2022 in Review

Looking back over the last year

It’s been an interesting year.

Today is Dec 31, 2022 and for me, it’s a day to look backwards to see where I’m coming from and where I’ve been. I assess the things that worked, the things that didn’t, and use that to lay out my goals and resolutions for the coming year.

2022, was a year of beginnings for me. For the first time, I started treating writing seriously,as something more than “Oh, that’s something I’d like to try. Following some great advice I got at the tail end of 2021, I wrote and sold a story. Since then, I’ve tried a few more, but nothing else has sold.

And that’s okay; I’m still learning this author gig.

I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and did some things differently. Lissa and I went to several conventions this year, and instead of focusing on having fun, I began to emphasize learning more about the job and craft of writing fiction. That journey culminated in 20Books Vegas, where I met some amazing people and learned exactly how much I need to learn to make this a success.

I recorded an audio version of my story and sent it out to a fe volunteers who listened and gave me some very encouraging feedback. I’m incorporating their suggestions in the final edit, and will post it on Amazon soon.

For the coming year, I’m setting several ambitious goals for myself, and I’ll share those tomorrow.

There are plenty of regrets and lots of things I wish I’d done differently, but the only thing I can do about those is learn, and do better moving forward.

And that’s what tomorrow’s post will be about!

Crow Moon cover

Crow Moon by Cedar Sanderson

.Crow Moon coverCrow Moon is a collection of eight short fantasy tales by writer, editor, artist, publisher, and lord knows what else Cedar Sanderson. Sanderson, who did the art for the cover, also produced artwork for each of the stories. something that set this book apart, and made it worthwhile to purchase a physical copy instead of just the ebook.

Each one of the stories carry with it a sense of wonder, sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, and sometimes awful, in both meanings of the word. The characters span a wide range, from simple people and quiet heroes to monster slaying avatars of dark gods, but they are each defined by their sense of duty, or obligation. The stories revolve around what they are willing to do, what sacrifices they are willing to make in order to fulfill that duty. In other hands, these stories could easily become heavy and overbearing, but Sanderson uses a lighter touch. Instead of bearing down on the weight her characters carry, she focuses instead on how they carry it, showing that courage is not always found in fighting a dragon; sometimes it’s in answering a simple question for a little boy.

Sanderson writes these stories almost like an artist’s sketch. Rather than go into great detail about the settings, the characters, and the backstory, she chooses instead to provide just enough detail to bring the reader into the story. Her deft touch leaves plenty of room for the reader to fill in scenes with their own imagination, and to integrate their own emotions into the story. Reading is always a collaborative process between the writer and the reader; Sanderson brings the reader more deeply into that collaboration, which magnifies the emotional impact of each story.

All eight stories are good reads, but for me, three stand out above the others.

First is Milkweed. I’ve never read anything that so well evokes what it means to be a woman, a wife, and a mother.

Second is A Breathe of Air. It’s short, but Sanderson packs so many emotions into each sentence. The impact builds slowly then hits you right between the eyes. It’s a gorgeous story.

Finally, The Domovoi’s Blessing. Styled as a Russian fairy tale, this charming story is a sweet reminder that trust and perserverence can go a long way towards finding a happy ending.

Those are my favorites, but you may like other stories better, and that’s one of the best things bout this collection. There truly are stories here for everbody, no matter your taste.

Highly recommended!

Crow Moon cover

Weekly Update

First of all, do you like the new digs? If you’re reading this via the link on Facebook, awesome! Welcome to my website. I plan on moving more and more of my posts over here. I’ll post links on Facebook back to here, but I prefer doing mjost of my longer posts fropm here.

There’s a couple of reasons for that. First, this is going to be my home on the web. Facebook is fine for short posts, sharing memes, and interacting with folks, but my posts tend to run longer than Facebook readers typically like. Most Facebookers are looking for 20-30 second interactions that they can like and then scroll along. When I write one of these updates, or post a review, I like to take a bit of time and space, and that simply works better here.

Second, I have a much greater degree f control over how my posts look. I can add inline images, host a video, link to a book or somebody else’s page, and all without worrying about Facebook throttling the post because I’ve triggered one of the algorythmically generated and unidentifiable landmines.

Which brings up the third reason, Facebook tends to be somewhat arbitrary in applying their standards and I’m putting too muich effort into these posts to allow them to just disappear becaue a bot doesn’t like a particular word choice I make.

Of course, as I post more here, I’ll be tweaking things to make them work better, and look better. I’ll be doing some other things, like building a mailing list, creating a newsletter, and stuff like that along the way, so keep your eyes opened!

Now, to the update!

  1. Weight – I weighed in at 265 this week for a loss of 3 more pounds. That’s a total of nine pounds lost. We leave for vacation in under 6 weeks and I’ve got a ways to go yet. Onward!
  2. Non Fiction – Everything is still on track. I’m hitting my goals and making my deadlines and interacting on social media. Growth is very slow, but it will come with time and persistance!
  3. Fiction – Horrible week. Truly horrible. And it’s all my fault, of course. I just had to write a post on maintaining a routine. Yep, things happened and my routine took a huge hit. Monday, I had family things to deal with, Tuesday and Thursday I lost to illness, Wednesday, I guess I’ll blame on illness as well. Friday, I got some writing done, but my word count really suffered for the week. But a once established, a routine has it’s own momentum and the only way to really lose that is to sit back and let it happen. So I wrote on the weekend and made up for some lost time, and I’ll be right back at it tonight at 9pm.
  4. Ukulele – I’m working on Hallelujah still. Such a powerful song about love and loss! I’m trying to meld a strumming pattern with fingerpicking, and singing at the same time. If I can nail this, it should be awesome!
  5. What I’m Reading – I finished Cedar Sanderson’s short story collection, “Crow Moon” this week and it is amazing! My full review will post tomorrow, and I’ve submitted an Amazon review as well. The short version is simple. Buy It! Each story is like an artist’s sketch; there’s enough detail to protray the story and to evoke an emotional response, but it invites you to supply details from your own imagination and emotions from your own experiences until it almost feels like you are collaborating with the writer in crafting the story. I’ve started “The Debare Snake Launcher” by Joelle Presby. Presby spins a tale of old and new cultures coming into conflict as the world’s first space elevator is being built in Africa.
  6. I mentioned before that I was working on an audio version of my short story. I finished the raw recording and did a basic edit last weekend and it has gone out to my alpha listeners. Based on their feedback, I will either continue to pursue recording my own stories, (and maybe do some recordings for other writers) or retire from voice work, never to be heard from again. (No pressure, alphas. Just my career. That’s all!)

And that’s it for this update! Remember, tomorrow is a full review of Crow Moon, then Wednesday will be my weekly craft post, then Friday, writer’s choice. WHo knows?

Have a great week!

David Carrico: The Blood is the Life

So what happens when a nice Jewish boy becomes a vampire?

First of all, if you’re Orthodox, like Chaim Caan, you have an immediate problem. Consuming blood is forbidden. He reaches out to a Rabbi who connects him to an organization that can help him.

And use his new abilities.

What struck me most about this story is that being a vampire is not glamorized in any way. No angsty, sparkly pedophiles here. These vampires are fierce, strong predators. Fortunately for Chaim, he finds his way to an organization that helps him harness the predator he’s become, channeling his aggression into the defense of others.

But it’s not easy. The list of deficits severely circumscribes his life and his relationships. There’s certainly no glamor in dealing with blood breath. He’s also limited in his ability to form relationships. He can’t eat, or go out drinking with classmates, nor can he have a girlfriend. And since he has an indefinite lifespan, anybody he manages to form a bond with will grow old and die, while he remains the same.

It’s a bleak prospect, and Chaim must find a reason to live and to fight off the anger that comes with his transformation.

He’s helped by Mordechai, an older vampire who mentors him, as well as a Jewish organization which acts to defend Jews from persecution throughout the world.

I got the feeling that Carrico has more to say in this world, as there are several questions raised, not least of which is discovering who selected Chaim to be turned and why. Turning rarely happens accidentally; it takes effort.

I don’t know whether Carrico is Jewish or not, but he clearly did his homework as Judaeism permeates every facet of the book. Chaim is devout and observant, and this is well communicated to the reader, so much so that I found myself placing my own Christian faith into a new context. I gained a deeper appreciation for the Jewish faith and those men and women who walk in it. It makes me want to learn more about their faith and their culture.

That’s not what I expected from reading a vampire novel, but it was a welcome surprise!

New Feature

My 2 Cents

I’m not getting political.

On the other hand, I can write on the forces behind our political division and give my opinion on causes and potential solutions. This might still be too much for some folks, and that’s okay. My right to speak freely in no way obligates anybody else to listen.

unreeled movie film for nonlinear storytelling

Tangled in Time: Non-Linear Storytelling

As writers, we’re told that we must hook our audience as quickly as possible or we’ll lose them forever, and that’s not wrong. But how far should we go to hook the reader?

The LibertyCon Challenge

My LibertyCon Challenge!

I will have a novel completed and ready to sell at LibertyCon.The LibertyCon Challenge

Yeah, I know. It’s ambitious. Or insane. Take your pick. So let me tell you where this is coming from.

I Am the 95%

I just finished reading Titans Rising, as well as Have Keyboard, Will Type (both highly recommended by the way and TR is reviewed here.), and I joined the 20Booksto50k(r) Facebook group (Also highly recommended.) One piece of advice has been consistent in all three places: You have to finish your book before you can sell it.

It seems obvious, right? But it’s no less true for that. You must finish the book. And by finish, I mean get it out of your writer hands and into the reader’s hands, with everthing that goes along with that. Covers, formatting, book design, marketing and so on.

For me, I need a deadline in order to finish. A drop dead, no-shit, end of the world deadline. One of the things Bill Webb talks about in Have Keyboard is the army of people who “are going to write a novel” or “are writing a novel” that never quite manage to finish writing a novel. AS he says, 95% of the people who start to write a novel never finish. I think he’s optimistic in that assessment and I say that as somebody who fits that definition. I have two different novels “in progress” and a third percolating in my head. The first novel has roughly 25,000 words, the second about 12,000.

I’ve been working on them for years.

That’s bullshit. I’ve been playing with them for years. The LibertyCon Challenge is my way of escaping the 95% trap.

Leaving the 95%

When I was encouraged to submit a story for an anthology, there was a deadline, and that made it real. I worked on the story, wrote a couple of false starts, then found the voice and tore through the first draft in less than a week. I gave it to a couple of alpha readers who made some good suggestions. I revised accordingly, fixed typos, and submitted at the deadline.

It sold.

This did a couple of things for me. First, it made me squee out loud, scaring the cat. Second, it gave me a sense of affirmation. I can tell a good story. People will pay to read what I write. I CAN do this.

But I need a plan and a deadline.

Taking the Next Step

I have set a few goals.

  1. Submit a short story to the Baen Fantasy Contest
  2. Submit a short story to the New Mythology open call
  3. Submit a short story to Sanderley for the next Going Home anthology
  4. Have a novel published by CKP, either shared universe or stand alone. (Or both)
  5. Have a novel published by Baen.

You’ve probably noticed these are not monetary goals. These are what I’m going to call craft goals; they aren’t signs of a successful professional career because they don’t include the ultimate metric for professional success: money. But they are important to me nonetheless as measures of how well I am mastering the craft of writing. If editors and publishers I respect find my work worthy of taking on, that’s confirmation that I am continuing to learn and grow my ability as a writer and a storyteller. (Hmmm. The basis for another post. What’s the difference and why does it matter?)

Now, as important as that is, I also need to pay attention to the business side, and that means looking at revenue. Like I said at the beginning, a book is finished when it is getting into the hands of readers, and that leads to a different set of goals, the first of which is my LibertyCon challenge.

Minimally Viable Products

The mantra of 20Booksto50k(r) is write-publish, write-publish, lather, rinse, repeat. Quantity has a quality of its own. They refer to their books as ‘minimally viable products.” In short, a poorly edited book that’s on the market will sell more copies than a perfectly edited book that’s still in revision. I get what they are saying; a book can’t earn money until it’s published, and editing/revising takes a huge chunk of time, during which you aren’t making money. The model comes straight from Microsoft, which is famous for releases that are buggy as hell. Microsoft uses its customer base as beta testers, fixing bugs after deployment.

Everybody knows this; everybody gripes about how buggy Microsoft products are on launch. Yet everybody still uses them.

Of course, Microsoft has the advantage of operating in an area with a limited number of competitors; books aren’t like that. If I piss off a reader with a poorly formatted, poorly edited book, that reader has a million other options for their next book purchase.

I won’t put a book or story out that’s filled with typos, continuity errors, etc. On the other hand, they aren’t wrong. A tight deadline will force me to work fast and clean in order to have enough time to edit/revise the manuscript, find a good cover, write a blurb, design the book and so on.

The LibertyCon Challenge

LibertyCon is just 9 weeks away. Many 20booksto50k writers generally aim to put out a novel every 5 weeks or so. That’s not a viable option for me right now; I have too many other projects (none of them sold, mind you, but one with a fast-approaching deadline) plus real-life commitments. But 5 weeks to write, then 4 weeks to revise, format twice(ebook/print). then do everything else to have physical copies available for sale at LibertyCon..

This is going to be interesting!

Rich Hailey head shot, smiling

Becoming a Titan

Cover of book Titans Rising

Titans Rising: Publishing in the 21st Century

Titans Rising is a manifesto combined with a how-to book on writing and publishing. I am not exaggerating when I say it may be the most important book on how to succeed in today’s everchanging climate. Independent presses are springing up everywhere. Amazon has crashed the gates of traditional publishing and the few major houses left standing are reeling, trying desperately to hold onto control of the market.

And failing.