Feb 27, 2012

QA with Wren Emerson! (Part 1)

I forgot how warm it gets in Georgia. It’s been a while since I was back, but oh, how the humidity embraced me like an old friend. You know, one of those old friends with no concept of personal space.  l missed the thunderstorms. Wow. Lightning for days. But hey, I’m not here to discuss the weather, am I? No ma’am. I’m here to have a chat with my new favorite internet sensation, author Wren Emerson.

She was kind enough to tear herself away from writing (though I’m pretty sure she tweeted several times while I wasn’t paying attention, but that doesn’t really count) to sit down with me across a pair of oh-my-god-delicious nachos at Nacho Mama’s in downtown Augusta. She tossed them back with a coke, but since I had nowhere else to be, I ordered up a margarita. I would’ve gone with the Guinness, but the Margarita won the coin toss.

Once the noms slow to a steady enough rhythm, we make small talk. Seth Green dominates the early parts of the conversation.
She admits to finding a strong connection to Janeane Garofalo’s character in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, which breaks the ice almost instantly. “I AM the under-appreciated friend with the snarky sense of humor,” she says evenly. I find it impossible to argue the point, because I am already a fan of both Wren and Janeane. This is going to be a nice chat.
The conversation also touches briefly on music, where I learn that she began her music collection by picking up “Regulators” by Warren G and “Crazy Sexy Cool” by TLC. I try to get her to show off her TLC dance moves, but she gives me a look that chills my spine and I politely withdraw the request. Damn this margarita.

Her youth found her in Kansas – the sort of Midwest environment which can be an undeniably fertile ground for the creative sorts of people. Nothing like tornadoes and being landlocked to make you seek out other worlds, I suppose. What, specifically, did it teach her? “I would say that I learned a lot about loyalty and being true to your roots. I'm still friends with a lot of the people I went to school with. If I ever made it "Twilight big", I really don't think that would change anything. I'm married to a man that I've known since I was 13. Even if I forgot my humility, he'd be there to ground me and remind me that I'm still the same gawky, awkward girl inside that I was in middle school.”

And in Wren’s case, family also played a major part in setting her on the path to writing.  “I remember my maternal grandmother reading nursery rhymes from my set of Childcraft books while I acted them out,” she recalls. “Old Mother Hubbard was a favorite. That crazy dog was always up to some shenanigans.” 
So how did you transfer from reading stories to actually telling them? Did you always want to be a writer?

She laughed at that, so I braced myself for an epic journey. I wasn’t disappointed.

“At different points in early childhood I have wanted to be president, a professional football player, and a science teacher. Around 6th grade I finally figured out that I wanted to be an author. I started writing stories (awful) and wrote articles for a family newspaper (moderately bad). Around high school I started to carry around a spiral bound notebook and constantly worked on a high fantasy story that was heavily influenced by the Dragonlance series and my involvement in table top RPGs.”

Me: Ah, yes, Dragonlance. I was always in camp Tasslehoff, personally. (I pause here and consider getting my full geek on, but I show restraint.) So, literary-wise, what happened next?

Wren: “When I was about 12 years old I got my hands on a copy of Stephen King's It. I don't think my family even realized what I was reading. I spent all summer reading and rereading it. It captured my imagination in a way that other books hadn't. I think it was the fact that for half the book the main protagonists were my age, but it wasn't written in a way that made the kids seem stupid, which most of the stuff I was reading that was geared to YA did.
“It was that connection to the characters that made me want to do that myself. I'm not saying I'm the next Stephen King, but I hope that I've been successful in writing a book with a YA protagonist that doesn't make the teens reading it feel as though I'm talking down to them.”
 Me: That’s incredibly important, I agree! I could always tell when authors weren’t taking me seriously as a reader. Ugh. Annoying. (as an aside, I still can't finish "It". I'm such a wuss with that book.) So where are you at now in your resolve? How do you feel about where you’re at as an author?
Wren: I view writing as an activity that's both personally fulfilling, but also a viable career. I've luckily never been a position where I've had to compromise my artistic urges due external pressure. I went directly into indie publishing so I've never had anyone tell me that what I'm doing is wrong and I should change it all. The things I want to write are commercially viable so it's not a choice between my art and my mortgage either. I'm very fortunate.
Me: There’s definitely a tradeoff about being the first one to land on an alien planet like self-publishing. It’s still pretty early in its development, so most people are still working out what works and what doesn’t. Hats off to you at figuring it out so soon!  So, how do you get yourself ready to write? 
Wren: I make very elaborate outlines before I start any long work of fiction. With short stories I will write several paragraphs of summary, but with a novel I have a scene by scene background of every single event that needs to happen and since I write in series, I also know what's coming up in future books too.
Once I have my outline (which I make based on notes that I create using a software for Mac called Curio), I start writing. I have a set in stone word goal for every day and I use a spreadsheet to make sure that I'm keeping on track. I've been writing lately in a program called MacJournal. It's been great for short stories so we'll see how it holds up to writing a novel.
And that's my process. Pretty simple, really. I always listen to music while I write. I don't really hear it, but I can't seem to write without it.
Me: Oh, I’m the same way - gotta have a playlist going, or my brain just doesn’t know what to do. How often do you write; how long do you usually spend at a time? 
Wren: I try to write every day, but I don't always make my goal. If I could improve only one aspect of my writing it would be my self discipline. You can pick up everything else you need to know with enough practice.
When I write I set a timer and work in blocks of 50 minutes. When the timer goes off, I take a 10 minute break and that's when I get to check Facebook or answer emails. Ideally, because I think of writing as my job, I try to spend at least 5 hours a day on writing. Eventually, I'd like to work my way up to spending a full 8 hours a day.
Me: And that’s where it does truly become a full-time job, but it’s like they say, you find a way to get paid at what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.  What's your favorite genre to write in - if you have a favorite one, that is?
Wren: Right now I'm really drawn to paranormal/urban fantasy concepts. I'm very much a dreamer. I want to live in a world where magic exists and the man you love might surprise you one day by turning into a wolf. Even in the horror I've been writing there is an element of the fantastic. I have a short list of projects to tackle in the upcoming months and every single one of them has a supernatural spin on them.
Me: Now, one thing I noticed about you, your books tend to span multiple genres - do you find this to be a natural part of your storytelling process, or is it by design?
Wren: I get these really compelling ideas for stories. I can't limit it to just one kind of idea so I write whatever speaks to me at the moment. That's why I love the short story format. I can explore ideas that I normally wouldn't want to work with because there's not much risk. I'm only committed for a few days as opposed to months spent working on a novel.
Me: I can totally appreciate the way you seem to approach your writing; it’s hard not to admire someone for grabbing the stories they want to tell and just making it work under their own steam. And speaking of that sort of DIY approach to publishing, your books are currently published through Lakehouse Press. Could you talk about how that came about? 
Wren: Lakehouse Press is a venture that my friend Courtney Cole and I started last year when we were both publishing our debut titles. At this point it's just a two man operation, but we've discussed the idea of setting up some sort of structure for helping other new indies who would rather have someone else tackle the business end of things so they can focus on writing.

Me: Very nice. So, there you are, creating a press and putting out your first novel. Let's talk about "I Wish" - - when did that story begin for you? Where did the inspiration come from, and how long did you spend developing and writing it? 
Wren: I feel like I could say writing I Wish took 2 years or that it took 2 weeks and both are true. The original idea was something I started playing with a couple of years ago. It's based on my paternal grandmother. She was very much the matriarch of our family. She was a hard woman. I never doubted that she loved me, but she was not a milk and cookies kind of lady.

It wasn't a stretch to imagine what would happen if you got a whole town full of ladies like grandma together. Of course, they are heavily fictionalized versions of grandma. I swear, she's actually a really sweet lady once you get to know her.
When I heard about indie publishing I decided right then I'd finally found a reason to give up my excuses. I was going to write a novel, dammit, and I knew I already have a great idea. I hadn't done anything with it beyond the world building. So I spent a week populating my town with characters, determining the "rules" of the world and the magic they use there, and writing an outline. I was so enthused that it's all I thought about from the minute I woke up until I went to sleep (usually hours after I went to bed because my brain just wouldn't shut down).

When I started writing I Wish, I had a word goal that I met every day. And I wrote every single day, even weekends. I finished it around 2 weeks. I think it was 16 days, but I'd have to check my blog to be sure. Of course, it was less than 50k words and I later went in and added 12k more words, but the core of that story was done in days. This is why I'm such a huge fan of working from an outline. Once you've determined the story, it becomes a matter of putting words on the page.
Me: Wow! That’s pretty impressive! Please tell my readers a little something about the book, beyond the description over on Amazon and the Lakehouse Press website.

Wren: I Wish is Thistle Nettlebottom's story. It's told in first person point of view with a generous helping of snark and sarcasm. She feels like the only sane girl in one strange situation after another. She grows up on the road with a dysfunctional family unit: her emotionally detached mother, her cold (and oftentimes cruel) grandmother, and Shep, who is part body guard, part personal driver.
They go to a town named Desire where she's evidently from, but she has no memories of it. The people there are weird. The women seem to hate her on sight and the men are all a little too eager to get to know her. She thinks her life is wrecked when her grandmother tells her that they are going to stick around, but that's nothing compared to how she feels when she finds out that she, like everyone else in Desire, is an actual broomstick-riding,  cat-having, drop-a-house-on-her-head, genuine witch. That's a bad day for anyone, but add in a tough choice between sweet and sexy Evan or dark and broody Ben and the fact that someone wants her dead and you can understand why Thistle is rethinking her wish to finally have a place to settle down.
Me: It's been online for close to a year, now, and seems to be doing very well - - what are your plans for a follow-up novel?
Wren: I Wish is the first book in the Witches of Desire trilogy. Book 2, Your Word is My Bond has an anticipated release date of April 2012 and Book 3, Reality Bender, is scheduled for June or July.
Me: Can’t wait! What are your other projects in the works?
Wren: I have been working on a series of short stories that delve into the backstories of some of my favorite characters from the WoD universe. Those will be coming out in the coming weeks. I have plans to write a series of short stories about a "zombie" apocalypse that is heavily inspired by the movie 28 Days Later and the comic book series Crossed, but there are no plans to expand that past short stories at this time. As for novel length works? I have plans for a new urban fantasy series based in the world I used in the Witches of Desire books. I'd like to see that ready around August of 2012, but no promises.
Me: You had me at Zombies. We’ll talk about that when the recorder’s off, yes?
Wren: *smiles conspiratorially*

The interior of Nacho Mama’s started getting a bit crazy about this time – small wonder why this place is so popular, I can’t even remember eating my nachos, and yet they’re GONE – so we decide to wander over to the Metro, which Wren assures me is a pretty cool coffee shop. I can never turn down cool coffee shops, so I’m in. This also gives me a chance to turn off the recorder so Wren and I can talk about zombies. And I know you wish you got to hear all of that, but you’re going to have to wait.

To be continued!

Feb 23, 2012

The Great Debate

Okay, I should probably post a little explanation, here.

Self Pub v. Trad Pub.

Good lord, it's a bit of a sticky wicket, eh wot? Like something out of Braveheart or Mad Max or some such. So let me, pray, clarify something here, with a delightful series of numbered bullet points. Or is that bulleted number points? Eh. Whatever.

1) I, yes, am a self-published author.
2) I have many friends who are both self-published and traditionally published authors.
3) I do not hate traditional publishing Publishers.
4) I do not hate Literary Agents.
5) I do not hate money.
6) I do not live at home with my parents. (I don't really know why I have to clarify this, but, hey, might as well)

I really tend to be somewhere around the moderate middle in this big debate - really, I tend to go with whichever side is not trying to insist that their opinion is the only one that matters. The truth is, there's a big bold brave new world in publishing, and what used to work CAN work, but it's no longer the ONLY way it can work. There are more ways to publish effectively, which means there are more authors publishing. That means more books, end of story. This means that there are more good books and more bad books. But also, because there are so many more books, I recognize that this means each individual book may just get less people buying them. I hereby acknowledge that this can be scary.

But publishing companies don't seem to be acknowledging this effectively. Raising prices on books is the second-most antiquated form of trying to boost revenue, and it's rarely effective. In fact, behind the number one most antiquated form of trying to boost revenue (layoffs), it's really pretty much the OPPOSITE of boosting your revenue.

And if you don't think this is a real thing, have you already forgotten the problem with CDs? You know, CDs, those small plastic discs that used to be how you bought music? Or maybe you forgot about DAT tapes?  cassette tapes? Records? 8-tracks? Wax tubes? Betamax? Laser disc? Oh, and you know I could go on and on, here. Don't make me whip out my mad crazy video game historical knowledge. I'll do it, I will.

My point there is that technology affects change. It creates it. Inspires it. Look at how you're READING MY WORDS. I just wrote these, moments ago, by pushing a bunch of buttons on a plastic keypad THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY FROM YOU, and there you are, reading it. ON A COMPUTER. Or a cell phone. Or an iPad. Whatever. The point is, this sort of thing, while now commonplace for our children, was science fiction when we were children, and yet here it is. With that ability to communicate, opportunities arise for us to produce and create in ways that had been previously unavailable. With those opportunities, change happens. It simply does. Can't shove the genie back in the bottle. Stop trying.

And, look, my favorite analogy to all of this is the arrival of the automobile. Did people just stop riding horses forever? No. A lot of people did, yes. But that's because the world expanded as our reach grew. Some people moved with it, some didn't. Does this mean horse riding is bad? Of course not. I myself LOVE horses. But if I'm going to the store, I'm going to take my car, because I can't fit that many groceries into a saddlebag.

Change is good. Opportunities are good. Options are fantastic. But we need to stop using a lot of words like "right" and "wrong", because those just become too argumentative to be helpful. Also, people need to just chill out on trying to make this sweeping declaratives and stop using words like "best" and "worst" and "only" and "always" and "never." Many ways to get there, folks. What might work for one might not work for another. It's chaos theory. Look into it. Trust me.

Look, I understand that chaos is scary stuff. It's uncertain, and that casts a lot of things into doubt - in times like this, a lot of people will cling to the only things they know and close their eyes, cursing the darkness. I'm just trying to say, cool off a bit, take a breath, take a pill or watch some reruns or play some video games or whatever it is you need to do to relax and slow your roll. It's gonna be fine, you'll see.

So, say it with me: It's going to be all right.

Because it will. Totes.

Moving Right Along

Putting the finishing touches on "Lost", the first part of a series of stories I and a co-author friend of mine will be launching over the course of the year, culminating next year in a related novel. Kind of an exciting project, and very much looking forward to it.

It seems like more and more of my time is spent now on various elements of the writing business - it really is rapidly shaking off the "gosh, I'd sure like to write" aspects (the word "Aspiring" has already long since lacked application) into a full-fledged "this is what I do"-ness. One of the reasons I'd originally begun keeping this blog was to track this process, and it really has turned into one of those things where I can pause, look back over my shoulder and truly mark how far I've come. I find it especially helpful when I don't otherwise perceive forward movement.

But I've been coming to realize that it's not so much that it feels - from time to time - like I'm not moving so much as it's the industry that doesn't move. At least, not very quickly nor well.

This point may have been driven home after watching the movie "Moneyball" last night, which is as much about modern American Corporate America as it is about baseball. Maybe more. I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it, but if you haven't seen it you really SHOULD see it, and I don't want to give you an excuse not to. So please suffice it to say that that at about 5 minutes in, I saw it as a very applicable metaphor for the publishing industry.

And then, this morning, while this thought was still buzzing about my thinking matter, I stumbled across a series of comments referring to the "literary gatekeeper" role of agencies and publishing houses. For those of you who may not be terribly familiar with this concept of Literary Gatekeeping, it's really little more than the belief that the current publishing industry is designed in such a way as to protect readers from being subjected to crap.  A noble concept, to be sure, regardless of its hubris.

Although, as a proud self-publisher, I am grateful for the people who also proudly bear the mantle of Literary Gatekeeper. No, truly.

See, not too long ago, people truly believed that unless you were published by a large industrial and corporate publishing house, then clearly you were a failed, imperfect and at best mediocre author writer. "You're not published? Oh, then you must not be any good," was the general expression. "Because if you were any good, then someone would have published you."

I'm not sure how many of those people are fluent in logical reasoning, but that falls right in line with the idea that "if all apples are fruit, then all fruit is an apple." It just doesn't equate, no matter how thin you slice it. No, not even all published books are brilliant, so you can't even equate those two criteria. "All published books are published." There. That's a statement you can bank on, I'm certain.

So let's erode away that failed premise. If not all published books are good and not all good books are published, then where's the literary gatekeeping? Really, it looks a lot more like a wall than a gate; and, frankly, with as much money as gets processed in that big industrial machine, sure. Guard it. Secure it. Keep your properties safe. If you want to publish an author, do it. It's fine. I hold no ill will against that process, nor do I from nearly any corporate behemoth. 

But at the same time, if you're going to go with a large company, there does exist a trade off, and it's not a necessary evil, no matter what people might have you believe. Let's start with the first part of that statement: there is a trade off for signing with a large publisher. And you may be okay with that. You do get a lot with the deal - marketing, covers, publishing schedule, access to editors and bookstores otherwise mostly beyond your reach, so on and so on. No, you may get an advance on your royalties, but this is going to be drawn back out of whatever royalties you eventually receive. But for many people, the validation of being carried by a major publisher is enough of a reward, so I can certainly see the allure. But be honest with yourself, here: you do give up a lot as well by turning your manuscript over to a publishing company.

And let's pause right there for a moment.

I know it's really a popular sentiment to presume that publishing companies are in this game solely for the maintenance of our cultural heritage, to ensure nothing but the pure and honest works of art to make their way out into the public mindset. And don't make that face. Yes, I'm sure there are individuals in the business who do possess that state of mind. HOWEVER. Corporations - in spite of how their legal rights seem wont to define them - are not people, and have no soul (and I won't believe they are until Texas executes one), thus have no desire to develop, maintain and protect the fragile seed of America's artistic integrity. No, corporations are designed to make money for their shareholders. Precisely that, and no more. Anything else they may by accident do is accidental or peripheral or geniune serendipity.

So for a corporation to sign an author - well, it has less to do with Artistic Gatekeeping, and more to do with Financial Planning. Any gatekeeping that generates actual quality of art.... well, I'd be more inclined to suspect that it's more a happy afterthought.  Or were you going to argue that no sub-par books get published by the Industrial Publishing Complex?

No, seriously. Make that argument so I can google for 30 seconds and get you a list of crap in a slip cover tall enough to choke the New York City skyline. Or, I can just remind you about this.

Do I believe corporations are evil? No, I don't. But I also don't believe that they're good, either. Again, they're merely corporations, they're not people, and I think I already engage in sufficently inappropriate anthropomorphization, thank you very much.

What I'd really like to see is for the mass of signed authors, agents, editors and publishers stop attempting to demonize, diminish or ridicule self-publishers. This is a big enough sandbox for many people to play in, and I think it's long since time everyone stopped trying to engage in the preemptory book burning that has been going on for so long. If people don't like a book, it won't sell. If people like a book, it will.

And this is one place where I think capitalism works nicely in that if you were a writer and you publish a book and no one ever guys it, after a while you're going to stop writing books. At least, that's the general rule here.

Or is the concern that, with so many books, the real quality books won't be discovered? That they'll be outshined by the mass and clutter which exists in the book-buying world? Is the fear that all those polished gems will remain dormant - undiscovered, unseen, unread - while so much rubbish and mediocrity blinds the almighty consumer optical nerve?

I'd like to say for the record that this is not so much a problem. It's the information age, and we're no longer so rigidly beholden to the Dewey Decimal system; now we get along fine with keyword searches, and so forth. We can look up a book in a dozen different ways, most of which don't even need us to know the book's title nor the name of its author.

Furthermore, there's an increasingly large number of the population who is unplugging from brick and mortar stores and are desentizied to the present marketing cacophony - - so clearly, as authors (or musicians, or whatever it is you do for a living), you need to find new ways to reach out.

I had a few thousand people pick up my books last month. I haven't spent a dime on marketing. I did my own books, and aside from hiring out for a solid editing process, did the rest of the book myself. Writing, design, covers, formatting, uploading, site maintenance and so on. I wrote on this blog, I tweeted, I facebooked. And people read my books. People liked them. People bought more. It's not rocket science, it's not the Wizard of Oz, it's not human sacrifice or deals for my eternal soul.

Oh, I sent a few queries out in the past; had some great response from most of the people I sent queries to, and the average response was "I loved the book, I loved the characters and your writing style, but I just don't know much about your genre, nor how exactly to pitch this..." Now, sure, a rejection is a rejection, but as rejections go, that isn't so painful. It's actually quite complimentary. But in the end, I realized that, yes, my first book series is a bit cross-genriffic. Is it sci fi? Yes. Fantasy? Yes also. Steampunk? Sure, a bit. Young Adult? Mostly. Grownup? That too. Female main protagonist, but not a substantial romantic interest. Anime-inspired. Oh, the list goes on. Yes, I knew it was a long shot - it doesn't fit neatly into any one genre, but works as well across several. So, in a brick-and-mortar store, where bookshelf real estate is the coin of the realm, where would they put my books? You can't very well put them on 4 or 5 different sections, so that's a problem.

But Brick and Mortar stores are no longer the pinacle of publishing nirvana. Not when there are stores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble who will have space for every single book ever written, with room to spare.

So it's a different landscape, and because it's a different landscape, a new approach has to be considered when looking to scale that mountain. In fact, there are about as many new approaches - all with relative degrees of success (all of which are, of course, dependent upon the writer and their own particular aspirations) - many of which can be found in a variety of levels of maturity.

It's a new world, folks. And I'm almost sorry for the people who are on those large and powerful ships, chugging across the ocean blue at full throttle with a rudder the size of a postage stamp, thinking that the past will always determine the future... Because they honestly believe that. And, yes, maybe the Titanic reference was a bit below the belt, but I do think it's functionally accurate.

Seriously, "literary gatekeepers"? Just stop. Honestly, you're embarassing yourselves.

* sigh *

Okay, as the title say, moving right along. I've got more to work on, and I've ranted enough for one day. Thanks for bearing along with the tirade.


Feb 13, 2012

Oh, and while you're here...

Papa needs to pay the bills, here. If you get a chance (and you haven't already picked up a copy of it), please take a moment to hop over to Amazon and download a free copy of my first novel, "Reaper's Return".

Yes, it's a full novel. 60k words.

Steampunk. Science Fiction. Fantasy. "What if Death wore an adorable black dress?"

Everyone in Oldtown had heard talk of the Reapers. Even though nobody had seen one in years, everyone whispered the tales: flying from rooftop to rooftop, stealing the souls of the unwary, letting their undead beasts hunt through the streets for any member of the community too reckless or fearless to heed the nightly curfew ... mysterious and terrifying, most feared to even mention them by name, lest they appear and gather your spirit away.

For 11-year-old Romany, her greatest fears were less about the mythological Reapers and more about surviving a miserable life inside of Oldtown's solitary orphanage. Her stark white hair made her an obvious target for the bullies, and the cruel nickname of "Ratgirl" had followed her for years. But if Rom thought her troubles were behind her, being struck dead by a bolt of lightning would only open the door to an entire life of new ones.

First on the list? Finding out that she herself...is a Reaper.

February 13th and 14th, I'm running a free promotion through Amazon - - the first ebook is absolutely free. Yes, the rest are for actual sale, but there are 5 of them, all part of a great epic adventure through a neo-victorian, anime-inspired landscape. My little valentine's gift to you, my lovelies.
Hope you enjoy - - feel free to leave a comment here or leave a review on Amazon. Thank you!

Two Kinds of People

Okay, I confess. I really have a soft spot in my heart for puns and simple jokes. There's just something elegant and quaint about them, like dressing a frog up in a tux and having him sing "Hello my baby, hello my darling..."

God, I love that cartoon.


The ones that I've been recently trying to explain to my 11 year old daughter are the "how many (insert social context here) does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" Which also has led into the "there are X kinds of people..." jokes.

Such as, "there are three kinds of people; those who understand math, and those who don't." Or, "there are 10 kinds of people; those who understand binary and those who don't", or (my favorite) "there are two kinds of people, those who procrastinate and..."

One of the conversations I see going on a lot lately is about people who self-publish. I know, I talk about this a lot, and I really do try to talk about other things - I promise - but this is kind of a red-letter topic, so here we are.

The biggest challenge with self-publishing, I think, is that first word: Self. In the trad-pub world (term used to describe the current corporate industry of publishing, not intended to imply that this is the way things have always been done), authors get paid a nifty chunk of money ("nifty chunk" being used here loosely, of course) to do little more than write, make suggested corrections, lather rinse repeat. It's a nice chance to focus on one's work, I suppose.

On the other side of things, we have this renewed breed of authors who are once again doing it all themselves, just like it was back in the day. Write, oversee edits, design covers, manage the marketing aspects, start to finish, top to bottom managing of their authorial franchise.

I think this is the part that really kind of terrifies most authors. There's something kind of comforting and reassuring about having a lot of the day to day details cared for, with a small sacrifice of control, to have a publishing house run the show, shake the hands, make the deals, put your books on the shelves, and so forth. And perhaps some day I might look into that as an option as well, I can't really rule anything out.

But even if you're an author who's been picked up by a publisher, one still needs to be aware of how the whole process works. I see a lot of writers who lose the one-to-one contact with their reader base (obviously not easy to do when one sells thousands of copies of their books every month), but many of these are picking up that slack by attending conventions, using "the twitter" and "the facebook", and drawing that gap closer to closed.

If you're a writer and you haven't gone to conventions; haven't sat down at a table and talked with complete strangers about your books; haven't submitted the occasional manuscript for review or query... well, please do this. Don't delay. Put your work out there and get a couple critical responses, get a bad review, get rejected. Don't fear that.

You need to learn how to accept that not everyone is going to love your work. It's subjective. It's the nature of art, sometimes there are people who aren't going to like it as much as you do. And the process of coming to terms with that very thing is....well, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's absolutely ESSENTIAL to being able to do what you do for very long at all.

Otherwise - and I'm probably going to get hate email for saying this - if you don't want to get rejected, the only way to really avoid it is to never put your work - or yourself - out there at all. Just stay home, do your thing and don't let anyone know you do it. Because the moment you try and take one step on the lowest rung of the ladder that leads towards your success, there are going to be a thousand people trying to pull you back. Maybe they don't like or get it; maybe your stuff needs more work. Sometimes, they'll try and knock you down for no other reason than that you're trying to get up.

In the end, it doesn't matter. Taking the first step is the first step. Taking 101 attempts to discover the light bulb still results in a light bulb, not just 100 ways to not invent a light bulb.

Really, there's just one kind of successful person: the one who isn't so afraid to fail that they never try in the first place.

Cheating on my Characters for Fun and Profit

For the past few months, I've been in the process of transitioning myself - body, mind and soul - from the series I've spent the previous 2 years writing and developing to a new pair of series of books. It's been in many ways an substantial challenge mostly in ways I'd never expected.

Some of the transitional elements are mechanical - creating new musical soundscapes for the hyperbaric writing chamber, developing out character bibles, and marching out the structural needs of the projects (note to self: I'm overdue on that whole location scouting time, by the way!) - and also establishing something of an autonomous marketing campaign for the books, which is also turning out to be one of the larger and more complex endeavors thus far.

For example, due to the books' tonal comparisons to the Hunger Games books, I'm expecting a few crossover marketing announcements, that sort of thing. I had a recent conversation with a good friend of mine in regards to this whole new world of entrepreneurial authorship, and compared it to a story I'd heard from a man who'd grown up in Wales as a Welsh-Irish lad.

He told me it's a difficult thing to grow up Welsh/Irish - - because the welsh blood wants to make music and make love, while the Irish blood wants to get drunk and beat the shite out of people. "If you want my advice," he said, "stick with the Welsh." (Which, I agree, is great advice. Though, sometimes, getting drunk is fun too.)

But the greatest challenge is going back and forth between the rebellious author side that just wants to be left alone with his storytelling, and the marketing douchebag side that recognizes the need to make this functional and monetized. Do I want to write good books? Totally. Would I like to do this full time, without a "day job"? Absolutely.

The big question then becomes how to do this all without getting my peanut butter in my chocolate - - - or to do so in a way which truly becomes a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Optimist that I am, I've always suspected that this sort of balance was not only possible, but, to a certain degree, essential. Now, bear with me a moment, here.

Some of you are authors as well - either professionally or as hobbyists - and may consider the thought of mixing business and pleasure as a form of creative prostitution. Love and Money. And I suppose there's a bit of that present, yes. But here's the thing. There's that old chestnut about how if you find a way to get paid for doing the thing you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Remember that?

Well, in order for that to happen, one of two things needs to occur, assuming we happen to hit the perfect storm in our writing in that we just somehow write the very sort of manuscript that an agent or editor or publisher is just screaming, barking mad for and it somehow falls magically into their hands (and oh don't we know how that just happens ALL THE TIME) - either we have to massage our writing towards that which is currently selling well, or we have to be willing to wait until that which we write is selling well.

Functionally, those are the only two real options.

HOWEVER, there is a third option which weaves its way around those two. Which is, essentially, learning how to market yourself effectively and in so doing, CREATE the market or affiliate those people who are your prospective readers to your work.

In other words, either wait for the mountain to come to Mohammed, or take Mohammed to the mountain.

Unless you're a corporate-published author - and even if you are - I'm talking to you. If you want to find success in this - or, really, any - endeavor, you have to confront the reality that you're not just a writer, you're also an entrepreneur. This is your business. This, right here. In fact, whatever it is you do, that's what you do, right? So take it seriously. Live it. Embrace it.

A dear friend of mine once reassured me, "you are not your job", to which I add a caveat - "you are only the job you choose to do."

Me, I do many things, but above all, I'm a storyteller. And in this case, I'm an author. It's a fun and liberating thing to say that. Hoo ah.

But as I was saying at the beginning, I'm cheating on my characters. I spent two+ years with them, and now I'm spending time with all new characters. It seems like it should be pretty straightforward, but I keep feeling this strange guilt associated with the process of series adoption. I'm supposing I'm not the first to feel this way - this could explain why Robert Jordan kept getting further and further from ending the Wheel of Time books, for example. But also, the books sold. Why kill the golden goose, right?

Well, fear not. The Chronicles of Aesirium were just the starting point for my adventures in Aerthos. I've got another two trilogies set up, plus I'm still writing short stories and will probably be putting out an anthology of all the stories early next year - so keep following and I'll keep you posted.

But these new stories are a delight as well. The books thus far have really taught me volumes about how I want to tell stories, and hopefully you'll see those lessons learned in the books that will start making their way out onto your ereaders soon.

The first one to be launched will be the first in a series of stories that take place in a very familiar world called Uphoria. The first story, "Lost", should be up quite soon, in fact, with additional stories coming out once or twice a month, all leading up to a full novel to be launched in 2013 called "Dust."

And later this year, I'll be launching the Emissary Files books, starting with book one, "The Old Bones". This series is going to be a contemporary paranormal series, not entirely for the faint of heart. I'm excited about this series for many reasons, not the least of which is because I'll be able to make all those shameless pop culture references that I was forbidden from attempting in the Steampunk series.  

I do love the characters I write about, though. In spite of a certain bit of meta-awareness that I think an author really should try to at least keep in the back of their minds, the characters are who they are because they wanted to be that way. And they taught me as much I hope I taught them, and for that, they shall always be close to my heart, even if I never visit another story about them.

For now, though, I suppose I need to let them live their lives a little while without me. But don't worry, Rom, Kari, Cousins, Favo, Mulligan and the rest of you....I'll be back with you before you know it.

Until then, let's say hello to Takeshi "Talk" Watanabe and make him feel at home. Trust me, he's gonna need all the support he can get. It's a scary world out there, and he just got dragged into it, kicking and screaming.

And if you think I'm not speaking literally there, you clearly haven't read enough of my books.

Talk to you soon!