A Heart in Sun & Shadow has a new cover. Artist is Claudia McKinney (phatpuppyart.com) with text by my usual guy.
A Heart in Sun & Shadow has a new cover. Artist is Claudia McKinney (phatpuppyart.com) with text by my usual guy.
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.
I’m super busy, as evidenced by my total neglect of my blog. I figured I should show a little love here and offer up something new to look at.
Here’s a map of the world of the Gryphonpike Chronicles, as drawn for me by Jared Blando:
I sold an SF novelette to GiGaNotoSaurus, it’ll be appearing in June.
I also got the cover for the second Lorian Archive book. The trilogy won’t be published for a little while longer (but should all be out this year, barring life catastrophe, knock on wood).
Have some shiny:
(Cover done by the awesome Tom Edwards)
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).
I’ve talked before about how I suffer from depression and how it often affects my writing. It is tough to push away the many negative voices that I think most writers suffer from when you already feel like life sucks and there is no point to anything. Part of living with chronic depression is learning coping mechanisms and how to pull yourself out of the deeper pits.
While I’m aware that some of my coping mechanisms aren’t the best, I had thought I was getting pretty good at identifying and eliminating the writing doubt voices. I have three pieces of paper posted above my desk. The first is a poster of Heinlein’s Rules. The second is a sheet with “It Never Ends” written on it to which I’ve added dates and magazine names for my published stories (I got this idea from Dean Wesley Smith. I’m hoping to fill that sheet front and back someday). The third piece of paper has the five elements of a blockbuster novel according to Al Zuckerman (which I think are good things to keep in mind while writing anything). On another wall, I have a super cool poster a friend made me of Lester Dent’s Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. I have yet to write a story directly from his formula, but I often glance at it and ask myself some of the questions he poses about whatever I’m working on. I also have a bunch of smaller pieces of paper with things like “what is the bad guy up to?” and “parade the tag!” and lists of plotting tools (timebombs, crucibles, reversals, revelations etc). All these things are here to surround me with tools to shove past the writing doubts and get the work done.
In the last couple months, these tools have been failing me. I’ve been failing me. I got most of the way through a novel through sheer determination and a lot of self-talk. But it wasn’t fun. So I told myself that hey, I have no deadlines. No one is waiting for this book. No one is going to hold me to the writing plan I set out for myself. I can write whatever I want. Which sounds very freeing. It should have been.
moped sat around and thought about which of my ideas for things would be the most kick-ass fun to write. And I settled on a series of novellas I’d been turning over in my head for the last year or so. They are adventure fantasy in the vein of RA Salvatore or Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion books, basically following one group of adventurers as they go around and kick some monster ass, help people, and spit in the face of evil. With fireballs. And a small pink unicorn.
Sounds fun to me. I decided on my course of action, roughly outlined 15 of these novellas, and on Tuesday got to work.
On Wednesday, I hit a huge mental block. A million negative thoughts and voices flooded my brain. Wasn’t I just writing derivative crap? Shouldn’t I be spending this time working on further books in series I already have started? No one is going to want to read books from the PoV of a mute elf with a bit of a god-complex (to be fair, she did used to be basically a god). Don’t I know that this sort of fiction would never sell to a publisher? Will never win any awards? This is too fun to write, it must be terrible.
Voices like that. Wow. Ouch. As soon as I realized I was avoiding working on the project because of these voices, I paused the Starcraft 2 game I was watching and had a serious conversation with myself. (Hey, I’m not crazy. We writers do this all the time. Right?) Where was all this coming from?
Apparently some myths are still stuck in my head and I’m not the freewheeling, commercially-minded mercenary writing machine I like to wish I was. Some of the senarios in the back of my mind were tied so deeply to things I never consciously think about that once I examined them I laughed.
Like the little scene in my head of being at a con and having someone ask me why I write that DnD knockoff crap. Or why I’m not writing serious novels.
The funny part is, when I stop to think about it, it is always a fellow writer in my fake scene who asks this stuff. I don’t think a reader would or a person who had no idea who I am anyway (ie most random people anywhere). I was stuck and had stopped working on a project that was the first thing to really thrill me in months because I was worried about hypothetical writer guy in my head. Yep. Stupid.
I know where a little of that worry comes from. I was privately slammed recently by a fellow writer and the negativity definitely didn’t help my already pretty low esteem. I don’t even know this person well and I have had one IRL conversation with them ever, yet they apparently wormed their way into my subconscious and fed doubts I had thought my mercenary, hack’n’slash-loving intellect had long since defeated.
Thankfully, these doubts are lessened by working through them. I had a serious conversation with myself, identified some of the issues I was having, and talked myself through them. It’s amazing what looks stupid and trivial once you bring it out into the conscious light. Especially things like “if it isn’t hard, it isn’t good” which is a dumb myth that gets reinforced a lot with idiot phrases like “no pain, no gain” and that mentality. Pain is bad. Ask anyone who suffers from chronic pain (would you like to trade shoulders with me? Or knees?) how they feel about it? Or people who suffer from emotional pain. Not a plus. Not a gain.
So I’m adding a couple new pieces of paper to my collection here. One says “writing should be fun”. Another says “My path is mine”. I know that more hidden fears and doubts will show their faces eventually, but now I have a few more little weapons against them.
Follow your writing joy. And kick out anyone who says you should do something else.
It’s January, so I guess that means it is time to put up a nice handy list of award-eligible fiction. I have a bunch of fiction eligible in various categories for the Hugos plus I am in my second and final year of Campbell Award eligibility. So here’s a list of things and the categories they are eligible for. If you are interested in reading something for award consideration and you would like a free copy, please email me at anniembellet AT gmail DOT com or you will also find that most of my stuff is available free or inexpensively as ebooks on the web (or in paperback in the case of my novel).
Hugo Award Eligible things:
The Light of the Earth As Seen From Tartarus– Hard near-future SF novelette published January 2011
Delivering Yaehala– Otherworld Fantasy novelette published December 2011
Short Story Category:
The Scent of Sunlight and River Daughter and La Última Esperanza and Roping the Mother– from the fantasy short story collection River Daughter and Other Stories, October 2011 (all four stories in this collection are eligible)
Flashover (A Remy Pigeon Story)– Paranormal Mystery, December 2011
That’s all of it, I think. Enjoy!
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.
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.