Getting it Wrong

Anyone who has written for any length of time has a few of these. Stories with a notion and characters you like, with decent plot, decent or better execution (in your humble opinion), also with one teensy problem—no traction. In other words…

…They don’t sell.

It happens. Sometimes you don’t get anywhere because the market for that particular “type” of story didn’t exist at the time. Maybe the market existed when you wrote them but didn’t by the time you were ready to send them out. It happens. Markets are born and die all the time. Editorial tastes can be mercurial. And, as I’ve mentioned before, with patience and perseverance, you can wait it out. I think ten years is my current record on that.

Sometimes, though, the problem isn’t them. It’s you.

These days, of course, you can just forget patience and put the story out yourself by various means: ebook, Patreon reward, whatever. It’s nice to have options. I was thinking of that the other day when I revisited an old story I’d written in the same universe as All the Gates of Hell, one of my favorite books. I think I had some notion of turning the premise into a story series, but it didn’t happen, mostly because this piece failed on the launch pad. I still liked the idea and was considering doing a Kindle short read or something of the sort. So I revisited the story…

…and now I know why it didn’t sell.

A little perspective always helps, and I was too close to this story for too long. It had to sit out of sight and mind long enough for the scales to finally fall from my eyes. Now I could give it a good hard look.

I wasn’t totally wrong. The premise is good, the characters likewise. Most of the problems are structural. The beginning is too slow. There’s way too much backstory in the time allotted, and an infodump just doesn’t cut it. If anything, at 7600 words the piece is too short. It should have been longer, with suitable pacing to make all the bits well-blended and cohesive. No way I was putting it out anywhere in the shape it’s in. Perhaps it can be fixed, but it will require a complete rewrite and expansion and I have too much else on my plate right now with new work. So it’ll have to wait.

I hope it’s more patient than I am.

Story Time: A Garden in Hell

I probably should have mentioned that there wasn’t going to be a Story Time last week on account of the July 4th holiday, which felt more like a day of mourning to me anyway, so and regardless, there wasn’t one. This week’s entry is “A Garden in Hell,” originally published in Fantasy Magazine #5, in December 2006. The story was a meditation based on my reading of Buddhist philosophy, which eventually culminated in one my favorite novels,  All the Gates of Hell.

And yes, according to some texts, Guan Shi Yin really does have a demon form she uses in situations as appropriate. I would think “A Garden in Hell” certainly qualifies.

Standard Reminder: “A Garden in Hell” will stay online until next Wednesday, July 18th, when another story gets its turn.

Story Time: The White Bone Fan

Today’s Story Time is “The White Bone Fan,” Originally published in Japanese Dreams: Fantasies, Fictions,& Fairytales, Lethe Press, 2009. The story is a stand-alone excerpt from what eventually became the novel  All the Gates of Hell published in 2013. This is the kind of thing I was working on when I was also working on the Yamada series. One sort of fed into the other, and vice versa.

As always, “The White Bone Fan” will remain online only until Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018. Next year.

“In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil”

I’ve been dropping annoyingly vague hints here and there, but now it’s all out in the open—I’ve apparently started a new fantasy series. I didn’t really plan to do it and I certainly didn’t think I was ready, but then I’m not always in charge. I know writers who strongly disagree with that perspective. “I’m in charge and my characters do what I say.” And that’s often true even with me, as in sometimes I am and sometimes they do. But for me it usually works out better when the characters do what they want and I just follow closely and mark it all down, then cut out the bit where they stared at the horizon for an hour just for the hell of it and add the bit where one of them tripped and fell into the icy stream. Just for the hell of it. Or maybe because they deserved it…ahem. Where was I?

Right, the new series. The first one, “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil” is now up in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #226. I’ve already written and sold the second one and started blocking scenes for the third. As I said, after Yamada I wanted to do some stand-alone stories, since some of my favorites of my own work have been books or stories with no befores or afters, except what was implied in the story itself. I once attempted a few befores and afters in the case of Jin from All the Gates of Hell, because I liked the character so much, but none of them worked out. She was done, and thus so was I.

Pan Bao and Jing were different. I’ve had them in my head for a while, wondering what they were about. I first had him pictured as a bumbling Taoist priest kept successful (and alive) by his far more competent daughter, and there are still echoes of that, but the man himself turned out to be quite different. Then Mei Li showed up, and well, that was that. So it’s a series. I hope you like it. If you don’t I’ll write it anyway.

It’s not like I’m in charge.

One Step Closer

SigningSheetImage2They have arrived. The signing sheets for the PS Publishing edition of To Break the Demon Gate, that is. There will actually be two PS editions: a 100 copy signed edition, and an unsigned edition of maybe 3-5 hundred. I will have to sign more than 100 copies of the sheet, of course. They always allow a little for spoilage and the fact that people can get really sloppy with their signatures. They’ll pick the 100 best ones and use those for the books. So if you get one and are shocked by my horrible handwriting, just consider–this is the best I could do.

To acknowledge this festive (for me, anyway) occasion, I’ve decided to put a few of my Kindle(r) books on sale. For the time being, All The Gates of Hell, The Heavenly Fox, and The Ghost War are now at $0.99, down from $2.99 and $3.99. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep them there. Probably not long–I feel so cheap when I do this, so if you’re going to take advantage of me, now’s the time.

Edited to add: And I’ve thrown in a few more, what the heck. You can see which ones by going to the Kindle List.