The Dead Isle is now available for purchase!

The year is 1880, and Jack Baker is a young, driven student at Harvard University for Engineers. In this America, industry depends on "Creation" magic rather than machines, and most engineers are train repairmen, not inventors like Jack. Even his Creationist friend Clare thinks Jack's genius is going to waste at Harvard.

There is one man who knows how to put Jack to use, however: famous novelist and sometimes spy Ellis Graveworthy, who wants Jack to come with him to England and build him a flying ship. Graveworthy has been ordered to cross the heavily-guarded coast of Australia, the "Dead Isle" which has no Creation, and which sealed itself off from the outside world more than twenty years before. Rumors abound that Australia is building a war fleet, intent on conquest, and it's Graveworthy's job to stop it.

Clare, exiled from Australia as a child because of her ability to Create, is determined to return to her homeland with Graveworthy and Jack, but their journey is not easy. Along the way the three of them will encounter the pirate Purva de la Fitte, con the wealthiest robber barons in Australia, meet surprising allies, and possibly touch off a long-awaited revolution.

Join Jack, Clare, Ellis, and Purva in an adventure spanning half the globe, in search of the answer to a centuries-old question: Why is there no magic in the Dead Isle?


This book was the product of an intense editing process conducted entirely online.

The Dead Isle is for sale through Lulu.com:

PAPERBACK EDITION | EPUB EDITION

Use the promocode SEPBOOKS12 and get 20% off! (Lulu pays the difference; I make the same profit.)

The paper edition is available currently for $18.99; the ePub edition is $4.99. It is also available for free as a PDF download from Project Gutenberg. (Or will be -- it hasn't been approved yet but bookmark that page, it'll be there when it is.)

If you are interested in a signed copy, please do not purchase a book! Peep behind the cut for instructions.

Signed Copies )

Publicity and Reviews:

I am more than happy for you to publicise this book on your own journal if you want. You are of course welcome to do your own writeup, with your own opinion; if you review the book please send me a link! If you'd like to copy and paste a promo, you can use the text behind the cut: )

Thank you for supporting your local independent author! You all know I couldn't do it without you.

Also bear in mind that Lulu bundles postage! :) If you're picking up a copy of The Dead Isle and don't yet have a copy of Nameless, Charitable Getting, or Trace, now's the perfect time to save on shipping. And if you're looking for holiday gifts for high school seniors, you could do worse than Other People Can Smell You, my guide to surviving a university education.
I tried. I tried so hard to read about this whole John Locke situation. And so much of it is just so incredibly boring.

Allow me to share with you The Interesting Parts Version )

There is a lot of discussion to be had about the ethics and efficacy of paying for reviews. Outside of the economic sphere there's a lot of discussion to be had about the relationship between critics and writers, and whether critics should keep themselves at arm's length, or whether they should be involved in the literary life so that they have context for what they read. In addition, there's a debate to be had about whether this is that much different from big publishers who can afford to splash out on the kind of PR it generally takes to get a book to bestseller status. (I will never forget being fifteen and having a friend of mine's father, who worked in publishing, explain to me that books are mostly sold through expensive PR, which is why small presses have it so hard.) And that requires an examination of the tension between big publishers and small/self publishers, and the philosophy that any edge you can get is a good edge.

So there's a lot to chew over, which would be fantastic, except that it appears that everyone commenting on it is attempting to be as uninteresting as possible. MY GOD, PEOPLE, this is brickspace book wank. It should at least involve a few lols along the way. I keep trying to sort out who thinks what about which issue but then I start nodding off, or I stop reading because the person blogging about it has said something so incredibly irrational or stupid that I can no longer pay attention to their opinions.

And it's hard to form one of my own without hearing the arguments. It's easy to say "paying for reviews is wrong", but it's not that simple, especially when some publishers have the clout and cash to get their books seen in a way that startups and selfpubs can't.

So the basic opinion I have formed about all of this, which is no doubt informed by the article I recently read about the 1962 Edinburgh World Writer's Conference, is that WRITERS BE CRAZY.
This book is gonna end me, I swear.

I'm actually almost through with the rewrite of Dead Isle; I have to fix two major things and do a read-through for minor-but-pervasive problems (description, always description) and then this rewrite will be done, though I'm running it past one final check with specific people before it goes to typesetting.

I also have a decision to make about Cut for spoilers, in case you haven't read it. )

I do find it a little eerie that I wrote this book in the midst of a huge family upheaval involving my brother immigrating illegally to Australia, and now that I'm nearly done, we're in the middle of a huge family upheaval over him coming back for a visit. It's an appropriate parallel, I suppose. I'm mostly glad the whole mess never poisoned the book for me, and that while it may end me I still love it.
I've talked about this a little bit on the Extribulum blog (which I really should be linking to more, sorry about that), but I have a writing plan for the new year. It's a very loose plan, but it does have deadlines.

I've been saying since before Trace came out that the next book I published would be The Dead Isle, and to that end I've started rewriting it, which is no mean feat since it's easily the longest book I've ever written and there's a lot of dead air in it that needs to be removed, but sometimes the dead air leads to important moments, so there's a lot of string pulling I'm doing.

My other goal is to "treat" two books this year -- get them outlined or written and prepped for you guys to help me rework them, possibly the end of this year or the start of next. One of those is Valet of Anize, which needs a lot of reworking before I can even do anything new, but that'll be good practice. The other one, I thought, should be something new.

I have a whole file of ideas, but I took the half-dozen I liked best and I've been slowly discarding them as they start to seem implausible, too difficult, or just not as strong as others. I've got it down to three, but I'm struggling really hard to pick a finalist, so I thought I'd get your input as readers. That is, after all, at the heart of the way I write: to speak to a reader.

Tunnel is something I've talked about on the journal before, a magical realism story set in Chicago, focused around the extensive network of underground pedestrian, mail, and prohibition tunnels that honeycomb downtown and the north side of Chicago. I love the concept of Tunnel, and I have a vague plot, but I'm having trouble actually writing it, so I'm struggling with that. Also the plot seems a bit like Neverwhere, and I'd hate to be unoriginal.

American Jackal has come out of my fascination with Chicago's coyotes; I want to write a story about a group of people who can become coyotes and how they fit into both the human and the coyote population of the city. I'm having trouble even outlining this one, and certainly it would need a lot of research (likely into the Native American tribes in and around the area, which is really difficult since there are even fewer records than normal; this would be so much easier in California). But I think once I had my feet under me I could blow this one out of the water.

The third is by far the most difficult, but it's the one that entrances me most. I've written "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories before, on commission for a Chicago art project, and I know how hard they are to structure, but I love the challenge and the idea of writing a Choose Your Own Adventure for adults, which would be a meditation on genre literature, why we make the choices we make, and whether our lives have a pre-destiny. I'm a little scared of this one, too, so it doesn't even have a title yet; it's just headed "Choose Your Own Adventure" in my notes. The biggest downside of this is that it's likely I couldn't Extribulum it; the complexity would make that really difficult, and probably the best I could do would be to run it past some people for grammar and messy prose.

Anyway, those are the stories I'm looking at, and I'd like to know your thoughts.

[Poll #1808980]
Trace is now available for purchase!

Colin Byrne is a pickpocket, an artist, and an occasional consultant for the police. He’s also an ex-felon, an initiate into the feral, unspoken magic that only prisoners know: how to vanish, how to tell fortunes, how to steal souls. Now the man who put him in prison wants him to return to Railburg State Correctional Facility to help investigate a case.

Colin has some allies at Railburg: his mentor Gutierrez, who talks to God, and his friend Noel, the best ink artist in the prison. But another powerful prisoner that Colin helped put away is slowly poisoning the food, and there’s impulsive young Laney to protect from the Aryan Brotherhood. With mysterious forces aiming to incite a riot that will wipe Railburg from the map and from human memory, Colin has bigger problems than the one he went to Railburg to solve...


This book was the product of an intense editing process conducted entirely online.

Trace is for sale through Lulu.com:

PAPERBACK EDITION | EPUB EDITION

The paper edition is available currently for $12, and the price will rise to $15 in February; the ePub edition is fixed at $3. It is also available for free as a PDF download.

If you are interested in a signed copy, please do not purchase a book! Peep behind the cut for instructions.

Signed Copies )

Publicity and Reviews:

I am more than happy for you to publicise this book on your own journal if you want! You are of course welcome to do your own writeup, with your own opinion; if you review the book please send me a link! If you'd like to copy and paste a promo, you can use the text behind the cut: )

Thank you for supporting your local independent author! You all know I couldn't do it without you.

Also bear in mind that Lulu bundles postage! :) If you're picking up a copy of Trace and don't yet have a copy of Nameless or Charitable Getting, now's the perfect time to save on shipping. And if you're looking for holiday gifts for high school seniors, you could do worse than Other People Can Smell You, my guide to surviving a university education.
SubBoss #1: John Q Smith? Who's that?
Sam: Oh, Jack Smith? He works in X Department. Need his number?
SubBoss #1: SAM KNOWS EVERYTHING. I just want to carry you around in my pocket.

It's good to be king. :D

Today was hectic -- getting a lot of stuff done on request, and it felt good to clear a bunch of things off my plate but it didn't do much for my personal to-do list. As I posted over on Extribulum, I did get to upload and unlock the ePub version of Charitable Getting, so that's available for sale. The PDF is still free, the ePub runs $3.

I'm pretty proud of myself because CG is a design-intense text -- multiple fonts, multiple images, and lots of "gaps" that Lulu likes to get rid of even though I put them there for a VERY GOOD REASON.

We've come a long ways from *italics* and _bold_, baby.
MY BRAIN IS FULL OF KNOWINGS.

I spent this morning doing informal but useful training -- mostly in budget maintenance, which I'll be sharing with BossaNova (she has to manage the salary bits, I do the rest). Fortunately nobody else knows any more about budgets than I do -- which is nothing -- so we're all in the same boat. And some of it is a little like a game of telephone; my predecessor just DID all this shit without documenting it, and the guy who's been doing it since she left mostly knows how to, but some things I can tell are getting garbled as he passes them down to me.

Every time I have a meeting I take notes, and then as soon as the meeting is done I retype the notes into the new version of the Big Book, so that they're not only cemented in my mind but explained somewhere memorable in small words as simple concepts. It's a bit like the most boring journal in history.

Still, I am finding time to at least try and whittle down my to-do list; today's project was an epub version of Other People Can Smell You, which I talk about in more detail over on Extribulum. I think perhaps the most remarkable thing is the cost-efficiency of ebooks; an epub of this book is half the cost of a paper copy and yet I make three times the profit per book as I do on the paper ones. I love paper books, but sometimes ebooks just blow my mind.

Tomorrow I'm at a professional conference, and Friday I'm doing more training, so I may be absentee during the day. Or I may livetweet the conference depending on how unintentionally hilarious it is. We shall see. Just, try not to kill each other while I'm gone...
It cracks me up that people on this floor still aren't used to seeing me. I still get stopped about twice a day and asked if I've moved. I got quite a few emails today after I sent out an email telling everyone there was almond brittle at my desk. (It was a failed attempt at making something else, but for almond brittle it's not too bad.)

As I just announced over on Wordpress, I've locked in a date for Trace's release: November 5th, a Saturday, at 10am Central time. I'll be offering the usual signed-copy deal; $30 includes postage and gets you a signed copy of the book, with the profit going to charity -- this time the Innocence Project, to advocate for prisoners, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, to try and prevent prison from happening in the first place.

Every time I knock something off my to-do list, two more things crop up. Just as an example, I reviewed the epub of Trace today and it looks hot -- which means I can take "make Trace epub" off my list and replace it with "Make Nameless and Charitable Getting epubs". It also means, having announced a date, I need to make sure the Trace paper and epub pages have blurbs and all the right prices set and all the rest, and then I get to write up the "Trace go live" post.

So much facepalm. You guys, self-publishing is awesome, but it's not exactly hands-free...

Still, nil desperandum; there's always a crunch to prep, and at least this time I'm not also rushing to finish edits, as I was with Nameless.
Okay guys, I have thoughts about publishing and nowhere to put them, so you get them. Sorry.

One: I'm seeing a lot of articles lately about how trad publishing needs to "fight back" against e-books or buck the trend or some other utter nonsense. And the truth is they don't. What trad publishers need to do is yank their heads out of their asses and build a hardcopy publishing and sales model that actually functions in the modern world. You know how long the traditional "do a print run, hope it sells, remainder the remainders" model has existed in stasis? Something like four hundred years. Gutenberg was awesome but he's dead now, time to move on.

Because I want traditional publishing to succeed. And I want ebooks to succeed. I refuse to pick a side in the books versus ebooks debate because if you think one has to preclude the other, you're drastically missing the point. Books and ebooks aren't an either-or proposition; they're an "awesome, both" advantage.

Can I build a model for trad publishers to fix what is so drastically broken? No. I could give suggestions, but I'm not a professional restructuring consultant nor am I an economist. Still, I'm pretty sure there are plenty of those out there who actually live in a world where ebook readers exist, and they'd be happy to help.

Two: I have a really hard time feeling sympathy for Borders and their constant bankrupcy/recievership/whatevercakes drama, because Borders is one of the Big Box bookstores and in its time has edged out countless smaller independent bookstores without offering any significant advantage to the consumer, except for maybe about a ten year period between "big box bookstores open" and "the internet appears" when they offered heretofore unknown diversity. But that's over now, and for a long time Borders has been part of the problem, both for the publishing industry and for independent business.

(Sidenote: I cannot tell you of my enraged reaction to You've Got Mail, even as a teenager. The big bookstore corporation and its slimy, manipulative, lying mouthpiece won? The douchebag gets the girl and closes down her store and that was sold to us as an actual happy ending. What the hell was a film from 1987 doing in 1998?)

So yeah, I'm sorry a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and a lot of giant retail spaces are going to stand empty, but don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, Borders. I hope Barnes and Noble follows you down in flames and someone opens a Trader Joe's in all your retail spaces.

Three: On a less aggressive note, the above boils down to the fact that I would love to see a new model emerge where small bookstores flourish because they serve a different purpose from the past and a different purpose from the big online bookstores. I was talking about this with some friends the other day and I think it would be fantastic if we developed a sort of social order where if you're looking for a specific book, maybe you go online for it, okay, but if you're looking to browse or to find something new, you will have a small bookstore in your neighborhood where you can go for an experience. (Which incidentally would also be a nice step towards exploding the filter bubble.) I think this would actually get more people out to bookstores, in the same way our cultural expectation that everyone likes coffee gets more people out to coffee shops.

And you know what's awesome too, small bookstores can generally order any book you can order online. That does require that you go out and speak to another person, which I'm generally not in favour of. But they can do it -- and if you're just browsing, most of the time the clerk will leave you alone.

And that is my Friday morning rant.
A quick note: Due to LJ's continued slight wonkiness, I am posting this to both LJ and Dreamwidth. Feel free to respond for signed copies in either place; I'll figure out the order as I go.

Dr. King's Lucky Book is now available for purchase!

Dr. King's Lucky Book is an assemblage of text and images drawn from diverse sources, including ad ephemera and medieval illumination. Modeled after the advertising almanacs of the early 20th century, it slowly slides from a harmless volume of charms and snake-oil sales pitches into a dark and impenetrable handbook of the macabre.

If you'd like to read more about the process of creating this book, there is a post up about it here.

You can purchase Dr. King's Lucky Book here from Lulu.com; if you want a signed copy, please read the cut-tag about Signed Copies before you buy.

Dr. King's Lucky Book is available currently for $9.99, and the price will rise to $12.99 in October. It is also available for free as a PDF download. I'm in negotiations now to produce an ebook; unlike the ebook for Nameless it will not be free, but should be fairly low-cost. I'll have more information about this in a couple of weeks.

If you would like a copy of the book from Lulu but are overseas and finding postage prohibitive (it has gotten better!), please leave a comment on this post so people can contact you about combined shipments or workarounds. Likewise, if you are willing to combine postage to lend a friend a hand, please check the comments!

If you are interested in a signed copy, please do not purchase a book! Peep behind the cut for instructions.

Signed Copies )

Publicity and Reviews )

A Final Note

Thank you for supporting your local independent author! I hope you enjoy the book. And if you're not buying, thank you for putting up with this post!

Also, I'd like to briefly remind people that Lulu bundles postage. If you're picking up a copy of Dr. King's Lucky Book and don't yet have a copy of Charitable Getting or Nameless, now's the perfect time to save on shipping. And if you're looking for "Welcome to college" gifts for college freshmen, you could do worse than Other People Can Smell You, my guide to surviving a university education.

You can find all of my books for sale at my Lulu Storefront.
This is a weird little story about a weird little book.

Quite a while ago, I stumbled on the Duke University Advertising Ephemera Collection. The collection is an archive of ads from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, everything from product-oriented recipe books to single-sheet broadsides. I found one called Dr. King's Lucky Book, a snake-oil salesbook masquerading as a book of folk charms, and thought, I'd like to have a copy of this. I knew it was possible to save off every image in high-res, clean them, set them into a doc file, and publish just a single copy for myself through Lulu.com. I also knew it would be a pain in the ass, so I didn't bother.

Then I broke my leg.

I spent a lot of time off my feet, and a not insignificant amount of time on painkillers, which gave me the time to work on a few projects. As long as I was printing up a copy of Dr. King's Lucky Book, I'd throw in some of the other ads and ephemera I liked. Then I thought, why not make an almanac?

Then I thought, why not make an evil almanac?

My idea for the Evil Almanac was that it would start out innocently, with folk cures and ads and calendar pages and harmless charms and recipes, and then slowly it would slide downwards into incoherent madness (I'd like to remind you all I was stoned and bored when I came up with this). I wanted to emulate what would happen if a book went insane. I tapped a few more resources I knew were good for the creep factor, and I mentioned the book to my friend Kiki, who loved the idea and supplied me with all the additional archive sources I could ever require.

I've been working on it off-and-on since then, so the book's about two years old, but I was always hesitant to share it because really it's just me doing a collage. When I had guests recently I happened to offer it to them to see what they thought, and they really liked it, which bolstered my resolve.

It still needs a few minor tweaks, I think, so in the spirit of Extribulum I'm sharing a proof PDF with all of you before it goes to print, to generate a little interest, get some commentary, the usual. The PDF isn't perfect, but it gives you a good idea of what to expect.

So without further ado, please enjoy Dr. King's Lucky Book:



Download via Megaupload | Mirror
Download via Sendspace | Mirror

If you enjoy the PDF, tell your friends, share it around, and keep your eyes peeled for the paperback edition coming soon from Extribulum Press. The final paperback will be about the size of a very thick comic book, with a colour cover and black-and-white interior, and run you about $10.
The main reason Amanda Hocking gave for going pro-publisher after making a zillion dollars as a selfpub author is that she was tired of doing her own publicity. For real, selling oneself is hard.

I'm still working on marketing research but I'm also realising I should be managing my existing online assets with slightly more aggression. I feel somewhat ridiculous about it, like I'm pretending at being a Real Author, but it's reached the point where entropy no longer smooths over the chaos on its own. I keep a clippings file, but that's about it, so today I got on LibraryThing and added tags and cover images to my books there. Is anyone running a Sam's Cafe group on LibraryThing? Imma fire one up, if not, but I didn't want to supplant anything already in place.

And just in case anyone wasn't aware, you can follow my (very rare) tweets at ouija_sam on Twitter. I'm on Google Plus under Sam Starbuck, and technically I'm on Facebook but I never log into Facebook. There is a Sam's Cafe group there, however.

My hand to god I will stop talking publicity soon. I'm just incapable of processing things silently when I have the internet to talk to.
Ugh. I'm not going out today. It's not reclusiveness, it's a zillion degrees out. I'm going to stay in and bond with the air conditioner.

I've been alternating between cleaning and creating, which sounds nicely pithy, though at this point cleaning mostly involves Roomba supervision. While the Roomba was running in the kitchen, occasionally bonking into my ankles, I made ice cream; I forgot to chill the mix before I put it in the machine, but it came out all right anyway, and while the machine did its work I did some messing around with the cover for Trace.

And then this got very philosophical, so I'll toss the rest under a cut.

Cover design, professional publishing, and the everlasting issue of gatekeeping. )
I was supposed to go to Food Truck Tuesday this evening, but fate had other plans.

Actually before I even left work I realised that I have a fundamental issue with food trucks, namely that I don't like to eat standing up. I'm enough of a fumble-fingers when I have a proper plate and silverware. And then I fell asleep on the train and missed the stop anyway, so it's probably just as well.

I'm spending the evening doing research, mostly (at least until White Collar hits the torrent sites). I've decided to use Trace as a test case for more aggressive marketing than I've done in the past, so I'm digging into techniques for book publicity -- which, as [livejournal.com profile] firynze and I moan at each other about, isn't easy. Don't worry though guys, I'm not talking about the blog; after all, I already market the books here. You won't get spammed any more than you usually are by me.

It seems to me -- and please feel free to offer corrections here if I'm wrong -- that book publicity comes down to a few elements: marketing to bookstores, signings and readings, press releases, mailings, websites, and reviews. Some of these are not really an option for me; I'm focusing on press releases and reviews, because those seem the most feasible in my situation. I've got the Trace press release done up in rough; I'm not sure what I do with it once it's finished, but I'm working on it.

As for reviews -- well, I have a few copies of Nameless and CG left over from overestimating the signed copies orders, so I'm going to do a dry run with those. Mostly I'm pondering what kind of letter one sends to a reviewer -- I have no problem finding review blogs, but I'm torn between the more shiny publicity copy (open with a hook, keep the reader engaged) or the more formal cover-letter style ("I'm writing to inquire about the process for obtaining a review of my book..."). Suggestions and voices of experience welcome.

Do you think if I emailed Cory Doctorow and told him I'm the guy who wrote the Prufrock parody, he'd accept a copy of Trace for review? :D
I got a question via email the other day asking whether I'd ever posted anything on how to become a better writer, especially with the long-term goal of being published or self-publishing. I had a lot of thoughts about it, so maybe it's time I wrote them out.

FOUR THOUSAND WORDS LATER...

Oh god, help. )
Wow, okay, posting all that was interesting.

The first half of Trace is up. I'm doing some final little tweaks, so you get chapters 1 - 12 today (which seems more than enough to satisfy) and 13 - 25 tomorrow. Lest you think I drastically expanded it from the nine chapters it was, such is not the case; I just figured out that a couple of tiny chapters here and there could prevent a whole lot of confusion. It's a nice step, becoming more obsessed with properly telling the story than I am with chapter-size symmetry.

(Joe Orton had some wise words on this, namely "The theatre is the Temple of Dionysus, and not Apollo. You do the Dionysus thing on your typewriter, and then you allow a little Apollo in, just a little to shape and guide it...but you can't allow Apollo in completely.")

Anyway, you can go to the index post with links to all posted chapters, or you can go straight to chapter one here and you'll get links to the rest. Or if you'd like to read over the old version, you can check out the Trace tag.

Some of you may possibly be baffled by my continuing talk of Trace, or be new to the journal and thus to the concept of Extribulum, a dog-Latin term I invented which means "Out from the machine". (The threshing machine but, well, it IS the internet after all.) Extribulum as a term is still in flux, but at its most basic refers to a document whose first life is digital -- an e-book without hard-published format, an online novel, et cetera. More specifically, it is a document which not only has a first-digital life but which undergoes a process of criticism and change in that life -- I post these books online, you tell me what you think, and I rework them accordingly.

What's going up today and tomorrow is the "second" draft, which has taken your feedback into account; the third draft, barring major upheaval, will be published as a free .PDF and a for-pay hard copy book via Lulu.com. Please feel free to comment on the story, offer your thoughts, and correct any typos you may see. Especially those of you unfamiliar with White Collar, the original fanfic version of this (Never Leave A Trace), and the first draft -- your thoughts are welcome.

Hope you guys like it. Because if you don't, I am so screwed...:D
I finished reworking Trace yesterday. My feelings, they are complicated.

I have been working, for a while, on coming to terms with the fact that this story will never be As Good As. It's based in a fanfic, and that causes some problems. Prison is a ridiculously restrictive setting for a novel. Plus I'm still learning some basic techniques and styles -- I've been writing for fifteen years but I've had a serious crutch for most of that time. While I've written multiple works over the 50k word count, this is, really, only my third or fourth book. I am very much learning as I go. Steep curve.

Over the last few days, though, especially as I've started to vocalise what I see in my studies on magical realism, my attitude has shifted away from "as good as" and more towards the idea that the book Is As Is. The standards have changed, which is a little like having the rug pulled out from under me -- well, okay, honestly, it's like having a flying carpet pulled out from under me, but it's a net gain.

It's not that within this genre standards are lower, but the expectations are different, and the book fits them better than it fits regular literary fictional standards. Trace falls into a lot of the tropes I talked about and, within the new definition, it is a strong book. Stronger for the feedback I took with me and worked into it, but strong enough now to withstand major criticism in the second round, even though not all of the original flaws were fixed. At this point they are not flaws so much as they are imperfect attempts.

I'm not a perfectionist, not in the difficult, obsessive way some people are. I'm not naturally born to it. But my work ethic and my sense of artistic perfectionism are pretty rooted, at this point. So while I don't struggle to actually reach Perfect, I do my best to get as close as I can. I might regret the gap between where I am and where I could be in an ideal world, but that's just regret, not despair. There will always be another book to write, so the failure is impermanent.

Trace will never be an easy book for readers, not because it's high concept or overly complicated but because it's not based in the template of mainstream literature, and it's not going to hit the expectations people (quite rightly) usually have. I'm okay with that -- more okay than I have been, anyway. Call it a labour of love, I suppose.

At any rate it's been educational, and that counts significantly.

So! Picture me clapping my hands together and rubbing them here. I'm going to do one more pass through for glaring errors and then Trace draft two is going up probably starting tomorrow: free to the public and with commentary encouraged. Didn't quite hit the Solstice as a kickoff date, but it's close enough for jazz.
So, I read Lulu.com's blog, because Lulu's been pretty good to me and I am interested in this whole self-publishing thing in a major way. But there is...some chaff in with the wheat.

JUST FOR EXAMPLE, today's Lulu Blog entry is Fun Ways To Improve Your Next Book. My immediate thought was about structure and content and how to make a book more appealing to the reader. That makes sense, right?

Their tips are as follows:

1. Join a writing group.
2. Use Google Docs.

I just about died. I know that I'm not the typical Lulu user, but still. Writing groups and google docs? That's the content of your blog post? Because even Lulu's most basic users are usually aware of the concept of the writing group. Indeed, most of them are products of writing groups. And nothing against writing groups, they can be awesome and useful. But they're not exactly a revolutionary concept. This is stuff you put up in a sidebar or a links list, not stuff you actually blog about.

I feel like I should offer to blog for Lulu, but I am also of the school that believes that personal processes for creativity are often difficult if not impossible to communicate, and might be useless to another person even if you could. This makes for some inhibited blogging on the subject of writing. Plus the biggest problem in self-publishing is marketing, and while I have worked in PR I'm damned if I know how to market my books. I built an audience and then wrote a book, which is the wrong way round to do it, and even then I don't know how that happened. I mean I kind of do, but it's not like I could re-create it in a lab or anything.

BUT. If I had to offer two fun tips to "improve your next book" that not everyone and their brother knows, it would be these:

1. Write fanfic about your characters. No, seriously. I never actually wrote stuff down, but I wrote fanfic in my head about Nameless and Dead Isle all the time, and I took a lot of theoretical side trips in CG, some of which became major plot points. Fanfic of your own characters serves two purposes: it gives you forks in the path that you can take when you're working, and it satisfies the urge to write ridiculous self-indulgent shit. A statistic I have made up but which is borne out by anecdotal evidence says that 80% of all bad books are the result of writing the story that satisfies your ego rather than the best story you can write. It is totally fine to write self-indulgently, it fills an emotional purpose, but unless you're China Mieville you probably won't get it published. (Oh snap. Sorry, City & The City is legitimately great, he should write more Like That.)

2. Researching a book is like a million times more interesting than most research you will do in your life, and you should do a lot of it, and you should let your research abduct you now and again. It's important to know what to put into a book and what to leave out -- sometimes it's painful to leave out some REALLY INTERESTING FACTOID -- but it fulfills the requirements of a) being fun and b) improving your book. Wikiwandering isn't limited to people with too much time on their hands; following obscure research paths is a legitimate use of your time as a writer. (It is also a major component of the answer to the "where do you get your ideas" question.)

And those are my Fun Tips. HAVE FUN. *jazzhands*
I've been working myself around back to rewriting Trace, which has taken a while; my pattern for writing seems to be "write furiously, post and edit in situ furiously, finish posting, ignore story for between two months and four years."

Trying to break that.

Anyway, I'm wrestling with the front of Trace because there is a lot of loaded up backstory to these characters. It's by necessity for two reasons: one, yeah, okay, it's a fanfic, these characters came with a history. And if that were all, I could ditch the backstory. But two, a lot of this backstory is integral to the function of the plot. I can't just pretend that there's no prior relationship between Joseph and Colin, because half the story is about Colin watching Joseph's shade become a physical presence outside of him, and Joseph seeing what happens to Colin on the inside where he's more magical than not, as opposed to on the outside where Colin's magic can be written off as "he's kind of weird". And I can't go easier on the politics from Colin's last stay at Railburg, because Noel and Colin need that bedrock to stand on for their intimacy to work.

IN ESSENCE I HAVE SCREWED MYSELF.

I can take out the sex, but that's frankly not going to solve the overall problem. Originally I was just going to write a chapter introducing the backstory, starting with Joseph rescuing Colin from Hoboken, but I wrote it and a) it's clumsy and b) it's kind of obvious and c) if I'm going that route I really should just write the god damned prequel, and that's so much work.

So the goal now is "be a better writer" and work the backstory into the text in a way that is not confusing and not obvious. Which is nice, that something which started as a fanfic is now about to push me out of my comfort zone. (Talking of comfort zones, I stumbled over a very nice review of Nameless the other night, and it made me re-read a couple of chunks of the book. Tell you what, that book didn't suck nearly as much as I thought it did.) Apparently Douglas Adams did this a lot by deliberately writing himself into a corner so I'm just going to go with "I'm pretending I'm Douglas Adams".

There's no real reason to tell you guys all this except that you're way cheaper than a therapist and I don't have an editor. And also I wanted to make a post to let you all know about a coupon deal, and this is the post my brain decided to make.

So. HEY GUYS THERE'S A COUPON DEAL. From now until Monday, enter GIANT305 at checkout to get 20% all books at Lulu.com. These include my books! Just in case you needed any ideas....
Oh, this is delicious.

If we start from the end of the story, it is this: I nicked a link from someone about a blog post where an author, Sylvia Massara, attacked a pair of review sites for slamming her book. And then I made a glee face and decided to add Book Binge to my "daily reading" bookmarks list.

Here's what happened in linear time. )

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