Drew's Anticipated ECCC Antics

                As I really hope most of you, the ones paying attention to the Upcoming Events section of the site, have noted, next week I shall be in Emerald City Comic Con with fellow A&D player and talented author: Joseph Brassy. Now while I don’t have a full con schedule yet, when has that ever stopped me from speculating wildly? Never, no matter how much the con organizers beg me not to plug events that don’t exist, and I can’t see why we’ll stop that trend today! So, if you want to come hang out at Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, March 1st – 4th) then try and catch me out and about.

                1. Fish-Fighting. Some might see an open air market where fish are hurled about as a neat display of efficiency mixed with marketing showmanship, but I think we all know Drunk Drew will see the invention of a new sport. Come watch as Drunk Drew flails about, trying to punch a fish from the air while he is hindered by intoxication and pre-existing terrible reflexes. I predict he’ll knock a sturgeon across someone’s shoulder by pure luck, then sprint away into the freezing waters, only to emerge with a new fish caught in his teeth. I realize that could seem like a stretch for some, but Drunk Drew pulls that move around once a month, and we’re due.

                2. Play the Rain Drinking Game. I don’t know much about Seattle, in fact I know insultingly little, despite how excited I am to visit. One of the few tidbits I am aware of, though, is that it supposedly rains a lot there. Like Texas is known for its sweltering, oppressive, unforgiving heat, Seattle is known for its high amounts of precipitation. Thus, the Rain Drinking Game was born. It’s a simple task, every time you notice the sound of rain anew, you take a drink. Maybe a fresh storm just started, maybe you weren’t paying attention to the noise in your environment, either way that’s going to cost you a sip. Based on what I know about Seattle’s weather and my own attention span, I expect this game to get me fish-fighting drunk within the first couple of hours.

                3. Do a Panel. Yes, there won’t just be tales of me wandering Seattle in a haze, challenging post-boxes to break-dancing competitions. I’ll actually be at the con too, including doing a panel. Appropriately enough, I’ll be talking about web-serials on Thursday, from 4pm – 5pm on The New World of Old Stories panel. After that, you’ll be able to find me wandering about the convention; consider it a scavenger hunt! You get to roam around and hunt me down, like tracking a wild writer on the plains. Or you could just follow my social media and events to see where I’m doing stuff. Yeah, that might be the better plan.

                4. Spontaneous Meetups. That’s what I’ve decided to call this feature, although in reality it will just be me talking to fans and followers on social media about what bar I’m visiting and when. Since I won’t have a dedicate table at ECCC (but will bring books for those who want them) this is my way of making myself available for those who want signings, pictures, or just to chat for a while. Plus, there’s a bar, so you know that always makes for more fun at a con. I should also clarify, since these blogs are generally a mix of humor and truth, that this is a real one. In theory, anyway, we’ll see what the bar scene is like when I arrive.

                5. Weird Weed Stuff. Yes, relax, I’ve read the emails and messages; I know some of you want to see me party with Seattle’s more native flavor of mind-altering substance. I feel like folks think I’m purely a booze guy because of my love for it, but that’s because booze is my passion, I’m still familiar with weed. I’ve done some twitter-rants on the medical side (for the new readers, I have psoriatic arthritis) of the subject. But hey, if I’m going to a new place, I should be open to new experiences, so I may as well try some of the stuff unique to your legal situation. Fancy edibles, concentrates, the oil pens, that kind of jazz. When in Rome, as they say.

                6. Commandeering a Vessel. Look, I don’t know when this will happen. I don’t know why it will happen. I certainly don’t have any idea how it will happen. But rest assured, at some point, Drunk Drew will switch to rum, and when that happens he’ll begin staggering steadily toward the scent of the sea. By morning, he’ll have returned as the captain of a ship that wasn’t originally his, snoring at the wheel and surrounded by crew. I really have no explanation to offer for this, the rum purges all remnants from my memory. Still, stick around the docks on the right night and you might get to see a very entertaining landing from a ship with a new captain.

                7. Challenging Joseph Brassey. Of course, as is customary when two A&D authors are at a con, we must engage in duels. Each will choose a contest; Joe’s probably being something with swords and mine of course being an endless Power Hour until someone quits. The winner of each duel will receive nothing, save for bragging rights over a contest they were already obviously good at. There’s no real prize or point to any of it, except that a crowd always does love watching me flail on the ground as Joe utterly destroys me with a prop blade, so I suppose the entertainment value is good enough justification.

                8. A One-Man Show. Should the crowd around our battle of duels ever begin to thin, I’ll have just the fix in mind. A rendition of my one-man show entitled “No, You’re Drunk!” which one Broadway critic called “An intoxicated man screaming at the sky outside of a gas station.” So yeah, clearly this is some high art if even fancy literary magazines aren’t getting it. I can only imagine the sort of audience we’ll draw in from the higher-minds of Seattle. Yes, pun intended, very obviously.

                9. Having a Great Time. All kidding aside, I’m super jazzed to visit Emerald City Comic Con, and I hope all of you folks who are making it out will get to stop by and say hello. Meeting readers is always the best part of doing these, and I can’t wait to see how many I get to greet at a con this size. See you there!

Podcasts Worth a Listen

                It occurred to me recently, while doing some behind-the-scenes work on Authors & Dragons, that as much as I love podcasts, as frequently as I listen to them, and as large as the general audience is, it’s a little crazy that I’ve had 2 blogs about my favorite audiobooks but never even touched on some of the great podcasts I love. Today, that changes! If you’ve got a long trip ahead (maybe to Emerald City Comic Con) then here are some free, great shows to help you pass the time along the way.

                Bonus Blog Sidegame: If you’re a subscriber to the A&D Patreon, take a drink every time I talk about a podcast we copied on Mimic Chest.

 

Doughboys

                As a man who loves comedy, fast food, and self-loathing, this podcast hits a great sweet spot for me. Hosted by Mike Mitchell (Love, Birthday Boys, Hidden America) and Nick Wiger (Funny or Die) these two eat their way through chain restaurants from all over, sacrificing their health to deliver meandering reviews that go way too deep on restaurants very few people even consider to be food. It’s fucking fantastic, and I tune in every week. There are also recurring bits that involve guessing what mystery food they’re eating, trying unusual foods listeners send in, and trying to figure out what kind of pie is in a bag. The style is very loose, the guests are almost always great, and the hosts have solid, if combative, chemistry. If you want to see how to do a podcast that’s a good mix of structure and free-flowing conversation, this one is a great case to learn from.

 

Bad with Money

                I’m 99% sure this is going to be the only podcast I discuss today that has the chance of actually teaching you something other than trivia about bad movies. Bad with Money is hosted by Gabby Dunn (Just Between Us) and covers a wide array of topics dealing with finance. There is also a lot of social commentary about the role money plays in our culture and the institutions that use it, but even if that isn’t your jam its worth tuning in alone to hear the frank discussion of managing money and finances, especially from experts.

                While I don’t talk about it much, mainly because it was super fucking boring, I used to work in the finance world. That came in really handy when I first started out doing the writing full-time, as I had a good grasp on budgeting, pipelines, self-employment taxes, and other things that come up when you run your own business. Now, a few years into the job, I better understand how fortunate I was to have that background. A lot of folks can do the writing work of this gig just fine, it’s managing their income that causes problems. If you’re thinking about taking a gamble on living off your writing/art/whatever, then I’d recommend listening to this one, as there’s a lot of good information that will come in handy.

 

How Did This Get Made

                I know, I know, most people are already keenly aware of this one, but just in case, I’m giving it a quick plug here. Hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas (they’ve all been in way too much shit to list, just imdb them) it’s a podcast that dives into movies that are outright insane. Sometimes they revel in the madness, such as with Crank, and sometimes they just ogle at it, such as with Chopping Mall. No matter the film in question, its three great comedians and a talented guest, so they always deliver on something worth listening to. Bonus: Adam Scott comes on every time they talk about another Fast and Furious movie, so that’s a fun perk to keep an eye out for!

 

Unpopular Opinion

                In truth, this is almost closer to a channel than a single podcast. Hosted by Adam Tod Brown (formerly of Cracked.com) this was originally a podcast on Cracked before Adam left the company. Once he did, he branched out the podcast into several different shows, most of which are hosted behind a Patreon paywall. The main show, still titled Unpopular Opinion, has always been free though, and it’s a entertaining listen.

                Since Adam is working as a stand-up comedian in LA, most of his guests and cohosts come from that world, which makes for a constant stream of fresh, funny people to discuss various topics with. Their subject matter can be more or less anything; to give you an idea of the topic range they’ve done an episode dedicated to the glory of the McRib and one talking about the ethics of drone strikes. This show can be kind of a grab bag depending on the subject matter, but if you see a topic that sounds fun to you then give it a whirl.

 

High and Mighty

                Technically, part of me wants to count Action Boyz in this one too, but since that’s Patreon exclusive we’ll stick to the free one. High and Mighty is a podcast hosted by Jon Gabrus (Guy Code, Adam Ruins Everything) who is a character actor and comedian. The format is… well, there sort of isn’t one. Aside from reading reviews in which listeners roast him at the top of every episode, the whole show is largely just free-flowing conversation. I actually found out about Jon Gabrus from the Chicken Nugget Power Hour episode of Doughboys where he was a guest, and followed him to his own show after laughing my ass off at his nugget eating skills.

                This might be the hardest one to pitch, both because right now it’s my favorite, and because I’m really not sure what the key selling point is. There’s minimal structure, the whole thing is often one giant tangent, and nothing of value is taught. I suppose Gabrus himself is the selling point, as the man just has a talent for putting his guests at ease and getting everyone in the room laughing. Listening to the show is genuinely fun, and that, more than anything else, is what keeps me coming back.

                For those wondering, Action Boyz is a Patreon podcast that’s sort of like High and Mighty swirled with How Did This Get Made, as Gabrus and a crew of fellow comedians spend hours reveling in the glory/horror of classic action movies.

                Hopefully this helps you folks find some new shows to try, and if you’ve got any great podcasts that you think deserve more love then share them in the comments below for everyone else to enjoy!

My Outlining Process

                Part of writing is outlining, and even if you don’t choose to do it in the more concrete ways of writing it down, we all outline to some extent. After all, if you start a book with literally no idea where it will go or end, odds are strong that won’t be a good book, or one that even gets finished. So we all outline, and as we gain experience we find the way that works for us and refine it further and further, learning to get the most from our planning methodology. And, when you’re lucky enough to do the work full time, sometimes people will ask about how you outline in hopes of getting a jumpstart on their own process.

                Today, I’m going to talk about the way I currently outline works, but only with the very strong caveat that this is my way of outlining that works for me. If you read this and it sounds like it would be a terrible way to do your own work, then feel free to ignore it. Outlining is a process we all have to find out our tweaks and methods for, mine is no more or less effective than others, it just happens to be the one that meshed well with my books. Now, with all the warnings out of the way, let’s jump on in.

                I use a method of outlining I tend to call “checkpoint outlining” although in all honesty I don’t know if that’s the real name or just a slang term that got adopted somewhere along the way. Checkpoint outlining works first by figuring out the major turns you want your story to take. A big fight at point X, a love scene at point Y, a jailbreak at point Z; you get the idea. The ending is especially important here, since all of your major events in the book need to be leading toward the finish. I should also add that by “major” events I mean events integral to the story, even if the scenes aren’t big ones themselves. Passing off a key item in what seems like a trivial scene in a gum factory would still be a checkpoint, for example.

                Once you know your major events, plot them out chronologically. What leads to what that in turn leads to what. Get those down, and you’ll effectively have a road map of your story. The start, the end, and all the major points in between. And here is where my outlining process in terms of story tends to stop. For me, part of the joy of writing a story is not knowing everything I’ll type. The thrill of discovery keeps things fresh and unpredictable on my end, which in turn makes the writing experience more fun. I always know where I’m going, heading toward the next checkpoint, but having space in between those events to play with is where I get to do my character exploration and find the most natural ways to take them to the next checkpoint.

                It does bear saying, however, that writing like this usually means some heavier work in the post-writing edits. Since you didn’t have every detail plotted out in advance, there are bound to be a few false starts or pointless elements in the book. Part of editing with this kind of outline is either stripping those bits out entirely or re-working them so they foreshadow the proper plot points. Remember, it doesn’t have to all be perfect and cohesive on the first draft, that’s why we take our time to edit and re-write, sewing things up and making sure it all flows smoothly.

                Honestly, that more or less explains my outlining process; it’s a fairly straightforward one. That said, we’re much too short on content to end the blog, so let’s tackle a different aspect of outlining: character creation. I’ve talked before about building superheroes (or similar) for high-powered stories using RPG mechanics to ensure they don’t come out overpowered, but there’s really some outlining work to do for all characters, regardless of genre or role.

                I like to keep notecards about my characters, first in paper, now using a site called Trello. On those cards I do basics: names, ages, distinctive parts about their looks, things that I’ll want to keep straight at a glance. Beyond that, I also like to include details about them that are important to the core of their character. Fears are useful, alliances and friendships doubly so, the more history the better in general, but there is one aspect that I consider absolutely essential to the card: what does the character want?

                It doesn’t have to be a big, emotional desire, like to pay for their sick grandma’s surgery. Few people are motivated daily by something that grand. No, this is the question more centered on what gets through the weekly grind. Are they saving up for a new car? Paying for night school to get a better job? Hoping to afford rent? Plotting to overthrow a guild of superheroes? Dreaming of opening their own shop one day? There isn’t a wrong answer to any of these; it’s just a question of knowing what that character desires. Because if you know that, then every time there’s a conflict for them, a choice to face or a task to clear, you can look back at what they want and decide how that desire coupled with their personality would have them choose. If they’re the self-denial type, maybe they go away from their desires for the good of others. If they’re ruthless, maybe they move forward regardless of the cost. Knowing a characters wants doesn’t necessarily give an automatic answer to every question they’ll face, however it does provide you with a compass so that at least the direction of their actions should be consistent through the story.

                That’s a pretty good rundown of how I outline these days, although as I age and get more practice some details here and there will surely change. Give it a shot if it sounds like a good system for you, or go read about other forms of outlining if you know this won’t work at all. And don’t be discouraged if you have trouble finding a tactic that clicks, we’ve all got to find our ways to do this job. Keep trying new things, and eventually you’ll find yours.

Thunder Pear Publishing Orientation Letter

                This week, our source inside Thunder Pear Publishing (definitely not Grant, for sure) has leaked an internal document we’ve never seen before: his Orientation Letter. Very few of these make it out of the company, because… well, you’ll see. Regardless, we appreciate his sacrifice, and are thrilled to share this rare behind the scenes peek at the inner workings of a company that potential investors have called “a trash fire that has come to live and is determined to burn down the world” and “not a good investment.” Enjoy!

 

Hello There!

                Welcome to Thunder Pear Publishing, the world’s drunkest publisher for three years running (suck it Random House!) and purveyor of fine fiction in multiple formats. If you’re reading this, then you’re one of the lucky few to make it through our grueling interviews, assessments, and keggers to prove you have what it takes to work here. Someone from HR will guide you through the office and show you to your department, but first, there are some essential ground rules you’ll need to know in order to safely navigate the Thunder Pear Publishing facilities.

1) Thunder Pear Publishing accepts no liability for any injuries, be they mental, physical, or spiritual, incurred on their property. This includes, but is not limited to: liver damage, bite marks, poisoning (alcoholic and normal), possession by ghost, assault by ghost, insult by ghost (our ghost is kind of a dick), mental fatigue, soul-displacement, stubbed toes, and dimensional transfer.

2) Battle Karaoke is strictly optional, despite what others will try to convince you. Subterfuge and trickery are two well-honed weapons in our ongoing fight, so be wary of anything others tell you beyond this point. Oh, the one exception is, of course, the Golden Microphone. Should you be presented with that item, you are forced to participate at the next tournament, but victory will allow you to claim ownership of the Golden Microphone. Failure, however, will result in trashcan punch.

3) Thunder Pear Publishing defines “trashcan punch” to be random liquors thrown into a (cleaned, we won that right in a prior Battle Karaoke tournament) plastic bin and stirred no more than four times. Or whatever is in Mr. Hayes’ coffee cup at any given moment. The proof of such concoctions will be variable, and should a sip accidentally dissolve the inner linings of your stomach, please refer back to Point 1 on your Orientation Letter.

4) Thunder Pear Publishing is not a drug free workplace. Much like restaurants, bars, and particle physics labs, we know the kind of talent we attract and are fully aware that a random drug screening would likely see us firing 90% of our staff. However, since “the man” is still a fucking buzzkill (Mr. Hayes’ words), we do ask that you at least give the company reasonable deniability. Smoke on the outdoor patio, and if you’re going to down mysterious substances in the bathroom, at least do it in a stall so no one has to walk in on you at a sink. Also, should you take hallucinogens, please don the inflated water wings available by every elevator. It’s not about judgement, it’s about figuring out who we’re actually talking too and who is having the same conversation with a nine-headed imaginary dog named Fluffer-Nutter.

5) Snitches get Stiches. But aside from our Quidditch equipment policy, don’t narc on your co-workers. After a few months working here, you might very well be the one who needs a mind-altering day off.

6) The hot tubs on Floor 3 are open to all for use 24/7, except from 3 am – 4 am every morning when they undergo regular maintenance. We understand that this is inconvenient for those pulling all-nighters who need some relief, but trust us when we say you do not want a cleaning session skipped on these. Again, they are open to the whole office, and you know what kind of people we hire here. I mean, look at yourself. Would you get into an uncleaned hot tub a whole building full of you has been in? We thought not.

7) The champagne hot tubs on Floor 7 are only accessible to senior staff, anyone who currently holds a title within the company no lower than Baron, and of course anyone who wins executive rights for the quarter by completing Mr. Hayes’ Triple Threat Power Hours. These events are a quarterly gathering where Mr. Hayes holds three Power Hours back to back. As a newcomer, you’ll no doubt want to participate, but heed this piece of advice first: bring a large bucket. Vomit is a very real concern, and attempting so many Power Hours in a row is tempting fate. Also, you’ll be pounding liquid for 3 hours so… yeah, just have the bucket on hand to be safe. Our cleaning staff cannot stress that enough.

8) Any door marked with a red “H” indicates that inside is an employee or entity who requires no less than 3 years and a full certification in the mystical arts to deal with properly. Please do not attempt to enter these doors on your own without the aforementioned training, unless you are in the care of a senior staff member. The doors marked with a slightly lighter shade of red “H”, however, contain free food and liquor, as well as the chance to advance your career. Also, the “H” doors will randomly change during the night, so there’s no use trying to remember which is which. We have asked Mr. Hayes repeatedly about giving more distinction between the shades of red, but his reply is a resounding “No risk, no reward” so it is what it is.

9) Throughout the year, there will be regular office events. While these are meant to be fun for employees, please keep in mind that some level of coordination and self-control is necessary, so heed any missives sent out by the HR department in regards to what rules and expectations apply at each particular event. That said, should Mr. Hayes suddenly scream something that contradicts information given in an HR memo, default to assuming that Mr. Hayes is correct. Since it is his company, only he ultimately decides what constitutes an infraction of the company rules. Our investors have tried to discuss this with him; however none of the board has been able to out keg-stand Mr. Hayes, meaning they weren’t able to officially speak at any of the board meetings thus far.

10) Finally, please remember that Thunder Pear Publishing is a unique company, one with its own sets of challenges, metrics, and methods of advancement. It will be a confusing first few days for you, but if you survive and keep showing up, you may find it to be just the fit you were looking for. Additionally, at any time after your first month of working here, you may present this letter to an HR employee to be granted a week of executive privileges. Mr. Hayes likes all of his dedicated employees to experience what lies further up the corporate ladder in hopes of keeping turnover as low as possible, and Thunder Pear Publishing only promotes from within. Of course, that’s largely because no one without proper preparation would have a liver and spirit capable of surviving their first executive board meeting, but it still means there is ample room for advancement here.

                We look forward to working with you, and hope you enjoy your tenure here at Thunder Pear Publishing! Now you should probably hide under the desk, the HR representative coming to pick you up will likely be armed with either a confetti or tequila canon.

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

Discussing an Actual Writer's Retreat

                A few weeks back I made a humor post about doing a Shitshow Writer’s Retreat. And while that might have been redundant (every retreat I’m at will be a shitshow regardless) the truth is a writer’s retreat is something I’ve actually been wanting to put together. After the popularity of that post and the messages I received, it seems like a topic many folks wanted to know more about. So, today I’m going to discuss what would go into doing an actual retreat, what the potential ways I’ve found to make it happen are, and what challenges are keeping it from becoming a reality. Maybe putting it all down and allowing folks who might know more than me to chime in will be what we need to make it a reality. First things first, though, we should talk about…

 

The Actual Retreat

                Having (admittedly) limited experience with these, the ideal setup for mine would be one that allowed both solitude and community as people required it. The sole retreat I’ve been to, a wonderful, very affordable place I found out about from Rob Kroese called Norma’s Villas, accomplished this by having individual homes/cabins for each person, as well as central places for meals, classes, etc. While I would love to do something similar, maybe a remote spot with loads of cabins, unfortunately in my research I’ve found few locations with such accommodation, so the most likely way to fulfill that would be by renting rooms in a hotel. Sidenote: if you know of or run a lodging that would fit these needs, hit me up, I am certainly willing to take recommendations.

                Now, the content itself would be, shockingly, not too far off from what I outlined in the joke version of this blog. Since I’m the one spearheading it, I would take on doing a daily class for all attendees, probably in the mornings. Depending on who I could get to join in, we would also have supplemental lessons where you could learn from other authors on their particular specialty. Afternoons would be sectioned off for workshop groups (assigned randomly upon arrival) and personal writing time. Evenings would be social events, dinners, maybe outings depending on where we were and how close fun stuff was. There would also be on-site events like jeering at bad movies, gaming, and of course at least one Power Hour.

                While we could pack more into the schedule, I want to leave a lot of time free so people can work on collaborative projects. You can listen to advice anywhere, and writing is a thing you can do from home, so the real drive of this should be the chance to interact with other authors. Making videos, talking podcasts, maybe even laying out the groundwork for an anthology, however you want to spend your free time is up to you. Personally, I’ll be active and about, especially if I can coax some of the other A&D guys into attending.

                That hits most of the conceptual notes for a retreat, more granular issues like meals would be determined based on where we ended up staying, so I can’t really dig in any deeper on those without knowing more. So, with the outline done, let’s touch on…

 

How It Could Be Done

                At current, the only way I’ve found that might be viable to make this happen is something like Kickstarter or IndieGogo. The biggest hurdle is, obviously, ensuring that there’s enough cash to cover the cost of the event. If I could find an ideal location, then I would need to make sure adequate space was booked, which would be tough to do before knowing how much actual interest there was in such a retreat. Going out of pocket on that kind of cost is a little more risk than I can bite off for a fun side-project, so crowd-funding with the lowest tier being a room at the retreat would ensure everyone who wanted to attend would have the chance to buy a ticket. If things went well and more folks were interested after the funding ended, we could talk to the location about opening up more slots, but our early folks would be locked in.

                I like this method better than trying to pre-sell tickets for a simple reason: it’s cut and dry. If we make enough to fund the retreat then we hold it, and if we fall short then no one gets charged anything, saving the trouble of having to manually refund everyone for a cancelled event. This also makes things very transparent, so that anyone wanting to attend could watch the numbers tick up and see whether or not it had a chance at happening. That said, this method does present challenges of its own, so if you more internet savvy folks have better ideas for how to gauge interest and collect funds, I am certainly open to hearing more about it.

                That feels like as good a place as any to transition to…

 

The Challenges

                Just from the paragraphs overhead, you can already tell that finding a spot is a hurdle that hasn’t been fully cleared, and funding the event itself is more a sketch of a plan than a plan itself. It should also probably be mentioned that my lack of experience also counts as a challenge. Yes, I’m good at figuring shit out on the fly, but I’m also someone who learns by experience and failure, which isn’t necessarily the best person to have heading an event like this. Everyone remember stories about Dash-Con or Fyre Festival? I can’t imagine we’d be quite that bad, but failing to account for the possibility of mishaps would be pure hubris, especially given my experience at this. Now that can be mitigated by inviting and talking to people more knowledgeable about retreats than me, but until those people exist and are on board I still have to count my inexperience as a challenge.

                Another issue is that, as mentioned above, running a crowd-funding campaign is in itself a hurdle to clear, as many folks expect a level of polish and showmanship that might be hard something as simple as funding a retreat to match, especially since I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time on the campaign as I might like. Still have to keep writing, after all. This one could be fixed by (again) consulting those who know more than me, so the risk is slightly minimized.

                Sidenote: any of you who are noticing that a lot of my solutions to problems are to ask people with more expertise, you have now found one of the main reasons to host and attend these kinds of events. This industry is huge, and making friends with those who have different specialties is one of the best ways to navigate it. Never be embarrassed to lack knowledge or ask for help, on another topic folks might be turning to you for guidance. It’s a core aspect of learning.

                Okay, I think that runs down the plan pretty well. I hope this gives more information for the folks who were really excited by the idea of doing a retreat. If you’re one of those folks, and/or you have input on some of the challenges posed in this blog, feel free to comment below or email me (NovelistDrew@gmail.com). While this started as more whim than plan, the more I think about it the more fun I’m sure it would be. Who knows, if enough people feel the same way we might just be able to get something off the ground.

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.