Friday, November 29, 2013

Change of Voice

I spent about five years writing my Endhaven novels. (Huzzah. Find them at Amazon.) They were great learning exercises, helping my general writing ability swell greatly during the series. At this point, though, I feel that I need to move onto something else, because my writing skills were stuck as well. Those books had a particular voice and a particular mode of storytelling, one which did not stretch me sufficiently any more. As much as I would like to write another work set in Endhaven, I also recognize that I must follow some different choices if I am to develop.

First, I am moving my fantasy writing to a more modern time period. I chose the 1920's for a variety of reasons, but I mostly chose it because that time is now fading from human memory. That means that it's ripe for fantasy. The thing about the 20's is that it doesn't have steampunk getting in my way, and just as important, dieselpunk is is not encompassing enough to fill in the era. I have room to innovate while never getting cornered by my reader's expectations.

Secondly, motion pictures are widely available from the 20's. I can see their storytelling style. I can see how sets look, how streets looks, and how America looked. This is all source material. In addition, I have access to the artifacts of the day. I can touch cars and their descendants. In many ways, the 20's are just like today, except less uptight (which is saying a whole lot).

Third, I knew people who were teenagers and young adults during those years. I saw how they acted and interacted, especially my grandparents. That culture, although foreign seeming, is part of my native culture.

Most importantly, I get to have my entire cultural lexicon to play with. I get to draw from my own experiences. I get to use the wealth of my own cultural knowledge. I even get the benefit of there being different expectations about how people should act in those times, which greatly affects the plots and occurrences in my writing.

I can't tell you that I am writing the most amazing book in the world, but I can tell you that I am writing a book significantly deeper and more human that my last books. The prose challenges are more difficult and the rewards are sweeter. I am proud of my writing in a way that I've not been before. I feel like I am running the edge of excellence, pushing for those last few psychological barriers to fall.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Selling Advice

The internet is full of selling advice to us poor indie authors. We need it, of course, but that doesn't mean that the advice is any good.

For example, take this advice. "Beginning writers should leverage crowdsourcing." That sounds simple, right? Well, if you mean simple in the same way as splitting uranium atoms, then yes, I guess its simple.

Objectively, I don't even know what that sentence means. I know what crowdsourcing is, but since that contains diverse set of techniques, it would really help me to know which crowdsourcing technique that you are talking about. I don't think that she means I should crowdsource writing my next novel, nor do I think that she means that I should crowdsource the fundraising. Fortunately, we can reasonably conclude, for we are reasonable people, that we should crowdsource our advertising. Simple and easily done?

No.

You see, we authors down here at the bottom of the heap don't have many resources to leverage. We can get some folks to fly our flags for us, and for that I am grateful, but beyond a certain point, we simply don't have a large enough mass of followers, readers, or friends to make that leverage go very far. Getting that crowd, that mass, is entirely our problem.

Most indie authors sell a certain number of books. That number coincides with the size of their social circle. The larger that circle, the more that they sell, and beyond that, not so very much. Those are just the numbers, folks. Most indie selling happens precisely DUE TO crowdsourcing.

Now, let's look down the list. "Most authors go where other authors are. They should go where the readers are." Once again, that look like great advice, but this quickly breaks down into nightmarish absurdity once you begin thinking about it.

If readers predominate a board, and then authors come along trying to sell their wares, then quite quickly, either the readers get swamped out due to the number of writers coming along trying to be seen, or the readers make rules against self-advertising. I've seen this happen again and again. Usually, the group makes rules against the authors. On some boards, indie authors have made themselves so unwelcome that they are one step below pond scum. (Pond scum isn't trying to sell anything.)

Once again, my fine friends, the lessons here are simple: any one technique used to sell books will become swamped if that technique is reliable, thus wrecking the technique. The only caveat to this is that those techniques that require money, such as advertising, won't get swamped, but even that is no panacea.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The (Sometimes) Stupidity of Cyberpunk

I'm not the judgmental type, but sometimes, I have to call stupid, well, stupid.

The other day, I saw a cyberpunk steam engine. Now, I want you to think about this. The steam engine existed in the age of steam. In fact, if there is any more powerful symbol of the age of steam than the steam engine, I want to know what it is. Yet, somehow, even the god emperor of steam devices isn't steampunk enough for steampunk. No, it had to get more gears and brass on it to be truly steampunk, because ... I really don't fucking know.

Listen steampunkers, I'm begging you, find out what the real steam devices were in the day. These steam power devices don't need to get steampunked because they are already steampunked. Really. Adding all those steampunk fiddly bits merely guilds the lily. Those devices are already steampunk sexy.

If you really want to be cool, expand on steampunk. Make a steampunky copy machine, a steampunk coffee maker, or a steampunk waffle iron. There's lots of creative room out there. The sheer amount of equipment begging to get steampunked is vast.

There's no need to steampunk period steam equipment, because that just makes you look ignorant.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Era

With my compilation of the Jura City series into one volume, I am off to new things. I may return to Jura City in the future, but developing those stories takes a huge amount of thinking and reconsidering, and I am ready for new things. Sales continue to crawl, but at least I've now got a kick ass cover.

With the previous series done, I feel free to do so many other things that have me exciting. My current work in progress is a more socially based fantasy set in an alternate 20's. I'm having fun matching the style of that era. I am also investigating a story set around 1980. My other work in progress is a modernization of a public domain work. Both are interim works to get me to my next novel, which is currently undetermined. Both are novellas at the moment. I don't see getting much longer than that.

For my own novels, I find that there is a certain amount of pre-thinking involved. The IP work can also be fairly intensive, so much so that doing nothing is often more fruitful than doing something. As long as I'm working, I'm coming up with new ideas.

I may just wind up writing the schlockiest thing that I can imaging, filled with every trope that I can lay a hand on. To be honest, I'm no longer afraid of writing crap. I can now hurl myself into a swimming pool of the stuff with manic glee, giving a middle finger to the literarati who didn't bother coming to my party anyway.

And one of these days, I'll make some money.