Roleplay Twenty Palaces!

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Last night my Kickstarter hit 925 backers, unlocking Stretch Goal: Monitor, the second to last stretch goal. This morning we reached 1000 backers, which unlocked Stretch Goal, Mask, the very last one.

So I created something new: Stretch Goal: You. I encouraged backers to create their own stretch goals so they could create anything they wanted and share it with the other backers, if we hit their goal.

Already we have an indie composer who has promised 20P music, and…

Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue have promised that, if we reach 1200 backers, they will expand on the Voidcallers section of the FATE Toolkit to let people role play in a Twenty Palaces-style setting. See here.

I’ve said before that there was no need for me to create a 20P supplement because Voidcallers is already it. But if you want sample stunts, special character creation rules, the whole deal, you probably want to join in on this.

We’ve already gone far, far beyond anything I had a right to expect. Can we manage to hit this goal, too?

I have to run out for a meeting, if you can believe it, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

And if you have something you want to share with the other backers, please do.

Progress report

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Let’s see if I can briefly cover everything that’s been going on.

First, I’m revamping the Kickstarter page pretty thoroughly. As I mentioned before, I asked some folks with KS experience to check it over and I made a bunch of changes. Then my agent had a look and she told me that I was underselling everything. Like a lot of writers, I’m not the best advocate for my own work. She encouraged me to explain why the books are actually fun instead of, you know, doing the whole “Here’s a thing I wrote you might like it maybe” bit that writers do.

So, revisions. I have new text for the main page ready to go and I’ll be shooting a new video this week. As some of you folks know, I get ugly red blotches on my face when I eat certain foods, so I’m trying to be super careful about every meal until then. I don’t think it would help me make my goal to have leprosy face.

By the way, if you want to know when the Kickstarter launches before anyone else, you should sign up for my newsletter in the form on this page.

The print edition of TWENTY PALACES is still a few weeks off. Everything takes longer than you think it should. That’s the law.

Finally, while the Kindle version of TWENTY PALACES is still only $2.99, there’s a sale price of $5.99 for CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, and CIRCLE OF ENEMIES. If you read from the Kindle and have been meaning to pick up some or all of my books, you’re not going to get a better price.

I recommend starting with the prequel, although I wrote each book to stand alone.

There are shiny new ideas for me to work on, but I have so much revision and other work ahead of me that I don’t expect to get to any of it before the end of the year. Yeah, that sucks; we only get so many productive years in this life, but it needs doing.

More later.

Passing into a new world: Portal fantasy

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Rachel Manija Brown posted something provocative about so-called “portal fantasy.” For those who didn’t click the link: essentially it’s a Narnia-style story, in which a person or persons from our mundane world is transported to a second-world fantasy setting. Apparently, agents reject those stories at the query stage without ever requesting a full manuscript, and the reasons described in the post (all frustratingly second-hand) strike me as extraordinarily bogus.

They’re talking about non-adult books: YA and MG, but I don’t remember seeing a lot of adult-oriented portal fantasies.

But it’s only after I read a post on Making Light that I realize I myself have been All Over Portals in my books.

Now, that Making Light post is talking about Fantasy With Portals In Them rather than Portal Fantasies, which is not exactly a subtle distinction. For one thing, modern person transported to fantasy world setting is a very specific thing. Still, Circle of Enemies and Twenty Palaces both contain literal portals in which Things Intrude Into Our World, and the other two books have implied portals.

What’s more, EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS is full of portals; the barely-Iron-Age society conducts trade through them and they are the center of the plot.

It’s not portal fantasy, per se, but… is this my subconscious calling to me? Has the online discussion finally made me look into my heart and realize that what I’ve really longed to do all this time was write a book about a mafia hitman transported to pseudo-Narnia? Or a pipe-fitter in Osgiliath?

Well, maybe not, but it’s fun to think about.

One year anniversary of the end of 20 Palaces

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I’m writing this ahead of time because I expect to be hanging with my son at the tournament when this posts, but today is exactly one year since I announced that Del Rey would not be picking up any new Twenty Palaces novels and that I was putting the series on hiatus, with all the ominous implications of the word.

And that fucking post is still the most popular thing on my blog. More people have read about my failure than ever read my books.

What has changed since then? Well, A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is on indefinite hold. The book itself is a major misfire–not in concept but in execution. It needs a massive rewrite before it’s ready to be shown anywhere and that’s not a very high priority for me right now.

What about Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts? aka A Blessing of Monsters? Well, shit. We’ll see, won’t we? One big change is that I seriously underestimated the amount of story there; what I’d planned to complete in one volume is not, in fact, complete after 140K words. So it will become two books. Possibly three. We’ll see what my publisher says, assuming I find one for it.

As for me, I’m working on a Twenty Palaces short story, which won’t be told from Ray’s POV. I’m hoping to have it finished soonest so I can get to work on Epic Sequel With No Dull Parts. I’m still waiting on editorial notes for King Khan, the game tie-in book I wrote for Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century role-playing game, and that will likely be the only book release for me in 2013.

I know. 2012 saw only two anthologies: Don’t Read This Book and Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and next year will almost certainly be a single game tie-in novel. I like all of that work and I’m proud of it, but I need to put out original novel-length fiction if I want to keep my career going.

The worst four-letter word in the whole fucking world.

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Occasionally, I suffer from hope.

See, I write these books that some readers (and me) like, but I occasionally get this idea that this or that particular story is going to be a big hit with a very large readership.

That’s hope, and it’s an awful thing. It distracts and disappoints. It makes me take my eye off what matters most. It tricks me into thinking there’s some external standard that I need to meet.

I was just discussing this elsewhere in another author’s private space: there’s this sense that we’re writing the wrong thing, and readers turn away from us and our work as if we were beggars shaking a tin cup at them. We get a few sales, a few reviews, then our books fade away because everyone moves on to some other thing they’re excited about. It goes without saying that no one “owes” a writer anything, but it also goes without saying that we can’t help but give in to that four-letter word when we release something new.

I can say from experience that it is incredibly painful to put a year of work into a book only to have it widely ignored. It’s not as painful as that time no kids showed for my son’s birthday party, but it’s still pretty bad.

But there’s one thing I can’t compare it to: I have no idea how it feels to write something because you think it must be “the right thing” for commercial success, and have it fail anyway.

Here’s a true story that I’ve talked about here once or twice: My editor wanted me to change the ending of Game of Cages. Specifically, she wanted me to change The Sentence (if you’ve read the book you know the 500+ word sentence I’m talking about). She knew it was a powerful scene, but it was not a commercial choice at all. Too dark.

She suggested, quite sensibly, that I revise it so the protagonist could be more of a hero. Readers like heroes.

Now, I was seriously torn over this. Child of Fire wouldn’t come out for months, so I wasn’t even a published writer yet, who was I to disagree? Besides, I loved that scene–the whole book was aimed to create it.

My agent (who is awesome) said my editor was right about that creative choice being anti-commercial, but she was ready to support whatever decision I made. The truth is, I could have changed that ending, and no one would have known by my editor, agent, and me. No one would have had a clue.

But what I told her, finally, was that I was afraid that I would replace that dark, harsh scene with something more Indiana Jones-heroic, but the book would fail anyway. Then I wouldn’t even be failing with my book.

It was almost certainly a stupid decision, career-wise, but I made it and I’m still living with it. You know what else I’m living with?

Hope for the new book I’m revising.

Check this blog post out: An Unexpected Ass Kicking. It’s worth reading, for real, especially if you use computers and/or care about elder wisdom. The OP’s takeaway is:

1. Nothing is withheld from us which we have conceived to do.

2. Do things that have never been done.

Me, I’ve tried to be original in my work, but I’ve never felt I was original enough. I’d really like to do better in that area.

As for what I “have conceived to do,” I have conceived to be my own marketing category, to write books are are uniquely mine, and to have a large readership who want to read them as soon as they’re available. Not because those books make the smart commercial choices or they are about the right subjects, but because I think they’re cool.

But seriously, read the linked post. It’s short.

Anyway, I have to pursue this stupid goal of mine, but I have to do it without killing myself hoping it will come true.

Audiobook for CHILD OF FIRE, if you can believe it.

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I’ve been sitting on this news for about two weeks as I tried to get some further information on it, but SDCC is this week and I’m not going to wait any more.

Child of Fire is out in audiobook right now.

Now, I didn’t know this was going to happen. I didn’t even know there was a audio deal in the works. I went back to my email and searched for the word “audio” and found that the only mention was back in September 2009, when my agent mentioned in passing that she had received a note of interest from an audiobook company, which she forwarded to the publisher (since Del Rey had retained the rights).

After that, I never heard a thing about it until last month when I went to Amazon.com to create a link to the book and notices a new line in the “editions” box. I know there are some authors who are pretty heavily involved in the creation of their audiobooks, but I knew so little about it that I’ve been telling people there was no chance of an audiobook because of low sales.

So! The question you might be asking is “What about Game of Cages and Circle of Enemies? Will they be out as audiobooks, too?”

Unfortunately the answer is still “I don’t know yet.” I’m still waiting to hear back, and I don’t expect an answer on the week of (or after) SDCC. However, when I do hear, I’ll blog about it.

I should also mention, apropos to yesterday’s post about whether book reviews actually sell many books, that the initial note of interest was based on early positive reviews, so reviews can have that sort of positive benefit at least.

By the way, author and bookseller Michele Sagara weighed in on the review conversation yesterday on my LJ. She’s a smart person and if you don’t follow her you should.

Okay, Book. You don’t like me and I don’t like you…

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I just returned from the SFWA business meeting, where I learned All The Secrets. Sure, it was 40 minutes long and I left home at seven am to get there and only arrived at the library to start working at noon (thanks to a missed bus connection) but those secrets were totally worth it. [1]

I probably should have loitered afterwards to socialize, but Saturdays are a big writing day for me and I really really didn’t want to lose any more work time today. Besides, I suck at socializing. I’m the boringest guy ever, so it’s best for everyone if I just walk into a room, sit quietly, then walk out again later.

Actually, here’s a tip: If you hear there’s going to be a SFWA business meeting going on at a convention or whatever, just go ahead and crash it. No one checks IDs or anything; just walk in, help yourself to a coffee and a danish, then sit somberly while the nice folks run through the agenda. If they pass a paper around to record who attended, just write “Harry Connolly” on there or some other unrecognizable nobody, then you’ll be able to kick back for some private time with a bunch of pro writers.[2]

The meeting was at Norwescon, which I attended last year. Considering the public transit times involved, I’ve decided it’s just too far to go. Sure, the crowds will also keep me away, and my weak chat fu, and my general disinterest, but the travel times are another arrow in my quiver.

At least I got to use the nice hotel bathroom rather than the downtown library.[3]

Other news! I created a Facebook Page, and will slowly be changing my FB time to that, and trimming back my “friends” on my regular FB account. Nothing personal, but I need to recapture some of my time. If you find yourself unfriended over there, it’s only because I don’t know you really or I see the content you post elsewhere.[4]

Finally, I have something else I need to mention that keeps coming up. I shouldn’t bury it in a weekend post, but what the hell:

I’m not going to do a Twenty Palaces Kickstarter.

Yes, I’ve been involved in two Kickstarter campaigns. The Spirit of the Century one panned out pretty quickly, and the Tales of the Emerald Serpent shared world anthology is still working its way toward the goal.[5]

But neither campaign has been “mine.” I placed fiction there, but I haven’t set the goals, the pledge benefits, the timelines, none of it. I haven’t made the videos and I don’t post the updates. Those projects are someone else’s babies.

A number of people have asked: why not Kickstart a new Twenty Palaces novel? Here’s the answer: While I’m sure I could set a pledge level that people would be willing to meet, it’s not money that’s stopping me. It’s readership.

Each of the Twenty Palaces books sold fewer and fewer copies than the one before. They diminished.[6] As much as I loved the series (and believe me, I love them like crazy–those books are ten years of my life) continuing to push them would be career suicide.

I have new books I’m working on. Some of you will hate them, some will like them–I’m comfortable with that idea. But I have to be writing books that increase my readership, not shrink it.

The Twenty Palaces setting is a dead horse, and my whipping arm is tired.

Okay. Time to make pages.

[1] I’ll even share one with you: It’s hard to get rich in sf/f publishing. You heard it hear first.

[2] As far as you know.

[3] Confidential to the dude in the next stall: Holy Christ, you have my utmost sympathy.

[4] Stupid timeline.

[5] Check out the $5 and $10 pledge levels. They seem like a great bargain.

[6] Circle of Enemies has sold one-third as many books as Child of Fire, and the numbers have pretty much played out. These books are not going to make a surprise resurgence.

Hello, BoingBoing readers

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Yesterday, two and a half years after it came out, Child of Fire got a great review from BoingBoing.

And, because my luck is so very perfect, the Kindle store has gone down–apparently because of a database error–so the link from the review takes you to the physical book. No worries, though! I’m sure they’ll have it back up again in no time (grumbles). I’ve heard rumors that there are other places to buy ebooks, but who can tell whether that’s true or not?

The series runs to four books, which you can see over there on the right hand side of my blog. It’s also been cancelled. If you’re curious, I blogged about the reasons why it ended. You can also go to my home page to see the fantastic book trailer made by the guys at Wyrd.

Currently I have a new series in the works I’m about to send to my agent, an epic fantasy about two people caught up in the sudden collapse of an empire. Check out my Upcoming Books page for more info about that.

And welcome.

Pat Rothfuss reads Twenty Palaces

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Bestselling author (and my new BFF) Pat Rothfuss did a Google Hangout–aka, a webcam video interview–for Trey’s Variety Hour while I was offline dealing with my father-in-law’s passing. It’s a long interview, guys, but of course I assume you’ll want to listen to the whole thing, since my new BFF is totally interesting.

But if you want to skip straight to the good part (which would be the part about me) go to the 1 hour, 19 minute, 50 second mark where he talks about reading all three books in two days, and what he thinks about them.

Let’s embed, shall we?

I’m glad he liked the books, but whenever someone says: “They’re really different,” the tiny, pitchfork-wielding, scarlet-skinned dude on my shoulder says: “Too different!” Not that I listen, says the guy writing an epic fantasy at the end of the bronze age.

Anyway, new readers! New two-star reviews on Goodreads! It’s all a blessing, and I’m glad people are still finding the books.