I've signed up to go to Readercon for 2018. It'll be in Quincy, MA from July 12 to the 15th. It's a great way for authors to meet readers and vice versa, and after the great experience that was the World Fantasy Conference, my wife and I are pumped to go!

The World Fantasy Convention was awesome...and I got to meet Terry Brooks, L.E. Modesitt Jr., David Mitchell of Cloud Atlas fame, and a lot of author up-and-coming and aspiring authors. It was great to see how humble and thoughtful even the most famous of authors was, especially Terry Brooks. The Sword of Shannara was one of the first epic fantasy books I ever read as a kid, and it shaped my understanding of what fantasy was, and what it had to offer.

If you ever get a chance to go to the World Fantasy Conference...or have a chance to go to Quincy for Readercon in 2018...go for it. And if you see me there, please say hello!

Sales and Marketing - I screwed up

While the Runic series took off relatively quickly, garnering lots of readers and reviews in a matter of a couple of months, I haven't had nearly as much luck with Hunter of Legends. Hunter's first book has very few readers, and almost no one on Goodreads has picked it up.

I find myself wondering why.

I used the same marketing plan for each book, and have favorable reviews so far, over 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. The cover art was made by the same artist that made the covers for the Runic Series, and people generally like it when I ask them to critique it. When I went to the World Fantasy Conference earlier this month, everyone I pitched the book to seemed genuinely interested.

So why did the Runic Series do well while Hunter of Legends hasn't?

I have a few ideas. First, Hunter's book targets a different reader; while the Runic series was coming of age fantasy, Hunter's book is definitely adult fantasy, and the "adult content" flag will make the book invisible to younger readers searching for books on Amazon. However, I suspect most of my readers are 18 or older, so this might not be the cause.

I did spend much less on Google ads for Hunter's book, but found that they had no effect on sales when I used them for Hunter's book, despite using near identical ad creation. Again, I've found google ads to be, on the whole, expensive and generally ineffective...including for the Runic series. So this is probably not the issue.

One thing I did poorly initially was not including a call-to-action in the Runic series, and not cross-promoting my books. I've just fixed this by including links at the end of all my ebooks to my website, blog, twitter, facebook, and so forth...and by including a call-to-action for reviews at the end of each book. I've also included excerpts for all of my books - the first three chapters - on the home page of my web site.

In addition, I've placed the signup form for my newsletter at the top of my home page, whereas before it'd been on the bottom. This alone has dramatically increased subscribers...from a couple a month to a couple a day.

I wish I'd done these things when the Runic Series had first launched. I would have grabbed a much larger number of subscribers, and had the opportunity to give them Hunter's book for free, generating interest and more initial reviews. I lost that opportunity, and don't have a way to get it back.

This is not to say I'm defeated. Far from it! I think of these as important lessons that I can take with me in the future, making my next book launches more successful, reaching more readers. Failure is a marvelous, if painful, teacher. And while Hunter's series will likely never enjoy the readership of the Runic Series, future book series may, and perhaps readers will find Hunter's books by my future cross-promotion efforts.

Hopefully you authors starting out can avoid the mistakes I've made, and have more success with your book launches! Even a good book can flounder in obscurity if you don't market it well enough. I recommend Derek Murphy's youtube channel...he has a great deal of insight into book marketing for self-published authors.

Update on Seeker of Legends

I'm about a quarter of the way through writing Seeker of Legends, the sequel to Hunter of Legends!

I expect to finish the first draft by January, and spend a month or two editing and formatting it for publication. I've also started re-reading the 80 or so pages I've written of the 4th book in the Runic series, and am excited to start working on that as well.

I'll keep you updated as usual, both in this blog and on the home page of my website, with the usual graphs showing percent completion of each stage of writing. I'll also post the first chapter or so of Seeker of Legends in a bit as a teaser.

Creating Characters for Your Book

Stories are usually character-driven...making your characters the most important part of your novel. The more interesting and believable your characters, the better your book will be.

Great characters can make up for a so-so plot. Look at the Marvel films. Most have the same basic, well-worn plot (evil threatens the world, heroes must work together to save it), yet the characters - the deeply flawed Tony Stark, fish-out-of-water Thor, brooding and back-stabbing Loki - keep you coming back for more.

We love these characters.

The same goes with your books. If you have characters people love, readers will buy your books just to see what they do next. So how do you create characters for your book?

Do you create an excel spreadsheet, writing down every detail of their past, their psychological profile, their favorite colors, their strengths and weaknesses? Do you draw detailed pictures of every item of clothing they own? Every relationship they've had? Their hopes and dreams?

I would caution against it.

Now, of course everyone has a different way of writing, and of creating their characters. But in my experience, the more detail you use when initially creating your characters, the less real they become.

Because, in over-using your logical brain - the logical, list-making, problem-solving part - you stifle your creative brain. That part that seems to work by magic, creating things out of thin air, without you having a damn clue how you did it.

Now, as a physician, I can tell you that I have a well-developed logical brain. I'm all about facts and math and problem-solving. But as a writer, I have to turn this part of my brain off. I've never fully created a world, or a character, with this part of my mind. Sure, you have to start with it. Maybe you outline the basics:  the rogue with a heart of gold, the bumbling mad scientist, the wise wizard, the rich, dominating businessman - but when it comes to writing the character, turn that logical brain off.

See, your characters - after a certain point - should write themselves.

You'll be in control at first. You'll use your logic-brain to write them...until they start being real to you. Until they come alive.

Once that happens, your creative brain takes over. The characters start writing themselves. They tell you what to write. When you try to force them to do things they wouldn't do, they resist. They push back. You start to feel like your writing is going in the wrong direction. You start to get "writer's block."

And if you try to force them too much, your readers won't believe in these characters.

You see, your logical brain just draws the barest outline of a character. Just enough that you can kinda tell who he or she is. Your creative brain fills in the details, the colors. It animates that character. Breathes life into them.

Now, sometimes it takes a long time for a character to come to life. I've written 90% of a book feeling like one or two of the characters is still dead. A wooden, lifeless stand-in. So I re-write these characters. I do it until the character comes to life. And when they do, I sometimes have to completely change their whole side of the story. Because they tell me what I need to do. This happened to me with Erasmus in the Runic series. And with Sukri and Gammon in Hunter of Legends.

I can tell you, with utter seriousness, that after the first novel in a series, I write for the same reasons a reader wants to see what happens next. To see what my characters will do.

Because I have no idea what they'll tell me to do next.

 Because they're alive to me.

I know that if I don't feel this way about my characters - or at least most of them - I'm not doing it right.

So I recommend resisting the urge to over-create your characters at the beginning. Give them room to grow. Leave them mostly a mystery, one that you can unravel over time. Because your readers will be doing the same.



How to Smash Through Writer's Block

Ah, the dreaded writer's block. That singular affliction of writers, a disease of the mind that paralyzes the fingertips, making authors stare at an endless expanse of white screen, a reflection of their empty minds, fingers hovering over the keyboard. A catatonic state that can last days, or sometimes weeks.

A disease with no cure save for the passage of time.

Luckily, as a physician, I've studied this disease extensively, and I've come up with a cure!

How to Smash Through The Block:

Writer's block is caused by the (mostly false) belief that you need to be inspired to write. Nothing is further from the fact, I'm not inspired to write this at all! 

Your muse, that strange, uncontrollable part of your mind that is the source of your creativity, is lazy. A damn, no good, lazy bastard. It's that roommate who lays on the couch all day smoking weed and watching Netflix while eating your food. You need to kick it to make it work. Or find some other way to inspire it.

How do you do that?


That's right...write. Put your fingers on the keyboard and start typing. See, at first your muse will remain silent. Your writing will be forced and uninspired. But as you write, ideas will start to flow, and you'll find yourself entering a groove. Your muse will start talking to you.

You need to write to become inspired, not the other way around.

I don't suffer writer's block anymore, because I write every day that I can. If I'm stuck, I outline. Or just force myself to type. I can (and often do) delete a bit of what comes onto the page, but that's okay. Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series, said that when he looked back at his novels, he couldn't tell the difference between the quality of his writing when he was inspired, and when he was just plowing through, forcing himself to write.

So write!

If you haven't written a book yet, that's your secret to success. Just write. It doesn't need to be perfect the first time...that's what editing is for. You're never going to build muscles if you just think about going to the gym. You have to go almost every day, whether you feel like it or not. The same goes with writing. Don't talk about it, don't think about it. Just do it.

Half the time I sit down to write, I have the urge to do something else. It just seems too hard at the moment. I don't feel inspired. Then I start writing, and boom, the words just come. So kick your muse, and start writing!

Like, now. Stop reading this and write something!

Dealing With Bad Reviews've published a book! After years of hard work, your masterpiece is ready for others to enjoy. Now it's time to watch those glowing reviews come in. Go on...hit the refresh button on your book's Amazon page a few thousand times a day. Five stars, here we come!

And then it happens: The Bad Review.

Because you see, some people are going to hate your book. And what's worse, they're going to hate it publicly (the bastards). They will describe, in brutal detail, everything that sucks about it. Your baby is going to be publicly eviscerated, and there is nothing you're going to be able to do about it.

Don't panic.

Instead, follow these simple rules!

Rule #1: Don't defend yourself

Your first instinct is going to be to protect your baby. Write a counterpoint to every wrongheaded view that bastard of a reviewer (who probably hates theirlife and wants nothing more than to crush you) managed to type with their sad little fingers.

Don't do it.

Some people are going to not like your book. Hell, some people hate kittens and babies. That's okay. They're not out to destroy you (I hope), they just feel strongly about your book. And if your book is pretty good, most of the reviews are going to be alright. One bad review is not going to tank your book.

Rule #2: Don't check for new reviews before bed

Admit it, you check your Amazon page for new reviews a few billion times a day. That's normal - and extremely unhealthy. Don't do that. And for the love of God, DON'T check for new reviews right before you go to bed!

I wish someone had told me.

You'll be laying in bed, your phone clutched in your hands, eagerly checking for a bump in your review count one last time. Wait, hold up...what's this? *Gasp!* Another review!

You scroll eagerly downward, and then you see it: the bad review. And not just any bad utterly devastatingly bad review. 30 pages long, dripping with disdain.

You conduct an impromptu crash test of your phone case, throwing your phone across the room. Then you stare up at the ceiling, imagining all the horrible (and highly illegal) things you'd like to do to your reviewer. Morning comes, and you're still staring at the ceiling, imagining yourself strangling the bastard. After having re-read the review 4,000 times.

Which brings me to my next rule:

Rule #3: Read bad reviews once - and only once

Read your good reviews over and over. You've earned it! But don't obsess over the bad ones. Read them once, process them, and let them go. The more you think about them, the less happy you'll be. You don't need closure. Hell, a year after they're written, bad reviews still give me heartburn. Go write another book.

Rule #4: Don't check a good reviewer's review history

You got a GLOWING review! Yay! You're on cloud nine. This reviewer frickin' LOVED your book. Thought it was the best damn thing they've ever read. They liked it better than chocolate and coffee and meth and sex. Combined. Or taken sequentially, your pick.

Then you look at the other books they've reviewed...and every single review reads like yours.

The glow fades. You feel duped. That 5-star review means nothing now.

My advice? Hold on to that high, baby. Treat it like a new girlfriend or boyfriend that thinks you're the greatest guy/girl/etc. they've ever been with. Chances are they said the same thing to their previous partner, but do you need to know that? Nope! Bask in your ignorance! Knowledge is pain. 

Rule #5: Learn from it!

Bad reviews feel awful, but making mistakes often does. Some reviewers have a point...and as an author, we can learn from them. We can grow by fixing the mistakes we made in our current books and avoiding making them in our future ones. Think of bad reviews as your teachers. Teachers you never asked for and don't like very much, but you know, teachers.

Rule #5: You'll break these rules

Yeah, I can't follow them either.


Seeker of Legends!

Now that Hunter of Legends is published, I've dug in to write the sequel, Seeker of Legends. I'm 40 pages in, and going strong! I've already hired Bookfly Design to create a book cover for January 2018, and plan on publishing in February or so.

I'll create a bar graph soon that will show my progress, and as always, I'll keep you updated here on my blog!

Fear & Understanding

As the father of two multi-racial boys, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the events of Charlottesville, and of nationalism and racism in general. I wrote Hunter of Legends after the birth of my son, who is half-black, half-white.

As those who've read the book know, Hunter of Legends delves into nationalism, and some of the ideas that drive it. I wrote the book partially to better understand where people who believe in nationalism - including white nationalism (as opposed to supremacism) - are coming from. There's a tendency to reject ideas we find unacceptable, to refuse to think about them or consider the perspective of those who hold those ideas. I believe it is important to do the opposite; the more unacceptable an idea, the more important it is that I understand it. That I understand how it came to be, and why people feel the way they do.

I've spoken to quite a few people from different cultures about nationalism and culture, including the concept of cultural dilution and cultural "genocide." It's interesting to note that these concepts are not just ideas held by white nationalists. I've spoken with people from Kenya who bemoan the gradual loss of their culture due to the influence of more westernized cultures and the rise of urbanization. I've spoken with Native Americans who believe that their culture - already devastated by the very real genocide perpetrated against them - is still under siege today, and that the lack of young men and women to continue their legacy may lead to the death of their ways. I've spoken with Asian Americans who, having immigrated to this country in the 70's, regret the fact that their children and grandchildren have less and less interest in their native traditions.

In all of these instances, the idea that one's way of life - their traditions, beliefs, and rituals...the things they hold near and dear in their hearts - may die away is shared. There is an underlying fear there, and mourning for something lost. These are real issues, and not just for "white" people.

Hatred, racism, supremacism, bigotry, and violence should be condemned, and nationalism can lead to these, as occurs in my book. People use differences in culture to justify hatred and disgust for one another, and as Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century French philosopher noted, the greater the difference between cultures, the easier it is to hold disgust for think of them as less than human. We do the same for cultures poorly represented in our media...including those of the middle east, who are seldom displayed as anything but villains in our movies and television shows. The same goes for African Americans, who are disproportionately displayed as criminals in our media. My wife bemoans the fact that, as a Black actress, she struggles to find roles outside of the gangster/drug dealer category.

I think it is important for us to have a discussion about the underlying drivers of these feelings and beliefs. If we do not understand each other - if we refuse to understand each other - then we will continue to hate each other. It is easier to have compassion for someone when you listen to them and understand where they're coming from. We don't have to agree with each other, and we live in a country where we are privileged to have the right to our beliefs, no matter how unacceptable they may be to someone else.

We'll never change peoples' minds by keeping our minds closed, or by vilifying people. I want to write books that make me think, and that take me out of my comfort zone. I hope that, in reading them, they do the same for you.

The Perils of Self-Editing

It came to my attention that a rather major series of edits for the first half of Hunter of Legends had never been completed prior to publication. After the first draft of each book I write, I get feedback from multiple reviewers, then make a long (LONG) list of changes to make...sometimes numbering in the hundreds. And with each sequential draft, literally thousands of individual edits are made (between 1,000-2,000 per run).

After publishing Hunter of Legends, I discovered that I had not made some of the most important changes I'd listed, most of them to do with Hunter's character arc. I've since fixed the issue and republished the book as of today, although the paperback version is still pending.

I apologize for any inconvenience, but am relieved that I discovered the error within the first week after publishing!