“Winds of a Growing Storm” is out!

So, the Kindle (and other ebooks) version of “Winds of a Growing Storm” is out, and the paperback version is hitting the digital shelves as I write this.

I just need to clear up some bookkeeping issues with Amazon (getting the Author line right, linking the digital and paperback versions, etc.) and I’ll have the book’s first Goodreads giveaway up and running, too.  So, look out for that.  I’ll be giving away 10 signed copies this go ’round.

It’s such a relief to get something like this finished.  Thank you to everyone who’s stuck with me through all of it.

Oh, and if you’re the kind of person who likes to help out us author types?  Review the book on Amazon.  Seriously, Amazon reviews are probably the greatest tool I have for getting attention for these books, and they’re really, really hard to get.


So, on to book three, right?

Well, I’ve been going through the old copy and re-outlining it so that I can make sense of a whole thing as a story in its own right.  Two things keep popping out at me as I go over and over it:

  1.  Wow, I was really in a rush when I wrote this!  Clearly, this was written at a time when I was trying very hard to cram a whole lot of story into a single book.  The plot is there, but it’s missing so many of the fine details that really bring a tale to life.
  2. As for the plot itself?  This is some really good stuff.  Seriously, I keep having to stop myself from just re-reading the text for the sheer joy of it.  I think that has to be a really good sign, right?

The outline’s getting more complete every day.  I’m filling in details here, explaining things there, and generally dressing these bones until they star to feel alive.  I’m going to have to rewrite a lot of it, for sure.  There are a couple of scenes, for example, which worked fine when told from one character’s point of view, but which become truly wonderful when seen through somebody else’s eyes.

How long’s it going to take?  I don’t know.  The goal is to see if I can get it done in three months.  So…you know…don’t be too surprised if the blog goes quiet again for a while.

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Book 2 [finally] Has a Release Date

July 4th, 2016.

I think it speaks a great deal about how long I’ve been living in the UK, and how much I’ve assimilated to its culture, that I had my pre-order date set for a whole day before I realized it was…you know…the 4th of July.

For the record, that’s the Amazon Kindle store, as well as a number of other e-book stores (Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd, etc.) with the one exception of the Google Play store.  I plan to get set with Google this week, sometime.

The bad news is that the physical book version may get delayed by a few days.  What can I say?  I can’t seem to get the cover right.  I got “Knight of the Flame’s” cover done right on the first try, but “Winds of a Growing Storm” just keeps going a bit wrong every time.  I may get it out by the 4th; I may have to delay it a bit.  Time, and the speed of International package delivery, will tell.

So, this week is all about making sure all the release stuff goes well, then it’s full-speed-ahead on book 3.  The nice thing about book 3 is that I’ve already got half of a first draft, seeing as it started life as the third act of book 2.  I’ve read through what I’ve got already a couple of times, and wow, am I excited to finish it.

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You know, I actually can’t believe I forgot how long this whole “publishing a book” bit takes. I’m very looking forward to getting to the point where I’m doing it often enough that I never have to remember how it all works.

A few weeks ago, I sent Createspace my book interior and cover, and then ordered my proof copy. Two things happened as a result:

First, the book showed up in the mail a few days later, and it became obvious that I had some more work to do on the cover.

I should pause here to mention how fantastic Createspace and it’s contemporaries really are.  Printing entire books, one copy at a time, is something I never thought I’d see, and I’m always a bit amazed when something I put together on a computer while sitting on a train underneath London ends up in a book-shaped package in my hands, without the need for pallets and pallets of inventory.

Now, I understand that there’s a lot about printing—in particular, colors—that I don’t know enough about, and the result is that there are a couple of bits of the cover that show up on my computer screen, but which never make it to the printed paperback. The last time I did this, I had absolutely no idea what to do about it, so I just signed off on the proof and published (It wasn’t like I was actually going to sell any of these anyway, right?). This time, of course, I understand things a bit better, and now I’ve made a couple of changes to my encoding and brightness settings which should solve my problem. I’m quite hopeful about the whole thing.

Oh, and there was simply no way the cover was going to look any good once shrunk down to a thumbnail-sized image.  Needed a few changes there, too.  I should probalby make a post about that, actually.

Thing two?  Well, in the time that it took for the book to get to my house in England, I had some time to look over the copy again, and I started finding things I wanted to change.

Oh dear.

There were a few actual mistakes (punctuation, missing or duplicated words, etc.) and a few handfuls of sentences and paragraphs which just needed to be better. Thing is, by the time I was finished with “Knight of the Flame”, I’d made eight separate drafts of the thing.  New drafts find issues and add polish and shine.  It’s what makes a bit of prose into a genuinely interesting story.  In the case of “Winds of a Growing Storm,” I decided I was going to try to get away with five drafts.  I knew that was a risk at the time, but the fact was the drafts cost time, and I’ve been working on this sequel for two years now.  Turns out, five drafts, for me, just isn’t enough.  Six, it seems, might be the magic number.

Then, I made my BIG mistake.

Oh dear, again.

A bit of advice for anybody doing this self-publishing thing: don’t edit your formatted copy. Well, I suppose, don’t do it if you’ve got more than one version of the formatted copy. You’ll drive yourself insane making the same changes in multiple files, and in just trying to keep it all straight. Seeing as I’d already made my separate Createspace, Kindle, and Smashwords files, you see, I figured I’d save a lot of time by just editing all three directly.  The other option was to just edit one, and then re-create the other two formats from the first, all over again.  I suppose I’ll never really know which way is faster without trying both, but having spent two full weeks making about a hundred small changes, I feel confident in saying that the way I did it is something you only do if you really like to edit…and I mean, like it more than sleeping or eating…or writing, I suppose.

Anyhow, said changes are now done, and the new files are uploading to Amazon as I write this (how would I have found the time for a blog post, otherwise, right?) Assuming the new proof copy looks good, then I should be publishing within a week.

Now, I get to start thinking rather seriously about book 3.  One question keeps running around and around in my head:  If my first book took roughly seventeen years to finish, and the second one took roughly two years, then how long should it take me to get the third one out?

I can’t wait to find out.

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May Update

Well, we just had a nice bank holiday in the UK, and I’ve managed to get a fair amount of work done, which is a bit surprising, considering I’m also moving dozens of boxes to my new home in town.

The editing/formatting process has gone very well.  The paragraphs are all matched up with the same spacing, all the quotation marks are of the curly variety, rather than the straight ones, and there aren’t any errant hanging spaces to throw off the e-book paragraphs when it comes to setting that up.

I do need to make one last alteration before I can call it finished, though.  This one’s been bugging me for months, but I’d been hoping I could make it work without making a non-trivial change.  But, no.  It has to be done.  You see, one of the new characters in “Winds of a Growing Storm” is perfect in every way…except they’re the wrong sex.  The character works the way it is right now, but making that one, small change will make reading about them a much more fascinating experience.  Truly, it’s amazing how much difference a change like that can make, isn’t it?

That last alteration should take the rest of this week.  Then, I submit the now formatted text, has well as the cover art, to CreateSpace and order a proof.  If that proof comes back with no issues, then we can consider this book published.  Might just make it for May.

Current status:  unbelievably excited.

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Laughing at My Own Jokes

I love the review stage of writing. I think I love it as much as I do the brainstorming stage. During the latter, you get to come up with all these really cool concepts, figure out how an entire universe is put together, and learn things about characters that you didn’t know before. That’s great, and it usually happens while I’m walking the dog, or on my way to or from the train station.

The review process, though, that’s when you get to play with the language itself. For somebody who gets excited by terms like “dangling participle” and “Oxford comma” it’s a really brilliant time. Plus, the one person whom you can absolutely guarantee will find your jokes funny is yourself, and coming back to a bit of text after a couple of months away can be hilarious.

That’s where things are at the moment. It’s the final draft review, and I’m in the middle of chapter 7. I have to say, I’m more-than-usually nervous about this one, as I did seven drafts of “Knight of the Flame” and “Winds of the Growing Storm” is only getting four. Just as before, though, and handful of really smart people have looked over it for me, so I’m pretty confident that all the really big problems have been spotted and extracted.

One thing I’m doing differently this time is reading the text aloud as I go along. I’ve always known it would be a useful thing to try, but I never really gave it a chance before, as I’m usually writing on the train, and talking to yourself while on public transportation…well…I know I tend to make assumptions about people like that. Still, it’s been immensely useful. I can’t believe just how many little issues I’ve found just because I had the help of my ears in detecting them. It slows down the process a lot, I must admit, but boy is it a really, really good idea.

The cover is pretty much finished, too. Just needs a bit of work on the back-cover blurb, which will be easier to do once the last draft is complete. If you’ve been following along for any length of time, then you know how terrible I am about making estimates. Having said that, the last draft is going fast enough that it should be finished in about three weeks. Then, it’s just a question of formatting the text for publication, putting the last bits of the cover together, and then submitting to the sales channels. If all goes well, the book will be out in May, almost exactly two years after book 1.

Gonna get back to it, now. My stop’s coming up.

Seriously though, this Spriggs guy? He’s frickin’ hilarious.

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Book Two Gets a New Name

Well, it’s been awhile since the last update, so I’ll just get straight to the point, shall I?

The sequel to “Knight of the Flame” is nearing its final draft, and I’m now in the process of sending out copies to a handful of trusted reviewers.  I’m going to allow two months for feedback while I get busy working on the cover and getting some promotional bits and pieces done, after which I should only need to allow one more month for a final round of spit and polish.  I’m not quite ready to say the words “release date” yet, but if all goes well (admittedly, my estimates have been underwhelming, so far), I should be looking at sending my most recent work out into the world sometime in April.

It’s been a long time coming, I know, and the story has undergone some fairly extensive changes in the last handful of months.  In previous posts, I’ve spent a fair amount of time fretting about just how long the book was, and whether I needed to do something about that.  Well, in the end, I decided that I needed to take action, and the resulting modifications have involved taking a large part of act 3 and saving it for the next title.  The length of book 2 is now about the same as that of book 1, which is just how I wanted it.

It’s turned out quite well, in fact.  I’ve never quite been satisfied with the third act of this book, and I finally came to realize that the reason for my dissatisfaction was that the entire section of story hadn’t been fleshed-out enough, that, while it was both essential and well-formed, it was over far too quickly.  Well, now that said act is going to exist within its own jacket, I’m going to have time to put some muscle and sinew on the bare bones and turn it from something interesting into something (hopefully) special.  And the best part?  I’ve already written about half of the necessary content, so book 3 should come ‘round a lot faster than did book 2.

The biggest change, however, has been the title.  I’d originally called this bit of work “Sect of the Rounded Stone”, but, for reasons that will become clear, that particular appellation isn’t going to work any more.  I spent a month and a half trying to figure out the correct, perfect title for this new beast and, just as I had been about to give up hope and settle for something that didn’t quite work, that was good, but not exquisite, it, quite literally, came to me in a dream.

So, in about three months time, I hope you will enjoy the second entry in the “Children of the Old War” series:  “Winds of a Growing Storm”.

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Draft 1 finished!

Today, I finished the first draft of “Sect of the Rounded Stone”. I’ve actually done a second draft of a number of chapters, too, so once could easily say that I finished the first-and-a-half draft of the book. It took longer than I wanted it to, partly because there were a lot of details that needed to be properly connected together, partly because there’s a lot of story to tell, and partly because it’s hard to write on a train that isn’t running on time.

So, hurrah! The first draft is finished! I was feeling really good about it, too, until I took the all-important step of checking the word count, at which point, I deflated a good 5-6 psi.

“Knight of the Flame” is made up of ~224 thousands words. It’s not a short book. So far, “Sect of the Rounded Stone” is clocking in at ~307 thousand words.

Well, crap.

This, of course, presents all kinds of interesting questions regarding the nature of self-publishing, and digital publishing, in particular, the most relevant being: is 307 thousand words too long for a book?

I’ve touched on this before. A digital book can basically be as long as the author likes. Bits don’t weigh anything, and there’s no such thing as a page-count for an ebook (however accurately a particular device might try to estimate one). If you except the sunk cost of the infrastructure used to deliver the bits, here and there, the value of the product is entirely in the words, themselves, and the story they aim to tell. If the words are valuable, then the number of them simply doesn’t matter (so long as you’re not trying to tell short stories, which I’m most decidedly not trying to do).

So, that leaves physical, hard- and soft-bound books. The value there isn’t just in the words. The paper, ink, and binding material all need to be individually purchased in order to go into the whole. The longer a physical book gets, the more of those materials are required, and the higher the final price of the book.

The question then becomes: how many physical copies of this book do I expect to sell? The answer is: really not a whole lot. For my first book, I sold roughly 100 digital copies for every physical one. Makes physical books seem a bit trivial, doesn’t it?

A possible addendum to the previous thought, I suppose, is: what happens when the books are being republished in a mass-market format, and they’re just too big to print? I’ve decided, however, that this is an exercise in setting the cart firmly before the horse, and every body knows that horses can’t push.

So, what to do now? Why, the second draft, of course! I’m in the rather fortuitous position of being between jobs at the moment, which means I’ve got an abundance of time to write between interviews and phone calls to set up interviews. Let’s see just how quickly I can finish draft 2 and get some review copies out the door!

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