Indie Writing Life: S1E1 – Awesome Beginning

This is the inaugural episode of a new feature I’ve decided to call “Indie Writing Life,” which is basically a (hopefully) weekly account of the trials and tribulations of being an indie writer.

AwesomeCon

AwesomeCon

I bought a Saturday ticket for AwesomeCon, which is a media convention held in Washington DC’s convention center in March. Cost was $91 with a lanyard and various fees tacked on. I’m expecting to have fun, but I’m also doing reconnaissance. I’ve been selling books very successfully at events in 2023, and I’m looking to expand to larger venues in the future. So, I want to see, and take pictures, of the various options for selling books at the event.

How much stock do I need to have? What does a high-quality bookseller table look like at an event like this one? What are the options for selling venues? What kind of traffic do the booksellers get? Etc. The nut for a table at the event is around $300, so the question is…will it be possible to score a profit at the event?

WorldCon

A month or so back I applied to be on Programming at WorldCon 82 in Glasgow, Scotland this year (Auguest 8-12). In response, I got back a survey. I dutifully filled out all the background they wanted, suggested some panels and one of my workshops, and generally explained why I thought I’d be a good participant.

Balticon

In addition to being on Programming at the convention (held Memorial Day weekend every year), I was asked to help out with the Workshop Track. Which means that I’ve also been helping out with the main Programming track, too. We’ve been having two two-hour meetings each week to work on the panels and workshops, which includes discussion and word-smithing for each entry.

Deluxe Hardcover of Bitter Days

Bitter Days

I submitted the files (cover and PDF of the interior content) to IngramSpark for the Deluxe Hardcover edition of Bitter Days, which is part of my Thousand Kingdoms series. This is a Hardcover Case-Laminate, which means the cover image is printed on the book and there is no paper jacket. I should hear back in four or five days regarding the approval of the files. If approved, I’ll order a proof to make sure it’s turned out OK.

Technically, the story is a novelette, but the book also has a bunch of extras. This Deluxe edition will only be sold at events or through my online store. It will not be available at other retailers. It’s one of the unique marketing things I’m doing in 2024.

Current WIP

My current Work-in-Progress (or WIP, for the uninitiated) is a story called “Invisible,” and it’s been kicking my ass for about two months now. Which is annoying, since it’s supposed to be a novella and it’s also scheduled to have been done by now. Lesson 1 for indie writers, we love to schedule things. Sadly, sometimes we fail to meet the schedule.

Truthfully, “Invisible” is more of a working title. Unless you have the backing a major trad publisher, one-word titles get lost in the shuffle when people try to search for books on Amazon. Ultimately, I’ll have to change to a more unique title.

Anyway, it’s a story about Sander Greenfell, who became invisible as a side effect of a magical disaster that devastated the center of the city of Mezepiki when he was seven. In Sander’s words:

The Shambles is a slowly swirling vortex, an area of magical disruption, that occupies what used to be the center of Mezepiki. It looks a little bit like a whirlpool, centered around the jutting silhouette of Kohekul, which means the “Time Tower” in the old language, or the Clock Tower in modern parlance. The tower is partially obscured by mist, as is much of the rest of the Shambles today.

This is what the dueling wizards left behind.

There are five distinct “bands” surrounding the Clock Tower. Three of them are rotating slowly clockwise, albeit at different speeds—the Third Band is zipping along quickly enough that its motion is easily perceivable.  The Second Band is rotating counter-clockwise; nobody knows why. And the Fifth Band isn’t rotating at all, which probably has something to do with why I can cross that outer boundary at will; that’s where I was when the Shambles was formed. For the inner bands, one can cross the boundaries going inward, but not outwards. I think the deeper you go into the Shambles, the bands somehow become increasingly out of phase with reality.

Most of what I’m seeing today is the old downtown area, though many of the buildings have tumbled down or incurred damage due to the eldritch rotation. But I can see other shapes in the mist as well, a ruined farmhouse, a stand of trees that look like a cross between evergreens and mushrooms, some sort of spike that rises perhaps twelve stories or so—things that were never part of the city. Nobody knows where these apparitions come from.

There are a lot of people trapped in the Shambles, even after all this time, though I’ve never been able to get an accurate count. Sometimes, when I’m a little depressed, I think about those people—they’re even more cut off from the world than I am. 

So Sander is in a special situation. The original disaster left him invisible…but he’s not trapped in the Shambles, like so many people are. Unfortunately, one of the people trapped in there is the “Lost Prince,” the only surviving child of the King’s first wife. Naturally, the new Queen who was foisted on him after the disaster fourteen years ago, wants to ensure that the Shambles is eliminated, along with the survivors that nobody can see anyway, so as not to interfere with her children inheriting the throne.

Since the Shambles is spreading slowly each year, it’s now threatening to encroach on the major river that runs through the city. That river is a critical trade route for the kingdom. So, beyond the Queen, destroying the Shambles has been endorsed by the regional ruler. The King has appealed to the Tars Arcanum, a high-level ruling body, and they have sent an observer.

Coming into conflict, we have the King and Queen. They’ve appealed to higher powers, so we have observers on both sides; the observer from the Tars Arcanum is Jonelle Crosse, my trouble-shooting mage and part-time detective (in a role as a supporting character). Sander is fighting against the Queen’s hatchet man, who is in charge of implementing the plan to destroy the Shambles, as well as that villain’s right-hand man, a highly competent and ruthless fallen-noble/mercenary.

Right. Enough of that.

My original plan was to have chapters about Sander, with short 1-4 page interstitials between them that gave some perspectives from the opposition or the various observers.

But…the conflict just wasn’t coming out properly, especially in the middle of the story which sagged badly. So, I did something I seldom do. I re-outlined the story in the middle of the first draft to turn it into more of an Elmore Leonard romp, with the main characters colliding and violence ensuing as they each pursue their different goals. I’m still in the process of wrenching the story into its new track.

Conclusion

A relatatively typical week, where I’m working on a bunch of things. There’s a heavy focus on conventions right now, because I’m trying to get my events lined up for the whole year. Unlike last year, I’d like to eliminate the gap I had in the summer, where I had no event sales because I hadn’t scheduled any events (it also meant that fall/winter was especially frenetic, because I had so much going on).

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