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Monday, 12 March 2012

FREEFALL.

Glancing back along that lonesome road at some frightful fiend, I feel it’s time to review. Three dates set for publication. All passed, successfully. Three books on sale for the Amazon Kindle. The twelve-week fuse sparked down and the publishing bomb went off in a series of pops. With the odd hitch.
   I thought it a good thing to place the opening chapter of my first book on my blog as a pre-publication sample. That had to go when I signed the KDP exclusivity deal with Amazon. I remember a lot of fear in the air at the end of 2011, when Kindle Direct Publishing Select reared its electronic head.
   What did it mean? You couldn’t even TALK about your book if you entered into the satanic pact with Darth Bezos and his minions? Nonsense. If in doubt, clarify. (Though not with butter. Whoops. Galloping Gourmet reference.)
   I asked Amazon a few questions. Could I quote other works and not fall foul of the exclusivity clause? Certainly I could, whether the quotes were in the public domain or © to other creators. No problem. Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords opens with quotes from Winston Churchill and John Buchan. The sky did not fall in when I published.
   Readers who wonder whether or not I gained © permission to quote A. Nin, wonder no more. I couldn’t secure permission. As a self-publisher, I chose to deal with that problem in my own imitable fashion.
   Then there was the matter of pricing. I planned to charge £3.50 for the first two books and around £7 for LYGHTNYNG STRYKES. The exchange rate scuppered that plan, and I was forced to discount my third book to £6.29 to keep within Amazon’s dollar limits for the 70% royalty rate. What a hardship.
   I sacrificed small vegetables on the midnight altar to foretell that the VAT on e-books would drop. Not holding my breath, I was surprised when the VAT fell like a clichéd stone. Wonders do cease. Then they start wondering again.
   These minor points aside, I achieved my objectives. Publish, publish, publish. Now my blog is no longer tied to pre-publication posts. I am in freefall, staring at the ground rushing to greet me. Wondering if I have a parachute or rucksack on my back.
   The future holds out the prospect of guest blog posts. I’ve decided to free up the blog and my publishing plans too. It’s time to embrace the fluid nature of e-scribbling. I experimented with the immediacy of the industry when I released INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED SHORT WORKS.
   Yes. I had unfinished business there. Dating back…well, dating back. From my schooldays, I developed a rabid dislike of the idea of multiple narrators telling tales in the first person. Having one character start with the word I was a misfortune. To have two doing it seemed like carelessness. Or three. More. Gasp. Someone, stop the madness!
   My resolve crumbled this year, and I tackled the unfinished business of a story called The Stain Curse. I knew that this sequel to The Maltese Walnut called for the opening character to speak to the audience – I did this, I did that. But the male character had to make way for the female voice of another person using the dreaded I.
   I didn’t ditch my long-held view that THIS WAS WRONG! Well, I locked the notion in a temporary jail while the story was dashed out. I reached for that old standby, the flashback. The story within a story. Any reservations I had about the multiple first person narrative lay wrapped within a cocoon of rampant flashbackery.
   Immediacy was important to me. I rattled off stories and notes at the last minute, and published. Proving to myself that, as long as I kept a handle on the editing, I could be IMMEDIATE. Even if I had to undertake a major task – overcoming the revulsion at writing in a particular style.
   This was good. Where do I go from here? Into the land of the immediate. I see a large book looming on the horizon. Much editing and formatting there. But wait a bit. Why not be spontaneous, and get away from older slices of unpublished material for a stretch?
   Neon Gods gained a few thousand words in the telling. INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED SHORT WORKS picked up two new stories and a load of blog entries along the way. LYGHTNYNG STRYKES lost wayward typos that were staring me in the face.
   Where’s the new stuff? I can expand my digital bookshelf by looking at the past. But it’s hardly recharging the writing batteries. Preparing LYGHTNYNG STRYKES was wearing, even for an editing bod like me. Ludicrously, I took time from editing to assist other authors. With a deadline thundering across the horizon. Sitting here, typing away, I still find it hard to believe I did that.
   As much as I helped people, I gained assistance. That recharged the writing batteries. I’m in freefall, wondering where to land. Where do I steer this…ah…it’s a parachute. Rucksacks are slightly harder to manage.
   Yes, where do I land? I have a collection of short stories in mind. And new novels. Perhaps some articles on publishing might fall into the same e-tome, if I can set the fiction factory to churn ideas out. For nothing? Yes, I could arrange a permanently free book. Just to see how I feel about it.
   Hollow, is the immediate answer. For that’s how I feel when I publish books on Amazon. Here’s D-Day, for LYGHTNYNG STRYKES, in miniature…
   I soon regret the use of the letter Y in the title every bloody time I have to type it up in a blog post. Two days before publishing, I spy three i placements where the plot demands y instead. That was a bytch to write, and harked back to some of the stories from INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED SHORT WORKS.
   Charactersh who shpoke like an actor named Connery. That short of nonshense. I can’t see myself writing like that again. In the short stories, and LYGHTNYNG STRYKES, I was pretty much done with the idea.
   Editing and formatting is finished. Sunday night. I put the book to bed. On Monday I trek to my publishing HQ. It is cold. A spring day in March. Ice lies in patches on the ground. Frost dapples the grass. Clouds part. The sun brings no warmth.
   Even with the brim of a hat pulled low for extra protection, I face the all-encompassing sun as though undefended. Solar energy cuts through the super-dark shades on my face. The day is too bright. I’m a vampire, late to the crypt. A massive wet fountain pours inexplicably from my left eye. I don’t quite burst into flames.
   Final preparations for the book. Ticking boxes, arranging product description text. Loading the file in. And pressing the button. I feel the same as on those other Deployment-Days. Trepidation translates to an upswing in heartbeat and lethargy in brainwaves. One half of existence moves too swiftly. The other, not fast enough.
   Fingers do not fly across the keyboard. They stumble and lurch. My right leg falls asleep. I press the button. The book goes. Hours will pass before the product is available. I host a sale of Neon Gods, to mark the launch of LYGHTNYNG STRYKES.
   Then I walk away, into the light again. Brooding over the lack of elation. Hey, I published a book today. But I don’t feel like celebrating. Trepidation does not give way to elation – it blocks delight. I wander, as though some spectral figure. Invisible. Intangible. Lost to my thoughts. Which are not worth recording.
   Is this how it is to be, every single time? (What happened to third time’s the charm, eh?) I worry over what I put out there, then worry some more once it’s on its way. Oh, I can fix mistakes after the fact. But I don’t want the reputation of someone who does so to excess.
   Have I done a decent job? Is the work professional? Why don’t I run through the streets, screaming of success? For every book published is a success on that level – you did it. I’m caught up in the business, and brood. Amazon will congratulate me by e-mail. A digital pat on the back.
   No, I don’t write for the money. Piles of money. Vaults of money. Fantasy currency. I do write with the hope that I sell enough books to pay my bills. Though I’ve written for years, I’ve only published for weeks. Early, yet. I’m patient, and I’m prepared to hang in there. That’s what I do.
   The vampire in me returns to the crypt, leaves the scalding sun behind, and plots nefarious activity. What now? Return to Neon Gods. Commit to the sequels, knowing I’ve planned the antidote to the typical fantasy series of books. If I start writing book two, I must write three and four simultaneously to keep continuity on a short leash. Or…
   Format my (unslim) thriller into four volumes, accepting the necessity of delving into the technical side of things. Going back over old ground, and giving readers something I think they’d want to try. No new material, there. Or…
   Delve into the vaults. Resurrect Wednesday’s Mind. Just Another Zombie Story. Toylandt. Things like that. I created a cover for the zombie story the night before I published LYGHTNYNG STRYKES. It was a relief to type a title with no need to write Zombye, if nothing else. As for the vampire stuff, the werewolf material, and the time travel nonsense…
   It all seems to have been set down in note form, waiting to be written, by someone who was betting on self-publishing being the future without even knowing e-publishing would become exactly that. On my D-Day travels, I avoided being hit by a van. Then, later, a car.
   How many stories do we manage to publish, before we jolt into sudden unexpected forced retirement? I thought of that as I saw the eerie shape on the lonesome road. A frightful fiend. Really a car, hurtling in my direction. Two steps and I was safe. Though I didn’t feel safe. Much like pressing a button to publish a book. Saving myself from an oncoming vehicle didn’t lead to elation. Merely to belated trepidation.
   This has turned into a very gloomy blog. Or bog. Well, I was trying to capture how I felt when I published a book. Loads of people celebrate wildly. I find that odd, preferring to celebrate mildly. (A luxurious cream cake was the order of the day.) Loads of people will find my lack of celebration odd. I find it hard to escape my national character.
   There’s a man named Craig Ferguson who loves a place called Cumbernauld. Craig was once a stand-up comedian. Went by the label Bing Hitler. I think he missed a trick, and a greater career. Should have called himself Adolf Crosby. Being Scottish practically killed him. A lifetime later he made it in America as a chat-show host.
   He’s Scottish by accident of birth, but American by choice. Fair play to the man, for not dying in the gutter. He walked a hard road. American by choice. Something I could never be. I remain Scottish by choice. Wary of praise. Suspicious of compliment. Dismissive of fame. Rejecting the overpowering need for approval. I write this knowing what comes next, even though I write of wondering what comes next.
   There was a hint of fear, attached to my work. And I thought I could blog about it, in light of the help I’ve given to other authors. Being organised, I decided if I did blog about this topic…I’d blog twice. Once to set the story up, and again to flush it from my system.
   Feeling the same nerves publishing yet another book, I wondered if I could blog about an unbloggable thing. I have concluded that I couldn’t do it in two parts. First, I’d have to construct a cut-off point in this blog post. A position from which I can retreat if I feel I must. Having done that, I’ll see to random blog topics for a short while before I commit to a course of action or inaction.
   To blog, or not to blog. Reminds me, there’s that Hamlet adaptation, too…

NEXT BLOG: THERE’S NO SET TEXT. (THAT WON’T BE THE TITLE.)

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