Not to guilt trip you--okay, I'm guilt tripping you, but I'd like to believe this blog serves some purpose beyond just blathering to myself.
I'd like to believe that if you been reading it, you have seen how important writing is to me. So, yeah, I'm asking.
Won't ask again, but as I've mentioned before, the first weeks sales in a book contain the seeds of the long-term trajectory on Amazon, where you're positioned in the rankings helps get the ball rolling.
Meanwhile, onto news. The release of the new book seems to have stirred activity in my other books, which is cool. It reinforces the notion that being a writer these days means putting out a steady stream of books.
When I researched it early on, I settled on a release every 5 months as being optimal, which the schedule I followed for the first 7 books or so (Vampire books released all on the same day, which was probably a mistake). When Ragnarok decided to make the leap to bookstore distribution (which might be a long-term good thing) they delayed Tuskers III by a year.
That book is now supposed to be published in October, so that starts the 5 month cycle again.
Unfortunately, when Tuskers III fell off the schedule last October, I didn't react quickly enough. I really should have released The Last Fedora, which is fully finished with cover and which I liked quite a lot. By the time I realized that too much time was passing, I had a different book ready, one I didn't think publishers would be interested in but which I liked a lot: Blood of the Succubus. So I put that out in February.
I will tell you all this: there is a dramatic difference in how books put out by publishers do and books I put out myself sell. At least part of that is that I'm considerably more aggressive promoting my books by publishers, because I feel an obligation to the publishers to do my best, since they took on the risk of taking me on.
Probably went unnoticed that after the first week, I barely mentioned Blood of the Succubus (until last week when I decided to change stuff...)
I don't think I've mentioned Cyber Flash at all, which was the first book I released. I've not talked about Burp the Burrow Wight (Linda's favorite) since the day I published it.
It's not something I really want to do, you know?
But here's the thing--it is absolutely necessary. Nothing happens without a little push. (Probably more happens with even more push, but I can't go there. I'm uncomfortably forward the first week, and then I can't sustain it, even for the publishers sake.)
Anyway, if I can't spam my friends about my books every 5 months or so, then are they really friends?
So bear with me, I'm only going to bug you about this for a few more days.
"The Darkness You Fear" is Live! From Books of the Dead. (Cover by Andy Zeigert. Edited by Lara Milton.)
It's off to a good start. I'm asking readers of my blog to please go buy it. You know how much time and effort I spend, more than anyone, and I'd be very grateful if you'd see your way to buying this one book. I don't ask for every book. I feel obligated to my publishers so I try harder for them.
The thing is, this book is already #55 on the Alternate History list on Amazon, which gives it exposure. Any sales in these first few days affects the long term trajectory of this book. So I'm asking faithful readers to buy it. Please.
Wouldn't this blog be so much more interesting if I was a best-selling author?
Faerylander was my first book after coming back to writing. I gave it to a couple of people (hey, Martha) and they came back with sort of a Blah reaction.
Anyway, I always felt it was missing something, so I kept trying to rewrite it.
And rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it. Every six months or so. In the file, I have 35 versions of the book. Yes, 35. (Some are just rearrangements, more than rewrites.)
All of them seem to be missing something, none of them have really gotten the reaction I want out of readers.
I've been tempted to give up on it, but there is just something about it. I'm sure there is a good book under that pile of manure!
It's the quintessential quagmire, what I swore I would avoid. In the time I've taken trying to fix it, I could probably have written a couple of perfectly nice books.
What fascinates me about it now is that it has been rewritten and edited so many times that it is by far the most polished writing I've done. If I'm worried about not putting in the work to refine my books, this book is a contradiction to it. Also an example of why over-rewriting might not be such a great idea.
I've had Bren's latest editing on my computer for a year now. She's pretty brutal as well as a task-master. She is also damn good at word choice and such. Enough time has passed that I'm willing to cut large swaths that she recommends I lose.
She recommended that I split the book in two, and when I looked it over, I realized that it really would work better as 3 books.
Meanwhile, I had Mike Corley do five covers for my projected "Lander" books, and he nailed it. Beautiful covers that simply MUST be used. If not for those covers, I probably would give up.
The other thing that fascinates me about this book is the complexity. I feel like I can work with that complexity, that I can make something interesting with it. I think in trying to make this work I have a chance to really get something better.
I WILL NOT start rewriting until I have a firm plot for at least the first two books. I'm guessing that about 80% of the current book will be used in the first two books, and that the third book will have to be mostly written. (Actually, the idea of writing the third book is much less intimidating than trying to make sense of the first two books).
The biggest problem is using the same McGuffin for the first two books, which isn't possible. Unless I make two versions of the same McGuffin, which is a bit of a cheap trick.
I hadn't planned on it (I never plan on Faerylander--it just grabs me) but I'm going to try to plot the damn books over the next few days, then slap together a rough version, and see if it reads at all.
The way it looks, the first book will be similar to my original version; it will be lighter and slightly more silly, but also have some really creative elements.
The second book will be darker, and since it contains more of the later writing, is probably better written. It will also contain the original sticking point, one that I worked and worked on and which now passes muster if not knocking it out of the ballpark.
If I'm going to self-publish, it probably doesn't really matter how good they are. But I've not taken that attitude up to now and I don't want to start.
I know that as more and more of my books are released, that the question will come up. How is it that I'm so prolific?
There will be the suspicion that my writing can't be any good if it is so quick. There will be the inevitable snark that I'm "typing not writing."
I reject that.
Here's what you have to understand. For four years now I've dedicated most of every day to writing. That is, unless I'm sleeping or eating, I'm probably in writer's mode. So for roughly 16 hours a day I could possibly be writing.
Sure, I have occasional days were I do other things, occasional hours within the day. But not much. Mostly my life revolves around writing.
So with 16 hours available everyday, I get it done. I'm very diligent. I'm very persistent.
It so happens I'm kind of a loner anyway. I like being alone with my thoughts, and my best thoughts are my creative thoughts.
I'm young enough -- at least I think so -- to have enough energy to spend on writing. And I'm old enough and established enough not to worry as much about money. My store is doing well and is in good hands.
So I can dedicate myself to one thing.
If I can't come up with a couple thousand words in a day if that is my sole purpose, there is something wrong with me. I don't understand how a writer can spend years writing a single book. It's a mystery. I mean, do they shit words out one at a time? Anyway, that's them, not me.
I've got plenty of creative energy. I have lots of persistent energy that can't be noticed on a minute to minute basis, which I applied to my store for 35 years and which I'm now applying to writing equally vigorously.
I wrote 7 books in an earlier part of my life. I was equally serious about writing then, but the stress became too much. I had to earn a living. So I was very serious until I wasn't.
For 35 years I was chomping on the bit, and when the chance came, Wow--I have to admit that even I was surprised by what came out of me.
A couple of thousand words a day adds up to 700K words a year. Just a 1000 words a day adds up to 360K words a year. That's a lot of books. Even I can't quite do that, but it shouldn't be so surprising that I get so much done. When I'm writing a story, any scene worth telling will usually amount to at least 1000 words.
My goal is to write entertaining stories and the best way I know how to do that is to dive into the story and let it carry me, and then, try not to rewrite so much that the joy is taken out. Sure, I think rewriting improves a book, but I think laboring over it too much is counter productive.
So I let the story carry me, and then I look at what I've done and try to improve it.
Anyway, I think that anyone who thinks I'm not putting the work into these books that the reader deserves is underestimating me. I've always had this thing I do--I just keep at it. and keep at it, and keep at it.
I can start out with considerably less skill than others, but I keep at it until I get better, and then one day I find that by continuing at it, I've gotten somewhere.
I've been writing for four years without taking a breather. Forging ahead every time I had an idea for a new story. That was sort of my deal with myself: I wouldn't block myself, I would write anything I wanted.
So when I woke up one morning a couple years ago with a vampire book in mind, it was already well past the time to write a vampire book. But I did it anyway. In other words, I've just written anything I want without regard to suitability. No long term career planning here.
Many of my better books actually started off as a lark and then turned into something. I'm not changing any of that. I think it's a good way to write, and I intend to continue. However, I'm so far ahead of myself I can afford to take a couple of weeks to try to clean up what I've done and take stock.
My files were an unholy mess. So I started creating files and eliminating files I didn't need. (Having first downloaded everything onto a flashdrive, just in case.)
It's given me a much better perspective on what can be done and what can't be done.
I contacted the artist of my Star Axe and Snowcastles books a couple of years ago, and he wanted 2K for each cover, which was way beyond what I could pay. I negotiated down to 1K last year, but the last year has proven to me that I can't justify that price either. He recently finally accepted 500.00 per cover, which is more in line with what brand new covers cost.
I've had Star Axe and Snowcastles and Icetowers scanned for some time now. It's messy and every line in the books have to be gone over to make sure that they are correct, and everything has to be formatted correctly. It's tedious but can probably be done in a week for each book. (I would combine Snowcastles and Icetowers into one book with the Snowcastles cover--which is appropriate anyway.)
So I'm going to do that.
The biggest thing I've done is going through my files of books and trying to consolidate them into folders. It's wrestling a real mishmash of stuff, but I started to see a pattern, how much each book was completed, how much needed to be done.
Frankly, if I was to take just a couple of months, I could finish a number of books.
I'm going to eventually put them in a Vault; each book finished off with editing and covers. Ready to go at the push of a button.
Then just start releasing them every 3 or 4 months for the foreseeable future.
So I have a number of books where I have covers and editing done. I'm just waiting for the right moment. This year is all about waiting to see what happens on the publisher front. I have books out being considered, I have books already accepted that will be coming out.
So I don't want to step on the toes of my publishers. I want to concentrate on those efforts and not dilute them with my other stuff.
I've got a couple of books that just need to be finished.
Devil's Forge already has a plot and 35K words. I've got a much better beginning planned. It is still a timely book, especially if wildfires continue to rage. So I could probably finish this within a month. I've been clipping newspaper articles out of the Bulletin for the last year, and it's amazing how much research material that has provided. I'm trying for a Crichton-like feel to the book.
The agent and publisher didn't care for my "100 kick-ass pages" so I'm going back to my original conception. I've put all the chapters back in the order they were originally, and I'm kind of excited to get started.
I also read through my Tuskers IV, and...I like it. It's good. It's a worthy continuation. I'm 25K words into that book, and again, I can probably finish it in a month.
So those are my next two projects.
I'm going to try to tick off each of my unfinished projects one by one over this year, have them all finished by the end of the year.
About 2/3rds of my books have a manageable number of versions, between 1-3 copies.
Led to the Slaughter had more than a dozen, but that book is two years old now, and I can just shove them in a file. Same with some of the others.
But Faerylander. Oh, la, la. Over 35 versions of that puppy. Every word has been gone over, every version.
There's a book under that pile of manure, I'm sure of it! In fact, there's 3 books!
Mike Corley did some wonderful covers for the first five books. Now all I have to do is figure out how to split Faerylander into 3 books. I'm going to do some detailed planning and outlining for each book before I start. It's a real puzzle. The 4th and 5th books are written, but need to be revised.
Finally, what about my early aborted efforts?
I have a bunch of books that I wrote first drafts and set them aside. I like them all right, but the stuff I started writing about a year into the process were so much more complete and ready to go that I didn't feel like going backward.
But they are fun books in their own right? What to do?
I've gone back and forth for years about doing books under a pen-name. Believe me, I have more than enough material. I have 2 books still unpublished from my earlier career, and I've written at least 5 other books since that I also think should come out. (These are outside the main career books.)
Question is-- do they fit the rest of my oeuvre, as it were? They are mostly fantasy, not horror.
So I'm thinking of having two tracks. The first is the Duncan McGeary route where I go to the expense of editing and professional covers for each book. These are books that I might send to a publisher; which I at least do some strategic career thinking about, when they should be released and how.
The second route is using a pen-name, where I do my own covers and editing and I just release whenever.
I've got at least 4 books finished and ready to go under the name Duncan McGeary. I've got Star Axe and Snowcastles and Icetowers coming out soon as well. I've got more two books in the pipeline. I have the five Faerylander books, I have Tuskers IV and Devil's Forge. (I already have 7 books out under publisher imprints, and two books out by myself under the Duncan McGeary name.
That's a career already. (I can hear some of you thinking: yeah, yeah, that ain't writing, that's typing. All I can say is, I'm spending a huge amount of time writing...)
And I'm by no means done writing. (Knock Wood.)
I could plunk these out every 3 months for years.
So why not do the penname thing on the other 7 books?
What I'm telling myself is--do my own covers as best I can, and do my own editing. I've got a much better idea of how to do covers now. My writing is pretty clean actually, not a lot of mistakes, so a little editing effort on my part should take care of that.
So I don't see any real downside to having books come out under a different name. (Right now, I'm thinking D.M. McKinnon, which is my middle name.)
Anyway, I think I'll feel a lot better if I can just deal with these little housekeeping chores. A couple of weeks or a month's worth of work.
Believe it or not, I don't think I've taken a month off from writing in 4 years. There is a reason I'm so prolific. I'm spending almost ALL my time doing it, I'm very diligent, and I seem to have a lot of creative energy.
I want to be sure that all this effort isn't wasted just because I didn't do the last few detailed things to make them possible.
"The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders: Blood of the Succubus" went nowhere fast.
It deserves better, I think. It's a decent book with some interesting ideas.
Anyway, I decided to change to the alternate cover--which was the one most people voted for.
I also changed to the alternate title: "Blood of the Succubus: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders."
While I was at it, I researched how to describe the book, what keywords to use, and how to categorize it. Changed six out of the seven keywords (saved only "Succubus.")
This was the first book that I published myself after being published by Books of the Dead and Ragnarok Publications. It's pretty obvious I don't know what I'm doing. I need to experiment, figure out what works.
I got only one real category the first time, so I this time I changed it up, went in an entirely different direction. So far, partial success. I got 3 (!) different categories, which is better than I expected. The change in the description looks and reads better too.
There is nothing to lose here. The book wasn't selling at all. (What happened to the thousands of readers of my other books?)
I have a lot of books written and I'm going to need to put books out on my own (even while still going through publishers, hopefully) and I need to figure this out.
However, I'm not quite satisfied with the ending. It seems like I sort of glided into the ending, instead of POW! hitting it.
I'm trying to figure out a more impactful ending. Right now, I have the main protagonist being more or less an observer. I need to bring Iggy into the action, but in order to do that, he needs some "magic" power to confront what is essentially a demigod. For him to have a magic power will need a little more set up, plus I can't imagine what that power is.
At this point I'm thinking this is a single book instead of making a trilogy out of it. It's 477 pages long, or 138K words, which is a bigger book than usual for me. I've changed my mind about 10 times about this, but it would be considerably easier if I could figure out a couple of climaxes in the book, and I can't seem to. It's all of one whole cloth.
Besides, buying three covers would get kind of expensive. And it's not like I'm short of books.
So one and done, I think.
It's a fun book, unlike anything I've done before. It's fascinating to me that I haven't settled on a kind of book, but keep doing different things.
I guess I'm learning the hard way. I'm not going to mess with what's working. Just keep writing.
I'm Duncan McGeary, owner and/or operator for the last 33 years of Pegasus Books in Downtown Bend, Oregon. These days I'm writing books as well as selling them.
I'm the comic book guy. But even more so, I'm a book book guy. Books of all kinds. Big books and little books, children's and adult, fiction and non-fiction, hardback and paperback and trade paperback and graphic novels. Books with more words than pictures and books with more pictures than words. They are all part of the book world to me, and I love being surrounded by them every day.
I also have a second blog: Pegasus Books, where I list the product coming in over the next week.