Monday, December 31, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 98 -- The Viscount and the Witch

by Michael J. Sullivan

Started: Dec. 31
Finished: Dec. 31

Amazon link: The Viscount and the Witch, short story (The Riyria Chronicles)

Notes: I've been meaning to read this fantasy author for some while now. He has grown in popularity in the last few years, and I've run into him over at Reddit. He seems like a decent fellow, and he seems to know what he's talking about. Also, from bits and pieces of samples of his work that I have seen, he seems to know how to write. This is the first whole piece I'll have a read of his, a short story about the two characters central of Sullivan's longer works.

Mini review: Quite the nice story. Nothing too dramatic here, not an abundance of action, but the relationship between the characters is fantastic, and the writing solid. Also, the characters themselves are quite interesting. Yes, I'm sold. I'll be looking for more from this author.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A different kind of Christmas present

Every year I try to surprise my significant other with a Christmas present that I know she will not expect from me. Some years I'm more successful than others. This year I pulled off the ultimate, giving her something she never would have thought I would have come up with. As you can see below, it's a doll house, about two feet tall. But no, I did not go out and buy this doll house. I had to buy the wood and the instructions for putting it together, but I fitted it together, glued it, and painted it myself. I took me about a month, a few days each week slipping away to my writing tower/cabin where I had everything hidden. I think I did a pretty good job. It's not perfect, and I can find a dozen things I'd like to change, but below it is. I apologize for the awful quality of the images, as my computer's camera isn't all that great.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A writer looks ahead to 2013

What's coming for Ty in 2013? What are my writing plans?

The truth is, I have few specific ones. I'm not setting concrete goals for the long term.

Sounds lazy, but the truth is, I have so many things I want to write, and my interests and mental/emotional state range from day to day, so I don't like to tie myself down with a long project that I'll tire of before I'm finished.

I've been in the mood to get back into fantasy somewhat, so I will possibly turn that direction in the coming months. But I've also been thinking a lot about a zombie novel idea I've had for some time.

Whatever direction I turn, my next work(s) will likely be a serialized series of four to six parts, or possibly a series of connected short stories. It's only been in the last few months that I've been working in this format, and I've found uses for it that were unexpected. For instance, there are stories I want to tell set in my fantasy world of Ursia, stories that aren't long enough for a novel but are more than a short story, maybe even more than a novella or novelette, sort of weird lengths. And then there are connected stories that really should go together in a series or collection. For instance, I've been wanting to write some of the background stories, the histories in a manner of speaking, for some of my characters, but those tales mostly come in little bits; otherwise, there would be long stretches of not much happening. These origin tales are ripe to be serialized or to come in a series.

That doesn't mean I've given up on novels. I've been giving a lot of thought to my next Ursia novel, which will feature Kron as the main character, and will be titled The Company of Seven. This novel will stay within the confines of the city of Bond, making it somewhat related in style to my earlier novels City of Rogues and Ghosts of the Asylum. Some old characters will return, and some new ones will appear. Also, though I've not titled any of these novels as such yet, The Company of Seven is actually the third novel in a trilogy, the first book being Ghosts of the Asylum, and the second being Demon Chains. Once I have published that third novel, I will likely give each of them a slightly different title, at least on the cover, to acknowledge they are part of a trilogy; each novel stands as a work alone in and of itself, so if a reader only picks up one of them they should not feel slighted, but there are related events and themes shared between them.

I've also got a background novel for Ursia that I'd like to work on, one I've been giving a lot of thought to. The events take place approximately 10,000 years before City of Rogues, which I think of as the "central" novel to my entire Ursian Chronicles because it happens sort of in the middle of the much longer timeline I have in my head. For those with long memories, yes, the events predate even the existence (or at least appearance) of the god Ashal and my Bayne character. This novel will likely be titled Whom the Gods Slay.

But it will be a while probably before I step into a full blown novel. For one thing, some personal things are likely to hit me in the coming couple of months, and I'll have to deal with them, which means I don't want to be bogged down with a long work while my mind might be elsewhere. So, I'll be focusing upon short stories and serialized fiction for at least the next few months.

For that matter, I wrote a fair number of shorts this past year which should see publication in the coming year. I'll make sure to post something here, and at the appropriate social networking sites, when and where and how those stories are available.

So, here's to 2013! I wrote about 600,000 words in 2012, and I'd like to top that in the coming year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A writer looks back at 2012

The last week or so, I have written three blog posts that I set aside for a while for my own consideration. Each of these posts was quite lengthy, and I wanted to give myself time to digest what I'd written before hitting the "Publish" button. In each case, after a couple of days, I deleted the posts without publishing. Why? Well, the posts had kind of negative vibes to them, and of late I've been feeling we've got enough of that in the world. Besides, it's Christmas.

So, instead of focusing on the negative, I thought I'd take a look back at my reading and writing in 2012, now that the end of the year is approaching.


In reading, I kind of jumped around a lot this year. The first half of 2012 was taken up by my reading quite a bit of Ed McBain, but I stepped away from him for a while because I felt I was getting burnt out a little on him; no worries, though, because I've still got a sizable stack of McBain novels to read, and he's got plenty more available.

One obvious lapse in my reading this year was epic fantasy, or heroic fantasy, action fantasy, whatever you want to call it, including Sword & Sorcery. I did break down a few times and read such literature, but for the most part, I stayed away. This was intentional, not that I've turned from this genre, one of my favorites. The thing is, I spent much of 2010 and 2011 reading this type of fiction, and writing it, so I felt I needed a break. That break will likely continue for some little while, but I've a stack of such books waiting for me, as well as a growing list of fantasy e-books on my Kindle. I'm looking forward to getting back to such fiction, but I have plenty of other books and e-books also to read, and I'd like to whittle away at those some more.

This past year, I've also been on a bit of a Tolstoy kick, having read War and Peace a year or two ago. I wasn't constantly reading Tolstoy's works this past year, but I did read one of his shorter pieces, a biography about him, and a biographical look at him written by one of his children. This trend will also likely continue, at least for a while, as I've several of his books stacked up, and other works of his waiting on my Kindle. It's funny, in a way, because I don't consider Tolstoy a great writer, though many consider him such. I'm much more interested in his personal, spiritual journey and how that affected his writing, than I am his actual fiction writing; because of this, much of the books I have yet to read by him are non-fiction. I'll probably get to some of that this year, maybe.

I did discover several new writers this, at least new to me, and three stand out as new favorites.

First up, there's Edward Lorn, the horror author. More than once I've called Lorn a Stephen-King-lite writer, and I stand by that, and mean it to be a positive (and, thank goodness, Edward has taken it that way). His characters are just as interesting as King's, but without the thousand pages of back story and all the flash backs and usual stuff that goes along with King's fiction. If you like horror, check out Edward Lorn.

Then there's Scott Fitzgerald Gray, who I didn't exactly discover for the first time this past year, but I did read his novel We Can Be Heroes for the first time. It really blew me away, quite possibly my best read of 2012. If you like a mix of science fiction with action and thriller fiction, and some geeky techno stuff thrown in, check out Gray's novel. Also, this is a novel with strong resonance to gamers, more for video gamers but to some lesser extent also board gamers.

The third novelist I read for the first time and enjoyed this past year was Joe Hill, though I'm a bit split on Hill. His novel Heart-Shaped Box I found awesome, worthy of his father (Stephen King, by the way), but his second novel, Horns, I found a bit longish, jumping back for way to many pages to back story, though still written quite well.


2012 was a weird year for me concerning my writing. I started off the year going full blast, with plans to write a novel a month. This quickly went by the wayside by March or so. It wasn't that I couldn't follow through with my plan, but that my interests were being drawn to other forms of fiction. I did write and publish a few novels this year, but I've also produced one five-part series, as well as still working on another one, and I've written a bunch of short stories, at least some of which should see publication in 2013 at various venues. Not all my writing has been a success, and some of it I'll admit is probably not my best work, but it has all been done in the name of learning, and what I sometimes think of as "not my best" turns out to be a favorite of a number of readers.

Still, I did actually pen about 600,000 words of new fiction this past year, and I can live with that. It didn't mean my initial goal of putting out twelve new novels, but that's still a lot of words.

Also, in 2012, I've been doing a lot of experimentation. Most of that experimenting has been done under a pen name, sometimes with good effect (sales), sometimes not.

And no, I won't tell what my pen name is. If you happen to guess correctly, I'll admit it to you, but not publicly (and I'd hope you could keep a secret). It's not that I'm ashamed of anything I've written under my pen name, most of it being fantasy and horror and some action thriller material, but that if my fanbase (whoever small it might be) started buying my e-books under my pen name, then that would ruin my experimenting. In some ways, I'm competing with myself, but I'm also having some fun doing it, and I'm trying a few things that don't necessarily fit with my "name" writings, and aren't necessarily what most of my regular readers are looking for (all three of them).

Next year, in 2013, I'll keep writing, the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise. See you there.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A little Christmas cheer

What with all the tragedy going on in the world today, instead of focusing upon that (because there's enough of that everywhere else online and elsewhere), I thought I'd show a little Christmas cheer. The wreath below was created by a friend of mine after I had picked up 75 pine cones out of the woods (yes, I counted). She used wiring to connect the pine cones to a bare frame, then used a glue gun to snug it all down. Next, she used some gold spray paint to lightly gloss the edges of the pine cones. Finally, she used some fake greenery (it was available) as a kind of backdrop, tying it with wire on the back of the wreath. Below are the results.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

One writer's Christmas list for Santa

Dear Santa,

I realize this is your busy time of year, and I hope I've not put off too late sending you this letter. Honestly, I'm not even sure if I'll make your Nice List this year. Not that I've been extraordinarily bad, but good? Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, below is a list of things I would like for Christmas. Receiving even one of them would be much appreciated, but if you can bring about others, the more the merrier, as they say.

1.) The ability to write a thousand words in ten minutes. A good thousand words.

2.) To never have to edit again. Ever. Never. Really.

3.) More hours in the day.

4.) Less to do in the day other than write.

5.) The return of Rogue Blades Entertainment, in some form or other. Hell, let it be Jason's full-time job. He deserves it.

6.) Have Amazon make the KDP Select program actually be useful to indie writers again. It was somewhat useful when it was first introduced a year ago, but nowadays, not so much. Would these mean the death of freebies? Maybe. I'm not sure that would be a bad thing. And while we're at it, make Amazon get its head out of its ass and stop the whole exclusivity thing.

7.) Please make all e-book distributors more user friendly, more technically savvy, and above all else, more marketing savvy.

8.) Less whining from indie writers as a whole. It gets to be overwhelming at times.

9.) Tablets and dedicated e-reader devices for everyone!

10.) For all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

Ty Johnston

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Does indie author success lead to snobbery?

Over the last few years, I've seen a number of my fellow indie authors rise high. Some of these people I know relatively well, or somewhat well (at least online), others I only know by name. I've also watched a number of them plummet back down into obscurity. Then there are a precious few who sort of just keep on keeping on, who chug along without gigantic success (at least financially) but who also don't tank out. For the record, I consider myself in that last group, sort of a mid-lister of indie writers.

Some who were riding high a year ago are now nearly forgotten. Others who only published their first e-book or book in the last six months have had huge success.

But there's a trend I've noticed among successful indie authors, and perhaps it also occurs among those successful in other businesses, but I know writing, so I'll stick to it.

What is this trend of which I write? You can probably guess by the title of this post.


Actually, that word isn't truly appropriate, isn't quite accurate, at least not in all cases.

Perhaps a noun? Maybe ... braggart?

No, that's not it, either. What is the word I want?

Oh, hell, I'm a writer. I'll make up my own word. Let's call it ... know-it-all-edness.

How about that?

I see this all the time. Somebody who was a nobody (at least in terms of being an indie author) a few months ago or a year or two ago, suddenly finds themselves with some success. Maybe they're selling ten thousand or more e-books a month. Maybe they're making six figures a month. Doesn't matter. The details vary. Anywho, I see a number of such indie authors who online have suddenly become experts in their field, despite the fact their field is so new there really are no experts in it.

They go around offering advice, which is a fine thing to do, helping out beginners and others with not as much success, but often enough I see such "advice" constructed in strict rules that absolutely must be followed, and anyone who doesn't follow those rules is an idiot and a fool and will never make anything of themselves as a writer ... in fact, they're probably not a very good or a very serious writer.

What kind of rules? Here are some examples:

You absolutely MUST have a social presence online.

You absolutely DO NOT need a social presence online.

You MUST give away FREEBIES.

You MUST NOT, ever, under any circumstances, give away FREEBIES.

You absolutely must drop every distributor but AMAZON because they are the king of all and rain down manna from the heavens.

You absolutely must NOT drop other distributors than Amazon, because doing so limits the number of readers you can reach.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, you HAVE to utilize the KDP SELECT program.

Or, OH LORD, please don't tell me you're STILL using KDP SELECT.

I could go on. If you're an indie writer who has had his or her head above ground at any point during the last year, you've probably seen or heard all of these, and likely plenty more.

It's not that I mind those trying to help. Really, I don't. But I do mind those who are condescending, who treat other writers as if they are little children.

Yes, I'll admit, there can seem to be a lot of silly, sometimes juvenile characters out there in the indie writer world. Many of them are newbies, and they will either learn or they will move on to something else. A small handful are crazy, or mean, or disturbed, or whatever. There's nothing unusual about any of this. That's the open world of online commerce today. If we've not all learned this from Twitter and Facebook and forums and message boards, then we should have.

Also, these "helpful" authors who lay down the law, who have a there's-only-one-way-to-make-it-big-and-that's-my-way mentality are fooling themselves. If I had to guess, I'd say we could probably add their names to the list of authors who won't be around in a year or two.

Ask any long time writing pro. Yeah, I'm talking about the folks who were being traditionally published for years before the Kindle came along. Financially, writing is often an up-and-down experience. Sales blossom, sometimes explode, then they dwindle away. Not in all cases, but often enough. For instance, how many copies of The Bridges of Madison County do you think sold last month? Or even The Godfather? Sure, there's Harry Potter, but that's an anomaly, nowhere near the norm.

I write this ... this little rant, I suppose one could call it ... not for those out there who have had huge success, especially those with heads that have grown so large they believe themselves an expert. Because they're not. They're lucky. Damn lucky. They might be good writers, or they might not. Ask any old pro, and those who are honest will tell you no one can predict what will or will not be a successful book, let alone a best seller. These know-it-all indie writers might have done a ton of work, might have worked their fingers and their butts to the bone, but that alone does not insure success (though it can help).

I write this for those beginners out there, and for those who have been trudging along without much success. The truth is, to be blunt, yeah, you might not be a good writer. You might even suck at being a writer. I make no claims to being a good writer myself, though I think I'm a fairly decent writer who has penned a few good short stories and one or two nifty novels. But I write this for those less-than-successful people because many a great writer goes unnoticed, and because I don't want them to think there is only one road to success for indie writers.

Because there isn't. Each successful indie writer has had a different route to success. One thing they've all had in common is luck, and a certain level of skill and talent (usually at least a little, but not always). I've read sample chapters of e-books that have thousands of reviews, many positive, yet I wouldn't read those e-books even if they were free. I've also read some e-books that no one seems to know about, yet those e-books were some of the best writing I've had the pleasure to discover in years.

On top of that, there's the fact this industry is still so new that it is often facing change, sometimes drastic change. Six months ago, it seemed like change was coming so fast, there was no way to keep up with it. Big events related to publishing and indie authors seemed to happen every day. Of late things have seemed to slow down, but that doesn't mean things will stay that way. Why is change important to remember? Because what worked for an indie writer's success six months ago, a year ago, or two years ago, might not work today. Oh, it might work. Maybe. But possibly not. Hell, probably not. The market has gotten tougher and tougher with more and more people jumping on the band wagon, and despite those who cry out how great certain e-book distributors are, it's common enough for such distributors to come up with some new rules or some new program that isn't necessarily beneficial to the individual writers, though it might be a good thing for the distributor(s).

I also want to add that when I write about this know-it-all attitude, I do not mean to refer to anyone in particular. This is something I've seen in a growing number of indie writers. Not all or even most successful indie writers, but enough that it seems to be a trend. I'd also like to point out that there are some very successful indie writers who show nothing of this attitude. They help others without speaking or writing down to them as if they're dealing with idiots. I appreciate that, and I'm sure others do, as well.

As for those who think they know everything, there's no talking to them, or writing to them. They already know everything. They have had their success, and for whatever reason, they've come to believe it is the only road to success. They are simply wrong, and too stubborn and pigheaded or foolish to admit it. They've let their success get the best of them. Being successful, financially, doesn't make one suddenly become a genius or make one in any way, morally or otherwise, superior to others. It doesn't even mean one is smarter or a better business person than everyone else (though one might be). It simply means one did some work, maybe even a lot of hard work, and got lucky.

And for those who like to pick apart and rework every single thing that anyone ever says ... NO ... HELL, NO ... I am not saying or writing or suggesting that luck is the only thing it takes to become a successful indie author, or a success at anything else. But I am saying luck is a big element, bigger than nearly everyone gives it credit. You can write like Shakespeare, do your marketing like Apple, have your covers done by Rembrandt, and have the bank account of a Rockefeller, yet still not make it as an indie author. I've seen that, too.

One last thing to keep in mind ... being a success at anything varies from person to person. Maybe one person deems success a six-figure salary. Maybe another deems success as paying off their house, or putting their kids through college. Maybe another person just wants to get their bills paid. And maybe for some writers, success is simply getting a nice note from an editor or publisher. It all varies. It's all different. We all have different levels of success. I'm where I want to be, and that's fine with me. I might only sell a thousand e-books this month, but that's fine with me. I'm in this for the long haul ... no, I'm in this for the rest of my life. Sparking big all of a sudden does not appeal to me, because I've seen enough writers do that and then burn away to ash. I don't want to do that.

Besides, the bills are getting paid.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

HUGE Holiday e-book sale and giveaway bonanza!

It's mad, MAD I tell you!

Here at the book lot, we've got to make room for next year's models, which means we're giving away e-books at rock-bottom prices, even offering some for free!

Check the links below to where the e-books are available at low, low prices or absolutely free!

City of Rogues: Book I of The Kobalos Trilogy -- epic fantasy -- FREE

for the Kindle

for the Nook

at Apple

at Smashwords

at Sony

at Kobo

Bayne's Climb: Book I of The Sword of Bayne -- epic fantasy -- FREE

for the Kindle

for the Nook

at Apple

at Smashwords

at Sony

at Kobo

Ghosts of the Asylum -- epic fantasy -- ONLY 99 cents

for the Kindle

at Apple

at Smashwords

at Kobo

Demon Chains -- epic fantasy -- ONLY 99 cents

for the Kindle

at Smashwords

The Storm -- horror -- ONLY 99 cents

for the Kindle

for the Nook

at Apple

at Smashwords

at Kobo

More Than Kin -- mainstream, literary -- ONLY 99 cents

for the Kindle

for the Nook

at Apple

at Smashwords

at Kobo

100 Years of Blood -- literary horror -- ONLY 99 cents

for the Kindle

at Apple

at Smashwords

at Kobo

And many more great deals available at these sites!

Review of '100 Web Sites for Fiction Writers'

My little e-book, 100 Web Sites for Fiction Writers, recently received a review over at the Voracious Reader blog. So thanks for the nice review!

However, the reviewer brings up a good point, that the e-book needs an updating. This is something I've been considering for some while, as a number of the sites have changed or no longer exist since I finished the e-book more than a year ago. What do others think? Is it time to update?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 97 -- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

Started: Dec. 3
Finished: Dec. 31

Amazon link: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Notes: I have heard a very many good things about this novel of two magicians in early 19th Century England. I've heard this is a great young adult book. I've also heard it's great adult literary work. Can it be both? Or more? I'll have to find out for myself.

Mini review: Over all, I didn't care much for it. It's a decent book, but I felt overly lengthy with the plot meandering around all over the place and sometimes seeming to disappear altogether for a while before getting back on track. More bad: I didn't care for hardly any of the characters, finding very few of them worth my appreciation. The good: The descriptions of the locales throughout Europe I found quite nice, brief enough so I did not become bored but also providing enough information to keep my interest. Also, the last 40 or so pages were much better than any of the rest of the story, though I still did not feel the payoff was quite worth it, especially after I'd waded through 800 pages already. The writing style is accessible, easy to read, but often it seems to go on for long periods without saying much of anything important, without seeming to move the plot forward. Also, the writing style reminded me much of several 19th Century authors, specifically Dickens, of whom I'm not a fan, which my explain my lack of enthusiasm about this novel.