Monday, January 31, 2011

The Missing Element

I've been running these blog posts for a couple years now, and just recently I took a good hard look at where I want it to be and what I want it to offer to others. Over the years, I've detailed my journey through self-publishing, my walk of faith, and a little in regards to my personal life. I've even done some book reviews here and there.

But when I take a look at the posts I've offered up, I wonder where all the ones in regards to writing are. I mean, I'm a writer but I don't really talk about writing. I'm not saying I feel pressured to talk about writing. I actually want to discuss my process more - how I discover my characters, how I create my fictional worlds, what steps I take in writing a novel, etc, etc, etc.

I guess I've just always been a bit shy talking about those things, at least on a blog. If you get me talking in person though, watch out. I am a story teller at heart, and I can talk for hours about my inspirations and plotlines. I guess I just want that to come out more on this blog.

In response to this revelation, I sat down this last weekend and sketched out a slight restructuring of my blog, which will go into effect next week. Here's what it will mean in regards to the content I'll be posting up here:
  • Each Monday of every week I'm going to post a writing prompt and a specific word count to go with it. In these posts, I will also include my own response to the prompt. This way, I'll be encouraging all of you writers out there to get off your butt and do some writing, while also sharing some of my writing with you.
  • On Wednesdays I will continue to post about my self-publishing journey, including my struggles with marketing, my experience with book signings, the process of novel design, etc.
  • And, every Friday, I'll write about my own process of, well, writing. I plan to share my own methods for creating fictional characters, creatures, and worlds. I'll reveal my process for writing novels/novellas/short stories and dive into the roots of my inspiration. I'll even introduce you to some of my characters, like the witch, Evanescence, of my Black Earth series, or maybe the Drain Sisters from my upcoming Expired Reality series.
I'll make sure to round the blog out with some fun and/or geeky stuff from time to time, just to shake things up a bit. I'm looking forward to the changes coming. I think it's high time I break out of my shell and let you all see what goes on behind the scenes, in my head and on the paper.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Much Desired Facelift

After months of tinkering and toying, I'm finally done with my latest website design.

I've been doing this self-publishing thing for a while now and it's taken me a very, very long time to evolve my marketing strategies to where they are now. And they'll continue to evolve, as we enter a completely digital age and social networking continues to spike. I think the hardest thing to being a self-published author, besides selling - especially selling online - is creating a successful website, especially when one has no design or graphic art education. Formally anyway. And I'm not one of those who believes in paying others to do what I could learn to do myself.

Except editing. Yeah, I have someone who does that for me, because I can't be objective, and to me, editing is the equivalent of having to watch a marathon of Friends.

The cause for my recent website overhaul was a nifty program I just recently learned about - GIMP. Most say it's the free equivalent to Adobe Photoshop. Now that I have access to brushes and other nifty design tools, I was able to create a website background I really wanted. Yeah, I know Adobe Photoshop has been around for a while and does the same thing plus more, but I haven't had money for that program nor do I care to pirate it. So GIMP is my hero of the day.

Adobe Photoshop Tools + Free = FTW (For The Win)! Skadoosh!

I'd love for everyone to check out my site and let me know your thoughts. I'm trying to keep the website as simplistic as possible right now, and grow it as I move along. I have more books to write, more products to create, so there will be much more added to the site in the near future.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My 2011 Reading List

Here I am at the beginning of another year, with a desk covered in books that I still have yet to read. Some of them have been sitting here for over a year now and it's really starting to irritate me. On top of these, I have two books I promised other authors I would read - which are first on my list.

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to list the books in order of what I want to read when. The following are a few noteworthy ones, while my list is at the bottom of this post...

The first novel, or series, on my list is The Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin. If you are friends with me in Goodreads, you'll notice I have these three books listed as read already, which is true. The thing I absolutely love about these books is that I can read them over and over again and never get sick of them. I originally read The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, and Rebel Dawn when I was a senior in high school and immediately fell in love with them. Of course, I am a fan of Star Wars in general, but the way Crispin wrote these really gave me some insight into Han Solo, my favorite Star Wars character, and also gave me inspiration to draw from when creating characters of my own.
Number six on my list is to finish the Dark Tower series. I've read The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass. I have The Wolves of the Calla on my desk and have yet to purchase Song of Susannah or The Dark Tower (final book in the series thus far). I even have Stephen King's Everything's Eventual in my collection, a nice little short story compilation with The Little Sisters of Eluria - a Dark Tower story - in it. Aside from the aforementioned Han Solo Trilogy, the Dark Tower series has by far become one of my favorite of all time.

The twelfth entry on my list of books to read this year is House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. By far one of the most bizarre books I've purchased, I heard of this novel about a year and a half ago and it took me about a year to find it used, which I did in a local Bookmans. House of Leaves is the story of a young family that moves into a house which they come to discover is actually bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The book is written in an unconventional style with some pages coming to only a sentence or a word, and the style of the typesetting adding to the book's horror feel. Other pages contain highlighted text, footnotes within footnotes - some referencing books that don't exist, and even poetry. I've been fascinated with this unusual format and have wanted to read the book not just for it's plot, but for the way the book is put together.

The seventeenth entry on my list is the entire Bourne novel series. I've seen the films - loved them - and have been wanting to read the books for some time now. I have four of the books on my desk - The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy. I know there's eight in all so far, so I'll probably need to make another trip to my used bookstore to grab the remaining four when I get to that point.

Along with the list, I am also reading other non-fiction books on the side, both to better improve my writing and character design and to improve my marketing skills: - Bullies, Bastards and Bitches by Jessica Morrell, Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein, Blogging Business by J.S. McDougall, The Freelance Success Book by David Taylor, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross, The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Scott

***This list does not include Star Wars novels, save for the Han Solo trilogy. I have an entire stack of Star Wars novels, and I am trying to decide which order I want to read them in. I would really, really like to start reading the Star Wars books in chronological order, so it's taking me time to collect them from used book stores. This list also does not include the comics I am trying to catch up on - Fathom seasons 1,2 and 3, Executive Assistant Iris, and Cyber Force Hunter Killer - nor does it include the two novels I am trying to read by good author friends of mine. 

And, as a final note, there is one other fiction book I am reading on the side that is not included, only because I'll be reading it here and there in the midst of everything else - The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

So many books, so little time. Here's my list for anyone that would like to compare. If you've read any of the same books, let me know what you thought. No spoilers though, please. ;)

2011 Reading List

1. The Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin
2. On Writing by Stephen King
3. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
4. Timeline by Michael Crichton

5. Dust by Elizabeth Bear
6. Finish the Dark Tower series by Stephen King (Need books 6 and 7)
7. The World of the Short Story by Clifton Fadiman
8. The Ghosts of Ascalon by Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb
9. Eon by Greg Bear
10. This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti
11. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz
12. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
13. James Bond: The Union Trilogy by Raymond Benson
14. Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

15. The Wayfarer Redemption series by Sara Douglass (Need books 2,3,4,5 and 6)
16. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz
17. The Bourne Series by Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader (Need books 5,6,7 and 8)
18. The Entire Rogue Angel series by Alex Archer (Need book 4 and books 6-28)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Return To Journaling

 I announced earlier this week that my wife and I are officially expecting a little one, the due date of which will be revealed through the first ultrasound later today. And since learning this spectacularly exciting news, I've come to the conclusion that maybe I should return to journaling.

When I was twelve years old, I used to keep a digital diary on my computer. Typed on a monitor that displayed amber-colored text and printed on paper that had the perforated holes on each side, I recorded my misadventures through junior high. I even kept a physical journal where I gushed about my junior high/high school crush.

Nowadays, I can't bring myself to write anything in longhand - except maybe church and/or some story notes - but I have been thinking it would be a good idea to return to a digital journal of sorts. I desire to do this for many different reasons. For one, I kick myself for not keeping a journal over the last year and a half. Since I was fired from my last 'real' job and took on self-publishing as a full time career, I've seen God do miraculous things, things that probably would have benefited me and others to have recorded.

Oh well. Can't dwell on the past and what could have been. Besides, I recorded some of the most important moments in my blog, which is an online journal of sorts. ;)

With the announcement of a baby on the way (a girl, I hope), I thought it would be the perfect time to start a journal to record the journey we are taking in branching our little family out. I also think it's a good idea to record the continuation of my self-publishing career, maybe even keep some good notes of the story ideas that come to me at all hours of the day. The journal can act as a good reference when I decide to sit down and write out my memoirs, and can prove to be a great record of history to show my kids, especially when they ask me what things were like in my day.

The benefits of journaling greatly outweigh the fifteen minutes to half hour it would take me to record an entry each day and give me something great to look back on when I wonder how I got to where I am. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When Edits Become Rewrites

The last few weeks I've been working on edits for my upcoming young adult series, Expired Reality. This is a series I self-published years ago (actually the first thing I ever self-published), and since writing my Black Earth series, I figured I would go back and reedit Expired Reality in the same vein.

This decision came from the reactions I received from people reading Expired Reality years ago. I received positive reviews, however, one of the main comments I received after "what a great story" was "you might want to have it professionally edited". I thought reading it a million times and editing it myself, while also having a good friend of mine do her own edits was enough, but apparently that doesn't always cut it.

What I thought was merely going to be a quick read through and minor edit has become a virtual rewrite. I find myself rewriting many of the scenes in Endangered Memories, the first book in the Expired Reality series. I've come upon the realization that ever since I wrote Black Earth, my writing style has transformed into something much deeper and richer, and I find myself wanting to rewrite Expired Reality not just to bring it on board with the rest of my writing, but also to bring Expired Reality into a proper setting and timeline in line with Black Earth since how series are connected to each other.

Here's an example of what was written before and my latest revision -

What was written in the first edition of Expired Reality: Endangered Memories:

Carrie sat at the white linen table, the red silk dress that Jerad had picked out for her flowing to the floor. She felt slightly bare wearing a sleeveless dress as fancy as this one in front of a crowd such as this, but Jerad had insisted and she found it sweet how he had specifically had it made for her. Her lips were painted crimson to match and her hair was bunched up in a fancy mess to keep it out of her face.

She looked at the white elephant bone plate in front of her and tossed around a piece of steak smothered in a creamy brown glaze. She thought it would be appetizing, but her stomach wasn’t agreeing with it or with the murky haze of cigar smoke that hung over the dining area.

Jerad sat at the opposite end of the long table, his oval face smiling and laughing with his associates. The small, inverted triangle of hair under his lower lip, partnered with the jet-black hair that was combed back across his head, gave him the sophisticated look that went along with his money. His body grasped a crimson silk shirt and raven-colored suit pants. His silver belt tightened everything together like a braided whip, while the sprits of Diamond Dust cologne fused with the smell of the cigars that he and his associates were sharing, creating a very bittersweet stench.

And that clip, revised:

Carrie Green sat at the white linen table , the scarlet silk dress flowing along her body like a current of Maverick brand wine. The sleeveless dress made her feel somewhat exposed to the gentlemen before her, but Jerad had insisted on it in particular. And since he had insisted on making her wear a dress of this bright shade of red, she had to make sure her lips were painted the same matching hue. Jerad was particular about these things. Carrie supposed he was borderline OCD, but she figured it didn’t hurt to look nice and uniformed in her appearance. A bright red flower hair clip had been added for effect and it was doing a well enough job of keeping her long brown hair bunched on top of her head and out of her face.

Her stare fixed on the white elephant bone plate in front of her where she was tossing around a tender piece of steak smothered in a creamy brown glaze. The meal had sounded appetizing to her earlier in the evening, but her stomach was now feuding with the murky haze of cigar smoke that hung over the dining area like a cloud of poison gas.

Jerad sat at the opposite end of the long table, smiling and laughing with his associates. The small, inverted triangle of hair under his lower lip, partnered with his jet-black hair that was combed back across his head, gave him the sophisticated look that went along with his money and helped him to blend in with his colleagues. His body grasped a crimson silk shirt (which, surprising to Carrie, did not exactly match her dress) and raven-colored suit pants. His silver belt tightened everything together like a braided whip, while sprits of Diamond Dust cologne fused with the smell of the cigars, creating a very bittersweet stench.

As you can see, there's a lot of changes that needed to be made, to make it clearer, smoother and give it a better style. I have much more work to do, but I am hoping to give the newly revised edition of Endangered Memories to my editor in the next few weeks. I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far and hope the changes resonate with fans of my writing. :) 

Photo Credit - Bidrohi >H!ROK<

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baby On The Way

Last Friday, my wife and I had it confirmed by a doctor that she is indeed pregnant!

I couldn't be happier! My wife and I have actually been trying for about a year now. We'll be married six years this coming June, so having a child is the next natural course of action in adding growth to our family. I'm more than ready to handle a kid, and my wife has been wanting a child for a while now. We left it in God's hands this whole time, so the timing is all His. ;)

What am I hoping for? A girl. My wife wants a boy. We both have agreed to give naming rights to me if it's a girl and to my wife if it's a boy. My name for a girl? Eden Alderman. I've picked out Ambersay as the middle name, but my wife seems to be a bit sketchy on that. We'll see. She says she'll name the child Nolan (my, my grandfather's, and my late uncle's middle name) if it's a boy. I guess I'm okay with that, so long as people don't think we named him after Nolan Ryan, the baseball player. Not that I have anything against Nolan Ryan, I just don't care for sports.

Our first ultrasound is this Friday. We should have a due date after that.

Look out world, another little writer is about to be born. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Price Changes

It's 2011 and the new year has brought a new vision in mind for where I want to go with my books. Self-published books - especially ebooks - are flooding the market and now is the time to take a second look at my marketing strategies and my writing business as a whole. After much research and scrutiny, I've decided to revamp the pricing structure of my novels, both in digital and paperback formats.

The cause for my change in attitude, at least when it comes to the pricing structure of my books, has resulted from catching up with the blogs of J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking and reading about their self-publishing ebook success - (you can check out J.A. Konrath's blog here and Amanda Hocking's here) In their blogs, they both are very candid about their sales numbers and the success they have experienced through self-publishing ebooks.

I've spent the last few days taking a good look at both of these success stories and taking a second look at my own marketing and sales plan and realize there are a few changes that need to be made on my part if I want to stay in the game.

One of these changes is the price of my books. Until now, I had the paperback version of the first book in my Black Earth series, End of the Innocence, available for $13.95 and the second book in my Black Earth series, The Broken Daisy, available for $17.95. I had these prices set so high primarily to be a part of the Createspace Expanded Distribution Channels which make my books available to be sold on thousands of major online and offline bookstores and retailers.

The problem with this distribution option is that my royalty shrinks to less than 50 cents for my first book and $0 for my second for any books sold outside Createspace and Amazon. That's right - even at $17.95, The Broken Daisy makes $0 in royalties for each copy sold through retailers outside Createspace and Amazon. But to be part of the distribution program, you have to have your book set at a certain price to allow for those outside retailers to take such a big cut.

Personally, I think $17.95 is ridiculous for a paperback version of any book. This was one of the major reasons I left iUniverse so many years ago - they were unwilling to lower the price of my 300 page paperback below $18.95. For a fairly unknown author to have their debut book set at a  price like that, for a paperback edition no less, is a hard sell. I'm not saying new authors don't deserve that kind of money, but for readers out there swimming the river of books, especially self-published ones, a lower price makes it easier to take a risk on an author they may have never heard of.

With the success I've seen with the ebook market lately, I'm drawing out of the distribution outlets and only allowing for my books to be sold in paperback through Amazon and Createspace. I have decided to change the prices of the paperback editions of my books to $9.95 for End of the Innocence and $12.95 for The Broken Daisy. I think the lower prices, especially for End of the Innocence, will allow readers to find out what my writing is all about without having to hum and haw over if the price is right for such a leap of faith.

My ebook prices are getting an overhaul as well. Through Smashwords, I can have my ebooks available through the Sony Reader, the Nook, the Kindle, etc. And Smashwords only takes 20%. And Smashwords pumps my book out in formats that I can take to Kindle myself and distribute for a 35% and 70% royalty.

That said, until now I've had my ebook prices set at $2.99 for End of the Innocence and $4.99 for The Broken Daisy. I've garnered very little success with those prices (though there are other factors that play into that) and I've decided to change my pricing structure for all ebooks I self-publish from this point on. These prices are of course subject to change as I see fit, but at this point in time, I am changing the price of my ebook version of End of the Innocence to 99 cents and the ebook version of The Broken Daisy to $2.99. All subsequent ebooks in the Black Earth series will be set at $2.99 as well. I plan to keep this structure when I release my young adult series this summer. Most novellas that come out I'll be listing at about 99 cents too.

So, if you've been waiting to jump on board my sci-fi/fantasy series, now's a good time to do it. The book prices have officially been dropped and you can head over to Amazon or Barnes and Noble online to grab a copy for your Nook or Kindle, or jot over to my website to grab the paperback if you are so inclined. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 Projects

Well, I took a bit of time off there at the end of 2010 and am just now getting over being sick, but now I'm inching my way into 2011 with some big goals.

I left 2010 with two books finished in my Black Earth series and a lot of plans on the horizon. Well, that horizon is here now with 2011 and I'm happy to say that I plan on this year being my biggest yet. The following are the projects I have lined up for this new year...

Picture Perfect -My first project to be finished this year is Picture Perfect (Originally titled Drather's Story). Picture Perfect is the back story of Jonathan Huxley, a homeless boy who is taken in by a wealthy family only to become the notorious bounty hunter, Drather, in my upcoming Expired Reality series.I will be offering Picture Perfect in ebook and audio book (my first ever) format for free, and in paperback for a nominal price. I will be releasing Picture Perfect for your enjoyment in late February.

The Expired Reality Series - I am releasing the first three books in my upcoming young adult sci-fi/fantasy series this coming Summer. The Expired Reality series was originally released a few years ago, but after writing the Black Earth series which coincides with it I realized there was much more I wanted to do with the series, so I'm in the middle of reedits now and am more than a little excited to release it (again) this coming summer. More information on this series will be released soon.

The Drain Sisters - Another character driven novella in the same token as Picture Perfect, this story will shed light on the Drain Sisters, the notorious girls of the South Ryshard School for Orphans. You'll meet these girls first in the Expired Reality series and then be able to read more about them in this novella in Winter of 2011.

Black Earth 3 - The third installment in the Black Earth series will find Nathan Pierce in his continuing struggle to rescue his sister, Daisy, from the forces of darkness. Will he succeed? What will become of Heather and her quest to find the weapon that can kill immortals? And what of Daisy and her strange experience in what she believes could be the Garden of Eden? You'll find out in Winter of 2011 when Black Earth: The Dark Lighthouse (working title) is released in paperback, ebook and audio book.

The LZR Project - The final entry on my list of projects this year is an episodic series that will give background to the characters of the Expired Reality series. Detailing the Lazerblade's cooperation with the Anaishan government as they all work together to take down Anaisha's criminal mastermind, Mr. Big, each of the twelve episodes will run about five to six pages and will be available for free via ebook and audio book on a bi-weekly basis starting in late March of this year.

Along with the fiction that I'll be working on, I am also in the middle of a new website design that I think will better suit what I write, a fresh blog design where I'll start really diving into my writing process and how I go about crafting novels and characters, and some great goodies in my newly resurrected email newsletter - which you can subscribe to here.

2011 is definitely a year of lofty goals, but I look forward to the release of each project and hope there is something in the bag for everyone this year. :)