The King Khan post

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King Khan cover

This is the post for my latest book: Spirit of the Century presents: King Khan. Frankly, this has been a little late in going onto my blog because the book published in the middle of my Kickstarter, and it became available at different times in different vendors and formats. Anyway, I think at this point it’s available everywhere.

What’s it about?

Spirit of the Century is an upbeat pulp fiction adventure setting about heroes (and villains) born on the change of the century who embody certain aspects of the century. The game materials feature wacky adventures against villains like an army of cloned intelligent gorillas, Ebenezer Scrooge, and “Der Blitzmann, Electrical Madman.” There’s magic, superscience gadgets, and whatever goofy thing you want to throw together.

KING KHAN was initiated as one of the stretch goals for this Kickstarter, and it features the good guy version of those intelligent gorillas as the hero. Here’s the pitch:

Professor Khan, learned ape, has traveled through time, fought psychic dinosaurs and shark-men, visited Atlantis, and battled across the sands of Mars. He has seen it all-—until an arrow shooting out of the sky sends him to the strangest place yet…

Hollywood!

The story features shrinking beams, Hollywood phonies, Aztec mummy princesses, corrupt LAPD cops, and super-science archery (all the kids love archery these days, don’t they?)

It’s not nearly as grim or downbeat as the Twenty Palaces novels, and for me it was a challenge to write a book very quickly, keeping the pace as fast as possible and filling the book with fun ideas.

Sample chapters are available on the publisher’s website, and if you buy the paperback from them directly, you get the ebook, too.

Check it out.

Let me tell you about my ambitions, and why they don’t include Kickstarter (right now)

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Along with the release of the sales numbers of my self-published novel has come a flood of requests that I turn to Kickstarter to fund The Twisted Path (that’s the working title of the next Twenty Palaces book). Currently, I have no plans to do that, and I’m writing this post because I want to explain my reasoning to you guys and I want to have a post I can link to when people broach the subject. Because they do broach the subject. A lot.

I want to be a best-selling author.

What’s more, I want to do it on my own terms; I want to write the books I think are cool, and I want a hundred thousand readers to snap them off the shelves the first week they come out. I want to write thrillers with good characters and magic, along with A Few Things I Want To Say. I mean, not to jump up and proclaim that I want to be Stephen King, but I want to be Stephen King. It’s not about making a whole bunch of money, it’s about having my books in the hands of lots of readers from all over the world.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to copy Stephen King, or Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin or Gillian Flynn. I wouldn’t even try. I intend to write books my own way because honestly believe the things I think are cool will be cool to bunches and bunches of readers.

Or maybe not. We’ll see. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway.

How does this tie in to Twenty Palaces, a series that you, the person reading this post, quite possibly read and enjoyed? Well, 20P has dedicated fans, but not very many. As mentioned in the Twenty Palaces sales post, I sold over 3700 copies of my book, self-published. Couldn’t I sell at least that many if I self-published The Twisted Path? Or maybe even more if I turned to…

(dramatic pause)

Kickstarter?

Well, sure. Maybe. Maybe I could write two 20P books a year (or three in two years), and quite possibly the readers I have right now would be willing to pony up the cash I’d need for an editor, cover artist, copy editor, and the disreputable author himself (not to mention covering Uncle Sam’s and Kickstarter’s cuts). A Thousand True Fans, right?

Here’s the truth: I could do that. I could live on that money. I’d probably have to depend on 2.5K mostly-true-occasionally-false fans, but I’m still living on the advance money Random House started paying me in 2008, okay? I live cheap. I have no car, no cell phone, no new clothes, no new glasses…

Oh, wait, that part sucks. Anyway, I’m cheap as hell, I don’t need much money, and I could make that work, right?

Yes. Yes, I could. But you know what? That would be another year of not making my goal. That would be another year of working on a series that didn’t get me where I want to be. Every Twenty Palaces book I’ve written has sold fewer than the one before; do I want to keep going after fewer and fewer readers every year?

Several people have suggested that I could get new readers with a Kickstarter campaign, but I don’t consider that realistic. Take a look at these guys: their campaign has been fantastically successful. At the time I write this, they’re over 11,000% of their goal. However, they have fewer than 8,500 backers.

That’s huge for a Kickstarter but Circle of Enemies sold more copies than that and it’s considered a failure. When I look at fiction projects run by novelists, especially ones who are more successful than I am, the number of backers is usually in the low-three figures.

So no, a Kickstarter campaign won’t bring in new readers. It would sure please the readers I already have, though, and you know what? I want that. Wanting to be read by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world includes the people who already know and like my work. I’m grateful for everyone willing to buy a copy of my books or to recommend Ray Lilly to their friends.

But to stay with Twenty Palaces when I know the reading public at large–not just the ones who enjoy my work, but the wide audience–has rejected it would be to never move beyond my starting point. It would mean standing in this small safe place. I would be giving up the chance to grow and try something new.

If I were a different writer–someone who could put out 20,000 finished words a week–I’d write Ray Lilly books alongside whatever new things I came up with. I can’t do that. I’m not prolific. It has to be one thing at a time with me.

I just can’t get past the opportunity cost. Twenty Palaces novels are challenging: each one took me a year or more to write, and you know what? I’m not young. Look up at that third paragraph; did I say I wanted to be the next EL James or JK Rowling? Nope, it was “Stephen King.”

Because I’m old. Life is short, and I need to spend my years wisely.

So here’s my plan: I have already written a book in The Auntie Mame Files which needs to be revised. I’ve also written about 200K of The Great Way, which is the series name for my epic fantasy. Everything I’ve written so far has been aimed at publication through New York. Yeah, I know it’s possible (maybe not likely, but possible) to make more money by publishing books myself, but more money isn’t enough. I want more readers, too.

If I Kickstart or self-publish a new novel, it will be one of those books.

I won’t be returning to the Twenty Palaces setting until I’m honest-to-god successful. It’s only when I have, say, 100,000 eager readers buying my books that I’ll reintroduce 20P to see if the series can find new life.

So that’s it: the final word. I could self-publish or Kickstart The Twisted Path, but it’s not going to happen until after I succeed with something else. If you liked the Twenty Palaces books, I hope you’ll like the next thing I write. If not, that’s cool, too.

But please don’t argue with me about continuing the series, or try to explain to me what Kickstarter is, or insist that yes, in fact, truly, it would be the right move for me to write The Twisted Path next. The series is dead. It was starved of sales and died. I won’t be trying to revive it anytime soon.

Sorry if you’re disappointed by that–believe me when I say it hurts me even more–but that’s how it’s gotta be.

Added: As if he used his powers as SFWA president to read this unfinished blog post, John Scalzi put up a terrific post about writing for a living. It’s not just an art, it’s a job, too, and we all have to make realistic choices.

Plus, I’m convinced the dude has installed spyware on my computer or used a time machine to read this post in the future and then come back and pre-empt it. Hmf.

I recommend reading his thoughts on the matter, plus the comments from other pros in the comments. As an addendum: keep in mind that, looking at the numbers in this post, where he’s talking about the sales figures of Redshirts, John Scalzi, as successful as he is, has not yet reached the threshold I set myself for returning to 20P. Just sayin’


Upcoming Books

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I’m going to link to this through the main page on my blog and make it an “evergreen” post, but it’s not going to be what you might think.

One issue I hear from readers (and other writers) is that someone will really enjoy a new series but miss the new books when they come out. (This happens to really well-known writers, too, and I’m talking about big names you might not expect.) Maybe it’s because so many books are released now? Maybe it’s that so many people buy online that they spend less time browsing shelves?

I don’t know. I talk about this sort of thing on my blog, but I also put all sorts of other stuff there, too, and not everyone is interested in all that shit. So do I rely on readers’ willingness to follow my blog when all they care about is book news? Do I rely on the odd “Whatever happened to…?” moments that prompt someone to look me up?

I don’t think so. Here’s my plan: I’m going to set up an email list for people who want to know when I have a new book coming out. I know, right? So high-tech. If anyone out there has a better idea, I’m open to it.

But for right now, if you want to be notified when I have a new book out, and you don’t think you’d see it here on the blog, on Twitter, or where ever, send me a note at harry at harryjconnolly period com asking to be put on the newsletter list. I send those out about once a year, maybe twice; I’m not terribly prolific. I’ll also be happy to take your name off if you decide you don’t want to receive them any more.

Added later: Even easier would be to use this convenient form.

Note: This will get you on the newsletter. If you want to be taken off, please use the email address above.

Anyway, as of today, 12/3/11, all four Twenty Palaces books have been released and there won’t be more for a while. I also have a number of short stories for sale at the usual online spots, including at the “store” on this very web site.

I’m sure I’ll forget to keep that paragraph updated. Sign up for the newsletter if you want to stay up to date.

By the way, this is my 1,500th post on the main blog, and my 3,434th on my LiveJournal.

Added:


The Twenty Palaces post

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As promised, finally, I have the Twenty Palaces prequel ready for sale. Here’s the cover:

Twenty Palaces Cover

Looks terrific, doesn’t it? It’s by George Cotronis, who will also be doing the cover of Don’t Read This Book, the Evil Hat anthology I wrote a story for.

Here’s the book: When Ray Lilly was 13 years old, a handgun accident landed his best friend, Jon Burrows, in a wheelchair and turned Ray into a runaway and petty criminal. Fifteen years later, Ray returns home after a stint in prison; he’s determined to go straight, but he knows he can’t do that without making peace with his old friend.

What Ray doesn’t expect is to discover that Jon has just received a mysterious cure–not only is he out of his wheelchair, he seems stronger and faster than… well, pretty much anyone. Worse, his cure has drawn all sorts of unwanted attention: the media are camped out on his block, the police are investigating him for insurance fraud, and weird shadowy figures have begun to draw closer, figures who clearly do not mean to do Jon any good.

Can Ray atone for the biggest mistake of his life by protecting his oldest and best friend? What’s more, should he?

Yeah, this is the book where Ray meets Annalise, creates his ghost knife, and sees a predator for the first time. It’s also going to be the last Twenty Palaces novel for a while.

Because I’m self-publishing it, it’s going to be ebook only Now there’s a print edition, too. I’ll post Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble links when those go live, but I’ll also be offering the book for sale directly from this website. For $4.99, paid through PayPal, you get a DRM-free epub, a DRM-free mobi, a pdf file, or all three if you prefer.

Buy here. (Update: actually, you can’t buy it from me because the shopping plugin didn’t work) Or you can buy from one of the links in the sidebar.

Thanks for reading, folks.

Short Fiction! Get Ya Short Fiction Heah!

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I have a small number of my short stories for sale online. At some point I’ll set something up for a direct sale on my web page, but there’s already a lot on my plate at the moment. For those who would like to buy one of my short stories for their ereaders, here are the links:

Another Man’s Burden (Amazon.com | B&N)

Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths (Amazon.com | B&N)

Soldiers of a Dying God (Amazon.com | B&N)

The Blood Cord (Amazon.com | B&N)

The Bone Orchid (Amazon.com | B&N)

There are many, many other online stores, but posting these have already eaten up a helluva lot of time. Sorry, people who read on the Kobo or whatever. Maybe someday I’ll have time to post these there.

Also, I’ll get more stories online as I can.

My creepy request for your personal information

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Hey, I haven’t mentioned this before, but I have a mailing list.

At this point it’s, like, nine people, but it exists. I’ve used it once so far to announce the pub day of Game of Cages.

If you would like an email letting you know when Circle of Enemies (or anything else of mine) publishes, shoot me an email to harry at the URL above sans double u’s, by which I mean harryjconnolly.com. (I type it that way to avoid spam harvesters, sorry.) Alternately, drop a comment in this thread on the main blog and type out the appropriate email address in indicated form.

And that’s all (for now)

FAQ

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It’s long past time I made a FAQ, right? (That’s not one of the questions.) Here goes:

Q: What does 20 PALACES mean? Will we find out what each palace represents and why?

A: Two questions in one, but that’s okay. The Twenty Palace Society is a group of sorcerers who have appointed themselves the magic police of the planet. They’re pretty much ruthless bastards, but their cause is for the good. And yes, I’m planning to show some of the palaces themselves, at some point. The palaces don’t represent anything, though; they’re the homes of really rich people.

Q: Your stance on fanfiction is the first thing that comes to mind here (due to the latest hoopla on the topic.) =)

A: Well, by the time I post this, the hoopla will have died down. In fact, I pretty much can’t remember which particular hoopla we’re talking about. But here’s my “stance:” I consider fanfiction a sign that a property has a devoted following. It means a particular storyline has a healthy following. That said, I don’t want to read any of it, ever. I would find it distressing, so please don’t tell me about it. And don’t try to make money from it (or hinder me from making money), please. Aside from that, have fun.

Q: Where can I get one of those ghost knives?

A: Each one costs a mere $50 million. As soon as your payment clears my account, I’ll send you one. (You might want to wait for book three before you decide if you really want one. Just sayin’)

Q. Are Ray and Annalise using black magic or white magic?

A. Let me first state outright that you will never read the words “black magic” or “white magic” in my books. I’m not a fan of those terms for the obvious reason.

However, there is no good or evil magic in the Twenty Palaces setting. Magic is simply power, and like any kind of power it can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. Whether a spell is good or evil depends entirely on how it was used. In a way, spells are like guns: always dangerous, sometimes threatening, often put to evil purposes, but intrinsically evil? Not to me.

Q. Do you like gladiator movies?

A. Only if they have a. monsters or b. Woody Strode.

Have more questions for me? Let me know and I’ll include it in the FAQ.

The Game of Cages post

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My original plan was to place all book information into one convenient post. Hah! Turns out that doesn’t work very well; there’s too much! New plan: create a dedicated page for each book.

Game of Cages is the second book in the Twenty Palaces series. (Book one is Child of Fire which came out in September, 2009 and was named to Publishers Weekly’s list of best 100 books of 2009). Check out this Chris McGrath cover:

Game of Cages

God, I love that cover. You know what? The inside of the book is gorgeous, too.

The series follows Ray Lilly, an ex-con and former car thief press-ganged in to working for the Twenty Palace society. There are, scattered around the world, a small number of spells and spell books. The magic they allow people to do is often dangerous, but nothing is as risky as the summoning spells that let sorcerers to summon strange, extradimensional beings to our world.

These beings, which the society calls predators, view our world as a fresh hunting ground and see humans as prey.

The Twenty Palace Society hunts these creatures–and the people who summon them–with brutal, ruthless zeal. While Ray is not exactly the nicest guy in the world, he’s a saint compared to the society members he’s forced to work with.

In Game of Cages, Ray is given an emergency job–a predator is going to be auctioned off, and some of the wealthiest and most dangerous people in the world have gathered at a remote mountain mansion to place their bids. Unfortunately, the sale goes wrong and the creature escapes into the small town below with the bidders in close pursuit. Can Ray destroy the predator before it destroys the town?

It already has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read the first chapter here, the second chapter here and the third chapter here.

Order the book right now from: Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository (free int’l shipping!) | Books a Million | Borders | Indiebound | Mysterious Galaxy| Powell’s Books

To buy Game of Cages as an ebook, visit:

Amazon.com Kindle | Barnes & Noble | IndieboundPowell’s | Sony Reader
And be sure to look for book 3 in the series, CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, due out on August 30, 2011.

Game of Cages Chapter One

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Del Rey included a teaser for Game of Cages in the back of Child of Fire, but it was just a few pages, not the whole first chapter. Behind the cut, for those who are interested, is the full deal: the complete chapter one of my upcoming novel.

GAME OF CAGES
CHAPTER ONE

It was three days before Christmas, and I was not in prison. I couldn’t understand why I was free. I hadn’t hidden my face during the job in Hammer Bay. I hadn’t used a fake name. I honestly hadn’t expected to survive.

I had, though. The list of crimes I’d committed there included breaking and entering, arson, assault, and murder. And what could I have said in my defense? That the people I’d killed really deserved it? Continue reading