Where Things Stand

So it’s been awhile. Well over three months, closing in on four, and I’m sure some people have questions about my silence. Maybe not many, but a few. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t have told you what the silence meant. It’s not that I didn’t feel inspired, it’s just…well, look. I sat down to write, really write, back at the end of August and I discovered something new: while I love writing, I’m not fully in love with being a writer. And I think the two things are very different.

What has this realization meant? An almost total pull-back from marketing efforts. A long, hard look at what I want to do with my career. A lot of writing, and I mean more than I’ve written in my entire life. Lots of considerations, and my mind tends to work best when I push those ideas to the subconscious and plow ahead with day-to-day life, so it’s taken some time to get here.

This isn’t a resignation letter, although I do recognize it sounds like one, especially with that ominous title. It’s more a statement of intent. I mean, first things first, did you guys know I released my third novel a few weeks back? I really did! The sequel to Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, is out there, and I’m proud of it. Yet I’ve done zero marketing, and again it comes back to the question of why.

The truth is that my heart is no longer really in dark fiction. Oh, I plan to finish the Among the Dead series, don’t fret on that one, dearies. The first draft of City of the Dead is already halfway finished and on the backburner as I plow through the first revision of my next novel, and I know how most of Portal goes down, including the ending. It’s going to be a fun ride.

But it’s not where my heart is.

Today my heart is with a deeply flawed sex addict dentist named Dean and his struggles after his wife passes away in a tragic car accident. It’s with a woman who moves back to her small town home after 20 years in the wilderness to discover that not much has changed. It’s with a circle of friends and how one tragedy forms a fulcrum that changes their lives in a myriad of ways.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve rediscovered my love for literary fiction and want to take it “mainstream”. I’m plowing through the next book, tentatively titled Broken Wing and Rusted Drill, and plan to pitch it to literary agents once it’s done in hopes of getting a deal with a larger publisher. As I told a coworker last week, I’ve never really known how to sell books like Room 3 and Corridors of the Dead, but I know just how to sell Broken Wing and its sister titles. If a major won’t take it, I’ll scour the smaller publishers. I believe in the title and think it will place somewhere. Will it sell? Well, I hope so. No way to find out unless I try.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to self-publish the dark fiction with Qwendellonia, at least until the end of Portal. I guess it just means that my indie experiment currently has an expiration date. Maybe I’ll end up back here afterwards, who knows? But I think I’m ready to communicate with you guys again either way, in a more mature fashion. No more bullshit.

Good to see you again.

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Not Forgotten

Hey everybody, just wanted to check in really quickly. Site is not forgotten, neither is the most recent series, so no worries on that front. I’m in extreme crunch time at the moment, having finished another novel right before I publish Pathways, so I’m trying to catch back up with the Pathways schedule (which seems to be shot again) while finishing the Corridors clean-up. My apologies to those waiting on the next installment, but it is coming. The delays are making for a better book and aligning my schedule to better get City and Portal out in a much more timely fashion. Everything is just about nailed down at this point to make that work.

Also entered a contest to write a themed 7,000-word short horror story by October 5th, so there’s a lot of activity going on there. Once that’s all done I’d really like to make it a freebie for you guys.

Other than that, reviews for Room 3 are holding up so far, and thank goodness because the book really means a lot to me. Thanks to everyone who’s enjoyed it and reviewed it so far. I have a good feeling about where this is all going, so hang in there with me…

Status Update for a Quiet April

Hey everybody, back again. Before I get started, a reminder that I’ll be appearing in Kensington, Maryland on Sunday at the Kensington Day of the Book festival. I’ll have copies of all my books there and will be happy to sign any existing copies that you might have, or even just chit-chat.

As for other matters, I’m sure like five of you are probably wondering where I am these days, and that’s an excellent question. The good news is that I’m doing lots of writing. The bad news is that I’m not doing it here. This site is definitely not abandoned, so no worries on that, I’m just slowing it down as I need to dedicate more of the writing time and words to the novel itself.

And City of the Dead is going really well. I’ve received some great feedback from the critique group and I think the story, while complex, is really going to knock your pants off. Just about everything is an upgrade from Corridors of the Dead – more action, more mystery, and more drama, with the last third of the book just completely coming unhinged (in a good way). I know I probably sound like a shill for my own work but I’m just excited by what’s coming together here and it’s why the book has so heavily drawn my attention of late.

Toby Neale put me back on the right path last week with the point that we need to connect with our characters first and foremost and that put things into the proper perspective. The characters are really what matter and I do love them – I just needed to remember that.

Anyway. Book is sitting at just about 87,000 words and I’m approaching the end of the second section. Still not sure on the release time frame yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to have this draft done by the end of May, early June at the latest. From there it shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as Room 3, as it’s already seen way more eyes than Room 3 did when it hit beta. I’ve just been lucky to get a lot of the pain out of the way early.

So patience – good things are coming!

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Status Update: Sick but Fighting

Hi folks, thought it might be time to do another status check. Things are rolling right along in Qwendellonia Publishing HQ, but this is going to have to be a real quick update, as some Iranian food from yesterday afternoon has knocked me down a peg or two. Kids, it ain’t cool to have IBS. Trust me.

First of all, I’m confirmed for the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18th. Check out the schedule/events tab for more information on that one, and as always I’ll keep you up-to-date on my plans there. I’m trying to arrange something for the long stretch between June and September, but I may take some time off from appearances to finalize City of the Dead then.

Speaking of which, City is coming along well. I just sent a batch of pages to my critique group for review and have finished my second draft of the first section. It’s going to be a long book, no lie about that; might surpass Room 3, but I’m not sure just yet, as the back third of the book is still in motion. Just rest assured that I’m working hard on it and have about 70,000 words in the can. You’ll see it this year, promise.

I also had a fantastic idea for a new novel that’s a little different from what I normally write in subject matter, but not structure. It’s called 7:30 Thursday Morning. It’s about the accidental death of a businessman and the ripples of cause and effect that both lead to the death and go outward from the event. It’s all set within one day and is a non-linear story, in that you’ll jump around in order to see the causes and effects in their logical groupings rather than a time-based grouping. Don’t worry, I think I’ve worked out a way to keep the reader from getting lost, and it’s not going to be an especially long book. No timeframe on this one, but I’ve already written a chunk of material for it. I’ll let you guys know more as it progresses.

That’s all for today. Now back to suffering. Hope you had a great weekend.

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Farpoint Convention Wrap-up and General Thoughts

Morning all. I know it might seem a little odd that I didn’t liveblog the third day of my Farpoint convention experience. Maybe it seemed that I had lost interest, I’m not sure, but no. The truth is that Sunday turned out to be such a busy day that I simply didn’t have the time to handle sales and update the blog. Good news, right? Absolutely. While I didn’t break even (and let’s face it, few authors do), I increased my visibility, made some friends, and had a blast. So let’s tidy up the loose ends on this thing.

First I want to express my deepest gratitude to my table neighbors, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail (both from Dark Quest Books) for giving a rookie some pointers.

They gave me some brilliant ideas for future appearances and pointed out what might not be working. I appreciate that. I treat my publication business in the same manner that I treat my day job – any new knowledge is useful – and they gave me a lot to chew on. Hope to run into them at future shows.

I know my Friday entry seemed a little pessimistic, and Saturday morning felt a little rough, but at some point I finally “got” that I was there for a marketing/PR appearance, not to make money. Once that clicked, I started to warm up and ended up having a blast. It funny, too; once that occurred, my sales picked up. My three-day numbers wouldn’t blow anyone away, but it a pretty good start for a newbie.

As I mentioned on Saturday, I got to meet Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame and Felicia Day. I also got to shake the hand of Peter David, the author who has handled writing duties on the Dark Tower comic series. I know I’ve talked about my love-hate relationship with that series, but overall it had more good than bad, and it felt great to share my enthusiasm with him.

Sunday felt good. I had more visitors and felt more able to get into the flow. I engaged folks as they passed and managed to draw a few folks who seemed interested. We had to leave early as the other business needed some tending – that does, after all, help to fund this side of things – but overall I felt positive about the experience. So positive, in fact…

That I can confirm we’ll be making an appearance at Parafest 2013 in Bethlehem, PA from September 6th to 8th. I’ve also sent in my registration for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, but I want to wait until that fully set up before confirming that date. I have a few other shows on my radar for the coming months, but we’ll leave that a surprise for now.

I’m also proud to announce that I’m partnering with Grammarly, a site that provides a strong second set of eyes for your work. I do think the site can replace the work of a good editor, but it goes several steps beyond Word’s grammar feature and can sharpen up drafts before they go to your editor. I’ve tried it out, and so far I like it. Give it a spin and see what you think.

Other items…we’re in the process of working on the City of the Dead cover. I can’t say too much else as things are in flux. If this weekend taught me nothing else, it’s that I may need to reconsider the current look. We’ll see.

That it for today. Watch this space for more news.

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Status Report: Down in the Tunnels

Good Friday, readers. This is a pretty exciting Friday for me as next Friday marks my first convention appearance; I’ll be talking more about it next week in the lead-up to the con itself, but suffice it to say that I’m both anxious and excited. I think I have just about everything I’ll need (though I’d like to know a little more about my table size), and I’m currently planning my table layout. I would normally say that this means no Friday post, but I’m considering the idea of blogging the event as it goes along, supplying you with pictures and some descriptions of what I’ll be seeing. I expect to arrive around 1:00 Friday afternoon and stay there into the wee hours. Pretty exciting stuff.

This post is not entirely about that, however; this post is my semi-monthly status check. I’m currently focused like a laser on City of the Dead, and don’t think I’ll be touching anything else until it’s entered beta reader status. I think those of you who have been waiting for the sequel will find that to be good news. The book is currently around 72,000 words with a significant portion still left to be written; I’m at the 32,000 mark in a significant rehaul of the first half of the book. Let’s just say that it’s already approaching the size of Corridors of the Dead and still has at least another 30,000 words to go. I think it’s going to be roughly the size of Room 3.

Oh, and we’re currently developing the cover. Look for a similar look to Corridors of the Dead and the Station, with a scythe and circuitry taking center stage.

One of the struggles with writing a trilogy, and especially a serial trilogy as I intended this to be from the get-go, is how much information from the previous book to dump on the reader up front. I’m trying to find a good balance with my critique group, but it’s still very, very tricky. I think I might have found a solution to the whole mess, though! City of the Dead is going to release in two editions. The first will, of course, be the book by itself, for those who have read Corridors and want to continue their journey; for those folks, I’ll include a glossary and am tentatively planning a map of the Aethyrs (this may or may not happen, it’s in the embryonic stage). The second edition will incorporate Corridors of the Dead into one volume called Among the Dead: Matty’s Journey. The transition between the two books will be seamless, and it will not include the glossary, though it may include the aethyric map.

So this begs the question: is an omnibus coming once the third book drops? Absolutely. I’m still deciding on what sort of bonus material those will have, but I don’t plan to shortchange any buyers, whether they get in on the ground floor with Corridors, pick up with Matty’s Journey, or buy the whole thing once it’s finished. This will mean seven separate SKUs (including the two standalones of the Station and its successor, both of which will be in the collected editions) for a trilogy, but I’m okay with that and I don’t think I’m the first to do such a thing. I’ll be sure to price them competitively so a buyer of Corridors who then picks up City won’t get a better or worse deal than someone who buys 1 and 2 combined. The same will apply to the omnibus, of course, with Portal of the Dead; as things stand now, City will likely cost 2.99, with Corridors permanently dropping to 99 cents. This means that Matty’s Journey will be 3.98, which is a whole lot of book for not a lot of money.

I definitely plan to put out my first short story collection between City and Portal, along with a couple of non-fiction books about publishing. My fervent hope is to get the trilogy finished up in mid-2014, but we’ll see how that goes. For right now, Matty and crew are fighting through the tunnels beneath the former Watcher complex, ready to encounter a mysterious foe who will challenge them like never before.

Oh, and a reminder that the Somewhere in the Shadows giveaway is still going strong. All you have to do is follow us on twitter, visit our sites, tweet about the giveaway, or write about us on your blog during February and earn entries to win copies of our books and/or the anthology, so go ahead and sign up! I know I’ve said I had my issues with rafflecopter giveaways before, but I’m okay with this since it’s not a reviews-for-likes scam. Here’s what you need. Go nuts!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So That Actually Happened…

I’d say good Monday morning, but is there really such a thing? I suppose if one won the lottery on a Sunday night, or maybe if, say, their football team won the Super Bowl last night (so close, but the Ravens are decidedly not the Redskins and never will be), then they might be inclined to call it a good Monday morning, but in general…

Where was I? Oh, yes. Something actually happened this weekend. Well, several somethings, really, but the most important had nothing to do with rediscovering my love for tea or picking up a few interesting items at thrift stores.

You see, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, I gave my first public reading on Saturday morning.

And I loved it.

Back things up just a little bit; I joined the Montgomery Writers Association back in September and have been attending meetings on-and-off ever since. I’ve participated in those events to which I was privy, such as the festival of lights sale in December, and have tried to make myself an active member of the community. I saw lots of folks giving readings of their own work and didn’t know exactly how the process worked – did the organizers hand pick people, or what?

Eventually I just decided to do the thing that has opened so many doors to this point: I simply asked, and learned that they accepted volunteers. Hey, I could use the experience and I enjoy public speaking (I’m a sicko, sue me), so why not? I offered my services and they accepted, tentatively slating me for April, something that I discussed not too long ago on this very site.

Well, a few weeks ago some lack of volunteers led to some schedule shuffling and, long story short, the chapter organizers asked me to speak in February rather than April. It would mean something of a mental shift, but it’s very rare for me to turn down such an opportunity, especially if it’s asked of me by another, so I grabbed hold of it and decided I wouldn’t let go.

Practice, practice, practice, and I was ready for Saturday. Flash forward to then.

A good friend of mine, Cathy Wiley, was the “official” speaker, and she got something like an hour to speak on how she had sold 35,000 books. I hadn’t counted on actually being part of her presentation (she flashed Room 3 up as an example of a good cover), but I joined in and helped her explain some of the scarier aspects of online marketing to the group. She gave an engaging presentation and I think we worked well as a team together. It may be a presentation that we give together in the future, hard to say for certain, but I think it could work.

We took a break, and I got myself set up and geared up to read. I mixed, I mingled, and whatnot. Got to talk to some interesting folks and hear some interesting ideas for stories. I’m going to keep my eye out for a few of them – I think they have great potential.

After the break I received a great introduction from the Chapter President, Alix Moore, and dove right in.

I read, of course, from Room 3, and presented the first scene where we see the effects of Room 3 and the hallucinogenic drugs. My nerves were on edge as I began, and my practiced presentation of the characters’ voices became a bit inconsistent, so I adjusted some of the attribution on the fly. By the time I hit the halfway point, however, things started to pick up, and I could tell that I had gotten the group’s attention.  I find that confidence builds on confidence, so the longer I went without a major flub, the better I felt, and so the better the reading became. By the end I had built up a pretty good head of steam and felt ready to read as long as I possibly could.

Of course, in the end, I had to stop, as another writer, Thomas Foote, followed me. I felt good, though. The whole thing felt right, in a way that other public speaking hasn’t so far. I suspect it has to do with reading my own fiction and working on the fly rather than sticking to a script. Not sure, but it felt a lot better to stick in the moment rather than worrying about missing some planned beat here or there. That’s where you get the real give-and-take with your audience, in the unplanned.

Afterwards, I sold a copy or two, handed out some more, and really got to talk about my book with a few people. To me, that was worth whatever money I might have otherwise made. I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t like to get paid for my efforts, but right now this is truly a labor of love, and I will take any opportunity that I can get to share this work, even for free. Provided, of course, that I’m not being exploited. So far, so good.

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Finding an Audience

Happy Monday, readers. Hope you had a great weekend. We’re just starting to come out of a deep freeze here in the DC area; the roads are incredibly icy this morning, something of a last hurrah for winter before Spring pays us a temporary visit. It’s been a weird winter, with highs in the 60s one week and highs in the 20s the next and then right back up. My allergies have been in an uproar thanks to it, but what are you going to do?

I’m focused on these shifting phases because my own life is entering a new phase in the next three weeks. On Saturday, February 2nd, I’ll be giving a ten-minute reading of Room 3 for the Maryland Writers Association, Montgomery County, the first time that I’ve given a public reading of my work. I’m glad that it’s a relatively short reading, as I can ease into longer readings and QA sessions. Two weeks after, I’ll be appearing at FarPoint Convention in Timonium, Maryland. I’ll be selling Room 3, Corridors of the Dead, and the Station, but I’ll also be participating in a greet and sign on the night of the 15th, giving me the opportunity to meet some of the other authors at the show. You can check the schedule tab at the top of the page for more information.

For some writers I’m sure that this is old hat, but for me it represents a new commitment to my career and to bettering myself, all in one. Not too many years ago the very idea of speaking in front of groups about my writing – while a vague goal – seemed far too intimidating to even consider. Life had beaten me down, and surely I didn’t have much to say that would be of any interest to a potential reader. Why bother?

Well, because I do have things to say. They’re somewhat complicated things to say, perhaps a little too full of nuance for my own good, but they are things that I need to say. Look, I know that my work is not for everyone; I wish that it were, just as I wish that I could find happiness in writing more financially viable/marketable stuff. I just can’t. I envy writers whose true passion lies in mystery stories or romance stories. I don’t think any of us are better than the other, just different, and some genres are more accessible than others. That’s just the Way It Is, and I’m not going to let some dreams of acceptance sidetrack what I’m trying to do here artistically.

So I keep on saying what I have to say. It’s your call to determine whether those things are worth reading. A lot of folks seem to have decided that they are not worth reading, but then I also don’t think I’ve found my audience just yet. Some days I’m quite tempted to  throw up my hands, to say that either you folks aren’t out there, or that I’m deluding myself in believing that my writing is worthwhile, but I know that’s the easy path to truly having nothing worth saying. You only truly fail when you give up, and I’m not there yet.

Thus, these appearances, in the hopes that I can connect with you folks who might find value in my works. I have faith that sooner or later we will connect, but for now I have to throw my work out to the universe and cross my fingers. Maybe we’ll see each other soon.

Changes are Afoot…

If you’re a regular reader of the site, you may have noticed that things are changing around here. I think it’s for the better, but only time will tell. Shaggin the Muse now features a landing page which makes it easier to find not only my published books but also the latest, most relevant news and information for people who see me at public appearances. You can also expect the launch of a newsletter in the near future, along with a calendar of appearances.

There are obviously still a lot of kinks to work out, as some of the formatting is still blown out from the update (particularly in the sidebar), but I’ll be working actively on those changes over the next week. I’m currently heads-down properly learning CSS and HTML5 so I can make this site all that it can be. I’d love for it to eventually become a hub for discussion as well as news. Keep your eyes peeled!

Happy New Year from Shaggin the Muse and my 2012 Booklist

Wow, so this is the second New Years Eve for this site. I’m planning a 2012 in review post for later this week, but for now I can just say that 2012 was a great year for my career. I published a second novel and a plethora of short works and attended my first show. I managed to crank out half a million words. More than that, I began to get my legs under me and figure out what I’d like to see out of the next few years. Next year I’ll be releasing a short story collection and another novel and attending a few shows, with an April show already confirmed. More information coming on those in the near future. For now, I just feel that I have some decent momentum going into 2013.

I hope you’ve had a great year and have a lot to look forward to next year. We only get so many of them and as I get older I realize just how important it is to do the most you can with the time you have. Yeah, I know that’s something of a cliche, but it begins to settle into your bones as you approach middle age, that’s for sure.

Now, enough of that. It’s booklist time! This year I set a goal to read 60 books (up from last year’s 50). That meant I would have to read, on average, more than a book a week. I hadn’t done that in many, many years and wasn’t sure if I would make it. I’m happy to report that I’ve exceeded that goal, hitting 64, which means I’ll probably keep my goal static next year. Let’s see what I read…

Ready_Player_One_cover

Alexandria