Archive for May, 2011

I think I just figured out why Tuesdays are such good marketing days for me. Usually I’m working an overnight shift on Tuesdays, from midnight till 8 am. After sleeping for about three or four hours, I’m still pretty groggy for the rest of the day. Duh. Anyway, I did manage to make some progress today. I wrote another chapter in Eye of Darkness, another chapter in Jefferson’s Road: The Tree of Liberty, and rewrote a chapter in Jefferson’s Road: Patriots and Tyrants (which is why I’m holding back a bit on releasing it).

So I guess I shouldn’t complain. Of course, I did all of this during the overnight shift (things are pretty quiet until the guys start waking up between 4 and 5 am. Yeah, they’re all early risers!), but I haven’t been as productive since waking up around 11:30 this morning after my shift was done. Then again, I did spend some time with my wife, so I daren’t say the day was wasted. 

David will be going to scouting later this evening, and I’ll take the laptop with me. I can get a bunch done while I wait for him at his meeting.

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Posted: May 25, 2011 in The Writing Life

I’m hiding on the front porch this morning, trying to get some work done. The kids have taken over the den, wrapping up their school work (or in the case of my son, wandering around trying to figure out what to do with himself now that his school work is done). My hope is that, being out of sight, I’ll be out of mind, and I’ll actually be able to accomplish something today. Doubtless there will be interruptions, but I hope I can minimize them, at least.

So much to do, so little time…

Posted: May 23, 2011 in The Writing Life

I’ve been interviewed on IndieReads.net, and invite you to check it out. Here’s the link:

Interview with Indie Author Michael J. Scott

Posted: May 20, 2011 in Eye of Darkness

I’ve passed the 42K mark on Eye of Darkness, and just to keep me motivated (pant, pant, pant!), I thought I’d post an excerpt for you to read and comment on. This comes from chapter one. Looking forward to your thoughts on it!

____

Chapter 1: At The Drunken Dwarf

Bill Dugharrow burst through the door of the Drunken Dwarf. Raucous laughter from a table in the back and the muted conversations wafting on smoky air confronted him, disorienting him. A blazing fire roared in the hearth, warming the room. The smoke mingled with the aromas of dark ale and sweat. He stepped back as a bar-wench slid by in her long skirt and ample corset, expertly holding aloft a tray of steins as she wove through the crowd.

As she passed, he saw the back table of revelers held four men in the king’s colors, the steel armor they wore glistening amber in the firelight. He grimaced and went to the bar first, ordering a shot of whiskey and an ale chaser before turning to face the men in the back. They didn’t see him, or if they did, chose not to acknowledge his presence.

This was not going to be easy.

He asked for another shot and downed it quickly, and then crossed the room, jostled as a satiated customer stumbled past. Coming to stand at the table, he waited until a break in the conversation before clearing his throat to speak. The man with his back to him spoke first.

“What is it, Dungharrow?” he drawled. “I recognized your stench as soon as you stepped in.”

The others snickered, stifling their laughter in their ale.

Bill swallowed and studied the man’s reflection in the mirror behind the table. “My Lord Sheriff,” he began, “you must come at once, I beg you.”

“Not more tales of faeries trampling your potatoes.”

“Sir?”

“Or cutting holes in your mistress’ bed sheets? Or crafting faerie rings out of your carrot patch? Carving designs in your barley?”

“No.”

The men were laughing openly at him now. The Sheriff turned and sized him up. “Then what could it possibly be? We’ve answered alarms at your farm five times now, and honestly I am at a loss why the fey seem so driven to assail you.”

Bill opened his mouth to speak, but the Sheriff put a gloved hand out. “No wait. They didn’t mate with your cow, did they?”

“No. Sir—”

“Quite right.” He gave his men a raised eyebrow. “I must’ve been thinking of someone else.” The drunken deputies burst out in a fresh round of laughter.

“Sir, it’s my daughter.”

The Sheriff raised a doubtful eyebrow. “Your daughter? And the cow?”

The deputies howled, earning disapproving glares from the other patrons and the barman, Gregor. Bill wilted under the abuse, but continued. “Sir, you misunderstood me.”

“How relieving. That stretched even my imagination.”

One deputy gave him a quizzical look. Another leaned over to explain the joke. The Sheriff continued unabated. “Your daughter, you say? And how often have they mated her?”

He slammed his fist on the table and leveled with the Sheriff’s eyes. Surely the man could see he was desperate!

The laughter died with his outburst. His voice breaking, he said, “Whether or how often she may have been violated thus, I know not. I pray not. But I know this: My Annabelle is missing.”

The Sheriff eyed him sidelong. “And Annabelle is…?”

“My daughter.”

“Your daughter. Not the cow.” He took a draught of ale. “One never knows.”

***

Lucas Veritatus’ ears perked up at the mention of Annabelle. He sat at the far end of the bar, and as Bill struggled to coax the Sheriff into action, he listened intently. The three deputies behind the Sheriff were making that difficult with their renewed laughter. They reminded him of the scavenger dogs of Kresh, wandering the fields of battle and barking maniacally over the fallen, eating the corpses of soldiers and enemies alike—making no distinction between the good or the bad.

It grated on him. He poured another shot of whiskey from the bottle Gregor had lent him and tossed it back, obliterating the memory. Soon, Gregor would want his gold. Not that Lucas had any.

Gregor could wait for his gold. He owed him that much.

He didn’t have to glance around the room to know that in one way or another, every man and woman in the tavern owed him at least something. Twenty years he’d served as their Sheriff, protecting them from brigands, Kreshan raiders, Outlanders from beyond the Dragon’s Ridge—and the fey of whom Bill was so enthralled. He studied the confrontation between the farmer and the new Sheriff, Bram Loric. Bill had been one of the few to speak out against Loric’s ascent to Sheriff when he returned, bearing his charter with the king’s seal in his hand. It had won him no friendship with the man. Demanding his help now was a fool’s errand—something Bill should have known.

And it wasn’t going very well.

***

Bill grabbed the Sheriff’s shoulder, making him spill his drink down his front. “My lord, you may mock me all you wish. Call me ‘Dungharrow’ instead of ‘Dugharrow’ if you must, but you have sworn an oath to protect and defend us. I must have your assistance.”

The Sheriff glared coolly at Bill’s hand on his shoulder. Bill let go. “I know well my oath, Farmer Dungharrow. It extends to the whole of North Dhoriland, from the boundaries of the Great Wood to the foothills of the Dragon’s Ridge. I cannot be always running to a single farm to investigate the wild claims of a mad plowman.”

“And yet you find time to warm a table at the Drunken Dwarf?”

The Sheriff paused, and gave a short laugh before setting down his ale. “You should learn to speak with more caution. These men have just returned from a three day patrol of the ridge. They’ve had their fill of investigating unsubstantiated reports and are entitled to a little refreshment, as am I.”

“Unsubstantiated?” said Bill. “You know as well as I the Daoine Sidhe may come and go at will—”

A gloved hand gripped his throat, cutting him off.

“Do not name them thus!” the Sheriff barked. “Are you mad? Uttered twice more you’d call them on our heads. Would you so foolishly violate the compact that holds them in abeyance?”

One of the deputies across the table said, “The rumors we pursued in the Dragon’s Ridge were of an Outlander, not the fey.”

***

Lucas heard this, too. Another interesting bit of information. He wondered how long the Outlanders had been encroaching upon their borders, and how long Bram meant to let it continue before informing his cousin, the king. Lucas knew for a fact no dispatch had been sent. No doubt Bram thought it wise to look into the matter himself before bothering his sovereign.

Not that he’d find anything. Lucas himself would be hard-pressed to find an Outlander if he did not wish to be found, but Bram was incompetent. The Outlanders would’ve spied his coming leagues before he got there. In fact, if Outlanders had been in the Dragon’s Ridge and meant any real harm, it was doubtful Bram would’ve made it back at all.

***

Bram glared at his deputy, but released Bill.

“Forgive me,” Bill sputtered, sinking to his knees. “I assumed—”

“You assumed much. How do you know your daughter has not simply wandered off? I can think of one or two reasons why a young girl might do that.”

“Please, sir. She is only ten.”

“Go home, Bill. I’m sure your daughter will turn up.”

“She’s been gone three days!”

***

Lucas closed his eye at this utterance. Three days? He fingered the bottle. Annabelle had blond hair woven with blue ribbons, last time he’d seen her. It had been a few years’ now, but she was a delicate child—too innocent and pure to know that asking Lucas Veritatus why he only had one eye was impolite at best.

Three days meant it was highly unlikely she still inhabited this world. No wonder Bill was so frantic.

Bill’ impatience was growing, his desperation loosening his tongue even more than the ale. If this continued much longer, Lucas would have to intervene.

And that could be unpleasant for at least one person this night, and probably for four.

***

The men had quieted. The Sheriff heaved a breath. “Three days,” he said. “Then it is unlikely we will find her. She may have been torn by wolves, or died of exposure, or met some other unfortunate fate. You have my sorrow.” This last was said into his stein, which he raised to his face until the ale sloshed down his matted beard. He belched in satisfaction.

“Nay,” said Bill, recoiling from him. “It cannot be. It is not true!”

“Misfortune comes to us all. My men are weary. I cannot aid you.” He set the stein heavily on the table and motioned for the bar-wench to bring him another.

“And what of justice? For her? Will you not at least make the attempt?”

“I cannot aid you! Go on now. Drown your sorrows.” He tossed a gold coin on the floor beside the farmer. Bill stared at it a moment then spat on it.

“Lucas would’ve aided me. He’d have come no matter how weary he was.”

The Sheriff pushed himself from the table and rose to his full height, towering over the smaller farmer. “Lucas Veritatus is no longer Sheriff.”

“And a pity he’s not!”

The room fell to a sudden hush. The Sheriff slipped the hitch off his scabbard, loosening his blade with one hand. He took a menacing step forward, his spurs ringing like tiny bells as his boot came down. “You’ve insulted me the last time. I received my charter at the hand of the king himself,” he said. “I speak in his name. It takes two eyes to keep order in this land, and Lucas Veritatus has but one.”

Bill slipped backward on his hands, scrambling toward the bar.

***

Lucas rose, standing behind Bill as he backpedaled until the farmer literally lay at his feet. He swept his cloak to one side as he reached down to lift Bill upright, leaving room for his sword in the same motion.

“You are so quick to point that out,” Lucas said, eyeballing the Sheriff.

“Lucas,” said the Sheriff, greeting him coolly.

“Bram,” Lucas replied. “I see you’re still serving the finest way you know how. So glad we have you keeping the peace.”

“You’re not Sheriff any longer,” Bram said. “I do not answer to you.”

“Quite right,” Lucas answered evenly. “Come, Bill, my friend. You obviously had enough. You should be getting home.”

“A man is judged by the company he keeps,” said the Sheriff to Lucas’s back. “You should choose better friends.”

“As should yours,” Lucas muttered under his breath. He propelled Bill forward and out of the bar. Hopefully, they’d make it before Bram realized what he’d said and decided to pursue the matter.

Posted: May 18, 2011 in Eye of Darkness, The Writing Life

Amazon is cracking down on self-promotions, which has the immediate effect of making it harder for independent authors to hawk their wares – which also has a negative effect on Amazon’s bottom line.

I can’t help but think that they made this decision after a lot of thought, and after looking hard at the numbers. Surely this isn’t just a disgruntled customer or two complaining about author self-promotion. So perhaps we should trust Amazon that this move is good and proper, and will enhance the bottom line – at least for Amazon.

That may be the reasoning, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to work, of course.

In a perfect world, customers will recommend books to their friends, thus generating that magical word of mouth that sells books. Of course, the simple fact is that readers don’t often recommend books – not because the books are bad or because they didn’t enjoy them or even because they don’t have good things to say about them, but simply because they’ve got better things to do with their time. Thus, promotion still largely falls on the shoulders of those who benefit from it the most: the authors themselves.

Which means that tying our hands isn’t all that friendly or helpful. I think their efforts would have been better spent trying to support us, rather than dumping all our efforts into a Meet Our Authors forum, where there is zero structure and no way to navigate the threads effectively to find what you’re looking for, or even to discover something you didn’t know you were looking for, but which you enjoy anyway.

All of this brings to mind the simple fact that authors will need to rely on someone else for effective marketing. I’m leaning more toward book bloggers, and I have an incredible list of them I’ve assembled, but I just haven’t finished going through it yet. Oh well. More work for me.

On a positive note, I’ve crossed 40,000 words on Eye of Darkness the other day, and it looks like I’ll be on target to have it released by the end of June. What fun!

I have to admit, I’m a little torn right now. Been looking at the sales figures for May so far (yeah, I know. It’s early in the month), and naturally there’s been a bit of a drop-off in interest for The Coppersmith. Jefferson’s Road: The Spirit of Resistance continues to plod along in the single digits, as it has been doing for some time now.

Thing is, everytime I release a new book, I get a sales bump. It’s only been a few weeks since I released The Coppersmith, and I am tempted to release Patriots and Tyrants ahead of schedule, if only to kick that sales bump into gear. 

I’ve told myself to wait till the end of the month, but I’m questioning that wisdom. Wouldn’t it be better to release the books I have available a little closer together, say two to three weeks apart instead of four or five?

The downside of that is not having any real feedback yet from some of the people I’ve offered it to. I don’t know how significant that will be, and in all fairness, I have gotten positive reviews on it from my Wednesday Night Writer’s group as it is, so it’s not as though I’m tossing something half-baked out there.

Of course, what I really should be doing is knuckling down on Eye of Darkness. I have been working on it, of course, but I’m nowhere’s near done. Right now I’ve got slightly less than 34K words, so not quite to the halfway mark. But I have to do better if I’m going to have it ready by June.

I dunno. Maybe I should just stop looking at sales figures…

Posted: May 10, 2011 in The Writing Life

I’m doing a bit of an experiment. So far, I’m ignoring conventional wisdom that says an author should stick to only one genre, and build his brand accordingly.

At this point, I’m writing Christian action/adventure, political suspense, psychothrillers, and fantasy. And there may be others as I get used to cranking out more words (I have a sci-fi in my file drawer that’s asking for a rewrite. But right now it’ll have to take a number!)

What do they have in common? Simply this: I write the kinds of stories that I like to read. Like most readers, I have divergent tastes. I don’t like just one genre, but a plethora of different stuff. So why shouldn’t a writer produce more than one type of book?

True, when I pick up a John Grisham book, I’m expecting a legal thriller (not something like The Painted House). But that’s because of how Grisham has branded himself.

I don’t want to brand myself as just one kind of author. I’m using my own name here, and I want people to know all the different kind of books I write from the beginning. That’ll be my brand.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it works or not.

Sales of The Coppersmith took off after releasing it at the end of April. In a week I’d sold seventeen copies. All in all, very exciting news. Of course, at such a low price ($.99), I only receive about $.35 of that, so it adds up to a little more than $5 (one of them is through Smashwords, which means I won’t see it for a while.). But as I’d suspected, I think it’s having a positive effect on the sales of The Spirit of Resistance as well, though whether or not this holds true throughout the month remains to be seen.

In the meantime, I’m slated to release Patriots and Tyrants later this month, but today I’m working on Eye of Darkness. The story has capped 28,600 words so far (yeah, I’m a little behind the 1,200 mark, but I’ll make that up today I’m sure), with no sign of stopping. Twice now, I’ve hit a roadblock (I’m doing this sans outline, which is fun!), but each time I’ve found a way around it.

All I know is that today I’m going to try and get them through the mountain pass to the Ronami village on the other side… okay, okay. No context. You’ll have to find out what that means once it’s done. Believe me though: this one is worth waiting for.