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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).

Award Eligible Fiction

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:

Novel Category:

Fantasy novel, published in March 2011.  Click picture to go to Amazon page for details (or check out my “read my fiction” page in the sidebar).

Novelette Category:

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

Crawlies– SF short story, published in the collection The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories, January 2011

 

Short Story Category:

Pele’s Bee-Keeper– SF short story, published in the collection Deep Black Beyond, September 2011

I, Vermin– SF short story, published in the collection The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories, January 2011

The Spacer’s Blade– SF short story, published in the collection The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories, January 2011

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

Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft MaterialsSF story published in Mirror Shards: Volume One, August 2011

Nevermind the Bollocks– SF story published in Digital Science Fiction Issue #2, July 2011

Broken Moon– Fantasy story published in the collection Gifts in Sand and Water, May 2011

Lists– Fantasy flash fiction published in Daily Science Fiction, December 2011

Love at the Corner of Time and Space– SF flash fiction published in Daily Science Fiction, June 2011

 

That’s all of it, I think. Enjoy!


 

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.

November Summary

November was a bit of a mess for my writing. I tried two different starts on the novella I was working on before deciding to switch to working on The Raven King.  The bad news is that I didn’t finish anything.  The good news is that I finally found a stride in this book and it will be done shortly and likely out in January as I’d hoped.

The novellas are percolating in my head and I think I’ll be ready to make a third run at them as soon as I finish this novel.  That’s the benefit of working on multiple projects at once.  When I get stuck, I can just switch to something else and work still gets done.

All right. Here are the numbers for November.

Short stories sold to magazines: 1

Words written: 39,078

Ebooks sold: 226

My husband has been compiling my ebook sales data into spreadsheets for me and making nifty graphs. I will have a giant data-filled post for the end of the year, hopefully with visual aids and stuff.

In happy news, I just published a Remy Pigeon short story.  Ever have one of those characters who just storms into your head and won’t leave? That’s Remy for me.  I have two novels planned with him to be written in the next year or so and I’ve already written three short stories about him.  After many near misses with the magazines, I have decided to publish one of them myself.  So here is the cover for Flashover, a paranormal mystery short story.  I hope others will love Remy as much as I do.

Description: Creole gentleman Remy Pigeon has a gift, or a curse. He can touch objects and read the past from them.
He prefers to stay away from trouble, but when an attractive red-head with a serious problem and a supernatural secret wanders into his house on a hot summer day, Remy knows that trouble has just found him.

It isn’t live yet  for Nook, but it is on Kindle or all formats are available via Smashwords HERE.

I also have discovered a very cool new way to organize my writing time. I think it deserves its own post, however, so I’ll work on that this week.

Quickie Update for November

My NaNo rebel project is not going well. I’m stuck trying to figure out if this story needs to be told in 1st or in 3rd person.  So I’ve switched back to the novel (the sequel to A Heart in Sun and Shadow).  I’ve never written a sequel before. It’s tough writing one for a book that is published, too.  I can’t change details that were set in the first novel, so I’m constantly having to recheck the older book for things.  I think I might take a couple hours today and make a quickie world bible or at least a list with the relevant details.  I wrote the first book before I’d really nailed down how I prefer to write novels and I have zero cohesive character notes or world notes at all (which is something I started doing AFTER I wrote this one).  It’s odd to go back and look at a work that I did a couple years ago.

In other news, I sold another story to Daily SF.  This is my tenth fiction sale in less than two years (first sale was in December of 2009).  Five of those have been to Daily SF. I guess it is true, you just have to find an editor who loves what you write and then sell them as much as you can. I’m glad so many stories of mine have found a home with Daily SF. They are a great publication (delivered to your email! Go subscribe! /end plug).

 

Oh, and I crossed the 1,000 books sold mark for my e-books.  Hopefully the next 1k doesn’t take quite as long, but it is definitely a mile-stone.

So that is what’s up with me.  Now, where did I put that outline? Back to writing!

Blog Vacation

I’m taking an internet hiatus for a while. I’ll be around a bit, but probably not updating here much.  I’m going to resume the weekly Casimir Hypogean posts as well as the Neo-pro Interviews in January.  I have a ton of work to get done between now and the new year, so I’m taking a brain break from everything else.  Which is not to say I won’t post if I absolutely feel I have something to say, but I’m not going to try to keep myself on a schedule or add any more things to my to-do list.

For the next couple months, life has to be all about the writing. I’ll be back in January with new goals for the new year and a summary of how 2010 went.

Thanks.  Hope everyone has a great holiday season.

My Orycon 33 Panel Schedule

Yes. They are putting me on panels. Seriously. It’s a squee Immareelritur moment.

So here is where you can find me during Orycon 33, which takes place in Portland, OR from Nov 11 to the 13th.

Fri Nov 11 2:00:pm- 3:00:pm The Real Middle Ages
Why do writers love the Middle Ages? What do writers leave out or get wrong?
(*)S. A. Bolich, Donna McMahon, Annie Bellet, Renee Stern

Sat Nov 12 11:00:am- 12:00:pm Heinlein’s Rules
What are Heinlein’s rules of writing, and should you follow them all to the letter?
Steven Barnes, (*)Edd Vick, Mike Shepherd Moscoe, Mark Niemann-Ross, Annie Bellet

Sat Nov 12 12:00:pm- 1:00:pm Kung Fu vs Wire Fu
Are your fight scenes realistic? Even if they are, do they work on the page? What makes combat feel real, what makes it clunk, and how much blood you can get away with splashing on your readers.
Sonia Orin Lyris, Rory Miller, (*)Steve Perry, Annie Bellet, Steven Barnes

Sun Nov 13 1:00:pm- 2:00:pm Self-publishing, the new vanity press?
Will going it alone work or not?
John C. Bunnell, (*)Jess Hartley, Annie Bellet, Victoria Blake

Sun Nov 13 2:00:pm- 3:00:pm Getting your first professional sale
An author can struggle for months or years before achieving their first success, but even after writing their opus, they can be tripped up by a process which is both entirely new to them and yet critical to their success. This panel describes what an author may experience as they revel in their first success.
(*)Jess Hartley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Annie Bellet, Edward Morris, EE Knight

So if you are in town, Orycon is a pretty sweet little convention.  And you could watch me get kicked out after being mobbed by my fellow panelists (note: mobbing is not promised.  But my friends have always said my special superpower is that I can make anyone want to hit me and I have some pretty strong views on writing as anyone reading this blog might have noticed, so I predict at least a few sparks in some of these panels).  I also am doing the writing workshop and have multiple victims stories to read and critique for that, which any of my fellow Clarionauts can tell is my favorite thing, ever. Really.

It should be fun though. I enjoyed Orycon when I went a couple years ago, and it is neat to be able to come back as an invited panelist.  Shows that even though I still feel like I’m sitting in the ditch, I have actually come quite a ways in the last couple years with this whole writing thing.

New Collection and Also Music for Writing

First, the business stuffs or whatever.

I have a new fantasy short story collection out.  Here are the shiny details:

A pregnant witch must decide between protecting her heritage and protecting her unborn child… A man looking for a better life learns there is a permanent price attached to change… Grieving for his lost brother, a man faces the mother of all tornadoes with a little magical assistance… When a social worker threatens to break apart her family, a single mother of two must use all her imagination and courage to escape to a better world.

This is a collection of four fantasy short stories from Annie Bellet.  Included are: River Daughter, La Última Esperanza, Roping the Mother, The Scent of Sunlight.

*Bonus Material*
The first five chapters of “A Heart in Sun and Shadow”, a fantasy novel set in a re-imagined ancient Wales.

You can buy it for Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/River-Daughter-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B005SM8372/

And in all other formats via Smashwords here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/93998

Now, on to what I want to talk about in this post.

Music. Specifically, the music I use when writing.  I’m always curious about what other people listen to while writing (or don’t listen to) but I am not sure I’ve shared some of my favorites.

It often depends on what I’m writing, but generally, I can’t write without music.  I gotta have it.  I prefer music without English or Spanish words (or at least pretty incomprehensible lyrics if they are in a language I understand).  But instead of just waxing on forever about this band or that song or whatever, I figured I’d just post some links so you can listen to things yourself.

For writing SF, lately I’ve been totally hooked on the Halo 3: ODST soundtrack.  Listen to this and tell me it doesn’t make you want to go write something full of spaceships and brave people and guns and stuff:

I’ve also been listening to the Bastion game soundtrack a ton.  You can get the soundtrack (or listen to it) here: http://supergiantgames.bandcamp.com/

For writing fantasy, especially epic-feeling fantasy, Two Steps from Hell is pretty much the winner.  Listen to this and then go write a giant sword fight or sweeping reunion among long-lost companions: 

In general, I’ve been enamored of the Red Sparowes lately:

And for writing romances or fantasy or pretty much anything highly emotional scenes, you can’t go wrong with anime soundtracks.  I really love the work of Yoko Kanno:

So that’s the story with me and writing music.  The right song while writing a scene can help me tap into the emotional core I’m looking for or help me visualize the story I’m telling.  I don’t know how people write without music.  It works for some. Just not for me.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for more writing music.  So if anyone has suggestions of things I might not have heard of, don’t be afraid to post some links in the comments.

September and Sundry

September was a stressful month.  I was still recovering from the summer and Clarion (and all the other travel I did).  I was also doing a lot of sitting around and trying to figure out what I should be writing and where my energy should be going.  I think I’ve  got that sorted at least, though it means writing in other genres.  Science Fiction just doesn’t have the large readership I want to tap into, so I’m expanding my horizons and testing new waters.

Ebook sales started out amazing and then died off almost completely until the very end of the month.  I don’t know why but I wasn’t the only one seeing the Kindle sales fall like a stone, so who knows.  I put up another short story collection and a novel in a different genre under a pen name.  Over the next six months or so I’ll be putting up quite a bit of work under pen names, so Annie Bellet probably won’t have much new (other than The Raven King which is coming this winter at some point, I promise).  My Clarion project book is also in the works and that will be up in the next month or two.

Here are the stats, such as they are:

Ebooks sold: 102

Paper books sold: 0

Words written: 11,206

In other news, Daily SF got SFWA qualified, which means that if I can scrounge up 80 bucks, I, too, can be a full SFWA member.  At the moment I’m super broke, so I won’t be joining.  But I will before WorldCon next year, probably, even though I’m more or less leaving NY publishing behind and focusing my efforts on publishing my own work.  I am still going to write and (hopefully) sell stories to magazines, so it might be useful to be an SFWA member.  We’ll see.

I will be a panelist at the Portland, OR convention Orycon.  I’ll post my schedule closer to the convention.

So that’s the news with me lately.  Chapters of Casimir Hypogean will still go up each Monday and I have many new victims for my Neo-pro Interview series, so look for those on Thursdays.