D.H. Aire: Rearview Mirror

Rearview Mirror

By D.H. Aire

Looking back, I could focus on the number of books I published by June and say, “Look what I accomplished.” But that’s not how I see the business of being a writer.

I always have to be working on another book or three. I figured that if I was to get noticed as an author, I needed to write a series. That turned into writing four series at the same time this year. Or it was supposed to be.

I was working on the concluding book of my main series and was getting bogged down. So, I played with a short story and wrote it as a novella. TOR’s looking for novellas these days. Alas, the novella seemed to be missing something. So, I found myself re-writing it as a novel. Possibly a stand-alone, but the odds are it may be the first book in a YA series.

Then I told myself, focus, you need to finish the last book of your series. So, I worked on one of the other books in need of a second and third draft for a while, then I put that aside and finished the last book in my series and sent it to my editor.

Ta, da, now that was an accomplishment. I was behind schedule, but it was done—until my editor sent me the draft back. Yes, draft. She felt it wasn’t polished and pacing was off in the beginning of the book. So, I’ve been working on that. Too slowly as life and work keep tugging at me.

So, here’s what I think as the U.S. elections approached and my sales dropped. Something I’ve heard friends in the business remark about, too. The polishing of the climax of my series is damn important. Yes, I want to send off copies to beta readers, but my editor could see that I had something still too close to second draft in places.

I’ve completed a third of the work and hope my editor gives me the nod, but if she doesn’t, I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll let the story evolve and get better and better. My writer’s fear is that I’ve written too fast at times, knowing I need to build my brand, produce book after book to earn more money. Last year my biggest accomplishment was qualifying to join SFWA (the Science Fiction Writers of America). That was my dream.

The reality is writing is hard work. I’m a creative writer. I enjoy writing. I can’t help but write. Fine, it’s a sickness. I love the genre and I’m now playing a part in it. Likely not a big part, but I connect with readers and potential fans at conventions and book fairs and network as best I can.

That’s in some ways the easiest part of my becoming a professional writer.

Working on the seventh book or a seven book series, one I started writing over twenty-five years ago, that’s an accomplishment I’m proud of. No one who knew me would have thought, hey, he’s going to be a sci fi and fantasy author one day. Who am I kidding? I had teachers who wrote an IP on me saying I was learning disabled and needed remedial reading assignments for years.

My revenge was reading all of John Carter of Mars in a couple of weeks, my father complaining about my buying them at the book store rather than getting them from the library. My mother was a teacher, she slipped me more money to buy books. I bought the Foundation Trilogy and the Dragonriders of Pern Series.

So, looking in the rearview mirror, I know I’m accomplishing what I need to, knowing I need to do so much more. But I’m writing, I re-writing, and I likely won’t publish as many books next year. But I will publish a kick-ass climax to my series and that will get me noticed just a little bit more. And isn’t that what being a writer is all about?

 

Bio

D.H. Aire has walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home – experiences that have found expression in his writing of his fantasy/sci fi Highmage’s Plight and Hands of the Highmage Series. He is also the author the Dare 2 Believe and Terran Catalyst Series.

His most recently published short story appears in Street Magick: Tales of Urban Fantasy (Elder Signs Press).

Follow him at: Twitter @dare2believe1, Facebook (Dare 2 Believe), and his blog on www.dhr2believe.net.

L.J. Hachmeister: A Tale of Disappointment, Fear, and Murder

 My Year in Review: A Tale of Disappointment, Fear, and Murder.

By L.J. Hachmeister

2016 started off with a bang. I just finished my first out-of-state convention with a group of established authors, and got asked to join their touring group. On top of that, I was promised a seven-book contract for my science fiction/fantasy series, Triorion, by the managing editor of my favorite publishing house. For the first time in my literary career, after years of frustration and despair, I had hope. And hope can be a dangerous thing.

In February, I attended Superstars Writing Seminars. Being a frugal person, I balked at the ticket price, but after the first hour, I realized it wasn’t an expense, but an investment. In that conference room were some very big names in the industry as well as up-and-coming authors, and talking to them without the craze of a Comic Con or being under the stress of selling books allowed us the time to trade secrets, and give each other insight into our publishing experiences. Finally, after years of feeling alone in my literary struggles, I felt like I had allies.

Things started to unravel not too long after Superstars. The seven-book contract fell through, and the touring group disbanded. My mentor, someone who I had deeply trusted, disappeared, leaving me stranded in a strange author limbo. Because of this, I felt plagued by disappointment and frustration, and full of doubt. Triorion was the most important story I had every written, and landing a publishing contract for that series was my greatest wish. Having hope like that—feeling like the publishing contract was right in front of me, only to have it evaporate—left me shattered.

I vowed to never hope again.

In the early spring, one of my good friends called me up and asked me to critique the short story he wanted to enter for the Superstars anthology, Dragon Writers. When he found out I didn’t have a story to enter, he gave me some much-needed encouragement. Still, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer. I was experiencing manuscript burnout from working around the clock on the Triorion series, and I didn’t like dragons. Seriously. Dragons frightened me; they represented a genre I didn’t feel comfortable writing in, and I feared what I didn’t understand about them.

Still, part of me understood that you shouldn’t pass up opportunities, no matter how intimidating or out-of-reach they may seem. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t terrified with every word I typed out for my story, Heart of the Dragon.

In the month it took the editor to get back to us about our entries, my fear turned into anger. I no longer hoped that Heart of the Dragon would be accepted; I knew it wasn’t, and I was all the more frustrated with myself, the writing industry, and all the blood, sweat, and tears I had put into my stories. Triorion fan letters dulled some of the hurt, but I felt beaten down.

And yet, I didn’t stop writing. I can’t tell you exactly what keeps me going. Encouragement from fans is fantastic, as is that ineffable feeling when a character truly comes to life on paper. But there’s something else. Perhaps it’s a mix of insanity and unrelenting desire, but even before I heard back about Heart of the Dragon, I made a decision: I wouldn’t stop, ever. There is no other choice. Writing is a need of my soul.

Now, keep in mind I had vowed off hope and prepared myself for rejection for Heart of the Dragon, but when I opened the email from the editor, and I didn’t see the words, “we regret that we will have to pass,” and instead, “congratulations,” I screamed. Finally, something real—and it was born from my lowest point.

But my biggest challenge was yet to come. Despite a successful convention year, I finally acknowledged something I had been down-playing: I needed to write something other than Triorion. It sold well, but it wasn’t catching fire like it needed to if it was going to get picked up by a big publishing house.

The truth about killed me. After all, I had already written book five, and was well into book six of the seven-book series. How could I stop now? Even with my meticulous notetaking, I was bound to forget some nuance, some critical component of the nearly million-word saga—and I left my characters right in the middle of a terrible intergalactic battle!

As I struggled with my decision, my editor gave me feedback on a short story I had written for another anthology. Along the top of the paper, she wrote in big bold letters: “murder your darlings.” A google search later, and I realized what she meant: I had to kill what I felt was brilliant and precious in my work if I wanted to be successful. I found that it didn’t just apply to that story, but to my biggest decision this year. I had to put aside Triorion.

Inspired by my friends and martial arts training partners, I sat down and wrote, Shadowless: Outlier, the first book in an illustrated novel series. I thought it would be difficult to write something new, especially since I had been writing in the original Triorion storyline for twenty-nine years. However, my 10,000+ hours of writing experience really smoothed out the process, and I ended up writing the entire novel in less than five months.

My year was tough, but in the end, I met a lot of cool authors, sold out at every convention, got published, wrote a new novel, and landed a literary agent. If I could go back and give myself advice about how to manage through the toughest times, I would tell myself this: Stay flexible, say yes to as many opportunities as you can, and get everything in writing.

And it’s okay to hope.

 

Author L.J Hachmeister writes and fights—though she tries to avoid doing them at the same time. The WEKAF world champion stick-fighter is best known in the literary world for her epic science fiction series, Triorion, and her equally epic love of sweets. Connect with her at: www.triorion.com

Reality Checks Cut Both Ways

unwilling-souls-cover_promoPhilip K. Dick had a saying: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” 2016 has been, for me, the year of the reality check in many different ways. By way of my writing year in review, I’m going to go over four of those below.

I released my first book, Unwilling Souls, late in 2015. What followed was, to put it bluntly, a firm dose of reality. It didn’t do as well, sales-wise, as I would have liked, and it took me a while to come to grips with the disappointment of that. It’s not easy to put that in writing. But this is a writing blog, and I want other writers to see the full spectrum of the industry. I can name three friends off the top of my head who have self-published and found great success right off the bat. But the reality of indie publishing is that there is a lot of noise out there and it will probably take a lot of work and time and some luck for your particular signal to get through.

In the end, I put a lot of time, effort, and care into a story I loved. I released not only a great book but a professionally done one and I’m very proud of it. And if I can brag for a bit, the reviews the book has received so far bear out my belief in it. The high point has been the book’s entry in Mark Lawrence’s second Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. 300 self-published entries were split into “heats” of thirty and distributed to ten bloggers, each of whom read the entries and picked one to send forward to the final round. Amid some very stiff competition over at Lynn’s Book Blog, Unwilling Souls was runner-up in its heat, not quite making it to the finals but earning a very nice review and a consolation interview on Mark Lawrence’s blog. And as perfect counterpoint to the initial disappointment of slow sales, I thought to myself “I can do this. I’m not some sort of fraud.” It was a very different kind of reality check.

Kevin J. Anderson says the best advertisement for your previous book is your next book, and I’d hoped to release the sequel, Ungrateful God, less than a year after the first. I nearly drove myself insane from December ’15 through the end of March of this year working toward an editing deadline. But as working fast is not always working best, and because this book is longer and more complicated book than its older sibling, the edits I got back from Joshua Essoe were more extensive than I planned. When the beginning third of a book needs extensive reworking, that tends to cascade through the rest of the text, and so for anyone patiently waiting for the next installment, please be patient a bit longer. I promise you that the end result will be both much better than it was and a much better book than its predecessor as well. Reality check number three turned out to be that my day job and my sanity necessitate a bit less aggressive of a publishing schedule.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t churn out quality content quickly when I have to. In late March, immediately after turning my draft of Ungrateful God over to Joshua’s red pen, I had a choice to make. I could either forego submitting to the latest Superstars anthology Dragon Writers, or I could write and edit a short story worthy of publication in less than three days — something I’d never done before. Since I already had the Unwilling Souls universe on the brain and a dragon-themed story was both appropriate to that world and timely, I wrote a story set in the distant past of the world of my series about the team that killed the last of the great beasts after the Immurement War (which just happened to be a dragon of sorts). “Shattered Pieces Swept Away” was born. I was very pleased with the story, but didn’t even have time to get it beta-read before having to submit it, so I was not optimistic about its inclusion with so many other great entries. I was both surprised and humbled when it was accepted. It’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do even a year earlier. Call that reality check number four.

And of course, no recap of 2016 would be complete without reporting that for the first time since 2012, I managed to make it back to the Superstars Writing Seminar. Seeing all my old friends in person and making new ones will always be one of the highlights of any year I can manage it. It’s like catnip for writers, and I’m never so motivated to get out there and write as when I leave the seminar. While I won’t be able to go again this upcoming year, rest assured I’ll find my way back.

So 2016 was all about reminding me that a writer has to take the long view. This year has taught me that I can absorb disappointment and keep trucking forward, all the while building a readership little by little (pun intended). Not coincidentally, it’s also the year where I first started feeling like a “real” writer at the start of an exciting journey. Thanks for following my posts this year, Fictorians readers. I look forward to sharing the next year of this journey with you. I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll see you in the new year!

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

Living the Dream. Oh, Crap

pletschportrait2016 was a game-changing year for my writing career. An editor who’d bought two of my previous short stories asked if I’d be interested in writing a novel or series of novels in a shared universe. I started the year as a published short story writer who wanted to write a novel, and I’m ending the year as a novelist under contract to deliver the first novel on January 1, 2017.

I’m also under a non-disclosure agreement, so I’m not free to give details, which is a big challenge when I can’t talk about what I’m thinking about all day!

Because my focus has been on novels, I’ve written fewer short stories this year. My first novel isn’t coming out until some time in 2018, and the meat of my payment will be from royalties, meaning it’s over a year until I actually see money for the majority of the work I’ve done. The good news on the money front is that I’m getting royalties from novelettes published this year and previous years, and I received some nice cheques from short story markets that pay pro rates. Overall, though, I still need my part-time job, and I’m very fortunate to not be the only income-earner in my household.

I’ve also had some interesting insights about living the dream.

I’m no longer as free to write whatever takes my fancy. I can’t spend so much time crafting a random idea into a short story and then look for a home for it, because I’m obligated to turn in a novel-length manuscript on a certain topic by a certain date.

Writers under contract still have to do laundry. I thought the entertainment industry would be more glamorous.

There’s a certain gratification that I don’t have to wonder about whether what I’m writing is ever going to find a publisher. I’ve got a folder of unsold short stories that represent several cumulative months of work for, as of yet, zero financial return. Of course, I also have a folder of sold short stories, but sometimes I’m surprised that stories I think are really strong are still in the zero folder, and I also have a “I got HOW MUCH for THAT?!” story on hand. With the novel, I have a signed contract saying that what I write is definitely going to be published (on the assumption that it meets the publisher’s standards). On the other hand, it’s in my best interests to deliver the best manuscript I can, not just something “good enough to publish.” This book is going to be a lot of readers’ first exposure to my work, and if I want them to buy Book 2, I will make Book 1 as good as I can possibly make it.

I had a big shock one day when I felt sore and tired and just wanted to rot my brain watching cartoons all day, but my common sense told me, “Hey, you have a novel deadline. You know you can’t do good work last-minute (since high school I’ve envied people who can). You better go write a thousand words BEFORE you put that DVD in.”

And my lizard brain snarled, “I hate having a book contract.”

WTF?! my consciousness said. You’ve wanted this for twenty years, and now that you have it, you hate it?

No, I don’t really hate it. I might have hated doing the responsible thing rather than the thing which would provide me with instant gratification, but I don’t regret my choice, because having a book contract is worth it.

On the other hand, for those aspiring writers out there: Do you know the feeling of knowing you have a project, an essay, a big term paper, a graduate thesis due? It’s going to feel like that for the rest of my life. Or at least as long as I have books under contract.

It’s strangely familiar. And it’s worth it.