Reflections & Book Update on Nuts

One of my friends reminded me yesterday that The Almshouse is approaching its one-year anniversary.

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I must say, I’m proud of the little book. Though it dipped in rankings, the book held out its own since early February 2016. I feel a little like a parent whose kid is self-sufficient, and claim no credit to its ventures or its friendship with its readers.

Thinking back, the story used to be just questions floating in my head, keeping me occupied in class while my teachers went on and on about some form of math. I found an old copy of the manuscript from my teenage years, back when I still scribbled in notebooks. For some reason, I thought clam chowder served as a better soup than chicken, and Lyle had spent a great deal of time teaching Julia to dance rather than playing his violin. It’s a good thing I wrote the story in drafts.

Along the same lines of nostalgia, I thought of the little girl who inspired the story, and wondered what she’s been up to. She had been a pretty little girl: blond, with curly hair, around my age at the time I saw her. We had both been preteens, though she a much better dressed one than I. I should also revisit the cemetery that inspired Mansion Park, maybe finally read the epithet on the headstone the girl had been staring at. (When I was younger, I tried to make out the words below the date, but had to leave because my friends wanted to go for ice cream.)

Anyway, I’m working on a prettier cover for the paperback version. The sequel is ~ 33% done, and the third book is ~20% done. Sincerely, From the Other Side is a spin-off, written long ago during homeroom and English, and tags on after the third book. I should probably learn to write in order.

nutsBook update on Nuts: It’s 95% done. I had originally planned to finish the book by September and launch it this month. Instead, it’s November, and Nuts sits one chapter away from completion. It’s been this way for months. (I will ramble about it below.) The copy editor has already started reading the beginning, and I’ll finish it by the end of next week in time for him to get through it.

I really shouldn’t make excuses. The trouble started after I returned from a business trip in early August. I’m an attorney by trade, working in a large law firm with rules, regulations, and people that remind you of the TV shows Suits and The Good Wife. If those shows teach anythings, it’s that law firms are no strangers to bad news. So when I got back to the firm, I found that the partners funding our practice area left with the business. Skedaddled, vamoosed, ran away and left behind a handful of associates. As the most junior person (I graduated law school last December), I found myself with half a team left at a firm targeted by major legal news outlets and headhunters. It was open season on our business, our associates, our clients. Every week, someone left. Every week, headhunters poached us. The legal news outlets went crazy: our firm is sinking, they said. Our firm might collapse, they said.

Well, they’re wrong. We did not collapse, thanks to management rescuing as many folks as they could. The remaining younger associates got sent to different departments, and older partners called in favors to help rescue the team. We’re now a different firm, but at least we’re stable… only we won’t be “we” anymore. I’m off to a new venture, to clerk for a judge. It was something I had planned for next year, but given recent developments, I thought I’d head off now and come back later. Hopefully, this will allow me to do what I really want to do: be a prosecutor.

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Story Update: Day Dream – Book 2 of The Spirit World Series

First, I want to thank all the readers for being patient with my lack of progress. It’s been an interesting couple of months; I got assigned a big case and it’s been nothing but work, work, coffee, work, sleep, and more work. Some days have turned into a 7:30am-9pm workday, but I realize that’s still pretty lenient compared to New York attorneys. On the bright side, I managed to get an interview with a great SciFi/ Fantasy author, which I will post in my next feature.

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For now, I am putting up the beta chapters of Day Dream, the second book in The Spirit World Series (and the sequel to The Almshouse). The picture above is a link. I’ve resorted to writing them during lunch break, so please excuse the formatting. I hope to get this out as soon as humanly possible. Maybe if I stop leaving the office…

 

Lessons in Writing: New Authors

It’s hard being a new author; most authors will confirm. You just finished your first manuscript, polished it fervently until it shine and sparkles (metaphorically), and it’s the nearest and dearest thing to your heart next to friends, pets and family. But when you enter the industry, you find yourself surrounded by honed veterans with tens and hundreds of manuscripts to their names.

Suddenly, your one little manuscript doesn’t seem so valuable anymore. It’s like having an old dog; it may not be the cutest thing, but its yours, and you want from the world is for them to see how special it is. Yet, you have no idea how much attention is sufficient, and how far you need to go before feeling satisfied.

My experiment

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After a month of swimming through the writing industry, I was able to sell a little more than 400 copies of my book,  The Almshouse. (I did not hit my 500th sale until 3 days after my 1-month anniversary.) I managed to shove it onto the top of the Hot New Releases list for my genre. At its best, it was ranked 3,000-something in Amazon’s paid rankings, and currently it has 19 reviews. Without ads, it sells ~ 5-9 copies a day.

I had no idea what to make of these numbers until last week.

Earlier last week, I was curious as to whether the behavior behind sales for The Almshouse was standard, so I launched an old manuscript under a different pen name. (We’ll call this New Story.) I did the same thing for New Story as I did for The Almshouse, including advertising through all of the channels I’ve listed below in “Ads” and “More Ads” and discounting this new book at $0.99. The result…

I sold 5 copies in 7 days.

It was pretty bad. The gentleman who ran BKnights even offered me a refund because of the abysmal sales. (I still consider him one of the best promotional source; I’m just amused that even he had a hard time peddling New Story.) Regardless of how hard I try to imitate my approach to marketing The Almshouse, New Story simply refused to sell. After 7 ads, most of which were free or cheap, nothing worked for New Story. In the end, I was satisfied with my experiment, and a little prouder of my first book.

The rest of this entry is just a summary of the lessons I’ve learned this past month, but have yet to write down.

1. The first manuscript usually sucks more than the author realizes:
When I started writing ten years ago, I was an idiotic, entitled teenager looking to get lucky. I spent 3 years writing and polishing my first manuscript, and thought it a unique work of literature that the world must see. I spent a year querying agents, got a 33% return rate in partial requests, only to have the blasted thing returned every time with a “not for me.” Frustrated, I complained to several friends that, if only the agents would give it a chance, they would see it was a bestseller. This manuscript is now known as New Story, and the only one who ended up eating her words was me.

2. Friends make decent guinea pigs:
The best thing I did was attempt to read my works out loud to friends. Your friends love you; they want you to succeed. They will do their best to listen to you gush about your novel. So… if your friends’ eyes are glazing over when you try to reach them your work, you know your story is boring, and if you can’t even keep the attention of your loved ones, it’s time to rewrite or give up on the thing.

3. Marketing early is not optional, and neither is math: Amazon does its rank calculation based on “# of units sold” divided by “# of days the book is on the market.”

This means, for every day you do not make a sale, your rank will drop. (This part is common knowledge.) BUT… this also means that, the later you make a sale, the less impact it will have on your ranking.

For example: no sales in 2 days and 3 on Day 3 = an average of 0,0, and 1 sale a day; this will result in an abysmal ranking for 2 days, and a slightly better ranking on Day 3. However, 3 sales on day 1 with no sales for 2 more days = 3, 1.5, and 1 sale a day; this will result in a much better ranking than the alternative.

4. Stick to one genre, the one you read the most: I have no idea why I tried to write a paranormal romantic comedy as a teenager.
I am not a romantic. I’m not even funny. And the most recent book I’ve read involving any sort of hanky-pankying was The Great Gatsby. Most authors have a tendency to write what they want to read, so when they present their books to the public, it’s to draw in everybody else that share their reading habits. If you don’t read romance (like I don’t read romance) you won’t be comfortable writing a “steaming? steamy?” scene about your hot princess or knight in shining armor.

5. Grow thick skin, the kind people get after tanning too long: 
Writing is not a competition, but that won’t stop some people from treating it like one. Unlike desk jobs (or in my case, law) there are trolls, and angry mobs, and even people with personal vendettas. If you read the writers forums, you’ll see some pretty interesting stories about readers giving reviews to the wrong book, or chefs getting 1-star reviews for their BBQ cookbooks from members of PETA. Remember: the reviewers mean less to the reviewers than the author. Don’t take anything one person says personally (yes, it’s easier said than done.) People read stories for different reasons. Some of them might be upset. Some of them might be drunk. Some of them might be rival authors. Just grit your teeth and ignore the reviews. Even Harry Potter has 1-star reviews (though goodness knows why.)

That’s all for now. This is just one person’s reflections. Feel free to take as much or as little to heart!

Story Updates: Nuts and Steel Rain

At the suggestion of a friend, I’m posting both of my manuscripts in progress for readers who are interested. They’re not fully edited, but I thought I could benefit from some readers’ feedback while I finish the manuscripts.
The first is Steel Rain. It’s set in modern day.

This is a sequel to The Almshouse; The Spirit World Series is set in the same world but follows different characters. The narrating voice also varies based on age and time period. This one follows Kathleen, a descendant of Julia’s family, as she herds spirits between worlds. Unfortunately, Kathleen’s weekly routine gets interrupted when a ghost from the 1960’s refuses to leave this world without her. He claims she’s his long lost fiancée, Katrina, but Kathleen is sure she is no one’s reincarnation. Can she find a way to force him to move on without leaving this world as well? And what is it about the real Katrina that he would mistake Kathleen for her?

nutsThe other is Nuts. This is a stand alone horror story set in the early 1970’s.

Nuts follows the story of Lucy Dane, a fifteen-year old girl who claims she can see ghosts. When a slip of the tongue in front of a renown psychiatrist lands her in Dover Hill Mental Hospital, Lucy stumbles across other patients not necessarily of this world. From the alleged oracles to the telepaths playing cards without cards, these people prove to Lucy that her powers do exist. But when the patients start dying one by one, Lucy must confront her own take on reality. Is she really the gifted medium she believe herself to be? Or is there a more nefarious, logical explanations to these mysterious deaths?

I’m hoping to finish at least one of these by the coming summer. Let me know what you think!

The Almshouse

Silly me… I forgot to make a blog post about my own book. This is The Almshouse, a 1930’s ghost story mixed with a murder mystery.

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Synopsis:

Come travel into the 1930’s and through the doors of St. Margaret’s School for Girls. The place used to be an almshouse, until its previous occupants burned to death thirteen years before. The townsfolk are at a loss as to what started the fire. Some said it was an act of the devil. Some said it was a resident who had too much to drink. The building, miraculously, survived.

When a bag of bones falls on twelve-year old Julia, she finds herself thrown into the spirit realm and face to face with house’s past residents. Her new neighbors aren’t so lively, and some can’t even remember their own names. But as Julia soon discovers, there’s more to these people than meets the eye. One of these ghosts is not like the others, and Julia must find out why someone had been cut from the town records.

Available for $0.99 until December 25, 2015 at:

Amazon Kindle

Coming to Nook and Apple iBooks on January 1, 2016

Story Update: Free Short Story – Rain

After a week of emailing and pestering Amazon, I’m happy to report that my short story, Rain, is officially free!

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This was my first published item. The cover is new, but the story is old. I originally wrote it for a creative writing class four years ago. The professor was more of a literary enthusiast, so I don’t think this was quite her cup of tea. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from her about taste and the publishing industry.

This past September, I submitted Rain to KDP as a test run for the platform itself. It had a pretty silly cover then. My friends said it reminded them of Peanuts. I went on vacation the day after; it did alright on its own.

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