A Signing and 5am Submissions

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My first major signing has come and gone. I was not quite sure what to expect upon stepping into my local Barnes and Noble, but I have to say everything went incredibly well. It was great to see so much support from friends and family, including my best buddy up on the left above (he’s designing the next cover, as well, and I couldn’t be happier).

This was part of a Local Author Afternoon and involved six of us from the SEMO area. I had expected to maybe talk with a few people and sell a couple books, but I got to see a ton of folks I hadn’t seen in quite some time. It was really quite moving to have that backing. Even one of my band instructors from high school dropped by, which I certainly did not expect! I am extremely appreciate to see that my two-year-old book is still getting a little buzz and maybe gaining some fans.

Which, of course, was another nice part of the signing. It’s a bit of an odd experience to have to explain your novel to random strangers. Despite so many years working in film, I never really perfected the idea of pitching something. Signing was good practice on that, not just on talking about your book, but how to sign, how to personalize things, and really interact with those interested in reading more. So often, writers are focused on the, well, writing portion of things that it can be hard to sit at a table trying to talk about yourself for four hours. We are, by nature, fairly introverted in how we think with our written words portraying most of our feelings. At a convention or signing, however, those public speaking classes have to come back into play.

So, on the whole, I’m happy with how things went and looking forward to doing it again as soon as I can. I learned a lot, and met some new fans. It helped cement that this is the kind of thing I want to do for a living, which is really the best justification I could ask for.

With that in mind, some other notes. Book Two, Desert Siren, is officially off to the U.S. Copyright Office. That means it’s done! Officially official. I have yet to set a release date, but rest assured everyone will know. I’m thinking October.

At the moment, the last hold up is the cover, which my aforementioned buddy knows about and is probably getting annoyed I keep asking about. He’s a fantastic designer, so I’m excited to see what he cooks up. In the meantime, D.S. will likely go through a second round of edits, mostly for grammar and spelling and whatnot since the major plot issues are done.

At the moment, without any front matter or About the Author, etc. stuff in the back, it’s looking about 378 pages, which is slightly longer than the last and will hopefully have much tighter formatting.

I’m excited to see where this next book goes and to get out to meet others! The next big thing looks like a Book Festival here in the area, which I am debating taking part in. I’d love to get up to St. Louis soon, as well!

  • Wes

The Sky Thief is available in paperback and digital from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major retailers! The second book in the series, Desert Siren will be released Fall 2017.

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Yes, I’m A Writer

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So, I’m going through my first round of edits for Desert Siren right now. Mostly, it’s adding a few things like refreshers for the first book, an additional chapter where I wanted to expand on some characters, and cleaning up some dialogue to keep it consistent. Meanwhile, the above is the poster for my first major signing, which I am quite jazzed about and will likely blog about after it is done.

As I work on this second book, I keep running into a situation time and again, and I feel it’s something a lot of authors feel a bit of kinship over. It’s that question that inevitably comes up when talking with people for the first time: “What do you do?”

In my case, it usually comes in the form of “What’s your other job?” However the question is framed, the results are universally the same. I tell whoever is asking that I’m a writer, and the wheels inevitably start turning. You can almost see the thought in their head: “That’s not a real job,” “That’s why you don’t take extra shifts?” “That’s a hobby,” etc, etc. Then, of course, I feel the need to further explain and showcase my feathers, so to speak, because simply saying I write doesn’t seem to convey any amount of importance.

It used to be easier to justify when I was writing news. Journalism doesn’t pay much, but people understand there’s a lot to deal with there. I could explain a few of my credentials or what I’ve worked on, but usually saying “I’m a journalist” was enough. Since moving to fiction, however, the standard of credibility seems much higher. There seems to be an undercurrent of thinking that books write themselves or simply fly off the keyboard. After all, everyone who went to college had to write finals projects, so 70k words can’t possibly be another real job, right?

I’ll admit that in today’s world where everyone seems to be in the hustle, going into the world of novel writing seems a bit counter-intuitive. Wages are lower, and people have to work longer hours on average to get by. Someone who says they are a writer might come across as lazy, especially in my blue collar area of Missouri.

However, while I am not the best person to take advice from on business measures, I have learned a few things in 31 years. Perhaps the most important lesson I could give is that going after your personal goals overrides anything else. Yes, it might make your life harder in the short term, but you will be happier in the long run. Along those lines, it’s important to realize that if you choose to do something you really enjoy, you have to put in just as much time and effort to it as you would any other job.

So, while writing may come off as “lazy” to some people, I am not ashamed of putting in twenty hours a week at it in addition to my part-time job and college classes. Beyond the writing itself, there are edits, cover design, copyright filing, formatting, managing several accounts to handle distribution, social media marketing, real life marketing, signings, agent queries, magazine submissions for shorts, and so on. All of which take up a fair amount of time on their own (interior formatting in particular is a massive, tedious beast). It is a great deal of work and time, and just because it has no guarantee of payoff does not make it somehow illegitimate as work. If anything, the people who do become successful in creative fields are the ones who have some talent but a great deal of persistence (sometimes to the annoyance of those who end up publishing them).

So, I’ll keep saying I’m a writer. A fledgling fiction writer, sure, but a writer nonetheless. And if someone’s eyes glaze over in disbelief when I tell them why I can’t go out that night or take more hours, let them.  I pay my bills like everyone else, and that’s validation enough for me.

~Wes

It’s done. Almost.

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Ghaoithe Loinsigh, The Sky Thief, as rendered by the wonderful Zailene

Well, it’s not completely done, as few creative works ever are. However, I have finally finished the climactic chapter of Desert Siren. There are still a couple of chapters to write, mostly for the resolution of the story to lead into the third and final book. And, of course, there will be a few details to add and subtract as I look forward to the editing phase.

Still, it’s nice to have the “big” moments done with most everything else being housekeeping to tie it all into a nice little bow. Quite a bit happens in the chapter I just finished, and I eagerly await the feedback from it. I had a great time working on this book and fleshing out the story of Alex Stirling and Ghaoithe. I hope that is reflected in readers’ enjoyment.

It’s crazy to think of how far this ride has gone for me. When I started this novel, it began as a Word document I pecked away at in my free time working the front desk of an art exhibit in Los Angeles. Here, ending it, I am much poorer and about to start school back in my hometown in Missouri. I would very much like to make it back to L.A., but in many ways, this series is a mirror of that journey of mine. With more skyships, of course.

Looking ahead, I have sent the initial specs to my fantastic cover designer and will hopefully have a reveal for you in the coming weeks. I have also scheduled my very first book signing! At a Barnes and Noble, no less! I will also share those details when I am able. I should have preorders available in time to coincide with it if all goes well (and my bank account is capable of handling ISBN/copyright/Ingram purchases all at once).

So, with that, I sign out. I just wanted to give you all a quick little update on the progress of this second book. Now, on to others things.

~Wes

The Sky Thief is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major retailers in digital and paperback. Wes’s second book, Desert Siren will be available for pre-order Summer 2017.

The Specter of Word Counts

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As I have not taken many photos myself lately, I decided to use this illustration from Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. It is also, by no small coincidence, how I enter every bookstore.

I am almost finished with Desert Siren. I say this as I prepare to write one of the “big” chapters in the tail section of the book. I’m excited to start this chapter; a ton of Really Important Things happen in it that will lay down the groundwork for the third and final book in the Cloudkicker trilogy. There is just one issue that prevents me from getting on with the whole thing: I’m still about 17k words short of my goal.

Now, there’s still a good amount of work to go. I wanted to end up around 80k words for this second book, and I currently sit at 63k before the chapter starts. There are also a good three to four chapters to go from this point on, in addition to bits I want to add into the earlier portions of the novel.

I mention this because there is a good deal of discussion among newer authors and those entering the publishing world regarding word count. Most professional writers will tell you “just write your story for now.” And that is very good advice.

However, we also live in a world of economics and the realm of books is no exception. There are certain standards that cannot just be dismissed with a wave of a hand. Sure, you can “tell your story until it’s finished,” but it would need to be exceptionally brilliant to get an editor to glance at a 210k behemoth. You will also run into some agents that look at things like chapter length to make sure they are relatively consistent, as untested authors may wildly vary in their pacing.

For me, word counts force me to expand on things. My approach, at least for this trilogy and most YA/NA stuff I do, has a very theatrical feel. That is, it’s very barebones in terms of explaining internal thoughts and feelings in order to focus more on the dialogue and actions, very similar to watching a movie. As a result, The Sky Thief and this new book are very easy reads but tend to come up very, very short compared to other fantasy novels. While The Sky Thief hit around 73k words, other books in the Fantasy genre can regularly hit over 100k. It can be a little disheartening to see such a disparity and wonder if you are telling your story as well as those other authors.

In the end, I try to find a balance. I like my style and my voice. After all, the film industry is very dear to me and I would ultimately love to take this whole “creating” thing back to Hollywood where I belonged as soon as I finish my schoolwork. So, if I don’t spend as much time going over every detail of Alex’s thoughts and instead use dialogue to convey what’s on her mind, then so be it! However, having a word count gives me a good goal to meet, as well as ensures some sort of quality standard. If my current book is in the same range as the last one or even slightly bigger, I know that I should be growing in terms of how well I am setting my scenes. If I have a baseline of 2k words/chapter, I have a template to ensure nothing goes too crazy, with some chapters being a little less for variety, and some a little more for the Big Important Events.

This next chapter will be a big one, probably between 3-4k words if I do it right. Which is good not just in helping reach that goal, but because I’ve reached some scenes I’ve had in my head since before I even finished the first book.

I want to make sure this hits certain market standards. I also think it’s possible to do that and still tell your story the way you want to at the same time.

-Wes

Over the Hump

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I am particular in how I write. I’m sure plenty of other authors can say the same. Like many other creative outlets, some people can simply breeze through several works at once with no end to their stream-of-consciousness. For others, like myself, the slightest distraction takes us out of our Imagination Bunker and resets all desire for progress.

When I write, I like it to be silent. This strikes even myself as a bit odd since so many of my ideas for stories are rooted in music. However, the actual process of writing is very difficult for me with things droning on in the background. Music, TV, that pesky internet thing (like WordPress, for example)… anything can pull me out of the “zone” and keep words from making it onto the paper.

As such, I’ve spent a lot of time at my university library. I forgot how much I love school libraries. They’re quiet, like many libraries, but there’s something uniquely striking about a school library in particular. The books are old, weird bits of esoteric knowledge exist on the shelves that won’t be found in a normal bookstore, and they’re open late so that the strange tranquility of the evening can push work forward. Even though the school I’ll be attending isn’t necessarily the largest or most prestigious, the library has been a boon towards getting this next book done. I think I’ve been visiting more the past couple of weeks than I did the past 30 years of living here combined.

It is easier, of course, when you’re over the hump. Other writers know what I’m talking about when I mention this. It’s something most writers will find at some point. Unless you’re in one of Stephen King’s infamous mid-80’s blackout benders where you get books done but don’t remember writing it in three days, writing a novel is very much a marathon with a very distinct lull right in the middle. No amount of plotting and determination can really seem to erase that wall that appears somewhere between 40k and 60k words and traps the writer in a thick bog. You start to wonder second-guess what you’ve written, plot devices are harder to come by, and the physical act of writing is a chore.

Thankfully, persistence will win out eventually for the dedicated. So it has with Desert Siren. I recently passed that 61k word mark, and it was not unlike landing safe and sound after flying through a Brazilian rainstorm. The end is in sight, all of the really fun bits that come with a book’s climax are eager to free themselves from my head, and the process of getting the book ready for edits and publishing can begin to manifest.

I’ll still be at the library a lot to get through these final 20k words or so. And there are about five more books swimming through my head at any time. It’s nice to still be on track for that Summer release, though, and to cut my time on finishing this book down by almost half of what The Sky Thief took.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be near the quietest, darkest shelves in the back of the third floor

– Wes

The Sky Thief is available in digital and paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major retailers!

An Adult in the Animal House

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I have never been the biggest fan of winter. I am very much of the opinion that weather should not physically hurt you, and so I moved to California to escape it. Now that I am back in Missouri and dealing with my first real cold weather in close to a decade, I’ve had to make several adjustments. For those unaware, Missouri weather is unpredictable, at best, and temperature spikes and drops of 30+ degrees in a single day are not uncommon. Above is a photo of freezing rain, which is not sleet nor snow. Rather, it’s normal rain on a normal warm day, but a cold snap will move through and essentially freeze any standing water before it has a chance to evaporate. It looks rather pretty on trees but is much less fun to drive through black ice conditions it causes.

Cold weather is an excuse to stay indoors and get some work done, however. I’m hard at work on finishing this next book. I’m working on setting up a few new avenues for readers to purchase it, with iBooks likely being the largest of them. I’ve got a wonderful friend who I am hoping will be designing the cover, and he is very good at design, indeed.

The biggest plan so far, however, is a return to school. I’ve always told people that I have lived a very interesting life, but not necessarily a very successful one. I may have some fun stories, but I don’t really recommend dropping everything to move to Los Angeles with less than $1000 to your name and no job waiting for you. So, to rectify this, some ten years after the fact, I’ll be returning to Southeast Missouri State University with a focus on English-Writing.

I’m a bit excited for the chance, but also ready to just get the whole thing done with. I’m not sure what opportunities having such a degree will open, but I’m certain it will be more than not having a degree. I’m also hoping it may give me a few more ideas outside of the Cloudkicker Trilogy to keep the writing juices flowing in downtime.

Going back to school is going to be a little weird, I admit. I’ve done a few classes at community colleges, but those are always a bit of an exception, schools oriented towards non-traditional students. Going to an actual state school is bound to be rife with generational divide in my classes as I sit around and wonder at what the culture of people ten years younger than myself are like. But, on the same time, it’ll be somewhat exciting too. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but I like being around people and pressing into new social norms.

In any case, we’ll see how things go. Right now, I’m focused solely on getting to that 80k word mark for my readers, and classes for the summer should start right as the book releases in June.

Mostly, though, I’m just ready for the warmer weather again.

-Wes

The Sky Thief is now available for order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major retailers!

Sample Chapter Added!

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Hello, friends! Just a quick update to let everyone know I’ve added a sample chapter to the blogs header pages. It’s actually more of a portion of a chapter, but I don’t want to reveal too much of what’s going on quite yet. Just know that it takes place in Cairo and there are lots of things to be found there. 😉

In other news, I’ve also changed the tentative title to the next book. I’m leaning towards Desert Siren, which flows better than Sand Hunter does and just generally sounds better. We’ll see what happens in the editing process.

I’ve also started reading my first Stephen King book after all these years. It’s The Gunslinger, and it’s very good indeed.

Enjoy and keep reading!

-Wes

A Long Summer (Back From the Dead)

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I realize that I have neglected this little blog for some time. Last time I checked in, I just finished moving back to Missouri after nearly a decade in Los Angeles. So here I am. Summer has gone, my room is currently freezing, and the second book of the Cloudkicker Series is well underway.

I wish I had more news to report, but that is perhaps why I have failed to check in. No one is really interested in reading “Well, I had toast today. It was extra buttery. Quite Good A+.”

That said, there have been a few updates for those interested! Perhaps the biggest is that The Sky Thief has now changed distributors. Originally, the book was published via CreateSpace through my publisher, Dreamwire Press. I have since moved on to IngramSpark and love it quite a bit. One of the big factors in this decision was the ability to create Returns for copies of the book. For authors who wish to create print copies of their books, allowing returns on books is one of the single biggest factors in getting copies on shelves in major retailers (and many small ones)! In fact, it was the first thing they asked at my local Barnes and Noble when I wanted to set up a Local Author signing: “Is the book returnable?”

So, going forward, I may be using a bit of a hybrid between CreateSpace and Ingram. IngramSpark will cost more, and has a very high sales threshhold if you want to use their flagship company instead of spark (I think it’s $250k or so), but it is well worth it if you intend to put the book in places other than online retailers.

Beyond that, I have been plucking away at Book Two. I intend to put up a sample chapter here soon to give people a taste of what to expect. As of now, I’m about 54k out of an 80k goal, and increasing each day. I’m hoping for a May/June release, possibly sooner. We’ll see how it goes.

Until then!

-Wes

The Sky Thief is available for order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers near you!

Thoughts From the Road

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I’m sorry for the long-ish break. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately, and I’ve found myself changing my life in dramatic fashion once again. I have no idea how this will go, but I managed to get some good thinking time in along the way.

I moved away from los Angeles due to increasing rent and inability to find stable work. When I first moved out there, it was to be an actor as so many dream of. And, for a time, I actually did spend a good amount of time working for a major studio. Looking back, I had quite a few really unique experiences that some only hope to experience in their lifetimes. I learned to love Los Angeles, and my heart will remain there until the day I die.

Unfortunately, the film industry is as whimsical as it sounds, and not in the best of ways. I’ve had my share of jobs over the past ten years, all the while trying to piece together scraps of books I hope to finish one day. I finished one, of course, but it reached a point where I had more and more time to put words together and less and less pay to show for it. The Sky Thief is something I’m proud of, and it has done reasonably well given it’s my first release, but it is not $1600 a month in bills good yet.

So, I set out back to Missouri, retracing my original journey along Route 66. This time, however, I was not in a rush and managed to stop at a few places along the way.

I stopped along the Grand Canyon for half a day, where it started snowing as I made my way along the Bright Angel Trail. I’ve never been a fan of winter, but there was something truly magical about being in the middle of a snowstorm in a place that truly is a wonder of this planet. I bought the National Park annual pass, and used it along the way as often as I could.

I also managed a few brief stops at Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park. I’ve always been a big space fan, and was upset I never made it to Meteor the first drive out. Same with Petrified Forest, which was a nice and fairly leisurely way to spend an afternoon.

What impressed me the most is that there were still several sections of Route 66 with their charm and kitsch. These places, mostly in Arizona, embraced their historical roots and sit as wonderful roadside stops full of neon and funky construction. Seligman, Arizona was a delight to see, and I’m disappointed I did not stop to take photos in the dusktime hours. I did, however, stand on the corner in Winslow. It was, in fact, a fine sight not just to see, but to enjoy a hot cocoa on a fairly blustery day.

So, now I’m back in Missouri and focused on getting my head straight. The good news is I can write without worry about massive rent. I have good friends here that are looking out for me. I also have a wonderful collection of ideas for shorts and novels to work on.

One thing at a time though. For now, I’ll try to enjoy some fresh air before homesickness for the Best Coast truly sets in (and it will. And it will be rough going)

~Wes

The Sky Thief is now available in paperback and digital on Amazon and your local Barnes and Noble!

Bookfest!

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Well, once again the L.A. Times Festival of Books is here. I decided to go check out the Saturday happenings and enjoyed a wonderful day despite the rain.

The best part is seeing the crowds, all there to enjoy different aspects of reading and literature. It’s a real credit to the L.A. Times to put something like this together for the past decade. I remember growing up how the Scholastic truck would come in once or twice a year to our school, and we could order a variety of books then and there. If we read enough books, we could get free pizza as part of the program. At Bookfest, the pizza certainly isn’t free, but that love of reading has carried over into a full-on festival with vendors, speakers, lectures, and publishers.

I’m not sure how many festivals like it still exist. I know England has a few, and I’m certain some of the other major cities here in the U.S. might have them. With how big it has grown, I’d love to see the idea revitalized.

Anyway, I spent the day listening to Rainn Wilson and Buzz Aldrin speak, not minding the rain with my Missouri roots taking hold, and wandering about looking at so many independent and major books for sale. Hopefully, sooner than later, I’ll have the Cloudkicker series available at them, or can speak at one of the panels. That’d be pretty cool.

If you have a chance, the Festival is still here for Sunday. It looks like the weather will be much more pleasant than yesterday, so go enjoy some great speakers and read on.

-Wes