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New Short Story Collection

I released another short story collection as an ebook. This one is all science fiction and all the stories deal with space travel or distant planets in some way.  It includes my other Clarion application story, “Pele’s Bee-keeper”, which also was a semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future contest.  “No Spaceships Go” appeared in December on Daily Science Fiction and will be reprinted in the third issue of Scapezine: the magazine of Young Adult SF.

Here’s the cover:

Here’s the blurb:

A shuttle crash and a rescue by a mysterious woman alone on a deserted planet leads to political and physical dangers… A captain facing court-martial discovers an alien in hyperspace… In the not so far future, a teenage boy has to choose between love and traveling to the stars… On a far away planet, one old miner finds something beneath the ice that forces him to face his grief… Two brothers offered a second chance at their dreams of manned space exploration face technological and personal dangers that could cost them far more than just their program…

This collection of both new and previously published science fiction contains four short stories and a novella. Included are “Pele’s Bee-keeper”, “The Memory of Bone”, “No Spaceships Go”, “Beneath the Ice and Still”, and “The Light of the Earth as Seen from Tartarus”.

Here’s where you can buy it:  For Kindle, For Nook, All Formats.

Tomorrow- another chapter of Casimir Hypogean!

WotF Results, August Summary

Well, in what very well might be my second to last quarter of eligibility, I got another honorable mention in Writers of the Future.  Go figure.  At least I’ll pro-out with a stack of certificates, right? Bright side and all that.

Ebook sales held steady for August despite people apparently thinking that summer would be the slow months.  I’m hoping they were right and that this fall is going to be even better.  And I’m really looking forward to the holidays when many more people will acquire e-readers.

Here’s the numbers:

Ebook sales: 105 (Note: Smashwords hasn’t updated since June for most of the places other than Apple, so I don’t know about some sales yet)

Paper sales: 3

Words written: 19, 904

Yeah. My word counts have died down horribly.  But that’s okay. I’ll make up for it this month.  There’s probably no way I’m going to hit 900,000 words this year, but I think I’ll hit 500,000 or so, which is more than half of goal. Clarion and my husband losing his job side-tracked me a lot.

I have another SF collection ready to go (just waiting on one rejection (or sale) ) and I’ll start the weekly chapters of Casimir Hypogean tomorrow so that my blog is totally neglected while I’m writing The Raven King.  Most of the plot for Raven King fell on my head while I was driving to Reno for Worldcon, so I feel confident that I can bust out the novel in good time.

 

New Month, Some Changes

Hey. I’ve been super neglecting the blog lately, sorry.  I will do a monthly round-up post this weekend plus talk a bit about Worldcon.  I’ve also been trying to write a post about Clarion, but I’m honestly not sure I’ll be able to do it.  There was so much that happened and so much I’m still processing that I don’t know how to sum it up in 500-800 words.  I’ll have to think on it and maybe I’ll just put it up as a blog post at the same time I get my Clarion project book out and use the same thing as a sort of forward in the book.  We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I have a book to write in September.  This means I’m probably not going to feel much like updating the blog with posts since my brain is hopefully going to be full of novel and not blog posts.  However, I think I’m going to serialize my cyberpunk/dystopia SF/pseudo-thriller novel Casimir Hypogean here with weekly posts.  It’s just a rough draft and I’m not entirely sure I’m not going to tear this novel apart and redraft it from scratch (I’ve already done that twice), but we’ll see.  If I get good reader response, maybe I will just write the sequels instead.  So starting next week I’ll post a chapter or at least a part of a chapter a week.

Here’s the cover, by the way, and the rough description of the book:

A genetically engineered bodyguard addicted to the drugs that prolong her life. An ex-cop struggling to provide for his children. An obsessive-compulsive cybernetically enhanced computer genius.  This band of misfits  scrapes by below the radar of their iron-fisted government in an enclosed city where all is not as shiny or under control as it appears.

Then they uncover a plan with deadly side-effects aimed at taking control of a top government position.  As hundreds start dropping dead in the streets from an engineered virus, the criminals find themselves in a race to decode the information they’ve stumbled upon and unravel a terrifying plot.  Faced with betrayal and pursuit on all sides, the three quickly realize that they must save the spiral city and very government that has outlawed them if they are to have any chance of saving themselves.

One Year of Indie Publishing

Yeah, I am not sure I like the term “indie” either, but it has become pretty common usage, so here goes.

In July of 2010, I decided to test out the e-book waters with three short stories.  I put them up under a name that has no internet presence (you can find those stories here if you are curious) and sat back to see if anyone would buy them.  That’s right. I didn’t bother with promotion or anything because hey, they were just short stories and literary short stories at that.  Since then, well, Music in the City became my bestselling story, outselling anything until I put up Surfacing.  When I wrote Surfacing and put it up at the end of April, it then became my new bestselling story (usually it accounts for 30-40 of my sales each month, which, as you will see, is the bulk of my sales).  Under my published/known name (Annie Bellet), my short story Broken Moon was my bestseller (10-15 copies a month) since it went up in April until I put my SF novella Light of the Earth as Seen from Tartarus free. Since it went not-free, it has sold over 40 copies in just a couple weeks though that appears to be slowing down.

But here is a year of sales, by month:

July- 3
August- 4
Sept- 3
Oct- 4
Nov- 2
Dec- 12
(released Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories)
Jan- 17
(released Light of the Earth as Seen from Tartarus (LoTEaSFT)
Feb- 18
(released Heart in Sun and Shadow)
March- 39
April- 34
(Released 3 short stories)
May- 84
(Released Gifts in Sand and Water collection, lowered LoTEaSFT to 1.99)
June- 87
July- 103
(LoTEaSFT was free for 2.5 weeks of July on Kindle with 3257 downloads)

I have also sold 2 print copies of A Heart in Sun and Shadow, one via Amazon, one through the distribution.  (If you are in the Portland, Oregon area and want a print copy, Annie Bloom’s Books in Multnomah Village carries a few and they (and I!) would be thrilled if you went and bought a copy there.)

I don’t know about all the June and July sales yet since Smashwords hasn’t completely updated, but usually for this sort of recording purpose, I count sales in the month they show up, not when they were actually sold (I don’t do this for my tax/permanent records, for obvious reasons).

But a year of ebooks looks like I’ve sold about 410 ebooks and 2 print books across 10 titles.  Only one of the ebooks up is a novel. I have two short story collections, one novella, and the other six ebooks are short stories.

By December I should have at least three more novels out (including the sequel to A Heart in Sun and Shadow), so I am optimistic that this next year will look even better since releasing new work has so far been the best way I see to increase sales.  I also have three more short story collections in the works including my Clarion project book.  Everything should be out by the Holidays.

Speaking of sequels- The Raven King, book 2 of the Chwedl duology, has been delayed. When I set the deadline for Summer ’11, I didn’t realize I’d get into Clarion.  So I’m pushing it back to Winter ’11 because I want to make sure I have time to write the book I want to write and make it awesome.  I also need to re-acquaint myself with the world I built for the first book.  So it is coming this year, just a little later than I’d originally planned.  Also coming in December are at least the first two books of the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division.  Book 1: Avarice is mostly complete, I’m waiting to write the others before I release it.  I’m also waiting on the cover artist (the covers are paintings!). I’m really excited about this series though (it’s my Law & Order with sword fights series).

So that’s a year in indie publishing for me.  Here’s for a kick-ass Holiday season for all of us. *grin*

Quickie July Summary

Final week of Clarion is upon me.  I’ll have my post-Clarion wrap-up post (and Kickstarter project book update) AFTER I get home and find out what sleeping in a real bed is like again.

So here’s some number for July (that’s the reason you are here, right? Dirty little numbers):

Ebooks sold- 103

Free ebooks “sold”- 3,257

Print books sold- 1

Words written- approximately 29,275

Stories sold- 0

So yeah. That’s my sad stats.  So far I’ve written 8 stories at Clarion so far with two more on deck this week (one will be workshopped, one will just go into the project book) and maybe one more started this week so that I can slot it into the project book if I need to.

WotF Q2 Results and Sundry

I got a Silver HM for Writers of the Future 2nd Quarter 2011.  My second Silver HM in a row.  Guess I need to step up my game somehow.  If only I could go to an intensive, 6 week workshop on writing SF/F fiction.  (Oh, wait….)

My SF novella is still free on Kindle for a limited time and over 3,000 people have downloaded it.  Want to be cool, too? You can Get it Here!

And my SF collection “The Spacer’s Blade& Other Stories”  was featured on Daily Cheap Reads.  Go here, check it out.

There. That’s all I got. Sorry.  Clarion has 2.5 weeks left, and then I’ll try to formulate some thoughts on it, etc.

First Love Stays with You Forever

I started outlining The Raven King, the sequel to A Heart in Sun & Shadow, and started thinking about fantasy novels in general and why these books are the ones I’m choosing to share with the world right now.  As the title of this post hints at, Fantasy was my first love, starting way back when I was eight.

My love affair didn’t start where you might think, however. Many of the people I know got their introduction to fantasy via Tolkien, but that isn’t where mine began.  It began with four women.

The first was my mother.  This was probably an accident on her part, since she used to tell me all the time that the genre fiction I read would rot my brain and was popcorn for the mind.  Yet she read us Mrs. Pigglewiggle, books by CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander, and kept giving me money for whatever I wanted to buy at Powell’s each time we went (anything under four dollars, she’d say). She did her best to put literature in front of me, but she didn’t start early enough, I suppose.  Now, mind you, she’s a dedicated George RR Martin fan and even read Juliet Marillier’s fantasy books on my recommendation.

Una was my teacher sixth through eighth grade, but she helped out sometimes with the fourth and fifth graders at the tiny private school I was banished to after being kicked out of the Public School system.  Una encouraged me in crazy ways.  She didn’t mind when I snuck fiction books inside my school books or when I wrote stories about ancient Sumer instead of research essays.  She taught me Irish and introduced me to the Dewey decimal system.  But the most important thing she ever did for me was tell me that it was okay to write fiction, to “make stuff up”.  She gave my very young mind the permission I craved to dream, to wonder, to explore, and to live inside my head.  Without her encouragement and teaching, I don’t think I’d be a writer today nor as educated or curious about the world around me.

My mother read aloud to us as kids, and between CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander, I had a preliminary introduction to the fantastical, but it wasn’t until I started reading on my own that my love affair turned serious.  When I was nine or ten, I really wanted to read something that didn’t look adult and boring, but all the books on the shelves at home were either kids books I’d read or boring looking.  All except one.  It had a blue cover and a woman riding a pretty horse (and I was as horse-crazy then as now). The title was The Mists of Avalon.  I pulled the huge book down from the fourth shelf (the highest I could reach on the wall) and started reading.  Soon I was buried in Arthurian myth.  It was the most amazing book I’d ever read.  When my mother next dropped me off at Powell’s, I went to the Gold Room (the F&SF section to this day) and looked up that amazing author, Marion Zimmer Bradley.

And I discovered the Sword & Sorceress anthologies.  In the front were always these scathing, insightful, amazing introductions by Marion Zimmer Bradley that I would read and reread, amazed that real people wrote these stories and that writers weren’t just names on books.  In the back were writer’s guidelines.  MZB died before I could ever get up the courage to send in a single story, but to this day, I see those S&S books as the earth my little creative seed buried itself in.  I wrote story after story, all horrible (I was 11 when I started, after all), but all trying to capture the wonder I found inside those pages.  MZB and the anthologies made writing fantastical stories seem like more than a dream and lit the fire that started everything.

Then, just to toss a little oil on my love affair with Fantasy, my mother came home from a trip to Canada with a giant book for me.  It, like Mists of Avalon, had a blue cover and was super thick.  The woman on this cover was also riding a horse, but in full armor, fighting a couple of giant white wolves.  Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion took everything I’d thought about fantasy and pushed it further, opening up an entire world for me.  I fell in love with Paks and her adventures.  I cried when she was tortured or when characters I loved died, I literally cheered when she triumphed over adversity, I memorized the map and the currencies and started looking into the SCA to see if I could become a knight, too, because I wanted to be just like Paks.  When I was 12 and home alone, I cut my heel badly (right down to the bone).  I stayed calm because I asked myself, I kid you not, “what would Paks do?” and I cleaned the wound with alcohol pads and bandaged it up until it could be stitched properly later that night when my dad got home.

The Deed of Paksenarrion made me fall in love with Fantasy even deeper because the characters were so real, so fallible but heroic in their humanity and because the world was so detailed that I felt I could almost just pack a bag and move to Brewersbridge.  I started to see the possibilities within the genre, even at that young age, and started working those things into my own writing.  I still re-read The Deed of Paksenarrion at least once a year and have for the last 19 years.

There are other authors, other people, other books, that influenced my long affair with the genre, but these women stick out in my mind as the main early influences.  It was a long road to writing A Heart in Sun & Shadow, but I see the start of the path back there, in my youth, curled up with a giant book with a pale blue cover and a woman on horseback, a book full of sword fights and magic where flawed, interesting people chose to make heroic or destructive decisions.

That’s how a good fantasy novel will always be for me.  Opening the book is like returning home to my first love, her arms open, waiting to embrace me.

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*

May Summary

May was tumultuous for me.  A lot of things happened (like depressingly turning 30) and I had a lot of difficulty adjusting my writing schedule to deal with my husband’s sudden unemployment (he was laid off at the end of April).  My writing nose-dived (as you’ll see from my stats below).  I was just getting into the groove again and finding some momentum when I lost my Grandfather yesterday morning.  I found out he was going rapidly downhill (he’d been sick, then was much better, then suddenly very sick again) on Sunday and managed to finish my novel but not much else this weekend.  I feel sad and a little scattered.  Hopefully I’ll be able to just write through this and keep momentum up (I didn’t write at all Monday or yesterday).

Anyway, here’s the stats for May.  In the ebook world, it was a pretty good month.  I sold over twice the number of copies in May as in April, though not for twice the monies.  Here are the numbers:

Ebooks sold: 84

Stories sold (trad publishing): 1

Novels sold(trad publishing): 0

Writing monies earned: 80.11 (all from ebook sales)

Words written: 19879

Ebooks released: 3 short stories, 1 short story collection

Novels finished: 1

Race score: 39

It’s interesting to see the progression of sales as I get things up.  I’m pretty much a total unknown, but if I held off from putting things online as some advise, I’d be missing out on hundreds of dollars.  I’m broke enough that 20 bucks a month extra makes a difference.  50 bucks? That’s a week or more of groceries. 80 bucks? That’s groceries and the phone bill.  My sales might be tiny when compared to people like Hocking, Locke, and Konrath, but they are growing.  And it is money that comes from work that didn’t sell, for whatever reason, to magazines and trad publishers.  Work that readers enjoy, but yet would have been tucked away in the proverbial trunk in the old world of publishing.

Want to see how sales build for an unknown?  Here’s my stats so far:

July 2010- put up 3 literary short stories under a name that has no publishing history (not that I had any name with history anyway) and sold- 3 copies

Aug 2010- took down one of those 3 because I sold it to a magazine, so 2 stories up- 4 copies

Sept 2010- (2 short stories up)- 3 copies

Oct 2010- (2 short stories up)- 4 copies

Nov 2010- (2 short stories up)- 2 copies

Dec 2010- (Put the sold short back up when rights reverted)- 12 copies

Jan 2011- (released an sf collection under Bellet name, so collection + 3 shorts)- 17 copies

Feb 2011- (released an sf novella, so that plus collection + 3 literary shorts)- 18 copies

March 2011- (released fantasy novel, +collection, +novella, + 3 literary shorts)- 39 copies

April 2011- (novel + collection + novella + 3 literary shorts)- 34 copies

May 2011- (released 3 more shorts, 2 fantasy, 1 literary, + novel etc)- 84 copies

What will June hold? No idea. I just released a second short story collection, this time all fantasy stories.  I might have some romance novellas ready under another name to go up by end of June, but that will depend.  So far growth is steady and as long as that continues, I’m happy enough.  After all, groceries and phone bills paid are nothing to sneeze at.

And in final bright news as I go into June, my Kickstarter project to help fund Clarion is now funded.  It won’t cover all of Clarion, but it certainly helps take a lot of burden off me.  I am super thankful to everyone who made the project funding happen and I will write you all amazing stories at Clarion, I swear.  I hope that “Souvenirs from Other Worlds” will be my best work to date once I’m finished with it (and Clarion, after all, the whole point is to go learn to be an ever better writer).  So thank you, all of you.

New Stuffs and a Sale

I am pleased to announce that I have sold a short story titled “Nevermind the Bollocks” to the new monthly anthology series Digital Science Fiction.  The story should be out in their second installment, so sometime this summer I think.  This is my fourth pro-rate sale and, counting reprints, my seventh overall sale in the two and a half years I’ve been doing this.  I hope this is a sign that between the books I’ve been studying, the workshops I’ve been doing, and the writing practice itself, that I’m still growing and improving.

I also have finally posted a collection of fantasy short fiction, which is will be available soon on Kindle and Nook and is already through the new, streamlined Smashwords grinder.

Here’s the cover:

It includes eight of my fantasy stories.  More information can be found by clicking on the picture or you can get it directly from Smashwords by going here.

As for writing, well, I’m doing better. The novel is literally one working session away from done.  I’m dropping my better half off at the airport today and then I’ll have almost three full days to get work done with zero social distractions.  My top priority is to finish the novel and then finish the story I owe for the Mirror Shards anthology.  Then it’s on to outlining the sequel to A Heart in Sun & Shadow and getting some other short fiction done as a warm-up to Clarion.

Speaking of Clarion, I’m starting to get excited and nervous about it.  As we get ever closer to the start date and things begin to get sorted out like travel plans and housing, it feels more and more like this isn’t something abstract.  And hey, at this point I don’t think I got in on an administrative mistake, since no one has corrected it yet.  My Kickstarter project has only five days left, but it is pretty close to getting funded (only a few hundred left!) so I’m hopeful that the money will come through.  The outpouring of both financial and emotional support by my friends and my fellow writers has really touched me.  I thank all of you and I’m going to work my ass off at Clarion to make sure I don’t waste this opportunity.

So that’s what is going on with me.  Lots of work, not a whole lot of blogging, sorry.  I’ll do my usual monthly round-up next Tuesday (e-book sales have been pretty good to me this month, yay).