Its finally happening

I’m going to (self) publish the first of my books. Its done. Well, its not done. I need to have it edited, and a cover made up, but I’m done writing it. Honestly it’s mostly been done for ages, but not finished. I’d run into a bit of a block, and it wasn’t until my psychologist bet me that I couldn’t finish before our next (and final) appointment, that I finally pushed myself to complete it.

The first thing I want to write about in this blog entry is expand upon that, I suppose. In James and Rachael’s first book, they arrive in the other universe and navigate an asteroid field with a breathable atmosphere. The novelette ends when Arty arrives to rescue them, but Rachael (not trusting him) activates a SOS beacon. Unfortunately she only manages to attract the villainous Pacifist Union. In the original version, James and Co would be taken aboard the Pactifist’s ship, and we’d get a hint of what the Pacifists have been doing to the sorcerers (forcibly breeding them with regular humans to ‘breed the magic out of them’). Arty, whose tragic backstory is that he’d gone through the program before, would help them escape using some magical amulet or something like that (of course he’s been preparing just in case they capture him again) and then the group would head to Sanif.

In retrospect, this is kind of appallingly dark compared to the rest of the short book. Maybe that was what was putting me off. My writing does tend to get dark sometimes. But regardless of the reason, it just wasn’t coming. I eventually scrapped it, and wrote a superior scene where a couple Pacifists arrive, and Arty has to fend them off. I enjoy the new scene a lot more, so clearly if I get writers block in the future, I should remember this, and try to reassess where the story is going.

Ok, next thing I wanted to discuss with you, future hypothetical reader, is my reasoning for publishing a series of novellas instead of full novels. Theres a whole bunch of reasons, and writing may help me organise thoughts on the matter better, so if ever I’m doubting myself, I can look back here.

The first reason is that I’m really over reading overly-long stories. Several of the stories I’ve read in the last few years seemed needlessly larger than they should be. Obviously if I’m really enjoying a story, I’d be sad if it ended, but by that same extent, traditional publishing clearly dictates that science fiction must be ~120K words or more, regardless of whether the story needs it. Not every book is a Game of Thrones, nor does it need to be. I’ve found myself looking through ARC’s and seeing nothing but enormous books, and it just puts me off. I write books that I want to read, and at the moment I really feel like shorter books are more appealing.

Next reason: I’m real bad with over-editing and changing my books. This is a common trap for beginner authors, as far as I understand it, and I honestly think it would be of benefit to me to lock off the first few chapters of my story. They’re done, they cant be changed. Move on. My psychologist says I struggle with perfectionism, which for me is less everything i do is perfect, and more wow everything I do is not perfect. That’s depressing.

Also, I’ll get to publish more often. This means more artwork created for my works, more published stories for people to find, and more small wins. Instead of waiting until I finish the entire work, I’ll get to publish a couple things a year. Which is super exciting!

And lastly: I’m self-publishing. Traditional publishing is something I just have zero interest in right now. I’m pretty sure that the Through the Portal redux story would never be picked up by an agent or publisher anyway – for several reasons it’s pretty un-publishable. So self-publishing is the only way. And if i’m self-publishing anyway, fuck it, I’ll do what I want.

So in the next few days I’ll be finding an editor and an illustrator that I like, and fixing up this website. The book will be finished and on sale by the end of the year – and the next in the series will probably be ready for editing by that point as well. Exciting!

Names

So a couple things happened recently. The first was that I started reading The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (you know, the Hunger Games prequel). So far its okay. President Snow absolutely did not grow up in District 12. That is not a thing that happened. Maybe District 7, maybe a ghetto part of the Capitol. But no way did he grow up in District 12. Also, what sort of a name is Coriolanus? Actually I think it’s fair to say that, without exception, every character in Ballard has a really terrible name. Theres Tigris, Sejamus, Strabo and Biard, and they just do not sound like actual names. Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch weren’t actual names either, but they sounded like real names. The names in Ballard sound like nonsense and when names get hard to pronounce, I find them harder to remember. Soon-to-be President Snow will always be known as Snow to me, so why dont you just make it easy on me and call him Snow? I had a similar problem with another book I read recently, Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire. After hearing a lot of positive talk about the book I picked it up, and ultimately couldn’t finish it. It was fine, but had some flaws that I didn’t enjoy, one being the names. There are a lot of characters in the book, and they’re introduced quickly. There’s Vin (the main POV), Kelsier (sometimes referred to as Kel, and who is the other POV), Breeze, Clubs, Spooks, Marsh, Sazed, Reen, Camon, Milev, Ulef, Theron, and like a bunch more. The names are fine, but they aren’t memorable enough, and so when Vin and Kel are hanging out with Sazed, Reen and Clubs, and they’re talking about Camon and Milev and Ulef, I’m have trouble remembering which one is the one with mind powers, which is the muscleman, which ones are Skaa, and which ones I care about. At the end of a fight scene, the POV is saved by one of the supporting cast, and it comes as a surprise because until then, that character hadn’t demonstrated any magical ability. But because their names were so confusing, I had the characters completely mixed up, which is frustrating as a reader.

Sorry about that. I wanted to like The Final Empire, but let’s just say it wasn’t for me.

Anyway, rant over. The second thing that happened recently, is I watched a video on accents in fiction. I like the channel so I always enjoy listening to what they have to say, but I wasn’t expecting anything enlightening. Much to my surprise, the video gave me a solution to a problem I’d been having for a while. I’ve long struggled with naming my characters. Even after deciding to not bother with conlangs, etc., it still didn’t make sense to have characters who spoke alien languages to have English names. They would be names based on their native language, but how do I even create new names? Do I just blend multiple words together, or make up a nonsense word that sounds like it makes sense in the language? I’ve never found any good sources of advise on naming characters, and so I was stuck at an impasse.

But in that youtube video, they mentioned some interesting philosophy. They explained that books of fiction are, in essence, localised to suit the language of the author. The characters in my book that aren’t speaking English are not just having their words translated, but also localised so the original intent of their fictional words are maintained. But this goes further than just speech. The video used an example of an Athenian poem which had been translated and adapted to have the Spartans speaking in Scottish accents. The point was to convey to a British audience how to view the characters through stereotypes. To quote the video, Sparta was to Athens as Scotland was to England. 

And this gave me an idea. Instead of giving my characters (objectively) stupid names which will likely only make it harder to read the story, I should localise the names. The characters will still have names in their own language, but they’ll also have English names. Some of them already do, but now the rest will follow. It’ll be a bit weird for me, and something to get used to, but instead of coming up with names myself, something I’ve always struggled with, now I can look up names based on meanings and how they sound to me.

Hey, it’s worth a shot.

Wow… its been a while.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any writing, and a while longer since I’ve updated this site. Hmm… let me see what’s changed.

In the last couple years I’ve had a career change. I pivoted from science into science teaching, and since 2018 I’ve been working on my masters. It’s almost done, thank god. For a while I tried to keep up with writing, but I struggled to feel creative after a day of mashing my face against the keyboard for uni. I eventually decided that I would allow myself to have a break, and resume my attempts at writing something after uni was finished. There were other reasons why I stopped writing. I was preoccupied with several video games, I was overworked trying to juggle uni and part time work, and I was gradually descending into depression (I also thank god for anti-depressants).

The reason I’ve come back to this site, is because I’m planning a renaissance. I’ll be finished with uni soon, and assuming the absolute worst doesn’t happen, I’ll have an permanent adult job. No more excuses. A permanent job means I’m going to have to finally fix my work-life balance, and find how to make time for regular writing. I still have works I’d like to put out there, after all. That is, if I ever get around to finishing my book…

Then, the other day, I stumbled upon something incredibly random. I swear I wasn’t doing anything weird. I was on Reddit, reading some r/AskReddit thread (I don’t even remember what it was about), when I came upon some comment where the user said they wrote and sold erotica online. There was a big chain of comments discussing the process, and someone linked to a subreddit about it. Curious, I checked it out, and dang I was completely blown away. There were so many resources, so many guides, outlining exactly how to make money and attract a readership while writing porno stories. Now I’ve never really been interested in writing smut (I’m still not) but mad respect to anyone who has accomplished what the folks on that sub have. It was nothing less than inspiring. I’ve never seen such explicit (ha!) advice and directions, not on more general writing forums, not in books I’ve read, not in videos I’ve watched. It opened my eyes to something I’ve been told countless times before, but perhaps I’ve never believed: You don’t have to do it traditionally. Would I love to see my name on a star wars novel in a physical bookstore one day? Of course. Would I prefer to see a professionally published version of my book rocking the best seller’s list, or the Australian Authors section of my local Dymmocks? Definitely. But if I continue like I’m going, I’ll simply never get there. Instead, let’s do it like the erotica guys do it.

From now on, I’m not aiming for whole, complete books, that are published professionally. I’m not leaving my work in the hands of overworked, over-propositioned publishing houses. I’m heading back to my Amazon account, and opening whatever other online accounts I can find, and I’m publishing my writing as shorter works. When I complete several chapters, and like the look of them, I’m going to publish them in the form of novellas. No campaigning to publishers, no paying self-publishing houses, I’m going online. Amazon, Smashwords, whatever, and I’m going to sell. I’m going to be using the money from my adult job to pay for cover artwork and professional editors. Due to the smaller size of the works, I’ll be able to better afford editing, and will have even more artwork to advertise my books with. And the best thing? I already have a novella finished. In fact I think I might almost have two. Going from ‘who knows how many years it’ll take’ to ‘I have two things almost ready to publish’ is very exciting. And yeah, I’m not going to have the power of traditional advertising on my side, but all that means is I’ll have to work the system. And part of that, is this: my website. I’m reviving it.

The plan, as it stands now, is as follows:

I’ll work on various ‘chapters’ of the Through the Portal reboot story. They’ll be released in batches of 3-5 chapters at a time, as novellas. When large portions of the story are completed, they’ll be re-released as bundles.

I’ll also work on my other story, Quad (working title). Again, I don’t need to fully complete the story before I begin to publish. To be honest this strategy reminds me of pulp fiction magazines, which is actually pretty exciting.

I’ll also (though not at the same time) will work on other stories, such as short stories that tie into the Through the Portal canon. If I come up with something that doesn’t fit into the canon and would be suitable, I might send it off to a literacy magazine. But we’ll see.

I’ll use money from my adult job to pay for editing, cover art, and translation/conlangs. This’ll add legitimacy to my works, and hey, if an error gets through, I can just edit the .epub file. Cover art will make my works stand out, and will give me resources to decorate my social media platforms. And when I publish enough, I’ll start getting an audience. And that’s all I want. Not money, but readers. I have stories to tell.

Disaster will likely strike but hey, at the moment I’m feeling optimistic.