Strange

People are strange. Seriously, look it up. It’s right there in the book of life. It comes just before Birds are weird.

The last week or so one of my critique partners has been a little slower than normal. I’ve been sorta freaking out because I really want my crit partners to finish prior to july 10. (not gonna happen but meh)

I keep wondering if she’s bored of the book, or if she doesn’t want to do it anymore, etc, etc.

On Monday, she sent me her latest chapter. I glanced at the email where she wanted some specific feedback and thought, I’ll respond when I finish the chapter. Then I was super busy all week, and, like a jackass, didn’t respond until Saturday.

I swear to god just as I hit send an email popped into my inbox. She was asking if I still wanted to continue, that I’d been responding slowly, and that her specific request for feedback was, basically, not acknowledged.

In short, I’d done exactly what I had thought she was doing. After a few back and forth emails, it became apparent that we both thought the other person was not interested anymore…

We were both upset and feeling rejected.

It was stupid because neither of us really felt that way at all. Sigh.

I finished her critique up yesterday (in three separate word docs) and sent her specific feedback. I tend to not give my overall feelings too much unless stuff jumps out at me until I’ve finished a book. I tend to just markup an MS.

I should probably do that. Usually, the problem has more to do with being worn out by a critique than anything else. That’s not really a good excuse. I mean, I basically just said, “I don’t do it because I’m tired and lazy.”

I’m not sure that’s a valid excuse.

Percentages

 

As of last night Fairy Tale is 25% complete. That puts me right on track to finish by the end of September. I suspect I’ll finish in August. We’ll see. I have to say this is an interesting book for me to write for several reasons.

The first reason is scheduling. I’ve never planned when I’d have a book finished before. I’ve had writing deadlines, but nothing like, “this manuscript must be finished by the end of September,” before. It’s sort of fun for me, except I get stressed when its Thursday and I’m at barely 2k words of the 5k I need.

That’s really not a huge deal for me though. I really am more of a “sit down and knock out 5k+ in a sitting” writer than a “write 1k words a day” writer anyway.

This is also the first novel I have actively engaged people during the writing. I’ve had several conversations where I ask “does this work” before or after I write something. I’ve already rewritten several scenes based on feedback. I am hoping this produces a better story and less editing. I’m not sure if this is the way to go, however, as it drastically reduces the amount of words I write a week.

Finally, I have written at least half this novel by hand in a notepad. I haven’t done that since college… at least. I usually find that when I’m stuck, pencil (I hate pen) and paper works to get me into my groove.

This helps for two reasons. I try to type up my notes every day. This means that everything that hits the computer is automatically a second draft. I’ve made major changes between notepad and computer screen and, I think, I’m getting a better story for it.

Honestly, I’m not sure how this story is going to turn out. I’ve broken so far from my outline that every time I sit down it’s sort of like “what is gonna happen next?” I haven’t felt that way about my own book before. I’m excited to finish just to see what happens.

I think this is gonna be a book where, by the time the end shows up, the reader is going to be worn out in that good way. That way you get when you’re like “Wow a lot happened in that book. I can’t believe all that happened in one book!”

Quality

I read my second, I guess technically third, self-published book last weekend. I say technically third because I had started one a few years ago and put it down after two pages. I think they used the “F-word” like 46 times within that span. It’s still sitting there on my Kindle too, like a horrible eyesore begging me to open it.

I’m not really one for meaningless cussing. Every time I see swear words my eyes bug out a little, and I get broken out of the story. So cussing has to have real, underling usage for me to enjoy it.

That is neither here nor there because the point of this post is to talk about the Self-Published book I just read by a self-published author who has such success that I can only dream of. I seriously doubt I’ll be selling 20-50k copies a month anytime soon.

Two things struck me about this book. The first was that the book made no excuses about what it was. A “non-stop” action thrill-ride that was totally unrealistic. It told me that from the blurb. It was that too. It was a fast read that sucked me in after about oh 20% of the way through the book and didn’t let go until I was done.

It was very clear what the author intended this book to do, especially from the ending. This book was intended to make me rush out and buy the other six books in the series, which is why I suspect it was free.

The other thing I learned from the book was that the writing quality is just not what I would come to expect from a book I’d pay money for. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t really buy books anymore. I am the king of going to the Library since I found out there is a Library one mile from my house.

It was clear from this book that it was about 80% of what it should have been. It was very clearly in that realm of “You spend 20% of your effort to get 80% of the work done.” The book was rife with poor editing, bad word choice, and sentences that were just too long. I bet a good editor could shorten the book by five pages just by crossing out words.

There were three entire chapters devoted to a character that served no purpose other than to establish that the character wasn’t coming on the mission. The following three chapters are placed randomly throughout the book.

Chapter 1: introduces two characters.

Chapter 2: introduces that the character hates her job, the same job the main character is hoping to do.

Chapter 3: the character is killed off unexpectedly in the middle of a mission by an unnamed, unexplained assailant, presumably the one she is trying to catch.

Later it is revealed that the main character must go on a mission because the dead woman is dead and, therefore, cannot make it. Except, I don’t really care. Delete the three chapters and just have the main character go on the mission. This isn’t world building, this is page inflation. This is I need three chapters worth of words to enhance my story because it’s too short.

There’s an entire mission from the beginning of the book that is never really resolved. We just get a one liner somewhere that says “oh we caught that guy.”

Guh…

The language use is just… well. Sentences might be something like:

“She grabbed her gun and pointed it at the three guards and shot them in the face. Then turned and fired six more rounds blowing up a monastery while the wind whipped around her bringing in the scent of cinnamon candles that reminded her of the evil teddy bear Charlie had given her as a child.”

There was the constant meshing of two ideas in sentences that just didn’t flow, paragraphs that needed to be rearranged. Picasso, this was not.

These were issues I would not expect if I picked up a book from say Dean Koontz or James Patterson. These issues were the same ones I found in the first self-published book I’d read. I know it isn’t fair to compare a self-published author to Dean Koontz, but both books cost the same.

If your book costs as much as Dean Koontz’s books your writing quality better be impeccable. I should not stumble through bad quality for twenty percent of your book telling myself to overlook all these things before you suck me in, telling myself I need to get through this because this author sold a lot of books, telling myself there has to be something here I am not seeing.

All that said, I think every indie/self-published writer should read this book. It gives me hope because I can write at this level. I think most people can write at this level given a very small amount of effort. Both my current critique partners write at this level. You can write at this level.

If this author can become a kindle millionaire based on this quality of writing, anyone can do it. Anyone just needs to come out with books at a consistent pace and create a huge backlist. When you have a backlist of thirty-plus titles, selling 20k copies a month is a lot easier than when you have one or two titles out.

The book? Russell Blake’s Jet: Ops Files.

Hurt

 

I feel like a giant douchebag. The reason is because, basically, I am a giant douchebag.

Today started out like any other day, and I even had a blog post in mind and everything. For some, stupid reason I decided to google one of my old character names. You see, a long time ago (2004ish) I joined an online forum for the purpose of writing in a made-up world. I wrote close to a million words for them before getting banned after about 40 weeks of non-stop writing. (you had to complete about 1000 words a week or you were dropped.)

I’d talked to the owners of the message board several years ago (2007ish), and they’d agreed to delete everything I’d written, but a few months later it was all back up.

Apparently, the owners had a disagreement, and one pulled an old version of everything, one which contained my writing and started his own forum.

The original forum is long gone now… but, surprisingly, the new one is still going, albeit run by different people.

I found one of my characters being used by other people. Other people. Not only was she badly characterized, doing things and behaving in a way that was very out of character… but she was being portrayed as evil…

My character’s huge, life-ending sacrifice was being portrayed as the crux for this huge event the writers was dealing with. I read several pages of people completely bastardizing my character and her death, and I felt this profound sense of sadness overcome me.

Firstly, it was my character, and they had no right to use it without permission. Secondly, I wanted to scream that wasn’t how it was at all.

See, if they’d done a good job and used my stuff correctly I’m not sure I’d care as much. I’d be less personally hurt. I wrote close to a million words on this character, went with her as she struggled and in the end had this hugely noble sacrifice. I felt real pain when she died.

And they were spitting on her image… It was obvious that they hadn’t even read my writing, rather skimmed a few things here or there, I’m assuming to get her appearance correct. Then they went off on their merry way, portraying my character as the big bad of their arc.

So I, of course, emailed the people responsible for the new forum, whom were totally different from anyone I knew because it’s been like 9 years and was like “Dear sir, I am the writer of this character, and I demand you remove all my writing and all references to my character.”

To be fair, they are going to try. My writing is easy for them to remove, but they are hesitant about blanket deleting stuff referencing my character, especially after I left. I can understand that sort of, but those people shouldn’t be using my character. They didn’t laugh and cry and bleed with her. They don’t know her like I do, and, if I asked them, they wouldn’t have read through her trials and tribulations.

Maybe I’m wrong. I doubt it, but maybe I am. Either way, I’m still hurt.

Game

I met a girl last weekend, and I don’t even remember her name. She was sitting there on a swing, sunlight cascading over her bright red-kindle. My heart started pounding, butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

I swallowed, taking a deep breath as I walked over to her. “Hey, whatcha reading?” I asked in a voice that I hoped didn’t portray the nervousness threatening to rip my body in two.

She glanced up at me over the rim of her bright-red kindle, shifting her body just enough toward me so as to not be rude, but not enough to let me know she was interested in really talking to me.

“A romance novel,” she said turning back to her kindle while I tried desperately to think of some way to keep our conversation going.

“You read romance novels?” I asked. The kindle lowered once more, and a small tremor of exasperation went through her.

“Not usually, I read all kinds of books. Usually five a week or so.”

“That’s a lot of books to read.” I said taking a tentative step toward her, shading myself under the awning of the chair swing.

She lowered her kindle to her lap and turned toward me, this time giving me slightly more than the time of day.

“Success!” I didn’t scream out.

“I used to read only paper books, but I ran out of storage space and had boxes and boxes of books. It was a nightmare.” She smiled, her teeth glinting like stars on a moon swept night. “Then I got my tablet and the whole thing got way worse.”

“Way worse?” I asked already trying to think of what to say next.

“Yeah, now I have so many more books to read. I went from two a week to five a week.”

“That’s cool,” I smiled and took another step toward her. “You know, I wrote a book. I’m putting it out on Kindle in September.”

“You did? What’s it about?” she asked giving me her full attention.

“Um… you ever read Dresden or Anita Blake stuff?”

“No… what’s that?”

I waved my hand as if waving away the concept. “It’s about a teenage girl who knows magic. She fights vampires and werewolves.” I grinned at her and made an effort to stop flailing my arms like a crazed Italian.

“Well… that seems right up my alley. I’ll look it up.”

“Yosh!” I almost cried out. But I didn’t because I’m a smooth operator.

“Yeah, it comes out September 22, 2014. Here’s what it looks like.” I said pulling my phone from my pocket and showing her the picture of the cover. Because normal people have pictures of their unpublished books on their phone.

Her eyes got as big as saucers. “That’s a really cool cover,” she said leaning close to me to look at it. “I’ll definitely look it up. What’s your name?”

I mentally smacked myself across the face. “The title is Kill it with Magic,” I said and tried desperately to figure out what name to tell her. Mine or the one on the book?

She smiled and pulled out her kindle, opening some weird notepad app and jotted down the title. “and your name is?” she glanced at me over her shoulder.

“Jason. Jason Cipriano.”

“And when does it come out?”

“September 22.”

“Oh I like that it’s a specific date.” She made another note in her kindle and put it back in her lap.

I glanced around, not sure of what to do. I smiled, waved, and basically ran away.

A few minutes later I grabbed my wife and pointed at the girl, who was back to reading, explaining what had just transpired.

“You think she’ll actually look up my book?” I asked like a child who is just about to open presents on Christmas.

“I’m sure she will. Might take a few years for her to find the note she wrote herself and remember what it’s about.” She patted my hand. “But I’m sure she’ll read it. I give you a two year maximum.”

Hardcore

Lillim may be too hardcore. Why? Because I wrote a series of chapters in my new Lillim book Fairy Tale over the past few days. In these chapters, Lillim is turning from innocent, good girl to uncaring, soulless killer.

If I think about Lillim as she progress through book one, I think the lesson she learns is that, well, she has people who care about her, even if they have stupid ways of showing it. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m going for.

The second book reveals to Lillim that she will do pretty much anything to help people she cares about.

I think those two lessons are taken to the extreme in book three. Because when she pins a guy to the floor and starts shooting him over and over until he tells her what she wants to know… I wonder if it’s a little too hardcore. I’m starting to wonder if we’re maybe following a girl as she descends into darkness, where the value of lives starts to take on new meaning, where killing doesn’t really matter.

That scares me because I’m not sure that’s the story I intended to write, especially knowing how the whole thing ends. It is going to crush her, and I’m not sure how the rest of her world deals with Lillim if she becomes unhinged.

I’m not sure I know how to deal with that. I don’t know how to reconcile the sweet girl I have in my head with the “I torture people for information” girl she is fast becoming. It makes me feel a little bad because it’s my fault, and I’m not going to change it.

Uncomfortable

I am not, nor have I ever been, a sixteen year old girl. Because Lillim is a sixteen-year-old girl, certain aspects of writing her character are impossible to write from personal experience. They take a certain leap of faith, like when I write about murder and killing trolls.

That’s my job. To take leaps of faith and hope that the experience I am describing seems real enough to the reader. I think it is easier with murder and trolls though. Most people don’t have a lot of personal experience with those things. Even if I totally mess up the fact that a rock troll is a different color from a cave troll, there aren’t too many people who are going to notice. Even if someone did, I could always use the cop out, “well it’s my world and cave trolls will be purple with white polka-dots if I say so.” Then I can stick my tongue out in an overwhelming display of maturity.

Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t really work when it comes to writing the state of arousal of a sixteen-year-old girl when she sees a super-hot Sidhe take off his shirt for the first time. I am assuming there are several physiological responses a girl might have in this situation, but what goes on in her head? Not. A. Clue.

I don’t really read erotica or romance so… I totally spent last night googling “Description of an aroused girl” or some other silly combination. Which made me feel patently ridiculous, because, well… shouldn’t I know this?

My worst fear is for Kathy Everywoman to read my scene where the sexy elf presses his body against Lillim’s and says, “what the hell is he talking about?” Then she will throw the book into the fireplace, upsetting her hot chocolate and candles, thereby burning her remote, cozy cabin to the ground.

I don’t want to be responsible for that. No one wants to be responsible for that.

When I write about Lillim gallivanting through the fairy forest in a string bikini, I can get behind that. Fan Service. If you read that and go, “This was written by a guy.” I can deal with that.

What I really can’t deal with is someone reading the steamy love scene and thinking. “Wow this guy has no idea what’s going on. Has he ever even seen a real, live girl?” Because I’m shallow and I want to feel like I kinda knows what happens to a girl? I mean it can’t all be from Venus, right?

So, I guess, in the end, I’m insecure because writing is revealing something I’m somewhat unsure about. It is calling into question my prowess as a male. Then again, I write stories about teenage girls surrounded by men with washboard abs, rippling biceps, and long flowing hair that reaches to their ankles… so… yeah… there’s that.

I guess the whole point of this post is that I wrote two chapters yesterday that detailed Lillim getting seduced by a Sidhe, and I think it’s really good. And I really don’t want to show it to anyone… ever…. Because I’m embarrassed. I mean that isn’t going to stop me or anything, but I’m going to secretly be blushing every time Kathy Everywoman reads the scene. And when Joe Everyman reads it? Well… he won’t know anyway.

Scheduling

I got a lot done today, or, at least, it feels like I got a lot done today. It’s still pretty early in the day, so maybe I’ll slide back into mediocrity before the day ends. You never know. Still, I’ve written two more chapters for the third Lillim book and managed to finish both of my critique partner’s chapters. Even by my standards that is a lot because after writing a couple chapters or doing a critique I usually feel burned out.

Today, I decided to push myself through it mostly because I had time, and found out I wasn’t really burned out at all. Yay!

Part of the reason is as follows: I stayed up last night making a schedule for my books. This morning I deleted the entire thing and started over. It is a two year schedule, which is as ambitious as it is ridiculous. It has all these colors and… well I’m just going to show it to you.

schedule

At some point making it, I decided I was spending a little bit too much time on the thing, but part of it was an exercise to put it all into perspective for myself. It is not an easy road I’ve picked. Though at least I figured out how I was going to do it.

For those of you wondering, The Hatter is Mad is the second Lillim book and Fairy Tale is the third one. There is no reason I can’t finish Fairy Tale by September. Abby Banks is that YA Thriller that I don’t have a name for yet. I’m thinking The Fostered, but I dunno. The main character is Abby Banks, so that’s what I titled the word document.

It’s halfway done right now. I’m very confident I can get them finished by December. While not effortless, it’s almost a cop out because the books are basically written. I know how they are both going to end; I just need to get there.

That is where it starts getting tricky. Originally I was going to work on the Revelations Trilogy after December. The problem with that is, well, from Feb 2015 until December 2015 I’d essentially have no new Lillim books. Granted I’d release four books by then, but still no new Lillim books. That’s a long time to make someone wait for a new story in the world of self-publishing.

So I’m going to try and do Lillim 4, 5, and 6 during the same time and, if I have to, I’ll slow down the releases of Revelations.

I think this is doable. Not easy, but doable. However, if I pull it off, well by December 2015, I’ll be able to release a new Lillim book and the final Revelations book. Wouldn’t that be cool? That’d give me 9 books out. Additionally, I can box the trilogy together and sell it as a set as well as individually.

Unfortunately, I’d also have to come up with two completely new books, one of which I’m sure will be a Lillim book, but the other? Maybe another series? I have another book in my head with an outline and everything I think can be a series. Maybe I’ll work on that… two years from now.

Stumbling

Happy Father’s day to all those to whom it applies.

I have been struggling with my third Lillim Novel, which is sort of funny because I haven’t even gotten books one and two out yet. At least those two are written though, and if my last two crit partners are any indication, Book 1 is basically ready. I almost want it to be September 22, 2014 now so I can push it out.

Assuming editing and cover creation comply, I want to release the second book right around Christmas. That gives me until March to get book three out. That seems like a long time, but I’ve been struggling. This is the first novel I’ve ever outlined, and I keep finding myself veering off on some random thing. That’s why I decided to throw away my outline last night.  Since then I’ve written two chapters.

That means I’m roughly 10-15% complete. Yay!

This book is weird for me because I know how it ends.  I have been tempted to just sit down and write the ending. I know how it ends because I know how it leads into book four. Book four has one page written though, so even if it is totally scrapped it isn’t a huge loss.

I’m also going back and forth on a standalone YA thriller I’ve been writing. You know the kind, orphan girl realizes she’s special and is surrounded by super-hot guys trying to protect her. It’s one of those. It’s like 50% finished and it’s awesome.  I love working on it, but I keep hearing standalone novels don’t do well and there is really no way to make it into a series. I think… I guess I’d have to finish it…

I have a very limited amount of time to write, which I am wasting now, and I am spreading it between editing Lillim 1 & 2, writing Lillim 3 and YA Thriller, and going back over a trilogy I wrote in college.

That trilogy is heartbreaking… It’s so good and so bad at the same time. I can fix the bad and improve the good. It just takes time. I know that this time next year I’ll have like 8 books out, but right now I am looking at all this stuff I have to do that doesn’t even involve writing. I’m just going to take it one step at a time.

On that note, I added a mailing list so people can subscribe to that if they like to find out when the next book comes out. I’m going to put the link to it on the last pages of my books, so maybe people will read the book and sign up? I don’t know.

I decided I’m going to pay for some advertising when Kill it with Magic comes out. I think I’m going to do this when I release book two as well. I’ll probably combine it with some kind of promotion for book one when I do that.

I’m leaning toward paying for a couple blog tours and maybe some fiverr advertising. I guess I need to sign up for something to track sales based on advertising. Mmm… one more thing to do.

On that note, my friend seems to be obsessed with working on this cover, and I have no idea why. I guess he likes projects? If you have an opinion on which is better, please let me know.

Kill It With Magic

Memories Here

Kill It With Magic

My old roommate is a jack of all trades. He’s a published poet (does that make anyone else think of black turtlenecks and coffee shops?) He’s also a professional photographer and a graphic artist.

So when I showed him my cover, his reaction was “I am way more awesome than that.”

I am inclined to agree.

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