Category Archives: eBooks

writing goals for 2017

Now that 2017 is upon us, it’s time to discuss my writing goals for the year!

1.) Finish the FROSTBORN series.

FROSTBORN: EXCALIBUR is almost ready, and after that there are only two more books to write. So if all goes well the FROSTBORN series will reach its epic conclusion by summer.

2.) Start the GHOST NIGHT series.

Once FROSTBORN is finished, it will be time to start GHOST NIGHT with GHOST IN THE RING. I would also like to get to the second book in the GHOST NIGHT series in 2017.

3.) Start a new epic fantasy series once FROSTBORN is done.

That will be in the second half of 2017, with the first book coming out towards the end of summer. I haven’t decided anything about the new series yet, except that it’s going to be an epic fantasy with a male warrior as the protagonist, since I already have two series (GHOSTS and CLOAK GAMES) with a female protagonist.

4.) Publish three new CLOAK GAMES books.

Right now there are five CLOAK GAMES books, but I would like to have eight out by the end of 2017. The next CLOAK GAMES book will come out in February if all goes well.

5.) Produce more print books.

37 of my books are available in print right now, and I would like to get that number even higher.

6.) Publish one new book every month.

This is kind of a stretch goal, but my other goals should help me do this one. I would like to publish one book a month in 2017…

…except for one month when I want to do three. Which is kind of the Secret Goal for 2017.

But more on that later. 🙂

Hope your new year is going well!

-JM

Happy New Year and GHOST IN THE RING preview

Happy New Year!

To celebrate the New Year, I’ve got two preview scenes from GHOST IN THE RING, the first book of the new GHOST NIGHT series, which will come out in mid-2017.

The first scene:

He had heard the rumors about Caina Amalas, of course, the stories about the Balarigar and the Umbarians and Istarinmul, but he knew such stories were always exaggerated in the telling.

So he was not sure what to expect when he met the woman in the flesh.

Perhaps she would be a scowling broad-shouldered ox of a woman, the sort of woman who would be mistaken for a man at the first or even third glance. Certainly, that fit some of the tales about the terrible bloodthirsty Balarigar. Or maybe she would be a woman of stunning beauty, capable of beguiling the men around her into doing whatever she wished.

To his mild surprise, she was neither.

Caina Amalas was a young woman of average height and lean build. She was pretty, certainly, but her mouth was too thin and her features too sharp for her to be exceptionally beautiful. Frankly, he could not decide if she looked like a Szaldic peasant girl or a Nighmarian noblewoman, but certainly, she had the eyes of a noblewoman. They were large and blue and very, very cold, and did not blink as she met his gaze.

That was the first indication that there might be something odd about her. Few people could meet his gaze any longer. Most of his own men could no longer do it.

They stared at each other in silence for a moment.

“How old were you,” said Caina in High Nighmarian at last, “when you killed your father?”

He blinked in surprise, a little flicker of alarm going through him.

Perhaps some of those rumors were true.

The second scene:

“This is not your country. These are not your people. You have no business here.” The nobleman leaned forward, a glimmer of yellow fire in his eyes. “Go home with your lives while I still permit it, and never return.”

Caina stared at him without blinking, and for a first time, a glimmer of doubt went over his face.

“You’re right,” she said. “This is not my country, and these are not my people. But I promise you one thing. If you lay a finger upon that girl, I shall give to you what I do best.”

The nobleman sneered. “And what is that?”

Caina smiled. “Ruin.”

Finally, I quoted this bit from MASK OF DRAGONS at the start of 2016, and it certainly was an excellent preview of the year!

“A good plan,” said Riothamus.
 
Molly snorted. “Something will go wrong.”
 
“Something always does,” said Mazael.
 
His daughter rolled her eyes. “Profound as ever, father.”
Let’s hope for a good 2017! Happy New Year, everyone!
-JM

 

publishers shooting themselves in the foot

I liked this article by Simon Owens describing how publishers are driving away writers and into the waiting arms of Amazon. This quote, especially:

Amazon, with its ecommerce system and now its Kindle publishing platform, has figured out how to scale midlist authors, and is therefore willing to gobble up those writers the big publishers turn away, offering them a bigger cut of their sales in the process.

But this, I believe, is to the long-term detriment of the publishers. Because now a new generation of writers is growing up on the Amazon platform, using social media and email lists to market its books, and several of these writers will advance from selling merely thousands of books to selling millions. And once they’re selling millions of books and collecting 70 percent of each copy sold, it’ll be extremely difficult for those conglomerates to lure the authors back under their umbrella with the promise of a puny 10 percent of cover price royalty. By abandoning the midlist to Amazon, publishers are hastening their own demise.

There was another consistent trend I found when interviewing zombie novelists for my article: fervent distaste for the New York publishing industry. And maybe that’s the real reason why publishers and agents never bothered reaching out to them; it’s not that they don’t recognize the sales and money potential for these authors, it’s that they’ve spent the last decade sowing so much bad blood within the writer community that they know approaching them for a book deal is a lost cause. Midlist authors have been burned once, and now with Amazon and their own marketing abilities they can ensure they’ll never be burned again. So that leaves the remaining book publishers engaged in bidding wars for a shrinking pool of first-time writers still uninitiated to the cold, soulless world of modern New York publishing.

“The last decade sowing so much bad blood within the writer community.”

Man! Isn’t that the truth? Back in the last decade I sent the book that would become THE THIRD SOUL OMNIBUS TWO to a publisher,  and after about a year and a half, the rejection latter came back with a single line that said “Sometimes I wish Dungeons and Dragons had never been invented.”

Meanwhile, since I self-published THE THIRD SOUL OMNIBUS TWO, it has sold 1200 copies, and the vast majority of traditionally published books fail to sell less than a thousand copies.

A better example – GHOST IN THE FLAMES was rejected about thirty different times before I self-published it in 2011. Since then it has sold just under 17,000 copies.

“Fervent distaste for the New York publishing industry.” That sounds about right. 🙂

I’ve written over thirty books in the last five years, and I haven’t approached a publisher with a single one.

That said, I did make some deals with some publishers for some stuff to come out in 2017 (we’ll see if it actually happens), but the publishers came to me with a good deal, rather than the other way around.

That’s the difference. Before ebooks, publishers were the only game in town and it was their way or the highway. Now you don’t have to work with publishers at all.

-JM

did I meet 2016’s writing goals?

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s time to take stock and consider whether or not I met the writing goals I laid out in 2015.

-800,000 to 900,000 words of new fiction.

Success! I wrote about 1.1 million words of new fiction in 2016.

-Three new FROSTBORN books.

Success! In 2016 I published FROSTBORN: THE HIGH LORDS, FROSTBORN: THE FALSE KING, and FROSTBORN: THE DWARVEN PRINCE.

-Finish the GHOST EXILE series!

Success! In 2016 I finished GHOST IN THE PACT and GHOST IN THE WINDS, which brought the GHOST EXILE series to its conclusion.

-Finish the MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED trilogy at last!

Success! Both MASK OF DRAGONS and MASK OF SPELLS came out in 2016, bringing the trilogy to a close.

-Two new CLOAK GAMES books.

Success! CLOAK GAMES: SHADOW JUMP and CLOAK GAMES: SHATTER STONE came out in 2016.

-A systematic approach to print books.

It’s funny I should mention that, because GHOST IN THE PACT and GHOST IN THE WINDS have both been available in print for a couple of weeks now, and I haven’t gotten around to updating the catalog page yet. But I think this one was a success. I have a main page for print books on my site, I made 17 of my books available as trade paperbacks in 2016, and November and December 2016 were my best months for print books ever.

-More Kindle Unlimited Fix-Up Novels.

We’ll say this one was a half-success. I put out FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS, a compilation of some of the early FROSTBORN short stories, and originally put it in Kindle Unlimited. That said, I got completely out of Kindle Unlimited in the summer, so FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS is now available on all platforms.

I wanted to combine the Mazael short stories into a novel, but I never got around to it. Maybe in 2017.

-A 101 TIPS & TRICKS tech book on Linux Mint.

I didn’t do that one. The only tech writing I did in 2016 was to update my Ubuntu book from edition seven to edition eight. I wrote about half of the Linux Mint book, but I never got around to finishing it.

So I met most of my writing goals for 2016! In a few days I will type up my writing goals for 2017.

-JM

more fun with permafree!

Apropos to an earlier discussion of whether or not permafree is still a good tactic for self-published writers, here’s the recent sales chart for CLOAK GAMES: FROST FEVER on Amazon, covering from November 1st to Decembe 19th.

Note that the first book in the CLOAK GAMES series, CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP, went permafree on November 30th:

funwithpermafree-copy

December 19th was the best day that CLOAK GAMES: FROST FEVER had since it came out back in October of 2015.

So, based on the evidence, I think we can conclude that permafree is still a good tactic for writers of series novels.

-JM

how to create distinct characters

Reader Zach emailed with a question about how to create distinct personas for characters in a novel.

I think the key to creating distinct characters lies in three parts – perceptions, actions, and speech patterns.

By perceptions, I mean that different characters will notice different things in a situation. There is an old joke says that the first thing a woman notices about a man is the quality of his shoes, but there is a grain of truth to the joke that a writer can use – different characters will notice different things about a situation.

For example, if I looked at a cow, I would see “a cow”.

But one of my relatives was a farm inspector, and if he looked at the cow, he would see its age, its general health, whether it was a Jersey or a Holstein or whatever, and a dozen other details I didn’t know even existed. In the same vein, if he looked at the computer I’m using to write this, he would probably think of it as this annoying necessary evil that had intruded its way into his life over the last fifteen years. When I look at this computer, I see an Asus Transformer T300L tablet with Windows 10, a Core i3 processor, and a 64 gigabyte solid-state hard drive – a dozen different details that my relative would have no idea existed.

Already, you can see that my relative and I were very different people (or distinct characters) based upon our perceptions.

Second, characters act differently. This seems obvious, but one of the best ways to create distinct characters is to think of how a character would react in a stressful or an unusual situation. Like, say a police officer walks up to your character and starts asking him pointed questions about his activities. How does the character react? Does he panic? Make a joke? Threaten to call his lawyer? Cooperate calmly? Run for it? Flirt with the officer? Complain about the loud teenagers across the street? Assume it’s a scam and ask to see the officer’s badge? How a character responds to a stressful situation is a great way of making them a distinct character.

Third, characters talk differently. This is a tricky one to do right, because sometimes it is painful to read a writer’s attempt to render a strong regional or national accent. (An excellent example of this problem is HP Lovecraft’s story THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE, where his attempts to produce the heavily-accented dialogue of a rural New England farmer are just bad.)

That said, it’s a good idea to vary speech patterns. A college professor will talk differently than a car salesman. A teenage girl might talk in one unending run-on sentence, or in sullen one-word answers. Sherlock Holmes said he could determine a man’s trade by the shape of his hands, but it’s also sometimes possible to determine a man’s occupation by how he talks. Having all your characters talk in the same voice and the same speech pattern makes it harder to tell them apart.

So I think those are the three parts of creating a distinct character – perceptions, actions, and speech patterns.

-JM

Does permafree still work?

Occasionally I see writers taking about whether or not “permafree” still works. Permafree is a marketing tactic where a writer with a long series of books makes the first book of the series more or less permanently free. The idea is that readers will read the first book, enjoy it, and then move on to purchase additional books in the series.

Some writers strongly dislike the idea of permafree, since they feel it devalues literature and writing in general. Other writers aren’t opposed to the idea, but doubt that it is effective.

Fortunately, while feelings are subjective, math is not. I recently made CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP, the first book in the CLOAK GAMES series, permafree. Here is the Amazon sales chart of the last thirty days for the second book in the series, CLOAK GAMES: FROST FEVER:

frostfeversalescopy

Note that CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP went permafree on November 30th.

Permafree, like any other marketing tactic, has its time and place, but it still can be useful if employed at the proper time and place. Generally, I think permafree works best once a series has 3-5 books, but a writer can’t expect older books to sell well forever. Eventually, you do have to write new ones.

Fortunately, I enjoy doing that. 🙂

-JM

ebooks vs paper books

As someone who never got rid of a book ever for any reason for most of my life, I really hate to admit this, but I’ve come to prefer reading on an ereader to a paper book.

It’s the font size. You can dial up the font size as large as you like, and your eyes don’t have to work as hard. Even on a lower-resolution tablet screen, if you make the font big enough, it’s easier than reading smaller print in a paper book.

-JM

 

Google Play vs. iBooks October 2016

An interesting fact: in October, I sold ten times as many books on Google Play than on iBooks.

I wonder if that’s just me, or if it’s an overall trend for all ebooks. Anecdotally it makes sense. I hear from more readers who use Google Play than iBooks. It also makes sense, because Android hardware is so much cheaper than iPhones and iPads, and Google efficiently tucks the Play store on every Android device.

It is an interesting paradigm shift. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, one of the selling points was ebooks. (In fact, Apple got itself into legal hot water conspiring with the Big Five publishers to drive up ebook prices.) So it is interesting to see Google overtake Apple in that field.

-JM

The FROSTBORN Outline

Steve writes to ask:

A question… when you start something as big as Frostborn, do you have the whole plot laid out in your head for 15 books, or is it a bit more organic than that?

I totally outline everything in advance. I plotted out the entire FROSTBORN series in 2012, something like six months before I even started writing it.

That’s not to say some things haven’t developed organically over time.

I’d say the biggest changes are the role of Morigna, Imaria Licinius, and Mara. Originally, Morigna and Imaria were supposed to be the same character (more or less), but after I finished writing FROSTBORN: THE UNDYING WIZARD, I realized there was no way that would ever work. Fortunately, Imaria would serve the role just as well, given her massive grudge against Ridmark, which was why she appeared in FROSTBORN: THE MASTER THIEF.

Mara’s change had an even bigger impact on the series. Originally, I basically planned her as Jager’s somewhat dimwitted but good-natured girlfriend. But when I got to her first scene in FROSTBORN: THE MASTER THIEF, I was bored with her character, so I threw in that she was half-dark elven and used to be an assassin.

And THAT really changed the series, because I hadn’t originally designed the world of FROSTBORN to have half-elves. So the Artificer, the Anathgrimm, the Traveler, and Third, all of that came from that one impulse decision to make Mara’s character half dark elf.

Antenora was also a later addition to the series (her character was originally supposed to be male, but I didn’t think that worked and changed it at the last minute), and I didn’t think of the idea of the Sculptor until I was about halfway through FROSTBORN: THE FALSE KING.

But the overall arc of the series was planned out in 2012, and I’m looking forward to finishing at last in 2017!

-JM