Officially Copyrighted

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The Sky Thief is now officially recorded in the U.S. Copyright registrar. While not a groundbreaking achievement, I am quite proud of having my little form available at all times. I may frame it for being the first of what I hope are many (though I still need to get around to doing the same for my Writer’s House agency rejection. These forms use such expensive paper it’d be a shame to throw them out).

Of course, all works are copyrighted the moment you create them, but this will allow for punitive damages on the incredibly slim off-chance something should happen.Besides, I feel it’s important for any artist to go through the process at least once to understand how it works and why. Almost every truly professional work will go through the U.S. Copyright Office, and the ins-and-outs of the system are handy to know. I mostly went through their website, and it was incredibly painless. For written works, it was only $35 and took about six months to process. They only needed digital files and some basic information.

Now it'[s on tot he next book, which is actually open in Scrivener on my laptop beside me. Like any good writer, I am instead blogging and preparing for WonderCon instead of working on Sand Hunter. It is coming along at its own pace, though, and I am quite excited about what it already has in those pages.

Unfortunately, I am also preparing for the move cross-country, so my time writing may be hindered by a nice stroll down Route 66. It is still not a 100% certainty, but I am preparing for the worst. I have the various artworks and posters taken off my wall in the hope that empty space will make the studio seem less cozy, but it as of yet has not worked. I hold out hope, however!

In any case, I will be at WonderCon for at least part of today if anyone wishes to say hello. I’ll be the tall, lanky one in a Hyrule polo. If I am going to leave L.A. soon, it seems appropriate to go out on a high note. I do love conventions.

Enjoy your words!

Wes

The Sky Thief is available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon in digital and trade paperback!

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Nooks and Other Things

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My hometown library made a very nice display for my books, though I need to send them some updated covers. It was quite a nice surprise to get this picture from my dad one morning.

Well, after a bit of finagling, I have now placed The Sky Thief up for both paperback and Nook on Barnes and Noble! I am not entirely sure how this will work out, as I have not had the opportunity to read the Nook version for formatting yet, but I am sure anything negative will be brought to light in due time if changes are needed.

Unfortunately, this also means that the book is no longer available in Kindle Unlimited. It is, however, still available for $2.99 without the subscription and $14.95 for the trade paperback on Amazon.

Being able to bring my books to a larger grouping of readers has always been my biggest priority. I’ve read a lot about publishing lately, and it seems that the general census is that Amazon is the only game in town, but I am not entirely sure that is the case with all books. That goes double for books with physical copies. As I’ve said before, I ado not know if I am a good writer, but I am a voracious reader. That will sometimes lead to decisions that go against the normal publisher grain. It is why I didn’t want an airbrushed woman I licensed for $100 on my cover; I put those books down faster than any others when I am shopping for myself. And so, it is also why I consider allowing readers more purchasing options is also important, and why I decided to put the book up on Barnes and Noble.

So, I hope those of you who prefer bookstores other than Amazon are able to give it a look now.

In other news, I am currently stuck halfway between packing and looking for more work. Mostly at the same time. I am still hard at work on Sand Hunter, of course, but circumstances may be forcing a move out of Los Angeles and back to Missouri. I am not happy with this at all, but life sometimes has a funny way of making decisions for you if you are wishy-washy for too long.

If the move does happen, I intend to take a very long road trip for it, which I am certain to share with you.

I’ve also signed up for my first Pokemon tournament, because being 30 years old doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun now and then.

Enjoy your words!

-Wes

Happy World Book Day!

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Happy World Book Day to the U.K. and Ireland! Although for us Yanks, it’s ok to celebrate books, too! Any day is a good day for words.

Outside of working on my sequel to The Sky Thief, I just started in on A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It’s a little too teen-romancey at parts for my tastes, but I’m really enjoying the rest of the story! It took months for all of the series to pass through my local used bookstore, and I don’t regret the purchase at all. Really looking forward to seeing where the story goes (which should be a good while since I’m only on like Chapter 8 so far).

I also anticipate checking out a few more publishing and writing podcasts today, notably The Creative Penn, which I have been hooked on lately. A very nice way to pass the time while getting other chores done in the house, and extremely educational for those of us who want to be in the industry full-time one day.

So go out or go to your shelf today, pick up something new or maybe an old favorite, and share it with the world. What better way to enjoy a book? 🙂

-Wes

Science and Writing

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First off, I would like to join many authors in expressing our sadness at the loss of Harper Lee. I can’t really contribute to much more than has already been said. Still, To Kill A Mockingbird was probably the first book I truly loved and inspired me to try writing on my own. By the time we actually had to study it for real in Sixth Grade or so, I’d already consumed it. It still gets a prime spot on my shelf.

On to happier things, its a beautiful day in Southern California and has been beautiful for a couple of weeks now. I celebrated by joining some friends at the Page Museum and LaBrea Tar Pits because giant mammoth bones are always a treat. This, in turn, led me to thinking about a few things in my own writing and motivations.

One of the first things I did upon graduating high school was subscribe to National Geographic Magazine. To say it has influenced my life would be a massive understatement. It taught me to appreciate journalism, photography, and science. It led me through a lot of adventures of my own, including meeting many of those photographer icons when I worked their 125th anniversary exhibit. I interviews Steve McCurry and he signed my copy of the Afghan Girl issue. It’s an honest treasure to me.

That love of exploration eventually led to The Sky Thief and a few other off-shoot projects I have running right now. The great thing about writing a novel is that you can do it for whatever purposes you want. In my case, I wanted people to read a book, get excited about these places, and then realize they could actually Google most of them to discover they are real legends. Bimini Road, Excalibur, Mt. Huangshan… all of them are places that can be looked out for your own amusement. I even incorporated some fun facts about tampons that I learned from Dr. Mireya Mayor’s book Pink Boots and a Machete (which I highly recommend if you want to read about real life explorers).

Unfortunately, last year the National Geographic Society sold its media holdings to News Corp., the company that holds the FOX media outlets under Rupert Murdoch. It’s hard to describe the sinking feeling I got when I read the news for the first time.

You see, the Society itself will remain a nonprofit, which is an extremely good organization that offers grants to fund these amazing bits of research around the world. However, the magazine itself was, for over 100 years, the face and public arm of the Society, acting as an official scientific journal for the organization. Under News Corp., that scientific journal will be considered for-profit, which is quite the opposite of what science journals are about.

It’s far too late to change the plan; it cleared late last year, if I remember right. But, it does bring attention, I think, to the struggles of print publications these days and how we relate to them as a society. When even one of the most recognized, global icons of print has to sell itself for a paltry $500M, there is reason for some disappointment. This is compounded by the fact that most people largely did not seem to know or care why such a thing would be important.

For the first time in ten years, I let my subscription lapse with no intent to renew. And, life will go on. However, it is my hope that people do start caring about these things again, because there are so many other wonderful print publications that do considerable good for both its readers and society as a whole. In a world where everyone seems to be polarized with this issue or that, it’s good to read facts about the stars, where we came from, or the great discoveries of our time.

Newspapers and magazines are just as important now as they have have been, as the power of words to spread positive values to people is still immensely powerful. I’ll continue to write about Ghaoithe’s little adventure, but it can only happen when it is informed by real life.

  • Wes

The Sky Thief is available on Amazon for Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Trade Paperback.

An Excerpt

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Humidity dripped through every fiber of clothing at the Open Road Inn. It seeped into the thatched roof and down the bamboo walls. Despite open walls and a lazily-rotating fan overhead, nothing could escape the sticky sweat of the jungle. Outside, another storm threatened the skies as they did every half-day like clockwork.

A single woman sat at the bar, tended by a ruggedly handsome man who wiped down the glasses behind the counter. He did not speak with her. No one ever spoke to the woman in the bar.

She kept to herself, sipping languidly on a brandy watered down by ice long melted. She pulled open the top buttons on her tan huntsman shirt in case a breeze swept in to cool the shine on her skin, but it did not work; she was already too soaked to care anymore.

She could hear the sound of expensive heels crossing from the bar’s entrance with no hide attempt at stealth. They stopped at the seat next to her. Peering from beneath a leather outback hat and strands of ruby hair, she gave the suited gentleman next to her a once over before returning to her drink.

“Only two kinds of idiots would wear a Brioni suit in Uganda,” she said, voice oily even after extended disuse, ”those who have a death wish and those who grant them.”

The man beside her dug into his jacket pockets and pulled out a cream handkerchief. He used it to wipe the steam off his circular spectacles. With a cunning grin, he returned them to his face.

“I admit that this may not be the most appropriate attire for the heat, but business is business, Ms. Vargas,” he said.

I am never sure how much I share will ever actually stay in my books. Editing is a very strange beast, even stranger than the actual creation of content in many ways. But, this is a character that will be staying in Sand Hunter, though how similar she stays to the first draft remains to be seen. Besides, I should probably finish the book first before setting anything in stone.

Aside from that uncertainty, however, everything is really falling into place. Sand Hunter is a lot of fun to write. Maybe even more so than it predecessor. I hope it’s as fun for you to read when it’s done.

-Wes

A New Writing Approach

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I could not think of a good picture for this blog, so have a photo from my playthrough of Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s a very good game so far, and positively inspiring as a writer of dumb adventure books. I would be lying if I said Ghaoithe didn’t take at least some inspiration from Lara Croft, and she continues to do so as I work on Sand Hunter.

Which, by the way, is coming along swimmingly. It’s still far from finished, but I’ve taken a new approach to writing that seems to be helping.

I’m sure many authors can related to the process of writing a full book. 70k+ words is a lot to put down, especially when starting out as it’s largely a hobby instead of a paycheck. You get distracted or find time to surf the internet. However, even for experienced writer’s there’s always though mid-point slogs, the times in between the ideas in your head where you have to come up with things on the spot to tie it all together. Sometimes it’s just a few lines of dialogue, sometimes it’s entire chapters; every time, they are the hardest words to get down.

When I wrote The Sky Thief, I did it all start-to-finish over two years or so. When I hit roadblocks, they stayed there for weeks – even months – at a time until I pushed through. I’ve always liked what Stephen King says about writing unplotted, about discovering the story as you go.

For Sand Hunter, however, I’m doing things a little difference. When spending so much time on a story, you occasionally have ideas that pop up and sort themselves out for the next step. So, this novel was, for the most part, plotted in my head before I even started. There are still holes, however, but rather than sit and try to power through them, I’m writing the scenes I have in my head first, regardless of where they are in the overall story. Thanks to Scrivener, I can plug them and move them around as needed, finalizing the whole book once I have the things I don’t have plotted down on paper.

It’s a weird approach for me, but apparently not that uncommon from the motivational words the past couple of years during NaNoWriMo. I’m not entirely sure which authors specifically do things this way, but it seems to work for those that are comfortable with it.

This is especially important because Sand Hunter has so much more going on than in Sky Thief. I am happy with the first book, but it was largely introducing Ghaoithe and the crew of the Cloudkicker with a few hooks thrown in to keep you wondering what happens after. Sand Hunter is very much a film, with some fun action and exotic travel across the desert. I had so many ideas in my head for these action sequences and important story bits that I feel I have to get them down immediately, which is a nice change of pace from staring at a screen and wondering where to go next.

Every author should develop their own style based on what works for them. That is incredibly important. But, I am finding that being open to new approaches and, most importantly, just getting the parts down that you are super excited about may help move things along when you’re otherwise stuck.

Wes

The Sky Thief is available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Trade Paperback on Amazon!

New Cover, Job, and Year!

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So, the first sale of The Sky Thief has come and gone with a moderate amount of success, at least by the standards of its release so far. Thanks again to everyone who has checked it out, flipped through a few pages and given it a look.

With the sale done, I’m focusing fairly heavily on the second book, as well as a few shorts for Tumblr. I believe I have a short being released on February 1st in Down in the Dirt magazine, which is exciting as it will be my first short fiction published. It was a nice little conversation between two strangers I did called “Life Over Breakfast.” It’s not overly long (about 1,200 words), and I believe I have linked the online copy from the magazine, but if you want to read a nice little collection of shorts from emerging authors like myself, give it a shot.

Before I focused too much on other projects, I did want to update my old cover and have revised both the Kindle and Paperback versions of The Sky Thief with the above binding. I’m extremely happy with it! The paperback version on Amazon still shows the old cover, but that is simply because it hasn’t updated yet (it takes a couple days). Anyone purchasing should get the above when the order effective immediately.

There are some ideas floating around about how the covers for the Cloudkicker series will fit into an overall template. This is a good start and was taken with the lovely advice of my best friend, Brad Holten. He didn’t design this one, but if he did, it’d probably be even better. I took his ideas to heart, though, and hope he will fully design the cover for Sand Hunter when the time comes. If you need a designer, please give him a look. (www.bradholten.com)

In other real world news, I’ve recently started another job. It was a rough several months without finding anything, and as much as I love writing, it doesn’t quite pay the bills yet! So, I’m working at a lingerie store of all things. It’s… interesting. A fun environment, and it smells nice with all the fragrances we sell, but I’m only a few shifts in. The most interesting part about it is that I’ll be working a few overnight shifts, a definite first since my last gigs in the film industry a few years back.

I love nights. I feel more awake then, and certainly more creative. There’s something special about the quiet calm that settles over everything when it’s just you and a few others in an empty space. That said, it is also exhausting when staying up that late for work rather than pleasure. So, I’m going to try to balance words and real work as much as possible, but we’ll see how it goes.

Black Sails is back on television and off to a good start. That was worth a mention.

Until next time, keep reading!

-Wes

The Sky Thief is available on Amazon Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Trade Paperback!

A Sale and a Sequel

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Having survived its first month of existence, The Sky Thief is now going on sale for a few days as a nice little thing to give Kindle readers more of a shot. So, if you’d like to read a little adventure book and have an e-reader, it’ll be available for only $1 until the end of the weekend, I believe.

It’s been a rather hectic month, to say the least. Between constantly refreshing my sales pages to see how it does, looking for a new job, and writing some more, I sometimes wonder how I managed to get so much done without moving so little. However, work is work, and it’s good to stay busy. Apparently, The Sky Thief is now in my old regional library system back in Missouri, if anyone is local to Cape Girardeau (the same area portrayed in the first chapter of my book and, strangely enough, in Gone Girl).

I’ve been pecking away at the next book in Ghaoithe’s journey, Sand Hunter. I’m really excited about it and eager to share with everyone the next phase of the adventure. Where The Sky Thief introduced everyone to Lost Earth and the realm of artifact hunting, Sand Hunter is the Mad Max phase of the fun. There’s lots of sand, running about, and hopefully plenty of fun action in there. Writing it is a joy, so hopefully this one won’t take three more years to release.

I’ll also be doing a new set of covers for the release when it happens. Update the old armor closeup of the first book to fit it to something more inline with a series. Thankfully, I have a friend that might be designing these, as I’m not a terribly good designer.

So, just a quick entry, but also a quick thank you to anyone that has given my book a little look-see so far. It’s been great to share some words with you. 🙂

-W

Writing for Market vs. Art

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I came across an interesting discussion the other day on some forums about writing for the market vs. writing for art/what you love. This has been a conundrum for artists for as long as there has been a business for it, I believe. I typically value the advice on this forums, mostly self-publishers, though I agree with some of them and disagree with them just as much.

I don’t think it’s possible for someone to finish a project and not hope it gets big. Even if that’s not the primary goal for an author, it pokes us from the back of our minds with its fancy. It’s not so different than the current Powerball, that constant wondering of “I probably won’t get much but what if?

Still, it’s hard to deny the success of several self-published authors who can now pay their rent and bills on nothing but writing. However, many of them, at least those I chat with, work in relatively narrow genres. Most of this is Romance or Erotica. They admit that they do enjoy writing, but will mostly write their genre fiction to pay the bills and retire much earlier than their peers.

That’s a hard offer to pass up, but I have trouble seeing myself writing Romance or Erotica. If anything, The Sky Thief is ANTI-romance. So where does that leave those of us who write and hope to make money – and maybe even write genre SFF adventures – but don’t necessarily follow every by-the-books marketing practice?

Most often, I can only guide myself as a reader first and a writer second. I have no problem making changes to my work based on editorial feedback, or trying to do certain things on social media/Amazon ads/whatever. I think anyone who hopes to be successful in an artistic endeavor should keep those things in mind and be open to criticism. Publishing is very much a team effort, despite what many authors believe, and it has a lot of steps many writers may not be experts in. Sure, we can put words on paper, but most of us probably don’t spend all day looking at graphs and charts of buying data to aid us when it’s time to sell.

At the same time, though, there were certain things I didn’t want because I knew my own reactions walking through Barnes & Noble. While my cover is not perfect, I did not want a generic airbrushed woman or background that screams “generic fantasy book.” While there are no doubt plenty of marketing people who can post about why those are important for a cover, I know that those are also things that will make me put a book back on the shelf extremely quickly when doing my own shopping.

That’s only one example of course. There are plenty of others that popped up when actually writing The Sky Thief where I asked “Will this hurt sales or should I keep it?” And, ultimately, I went with the choices that I would have wanted as a reader, even if it didn’t necessarily follow the necessary trends.

No, I didn’t want to have my lead pining over a boy the whole book, though he does provide the mystery Alexandra wishes to solve. I didn’t want Ghaoithe to be involved with another crewmate. Many of the marketing trends show that, in YA and Contemporary Fantasy, women read because of the love interest, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If anything, I think forced romantic conflict can slow down an otherwise impressive story (looking at you, Hunger Games).

In this new age of publishing, where traditional publishers demand certain things and self-publishers seem to have little restraint, it’s important to find a balance between the two. Having spent several years in the film industry, I can safely say that those big-shop marketing teams are not always right – ESPECIALLY in an artistic trade – but the self-publishers who constantly talk about “their vision” are just as difficult.

Be open to suggestions. Understand that getting a book in front of people often takes a team, and people who go solo rogue rarely get results. But, if there’s a conflict, go with what you would enjoy reading. Have confidence in your own writing. If it’s good, it will sell eventually.

The Sky Thief is now available on Kindle and trade paperback or free through Kindle Unlimited!

What I Learned About Writing in 2015

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A lovely cartoon sketch of Ghaoithe from Elly Matish (juvialle.deviantart.com)

With a new year comes new blog posts. So what better way to start off right than by talking about last year, right? Granted, I tend to resolve to update more almost every year and have yet to follow through past April or so. I’m beginning to believe we should make resolutions on a different holiday. Perhaps during harvest season or something later in the year.

I wish I could say that 2015 was a great year, or even a good one, but it was by all accounts a terrible year in most respects. The one major positive, however, has been in writing. It was the year I released The Sky Thief after years of work, learned about the querying processes, had my first short approved for print, and really started to take the whole thing seriously as a career more than just as a fun hobby.

With that said, here are a few things I learned over the course of 2015 about the field.

1. Publishing a book is extremely satisfying.

This should be a no-brainer, but it deserves to be said. After years of work and countless hours, there’s something special about being able to release your work and see others reading it. I’ve done a few artistic endeavors over the years, but a novel is particularly gratifying. Perhaps it’s the time investment or the emotional one. Whatever the case is, finally looking at a piece and going “It’s done” is thrilling and worth the effort.

Are there things I would change? Sure. I don’t think any artist is every completely happy with the end result. I would have loved to go traditional publishing, or get a better cover, or nitpick at the words. But, it’s over and out and the readers seem to enjoy it. That ending is probably the hardest one for most authors to achieve, as we are fickle towards our own work, but it needs to be done.

2. Query letters are really difficult.

Before finally releasing The Sky Thief, I tried querying it through traditional means. Unfortunately, writing a query letter is probably as difficult or even more so than writing the book itself. Understanding what agents want and how to condense tour story into three paragraphs is enough to drive an author crazy.

Doing the traditional process wasn’t all bad, though, and it gave me insight into the industry. I’ll write a deeper post about my experiences between self and trad publishing later, but for now, I’ll just say that it was worth the effort to try. If life situations had allowed me to keep querying TST, I probably would do so. Instead, I’ll have to keep in mind for other projects outside of The Sky Thief.

3. Hybrid-publishing is both easy and frustrating.

For The Sky Thief, I went hybrid. For the most part, it was extremely easy. When using Scrivener as my main writing tool, formatting and converting my words into an e-reader format was no trouble at all. Uploading to Amazon and setting up the page took less than an hour, and it’s easy to see why authors enjoy control it provides.

That said, there were parts of it that frustrated me, largely in dealing with the physical copies. I went through CreateSpace and designed everything on my own. However, understanding the formatting for print took considerably more time and effort than the digital copy, enough so that I can’t really recommend doing it entirely yourself unless you are proficient in graphic design and typesetting. Given that it takes roughly 12 hours for CreateSpace to approve ANY changes to your book, it took nearly three weeks to completely set-up my book the way I wanted. It should take less time the second go around, but it may be better just to outsource it with the time involved for proofing.

4. Print is still king.

It’s not a fact many self-published authors want to hear, but it is a fact. While I enjoyed the creative control offer by releasing The Sky Thief myself, I would not hesitate to traditionally publish it whatsoever. Many look at the royalties for self-published authors, which i admit are nice, but outside of a few select genres (mostly Romance/Erotica), it is very clear even in my small sample that people want physical copies of books.

At nearly every phase of creation and release, I had people asking for paperbacks or physical copies. Everyone kept saying “I don’t have a Kindle,” or at least would not pay less for a book for a phone version when they could have a real copy. My sales reflect the recent numbers given for 2014 readership that only ~25% of U.S. readers read an e-book versus nearly 75% that read a book in general. Given what I’ve seen, I really do not think I could release a digital-only book anytime soon; my readership needs something to hold. Whether it’s through traditional publishing or hybrid self-publishing, real books aren’t going anywhere.

5. The future is bright.

Getting some experience in publishing in has given me some hope for the year ahead. Now that I know I can do, I have no reason not to keep doing it so long as I love writing. I’m currently in the thick of writing the second book for Ghaoithe’s little adventure, Sand Hunter, though I have no idea if it will be done before the end of the year. But, at the very least, I’ll have more confidence in it than I did for the first book. Plus, I always have a couple other projects mulling about my head to try my hand at querying again when the time comes.

So, enough about the past. On to the future. 🙂

Purchase The Sky Thief for Kindle and paperback, or read free on Kindle Unlimited!