Update…and thanks!

Thanks

First up, thanks (again) to all those who’ve bought Kinsmen Die in recent weeks. I hope folks enjoy it. Please, let me know what you thought of it!

Preorder Now: Dark Grows the Sun

After literally months of dithering I’ve launched the preorder for Dark Grows the Sun, my second book. It picks up right where KD left off. I think the writing in DGtS is better overall and the book itself is much “tighter” than KD. IMO. We’ll see what y’all think.

Here’s a couple minor examples of specifically how the writing is a bit cleaner/better.

In KD, I used the word “like” 693 times in ~642 pages … or 1.08 per page. In DGtS, I used “like” 279 times in ~375 pages … or 0.74 per page. That’s still a lot…but, like, a lot less. In KD, I used MANY similes, all the similes. I still used quite a few in DGtS…but fewer. And in my third book I’ll use even less.

In KD, I used the word “just” 478 times … 0.69 times, dude, per page. In DGtS, I used “just” just 80 times … 0.21 times per page. I’ve come to just hate the word “just.” It’s just awful, I mean, if I could just stop using it my writing would improve even if just slightly. In my third book I just won’t use that word.

Why did I dither?

Lots of reasons. Most of the advice I’ve read and heard for book launches is this: rapid release a series to a mailing list in order to keep sales flowing in Amazon…which will “trick” their algorithm into recommending the book(s) and thus keep them visible which will help prevent the book dropping off the 90-/60-/30-day sales cliff. And then advertise/market. Also, the more books in your backlist, the better.

It’s not bad advice. It works for many authors. The problem is: I don’t have a mailing list, I don’t have an audience, I don’t have a series, I don’t have a backlist.

I didn’t market KD (which resulted in marginal sales)…based on other advice from authors. — i.e., it’s a waste of time & money to market only one book)…because you’ve nothing else to follow up with. Made some sense.

So, I allowed KD to languish. I was also hip deep in writing DGtS…and I had three small kids…and a full-time job. Adding advertising & marketing to my life just (hah!) wasn’t appealing.

Skip forward three years and I have marginally more time available. And a second book. So I figured /why not. YOLO.

On advice of an author who’s in a Facebook group I’m in, I bought Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing for Authors course. I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the price, but it did explain the basics of how Facebook ads work and how to build the ads, basic terminology — learning curve type stuff.

But, wait, there’s more!

Based on that course (and other sources) it was clear that I needed a reader magnet to get people onto my mailing list. I needed that list to market to. Which meant I needed a landing page…and email copy…and a newsletter…and, dangit, ad copy…an ad…and an ad plan. And I needed to get it RIGHT otherwise people wouldn’t click or sign up or buy or whatever.

So, I tried finding an assistant to handle the marketing, etc. She (and others) wanted $130 to consult with me about what I needed to do. Yeah, no.

But do you see what I did? Added hurdles. Disincentives. I dithered.

About three weeks ago, I said “eff it.” Screw the mailing list. Screw these stupid hurdles. I put a Facebook ad together and launched it. Lo and behold, some people out there in the world liked the ad well enough to buy KD and preorder DGtS.

The impact of this forward movement was a huge confidence boost. People are interested; people will click & buy. All that other stuff — mailing list, audience building, etc., — is super important and I will circle back to it. But for now, I’m just happy folks are reading my book(s).

My advice for authors…

For what it’s worth (and I’m happy to answer questions, etc.): Do it. If you have one book, advertise it. If you have two, advertise ’em. Get them out there. Promote them. Do it.

Sure, maybe the ads will suck or you’ll make mistakes (that last part’s gah-rawn-teed), but you’ll be learning.

In the months ahead…

I’m currently writing (off and on, as the disir moves me) a short saga / novella that I’ll use as a freebie to get folks onto my mailing list. Or just to “hand out,” as it were. And it’s written such that I can continue her saga should I so choose.

The short saga is about the ordeal of Kesa Garinsdottir (a character of my own creation). She’s off stage during one event in Kinsmen Die where Thor attacked a Jotunn mining town. She and her warband take shelter in a Jotunn stone-home. Things go downhill from there.

I chose that event b/c of a scene (and character) deleted from Kinsmen Die — a Jotunn scout named Hyrrokin. (She figures in Baldr’s funeral.) Hyrrokin became Kesa because the name Hyrrokin ended up not making sense in the emerging story. The chapters and events I’d written about Hyrrokin also went by the board b/c they too didn’t make sense. (I’ve deliberately used one “k” in Hyrrokin’s name.) But maybe they will someday.

I ended up creating a new adventure for Kesa that tied into some mysteries Odin experienced in Kinsmen Die…and answered those mysteries while introducing something new that ties into other things that Odin experiences in DGtS. I nearly busted my arm patting myself on the back after that.

I also threw in another “easter egg” of sorts that probably only I would ever get and maybe those I played World of Warcraft with back in the day (and folks who read this). In my short saga, Kesa eventually meets Kali Varensdottir. Kali also figured in Kinsmen Die; she was Vafthrudnir’s shaman apprentice. But, I never used her last name — not b/c I didn’t know it at the time or anything /cough.

In WoW, my “main” for Legion was a monk named Kalivaren. One of my (many) alts was Kesagarin. Before that, Kalivaren was a rando name generated for me in Elder Scrolls Online. Kesagarin is from one of the Jack Aubrey / Steven Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian. Always loved the name and that particular character. The series is fantastic (except for the last couple books) particularly when read by Patrick Tull.

The short saga of Kesa Garinsdottir will be finished sometime in 2020.

Book Three

I’m still in the planning phase of writing the third book in my first series. I’ve kinda stalled out in the last few weeks b/c I hit a wall in how events in the last quarter of the book were playing out.

Essentially, I need certain characters doing certain things in certain places at certain times and none of it was lining up right. And that’s largely b/c the myths require certain participants. For example, Thor catches Loki, but in my narrative I’d sent Thor away (for reasons) and I can’t figure out how to believably get him back where the myths say he should be.

The major difference in my writing process with Book 3 versus my prior books is this: I’m not writing full chapters yet. I’m basically iterating on outlines and getting increasingly more detailed as I go, so I’m not writing a full scene and then throwing it out in a year (ideally). Instead, I’m figuring out what I need and (eventually) writing just that.

I’ll go into more detail on what I’m doing in a future post. Till then, stay safe & thanks again!

Would you yet know more? Buy Kinsmen Die; Preorder Dark Grows the Sun.

Aaand back, again.

A long time since posting, largely due to some unexpected family stuff (ongoing & unresolved). Since early December, I’ve been:

  1. Sitting on the finished version of Dark Grows the Sun. It’s uploaded to Amazon but I haven’t hit “publish” yet because I’m…
  2. Working thru some marketing/advertising stuff that I need to get a handle on if I want even modest success as an author. This stuff sounds simple — book blurbs, Facebooks/AMS ads & building an email list — but the nitty-gritty is tough and time-consuming. Doesn’t help that my time is already split a dozen ways. It’s also depressing af.
  3. I’m also considering un-publishing Kinsmen Die so I can serialize it on a different platform. I need to grow my audience and the only way to do that, basically, is generate awareness. I can’t leverage KD across other (or multiple) platforms while “shackled” to Amazon. I hesitate b/c this approach doesn’t solve the problem, it just creates different problems. But, different problems that are easier to solve? Dunno.
  4. Writing a “reader magnet” short story that shows a different angle on the same story in my novels. It’s meant to be a short, snappy intro to the world and conflict. I’d intended to finish it by Jan 6, but that didn’t happen. I have the story worked out. I just need to rewrite it a couple thousand times while…
  5. Planning & plotting my third book: I want the outline/framework as complete as possible before starting to write. I can tell that I’ll still be “pantsing” my way through some of it, but my goal is to nail the turning points before I start writing. The prior 2 books were much more fleshed out before I started writing unlike this third book. I’m hoping that a month spent planning will save more than a month of rewriting & revision. If it doesn’t, then I should’ve just pants’d the whole damn thing.

As I reread the above, I realize how down in the dumps it sounds. Can’t have a flow without an ebb, right?

3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.

Hávamal (https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe04.htm)

It’s back!

I got my manuscript back this past week. The verdict? It’s good! In fact, it’s so good that I may have clawed back some production time — maybe get it published this summer or early fall versus year-end. Which means BK3 gets started that much sooner.

And, yes, I think I’m going to write BK3 before branching out into side stories. A complete three-book series is a better foundation to build on even if that third book will take a couple years to produce.

Spoilers ahead!

Srsly, I’m gonna spoil some stuff in broad strokes….

srsly.

yep.

OK.

High-level spoilers

Kinsmen Die established the conflict between Aesir and Jotunn while also working in the related players…the Svartalvar, the witches, the Norns and the wyrm. And it shows that Loki and his need for revenge is a key factor.

Among other things, Dark Grows the Sun puts that conflict with Loki on centerstage while stoking the conflict between Aesir and Jotunn as a backdrop.

Book Three is the culmination of all of the above. But, it is not Ragnarok…though it’s gonna feel like it. BK3 details the events that transform the Aesir and Jotunn and all the related players into the myths that we have today. Mostly.

Actual Ragnarok in my universe happens much later.

Related stories

After BK3, I have a quite a few books/stories in mind:

  1. One that dives into the Svartalvar via at least one POV character. At the moment, this story is both a prequel to Kinsmen Die and runs concurrent with those books. And, these books are mostly written (though they’d need heavy reworking).
    • The ultimate fate of these Svartalvar books depends on what I end up writing in Book 3.
    • Beyond the Svartalvar books I already have in mind, there’s a whole series I could write about my imagined civil war among the Alvar that ends up in the division between the Light Alvar and the Dark Alvar. This would be a prequel on the Aesir side to the Kinsmen Die books, but would enable me to dive into the Vanir gods — Freyr, Freyja, Njord, Skadi, etc.
    • My Vanir are very different culturally from my Aesir, so it’d be pretty refreshing to develop that sub-universe.
    • The Alvar, light and dark, are prominent in both KD and DGtS so it’d be a pretty easy to build off of those references.
    • And then there’s the Aesir-Vanir War. That’s at least one book right there. It’d be cooler to write that from the Vanir perspective, though.
  2. I have another book in mind (and partially written) that follows Vafthrudnir after Book 3. His story is interwoven with the Svartalvar and then ties back in with Odin’s at a later date.
  3. A series that deals with us humans, one in particular, that takes place in a near-future setting. A good chunk of this series is already written as a portal fantasy. And, this is the series that I could re-write in the lit-rpg genre and then blend back into fantasy / space opera. Maybe. There are some big downsides to genre blending not the least of which is subverting reader expectations in a bad way. I do have a cool idea for how to work it, though.
  4. And then I have the book about Hyrrokin which would fill in some detail about my Jotunn world. A solid chunk of it is written since I pulled it out of KD and DGtS. Her story pertains to the Jotunn worldbuilding some of which is alluded to in Dark Grows the Sun. Her timeline is concurrent with the Kinsmen Die trilogy…and then goes beyond it to tie in with Vafthrudnir’s story if I want to expand her story.
  5. I really like the part in Snorri that describes Hermod’s right down to meet Hel. Hermod’s entire plot was cut from Dark Grows the Sun, so I’ve a good framework for a standalone, short novel.
  6. And then there’s a whole series of books that become possible AFTER Ragnarok happens. Actually, that myth would be a good subject for a future blog post…particularly since I heavily reference it toward the end of DGtS.

But for all that to be written, I gotta get through the next couple books. So much to do…so little time 🙂

It’s away!

This morning I finalized the “first” draft of the Dark Grows the Sun (DGtS) manuscript and emailed it to my editor. Wewt!

The book clocked in at 87,390 words which is right about where I want it. I expect the final version (which is a long ways away) to be roughly the same word count.

The edits will be…

I’ve hired my editor to provide two rounds of developmental editing and one round of line editing. Parlance can vary, so here’s an overview of what I’m getting:

  • Developmental edit: recommendations for the underlying structure of the story, including plot, character motivations, conflict, point of view, dialogue, and more.
  • Line edit: line ­by ­line recommendations on usage and style, including extensive edits and comments designed to polish the writing while respecting and preserving individual voice and style.

Gonna take some time…

This is going to be a lengthy process. I’ll get the first round comments back by the end of January. (I want them now!) From there, we’ll figure out how long it’ll take to do the first revision. All of the editing on her end will take about 3 months (2 rounds of developmental plus 1 round of line at one month each).

So best case, I’ll be able to publish DGtS by year-end 2019 or maybe early 2020. We shall see.

A 3rd book? I don’t think so…

My “And the Heavens Burn” series will have a third book. But not for a while. There are two main reasons:

  1. KD isn’t selling (yet). I’m assuming DGtS won’t sell, either, UNLESS I do something different. I’ll be researching what to do this month (Jan 2018).
  2. I want to write different stuff…change it up a bit. Keep it fun.

And by different I mean…

I want to write shorter books that are focused around a single main character. By shorter I mean about 40K words.

A few reasons for that:

  1. It’ll be fun to dive into a single POV and run with it whether it’s written in first person or third-person limited.
  2. I think I can learn more by writing more, shorter books than fewer, longer books. I’d like to get better at POVs for one thing.
  3. Shorter books should take less time to write and cost less to edit. That means more books written in the roughly the same amount of time for roughly the same cost. (1 book @ $1200 editing costs versus 3 books at $400 editing costs per book. Numbers are for example only).
  4. Cover art! Covers are cool. Sure I’d be spending more on covers but there are some great premades out there for not a lot of cha-ching.
  5. With more books out there, I have more to market and bundle and sell.

Genre jumping

A few weeks ago, I knocked out a ~1200 word “chapter one” that’s best described as Lit-RPG. I don’t remember why I wrote it except that I was having exceptional trouble working on DGtS, my mind wandered and out came that lit-rpg story.

I sent it to a few friends and they liked the concept. Incidentally, the story was written in first person POV and it flowed quite naturally. Fun.

I don’t know if I’ll pick that story back up again, but it might be fun to tinker with. And I can leverage my existing magic system & worldbuilding.

I envision my Norse-inspired world on a continuum that runs from fantasy to sci-fi / space opera to dystopia / post-apocalypse. Heck, I could even do a thriller set in the Norse world. Or a Holmesian mystery.

So rather than shackle myself to a third epic fantasy, why not explore other genres? The writing needs to be fun!

Other characters…

I also have a few characters that I’ve cut from KD and DGtS whose stories I really want to explore. Hyrrokin tops the list. And I think her tale is perfect for a 40K book.

Vafthrudnir is another example. I cut him from DGtS, but his backstory could be a prequel. And his future adventures could bridge into the whole Jotunn story that I’ve only hinted at yet.

And then there’s my Svartalvar characters about whom I’ve written at least ~150K words — they’re mostly crap words, but hey, I really want to get to them. Their stories tie directly into the events in “And the Heavens Burn” trilogy and then go beyond it.

If I proceed linearly, then it’ll be a decade before I get to them. But if I go short and hop around, then I could publish their stories in a couple years.

That sounds a whole lot more fun. And, I really don’t want to just impact on the surface. Ouch.