October 27th, 2021 5:56 PM
This month has been full of some refreshing progress, and, when it comes to my writing endeavors, I'd have to say that, lately, I've been able to take a bit of a breather, and it's been exceptionally relaxing. Right now, I feel like I've officially closed one chapter and am moving on to the next, and, finally, I'm again harnessing that rare, fleeting feeling of infinite possibilities as I look ahead. Before we move totally onward to what's coming, I'd like to spend just a little bit of time to reflect with some finality on what's happened.
I started writing a novel in March of 2020. I then self-published that novel, The Gatherers and the Illness of the Isle, back in July of this year. The novel got mild exposure and cost a lot of money that I probably won't see again for years. The lessons I learned from this process were expensive (they cost me a lot more than money), and so I cherish them, and I believe they'll help me to go on to do great things as a fantasy author. Could that be wishful thinking, perhaps? Maybe a way to justify my thoughts or reassure myself that my poor decisions yielded value instead of only pain? I suppose that's possible, but what other recourse is there when one fails? When we fail, are we supposed to mope and wish we could take back our failures? Maybe for a little bit, but eventually we have to reflect on the failures. If we dwell on them too long, we hinder ourselves. In dwelling on the past (which we cannot change, by the way), we prevent ourselves from the honest reflection that enables us to try again with a better idea of what awaits us. I think the popular, over-used business buzzword is "pivot." I feel I've successfully pivoted after realizing that my original vision for this venture wasn't viable; I've adjusted to new realities and made decisions that have enabled me to see and move along a new path toward my goals.
You might recall from previous blog posts that I talked about issuing a revision of my debut novel. That revision has finally come. The new print of Illness of the Isle boasts a few minor manuscript changes, but nothing that I would say is extensive enough to cause anybody who's already read the first one to despair. I fixed some typos, and I fixed one particularly obnoxious continuity error in which a character's name showed up well before any of the Gatherers knew it (though the reader knew it by that point, so that might be why so many readers seemed to miss this issue). I removed a few words that had no business existing in the world of Aeris (words like "glass" showed up once or twice, but I remembered only too late that Aerisians have never heard of such a material). I added a bit of zest to chapter one, too, by including a side character for Aselle to interact with. I felt that chapter one made the great mistake of leaving my character alone inside her head for far too long. While I didn't think Aselle's internal monologues in the first printing were too terribly dull or disengaging, I still felt it would be better to get her talking with another character much earlier on. Finally, I addressed a few instances of internalized and blatant sexism, and I detailed my rationale for that and at least one example of some of the kinds of things I changed in another recent blog post titled Racism and Sexism. Perhaps the most noticeable change came in the form of the book cover's update. Take a gander at this:
In the video game Kingdom Hearts, there's a killer song called Hikari by Hikaru Utada. The English version of the song is called Simple and Clean, and I think that those two adjectives are perhaps the best ones to describe the new cover. In terms of complexity, color, craftsmanship, and depth, something like this new cover might never stand up to the illustration I paid for a few months ago, but the new version has its own sort of appeal. Its use of color and line is appealing, to my eyes, at least, and I like the emphasis that it places on the character. Even though this character is perhaps smaller than the two characters who appeared on my previous cover, I think this component of the new cover stands out infinitely more because it is comprised of the cover's accent color: that pale orange.
The cover, in my opinion, shines because of its simplistic use of color. Furthermore, I'm able to replicate this style for future pieces, so I anticipate the rest of the series looking, well, simple and clean, and I hope that it still translates into a product that people will enjoy having on their bookshelves. I know that the proof I received for this new printing looks great on my shelf, and I've already got a glimpse of what the entire series might look like when paired together. That's one benefit of truly forging ahead on your own. If I can reiterate this idea once more, I just have to say that I didn't choose to produce my own cover because I wanted control; I did it solely because of the expense of getting a new cover. The fact is, I have four children, a wife, two pets, and one income, and there is just no feasible way, at this point in time, that I can afford to outsource my covers, no matter how much I see the value in building a team of professionals who can use their specialties to bring my projects to life in a way they might never breathe when I'm the only one pouring creative input into them.
One day, maybe my stories will boast illustrations from highly skilled artists, but until I either have more disposable income or my books begin to sell well enough (which, I guess would satisfy the former requirement), I'll forge ahead in my own way, learning everything I can to make progress along my new path.
I'll go ahead and quietly add a few other important updates to the very end of this post. If you've made it this far, I'm exceedingly grateful for your time and attention.
The audiobook for Illness of the Isle will show up for sale within the coming days. I have nothing but praise for Allan Macleod, the amazing man who performed this novel's audiobook. He was professional, timely, kind, supportive, and willing to try out several different things to realize a great vision for the book. Yes, he has a bit of inborn talent (I mean, that voice is pure gold), but he really shines because of who he is as a professional. If you're working with anybody else to produce your audiobook, I'm sorry to say that you're missing out on one of the best narrators in the entire business. He's remarkable to work with. If my career as a writer doesn't go anywhere but his career as a narrator does, I will count it as a huge blessing to have been the first one to work with him on a project, and I'll never be surprised if I see his name on titles from some of the world's largest publishing houses sometime in the future. His zest for narration and storytelling is admirable and prevalent in all he does with his takes. Happening upon Allan's offer of work was one of the most serendipitous parts of releasing my first novel, and I couldn't be more thankful for him. Please work with him if you need an audiobook solution; you will not be sorry.
The hardback edition of Illness of the Isle will soon follow. I'm particularly excited to see how the new cover looks on a hardcover; I think these editions will be excellent additions (editions; additions... see what I did there?) to any book lover's shelves.
The last announcement I have to make this month pertains to NaNoWriMo. If you've never heard of this weird word, it's just a shortened, crumpled version of the words National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November. It's a national movement that encourages writers to achieve their great dream of finally writing a novel. More specifically, perhaps, it's a non-profit organization that offers tips and support and tools for writers to at least achieve the milestone of completing a first draft. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I plan to participate in this challenge to produce the first draft of my first fantasy standalone, which is tentatively titled The Shroud of Sleep. This novel draws inspiration from fantasy novels like Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice (a great novel I read and reviewed recently; I'm sure its sequel, Royal Assassin, will also greatly inform my writing, because that's what I'm reading as I write this blog post) and George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Curiously, the story also draws inspiration from some of America's greatest sprawling television shows: Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, in particular. I have no illusions about producing something wholly unique, but I do think I'll have some great fun putting my spin on this odd amalgamation of inspirations, and I hope that my readers gain, in the end, a really incredible story that whisks them away to a new world and keeps them longing to return to it time and again.
As always, thank you so much for being part of this site and for staying connected to my writing journey.