Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Moral Collapse on the PS4

I've been a big fan of gaming consoles since I was a kid. I had a Pong system way back in the day, and it's probably somewhere in my parents' attic right now.  (Don't laugh; Pong was the sh!t.)  

Later my dad, in his infinite cheapness, bought me an Atari knockoff that I still have to this day; it wasn't an Atari system but it played Atari games - kind of the way a Yugo will get you from place to place as well as a BMW will.  It's buried at the bottom of a steamer trunk - along with a bunch Atari games like the original Mario Brothers (not Super Mario Brothers, so this is real old school) - and the last time I checked (about 20 years ago) it still worked.  However, I'm unlikely to ever play that game system again; the last two TVs I connected it to went on the fritz shortly thereafter, and I blame the cheap-azz console for that.

Fast-forward to the present, and you'll find that I've advanced from knockoffs to premium brand consoles (not out of ego, but a desire not to ruin any more televisions). First and foremost on that list is the Sony Playstation.  I've loved playing Sony games, and I was fine with being a customer for life. Then they released the Playstation 4.
Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against the PS4 itself. I think it's a great console and constituted a nice step forward for the next generation of gaming.  What bothers me, however, was the business decision by Sony execs not to make the gaming system backwards-compatible.  In other words, it won't play games for previous-generation consoles. So nothing designed for the PS3 or earlier Playstation systems will work on the PS4.

To me, this is a complete slap in the face and shows a profound lack of respect for Sony customers. In essence, when an earlier PS console stops working (and at some point they will), the only options are to either not play those games any more, or buy a new PS, PS2 or PS3. (This is in addition to buying the PS4 if you want to play the latest games.)  In essence, this feels like a decision that is ultimately designed to put more money into Sony's pocket. I mean, let's face it:  most people are going to take the position of "you can't fight city hall." They'll gripe a little, but then shell out the cash for the PS4 with a what-are-you-gonna-do? mentality.

Personally, I feel like you can fight city hall.  I think people - especially consumers - can make a difference on issues like this.  (Remember "New Coke"? The public outcry was so bad that they had to bring back the original Coca-Cola. Good luck finding New Coke anywhere these days...) I may be a voice crying out in the wilderness, but I refused to bend on this topic.  Thus, for the past two years, I have adamantly refused to purchase the PS4.  (Yes, I know that Sony has yielded to some extent and is taking some steps in the right direction in terms of allowing the PS4 to play older games, but it's not enough and it's something they should have taken care of in the first place.) So I've been standing pat, refusing to yield since 2013 - my head bloodied, but unbowed. Until now.

Last month, Bethesda Game Studios released Fallout 4. I'm not even going to beat around the bush here: I  love - I mean absolutely love - the Fallout series, and apparently others feel the same:  Fallout 4 had the biggest game launch of the year, generating $750 million in sales during the first 24 hours of release.  (By contrast, the next game on the list - Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - generated $550 million sales during the first 72 hours of release.)

Without going into a lot of detail, in Fallout you play a customizable character in a post-apocalyptic world populated not only by people but also (just to name a few) mutated plants and animals, killer robots, murderous raiders...not to mention offshoots of humanity such as Super Mutants and irradiated ghouls.  There isn't another game series out there like it.  (If there is, someone please clue me in.) 

Needless to say, I want this game. Badly. Possibly even bad enough to compromise my stance on buying a PS4.  I haven't completely thrown in the towel, but when my wife pointedly asked if I wanted the PS4 for Christmas, I kind of whimpered instead of adamantly shouting "No!" as I have in the past.  (I even made her aware of the fact that the PS4 bundle goes on sale Dec. 6 for $299.)  In short, it seems that I may have caved in all but name only - I just haven't actually said the words. (I also can't bring myself to actually buy the PS4 of my own volition, which is why Mrs. Wonderful will have to do it.)

Of course, I'm wholeheartedly ashamed of my moral collapse on this issue.  After all, somebody has to be willing to take a stand, even when it's futile.  I fought the good fight for two years and was willing to keep at it indefinitely. In order to stay on point with my message, I would also have willingly forgone a lot: Uncharted 4 (which is coming in 2016), whatever's next in the God of War franchise, etc.  But my Achilles heel has been revealed. Plainly speaking, Fallout 4 is simply a must-have for me.  However, I will still continue to push for backwards compatibility, and to Sony I say this: you didn't break me or my resolve - Fallout 4 did.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Want to be the Wilt Chamberlain of Self-Publishing

Like a lot of indies, I dream of one day attaining a singular level of success as a writer. I haven't quite figured out what that success would look like or how to define it, but at the moment I assume it will include selling lots and lots of books.  In having a discussion about this with one of my work colleagues (most of whom don't know I have a writing career in addition to the day job), my co-worker remarked that I seem to want to be the "Michael Jordan of self-publishing."

That's actually a fine comparison; in fact, I think most of us (including me) would be happy being the "Michael Jordan" of our chosen career fields - the Michael Jordan of just about anything, truth be told.  But when I thought about it, if there's a sports icon that I'd want my writing career to emulate, shockingly, it wouldn't be His Airness.

Frankly speaking, if I had my druthers, I'd want to be the Wilt Chamberlain of self-publishing.

To understand that comment, you'd have to take an objective look at Wilt and the things he accomplished on the basketball court.  Without question, Wilt was the greatest basketball player of all time, and the stats bear that out.  Don't believe me?  Well let's take a little stroll through the annals basketball history.

Wilt Scored 100 points in a Single Game

It seems impossible to fathom, but in a 1962 game against the New York Knicks, Wilt scored a mind-boggling 100 points.


Needless to say, it set the single-game scoring record - one that still stands to this day.

It is an awe-inspiring feat that no one else has been able to match.

Just to show how out-of-reach that record is, the person who is second on the single-game scoring list is Kobe Bryant, who racked up 81 during a 2006 game.  

(And Kobe's score was assisted by the fact that 21 of his points came from 3-point range.  However, the 3-point shot didn't exist when Wilt had his 100-point game, which makes his accomplishment all the more incredible.)

In looking for a writing equivalent of this exploit, it seemed to me that cranking out 100 stories is a difficult feat that not many authors will accomplish.  Therefore, one of the goals on my road to becoming the Wilt Chamberlain of self-publishing is to write 100 books.  (At present, I'm about 10% of the way there. Go me...)

Wilt Pulled Down 55 Rebounds in a Single Game

Even before his incredible 100-point outing cited above, Wilt attained what is probably an even more impressive achievement: in 1960, he managed to corral a stunning 55 rebounds in a single game.  55!  That is completely insane!  

Personally, I find this effort to be far more remarkable than his 100-point performance and feel that - of the two - this is the record least likely to be broken. In fact, only one other person - the great Bill Russell - has manged to get more than 50 rebounds in a single game. (Russell managed to pull down 51 in a game the season before.)

Tying this feat back to writing, I'm thinking I'd like to have 55 titles achieve a #1 ranking.  (To be clear, I'm talking about ranking #1 in their categories, not overall in the Kindle Paid Store. My head would probably explode if that happened with even one of my titles.)

Wilt Has the Highest Single-Season Scoring Average and Single-Season Rebounding Average

Going back to the subject of Wilt's nigh-obscene scoring ability, it's worth noting that he holds the record for the highest single-season (1961-1962) scoring average at 50.4 points per game!  (In fact, he holds the top three spots on this particular list.)  

He also holds the record for the most points scored during a single season: 4,029 (which also occurred during the 1961-1962 season).  To put that in perspective, the only other person to reach even 3000 points was His Airness, Michael Jordan, who averaged 37.1 points per game during the 1986-1987 season.

With respect to rebounding, Wilt holds the #1 spot with an average of 27.2 per game during the 1960-1961 season. He snagged a total of 2,149 rebounds that season, which is also a record. 

If I'm being honest, I'm having trouble coming up with a writing objective that is analogous to these achievements.  However, since this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison anyway, I'll just try something novel: adding Wilt's scoring and rebounding averages together gives the following: 50.4 + 27.2 = 77.6.  Rounding that up to 78, I'll make as my goal spending a total of 78 weeks (in aggregate) on the best seller lists. (Yes, I know it's not very scientific, but work with me here...)

Wilt's All-Around Greatness

Wilt's basketball prowess didn't stop at simply scoring and rebounding (although he did win seven scoring titles and eleven rebounding titles).  There was also a season when he led the league in assists, and in terms of field goal percentage he led the NBA nine times. (Just FYI: the single-season record for field goal percentage is 72.7%, and guess who owns it?  That's right - Wilt Chamberlain.)  

If I had to come up with a writing correlation to this degree of versatility, I'd probably say it was comparable to successfully publishing in multiple genres.  Therefore, I'm going to aim for selling at least 1000 copies of my books in at least four different genres.

Wilt's Legacy

More than four decades after he played his last game as a pro, Wilt Chamberlain still holds more than 70 NBA records. Simply put, he's the best basketball player there ever was, and he completely dominated his field in almost every aspect.  That's why I want to be the Wilt Chamberlain of Self-Publishing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Do I Stll Have Time to Read?

Of the many maxims that are proclaimed as being essential for success as an indie author, few are as commonly accepted as this: You need to write and publish a lot

Of course, that's a general statement, which means it will hold true for the vast majority of self- published writers. Naturally, there will be outliers, but few of us can count on being the next Andy 
  Weir and hitting it out of the park with a debut novel like The Martian. (And it looks like it's going to be a fantastic movie!) So where does that leave the rest of us?  Sitting in front of our computer screens, of course, banging away on the keyboard.

The thing is, though, none of us write in a vacuum.  The world doesn't stop spinning, time doesn't come to a halt, our lives aren't put on pause just because we're working on the Next Great American Novel.  That being the case, you have to accept the fact that you may have to miss some things.  Or more to the point, give up some things.  For me, it was television.

I freely admit it: I'm a TV junkie.  Even 10 or so years ago, when I had 300 channels and there was almost nothing good on, I was addicted to TV.  I've still got 300 channels, but now there's almost too much good stuff available to watch.  And I love it all, everything from Storage Wars to The Walking Dead, from Episodes to Game of Thrones.  And yet, I've essentially given it up.

I previously posted on this blog about how to become more productive, and one of the things I noted then was that the average American watches 34 hours of television per week.  It's essentially a second job. Thus, when I looked at where I could carve out more time for writing, easing up on my television habit was one of the first things to jump out at me. It wasn't easy, and sometimes - like now, during football season - it's still painful.  (My football viewing these days mainly consists of refreshing the Yahoo Sports page in order to update my fantasy football stats.) However, I think it's a worthwhile trade.  

Nevertheless, despite my noble sacrifice of the tube, it still feels like I should be finding more time to write.  But where to get it?  I've still got the day job, which I actually like and am well-compensated for (and that's a rare combination).  I've got a house full of kids doing various things: sports, scouting, music, etc. I've got a spouse who's made it clear that if I plan on staying married (at least to her), then there are going to be limits to how much of my day gets devoted to being an author.  Thus, after analyzing everything, it seems like the one area in which I've got disposable time, so to speak, is my leisure reading, 

Needless to say, I am loathe to give this up.  Reading has been one of my favorite pastimes for as long as I can remember. More to the point, my love of reading is one of the factors the motivated me to try my hand at writing (and also, in my opinion, one of the elements that has influenced my success).  So the question is: am I willing to give up my reading - even temporarily - in order to write more?  Or, put another way, given the volume of work I'd like to produce, do I still have time to read?

There's an old adage that I like to say to my wife whenever she mentions wanting to spend money on something we don't need: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Like the goose that laid the golden eggs, the current system is working for me, and leisure reading is a part of that system.  That being the case, I'm a little wary of changing it.  Sure, I could probably crank out more books if I spent a little less time engrossed in page-turners, but there's something to be said for stopping to smell the roses every now and then.  I really like writing, and I've been blessed to enjoy a small dollop of success as an author, but I feel that it's important to find and maintain a certain amount of equilibrium - a balance - between cranking out novels and engaging in the other things that bring me joy.  Ergo, with that in mind, I think I'll have to continue making time to read. I may write less than I would otherwise, but I believe I'll enjoy my success as a writer more in that scenario.

On a side note, I mentioned the television show Episodes above, but I'm well aware that many people may not have heard of it.  It's a hilarious send-up of Hollywood and the television industry, and if you've never seen it you are missing a rare treat.  Although not exactly the center of the story, Matt LeBlanc is absolutely hysterical as a fictionalized version of himself.  Here's a clip of him deciding to cut his father off financially:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Kindle Unlimted 2.0 Results

I haven't been shy about voicing the fact that - when it comes to self-publishing - I'm not a fan of exclusivity.  I think that, in order to reach the largest audience possible, authors generally need to publish on as many platforms as they can.  Thus, I detest the fact that Amazon requires authors to unpublish their work from all other venues (at least the ebook versions) in order to participate in certain programs, like Kindle Unlimited (KU).  I think it's a completely unnecessary requirement.

For the uninitiated, KU is Amazon's subscription service for books.  For $9.99 per month, readers can enjoy access to millions of titles. For authors, having your books in KU means they can't be available for sale, in ebook form, anywhere else.  (At least this is the case for most authors; apparently, a select few - top sellers, to be precise - are exempt from this exclusivity mandate.)  

During the first iteration of KU, authors were paid whenever their books were borrowed and at least 10% of the book was read.  I believe the monthly payout generally fluctuated between about $1.30 - $1.50 per book.  Moreover, you got the same amount per borrow, regardless of whether your title was a 10-page erotic romance or a 600-page fantasy epic. Finally, titles in KU are given credit (in terms of ranking) for borrows.  As a result, titles outside of KU have greater difficulty achieving rank in the Kindle store.

The latest version of KU (affectionately referred to here as KU 2.0) went into effect in July 2015 and is a bit fairer in my opinion, as authors are now paid by pages read. By way of example, if a KU subscriber reads the aforementioned 600-page fantasy title in its entirety, that author will make a lot more than the writer whose 10-page erotic romance was also read. That to me is a more equitable system.

Against my better judgment, I went ahead and went all in with Kindle Unlimited around the end of July, putting my scifi and fantasy novels into the program.  I had various reasons for doing so (despite my dislike of exclusivity), but one of them was the simple fact that it's become incredibly difficult - at least for me - to maintain the level of visibility that I'd like for my work outside KU. Amazon's algorithms just aren't having it.  (And, frankly speaking, I'm sure that surprises no one.)  However, what I did find surprising were the results.

I spent about 5 days in KU 2.0 at the end of July.  During that time, I amassed almost 138,000 page reads.  It certainly sounds like a lot, but what does that amount to in cold, hard cash?  According to Amazon, July page reads are worth $.005779 per page.  So, for those 5 days in July, I earned about $797.00.  Not bad - especially when you consider that was just from KU; it doesn't take any sales into account.  

Over my first 10 days in the program, page reads totaled approximately 292,000.  At the July payout rate, this would amount to earnings of roughly $1,687.00.  Again, this is pretty decent scratch.

All things considered, KU 2.0 definitely shows promise - although the exclusivity requirement is still galling.  However, if you can swallow that without choking, there is some definite upside to being in the program. Personally, I can't say that I'm in it for the long haul at this point, but I can certainly stick it out for a trial run.

Monday, August 10, 2015

He Who Hesitates...

If you visit any number of writing forums, you'll eventually come across several posts - usually from new authors - asking about when they should publish. Typically, these authors have at least one novel finished and are contemplating holding back on publication until they have the sequel (or first three books) finished.  To me, the answer is basically a no-brainer: you publish asap.

In my mind, a finished book is like an ambassador that you send out into the world to entice people to your cause (that is, you're trying to find readers).  An unpublished manuscript isn't going to do that for you.  It's not bringing any readers into the fold, accumulating any sales, building your brand, etc.  All it does is gather dust, when it could be working for you.

I know that there are those who advocate a strategy of holding back until perhaps you finish two or three books and then publishing them - maybe all at once, maybe several weeks apart.  I certainly understand the logic there, especially if the algorithms on platforms like Amazon end up giving you a boost because of the shortened length of time between publication dates.  (Or if you're writing serials, where each episode ends in a cliffhanger.  That may be an occasion when you wait to publish, so that you'll be able to satisfy the reader's curiosity as to what happens next.)

However, most of us are going to require time to become successful.  Time to find a niche, time to build a fan base, time to become established in our genres.  Every second your book isn't out there is lost time - and possibly lost opportunity.  I think you need to give readers as much time as possible to find you.  Sure, you books can sit out there forever waiting to be discovered, but - all other things being equal - forever and a day just gives you that much more of an edge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Getting Paid as a Writer - Are Free Books Poisoning the Well?

At some juncture last year, I came across the following clip (entitled "Pay the Writer") from a film about sci-fi icon Harlan Ellison: 

In it, as suggested by the title, Ellison talks about writers getting paid for what they do. Despite being only a few minutes long, the clip is laugh-out-loud funny in certain areas.  However, one of the the things that struck me is Ellison's statement that writers should get paid for everything they do.  (For instance, the clip starts off with Ellison providing an anecdote of someone wanting to use an interview he did for the television show Babylon 5. However, they want to use the interview for free; Ellison insists on being paid.)  Ellison states that it's the amateurs out there doing everything for free that make it so hard for the professionals, who understand that they shouldn't be doing anything without getting paid.

Ellison's comment puts me in mind of the current state of indie publishing, wherein many authors will offer their work for free.  Of course, the logic behind free is fairly straightforward: readers might take a chance on an otherwise unknown author if his work is free, whereas they might pass if they have to pay for it.  Hopefully those who obtain the book for free will read it and become fans, such that they might thereafter be willing to pay cold hard cash for future material by that particular author.

It's a strategy that has worked for a number of highly successful indie authors, but is it in fact poisoning the well?  Is "free" conditioning a certain segment of the reading population to only want to read books that don't cost them anything?  I remember a few years back reading a statement by Joe Konrath (who is clearly an indie publishing success story) that he planned to eventually rotate all of his books in and out of free.  One of the comments to that statement was from a reader who essentially said he'd never buy another Konrath book, because now he knew that - at some juncture - he'd be able to get every one of them for free.

From all accounts, Joe Konrath is still doing quite well, so maybe the number of readers willing to wait until all of his books are eventually free is minuscule. (And maybe that's the case across the board.)  Still, it's troubling to think that maybe free books are sending the wrong message to potential readers.  After all, Stephen King, James Patterson, Danielle Steel and others never had to start out offering books for free (at least not that I'm aware of).  That said, the advent of self-publishing has undoubtedly crowded the marketplace, making it harder than ever to get noticed.   

In retrospect, I think Ellison makes a valid point: writers need to be aware of the value of their work  and not be afraid of asking that they be appropriately compensated for it.  At the same time, because of the ever-shifting landscape that is indie publishing, there is no doubt that "free" has its place. However, it's a tool that has to be used judiciously as part of an overall plan. It is not, in and of itself, an answer or a solution to the barriers indie authors face.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Revamped Kindle Unlimited (KU 2.0)

As almost everyone knows by now, Amazon is now offering a revamped version of it's all-you-can-read buffet known as Kindle Unlimited.  Affectionately known as KU 2.0, this new offering is the same on the reader side of the equation ($9.99/month), but represents what could be a seismic shift on the author side.

I previously wrote about how the original KU offered tons of opportunities for unscrupulous behavior. However, for the purposes of this article, I will disregard the presence of scammers, con artists and the like and assume that every author with books in KU is honest.  

Basically, in its first iteration, authors in the program were paid whenever someone borrowed their books and read and least 10% of them.  Moreover, it didn't matter if your book was 10 pages in length or 10,000 - each borrow paid the same.  In other words, every author got the same buck-thirty (or whatever the monthly payout was) for each borrow, regardless of book length.  Great if you're the guy cranking out Penny Dreadfuls every couple of days; not so great if you're trying to be the next James Michener. 

However, under KU 2.0, authors won't simply be paid by the number of borrows but rather by the number of pages read.  In my book (no pun intended), that's a much fairer system. For instance, an author with books in KU 1.0 priced at $3.99 or more would really take a beating in terms of earnings each time a book was borrowed.  Now, being paid by the page, they at least have a chance of earning as much (or maybe even more) with a borrow.  In short, I think this is one that Amazon got right (or at least is headed in the right direction).

That said, let's not make the mistake of assuming that Amazon is instituting this change so that writers can be more fairly compensated.  Amazon is in the business of making money for Amazon; if authors just happen to benefit, that's merely a side effect. The whole point of KU, of course, is to put the squeeze on similar services, liked Scribd and Oyster.  KU 2.0 seems geared to attract many authors who may have stayed away from the program or opted out because the payout was so low - mostly those who write longer works as opposed to shorter ones.  And of course, the requirement for exclusivity - meaning that a book in KU can't be offered on another platform (e.g., Barnes & Noble) - would mean that authors opting in would have to remove their titles from other sales channels.  (Needless to say, the exclusivity requirement is overkill; Amazon is already the 800-pound gorilla in terms of book sales, so there's no need to crush all life out of the competition.  Besides, does Amazon really want to run the risk of there being an antitrust case down the road, with the company ultimately getting broken up like Ma Bell and Standard Oil?)

But back to the subject at hand, I would interpret Kindle 2.0 as a good thing.  (I know that many will disagree with that assessment, but it just strikes me as a more equitable system.) As to whether it will make me put my books back into KU, the jury is still out on that.  I'm really not a fan of exclusivity, and I like having my books available on as many platforms as possible.  (Moreover, if their goal is to make money, I think Amazon will earn a lot more of it by dropping the exclusivity requirement.)  So I'm still opting out for now, but maybe KU 3.0 will bait the hook with a more attractive lure. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Book Release: Revelation: A Kid Sensation Novel (Kid Sensation #4)

I am happy to announce that Revelation is now published! Needless to say, getting this one released has taken a lot longer than I ever imagined or intended, but - as they say - the best laid plans of mice and men...

As always, I've released both a paperback and an ebook version. (Again, releasing a paperback edition costs essentially nothing, so why not?)  At present, I believe Amazon shows it as having 309 pages, but it actually has 392.

Once again, the cover art was done by Isikol, who simply has a knack for capturing the image I have in my head. As is typical for me, I neglected to do a cover reveal, but I've never gotten a strong indication one way or another as to how readers feel about those.  (On the other hand, I did get a strong reaction to publishing an excerpt from the book, so maybe I'll pursue that option more often.)

Beyond that, let me say thanks once again to the many fans of this series.  I know that a lot of readers were eagerly awaiting the next installment, so thanks for your patience and I sincerely hope you enjoy the book.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"He's Dead, Jim..."

This is just for kicks and grins, but I somehow got onto the subject of catchphrases with my kids and decided to give them a perfect example of one: Dr. McCoy's famous - and famously parodied - line from the series Star Trek: "He's dead, Jim."   And it's perfectly captured in the clip below.

Frankly speaking, no matter how many times I watch this, it's still hilarious.  I often wonder if the writers would have changed that line if they could have seen into the future.  Regardless, I think it's great that their work gets to entertain us on two fronts: a show that's still fun to watch almost 50 years later, and a memorable catchphrase that's likely to live forever.

Monday, May 25, 2015

What Should I Write Next?

As I mentioned in my prior post, the latest Kid Sensation novel, Revelation, is finished.  It is now in the hands of my editor, and - with the cover also done - this is normally the time period during which I enjoy a few days of down time before I start writing the next book.

Historically, I've typically known what the next book was going to be at this juncture. Frankly speaking, one novel is usually making more noise in my head than the others, crying to be "born." That's what happened with my previous book, Terminus (Fringe Worlds #1).  The story had been in my mind for years and finally demanded to be released (in more ways than one).

If I were to go back to the pattern I initially established, a new Warden book usually follows on the heels of a Kid Sensation release, so having that next on the agenda would not be surprising. However, I'm severely tempted to buck the order.  Not only do I have the outline of a new Fringe Worlds book essentially laid out, but I've also had the story of the character Mouse (from the Kid Sensation books) pretty much completed - at least in my head - for a while now.  In fact, the Mouse book would probably be the quickest and easiest for me to finish.  (Of course, none of this is meant to say that I don't have anything in mind for Warden #4, because I've got the groundwork for that one established as well.)

All in all, I'm blessed to have three series that can all be considered successful (although to varying degrees) and which have found audiences. Still, having to single one out for special treatment - even if only temporarily - feels a little like being in the Twilight Zone for me:

Oh well, I'll probably just see which I feel like writing on the day I wrap up my R&R and that will probably be the next novel.  Hopefully it will be a book in one of the three aforementioned series, and not one of the many others that I've begun writing. (Speaking of which, I was actually inspired to put in a little work yesterday on a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that I started a while back.) However, I'm not making any promises at this point.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Update on Kid Sensation #4: Finished!

I am extremely happy to report that Revelation (Kid Sensation #4) is finally finished! I still have to do my usual read-through (not to mention getting it to my editor) but the manuscript is done! 

I can honestly say that this one has truly been a labor of love, as I have had to deal with a number of delays. One of the most prevalent of late has been the fact that my wife's computer, which she and our kids normally use for their work and projects, has been on the fritz for a while now. The result of that has been a detrimental effect on my output; basically, everyone has had to use the computer that I normally do my writing on to complete their regular activities. (There's not a whole lot you can do when your kid says, "Dad, I've got a project due tomorrow so I need to use the computer..." There's a lot more wiggle room in the writing schedule than there is in the deadline for school projects. Ergo, school takes precedence.)

That aside, I really want to stay in my thanks to everyone - readers, my editor, etc. - for the patience and understanding they've displayed. It is my hope that the next book won't take nearly as long. (Needless to say, one of the first things I'm going to do with any profits from the current book is to buy a dedicated computer for the wife and kiddies.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Excerpt From Kid Sensation #4

I am still working hard on Revelation - the next Kid Sensation book - but haven't managed to finish it yet, despite my best intentions.  Between family obligations, travel for the day job (e.g., I was in 3 states over a four-day period recently), and other issues, I just haven't been able to write as much as I'd planned.  That said, I'm close to wrapping it up. (In my own opinion, all I need is five good writing days to get it done.) Right now, assuming no other hiccups, I'm hopeful I can get it published in March (although it may be towards the latter part of the month).

In the meantime, since I know fans of the series have been waiting a long time, I thought it might be fun to publish an excerpt from the book.  (One caveat: my editor hasn't gotten her hands on this yet, so you're getting a rare glimpse of the sausage-making process.) Hopefully it will whet everyone's appetite for the upcoming release:


“Alpha Prime’s cell phone stopped functioning two days ago,” Mouse said. “Somewhere in the Midwest.”
“What does that mean, ‘stopped functioning?’” I asked.
“It means the battery died,” Mouse said in exasperation. “Or he dropped it in the ocean, or it got run over by a tank, or a million other things that would make it stop working.”
I looked at Megaton. “In that case, I guess it’s okay that we didn’t bother leaving him a message this afternoon.”
“Hold on,” Electra said. “You called Alpha Prime this afternoon? How’s that possible if his phone stopped working two days ago?”
Mouse wagged a finger at her. “You’re confusing the phone with the phone line, for lack of a better term. If someone turns their phone off or their battery dies, a caller will still hear the phone ring, be able to leave a message, and so on. Basically, the rest of the phone network will still work properly; it’s just the end device that’s not functioning.”
“Well, what about his communicator?” my uncle asked.
“This is where it gets weird,” Mouse said. “It’s not on the planet.”
“If it’s not on the planet, then where is it?” Electra asked.
“Outer space is a good guess,” Mouse replied.
Megaton’s face was a textbook example of incredulity. “Outer space?? Where in outer space?!” he practically demanded.
“The Crab Nebula, man – I don’t know,” Mouse replied with a shrug. “All I can tell you is that right around the time AP’s cell phone stopped working, his communicator went arcing into the upper atmosphere from the same geographic area.  Within thirty minutes it was in outer space. A few hours later it went beyond our ability to track.”
“Are you saying that Alpha Prime is somewhere in outer space?” asked Megaton.
“I don’t know,” Mouse answered, shaking his head. “But he’s had off-planet missions before. Still, he wouldn’t take off on something like that without telling people.”
            Mouse glanced in my direction as he finished speaking, and I knew what he was implying. My father was so dedicated to our building a relationship that he’d never have simply disappeared without getting word to me.
            “So, could he have been kidnapped by aliens or something?” Electra asked.
            Mouse rubbed his chin in thought. “It wouldn’t be the first instance of an alien race trying something like that, but if they did I’d expect there to be news coverage of an interstellar spaceship being ripped to shreds.”
            Megaton chuckled at the thought. “Yeah, that’s what happened last time.”
            “Assuming we can rule out extraterrestrial intervention,” Li said, “perhaps we should consider the forces already established as inimical to Alpha Prime.”
            “If you’re asking what can hurt him,” I said. “the answer is very little.  That said, he’s been known to be susceptible to magic.”
            “Also time dilation,” Megaton volunteered.
            “There are also certain natural phenomena that could, theoretically, harm him,” Mouse added, “but I don’t think he’s had exposure to any of those.”
            “Any chance he just took off for some R and R?” Electra suggested hopefully. “Maybe a few days of downtime to recharge his batteries?”
            To the general public, her question would have been perceived as ludicrous.  Physically, Alpha Prime was inexhaustible; he didn’t get tired, drained, fatigued, what have you.  However, what very few knew was that, emotionally and mentally, my father had grown incredibly weary of being a cape.  Maybe it was the stress of being held up as the world’s greatest superhero, the gold standard, but he’d told me on more than one occasion that he was ready to give it all up.
Perhaps Megaton and Mouse knew this about my father as well, because they took Electra’s question seriously, staring at one another as each silently contemplated what she had said.
            “What do you think?” Megaton asked after a few seconds.
            Mouse seemed to physically waver, heading bobbing from side to side, as he tossed the question around in his brain.
            “Well,” Mouse finally said, “he does have that little hideaway.”
            I didn’t say anything, but I knew what they were talking about. My father had a secret base that served as his retreat from the world whenever he needed a little time to himself.
            “If you’re talking about AP’s little clandestine stronghold,” Electra said, “he might be there, but nobody knows where it is.”
            “I do,” said Megaton.
            “Me, too,” said Mouse.
            Frankly speaking, I was a little surprised (and maybe a little jealous). My father hadn’t even told me where his secret base was, and he was desperate for us to develop a normal father-son bond.
            “So if we know where it is, what are we waiting for?” Electra asked in agitation.
            Any anxiety on her part was understandable. Electra was an orphan who had been raised by the Alpha League since infancy; AP was a father-figure to her. (One of several, in fact.) Our dating had made things a little awkward for Alpha Prime, but he had dealt with it admirably. The fact that he might be missing made any distress Electra was feeling justifiable.
            “It’s not that easy, Electra” Mouse said. “On those few occasions when he’s actually been injured, that stronghold, as you put it, has been the place that Alpha Prime usually retreated to.”
            “Why is that?” asked Li.
            “Because the place is equipped with formidable automatic defenses,” Megaton answered. “And by ‘formidable,’ I mean lethal.”
“It’s beyond lethal,” Mouse countered. “We’re talking weapons and technology capable of roasting a planet, and not all of it terrestrial in origin. After all, it would be intended to stop something or someone capable of injuring Alpha Prime.”
            “So basically, no one’s getting in there without an invitation,” Electra summarized.
            “More or less,” Mouse said, drumming his fingers on the worktable. “However, I’m betting there’s one person Alpha Prime would definitely have given access to. Someone he would have allowed to come and go as they pleased.”
            “Someone whose biometrics he would have fed into his defense system so they could enter in safety,” Megaton added, catching on.
I felt a hollow pit in my stomach, plainly seeing where this conversation was going.
            “Who?” Electra asked, her brow furrowed. “Who?”
            Mouse hesitated for a second, then said, “His son.”
            “You mean Paramount?” asked Electra, her tone making it clear that this was something of an anticlimactic revelation. “He’s still locked up who-knows-where, with no chance of ever getting out.”
            “No, not Paramount,” Mouse said. “His other son.”
            Shock and confusion fought for supremacy on Electra’s face, as well as on an emotional level within her. This was plainly news to her, and it wasn’t immediately clear how she would react.
            “What other son?” she muttered after a few seconds, obviously still processing what she had just heard.
            There was dead silence as Mouse and Megaton both looked in my direction.
            “Me,” I said flatly.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What I Did Right and Wrong in 2014

We are now rolling along into the wonderful new year of 2015, but over the past few weeks, I've taken many a moment to reflect - from the standpoint of an author - on what happened to me over the previous 12 months.  Needless to say, I had highs and lows; there were things I [like to think I] did well and things I did poorly.  Hopefully, the next twelve months will see me doing many more of the former and far less of the latter, but for now it's helpful for me to put them on the scales and see how they balance.

Things Done Right
1)  I think the main thing I did right is that I continued to write and publish.  You'll hear all the time about how most people who want to write a book will never start; most who start writing a book will never finish; most who finish a book will never publish...and so on. Thus, I'm happy that I kept advancing the ball in that regard.  

2)  I sold more books (and, by extension, made more money) than I did in 2013.  Of course, in 2013, I was just getting started and didn't have my fiction out there until around May of that year.  Still, although it's not truly an apples-to-apples comparison, I can't help but view this as a step in the right direction.  (To be honest, though, I don't know how accurate it is to claim stats like book sales as something I "did," unless you look at it from a marketing/promotion point of view).

3)  I came up with lots of new ideas for books (many of which I actually started writing).  I even published the first novel, Terminus, in a new series.  I feel blessed that it has been well-received by readers and I look forward to getting the next book in the series published.

Things Done Poorly
1)  The first thing on this list is an easy one to pinpoint: I only published two books in 2014.  Two!  I actually posted very recently about how our ability to write and publish quickly is a major strength for indies, so this is completely at odds with my personal philosophy.  However, it is something that I definitely intend to remedy.

2)  The two books that I finished in 2014 were published roughly seven months apart.  Frankly speaking, that's simply too large of a break between books for an indie author. Unless you are selling massively (as opposed to modestly, like myself), it's just too easy for readers to forget about you, even if they are huge fans. That's why my preference is to publish books no more than four months apart, although publishing a new one every 2-3 months would be far better.  (If you need proof of how important it is to publish regularly, you need look no further than my sales.  Before I published Terminus in November, my monthly sales were the lowest they had been since I began in 2013.)

3)  I didn't publish a novel in my most popular series, Kid Sensation, which can almost be considered heresy.  I had sincerely hoped to have the next book done back in November, but I had some other things come up that left me with little time to write, if I'm being honest.  Still,  a successful series is a rarity, so continuing to expand on that achievement is imperative.

Of course, there were lots of other things that can be lumped into the category of right or wrong for the year, but these are probably the primary contributors to any successes or shortcomings I experienced.  Naturally, I intend to continue embracing the positive practices while eliminating the negative.  With a little luck, the 2015 "right" list will be far longer than the "wrong" one.

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