The Best Week Ever – The Follow-Upening

This week stands to be a lot less eventful than last week, but that’s okay. I can’t run on full burn like that all the time.

First, thanks very much to everyone for their support throughout the countdown to the release of Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups. Release day was great, not only because the book got off to a strong start (it landed in the top ten of three Amazon best-seller lists) but because so many of you blasted through the book within a matter of hours — yes, hours — of purchasing it and contacted me via this site and Facebook to let me know how much you enjoyed it. That’s always gratifying and humbling, so again, thank you.

There were also quite a few inquiries about the next installation, Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play, and when it might be out. One lesson I learned from Team-Ups was to be cautious about setting release dates prematurely, so what I’ll say is this: it’s in the pre-editing phase, so it’ll be a few months before the manuscript is ready, and then it’ll be up to my cover artist Tricia to do her thing. As I wrote here a while ago, this process can take several months depending on several factors, many of which are beyond my control. Optimistically speaking? Book six could be out in the last quarter of 2016.

At some point before that, Character References will be released, and you should definitely keep tabs on that project because I have something special in mind for my regular readers.

Next to finally, I’m happy to announce that Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women is now available for non-Kindle e-readers for the first time, and directly through me for the first time. Jump over to the Buy Now page and you can pick up Black Magic Women in epub or mobi format directly from me.

An added note for those of you who already own Black Magic Women for the Kindle: as part of formatting the book for e-readers, I took the time to address some unfortunate issues with the Kindle version. When I first released book two I had yet to learn how to do the formatting myself so I had CreateSpace take care of it. The results were less than stellar and it’s always bugged me. Those issues have (hopefully) been fixed, so you Kindle owners should have automatically received the updated file.

Finally finally, Tricia is finishing up the back cover art for the print edition of Team-Ups, and I got this sketch this morning of Nina Nitro, and I am jazzed to see the finished version. Enjoy!

Art and copyright 2016 Patricia Lupien.
Art and copyright 2016 Patricia Lupien.

Best Week Ever! Part Four

It’s cover reveal time!

My cover artist, Tricia Lupien, spent the week plugging away on the cover to make sure I had it for this week and she came through with flying colors, as always. Here is the fruit of her labor:Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00018]

Now that the cover is finished, that can only mean one thing: Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups is ready for release! The Kindle edition should be live on Amazon.com within 24 hours, so keep your eyes peeled — or go to my Amazon Author Central page and you can sign up to receive notices when Team-Ups (or any other book by me) hits the virtual bookshelf. The print edition will probably be available next week after Tricia finishes up the back cover art and I go through the process of getting and reviewing my proof copy.

And remember, everyone, Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins is free for the Kindle for two more days. Get a friend hooked!

The Weekend Report

While my wife was off at Arisia this past afternoon, selling all the Storied Threads things, I hunkered in to work on the latest round of revisions for Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer. I have one test-reader still unheard from, so it’s not ready for editing yet, but my hope is to have it off for its final proofread by next weekend at the latest.

I also got to work on draft one of Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups, because I’m obsessive like that.

The other news from the weekend was quite the ego boost. Some time ago my father-in-law, who works at the Northfield Middle/High School in Northfield, Vermont loaned a copy of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins to a student, who, I’m told, devoured it. The young man in fact loved it so much, he asked the school librarian to include it in the school catalog. That led to a donation request, which I happily honored, so now the first three books in the series are available in the school library for all to read!

Needless to say, I’m flattered and honored that this came about. It may not sound like a huge deal, but it means a lot to me, that someone loved the books so much that he wanted to share them with his friends and classmates. These are the kind of shows of support that help keep me, and other indie authors, going, so thank you!

Meet Carrie Hauser

My friend and fellow author J.M. Aucoin invited me to take part in a “blog hop” project, which I thought was pretty cool in concept: an author answers seven questions about the main character in his/her current or upcoming novel, tags off to another author, who then does the same thing. So, here is my entry.

First, I formally accept the tag-off from Justin, whose entry is right here, and tag off to T. Michelle Nelson, who previously interviewed me for her blog, and Amy Rachiele, who interviewed me for her Uxbridge Community TV show Book Talk.

Now, for the seven questions…

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Small Headshot
Artwork by Patricia Lupien.

My protagonist’s name is Caroline Dakota Hauser, but her friends call her Carrie. She’s fictional, but inspired by many young ladies I’ve met through various professional channels who possess her more positive traits: intelligence, maturity, independence, and self-confidence.

2) When and where is the story set?

The when is “now-ish,” meaning the present day, but it’s not anchored in a specific year. The where is Kingsport, a fictional community on the South Shore of Massachusetts.

3) What should we know about him/her?

Carrie is the daughter of recently divorced parents, and she moved to Kingsport with her mother, who was looking to start a new life. Carrie is very much her father’s daughter, and her love of Bruce Springsteen, James Bond movies, and The Hobbit were all inherited from her dad. Her stubborn streak and tendency to argue she inherited from her mother.

More importantly, she has super-powers, which she received from a dying extraterrestrial she chanced across (hey, things like this happen all the time in comic book universes). After moving to Kingsport, she was discovered by a group of super-powered teens, and joined them to form the Hero Squad (she didn’t choose the name).

final front_nocover

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

I’m answering these two together, because they tie into one another quite closely.

Carrie, like a lot of teenagers, is simply trying to figure out who she is, but a lot of people interfere with her attempts at self-discovery: well-intentioned adults like her parents and teachers, who often don’t listen to what she wants for herself; those with more selfish motivations, such as schoolmates who simply want to tear her down; and super-villains who want her (or rather, her alter-ego Lightstorm) dead.

However, while these and other obstacles make Carrie’s journey much, much more difficult, they keep her focused and driven. By trying to deny her what she wants for herself, her challenges only make her more determined.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

Again, taking two related questions at once.

There are two full novels already available: Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins, and Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women. You can read the first two chapters on this website (check out the links on the left), as well as a free short story here.

Work on book three is already underway, and the working title for that is Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect. My goal is to have it finished and out by this fall.

Debut #1: Action Figures – Issue Two For The Kindle!

Check it out!

AF2 Screencap

That’s right, the Kindle edition of Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women is now available on Amazon! Just in time to coincide with the final day of the free giveaway for Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins!

Want to grab it? Then click the “buy now” link at the top of the page, and it’ll take you to Amazon.

Odds And Ends

With the manuscript for Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women out to my editor, it’s time to move on to the cover, which is proving something of a challenge.

Coming up with a concept for the cover of book one was remarkably simple; it was one of those “it just popped into my head” moments, and even after giving the concept some cooling-off time, to see if it was still a good idea once the thrill that comes with the act of artistic creation died down, it held up. I threw the idea over to my cover artist Tricia Lupien, and she nailed it right away.AF Cover

The cover achieved what I wanted it to achieve: it hinted at the nature of the story without spelling it out. It also avoided the trap I see on so many other novel covers: it wasn’t such an abstract image that it told you absolutely nothing about the story.

It further avoided another trap common to self-published novels, in that it wasn’t absolutely wretched (like these regrettable entries).

Book one was such a cakewalk, I assumed I’d have similar luck with book two, but no. I wanted to utilize the same approach and present a cover that teased the story, but every concept I came up with didn’t stand up to the cooling-off test — mostly because the end result would have been a crowded image. I’m not a great artist, but I grasp composition well enough (thanks in large part to my time at the Kubert School) to know when an image is too cluttered.

While it pains me to do so, I asked Tricia to play with something more general, that drew inspiration from some of the more familiar comic cover tropes (i.e., the hero walking away, as if in defeat, a la “Spider-Man No More!”; or the anguished hero cradling the body of a dead comrade, a la “I love my dead Dark Phoenix!”). The back cover will now serve the intended original purpose of the front.

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In case you missed it, which you may have because I didn’t post anything here, the print edition of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins is now available at Barnes & Noble’s website!

AF on BandNLast month I submitted the novel to B&N hoping to have it added to their catalog of in-store items, but apparently its sales need to be better for that. However, they added the book to their website, so I’ll take that as a minor victory.

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To tweet or not to tweet is the question I’m asking myself.

Full disclosure, I hate Twitter. I simply don’t get it. It’s like Facebook for the ADD crowd, with the self-absorption factor cranked up to 11. I’m as guilty as anyone for posting trivial fluff on my personal Facebook page, but Twitter, to me, always seems to encourage people to report on their every little activity (“Just peed in nastiest restroom ever #employeesmustbleachself”).

Yet, like any social media outlet, it has a lot of potential as a marketing tool, which is why I encouraged my wife to set up a Twitter account for Storied Threads.

Apparently, a lot of indie writers are turning to Twitter, sometimes in favor of Facebook, to promote their work, mainly because Twitter feeds every post to every follower, unlike Facebook, which decided to monetize news feeds by limiting what people see from pages they’ve liked, thus encouraging people to drop money to expand their posts’ visibility.

The question is, do I take advantage of a viable marketing tool, or cling to my distaste for the Twitter platform?

Of course I’m going to swallow my contempt in order to pimp myself. Duh. Go follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MCBaileyWriter

Action Figures – Issue Two – An Introduction

Benchmark time! Draft four of Action Figures – Issue Two is done, and now it’s off to my editor-slash-sister-in-law Tori for a final review. That means it’s time to start chatting this thing up.

So, what happened in book one?

Well, you could always buy a copy and read it, but if you’re going to be that way…

In Action Figures – Issue One – Secret Origins, we met the Hero Squad, a group of aspiring super-heroes — Carrie “Lightstorm” Hauser, Matt “Captain Trenchcoat” Steiger, Sara “Psyche” Danvers, Stuart “Superbeast” Lumley, and Missy “Kunoichi” Hamill — as they embarked on their first adventure. The teens ran afoul of Archimedes, a renegade artificial intelligence; the deadly mercenary Manticore; the mysterious mastermind known simply as the Foreman; and local super-hero Concorde, leader of the Protectorate, who tried (and failed) to ground the fledgling super-team.

What’s book two about?

Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women picks up a few days after the events of issue one. There’s no rest for the weary Squad as they find themselves in the middle of a feud between the necromancer Black Betty and Dr. Enigma, the Protectorate’s expert of all things magical and supernatural. The prize is the Libris Infernalis, a book of powerful dark magic — powerful enough to summon ancient demon-gods capable of laying waste to the planet.

What else happens?

The team learns more about their super-human capabilities thanks to Doc Quantum, leader of the Quantum Quintet and one of the world’s greatest minds; Missy undergoes some frightening changes; the Squad meets the Entity, the Protectorate’s mysterious fifth member; and Nina Nitro shows Carrie what it takes to play in the super-hero big leagues.

There’s also a little bit of romance in store for Carrie, but I would like to assure readers, there are and will continue to be NO LOVE TRIANGLES.

Hey, man, why the hate for love triangles?

One: they’re overdone. Every bloody YA series has a love triangle, it seems. Two: they’re a cheap, lazy way to generate tension in a story. There are better, more interesting ways to explore romance in a story than simply playing the Archie-Betty-Veronica card. Three: they can overwhelm the other, more important things going on in the story. In The Hunger Games series, the idea of a young girl being forced into government-sanctioned gladiatorial games gets overshadowed in media stories by the Katniss-Peeta-Gale triangle. Oh, yes, let’s focus on the cutesy romance instead, downplay the tragic death of hundreds of children over generations in the name of keeping the poor in their place.

But I digress…

Anything else I should know?

Make sure to read the acknowledgements in the back of the book, because I’ll be adding a little Easter egg for readers.

When will book two be available?

My goal is to have it out in March. That will depend in large part on how quickly my editor and my cover artist finish their respective jobs. I don’t like to be pushy or set hard deadlines on people who have other, more important responsibilities, so things will wrap up when they wrap up.

Will the book be available for the Kindle?

It will, although the e-book version will probably come out after the print edition. Formatting the manuscript for Kindle is a whole ‘nother project in itself.

Stay tuned for updates as they become available!

To Market, To Market

My wife (Veronica of Storied Threads) is away this weekend, peddling her wares at Arisia in Boston, so I’ll have two days to myself, and I’ll be spending those finishing up a marketing plan.

I know: exciting stuff, right? Well, it’s already proven a very interesting exercise.

Pitchbook Pg3 copy
A sample page from the “pitchbook,” a presentation to B&N that will, hopefully, convince them to kick out the latest teen vampire romance series and give my novel some shelf space.

The reason for this little project: Barnes & Noble has a program for independent authors and small presses, wherein B&N vets indie books for possible sale at their brick-and-mortar stores, which is of course a huge deal. Part of the submission process is providing a detailed marketing plan, and while I have operated under an informal, in-my-brain plan, I never committed anything to paper (or screen, as the case may be) that really spell out what my goals and target audience are.

And I do have a target audience, which is a crucial point. Sure, I’d love to say Action Figures has the potential to become adored by people in every demographic, but I know that’s not true, and doesn’t help me at all when it comes to marketing my book; I need to concentrate on a core audience of those readers most likely to flock to a YA super-hero story (a piece of advice I recently shared with fellow indie author Robert Rowland, and would be foolish to ignore in my own efforts).

What is my core audience? Geeks, in particular geek girls, who are increasingly hungry for superhero stories featuring a female lead, and are tired of their adventure stories getting bogged down by distracting love triangles subplots. To be mercenary about it, geek girls remain a largely untapped market, because corporate head honchos are, by and large, middle-aged men who insist girls don’t like this kind of stuff (ask Paul Dini about his experiences with know-nothing executives).

My hope is that whoever at B&N makes the decision to put indie authors on the shelves will see the potential here, and give me a shot. The process takes about six weeks, so I won’t know what’s going on until around my birthday in March. I can think of no better present than to see Action Figures in Barnes & Noble stores nationwide.

Action Figures – Issue Two – Progress Report

I’ve reached one of the “hurry up and wait” points in the process, when I can’t get much work done on the manuscript because my test-readers are busy doing their jobs.

I did receive some initial feedback over the weekend, from my friends Kate and Julie (who informed me she bought a couple copies as gifts, which made my weekend in a huge way), so I was able to do a little work on draft three –and by “a little,” I mean I relocated an entire scene, so readers will get to meet one of the bad guys a little earlier, and patched up some weak spots. I won’t call them plot holes; they were more like plot cracks.

Those cracks were due in part to my particular writing process. I’m what you might call an “organic writer”: I plan out the story in advance, but not meticulously; I like to write blind to a degree, and let certain elements develop on their own. This leads to some great moments between characters, and often generates story elements that give the story depth and character, but also means I spent the revision process hunting down and fixing plot inconsistencies.

The other challenge came from the addition of magic to the Action Figures world. Magic can be a fun story element, but it’s easy to misuse. I have yet to figure out exactly what the rules of magic are in the Marvel Comics universe; Dr. Strange can do pretty much anything he needs to do to advance the plot, except when he can’t, again for plot reasons. Even his method of casting spells is inconsistent; classic Dr. Strange invoked the names of arcane entities (“By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!”) in his spellcasting, while modern Dr. Strange does not, for the most part.

As a reader and a writer, I hate magic as a story element when it has no clear rules. I didn’t want that for Action Figures, so I made sure to nail down the “laws of magic” for Dr. Enigma, the book’s sorceress character. Of course, I have to make sure those rules are communicated to the reader — and I’ve only been partially successful in that, according to my test readers.

In addition to the clean-up work in draft three, I managed to finish off the Action Figures short, which I plan to post here after book two is released. I’m hoping I have somewhere in me another short, something to bridge book one and two, that I could post immediately, both to keep current readers engaged, and to maybe capture a few new readers. We’ll see.

Your Last-Minute Shopping List

Christmas is coming up fast. Have you finished your shopping yet? No? Slacker.

Well, I’m going to throw some suggestions out at you. I’ll get the selfish one out of the way: buy Action Figures! You need to get book one so you’ll be able to understand what’s going on in book two (which is now off to my test-readers. Woo!).Pirates Honor

If swashbuckling historical fiction is more your style, my friend/fellow writer Justin Aucoin has his trilogy of piratical shorts in the Jake Hawking series, all available for the Kindle and the Nook. Start with A Pirate’s Honor and go from there.

For a faster read in a Christmasy vein, check out my buddy Rob Borkowski’s Wight Christmas, a flash-fiction short that’s available on Amazon.com for the Kindle.

For an early Christmas gift for a theater lover, snag tickets to this weekend’s final performances of my friend Scott Kegler’s play WHACKED!, at the Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain, Connecticut.Loki Doll

For something a little more kid-friendly (or adult geek friendly), check out my friend Jess Maclean’s shop Geeky and Cheeky on Etsy. My wife Veronica has a growing collection of handmade G&C dolls, including a complete set of Avengers dolls.

Speaking of my wife, go visit her new Storied Threads website! It’s been re-launched with a focus on her clothing and fandom items, while her Etsy store will focus more on her original embroidery designs.

Now, go forth and shop — and in doing so, you’ll be supporting independent artists and small businesses, which is always a great thing to do.