“No, father. You have gotten your way for too long. This ends here.”
Meet the Kenderleys, the wealthiest and most powerful family in the world.
The youngest, Prince Bonifaz, takes his lessons and trusts no one. The middle child, Princess Isabel, sneaks away to a secret regency of her own making. Their mother, Queen Dulcibella, watches out for her children just as readily as she watches over them. Their father, King Jonnecht, is a capricious tyrant who hopes to control his family as strictly as he does the largest empire, and his violent rage threatens all under his rule.
Then there’s Prince Ewald, eldest and heir to the throne. No one is more aware of the threat his father poses to everyone. No one has better legal standing to do anything about it. How can he save everyone he loves while upholding his mother’s kind values? He must learn the lessons required to be the best regent, choose allies wisely and earn their trust, and enact a thoughtful and detailed plan.
And even if he succeeds in all that, can one who draws the line and conducts a plan with honour defeat one whose rage, selfishness, and deceit know no bounds?
2020 saw the first National Novel Writing Month since 2008 where I did nothing at all, a final word count of zero for any intended novels. That came and went without regret because I knew the time wasn’t right and November is often the busiest month of production at work, as if I found myself in a career completely antithetical to what I had been doing for fun.
Frankly, the only novel I had written during this 2016-2020 span was “Alathea: Goddess and Empress”. I managed that because this was a familiar character in a setting already created (see “Crown Princess’ Voyage”, where I’ve already established her, the most important people in her life by that point, her history, her home port city, motivations, personality etc.) and I had notes prepared. Also, I had not worked in manufacturing for most of that year; my season started somewhere between late August and early September (right after Labour Day? I forget these minor details quite often, please don’t ask me to remember most birthdays without Facebook telling me when they are), so I had the reserves of strength to write part of a novel (the ending wasn’t written back then, 3/4 of the book hit the word count goal and I finished the rest years later) while still editing and transcribing, handling copy editing and writing duties for Auxiliary Magazine, and plunging myself into a new career that was really challenging and made me emotional quite often.
Every other year from 2017 to 2019, I hit that word count by writing a diary, which doubled as a “dumping ground manuscript”, a place for every wayward thought, confession and silly story that I wanted to write into the void, then delete after validating word count. I didn’t see the point nor feel the need for that this year.
It’s 2020 and so many of us are in a place we didn’t foresee, extra challenges piled on to whatever we were already facing. Times that have really laid me bare and forced me to proper introspection; not necessarily revelations, but in most cases, memories, things known in a prior time but not accepted. If you are where I have been, my only advice is that you might not be protecting yourself by forgetting. Whatever it is, it will return to the surface until you face it properly. That’s some of the work I’ve been doing, and along the lines of lessons I must never forget. I will leave it at that for now.
From out of this, I have somehow felt ready to revamp the next manuscript. I first wanted to say I’m writing a new book, then a “new old book”, because the first draft predates my Lush career. I feel like there should be some record of it preceding 2015, but 2015 mostly doesn’t exist in my memory for reasons I don’t want to get into right now. 2015 involves marching around, poking holes in riverbanks with the screw end of a wooden broom handle, and planting milkweed and other seed bombs. If 2015 is when I wrote this “new old book” draft that’s been in front of me for a few days as I take chapter-by-chapter content notes and write suggestions for how to proceed, then it wasn’t such a write-off year after all. I certainly was planting things in a most hopeful way.
I’m going to write the next draft of this “new old book”. I may pursue editors this go-around. From there, it makes the most sense to publish it the way the others have been published, unless some opportunity arises to revamp them all under an imprint; one can dream. This book fits with the others and even refers to a couple that aren’t written yet. A tiny number of people have read the draft that I wrote at the time, and I don’t believe any of them have truly left me, though we aren’t all in close contact anymore. Hey, it’s a time of social distancing anyway. We can keep close from a distance thanks to the internet. That’s been true for a while, actually.
Today, I’m doing what you would expect the indie writer stereotype to do. I drank coffee, I await breakfast, and I’ve been building a writer playlist, even writing this post, anything but actually doing the work. That’s typical for me, but the four books on the market show that eventually I do what I’m supposed to be doing. Even if I don’t start that today, I know what time I’m setting aside every workday to do this, and what necessary sacrifice needs to happen so I can make time.
Thanks for following this quiet Facebook Page, and anywhere else, my personal feed, Twitter timeline, quiet website blog. Everyone who has crossed paths with me on this journey has had something to add, some lesson to teach me, along my journey. I want to end this post with gratitude for your role, taking time out of your eventful life to do something for mine.
Thank you for everything, and stay safe.
Alathea character art by Jenn St-Onge
She looked to the mask rather plaintively; now, more than ever, she needed her fierce face. She needed to imagine that her father was still there for her, ready to do things she couldn’t. In order to believe that, she needed to imagine his words as if the mask spoke them.
“How many sons never came home to their mothers because of Selene? And how many fathers never returned to their daughters? You know what Honorius told you. This woman doomed people to feel exactly how you felt, Alathea, yet did she not get to stay with her father to the end of his days?”
Alathea wept. It was good that she hadn’t yet dared to apply gold dust or makeup. She knew it would come to this. It all had to come out now, when the prisoner couldn’t witness the vulnerability for a second time.
“No parent, no child, no one in the world should ever have to feel that way. That world, that shining future, is what I always wished I could give you. Now I’ll never leave you alone, because you need me. Embody me once again. Remain clean of this evil; you’re too good for it. Wash the tears from your cheeks. Put on my face that never weeps.”
Alathea vigorously washed her face and glared at her reflection in the polished brass. She needed to be ready. A sinner needed to be punished.
“She thought you were her entertainment. Let’s show her how you play with dolls.”
Newly revised and reformatted editions of The Gift-Knight’s Quest have rolled out for Kindle and Kobo, and print-on-demand via the Amazon platform. The new editions include spelling corrections and subtle improvements to the text that do not alter the story and should not compromise the sequels.
That begged the question of what happens to 70 remaining first editions sitting in boxes behind my bedroom door. I don’t want to sell these at vendor events when there should always be the newest edition available; new editions happen because I like putting my best foot forward. The Kickstarter editions can still do some good, so I set up an ecommerce solution and gave them a quest.
The big news around here is a fun art commission by Jenn St.-Onge (Bingo Love, Nancy Drew, Jem and the Holograms: The Misfits, and much more) which revisits the cover of The Crown Princess’ Voyage (by Rona Dijkhuis). The book is a nice touch since Chandra Kenderley is a character who reads books, values books, and lives books whenever she isn’t suddenly burdened with the ultimate responsibilities of an empire.
And one more announcement
For a few years now, the paperback edition of The Gift-Knight’s Quest has been different than the ebook, and the Kickstarter first edition of the paperback was never print-on-demand. As of April 2019, I had two people inform me that they could only get the paperback from Amazon via resellers and used copies, most likely because most of the unsold first editions left in the world are sitting in boxes behind my bedroom door.
I decided, partly on spur of the moment, partly because I had been considering it for a long time but never making a plan, to clean all this stuff up. My friend Candice helped a lot by formatting, just as she has formatted the currently available sequel ebooks and paperbacks; thank you! Now the ebook edition on Amazon and Kobo is a newly revised and reformatted edition.
In April of 2019, I sold an average of one ebook per day, or 30 ebooks in 30 days. I’m here to analyze these results and show you what I did. It wasn’t anything genius, but it was something.
My gateway to this was through A. G. Letterman’s Twitter account. From there, I understood that the hashtag of the month was #IndieApril. I would sit there for between eight to twelve hours per day, sometimes longer, refreshing the search bar for the latest tweets marked with that hashtag, analyzing them with my human eyes (no scripts here, I’m not that resourceful) and sharing my book link with or without a summary depending on what was requested from the potential buyer.
If I had a workday, I used every lunch break, washroom break, fresh air break (intervals where I can go closer to the door and remove my respirator to breathe easily), leg of public transit commute, wait at a bus stop, and spare moments before and after a cereal breakfast to search for the next “buy thread”.
I felt I needed to be quick on the draw, so I did utilize my clipboard whether on a smartphone or laptop. While my Samsung device easily saves multiple things to a clipboard so I could choose which to try this time, I used a .txt document on my laptop to source a nearly identical list of blurbs.
Every blurb began as something I wrote off the top of my head, but I needed to do this when I was dog-tired from work or otherwise distracted. I also needed to keep it fresh by employing differently phrased blurbs, even if they said similar things, so I might sound 2% less like a robot.
Sometimes, I just remarked in agreement with the book buyer’s criteria, or a slight disagreement but hoping this was all right with them if they had expressed a stronger preference for things other than fantasy yet considered it acceptable.
For laptop purposes, I pulled from the URLs in the top/first blurb. For Samsung clipboard purposes, each blurb had the same URL appended to the end.
The Gift-Knight’s Quest “[Recommended] for fantasy fans who like their stories complex and well-detailed.” – Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Knights-Quest-Gift-Knight-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B07585WD8X/ Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-gift-knight-s-quest-1 Website (inc. Goodreads, professional review) http://squareonecomics.com/dylanmadeley/sample-page/the-gift-knights-quest-main/
A weary Crown Princess must save an empire from tearing itself apart–but first, she must save herself from the same knight sent to protect her. The Gift-Knight’s Quest
History and two sides of a feud come together in a difficult present, where two enemies must thwart worse evils.
Two descendants of a feud briefly match wits, but there’s far more at stake than family revenge.
Two descendants of an age-old feud have to be allies in order to defeat a more dangerous evil. But does the conspiracy really end with what they can see? The Gift-Knight’s Quest
This is a fantasy story that does have its dash of darkness here and there, be warned; but it isn’t a dark fantasy.
A young woman never expecting to inherit an empire tries to keep her world from unravelling, and a misguided avenger shows up at the least convenient time (but when is a good time, right?)
This is the fantasy story of a guy with no role in life who’s searching, a woman overburdened by a role she never expected to have and the weird stuff that goes down when the two finally get to meet. “The Gift-Knight’s Quest”
They range from serious to lighthearted. I wasn’t that worried about spoilers for a book that’s almost five years old.
Haven’t You Written Three Books By Now?
True enough! I began Indie April by providing a neat Kindle link that would show you the entire trilogy, and that lasted for those days of very few sales at the first week of the month. Then I understood a simple truth: most people have never heard of me at all, so why am I pushing the exciting sequels to something they haven’t even heard of?
I retooled my descriptions and links. For me, Indie April would be about getting people to buy (and hopefully read, and for better or worse review) The Gift-Knight’s Quest. It appears to have worked. The vast majority of ebooks sold were Gift-Knights. There was one Masked Queen that moved, to my surprise.
In addition, a few paperbacks sold online, one of which was a Crown Princess; the other ones, being Gift-Knights and in one case a used copy, aren’t managed in my KDP, but that’s a long story coming to a close that I’ll blog about some other time.
Every book in the series got some form of love, but it made the most sense to sell Gift-Knights to strangers. Should it interest them enough, it would be easy for them to find the sequels.
Lifting Others Up As You Climb
Twitter is a community of conversations. If you get anywhere, you get there by the sheer force of others lifting you up. It’s good to find ways to demonstrate that you wish your fellow indie authors well; you lift them up. It’s a way to help people understand who you really are, within reason and your means.
One basic way to do this was the retweeting/sharing of threads I was hitting up. This not only helped my network of people get a turn to offer their book, but it helped buyers find a platform and access to book buying possibilities. The biggest obstacle indie authors face, off the top of my head, is being in a vast ocean of other authors where most of us have equal access to shout at the same volume. It can all get unintelligible unless we organize the signal and the noise somehow.
Here was an event where someone–many someones–actually wanted me to send a book link, a blurb, something; I feel self-conscious advertising my work, even trying to sell at an in-person market, but this felt liberating. It might have been a strain on any of my usual followers who were geared to get notifications every time I tweeted, and I accept that I may have been muted by some.
I didn’t view other indie authors as my competition. I wanted us all to win, somehow. It doesn’t seem like a zero sum game to me when there are so many threads and so many different buyer criteria, and it’s not like every thread ended with one book being purchased.
I was both buyer and seller. I purchased about 30 Kindle ebooks of varying prices. My royalties went most of the way to covering the difference, but the loss I took was minimal given that I didn’t have to purchase a single ad. Some premium ebooks still lurk in my Wish List for another time. I still look at it as a win despite what the ledger would tell you, because I didn’t just drop money down the bottomless pit of ad spend. I have books to read. If they’re great, I can read them as many times as I want.
Sometimes, I had no hope in a thread because the buyer strictly wanted romance, erotic fiction, sci-fi, LGBTQ and/or POC main characters, and other reasonable criteria that The Gift-Knight’s Quest doesn’t fit. That’s when I simply liked the thread to boost its signal and shared to my expanding Twitter base in case the others had a book that fit the criteria.
(Indie April expanded my Twitter following to 1000+, or about 400+ more than I remember having to start with. The list of people I follow also expanded, though not at nearly the pace. I can only keep up with so many.)
Threads got messy. Helping is about listening, and I tried never to post a blurb/link to a thread where my work was strictly ruled out. I sympathize with a desperate feeling; so easy to say I sought to practice restraint when I was having such a great time, I don’t feel like I’m better than anyone who kept trying just in case. I’m sure I missed the point a few times.
Peaks and Valleys
Amazon Bestseller Rank is an interesting beast I know little about, but I feel like the ranking algorithm approves of streaks. Once the first lackluster week was over and I had a better approach, I was able to start selling on more consecutive days, sometimes 2 or 3 books per day. This led to the highest rank The Gift-Knight’s Quest has probably ever had in the time since I took the ebook reins from Matador Books: 57,777.
From there, I was happy to slow up a bit, not only giving other people a chance by sharing threads with them as I had done all along, but eventually just being satisfied with what was accomplished; by April 23, I tried not to post in any book buy threads again. As far as I know, the remaining sales for the month were delayed/legacy sales from threads where the buyer took time to decide. I may have caved a small number of times right near the end, but nothing like the fever pitch search-bar-refreshing and thread-pushing of those middle weeks.
It was fun. I’m adjusting to my previous activity levels and interactions. There is an Indie May, but it’s more about reviewing the books we bought during Indie April. I’m only on the 4th or 5th book of my purchase list, so I may have to get a move on. Some of us rightly ask why we shouldn’t find ways to promote indies all year.
I’m having a Trunk Sale at the Bazaar of the Bizarre. Copies which have been in my suitcase for too long and dinged because of it (yet still feature all the words inside, intact) are going at a steep discount. There will also be new copies, including the newest edition of The Masked Queen’s Lament. There are no old/suitcase copies of that third book, just new ones.
Check back for any further news between now and April 21.
Today I would like to have a brief chat with you about quantifying revisions. It’s great to say we went through a manuscript from top to bottom and thoroughly scoured it. Generally, we work hard and that’s all anyone needs to know.
But what if we want some numeric measurement of what we did, even if it’s just out of personal curiosity?
Tools like Scrivener might already give you the difference in greater detail, but I’m not experienced with it. I’m relatively lo-fi in comparison, just using Microsoft Word for most of my needs; however, Word has some helpful tools to quantify differences when you keep your drafts in separate documents.
Let’s use The Masked Queen’s Lament as an example, because I zeroed in on one necessary change when I went back and fixed it, but I did much more than that. How much more? Well, according to Word:
The image shows many more tools for comparing the differences line by line, but I only wanted one figure to summarize it for you. According to Word, that one number is 853 revisions.
There are also online tools to run a “diff”, or a comparison between two text documents. One such tool is diffchecker.com.
It gives a marginally different result in a slightly expanded way:
In this case, a different algorithm spotted 419 removals (deletions) and 457 additions. The sum of those is slightly larger than what Word gave us, but it’s in the same ballpark.
Numbers, of course, give us quantity. Quality is something else. These measurement tools aren’t going to replace a human who can tell you how one single change fixed a phrase that had been nonsense due to a word omission or a typo. They don’t describe how things are better. Their sole job is to spot the difference.
Have you ever tracked your manuscript revisions in a quantifiable manner? Have you found it practically useful in a particular context, or were you, like me, just curious? Feel free to leave a comment.
Some Thoughts On My 2018
The elapsed year was not one where any new material was written, except if you count sweeping changes or rewrites to a prior project.
What really changed was my move away from transcribing and editing at home as a primary source of income. It had been a feeble and inconsistent living all along, not really a living at all. It fostered inconsistent eating and sleeping patterns. It encouraged social isolation. I had basically been living on ballooning credit while in the city with roommates for what little I actually brought in, and with interest and fees factored in, things scarcely improved once I was back with my parents; it was still quite like paying Toronto rent, but without any of the perks of living in the city. Sadly, that part has only stabilized rather than improved.
But something had happened to me in the meantime where I couldn’t stand transcribing much anymore, and didn’t want much volume of editing. I sure didn’t want to take seasons of employment at Lush in order to make an income that was actually helpful, only to have work obligations the moment I got home. When would there be definite planned time just for me, aside from sleeping? 2018 was when I said goodbye to work that had begun to frustrate and infuriate me, in return picking up more work that paid well enough even if I had a tough time physically keeping up with it.
In 2018, nothing hugely positive happened with my love life, and that’s okay. Love can be really expensive, and rather than keep with previous efforts to date for the learning experience, I found that none of those experiences had been teaching me anything useful or positive. If I got any better at caring for the people who are already in my life, I prefer that. These are experiences of people genuinely wanting to spend time with each other. What could be better?
My heart broke really hard once in 2018, but by the end of the year, I seemed to have regained the ability to have a normal conversation between one human and another with this person. I’ll take it. I enjoyed being their friend before and it would be great if that remained true, and as usual I’m the biggest obstacle to that. I’m learning to handle such things better.
In the middle of the year, the clouds parted and a shaft of golden light enveloped a literary convention. For three days, I got to live a wonderful fantasy where my top billing in life was as a writer, and people I didn’t even know could express genuine interest in things I have created. Some of them would even pay money for copies of what I had done; astounding! I had a vaguely successful time at another event later in the year, but it is different to vend at a place where what you do is very close to why people show up.
Then it came to be that one of the things I had hyped so much was not how I remembered it, in some respects potentially harmful, and I toiled to fix it. I was embarrassed. It wasn’t the low point of my year by far; the theft of a smart device, the invasion of privacy into my years-old email account, leaning on a strapping device in a facility with countless anxious scenarios running through my head, no connection to social media to reassure me that things hadn’t all blown up while I was away from it, the strong desire to just curl up on a concrete floor and pass out and maybe never wake up. 2018 knew how to hit me where it hurt most. It didn’t kill me, but it took a running jump.
It’s about half way into the first month of 2019, and the brink of another working Monday. There’s still no certain path I’m on, my situation still seems as insecure as ever. That’s how it goes. I’m settled on never going it alone again when I finalize a book, and I might be ready to shop around for publishers or agents so that I won’t have to be the sole advertiser or marketing agency of my next work, either. I look forward to my next adventure.