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Milestone! My First (Sort Of) Negative Review!

Ok, so I’m probably weird to be excited about it, but The Stone and the Song just got its first 2-star review on Amazon, and I’m actually feeling kind of bubbly. Am I crazy? Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. It’s a review. Right now my big goal is to get 25+ Amazon reviews. While I obviously prefer good ones, every Stone and Song Cover 4 - High Resolutionreview adds weight and validity to the book’s presence on Amazon. Every review is a visible indicator to every future reader ever that someone read it and cared enough to talk about it. And, while it’s probably a bit of a fallacy, I think every review adds to the invisible implied crowd of many other readers who didn’t review it.

2. It’s a rite of passage. Since I’m breaking into the publishing world after self-publishing became really viable, I have pretty minimal experience of getting rejection letters. My plan back in the day was to collect them and set goals to reach a certain number. I never got that chance, so a negative review is one small way to join the universal brotherhood of authors in facing rejection graciously. (My writer character Zen, in the meantime, does collect his rejection letters, and writes thank-you notes for them along with his next submission.)

3. It adds legitimacy. Because seriously, as good as it is to have all 4- and 5-star reviews, until you hit some pretty serious numbers that just looks like you got a bunch of friends to say nice things about you, even if that’s not at all the case. Or, as it may be, only sort of the case.

4. My rating can take it. If most of my reviews were negative, it would be getting pretty hard to take around now. But Stone & Song had a 4.8 rating before this and has a 4.5 now. For a minor, early work, I’ll really be satisfied with anything above a 3.5. Well, ok, anything above a 4.0. But still. I admit I’m a little sad this took the visual down from 5 stars to 4 1/2, but xkcd is a comfort in times like this.

5. For a negative review, it’s pretty positive. The main thrust of the review is something like, “Seems like he’s trying to do something interesting here, but I didn’t really get it.” For a bad review, that’s not half bad. If that’s the worst thing a reader sees when she checks the negative reviews, I’m in good shape. Especially in the context of the other reviews which, if I may paraphrase, say something like, “He’s doing something really interesting here!”

In short, many thanks to Voracious Reader for taking the time to read my story and leave a thoughtful review, and thank you to the (so far) 10 other reviewers for your thrillingly kind words. I deeply appreciate it.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you haven’t read The Stone and the Song yet, you can get it here. If you have read it, it would make my day (and help other readers) if you add your review: Amazon | Goodreads. Thanks!

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Snow Day! Commence the Hubris!

Baltimore is partway through the process of receiving somewhere in the area of a foot of snow, and I got a half day off of work! Sort of a test run of the full-time writing life. Can I actually be productive with large chunks of free time?

Phase 1 says yes. Bill and I got together and sketched out season 1 of Hubris Towers. Overall arc, eight episode summaries, and hooks for the future. And while I can’t give too much away yet, it’s killer. I don’t remember the last time I’ve laughed so much. I seriously cannot wait to start getting this series out.

Phase 2 is a little iffier. Once he went home I had about 45 minutes to write more words on Frobisher. I’ve written this blog post and watched some Comedy Central clips. Not a great sign, because now I have to go be responsible. Still, day’s not over yet. And the snow’s not either.

Snow day tomorrow? Please?

In the meantime, here’s a neat article about a Chrome Extension that lets you see the way your writing in a Google Doc progressed, one keystroke at a time: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/watch-me-write-this-article/

Cheers!

—Ben

Book Survey! Calling All Serial Lovers

I’m starting to plan out a couple upcoming projects and I’d love your feedback. Two of them will probably be released in serial form (episodes released regularly then bundled into books or seasons) and I want to figure out what will give the best reader experience.

I’m really excited about the projects. They are, in no particular order:

  • The Dream World Collective, which you can currently read for free here. It’s kind of like Friends with more art, geekery, and tea.
  • Hubris Towers, still very early in the process but looking hilarious. It’s leaning toward sort of a comedy of manners meets comedy of errors in the tradition (I hope) of P. G. Wodehouse. “Luxury Living at Hubris Towers: Isn’t it time you got what you really deserve?”

Here’s what I’m trying to figure out about how to structure them. What do you think? Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear from you!

  1. How frequently should episodes come out? Weekly? Monthly? Fortnightly?
  2. How many pages long should an episode be? (Or how many pages per month should I release?)
  3. What’s a good price per episode?

For reference, I’m leaning toward something like one 50- to 75-page episode per month, sold for $2.99, with every 6 (or maybe 12) episodes bundled into a book/season/novel and sold at a discount.

If you know anyone who loves serials, please send them my way so I can get their feedback too. Thanks!

Also, about yesterday? I ended up writing a thousand words yesterday and a thousand today. Haven’t made up for Monday and Tuesday, but it’s good to be back on track and adding to Frobisher.

January Bonus Bundle, Stone & Song Edits, and New Dream World Collective Excerpt (FREE!)

Yesterday’s goals were big. I knew it going in. So I’ve got good news and bad news.

I did finish Kitchen Adventures, the hardest part of my patron-only January Bonus Bundle. And it turned out hilarious. Among other things, Otto coined the term (or maybe it’s a real one he knows and I don’t) gruemelliere, which he alleges is French for gruelsmith. Maybe you had to be there.

In any case, that’s done but I still have to finish Sushi’s character sketch and an episode of A Modest Contribution on the history of the moustache—my rule for these is that I can’t do any research beforehand, nor can the characters. History is written by the quick-witted.

The really good news, though, is that I finished the entire manuscript edit for The Stone and the Song, including a few key plot tweaks and clarifications and about 20,000 words of editing. Brilliant! The editing is usually quick with me, as I have a pretty good eye for it and tend to write fairly polished prose anyway, but I was nervous about the plot fixes and not sure how much time they’d end up taking.

Today I don’t have as much time to give to writing work, but I’d like to at least knock out the rest of the bonus bundle. That’s about 1,000 easy words for A Modest Contribution plus a pretty unpredictable word count and formatting time for Sushi’s excerpt. Stretch goal is to also finish the CTAs and Dream World Collective excerpt for Stone & Song. If I can get that done I could conceivably have the book up for pre-order tonight. Tonight! We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s the latest from the Dream World Collective: Dream World Collective, Ch. 46-51

(Or click here to start at the beginning.)

Enjoy!

—Ben

Under the Moonlight Was Magic and Mystery

Ok, everyone. It’s time for the next big experiment.

I’m about to publish my first story on Amazon, just a short project to start getting a sense of how it works. I can’t wait to share what I learn with you. [UPDATE: The title is picked, the cover is done, and I’ve some got early findings on the process of posting to Amazon! Read more here.]

In the meantime, I’m trying to decide on a title and I’d love your input. (See survey below.)

The project is a fairy tale about a voiceless girl who has to defeat the sorceress who betrayed her – but how can she weave magic if she can’t sing? Enter a sculptor of near-living statues, a fakir with the power of sight, and a band of children chasing dreams in the desert. And at the center of it all, a heart of stone that may hold the secret of unending life. It’s a story of betrayal and of sacrifice, of love and of dreams.

Which title do you think fits best? Which would you be most interested in reading? Vote below or leave me a comment. Thanks! I’m so grateful to have wonderful readers like you along for this exciting ride!

[UPDATE: The survey is closed. The title of the story is The Stone and the Song, and I’m really excited about how the cover design turned out. See it here! Yay!]

The Dream World Collective

I’m writing a novel about Summer, Zen, Otto, Sushi, and Alex, and I want to share it with you.

Summer likes gardening (and Alex) and Sushi paints and punches people and Zen likes hammocks and Otto’s a geek. And Alex is a boss. Or he’s about to be. But is that really the goal?

Anyway, just read this first part. It’s a quick read. If you’re not hooked by the end of it, no worries. If you are, there’s 100+ more pages waiting for you and more coming soon (for free!)

And it’s cozy and funny and it gets surprisingly deep. I really think you’ll like it. Here’s the PDF. Or you can get it for Kindle, Nook, etc. (Mobi and ePub) here—Wordpress won’t let me upload those formats. Happy Friday!

DWC 1 Text Art Flat