The Sixth Reason: SPFBO 2016

I mentioned a sixth reason for taking Purge of Ashes off the market yesterday, and that would be its elimination from Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off competition for 2016.

It is not official yet, as The Qwillery is yet to post their results, but it’s true. Unfortunately, I found out in a rather nasty way: by Goodreads rating. Surprised at a low score, I looked up the reviewer only to find her profile mentioned she blogged for the Qwillery. It was not hard to make the leap in logic. Later, I found entries on the site which gave me further insight into her reasoning. The good news is that she only read 20 pages and therefore has virtually no impression of what the series is all about.

Ironically, back in May all I hoped from SPFBO 2016 over on Twitter was my allotted blog read Purge of Ashes all the way through to attain a fair review.

The bad news is that it only took 20 pages to turn off a reader, and not just any reader, but an enthusiastic one who reads multiple books a week. That won’t do, but that’s why I hired Tim Marquitz (see ‘Downtime’) – to smooth out the ruffles in the opening and generally ensure my structure alienates as few people as possible. I had been waiting in vain curiosity to gauge Purge of Ashes‘s potential before closing a potential inroad for new readers, but freed of this deadline I can get on with refurbishing my debut.

Like the debut itself, it appears the book was not fighting fit for competition yet. What say you, Mark, can a newly-edited version enter the competition next year? Only 3% read…

Best of luck to everyone still in the contest. I’m currently really enjoying What Remains of Heroes by last year’s runner up David Benem and it’s a blast.

JM

Downtime

So after these few months of silence I also have some grim news regarding Imbalance. At least, grim for now. Daunting, say. “The times they are a-getting very different.”

I am taking Purge of Ashes temporarily off the market.

This is for multiple reasons, each more reasonable than the last, but underneath all the reasonableness is a small piece of heartbreak. I knew what Purge of Ashes needed to be successful and somewhere along the way with getting a three-book deal from my old publisher I stopped checking to ensure such necessities were being met. A more bulldog-ish type of person would likely have called foul and cancelled that premier, but I was unable to think that way, and am now left with this last resort four months later. So here we go, five reasons:

  1. Editing. I was promised editing from my smallpress and too late realized I got none. This problem was not exclusive to my title. To fix this issue I have hired Tim Marquitz from Ragnarok Publications to give Purge of Ashes a full edit. I’m not wasting time. He’s the man for the job. Most reviewers love the content and just need it streamlined into a more readily-digestible flow. Once the process is complete I will be able to push Purge of Ashes as I did in March and April of this year – before concerns over its perfection (in my eyes) soured my entrepreneurial spirit.
  2. Cover. The cover was literally made in 24 hours as a band-aid for a hired artist who did not fulfill their end of the bargain. While sufficiently dark and an excellent skyline, it has no element of humanity and was in no way my vision. Nor does it fit easily with the planned series of covers. To separate the second edition that is to come from its predecessor, I require a new cover – one that really Raruks up the place! I will be searching for a new artist soon. Unfortunately, it was my former smallpress who footed the bill last time.
  3. Maps. My map for Imbalance is great and I don’t care who hears me champion its virtues. Unfortunately, the maps that made it into my first edition of Purge of Ashes were far less grand. While that of Sventium is all right for black and white, the massive global map fit so poorly onto the page that almost none of it is legible and the rest a big mess. In addition to these grainy, gray versions that undercut all the work that went into my colourful, vast cartograph, came the interior ‘city’ maps. Or rather they didn’t come. Mostly because the smallpress failed to produce them, despite promises. Thus, maps for the city streets of Katolys, Edis and Remn are a must for a proper edition. I, too, will be on the lookout for a digital cartographer in the near future.
  4. Timing. Suffice to say, my three-book deal came at a bad time in my personal life. Underemployed for 1.5 years, and coming a month after my wife and I were expecting our second child, I spazzed out on promotion in March and April knowing the closer I got to the dreaded First Year of the Newborn the less time I would have to sing my book’s praises. Such time was and is needed for writing Grip of Dust (gettin’ there!) In the end, writing is a marathon, not a sprint – and there is no longer a reason to rush. I no longer have a publishing deal for three books with the second due in January. Go back. Clean. Perfect. Let Purge reach its full potential – that’s why I wrote it in the first place. Writing is an older person’s medium unless you’re Zadie Smith or John Kennedy Toole.
  5. Process. Having spent half a year immersed in the online fantasy digisphere (don’t care if this word makes no sense here, felt great) I have learned much. Most of it revolves around trust, but a lot revolves around community as well. When I arrived on the scene with a book to my credit and bright blue eyes I never claimed to understand the marketing aspect of the industry. I mean, egad, it’s enough to keep track of a non-existent universe, is it not? I just write here. But as a self-publisher there are a lot of rules that you need to follow in order to find success, both critical and commercial. By re-releasing the novel I can set my own date – one that allows for ample time to redo the cover and maps. One that lets me properly distribute advanced reader copies to the right people and shout madly at everyone else. To bray like never before! O, to know it is prepared on release day. As it stood, back on April 6th (a day late already) when Purge of Ashes was let upon the world, every aspect of dealing with the book had been crammed into the final two weeks prior to release. If I am to go it alone, nuts to that. I need a new starting line.

There is a sixth reason, but I shall save that for another upcoming post. My best writing wishes to every fantasy author out there who has hurdles to jump – and my apologies to those who purchased the underprepared first edition. All will be rectified.

JM

Unruly Behaviour

Game-of-Thrones-joffrey-margaery-thumb

Pretty ridiculous article making the rounds today. Just wanted to add a few thoughts about his champion Romantic Poets: Shelley, Wordsworth and Keats. I am certain I recall the broad details of my university degree as well as I think I do (?).

First of all, they all wrote poems, not novels. So it’s kind of like saying ‘don’t watch this TV show, see these movies!’ Apparently the hundreds of years comprising the canon of English literature could not provide one actual book for Whiting to offer up in contrast. Second, none of these poets taught children complacency. While Wordsworth may have had his support for the French Revolution tempered by the methods of the Jacobins, they all pushed for revolution at various points in their lives, particularly Shelley. Naturally, the zeal to cast off what they saw as oppressive weights in their society is evidenced in their works, particularly Ozymandias or The Mask of Anarchy. Third, notably absent from the list is the firebrand William Blake, whose works offer us the first instance of the word ‘Orc’ and are alive with both the fire of mystical fantasy and condemnation of the Catholic Church. Blake clearly advocated for making free and independent choices, and behaving in ways that would upset any governing body demanding subservience.

 

Now, I don’t live in England. I have heard rumour that the school system is in dire straits, but any insight I might offer is surely hearsay. Suffice to say, it seems like there is plenty of bad behavior and I understand the desire to point fingers. Rotten attitudes can snowball throughout a school year, and one bad apple can definitely spoil the bushel. If underage students are delighting in the adult content of the books A Song of Ice and Fire (or, more likely, just watching the ribald show itself) it is easy to assume pulling out the root will kill the weed.

 

But it will also kill the flower. Lumping all fantasy into one category and making broad generalizations is ridiculous. This actual argument is likely the death throes of a bleating puritan, and as such not worth addressing. Further, while I do not live in England, I am a teacher, and one who appreciates that how a teacher wishes students to act is not always parallel to what is best for them. While I’m teaching a lesson, it would be ideal for me to have 100% engagement and participation, 100% effort once the work starts. That would teach the meter of Ozymandias to an excellent degree. But social understanding is as big a part of the school system as formal education, and while challenging to listen to, cope with, suffer through for a results-bent teacher of 30 pupils, it translates into growth for the young individual. This dichotomy comes down to respect: they respect your time while imparting new information and ideas, you respect their time when they push, pull and revel in their generation’s congealing identity. As long as they are not overlapping, butt out.

 

After all, it bears mentioning that Percy Bysshe Shelley himself was expelled from Oxford in 1811 for not following the rules. He was yet to publish anything of note.

 

JM

New Pricing / Amazon Releases

So everything is finally set up on Amazon, even if some of their cover art jpegs have not updated since 19-dickety-2. It breaks down thusly:

Amazon.com

  • Purge of Ashes on Kindle: $5.08 USD
  • Purge of Ashes in lovely paperback: $15.95 USD

Amazon.ca

  • Purge of Ashes on Kindle: $6.49 CAD
  • Purge of Ashes in lovely paperback: $20.21 CAD

We managed to drop the price of the physical copy, mostly in an effort to make a sane price for the book in Canada. This is added incentive for anyone who has been on the fence about a purchase. It’s a great deal on a great book.

As well, to illustrate the above statement, I have added a ‘Reviews‘ section to the site that can be found here.

JM

My Book is Out…

…and what a feeling it is.

Anxiousness.

It was supposed to be joy, right? Bliss? Balming relaxation? Squeaky giddiness?

Nope, just anxious. My publisher imploded a week before the release. Everything was late. All my traction from my efforts in the months prior fizzled like the lit fuse of a dud grenade while I scrambled around getting the job done instead of celebrating the victory. Even now I wait on a proof for the final version to arrive, certain it is great but unwilling to assume again based on the digital copy alone. Eventually it shall be as it was meant to – but the span where the iron was hot came and went with more than a few sleepless nights.

It has been rough, what should have been wonderful. The only fortunate aspect was that the novel itself has not been harmed and remains as it was: a debut sweat for.

Going forward I shall do as suggested me by author Graham Austin-King. Get on with writing Grip of Dust, read, and let the traction sort itself out. Anxiety and authorship were never estranged to begin with.

JM

The Last Book of Realmwalker Publishing Group

Mine was the last book published by Realmwalker Publishing Group.

It came out April 5th, about a week and a half after the company imploded over a series of business fall outs and other concerns. Keeping up with a jam-packed schedule of releases led to a build-up of pressure akin to the leakage of gas, while problems with payroll provided the incendiary match. Everyone could smell the sulfur, everyone could hear the hiss – but when the fireman among you says not to worry, your worries dissipate. They creep back later when the intrusive sensation persists, but for the moment you are placated. After all, they are the fireman. This is what they do.

By the time of launch all my rights were returned to me, and while my novel gives publishing credit where it is due, I essentially was and am now a self-published author.

Not the kind of thing I envisioned upon signing. The requisite time to produce my debut properly was divvied to newly-acquired authors whose re-releases could theoretically be republished in short order and with less effort. With the principal cover artist on holidays for March, a replacement was found who hailed from Brazil. Some miscommunication went down between he and RPG, and after two weeks he had produced nothing but the .PSD of a pre-existing picture of his. Company president James Drake was sufficiently horrified as to not let me even see it. With two weeks to go I had no cover. I enjoy the grit and fanfare of the cover I have now, but it would be a lie to say it was not a last minute thing.

When the whole community went belly up a few days later, there was lots of driftwood and silt to sift through. My book vs. the outrage and confusion of a whole body of newly published authors. It did not stand a chance at seizing the time necessary to be properly produced. With the release date looming, Drake and I worked an inordinate amount of hours–From the morning of Sunday, April 3rd, to midnight on April 5th, I was awake 58 of 60 hours –to no avail. In the end Purge of Ashes mostly missed its release date, took yet more time to get a softcover online, and then had some last minute issues still being resolved. Oh, and because of this the shipment of softcovers inbound for my book launch spent the party in a cargo container at Pearson Airport in Toronto. I called every company involved a billion times, but UPS was incapable of getting them for me on a Friday night and refused to work Saturday. Not one deadline hit.

The release of Purge of Ashes was an unmitigated catastrophe. Any momentum I had built through posting my 30 Days of Balance articles and hoopla over on Twitter was erased by the miasma of confusion over if and when the books were available. This was rotten. With tales like these one might imagine me fuming and irate – but that’s not me, and what’s more there was plenty of good that came from the mess of the last three weeks.

  1. For one, James was good on his promise to work diligently on my book regardless of the status of Realmwalker. While there was a foreboding sense of ‘too late’ hanging above everything we did, he did produce a book for me which has a solid cover and looks GREAT in the interior. He listened to my many questions and included lots of my suggestions, even for little things like the imbalance icons for the page count. He spent 56 of those 60 hours awake as well, doing most of the actual work. And as a pardon for the payroll flames of yester-week, did so entirely for free.
  2. Things could have been A LOT worse. The book did, in fact, get finished. I did not lose any money. I did not have to explain to everyone I know about why I actually wasn’t going to have a book in under a week. RPG could have fled with its tail between its legs and left me stranded, instead of admitting defeat and facing the fall out. A small consolation given what happened, but a consolation yet.
  3. I take being an author much more seriously. When I first got in contact with RPG Imbalance had been collecting dust. I was torn between pushing for representation and self-publishing. I was part of no communities. I was just a guy who had spent the better part of his free time for seven years completing a works. Now, in the process of promoting my release, I have met a cool cadre of authors, read a lot about the publishing industry, and dealt with much of the ever-present flak of being a newcomer. Everything has worked to aid me in better managing the project. Six months ago I had no such insight.

My only real concern is that fantasy aficionados who follow the ins and outs of the industry will look at RPG’s broad collection net and decide that, by virtue of being a new author hired in such a sweep, my novel is but krill.

While this concern is real to me, it is likely unfounded. From what I can tell experienced authors have seen it all before and offer guidance instead of scorn. Other authors pushing the self-publishing Sisyphus boulder raise their fists in solemn salute. To their credit, Realmwalker held off branding Purge of Ashes with the company logo to help ensure the novel did not suffer by association. This was a venerable act that further indicates the tragic nature of the implosion.

How much was smoke and mirrors? Somewhere more or less than we authors all thought, no doubt.

But I’m pretty proud of the accomplishment of the fellow I see in the mirror, and to the Purge go the smoke and ashes.

JM

BEHOLD!

Front Purge of Ashes Cover

You can now purchase Purge of Ashes for your Kindle (and we think other eReaders work fine, too)

Could not be more proud. Epic cover epic content… what’s not to like? If you stumble upon my little corner of the net, please take minute to think to yourself: “Do I need to buy the big container of spinach? It will cost $5 and probably go bad.” Then think to yourself instead: “No, I will spend the same money on a novel that WON’T go soggy” – and then buy my book. It’s that easy.

And hey, it’s got a cool cover, right?

JM

One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward

Yeah, we got a wicked cool banner up there now – but alas the Birth of Imbalance will have to wait another day while issues with the cover are repaired. Not what I had in mind, but necessary in the grand scheme of things.

Dear everyone! Thanks for all your enthusiasm today. Producing books is an exhausting and tricky business – or so I am finding – but producing a novel with a cover that doesn’t make me grin ear to ear is doing the book a disservice, and I would rather put off the fanfare for another day than commit myself long term to something that does not make me proud.

As such, Purge of Ashes is now slated to be released… tomorrow. After a touch more polish tonight. In the meantime… enjoy the banner!

JM