Saturday, November 30, 2019

Lone Star

What a roller coaster of a day!  I was probably the least productive I've ever been at work yesterday as I obsessively watched the download-o-meter tick over.  Dryad downloads were around 60 when I went to sleep on Thursday and I was jolly pleased with that.  But I leapt out of bed like an electrocuted cat when I woke up on Friday morning and saw downloads hit 600!  After a few minutes I had calculated how much that would have made me if I wasn't giving it away for free, extrapolated forwards, factoring in ten more books with a marginal percentage growth on each one - assuming I garnered a loyal fan base - and declared proudly that, this was most definitely "It"!  I could extricate myself from the oft degrading drudgery of the daily grind much sooner than previously hoped.  I skipped off to work a very happy man indeed.

The day continued on its upwards trajectory, downloads hit 800!  My extrapolation ballooned until in my imagined world I was off to buy a big house with a massive pool and commence snoozing in the afternoon shade.  So imagine how I felt when the ticker clicked over 1000 downloads.  Over a thousand in just five days.  I quickly googled "average downloads/sales for a book in a year" and began to feel nauseous with delight.  Not only had I just taken ownership of my actual dream and published my book, but I had done something sufficiently interesting to pique the interest of over a thousand people!

I had just started to think "all I need now are some reviews" when one came in.... my head began to spin, the floor began to wobble and my over inflated optimism went all Hindenburg on me.  A one-star review! To quote my gentle and articulate sister - "Whoever that was is a bell end!" - brilliant, couldn't agree more.  My instant reaction, who is this person? Why one-star? I read the review and it was blindingly obvious they had not read the book, and a quick look at their profile revealed they have a clear agenda.  So next logical step? I must destroy this person.... but then I paused, took a breath and realised something.  I liked the review!  I really wish there were a few 5-star's on there to redress the balance but I can't control that.

The review was basically a throw away remark that my book is Liberal and left wing... BRILLIANT!  The book is first and foremost a science fiction story.  It's also a projection into the future which is based on my opinion of the current state of the world.   It doesn't paint a very positive picture of our future, run away climate change, capitalism and cruel authoritarian conservatism on steroids are the backdrop to the story.  So I guess the reviewer has focussed on the setting as opposed to the story, the writing, or the emotion.... However, what budding hobbyist writer would not want to be put in the same bucket as some of the greatest Sci-Fi authors, indeed some of the greatest authors there have ever been and ever will be?!  Ursula K. Le Guin, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley.. have written books considered to be liberal and/or left wing.  I am in no way comparing myself or my writing to them, but I feel utterly delighted that my book could possibly be considered through the same political lens.

I believe good literature should carry a message and that the value comes from provoking conversations and discussion.  Also in my opinion no other genre has more power to go deep into the world of "otherness" than science fiction, so by definition isn't science fiction inherently liberal?  If we act on instinct alone and remain afraid of everything and everyone who is different then what are we?  Isn't exploring how we interact with otherness, and talking about it what being human, liberal or otherwise is all about?   I think so, and am taking the review as a wonderful compliment.  It gives me credibility as a man with a message and that message is a good one.  I shall wear my lone star with pride, like a sheriff....  only less authoritarian of course....

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Stupid lens!

"Is it normal to feel petrified at this stage??" is the question I asked a friend of mine who had left a nice comment on my facebook post about my book. She has recently published an amazing children's book so she's well placed to know. Her single word answer, "absolutely" made me smile, abject fear is normal. What a relief. But it got me thinking, why feel this fear? I guess it's about not wanting your work to fail, but deeper than that it comes from feeling exposed. Writing a book has to have some personal elements to it as we all look at the world through our own lens. So by putting it out there you are letting the world in, to see parts of the world the way you do.

I was reflecting on this as I lay in the sunshine during my lunch break today. What is my lens? How much of my world view and subsequent writing is blurred by it? I think I look at the world through the combined lenses of pessimism and justice. I see the worst case of potential outcomes and frequently perceive injustice. Stupid lens! This gives me plenty of fodder for writing about post apocalyptic dystopia, but is not especially helpful in daily life!

This point of reflection has given me pause, I shall endeavour to focus on positives, and extrapolate to a good outcome and will not presume to be the arbiter of what's fair. I wonder if this will make me write about jolly nice people being jolly nice to each other, instead of badass heroines & heroes taking on dark insidious baddies in a corrupt unjust world,... oh no I'm already back in my happy place of misery laden darkness… stupid lens!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Opted Out!

Well that was weird, after thinking about the traditional publishing route for so long I decided to look more closely into self publishing on Amazon.  And I am very glad I did.  Its such an unfathomably easy process that before I really realised what had happened I had published my book!

I feel liberated! I have control over the realisation of my dream.  It is no longer being cast to the whim of an anonymous agent who can at the flick of a finger either accept the kind offer of 20% of all income in perpetuity or reject it without explanation. I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. After all I am under no illusions, I don't for one minute think I am the next Arthur C. Clarke (but I'd love to be, he was the best!).  I am a hobbyist author who has a full time job, two kids and a massive running problem.  So by self publishing online I have taken back control of my hobby and it is wonderful!  All of a sudden the purpose of it makes sense again.

I've been asking myself why do this, why write, where does the need come from?  Why agonise over having my story published?  I guess in all honesty it's not for me at all.  I feel like it's about legacy. Something that can exist forever for my children to really get to know me.  They can read my stories and understand my deepest thoughts, the innermost workings of my mind and wonderings.  And to top it all off I can look them in the eye when I tell them. - "Chase that dream and live it".  Having a dream is the most important thing, but you have to act to make it a reality.

All it took for me to realise I'm in control was to take that step to opt-out.  Opting out of the conventional, normal, expected approach feels great.  But perhaps I've opted-in?  Opted in to making it happen, and literally seizing the day?

Once the adrenaline has eased off and I stop obsessing over who has liked my facebook post, I will really have to figure out the rest of social media and how to reach sci-fi fans!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Query + Rejection = Misery

The misery of rejection, seems to be a skirted issue online.  Perhaps authors are worried that if they are too open about how miserable the process is, then their goal of getting their work traditionally published will be doomed forever.

It is however, a particularly odd emotion.  To have worked on crafting a book for many years, you have poured your heart and soul into it, suffered the crippling waves of self doubt niggling thoughts you're wasting your time.  You have finally finished, had great feedback, built up the excitement that your dream may be on the cusp of becoming a reality.  So you search for, find and research agents, learn and follow their unique and in some cases bizarre requirements for submitting, finally hit send and .... and... wait.  For a nauseatingly high percentage of submissions that's it.. you wait, and nothing.  Just a lingering worry that you've missed the reply in your junk folder, or haven't waited long enough before  going through the process again.  I'd describe the feeling as hopeful demoralisation.  You have to be ever hopeful or else you've given up on your dream, but you feel perpetually demoralised that you're still plugging away at something that seems increasingly impossible.  You become a very suspicious person, with an uneasy sense you're deluding yourself.

Like a great many people it seems, I have written a novel.  Its sufficiently good to have earned high praise from my editor, and family members (but I worry that those I have paid or am related to are not being completely honest) but not "good" (commercial) enough to have earned more than a polite "not for me, no thank-you" form email from a depressingly low percentage of queried agents.

So what's next?  I guess self publishing awaits, if I can scrape my wounded soul up off the floor for long enough to realise I know nothing of online marketing and am a mere fart in a hurricane on social media...

Bad Blood (Flash fiction to see in the New Year!)

The boy sat on the edge of his bed, curtains drawn back to let the cool night in.  Before him the Milky-Way arced across the inky sky ...