Writers Should Know Better

During a conversation with other writers yesterday, I became shocked, SHOCKED, at how many think that they are so good that they don’t need further study or guided practice. At how many choose beta readers for a pat on a back instead of real feedback. At writers that don’t revise. At writers that think that BOOK REVIEWERS don’t have useful critiques and are only good for marketing and promotion (I always take reviews to heart. Someone went through the trouble of pointing out strengths and weaknesses. I won’t disrespect them by ignoring it). At writers that don’t read. At the pure arrogance of thinking that you are at the height of your powers and don’t need to grow anymore. It’s the height of elitism.

Could you imagine a professional musician that doesn’t practice for hours a day? Can you imagine a doctor that doesn’t follow new breakthroughs in medicine. Can you imagine an athlete than doesn’t practice or go to the gym? Can you imagine any job where you don’t try to improve on it?

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Indie Authors’ Day Workshop

On Saturday I gave a lecture and workshop at Pine Plains Library, in upstate New York. This was my second straight year presenting for IAD. Instead of most presenters that I’ve seen, who give lectures on publishing and marketing, I focused on the actual craft. It doesn’t matter how great a writer you are, you can always be better (myself included), something so many writers forget. Being an author is a combination of narcissism and humility, and the second part is what helps you grow.

A general version of the lecture “The Hero’s Journey: It’s No Myth” is available on my website, but I was a teacher, and I’m best when I work out loud. I make jokes and obscure references. I bring props (usually toys). In this case, I brought tissue paper “plot points” and threw them back and forth with the crowd. I used a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine as a brainstorming prompt.

I miss teaching.

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Too Many Cooks Spoil the Books

I’m I’m a serious bind with the sequel to The Watchmage of Old New York, “Cold Iron.” I was talking to my critique group last week and said that I wasn’t getting any useful feedback, or any at all, from them. It’s true. I bring in a chapter, and everyone just says that it’s great, and I know that it’s flawed.

This is going to sound really arrogant…

The problem is that I’m a veteran writer and writer’s coach of almost 20 years (it’s not skill that makes you a good writer as much as practice and experience), and except for one other person that rarely shows up, everyone else is a dabbler. I’ve been part of critique groups and workshops for 25 years. They’ve been part of 1 or 2. They don’t have the experience to see my work’s flaws. Instead of a give and take, I spend all of my energy coaching them through their writing and even giving mini classes–something I usually get paid for. I need to find a group of more experienced writers, but there are none in my area.

In a blatant attempt to get me to stay, the creator of the group edited the whole novel. Sounds great, but I already have an editor. Now I have 3 different edits for the book (from the group, from this guy, and eventually from my actual editor) and I can’t start revising until I have all three and can integrate their ideas.

Worse, the guy from the group thinks I should expand it (it’s already over 80k) when I want to reduce it. It’s very confusing and annoying. Having more than one person critiquing or editing your book at once is bad news. You end up with too many versions of the same piece. I want one editor per draft, and I was getting that. Now I’m getting a headache.

I hoped to get the book out this year, but I’ll be lucky to get it out next (the first Watchmage book came out in November of 2015). It’s only on the 5th draft, and I’d like to do 5 more. I would rather but out a quality book than a fast one, but I’m under a lot of pressure to get that book out. With a series, you need to keep the books coming at a regular basis, or readers will forget what happened in the previous book. As they say, the best promotion is another book.

I’m basically losing any momentum I had, and I didn’t have much to begin with.

I don’t know who’s more arrogant: me for complaining that I wasn’t getting quality feedback, or the guy that decided to edit my whole thing, suddenly thinking that he can give what I asked for when he couldn’t during group.

cosmic-cat-tripping-balls-redux

Writers in the Mountains Conference

On Sunday, I was privileged to be part of the Writers in the Mountains’s “Meet the Authors” conference. Set in a distillery (talk about reinforcing a stereotype) in Arkville, NY, it was one of the most supportive, interesting, and especially fun, writing events that I’ve attended. Thank you so very much to the good people at Writers in the Mountains.

First, let me plug the distillery, because they deserve it. Union Grove Distillery opened only three months ago, and their vodka is fantastic. It’s in an old building that may have been a warehouse, I’m not sure. The setting…hell, the whole area around Arkville, deep in the Catskills, is beautiful. The mixed drinks were pretty damn good too.

writers in the mountains booze and coffee

(Coffee and booze: it’s what writers crave)

I even sold a few books! Considering my last clusterF at Barnes & Noble, it was a great confidence builder. Since I’m selling the Kindle copy of The Watchmage of Old New York for 99 cents (until 5/31/16) I sold a few of those too.

Craig at writers in the mountains

(I don’t always sell books, but when I do, it’s because I’ma sexy beast)

Did I mention that Watchmage is 99 cents right now? I did? I’m doing it again.

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I got to sit between two excellent (and very different) writers. The novelist and musician Robert Burke Warren, and the academic writer Linda Lowen. You can’t see them in the picture, but they’re there.

There were panels on the current state of publishing (both indie and traditionaul) and some beautiful poetry readings from luminaries like Danniel Schoonebeek and Sharon Israel. The keynote speaker was the always funny Rosie Schaap, author of the excellent memoir Drinking With Men, and the “Drink” columnist for The New York Times.

What else can I say. The conference was a very positive experience for me, and after being despondent about my work for the last month or so, I feel revitalized. Thank you to everyone, especially the president of Writers in the Mountains, Simona David.

If you’re an aspiring or established writer, always go to events. The internet is a fine way to network, but nothing beats face-to-face.

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux

 

Sale! Watchmage For 99 Cents!

Hey everyone. I decided to have a sale on The Watchmage of Old New York for this week only. Why? Because I CAN!!!! Also because sales and reviews are falling off.

Sooo, the sale is on Amazon only, and only for the ebook. If you like my blog, you’ll probably like Watchmage. It’s the same writer, you know 😉 You’ll also be helping a neat-o dude like me. I consider every purchase a hug (and each review is a belly rub…I love belly rubs)

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Yes, I know it’s shameless pandering…But I gotta eat.

In case you haven’t heard of The Watchmage of Old New York yet, let me hit you with the book blurb:

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Workshop Panic

I am flipping out over this workshop coming up on the 27th. The library called me and said that ONLY ONE PERSON signed up. This is despite the dozen of people that said they were coming. The library said that if more people don’t register by Thursday, they’ll have to cancel. That means I’m out a paycheck and the considerable money I used for materials.

This could really sink me. I’m on a hairline budget, and I was depending on that check.

I’m freakin’ dead.

Why I’m Choosing to Self Publish

After months of contemplation, I decided to self-publish my historical-fantasy series, The Watchmage of Old New York. This is a huge sea change for me. My first novel, Song of Simon, was published by Damnation Books. It’s always been my dream to be a published novelist, and I’ve been very resistant to self publishing. But a wise man isn’t afraid to rethink his views, and I’ve come around. I’ll explain more below.

Some of you know Watchmage from JukePop Serials, where it was and is one of the most popular serials on the site. This is completely different…well, not completely, but not the same.

What I am planning is to take each story arc from the serial (there are three) and expand each one into it’s own novel, complete with added subplots and new characters. The first story arc in the serial was 90 pages. The novelized version is 275 pages. So it’s not the same old story, rather a retelling and expansion.

I’m almost done with the first draft of the second novel, and I’m aiming for an April or May launch for the first one.

But there’s so much shiny…

Why I Switched to Self-Publishing

I’m not a “do it yourself” kind of guy. The idea of having to create (or hire people to do) every aspect of a novel is intimidating. I only know two things: writing, and teaching writing.

So why am I switching? Creative Control. I realized that there’s nothing a publisher can do (outside of the Big Six) that I can’t do on my own. I can hire an editor, layout artist, cover artist, etc. It’s a big financial investment, but it allows me to be master of my own destiny. Damnation Books has been good to me (don’t believe the negative hype. It’s not a favorable contract, but they aren’t scam artists, and they produce excellent fiction), but I’m not willing to sign a long term contract for a series. Since Watchmage isn’t appropriate for DB anyway, I’d have to find a new publisher.

Traditional publishing and self publishing are both headaches. The traditional route offers free editing, layout, and cover art. Great, but you lose control over those aspects, along with pricing. You also have to wait a long time, as many publishers don’t accept simultaneous submissions. The submission process kills me. I’m tired of waiting.

Self publishing gives you more power, but with great power comes great responsibility. If you mess up, you have no one to blame. And there are plenty of places to mess up. With such a heavy financial investment, there’s a lot on the line. There’s also a lack of gravitas with self publishing, though this is starting to fade.

I will never disagree with Neil Gaiman

I suppose the real reason I resisted is because of my own ego. I started writing professionally about 15 years ago. There was no self publishing beyond Xerox copies stapled together. There was barely an Internet. The dream was to sign on with a publisher, and that’s the dream I stuck with. I achieved that dream, but it wasn’t as sweet as I expected. There’s no marketing from small publishers beyond the first few months, and even the Big Six only market the books that people show interest in. Either way, the author has to do most of the promotion. If I have to do the heavy lifting, I’m gonna keep all the control.

Yeah, I’m terrified. This is a huge endeavor, and it would be so much easier to just lay back and let a publisher do all the work. It’s still very tempting, and if Tor or Del Rey sent me a letter right now that they wanted to look at a draft, I’d send it out right away. But that’s not going to happen.

I’m already a published author, so my fragile ego and desperate need for approval is intact. Times change and dreams change. So can I.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

Doesn’t Marketing and Promotion Suck?

The answer: It does.

I’ve been trying to improve SEO (search engine optimization) for the site. I added a few links to other writers, and they did the same for me. It’s made a huge difference so far in search engine clicks.

I hate promotions and marketing. I just want to write and let everything else take care of itself. That’s the main reason why I submitted to publishing houses instead of self published. I don’t have the inclination (or the money) to do all the little things a self-published book needs.

Despite the promotion that I get from Damnation Books (my publisher), I still have to do a lot on my own. I’m not good at it, but I found that exchanging links with other bloggers is very time-effective.

For no reason, here’s a cat meme.

I like how his tie matches his eyes. Snappy dresser.

So if you are a writer, contact me if you’d like a link on my site. I can’t promise that I’ll add everyone (i’d prefer speculative or literary fiction, check out the writers I’ve already linked to). The only thing I ask is that if I link you, link me back. Together, we can float above all the crap in this pond.

Also, if you don’t have a website, you should start one.

Go Team Writers.

Like my website? Join my Facebook fan page for more awesomeness (and silly memes). If you like dark fantasy, check out my debut novel Song of Simon. It has no memes, but lots of music references and dick jokes. According to the reviews, Simon is pretty cool. There’s also my FREE webserial, The Watchmage of Old New York, which is at JukePopSerials. You can also find me on Twitter, where I tweet about whatever I feel like (but mostly geeky stuff).

Hey Writer! Yes, You!

Yeah, I’m talking to you. Listen up.

Your words matter. You have something to say, and you say it. You contribute a verse.

You work hard as hell. They don’t see it, because you’re locked away in a room, bleeding onto a keyboard. They don’t see you bleed. They think you do nothing. They think the words appear out of nowhere. They don’t understand. They don’t bleed.

Fuck them. You matter.

Don’t let them tell you no. I don’t care if you’ve a bestselling superstar, or an indie novelist struggling to be heard.

Value yourself. Value your work.

Fuck them. You matter.