Common New Writer Questions

                Since we’re still in January, a new year finally getting properly underway, I thought this would be a good time to do something like an Q&A or an FAQ, but specifically for issues folks new to the publishing game, or even hoping to be new to publishing, will often grapple with. These won’t apply to 100% of you, obviously, since every author takes their own journey. However, I’ve been online long enough to see these questions/issues pop up with substantial frequency, so hopefully this will help some folks who are out there working their way toward their goals.

 

1) When do you call yourself a writer?

                Maybe this isn’t the best one to start with, since the answer will be highly subjective, but I already typed it so here we are. Making the shift from a more traditional job to writing has a lot of hurdles in itself, yet this is possibly the most existential of them. At what point is it okay to start telling people you’re a writer when they ask what you do? Or, in a broader context, when do you start owning writing as part of your career, rather than a hobby you deeply enjoy? Of course that’s going to be different for everyone, up until the moment where you actually go full-time at which point it becomes the only honest answer.

                Some writers don’t mention being writers until they hit that very point, feeling that only the distinction of living off their work makes the difference. I’ve talked before about what makes someone a writer, so I won’t rehash too much here, but I don’t think you need to feel forced to wait quite that long. If that’s what you choose, more power to you, however the advice I give people in person is simply this: Once you’re comfortable showing people your catalogue, that’s when you should include writer among your jobs. This way you can answer specific follow-up questions that are likely to come, and have something you can point at to reassure yourself that yes, you made this, you deserve this title. Again though, there is no hard and fast answer here, so remember that the rules are fluid and you should go with what makes you comfortable.

 

2) When do I feel like a real, professional author?

                For some of you, this question is a redo of the one above it, but for many it likely made perfect sense. While I’ve talked about this before, it’s something that can’t be repeated too often: Imposter Syndrome impacts tons of authors. Pretty much every author I know, honestly, self-included. In case anyone doesn’t know, Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you don’t deserve your own success, and a fear that eventually there will be an “Emperor has no clothes” moment where everyone realizes you actually suck. That’s part of working in a subjective medium. If you make an engine and it runs, you’re a good mechanic. If you make a book or a painting, everyone who experiences it will view it as a different level of good.

                All this culminates in a lot of people who have achieved respected levels of success feeling like they don’t belong. So, to answer the question of when that fades and you really feel like you’ve made it… there’s no answer to give. I don’t know when that sets in, when the doubt about your base abilities finally fades. It very well might never go away. Instead of worrying about it, though, I find it helps to take a minute and realize that all the authors you love and respect, all the names who came before you, almost certainly have felt or still feel the exact same way. We’re all just people doing the best we can to make something others enjoy. So long as you’re doing that, you are absolutely earning your spot, no matter what your doubt wants you to believe.

 

3) How many sales does it take for a book to be successful?

                I think part of this ties in with the Imposter Syndrome issues. Lacking a true objective measure, sales are often used instead as a judgement of quality. The idea being that if one can hit an arbitrary target, they will feel as though they’ve reached a tier of success. While knowing the numbers can be important when you’re aiming to take the top spots in categories or make the NYT Best-Seller list, those concerns are generally years away, at best, for newer writers.

                Rather than look outward for sales targets, I would coach most writers to examine their own histories. The goal of every new release should be to try catching the attention of a few more people, and hope they enjoy the story. If your first book sells 100 copies, and your second sell 125 copies, that is a successful book. You grew your audience, and ideally a large portion of that number are people who enjoyed your first work and wanted more. This won't happen every time, different books will appeal to different people, and not all are guaranteed to find the same audience. Still, if at the end of the year you can see that more people are enjoying your work, then that’s a success, regardless of how big or small the numbers might be.

 

4) How do I get published?

                This is a classic, but one that still warrants addressing, especially as the options for new writers grow every year. For today, we’ll focus purely on the ebook market, since other avenues have unique challenges that would require more space to address. I won’t try to get detail-heavy with this one, rather just offering up a quick overview of the main methods. If you want to go deeper, you’ll have to pick your method and start researching. That’s part of the job too.

                Self/Indie Publishing: No publisher or agent needed. All the work is on you, the author, to either do or outsource. You can upload to Nook, Google Play, or one of the other smaller sites, but you must upload to Amazon.  I’m not saying you have to go exclusive, only that Amazon is the ebook market right now, whether we like it or not.

                Small-to-Medium Press: Many of these will accept submissions without agents. When you find those, be sure to pay close attention to their requirements, genres, and other details to ensure your work is a good fit for them. Much of the work will be handled by the publisher, especially editing, formatting, and cover art.

                Medium-to-Big 5 Press: For these, you’ll almost certainly need to get an agent, and be willing to hold your book back for some while as it is shopped around. I would recommend pursuing this in tandem with another method, since the process to find an agent, shop a book, and eventually see it published can take years, and doesn’t always end in success. If you do get accepted, you’ll have access to skilled professionals, so be sure to listen well and take as much as you can from their experience.

The 1st Drew Hayes Shitshow Writer’s Conference

                As part of the ever-growing necessity to expand one’s brand, here at Thunder Pear Publishing we are committed to doing whatever is required to stay afloat in the chaotic seas of the modern book market. Whether it be Drew Hayes brand scented beer soaps (for when you want the DUI smell without the risk) or Drew Hayes brand megaphones (now you can be as loud as Drew!) we are going to keep solvent no matter how we have to shill. And in the spirit of that, I am proud to announce the first ever Drew Hayes Shitshow Writer’s Conference.

                Yes, now you too can sit in a room with Drew, asking thoughtful questions about serious issues and hurdles about breaking into the publishing industry, only to be met with a vacant stare and eventual intoxicated rambling. Lest you fear that might get old, worry not. This writing conference will be stacked with activities and classes to help you hone your art! Not excited yet? Well, how about I mention:

-There will be an open bar. However, the bar will only serve trashcan punch, which Drew will make more of whenever the cooler has been finished. Depending on how drunk he is will impact the potency, from “deeply flammable” to “definitely illegal” so every sip is a game of Russian Roulette with your liver. You are also welcome to BYOB if you don’t want to put your body at risk for a free drink.

-Drew will have a class specifically on how to succeed in self-publishing. We’re not sure how he’s going to stretch “write a shitload” and “be lucky” into an entire discussion, but we’ve seen him blather for an hour about the new Ducktales, so really it shouldn’t be too tough to accomplish.

-After substantial market research, we have decided to hold the event in either Colorado or California, for their… scenic views. Okay, look, we’re marketing this to writers, and there’s a bit of overlap in that group and the ones who are suddenly big fans of Colorado. Got to put asses in those seats however we can.

-You will have the opportunity to work with your fellow writers! Every night, there will be some form of writing competition. If your team wins, you are given an extra helping of whatever dinner has been cobbled together (probably sandwiches) and first pick of the beds for the evening. We’re not going to spend a lot on a nice location, so work hard or you’ll probably end up on a lumpy couch. Motivation!

-There will also be daily drinking challenges. We don’t actually have anything planned for this, but it’s Drew, with a crowd of writers and a barrel of trash can punch. It doesn’t take Sherman Holmes’ 5-minutes of brilliance to put the pieces together on that deduction.

-We’ll do more than just help you write, too. There will be classes focused on the other aspects of working full time as a writer. These include:

                -Explaining to people that you’re not rich or famous just because you publish.
                -How to covertly cry in the shower when the market is tanking.
                -Sadness and Fear: Unbeatable foes or reasons to get turnt?
                -Politely turning down your parents offers to set you up on job interviews.
                -Oh shit, you forgot a deadline. Writing sprint!
                -How to slap together a shitty conference and pad your bottom line.

-Lest you think you’ll be weary of writing and writing related-talk, there will be classes covering other subjects as well. Learn how to create a podcast, followed immediately by a class on market saturation. We’ll also talk video work, as well as other ways to expand your brand in the hopes of sticking out amidst literally countless other authors all fighting for the spotlight.

-Let’s be honest here, there will be Power Hours. You know it, Drew knows it, really anyone who hears about this event knows it. Some of you will be invited to film Drinkalong Power Hours with Drew, creating an exciting opportunity to plug your own work while getting impractically drunk on the internet. For our, ahem, Colorado enthusiasts, substitute substances are also allowed when Power Houring. We’re all getting old, and Drew respects that some folks have to take it easy on their livers after too much fun in their 20s.

-For one night, and one night only, Drew will arrive sober and have a serious discussion about major hurdles many authors need to overcome. He will touch on finding freelancers, how to constantly produce content, dealing with imposter syndrome, and managing the uncertain levels of income. Once that session has completed, he will drink deeply from the trash can punch for a solid minute, then proceed to try and fight a telephone pole. You may place bets, but be warned: the odds will heavily favor the telephone pole.

-Outside of just learning and writing, you’ll have opportunities to bond with your fellow writers. Meal times (sandwiches), conversation corner, nightly dances, shot races, daily battles atop Death Blood Mountain, ice-breakers, and many collaborative project challenges. When this conference ends, you won’t just have new lessons to incorporate into your writing, you’ll also leave with several new friends. And, if we’re being upfront, a couple of enemies too. Have to keep things balanced.

-On the final night, with the full moon high overhead, Drew will lead you all deep into the forest. There, he will draw a dagger blessed by the nameless monks who serve the gods hidden between the stars. Drew will plunge this dagger deep into the heart of a hundred-year-old oak. When blood pours from the wound, you will each be invited to drink. Those who can do so without vomiting shall be marked, and in the coming decade their careers will swell. But someday, the price for their success will come, and it will be their turn to find a forest with an ancient oak during a full moon. Some contracts cannot be broken, only passed on.

-After the tree thing, we’ll kick off our S’mores Jamboree! Trust us, you’re going to want something to wash the taste of oak blood from your mouths.

                If you’re sitting there, screaming at your computer about where to click, have no fear. We’ll have tickets available as soon as a final location is secured. The cost will be a meager $10,000 per person, although if you’re one of the first five people to book we’ve cut the price to a shocking $5,000 per person (plus you have to bring six bottles of booze. Real liquor, too, not Triple Sec or shit like that). We look forward to seeing many of you out there, and hopefully sending you all back home safely! That’s not really in our hands, though. That choice belongs to the oak.

                PS: I know some folks are aware I’ve talked about doing an actual writer’s conference sometime in the coming years. This isn’t that. That one probably won’t have the word “shitshow” in the title. Probably.

Great Group Games

                It’s been kind of a heavy week on the site, what with SP wrapping up and all, so I thought for this blog we’d do something simple and fun. Many of you presumably have gift cards to burn since the Christmas season has come to a close, and from the comments during the game night sections of the story I know lots of readers were interested in the fictional board games that the Melbrook crew played. While those were all made up, I have been playing a lot of board games with friends lately, and this seems like a good time to do a rundown of a few really fun ones, for those into that sort of thing.

 

Red Flags

                This is one of the more interesting takes on a judge-system, the method used by Joking Hazard and Cards Against Humanity where everyone has to impress a single player. Rather than just tossing cards into a pile, though, this is a game that demands a little theatre. The premise is that you have good traits (white flags) and bad traits (red flags), and the judge player is choosing which one they would take on a date. You have to sell your good traits (is a billionaire, can travel through dimensions, celebrity) while making your bad traits (has 100 teeth, sounds just like your mother) seem inconsequential. It demands a lot of thinking on your feet and reading the judge, plus the rounds go quick.

Drinking Game: If you ain’t first, you’re last. (All players but each round’s winner take a drink)

Rage Potential: Minimal. If you get mad playing this one, it’s on you.

 

Sheriff of Nottingham

                You get to lie to your friends. Okay, okay, its technically “bluffing” if you want to be pedantic about it. Basically this is a game where each round one person is the sheriff, and the others are trying to smuggle goods/contraband through in pouches. Whether or not you’ll be busted comes down to an array of lying, bribing, trickery, and general deception. It’s a ton of fun, especially as you learn your friend’s tells and tactics. It’s also a very easy game to pick up as you play, since almost all of the mechanics are interpersonal.

Drinking Game: Liar liar, cup on fire. (If you get caught lying, you drink. If you’re the sheriff and you wrongly accuse someone of lying, you drink)

Rage Potential: Some. Slip a really good hand of contraband past a sheriff and they may briefly lose their cool, but since everyone is a liar it never lasts long.

 

Elder Sign

                This one is a classic for a reason, and it’s also way more complex than the previous games mentioned so I won’t try to delve much into the details. What you need to know, and why I like this game so much, is that it’s Players vs. The Game, meaning everyone who plays is on the same side. You’re working together to stop an abomination from rising, so it’s the kind of game where you all win together or lose together. Cooperative games hit a good spot with me, it makes the table more communal and means that good or bad, the tide turns for all of us evenly. That’s also the same reason that I like playing craps more than any other casino game.

Drinking Game: DOOOOOOM! (Drink everytime a Doom or Elder Sign token is added)

Rage Potential: Minimal. While there will be bad breaks, and you might lose, the anger is always aimed toward the dice/game, since that’s the actual enemy.

 

The Voting Game

                You’ll need a decent group for this one; I’d recommend 5 at the smallest to keep things interesting. It works well with both friends and strangers, although they probably won’t be strangers for long when playing this. The game is simple, a card gives a prompt (Who is most likely to kill a case of beer in a night?) and then everyone anonymously votes for the player they think fits the bill. Some of the prompts are dirty, some are silly, some are just off the wall, but it’s usually all in good fun. This is the only game that I will say I strongly recommend adding the drinking game too, however, because it tacks on an extra layer that really adds to the experience.

Drinking Game: Who said what? (Guess who voted for you. If you get it right, they drink. Get it wrong, and you drink. No confirming or denying accusations until every player has made their guesses.)

Bonus Drinking Game: They know about you. (If every other player votes for one person on a prompt, there are no guesses and that player takes a shot.)

Rage Potential: Moderate. I mean… yeah, nature of this game. Just try to keep it all in good fun, and maybe skip over cards you think might hurt your friends’ feelings.

 

The Red Dragon Inn

                Let’s close this off with a game that’s actually about drinking. In this game, you are a party of adventurers who have just wrapped a quest, so now you’re getting shitfaced in the bar with your friends. Like Elder Sign before, there’s a lot to delve into on this one, but once you get the hang of things it’s pretty straightforward. Unlike Elder Sign, however, you are very much playing against your friends on this one. There are countless ways to screw your other players over while helping yourself, and who is in the lead changes with sudden and constant frequency as the game goes on.

Drinking Game: Duh (You drink when your character has to drink)

Rage Potential: Holy shit. This isn’t quite as high up there as Munchkin, but the constant swing of momentum means you’ll see people go from first to last in the span of a few turns. So yeah, put on some soothing music and maybe slip your more high-tension players a little tea to mellow them out.

                As an aside, I love learning new games, so if you have any you love throw them in the comments below. Especially if they have drinking games attached!

2017 Wrap Up

               Oh 2017. For the world as a whole, you were a god damn shitshow, but other sites will be covering that with more skill and research than I could ever hope to, so instead we’ll keep this more self-focused. Otherwise, we’ll all start drinking now and not stop until 2019. For me, this year seemed to fly by, as I bounded from one ambitious project to another. Thankfully, I learned my lesson in years prior and didn’t over-extend, so it was a very happy bouncing as I wasn’t completely crushed under deadlines.

                Per the usual format, I’m going to take a couple of paragraphs to look back at all I managed this year, and I would encourage you to do the same. Consistently, I go into these thinking I’ll have nothing to write, and by the end I am shocked at all that has happened. Make a few lists for yourself; you might be amazed at the memories that spring up when you start digging for them.

                In a lot of ways, 2017 was the opposite of 2016. Whereas last year I only released sequels to existing properties, in 2017 I launched a new series with Forging Hephaestus, and released my first standalone in years with Second Hand Curses. Second Hand Curses also marked a new experience for me as it was my first time working with Audible as a publisher, and my first audio-exclusive book. That’s not to say it was all new though, the fourth Fred novel, Fangs of Freelance, was my other book this year and marked a significant change in Fred’s life (that’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers). My own life changed as well during 2017. I moved out of Deep Ellum and managed to buy a house in the suburbs. I also learned my neighborhood takes Halloween fucking seriously, which is rad as shit but means I have to bring it hard next year! Outside of just Texas, I had a lot happen as well. I stepped up my Con game, hitting places like Charlotte, Denver, Phoenix, and Austin. In Charlotte, I got to do a live A&D podcast with every member present for the first time. I also got a hangover that could slay a god, but that’s just part of the experience. Speaking of Authors & Dragons, we launched our Patreon in 2017, and started producing our bonus content with the Mimic Chest. I got to meet Gordon Korman, one of my lifelong literary heroes, as well as the talented Kirby Heyborne who does the voice of my Fred books. And, lest we ever forget, I made some new Drinkalong Power Hours.

                And yet, busy a year as it was, come January 1st it all fades into the rearview mirror, so let’s turn our eyes toward the horizon and the year yet to come. As most of you probably know by this point, I believe in New Year’s Goals, not resolutions, and I’ve got a few in mind for 2018!

 

2018 Goals

                1. Publish Super Powereds: Year 4. Now from the announcement blog a few weeks ago you know this is on track, but it is still very much a big part of my 2018 plan and I’m giving the book a little space here.

                2. Finish and Publish Fred #5. This is going to be a fun one, and while there’s still a bit while to go I’m excited about getting this one out to you. As always, since I use a publisher for these they are out of my hands on the release dates, but if we keep the same time frame as usual then you should be getting this one sometime in summer, with the audio version to follow months later.

                3. Write and Publish a new Spells, Swords, & Stealth book. That’s right my RPG fans, the first book I’m working on this year (after Fred #5 is wrapped) will be the continuing adventures of Thistle, Eric, Gabrielle, Grumph, Timuscor, and, of course, Mr. Peppers. The goal is to have it out by fall 2018, though we might slip into winter depending on how long everything takes.

                4. Writing Villains’ Code 2. I’m not thinking this one will hit the market in 2018, given the size of these monsters and the fact that it has another book ahead of it in the queue. Still, I’d feel good if I got this one completed in 2018, both because it will let the editors get moving so we can pull off a 2018 release, and because I just can’t wait to jump back into that world and tell some new stories.

                5. Do a Full Year of Shingles with A&D. By this point you’ve learned about our new project, and honestly this one is almost cheating as a goal. Given how many we’ve got locked and ready to publish, there’s little change of us failing on this one, yet it is still something I want to see through, so damnit that’s a goal!

                6. Focus My Cons. With writing planned out, a big goal for me this year is to use what I’ve learned and start doing cons more intelligently. Instead of pinging around, I’m hoping to hit a few bigger ones in large geographic areas, allowing me to meet with the most number of fans and hopefully give most of you a con that’s quasi-nearby if you want to say hello. So far the only ones I know for certain are Emerald Comic Con and 90% ConCarolina, so if you’re around Charlotte or Seattle I’ll be out there. As for the rest, watch the Events page and I’ll make announcements as soon as I get confirmations.

                7. TV/Movie Deal. Hey, just because it hasn’t happened in years before is no reason to stop trying. Every year is a new opportunity, and besides, if I was going to give up easy this is not the profession I would have chosen.

                8. More Live Events. By this point, I’ll have done the Wine Walk with readers down in Deep Ellum, but I hope to have more in the year ahead. I’ve got a few ideas, like doing an actual launch party for Year 4 somewhere in DFW, and my general goal is to make myself a little more available to readers. Expect some missteps and false starts as I get my feet wet in this area, but eventually I’ll figure things out and hopefully put on a few great events for everyone.

                That feels like enough to take up a big chunk of the year. What about you all, though? Tell me your New Year’s Goals in the comments below, as well as if you accomplished any you set for 2017. Thanks to all of you for making this year so adventurous and entertaining, I can only imagine what 2018 has in store for us all.

Drew's Holiday Cocktail Guide

                As you all may have figured out by the site, books, blogs, Power Hour videos, tweets, and general lifestyle: I’m a fan of booze. Not to the extent of my younger days, but then we can’t stay flammable all the time. Got to have something to look forward to on the weekends. Now with the holidays upon us, I know many of you are off to see families or work events where pounding a full bottle of wine is seen as “unprofessional” or “a desperate cry for help”. Well fear not, readers, for I am here to provide you with some festive drinks that celebrate the holiday season while also allowing you to get torn up when your racist uncle starts getting political.

 

Eggnog

                Hang on, hang on, don’t call me fucker and click the “X” just yet. I’m not talking about store bought shit. That is basically flavored milk… which to an extent is true of all eggnog, but it’s really true in those cases. Homemade Eggnog is a whole other entity unto itself. I thought I hated eggnog for the longest time, then my family started crafting its own, and that shit has become a holiday staple. Without fail, every year, we whip up a batch only to have a guest say they don’t like eggnog, to which we reply that yes they do; they just don’t know it yet. And we have yet to be proven wrong.

                Now, for our purposes what makes eggnog so great is that you must put booze in it. Literally, it’s a core component. The alcohol cooks the raw egg yolks like lime juice in a ceviche, ensuring no one gets sick. So with a drink that’s going to smell like bourbon regardless, you can easily slip a floater of whatever size you like in there and it will look/smell about the same. Eggnog is a perfect concealment device for hooch, allowing you to chug however much is necessary to forget about how itchy that “ironically” ugly sweater you’re wearing is. Plus, when made well, it is fucking delicious. In fact, I think I’ll have some now.

 

Fire-Cider

                This is the easiest thing to make, because it’s two ingredients and one cooking apparatus. Ready? Take a bottle of cider, pour it into a crock pot, and then add Fireball (or cinnamon whiskey if you have a different preferred brand). How much Fireball? Well, how good do you want the party to be? I like to start with half a bottle then allow people to add floaters as needed, but you do you. Turn the crock pot to low, leave it for about 20 minutes, and when you come back you will have a delicious warmed cider that has a hint of a punch, but doesn’t betray the powerful amount of hooch inside.

                As mentioned above, this is a great one to pair with floaters as it will smell/look the same as the normal glasses people are drinking. Be wary of this drink, however. Make it too strong, and the rest of the family might accidentally get tipsy as well. No one needs to hear Grandpa start talking about what words he used to be able to say back in the “good” old days. You know your family and their tolerance, choose your amounts wisely. Mmm, this has put me in the mood for Fire-Cider though. Be right back.

 

Wine

                Man, wine is great, right? So tasty, comes in bottles, and hey, drinking it is considered classy. You can go whole fucking hog on some wine and who’s going to notice? I’ve got a bottle right here, well what’s left of a bottle, and damn does it vanish quickly.

                You can also fortify your wine with a little clear liquor; let’s say vodka, to bring on an extra punch. The taste is… hang on let me take a sip. Yup, that’s fucking terrible. But hey, it still looks like wine, and that’s what really matters. Just pound it fast and try to disguise the wincing on your face with every sip. After the first few gulps, the enhanced wine actually gets easier to drink. Weird how that works, huh? Hey, is this room hot to anyone else? How strange. And where did the rest of my wine go?

 

Shots

                You know what, fuck it. Rather than hiding what we’re doing, let’s own that shit. Sit at the dinner table dead-eyed with only a bottle of booze and a shot glass, steadily downing one drink after the other. If that doesn’t scare away conversation, I can’t imagine what will. And this booze is delicious, it goes down smooth, there’s really no downside here to-

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Mimosas

                Shhh, not so loud. Okay, so perhaps my earlier entries on this list were a tad ambitious. After an intentional nap, definitely not a drunken passout with my face on the keyboard, I’ve considered that perhaps one doesn’t need to hit it quite that hard at family gatherings. In the event that you do, however, then you’ll be faced with mankind’s oldest and most powerful enemy: the hangover. Here, we turn to our ancient guardian, the mimosa. Its delicious carbonation makes the act of drinking it feel good, and the orange juice’s acidity hides the flavors that might trigger our hangover into rejecting more booze.

                Should you, somehow, be in the mood to still really fucking crush it, then one can easily turn a mimosa into a screwdriver hybrid by adding a splash of vodka. But maybe do that sparingly, it is the holidays after all. Unless your family also parties, in which case go fucking nuts. As for me, I’m taking mine normal now; the last few entries showed me the folly of pride and ambition. No more hard drinking for this fellow today.

                I mean… unless anyone else is in the mood for eggnog?

 

Post-Script: As much as this blog was obviously a joke, I really do advocate the deliciousness of eggnog. I can’t share my family recipe on here as the elders consider it a secret, but I can point you to the one person whose recipes I trust implicitly, Alton Brown, and he happens to have a recipe for this very drink. Enjoy! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/eggnog-recipe2-2013745

Super Powereds: Year 4 Release Date/Info

                I know this one has been a long time coming. Ever since I announced the book was fully written a few months ago, this has been the topic I get questioned about most often. So, rather than drag things out, let me hit the main point right here at the start, then use the rest of the blog to discuss reasoning and other useful details. Everyone ready for the big part? Here we go:

                Super Powereds: Year 4, will be released in ebook form on February 20th, 2018.

                Okay then, now that 90% of the people who will read this blog just clicked away, let’s tackle some of the questions I know you’re all going to have about this announcement!

 

Q: Will the serial really be running until February?

A: No, it will not. In building this schedule, I had to account for the longest-case scenario, meaning the longest amount of time it might take for the serial to finish from the point I started planning for release. The goal was to make sure the story was finished online so that no one felt required to buy the book lest they fall behind. Since we’ve hit the Bonus Chapter goal so consistently over these last few months, y’all are ahead of that situation, meaning you’ll wrap well before the launch date. My editors and cover artist still need that time though, so it can’t really be moved up.

 

Q: So how much is left for the serial?

A: I’ve actually made a conscious decision not to tell anyone that. I think not knowing where the end is makes things more thrilling, because you never know for sure if things are really concluding or if there’s another twist in the road ahead. It’s one of the unique features of web-serials that I enjoy, so I kept it going. But we’ll wrap before February.

 

Q: What about the audiobook?

A: Yes, there will be a Super Powereds: Year 4 audiobook. In fact, Kyle McCarley has been so generous as to agree to join me for the Year 4 Digital Release Party, meaning you can talk to him about the great work he’s done on the series so far! That said, he’ll at most be getting the manuscript a couple of weeks before the ebook goes live, so please don’t expect him to have an audio release date by then. The audio company itself makes those calls, and until they do we’re no more in the loop than you folks. As always, the best guess I can offer based on history is that the audiobook will come 3 – 4 months after the ebook.

 

Q: Will it be on non-Amazon sites?

A: That’s very unlikely. I will have epub (non-Amazon e-reader files) copies available on the site as usual, but most of the other systems aren’t super easy for self-publishers. Working within them often requires a huge chunk of time and energy to change formatting, especially for longer books like these. The much more efficient version is for me to toss them up on here and allow folks who want them to pick one up.

 

Q: Will there be print versions?

A: Yes, although maybe not on the same release day. Folks, let’s be real here, Year 4 is fucking huge. I strained the limits of Createspace to get Year 3 on there, and it was about 2/3rds the size of Year 4. My only real hope is to make a hardcover version through Ingram-Spark, the same people who do excellent versions of Forging Hephaestus. Their turnaround isn’t as quick as Amazon, however, and since I can’t start on it until I have a finished manuscript as well, I don’t want to promise a print version will be available on the same day since that might be out of my hands. Hopefully not too much of a release difference though.

 

Q: Will you be doing signed pre-orders again?

A: This will also depend on turnaround time from Ingram-Spark. Let’s say that I probably will at some point, but not until the print side of things is up and running. I’m starting to realize why most authors don’t write books that are nearly half a million words long: sheer fucking logistics.

 

                I think that knocks out the main ones, but feel free to leave some in the comments below and maybe I’ll do another blog or add them on a Q&A. In all honesty, I’ll admit that if I’d been more aggressive on the schedule, we might have been able to get the book out a hair sooner, but I’ve run so many tight deadlines through the years that I thought just this once I’ll try giving us some breathing room. As these things tend to go, I’ll probably still be down to the wire.

                I’m glad the release worked out like this, though. Most of you probably don’t remember this, but the first Super Powereds book hit the Amazon store in February of 2013 (Yes, I know the Amazon listing has a different date; I had to do some updates later on). It was an early birthday gift to myself, taking the plunge and putting a book on Amazon’s shelves, and I like that we’ve come back around to the same timeframe for the end of the series.

                What a difference 5 years can make, huh? Back then I was working in the cubicle, writing in my spare time and dreaming of so much more. Cut to February of 2018, and Year 4 will be my 16th book released. That is crazy to think about, especially when I look back at the version of me who wasn’t sure he even had it in him to finish a single novel. I won’t get too introspective, since we’ll save that for the annual year in review, but there is one thing that needs to be said as we move towards the end.

                Thank you. Thank you to all of the wonderful readers who asked for that first ebook, and who then put their money down to help make it successful. Thank you to all of the people that have taken the time to leave reviews on my books through the years, because that really does matter more than you might expect. Thank you for your support, be it financial, personal, or just putting your eyes on the page. All of it counts, because without you all I’m just sitting here telling stories to myself. Thank you for making these last 5 years an incredible journey. I know things are changing; the end of the serial and my first series is a major milestone/shakeup over here as well. Regardless of how the format might alter through the years to come though, trust me that I love this job and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can. You continue reading, I’ll continue writing.

                And together, we’ll see what the next 5 years has in store for us all.

Non-Writing Shows That Teach You About Writing

                The time drawing close to us is a hectic one; I know that as well as the rest of you. Between travel, family, decorating, holiday shopping, and countless other practices that take time out of the day, I suspect many folks will go from the high of putting out words every day during NaNoWriMo to struggling in the vain hopes of finding the time to put out a couple of sentences. Such is the burden of post-NaNo December, but worry not my friends.

                As a devourer of all media, I’ve stumbled across a few gems in the past, things that are both enjoyable to watch and also give greater insight to what the writing process entails. That probably wasn’t the intent with most of these, yet they deliver all the same, so as you’re stuck in a car or family gathering, wishing you could sneak off to write, you may take some comfort in streaming one of these selections through your phone. It might not be actual writing, however it does offer a chance to learn, and that’s helpful too.

 

How WWE/Movies Should Have Booked

                I’ve mentioned these before in passing, but the series really does warrant its own entry. And fear not, my non-wrestling fans, because they also have some of these that deal with popular movies as well. Essentially, the host (Adam) breaks down an old existing plot-thread, analyzing why it didn’t work, what parts it failed on, and where it managed to shine. Then he repackages it, using only the available talent/characters from that era, and books the angle in a more satisfying way. On the surface, it’s a simple concept, but these are videos I tell a lot of writers to watch because of how much insight they offer.

                Re-booking an old match or movie means really digging into the cuts of the story. Dissecting plots, understanding characters, pulling out choices and tropes to turn around in your hand and examine from all directions. Seeing the components of a story laid bare is excellent training to do the same in your own works, clinically dissecting every aspect to make sure all the pieces fit together well. Beyond that though, the re-bookings are a fantastic breakdown of long-term story-telling. Suspension is built, false-starts occur, some wrestlers are made to look strong while protecting those around them from coming off weak, character threads are developed, it’s a really in-depth process.

                Whether you go with movie or wrestling versions, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of storyline development, especially if you write anything related to action. Plus the episodes are entertaining in their own right.

 

Extra Creditz

                Now for this one, you have to pick and choose a little more. Since this video series is about games and their industry as a whole, not all of them are writing related. Be discerning as you choose your episodes, it won’t be hard to find the ones related to stories or writing. Much like our first example, these often focus on breaking things down to their core elements, examining what works, what used to work, and what is starting to work now.

                The biggest difference is that rather than do this to an existing story, the host (Dan) applies the process to larger concepts. My personal favorites are ones where they break down different genres. What makes good horror? Is it jump scares? Escalating tension? The unknown? All of these are looked at, as they have established places in the genre. But drilling a genre down to its key elements is a great experience for anyone hoping to write in it, because doing so ensures we’re using the right tools to draw the appropriate reactions from our audience.

                I’ll also add that even the non-writing episodes of this one are interesting as someone who merely purchases video games, for those of you even tangentially related to the industry I imagine it would be highly entertaining content, so don’t be afraid to branch out and try a few of the others if you like what the writing ones offer up.

 

The Good Place (Season 1)

                To be upfront, I’ve loved all of Season 2 so far as well, but if we’re talking about learning how to write then Season 1 is the best example I can offer up, for the simple fact that I know it pays off. I’ve talked about this show before in context of a “shit you need to be watching” article, however at the time I was trying to convey how enjoyable it was. The truth is, it’s also a damn masterclass in multi-layered writing.

                The dialogue is more than quick and funny, in context of a few characters it’s also literally people having two different conversations at the same time, with those in the dark not understanding what’s going on. Aside from the quality and the lines, what I think shines most about this example is the forethought. This is a season that went in with a specific, planned out goal. Every action, every bit of wacky development or dialogue, served to move us closer to that big finish. And while it does leave us on a cliffhanger, the power of the reveal still leaves us feeling overall satisfied with the journey to get there.

                People talk a lot about how shitty Lost was because it opened up ideas and plot threads that it never properly closed, and The Good Place is the polar opposite of that. It is so neat and tidy that every time I watch it, I think about how I could streamline and better direct my plots. This one doesn’t teach you explicitly about writing as much as it demonstrates the power of thoughtful plotting, and personally I think there’s a lot to be learned from such stellar examples. Fingers crossed that the rest of the series plays out so well, but after Season 1 they have absolutely earned the benefit of the doubt.

 

Drew’s Drinkalong Power Hours

                Okay, so these won’t teach you jack about writing, but they will give you a chance to pound booze with me and friends being silly, and sometimes that’s what you need to get through the holidays. Happy watching!

Fragments of Drew's Banned Christmas Special

In 2014, the Thunder Pear Publishing Animated Holiday Special aired for the first and only time on a local cable access station. Despite the small audience, it was the most complained about piece of media for the entire year, and has subsequently been banned from ever being shown again. All copies were destroyed, and most scripts burned. Here, we present some of the few scraps that have been recovered. Please proceed forward at your own discretion.

 

Interior. Sunlight streams through a window, onto a sea of empty beer cans and liquor bottles, with a single human form passed out amidst their depths. As the light falls upon his face, Drew stirs from his reverie, sitting up slowly and uttering his first words of the day.

Drew: Why is it this fucking bright on Christmas Eve? Suck my dick, Fall Back, you outdated piece of shit.

Drew finds a bottle with a few drops left and hurls them down his throat lazily before staggering up.

Drew: Guess I have to get my shopping done today. Pretty crafty of me to wait until the day before Christmas, when everyone else will have all their shopping done and the malls will be empty. Good thinking, Past Drew.

 

Section Missing

 

With a sudden burst of movement, Drew slams the beer bottle down on the counter, turning it into a jagged weapon.

Drew: Back off Frosty. I just wasted the rest of my beer, so know that I’m serious when I say I will face-fuck you with the pointy ends of this bottle if you take a step closer.

Frosty (hands going up, dropping crowbar to his feet): Whoa man, we can talk about this. I came on aggressively, but there’s no reason we can’t share the magic mittens.

Drew: Sure, that’s probably what you told the magician when you made off with his hat. Well, forget it you soft-serve fuck, I’m not letting your frozen claws anywhere near these.

Drew grabs the mittens from the enchanted box, slipping one on his free, non-bottle holding hand. Instantly, a glow appears on his wrist, quickly spreading across his whole body.

Frosty: Looks like we’ll have to catch up later.

Drew (noticing the glow): Oh what the living fuck is it this time. I swear to god if I see one more werewolf today I’m-

 

Section Missing

 

Grabbing the reins, Drew jerks them up, pulling the reindeer out of their spiral. As the sled levels off, Drew celebrates by grabbing a bottle of tequila from the floor boards and downing a quarter of it.

Santa (climbing up from the back seat): Are you sure you should be drinking during this?

Drew: I’m like ninety percent sure there are no laws against driving a magical sleigh while drinking, so kiss my ass and hold on tight.

With a snap of the reins, Drew drives the flying reindeer forward, narrowly avoiding the next round of fire from Negative Santa, who has emerged from the cloudbank.

Drew: We have to draw this bastard out if we want a chance at beating him. At least we killed Negative Rudolph so he doesn’t have the constant aura of shadow to hide in.

Santa: But how do we kill him? He’s like me, an immortal being sustained by the feelings of the world. Except instead of good-will and hope, he is made of greed and envy.

Drew: Don’t you worry about that, I know a few drinks that can kill anything, even things immortal or already dead. The key is getting him to chug them, but I’ve got an idea. People already leave out milk for you, so if we-

 

Section Missing

 

Blood pools on the floor as Drew spits more from his mouth, glaring back defiantly at the elf with the crimson-stained knuckles. Next to him, Jack Frost stirs, the effects of the potion finally wearing off.

Drew: Is that the best you can do? Maybe you should build a toy that doesn’t hit like a magical creature made from light and snow. Or buy some brass knuckles or something, it’s not on me to tell you how to do your job.

Head Elf: You think you’re being cute, don’t you? Well let me tell you, this is just delaying the inevitable.

Drew: You’re half right. I was delaying, and what’s going to happen is inevitable. Because you were so worried about me and the Lord of Winter here that you let one key element slip your attention.

Through the window, a massive hand coated in white fur bursts in, grabbing some of the background elfs and pulling them through. Their screams can be heard for several seconds, followed by an audible crunch and silence.

Head Elf (terror-stricken): I forgot about the yeti.

Drew: You forgot about the mother fucking yeti.

 

Section Missing

 

Stumbling, Drew runs into the empty field, Frosty hot on his trail with a scythe of ice already dripping blood. Drew dashes forward to the center of the icy grass, turning around to face Frosty head on.

Frosty: No beer bottle this time.

Drew: You upped your game, only seemed fair that I up mine.

Frosty: Is running away your idea of upping your game?

Drew: Oh, you thought you were driving me here? Guess again, shitberg, I’m the one who was leading you.

From his pocket, Drew produces the sharpened beer bottle cap from the Toy Store Battle. He jams it into his palm, allowing drops of blood to fall upon the frozen ground.

Drew: By the ancient accords of leaves and blood, the rite of Fall and the vows of the Last Nightmare, I hereby invoke my privilege as a Savior of Autumn. Come forth, he of twisted vines and gnarled root. Come forth, he of the burning mouth and endless hunger. I call you forth and shout your name, now heed my call. Come forth, Grand Pumpkin!

The ground rumbles as a mighty Jack-o-lantern rises from the dirt, burning eyes and mouth supported by a spider-like body made of vines. It turns to Drew, meeting his gaze before directing its attention to Frosty.

Grand Pumpkin: This makes two. One more, and I get your soul.

Drew: I know the bargain we struck, now deal with this chilled dog turd so I can save-

 

Section Missing

 

Sitting by the fire, Drew rests his feet and lifts a drink after a long day’s work. Just as the eggnog hits his lips, his eyes go wide with realization.

Drew: Oh fuck! I forgot to buy gifts in all the confusion.

Suddenly, the door bursts open, a re-animated elf corpse with a rifle aimed right at Drew’s head. Rolling to the side, Drew ducks behind the couch and hurls his glass directly into the creature’s eyes. A gunshot rings out, and the elf falls to the ground, dead with a hole in its skull. Santa steps through the door, gun in one hand and sack of presents in the other.

Santa: Sorry, still got some winter cleaning to do. But I thought I could help with your shopping as thanks for today. Also, sorry about the blood curse on your head now.

Drew: Psh, I collect them, no worries there. Now let’s talk presents!

The camera pulls out, back through the same window we started in, showing a herd of re-animated elfs moving into position around the house. Close on “The End?” to leave room for the inevitable sequel.

When Good Advice Goes Bad

                Writing advice is pretty much everywhere in the writing community, shit even I have an entire category on this blog called “Underqualified Advice” because I at least believe in truth in advertising. And for the most part, the advice you read is well-intentioned, if not always effective. I’ve covered this a few times before, but the hard truth about the publishing world is that no one knows what works 100% of the time, otherwise publishers and authors would churn out nothing but hits. We only know what works best for us, with the results being weirdly impossible to duplicate at times, and even then sometimes what worked in the past suddenly fails in the present. Take advice, even the well-meaning and honest kind, with a grain of salt is my point here.

                Outside of that, however, there are some tidbits of “wisdom” that get tossed around pretty freely, so much so that they’ve begun to get divorced from their real meaning and are turning into actual bad advice. In honor of the last Friday of this year’s NaNoWriMo, these are a couple of the ones I wanted to look at today, and we’re going to kick-off with the bit I think I see used the most often and the most detrimentally.

 

Kill Your Darlings

What really means: If you love something, but it isn’t good for the story, then you have to be willing to cut it.

How it’s wrongly used: If you like it, cut it.

                So I’m going to have to preface this whole blog with an acknowledgment that to many of you, this is going to be a big ole “duh”. If you’ve been around for a while, the real meaning here is clear, and you wouldn’t mistakenly take the wrong form of the advice. Where this is dangerous is mostly for newer writers, the ones still finding their footing and seeking out wisdom from those who came before, sometimes following it even when it seems incorrect, because succeeding at writing is still a weirdly arcane, mysterious topic from the outside.

                With everyone’s ego properly soothed, let’s take this one apart. Killing your darlings means being ruthless for the sake of a story. Because the book as a whole has to be your primary objective, the novel can’t exist to support one scene or character. If there’s an element that makes one character better but the book worse, then it should go. It can be hard, too. I’ve mentioned before that it took me two drafts before I hit the right set-up for Forging Hephaestus. There were other characters and ideas in those earlier drafts, ones I really loved and wanted to write about, but at the end of the day they were pulling down the overall story. Losing them, sometimes with replacements and sometimes without, was a big part of finally getting the book right. That’s what it means to kill your darlings.

                On the other hand, just having a component you like isn’t inherently bad. Sticking with FH, I love the side-character Johnny Three Dicks. Writing for him cracked me up, and I like to think that helped more levity make it onto the page, especially in scenes where we needed a lighter tone. Johnny wasn’t bad for the book, although he also wasn’t integral, he was just a good comic relief opportunity that I had fun with. Liking him didn’t mean he had to go, because he wasn’t dragging down the story. Being ruthless for the sake of the book is one thing, but the idea of cutting everything you love is silly. It’s your book, putting passion and love into it will make things better, as long as you’re willing to cut them if the story demands it.

 

Write Everyday

What it really means: Writing is a long process, so doing a little bit everyday helps you practice as well as add to your output.

How it’s wrongly used: You aren’t a real writer, or aren’t trying hard enough, unless you write every single day.

                Writing a book is a weird process. For a very, very long time it feels like you’re doing nothing, because seeing numbers tick up on a word processor isn’t the same as seeing a house being built. There’s nothing tangible, no piece to place your hand upon and say “I did this” with a sigh of pride. What is worse, most authors suffer from so much insecurity that we never feel sure that what we’ve created is any good, so even when we’re done we don’t feel sure our efforts weren’t a waste of time.

                It’s easy to get discouraged during that process, it’s why I know a lot of people who enjoy writing but a relatively small percentage of them have finished a book. Demanding that you do something each day, perhaps only a hundred words or so, is a solid method to force yourself along through the hardest parts of the novel. It makes you keep going even when you don’t feel the progress, and helps you eventually reach the ending. “Write everyday” is a fine technique to help new writers gain confidence and overcome a lot of the common hurdles we all face. It is not, and never has been, the mark of a true writer.

                Being in the business, I talk to a load of other writers, and virtually none of us follow that rule. I’ve got what is considered to be a very high wordcount output, and I only write on weekdays. There are times when the very act of being a writer means I can’t writer, such as when I need to spend days doing edits and reviews to ensure a book is polished enough for publishing. Hell, sometimes I’ll take an entire week off just to read other people’s works. Beyond the fact that there is more work to being a writer than writing, we all need breaks from everything. I fucking love watching Arrested Development, but if you put it on 24/7 pretty soon I’d want a break to watch Good Place or something else. Resting is important, mentally recharging is important, life outside of work is important. Writing a little everyday is a good habit to get in; however, it should by no means feel like a box you have to check in order to count as a “real” writer.

 

                The big takeaway here should be about the same as with every bit of advice that centers on writing: be skeptical, and remember that even when someone is trying to give you honest help it might not work. Writing is very much a process of figuring out your own methods and tactics to do your best, I know some who can fly in the face of every piece of common knowledge yet still succeed, while others follow the rules and have trouble getting traction. I also have met the exact opposite, people who tried to go around conventional wisdom only to hit nothing but walls while others walked the worn path with relative ease. Just remember, there is no silver bullet, no one trick to make it all click. Writing is trial and error, slow progression, and a constant education on what works best for you. Even my advice might not work for a lot of you, and that’s okay. Because if you really love it and keep plugging away, eventually you’ll find you own best practices, and that’s a big part of the journey as well.

Why Go Indie?

                As many of you probably know, I am considered a hybrid author, meaning I put out books through both traditional and independent (self) publishing. One of the more interesting misconceptions I sometimes run into, though, is folks who think all of my works after that first traditional publishing deal are also traditionally published, essentially assuming that I would stop going indie the moment I had the chance. In truth, I only do one traditionally published series because I genuinely love going indie, especially for projects where it’s a better fit. Today, I wanted to focus on some of the reasons why authors, both new and established, are taking on independent publishing.

 

The Money

                Look, we’ve got to get this part out of the way, so we may as well knock it out first. And, to be frank, money is a big part of the writing world. Most authors are not Neil Gaiman or J.K. Rowling, living off (well-deserved) fame and movie deals. We’re working folks who keep a budget and watch our income just like everyone else. So being able to make more from a book matters, because it might be the difference between another year doing the job or having to update a resume.

                Amazon pays out 70% of royalties to indie authors. There are actually a few exceptions and stipulations on that, but for now let’s stick to the general case which is a firm 70%. No traditional publisher will match that, they couldn’t afford it even if they really wanted to. From what I’ve read and heard, the average royalty rate for traditional authors is ~15%-40%, depending on clout, agent, negotiations, blah blah blah. For now, let’s be generous with an average and say the general traditional pub rate is 30%. On a $5 book, that means every buy from Amazon earns you $3.5, while one through a trad pub will pay out $1.5. Now $2 doesn’t seem like a lot, but multiply it over hundreds of copies, and that’s a lot of cash to miss out on, especially for those living on the budget bubble.

                Of course, the trade-off for the royalty change is that a traditional publisher will invest in marketing and distribution, ideally making up for the rate difference by bringing in a greater volume of customers. However, no one knows for sure what books will hit, and some have a limited audience regardless of how much marketing goes out. As an author, there are times when the trade-off doesn’t make fiscal sense, especially for the bigger folks with their own followings. It’s on us to know which projects to take through which system to help stay afloat, and knowing both markets well helps immeasurably with those decisions.

 

The Control

                Control of a novel is important to every author, but the amount of control and importance of retaining it will vary from project to project. Now I’m going to say off the bat that REUTS has always been great about this, I don’t want anyone to read this part as me secretly taking them to task. Not all publishers are so good, though, and that can be a real turn-off. Some books have riskier elements, things that the normal publishing world will reject. Cursing is a big one, depending on your target audience, as are violence, sex, etc.

                If you write a normal novel that fits within expected content guidelines of the genre, then you don’t have a lot to fear from traditional publishing. There will be changes and tweaks, that’s what editing is for in the first place, but overall the story has a low chance of being significantly altered. If you’re trying something risky, however, then traditional publishing will probably push back on you. They are, after all, businesses that need to break even, so investing in something that breaks with the usual styles or expectations means putting their money at risk. In those cases they will often A) Reject a book outright or B) Try and edit it into compliance with the rest of their genre/catalogue.

                Using some of my own stuff for quick examples: the variances can be content such as cursing and sex in a generally (pre-2010’s) kid-friendly genre like superheroes, style choices such as making a novel out of five novelettes, or even curious world-building choices like a character named Johnny Three Dicks. It’s worth noting that the middle example actually did go through a traditional publisher (REUTS), because not all of them will reject things that contain riskier elements. You don’t always have to take those projects indie, but if the odder aspects are really important to the author, then they’ll make sure to retain a necessary level of control with the publisher, or go indie. Like money before, the choice depends on the project and publisher in question.

 

The Schedule

                This one is going to seem weird to a lot of y’all, but believe it or not scheduling is a big part of writing. There’s a thing called the cliff, and while no one seems to agree exactly how long it takes to hit or how steep the drop off is, every author I’ve spoken to agrees it exists. Because of course it does, that’s the nature of media consumption. Essentially, when you release a new book it will sell well for a while (often lifting other books as well, especially those in a series), then less well, then less, until eventually it kind of stabilizes out at the resting point that it more or less hovers around. The drop off from top sales to the stabilization point is known as the cliff, since sales slide generally downward from release.

                How does that pertain to scheduling? Simple: knowing the cliff exists means authors have to plan for it. We don’t release two new books from different series in the same month because that’s a poor use of our limited release opportunities. Personally, I try to do three books a year spaced out semi-equidistantly, because that’s about the time my cliffs are hitting their bottoms. As soon as heat from one dies, ideally another will be swinging in to get folks excited. Other authors do their own schedules based on production, sales, and a myriad of other factors.

                Traditional publishers have their own schedules they have to work within, a carefully crafted timetable to get each book the most exposure possible before moving on to the next. And that’s totally fair for them, but it means you’ll often have little to no say on when your book might come out. For some authors, that can be downright dangerous. In a worst case scenario, they might find themselves competing against their own books, splitting their audience’s interest and potentially wasting the hype of a release.

                Like money and control before it, scheduling can be a big deal for authors, and going indie means ensuring we can set it all up exactly the way we need to in order to make sure things are flowing smoothly. Ultimately, the lesson I hope everyone takes from this isn’t that one form is inherently better than the other, only that both publishing models have risks and limitations that come with them. There is no right way to publish, only the method that best fits your particular project.

Common Con Conumdrums

               Since this blog is being posted right before I begin two weekends of conventions, I decided it was time to tackle some of the stuff people will ask me about during or before them, sort of an FAQ dedicated specifically to convention related stuff. Before we get directly into that, let’s knock out the first question that always comes up on these sorts of blogs: what conventions am I attending? Well, this weekend (Nov 11-12th) I’ll be at Phoenix Fan Fest in (surprise) Phoenix, Arizona. Next weekend (Nov 17-19th), I’ll be at Austin Comic Con in Austin Texas. Hopefully I’ll get to see lots of you there, and when you do come out…

               Feel Free to Ask for Signatures or Pictures. I’ve joked about this a few times on camera, saying I’ll even sign other people’s books if you want (still true) but I know some folks are unsure if its okay to ask me to sign a book they didn’t buy at the convention. Let me put that one to bed for good: I am always happy to sign stuff for fans who come out. Books if you have them, and I keep bookmarks on hand in case you don’t. Or business cards, or whatever. You made the effort to come out and find me at a con full of other fun stuff to entertain you, signing something is the least I can do to say thanks. As for pictures, I’ve seen people feel uncertain about asking for these, but as long as there isn’t anyone else waiting for something I’m happy to oblige. You might want to bring a stepstool though, I’m taller than you’re picturing. Taller. Taller. Scale it back a little. There we go.

               If I’m Passed Out At a Table, Wake Me With Gentle Shaking. I know, I know, it’s tempting to get a water bucket or something funny, but that risks getting the books wet, and nobody wants that. Just knock a few of the beer cans out of the way and give me a careful shake on the shoulder. That should rouse me to the land of the waking, if not the world of sobriety. You’ll know for sure it’s me by the Thunder Pear Publishing table runner, and all my neighbors whispering about the man doing a solo power hour in the middle of a convention’s sales floor.

               Should We Lock Eyes In the Elevator, the Duel Must Begin. Sorry, I don’t make the rules on this one, it’s handed down from that insane cult that raised me on the dirt streets of moonshine country for a few years. Some habits just can’t be broken though, and this is among them. The god of beer and fun demands we defy the slithering evil deity who lives in every unfinished drink, and to celebrate his law we must have a duel the moment our eyes meet in an elevator. Basically, Pokemon rules in that respect, although of course we don’t use animals in our contests. I will honor any of the traditional battles that you, the challenger, chooses: Speed-Chugging, Keg-Relay, or Finishing-a-Smirnoff-Ice. Brace yourself well if you select the last one, good challenger. It has felled competitors far stronger than either of us.

               Don’t Be Shocked If I Refer You to a Blog. This one is going to be a little more niche, but I’ve noticed that at some cons folks breaking into the business will ask me for advice on specific issues or have questions. Like with pictures before, as long as there’s no one else waiting I’m happy to help. The thing is, I’ve been at this for a long time, and while I try not to lean too much on advice blogs they have accumulated through the years. Consequently, sometimes folks will ask about an issue where the honest best answer I can give is to refer them to an old blog. Those are going to be more comprehensive than anything I can deliver in a fleeting conversation, and come with useful links, even sometimes pictures. This won’t be the case every time, of course, however if you inquire about a topic I’ve covered in detail then please don’t take me referring you to a blog as me brushing you off or anything like that, I’m merely trying to offer the most complete answer I can.

               If I’m In Costume, Just Roll With It. Generally, I don’t dress up at conventions for practical reasons. Packing costumes takes luggage space I don’t really have, and besides, the point of me being at these things is partially to make it easy on y’all by being as recognizable as possible. That said, there’s a lot of room for antics between breakfast drinking and the times that the vendor floors open, so I’m wearing half a dragon outfit and roaring, maybe just let it slide. And grab me some coffee if its convenient, probably going to need that when the buzz wears off. Also, if anyone asks, you were with me all morning at… sobriety prayer group? Yeah, that sounds like the activity of a man who wouldn’t drunkenly end up in part of a dragon suit.

               I Am No Longer Able to Engage in Improv Wrestling Matches. Sorry folks, I know the stories of me and John Hartness breaking tables at older cons have turned into the stuff of legends, but convention insurance has demanded that I no longer chokeslam opponents through other booth’s decorations, even the ones selling $30 t-shirts. It’s a big loss to us all, I know, however these cons belong to them, and we have to respect their wishes. From here on, I can only do works, not shoots, so all matches will need to be scripted and I can’t accept attendees as opponents any longer. If that last joke made no sense to you, look up what “work” and “shoot” mean, then read my blog about wrestling and writing. Oh shit, already doing that blog referral!

               I Am Always Thrilled to Meet Readers. So for the most part I’m sure you’ve all figured out this blog is 20% serious, 80% insanity to keep things fun, but I wanted to make crystal clear that this is part of the serious percentage. I love getting to meet people who read my books, especially those who care enough to spend the time and money on coming out to say hello. It’s one of the coolest parts of my job, and I am freaking jazzed for these next two weekends, and for Emerald City Comic Con in March. I hope I get to see loads of you at all of these!

The Difference Between "Written" and "Done"

                With Super Powereds: Year 4 officially written, I figured this was a good time to talk about the divide between what it means for a book to be written versus a book being finished. Since I made the post about completing the rough draft, folks have been excitedly waiting an announcement of a release date, some with very optimistic timetables in mind. Contrary to what you might think, however, there’s still quite a bit to do even after you’ve typed “The End” on a project. My efforts to pull back the curtain on what it means to write a book would be woefully incomplete if I didn’t cover what comes between that moment and an actual release. For example, even when the rough draft is done…

 

There’s Still Writing Left to Do

                Finishing a rough draft means you now know where everything ends up. That’s a nice feeling, but more than that it’s a very useful bit of information to have. Knowing the exact way everything plays out, more in depth than a plan or outline could provide, means it’s time to go back through the book and streamline it to make sure everything that came before is cohesive with the ending. Strip away the potential plot threads that never panned out, unless of course you want to tap them in future entries, but that’s getting a little more advanced. You’ll also want to ensure your foreshadowing is pointing in the proper directions, because sometimes in a book you’ll have an idea you aim at that ends up changing along the way. Rolling with shifts is plot is a big part of writing; however you still need to go back and clean up your unfinished bits once things are done.

                That’s just one aspect of what post rough draft edits entail. There’s also copy-editing, continuity checking, reworking any sections that don’t read strongly on this second pass, and a dozen more bits of tweaking. Some authors will actually rewrite their entire books after the rough draft, preferring to start completely over with the rough draft as a road map to follow.

                Don’t get me wrong, hitting the ending of a book is an amazing feeling, but if you hang up your keyboard at that exact moment, then you’re skipping over a lot of key work needed to make your book the best it can be.

 

Schedule Coordination Becomes Paramount

                This one is going to be a little more indie specific, since a publisher will do this part for you, but since it applies to the bulk of my work it seems worth covering. As I’ve said multiple times on this site, every indie author needs a good editor. More than one, if they have the time and funds. There might be one in a million authors with the discipline and analytical skill to objectively evaluate their own works, but never assume it’s you. Editors are essential to a good book, and in my case I use two of them because I know how prone to copy edits I am. Missing words, goofed punctuation, it’s a mess before all the editing sweeps.

                My editors, however, are people who exist outside of just when I need them. They have other clients and lives, which means I can’t simply plop my work onto their desk the minute I’m done. I have to find time in their schedule to handle whatever project I’m wrapping up, plus I have to stagger the schedules so one can edit the work, I can do reviews, then send it on to the next one, then another round of reviews, and then off to the beta readers, with one last session of reviews before I’ll feel confident that 99% of the issues are caught.

                Then there’s working with a cover artist, more scheduling, figuring out what would be a solid time to release your book that is comfortably far enough in the future that you’re sure the work will be done, and so on. Scheduling, of all things, becomes one of your most vital skills during post-production, when you’re trying to get everything done as quickly as possible while also not structuring your timeline so aggressively that one missed deadline sends everyone off the rails.

                My best advice on this is that as soon as you see the end of your book in sight, start sending emails and making plans. Keep it loose, but having an idea of everyone’s overall availability will at least give you an idea of what your timeframe options are once the rough draft is done.

 

The Optional Outsource Parts

                Barring an incredible gift for self-editing or some awesome artistic skills, the section above was largely about stuff that you have to outsource, no matter what. There are, however, smaller pieces of creating a book (aside from writing) that don’t always have to be done out of house. They do still need to be part of your schedule, though. That means you need to be aware of what they are and how long you’ll need to have them done versus if you can do them yourself.

                Formatting is the biggest part of this. There’s also putting together ads, creating physical promo materials, organizing launch events, and so on, but formatting is one that has to be dealt with regardless, so that’s where we’ll focus. To format a book means to structure it in a way that makes it look good on a specific medium. Creating an ebook, for example, requires different software and page setup instructions than creating a file for a print book. There are plenty of people who will handle this chore for you, often editors you work with will have these services available so you don’t even need to hunt down a new contact for help. But, as with every other aspect we discussed in the last section, that’s going to have an impact on your timetable.

                Having been at this for a while, I can get my books formatted for all types of release (digital, paperback, hardback) easily within an afternoon. If I were sending it out for someone else to handle, I would expect it to take a couple of days, even if they work as fast as I do. That extra time is what’s spent figuring out when they can do it, agreeing to terms, and so forth. Keeping tighter control of my schedule is why I learned to do a lot of this myself, its one less area where I have to worry about a delay knocking things out of sync. How much you do or don’t know how to handle on your own for these projects will definitely impact your release timeline, and while there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing it all you should make sure you’re allotting appropriate time to see the tasks done before launch.

                Hitting the end of a book is an amazing feeling, but it’s not quite akin to crossing a finish line, not when there’s still so much left to do. I would more acquaint it to being on the home stretch, with the finish line in sight. Tempting as it is to call the race done; it isn’t really over until those books are in people’s hands. Only then do we get to collapse, panting, on the ground and really savor our accomplishment. Of course, the collapsing in my case might have to do with me doing shots on release day, but hey, the metaphor still holds up!

Lessons From Halloween In The Suburbs

                I’ve made no secret that earlier this year I left Deep Ellum for a Dallas suburb and the chance to live in an actual house instead of an apartment. There were a lot of reasons for doing so: cost, time, convenience, space, and many more. But of course the real reason is quite simple: Halloween. Apartments are bullshit for Halloween. The most you can do is hang some spider webs on your balcony, carve a pumpkin that will get stolen, and hang a spooky wreath on your door. No trick or treaters, no grand decorations, fucking forget even the idea of a haunted house, can’t very well pull that off without one of the two words in the name, can you?

                This year is my first time doing a real Halloween in a house, and I have loved it. That said, there were some parts I wasn’t quite prepared for. I’m guessing many of you, like me, are either new to having a house or still working toward it, so it seemed like a good time to pass along a bit of the education I’ve gotten this year.

 

Your Decoration Budget is Wrong

                Whatever you’re thinking you’ll spend to get the Halloween you want, think again. Then again. Probably a few more times, unless you’re an investment banker or living on a yacht made of cocaine. Halloween is way more expensive than it looks from the outside. When the seasonal stuff finally started coming out, I was on that shit. I went to every store even remotely near me, taking pictures, comparing prices, getting a general sense for what I wanted to do and how much it would cost. By the end, I had reached the sobering conclusion that doing something awesome would cost, and this is not an exaggeration, thousands of dollars. Seriously. A big display element, like a huge inflatable or the dinosaur skeleton I know we all drooled over at Home Depot, is several hundred bucks on its own, and one element does not a haunted house make.

                Even the smaller shit adds up. I wanted to put lights on my walkway and saw some for only $10. Ah, but they are quite short, so doing both sides all the way down would take six sets, jumping the cost for a small display accent to $60. In the end I spent $40 and did the lighting only to the second step, deciding I’d buy more next year. There’s going to be a lot of that, when you launch your first display operation. I assume even if you have thousands to spend on once-a-year decorations, it might be hard to actually fork over the cash.

                The advice here is to scale back your plans, think hard about what elements will do the most for your display at the lowest expense, and remember above all that you don’t have to come out of the gate with the best house on the block. It’s a long game; you can build up your spooky arsenal over time.

 

Research Your Candy Needs

                Once before, I had a rent house in a small neighborhood. Now this was a temporary thing so I couldn’t really decorate, but I was there during Halloween. As an enthusiast of the season, I put a few meager decorations out, then bought a shitload of candy and braced for the onslaught. I promise, I am not using hyperbole when I say the doorbell rang maybe 3 times, tops. I honestly think it was 2. Apparently, the neighborhood wasn’t exactly a local hot spot for trick or treaters, and while I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly heart-broken about having pounds of leftover candy, it did make sticking to a sensible diet hard for a while.

                Not all areas are created equal in terms of trick or treating appeal, and that was a weird concept for me. When I think back to childhood, I remember every street being crammed full of other kids knocking on doors. But yeah, of course that’s how I remember it, I was a kid in a neighborhood my parents took me to for the purposes of trick or treating. It never dawned on me to think about the areas where I wasn’t.

                The point here is to be aware of what your needs will be. Overbuying is bad, of course, but coming up short would be even worse. Nobody wants to wash egg off their windows. In my case, I’ve talked to my neighbors and checked to see what the usual turnout for trick or treaters is to make sure I’ve got an appropriate amount of candy on hand. How accurate that information is remains to be seen, but at least I feel prepared. And hey, if I overbought again, at least I made sure to pick up a bunch of shit I like. May as well enjoy my slide into decadence.

 

Your Halloween Plans Have to Change

                Now obviously on the weekend before Halloween, you’ll be doing things much the same. Going to parties dressed in ridiculous costumes and infuriating Lyft drivers when you try to fit your outfit into the car while drunk. On the actual night, however, your options are going to be different. For the past few years, my main move on Halloween has been to throw on a costume, walk to a bar, and have fun. This year, things will be different. Obviously I’m not going to be able to start partying mid-way through the day, nobody needs a drunk version of me hurling candy at children, my aim is bad enough sober. Beyond that, living out in the suburbs means getting to an actual bar district is a taller order. By the time the kids clear out, it probably won’t be worth the cost of getting to a bar on a week night.

                It’s a strange feeling, breaking tradition, but I’m resolving it by starting some new ones. Halloween is going to be a movie marathon day for me this year, a running reel of my favorite classics. When friends get off work, they’ll be able to come join; I’ll probably make some sort of festive beverage for the occasion. Simple, low-key, and easy for people to walk in and out of as their schedule allows. And that’s just the idea I wanted to do the most, feel free to find a celebration that works for you.

                As expensive, mysterious, and occasionally inconvenient as it is to be in a house for Halloween, I am so freaking excited about it. My yard has pumpkins, there’s a trough’s worth of candy in my kitchen, and I’m making a playlist of some great (and great to drink to) scary movies for the day itself. Also, let me know what Halloween traditions you’ve all put together in the comments. I may steal some for next year!

Scared Drunk Drinkalong Power Hour

Hey there folks! Time for another Drinkalong Power Hour, this one themed to the holiday season upon us now. Since Ruby is gone, I decided to try something different this time and do a remote Power Hour with some of the great guys from Authors & Dragons. If any of you aren’t familiar with Steve Wetherell or Rick Gualtieri then by all means check out their incredible work. Or just crack a beer and drink with us as we celebrate the spooky season.

Sidenote: In a few spots, my feed got slightly lagged behind the others. It’s not noticeable often, but in the few spots it is I wanted to acknowledge it lest you all think you’re going nuts.

 

Drew Tries Stuff: Weird Halloween Candy

                That’s right, it’s time for another harrowing blog entry where I put my taste buds, comfort, and often general safety into danger, all so that none of you will have to suffer a similar experience. Except when the items reviewed are good, I mean, but really how often does that even happen? Anyway, since it is still the glorious month of October (Hail the Great Pumpkin) and I’m keeping things Halloween themed, what better target for a Drew Tries Stuff than some of the weird, unnatural, or just plain absurd Halloween Candy you pass by every year. No longer will these flashes in the pan be forgotten, resigned only to the carts of shoppers whose passion (or eyesight) has faded. Today, they get a moment in the spotlight to shine brightly or melt from the heat. Hint: it’s mostly the second one.

 

Boo Bands

                No, this isn’t a boy band made of ghosts… but someone remind me to pitch that to Disney when I’m done with this blog. Rather, it’s a weird callback to those Live Strong bracelets that were all the rage a few years ago, until they had a color for every cause, becoming ubiquitous and then ridiculous in a short span of time. It is Halloween though, so I guess it’s unfair to give a company shit for going grave-digging. Not content to merely revitalize these fashion accessories, this version of the bands is, wait for it, edible! Yeah, I guess that was kind of a given from the start, huh?

                There are four flavors of Boo Band, but I only made it through 3 because nobody wants orange and also watermelon stopped me dead in my tracks. Sorry, getting ahead of myself. Before we look at the Boo Bands as food, we must first see how they fair as a bracelet. Ready…………. the answer is Badly! I’m not big on actually donning wearable food to start with, I ate my Ring Pops and Candy Necklaces away from my flesh, but at least those could be functionally worn if one so desired. Boo Bands come out of the package sticky, and stinky, with a texture like someone already licked every inch of it. Greasy was the word that sprang to mind. So, not a great bracelet, but maybe they redeem themselves with a delicious… fuck it, let’s not draw this out, they were horrid. The best of them, sour apple, had virtually no taste, while watermelon was like biting down on a hunk of spoiled chemicals. From start to finish, it was an abysmal experience.

Rating: 1 out of 5 necromancers ruining another damn first date by accidentally re-animating the steak, again.

 

Twizzlers Carmel Apple Filled Twists

                No weird fashion options here, just a good ole-fashioned Twizzler. Only, what’s this, someone seems to have stuffed it full of a knock-off version of caramel? Well, surely the fine people at Twizzler know what they’re doing, right? …right?

                There’s only one place I can start with this one, and it’s the smell. As soon as I cracked open the bag, I felt like my senses had been assaulted by plastic, sadness, and someone getting fired over the creation of this product. I had friends with me trying all of these, and after I passed the bag around for a sniff test the overall reaction was to ask if we had backup options. It’s fucking pungent, y’all. Still, I am a dedicated professional, in as much as doing this job can be called professional, so I marched on, opening one of the individual packs and taking a bite.

                Looking back, I wonder if perhaps the smell was some sort of brilliant, avant-garde type of marketing. These Twizzlers were not good; let me be very clear about that. However, after being assaulted by the stink of the bag, I found myself relieved by the taste that entered my mouth. Subpar as they were, compared to the bag-stench they were positively tolerable. “Not as bad as I expected” isn’t really the review any creator dreams of, but it’s hard to deny there is a somewhat positive spin on it. Maybe the stink was done to purposely lower expectations, maybe it’s a happy coincidence, all I know is that while I didn’t continue with any more bites, I wasn’t furious about the one I took.

Rating: 2 out of 5 evil skeletons freezing and then moving among the Halloween decorations on people’s lawns just to fuck with passersby.

 

Bloody Fang Bites

                Another shot at wearable candy, at least this one has the sense to keep things in the mouth, where stickiness is an expected part of the equation. Plus, they kept their toy and candy separate. Bloody Fang Bites are a set of cheap plastic fangs paired with a pack of red “blood” that you pour into the fangs, then set them in your mouth and slowly drain the blood, creating a vampiric looking effect while also delivering that necessary hit of sugar. Dumb? Yes. Guaranteed to stain the shit out of an angry parent’s carpet? Oh without question, but they aren’t your kids or carpet, so we’ll leave that for someone else’s review.

                In terms of how well the fangs work as a blood delivery system, there’s a lot to be desired. It’s probably worth noting that these fangs are definitely sized for kids though, they’re smaller than the normal ones I see at Halloween stores every year, so perhaps my gaping adult maw just couldn’t properly deal with fangs intended for smaller mouths. Or, more likely, it’s just a shitty idea, but I do feel compelled to at least give the company doubt, if not the benefit of it. As for the blood itself… actually, it wasn’t that bad. Another supposed watermelon flavor, it mainly tasted just of sweetness, which isn’t a high bar but finally washed out the taste from the Boo Bands, so I was feeling forgiving. Calling it good would be a stretch, however the taste is neutral enough to fade into the background of better candy, and the packs of fangs/blood don’t actually come with instructions to pour the blood into the fangs; those directions are only on the main pack. Kids are probably going to think it’s weird that they got fake fangs and candy blood, but I doubt they’ll be so enraged as to find it worthy of revenge.

Rating: 4 out of 5 witches spiking the neighborhood punch with magical hallucinogen potions, because sometimes they miss the good ole Halloween festivals of yore.

Thunder Pear Publishing Haunted House Memo

                Okay Grant, third time is the charm. I know you managed to save your job after sending the unedited memo (again) by winning the quarterly keg-relay and gaining a wish from Mr. Hayes, but you have got to get it together. Proof the memo, make the changes, and then send it to me. Just me, no one else. Who am I kidding, we both know this fucker is going to end up going wide, you incompetent little shit. Why do I stay here and put up with you insane people? Well, aside from the salary, benefits, generous vacation time, and permission to drink on the job. Speaking of… whoo! That is bad whiskey. Anyway, see if you can surprise us all and get it right this time.

                Happy October everyone! I know this is a big time for us, we’ve all seen the crews setting up Halloween decorations in the office, and Mr. Hayes sneaking around, repositioning the skeletons to seem as though they are mid-coitus, so that can only mean that Halloween is on the horizon. While we will, of course, be having our annual Halloween party, despite the adamant protests of the city and its police force, today we need to discuss the more immediate Halloween project Mr. Hayes has committed us to. Thunder Pear Publishing will be creating a haunted house attraction to run on weekends through October, staffed by employees who want time-and-a-half as well as access to an open bar and substances I am not legally allowed to describe, but Mr. Hayes calls “tricky treats”. See if you can rephrase some of this, Grant. It’s obvious what we’re talking about, but that doesn’t quite convey how… unique some of the stock is. I didn’t even know hawks had glands that could secret a hallucinogen, let alone that it could be turned into ice cubes for cocktails.

                Given those conditions, it’s no surprise that the sign-up sheet has already been largely filled. However, we are obligated to remind you that this is still a work event, which means there are certain protocols and procedures that must be followed. Below is a list of the basics, expect more direction to come once you arrive for your chosen shift. We are giving you this part early to familiarize yourself with these core rules. And because no one shows up to these things sober or in the mood to listen. We once tried to hold a meeting at the start of an event, and let me tell you, I’ve never seen these people destroy a conference room faster. Not even the time our vodka delivery came late to the Easter party.

                1) While the Thunder Pear Publishing dress code is traditionally lax, especially where freedom of expression regarding costumes is concerned, please remember that this is an event open to the public, and as such we are legally required to adhere to all public decency laws. Charlie’s Snake Charmer costume is an example of one that, while demonstrating a tremendous amount of skill and bodily control, would not be appropriate for this event. Save the daring stuff for the Halloween party!

                2) Candy will be kept in plastic blue pails spread throughout the haunted house to be given or thrown at guests as they make their way through the building. Please do not pelt, or otherwise try to injure our guests, regardless of how “in character” it feels within the moment. Litigation from our spring juggling musical is still pending, and Mr. Hayes has a very firm policy of only dealing with one court case at a time.

                3) “Candy” will be in orange pumpkin buckets and spread throughout the haunted house. Please do not mix this up with the items in the blue pails, as these are being provided strictly for the employees. Giving them out to the public would not only be incredibly illegal, but vastly expensive. Grant, tighten this a little to make sure it’s not giving away what the “candy” is in case the memo ends up in another pile of evidence. Also, I saw you’re signed up to work the haunted house, so a word of warning: don’t touch the pumpkin bucket candy until you’re almost done with your shift, and only if you have a ride home. Sara tried one yesterday and spent the rest of the afternoon yelling at a lamppost for being a shitty father.

                4) The Thunder Pear Publishing Law of Challenge will be suspended during the haunted house. We cannot have our employees leaving their stations to settle every grievance that arises when guests are coming through. Grant, since you’ve been in and out over the year, you may not know this part. All Thunder Pear Publishing employees have the right to settle disagreements by invoking the Rite of Challenge, whereby they spin the sacred wheel to determine a game of battle, with the winner getting their way. As you can imagine, everything on the wheel is at least a drinking game. Mr. Hayes has agreed to provide extra time on Monday mornings for all accumulated challenges to be sorted at the top of the workweek. Popcorn will be provided for spectators.

                5) Although Mr. Hayes appreciates the level of dedication many of you are putting into your respective rooms, we would like to remind you that this is meant to scare guests only on a superficial level. Vampires, monsters, mummies, and the like are all perfectly acceptable themes to build a room around. Existential dread, the knowledge that the universe is a vast uncaring expanse of constant death, and the fact that virtually no one realizes their dreams or finds fulfillment are concepts better left for guests to discover on their own through life. Those are the kind of terrors that don’t go away, and if our guests stay scared then they won’t need to come back next year.   

                6) The goal of a haunted house is not, despite what some circulating emails have claimed, to make as many guests as possible soil themselves. It is especially not a goal that should be attempted through the use of laxative mist, sonic brown notes, or hexes, as many of you have planned. We are there to scare our guests only; the state of their bowel upon exit should be none of our concern. The rumors that Mr. Hayes has a reward planned for whoever makes the most people poop their pants are patently false and unfounded; we are certainly not saying that just to give HR some kind of edge in the competition. Grant, see if you can make this a little less… obvious, I suppose?

                7) We are aware that some of our employees believe this Halloween season will bring the emergence of Horgorilth, the hungry beast who hides behind the moon. While Thunder Pear Publishing respects the rights and beliefs of its employees, we do ask that any ceremonial nude blood bathing be done in your own homes, or at least with the use of proper plastic lining to prevent office staining. We would greatly like to avoid a repeat of the supposed rising of Thristicort on Saint Patrick’s Day. Break Room 2 still has the lingering odor, and the ghost is so displeased we’ve had to move up to three bottles of booze per week to appease it.

                8) Lastly, all employees wishing to utilize pyrotechnics in their respective rooms must gain clearance to do so. Mr. Hayes has hired outside specialists to make sure that every use of fire is “rad as fucking shit” before showing it to the public. When pressed, he added, “oh yeah, some bullshit about safety too” which is as close as we are going to get to a call for safety from him. Requests for pyrotechnic approval can be made by contacting HR, or going to the roof and playing metal music until someone arrives, just as we do for conference calls.

                More information still to come, but let’s all work together to make an amazing haunted house for everyone involved! And the guests too, I guess. Grant, maybe chop that last line. Eh, who am I kidding, I doubt you even read this shit. Whatever. Time to get more terrible whiskey. Those Horgorilth people are making some good points, so maybe it’s better to party while we can.

 -From the desk of Carol Dempsy, Thunder Pear Publishing HR Coordinator and Halloween Liaison.

The Importance of Conditioning

                This isn’t a term that gets bandied about as much as some of the others out there, so I think it’s worth starting this blog off with a definition of what I’m talking about when I say “conditioning”. To condition an audience is simply to build some manner of expectation of what they should expect from you. There are a lot of types of conditioning out there, but genre is the one people deal with most often. For example, even if you know nothing else about a novel, if I told you Stephen King wrote it then you would be reasonably sure that it was horror-themed. Why? Because that’s what he has written almost exclusively through his career, so he’s conditioned us to expect that from him. Same with Christopher Moore and comedy, or Dr. Seuss and kids’ books. Remember when people were shocked that JK Rowling wrote a crime novel? There’s really no reason that should be shocking, she’s an accomplished author, except that we’ve all been conditioned to only expect YA wizard novels from her.

                In many ways, conditioning is a lot like branding, except that it can apply to a greater spectrum of possibilities. Conditioning itself is actually a good thing overall, it’s the process by which you create audience expectations. However, it is also important to be aware of exactly what you’re conditioning them to expect, because that will have long-term impacts for years to come. As usual in these, I’ll use myself as an example, simply because I can point out my own mistakes and lessons easily. I made them, after all. So what do I mean by being aware of what conditioning you are doing?

                Let’s take a look at the Spells, Swords, & Stealth series as an example. The first book, NPCs, came out in spring of 2014. It did better than I expected, so I was a little slower in getting a sequel out, meaning Split the Party didn’t arrive until fall of 2015. After that, I had Going Rogue release in fall, again, for 2016. Now at this point, the books were really beginning to swell in size. Going Rogue was almost double the size of NPCs, and they were getting so big that I no longer felt I could commit to writing one every year while still keeping up with my other releases. Since I knew SP: Year 4 was going to eat a lot of 2017, I made the choice to not try and tackle another one this year. And for the past few months, I have gotten more tweets, emails, and in-person questions about the next SS&S book than anything else. Even after making public announcements several times, people keep reaching out, asking where the book is.

                And you know what? That’s largely on me. Look at the release schedule again. Every year for three years, I put out a book in that series, with the last two coming out in the same season, maybe even the same month if I remember right. I’m the one who conditioned people to believe that was a series I could produce every year, and while it was true when they were smaller, I probably should have planned for them to grow past it after the wordcount jump of Split the Party. If I’d been a little more aware, thinking ahead of what was to come; I at least could have broken up the release schedule a bit, made it less predictable so people wouldn’t think of them as an annual entry. It’s no wonder people are surprised there’s no SS&S book this year, I’m the one who conditioned them to expect those entries regularly.

                It’s the same with a lot of aspects of the business. I frequently see authors who write one genre/series for a long time, then try to break into something new only to hit pushback from an audience who are conditioned to expect only one flavor from them. Although I certainly didn’t plan it at the time, I was lucky that I launched multiple series in multiple genres early on, because that conditioned my audience to expect variety, meaning I don’t hit the same walls when I branch off into new, sometimes weirder, stuff.

                So what does all this talk mean, on a practical level? Well, it means that you’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you take some time to sit down and look at where you want your career to be in a few years. Not the amount of sales/success, we’re all crossing our fingers for golden helicopters and yachts big enough to house smaller yachts. Think more in terms of what you want to be doing. Are you hoping to write multiple series, or commit hard to one all the way through? Are you trying to release several books a year? What genre(s)? How long are they? How frequently do they come out? Really drill down on the kind of schedule and year you think you’ll want to have. Once that’s done, take a step back and compare that plan to where you are now and ask yourself this question: is that the sort of output you’re conditioning your audience to expect?

                If it is, great! Carry on, you fictional bastard. For the rest of us who have to learn and flop about as we go, there are usually changes to make on what we’re doing now to make people happy with what we expect to do down the line. Planning multiple genres? Maybe pop out a few standalones or short stories, making it clear that you have ideas for more than your current medium. Whatever schedule you’ve got planned for the future, how close to it are you now? The sooner you can get on/near it; the sooner readers will know to start looking for new releases around those times of the year. If you’re launching a new series, how often will you put out entries? Even if you’re already ahead on the sequel, it might be a good idea to give the original breathing room so you don’t make people think you’ll be able to churn out every sequel that quickly.

                At its core, conditioning should be the process by which you set expectations for the readers. Things they can rely on you to provide, be it entries in a specific genre or timetables when new content will arrive. Being aware of that and laying the groundwork for it means getting to come through on those expectations, giving the readers what you’ve shown them you’ll deliver and creating a sense of consistency.

The Leaked Drew Hayes Appearance Rider

                Well, it happened, and it looks like there’s no going back from it now. Someone leaked my rider, the document all “celebrities” have for setting up their accommodations before they arrive at a venue. Now some have said that mine is, perhaps, a tad ambitious for a mid-list author who does most of his catalogue through indie publishing. And to those people I say “Sure, but since when is being ambitious a bad thing?” Got to set up those expectations early on, so that when I go full on Howard Hughes nuts toward the end no one can look back and say it was a surprise. To that effect, and to save you the trouble of googling about, I’ll go ahead and just paste the rider here, for all to see. Full transparency and all that.

The Official Drew Hayes (President of Thunder Pear Publishing, 2-Time Shot Champion, Silver-Tier Chipotle Rewards Member) Rider for Personal Appearances.

 

                1) Drew Hayes must be greeted upon arrival by a full band. What they play is up to them, but it must be well-rehearsed and pleasing to the ear. Please note that Mr. Hayes defines a full band to have at least 1: guitar, trumpet, saxophone, drum, bass, xylophone, bagpipe, and triangle. No one else is required to listen to the sound they create, as our lawyers have told us that might technically be classified as torture.

                2) Drew Hayes expects a fully-chilled keg in his green room, with plastic cups of at least Solo quality. Color is irrelevant, only durability. The keg beer must be: beer and cold. That is the only direction Mr. Hayes is willing to give, so please do not ask him for more. Efforts to make him choose result in him breaking down in tears, saying it is like picking a favorite child.

                3) The greenroom will also need the following furniture: 1 table large enough for beer pong or flip-cup. 1 couch soft enough to pass out on. 3 chairs of any quality. 1 television with access to Netflix. 1 over-sized bucket that no one would mind seeing puke in, as the drinking games often lead some to vomit. At the discretion of the venue, they are permitted to put plastic down on the floors and carpet to make clean-up easier. Mr. Hayes has thrown a house-party, he recognizes the struggle.

                4) Any member of the staff that looks Drew Hayes in the eye will be expected to take a drink. This is less of a condition, more of a general warning. When the party is going, he will begin to expand it outward, much like the growth of a natural disaster. Please keep any employees uncomfortable with such recreational activities out of Mr. Hayes’s line of sight for their own good. Or have them say they are designated driving upon catching Mr. Hayes’s eye. He respects those who take on such a mantle, and will immediately cease any and all attempts to make them drink. They may, however, still be in danger of getting dragged onto stage. Which brings us to:

                5) A karaoke machine must be available and hooked up to the television. There is a high chance this won’t get used, but every now and then when the crowd feels it, songs of drunken revelry begin to get belted out, and Mr. Hayes likes to offer a platform for such celebrations. Luckily, he recognizes that he is tone deaf and will not insist on joining the activity. Unluckily, that restraint vanishes around drink #8, so perhaps pick something cheap and spill beer on it before reaching such a point. It’s your venue and your machine, so you make the call, but ear drums are harder to replace.

                6) With all the drinking and games, food will be a must for Drew Hayes and his growing katamari of intoxicated revelers. To that end, there must be access to burritos, sandwiches, sushi, and pizza. Basically, anything that would taste good drunk and help soak up the alcohol is going to go over great. Don’t be afraid to include some regional favorites, by the time they get around to eating it’s unlikely they’ll even taste most of it, so there’s a lot of leeway here.

                7) A golden chair will need to wait outside the green room, a throne that Drew Hayes can be lifted upon and carried to his next destination. Probably it will just go to the bathroom, though, what with all the fluids he’ll be taking in. And he generally only uses it for the first few trips, after that he realizes it takes too long. Do yourself a favor, stick him in a greenroom right near the urinals and make it an easy trip on the people who have to do the carrying.  

                8) While it is a given that some celebrities will want to come party with Mr. Hayes, they will need to be vetted on a case by case basis. The exceptions to that are listed below, as these celebrities are to be permitted instant access to any and all backstage shenanigans:

Neil Patrick Harris
The Rock
John Cena (or anyone with a comparable Make-A-Wish record)
Kristin Chenoweth
Lee Pace
Let’s just save time here and say anyone from a Bryan Fuller show
Kristin Bell
Jeremy Fucking Irons
Andrew W.K.
Dame Helen Mirren
Anyone with beer

                9) Fans who wish to go backstage (who do not already satisfy the “bringing beer” requirement) will be permitted only if they prove capable of answering thee these riddles three. Mr. Hayes does not actually have riddles in mind; he will let you freely choose/create your own. The sole condition is that he himself must not be able to solve 2/3 of them, as if he can do it then he deems them too easy. Given Mr. Hayes’ penchant for pre-gaming while being driven to a venue, there is little risk of him actually being capable of solving them. Occasionally they forget to stock the cars with backseat champagne, however, so have a few extra riddles on hand just in case.

                10) Finally, Mr. Hayes will need a dedicated escape route as once whatever show he is part of is over, he will anticipate a huge crush of fans screaming and pelting him with tabletop miniatures. This has never actually happened, not even close, yet he continues to anticipate it so accommodations must be made.

Much Ado About Blades & Barriers

                I debated a few times whether or not to write this blog. More than once, I leaned toward just putting up an announcement. But I try really hard to do as much transparency as possible on this site, for the folks who want to know what goes into writing as well as the people who just care about the stories. So in the end, I felt like this was a good chance to shine a light on one of the harder calls to make behind the scenes, as well as get a sense for what my audience as a whole wants.

                With that pre-amble done, let’s jump to the heart of the matter: Blades & Barriers. It’s been a fun story overall, and it’s given me a chance to flesh out some world-building aspects I hadn’t gotten to play with before, but, to be frank, it needs work. While I eventually found my footing on the general direction I wanted the story to go, getting there was hit and miss, and it saddled the tale with aspects that detract from, rather than enhance, the overall story.

                Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I’ve written before about how not every story works the first time through. That you have to be willing to go back, start over, and change your own ideas if they aren’t clicking. It took me three tries to get Forging Hephaestus right, and both of the first iterations were over 50k when I pulled the plug. Recognizing that a story needs changes is a big part of being a writer and allocating your time. If this were any other book I was working on, it wouldn’t even be a blip in the radar. The issue is that this one is a web-serial, which means people are in the act of reading it, so it’s not as easy to just pull everything down and start over.

                Still, Blades & Barriers needs reworking. It has a few more chapters left in the buffer, and then it will probably go on hiatus so I can start looking at how to rebuild. It almost certainly couldn’t be back before Year 4 is done, and as you all know the serial aspect of this site is coming to an end soon. But I promised you the end of B&B, so it feels wrong to tear the first version down and then charge for the re-worked effort later down the line. The best ideas I’ve had for how to remedy that are:

1) List the new version on Kindle Unlimited. This makes things easy for everyone who uses Amazon, but it also pre-supposes that you use Kindle e-readers and have a KU subscription.

2) Make the ebook free on my site, while keeping it at normal prices on Amazon. This would be a way to get a free version available to every kind of e-reader, but also introduces a few more steps that some folks find bothersome.

                I’m sure some of you are wondering why not just do both? Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t let books in KU be given away elsewhere, so these methods are mutually exclusive. Granted, we’re talking about a book I’ll have to rewrite from the ground up, so policies might change by the time B&B is actually ready for release, but I highly doubt that will be the case. Amazon has made no bones about wanting to be sole market for ebooks, and KU exclusivity is a big part of that.

                That said, I’m very open to other options/ideas if y’all have them. The internet is big and wide, so I’d love to learn about other methods of book distribution if they make things simpler for everyone. Leave them in the comments, or let me know which free book method of the two I listed you think would be easier. I’ll try to weight the decision toward whatever works best for the greater part of the audience.

                Now then, let me give some info to pre-emptively answer questions you might have:

1) All money remaining in the B&B fund will be put into the SP fund once the hiatus starts. I don’t want people to feel like their donations went nowhere, but obviously I also couldn’t keep a donation section open for a property that isn’t posting.

2) SP will not be taking over the Tuesday slot. I know some folks have their hopes up after Year 3’s schedule was temporarily increased, but this time I have a less confined schedule, so unless something drastic changes there’s no need to race the clock and get everything posted.

3) The old B&B will stay up temporarily, for those who want to catch up even knowing that the rework is coming. Most likely it will come down in October, when other site work is already scheduled to take place.

4) As far as canon goes, the same rule applies here as to the rest of the web-serials: Nothing is set until it is published. There will be some changes to the core of B&B, but luckily I kept it far from the SP story-line, so it should have no real impact on Year 4’s story.

5) I have no estimation for when the new B&B story will be available. Since I’m starting over, it could go in a lot of different directions, and there’s no guarantee it won’t need more work even in the second incarnation. I’ll keep you all in the loop whenever I have something solid to announce, but realize that this book is getting taken back to square one, so there’s a long journey ahead.

                Hopefully that gives you all a good understanding on what’s to come, and where my mind is at in making this decision. If there’s an obvious solution to getting everyone from the site free copies, by all means let me know. My main goal here is to do right by everyone, to provide a worthwhile story for you all to enjoy. Even if it is going to take a taaaaaad bit longer than originally expected, I’m still going to see it through. It’s the least I owe you all after so many years of support.

Protecting Yourself and Your Work

                A few weeks back I got an email from a company requesting me to review a book. The thing is, I didn’t have any connection with this company, or the author in question, and the email was… let’s say aggressive. And a bit optimistic about the book they were pitching, since once I looked it up it had none of the honors or buzz they were claiming. So I decided to check out the company and do a little more research on them, mostly with the intent of emailing the author and letting him know his promotional company was doing a terrible job. I realize that to some of you that might seem like I was trying to make trouble for the guy, but the truth is as an author that’s valuable feedback. You don’t often get to experience the marketing campaign a PR company might launch, so knowing that they’re turning people off is pretty important to be aware of. Yet, when I dug in, I found out the whole company was owned by the people publishing the book, known scam publishers Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency. There are tons of reasons to avoid them (here’s a good article on those: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts/#SBPRA) but I don’t want to talk about that company more today. The truth is, they’re a drop in the bucket compared to all the people out there looking to fleece writers. And on this blog, we’re going to talk about things to watch out for, and ways to keep yourself safe.

 

1. Beware Monetized Serial Sites

                I won’t spend too long on this, as I know it only applies to a very specific section of my audience, but it needs to be addressed. As web-serials have grown as a community, there have been a lot of sites offering free space to those who want to post a serial. Royal Road and Wattpad are two of the more popular ones that spring to mind. And honestly, good on them. They make their money from ads on the stories, which is a fair trade for content hosting services. The problem is, there are new versions that keep springing up every few months, ones with a very different financing model.

                At least once a quarter the Web Fiction Guide forums will get a post from someone launching a serial service with a “brand new idea”: making people pay to read the serials. This would be really long to get into, but the short version is that they want to put the content behind paywalls and split the proceeds with the authors, although “split” is a generous term in some instances. Most of us in the business have seen this exact concept flame out enough times to steer clear, so it’s not that big of an issue. The larger problem is that I also see sites who monetize by making a knock-off version of Patreon/Paypal and then taking a piece of the income. Never list with someone who does this. There is nothing wrong with monetizing content, it’s what a lot of the internet is built on, but those people are monetizing you, the author, meaning they make money off of your income directly, and there is no reason to put up with that shit. Not when there are loads of free, dependable places to put a serial. I’m sure they’ll tell you lies about their great features and amazing site tools, but these places are scams, pure and simple. And lying is what scammers do by nature.

 

2.  Research Everyone You Work With

                On to a more universal tip now: research. We all dream of getting a call from someone higher up the publishing food chain. Maybe for you it’s a publisher of any kind, or a Big 5 publisher, or a movie agent, or so on. And when we get interest from those sources, it can be very tempting to jump in with both feet forward. The thing is, all agents/publishers/whatever are not created equally. Some will treat you and your work well; others are looking to turn it for a few quick bucks. Research is the best tool available to you. Look up everything about the company. Check their Better Business Bureau rating. Check for any reports, any issues people have with them. And then, if they clear that without raising red flags, take it a step further: talk to people who use them.

                I will occasionally get emails from authors looking to work with REUTS or Tantor, since I’m publicly engaged with both companies. Now I have nothing but nice things to say about both, but I don’t mind telling them that. And if the situation was different, meaning I had a lot of bad shit to make known, you’d better believe I wouldn’t mind letting people hear about it. I know the idea of writing to someone you don’t know to ask about a company seems daunting, and I get that, but we have all been there. At some point, we were in your shoes, wondering if this was a good move, and I imagine only the shittiest among us would be bothered by answering the same questions we asked someone else. Because we really are the best source. All the internet searching in the world isn’t as good as hearing about people’s actual experience with a company.

                By the way, this goes for everyone you deal with. Editors you want to use, cover designers you’re going to hire, a hosting platform for your podcasts. Research all of them, because there are plenty of terrible ones out there who bank on you not looking too closely. Is it a pain at times? Sure. Is it better than ending up in a bad business partnership with real financial consequences? You’re damn right it is.

 

3) Understand Your Contracts

                Look, I know, we all became writers because we didn’t want to mess around with boring stuff like legal documents. But this part is vital in some aspect of every business, and we are not immune. Contracts define the very ownership and rights of the properties we create, so you’d damn well better be sure you know what you’re signing. I’m pretty sure we all know how royalties and advances work, but there are other things to note as well. Things like:

                How Long the Publisher Has: Remember, a publisher doesn’t own your book for now and forever. Or at least, they shouldn’t. A contract should come with a timeframe the publisher has to work in to get the book fully published. If the publisher fails to hit that timeframe, then the rights should go back to you, or there should be a fiscal penalty. Basically, the goal here is to make sure that they actually use those rights, rather than sitting on them because the market shifted or some element of their schedule changed.

                Reversion Rights: These are the conditions under which rights to your books return to you. Now as we just covered, the publisher not doing their job in time is usually one of these, but there need to be more than just that. Bankruptcy or closing of the company should both be listed in there right up front. I don’t care how old or established the publisher is, books are a risky game right now, and some trusted presses have gone down in the past few years, leaving their authors in murky waters as to what happened to their rights. Sometimes a publisher will return all rights during their bankruptcy filings, but if they don’t then you need it in your contract so you aren’t stuck waiting for the now-dead-publisher’s window to run out.

                Price Setting: Remember that your royalty comes off of the money earned from the sale, so when a publisher has full control over the price you’re at their mercy. If they decide it’s not doing well and drop the cost substantially, below what you would charge, then it will impact your bottom-line directly. Now a lot of publishers aren’t going to give up this control, and they have good reason for that, but you can at least establish some minimums and maximums to keep the book in a range that’s fair to both creators and consumers.

 

                It feels like there are endless more things to be aware of I’m skipping over, but that’s enough for a blog this time. Maybe I’ll do a sequel down the line. For only $99 at that, really quite a steal when you think about it. Be sure to add the “consumer awareness” medal to hang around your neck as well, only an additional $300 to let people know you’re nobody’s sucker.