Lessons Learned

I submitted Hatter is Mad to Amazon a few hours ago, so the ebook should be live tomorrow morning. It usually takes about 12 hours. I got it back from the formatter last night, and I probably should have submitted it then, but well, I was lazy. Unprofessional, I know.

The print version will come about a week later.

So, what have I learned from my second book? Be professional.

Murphy was in full swing with this one, and I guess I’m a Type A personality when it comes to my books because I just found myself getting angrier and angrier. This, honestly, didn’t really do anything to help.

To negate this, I’ve decided to throw some money at the problem and see if it goes away.

See, I had two wonderful critique partners for Hatter is Mad, but I can’t expect them to keep up with my pace, at least at the moment. One of them finished the book in July. The other… didn’t finish. She only got 2/3 of the way by Nov. 20, which is when it had to go to the editor. While I got it to him at 11:30 PM on the 20th, that wound up being the 21st since he is in the Philippines.

Realistically, I should have had it to him in August. Because he got it in November and got sick, and really busy, I got Hatter back on Jan 4th instead of Dec 14th when all my promotions for Kill it with Magic were scheduled.  To make matters worse, my formatter closed for new orders from Dec 13th to Jan 1st. It wound up not being an issue because I got the MS back so late, but it was incredibly frustrating.

When I did get the MS back, it was well edited, but had I gotten it to him earlier it wouldn’t have been an issue if he was a little late.

In the future, I am going to go with professional readers. Yeah, that’s a thing. I mean I won’t balk if someone wants to do this for free, but for Fairy Tale, Pursuit, and Shattered I went through Frostbite Publishing. I got the books back a week later with comments and surveys on every chapter. It was extremely helpful.

This allowed me to give Fairy Tale to the editor a week early. Which is stupid since the book was done a while ago, and I was just trying to find a beta reader. If I’d used the professionals earlier, he’d have had the book back in October or whenever it was I finished it.

My friend Shawn made a wonderful cover for Hatter. It was free. I like free. However, it made me feel like a jackass whenever I bugged him for the cover.

For Fairy Tale, Pursuit, and Shattered, I decided to go with a professional cover artist (two different ones) because Shawn didn’t feel like he had time. I’m fairly pleased with the results. Mostly it was because I got the cover back like a week after I ordered it, and I didn’t feel like a jerk bugging them for it.

Honestly, this post just feels like bitching to me, but it really isn’t. I’m not upset, really. I just need to treat this as a professional thing if I’m going to self-impose deadlines on myself. Otherwise it goes from being a fun hobby to a source of stress, and I have enough of those.

Hatter is Mad – Chapter 1

So there’s news afoot. I got Pursuit back from the beta reader, and not to put words in her mouth, but she said that it is easily the best Lillim book so far.

The formatter also let me know that I will have Hatter back today. In honor of that, I’ve decided to post the first chapter here.

***

Chapter 1 – Hatter is Mad

I fell forward, arms flailing wildly as I tried to right myself before face-planting into the cement. I jerked to a stop mere inches from the ground and let out a short cry of pain.

“You should have been watching that last step. That one’s a doozy.” Melanie Stone grinned, holding me with both hands by the scruff of my overcoat as she stood just outside my door.

I grunted as she helped me regain my balance. I wriggled my toes in the pink footpads of my pajamas and sighed. I thought about changing, but I didn’t have time if I wanted to answer the door in any respectable amount of time. So there I was, standing there in my navy blue overcoat and a pink onesie with sparkly ponies on it. I’d probably looked more ridiculous at some point in time, but I had a hard time remembering when.

Why did I grab my overcoat instead of a bathrobe? It was enchanted with spells that made it bullet proof, stab proof, and fire proof. Besides, there was near limitless space inside to hide my own personal armory. However, none of that helps when you trip and fall through your own doorway as you scramble to open the door.

Stupid jacket on the floor! The fairy cleaning-service was really slacking lately. If this kept up, I might actually have to start cleaning up after myself. I shook my head in disgust. That was so not happening. If there’s one thing Lillim Callina does not do, it’s clean.

I glanced at Melanie Stone and smirked. She stood even shorter than my five foot nothing with curly, golden locks that made her face look pixie-like. It also made her black combat boots and matching trench coat and hat look almost cute, like a five year old who had gotten into her father’s clothes.

She tipped her hat toward me, took the cigar from her lips, and blew a small cloud of smoke from the corner of her mouth. Behind her I could see her latest fling, Antonio. He was over six feet tall and wore on each pinky finger a diamond ring that looked more like some lucky girl’s engagement ring than something a man would wear. Hey, I wasn’t judging. It was just that where I came from men dressed like men. My father wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing a dainty band like that on his pinkie. He could also chew coal and spit out diamonds, so there was that.

Antonio stood motionless between the open door of his Beamer and the car itself. Apparently he was in some kind of major hurry, which begged the question of why he came along at all. He looked like he was probably up to no good, and not because most people dressed in custom suits gave me that vibe. No, it was because he was tagging along with Melanie Stone, the resident trouble causing private detective in these parts. Then again, I guess a good fit for her would be an eccentric millionaire who liked to ‘play detective’ from time to time.

“My dearest Melanie, to what do I owe this lovely visit?” I asked as I stepped back to shut the door in her face as kindly as possible.

“I’m well. Thanks for asking,” she replied, leaning against the door frame so I couldn’t close it without hitting her. “How are you? Still posing as vamp bait?”

I glared at her as the heat rose on my cheeks. “No. I’m over it,” I growled.

“So Caleb finally called you back?” she asked in that annoying way she did when she already knew the answer.

We’d met six months ago while I was posing as a teenage runaway at a vampire owned half-way house. Why was I doing that? Because Caleb left me in the middle of the night without so much as a goodbye, and I was angry. I bounced around supernatural feeding grounds busting heads for a while after that.

If Melanie didn’t find me, ignore the fact that I was only seventeen, and teach me some tricks of the trade, I’d probably still be luring vampire johns to their doom.

“No. I still haven’t heard a word from him.” I sighed and stared at my feet. “Why do you ask?”

“Lillim, I do actually care about you. You’re like the little sister I never wanted,” Melanie said and harrumphed. “And there have been some weird occurrences over the last few days. If I trust my gut at all, it tells me your ‘things’ have something to do with it.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “As far as I know, there’s nothing abnormal going on in the supernatural world.”

She put her hand against her face and rubbed her temples before letting out a long sigh. It was her dealing with me gesture. I saw it nearly every time I irritated her. Melanie blew out a slow breath that reeked of tobacco, and my stomach tried to crawl out my throat.

“I was never really good at asking for help. You know that.” She stopped talking and stared at the floor as if looking for the right words. “I know you’re good at finding things, specifically strange things.” She waggled her fingers for emphasis. “Things others aren’t so good at finding, if ya catch my drift. Antonio might have found something, and I want you to look into it.”

“I have been known to find a bauble or two upon occasion. What do you need found?” I smiled and leaned against the door. As much as I disliked Antonio without actually meeting him in person, I was sure he was a millionaire and could totally pay me. I liked that a lot. In fact, it moved him to nearly the top of my list of my people to not hate without a good reason.

She pulled a sealed envelope from her coat and thrust it into my hands. “Let me know when you find out what’s going on. Your usual rate is in there with a little bonus. You know, for ice cream.”

Melanie was one of the few people who knew I could be bought. Especially if I was being paid to do something I was already interested in. This though, this seemed a bit off. She referred jobs to me before but…

“Trust me. This is right up your alley.” She turned and moved down my walk toward Antonio and the Beamer. He seemed even more agitated. Briefly, I wondered why he was in such a rush. “And next time, try not to answer the door in your pajamas. It’s really unprofessional, though the ponies are cute.”

I fought the urge to yell at her as I shut the door. Instead, I leaned my back against the doorframe and tore the top off the manila envelope. A smile crossed my face as I dropped its remains to the floor. A while back Melanie told me how she liked to save manila envelopes for use at a later time, to save both money and hassle. I smirked as a glossy photo slid out of the mangled envelope and into my hand.

If Melanie hadn’t given it to me, I wouldn’t have spared it a second glance. It was of the most completely average looking man I’ve ever seen walking down a street carrying a briefcase. He was wearing a royal blue suit with a navy fedora. Even his shoes were blue. On his wrist was an oversized watch that seemed blurry in the otherwise clear photo. It was circled in red marker with There it is written next to it.

I turned the picture over. Written on the back were several completely incomprehensible symbols. I set it on the pile of candy wrappers covering every square inch of my desk, and I looked inside the envelope. There was a neon blue post-it note that said, “He’s murdering the time.”

First World Problems

So I have good news and bad news. The good news is I got Shattered back from the beta reader, and well, she didn’t hate it. She was able to pinpoint the problems I was having and help me out, but her comments made me realize I’m an idiot.

The major issue with the book is that the reader comes into the story during the middle of Dirge’s timeline.

Let’s see if you can follow my thoughts here for a minute. The way I have it currently in my head, Shattered would technically be the third book in the Dirge Quartet. This, in my stupid head, wasn’t a problem because I’d written it to be more of a supplement to the Lillim books.

However, my lovely wife pointed an interesting fact out to me when I was trying to figure out how to fix the book. No one is going to want to read books 1 and 2 AFTER book 3 and potentially book 4 are out. The most likely two outcomes are:

  • Readers ignore the prequels to Shattered
  • Readers wait until the series is finished, then start.

It doesn’t even really make sense to put out book 3 before book 1 and 2 are written because I’ll be constrained because Shattered will already canon.

And, the real kicker is this, there’s two books that take place before the Dirge timeline even starts.

That’s five books that take place before Shattered.

So, all that being said, Shattered is going to get delayed until at least the first two Dirge books are written…

Sorry.

I spent all morning going through my notes and actually writing a timeline, detailing what happens from “the beginning.” I’d show it to you, but that’d give everything away.

I’m fairly certain I can do it like this:

  • Rising
  • Uprising
  • (Unnamed First Dirge Book)
  • Requiem
  • Shattered
  • Besieged

I did, however, work on a blurb to the pre-Dirge, (would that make it pre-pre-Lillim?) series, though. I’d like to share it with you.

When I was born, the Dioscuri had a noble leader, a good king, and an insurmountable army.

This story is not about them.

Except for the part where I kill them.

Back from Beta

I got Fairy Tale back from the beta reader on Thursday and meant to make a post about it, but I didn’t. Now that I’ve had a chance to read through her comments and made some much needed edits, the book is much better.

I even wrote a proper ending. In both of the first two books I wrote an “epilogue” type chapter that sort of tied everything up and moved us to the next book. I didn’t do that in Fairy Tale. I just left it right after this super emotional scene… which was so annoying to the beta that it ruined the whole book.

Which is why I wrote another chapter that sums it all up and leads us right into Pursuit. Then I wrote an extra chapter in Pursuit that leads us into Lillim 5.

It’s called Hard Boiled and takes place back on Earth.

In other news, Kill It With Magic hit #12 on the top 100 Paranormal and Urban Fantasy category on Amazon, which I’m counting as a win.

I’m expecting Hatter back from the editor next week (he was sick and asked for an extra week), but we’ll see with Christmas and all. You should be able to buy it in early January. You should, it’s at least twice as good as Kill It with Magic. Way less bumpy.

Rewritting Again

I got chapters 16 and 17 of Hatter is Mad back from my crit partner, and she hated them. It made me sad because they are my favorite chapters in the whole book.

So I did what any self-respecting person would do. I made my wife read them and tell me how to fix it. She told me what to do, and I rewrote them. Then she read them again. (so nice!) I rewrote them again. I think they’re even more awesome now!

I resent them to my crit partner and am excited to hear if she still hates them. =D

On that note, someone found a typo in Kill It With Magic, which is fixed now, but still. After 5 beta readers, me, an editor, and a proof reamer, we still all missed it. That’s kinda crazy to me.

Give Away

My first print copy arrived in the mail on Friday, and in honor of that, I have decided to list a Good Reads Give Away for one autographed (why not) copy of Kill It With Magic. You can enter Here. It’s free to enter as long as you have a good reads account, which is also free.

I also just got my first negative review on Amazon, and boy do I feel like a real writer, now. I was a little surprised when I received a notification about a new review in my dashboard. I went to check it out and was flabbergasted… someone doesn’t like my book? My book? Do you know how many puppies spontaneously combust when you don’t like my book?

I mean, this totally just murdered like 45 puppies. Bam, just gone. Nothing left but empty collars and fur. In all seriousness, I only read the review like six times before I totally moved on and didn’t write a blog post about it or anything. I mean, I’m bound to not make everyone happy.

Anyway, one of my crit partners sent me a new version of her final chapter a few days ago, and I’d sent it back with some comments. We chatted about it back and forth a bit through email and she said she was having a hard time with the dialog. That’s when an idea popped into my head, yesterday.

I sat down and wrote a little two page “ending” for her book. I know, I know, I shouldn’t write all over people’s stuff, but she asked me for help! I’m helping in my way. So, I just sent her my scene for her ending, and she can totally ignore it if she wants. I mean, the guy who wrote it has a one star review on Amazon, what does he know?

Two Down

I just finished my second critique partner’s novel, and I’m really happy. It was a blast. I enjoyed the characters, the world building, the strange romance between the two main characters. Her main issue was not that she isn’t a great writer with a unique vision, flowery prose, and all those things we get told make a great writer.

Her problem is that her book is too long. I’ve read so many novels where I wanted to grab the author and shake his stupid head from his shoulders because I’m just lost, because the novel is too short, because the scenes suck and lack description.

This is the opposite of that. The scenes are awesome. The prose is all roses and sunshine and puppies playing in the springtime. Her idea is unique, special, and interesting. The only problem is that the book is just too long.

It’s like this stack of movies I have on my shelf. I know they’re awesome but come on LOTR is like 4.5 hours long and what am I made of time?

I’m impatient. I skim read. I fast forward through commercials. I try to imagine how conversations are going to go instead of listening and jump to the end. I’m that annoying guy in your meeting who yells, “Cut to the chase you hapless dimwit.”

If I could I’d distill books down into syrup and inject them into my body and just have all the information from them.

All that said, I’d still read this book.

One Down

I really want to use the phrase “Up all night ‘till the sun,” but I’m not quite sure how to fit it in. Anyway, I just finished my first crit partner’s story and sent it back to her. I have to say, I’m impressed by her ending. The last five or so chapters were immensely better than her first five chapters. You can really see how her writing “leveled up” over the course of the book.

I have been focused on finishing her book because she had some kind of contest at the end of the month. I’m not sure, exactly. That said, I’ve totally neglected my other crit partner for almost a month because I’ve been trying to bang out a 25k word crit. It makes me feel like a jerk.

What have I learned from this experience? Having people send me their whole book at once to go through at my leisure is harder for me than a few chapters at a time. I’ve had dual (and even triple) crit partners before, but I haven’t felt this overloaded in the past. I think it’s because I seriously had 100k of work to critique and get back sitting in my inbox.

It isn’t any more work, but it seems like more work when it’s all there looming over me with teeth bared. The one nice thing about it though, is when I have time I can bang out a bunch of chapters instead of a couple chapters. In the past, sometimes, I’d have a bunch of time and then finish up what I had and by the time the next set came in I’d be like “oh sorry I’m swamped.” It also eases the reading experience because I can treat it more like a book.

But I’m a quick win kind of guy. I have to set goals. When there’s just a huge mound of words in front of me I freeze up like a deer. “Maybe if I don’t move, they won’t see me.” Now, I have to set my own goals. I’m bad at that, apparently.

I suppose the other difference was I wasn’t trying to write another book and edit an additional book at the same time. I was working on Kill it with Magic exclusively. This time I’ve been criting two separate books, editing Hatter is Mad and Kill it with Magic, in addition to writing Fairy Tale.

Speaking of Fairy Tale, I’m officially over 70% of the way done. Wow! I’m happy because I really need a break from Lillim’s world. I’m excited to get back into Abby Banks and write about how the boy with the pretty blue eyes makes her all twitterpated.

It’s sort of funny; Lillim and Abby are nearly opposite characters. Where Lillim is tough, strong, and kicks ass, Abby… well… she wants to be saved. She’s confused, and overwhelmed. I’m having a blast writing it, and I think it’s because it’s a break from writing tough girls. Then again, deep down Lillim is just a lost teenager who really just wants her mommy to love her. So there’s that.

Behind

I’m so behind it is ridiculous. It’s partially my fault because I was on vacation for a week and, like an idiot, forgot to actually download my files onto my Surface before we left. Finding Wifi was impossible so I was stuck without my crits or Fairy Tale for the entire time. It’s doubly annoying because I was mid-chapter in Fairy Tale writing about Lillim fighting the Goblin King.

One of my Critique Partners worked overdrive and finished all of The Hatter is Mad before I got back so I have an entire book to critique in addition to writing Fairy Tale and doing both my partners’ crits. Which is fine, once I get back into the swing of things I’ll knock out all the crits in a week or two.

I’m heading toward the end of Fairy Tale as well. I think it will be more writing itself from this point on since I’m done slogging out the middle of the book. It’s all downhill from here.

In other news, I sent the final draft of Kill It With Magic to the editor today and am on track to get my return draft by September 8. I think I have enough time to spend a week editing the changes and will still be able to spend a couple days formatting the beast and get it out by September 22. Hopefully some of the dozens of reviewers respond to me between now and then and want to read the book.

Hell, if anyone reading this decides they want to review the book, I’ll gift you a copy =D

I also read four self-published books on my trip and, I have to say, the writing quality was really very good, much better than I’d gotten from my previous experiences. Maybe I’ll get some reviews up on them in the next few days.

Sucked In

I got a crit back yesterday on the first seven chapters of The Hatter Is Mad and, as I was reading it, I totally got sucked into my own book.

That’s never happened to me before.

I think it was partially because It was on my phone and in PDF. Since I couldn’t edit the book, I was forced to read it.

It’s not a bad little book, but I agree with my crit partner. It front loads a lot of information in the beginning.

There are also some chapters that need to be rewritten. It’s nothing that surprising, but it still smells like work.

I’m out of town this week for work, and I’m going out of the country on Thursday so it’s totally possible this will be my last post for like 2 weeks.

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