Harry Connolly's Blog
January 23, 2015
This is turning into a trilogy of its own. I suspect the last part will be Omnibus Departure, or whatever, after they’ve been mailed out.
But yes, the omnibus editions have arrived, and wow, the truck driver dropped a pallet next to my parking space at the apartment building…
… and I’ve brought them inside.
That’s right. With all the busy-ness of these past few weeks–the massive (clean-water, thankfully) flood in our apartment, the prep for my wife’s gallery show, the publication of The Way Into Magic–we still haven’t taken down our Giftmas tree.
As for the books themselves, who likes fantasy maps?
My point-and-click camera doesn’t do the cover justice, but that’s the cover. There’s no price, no ISBN, no author name, no book title. Not on the outside cover.
It’s the map and only the map.
Here’s the whole thing.
The names of the books are on the front flap. The Chris McGrath art is on the back flap–the picture doesn’t really capture it, but they look good.
Thing is, the books are shrink-wrapped. I’m supposed to sign them, but it seems a shame to cut off that shrink wrap when it would keep it so nice during shipping. I’m trying to decide if I should leave the shrink wrap on and slip little book plates into the envelopes.
And what’s this last picture?
This is the bottle of fancy whiskey my wife gave me for Giftmas. I’ve saved that last little bit for this: once we finish shipping all these fucking books, she and I are going to pour ourselves a pair of stiff drinks and toast the (pseudo-*)completion of this project.
*Called “pseudo-” because I still have to finish the game supplements, but they will be delivered electronically, so she won’t have to deal with it at all.
Now… to work!
My Fridays are usually spent out at the Starbucks and the library, writing whatever writing needs to be written. But today I’m stuck at home. Luckily, the fam has already scheduled a rare day out for immunizations and Thai food.
Why? Because I’m expecting the delivery of the hardback omnibus editions of The Great Way, the ones with Priscilla Spencer’s map art on the cover.
I have ~26 customs forms to fill out, then I can get back to the short fic that I’m supposed to be writing while I wait for the delivery truck. Will it show up today, as promised? Will it show up Monday???
Today. I’m hoping for today.
Pictures to come, I hope.
January 21, 2015
On this page for NaNoWriMo pep talks, Brandon Sanderson wants you to know that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams of being a writer because you never know if the book you just finished, or submitted, or self-published, might be the one to break out. Maybe it’ll get you that publishing deal or climb that bestseller list. You never know!
I agree with him up to a point. You shouldn’t give up on writing, unless you have something better to do. Perseverance is a fine quality until it isn’t, and it’s hard to know where to divide the line.
Because I was in a similar place once. I had a day job I hated, answering phones for a doctor’s office, and we were so understaffed that calls were 20-30 deep all the time, and people who have waited on hold are rarely polite when they finally get someone. I spoke to addicts who’d been denied a refill of their narcotics. I spoke to people in terrible pain who were denied relief because of the fear of addiction. I spoke to a man whose wife was vomiting feces. I spoke to women who had just had miscarriages. I spoke to the parent of a chronically ill teenager who had run away with her boyfriend and left all her medications behind.
It was an endless succession of other people’s pain.
I was sick of working a job I hated, of not having any money, of not having time with my family, and with the constant failure and rejection from the writing end of things.
And I was ashamed. I’d pursued the writing dream for a long time, and had nothing to show for it but a family I could barely support.
So I decided I was going to quit writing, go back to school, and get a new career. I took GRE study guides out of the library and said things like “There’s got to be a better life!” to my co-workers.
However, I’d already written CHILD OF FIRE, then called HARVEST OF FIRE, and I’d spent part of the summer on the query letter. We didn’t have much money, but I could afford postage. The weekend before Labor Day, I started sending out queries. By February, I had an offer from Del Rey.
From there, my story and Sanderson’s… let’s just say they diverge. He went on to become a bestseller and I’m doing whatever the fuck I’m doing. Still, he has followup advice here about marketing yourself and quitting your day job, and I don’t want to disagree with him. I do want to point out that not every writer can follow his path (and they shouldn’t try).
But it’s interesting information.
January 19, 2015
Jan 16th marked 30 days since The Way Into Chaos went on sale, and I know (because they ask) people are curious about how it’s doing and what effect it’s having on my backlist, aka, the Ray Lilly novels.
Before the graphs, the explanations. First of all, we’re talking about Kindle sales here. Most every other vendor is selling books in the low two digits. Paper copies (added together) are slightly better. But while Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Smashwords, etc, made a decent showing in the first few days after the books were released, they’ve since fallen off. The Kindle is where most of the action is, and these figures are 100% copied from Amazon’s Kindle page.
Next, Book one, The Way Into Chaos, was published on Dec 18. Book 2, The Way Into Magic, was published on Jan 13. However, Amazon treats the release date as GMT. So, once it hits midnight in Greenwich, England, they start delivering pre-ordered books.
For the graphs they show me, though, the sales are attributed to each date according to *my* time zone, which is PST. So from my perspective, my pre-ordered books were loaded onto people’s Kindles starting at ~4pm on the day before release. Meh. It’s not something I worry much about.
Other next, I’ve removed the Y-axis data from some of these graphs. For Twenty Palaces and the short fiction collection, I’ve left the numbers in the Y-axis because each line is one sale and people have asked if The Great Way is giving a boost to 20P (obviously hoping the boost would be enough to revive that series. Spoiler: nope.)
As for the new books, I took them out, mainly because I didn’t want people sitting down trying to calculate what I’m earning, so they can give me advice. This is a thing that happens to me.
So, the y-axis for “All” books is identical to the y-axis for book 2, but not for book 1.
Okay, that was longer than I expected. Let’s do the thing.
Kindle sales for all books
Obviously, the first thing you notice is that gigongo spike on the right side. That’s the sight of many many pre-orders being delivered, just after GMT turned over to 1/13, as I mentioned above.
There’s no corresponding pre-order spike for book one at the far left because a) there weren’t many days for people to pre-order and b) it helps when book one is already out.
There’s also an utterly unsurprising dip on Christmas day, with a little bump just before. What I didn’t expect was that the days after the holiday would be even better. I thought the gift-buying effect would be stronger than the gift-card effect, but nope.
Something I like? The way it keeps trending up. In December, the best sales day was the 28th. The sales on that date tied with the worst sales date in the first half of January. Good thing I don’t believe in jinxes.
There’s also a little bump on and after Jan 3rd, but we’ll come back to that.
Here’s the trend for book 2, The Way Into Magic:
Book 2 Kindle sales figures
As I mentioned above, the y-axis for this chart is identical to the one above, so this just proves that the big spike really was all those pre-orders. And yeah, sales have dipped afterwards, but that’s not a big surprise. It’s still early days, as far as I’m concerned.
How about the trend for book 1, The Way Into Chaos:
The change in y-axis makes comparing numbers sort of useless, but the trend is there.
There’s an odd little dip on Jan 13th, the day book 2 was published. I’m not sure if it’s just the attention book 2 got that day, with it’s own blog post and everything, or if there was something else that made sales dip.
There’s also a nice jump on the third of Jan and after, but it dips again, so I’m not sure what it could be.
By the way, I’ve compared these peaks and valleys to the days I post on the blog, and there seems to be no correlation. Some blog posts come on low sales days, some high. Maybe I could compare tags or something, but it doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Let’s go with the short fiction collection, Bad Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy.
This time, it’s a 90-Day graph.
As the caption says, this time the graph covers 90 days, because I wanted to show the effect on a backlist item when a front list item came out. Not powerful, is the verdict. As you can see, there’s some effect, but not a lot. Frankly, it’s about what I expected. Ebook-only short fiction collections are not exactly known for burning up the bestseller lists, which is why I released this last July. I was hoping for a little extra in my bank account.
There’s also what looks like the new book dip, although there are other troughs, too, so maybe it’s just noise. The first big spike came on the day I talked about being unable to get my backers to download their books. On the day after, sales were a little lower, even though I posted an apologia along with a note about the short fiction collection’s availability.
The other, slightly larger spike, comes on the third of January again. I’m still not sure what that’s from. I’ve been told that, when a book on Amazon hits 25 (and then 50) reviews, Amazon’s algorithms begin to show it more frequently to readers. On Jan 3rd, I got my 25th review for The Way Into Chaos, and maybe that caused a bump across a bunch of different books.
But it wasn’t a particularly long lasting one. It followed the upward trend, but didn’t establish a new, deeper one. So maybe it was something else. After all, Jan 3 is the day I retweeted this:
adios motherfuckers pic.twitter.com/rO3zyvTz1e
— AlmightyBob (@AlmightyBoob) January 3, 2015
Finally, the last chart that shows 90 days of sales of my last book, Twenty Palaces.
90 Days of Kindle sales for Twenty Palaces
Yeah, there’s a bump, but it’s pretty negligible. Part of this is because most of the people buying The Great Way already have the Ray Lilly books. Part is that new readers haven’t even gotten their hands on book 3 yet, because it comes out the first week of February.
So maybe 20P sales will pick up. I hope so. I could use the money, and a bump would take me closer to earning out in my contract with Del Rey.
That’s it! Thirty days.
One thing: I’m sure people out there could look these graphs over and make a pretty good estimate of the number of books I’m selling. Please don’t. It’s creepy.
Last thing: I’m glad that sales keep trending upward. I hope it continues for the next thirty years or so. But I have to say that most of that trend isn’t down to my marketing efforts. Yeah, I wrote the book, and people like it, but I’m not the one spreading the word, making the sales. I’m tweeting to the same people, sending Facebook updated and G+ posts to the same crowd of followers day after day. The real reason new people are trying the novels is because readers are spreading the word.
So thank you.
January 18, 2015
The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking This is why I give terrific books like MAPLECROFT four stars, because I need room for THIS.
Then I got to the end, and the whole thing fell flat.
The setting is Istanbul in the 1830’s, and an army officer has been murdered, his body displayed in a gruesome way. Imperial operative Yashim is brought in to solve the killing, and to find the other three officers who disappeared at the same time. Yashim is a man of some breeding who can move unobtrusively through all levels of society, including the sultan’s harem… because he’s a eunuch.
Anyway, historical fiction is something of a research competition. Writers immerse themselves in the time and place, studying the details that will make the reader feel that they’re really experiencing this other time and place, with just enough details to ground the story without turning into a travelogue. Then readers come along, looking for nits to pick… It’s a whole thing.
And it bores me, to be honest. As a fantasy reader, I love the sense of place and don’t worry too much about accuracy. Anathema, I know, but there it is.
In truth, the novel made me wish there were more novels with the same feeling of complexity and nuance that the real world has. I wish I were capable of it, myself.
Yeah, this is a murder mystery with far-reaching political implications. If the protagonist was a little slack in his investigation, well, that’s a nice change. The denouement didn’t work, unfortunately, and the “action” scenes deserve the air quotes. There was violence but none written with the sort of tension that makes the heart race.
Still, the description of everyday life in 1830’s Istanbul was a delight, and made me wish I could visit right now. The characters were complex and interesting. The genre stuff was tatty window dressing, and disappointing in the end.
If you’re a reader who enjoys reading fantasy novels for the settings, try this. Seriously.
Book 2 for 15in2015
Buy a copy
January 14, 2015
I didn’t get a chance to mention this yesterday with all the Book Day activity (Book two of my trilogy is out. Look at that cover! Then buy book one because these things don’t stand alone. Book three comes out in less than three weeks.) But, I had a brief conversation with my agent, and I started talking about the book I plan to write next. This is what I told her:
It’s a present-tense, second-person epic fantasy called Only You Can Save The Kingdom, Farmhand. I was originally going to use “Farmboy” but that would cut out half the readership. The best part was, when readers got to the part that read “You sneak up behind a guard and knife him in the back,” the reader would actually have to sneak out and kill a security guard.
Which I thought was absurdly hilarious, but from her? Nothing. Silence.
See, she reads queries, so whatever I try to think up, as a crazy, ridiculous idea for a book is pretty tame compared to what she’s used to. And that, frankly, is funnier than the joke I was telling.
Also, buy my books.
January 13, 2015
Hey, remember that book I released last month?
Well, it’s time to release book two, The Way Into Magic.
Before I go any farther, why don’t I post the cover?
Gorgeous, right? I love all the covers for this trilogy, but this is the one I love the most. The dragon skeleton, the cool blue, Cazia’s whole pose… It’s just incredibly appealing.
As I’ve said before, you don’t want to read this book without having read book one. This is a continuation of the story, not a stand alone text. That’s why there won’t be any sample chapters and why the description of the book will absolutely contain spoilers.
So why should you read it?
(Spoilers beyond this point.) Because this is the part of the book where the protagonists shake off the idea that they should be worried about the fallen Peradaini empire and begin to realize that much, much more is at stake.
It’s also the part of the book where they learn their world is much stranger than they knew. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
BOOK TWO OF THE GREAT WAY: Having lost the prince to the madness of The Blessing, Tejohn and Cazia are the only people who know of his plan to retrieve a secret spell that might, just might, turn the tide of battle against the grunts.
But Tejohn’s body is broken, and Cazia has been stripped of her magic. Worse, both are being held captive: Tejohn faces charges of treason in the lands where he was born. On the other side of the continent, Cazia is a prisoner of the Tilkilit queen, a creature with a desperate, deadly plan.
While they struggle for their freedom, The Blessing continues to spread across Kal-Maddum, their numbers growing more numerous as the human population shrinks. What had started as a race to restore an empire has quickly become a mission to save humanity from extinction.
The paper edition isn’t as spendy as the first and third books, but it’s not super-cheap, either. Print-on-demand is expensive, especially when you set the book up so it could be carried in brick-and-mortar stores.
Besides, these books are designed to suck you in and keep you turning pages.
“Highly recommended, if you want a stay-up-all-night, forget-to-eat, must-have-the-next-book-NOW reading experience.” — Writer/editor CC Finlay, author of Traitor to the Crown: A Spell for the Revolution
“Complex world, tight action, awesome women as well as men; Connolly was good right out of the gate and just keeps getting better.” — Sherwood Smith, author of Inda
“Heroic in scope, but intimately human, and richly detailed.” — Kat Richardson, author of the Greywalker series.
Buy your copy now. Book three will be released on February 3, 2015.
January 10, 2015
1) A random comic generator. NSFW.
3) Was 2014 the Year of the Video Essay? Who knew? How to make a great video essay: Video (naturally)
4) A long run down a concrete luge in New Zealand. Video.
6) Google maps for fantasy spaces. Cute.
January 7, 2015
January 4, 2015
Before starting this book, I knew nothing of Lizzie Borden except that old nursery rhyme and that she’d been acquitted. So, an epistolary historical fantasy that, being familiar with much of Priest’s work, was sure to take a turn toward horror? I was in.
And I was glad of it. There were a few minor missteps, but they were very minor. Overall, the book combines Priest’s usual flair for historical detail with the slow-building dread that comes from nightmarish, inexplicable narrative.
In short, people in the small town of Fall River, MA are becoming sick, which means they’re actually transforming into weird inhuman creatures with a connection to the sea. It’s *not* a Shadow Over Innsmouth situation, although that’s obviously what it sounds like here. In real life, Borden’s murdered father and step-mother were ill for several days before they were murdered; Priest takes this detail and runs with it, imagining the elder Borden’s becoming monstrous and deadly, forcing Lizzie to kill them in self-defense.
After her acquittal, Lizzie realizes that others in town are showing the same symptoms as her parents, and sets out to do something about it.
The book seems to be marketed as the start of a series, which frankly weakens the tension by a lot. I also wish there hadn’t been a mention of Miskatonic University. Turning the page and thinking “Oh. This is Lovecraft.” has become more of a disappointment than anything else. The story could have gone anywhere, but once I read that word, I felt possibilities narrow.
I also would have been happier with more Lizzie and less Dr. Seabury. He’s a fine character, but he’s not as interesting as Lizzie and I felt he took over the narrative too much.
But like I said, minor stuff. I haven’t read all of Priest’s work, but this is my favorite so far. It’s tangible, has great characters, and is genuinely spooky. Recommended.
Buy a copy.