Okay, I’m finally going to tell you all the details about what’s been happening with my Iron Dragon Series. Some of you already know about some of it, but I’ve purposefully kept some things under wraps, because it was too painful to reveal to everyone I met. The answers are below and big secret is that I was orphaned by my publisher who was having financial troubles (the economic meltdown affected them as well), despite the success of The Golden Cord. Keep reading to find out the details and I hope that none of you ever have to go through what I’ve been through. The good news is that the rest of the books are coming out soon.
Now, one of my new friends and fans, Paul Barney asked to interview me and here are his questions and my answers. It’s better if you read these in order . . .
1. *******What are the current projects that you’re working on and when should we expect to see them?
I’ve got three major projects right now: Medusa’s Daughter, The Iron Dragon Series, and The Crimson Pact anthology series.
#1. I’m working on rewriting/editing my unsold novel, Medusa’s Daughter, a fantasy set in ancient Greece that tells the real story behind the Medusa myth. You can read the first two chapters on my website and learn more. When I’m done working on this, which should be by May sometime, I’m going to send it out to an agent who is interested and I have great confidence that this will sell to a major publisher. I’ve spent a couple of years NOT WORKING on this project. The reasons are many, but overall I just didn’t make it a priority and was working on other projects and dealing with some depression related to being orphaned by the publisher of my Iron Dragon Books. More on that later.
#2. I’m going to finish up book three of my Iron Dragon Series, The Secret Empire by the end of 2011. The Secret Empire is halfway edited, and I must rewrite/edit the second half, which will happen this summer. I’ve got 85,000 words edited, and need to do the rest. I promise the book will come out by the end of the year as a trade paperback and as an eBook. The entire series will be available in eBook and trade paperback form by the end of 2011. Book four will come out in 2012 and book five, the finale, will probably be in 2013, but perhaps sooner. The first two volumes will also come out as trade paperbacks, though book two may be delayed on purpose. Book one will be out for sure, and book two will eventually, though it’s still in print as a hard cover and I may wait until it’s out of print before I put it out as a trade paperback—as I don’t have all the rights yet. (More on this later in the post)
#3. I’m going to be working on editing The Crimson Pact, Volume 2 very soon with my business partner Steven Saus. The deadline for flash fiction submissions is June 6, and this is an open call. The first volume which I edited, came out in eBook on March 20, and was made up of 26 stories, (15 short, 11 flash). It was 140,000 words total and took me three months of frantic work. I’m really proud of it. Please check out www.thecrimsonpact.com and watch the book trailer and read the frame story, co-authored by Patrick M. Tracy and I. The story, The Failed Crusade sets up the rest of the stories.
2. *******How did you break into the writing business?
I have a very detailed description of how I broke in on my website. Here’s the link, but suffice it to say, I met the right person/people, then I became a much better writer, then I was given a chance, and I made it in. Read this for all the details, but keep in mind that it really depends on meeting the right person and evolving your craft enough to a publishable level. Why don’t you finish reading this post, then follow this link later.
3. ***********What are some of your thoughts on the current upheaval regarding the book industry and by that I mean, borders claiming bankruptcy, Barnes and Noble closing stores and the upswing of tablet computers?
Borders was badly run from top to bottom from my experience and research. They were as a whole, disorganized, rude and incompetent. I met some very nice people at Borders during book signings and such, but their whole system was badly done. Book selling is a tough gig, and people are just not reading like they used to. Tablet computers are increasing their market share and eventually will have a big chunk of the market, but for a while, it’s going to be quite small, like it is now. Until kids grow up using eBooks in school instead of printed text books, people will still want print books. In ten years how many iPads and Kindles purchased right now will even work? Not many, but that dusty first edition on my shelf will be very readable. However, the future is in eBooks and they will continue to gather market share as time goes on. Transferring your old eBooks to your newest eReader device will probably work out fine, but not everyone will do that and they’ll lose their eBooks. Very sad indeed.
4. ******** How is the change in the market affecting you and your publishers?
The bad economy had a huge impact on me. Here’s what happened . . .
My first novel, The Golden Cord, book one in my Iron Dragon Series (2008) was the bestselling fantasy my publisher, Five Star Books had ever had, and is now out of print after six printings and many thousands of sales—no I won’t give the exact number—but I do have all the rights to it now. The only new copies are available on my website. You can find used copies on Amazon.com. So, I made my publisher some good money and was a star, but then the higher ups cut Five Star’s whole fantasy and sci-fi line, which happened in 2009 as the economy went to Hell and people stopped buying books—as they were out of work and their house was being foreclosed on. The worst thing that happened to me was that I lost my publisher, but I still have my health, my wife, my house, and my job as a nurse.
My series was orphaned. I had been offered over the phone at least three books by Five Star Books, right after they found out the sales figures for book one, but then BAM! It was over with them, though the editors all tried to keep just me, but the upper managers said “We can’t just keep one author. We won’t make that much money with one.” They were used to 36 books a year, so, they cut the whole line and made no exceptions for a hard working marketer like me. I did so much marketing and the book was a success because of all of that and more. My reward was being orphaned in mid series leaving many fans wanting more and the pressure on me was building to get the next book out.
It was horrible, and I was quite depressed about it and have been for some time, and I don’t know when I’ll totally get over this. Someday, probably when the series is done and out. Starting in May of 2009, as book two was coming out, I negotiated with some small press publishers. I found out that the majors won’t touch a series that’s been orphaned (learning that was horribly painful and I won’t tell that story online, but if we ever become friends I’ll tell you about it in person). The small press publishers offered me next to nothing, so I’ve decided to self-publish the rest of my series, which will work out fine as I have a fan base already and people are clamoring for the next book. The whole series will come out as eBooks and there will be a print on demand option that will get you a trade paperback. The good news is that the books will come out, but book three was delayed about one and half years. It should have come out by May of 2010, but won’t come out until the end of 2011.
5. ******** What are your thoughts about electronic publishing?
I think it’s great and my latest project, The Crimson Pact is an experiment with e-publishing. Read the website to learn more about it, but I think it’s the future, though print books will never go away. The thing is you have to look at the bottom line, and it’s just so cheap to publish eBooks compared to print books. Writers with established fan bases are already starting to bypass traditional publishers and go right to their audience. Publishers take most of the risk and pay the author 10%. With ePublishing the author can get a much bigger percentage.
6 ********Is ePublishing changing the way you write, and has it had an impact on short stories?
Yes, because it’s so cheap to put out an eBook, I didn’t have to limit the word count in Volume 1 of The Crimson Pact, which is made up of 26 short stories. I went for a huge anthology, 140,000 words, rather than limit it to under 100,000, as most anthologies are. Also, I’m not worried about my word count (well, not that worried) in the rest of my Iron Dragon books. The print on demand books might be a little more expensive, but I’m not going to worry that much about it. Some authors are selling short stories to their fans as eBooks and making quite a nice bit of cash, much more than they would receive from traditional magazines or book anthologies. However, most eBooks do not sell very well, and make the author very little.
7. ***********Do you think that eBooks that are self-published are of a lesser quality than books that go through traditional publishers? Aren’t traditional publishers a gatekeeper for quality?
Yes, definitely most eBooks that are self-published are of a lesser quality that those that have been vetted by editors and publishers, but not all of them and they should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Crimson Pact, which is an eBook, is not vanity or self-publishing, and has an editor (hey, I’m not the best, but I do have some skills), and is published by a small press publisher, Alliteration Ink. It has an editor and a publisher, unlike many self-published eBooks, which desperately need an editor.
The stories I accepted came from almost all traditionally/previously published authors and even a New York Times bestseller, Larry Correia. The stories are of high quality as my partner and I kept the bar very high. I rejected a lot of stories, even ones from writers who were asked to submit. It was not pretty for me, but the book turned out to be great, and I didn’t want to compromise anything.
Many self-published books are crap, sorry to say, but then you have the exceptions, like: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, which was my favorite book of 2009. He self-published it as a print book in 2007, I think, then got some important fans—namely the owner of an influential independent bookstore, who pushed his book and got it on the bestseller list of Entertainment Weekly, which ended Larry with a publishing deal with Baen Books. Larry then hit the NYT Bestseller list with book two, Monster Hunter Vendetta. He is the example of what not to do—and will say so himself—but it worked for him, which means that with a quality book like Monster Hunter International and some fortuitous events, brought about by Larry’s hard work, can get wonderful things.
Overall, self-publishing is not a great move if you want to be taken seriously by the traditional publishing industry, but it can work out great in the end. That’s what I’m hoping for now with my Iron Dragon novels. Luckily, the Iron Dragon Series were bought by a very respected small press, Five Star Books, but then the unthinkable happened. I was orphaned through no fault of my own, so I have some cover there from the pure self-published stigma. Most importantly, I have a couple of great editors to help me finish the series, Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of the critically acclaimed Winds of Khalakovo, will have a big hand, like he has had in all of my books, with the rest of the series. He guides me every step of the way and I know he’d be one of the best editors at a major house if he wanted to do that job. Also, Patrick M. Tracy, an accomplished writer and a brainstorming machine, will be there with me as well, so the quality of the rest of my series will actually be better than the first two, as I’m a better writer now than I was when the books came out back in 2008 and 2009. Keep in mind I wrote most of the books years before that and the subsequent volumes must be rewritten/re-edited now.
8. ******** Do you prefer physical books or eBooks?
I prefer reading physical books. I read a lot on computer screens and enjoy getting away from them sometimes. I like the smell of the paper and the art on the cover, and the feel of the pages and being able to get away from my computer. I don’t yet own an eReader, though I have many friends who swear by them and love them. I can see their tremendous advantages and if I wasn’t so into my laptop I would own an iPad or a Kindle.
9. ************ If there was a story you wanted to read, not write but read, what would that story entail?
The story would be about the fall of the Hittite Empire between 1,500 and 2,000 B.C. and would be written like Mary Renault’s books about ancient Greece—with a first person point of view. It would be from the point of view of a Hittite Prince or warrior fighting to keep the empire together. There is very little written history and no novels from my knowledge from this time period and I am fascinated by what was happening then. The time of the Hittite Empire’s fall is the time period of Medusa’s Daughter, and I’ve been researching it a lot. As far as historical fiction, I love the books by Wilbur Smith set in ancient Egypt (River God, Warlock). Stephen King thinks Wilbur Smith is the best in the business. Also, I love Mary Renault’s novels set in ancient Greece, (The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea, The Last of the Wine) and would love to read more like them. She’s up there with Tolkien with me.
********* What are you passionate about right now, something that doesn’t have to do with writing?
Working as a nurse, like I’ve been doing since 1996. I love it most of the time, and I make a difference and that feels very good to me. I work my ass off in the hospital on a cardiac floor and I’ve helped build a great place to go when you’re sick. The team around me is so awesome and we keep winning all of the awards, plus most of the patient’s love us and truly appreciate what we do for them. It’s like being on a championship team that has won several championships in a row. My work is so hard, and I work the night shift, but it’s rewarding and I’m very passionate about being a nurse.
11. *********Do you have any trunk novels you want to get published? And if so how would you try to get them published?
I don’t have any true trunk novels. I have Medusa’s Daughter, but it’s going to find a home someday and trunk novels are usually the first novel or novels that you write when you’re a newbie. My first novel was The Golden Cord, and after about fifty drafts, it ended up getting published. If it hadn’t, it would be my trunk series, and I’d have 550,000 words sunk into it, as I wrote all five books before the first one was accepted for publication. If I had a trunk novel, I would suggest leaving it there and starting fresh. Sometimes you have to let your first works go and write new books. It’s easy for me to give that advice, but very hard to implement if you’ve got an unpublished novel that you love. It is possible to get your trunk novel published, but I’d recommend letting it go if you think it’s terribly flawed. Chalk it up to experience. There is a statement floating around that your first million words are crap, but I’d say that’s not right. It’s different for everyone, but we all grow and evolve as writers.
12. ********Is there anything other thing you would like share or talk about?
There is hope if you really want to get published via the traditional route and publish novels. It’s a matter of intelligent striving. However, for those of you who are faint of heart, just stop now. I’m serious. It might severely ruin your life if you publish a novel because of what might happen next. My editor said after my first book came out, now the really hard work begins for you. He was right. Short stories are fun and don’t really cause too many hassles, but the woes of being a published novelist are many. Your books might not sell enough and you lose your contract and have to change your name, which happened to a friend of mine. Or you might get some terrible reviews, which hurt your confidence, even though a bunch of readers love your work, or any number of other negative things might happen. Getting orphaned is something I never imagined, but it’s one of many things that can go wrong. Your editor can leave, which is a common thing that can happen, and then you’re suddenly no ones project with no release date in sight. There are so many things that can hurt your confidence in this business and make it so you don’t want to write. I know several writers who sold their first book and then nose-dived after that when the reality of getting published collided with their expectations. Better to be a lifelong reader and writing hobbyist than become a broken writer. Find the love that you have for writing and cultivate it. Don’t let the bastards get you down! Write the book that you want to write. Let’s all hope that it’s commercial enough to sell, and that you know the right people to sell it.
Author and Editor