Another year over, another opportunity to look back at what I’ve achieved (or otherwise). Like any year, things haven’t always gone to plan.
My aim for 2018: to release the third book in the trilogy in the first quarter of the year.
Shadows was originally supposed to be a short series of ‘easy’ books as a palate-cleanser between writing Dominions stories, but each book required far more work than I’d envisaged. The third book, Shadowstrike, was no exception, and the editing stages involved a great deal of cutting and rewriting to reduce the overblown 160,000 word first draft to something just under 100,000. This took a lot of time, especially as I then had to do another couple of editing passes to improve the language, and I only managed to release the finished book a few months ago.
But I don’t see this as a failure. The book is far stronger for all that work—in fact, I feel that the Shadows series contains some of my best writing to date. And readers seem to enjoy the books—I received a cery positive review for Shadowfall, and my Kindle Unlimited page reads suggest that readers who start Book One generally continue on to finish the whole trilogy.
I was going to leave this series as a trilogy, but I’m rethinking this now. I might have more to report on that at a later date.
My aim for 2018: to release Dominions IV and V along with a couple of supporting stories, and to start work on Dominions VI.
Well, that never happened.
I already had an almost-finished version of Riled Dogs (Dominions IV), although I wasn’t ready to complete it because I planed to release IV and V close together. But with Shadowstrike taking far longer than expected, I knew I wasn’t going to get round to Dominions V before the second half of the year. And Deep Water (Dominions III) came out at the end of 2016—could I really leave over 2 years between that and the rest of the series?
So between edits on Shadowstrike I worked on Riled Dogs. This didn’t require too much—a quick polish, an external edit, and then all the formatting and finalising stuff (I already had a cover, and I’d been throwing around ideas for the product description for some time). I published the finished version back in March.
I also had a short that I’d originally written when I started work on Riled Dogs. This took a few more edits to complete, but being a short story, this didn’t take as long, and I was able to release Animus (A Dominions Story) as another free gift to my mailing list (although this will probably go on general release fairly soon).
When I’d completed Shadowstrike, I set to work on Dominions V. But I’d been enveloped in the world of Shadows for too long, and I needed to reacquaint myself with Dominions. I decided to re-read all the older books, and started (where else?) with Dark Glass (Dominions I).
And I wasn’t impressed.
This book came out in the summer of 2016, but was finished back in 2015. Three years further on, any my writing’s improved—and the state of Dark Glass made this obvious. The main character was passively carried along by the plot for most of the time, the story moved slowly, and the writing was overblown. And this was the first book in what I intend to be a nine-book series. How did I expect readers to pick up the second book if the first wasn’t a good read?
I couldn’t let this stand. I needed to re-write Dark Glass.
This had been my project for the last few months of 2018, and I’m far happier with the new version. It’s almost finished, and should be out early next year.
I’m constantly learning in this area, and had some success with KU free days and a Kobo promotion. But paid advertising is becoming more necessary, with Amazon especially leaning towards a ‘pay to play’ environment. Over early December I ran a few Amazon Ads for Shadowfall, but without success. I had quite a few impressions (meaning that the cover showed up when potential readers were searching for what I considered to be similar books), but hardly anyone clicked (under 1%). I believe this is down to the cover, and after a lot of consideration I’ve decided that all the Shadows covers need to change.
Back in 2017, MLS Weech sent out a call for stories inspired by the First Amendment, to be included in an anthology he was putting together. He accepted my story (Ghost Stream), and then started an intense editing process that stretched into 2018. It was a lot of work, but it’s definitely made the story stronger (and I learnt a great deal from the whole process).
The release of The Power Of Words was at the start of October, and we had a Facebook party—the first time I’ve been involved with one of them. We’ve garnered a few decent reviews, and I’m proud to be a part of this anthology. There’s also an audio version—and listening to someone else narrate my own story was an eye-opening (ear-opening?) experience. It was like discovering a new story, and it’s pushed me further down the road to getting audio versions of my other stuff.
I’ve continued to post a new story under 1000 words on my website every couple of weeks. I did have a break in the summer (putting out posts connecting the stories by themes instead), but I finished the year with my 60th of these shorts, and have just compiled the last twenty into another collection (Millenary 3). I’ve also continued to post various thoughts/musings on reading and writing, keeping up my schedule of putting something new on the website every week.
So that’s been my year in writing/publishing. Two novels released, a couple of shorts (including a very long one) in anthologies, and more shorts and posts on the website. Not the year I’d envisaged, but I’ve learnt and I’ve developed. I’m a stronger writer now, and I’ve increased my understanding of marketing and the business side of independent publishing. Re-writing Dark Glass, while appearing to be a backward step, will put the series on firmer foundations. It’s also given me the courage to accept that the Shadows covers weren’t helping sales of those books.
And I have plans for 2019, some more formed than others (and some little more than sparks of ideas at the moment). But I’ll tell you about them next time.