Archive for March, 2011

This is going to take a little longer than I thought. Editing The Coppersmith, that is. My big frustration – going as far back as 2006 when I first finished the book, is that my characters just don’t come off strong enough. The main problem is with the main character – Janelle Becker. She’s just not compelling, I’m afraid.

I’ve started giving her a problem – hinting at something dark within her past that gives her panic attacks now, but the problem is that I haven’t fully told her story within the novel – and in order to do so, I’m going to have to radically rewrite these parts of the narrative.

Anyway, based on a dream I had just before waking up this morning (Hey, it’s when I do my best thinking!), I’ve decided to remove her from being an FBI agent, and just have her be an FBI consultant. This will give me the option of removing her from the investigative “heavy lifting,” and allow me to explore the more darker aspects of her personality – which all center around fear of abandonment, etc., something that will hamstring her from really being able to solve this investigation. It will still pivot on being able to identify the killer through the Bible, which is a wonderful device in the story, but her fears need to get worse as she gets closer to catching the killer.

So I’m going to continue with the basic edits I’ve been doing right along, and then I’m going to have to go back through the story, identify all the parts where Janelle is actively interacting or reacting, and rewrite those to reflect her darker character.

This isn’t going to be easy.

Posted: March 27, 2011 in Jefferson's Road, The Coppersmith, The Writing Life

Oh I’ve been busy lately. Last night I found two additional e-book reader forums, and I’ve been actively posting on both, as well as breathing new life into my presence on Kindleboards.com.

The two other forums are mobilereads.com and booksummit.com. Also, I’ve posted a pair of adds on Bookbarista.com for both the e-book and the print book.

In the meantime, I’ve collected a list of some 275 book review blogs that I have to start culling through – ’cause not all of them will read my genres, of course – before contacting them about doing a tour. That’ll be fun! Of course, I’m hoping to have The Coppersmith finished and uploaded before then, and maybe Patriots and Tyrants as well (if possible). I don’t want to wait too long, but I know I have to have more material available.

As of April 1, I will check again to see how the sales of The Spirit of Resistance are coming along, and then we’ll have a better sense how this is all taking off. It’s quite a bit of work though, I gotta tell ya! (Still, I’m loving it!)

Now that’s a cover! I’ve spent a few hours now tinkering around with various ideas for The Coppersmith‘s cover art, and I think I have a winner. I’ve uploaded it below. Let me know what you think:

Likely cover art for The Coppersmith

Now that I’ve got this out of the way, I can get back to editing the book to have it ready for release, soon. My wife still thinks I should try and release this traditionally. Great to know she still believes in me, but I’m convinced that I need to bring these titles straight to you, my readers, rather than trying to go through a middle man. But if it picks up and starts to sell really well… I guess then we’ll see.

Anyway, this story isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a gripping, edgy thriller about modern day martyrdom. Like always, I’ve kept it reasonably clean, but it’s still quite violent. Somehow, toning that down feels wrong not only for the story, but for those who suffer as Christians. Anyway, I hope you’ll get a chance to enjoy it, soon.

Okay, so writing 10K words a day is harder than I thought. Heck, writing 5K words a day is harder than I thought! All my calculations on how quickly I can finish a book are out the window (though I’m still committed to trying harder!). My only hope now is to be able to finish Patriots and Tyrants before April 7th. That would mean it took me precisely one year on the book from start to finish. Been working steadily on it, too, which is more than can be said for most of my efforts. About the only other book I worked consistently on, from start to finish, was The Coppersmith, now being edited heavily.

Part of the reason–a large part that Ms. Hocking hasn’t had to deal with (to my knowledge), have been the “interruptions” of family. Not that I consider my family an interruption, mind you, but they do take up a much larger portion of my time than Ms. Hocking’s singleness does.

But the real reason is that I am genuinely struggling not only to maintain the quality of Jefferson’s Road, but more importantly, my interest and passion in it. This, I think, more than anything else, is the hard part about writing so many words a day. It’s not that I get bored with it. It’s just that I get tired easily, which leaves me thinking that I need to either learn how to ramp up my endurance levels – exercising my creativity the way I might exercise my muscles – or I have to accept the notion that I may never be able to produce at the pace of Hocking, or King, or many other authors.

There is a serious downside to the latter, though, and it is simply that I don’t want to spend a year writing a single book – or even two books, as has been the case in 2010/2011. It takes too long, and I still have wa-ay too many stories to tell to accept that pace.

Thus, I have to jump back into the fray and try again. Burn-out is a real worry, I suppose, but a necessary risk, too.

On a positive note, Patriots and Tyrants has passed the 67K word mark, which means I nearly am done (probably around 10K or less remain, I suspect). And I haven’t exactly been slacking on editing The Coppersmith, either. I’m easily 50% done with the red pen, and maybe 15-20% putting the changes in. I still don’t have any suitable cover art developed, but I’ve been working on it. As always, the hard part is coming up with a suitably quality image that will reflect something of the content or tone of the book (and you can imagine the “fun” of finding cover art about a serial killer!).

Oh well. Back to work!

Had me an epiphany of sorts regarding the Jefferson’s Road saga–something concerning one of the major characters which I won’t get into here (you’ll have to read the books to find out!). But what was exciting was realizing that I already had laid the groundwork for this particular development in The Spirit of Resistance. Looking into the text, I confirmed that the development could easily extend from a tiny detail I’d unwittingly written in, extrapolated into a bit of foreshadowing for what is to come.

The thing is: this is a major plot twist in the whole conspiracy–not something I’d really foreseen from the beginning, mind you, but something that will look like I’d planned it all along, which is the part that’s just so stinking cool! It totally adds multiple layers to the twists and turns in the series, and takes the believability of the series to a whole new level.

The only bummer is that I really can’t tell anyone about it, because it will ruin the surprise! Oh well. I’ll just have to chalk this up to a bit of fortuitous inspiration. It’s definitely keeping me engaged in the series, though.

As interested as I am in finding more and more material to publish, yesterday I picked up the first manuscript I ever finished and dusted it off, and took a look.

It’s called The Coppersmith, and it’s a psycho-thriller. A religiously oriented sociopath is systematically murdering church pastors in Upstate New York. His methods keep changing, and his hunting grounds are a mystery. The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit sends in Special Agent Janelle Becker to solve the mystery and catch this madman before he strikes again, but can she unravel the puzzle of the Coppersmith before her own family falls prey?

I was actually quite surprised by what I found. Aside from the massive overwriting, the story itself is still pretty good. It needs some work here and there, and some stuff should be cut altogether. Other parts require a bit of rewriting, but the core of the story is solid.

Last night, while working, I was able to sit with the manuscript and a red pen, going through it page by page, line by line, and hacking it to shreds. It’s a little like excavating something, or completing a half finished sculpture. Of course, it helped that the intranet was down, and I didn’t have access to any of my current WIP’s (otherwise, I’d have knuckled down and worked on them, of course), so there really wasn’t much else to do (if you’re wondering how why I could do this at work instead of, say, working, then let me propose that working with disabled adults is not a constant, on-the-go activity. When half of them are sitting in the living room and they just want to watch Wipe-Out, while the rest are in their beds already ’cause they’re early risers, it’s okay to sit there with a book and a pen).

I figure I’ve gotten about a quarter to a third of the way through it, and my hope is that, with a few day’s worth of effort, I’ll be able to breathe new life into The Coppersmith and independently publish it.

Now if only I could figure out some suitable cover art…

It’s been fifteen days since launching the print version of Jefferson’s Road: The Spirit of Resistance on Createspace, and letting everyone know about it via Facebook and email. In that time, I’ve sold 6 e-books and 11 print books. Granted, I sold 2 print books in late February, when the book went live (bringing the total to 13 so far). Thus, I’ve earned a little more than $60 for two and a half weeks of sales in print, compared to $95 for all the e-books I’ve sold in the last nine months.

Reflections: there definitely is more income from print than e-books. I have to wonder whether or not I still have the price set too high. $13.99 for the print version, and $2.99 for the e-version. I am considering dropping the price on the e-version to $.99, which is what a lot of authors seem to be doing with success (à la Hocking and Konrath, etc.), but my heart wants to wait until Patriots and Tyrants comes out. At that point, I think I’ll price Patriots and Tyrants at the current rates for Spirit of Resistance, and then drop Spirit of Resistance’s price down to the lowest possible, which is $.99 for the e-book, and $11.99 for the print version (which happens to be my coupon price). It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the book once I drop the price.

Another thought: I must work harder to get the word out. Now, I’ve sent in the press release to the Webster Post, and that hasn’t come out yet. That will let 10K readers in the local community know about the book. And I have to send a copy to Bob Lonsberry over at WHAM 1180 (contact courtesy of my friend Blanca). I don’t know whether or not I’ll hear anything from the D&C, but the press release I sent them is still out there.

Nor have I done anything with the blog chain info that Joy sent me yet. I still have to look into that as a way of getting the word out.

So, I’m not done. Not by a long shot. And I’ve yet to get more books out there selling, which I’m still working on. I’ve produced more than 10K words in the last three days, and that’s trying to finish two novels at once. The only bummer is that I won’t be applying anything with The Elixir of Life to my self-publication efforts, because that is going straight over to Ellechor Publishing House just as soon as I finish with the edits (which comes after I finish the manuscript, of course!).

In the meantime, I have a host of back novels that I started and never finished (with the exception of one), and I can pull these out, dust them off, and see if I can’t breathe some new life into them. Think I’ll post a poll and get feed back from anyone on which novel they’d like to read…

So I’m on my second day of implementing the Hocking Principle. There are two parts to the principle I’ve uncovered so far: 1. Write like a machine. 2. Publish multiple books one right after the other.

Since 2. is utterly dependent on 1., I have been working hard at writing like a machine the past two days. Yesterday, I managed to pump out about 3500 words on The Elixir of Life. So far today, I’ve pushed out about 4K words on Patriots and Tyrants.

I’m aiming for 10K words a day. Yes, that would be a completed book in a week and a couple days. I know. It’s wicked hard, but I’d rather shoot for 10K and only reach 5K, than shoot for 5K and only reach 1K.

There’s been a lot of discussion over at ChristianWriters about whether or not producing such quantity reduces the quality. I don’t think it necessarily does. Of course, I’ve only been at it two days, but I don’t want to just assume that quality and quantity exist in tension with one another. It’s a false dichotomy. In fact, it may be just the opposite, for the simple reason that writing more instantly gives you more experience. True, you have to learn the ground rules of writing, and submit yourself to critique so you can refine your senses of what works and what doesn’t, but that’s what editing is for.

Someone cautioned me against burn out. Right now, I’m more in danger of a cop out than I am of burn out, but we’ll see how I’m doing in a week.

In the meantime, I’ve signed up on Twitter @AuthorMichaeJS , and I’m still trying to figure out how to get my profile picture uploaded. I’m gonna kick out some household chores now, and then knuckle down on more Patriots and Tyrants.

Gotta say, I really enjoyed K.M. Weiland’s blog over at AuthorCulture (and Linda Yezak, and Johne Cook, and Lynette Bonner, of course!), especially the set of four posts she did on marketing via social networking sites. Very informative and helpful. Particularly interesting was the information on Twitter.

Now, I haven’t signed up for Twitter just yet, but I’m going to. If only because I’m beginning to see just how powerful a networking tool it can really be. That, and I’ve learned some useful tools that will help me make use of it even while I’m at work, when I won’t have access (Thank you for that tip, Linda).

So. Sometime later today, tomorrow at the latest, I’ll take the plunge and sign up. I’m really hoping I can get assistance from all you Twitter critters out there in figuring this out. Then, hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to some serious writing.

We’ve only just begun…

Posted: March 11, 2011 in The Writing Life

To live, to write, to make it happen, to fight… pick your poison. I’ve realized I’m just at the very beginning of this new writing career- and that this also is a realization for me, that this is what I’m being called to do Now.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up preaching. It just means that I’ll no longer be looking to ministry to earn a buck. I’m making tents now, and I’m going to get really good at it. My tents look a lot like books. Especially when they’re open and lying face down. Or maybe my books look like tents.

Regardless, I just got my butt kicked over at  Amanda Hocking’s blog. She’s writing on the secret of her success–except it isn’t really a secret ’cause she’s just blabbed it all over the internet, and it isn’t a secret because it’s common sense stuff that any schlep can implement.

Including me.

In a nutshell, here’s what she appears to have done to be so successful.

a) She writes like a frickin’ machine. She turned out a novel in two weeks. Two weeks! Talk about word-count envy. I’ve spent a year and a half on The Elixir of Life, and almost a full year on Patriots and Tyrants. She has a work ethic that makes me look like a pathetic wimp. I guess I have been, too. The Coppersmith took me two years to write. I did The Lost Scrolls in a year and a month. I’ve just got to get better at cranking out words.

b) She published in print first, then kindle. I don’t know if that made a difference or not, but she did both very close together. That probably had a lot to do with it. She claims that she edits like crazy. I believe her, but I also know that she was able to publish multiple books at a time because she had several stuffed in her drawer that she’d tried submitting the traditional way before going indie. This points out the third thing:

c) She’s published multiple books. That’s a big secret, one I’ve suspected for a while now. You can’t make it on just one novel, even though it may be a single novel that puts you over the top. I’ve never wanted to publish just one novel as it is, so I’m cool with that, but I also know that I have so many books to write in my life, and right now I’m so far behind I will never die (thank you, Bill Watterson).

d) Blog tours were the secret to her marketing success. I haven’t really tried this yet, though I’ve been mentioned on a few (three, to be precise.). My thanks to Joy Tamsin David for sending me the link with all the blogs she’s researched ahead of time. That’ll make life easier.

I suppose this just means I have to knuckle down all that harder and learn to WRITE MORE. It is fairly simple, actually. That’ll be the key to my success as well. Heck, if my nephew can crank out 375K words plus in four years, I oughtta be able to handle doing more than a book a year.

Just have to knuckle down and make it happen.