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Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

What’s Next?

Book 7 of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress is out in the world, and now I get to think about what is next.  First, to answer to main question I’ve been getting: Magic to the Bone ties up the Samir storyline more or less, but it is hardly the end of stories for Jade Crow and her friends.

So… what’s next? ALL the things. Here’s a list, by no means set in stone, of what I’m going to be working on over the next year.

tribes_promo

The next 20sided book will be a side novel and I think from the cover there you can guess whose story it is. It’ll follow Harper as she deals with the events of the previous books and has her own adventures in the world of gaming conventions and tournaments.  I’m loosely aiming for this book to come out late summer or early fall of this year.

Book 8 is coming, as well, but likely not until the winter of 2016. It’s set chronologically after book 7, of course, but will have its own stand-alone story with Jade and company.  Here’s the cover for that one (it’s one of my favorites and should be a blast to write, since this plot is going to be balls-to-the-wall gamer fun):

dungeon_promo

Notice how those things are loosely set to come out later this year? That’s because, for the sake of sanity, the quality of my work, and my health, I’m doing a couple things differently going forward. First is… I am not going to set deadlines or release dates until a work is pretty much done and ready. My doctors (and my husband) have demanded I reduce stress, so… deadlines are out the window.  Another thing I’m going to do is take a break from writing 20sided books for a few months. I have other series I started, other ideas I’m dying to work on, and I want to make sure I’m writing books because I’m ready to write them and not just because people want them now now now.

Here are the non-20sided things I’m going to work on this year. I’m pretty excited about them and hope my readers will be also (and if you are on my mailing list, you might get to read some of this stuff for free, just saying…)

GPC N2 - Brood Mother

First up is Brood Mother, the 5th Gryphonpike Chronicles novella.  I feel pretty confident saying it’ll be out in June or July because it’s half done already. It’s another fairly stand-alone adventure with Killer and her group. If you like D&D-inspired epic fantasy, then give that series a shot. First novella is free.

The big project this year will be getting going again on the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division series. The first book, Avarice, has a beautiful new cover. My plan is to work on books 2 and 3 (they are outlined but not begun quite yet) and release once I have both done so I can make sure to release in a reasonable time frame. Each of those books will stand more or less on its own also, as they are mysteries at their core. Think Law&Order but with sword fights.  Below are the covers for the three books in the series I’m planning on working on this year (book 1 is, obviously, already done and out if you want to read it).

New Pyrrh covers together

So… there’s my plan for the next year or so. I also have book 2 of the Cymru that Was duology about 70% finished, but I am not sure if I’ll get to it, so I’m making no promises on that one. I might finish it right after Brood Mother, though, since it would be good to finally finish that. That might not happen until 2017, however.  I can’t answer how many 20sided books there will be right now, because I don’t know. What I do know is that the next few will be stand-alone stories without a huge over-arching plot. I definitely know the very end of Jade’s story, but there might be more stories I want to tell before that.  I have at least two side character novels planned as well, plus I might spin off Alek’s sister and her crew into a whole different series (she’s so different from Jade, she’d let me write some really cool stuff that just wouldn’t fit with Jade’s story). I’m going to follow my muse on this and write until I don’t have ideas that I feel are worth sharing. When Jade is ready for the end, I’ll know, and wrap it up.

Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me through this crazy journey. The last couple years have been a lot of fun and I hope to keep the crazy roller-coaster flying along. The support and awesomeness of all my readers are what make this even possible. You peeps kick so much ass. Thank you.

Upcoming in 2013

I’ve been pretty busy lately finishing up some projects and doing some stuff for projects I can’t talk about yet, but I figured I’d update and let people see a preview of what is coming in the next three months from myself and Doomed Muse Press.

First up, I’m just finishing the first full-length Gryphonpike Chronicles novel. It’s got rogues, dragons, ship battles, and general adventuring awesomeness. Here’s the cover:

After that I’m turning my focus to short fiction and novellas for a couple months since I have three short story collections almost ready to go.

The first is a general science fiction and fantasy collection in the same vein as my previous collection “Till Human Voices Wake Us”.  It will have about 10 short stories and novelettes as well as one or two novellas.  Here’s the cover for it:

The second collection will be of my urban fantasy short fiction, including a brand new Remy Pigeon story as well as a brand new novella.  Here is the cover for that:

And finally the third collection will be an adventure fantasy collection featuring six short stories, two novelettes, and a brand new novella (or maybe two if I get carried away, I have two I really want to write and include so it will depend on time).  Here is the cover for the adventure fantasy collection:

 

So expect those out before Christmas! I’ll post when they are available with full descriptions and links where you can find them. Now, back to the word mines.

A Little Update and a Lot of Cover Pr0nz

I’ve been battling some health issues as well as a loss in my family which has led to some pretty serious writer’s block in that I just haven’t been writing much. Or doing much of anything.  I’m on the road to recovering, I think.  I’m writing again, which is the best part for me.  I don’t feel good when I’m not writing.

I am having to re-order my goals for this year due to things that have come up.  Right now, I’m planning to finish the first 20 Gryphonpike novellas (so the first 4 omnibus versions, essentially, more on those in a moment) and the first four books of the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division series.  I’m not sure when exactly each will be posted, part of my journey toward health is not putting too much pressure on myself.  But they’ll all be up by December, that much I can promise (barring further life rolls).

Meanwhile, here is the promised cover pr0n.

First set are for the omnibus versions of the Gryphonpike Chronicles.  Each will contain five novellas.  The art for all of them was licensed from Kerem Beyit and the text done by my friend Greg.

These next two are for the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division novels, books 1 and 2.  The artist is custom courtesy of Nathie via Deviantart.com and the text done by my friend Greg.

There. Cover pronz. Those will be coming out this year. Now… back to the writing I go. Many pages to go in order to fill these covers with awesome stories.

Three Years

Tomorrow is the 3 year anniversary of my writing journey. It’s been a crazy ride so far.  When I first decided to quit my job and get serious about writing, my plan involved something like “write a novel every year for ten years” while submitting short stories and hoping for a book deal.

How things change, eh?  I discovered Heinlein’s Rules, attended a bunch of workshops including Clarion, and the self-publishing/e-book world came into being.  Now my plan is more like “write ten novels worth of new material every year”, I’m hardly writing short stories at all this year, and I have quit submitting queries for books (for the moment). In these last three years, I’ve written over a million words, sold ten short stories, and self-published over twenty novels, novellas, and short stories.

I have seven years left in my ten year plan (I made a deal with my husband that I would be making a living from my fiction in ten years or I’d go get a different day job).  I’ve learned so much, tried a lot of different things, put in a lot of work, over the last three years. I can only imagine where my skills will be in seven more years.

So I start my fourth year as a writer with a lot of optimism and a lot of hope. Also, because hey, this is still me, a lot of experiments planned.  I’ve been absent from the blog because of one of these experiments. The novellas are going well and are a ton of fun to write, but also take a lot of writing time and energy.  So the serial novel and the neo-pro interviews are on the back burner until March.  I’ll probably be pretty scarce here for another month or so.

Three years. Feels like twenty sometimes and like a couple months others.  I have a long way to go and a lot more to learn, but this is still the best job I’ve ever had.  Here’s to seven more years of awesome (and hopefully another few decades beyond that).

The 2011 Wrap-up (with graph!)

And so the year ended and we come to the point where I need to look back on 2011 and draw some conclusions.  2011 was a roller coaster year. Both my husband and I dealt with health issues, we also had to deal with sudden unemployment and loss of income and insurance, I had a death in my family, and then there was Clarion, which disrupted the entire summer as well as being another unexpected expense.

I’m going to do the writing stats and talk about that for a bit, then I’ll get to the ebook stuff.  This year was not the greatest year for my writing. I spent a lot of it feeling very unsure of my skills and where my writing was going. Part of this was because I think I took some pretty big leaps in skill, but inconsistent leaps.  In April, I attended Dean Wesley Smith’s Character Voice workshop, and afterward everything I’d written before it looked weak and terrible.  I’m not sure that was Dean’s intention, but it is, in the end, a good thing.  I learned more during that 8 days about craft and writing than I’ve learned in the last 20 years.  I took that study forward into Clarion and I think it helped a ton.  Let me put it this way: last year I got very frustrated because I kept getting “this is beautiful writing but” rejections and I wanted to know what I had to do in order to hit the next level of skill, to get past that and sell.

The Character Voice workshop showed me. I’m still working on getting the stuff I learned in that workshop through my fingers and into my unconscious writing brain so I can do it automatically.  But this year, I sold stories.  Two of the sales came directly from stories written at Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith workshops.  Of all the learning experiences I had in 2011, those workshops were definitely the most valuable.  I believe that having Clarion after those didn’t hurt, of course. It gave me a chance to network, meet awesome people, and put the learning into practice while I had the captive audience of 19 or 20 first readers.

So, the writing stats with my 2011 goals and if I met them:

Word Count: Goal was to write 900,000 words. Total actual words written:  438,777.  I beat 2010’s word count, so not terrible.

Of that 900k, 240k was supposed to be novels. That goal was met. In fact, most of my 2011 wordcount was novels or novellas. I only finished 20 short stories in 2011.  I finished 3 novels and 80% of a 4th novel, plus more than half of two novellas.

Other 2011 goals included writing consistently, which I failed. There were weeks in 2011 where I didn’t write at all. This is a goal I will carry forward to 2012, along with not deleting entire sections of work, and finishing everything I start.

Short stories sold in 2011: 6 plus 1 reprint.  This is what makes me happiest when I look back on the year.  I feel that this is an indication that what I’m learning has started to show up in my writing and that my skills are actually improving.

Rejections: 97, over half personal.  Less rejections than 2010, because I submitted fewer stories this year and sold more of them on their first or third tries.  As I move forward into 2012, I’m focusing even more on longer work, so I think my submissions to magazines will fall even more. Oh well.

Other notable achievements this year: I sold too many pro stories and disqualified myself from the Writers of the Future contest. My final entry sneaked through the door right before the disqualifying publication.  Here’s hoping it is the magical Hollywood finish and I win, right? *grin*

I also qualified for SFWA membership, though I haven’t joined yet.  I’m still debating if it is worth it at this point in my career with what I’m doing and where I’m going.

So… on to the publishing side of things.  One of my goals for 2011 was to dip my toes more fully into e-publishing.  That goal, I met. I wanted to put up at least 15 more works as ebooks.  At the start of 2011, I had 3 short stories up under another pen name and the results were just enough to convince me to try with more work.

I ended 2011 with 18 works available in three different categories/genres (and under 3 different names).  Two novels, two mid-length (what I’m calling novelettes and novellas), four short story collections, and ten short stories published as singles.

Total ebook sales for 2011: 1174  (*these numbers are not final, because Smashwords hasn’t reported for some of the places it distributes, so I only have some December numbers)

Of those 1174 sales, 657 were sales of short stories, 94 were from mid-length, 167 were from collections, and 256 were from novels.

Amazon accounted for 1020 sales, Smashwords Distribution Channels and Direct accounted for 89 sales, and B&N accounted for 65.  I also sold 6 paperbacks of the one novel available as a trade paperback, bringing total self-published sales to 1180.

How did sales distribute by month? Let me show you! (I did promise a graph, didn’t I? Click image for bigger picture)

This graph shows some interesting trends.  One is clearly that sales grow when you put up more work.  As my husband was helping me put together spreadsheets, he asked “What happened in May?”.  Well, I put up three new short stories (one of which went on to be my best and most consistent seller).  Other things that boosted sales were offering something free for a short time (a week to ten days).  As far as I can tell, interviews, reviews, blogging, all that stuff does very little for sales.  New work and offering free work for short periods are what boost sales noticeably.

Of course, there is December, which broke the trend of up in my sales.  I was doing well the first couple weeks, and then sales fell off a cliff.  We’ll see if they rebound in 2012. I’m trying new things this year, including putting up many more novels and putting up books in series, as well as putting out work in three more genres.

As for the money, well, my total earnings from my writing in 2011 came to just shy of 3,000.  A nice bump from 2010, for sure.  I have not been paid on ebook earnings for November or December yet, so that is not in the 3k.  Nor are two of my short story sales, which have not been published yet and the magazine pays on publication.  I only count money when it is in my hand.

2011 was an interesting year full of surprises and a lot of learning experiences.  I hope all of that will carry forward into 2012.

 

Cha-cha-changes

I’m working on compiling the data and figuring out how to make nice graphs and stuff for a year-end wrap-up post.  Meanwhile, I figured I’d post about the changes that will happen here on this blog for 2012.

First, I won’t be posting monthly ebook and writing stats.  The numbers I’ve been posting aren’t the final numbers anyway since Smashwords doesn’t report montly for places like Apple, Sony, etc.  I’m going to switch to posting the ebook sales stats on a quarterly basis so that I can post the real numbers and have 3 months of data available to talk about.

I won’t be posting the writing stats because 1) I get too much flak for my word counts and 2) I’m switching to project goals more than word count goals.  I’ll post when I have projects completed, though most of what I’m planning to write next year won’t be under this pen name.  I’m also going to try to put together some coherent thoughts about writing series.  But no word counts except in the “writing goals and progress bar” section, which I’ll update at the completion of each project.   That section will also only have final wordcounts. No more counting words I write and then discard or delete.  I’ve fallen into some bad habits with second-guessing myself and throwing out whole unfinished manuscripts and it has to stop. I’m aiming for consistent, completed work next year.

The serialization of my cyberpunk thriller Casimir Hypogean will resume in January on Mondays. I am also resuming the Neo-pro Interview series on Thursdays.

So to sum up: no word counts here (maybe on twitter), quarterly sales updates, and both the novel serial and the interviews will resume in January.

In other news, I sent in my final Writers of the Future entry. Pro-ing out is bittersweet.  While I can hope for a Hollywood ending where I magically win my final quarter of eligibility, I’m betting on an Honorable Mention.  It would be a humorous end to my WotF stint.

Goals for the New Year (2012)

It’s that time of year again, I guess.  I’ll be doing a summary of this past year around the 30th or so, along with a look back at least year’s goals and how I did.

But as the year draws to a close, I am looking forward and planning what I want to do next year.  This last year has seen a lot of changes in my life, in my writing, and in how I am approaching my career.  My goals for next year reflect those changes, I think.

One of the shifts is going to be away from sending novels to publishers.  I’ve decided to not send anything this next year and instead focus on publishing my work myself.  My preliminary experiments with self-publishing this year have been pretty good (much better than the nothing I expected) and I want to see what happens when I make it a focus.  I’ll be continuing experimentation, of course, including putting up a few things in the new KDP Select program.  I also have some genre and length experiments planned.

Another shift is going to be toward longer work and away from short fiction.  This doesn’t mean I won’t write short stories, but many of the ones I have planned this year will go up as ebooks instead of out to markets.  I do have a challenge planned for May which is all short fiction.  I’ll get into that later.  While it is cool to be eligible for SFWA and nice to collect the checks that come with selling short stories, I don’t see them paying my rent.  My goal for the new year is to keep 10 stories on the market at all times, a big drop from my submitting high of nearly 40.  I figure 10 is enough to stay visible and keep up the habit of sending work out without requiring much time or upkeep on my part.

So here are the writing goals:

Novels:  Five crime novels (Books 2 and 3 of one series, Books 1-3 of another), one fantasy novel (Remy Pigeon book 1), and books 2 and 3 of the Lorian Archive (Casimir series).  I will also finish serializing the first Lorian novel (Casimir Hypogean).  I’ve got a cool surprise planned with those and the full series should be published by June.

Novellas: Four YA romances and seven adult contemporary romances.

Short stories: 50 total short stories written.  31 of these will be during the month of May.  In May I turn 31, May has 31 days, so it is fate, really.  I’m going to write 31 in 31 for my 31st b-day.  Sounds fun!  These stories will be a mix of SF/F which I will submit to markets and romance/erotica which will go straight to ebook.

That’s it. Much of this will be under pen names, of course.  Officially, Annie Bellet is only writing maybe 25-30 short stories and 3 novels this year.  It’s fun running multiple careers, if a little crazy-making at times.  Thank god for spreadsheets!

The crime novels will run between 65k and 75k words each. The Remy novel will be about 80k words. The Lorian books will be between 80k and 90k.  With the novellas, I’m aiming for 25k to 30k words apiece.   Short stories will count as long as they are over 2k words minimum and under 15k maximum (anything over 15k will get put up as an ebook novella).

Total predicted word count: 1,112,000 words.

Which looks terrifying.  It isn’t. Let me break it down.  I write about 1,000 to 1,200 words per 45 minute session (if you don’t know what I’m talking about with the sessions, see my post on productivity here).  My word count goal for 2012 works out to about 700 hours of work.  Not insignificant, but not terribly much, either.  For perspective, if I worked 40 hours a week, it would take 18 weeks or so to finish those 700 hours of work (yep, people with a full-time job work more than 700 hours every 5 months).

But I’m lazy. I love to read, play videogames, hang out with friends, and I tend to need time to myself to let writing stuff sort its self out.  I don’t want to work 40 hours a week. I don’t want to work everyday either.  So I made a plan which allows for over two months off. I’m planning to write 290 days out of the next 366 (woo, leap year!).   I’m allowing myself plenty of days to be stressed out, for life shit to happen, for me to get sick or get stuck (though that rarely happens when I’m working on multiple projects).

So how hard will I have to work on those 290 days I do choose to show up to my job? I’ll need to average about 3900 words a day.  That’s 3 hours of work (4 “sessions” with my hourglass) most days, maybe a little more if I’m starting something new or going through a tough spot in  the murky middle of a novel.

There is my plan.  I debated taking a picture of my calendar (I print off calendar pages and do a color-coded goals thing for each month so I can visually see when stuff is due), but I don’t think I could get the whole thing into a frame. Probably for the best, too, since while I’m fairly sure I’ll finish the things I want to finish, I want the freedom to move projects around if I get stuck on something or if something cool happens.

October Summary and NaNoWriMo Challenge Thingy

So, first off. October was my best e-book sales month yet, with 184 sales (that I know about, SW hasn’t reported for October for the places like Sony and Apple).  124 of those sales were from post-free sales last weekend after the short story collection and the novel I had up free went back to paid. Seems a little crazy, but giving away thousands of copies of my work seems to help sell the work later. Who knew?  I’m definitely going to continue with the experimenting there.

A year ago, my friend Amanda and I bet each other that we could write 100,000 words a month.  We both owe each other a lot of dinners, because neither of us ever made it to 100,000 in a single month. Between the health problems, the job loss, Clarion, and other things, my own writing this year fell off a lot.

But it is November again. Which means time for another November Crazy Challenge.  I’m not actually going to do NaNo this year because I’m currently working on novellas, but I’m going to be a NaNo rebel and go with that.

So what’s the challenge?  Finish five novellas this month.  The word total should be around 110,000 because one novella is already partially done, so even though I’m aiming for 25,000 words per book, I don’t quite have to write 125k to get there this month.

The word count breakdown is 4,075 a day for 27 days. It isn’t 30 days because I’m going to be at Orycon and I know I won’t get anything done on those days.

I’ll post what I got done at the end of the month and probably keep a running tab on Twitter.

I know, I know, I can hear the head-shaking now. Yep, I’m sure that everything I write will suck, blah blah blah, why don’t I slow down and make the books good, blah blah blah, why don’t I work less than four hours a day because writing for four hours a day is nuts, blah blah blah.  The nice thing is, no one will ever know what I wrote during this time and only other writers seem to care how fast something gets written anyway.  Good thing, too.

Anyway, if anyone is also doing NaNo, I’m around on the forums over there.  Good luck to all of you. Writing daily is a great habit to develop.  Go forth and do it.

June Summary and Other News

I didn’t keep great stats for June, but here goes the quickie version:

Ebooks sold: 87

Words written: 18,654

Stories sold: 2

Monies earned: 1959.17 (most from Kickstarter project)

So, in other news:

Clarion is awesome so far.  We have a really nice group here and everyone is super interesting.  This has led to me getting precious little writing done (about 12k words the first week, only 8.5k that I kept.)  I am going to be better about carving out writing time next week, I swear.  I’m learning lots (got a whole novel outlined using an exercise that Nina Hoffman did with us) and having a good time so far.

I also sold a story to Daily Science Fiction which means that come September when I think DSF has their first anniversary,  I should be SFWA qualified.  That’s a nice milestone and I’m pleased to have done it in less than two and a half years.  I’ve also sold half the stories I’ve written this year, so I hope it is a sign that my skill levels are rising.

Anyway, need to go read and do some stuff for tomorrow.  I will probably be pretty absent from the blog due to Clarion.  Must get up to antics and such, you know.

I Have a Plan

A cunning plan. How cunning? You could tie a tail on it and call it a weasel. (Yes, I’m sort of quoting Black Adder. I’m that old.)

As I’ve been watching my sales and reading about the sales of others in this brave new e-book world, I’ve noticed some interesting trends.  I’ve watched people promote their little hearts out and then cry about no sales.  I’ve watched people stick up what I like to call “ugly” books (bad cover, bad blurb etc) and cry about no sales.  I’ve watched books I would think were the slightly better-looking cousins of “ugly” books sell like crazy.  I’ve watched books that were actually “ugly” books in disguise sell better than things I thought were actually worth reading.  I’ve watched as my literary short stories under a name with zero internet profile out-sell my SF/F titles 5 and sometimes 10 to 1.

Basically… no one knows what will sell and why.  We’ve got the four principles that Konrath and others go by: Good Book, Good Cover, Good Blurb, Low Price.  I’ve seen plenty of titles with the magic four sell very few copies.  Maybe they will be slower to take off, maybe those writers need to just keep at it and good things will happen (what one might call the DWS principle.)  I don’t know.

One thing I would add to the above however, is “write in a popular genre”.  Now, one might argue that good writing will find an audience, and I believe that.  But would you rather aim at an audience of thousands, or hundreds of thousands?  Does genre really matter?  It’s hard to say.  Mystery and Romance are very popular genres, but there are also a ton of books written in those genres  (Romance on Kindle has more books than Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror combined).  Chicken, egg, right?

But hey, what would be the point of experimenting in this awesome new world if I couldn’t run some tests.  So here’s what I’m planning:

I’m going to write ten novellas (20-30k words each).  Five in SF/F and five in Romance.  When all ten are done (by end of September, hopefully), I’ll stick them all up online at the same time, for the same price.  I intend to do zero promotion of the titles for six months (other than mentioning them here so that people will know when the experiment goes live).  I would say that the Romance ones would be at a disadvantage since they won’t be under the name that has an internet presence, but my lit fic doesn’t seem to suffer from being under a pen name so I’m going to rule that the name doesn’t matter (it isn’t like I’m anybody anyway).  I will do my best to make sure each novella has an awesome cover, a great blurb, and is of course an awesome book.  And then I’ll sit back and watch and see how the numbers do.

My prediction, right now? The Romances will out-sell the SF/F titles 10-1.  That’s my early prediction.

See? Isn’t this new world fun?  All kinds of crazy experiments to run! *grin*