoying the journey as opposed to worrying about the destination.

I began 2012 as a writer. I will begin 2013 as an author. Bring on the New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Alana Abbott's Choice of Kung Fu and the Long Road to Regaining Home

A good friend of mine has some really cool stuff going on right now, and I wanted to take some space here to tell you about it, and about her.

Alana Abbott is an author of two published novels, a writer of short fiction and comics, a game designer, a wife, a mom and a friend. I think it was back in the spring of 2006 that I first crossed paths with Alana. She had been working with a company called White Silver Publishing on a new pen and paper roleplaying game called Chronicles of Ramlar. In addition to writing the material about the world the game was set in, Alana also wrote three novels (called the Redemption trilogy) set in the world she helped create. I interviewed her for the podcast, and we found that we didn’t live that far from one another.

In November of 2006, Secret Identity had a presence at a local sci-fi convention called United Fan Con, and Alana came to Springfield for the show to promote the first book in her Redemption trilogy, Into the Reach. A couple of months later, Alana and her husband came to AnonyCon, the great gaming convention run by Max Saltonstall. A few months later, Max, Alana and I were covering the launch of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Secret Identity at Dungeons & Dragons Expo in 2007. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ours is a friendship that has developed around our mutual love of gaming, and even though we don’t get to game together as much anymore, the friendship has remained strong. And don’t tell her this, but Alana was one of the primary inspirations for me to get serious about writing. Both Mo Stache and Courting the King in Yellow would never have seen the light of day had it not been for Alana. She’s always there to answer questions, bounce ideas off of and offer support.

So, now that I’ve blathered on about how great Alana is for 500-plus words, let me tell you about the cool things she has going on right now.

Choice of Kung Fu
Alana just released a text-based, “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style text-based game called Choice of Kung Fu for iOS, Android and the Chrome web browser. The game was created on the Choice of Games platform, which offers a great set of free tools for authors to create their own interactive stories. Here’s the synopsis for the game:

It's multiple-choice martial-arts action!

Become the greatest fighter the world has ever known, harnessing the power of chi to manipulate the energies of the universe. Defeat rivals, find romance, and rise to become the Imperial Champion. Win the right to question the immortal Dragon Sage, who speaks just once every hundred years! Choice of Kung Fu is a fast-paced interactive fantasy novel where your choices determine how the story proceeds. The game is entirely text-based--without graphics or sound effects--but powered by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

You can head over to the game’s main page on Choice of Games for more info.

The Redemption Trilogy
Over the past six-plus years, Alana’s Redemption novels have had a very interesting journey. White Silver Publishing was originally supposed to release the trilogy, but the company ran into some problems, and the final book in the Redemption series, Regaining Home, was never published.

Recently, the rights to the trilogy reverted back to Alana, and the first two books, Into the Reach and Departure, are now available on Drive Thru RPG in PDF format. Best of all, they are currently on sale for $0.99!! And after you read Into the Reach, you can download the hour-long interview I did with her about the book over at Drive Thru Comics for free.

I cannot recommend these books highly enough. Sure, I’m biased, but if you’re looking for an adventure featuring deep characters in a rich fantasy world, you will fall in love with Into the Reach and Departure. As a fantasy fan, I grew up reading almost every Dragonlance novel I could get my hands on, and they are the standard I compare most books of that genre to. The way Alana hooked me into the story of her characters with Into the Reach reminded me of how Weis and Hickman drew me into Dragons of Autumn Twilight the first time I read it.

In even more exciting news, Alana recently announced an upcoming Kickstarter project to publish Regaining Home--that project will be kicking off sometime in 2013.

So, go support my pal Alana by checking out her game and her novels. You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Read My Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Over on Secret Identity

Hi All,

Just a quick note that I say The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this past weekend, and I wrote up a review over on Secret Identity. I loved the movie, and you can read why by clicking here to head over and read the mostly spoiler-free review.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

Man, is it tough to find time to write around the holidays!

I’m glad I have this blog, because it keeps me writing even when I really think I don’t have any time to. But I’ve been making time this week, at the crack of dawn before the kids get up, late at night on the weekends, and even during lunch at work (just at lunch, though--model employee here).

Right now I’m working on finishing a short story for an anthology project. I’m excited about it for a couple of reasons. One, because the anthology is being put together by members of the Secret Identity podcast listening community--it’s like a group writing project and it’s great. But I’m also excited because the short story I’m working on is sort of an origin tale for a character from my book Courting the King in Yellow. It’s a cool way for me to dive back into the world of that book, especially since I finally put the book out this past October.

While the story will first appear in the anthology, I am considering putting it out digitally as a free download in the future. I have a few short works that I will either post as free downloads, or collect as a short story anthology sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, after my second book is out.

I did manage to get a couple of blog posts up at co-op critics this week--two more entries in my series about the Dark Souls expansion Artorias of the Abyss. You can read me gushing about how much I love that game here and here.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Song of All Time--"Old City Bar"

A friend of mine asked a question on Twitter the other day about what people thought was the best Christmas song of all time. I knew immediately what my answer was, but then I wondered how many people even know that the song I would name even exists? Because my favorite Christmas song of all time isn’t played on the radio a lot this time of year, and it’s not featured in every “Holiday Classics” collection CD you find on the racks of checkout lines in department stores.

In my humble opinion, the greatest Christmas song of all time is called “Old City Bar,” and it comes from the rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

You may remember a 90's music video from TSO called “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”--it’s easily their most well-known song. The rousing instrumental is used to this day in commercials around the holidays. You can watch an updated version of the video in the player below.

Ironically, my favorite Christmas song of all time is on the same album as “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” but is much less known outside of the band’s followers. It’s a shame, because the song is truly one of the most heartwarming and also heartbreaking that you will ever hear.

“Old City Bar” tells the story of a Christmas Eve in a New York bar, where a young boy (an angel in disguise) wanders in and informs the bartender that there’s a girl outside who’s in need of help. As the bartender looks out into the snowy evening, he sees a girl standing by a broken payphone. Something comes over him and he takes the evening’s earnings out of the register and goes outside. The customers in the bar watch through the window as the bartender calls a cab for the girl, and sends her to the airport with enough money to get home. When the bartender turns to talk to the young boy, he’s gone. The bartender then goes back inside and the patrons drink for free for the rest of the night. The entire story is told from the perspective of one of the patrons.

I’m really not doing the story justice, as you need to hear the amazing melody and the emotion the song is performed with. There’s a powerful message that’s delivered after the singer tells the story of the bartender and what he did:

If you want to arrange it, 
This world you can change it 
If we can somehow 
 Make this Christmas thing last,

By helping a neighbor 
Or even a stranger 
To know who needs help 
You need only just ask

It’s usually by this point in the song that I’m openly crying, and I’m getting a little choked up as I type this. It’s an emotional message to be sure, but I think this song also hits me hard because I used to run group homes for kids who were in situations not that unlike the girl in this song. I hope you get something out of this song as well, because it truly is my favorite Christmas song (and maybe Christmas story) of all time.

I would also recommend checking out the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories album, as there is a larger story that connects all of the songs, and the whole album is outstanding.

You can get the mp3 of “Old City Bar” on Amazon for $.99, and it’s so worth it. Below, there are also a couple of fantastic live performances of the song by TSO, with two different singers. The first is Ronny Munroe, and the second is Bart Shatto, both of whom give an inspired live rendition of it. Before you watch these, I would highly recommend you listen to to the original album version, as you’ll enjoy the performances even more.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing Recap 12/9-12/15/12

Despite the name of this blog, it's only one of the places that I write on a regular basis. So, it occurred to me that I should start doing a recap once every week or two of where folks can check out what else I've been writing.

This week, I started a new series of posts on Co-Op Critics about my favorite game of this generation, Dark Souls. The series is called 'Postcards from the Abyss,' and in it I'll be discussing my time with the new content for the game that launched in October. New areas, new bosses and new gear mean new things for me to love about Dark Souls. You can read the first entry in the series here. I'll be posting another today or tomorrow. I also posted my thoughts on the announcement trailer for Dark Souls II, which you can read here.

I also reviewed three comics this week over on the Secret Identity website. You can read what I thought of The Flash Annual here, Thunderbolts #1 here and Deathstroke #14 here.

I also have a blog post about my favorite Christmas song that I'll be putting up here in the next couple of days.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Lessons Learned So Far


That’s how many copies I’ve sold of Courting the King in Yellow since it debuted digitally on October 29, 2012. That breaks down to an average of four copies a week for the six weeks that it has been available. Of those twenty-eight copies, twenty-two have been sold through Drive Thru Fiction, and six have sold over at the Amazon Kindle Store. So far, no copies have sold on the Kobo eBooks Store (although the book has only been on Amazon and Kobo since November 30th).

I think it’s a bit early to start drawing any real conclusions from such a small sample of data, but I have already learned a few lessons that will help inform my next book release in the summer of 2013.

First off, I will need to think about exclusivity. My goal for CtKiY was to release it on as many platforms as possible, but that comes at a cost. Mainly, some sites offer benefits to authors for publishing exclusively through them. Drive Thru, for example, offers better royalties on each sale, as well as increased promotion on their site for exclusivity. Amazon has a very popular program called KDP Select, which you can only take part in if you publish exclusively through them. With KDP Select, your book can become part of the Kindle Lending Library, and you have access to more promotional tools, meaning there are more ways for you to get your book noticed.

The second issue I need to think more about is price. I launched digitally at a $4.99 price point, and that clearly was too high. I have since dropped the price of the digital editions to $2.99, but it’s only been a few days, so it’s too early to say whether or not that will have an effect on sales. While the market over at Drive Thru seems to tolerate higher prices for digital books, both the Amazon and Kobo marketplaces seem dominated by the $.99 price point, especially for indies. I kind of knew this going in, but I took the chance on pricing higher anyway. Not to mention, I don’t want to have wildly different prices on each marketplace.

As I said, it’s too early to drastically change my approach, I think. But now that the print version of the book is available, I do have some flexibility. I could pull the digital versions off of Drive Thru and Kobo, and join the KDP Select program by only offering the digital version of CtKiY on Amazon. And, I could still offer the print version over at Drive Thru, as it would not violate the terms of the KDP Select program (which deals only with digital).

So, I’m thinking if Kobo continues to be a dead end, and sales overall don’t pick up in the next handful of weeks, I may try out KDP Select early in the New Year.

This whole process is a learning experience, and I intend to learn as much as I can before I publish book number two. As I am still building my author platform, I’m less concerned with dollars at this point and more concerned with what the numbers are telling me in terms of self-publishing options.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Horror for the Holidays Sale!

From now until the New Year, all digital versions of my book Courting the King in Yellow will be on sale for $2.99! At Amazon you can grab the Kindle version, Kobo has the ePub version, and Drive Thru Fiction has three digital versions, so you can read on whatever platform you want!

If you're interested int he print version, you can grab that over at Drive Thru Fiction for $9.99, as well as get the digital versions for a mere $1 more!

So this holiday season, give the horror fan in your family the gift that keeps on giving (nightmares, that is).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When it Comes to Writing, I'm More of a 'Pantser-Plotter'

One of the things that fascinates me about writers, artists, musicians, game developers or any creative person is the process they take to creating. In the writing realm, there are two very general categories that writers tend to identity with in terms of how they approach a story, novel, etc.--"Plotters" and "Pantsers."

A "Plotter" is someone who takes the time to outline their story, profile their characters, and create a detailed roadmap from the beginning to the end of their story. They are the prepared.

A "Pantser" is pretty much what it sounds like--someone who writes by the seat of their pants. These people may start with a general idea, but many times they have no idea where the story is going to go, and they let the setting and characters dictate what happens next.

There is no right or wrong here, and of course, many people fall somewhere in between these two categories on the spectrum. But in general, you either start with a plan, or you fly by the seat of your pants.

Now, if you have have asked me before I wrote my first book what kind of writer I was, I would have told you I was a "Plotter." I’m a pretty organized (some would say anal) person when it comes to my daily routine, producing the Secret Identity podcast, and my approach to my day job.

Turns out though, when it comes to writing--I’m a "Pantser."

There’s kind of a chicken and the egg thing goin on here, but since I wrote my first book during National Novel Writing Month, I think I trained myself to be a "Pantser." There was no planning or plotting before NaNoWriMo began, and once it started, I just went. I had a general idea to begin with, but that story organically evolved as the words hit the page. The characters told me where they wanted to go, and how they were going to develop. At one point, my setting started to assert itself, and then the antagonists made their intentions clear. Once those things started to come together, the path through the rest of the story became clear.

So it’s not like I did no plotting at all, it’s just that the plotting happened after the story got going. I needed to start writing before I really knew how the story was going to come together. It was a really freeing experience, and that formula is one that I’ve applied again and again, whether I set out to or not.

When I wrote my second book, I tried to outline and chart a path through the story. I had even written a comic script based on the idea that I planned to use as the inspiration for the first few chapters. When I actually started writing however, I deviated almost immediately, and the story went off in a whole new direction. And it was great.

My webcomic Mo Stache has taken a similar path. The ideas that i started with went out the window in the first twenty pages of the script. It wasn’t until I was a quarter of the way through that I saw how the story was going to end. Even then, I’ve only been able to plot some signposts along the path of the story, things that i want to work in as we get closer to the end. Most of the time though, I’m just writing as I go.

Of course, this style is not without its perils. With a “Pantser” approach, you always run the risk of the story being disjointed, of plot threads being unresolved, and of losing the core of the story altogether.

So I guess that my style is more of a “Pantser-Plotter,” or as I like to think of it, a “Signposter.” I start with a basic idea, and then I plant some signs along the road of my story once I get going, just to make sure I’m still headed to my intended destination, even though I get off the highway several times along the way.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Let's Be Friends on Goodreads!

I am in the process of adding my book to the database over at Goodreads, the social network for readers that allows users to share what their reading with others and get recommendations on what books they might find interesting.

I have a user profile over at Goodreads, and I’ve signed up for their author program, so hopefully Courting the King in Yellow will be listed within the next week or so.

If you’re a member of Goodreads, I have two humble requests. First, if we’re not already friends there, you can add me my clicking here. Second, when CtKiY goes into the database, please add it to your shelf if you’re already reading it or interested in checking it out.

The author program looks to have some cool tools, and Goodreads is a fantastic place to spread the word about my book to an audience of hungry readers. It looks like you can do giveaways there as an author, so i look forward to exploring that option as well. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

COURTING THE KING IN YELLOW Is Now Available in Print!

I’m extremely excited to announce that my first book, Courting the King in Yellow, is now available in print at Drive Thru Fiction!

To celebrate, the print edition of CtKiY is launching at a $9.99 price point. And if you pick up the print edition, you can grab the digital editions for a buck more! That means that even with shipping, you can get the print and digital versions for just under $15. Give the print book as a gift and keep the digital version for yourself--no one will be the wiser.

As I’ve stated before, my goal is to have the book be available in multiple formats and on multiple platforms. Drive Thru is great because it’s one-stop shopping, and their printed products are very high quality. I ordered a couple of proofs myself just to make sure.

So, head over to Drive Thru Fiction and grab the print and digital versions of Courting the King in Yellow for a pittance.

Thanks for your support!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kindle and Kobo and Drive Thru, Oh My!

I am very happy to announce that Courting the King in Yellow is now available on both the Amazon Kindle and Kobo eBook stores!

In terms of the digital versions of the book, I wanted to make it available on as many devices as I could, as well as explore the different marketplaces.

Drive Thru Fiction is where Courting the King in Yellow launched, and it will be the first (and possibly only) place to get a print copy of the book when it becomes available later this month. The other great thing about Drive Thru is that when you buy the digital version, you get the PDF, ePub and Mobi versions of the book in DRM-free formats that you can then put on any device you want. On the author side, Drive Thru allows authors to get paid through PayPal, which is fantastic.

Kobo launched their self-publishing platform in June of 2012 and they have some amazing tools for authors. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of those tools, but those, combined with the international presence of Kobo and their great reading apps for almost any device, make kobo an exciting platform to be publishing on right now. Kobo pays authors electronically through direct deposit, so that’s great, too.

And of course, the Amazon Kindle platform has a ginormous install base, and a thriving marketplace. Being on the Kindle Store doesn't mean people will actually buy my book, but it certainly provides the opportunity to get plenty of eyes on it. On the downside, Amazon still pays by check, but since they’re leading the pack in terms of digital book sales, it’s a trade off most authors are willing to accept.

Self-publishing can be kind of an overwhelming process, especially because of all the different marketplaces out there. But it’s also really exciting to see how different platforms work with authors, how they pay them, and how they distinguish themselves in the marketplace. For me, the goal of my first book is really to get my name out there. I don’t have delusions of being the next big thing on the self-publishing scene. This is all a learning process for me, and the lessons I’m getting now are going to inform how I approach the next project.

But back to you, the reader for a moment. You can now get Courting the King in Yellow at the following links:

Drive Thru Fiction

Amazon Kindle Store

Kobo eBook Store

You can also just click on the icons in the right sidebar of this page to head to each of the sites!