Tag Archives: trilogy

Yo ho ho, it’s a trilogy.

No real interruptions today. I made sure to follow my routine, and wound up making changes to existing material. I discovered that I’d gone over Mule and Yoshiko’s ending twice. Both were good material, but one seemed to fall in a better location. It’s odd for me to make a mistake like this, but I had to delete one section.

I also had to go back and add in a bit about Mal, the witch doctor. It wasn’t much, but he has fans and they will want to know how he wound up. He’s doing things on his terms, and I kind of like it that way.

I don’t mind telling you that I teared up at a few points. I know my characters are outrageous, but I designed them that way. Giving them a suitable ending was hard, but they all make sense. Readers will be left with a vision of the future for not only the characters, but the government in general.

Not everyone lived through this adventure. When there is a war, 100% survival seems unrealistic. That part was written months ago, but I worry about how it will be received.

Another concern is that a big part of this final adventure happens on land. I saw it as facing James’s weaknesses. He has to work where he is least comfortable to pull this off.

This yarn came in about 10,000 words shorter than the others. I am not worried about that. As the end of a trilogy, there is a bigger denouement, but I don’t want to drag it out either. In a classical sense, this is the one where you party with Ewoks.

The trilogy will end with plenty of cannonades, martial arts, a few con games, a haunted knife, and yes there are root monsters. I’m going to leave it in the fermenter for a month before I look at it again.

I don’t want to drop any spoilers, at least until I’m closer to publication. I’ve been sitting on the cover art for months, and thought perhaps you’d enjoy a sneak peek. It’s kind of a spoiler itself, but it’s too good not to share.

In other news, I spent last night creating a set of throwing bones that will make an appearance in the next Hat story. I may turn my attention to that storyboard, or I may download a book and read. Right now, I’m just letting it all soak in and will decide later.

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Of daughters and pirates

I intended to work on my book today, but didn’t intend to hit it hard. I allowed myself to wake up whenever Otto decided he was hungry. It was still 6:30, but it’s two hours later than my alarm goes off.

I took my time. Read some blogs, dealt with email, and enjoyed my coffee. Even managed to pay the bills.

I started by backing up two chapters and made a few more adjustments than I usually do. I’m on the downhill slide here, and the denouement is writing itself pretty well. Since this is a trilogy, I have a lot of characters to cover.

I no sooner started than the phone rang. My daughter wanted to chat. Her premise was her sore feet. The backstory is that she rolled her ankle a couple of times in the last few years. She works on her feet and they get sore.

When she was here a few weeks ago, I showed her my rolley thing that you put on the ground and roll around with your foot. It’s like a short rolling pin, but is lathe turned so it has grooves. After about five minutes her feet felt great. She called to tell me she ordered one from Amazon.

“Okay. Good job. Thanks for calling…”

Nope.

Ninety minutes later we were still on the phone. Budgets, shoes, work, Covid, etc. Mostly nothing special, but it was her. I can’t cut her off, and actually enjoy chatting with her.

Once we finally disconnected it was lunchtime. I decided to make myself a hoagie sandwich and used the stout beer mustard Old What’s Her Face bought me. It was really good.

Then I started writing, but knew I wasn’t going to finish. I brought things up to the point of Serang’s denouement, and on the cusp of the root monsters. I just never made it that far.

I have all weekend and am certain to finish the draft. I’m finding it kind of sad to bring this full circle. I’ve sailed a few seas with these characters, but it’s time to give them their happy endings. If my daughter claimed some of that time it’s fine by me.

My sincerest hope is that everyone’s ending is suitable for my readers. What I have in mind is realistic, and feels like it makes sense for the various characters.

I’ll get another chance tomorrow, and that will be fine by me.

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Serang has arrived

I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to write this weekend, but accomplished something I’ve been working toward for a long time.

This final Lanternfish book is going to require a big denouement. I have a lot of characters to account for, and a lot to do once the war ends. The story stands at 74,000 words right now.

These books have all been over 100K. Since they are epic fantasy, that’s an acceptable amount. In this story, they’ve been on different continents, then different parts of the same continent. James and his group have been split into smaller groups based upon the winds of war.

Today, James and his advisors are with the Prelonian army on the outskirts of Airstony. This is the Prelonian capital, but it’s held by the Hollish. It’s been a brutal road getting here, and he’s lost track of his son along the way. Many of his long term crew are deployed elsewhere.

Serang’s path hasn’t been much easier, but she’s marched from victory to victory. So far they haven’t seen each other since the middle of the last book.

The Prelonians are outmatched by the Hollish in this battle. Their supply lines are precarious overland routes, while the Hollish can be supplied by sea.

I’m going to stop here for the weekend. Serang is here, and she’s bringing the secret to everything with her. I want a few commutes to dwell on my next words. The war is about to wind down, and the reconstruction is about to begin.

My co-main characters will occupy the same pages for the first time this year. I’m kind of excited about it.

Lisa Burton, Serang
Lisa Burton, Serang

Serang has arrived.

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Happy with my output

Sundays are usually wasted days for me. As an example, I always call my parents on Sundays. We chat for about an hour, and I won’t sacrifice this time for anything.

Old What’s Her Face is also off today, so that means distractions and noise. She’s had the Harry Potter marathon on since last night and it started again first thing this morning. As much as I love these films, I’ve seen them hundreds of times and wanted something else.

I decided to go into another room and pick at my WIP. I also tried an experiment with dubious results. I’ll experiment a bit more, then it could lead to a post for Story Empire one day. It involves ambient noise while I write.

It started off with me monkeying with Alexa one day. There wasn’t a lot of choice there, but Staci Troilo set me up with an amazing site. I tried it today, but the noise goes off as soon as my phone darkens. This led me to YouTube, and that was more functional. The trick is to pick something and not get caught up surfing for several hours.

I settled upon two different “songs” for lack of a better term. One involved a peaceful meadow, the other was designed for inside a tomb.

The meadow is where I started writing, and I like what I came up with. Serang found the ruined city as planned in my storyboard. She uncovered the secrets I plotted out, but how she went about it was magical.

She’s discovered the lost temple of the Cartomancers. The one that was burned in the history of a previous war. This gives me a great tie back to the original Lanternfish book, and it works because we’re back on the original continent.

It turns out there is still one hidden storeroom that was not destroyed in the first war. Serang uncovered this by playing her flute. She noticed that a semi-circle of standing stones were placed in exactly the same configuration as the holes on her flute.

Musical stones are a real thing, so mine work as a kind of lithophone when someone grinds on them. This lithophone required multiple people, but it opened a hidden door to a small treasure trove of the intellectual variety.

It gives me a great tie back to Mule, his parents, and even the goblins who used to live in these lands. I’ll be circling back to this in the denouement phase of the story.

I also spent extra time to detail this area. This is a special place and so I added some fantasy creatures and details to make that apparent. I created linen birds, a ribbon bird, and even a clown spider. The spider also took Serang back to her youth when orchid mantises were fascinating to young monks. (Orchid mantises are also real.)

It only came to 2500 words, but I really like them. I need to go over it several times, but at least they exist. Wreck of the Lanternfish is about 32,000 words right now. I mention this, because it needs a big denouement. Both James and Serang have a couple of gigantic things to accomplish and I’m getting closer to those. My married cons have one big one to pull off, but it isn’t on par with the others. (Important to the story, though.)

I should probably wrap the war up somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 words. That will give me plenty of room to change the world and give everyone’s favorites a conclusion of some kind.

I’m sorely tempted to go back in my cave and write more, but I’m off tomorrow. I’ll start my day by going over what I just produced. There is an opportunity to drag out the discovery and that could be helpful. Best to look with fresh eyes.

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Business Plan 2021

It looks like that time again. I try to prepare a business plan for my writing career every January. These have been some of my most popular posts over the years, but that isn’t why I write them. I feel like everything is better with a little planning.

I’m sure this is no surprise, since I’ve posted both here and at Story Empire about my storyboarding method for plotting out my stories.

Mostly, I write these to keep myself honest. I refer back to them throughout the year to see how I’m doing. Let’s dive into it.

A few years ago, I decided my best promotional move was to write my next book. I’ve gotten discouraged with advertising that fails to produce, social media that sucks time, but doesn’t seem to do much else, so I write.

Honestly, it seems to be working. I can’t explain it exactly, but if someone were to pull up my Amazon page, it appears that I’m somewhat seasoned and in it for the long haul. Perhaps people are more willing to take a chance on me more than someone who only has one book. No idea, but it makes some sense.

It’s not that readers pick up everything I write. If someone likes paranormal tales, I have a few. Same thing for science fiction and fantasy. Some are like me and read all those genres, but I can appeal to the specialists now, too.

For the last two years, I’ve published three books per year. It’s kind of a grueling pace, but it was worth it.

This year, my goal is two publications. I want to complete my Lanternfish trilogy and get it out the door. I’ve already started on the final volume, but it’s been slow going. Too many holidays and not enough quality time.

The other book I’m working on is a continuation of The Hat series. Since this is an ongoing series, I don’t feel as much pressure as I do with Lanternfish. I have a couple of storyboards for volumes beyond the one I’m writing, and a few solid ideas with notes started.

Last year, a couple of things changed for me, and forced me to make a decision. My cover art and Lisa Burton promotional pieces took much longer than I was used to. I kind of overwhelmed my critique group, too. My choices were to start another project while I waited to publish the completed ones, or take a break. I took a break.

I know this doesn’t seem like me, but I needed it and I imagine my critique partners appreciated the few months off, too. I didn’t exactly kick back during this time. I spent it getting ready for two extensive blog tours. I make all my promo stops unique, so writing ahead was a good idea.

Timing of publications continues to vex me. I would like to hit one right before school lets out in the Spring, and the other around Halloween sometime. I’m not sure I’ve ever hit the Springtime target before, but have been moderately successful in the Fall.

By publishing two books instead of three, maybe that will simplify a few things. Maybe not, because Grinders in late Winter went off without a hitch.

I intend to use any spare time I have drafting something new. I don’t know what that will be yet, but I could go on the African adventure, maybe the post apocalyptic piece that’s set in the swamp, or something set in outer space. That last one seems to want to be a trilogy again.

The idea of another trilogy kind of drags me down, and excites me at the same time. For one thing, I could do things differently this time. I could hold the entire thing back while I finish it, then go for quicker releases after it’s finished. This would make it my side project for a couple of years.

Lanternfish was only intended to be a stand-alone story. Comments and feedback convinced me to turn it into a trilogy. With one already on Amazon, the others have to come along as they can.

I need to make some decisions on how to promote Wreck of the Lanternfish. I could promote the book, the whole series, or a bit of both. I could go on two different blog tours; one for the book, then months later for the whole trilogy.

I might be able to use some discount days or free days to promote with, too. James is clearly the main character, but Serang has become a co-main character along the way. Her origin story has never been on sale and walks readers into the trilogy. I could do something similar with Voyage of the Lanternfish, or both.

Promotion is like dowsing to me. I’m open to suggestions here, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

Last year, my blogging goal was to post two to three times per week. This came after years of posting four times per week, because Lisa Burton Radio was always on Thursdays. With retirement of Lisa’s show, it should have been easy to meet. I failed completely.

This is the one thing I will blame on Covid. Many of my posts are a slice of life. With all the lockdowns, working from home, and all the rest, there wasn’t much life to share. I’ve been lucky to make a weekend post for the last few months. I don’t know if this will change, so I’m not setting a goal here. I will keep updating Entertaining Stories, and meet my Story Empire assignments. Anything beyond that will have to be an extra.

Then there is social media. During my summer break, I kind of bailed on it. It never really has produced anything for me, and I spent some time changing out my pinned tweets and all the rest. I changed it almost weekly when I promoted the Experimental Notebooks. My blog automatically feeds to most of them, and I still share all of your things when I can. I just stopped actively participating.

Prior to my break, I used to go through my feed and retweet all of your posts, share the bigger things on Facebook, etc. Now it’s mostly posts from your blogs.

Older rules were that we had to be active on social media, because that’s where readers find us. It made perfect sense, but I never really saw it function in real-time. Interest in blogs seems to be slowing down, too, but it’s about all I have left. It also seems to be the only thing that will sell books from time to time, so I’m all-in here.

My goals aren’t as severe this year. Two publications that I already have partial manuscripts for. Keep the blogs up, and dabble in social media. Spend any spare time drafting something new.

Weigh in today. Teach me your promotional tricks. Do you prepare a business plan every year, or is that just me?

They say all posts perform better with a picture, so here you go. Frankie likes to help Mom make the bed, particularly when the bedding is warm from the dryer.

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Welcome Marcia Meara with The Emissary #Series

Welcome Marcia Meara to Entertaining Stories. Marcia is one of my partners over at Story Empire. She’s hosted my book tours, and it’s time to repay the favor. She’s here to tell us about her Emissary Series, specifically book three of the series. Make her feel welcome, and please use those sharing buttons on your way out today.

***

Thanks so much for having me here today, Craig. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be visiting you and sharing a bit about my newest release, The Emissary 3: Love Hurts. This is the final novella in the trilogy, and I hope your friends and followers will enjoy the excerpt I’m going to share. I know this one will make the post a wee bit longer than I’ve kept them on this tour, but as the final stop, I wanted to introduce folks to Azrael in a more personal way. The scene takes place in a hospital room where Jake has just broken one of Azrael’s most important rules. He used his emissarial power to convince an ill-tempered nurse not to throw them out of the room where they’ve been keeping watch over someone of importance to his adopted son, Dodger. He fully expected the archangel to be angry, but he’s still caught off guard when the Boss shows up—unannounced, as usual. Hope you’ll enjoy the interplay between the three main characters in this series. Here goes:

A Sleeping Patient, Two Scared Emissaries,

And a Ginormous, White-Winged Archangel,

Crowded into One Tension-Filled Hospital Room.

JAKE SCRAMBLED TO his feet, but it was Dodger whose urgent whisper addressed the scowling angel.

“Azrael, please don’t be upset! He was only tryin’ to help me.”

The angel’s expression didn’t change. “I am aware of what he was trying to do, young emissary. What I fail to comprehend is why he used his power on the nurse instead of on you.” His fierce gaze swung to Jake. “Did you not even consider that option?”

“Not for a single second. Play mind games with my son? Only if his life were in danger would I ever consider something like that.”

Azrael’s eyes glowed brighter and his frown grew deeper, but Jake plowed ahead. “It wouldn’t have solved the problem, anyway. Maybe Dodger would have calmed down, but we’d still have been forced to leave this young lady alone, and neither of us was prepared to do that.”

For a moment, the angel said nothing, then to Jake’s surprise, he nodded. “Yes. I can see that would not have worked for either of you. But what you did was unacceptable. Such a thing is against every precept of the emissary program. You have been granted powers no human has ever had before, but you must never forget that with them comes great responsibility. You may not nudge people simply because you would like your wishes accommodated. I am sure you see the wisdom of enforcing this rule, do you not?”

Jake’s heart sank. “Enforcing? So I’m to be punished for this infraction.”

Dodger’s anger level skyrocketed at least ten degrees. “Not fair, man! Jake’s a great emissary. He never messes up, and you need to cut him some slack this time.”

Azrael’s eyebrows shot up. “I beg to differ. I do not need to do any such thing. I have a job before me, just as you do, and rule enforcement is part of it. Let us not forget that I am, as you both like to remind me, the Boss. Enforcing the rules is not only my job, it is my sacred responsibility. Are we quite clear on that?”

Jake’s shoulders slumped and even Dodger nodded, finally cowed by the nearly visible emanations of power radiating from the archangel.

“What was that? I am sorry. I do not believe I heard an actual response from either of you.”

“Yes, Azrael,” they said in near unison.

“We understand,” Jake added. “And I’m sorry I upset you. I accept whatever punishment you think suitable, and whatever advice you’d like to add.”

The angel looked back and forth between them a moment longer, then nodded. “That is more like it. I shall commence with your punishment.”

Jake took an involuntary step back, remembering the huge sword the angel had wielded when they first met.

Instead of an instrument useful for all manner of smiting, Azrael reached inside his robe and withdrew a book bound in white leather. He opened the cover, flipping through a few pagesuntil he found what he was looking for.

“Ah-ha. Here we are.” He pulled a long, white quill out of the air, made a notation inside the book, then snapped the covers shut. “Done.”

For a moment, Jake was too surprised to speak. The same was not true of Dodger.

“Wait.” The boy cocked his head to the side. “That’s it?”

“Do not be cavalier young emissary. Each one of you has a book like this, wherein a permanent record, both good and bad, is detailed for all time. This is Jake’s, and I assure you, it is no small matter for him to acquire a black mark beside his name. Henceforth, I would highly recommend you both follow the rules you have been given. The day will come when a tally will be made.”

Though the archangel had drawn himself up to his full and imposing height to deliver this proclamation, his glowy eyes no longer gleamed in righteous indignation. A corner of the angel’s mouth lifted slightly as he slid the white book back inside his robes, and Jake knew he’d gotten off lucky.

Buy Link for TE3

Buy The Emissary 3: Love Hurts HERE

Blurb:

The archangel created his emissaries to help mortals avoid choices that would doom them for eternity. He hadn’t planned on the youngest member of his team falling in love with one.

~~~

Azrael’s emissarial program was growing daily, but it still met with stubborn opposition from many on the Council of Angels. Dodger’s request to be allowed to experience what falling in love was all about didn’t help matters, but Azrael thought the boy was onto something. He agreed emissaries who’d shared a loving relationship during their mortal lives would have a deeper understanding of human emotions and motivations, thus enhancing the skills they needed to do their jobs.

With that in mind, Azrael gave Dodger one chance to search for true love. He then laid down a daunting set of stringent rules and guidelines that could not be broken under any circumstances lest dire happenings occur. But while the angel sincerely hoped Dodger would find a way to make this endeavor work, he feared an avalanche of unintended consequences could be in store for his youngest emissary.

Sometimes even angels hate to be right.

~~~

Will Azrael ever tire of popping up behind Jake just to see his first emissary fall out of his chair in shock? Will sharp-eyed motel owners ever notice a big red and white semi mysteriously appearing and disappearing from their parking lots overnight? And will Dodger be able to track down the mystery girl who caught his eye two weeks earlier to see if she’s really The One?

To find the answers to these and other angelic or emissarial questions, come along on one last adventure with Jake, Dodger, and that ginormous, glowy-eyed archangel, Azrael. They’re waiting for you!

Bio:

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years and four big, spoiled cats.

When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. She enjoys nature. Really, really enjoys it. All of it! Well, almost all of it, anyway. From birds, to furry critters, to her very favorites, snakes. The exception would be spiders, which she truly loathes, convinced that anything with eight hairy legs is surely up to no good. She does not, however, kill spiders anymore, since she knows they have their place in the world. Besides, her husband now handles her Arachnid Catch and Release Program, and she’s good with that.

Spiders aside, the one thing Marcia would like to tell each of her readers is that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. If, at the age of 69, she could write and publish her first book (and thus fulfill 64 years of longing to do that very thing), you can make your own dreams a reality, too. Go for it! What have you got to lose?

Contact & Buy Links

CONTACT MARCIA HERE

marciameara16@gmail.com

The Write Stuff

Pinterest

Twitter: @marciameara

Find Marcia’s Books Here:

MARCIA’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

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The weekend warrior

I work during the week, so I have to get my word count on my days off. I’m blessed to have a flex schedule that provides me with an extra day off each week, but it moves around. Sometimes my word counts seem high when I write about them, but if you spread it over a whole week they aren’t any more extraordinary than anyone else.

Today was a slow start for me. I slept in, spent some time for social media, and wasn’t generally feeling it. I also wanted to enjoy my coffee and Old What’s Her Face is off today. I decided to wait until she took the dogs for her coffee, then play ball with them.

It was about 9:00 before I got started. This is the middle volume of a trilogy, so my ending needs to have a complete disaster, while preserving that glimmer of hope they can deal with in the final volume. Yeah, it’s kind of formulaic and I own that. If it works, it works.

My writing turned out to be about a chapter and a half of solid action, and I slightly “told” small bits of it to keep the burner on high for the whole thing. If you think about a city being invaded by an enemy, you need to skip some of the running and hiding and stay with the action. I also included multiple points of view, because it’s a geographically large event.

Even after all that, I still haven’t finished the story. I need to write what is called a sequel to deal with all the things that happened. Staci Troilo is writing an excellent series about that process over at Story Empire.

The crew is in another new location right now. A bit of world building fits in with the flavor of the story. If I’m good, I’ll have one of those inspirational speeches that can lead us into the final volume. I know what remains to include in the story, and where it winds up, but I’m still trying to get there. I’m relatively certain I’ll finish it before I go back to work on Tuesday.

My short story critiques are all back, so I have to deal with those, too. This story needs some work, but it exists and that’s the hard part. Tweaks and repairs aren’t so difficult, and it is a short story.

I’m pretty happy with this Lanternfish tale, but Sundays are hard to get much done. I have other things I regularly do on Sundays. That might be the best day to deal with my short story. Monday will provide a great opportunity to wrap up HMS Lanternfish.

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Vacation day

This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for us at work. With everything pretty much settled now, I decided to take today off.

I didn’t have any specific goals other than not having to get up and commute. This week began with a return to Daylight Savings Time, included a full moon, and ends with Friday the 13th. None of those are particularly troubling. In fact, I published Viral Blues the last time Friday the 13th rolled around.

The news is depressing with all the viral scares going around. I was looking forward to baseball season, so that’s kind of disappointing. I understand why they’re making all these changes, but I don’t have to like it.

Fortunately for me, there is the writing thing. I need to address some critiques I have back, but I don’t have them all. With that in mind, I decided to add more words. It wasn’t a banner day, but 1600 new words are more than I had when I got up this morning. I kind of like them, but always reassess when my next writing day begins.

The tour for Grinders is ongoing, and I needed to deliver some materials for that. I think it’s time well spent. No sense publishing these things if I don’t try to make people aware of them. This tour hasn’t been any more productive than any of the others, but there is one noticeable difference. I’m enjoying it more. By only having two posts per week, I don’t feel rushed and harried to cover all the comments and such. Comments have been great, too. There seem to be more of them this time.

This could actually be a good thing in the long run. I buy books by earmarking them in my head, then getting to them when I have some time. I don’t always remember all the things I was interested in, and sometimes a reminder will send me running to Amazon. Perhaps, by spreading the posts out, I can have those little reminders online for those who are more like me.

Two years ago, I decided that writing my next book was my best source of promotion. It seems to be working to a degree. My backlist is getting more action than it ever has. It isn’t a lot, but it’s noticeable. More publications means I’m out there more frequently than ever before. Phase two of this idea will be some “specials” when my series books are ready to come out. It’s possible I might weave in a free day for one of the older titles, too. That’s all speculation. My main goal is to get the next Lanternfish book ready to set sail.

Those 1600 word might be all I accomplish this weekend. There could be a few more, but the story has moved to a point where I’m not stressing about it. If I can’t get it finished before Summer, I may just release it in the middle of Summer. I never have great luck with Summer releases, but I’ve been told the middle of a trilogy is a tough sell anyway. They usually don’t move until the series concludes.

I’m open to suggestions on that point. Let me hear from you in the comments. I’d like to learn your release day and promo secrets.

Oh, Public Service Announcement: Hiding in the closet with a copy of Grinders is a great way to spend the weekend and will not expose you to Corona Virus. It’s an E-book, so you can’t substitute it for toilet paper, but you won’t want to after you get into it.

On one of my last posts I tossed a photo of Otto out there to draw interest. Frankie demanded equal time, so here she is on one of the rare times when she pauses in her playing.

Being good, temporarily.

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2020 Business Plan

I just recapped 2019 (Link) and consider it a success. It wasn’t exactly profitable, but I learned some things and was able to publish three titles last year.

One of the main things is that I can write more than one story at a time. I call the secondary one my side project and chip away at it when my main project bogs down. I’ve been known to park my brain for weeks dwelling on a plot issue, then hit the keyboard after I’ve worked it all out. It’s worse while working on my trilogy.

By having a side project, those lost weeks are pointed elsewhere, and somehow the main problem works itself out anyway. My side project jumps ahead, and when it’s time for it to emerge from its cocoon as the main project, I may be 50K words into it.

It’s kind of like how I keep multiple storyboards going. I always have something ready to start.

I intend to keep doing this in 2020. I don’t have a side project right now, but once HMS Lanternfish hits somewhere around 50K words, I’m going to start another one.

I finally wrote that cyberpunk story I’ve been bringing up for years. It needs a cover, a final read through, and formatting, but it’s very close. I enjoyed taking modern problems and poking them with a stick to see how our world might look in a hundred years. It’s called Grinders, and will be coming your way in early 2020.

With an incredible stroke of luck, I could release it for Chinese New Year. This is the Year of the Rat, a big part of the story goes down at the parade in San Francisco, where it is also the Year of the Rat, and a couple of rats play an important role in the story. Yours Truly is also Year of the Rat. That’s some serious juju right there, and I’d like to publish it then.

I don’t think it’s a deal killer if I don’t hit that target, the best laid plans of rats and men, etc.

Grinders is my stand-alone title for 2020. Sequels will eat up the rest of the time. I can’t seem to give up stand-alone work, and it’s something I really enjoy.

As far as sequels are concerned, I need to produce the next Lanternfish tale in 2020. I’m working diligently on it, and would love to have it available before the schools get out. My track record at that deadline is horrible. I don’t seem to have any luck with summer releases, so I dream of having it ready before then.

Another loose target is the Halloween season. I have this earmarked for the next story about Lizzie and The Hat. They are finally going to face actual vampires. This won’t be anything like you’ve seen before, and will take place mostly in the country music environment. They’re going to have to stalk their enemy across rodeo dances, county fairs, and such. There are some fun scenes already planned out, and Lizzie is going to tire quickly of this kind of music.

There is also a new character that I can’t wait to bring into the tale. I see him as a possible recurring character. If you’re old enough, you remember how James Garner always seemed to have that one smarmy guy show up in his work. My new character will fill that role, and could fit into future stories. Besides, he has a speech impediment that The Hat will make fun of. That brings out Lizzie’s “social justice warrior” and adds a few fun interactions.

This story will be the side project once I nudge Lanternfish along a bit. After it moves into the main slot, I might start another side project. This one would be a post-apocalyptic story with many earmarks of a western. I will also return to first person POV in this one.

This is an ambitious year, but I think I can make it happen. I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve after last year. First is that Grinders is already written, much like the first Lanternfish book was. Second is that stories about Lizzie and The Hat are generally short novels. If it works, the post-apocalyptic thing could be ready prior to 2021.

I have one problem that I’m trying to sort out. Maybe you can help me with that. I’m convinced that my best promotional effort is to publish the next book. Being a self publisher is a numbers game. I’ve been around long enough to see people fade after a book or two. I’m not one of those people.

Readers could take authors more seriously with a number of titles under their belt. That’s pure theory, and they would have to be good stories. I feel like I’ve reached that level, and could attract new readers by having a decent catalog of titles.

The problem arises in timing of those releases. I ran into a problem of releasing two books sixty days apart. Viral Blues did well enough, but I think Serang suffered because of this. This is a complex problem, but here are some of the factors to consider.

• I have a personal phobia of the summer months for a new release. I’ve never done well during summer, but that limits me to the nine other months. That becomes a book every three months during the sweet spot.

• Promotional fatigue is a real thing. It hits my blog followers, online circle, and it hits me, too. I will need to identify many more sites to promote my work. I don’t want to wear out my regular group of hosts. I like my hosts and regulars. I want to balance being a friend, offering my space to them, and being able to promote my own projects on occasion.

• Lanternfish is a trilogy. I don’t expect much fanfare for the second book other than from those who loved the first one. In my imagination, book two may sell better after the trilogy concludes. With this thought, could a summer release for book two serve just as well? That would help spread things out around the year. Am I selling the second book of a trilogy short?

• Could a blog tour with two or more books on the same tour have any benefit? This would cut down the number of promo posts, but each title would have to share stops along the tour. Is there a way to use pre-release sales in this scheme? You can have one book right now, and the other will be delivered in 60 days?

• Does the crack dealer method still work? Meaning does a giveaway for book one help move sales for book two or three? It used to work, but has that also changed?

Personally, I don’t like the idea of giving my work away. If $2.99 is going to break someone’s budget, they’d be better of paying the power bill. I have to admit, there might be a strategic advantage to some freebies. There used to be one, but things change so fast I don’t know anymore.

As far as titles that could serve as the gateway drug to my writing, The Playground kind of leads to Viral Blues. The Hat leads to Viral Blues and any other book in the series. Serang and Voyage of the Lanternfish could serve the same purpose for the Lanternfish trilogy. Honestly, 2020 might be too soon for this concept, but I’m open to suggestions if you have them.

I want to keep blogging two to three times per week. Yeah, it’s a place to talk about my work, but it serves its own purpose, too. I like chatting with you guys. I’m not afraid to talk about my writing efforts, but sometimes you get bulldogs, sourdough bread, camping trips and other things that add a bit of quality to life.

Otto is helping Dad today.

Story Empire has been a good thing for me, too. It challenges me to come up with appropriate topics, and while I don’t always pull it off, I come fairly close to the mark. I don’t know how much more I have to share there, but there are always new writers coming along, so revamping some things might be possible. That usually takes me a couple of times per month, so I’ll be seeing many of you over there during 2020.

These are ambitious goals, but they are within reach. I might not hit all of them, but I intend to give it my best effort. I hope you guys will come along for the ride. Do you ever make a business plan for the year?

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2019, I’m calling it a success

I always try to do a year end assessment this time of year, then follow it up with a business plan in the new year. This is the assessment post.

My goals for 2019 were to step back from social media a bit and to explore sequels in my stories. In this, I was successful. I used to make custom tweets and make time to share them, make the occasional post on all the other formats out there, but honestly, they accomplish nothing. I keep these formats, and this blog auto-feeds to them, but the main goal is to point people here.

Currently, social media is for my own entertainment, but I try to share favors. Meaning, if someone tweets about my books, I try to follow and share their pinned tweet. I like finding out about all the baseball trades, bulldog pictures, and simple stuff on Facebook, but that’s about all it’s good for. I joined a big group event on Facebook that was promoted like an online trade show. It was a total failure, and I won’t make that mistake again.

I stopped paying for Facebook ads and Amazon ads last year. They never really did much, and the last few times they did nothing. My promotional efforts these days are in the form of blog tours, and a promotion company. Even then, I don’t always hire the promo firm.

When I released The Hat, the promo company really paid off. I got a bunch of early reviews, and sales were great. Things really tapered off after that. I used them for Viral Blues this year, and got one review from the NetGalley portion of the bundle.

As far as exploring sequels and series work, I count it as a major success. Success means different things to different people, so some explanation is in order. I’ll include covers and links, but I’m skipping the blurbs. This isn’t about promo, but assessment.

The first thing I published was Voyage of the Lanternfish. This is a crazy pirate fantasy with magic, monsters, and gunpowder. I’ve heard the term Flintlock Fantasy thrown around, and that might be a reasonable description.

It’s important to note this is not a sequel to anything. It’s the original book in what is destined to become a series. I published it on New Year’s Day, so it counts as 2019.

This book sold fairly well, and the comments I got on it led me to the trilogy idea. Reviews are lagging, so I’m a bit concerned.

Something else came up in a lot of the discussion. Two characters clicked with people, and they came up a lot. One isn’t so much a character as a collection of root monsters. I count them as one, because they function in swarm capacity during the action scenes. In my mind, they were just a bit of silliness to fill in the corners while Lanternfish was on a long sea voyage. Kind of like how Scrat fills out the edges of the Ice Age films. However, people loved them. I even had one ask for a root monster stand-alone book.

I don’t see that happening, because some of my over-the-top characters are better in small doses. A little is wonderful, too much can lead to brain damage.

Once I decided this could fit the classic trilogy format, I panicked a little. It would take at least a year to produce the next volume, and likely more than that. How am I going to keep fans interested during that time? This is where the other standout character came into play.

Lanternfish is set in a fantasy environment, mostly because I want to avoid comparison with Pirates of the Caribbean. There are some parallels to real world places, and it isn’t hard to understand that Serang is from pseudo-China. Her character, and this part of the world, made it easy to write her story.

Serang was raised by monks, then fled the country to become a pirate – kind of. This is a stand alone title, but it supports the Lanternfish environment. My hope is that Lanternfish fans will learn more about Serang by reading her book, and that it will tide them over until HMS Lanternfish is ready in 2020.

There is also a chance that people will read Serang first, then follow her into the Lanternfish stories.

Honestly, I dropped the ball on promotion of Serang. I released her story about 60 days after Viral Blues, and did an extensive tour for it. (More on that later.) When Serang published, I worried about my regulars suffering from tour fatigue. I took her on tour, but cut it short as a business decision. I also did not use the promo company for her story.

As of this writing, she only has four reviews on Amazon. This is partially because Amazon won’t let some people post reviews. They can still post on BookBub and Goodreads, and she’s doing better there. It seems odd to me, because these people review a mountain of books. It isn’t like they’re all shills for C. S. Boyack, but there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

I think she deserves better, and all of the reviews have been glowing.

The third book was a true sequel. My first one. It’s called Viral Blues, and is the follow up story to The Hat. The Hat sold incredibly well, and is the best reviewed book I have. Because of this, I thought Viral Blues would do better than it did. I paid the promo company for this story, and pushed the hell out of it around the Halloween season. It did well, but maybe I expected too much.

Lizzie and The Hat are back, but so are a bunch of old favorite characters. I’ve gotten some nice comments about Lisa Burton returning to a story, and admit she’s kind of a scene stealer at times. I’ve also gotten some great comments on Clovis. Both of these characters came with existing fans, so it was fun putting them in a new tale. Lizzie and The Hat carry the story, but it’s kind of like a superhero team-up.

I doubt there will ever be another story like Viral Blues, but it was a blast to create it. Lizzie and The Hat will go on, but it will be in their own adventures. These stories are paranormal with a lot of dark humor and snark.

I don’t want to jump ahead to my Business Plan, but I have some fun ideas for Lizzie and The Hat.

My goals for the two series are different. When it comes to Lanternfish, a trilogy almost demands prerequisite reading to carry on with the story. Stories about The Hat, can be read as stand-alone volumes with more available if you enjoyed the one you picked.

My Story Empire friends helped me scratch out some branding ideas for the series. With Lanternfish, there is no mistaking that figurehead. If it appears on all the covers, that should be good enough. When it comes to The Hat, I commissioned a small badge I can include on all the subsequent tales. It’s Lizzie playing her upright bass. It’s just a small icon that will let readers know it’s part of the series.

When it comes to the other parts of writing, some things changed. With three publications, they almost had to. Writing all those tour posts takes time, even if they are excerpts. All of my tour posts are unique, so I don’t wear people out when I run out a new story.

***

I didn’t return to blog posts about the writing cabin until late Autumn. This was a mistake. It’s easier to blog about what I’ve been doing than it is to fictionalize the same information and converse with Lisa. However, my stats clearly demonstrate that readers prefer interaction with Lisa.

I didn’t post as many Idea Mill posts this year, and they performed well. I need to step it up on that front. All of us need ideas for our stories, and sharing the oddball things I stumble across is kind of fun.

I also skipped Macabre Macaroni this year. I was neck deep in promotion for Viral Blues during October, and didn’t have time to write scary micro-fiction for the blog. Honestly, it passed without much notice. It’s one of those things people love when it appears, but don’t seem to miss if it doesn’t. No idea what to think about this.

Lisa Burton Radio slipped a bit, too, but that was on purpose.  Here’s a bit of my thought process. Feel free to disagree with me, but I’m just being frank. As an author, I know how hard it is to find good free promotion. Even then, there is only so much you can do. Talk about your main character, maybe your antagonist, plot. Sometimes share an excerpt.

I created something unique, in that Lisa interviews the character of your choice. It’s different enough to draw attention, and they are always popular posts. I started out asking people to give me a chance. I even advertised on various sites to get guests. I wound up posting weekly without much gap for two years. We moved some books, too.

However, there is a downside. They take a lot of work to put together. This is a collaborative effort, and it eats into my time. Many times, the guest author never even shows up, or publishes one comment to the group in passing. These posts work when the author pushes the hell out of them. I have one guest who still tweets out his older post from a year ago. That’s how it’s done.

Lisa Burton Radio is still available upon request. I’m not begging for guests any more. It’s a choice slot, and you get out what you put into it. I’m using the time I gained to write my next book. If you’re interested, Lisa will be happy to talk with your character.

To close the year out, I did something I swore I’d never do again. I held some Amazon free days for one of my books. The Playground is an older title, but several characters from this book made an appearance in Viral Blues. It also has a loose Christmas theme behind it. Honestly, we moved a crap-ton of books. My stats even showed it reaching single digits on one of the categories. I could call it a best seller at 100, so at number 9 I was kind of impressed. What I’d like to see as fallout are people following Clovis and/or Gina over to Viral Blues. A few reviews would be nice, too.

It isn’t lost on me that Serang, Voyage of the Lanternfish, and The Hat could make timely free books when the sequels are ready for publication. Watching the fallout from my Playground promo closely to figure this out.

Obviously, there is more to life than my author career, but this is a writing blog. My life has health issues, pets, relationships, and a 40 hour-per-week job, too. This post is an assessment of my 2019 success and fumbles as an author. My goal has always been to entertain people for a few hours. It’s even the name of the blog. With that in mind, I think 2019 goes in the win column.

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