Monday, April 9, 2012

Year in Review

This week marked the first birthday of Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo, prompting me to reflect on my first year as an ebook author.

It's been a good writing year.  I'm terribly proud of Apocalypse Zoo.  The best piece of descriptive verse I've ever produced.  Book Two in the series, Cathartes Aura on the Road from Nowhere, is also damn good and so much different.  I went from almost no human characters and a few quotation marks to dozens of humans and tons of dialogue.  Writing ten-by-tens about two or more people having a conversation is challenging.  But I did it.  Put that in your pipes and smoke it.

After a spring and summer of constricting verse form, I felt the need to run naked and free in the world of prose.  Also, I finally felt ready to write about my years in the restaurant business.  Inside the Skull of David Priest was born.  Mr. Priest is a wild and single version of me.  The strangest thing started to happen: he was both a good and bad influence on me, the guy who created him.  In order to get into the character I was consuming ten pots of coffee and a couple bottles of vodka a week.  I wanted to drink at work.  My wise-ass streak was getting wider and sharper.  But, when I was busy as hell behind the bar and beginning to feel it, I'd ask myself: "Would David Priest be stressed out right now?"  I can remind myself, in the heat of battle, that I am the real door-gunner of drinks.

I feel good about what I've written in the last year, but am disappointed in the response.  I did not expect commercial success, especially for the 1000 line poems.  Those were for me and people who will read me long after I'm dead.  Several hundred people have downloaded one or more of my works.  Only a few, however, have written reviews.  That is what really hurts if I stop to think about it.  I considered spending some of this review ranting about what the hell is wrong with people who can't spend a couple bucks on me or at least type a review, even if they hated it.  I decided not to.

So I'm looking at how I've spent my marketing time in the last year.  I've thought about what I've done right and wrong.  I decided to think about it less, talk about my books less, and spend a majority of my time writing.  I was distinctly shocked at how easy it is to offend people in forums about reading books by mentioning your book.  I choose not to take that to heart any longer.

I know I need to become a more active part of the online writer's community.  We're all in similar boats, so we need to help each other.  At the start of 2012 I resolved to read one book a month and review it.  I see a lot of authors exchanging reviews as a way to gain exposure.  But sorry, it feels false. Reading your book so you'll read mine or reading a book to be part of some blog tour is not something I'll spend time with.  My time is quite limited.  I'd love to spend much of the week reading books but it's not an option.  I'll not be reading very much this year and will not promise again to do so.

I will be exchanging guest blogs and interviews.  Already Caron Rider has shared with her readers my piece on writing ten-by-tens.  Coming soon will be my interview of her and other authors.  I think this is a much more time-effective method of getting my name out and helping other writers.  I don't have the hours to give your books a quality read and review.  I won't fake it or give half an effort.

KDP Select has not helped me.  Two and a half months into my 90 days and not one person has borrowed either Cathartes Aura from the lending library, netting me exactly 0.0% of the half-million dollars or more per month Amazon uses to pull you in.  And not one review from a person who got a book during my five free days.  A few sales.  No reviews.  For three months I'll be off Smashwords and other retailers and with Amazon exclusively.  I can't wait to have my freedom again.  It feels like it hasn't been worth it, but I haven't sold anywhere else either.

What's next?  Three writing projects are pending.

#1: Cathartes Aura Three.  The disparate survivors rebuild around the mall while their vast differences begin to show.  You can find Chapter One here on the blog.

#2: David Priest the novel.  I'll revise and expand Inside the Skull into a full book.  Mr. Priest will take on Columbus, out-numbered and out-gunned but not out-witted.  Less than a week after the novella was published, my brain started thinking about the rest.

#3: But probably the first one I'll finish, a novel with the working title "La Isla".  Post-apocalyptic, but on a smaller scale.  The setting is a remote Caribbean island nation with a history of poverty and corruption.  Already pushed to the edge, the population is ready to crack when a hurricane is bearing down on them.  The main character, yet un-named, is a white orphan boy found in a pitiful state and adopted my a mixed-race family.  From his first day, he has amazed people with his durability and luck, gaining a reputation for indestructibility.  He bears a scar on his hand from the time he swatted a bullet out of the air before it struck him in the face.

I'll find out how professionals submit manuscripts and send myself out to a billion publishers, knowing I'll be rejected a trillion times by form letter.  I'll keep writing the best stuff I can and that will make up for my ignorance of marketing.  I'll make myself better known amongst writers like me and help you know writers like them.

It's been a wonderful year.  My second son, Matyas, was born twelve days ago.  His big brother, Nikolas, is a very smart two-and-a-half year old.  He speaks English and Czech.  His Czech is better than mine.  He can already spell numerous words.  Our first book together should be done in a few years.  Their mother is beautiful and stronger than any of us.  If she had more confidence and time to paint, she'd be amazing.

Well, I wrote three great things, ain't sold crap, was invited to read at an art gallery, have been featured a couple times in a local literary magazine, have a great and growing family, a roof over my head, the best dog and cat around, food in the fridge, and am almost the best bartender I can be.

I won't complain and I'll keep writing.

If you have a book of mine and haven't reviewed, please do.

If you don't have a book of mine, click on a book cover at the top of the blog.

Raise your glasses to another good year.