…And Back to Normal

Just a quick update as promised: it looks like the sales bump from Book of the Day ad has now ended. The final tally was eighty-two sales on the day of the ad, twenty-two the day after, and just the one today. 105 total, which is 30 more than I needed to break even. Yay!

Here’s hoping a few more readers take the plunge over the next few days and grab a copy while Ascension Point loiters near the top of the Amazon Space Opera bestseller list, and that I get a nice big tranche of new customer reviews from all of these lovely sales. All in all, well worth it.

Edit The Second One, Sell The First One: Rinse, Repeat, Profit

Bit of a status update, this post. My wonderful editor–Misti from RedAdept–finished her initial edit of Venus Rising at the end of last week, and we had our edit kickoff call this Tuesday. Some of you might remember this post from the same point during the writing of Ascension Point. Highlights included an hour and a half on the phone to talk through all of the things that needed fixing, and a mammoth 619 comments from Misti on my first draft, as well as all of the inline edits she’d suggested. This time?

Twenty five minutes on the phone. 90 comments on the draft. (Fewer than on the first chapter alone of that draft of Ascension Point.)

So, yeah–it certainly seems like I’m improving as a writer. Hurrah! I’d thought so, but it’s nice to have something approaching quantitative evidence.

Anyway. Lovely wife is away at a conference this week, giving me a certain amount of spare time to fill. There are only so many back episodes of Chuck that I can watch in one evening, so I spent quite a lot of time on my edits, and sent Misti a new draft last night. It’s looking really good, and I’m confident the final draft of Venus Rising that I release in April is going to be great. Exciting times!

In other news (the ‘sell the first one’ part of the headline) today Ascension Point is Ereader News Today’s Book of the Day. This is far and away the biggest promo I’ve ever done. Greg at ENT gets thousands of applicants in January for the 240 BotD slots available for the coming year, so I was thrilled that he deemed Ascension Point worthy of one.

It’s $150 for the promo, and as you’ll have seen from my post a couple of days back I chopped the ebook price down to $2.99 to make it even more enticing to the ENT subscribers. 75 sales will see me break even, which would be a lovely goal to achieve; mainly I’m after some word of mouth and a few more reviews. After eleven hours–and with folks on the west coast of the U.S. just now getting home from work and checking their email–I’ve sold 49 copies and the book’s Amazon rank has gone from 673,000 to 11,000, so it’s looking pretty promising!

I’ll post final numbers in a few days once the bump is over, for the interest of the more writerly readers out there.

G’night!

Ten Day Sale: 40% Off Ascension Point in Ebook!

That’s right, folks. To coincide with two promotions I’m running in the next week or so*, I’ve slashed the price of the ebook edition of Ascension Point by 40%. That’s down from $4.99 to $2.99 (or equivalent in other currencies), and I wanted to share the news with you lovely folks.

This is a limited time offer, though; you’ve only got until March 29th to pick up your copy. It’s available from all of the usual retailers–Amazon, Kobo, B&N, iTunes and Smashwords. Purchase links in the bar on the right.

Cheers!

* Ascension Point is ENT’s Book of the Day on March 21st, and a Kboards Featured Book on March 28th. I’ll share the results of those promos, of course, for the interest of my publishing-inclined readers.

Long Arc, Short Arc: Episodic Storytelling

There’s a new fad in sci-fi at the moment, which is actually a very old one: serialisation. The mighty John Scalzi is releasing The Human Division, the latest book in the Old Man’s War series, in episodic format. Each episode of around ten thousand words or thirty pages is being released one-by-one in ebook format for 99c, and there will be a bundled compilation–the whole book in one, basically–once the series is complete.

Reading about this got me thinking about episodic storytelling. It used to be a very common format in literature back in the days when newspapers and magazines were the predominant form of media. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are probably the most famous example; they ran in The Strand magazine from 1891 to 1930, with a brief interruption after Conan Doyle had attempted to kill off his hero, before outraged fans demanded his return.

(If you think fanboy rage was born with the Internet, you’re mistaken.)

But in recent decades it’s obviously television that’s taken up the mantle of episodic storytelling. Phenomenal, wonderful stories have been doled out, week by week, one hour at a time, with the best shows every bit the equal of classic literature. The Sopranos, The Wire and now Breaking Bad; each of them cast a bright, often harsh light on society and the human condition, with vivid characterisation and gripping, often shocking plotlines.

The reason the episodic, serial format interests me is the way in which the writer–to write episodically in a way that’s satisfying and compelling–must mesh two types of story arc.

The first is the macro, the long arcs of both plot and character which carry across an entire season, or series. The ‘big story’ if you like. A novel typically contains just these arcs, to take the reader from the start of the book to the end. The protagonist leaves home, kills the dragon, and learns something about herself along the way, in a nutshell.

The second is the micro, the arc of the story across a single episode. In television this arc can either be well-bounded and easily recognisable, in the case of a procedural series such as CSI or Castle; or more closely entwined with the macro long arc, as in ‘serialized’ shows such as Lost24 and the three aforementioned modern classics. (More on the distinction here.)

The challenge is in their combination. In telling a satisfying story that can stand on it’s own, setup, action and conclusion all wrapped up within the hour, or the thirty pages; but also developing those characters along their personal series arcs, and progressing the broader overarching plot, at the same time. It can’t be easy, and I’ve developed a newfound respect for television writers who pull this off week after week, season after season.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m going to write a series, of course!

For the foreseeable future most of my writing focus will continue to be on my novels–Venus Rising will be out in April, then I’ll start on the draft of the third book which is already outlined, with a fourth to wrap up The Unity Sequence coming after that–but I’m also going to start noodling away at a series. I’m not sure yet if it’ll be episodic literature in the style of Scalzi’s The Human Division, or my first foray into screenwriting, but likely the latter; I think shifting between prose to script will provide some refreshing variety, and I’ve always wanted to give screenwriting a try.

‘But Dan, what’s the point? You’ll never get a TV show optioned. You have to know people and–‘

I’ll cut you off there, my imaginary friend. Because it seems that indie publishing catalyst and retail behemoth Amazon is now in the studio business, too. All pitches welcome. Come one, come all–you don’t need to know anybody, you just need a good enough story. Man, it’s a great time to be a writer.

But what about you, dear reader: are you an enthusiastic consumer of episodes, or do you prefer a single, longer story? Or do you just combine the two and binge-watch an entire season of Homeland on a rainy Sunday?

What’s Going On (Right On, Baby, Right On)

It’s been a little while. What have I been up to? There are a few strands.

Venus Rising is mid-edit. I’ve got feedback from a couple more beta readers coming in the next week or so, and then some edits to make. After that, the MS goes to Misti at Red Adept on March 11th for a good tearing apart and putting back together again. Stephanie is working on the cover, and I hope to have that ready to reveal in the next week or so. Can’t wait.

Meanwhile, I’ve pulled together the outline for the next book. It’s going to be a novella, and the third book in the still-unnamed series. I have a title which I love, but which I’m not quite ready to announce yet; I’ve got three parts, and a brief summary for all of the scenes. I still need to expand the character bios and write those up, and then I’ll be ready to start the first draft.

But before I do that, I’m doing something a little bit random. I’ve realised that it’s got to the point where I can’t quite hold all of the important details of the Ascension Point universe in my head. It’s crucial for the continuity and consistency of the other books in the series (and the trilogy I’ve got planned after that–watch this space) that I keep track of all of the people, places, factions, groups, landmarks and technology that I’ve created. So to help me do that I’ve started indexing everything in an already-massive spreadsheet. It’s pretty damn tedious, but it should mean that when I’m halfway through a draft of my sixth novel I don’t spontaneously change the canon I set up in the earlier books. That’s the idea, anyway.

So that’s my update. I’m still on track to release Venus Rising in April, so look out for that!

(P.S. If you didn’t get the reference in the title, it’s from ‘What’s Going On’ by Marvin Gaye. Do yourself a favour, and familiarise yourself: Marvin Gaye – The Best Of Marvin Gaye.)

Interviewed by The Indiscriminate Critic

After posting a wonderful review of Ascension Point, The Indiscriminate Critic himself got in touch with me, and we had a pleasant chat. He mentioned he sometimes posts author interviews alongside his book reviews, and asked if I’d be interested; naturally I was, and we had a long email exchange earlier this week.

You can read the transcript here. We had a wide-ranging chat, covering writing from a foreign country, the editing process, the inspiration behind the Ascension Point universe and its technology, and where the series is headed. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it, and it made me think hard and articulate some thoughts and decisions which had been almost subconscious before, which was very interesting.

I hope you enjoy reading it.