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HollowLands Posts

Returning to my writing (yay!)

Posted in A Writer's Desk, Goals, Publishing, and Structures of Earth

After my long prior post about all the learning curves for reaching my next marketing plateau, I'm finally (almost) done and have picked up my latest book (Structures of Earth) and poured another 55000 words into it, just in the last month, and finished it. I've missed it badly!

I'm just starting book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I plan to complete the first three books before releasing any of them, and have the fourth one almost done. The first book, Structures of Earth, is a prequel that takes place five years before Fragments of Lightning, while the hero is still a teenager. I expect to write quite a few books in this series, each of them complete, like a detective series. The release(s) of the first few books should happen in the Spring of 2018, one right after another.

The remnants of my 2017 plans

 

Republishing all titles

I've finished cutting over to ActiveCampaign from MailChimp, and created suitable landing pages on my websites for newsletter signups from various locations.

Image of a stack of booksThat was the last thing I needed before updating all my titles (20 of them) with:

  • Misc. accumulated typo corrections
  • Longer next-book sample excerpts
  • Updated contact info
  • Updated newsletter info
  • UTM-wrapped links to other books & my websites for Google Analytics
  • Better TOC & metadata info inside the books
  • Larger cover images
  • Improved copyright pages

No one item is important enough, but with all of that I felt it was time to finally refresh all 20 titles, ebooks & print. I even moved from Ingram LSI to Spark for various discount coupon situations in the future as part of it. With any luck, I won't need to revise these particular titles ever again.

Associated with that was getting a copy of ONIXEDIT so that I could use the same distribution tools (ONIX) used by traditional publishers with their channel partners. It is of limited immediate use (only for my PublishDrive and StreetLib partners) but just going through the process was immensely educational about the metadata and channel communications issues that go on behind the scenes in the industry. I'm ready to start transmitting using ONIX to these partners very soon.

The newly branded website just for readers

Image of a fantasy landscapeKarenMyersAuthor is up, and so are its related Facebook & Twitter pages, but I haven't produced content yet, and so I haven't announced it. I need to start getting active there.

Going up the learning curves

Posted in A Writer's Desk, and Goals

Image of girl studyingIt's been quiet on my blog here lately because I've been heads-down going up a bunch of learning curves. I've dedicated 2017 to moving up a big level in marketing, and it's been a larger task than I expected. (That always happens, and I'm always surprised.)

Psychologically, I'm an analyst, and I am attracted to and comforted by a deep knowledge of the tools and systems I use. This usually means I have a pretty good idea of what I don't know. The flipside of that is that it makes me anxious to fill in the gaps.

I wanted to keep the effort this year focused on marketing initiatives but that has a way of spreading.

Here's what I've managed so far… (you can expect specific articles on some of these in the Just for Writers section).
Image of a toolkit

Tooling up

This stuff is like catnip to me. I love to figure out how it works, but it takes time…

Google Analytics and link sources

On the principle that you can't improve what you don't measure, I've experimented with and set some standards for wrapping links to reference articles from my sites that I post elsewhere in UTM codes masked by PrettyLinks. In other words, I pinned down how to use Google Analytics to track particular articles depending on whether the clicks came from the website, Facebook, various groups I participate in, etc., without the links themselves looking ugly.

Background website improvements

All three of my publishing-related sites (see below) are now SSL-enabled (they use https:// instead of http://).

I'm tracking all my sites in ManageWP.

All the sites have stepped up a level for SEO improvements (Yoast) and I keep an eye on Google's latest demands for mobile compatibility.

All the sites now have structured data for the basic entities (organization, person, etc.), and the new reader-oriented site has structured data for the book entities. This should result in better “knowledge cards” and other enhanced displays for Google Search results.

Image generators

I create all my own book images, even the full covers (based on background art & illustrated text from my partner artists). I found the simple flat 2D images boring for some uses, and didn't like my amateur versions of 3D, and I also knew I would want more sophisticated versions of the images for Facebook advertising, so I worked with a freelancer to create four separate Photoshop automation “engines” to supply sophisticated output based on flat image inputs.

One engine supplies basic 3D images, from two directions.

Another engine creates a display of all formats for each book page on the site.Display of available formats for To Carry the Horn, book 1 of The Hounds of Annwn. Written by Karen Myers (HollowLands.com). Published by Perkunas Press (PerkunasPress.com).

Image of Hounds of Annwn Bundle 3-5 - BOX SET - Ebook CoverA third engine creates book bundle images, useful for Amazon AMS or Facebook ads, or for newsletters.

The fourth engine creates a casual book stack for Facebook ads.

This sort of Photoshop automation is completely beyond my limited amateur use of Photoshop, but I can use the template provided by my freelancer well enough to produce the images, and the results look nice and professional.

Release Announcement – SciFi story bundles from There’s a Sword for That

Posted in Adaptability, Monsters, Monsters, And More, Release, Science Fiction - Short Stories, The Visitor, The Visitor, And More, There's a Sword for That, and Your Every Wish

I'm working on a scifi story collection called There's a Sword for That (using a fantasy motif in a scifi context — just for the fun of it). The tales come out of a weapons shop on a space station, which you can see on the cover.

The collection won't be ready for a while, so I've released a couple of two-story bundles in the meantime, for your amusement.


Monsters, And More — A Science Fiction Story Bundle

Monsters – Xenoarchaeologist Vartan has promised his young daughter Liza one of the many enigmatic lamedh objects that litter the site of a vanished alien civilization.

No one can figure out what they're good for, but Liza finds a use for one.

Adaptability – The Webster Marble Deluxe Woodsman, Model 820-E, has been offline for quite some time. Quite some time indeed.

Good thing Webster has a manual to consult, and a great many special functions.


The Visitor, And More — A Science Fiction Story Bundle

The Visitor – Felockati is anchored to his permanent location underwater and misses the days of roaming his ocean world freely.

But something new drops out of the sky and widens his horizons — all the way to the stars.

Your Every Wish – Stealing the alien ambassador's dagger is a sure thing for Pete — just what he needs to pay off his debts.

Until he starts talking to it. There has to be a way to get something for himself out of the deal. Has to be.

The Visitor was previous published in Strange Horizons.

Release Announcement — Second Sight, a science fiction short story

Posted in Release, Science Fiction, and Second Sight

I have a few scifi short stories lined up for release, and here's the first one — Second Sight, a story about unintended consequences.

BORROWING SOMEONE ELSE’S PERCEPTIONS FOR A POPULAR DEVICE CAN ONLY MEAN COMMERCIAL SUCCESS. RIGHT?

Samar Dix, the inventor of the popular DixOcular replacement eyes with their numerous enhancements, has run out of ideas and needs another hit. Engaging a visionary painter to create the first in a series of Artist models promises to yield an entirely new way of looking at his world.

But looking through another’s eyes isn’t quite as simple as he thinks, and no amount of tweaking will yield entirely predictable, or safe, results.

 


More information, including links to retailers.

No ghosts here

Posted in A Writer's Desk

Click for larger image

Typically one speaks of being surrounded by ghosts. Where I live, however, the ghosts are surrounded by us. So are the ghosthunters.

We live in an log cabin, built by Christian Baughman. In 1812 he took out a warrant for a hollow tucked into the base of the Allegheny Front in central Pennsylvania. To convert a warrant on a piece of land, you needed to survey it and make improvements, and the cabin was part of those improvements. He patented the property in 1812 and Baughman Hollow Farm came into being.

Baughman Hollow Farm was originally about 400 acres that started at the head of the hollow and spread down to the south and east. In the next generation, the farm was divided among the children, and then Dr. Robert Piper (1865-1936) began reassembling pieces of it in the late 19th and early 20th century before he passed it along to Cosmo Mannino, the “Banana King” (1879-1965). By the time we acquired the place from the Mannino estate, in the early 80s, and did a bit of reassembly of our own, it was back to about 300 acres, though no longer a working farm.

The road originally ran up the hollow on the west, turned to the right to run along the base of the Allegheny Front, past the cabin and the barn, and then turned right again to run back down the hollow, to Van Scoyoc road, at the site of the famous circus train wreck. In 1840, John Baughman, son of Christian, donated a bit of ground just above that last turn, at the head of the hollow, to serve as a cemetery. Baughman Cemetery is currently run by an association founded in 1926, and it's still active despite its small size.

It's a tiny cemetery, dominated by the names of local families who are still in the area. Their relatives come by to visit on holidays or just to pass the time, some on ATVs from the adjacent hollows down the old part of the Baughman Hollow Road which is now an internal farm road.

Our farm surrounds it entirely, on all sides. The little patch with its slumbering graves is raised above the surrounding land and sheltered by the Allegheny Front. The cemetery is closed from dusk to dawn so that everyone can rest in peace. It's a quiet, tranquil, private place, as little country cemeteries tend to be.

Or it would be, if it weren't for the ghosthunters. Or the teenagers desperate for a place to party or make out. Or the transactions in illicit substances. Some weekend nights, it feels like we get all three simultaneously.

I'm not sure which is worse, but the ghosthunters are high on the list. You see, Baughman Cemetery is famous in the community of credulity.

    • Tyrone Ghost Hunters — note that this features both ghosthunters and teenagers, so it's a twofer.
    • Haunts of Blair County — it makes all the lists.
    • The Pennsylvania Ghost & Paranormal Research Team — I can't tell you how often I've wished we'd installed some microphones and speakers from the cabin so that we could respond to the flashing lights of the ghosthunters with some spooky wails from hidden locations. I know that my dogs who wake us up in the middle of the night to tell us about the shenanigans outside would agree.

      (We may do this yet…)

I have some sympathy for the teenagers — I was that age once — though I have to wonder about the sensibilities of bringing a hot date to a cemetery to make out. Drunken parties are more reasonable.

But I have to draw the line at vandalism. The maintenance shed was destroyed recently, and that requires real money from real people to repair. And then there was the sit-around-the-campfire-and-tell-spooky-stories party that ended up with a burning car in the midst of our woods. We were lucky it burned slowly.

Nope, haven't seen a single ghost. All the lights, moans, and hiccups have human origins.

 

 

Looking for a tune

Posted in Audiobook, Tales of Annwn, and Under the Bough

That's usually a topic for my fiddling website, but not this time.

This year I'm planning to do several of my audio books. That includes the stories from Tales of Annwn, and one of those (Under the Bough) includes a song.

I better come up with a tune for it. Oops.

It's a rollicking drunks-at-the-wedding sort of ditty. If any readers would care to make suggestions, I'll be glad to consider them before rolling my own, and give you a credit in the audiobook. Welsh or general Celtic styling is what I have in mind.


What did she see in him?
Who could explain?
Another full glass,
And we’ll not mind the pain.
Pain, no pain,
Again and again,
Another full glass,
And we’ll not mind the pain.

Over and under him,
Country or town,
Give us one more
And we’ll drink it right down.
Down, down,
Away with her gown.
Give us one more
And we’ll drink it right down.

Lift up your glasses,
And do what is right.
Wish them the best,
Of both day and of night.
Night, night,
An inspiring sight,
Wish them the best,
Of both day and of night.


The year of the audiobook

Posted in Audiobook, Goals, Production, and Publishing

I've made up my mind. This will be the year I publish audiobook editions of all my titles.

So far, only To Carry the Horn has an audiobook edition. (I've written about producing it here.) I did the narration myself, and I relied upon a local music studio to do the recording.

I'm pleased with the quality of the result, and the reviews are favorable. I've even had a few fans contact me looking for more — but I've balked at producing the rest of them because of the cost of the studio work.

Today, however, my friend Katie persuaded me otherwise.

Here's why…

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm planning on writing several entries in the new series, The Affinities of Magic, before publishing them at the beginning of 2018, one every month or two. I think that'll be an interesting experiment in building momentum, and I should be able to manage 4-6 entries before my publishing schedule catches up with my writing. Since it's a new series, I'm hoping my readers won't mind too much waiting a little bit to begin it, if I can saturate them with new entries from the start.

It also lets me experiment with pre-orders, and all the marketing related to that, since I'll have plenty of time to line those dates up.

The bad part of that, for me, is that it means I won't be publishing much except a few shorter works in 2017, and sales tend to drop when no new titles come out.

Katie suggested putting up the missing audiobook editions (as well as audiobooks for the new series ahead of time). That would give me new editions to publish and keep the momentum going for 2017. It's a great idea.

We kicked around the idea of getting local college or high school media interns to help out, but then I realized nothing was really keeping me from just doing the whole thing myself. Nothing that I couldn't solve if I tried.

What's been stopping me from setting up a home studio is that I'm living in a tiny 1812 log cabin, and there's no room that's out of reach of the hot air furnace, and only one where the television is inaudible.

I don't have a good place to set up as a studio, with sound insulation and all the rest — not without making everyone else tiptoe around to accommodate it. It's not like we have a spare closet.

Desktop microphone isolation stand

But, you know, technology marches on. The popularity of podcasting has created a demand for gear that can create a mini-environment for recording on a desktop. If all the noise that reaches the mike is controlled, maybe the entire room doesn't have to be deadened like a real studio.

I'm an audiophile as a consumer, but not as a producer. I can grope my way around an audio editor program like Goldwave because I'm also a fiddler and I needed a tool to clean up workshop recordings, but that's a far cry from being an audio engineer. On the other hand, this is spoken word, not multi-track music.

What's one more learning curve for an indie author and publisher, eh?

I'll have to wait until spring is far enough along that I can shut the furnace down for a couple of hours at a time, but by then I expect to have a portable home studio set up for less than the cost of engaging an audio professional to do the work for me for a single book.

And then I'll start cranking them out.

Writer by day, and narrator by night.

Every story needs its own world

Posted in Artwork, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Every story needs its own world and, if you're writing fantasy or scifi, that world has to be built.

I started Structures of Earth not quite two years ago, then put it on pause to write the Chained Adept series first (see background). At the time, I had a vivid image of the river town where the action was happening — the capital city for the country in which the story is set, rather the way London functions for England.

But where was that country, and what place in what world did it occupy?

One thing I learned from The Chained Adept — it's fun (and not too hard) to build a world map for a series and much better to do it at the start rather than to try and retrofit one after most of the story is done. That way, the “real world” constraints can ground the story and drive some of the plot logistics issues.

The world of The Affinities of Magic is a new world, and it needs its own maps. I took Fractal Terrains 3 out for a spin last night and started seeding the world settings until I found one I liked.

The world of The Affinities of Magic

Here's what that globe looks like if you unroll it, with a pointer showing where my temperate northern hemisphere initial city is located. (I haven't designated any national/imperial boundaries yet.)

One thing is already clear — there will be large differences between the cultures on the inner sea and those with access by water to the rest of the world. That inner sea may be 4200 miles wide, but it's still a restricted body of water, warm equatorial water, and the ecosystem in and around it will be unique.

See? That's something I didn't know before I generated this map. Hadn't even thought about it.