Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 - The Year in Review

Well, the year's not quite over yet, but I thought it might be a good time to do a year in review. If something significant happens between the time of this post and January 1, then I'll come back and update it. However, chances of that slim, so let's get on with the show.

Bear in mind, this blog is mostly about my writing, so we're looking back at the year from that perspective. And, oh man, a lot of stuff happened. There's a lot to mention, so let's get to it.

In March of 2013, I decided to dip my toes into the waters of self-publishing. I had already published one novel, Mary of the Aether, through an indie publishing house and signed a contract for the sequel. But I had a bunch of novels sitting on my hard drive that I thought were worth a read, so I polished them up a bit and put them out through BookBaby.

I published them in this order:

1) Shadows of Tockland 

A post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in plague-ridden Northwest Arkansas. The story of a traveling clown troupe and all of their harrowing adventures. It got a few really good reviews, including this one.

2) Bloodstone, Deep Water: Book One and A Whisper in the Void, Deep Water: Book Two

Deep Water started out as a single book, but it ballooned to over 200,000 words, so I chopped it right down the middle and published it as a duology. It's a fantasy story with a long history. Basically, it is my third attempt at telling the same story.

I wrote the first version right out of high school, and it was flat-out awful. It was intended to be the first volume of a trilogy, but I never bothered to write volumes two or three. I don't even remember the title of this first attempt at the story, but I do remember the main characters had the incredibly stupid names of "Kieves" and "Redert." My goodness.

The second version was written in 2001, and it came after a period of both intense personal tragedy and great personal happiness. This merging of two conflicting emotional states created a book that was rather dark and troubled but ultimately hopeful.

The final version is the one I self-published this year, and it is actually quite a bit darker but still ultimately hopeful. There's a lot of personal emotion bound up in this story. The writing thereof was cathartic.

Here's a brief, glowing review of Bloodstone.

3) Garden of Dust and Thorns

A "one off" fantasy novel I wrote in the latter half of 2012 about a girl trying to protect a dying garden from an invading army. I'm not sure what the impetus was for this story, but it has something to do with loss and restoration.

Of those four self-published books, Shadows of Tockland has without a doubt garnered the most attention and made the most sales. Deep Water has gotten a little bit of attention, but Garden of Dust and Thorns has mostly sunk into the mire of the internet. Oh well.

Anyway, the self-publishing frenzy ended in May, and I went back to writing other things. I finished a dark science fiction novel called Children of the Mechanism, which I then sold to Malachite Quills. It comes out in February. It is also a story with a long history. The novel is based on a short story I wrote for a creative writing class way back in 1994, which was inspired by a documentary I had watched on CNN about children in the Holocaust. Yep, I told you, it's dark.

I also sold the third volume of my Young Adult series, Mary of Starlight, to Whiskey Creek Press. That happened sometime early in the summer. It also comes out in February. It is a much tighter story than its predecessors, and the second half of the book is pretty intense, relentless, and ultimately quite epic.

I also wrote the last volume of that series this year. It's called Mary of Cosmos, and it wraps up the whole four volume tale pretty nicely. I signed the contract for that one in November, so it should come out sometime toward the end of next year.

After that, I worked a little bit on a new YA novel called The Figment Tree, but I haven't kept up my pace on that one. Honestly, I am still trying to get a bit more publicity and attention for the nine other novels I've already written. Yes, nine novels. If I ever finish it, however, it will be the story with the longest history of anything I've written, since the original idea goes back to my childhood.

I did manage to dredge up some regional attention for Mary of the Aether this year. In June, I got an e-mail from a guy named Ken Stamatis, who is a professor at Harding University. Every summer, he does a series of regional workshops for teachers called "So Many Books, So Little Time." For this workshop, he puts together a list of fifty Young Adult novels as recommended curriculum for the upcoming school year. Now, he works mostly with the big guys like Scholastic, but for some reason he decided he liked Mary of the Aether, and he put it on his list this summer.

As I understand it, it's the first time he's put an independent book on his list. As a result, I got a bit of attention across the state, a number of orders for the book from Arkansas teachers, and I made a few special appearances at schools. It was fun. I enjoyed it. Honestly, however, I wish I had found a way to keep the momentum going. Things pretty much died down after a few months.

Anyway, that is where things stand now. I've made a few internet appearances, doing interviews, book giveaways, and things of that nature. I also had a table at the Northwest Arkansas Author Book Fair, where I got to have a nice long conversation with a prolific writer of westerns named Dusty Richards.

In 2014, I've got three novels coming out, so I'll be busy trying to figure out how to promote them. We'll see what happens!

Thanks for reading this insanely long, rambling post. You win a free high five the next time I see you.


jeffrey miller

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