Fall of Autumn

Another summer passed. I got around 25k written this summer, which is much more than last summer, but I had far greater opportunity. Unfortunately, I also extracted 21k words from the same WIP, saving those two story lines for a third book. This left me not far from where I was, although in truth it is much farther progressed. My skeleton for the book is now almost complete but for a few toe bones.

I wrote chapters 2, 4, and 6, mainly. These would be following the characters from the end of Purge of Ashes and picking up shortly after it left off. I cannot stress enough how much more difficult it was to work on these than the other seven or so I had already written. Those chapters were fresh characters, fresh locations, fresh story lines, and lots of action. It felt great to hammer those out because building and creating is just a lot more fluid than grooming and preening. But these follow-up chapters, that start after a climax, are tough. You have to re-establish the ambitions of each character, you have to deal with the repercussions of what just occurred, and in my case they themselves had to re-establish what the hell they’re doing and how they are going to do it. It’s a lot of exposition or inner monologues, with less time for action (not a problem since half a world away every other chapter keeps the pace up).

So while the word count is not as special as I would have hoped, the actual job done in steering the story in the right direction was essential: a worthy challenge for a mind without the distraction of the day job. After this post I’m starting on a pair of chapters that are basically a heist. I’ve been waiting to write these scenes for years. They up the ante and the adrenaline. It’s nice to know, now that I’m teaching all day again, that it is this kind of work waiting for me at home – where I can get into the adventurous side of things rather than the emotional. It’s freeing.

1 of 7 beta readers are in, and the others have till the end of the month. Moving on Purge of Ashes will come sooner than I expect, and I hope my finances are ready. I am not publishing anything short of a pearl this time. There can be no regrets.

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Beta Read

Cover
Last night I sent my book out for its first beta read. That would be 2+ years after being originally published. Now let us never speak of it again.

After the latest round of editing, I am very excited for their feedback. For the first time I really feel like the writing has caught up to the story itself and tells it clean and true. I cut 7,000 words, most all of them useless, and brought the first 30 pages from tepid to intriguing. Now, when I hop in and read a page here or there, I just read. No fixing, editing, or shuffling in my head. Just smiles on my mouth.

As for the new cover, I just threw something together in Photoshop to differentiate between this and my previous version. I’m pretty proud of it, even if close attention exposes my shoddy work.

My beta readers are:

Dyrk Ashton – Fantasy Faction’s choice for SPFBO#2 and third place finisher, Dyrk is the author of Paternus: Rise of Gods – the novel I’m currently reading – with Paternus: Wrath of Gods coming out July 10, 2018.

James Downe – co-author with AEsc Adams of the 5+ book series Legacy of Ash, his website is constantly expanding with new information about their detailed world.

Michael Baker – author of the Thousand Scars: Counterbalance Book 1 (hey, a sister series to The Imbalance?), he’s a diligent author who gets things written.

Tom Smith – I had to Grimdark it up a little with the next two, as I do draw some inspiration from the genre. Tom writes for Grimdark Magazine and knows how to get dirty.

Femke Geisolf – is a badass blogger who connected with me over our mutual love of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. She works hard at expanding self-published fantasy in Europe.

Debdip Chakraborty – is a friendly fellow from Kolkata who is working on his own book and is much loved by the online fantasy community.

Khaled Jabar – won my seat designated for a total stranger. It’s an important role!

I’m super excited to let the book out of my hands a while so I can focus on its sequel. Last year I made some headway twice a week, but this summer I expect to have more than triple the opportunity to push it close to completion.

The Down-lo

Greetings friends.

Just a quick drop by note for anyone who brushes off the cobwebs to pop over to my e-home, this is all still on and a go.

The short is that the entirety of my free time at nights goes into work on revitalizing Purge of Ashes itself, leaving no time for longer, thoughtful, tour-de-force posting the blog demands. Better silent than… crummy. Once Purge of Ashes is re-ready, maybe such time will exist again, but not now. The toddler/baby combo also does a damn number on me. I keep up with fantasy groups on Facebook and Twitter sometimes, but otherwise am leaving off on the blogging side until I have my affairs in order.

Once things start to happen, I’ll get back on the horse.

JM

Queries

So back in 2013-2014 I sent out a bunch of queries to about 20 different agents, then got started writing Grip of Dust. So much has happened since then, and yet here I am two years later back at the drawing board doing the same: querying for agents! What a time to be alive.

Nowadays, agents can quickly access prospective clients’ social media platforms to get a quick gist as to who we are, what we do, and how impressive our friends lists are. Having this website in tip top shape should – nae must – be my top priority outside of production. So I thought to myself, “What would I want to present for an agent coming to scope me out?” Having less handsomeness than approximately 5 years ago, the answer did not come immediately.

Perhaps a simple WELCOME is in order. I don’t quit on things and I’m working on Book Two. I hope my query has piqued your interest. I love epic fantasy, role-playing video games, character design, cartography, rock music, hockey, armadillos, and TV shows that end in AME OF THRONES.

I seem friendly enough on social media. All the best in your search for the proper gem.

JM

First Fan Art

A while ago, Malazan Empire members Itwaes Nom sent me this sketch of Avery Shim ta Salm and Aronan Kloss from Purge of Ashes – my first fan art! Exactly the sort of enthusiasm Imbalance is all about. And those javelin looks sick. Super flattered. The picture must be after Aronan loses his cape 😛

itwas-nom-avery-aronan-sketch

It’s a cool feeling. I recommend everyone write a book. My readership is thin now, but respect like this (plus his review) make it all worth it. Rock on, Itwaes!

JM

Updates + Review

I start a new job tomorrow. As well, as per a post a while ago, I now have a newborn in the house. Such conditions are not prime for writing. I am doing a writer’s disappearing act for the next few months while I ensure my teaching skills are back up to snuff, and my newborn gets closer to sleeping through the night. Do not fear! I’m so far away from done.

While I am gone, the following will occur:

  1. I will continue reading sweet self-published fantasy novels from community peers.
  2. Tim Marquitz will finish editing Purge of Ashes to perfection.
  3. I will be posting about an upcoming essay I am writing for TOR.com

It would be IDEAL if I had a BOOK out around the time my article for TOR goes live, but alas it was not to be. Persistence is always key. It is known. Stay tuned and to the faithful go the spoils.

The good news is I got this solid review as a kiss to send me off. It pretty much sums up much of what I set out to do.

Be seeing you in mid-fall (besides a booster for the TOR piece, natch)

JM

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

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