Writer’s Block and Tackle

I don’t get writer’s block. In fact, I don’t even believe it’s a thing. That is, it doesn’t really exist in the form people commonly think of it. There is no period where a writer can’t write. This simply doesn’t happen. Even if a writer isn’t able to start or continue a book or a story, he can always sit down and start writing a grocery list or a nursery rhyme and somewhere along the way he will start to make up silly fictitious items of dubious usefulness or lyrics full of filthy innuendo. Sure, none of this might directly contribute to any works in progress, but it’s still writing. It’s still an act of creation. It exercises the muscles critical to a writer’s occupation.

It’s the writer’s block and tackle. The exercise of writing is way more important than the measuring of progress toward completing a work. A work will be completed. A work must be completed. But along the way, the writer will no doubt encounter tough periods where no idea seems good enough to set to paper and everything she wants to communicate seems trivial and banal.

Be not discouraged! Discouragement leads to hopelessness. Hopelessness leads to fear. Fear is the little death.

 

And then you end up with several nervous tics and working for a psychopathic floating fat man.

 

I have two short stories I have been shopping to various publications and neither of them have yet found a home. On the surface, this is something I expected. In fact, since they are my first stories to ever send out for publication (not counting some small work done many ages ago when I was but an adolescent Tone of Voice) I am not optimistic that they’ll find a home in any major market. I’m sure I could get them published somewhere, but it might be a no-pay deal, in which case I might just publish them here. I’m fine with that… on the surface.

But I’ve noticed something as the rejections pile up. Even though I have several dozens of ideas for new stories, I am not happy at all with any of them. None of them seem interesting enough to warrant even starting. I’ve outlined a couple of them and I can see how each can be made into a complete story, but I can’t find any excitement about writing them in earnest. And if I’m not interested in writing them, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone would be interested in reading them.

But lately I’ve been wondering if this is a result of facing the rejections. I don’t feel the pain of rejection on the surface, but maybe I’m feeling it somewhere just below. Maybe I’m second guessing myself too much. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing that mythical curse called writer’s block, aside from the long period of my life when I didn’t write at all, but that was only because I wasn’t a writer, so it doesn’t count.

But the counter to writer’s block is the exercise of writing itself. Can’t write what you want to write? Write something else. For now, I can’t find good story ideas to crank out the two more short stories I want to get done this year, but I can continue to write Grant Scotland novels. I’m not saying I don’t want to write about Grant, it’s just that I want to get other projects going. But if I may be in a minor crisis of confidence on the short story front, I can revisit Grant’s world and make progress on book five. And in the writing process, I find I can still put words together, make myself laugh and even excite myself about new possibilities and the resolution to old mysteries.

Grant Scotland is my block and tackle. When the work of writing gets too tough, he’s there to help me do the heavy lifting of putting words on e-paper. I know I can sit down and write about him and his world when I can’t do anything else. So, if you’re ever in a corner where you can’t find something to write about, then simply write about something. Jot down your grocery list that would only make sense to someone from a parallel dimension. Scribe new lyrics to “Duck, Duck, Goose” that would make a sailor blush. Invent a recipe for chicken cacciatore that might, under the right alignment of planets, summon a host of faceless demons hungry for new faces.

Point is, find your block and tackle. Write whatever you need to write in order to keep writing. Hell, you could even write a blog post about it.

 

PICTURED: Not a good block and tackle.

 

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Don’t go looking for your muse! Go down to Ye Olde Word Smithy and pound out some prose.

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all” – Charles Bukowski

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Notes From the Self-Pubbed (Issue #8)

THE BLOG TOUR ISSUE!

My Virtual Blog Tour ended earlier this month and I’m ready to share the goods and the bads and the ups and the downs. The Tour was arranged by Goddessfish Promotions and began in late December and continued until the middle of April. What would happen was Goddessfish would coordinate with a book review blogger to schedule a day where that blogger would post an advertisement for my book or interview with me or an excerpt from one of the books or some other piece of content relating to Grant Scotland. Then all of that blogger’s followers would see the post and comment on it in order to be eligible for an Amazon Gift Card. Goddessfish scheduled on average about two bloggers a week, generally Tuesdays and Thursdays, but sometimes Mondays and Wednesdays, and each one was pretty good about posting something different so followers were encouraged to “follow” the tour from one site to another.

Sounds great, right? I had been skeptical about the true advertising power of this sort of thing, since I found it difficult to imagine there were that many book-blog sites, not to mention active members who visited them frequently. I mean, do you visit blogs that talk about books on any sort of regular basis? I mean JUST books. This site doesn’t count, since it’s my personal blog where I also talk about being an author – I rarely talk about what I’m reading/have read. I’m talking about “fan sites” for fantasy, romance, sci-fi, etc. Do you ever go to these sites and hang out and talk about books?

 

“Hey, everyone! I just found out about this great book called The Necronomicon! I can’t wait to get my hands on it!”

 

Yeah, neither do I. Nevertheless, a blog tour was something I had to try, since I couldn’t very well claim I was taking this self-publishing enterprise seriously if I didn’t try it at least once.

It turns out once is enough. Probably more than enough. That is to say, I’m never doing anything like it ever again. Not on my dime, anyway.

First off I want to say that Marianne and Judy at Goddessfish were very nice and professional. I have nothing but good things to say about them. However, I can’t recommend their services, because my own results were so disappointing. In fact, so bad was my experience that I feel I have to warn other self-published authors to save their money and keep away from blog tours in general.

So, what was so bad? Well, mainly the biggest problem became apparent fairly early on. After the first few stops on the tour, it became obvious that each time a blogger hosted a blog post about Grant Scotland, the same 6 or 8 people would comment – on every site. That is, there didn’t seem to be separate followers on separate sites. It was always the same names, no matter if it was a site that claimed it mostly liked romance books or mostly liked fantasy books. Oh, and almost all of them mostly liked romance books, judging by their style and sidebar content and advertising.

 

“Where is the ripped bodice? No ripped bodice = no sale.”

 

So, the audience was frustratingly small, but that’s okay, nobody was buying anything anyway. I ran kindle countdown deals on all four books and Goddessfish made sure the deals were advertised on every site where Grant Scotland was featured, but not a single sale was recorded (not entirely true, but let’s just say I noted no “spike” in sales). Well, unless some sales happened during the Bookbub promotion period, but the tour had already been going on for almost two months by that time so I find it unlikely.

But I had heard blog tours were a great way of generating reviews and I had sent out free e-copies of all the books, so I was looking forward to getting a few Amazon reviews at least. Nope. Not one. I did, however, get four very enthusiastic reviews on Harlie’s Books by someone who clearly actually read all four books. So, that was nice, but it would have been nicer if those reviews had made it on to Amazon.

But did I make any new friends, at least? Hard to say. I know I have new followers to the blog and Facebook pages, but whether those people are here for the content or the promise of giveaways, it’s impossible to tell.

Well, I guess it’s not impossible. I could always just cancel the giveaways and see if anyone sticks around. In fact, I think I’ll do that. I’ve been mulling it over and doing extra reading about mailing lists and giveaways and authors and I’ve come to the conclusion that mailing lists and giveaways are GREAT ways to get a ton of followers, but they don’t do squat in terms of building an audience. An audience is composed of readers and they’re not the ones making the rounds from site to site trying to get free stuff. Those are internet gypsies. Additionally, every person I’ve seen advocating for mailing lists and giveaways ultimately turns out to be someone trying to sell me something. Sure, they may also be an author (although I’m highly dubious of this in each and every case) but they always put way more effort into talking up some pay-to-play service instead of what’s cool or interesting about their books, writing, etc.

 

“You want to know about my book? Well, it’s very successful. But wouldn’t you rather know how I made it so successful?”

 

So, no more mailing list. You’re just going to have to bookmark me or sign up to follow the blog by email (although I’ve found in my personal experience that wordpress emails often get filtered to the junk folder) and just keep an eye on the blog. I’m sure at some point in time in the future I’ll give away free stuff in some off-the-cuff contest, but doing the whole Mailchimp/Rafflcopter/Twitter Ads route just isn’t for me.

As for Blog Tours, Goddessfish offers some very reasonably priced options if you’re a self-pubber and you’re thinking that maybe you can change some internet gypsies into book buyers and fans. I chose the biggest/most expensive option because I figured in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound and obviously can’t at all recommend it. Maybe stringing together a few cheaper tours might yield better results for you.

I just re-read what I wrote and it sounds like I’m down on self-publishing and I’m not. Absolutely not. Although the industry is swarmed by pirates and snake oil salesmen, it’s still very rewarding to have almost complete control over your own work. I am, however, almost certain at this point that a hybrid approach is the best way to go. If I can get some stories or novels traditionally published it will make it much easier to get my self-published stuff in front of a much wider audience. I guess to look at myself as objectively as possible, I’m moving away from being a true self-publisher and towards being an author who self-publishes. True, this really only works for authors who have already attained some measure of success in traditional publishing, but I’m glad I went the self-pub route first. This entire experience has been very interesting and has given me a lot of confidence in my writing that I realize now I desperately needed in order to take myself seriously. Also, I think if I hadn’t tried it first, I’m not sure I ever would have.

I’m still deeply suspicious of traditional publishing, though. I’ve heard many horror stories from many authors about being badly mishandled and then having to live with not having rights to their own work when their publisher drops them. That makes me cringe and it’s something I’ll never let happen to the Adventures of Grant Scotland. I’m way too invested in that series to ever hand it over. Well, never say never, I guess. At any rate, I realize I should start writing a stand-alone novel (not related to the series, but probably a sci-fi or fantasy book) and see if I can attract an agent, but I’m committed to getting AoGS to six books first. Right now the plan is to keep writing Grant Scotland (outline and first chapter of book 5 done so far) but also crank out at least two more short stories by year’s end and put those on the magazine merry-go-round with the other two I’ve finished.

But I might start putting together something for an agent sooner rather than later. Probably should. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Happy spring, everyone! A great time to make new plans and start new projects!

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” – Vernon Law

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Notes from the Self-Pubbed #7 (addendum)

Addendum! Fancy, right? I’m all about the class and the sophistication stuff. But why the addendum? Well, I just got the sales report from Apple and Kobo from my February 6th BookBub promotion of the Grant Scotland omnibus and I’m happy to report they held mother’s milk. I sold enough to recoup expenses and even make a small profit! Read on for numbers! Numbers for the Number God!

 

 

APPLE: (as reported through Smashwords)

Apple sales are reported in a monthly dump, so no per-day sale info available.

44 Units sold during February at $1.99 each (so we can surmise all sales were during promo period).

60% royalty to author yields $1.20 each less Value Added Tax (VAT) on applicable sales. I think this is about 15% before royalty is figured, but it only applies to select overseas sales. So, to err on the safe side, we’ll call it a buck a book.

44 Units @ $1.00 = $44

KOBO: (as reported through Smashwords)

Kobo sales are reported on a monthly basis with day-by-day break down, but all the days were within the promo period.

67 Units sold during February at $1.99.

60% royalty to author yields $1.20 each. No VAT with Kobo, so we get the full $1.20.

67 Units @ $1.20 = $80

REVISED BOOKBUB PROMO NUMBERS:

Expense of Promo: $261

Total royalties from Promo: $283

Profit: $22

 

 

How do you like that?

 

“You might not be as useless as you were before. But you’re still a long way from an invite to Mar-a-Lago”

 

Now, I know these numbers combined with the Amazon numbers result in a quantity and profit margin that is extremely small in comparison with the sales of most other authors, but that’s how it starts.

 

“But that’s how it always begins. Very small.”

 

Additionally, I’m not including sales beyond the promo period which have been not insubstantial and at full price. So, if you throw those in, the profit margin is quite a bit wider. But now this leaves me in a quandary. Sales of Greedy Villain (the only book NOT in the omnibus) have been slow but steady on Amazon since the promotion, but the book is only available on Amazon right now because I wanted to keep it in Kindle Unlimited library to get the sweet, sweet borrowed page reads. However, those haven’t been that impressive and I’d hate to lose the opportunity to get some Kobo/Apple sales on it. I guess I just decided, didn’t I? Greedy Villain is up for renewal in KU in early April. I’ll decline renewal and see if I can get some follow up sales on Kobo and Apple. I can always put it back on KU later.

As for BookBub, my faith has been restored. I can now confidently tell you that if you’re looking to promote a book it is the best advertising option out there. And their follow-up survey is great! I shared my data with them and I’m hoping since my ROI was pretty low it will encourage them to lower their entrance fee a bit. Regardless, I’m looking forward to trying to get the omnibus on a domestic (U.S. only) BookBub promotion in the near future.

I’m in a good mood!

 

Have a drink? ‘Cause I’m having a drink.

 

Oh, and I’ve started receiving my rejection letters from the short stories I’ve sent out! They’re great! Can you tell I’m in a good mood? No, seriously! I feel even more like an “official” author now. My self-published books are making money and my short stories are being turned down by magazines. This is a very exciting time!

Cheers!

 

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Holy crap! This whole thing might actually pan out! Can you believe that? No, don’t answer that. It’s the suspense that’s delicious, isn’t it?

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

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Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #7)

I’m conflicted. I’m kind of tempted to just keep the omnibus at $1.99. After all, sales keep happening (albeit a very small amount of sales), so I imagine people keep reading. When I started this I had no problem giving away the first book (Dead Empire) for free, but although many thousands of people downloaded it I never received any reviews or hits to the blog or Facebook page. Upon research, I found it was likewise among others who tried the same tactic – nobody seems to know where all those copies went or whether they were ever read. Even though $1.99 isn’t free, it nets me very little money. Still, it’s something, and I seem to get regular hits to my social pages.

But of course I had to bump the price back up. If I didn’t, I’d never be eligible for another BookBub promo with the omnibus unless I wanted to straight up give it away, which as I mentioned is a loser deal. In fact, I bumped the price up to $9.99 because many moons ago I had increased each included book to $3.99 and had never adjusted the omnibus. So, now it matches as just a bit over the price of two books for three, same as before. It’s been a couple of days and sales have predictably dropped to zero, but that’s okay. We’re not having a fire sale or a going-out-of-business blowout. We’re staying the course.

And the course is looooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnggg. Like, for the rest of my life long. Like, Tolstoy long. You on board? Come on, we’ll walk it together. Won’t be so bad that way.

But how exactly did that BookBub promo go, you may be asking? And I promised I’d tell you, didn’t I? After all, this is Notes from the Self-Pubbed, so I shall dutifully and unashamedly share my trials and travails with you, my beloved and curious readers.

But first things first. HAPPY SECOND ANNIVERSARY to THIS TONE OF VOICE! YAY! Commence with the dropping of the balloons and the throwing of the confetti and the eating of cake!

 

I invited the New England Patriots to my Blog Anniversary Parade. My fans seemed to really enjoy that.

I invited the New England Patriots to my Blog Anniversary Parade. My fans seemed to really enjoy that.

 

Second, I have a blog tour on-going, so I will refrain from comment on that until it is done. It deserves its own post, so I’ll wait until it’s finished. By the way, today Grant Scotland is featured over at Hope, Dreams, Life… Love. Check me out on my good side.

But let’s take a look at those BookBub numbers. As this was a BookBub International promotion, the United States subscribers were excluded from seeing my sale. I don’t really get how they separate the two in a digital universe, but they do how they do. People visiting Amazon or B&N.com in the U.S. could still buy my book at the reduced price, they just didn’t see mention of it in their BookBub newsletters. Anyway, here are the numbers:

 

BOOKBUB INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION

COST: $261 (ZOINKS!)

ANNOUNCED SALE PROMOTION DATES: Monday, February 6th through Wednesday February 8th

VISIBILITY: One appearance on Bookbub’s International distribution newsletter and webpage on February 6th.

 

SALES:

FEB 6th:

AMAZON: 123 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 7th:

AMAZON: 58 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 8th: (announced end of sale date for promotion)

AMAZON: 12 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 9th: (I updated blog and my own newsletter with news I would extend sale another day)

AMAZON: 16 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 10th: (not technically part of the promotion, but just finishing out the week and waiting for price normalization adjustment to appear at stores)

AMAZON: 5 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

While I waited for the stores to accept the fact that I had brought the price back up to $9.99, I sold 13 more copies at the reduced price from the 11th to the 13th. B&N was the culprit. They always seem to drag their feet when I tell them I want to raise a price. As long as they resisted raising it, I couldn’t tell Amazon to do the same. Amazon is very touchy about that sort of thing. Ah, these little wars these mega companies wage. Anyway, that’s 13 more units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty – all Amazon.

So, how’d I do?

 

"You're kidding, right? I don't have time for this anymore. I'm THE PRESIDENT.... Okay. Wait. Let me see if I can get Flynn on the phone."

“You’re kidding, right? I don’t have time for this anymore. I’m THE PRESIDENT…. Okay. Wait. I know a guy who’s not doing anything. Let me see if I can get Flynn on the phone.”

 

Okay, fair enough. I’ll handle the summary this time, Your Orangeness.

Total sales:

Amazon: 227 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

Kobo: Uknown

B&N: Unknown

Apple: Unknown

Return: $159

 

Soooooooo, not so great. Looks like I’m out about $100. I know Kobo and B&N and Apple have yet to report in and I won’t hear from them for another month or so (I distribute to those outlets through Smashwords and they usually report sales to Smashwords monthly or quarterly) but I very heavily doubt those platforms yielded enough sales to even bring me to break-even territory. Admittedly, Kobo is huge in Canada, so that might not be nothing. Regardless…. I won’t lie. I’m pretty disappointed. BookBub was supposed to be a guaranteed positive ROI. Everywhere I checked not a single person had a bad experience.

And yet, I’m partially to blame. If I had set the price at $2.99 instead of $1.99, I would have been in Amazon’s %70 royalty bracket, which would have made all the difference in the world if I had achieved the same number of sales. At $2.99 @ %70, I would have a return of $334. About on par with what I was expecting. Again, this is assuming I would have achieved the same number of sales. No guarantee there. Also, BookBub’s international reach is far less impressive than its domestic subscriber base. But, I would have had to pay about three times as much to get a domestic feature, which they didn’t offer to me anyway.

So, am I head-in-the-oven? Am I looking wistfully at tall buildings and wondering how to get to the roof?

Nope.

I may have spent my last dollar-rich marketing bullets on BookBub and Goddessfish, but I’ve got plenty of ammo left. True, the advertising budget is depleted (for now, at least), but the word ammo is plentiful. I’ve finished both of the short stories I promised myself I’d complete this year and even revised them to a level I consider fit for submission. And I love them. They’re of a higher caliber of writing than the Grant Scotland books, but that’s because I’m aiming them for a larger audience. Also, short stories – to my mind – insist on packing more info and subtext into a tighter margin. Words are more carefully chosen and I have to be more precise than what the comparative roominess of a full-length novel allows. Finally, I need someone else to foot the bill for marketing for once, so I need to devote a little extra energy into crafting stories for specific publications.

I think. I don’t know. I haven’t submitted a story to a magazine since I was in High School, so this is all going to be new to me.

Anyway, money’s tight right now, so it’s time to turn to traditional publishing for some help. I’ll be submitting these stories to magazines/e-zines for publication and I’m sure I won’t get much (if any) money from it, but at least I’ll get exposure at no cost to yours truly. I might try BookBub again someday, since selling 227 copies of the omnibus over the course of a week is still the best performance I’ve seen from any promotion so far, but next time I’ll do it at $2.99 and hold out for a domestic distribution. That will be costly, so I won’t even attempt it until next year.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to get these stories published and let you know if I have any luck.

As for Grant Scotland… Well, if you’ve been following the series at all, then you already know he doesn’t let a little thing like lack of dough get in the way of setting the world to rights. Some friends have insisted Grant is me and I’ve resisted the comparison. After all, ALL of the characters are me. How could they not be? But, right now they’re more right than they know. I may have gotten knocked around a bit (again) but as the wise ones say “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

 

 

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“If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” – Wise Ones

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Grant Scotland on Tour!

That’s right! I’m taking The Adventures of Grant Scotland on a book tour! A virtual tour, that is. Online-like. Goddessfish Promotions has teemed with all of us (me) here at Dan McClure Publishing (the back office of my apartment) to launch the Grant Scotland franchise into the blogoshere.

For the next few months you’ll be seeing my books everywhere (not available in some locations) on the internet. So be sure to stay tuned to what’s happening both here and on all the sites that will be advertising and talking about the series. If you comment on the conversation on the participating blogs, you are automatically entered to win an Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Goddessfish!

I’ll list the sites and the tour dates that are currently booked below, but be sure to follow Adventures of Grant Scotland Facebook page and Twitter handle to get the most up-to-date tour info and links.

December 27: Books,Dreams,Life
December 29: Christine Young
January 3: The Avid Reader
January 5: Fabulous and Brunette
January 10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
January 12: Writers and Authors
January 17: Lilac Reviews
January 19: T’s Stuff
January 24: BooksChatter
January 26: Book Lover Promo
January 31: Sharing Links and Wisdom
February 2: Independent Authors
February 7: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
February 9: Edgar’s Books
February 14: Readeropolis
February 16: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
February 21: Lynn Crandall
February 23: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
February 28: CBY Book Club
March 1: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
March 6: Hearts and Scribbles
March 8: Tina Donahue Books
March 13: Welcome to My World of Dreams
March 15: Reviews by Crystal
March 20: Book Giveaways
March 22: Queen of All She Reads
March 27: Am Kinda Busy Reading!
March 29: Harlie’s Books
April 3: Natural Bri
April 5: Long and Short Reviews

 

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The tour will be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. There’s plenty of fun interviews, blog posts and book excerpts, so be sure to check out all the stops!

Prevent any further premature celebrity deaths – write reviews and give tips.

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Grant Scotland Goes To Print!

At long last the day has arrived! The Adventures of Grant Scotland is confined to merely existing in the digital world no more! Now you can find actual ink and paper copies of the chronicles of Grant’s deeds of dubious merit and doubtful virtue. So, if you’ve been waiting to have your shelf decorated with these handsome volumes or know someone who would appreciate the gift (Christmas is right around the corner) then you’re in luck.

 

image

When I hold them all in my hand at the same time I can’t believe the sheer volume of word-mass I have vomited forth to date.

 

At the moment, Dead Empire and the omnibus are currently available, but books two, three and four will be ready for order in a few days. You can find options for ordering the print editions on the Amazon pages of the Kindle editions, but here are the direct links:

Spy for a Dead Empire

The Adventures of Grant Scotland: The Unlikely Spy

Are you interested in hearing about the self-publishing print process? Maybe? I’ll tell you what. I’ll refrain from getting into the details here, but I’ll do another Notes from the Self-Pubbed next week for those who are interested. Something tells me people are a little too distracted by other events to be in a good place to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of my little cottage industry just now.

I may also do a post about the election, but I don’t want to get too political here. However, there have been a few things I’ve observed after Super Tuesday that I’d like to talk a little about, but I promise it’s not anguish-filled Trump bashing. Plenty of people are doing enough of that and I’ll no doubt do some of my own over the course of the next four years, but there has been some interesting internal debates among Dems/leftists that have got me thinking.

But for tonight, I’ll just keep it short and sweet. The next few months you will witness one of the things that makes our country great – the peaceful and orderly transition of power. Celebrate and be thankful you live in a country where that is the case. The rest of the stuff we’ll keep working on.

 

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I didn’t forget my contest winner! A signed copy of The Unlikely Spy will soon find it’s way to you, Daria Liston!

Reviewing books and tipping delivery people help make America great (again)!

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Now Available: Spy for a Greedy Villain

Finally! After delays, snafus and shenanigans too copious to recount, the Kindle version of Spy for a Greedy Villain, the fourth installment in The Adventures of Grant Scotland series, is now available! So far it is only the Kindle version. A few of those aforementioned snafus hit the print production line, so the availability of the print editions that I promised for all the books has been pushed back a couple of weeks. They should be ready by mid-month.

In the meantime, download Greedy Villain to your Kindle and get reading!

 

aogs4_cover_final

 

Not sure if you’re ready to buy? Just waiting for the print edition? Well, then let me whet your appetite with a little excerpt:

 


I gave him a brief recap of my espionage activities over the past few months, which included reports on the growth and temperament of the One God followers, the coming and going of any Huthan notables and the operations of Doogan and Quinn. At last I followed up with a summary of the harbormaster investigation and finished with the discovery of a ghost in the Lower Docks.

 

“There’s no such things as ghosts, Scotland,” Solin said.

 

“I know, but I haven’t worked up a better nickname for him yet.”

 

“I’m sure you’ll think of something. I have every confidence in your ability to accomplish inane tasks of trivial importance.”

 

“Everybody has to be good at something.”

 

“And while your limited mental capabilities will no doubt be severely taxed in that endeavor, I’ll do some checking into what could make a man entirely concealed in plain sight.”

 

“You mean invisible. You can just say invisible.”

 

“Were I interested in being as lacking in attention to details as you, I could use the word invisible, but luckily for the both of us I am not. Complete invisibility is impossible. Not even the greatest Aelfan wizards were ever able to accomplish such a feat. But, there are several ways a man can remain unnoticed. Take me for instance. For the eleventh time in a row you failed to spot me before I spotted you.”

 

“How am I not surprised you’ve been keeping score? At any rate, he didn’t sneak up on me, I’m telling you I looked right through him.”

 

“Except his boots. Unless in addition to invisibility you also believe in the existence of a sentient pair of boots?”


 

 

Yes, Grant is at last reunited with his endearingly abrasive taskmaster. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

It’s only available on Amazon right now, as are all the rest except for the omnibus, because I want to stay in Kindle Select for now. I still get the occasional borrow through that program and that’s more than I get from Barnes and Noble or Apple or the others. At some point I may re-distribute the series to other markets but my experiments with doing that have been less than rewarding to this point.

In other news, I just finished my initial batch of interviews and guest blogs for my first blog tour! Goddessfish has taken all of my choicest bits of juicy word meats and flung them to the hungry denizens of the blogosphere. Feeding time is scheduled to start right after Christmas, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know what sites to visit so you can follow me around! You won’t even need night-vision goggles and a windowless van this time! It’s perfectly legal!

 

"Well, that takes the fun right out of it. Doesn't it, Precious? Yes."

“Well, that takes the fun right out of it. Doesn’t it, Precious? Yes.”

 

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That’s all for now! Please to enjoy!

Commence with the reading and the reviewing and the ordering and the tipping!

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The Adventure Continues

Hello?

Anyone still here? Hey. Hey, you! Yes, you at the buffet table. Look, I appreciate you hanging around, but I wouldn’t eat those finger sandwiches. They’ve been sitting there since July. I don’t think they’re-

What’s that? You’ve already eaten three of them? Okay. No problem. Just have a seat. No, not there. I was thinking maybe you could sit in the port-o-potties in the parking lot. Trust me on this one. You’ll thank me later.

Okay, so… Oh, good. Some people coming in. Welcome! Anybody have the number for Poison Control? No? Okay. No problem. That’s completely cool.

How about a tow service? A REALLY discreet towing service. Yes? Good. I won’t ask how you got this… Yes, and I won’t make direct eye contact with the tower. Got it.

Well, alright! Let’s get things started! Please, everyone, have a seat. Refreshments will be made available, just not right now. And don’t mind the cobwebs. Purely for effect. Spooky, right?

 

Personally, I can never pull off spooky. I never get past "I really need to dust."

Personally, I can never pull off spooky. I never get past “I really need to dust.”

 

Anyway, thanks for coming. I really appreciate it. I know it’s been a while since I’ve hosted one of these things. Sorry for not being around this summer. Time went by crazy fast, right? How was your summer? Was it crazy like mine?

Yeah? What’s that, now? Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Should you even be telling me… Oh, you buried the hatchet with someone? Ohhhhh. I see. And then you burned the midnight oil, but not anything else… or anyone else. Good, good. Sounds like a summer to remember.

Well, my summer was… What?

Yes. Yes, you’re right. It should probably be printed on the label that a fifth of Jack Daniels won’t put out a roman candle stuffed into someone’s jeans. Like, both labels, probably.

 

"If you've consumed anywhere close to even half of this in one night, you're going to do some stupid shit. There. We warned you."

“If you’ve consumed anywhere close to even half of this in one night, you’re going to do some stupid shit. There. We warned you.”

 

Anyway, I don’t mean to cut you off, sir. If you’d like to make a guest post, then we can arrange something, but tonight I just want to do my thing and then… ummm… go do something else. Sound good? We good? Alright! Have a finger sandwich.

So, I’m back with news for you! Book Four of The Adventures of Grant Scotland is in final editing! I’ve passed it off to my beautiful and talented editor so she can correct the thousands of mistakes I’ve made before I expose them to the public. She knows how eager I am to expose myself, so she’s always great about making sure I’m covered.

What’s that? No, I don’t know if she’s single. Sir, please. I promise I’ll get done shortly and then you’ll…. Yes, karaoke starts right after this. All the more reason to let me finish, right?

So… Oh. Well, thank you for saying so. I haven’t really paid much attention to my mouth, but thank you for saying it’s pretty. That’s… Well, that’s really something.

Sorry, everyone. WordPress has started renting out my space to people who use it more frequently. They promise they’ll give it back to me full time once I start posting more regularly.

Yes, sir. Thank you for the suggestion. I will consider hosting my own karaoke night. Sounds like a good idea.

Ummm… but where was I? Oh, yes! So, Book Four is almost ready for publication. The design of the cover is currently under the deft hand of my most trusted and professional artist, so I can’t reveal it yet. However, I can tell you the title of the book will be…

Drum roll, please.

Oh. I see that I don’t have a drummer anymore… No, sir. You don’t have to…. Yes, I’m sure you were in a band in high school….

Okay, that’s not really a drum roll so much as the machine-gun evocation from Metallica’s “One.”

Yes, it’s awesome… Yes, awesome and deep… Deep like most people would never understand, you’re absolutely right. Please, stop crying.

Anyway, Book Four’s title is Spy for a Greedy Villain!

RIM-JOB

Wait. That’s… That’s supposed to be rim-shot. You meant rim-shot, right? You see, that’s only supposed to come after a joke and…

Well, that’s a fair point, sir. Perhaps I am a joke.

Wait. How did you even get a drum to make that sound? It doesn’t seem like a percussion instrument should be able to make a slurping-

Oh… Oh… No, you don’t have to show it. I’m sure you’re instructional video is wonderful. Maybe you can share it after karaoke? Okay? Honestly, I’m almost done here.

Look for Spy for a Greedy Villain (TICKLE-SLURP) to make an appearance on virtual store shelves this fall! You won’t want to miss what Grant Scotland gets up to next! And stay tuned to this blog! More delicious details and well-aged appetizers to come!

 

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Okay, we’re done. Seriously, though… Sir? You still awake? Send me the link to that video. That shit is cray-cray.

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Moving on… as we sometimes do.

That’s something my high school Algebra teacher used to say during class. He was a bit of an odd duck, but a great guy and probably a decent math teacher. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met a mathematical formula I wasn’t allergic to in some way. But he tried his best to help me out and that was enough to earn me a weak “C” and let me get on with life and never have to do another scrap of math homework ever again, so I guess that says something good about his skills.

 

Yeah, I got a solution for X. I got it right here.

Yeah, I got your solution for “X” – RIGHT HERE!

 

But “Moving on… as we sometimes do” was a little phrase he’d use whenever he seemed to sense that he needed to move on to the next point he was trying to make instead of letting himself get bogged down. That’s more or less where I’m at with my writing now. I’ve been holding off on any further major revision work on book four while I go back and tear apart and reconstruct the “metaplot” – that’s the collection of continuing plot elements that bridge all the books. Sometime after book two came out and while I was writing book three, I had decided I wanted Grant Scotland’s adventures to revolve more or less around a major multi-volume story arc. The biggest reason for this was that I felt I couldn’t mimic the exploits of Robert Parker’s Spenser or Ian Fleming’s James Bond over an extended series in a fantasy world. Without an environment set in our modern world, I think reading about Grant solving crimes and engaging in clandestine operations would get old and silly rather quickly. I think (but I don’t know for a fact) that this is why Glen Cook stopped writing the Garrett, P.I. books. Well, his name is still on the new books, but it’s pretty obvious that ghost writers have taken over the series for the last few installments.

A fantasy world is hard enough to create out of whole cloth. To do so and then leave 90% of the cloth away from the reader’s eyes seems insane. My original idea was to have major plots typical of fantasy books unfold around Grant and have him only be tangentially involved. This would insure Grant could continue to have adventures without end and I would not have to stipulate a series finale. But in plotting it out I realized it was too much work for too little reward. Grant needs to be much closer to the epicenter of these events or the readers are going to feel like I don’t care about what’s going on, so why should they? On the other hand, Philip Marlowe can avoid getting involved in World War Two and Spenser can get away with barely acknowledging 9/11 happened, and these characters were and are as popular and readable as ever. So, why can’t Grant just float along and live his Grant life and just have a series of adventures with little to no connection between them?

 

Grant's idea for the T-Shirt design as well as his most often recommended solution to any and all of my plot problems.

Grant’s idea for the T-Shirt design as well as his most often recommended solution to any and all of my plot problems.

 

The answer I settled on is that I don’t think most fantasy readers have the patience for that. Or, more accurately, they want more from a fantasy world than just set-dressing. Secondly, the world of Spenser and Marlowe is changing and everyone who read those books knew it. Chandler and Parker didn’t have to mention it – it was already obvious to all of their readers. Unfortunately, I have no such luxury. If something changes in Grant’s world, I have to let the reader know about it or else the environment seems stagnant and dull. The real world changes, so mine should too. However, the reader is never going to see it change unless Grant is more actively involved.

So, for a while there I was not “moving on” but rather sticking in place and rebuilding the scaffolding around Grant’s adventures. However, that work is completed and I now have a new outline for world events that solves a few critical questions I had to answer for book four. I can now return to revising it with confidence.

That’s all for now. Time to get back to work.

 

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End of post! Thanks again for your continued patronage.

Go write something for someone and give someone some money, too!

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A Love Letter to Gaming

Been a little while since I last posted. I could make excuses about being too busy or concentrating on AoGS4 revisions, but I honestly just needed to take a little break from writing. I had been going strong for the better part of three years and was beginning to show the signs of burnout. At least I think they were burnout signs. Although writing is never easy, it was becoming more and more like a chore and less like a labor of love. On top of that, I was beating up on myself for not doing it faster or better. In addition, the task list on the self-publishing/marketing side just kept growing. There it sat in front of me, like a pile of dirty laundry, passive-aggressively waiting for attention and assaulting me with its guilt vapors.

 

"Oh, did you need clean socks today? Well, maybe you should have thought about that yesterday, hmmm?"

“Oh, did you need clean socks today? Well, maybe you should have thought about that yesterday, hmmm?”

 

So, I took a deep breath and just decided to let it all go and live for a little bit. I didn’t take any trips or anything like that. No aimless road voyage to a random appointment with destiny. No excursion to the top of a lonely mountain to meet a wizened mystic. No trek through the wilderness in search of peace and meaning. I decided I’d just stop trying so hard. I was still writing and revising and researching, but not as much as I had been and without pressuring myself.

Usually when I need to relax and escape from my life and recharge my batteries, I turn to computer games. Oddly enough, that didn’t happen this time.

Games have always been a part of my life. It’s hard to say exactly why they’ve been so important to me, but the easiest answer to reach for is that they engage both my strategic and creative thinking capability like no other form of stimulation I’ve found. Reading is wonderful. Drugs are nice. Booze is great.  Sex is awesome. Smoking is sublime (which is the title of a book about quitting smoking that I never read and now that I’m almost three years quit I’m not likely to – but dat title, tho!).

 

It's especially sublime when you can make it look like this, but it's easier to quit when you realize you can't.

It’s especially sublime when you can make it look like this, but it’s easier to quit when you realize you can’t.

 

But games have always been a kind of entertainment that pressed all the right buttons. In any game I’ve ever played I’ve felt a sense of familiarity. No matter if it was the first time I played, whenever I began to play I always felt I was on good ground. A safe place. Old territory where I instinctively felt I had an edge, a confidence I never truly possessed in any other aspect of life.

Board, tabletop, card, role-playing, computer – it never really mattered the specific type of game – I always felt I was at my best at play. It was a venue where conversation was never forced – there was always the game to talk about. It was a created space where creativity was encouraged because the game needs its players to play along. It was a narrative invoked by its audience and its authors and the game’s story could only unfold if it was played in good company.

For many years I played games to satisfy a need for a form of socialization and creativity I could not find anywhere else. In some ways, I still do. But recently I’ve found that sense of comfortable space is no longer as comfortable as it used to be. A game, after all, is only a game. It is temporary. The experience is simulated and takes place within a semi-defined constructed reality. This doesn’t lessen its importance as a created and creative space. I’ve just found that I’ve become dissatisfied with the finite nature of a game.

Now it sounds like I’m about to endorse massively multiplayer games, which have no definite end or winner, but that’s not the case. I have nothing against those games and have played my fair share. No, I haven’t arrived at some epiphany that condemns games because of their ephemeral nature. Rather, I have arrived at a personal realization (a more self-referential sort of epiphany, I guess) that the things I’ve most prized about playing games have been replaced by writing.

When I stopped, I sort of missed it. It wasn’t the physical act of writing so much (certainly not!) as the mental act of creating and controlling characters, plots and worlds. When I tried to play games, I wanted to be constructing the narrative. I found I was spending creative energy fighting the game’s rules and limitations to construct a narrative more to my liking.

That’s when I realized I no longer needed games as an escape. My escape has become not so much the act of writing, but in being the writer. That’s a little unclear. Let me try again. I imagine it’s because I’ve exercised my writing muscles diligently enough that they now have a heavy influence on my mind whenever my creative side is engaged, but I’m less interested now in being told a story than in telling it myself. Maybe I’ve just grown more comfortable with exercising some sort of control over my own world instead of one imagined in a game space. In one way, it’s sort of sad. I fondly remember losing hours and days in gleeful exploration of the beautifully constructed and detailed universes of Baldur’s Gate, Fallout or Mass Effect. Or spending time thinking deeply about every aspect of strategy in games like Total War, Hearts of Iron or Civilization.

 

civ5screen

“Oh, so conquering the world isn’t enough for you now? It’s like I don’t even know who you are anymore! I… I think I need to start seeing other players…”

 

In another way, it’s incredibly liberating. I feel confident now that the experience of game playing will be less satisfying than the experience of pure creativity. I had been using game playing as a reward for writing 1,000 words or revising two chapters or researching news on self-publishing and setting up promotions. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I can be just as fulfilled as I used to be by not forcing myself to stop writing when some arbitrary word limit is reached so I can capture some escapism in gaming that is no longer there. And on days when the writing is too hard, I can let myself off the hook and imagine what I want to have happen instead of what should happen. It may not help with reaching immediate goals and accomplishing tasks, but it feels more honest.

I’m at about the half-way point in the journey I had planned for myself when I started writing seriously. My goal was to get six Grant Scotland books out in five years. The series may never be as successful as I had initially hoped, but six books was my estimation of what it would take to give it the best shot I could. Not to say it will end at six books, just that I won’t let it go until then. Anyway, I’m at year three and about to get book four finished, but I think I just realized that the road is long and I’ve been trying to move along it too fast. It won’t help to overheat my engine by forcing it to run hot. So, I guess a few weeks ago I let myself coast for a bit. And when I did that, I found that instead of returning to my old ways of spending free time, the writer inside me came out. Maybe he’s not fully ready to sit in the driver’s seat, but he’s in the passenger seat, keeping me awake by telling me stories and jokes and helping with directions.

It’s going to be a long trip. Maybe longer than I had planned, but that’s okay. This writer guy seems like a good companion. I just hope he brought some snacks.

 

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That’s all for this post! I’m feeling refreshed and happy you took some time to let me tell you about it.

Know what this author-delivery man likes? Reviews and tips, that’s what!

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