One WIP? Or many?

One of the interesting things about authors is how we’re all different. Some of us are plotters, some pantsers, and a large percentage are in between. Some write every day. Some don’t. Some have rituals or a special place to write, while others can write anywhere, anywhen.

And some of us can only work on one project at a time.

I’ve never been one of those writers. I’ve always been able to have three or four WIPs going, save when I was under a real deadline crush. In fact, for me that makes it easier.  If I’m having trouble working on WIP1, then I open WIP2 and tinker with that for a while. A lot of the time, that shakes loose whatever was bothering me about WIP1.

Recently I’ve had 3 WIPs going: After the War, The Horn, and The Sins of the Fathers. 

(I actually have opened a few other files in this time, mostly on weekends, just for fun. Sometimes we need to do ‘fun’ writing just to remind ourselves why we do this.)

But my point is that this strange way of working is what works for me.

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After the War is due to be out later this summer, which means I need to get that last section finished, and then get it out to my editor. I’ve even got a cover commissioned for it, due to me about June 15th.  Now, this is a Portugal story involving Serafina Palmeira and Alejandro Ferreira.point_of_no_return3_by_faestock

(This is the -likely- picture we’ll be using–via Faestock on DeviantArt–for the cover…the rights belong to that artist.)

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But it’s recently been The Horn and The Sins of the Fathers that have taken up most of my time.

The Sins of the Fathers (name may change) is the sequel to Dreaming Death, starting only a month later than the end of that novel. Now, this was primarily concerned with the problems caused by Shironne’s father, Mikael’s father, and to a lesser extent, Deborah’s. Hence the name.

However, the edits on the first book killed off Shironne’s father before the first book happened. He was supposed to die slowly and painfully in the first half of Book 2. Removing him also removed a lot of the issues with Mikael’s father, so…I’m having to rewrite Book 2.  This happens sometimes.

On balance, I’m okay with the changes, but it means that as I was rewriting the sequel, the murder in it seemed to work less and less, making the plot weaker and weaker. Unfortunately, how to fix that problem has eluded me for for quite a while. I’ve been spinning my wheels writing it because it just seemed…wrong.

But working on The Horn provided an answer in a very different way.

I’ve been working on that, a series of novellas set elsewhere in Larossa shortly before the events of Dreaming Death (early summer-fall).  The events of the two story lines eventually tie together.So it was of direct benefit to me to have parts of The Horn solid in my head and written down.

But while I was hunting and pecking through my old files for a spare bit of text (I really need to get in there and rename all those old files because their current names are gibberish) I ran across an old Mikael/Shironne story about a murder that…

Well, I’d never finished that 2005 story. I probably got busy with something else and never got back to it. But suddenly I had in my hands the answer to my problem with TSotF.  I could swap out the short story’s murder for the problematic one in the book. A bunch of names had changed, but  the short story was set right after the book, so there wasn’t much time or age difference.

And suddenly I knew how to fix the broken part of TSotF. I am in the process of stripping out the old murder and working in the new. I’m re-outlining the book, as much as I do outlining. And everything is moving again.

Such a relief.

The point to all of that being: For me, working on more than one project at a time is helpful.  Not true for everyone, but for me, it pays.

 

Does that work for you? Or are you a ‘one project at a time’ writer?

 

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Skeptical horoscopes

I love reading my horoscope. I do it most days right after I check my email and the weather forecast (but before facebook.) This is mostly because I have them ordered that way on my bookmark toolbar. I’m orderly. I like that.

Sadly, they’re so often wrong that it’s ridiculous to put any faith in them.

Take today’s:

Horoscope

March 28

Money earned through involvement in the arts, perhaps those combining creativity with computer technology, could come your way, Libra. Financially, you should be doing fairly well, so you might channel what you receive right back into this business. This is an excellent time to do this, as all signs indicate that this sort of activity could be very profitable over the next few years. Go for the gold, and enjoy yourself.

So what happens if the money promised doesn’t show up by midnight? Will the world explode? I suspect not. And evidently I would be plowing it right back into my writing. (I would do this regardless of what a horoscope says.) Meh.

What I find most interesting about horoscopes is the language. It’s very conditional. Could, should, might, indicate, could. Otherwise, there are a few axioms thrown in to fill it out, and a few pieces of general advice. Reinvest. Sure, no problem.

I can choose to take this seriously, but my horoscope is SO often wrong that I can’t.  I’m not expecting money by the end of the day. I don’t win lotteries, either. I did win 10 dollars in Vegas once, on my first slot machine (I’d put in 5 dollars). I quit playing then because I figured I would never be ahead again.

Just like the lottery, it would be nice to believe, but statistics just don’t bear it out.

Add to that the fact that I was born a month early (probably) by C-section. Therefore, I should actually be a Scorpio (a sign known for being skeptical). In fact, you can read this magazine article, which basically turns out to say, more or less, how I feel about the whole thing.

One of my horoscopes today also said “The truth is you do have many loose ends to tie up. It’s hard to concentrate on the “big picture” when you’re wearing your last pair of clean underwear.”

(Yes, I read more than one. It’s fun. I also read my fortune cookies, and the inside wrappers of Dove chocolates. I like words)dove-book

 

(That’s a keeper!)

So I don’t believe what the horoscopes tell me, but I’d like to believe.  I’d like to believe that there’s money coming my way today. I’d like to believe that I’ve got loose ends, but  I did my laundry yesterday, so I know that last pair of clean underwear concern mentioned above isn’t true. I suppose I just have way more Scully in my system than Mulder…

 

Things an Author Doesn’t Actually Control

It’s interesting (and sometimes infuriating) to see some of the things that fans blame on authors. Authors who are traditionally published often have little control over their published properties. That’s simply part of the way that the business runs.

But authors still take heat for some of these things. Recently an author had a book released, and for some reason, Amazon didn’t release the ebook on time.

And fans sent hate mail to the author.

Can you really call those fans?

So I’m going to put down here a list of Things that Traditionally Published Authors Generally Don’t Control.*

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The Release Date

Yes, we don’t have much say over when our next book is coming out. Our publisher sets up a scheduled date and everyone races toward getting things done on time, but if we miss a crucial part in the publication process (say, for example, edits just take too darn long or surgery kept the author from getting a manuscript turned in on time) then the book might get bumped. Not to the next month, but to the next open slot in the publisher’s schedule….which might be 18 months away.

(That’s a simplification, but essentially, moving the publication date is difficult.)

((An author’s writing speed is another factor, although that’s not usually controlled by the publisher. Some authors can put out 4 books per year. Others put out one book every 7 years. It’s art, people, and not all artists move at the same pace. Be patient, please.))

 

Releasing ON the Release Date

This happens all the time. Books don’t get put out on their release date. Snags happen in Amazon’s or B&Ns ebook delivery, and the ebook doesn’t appear in the device on time.

This is INCREDIBLY frustrating to authors, too.

An author I know had a book come out in early February, and the nearby B&N still doesn’t have it on the shelf. They have 6 on order. I’ve asked. Those six are supposedly sitting in the warehouse, but for some reason, they’re simply not being shipped to the physical store. The customer service people don’t know why. I’ve been in to ask about it twice, and they’re supposed to call me when it comes in, but not having the books there two months later doesn’t help an author with first week/month sales.

Sadly, there’s little the author can do about it. We can email Amazon. We can contact our agent or our editor, who can contact someone else, but sometimes things just don’t get done.

Please don’t be angry at the author. I guarantee they want that book on the shelf, in the mail, or on your device.

 

The Price

If we’re talking about a traditionally published book, then no, the author has almost no say over the price. Currently, my older trade paperbacks are hovering near $15. I would LOVE to see them at $9.99. But it’s not going to happen.

I would love to have my ebooks go on sale. It’s not going to happen. I can ask, my agent can ask, but we don’t make that decision. Amazon points out on its page that these are the publisher’s prices, publishers have negotiated with Amazon, and the rest of us are stuck with the results.

So why not just give everything away for free?

Seriously? This is our job, and we should be paid for our work. Yes, we’ll post an occasional free thing. Yes, we like making things available to new readers. But we need to earn money, too. We have to pay our rent, and for genre fiction, at least, the best way to do that is via a traditional publisher right now.

 

Availability

This is related to all of the above. See where I  talked about the book that’s still not on shelves after almost 2 months? It happens a lot when a book comes out.

It also happens when a book is older. We cannot force Amazon to carry a book in stock. We can’t force B&N to carry all the books in our series. And we certainly don’t control used book sales.

(Martha Wells once told me an angry fan suggested that she was making The Element of Fire hard to find  so that she could drive up the price of the used books.  This is a ridiculous claim, first because an author doesn’t control the number of used books floating around and secondly because the author doesn’t get a penny from the sale of a used book. Ugh!–This was years ago, of course, before ebooks made out of print books easier to find.)

But there’s also a problem with that book that’s out of print. Being out of print doesn’t mean that the author can just put a copy up in their website. Since we’re talking about traditional publishing here, the author has a contract with the publisher for each book, and that contract determines who has the right to put the book out (in any form). Because publishers invested money in those books, they like to hold on to the right to reprint a book for….well, a long time. It varies.

But it often takes the author years to get the right to publish their book back. Sometimes it never happens (if it’s a particularly draconian contract–this is why we need agents).

And once the author gets those rights back, it may not be worth their while financially (or in stress) to try to self-publish a novel. Life may interfere and make a book unavailable.

 

Continuing/Finishing a Series

Yeah….this is problematic. If a publisher bails on a series, the author’s caught in a conundrum. We have limited options at that point.

A) We can convince another publisher to purchase the remaining parts of the series. This is MUCH harder than it sounds, because any publisher will know that they can’t control the books that are already published by another publisher.  (It would stink if they published books 4-7, but no one could get their hands on books 1-3 because the original publisher decided to let them go out of print.)

B) We can self-publish the remaining books. The downside here is that we’re never guaranteed that we’ll make a profit on this. The novella I published back in October is still not quite in the black. After a couple of tries at that, selfpublishing becomes a daunting prospect fraught with snowballing expenses and vast amounts of time sucked in. Not everyone wants to chase that rabbit.

Authors are in a Catch 22 situation here: people get upset if they never publish the next book, and yet the author may never see a payoff equal to the amount of money and time they put into it. (Essentially the publisher decided that readers weren’t willing to pay enough to read the author’s word to make it worth their while to publish more…and sometimes that’s proven out by the lack of response to a self-published book.)

 

What Can an Author Do?

These are just some of the situations where an author has limited control, but basically, all an author can do is ask people to buy their books.  Even if those books arrive a day late. Or are hard to find. Or are slow coming out.

We can ask people to buy, to review, to recommend.

 

What Can a Reader Do?

A reader can play the other end of the line. Buy the book, leave a review, recommend it to a friend. You can ask your bookstore to carry a book. You can suggest it to the library where you borrow books. You can suggest it for your reading group.

But please don’t write an angry email/blog post/review because of a factor that the author can’t control. Don’t write and tells us we suck because your kindle book cost more than $7.99.

That’s the sort of thing that makes writers want to quit publishing.

Publishing is hard. Be nice to your authors.

 

 

*Here are some other, excellent posts on the same subject:

Cherie Priest

Nicole Peeler (especially in regards to piracy)

Elizabeth Eulberg

Jeff Cohen

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Romantic Times (the convention)

Next week I’ll be attending my first Romance Convention.  Now, I’m experienced with Genre conventions, but I think that RT is a totally different kind of con…

So I’m taking advantage of the dogs being away today to pick out what I’m wearing.  Among other things, RT is a lot longer than a genre con, so it will need more clothing.  Added to that, from the many photos I’ve seen of authors at Romance conventions, jeans and t-shirts won’t cut it.

I have, therefore, compiled all my ‘fancy’ clothes. I eliminated a few because May in DFW isn’t winter.  So I have to be able to pull off a layer.  In addition, I don’t want my feet to explode, so I have to consider what sort of shoes I’ll wear with everything. (I”m hoping sandals with just about everything.)

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I’m helping host a party while there, so that’s where I’ll wear the nice black skirt.  I am not, however, going to dress up for the steampunk party. Nope.

I will do my best to blog about this experience….after all, it is my first one!!!

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Turkey time….probably not in the way you think.

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Our neighbor has purchased turkeys again. I’m afraid he thinks they should be free range, so they’ve joined his guinea fowl in wandering our neighborhood, settling on our roof, and generally driving our dogs nuts.

To get a look at them–because they could evidently hear the turkeys while we were gone to yoga–the dogs broke the blinds in the front dining room. ::sighs::

Now, we love our dogs, and we don’t think there’s any rule preventing our neighbor from using our neighborhood as a giant turkey run*, but the broken blinds are a bit of a pain.

(We’ve decided that as long as we have our dogs, there’s no point in fixing the blinds. But we’ll have to pay eventually).

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*If the turkey-owner lived in the neighborhood, we could prevent him as part of the HOA, but since he lives on an estate -next to- our neighborhood, we have no power over him.

Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List: Fantasy Author Arianne “Tex” Thompson

You know, lately it feels like I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over again:  “Tex, that’s disgusting!

No, wait, the other thing:

Tex, where did you get such a kickass cover?”

And if you’re like me (a writer with an eye on the traditional publishing path), one of the things you hear over and over again is that you will get exactly zero say in your cover.  That’s decided by the publisher’s art and marketing departments, and it really is a visual science: how to communicate – in the space of a single image! – what kind of book this is, and entice the right readers to pick it up.

Needless to say, I was floored when my Benevolent Editorial Overlord emailed me to say “so what do you want on the cover?”

And then “all right, what do you think about this?”

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And then “sure, we can make those changes – how do you like this one?”

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And after a few more drafts, we ended up with this:

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Is that not awesome?  Is that not just excruciatingly rad?  Of course it is! So I did what any writer would: printed it off, tucked it under my pillow, and slept with it until it was yellow and wrinkly.  Like you do.

Then one day, I emailed Solaris to ask for a higher-res version I could use for printing postcards.  “Sure!” the Master Art-Conjurer said, and sent me a couple of samples:

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Uh…thanks bunches!” I replied.  “But what about that original version?”

Oh,” he replied.  “Well, that’s not actually your cover, you see…”

Wait, what?

“What had happened was, we needed to get some title art on there in a big hurry, because we had to have something to put in the summer catalogue, so we ganked some title art from another book to use as a stop-gap.  We’ll re-do your title art later, before the book goes to print.”

Here for the record is Exhibit D.  Devilishly handsome, isn’t it?

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And the denouement is that the Master Art-Conjurer did in fact re-do the title art, which is how we ended up with this gloriously spectacular finished product here.  (Ain’t she a beaut!)

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So at the end of the day, what I really want to emphasize is this: with both of these cover-related vignettes (being given a seat at the decision-making table in the beginning, and the unexpected do-over at the end), what I’ve really learned over the past year is that I am *definitely* flying with the Rebel Alliance, here.  And every now and again the hyperdrive doesn’t work and things don’t happen the way that popular wisdom said they would – but more often than not, that is actually a huge, huge plus, and I could not be more happy or more fortunate.

By the way, once you pop your eyeballs back into your skull, go treat yourself to some of the other amazing artworks by Tomasz Jedruszek (codename: Morano).  He is a digital wizard!


TexThompson

Tex Thompson is a “rural fantasy” author and editor for the DFW Writers Conference. Look for ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, the first book in her epic fantasy Western series, on July 29th – and find her in the meantime at http://www.thetexfiles.com and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

 
One Night in Sixes available for pre-order here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s 

Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List: Author Steve Bein

This is a story of how not to write a trilogy.

 

It is a cautionary tale with a happy ending: my master plan to get a third book contract failed, but I sold the third book anyway.

 

When Penguin picked up my first novel, Daughter of the Sword, they were interested enough to ask for a second book in the series.  I said of course I can write a second book, though at the time I knew no such thing.  I only knew that I’d been pitching this book for seven or eight years, and after all those years of rejection, when they offered me a second book deal I was damn well going to take it.

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So I had to write a proposal for a second book.  This turned out to be much easier than expected.  Daughter spans 700 years of Japanese history, so there’s lots of space to work with.  Plus, I love these characters.  Mariko is a 21st century cop, and it’s impossible to run out of cop stories.  Daigoro is a young 16th century samurai, and as I told my agent in our very first conversation, I can write twenty or thirty books about him.  He’s my Jack Aubrey.

 

So far, so good.  But then I got ahead of myself.

 

I had a two-book deal on the table.  The best way to lock down my third contract, I figured, was to construct a trilogy.  I’d leave some important ends untied in book two, so that Penguin would have to buy book three to see how the story ended.  Leaving readers with a cliffhanger ending is just good technique, right?

 

Maybe so, but publishers aren’t readers.  It wasn’t until after I’d already sold Daughter of the Sword and its sequel, Year of the Demon, that I learned editors don’t necessarily lose sleep over dropping an author right in the middle of a series.  They do it all the time.  No matter how gripping your cliffhanger ending may be, they don’t have to care about what happens next; what they really care about—what they actually get paid to care about—is strong writing leading to strong sales.  So the only thing that would get me a third book contract was a damn good first book and a damn good second book.

yearofdemoncover

 

As promised, there’s a happy ending.  I got my third book contract, not because I was oh-so-clever and left a few ends untied, but because readers really liked Daughter of the Sword and Year of the Demon.  My novels aren’t on the bestseller list (yet, I like to tell myself) but their reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

 

So that’s how to write your trilogy: write two good books in a row, then promise a third.

 

My master plan earned me one particularly well-deserved review.  So far my work has been well received at Publishers Weekly.  They gave Daughter a starred review, and gave Demon a hearty thumbs up too, but the Demon review closed with this line: “Despite all the action, this middle volume feels incomplete, but all three stories promise to wrap up in gripping style.”

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I had that one coming.  Thanks a lot, master plan.  On the positive side, I just turned in Disciple of the Wind, due out in April 2015.  This one leaves no loose ends left untied.

 

 

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steve-bein-bwSteve Bein (pronounced “Bine”) is a philosopher, photographer, traveler, translator, climber, diver, and award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’sInterzoneWriters of the Future, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, was met with critical acclaim.

His webpage can be found at: http://www.philosofiction.com/

Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philosofiction

 

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