Weekly Update – May 3, 2016

Welcome to the new website! Today is the official relaunch but I’ll be fine-tuning things, so please be patient while I work out the kinks and polish things up. Now, onto business…

WRITING PROJECTS

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Revisions continue. I’m into act two, but with my weekends occupied with the Connecticut Renaissance Faire for the next five weeks, progress will be on the slow side. I’ve sent my artist Tricia some notes for the cover, and I’ve worked up a first version of the back cover text, which goes a little something like this…

You’re invited to the wedding of the year! In lieu of gifts, the bride and groom humbly ask that you do not try to murder them.

After barely surviving Habbatarr the lich-lord and the Dead City of Hesre, Derek Strongarm and Felix Lightfoot and their companions are ready for a well-deserved rest. All they want is some good food, cold beer, a warm bed, and maybe a few days without someone trying to kill them.

And then they encounter a damsel in distress and, well, so much for that idea.

The damsel in question is the Lady Alyssa Spendle, a spoiled noble promised to Lord Paradim as part of a brokered political marriage, and the distress comes in the form of a determined group of kidnappers looking to make a quick profit off Alyssa’s ransom.

But Derek and Felix learn there’s much more to the plot, and the heroes soon find themselves entangled in a vast conspiracy that threatens to topple a kingdom and take them down in the process.

Get ready for another wild adventure with Strongarm and Lightfoot as they fight for their lives against backstabbing thieves, cutthroat mercenaries, the crime lords known as the Seven Jewels, and the mysterious assassin Ruined Isys.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl is the second book in the irreverent fantasy series by author Michael Bailey (Action Figures), a tale filled with noble heroes, dastardly villains, a colorful secondary cast, mildly interesting background characters, a bunch of people who don’t even get names, political intrigue, thrilling action, and snarky asides that don’t advance the plot much but keep things from getting too serious.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: About a quarter of the way through the first draft.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

The author, fellow writer J.M. Aucoin, and our sales associate Beatrix.
The author, fellow writer J.M. Aucoin, and our sales associate Beatrix.

MISC.

J.M. Aucoin and I sold and signed a few books at the OtherWhere Spring Steam Affair on Saturday. Wasn’t a busy day but it was a fun little event, and we definitely had the best assistant in the world in the form of my dog Beatrix.

Changes Coming!

Under ConstructionHappy Friday Jr., everyone. Just letting everyone know that I’m working on some overdue updates to the website, so things around here may be wonky for a while. Wonkiness may include broken links as I update pages I plan to keep and delete pages that no longer serve a purpose. The end result, in theory, will be a better-looking and more user-friendly site.

 

The Action Figures Diversity Report 2016

Two years ago, I decided to take a look through my Action Figures series to see how the cast was shaping up in terms of diversity and representation.

This bit of introspection was prompted by the American Gods TV series, then in the early stages of development (now in the casting stage, if you haven’t been keeping tabs on it). Neil Gaiman took a firm stand on the principle that the producers should honor the novel’s racial diversity, and that got me to thinking about how my cast of characters stacked up in terms of diversity.

I repeated the exercise last year to see if I’d stayed the course, if not improved upon matters. I’m doing it again this year for the same reason. I’m honestly not looking for any pats on the back for being mindful of presenting a variety of genders (and gender identities), races, sexual orientations, etc., but I do want to keep myself honest, and putting all this down in writing helps me better assess the state of things.

What I do find gratifying is how my readers accept cast diversity without question or, better yet, without resistance. Only once has someone chided me for being “too P.C.”, specifically because I made it clear some of my main characters were from the LGBTQ community — and at least that individual didn’t go the extra mile and accuse me of “pandering” to non-straight white male audiences, so I’ll file that one in the “There’s Still Hope” folder.

So here’s the main cast line-up as it stands as of the latest book (Issue Five: Team-Ups), so be warned there might be mild spoilers if you haven’t read too far into the series.

  • Carrie Hauser/Lightstorm: straight white female
  • Matt Steiger/Captain Trenchcoat: straight white male
  • Sara Danvers/Psyche: lesbian white female
  • Stuart Lumley: male, one-quarter African-American
  • Missy Hamill/Kunoichi: half-Japanese female
  • Edison Bose/Concorde: straight male
  • Bart Connors/Mindforce: gay white male
  • Natalie Guerrero/Nina Nitro: straight Hispanic female
  • Astrid Enigma/Dr. Enigma: bisexual white female
  • Dr. Gwendolyn Quentin/Doc Quantum: straight white female
  • Joe Quentin/Rockjaw Quantum: straight white male
  • Megan Quentin/Megawatt Quantum: lesbian white female
  • Kilroy Quentin/Kilowatt Quantum: straight white male
  • Farley Quentin/Final Boss: white male (sexuality TBD because he’s only six)
  • Tisha Greene/TranzSister: African-American transgender female (heterosexual by virtue of her current gender)

So really, nothing has changed here since last year. However, with Team-Ups I had the opportunity to flesh out the supporting cast a bit. I introduced Bo, Tynan, and Ashlyn, members of Kingsport High’s LGBTQ student group (they are, respectively, a bisexual white male, a bisexual African-American female, and a lesbian of unspecified ethnicity); Peggy, a potential love interest who has a mild physical disability; Zina, a Korean girl with an eye for Matt; and made Gordon, Stuart’s brother, a more prominent supporting cast member.

What still challenges and intimidates me is in how I present all these characters. I want their differences to mean something and not be throwaway elements of their characters, yet I often read how important it is for characters of color, LGTBQ characters, the disabled, etc., to simply be there. They don’t always need to have a flashing neon sign pointing out how they vary from a cis straight white “norm,” they just have to exist within the story, because visibility matters and readers will pick up on this.

Hopefully readers have noticed, and not just because I’m pointing it out now. If it takes posts like these to get readers to notice, I’d say I’m doing something wrong as a storyteller.

Weekly Update – April 26, 2016

WRITING PROJECTS

 

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Draft one is done! I finished it up last Friday, took the rest of the day and Saturday to relax a little and let my brain clear itself so I could begin draft two work on Sunday — which I did.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: About a quarter of the way through the first draft.

Steampunk OtherWhereAPPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

I was considering a whole separate post about this, but instead I’ll use this space to discuss an aspect of being an independent author that newbies often aren’t ready for, and that’s the chore of promoting themselves and their book.

What inspired this was an author brought to my attention by fellow indie author Pete Kahle (The Specimen), a writer who engaged in an absolutely staggering amount of deception and flam-flammery to generate hype for her debut (and so far only) novel. I won’t name names because I’m not out to shame anyone, and because it’s not necessary to make the points I’m going to make.

Some of the things this writer did are tactics I’ve seen a lot of other indie authors use to draw attention, like giving herself a bombastic title (“the queen of [genre]”) and boasting that her book was “an international best-seller,” but others were brazen lies, such as the completely fake New York City publishing firm backing her book (complete with website, Facebook page, and Twitter account); pull quotes from that were actually taken from the writer’s own press releases and passed off as excerpts from book reviews; pull quotes from completely fictional book reviews; a resume that claims ghostwriting credits for several unnamed major motion pictures; and the most outrageous of all, a fake top ten listicle naming her as the seventh greatest author in her genre, placing her not only in the company of some HUGE literary names, but above two well-established authors and one modern master who would need a pick-up truck to carry all the awards he’s amassed over the past quarter-century.

And remember: she has only put out one book.

I fully understand how frustrating it can be establishing yourself. There are hundreds of thousands of indie authors out there all jockeying for readers’ attention, and it can be a major challenge to get your work noticed, but there are what I’ll call, perhaps simplistically, right and wrong ways to promote yourself.

The wrongest of the wrong ways is lying outright to potential readers, whether that lie takes the form of fake reviews or false accolades or fraudulent credentials. These may get you some early attention, but the lies will come back to bite you. Remember, people talk, especially within the indie author community. People who play fair get talked up and supported by their peers, and con artists are quick to get called out and exposed. Readers will find out and they’ll avoid the book and the author, and tell their friends to do the same.

There are many right ways to go about it, and they’re so much easier than manufacturing a cult of personality around yourself. Options include paid advertising through BookBub, The Fussy Librarian, Author Shout, and more (but I’d advise against ever paying for a Facebook ad); conducting free giveaways; diligently cultivating an online presence through a website, blog, and/or social media; connecting with other indie authors to support and promote each other; seek out local events at which to sell books and meet people; writing new books so people know you’re not a one-title wonder; having faith in yourself as a writer and in the quality of your work; and simply being patient.

I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve a decent measure of success, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took a few months for people outside my circle of friends to find my first book, and months after that to realize a halfway decent royalty check from book sales, and while I consider writing my primary source of income, I’m not doing so well that I could make a comfortable living off of just my writing — but I remain hopeful that with more time, more books, and additional effort to promote myself (ethically), things will continue to improve.

Weekly Update – April 19, 2016

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Things started off a little pokey when I sat down Friday to get back to work on this, but things picked up on Saturday, and on Sunday a punched through twelve pages that finished off the climactic scenes. I just have some denouement to address, and if all goes well, I could have a finished first draft by the end of this weekend.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: About a quarter of the way through the first draft.

Steampunk OtherWhereAPPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

Things are going to slow down a lot writing-wise in a few weeks. As I’ve mentioned here previously, I’m heading back to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s Robin Hood Springtime Festival to reprise my role is Edgar, captain of Prince John’s guard. This heavily involves me acting like a dull-witted jerk and getting beaten up by the good guys a lot. While I have a lot of fun doing this show, it’s going to mean I’m away from my laptop for five or six weekends.

 

Monday Musings

Yesterday, this popped up on my Facebook feed:

FB Memory

The manuscript in question was for Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins. An agent had expressed quite a bit of interest in it, felt it had promise, and worked with me over the course of several months to flesh it out and polish it up. I spent much of that year convinced that, after years of trying and failing, I was finally on my way to becoming a published author.

And then in December of that year, I got the crushing e-mail that said, basically, the story was great but there was no market for a YA superhero series. The YA world was still enamored with Twilight and its many, many derivatives and was about to enter its “plucky heroine fights an oppressive government in a dystopian future” phase courtesy of The Hunger Games’ growing popularity, and this agent wasn’t one to take a leap of faith and support a book that wasn’t a variation on what was already popular.

(I say this not bitterly but as a plain statement of fact. The entertainment industry is filled with people who want someone else to take the risk on a new, unlike-anything-else-out-there property. Trailblazers are the exception, not the rule.)

Flash forward to about a year after the above FB post. I hadn’t written a thing outside of work-related material (I was still employed as a reporter) and had little motivation to get back to creative writing, but at the prompting of my friend Justin (fellow indie author J.M. Aucoin to the general public) I decided to take a shot at putting Secret Origins out myself. It was an experiment and I went into it with hopes but no expectations.

And here I am, four years after that post, with seven books out and several more on the way. I quit the paper and am making a living off my book sales (not an extravagant living, but I’m making money), I have fans who e-mail me to offer kind words and inquire when the next book will be out, I’m doing public appearances such as book signings and discussion panels…it’s like I’m a real author or something.

It’s hard to summarize the point of all this without resorting to some worn cliche, but I’ll do it anyway. This was a case of a door closing and a window opening, and following a road less traveled to realize a personal dream. It wasn’t how I planned or expected things to go, but taking a risk and trying something different paid off.

If you’re a creative person — be it a writer, an artist, an actor, a singer, a musician, et cetera– who finds him/herself stuck in neutral because what you’re trying now isn’t working, be brave and try a different direction. You might be pleasantly surprised at how it works out.

Weekly Update – April 12, 2016

WRITING PROJECTS

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Art and Copyright 2016 Patricia Lupien
Cheap Thrills Digest: Now on sale on this website! Go to the Buy Now page and grab a signed copy for only $6 plus shipping!

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: I took the weekend off to help my wife Veronica (of Storied Threads) work Super MegaFest in Marlborough so nothing got done here, but I plan to correct that this weekend.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: About a quarter of the way through the first draft.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

  • Saturday, April 30: The spring OtherWhere Market at Mill No. 5 in Lowell. Runs from noon until 6 PM with an after-hours party to follow. This year’s event will be part of a larger, citywide steampunk weekend.
  • Sunday, October 2: The Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s 2016 Meet the Author series, which runs from 1 to 3 PM.
  • Saturday & Sunday, October 15 & 16: The fall New Bedford Bookfest. Times TBA.

MISC.

Speaking of Super MegaFest, while there I bumped into Daniel Keohane, who I met at an event last fall at the Sharon Public Library. Daniel was at the con with the New England Horror Writers so we had a chance to chat. Good to see you again, sir!

Speaking of horror fiction, an idea I’ve had kicking around in my brain is finally starting to come together. Who knows when I’ll get to it considering what I already have on my to-do list, but the story is there (currently going under the working title of Lurking in the White).

Same goes for another project I’ve been toying with, a possible trilogy with the deceptive title of Well-Behaved Women. During a brief bout of sleeplessness yesterday I came up with a cover concept and cemented a few ideas. Now I just have to work out the story arcs of each individual book and the series as a whole. And find time to write it.