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.

Action Figures – The Next Step

Action Figures has been out for about two months now, and I’m pleased with the sales and response so far. I haven’t been selling hundreds upon hundreds of copies, but there are quite a few out there, which means there are people who might talk up the book or give it as a gift for Christmas; the book has received some extremely positive reader reviews; and I’ll be putting the Kindle version on-sale for 99 cents on Cyber Monday — all things that can goose sales.

I’m also hoping to encourage people to give it a try with this announcement: draft one of book two is done!

I know some readers don’t like to start a series until it’s underway, or at least until the author shows this will in fact be a series and not just a one-off story with an unfulfilled promise of continuing, in the case of self-published authors. I understand, when someone self-publishes, it could easily end up being nothing more than a lark with nothing serious behind it, but I don’t want to be one of those guys.

So, what is book two about? Let me tell you…

Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women takes place almost immediately after the end of book one. The story explores magic in the world of Action Figures with the introduction of Dr. Enigma, the Protectorate’s consultant on all things mystical, who is called in after rival sorceress Black Betty gets her hands on a book of powerful dark magic — her main weapon in an all-out assault on humanity.

Trivia: Dr. Enigma was originally planned for book one, but she didn’t work with the story I told, so I saved her for book two. Her personality changed quite a bit from her first iteration; when I swapped Enigma out for Nina Nitro, Nina got Enigma’s personality so she could serve as a friend, mentor, and supporter for the Squad. Enigma Mk. II is more secretive, a bit darker, and her loyalties and motives are suspect. She’s a more complex character, and fits the story I’m telling much better.

I haven’t set a tentative release date beyond “spring 2014.” There is still a lot of editing to do, then it goes out to my test readers, then it comes back to me for any necessary story changes, then it goes to my editor/sister-in-law for final edits and proofing — and all the while, my cover artist Tricia will be working on yet more awesome art for the book.

And, because this is how my brain works, and because I am an obsessive writer, I am already mentally plotting book three. I have some ideas, and I know what sort of thematic elements I want to explore, so it’s very possible next year will see not one but TWO Action Figures novels!