Monday, January 31, 2011

Too many details or too few details

I've mentioned that I'm working on the sequel to Chasing Filthy Lucre. I'm not that far along, but I'm already seeing something that I may have to go back and fix in the editing. Description, I've got very little of it. I am setting some of the story in a few of the places that I introduced in Lucre. I know that everyone who reads one book won't read the other. That's why I've been spending so much energy trying to make sure I sneak in back story so new readers won't be lost. And I'm trying to reintroduce characters and places in a way that won't bore those who've read Lucre but allows new readers to know who these people are.

When I wrote Lucre I tried to go into some detail in that book about how these places look and what the world of the story was like. I wanted to paint that picture for the reader, and also for myself. I'll admit that it was hard to do. As a writer, I'm not naturally wired to go into deep description. I want the story to move and too much description slows that down. I want a story to move as a reader also. Taking a page to tell me how someone's hair falls across their face or how their eyes are green pulls me out of a story. I prefer one well-thought description about someone thrown into a scene.

One I've used before is to describe someone's accessories they are wearing. Having a waitress wear watermelon earrings, for example. That tells me a little about what she looks like and, also, a little about who she is. It takes a certain kind of person to wear watermelon earrings. Someone fun. Someone a little bold, a little loud. An outgoing personality who doesn't mind it when others notice her. At least that's what it tells me. And here's my dilemma. Does a single description say that to everyone? Or do most readers just read watermelon earrings as watermelon earrings? Am I doing a disservice to my readers by not telling them that the waitress was a tall redhead with tight curls. And when she wasn't smacking her gum she was pushing it between the gap in her front teeth.

I ask these questions because I want to get better. I want to do what the readers want and one criticism I've received from people in my critique group is that I don't go into enough detail about what my characters look like. I don't paint that picture that I mentioned earlier.

So what's the answer here? Do readers want a pretty picture, or do they want that one great detail?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Consider Us Even : Two months in

It was two months ago today that I uploaded Consider Us Even to Smashwords. I didn't know what would come of it. I hoped it would do well. I hoped it would get people clamoring to read Chasing Filthy Lucre.

So far there's been very little clamoring, but overall I'm happy. As of today 207 people had downloaded the book and 10 people had added it to their Smashwords library. That's 217 people who thought enough of it to take the time to at least download it or mark it as something they want to read. That's roughly three people a day. Not too bad.

And I have two people say publicly that they liked it. First was a very glowing review from Daryl Sedore. I posted that here. The second was Sabrina Ogden, who told people who read her blog about the book and how to get a Smashwords account so they could read it for themselves. Then she graciously gave me a day on her blog for a guest post. Got to interact with a few of her readers and they seemed excited about the book.

I may be thinking too much of my little story, but I'd imagine that if the story could be on one of the more popular sites -- like Amazon or Barnes and Noble -- I'd have more downloads. Folks looking for ebooks go to those sites more often because they have ereaders associated with them.

Want to run some numbers? I do. If I were to have charged 99 cents for this story and had the same number of downloads (and I know that charging for the story would actually reduce the number of people who downloaded a copy) then I would have earned $204.93 total. Smashwords pays a royalty of 85 percent on books sold through them. That means I would have made $174. 19 so far. Not much, I know that. But the key to success in the ebook world, at least from what I have been able to tell, is volume on my end and on the readers end. I need to have several books available. So if I had five books available and they all had the same modest success, I would have made more than $800 by now. That doesn't sound ad bad, does it? Not to me at least.

I promised a few weeks ago that I wouldn't turn this blog into nothing but updates on Consider Us Even, and I'm going to stick to that. I just figured that today was a good day for an update.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You want to stand out as a writer, then write the ass-kickingest book you can write. When you're done, write a better one.

If you're worried about being popular, then study branding. Listen to everything the marketing people you. Spend your days on the forums and the boards and let people know how much you love puppies.

Look. I do this, too. Maybe we all do this. I'm not arguing at all that "branding" in and of itself is a bad thing.

I'm saying I've never bought a book based on a brand. Sure, the marketing people might tell you that the best branding works in the background. That I didn't even know I bought
Mystic River because of the branding. You know why I bought Mystic River? Because friends I trust told me it was good. Because I read Shutter Island and thought it was great. Why did my friends love it? The writing. The. Writing.

Steve Weddle over at Do Some Damage.

The whole post is great. Go check it out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The trouble with perfect characters

I am not all that particular of a reader. If you write a story that grabs my attention I'll usually give it a shot no matter what genre it's in. No guarantees that I'll finish. I'm not one of those people. I can put a book down once I lose interest. But I will give most stories a chance, even if the writing's not the best.

There's one thing that I have a real problem with, though. It's the perfect character. I don't mean that in the This-character-is perfectly-created-for-this-situation way. I mean the perfect character as in someone who is impossibly beautiful and impossibly smart and always seems to be the only person in the world who can handle this situation he or she finds himself/herself in.

I am reading a sample of one of the books that seems to be taking off right now. So far we have one woman who is a scientist who is beautiful and crazy smart. She is trying to meet up with another scientist who is also crazy smart and impossibly good looking. He also happens to be the only person in a situation that knows how to get out of it, how to save the world.

There was another book I read with a female protagonist who was the same way. She was described as being beautiful, in great shape, top-of-her-class smarts. Too perfect to be believable in my book.

Bothers me in television too. Gina and I are watching a show that I like, but one of the main characters knows everything about everything. And not like some know-it-all. He speaks every foreign language used on the show. He knows detailed science. He knows how to fly a helicopter. Every time some situation comes up he knows how to get out of it.

I don't know if I don't like these kinds of characters because I don't write them. I write regular men and women. Or at least I think I do. Most of my characters are internally conflicted. Put in extreme situations and having to do things they wouldn't normally do. At least those are the characters in Chasing Filthy Lucre. Whether or not they come across that way to the reader I'm not sure. I think they do. So long as they aren't perfect, because a perfect character will take me out of a story faster than anything.

Give me flaws. Give me struggles. Let the characters get out of whatever situation they are in, they are the hero after all. Make them use their heads. Make them be creative. Let me see how they think and how they react. That will tell me about them and who they are far more than making them an expert in Eastern medicine and marine biology.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The soundtrack to New Eden

I don't know why it worked this way, but when I was writing Chasing Filthy Lucre I'd play music in the background. Usually through Pandora. I created a station around a couple of groups -- Little People and RJD2. They are electronica/trip hop/acid jazz artists. To me, this is what New Eden would sound like. This is the music you'd find there. Not sure what those artists sound like? Click on the videos below.

I had this Pandora channel on almost every time I wrote on Chasing Filthy Lucre. I've got it on now as I write this post and work on the Lucre follow-up, And the Signal Fell Silent.*

That may be the first time I've mentioned the title to the second book. What do you think?

This isn't music I ever listen to outside or writing. And I honestly can't tell you why I'm listening to it now. It's not usually my thing. More of a rock/pop guy myself. But these bands and this music help me be productive. I don't know if they put my head in the right place to write these New Eden stories or what. But I'll keep listening as long as I keep being productive.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why being indie is exciting

After getting a couple of comments on my previous post, I should probably say that I'm proud to be an indie author. It was a choice I made. If I didn't want to be an indie author I would still be writing and preparing to submit to agents. But I looked at the evidence out there, looked at my style of writing, and made this choice. I'm not ashamed to be going indie.

I wrote a long bit here about being indie that sounded very familiar. Got a few paragraphs in then realized I'd written it before. Decided I didn't want to bore anyone who'd already read that. If you haven't, read the older post here. We'll wait.

So now you know some reasons, but there are others. Here's one. I don't write at a length that's typically published by traditional houses. The longer I've been at this writing thing the more I've realized that the length I am the most comfortable with is something in the 25,000 to 30,000 word range. That length is typically considered a novella. That length is also something that's tough to get published. It would be about 80 or so published pages if done in book form. Not many publishing houses want that. The cutoff for them seems to be about 50,000 words, and even that's a little short.

Is a novella unpublishable? Of course not. Plenty get published. But how many of those are written by unknowns? Very few, I'd reckon. So my chances of getting the work I think I'm best at published by a traditional publisher seem pretty slim. But now, with ereaders and ebooks and self publishing, I have a way to get those stories in the hands of readers who might like them.

And that leads to another reason that being indie is exciting. Turn around time. Reasonably, with traditionally published books there is an 18-month lag from the book being purchased by a publisher to the book hitting the shelves. That's a killer. I have some big plans for the world I've created in Consider Us Even and Chasing Filthy Lucre. Plans that involve lots of stories set in that universe. Assuming I'm successful, an 18 month wait by readers between books would stifle any momentum. Eighteen months is plenty of time to forget all about that great book you read. Plenty of time to forget about the next book that's supposed to come out.

But going indie, I can control the date of the release of the books. How fast can I write, edit, and format? That's all that's keeping me from uploading something new. I'm in control.

Being indie also allows me to keep control over my stories and the direction of my series. I'm not one of those who thinks I know better than someone in the publishing industry. But I do know that I have a vision for how this series plays out. Going indie means I get to keep control of that, and that's something that's important to me. I'm weird like that.

The final thing that excites me about going indie -- well final thing for now, I'm sure I'll think of others -- is pricing. With the royalties that the book sellers are offering to authors who publish directly through them, it only takes a modest amount of success to make as much money as an indie author as you can on an average advance from a traditional publisher. So the argument that you can't make money going on your own is starting to be disproven. There are the wildly successful indie folks, like Joe Konrath and Karen McQuestion and Amanda Hocking. But under that level there are many, many indie authors who are having great success. Making money as authors. Doing what they love.

So, despite what my last post may have led some readers to believe, I like being an indie author. The good outweighs the bad. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't have concerns. I think there are several indie authors who can hold their own with the big boys, I just don't want their indie author friends to be the only ones who know that. I want them to break out of that label and just be an author.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My worries about being indie

If you feel the need to classify me, I'm an indie author. But, really, I wish you wouldn't. Don't label me anything other than author. There's no need to add adjectives.

I know I'm not the first person to say that. But I felt like it needed saying anyway. Here's why. I joined Twitter a few months ago. I'm following mostly all publishing folks and a good chunk of those are writers. I follow indie writers, traditionally published writers, and those writers who are hoping to be accepted into the traditionally published fold. People in both of the traditional camps interact. They swap messages. Say good things about each others' work. Are generally pleasant with one another. The people in the indie camp do the same things. There is a lot of plugging each others work in the indie camp. A lot. And that's fine and understandable. One of the things Twitter is good for is to promote where you are and what you're doing. (To a point, people. Remember that.) But this is also one of my concerns about being indie.

I really hope that all of the indie authors aren't just standing in a circle shouting at each other. We all visit each others blogs. We do guest posts on each others blogs. We create new blogs in the name of promoting independent authors. We all buy each others books. We download free samples. All in the name of support, and it's great. But what I want to do here, at least what I hope to do, is build a career. I know others hope the same thing. I don't have expectations that I'll become some billion-selling megastar author. I do have expectations, though, that I'll be successful at this. And when people talk about me I want them to call me an author. I don't want them to qualify it with "He's an indie author." I don't want them to say I'm a success "for an indie." I want them to consider me a success no matter what route to publication I chose.

So, is the indie clique that many of us have put ourselves in hurting our chances for that kind of success? Are we only selling books to our indie author friends? Or, are we expanding past that and finding readers who like a good book who don't know anything about indie or traditional publication.

In my head things should work like the old commercial. I find something I like and tell two friends about it. And they tell two friends. And they tell two friends. 

And in theory that's great. Word of mouth and all of that. But what if you tell me and another friend? Then we go to tell two friends, but the friends we tell are the same people. Then no one knows about this great thing -- a book, in this case. Nobody, that is, other than our little circle of friends because, chances are the two people each of those people will tell already know each other so they aren't sharing new information. We're all just standing in a circle shouting at each other.

So, I've made a concerted effort to make sure that the group of people I am following on Twitter and am friends with on Facebook aren't just indie authors. I am trying to get to know people in the traditional world. And it's worked, at least somewhat. When I do try and promote on Twitter those folks from the traditional world are helping by pointing their followers toward me.

Right now I have 203 downloads of Consider Us Even on Smashwords. I don't think I'd be near that number if a few people from the traditional wold wouldn't have helped me with promotion. They have followers who wouldn't have seen the link to my story because they aren't plugged into the indie world. And hopefully they liked the story and the excerpt to Chasing Filthy Lucre. Hopefully they'll buy Lucre when it comes out in February.

I'll come back and let you know how it works out. But I just wanted to share those thoughts. There is a lot I like about being an indie author and I'm sure I'll share those things with every one at some point. But I do have some concerns, and this is one of them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Now check me out -- My first guest post

Sabrina at My Friends Call Me Kate said nice things about me yesterday. Now she's let me hijack her blog for a day and given me a chance to guest post. Read about why I write. Some of it I've mentioned here, but not all of it. Go. Read it. Learn more about me. And follow Sabrina and her blog. It's good stuff.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Check her out

Sabrina, who runs the blog My Friend's Call Me Kate, says some nice things about me and Consider Us Even. Go check out the post and encourage her to say even more.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Looking the part

I bought new glasses this weekend. I lost my previous pair this summer when I forgot I had them on and jumped into the lake to go swimming. I came up from underwater and someone I was with asked, "Didn't you have glasses on?"

Yes, I did.

I'd been wearing an old pair with an old prescription until I got a new pair. This weekend was the time to get a new pair. I was trying glasses on, asking Gina what she thought. We'd been in the store a few minutes when Gina leaned in to me and said "I'm trying to find a pair that makes you look like an author." I leaned closer and said, "Me too."

I finally settled on a pair that's a much bolder choice than I've ever owned. And, yes, they are very authory. I got my author glasses. When I get a picture of me wearing them I'll post it here. For now, though, here's what they look like not on my beautiful face.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bulletin board material

Matt Cutter took the steps to the basement two at a time. He pondered, for a moment, whether it wouldn't be faster if he just hopped the rail and skipped a couple of flights.

He could hear Admiral Washer pushing bullets back into the clip. He was reloading the semi-automatic that had just put three shots into the concrete wall above Cutter's head.

I am fascinated by inspiration and ideas. And mostly where they come from. Those two paragraphs are something that popped into my head after going down stairs at the day job to pick up a soda and a salad to go with my lunch. Near the cafeteria is a bulletin board where people can post items they have for sale. Someone had posted on the board a "mat cutter" for sale and an "Admiral washer." Those signs and the walk back upstairs to my office inspired those paragraphs. No idea what Paragraph 3 or subsequent paragraphs would say, but what's up there seems like a good start.

That's it. Happy Friday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It’s not voodoo. It’s not an act of faith. That’s simple math. If you write a thousand words a day, every day – with no excuses, no trespasses, no trespasses against – you too will have a completed manuscript in 90 days.

And you know what? It’ll be good. That’s part of the power of a thousand words a day. It’s not too fast, not too slow. It doesn’t give you time for writer’s block. But you also don’t end up with one of those crappy NaNoWriMo novels that reads like it was written by an amphetamine-addled hamster. You end up with something you can be proud of, something that approximates your best work.

Brad Parks, at Jungle Red. Some advice I need to listen to.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm a Kindler now. What next?

It's been too long since I told you all how wonderful my wife, Gina, is.

My wife, Gina, is, well, wonderful. Seems she told my parents that I was looking at Kindles and Nooks and all the other e-readers around the holidays. The three of them then went in a bought me one for Christmas. So, I'm a Kindle owner now. And, yes, I did download my own book. There are some formatting issues (and a typo, unfortunately) that I am going to deal with in the next upload.

Due to a delayed Christmas celebration I've only had it for a couple of days. But so far, it's wonderful. I had played with them in stores, but, getting it into my hands, made me realize how light it is.

What I need from you all are suggestions on what to load onto it. I've got $100 in Kindle gift cards so I should be able to get it pretty full.

If you were in my situation what would be the first couple of books that you'd put on it?

My first review -- and an update

So, we're a bit over a month since Consider Us Even was made available on Smashwords. There are 178 downloads so far. A number I'm very happy with, by the way. Something else I'm very happy with? Got the first review today. I'm posting it below. The story received 5 out of 5 stars. Without further ado, the review from Daryl Sedore, a fellow author:

I'm a bit of a picky reader, partly because I'm a writer myself. While reading, without meaning to, I'm evaluating the writing instead of getting lost in the story.

But with this book by Jarrett Rush, I got lost in the story and there are two main reasons for that.

1. The writing was really, really good.
2. The story was fabulous.

I found his characters believable. His dialogue was perfect; not forced or rushed. The scenes were well written and led me to see the new world he developed. I was surprised by his imagination too because he came up with a story conflict that only this story could have.

Well done Jarrett but I need more. You now have one more faithful reader. Thank you.


 Now, the update. I will have my first guest post in the middle of the month. It will be at Sabrina Ogden's blog. From what I understand another review will follow. That will be the first on a book review blog. I'm excited, to say the least. And I hope she likes my little story as much as Daryl did.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"The most important laws on our books provide simple guidance, not play-by-play scenarios of what is or is not permitted. We abolished slavery and granted former slaves the right to vote in 100 words. We guaranteed equal protection of the laws and recognized the citizenship of all persons born or naturalized in the United States in barely 80. We guaranteed women the right to vote in fewer than 40 words." 

Linda Chavez, columnist, on government learning to write laws in shorter, clearer language.

This quote isn't from a column on fiction writing. (But the column is interesting. It's short. Read it if you like.) If you think you need at least three pages to properly convey the beauty of that sunset, think again. Obviously, it's not the number of words that count. It's using the right ones.