Tag Archives: sword and chant

Review, Revisions, and StoryBundle

First: A very nice review of Sword and Chant from Marissa Lingen. After our conversation about this post on the visibility of women writers and reviews of self-published works, I queried her about reviewing Chant. I’m beyond delighted she had nice things to say about it. Really, there’s always that voice in the back of my head telling me I should be grateful if I get feedback more enthusiastic than, “Well, it doesn’t completely suck.” And that voice natters at me even when I love a story and am confident others will, too. So the fact her review includes the word “recommended” without the word “not” in front of it had me singing. (Yes, I truly sang. No, you wouldn’t want to hear it.)

The publisher side of me is just as jazzed about her acknowledgement of the good production values.  Reviews of traditionally published books wouldn’t make mention of such as thing unless it was truly awful, but it’s so important for reviewers to include at least a passing mention of good production in self-published works.  We all know there is crap out there.  Reviewers do all professional writers a service by acknowledging decent work.

(And if you haven’t read that post of women and reviews I referenced above, I recommend taking a look if for no other reason than it’ll link you to Marissa’s comments on her own review policies.)

Second: Revisions of Sand of Bone are still progressing despite the distractions of spring fever. There is still one plotting issue I’m not certain how to fix. I’m letting it simmer in the background while working on other sections in the hope a solution will reveal itself. If a solution doesn’t spring from my brow fully formed, I’m not certain what I’ll do.

Third: It’s official! I am curating a fantasy bundle for StoryBundle.  I so enjoyed working with them as a writer, and am looking forward to working with them again as both a writer and the curator.  It’s tentatively slated for a fall release, and I’ve already begun to screen submissions. If you’re interested in submitting something, cool! Later today I’ll put up an overview of what I’m looking for and how to go about submitting.

In Deep

I’m nearly finished with the rewrite of Sand of Bone.

Hmm.  “Rewrite” sounds too small.  It’s turned into more of a total remodeling–the kind that involves stripping off three layers of disgusting wallpaper so the walls can be patched, ripping up tattered carpet so the original wood floors can be restored, replacing the windows, putting on a new roof, and upgrading the plumbing and electrical.  Then I’ll set to revisions–new brass hardware, intricate moldings, so on and so forth.  By the time it’s done, about the only thing I won’t have done is jack the novel from its foundations to put it in a new location.  (Been there, done that, see Sword and Chant.)

This is, frankly, the point I planned to reach about this time last year.  (Never underestimate the power and influence of grieving.)  More than once, I’ve been troubled by my lack of steady–let alone exceptional!–progress over the year.  I’ve decided to let that go.  I’m not under any contractual obligations, just the expectations I set for myself.  And though my lack of new offerings have most certainly hurt sales of Sword and Chant, that novel isn’t going to disappear or go out of print.  Once Sand of Bone and its sequel Breath of Stone go up, Sword and Chant will still be there.

So back I go to rewrites and revisions.  That means I won’t really update anything else online right now.  Other than playing on Twitter–where I can drop in and out of chats when I have the time–I’ve gone a tad quiet.

What’s also quite wonderful is I have in hand a novel written by one of my Viable Paradise classmates.  That means I have the perfect bridge between my own writing sprints!  Nothing spurs me on to write more, and strive to write better, than to read awesome stories by others.

Reviewing Reviews

After hanging around writers in various states of publish for the last twenty-plus years, you’d think I’d have internalized the “Don’t read your reviews!” advice.

After hanging around me for not too long, you’d see I can be quietly and subversively hardheaded about certain pieces of advice.

I do indeed read my reviews (a simple process these days, since I don’t get that many).  And I consider what they mean, individually and collectively, about how I’ve connected with readers.

That phrase—connected with readers—is the foundation of my review-reading mindset.  It isn’t about judging “quality;” it is about understanding if what I produced matched the readers’ expectations.

Continue reading Reviewing Reviews

Once More, With…

… with feeling.  Or different feelings.  Or deeper knowledge, or better strategy, or greater confidence.  Or hubris blind to incompetence.  We shall see.

I am inflicting more revisions on Sand of Bone.  Once upon a time, repeated revision rounds felt akin to shaving away words and layers in an attempt to make my novel-peg fit into a proper slot.  But the freedom of how I’ve chosen to present my stories, along with the reading and consideration of reviews given to Sword and Chant, have given me both a positive push and clearer understanding of my goals.  It’s made these last two rounds of revisions exciting and enlivening.

There are a couple big changes, both involving worldbuilding.*  One is the transformation of Exile into Salt.  The same behavior will get you sent to that gods-hated place, but the change of name and purpose fixes plot holes, and allows for all sorts of little one-lines from characters such as the unofficial and sarcastic “motto” of Salt cures.

It also allowed me to burn far too many hours checking out salt flats, and that was much fun.  Quirky and random research topics are one of the reasons I love the work I do.

Also changed is the mortality of the ruling Velshaan.  They’ve always been descendants of the creation gods, and they’ve always aged, been vulnerable to harm, and decidedly mortal.  But now they can die only when one of their own bloodkin kills them.

Think through the consequences of that one, and you can see why I’m excited by the change.  Yes, your own kin will be the cause of your death, but what about times when withholding that death would be worse than causing it?  What rituals would be created to be a psychological buffer?  How would it feel to grow up knowing no one but your family can kill you, and that you must one day kill a parent or grandparent?  What happens when the bloodkin have a really, really big feud?

As you can imagine, those two changes alone create massive ripple effects.  The revisions are line-by-line, word-by-word, with an eye to ensuring every choice, plot point, and character attitude is compatible with the changes.

But the bottom line is I’m so much happier with what the final novel is becoming.  I’m newly excited rather than frustrated.  I’m loving it all over again.

As an added bonus, the changes fit well with a tidbit of advice picked up from Brad Beaulieu’s GenCon seminar this weekend: Plant fear of the solution in the character.

(And if you haven’t read Brad’s work before, I highly recommend it.  Epic fantasy, flying ships, Russian flavor, truly awesome and complicated characters.)

Today, I made it through the first four chapters of changes.  As long as life doesn’t deal me yet another sledgehammer to the gut, I just might get these revisions done by the end of September.  It’s only, y’know, nine months behind schedule.

*For reasons why I’ll blithely alter my worldbuilding, see On Worldbuilding, Changes, and Plot.

Wishing For Greatness

I’m handing today’s Blog Challenge question–“What is the thing you most wish you were great at?”–to Jaynes from Sword and Chant.

He wishes, more than anything, that he could be a great leader rather than a feared warrior.

His father, Maradek, first earned his country’s respect by leading his tribe against the invasion of warriors known for their brutality.  After he succeeded his mother as chieftain of the tribe and ruler of the country, Maradek conquered a neighboring land, believing it the best way to protect his own people.

Thirty years after, Jaynes is facing the consequences of that conquering and occupation.  But he doesn’t know how to negotiate or compromise with the enemy chieftains.  He doesn’t know how to deal with people he doesn’t like–enemy or ally–and he doesn’t like to be wrong.  He does a great job directing those who agree with him.  He has no idea how to convince those who don’t.  Leadership outside a warrior’s role was never to have been his task.

Worst of all, Jaynes knows he’s failing, and he knows people are suffering because of his failure.  Since force seems to solve the problem in the short term, he falls back on it when his attempts to actually lead collapse.  And that causes more problems.

And Jaynes knows that, too.

An Assassin’s Three Passions

More on the 30-Day Challenge…

Benkil from Sword and Chant is one of my most favorite characters.  Without getting into spoilers for the novel, I can tell you he was once little more than an average warrior from an average tribe of Calligar–able to sit a horse with a grace, handle edged weapons to give more damage than he received, and loyal to his tribesmen, his chieftain, and his Iyah.  But Benkil succumbed to the Chant–the exiled god of sacrifice and unfulfilled dreams–and believed the Chant’s promises of eternal life.  So the Chant molded Benkil into an assassin of exceptional skill and ruthless intent.  But the Chant didn’t take Benkil’s awareness of self (or his doubts and fears and hopes), and left Benkil with the constant reminders that he chose to become the killer that he is.

Continue reading An Assassin’s Three Passions

Missing Omni

The deeper I sink into Sand of Bone revisions, the more trouble I’m having maintaining voice.  It’s fairly easy in large sections where revisions require a simple rework and rearrangement of what’s there.  But the places that require a bridge of new material–or an entire new chapter–I am struggling against the omni voice of Chant.

Writing in omni isn’t something I expected to so fall in love with.  Chant was an experiment, my chance to try out what author Sherwood Smith uses and speaks of with such excitement.  (And if you haven’t checked out her novels, you owe it to yourself to try them.)  But as I settled into the flow–developed a better feel for narrative shifts, grew comfortable with choosing whose eyes and ears and mind would be shared with the reader–I indeed fell in love with its dual nature.  Omni is at once direct and removed, simple and complicated, rich and streamlined.  It’s the broad focus of a panorama lens combined with the encompassing intimacy of a gentle kiss.

Now, with Sand, I feel as if I’m learning third all over again, which in some ways I am.  There is such a temptation to slip into omni, to re-write the entire thing in omni.  But shifting from third to omni isn’t a simple thing.  The switch would require a complete overhaul of its structure, timing, character revelations, important plot notes…  And I don’t have a storyteller–the behind-the-prose character telling the story.  Based on my experience with Chant, that lack is enough to kill the chances of omni working well.

So, no, Sand will remain third–at least until I reach the end of the rewrite, I suppose.  Then I’ll beg some beta feedback to see if it works.  If not, I shall shelve it, work it on Chant’s sequel, and Drunkard, and any other thing I can until I figure out what the heck I want to do with it.  Why not do that now?  Because I want beyond all wants to have the rewrite finished rather than aborted.

Either way, I am very glad I can choose to push it or not push it.  At this point, were I under a deadline, Sand would never be what I want it to be.

But the no-omni is indeed bugging the crap out of me.  I never dreamed third-person would feel so constricting and clunky.

Writing Time, Production Time, and Assumptions

A few weeks ago, awesome writer Charlie Stross wrote on why he doesn’t self-publish.  I considered responding, then realized there was no reason.  Too often, commenting on such a post to offer a different perspective or correction to facts is assumed to be an attempt to “convert” the blog host.  Since Stross is happy with his situation, I have no reason to convert him.  (As if my small voice would make a difference anyway. 🙂 )

I considered posting my own response here, then…  Well, happily, I was distracted by writing fiction instead!

But now up on Stross’s blog is a guest post by Linda Nagata–“Why I Do Self-Publish.”  She does a wonderful job of presenting her perspective, and I found myself nodding along in agreement.

Of particular interest, especially when it comes to accurate information for those considering self-publishing, is Nagata’s brief summary of the book-production side of things.  Stross estimated it would take him three months to produce each book.  (Not write, just produce.)  Nagata shares her actual production time–including all formatting–was about seven days.

Nagata’s production time matches my own experience, though I completely understand the assumption of the inexperienced that it must take days and weeks and months to turn story into formatted book.  The process intimidated me in the beginning and, admitting my own limitations and anxieties, decided I’d be better off paying someone to teach me than trying to learn on my own.

After the Think Like A Publisher workshop, I practiced formatting a couple short stories for EPUB and MOBI.  By the time Sword and Chant went up, my files were pretty clean and I knew how to resolve errors.  It took me a day.  That experience also taught me how to better format my work-in-progress documents to make conversion even simpler.  I suspect the formatting for Sand of Bone to take a few hours.  Hours.

And as for the notion that self-publishing creates a massive burden of bookkeeping and management…  No, not really.  A sole proprietorship–whether writer or publisher–has the same reporting requirements.  At its simplest, you record what money is paid to you, and what you pay others.  “Production management” is really just “self-directed activities.”  If you can plan a vacation, you can plan a publication schedule.

So while I completely understand many writers have no desire to do anything but write a story, I don’t like to see other aspiring writers deterred by incorrect assumptions about how much time self-publishing requires one to “take away” from writing time.  Truly, it’s nearly the same as newbie writers assuming there must be a secret handshake that leads to publishing success.

StoryBundle Sum-Up

I could hardly be more pleased with my first StoryBundle experience.

We closed out the Indie Fantasy Bundle with about 2350 bundles sold. That means Sword and Chant is in the hands of over two thousand strangers.  For a new writer like me, just starting out with a “platform” the size of soapdish rather than a soapbox, that’s fantastic.  I didn’t make as much per-sale as I would have selling those books independently, but StoryBundle allowed me to tap a new set of readers in a short amount of time.  That was worth it to me.  If readers like the book, they’ll tell others and buy future works.  If readers don’t like it…  Well, it’s better to know now, yes? 🙂

By the numbers: About 84% of those sales were over the bonus mark–an awesome number for a pay-what-you-want strategy.  The income totals indicate plenty of folks paid more than the minumum bonus mark.  The readers chose to donate over $1000 to Mighty Writers and Trees for the Future.

My share of the total income makes me very happy.  It brings me almost one-third of the way to my eighteen-month income goal.  It also brings me to about one-third of my unit-sales goal for the same time period.

The folks behind StoryBundle were great and easy to work with, and I look forward to keeping in touch with the writers who shared the bundle with me.  Payment happens within 30 days of the bundle’s end–faster than any other platform.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

If you missed the bundle, you can still go to StoryBundle for links to all the works included.

UPDATE: A few writers have come this way in search of information on StoryBundle’s payment terms. For the Indie Fantasy Bundle, payment was in my account within a few DAYS of the bundle’s end.