Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

Archive for the category “Announcement”

Master of My Domains

So yesterday, for the first time ever, I bought a domain name.  But not just one.  I bought two domain names.  And I attached them to something.  No, I’m not going to tell you what, yet.  It’s a secret.

But it’s cool.

I’ve been thinking a lot about labels and boxes and branding lately.  There’s an often repeated mantra/meme running around that we are each our own brand.  I’m not saying I disagree because there is a certain amount of truth in the statement, but you can’t just leave it there.  Whatever your thoughts on the subject, you do need to choose how to represent yourself, and your public persona is just as important in the online world as in the real one.  The real world is far more important in most ways, because that’s where your family is, where most of us have a job, and where we live and breathe.  (What, you think there’s virtual air?)  But the online world reaches beyond the real world in some ways, letting you make contact with people and businesses and organizations you’d never encounter otherwise.

I’ve taken a big break from online life recently to focus on real life and get my head screwed on straight.  I feel a lot better now, my stress level a lot lower, and I’m slipping back into the world of zeroes and ones.

How does that relate?  Whatever amount of truth you put into being your own brand, it’s far more important that you recognize you are your own person, and a person is far more than a brand.  There is far more to you than the one or pieces of yourself than you’re likely to focus on as your online brand.

If I try to pick a few words to describe what I am, they come easy and it’s hard to stop at two or three.  Husband, father, writer, son, friend, student, teacher, karateka, reader, athlete, philosopher, musician, artist… I’m all of those things and a lot more.    Some are more true than others at any given moment, but each is a part of how I think of myself.  Husband and father are the two big ones, and hard to even consider as separate parts of my personality because they overlay everything else.  I’m less of an athlete these days than a few years back when I was in marathon shape, but karate helps a lot, and if I can get my left calf to start functioning as designed, I might work my way into deserving the label a little more.  Musician is a new thing and an old one.

You are who you want to be, but sometimes you have work to recognize just what it is you want.  I want to be a better me, and maybe shape my parts of the world to leave them just a little bit better than I found them.  I have lots of plans, and maybe I’ll follow through on all of them, some of them, or none of them.  Plans and dreams and hopes and fears.  Those change and grow, too.

So what’s my own personal brand then?  I am.  It’s not separable, though I’ve tried a variety of themes and ideas in the past.  I am my own brand and my brand is me.  I’m not one thing, but a gathering of many and changing all the time.  We all are.  It’s kind of the way humans work.

And what domain names did I buy?  Ah, that would be telling.

Fine, okay.  There really isn’t anything there yet, but you can try typing renaissanceninja.com into your address bar (or click on the link) and see where it leads.  Alternately, lanceschonberg.com will get you to the same spot.  Bookmark it and check back in a few days.  I’m still fitting together the jigsaw puzzle.  There will be much fun and creativity.

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Where’s that Bucket List?

First, I fully admit that the timing of this post looks like I’m cheating on the November Blog Plan, but I’m working nights right now, so my day typically runs from 2 pm to 630 or 7 am.  This is still the 24th for me. 

At any rate, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life lately—maybe rethinking is a better word in some ways—and in light of various events in the past year or two, I’m forced to admit that yes, I am mortal.  Which sucks, I suppose, but that’s how it is, even for me.  I suppose I’ve always known, but knowing it and really understanding it are two different things.

Closing in on my 41st birthday, I’ve made myself realize that there are a lot of things I’ve never done or seen that I still want to.  And so, a Bucket List.  Or a life list, or a dream list or whatever you want to call it.  I fully expect to add to it over time, but as of today there are 112 things on it.

Some of them are travel goals.  Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Québec, for example.  Yes, I swear that’s a real place.  It’s even on Wikipedia.  I want to see the Pyramids (Egyptian and Azetc), the Great Wall, and a whole lot of historical (some of them even personal, or at least ancestral) spots inEurope.  I want to go toJapan and the Galapagos and Vulcan andAbbey Road, and a fair number of other places, too.

There are adventures I need to have.  Some of them are little, like riding a mechanical bull or going hang gliding or walking on a glacier.  Some of them are a little (or a lot) bigger, like fire walking or forging a sword, sailing in a knarr or going into space, learning to surf or singing in public.

I want to complete an Ironman triathlon, learn to say hello in at least fifty languages, swim with sharks, run with the bulls, eat fugu fish, get my black belt in karate, ride in a WWII plane, see a total solar eclipse, get more tattoos, participate in a flash mob, live in another country for a year, jump out of an airplane, dress in costume for a convention, do a polar bear swim, and stand on the Arctic Circle.

And dammit, I want to dance at all of my grandchildren’s weddings.  My great grandchildren’s, too, if I can manage it.

I’m not quite 41 and while I’d like to live forever, I can’t assume I will.  However long I’m around, I want it to be a great life and I’ll take as many of the people around me along for the ride as I can.

And that’s the most important item on the list.

The November Blog Plan

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.  It was cool last year, winning with 50,544 new words of fiction on a single project in a single month (and I slacked off the last day since I’d technically won the night before with 50,010 words).  Very cool, even if I was a bit burnt out at the end of it.

I don’t have time this year.  Not even close.  Too much going on, and too much to catch up on, some real life and some no less real even if it’s pretty much virtual.  There are a couple of things I’ve even been avoiding, but I can’t mentally afford to do that anymore.  I’ve made a lot of efforts to compartmentalize my time on different projects and met with mixed results.  Maybe I need to go back to the To Do list, but that’s not the issue at this particular moment.

NaNo aside, I do want to step up my writing just a little bit so for November, so I’m going to try to blog every day.  Yup, every day.  All thirty of them.

Now, I’ve got a bit of an advantage since I’m currently running two serials, Turn the World Around on Tuesdays and Branch Santa on Saturdays, so cutting out those days, I really only need 21 posts.

I’ll also add that not quite all of those 21 will be here.  I do have a second blog, Walking a Martial Road, which is a place for my musings on martial arts in general and karate specifically, and I’m planning to post there on Wednesdays during November.  I’ve more or less already got topics set for those, so now I’m down to only needing 16 subjects to post here (there are 5 Wednesdays in November this year).  There are plenty of things coming up (Remembrance Day, the release of Halo: Anniversary Edition) and lots of things going on in the world.  I think I can manage that.  It’ll be down to finding the time to write those posts.

And that’s the challenge for me for November.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines, but I’m busy catching up and blogging.

Self Publishing – What I’m Not Doing

I’m not typically a crowd follower.  I like to make up my own mind about things, usually after doing some research and thinking about it.  And something I’ve decided not to do is publish individual short stories.  There are a couple of reasons for this, but both of them come down to basic mathematics.

First, if your mythical average 100,000 word novel is priced, in e-book format, somewhere between $2.99 and $5.99, then, on a word-parity basis, it’s probably reasonable to price a 30-35,000 word novella individually between $0.99 and $1.99.  Following the same logic, a 5,000 word short story would get priced at between $0.15 and $0.30 cents.  If I look at what I hope is a viable online magazine model, Flagship Magazine gives you a half dozen stories per issue, plus an editorial and some commentary, both in pdf and audio, for $2.99, or $1.99 for the text only version, bringing us back into the $0.30 per story range.

All of which comes down to my not being able to justify $0.99 for an average short story, which is the minimum allowable list price point under Amazon’s model (but, oddly, there can be discounts on these—I found a couple at 10-20% off this afternoon), unless you set the story at free, which is a short term tactic to drive interest, not a long term strategy to do well as an author.  (And I firmly believe at this stage of the game that you have to be on Amazon if you’re self publishing.)

But say I could convince myself to sell a 5000 word story for $0.99, netting me $0.35 per copy sold on Amazon, a little higher amount on B&N, and a bit more on Smashwords, maybe.  As the publisher, I’m doing more than just the writing of the book.  I also have to find artwork and do the layout and formatting plus any marketing that might be involved.  Now, I suppose I don’t need to do much marketing for a short story, right?  But formatting doesn’t take any less time and unless I’m going to sucker convince an artist to just giving me their work for nothing, I need to pay for cover art, and it will take three copies of the story sold for every dollar I pay the artist for that cover.  Once the cover is paid for, I’ll need to sell another 150 copies of the story before I’ve made 1¢/word, 750 to get to a pro rate of 5¢/word.  And I’ve still done the formatting for free.

I’m a big advocate of trying a bunch of different things to see what works, so I’m not entirely sure why I’m giving myself such a hard time about it, but I don’t think I can do a short story for $0.99.  I can’t see myself buying one at this price, so why should I expect other people to?

But at least some other writers do seem to.  I’m not discounting the possibility that it’s possible to make a living selling individual short stories as mini e-books, but it doesn’t feel like a viable path for me.  And I see quite a few shorts priced significantly above $0.99.

What it comes down to for me is that I feel like it’s difficult to justify anything under novelette size for a dollar, and that novelette should have something different or extra about it.  I’ve thought a lot about Thorvald’s Wyrd, qualifying as a novelette at only a little over 13,000 words, and I’m not comfortable thinking about it at higher than that minimum price.

I’m still debating the right price for Turn the World Around.  At 35,000 words, it’s a stone’s throw from what’s generally considered a short novel (40,000 words), but a long, long way from that standard 100,000 word novel.  This needs some thought for the initial price and probably some flexibility and a willingness to play with that price to find the right one.

The exercise in basic math, if nothing else, has made me consider the viability of short story collections even more closely, and I find I like the idea a lot more.  After all, there are a lot of great short stories out there just waiting to be gathered up.  Why shouldn’t some of mine be among them?

(Thinking about this, I did consider the price tags on print books and magazines for value comparisons, but it’s difficult to consider that as fair.  Printing and distribution costs can have a big impact, particularly on magazines.)

Self Publishing – What Else I’m Doing

Self Publishing comes in a number of forms, print and electronic, and I’m not limiting myself.  Or trying not to.

In my last post on Self Publishing, I noted a couple of serials on this blog, both of which are going to become e-books.  I have no intention of taking either of them down from here as I think it’s important to be able to sample someone’s work before you drop some hard earned money on their stuff, even if it’s only 99 cents (the probable price point of Thorvald’s Wyrd).  I think serials are fun, too, and read a few each week when I can find the spare moments.  There’s something about delayed gratification on a cliffhanger that they figured out for TV shows a long time ago.  Three or four months is too long to wait for a new episode, but a week is enough to build some nice anticipation if you know the next piece is coming.

I’m also going to be starting a new serial on Friday.  Yes, I’m well aware the old one isn’t done yet, but this is a Christmas story and if I don’t start it until Turn the World Around is over, I’ll have to post three times each week in the weeks before Christmas to get it up in time.  Too crowded.  So the first scene of Branch Santa will debut on Saturday, October 15th.  I’ve never been sure whether to classify this story as Science Fiction or Fantasy as it has elements of both, but it’s certainly not Science-Fantasy.  I’ll let you guys decide.  I should say it’s sort of a Christmas story.  Only a small part of the story actually happens at Christmas, but it does involve Santa Claus in a big way.

Next up on the possibilities list is a children’s book.  Carrie the Catfish, which certainly needs a better title, is a six thousand word Fantasy story I wrote in response to my youngest daughter’s request for a mermaid story.  It’s not what I had in mind when I started writing, but it’s what I produced, and if the Pink Princess was disappointed in the near total lack of mermaids in the story, neither she nor Nature Girl has expressed any unhappiness with the story, and both have repeatedly requested it to be read to them.  The question is one of illustration at this point.  I’m trying to talk my wife into it, a woman of considerable artistic talent.  She, on the other hand, is trying to talk me out of even thinking about her for it.  I’m not quite sure why.  However the debate ends, I’d really like to share this story.

My other debate is short story collections.  Graceland is a themed collection and I’m absolutely going ahead with that.  The debate here is over un-themed collections.  I have more than enough good stories (in my opinion, at least) to manage several short story collections.  Limiting myself to one Fantasy and one Science Fiction, I could select 90-100 thousand words worth of stories, some previously published but many not, to fill the two books pretty quickly.

Traditionally, single author collections have been a hard sell, even harder than anthologies, unless you’re a really big name author.  And they’re nearly always lumped in with anthologies.

Ah, but there’s that word again: traditionally.  And while the word isn’t the antithesis of what I’m trying to accomplish, the point in my mind is that just because something hasn’t worked for traditional publishing doesn’t mean it won’t in the new landscape.  There are certainly collections out there, especially in e-formats, and I’m repeatedly on record as saying we’re in the early stage of a golden age of short fiction, so I think the question I should be asking myself is why not?

Unless, of course, I want to try getting at least some of these stories in front of magazine and anthology audiences first, which I do.  I’m still debating with myself, but I think when I produce the first Small Realities (or whatever the title ends up being) collection, it will likely wind up being a more equal mix of reprints and new work, leaning at least a little towards reprints.

Thoughts?

What I’m Going to Self Publish

I said yesterday that I’ve developed a five-year plan with regards to my writing and publishing career, today I’m going to share the details of that, at least a little bit.  The five-year plan is vague after the first year, and flexible even inside it.  All deadlines are tentative and will be altered to reflect reality, the main reason I’m not actually going to share them as that’s gotten me into trouble in the past.

I’m going to call 2012 the first year, even though I’m going to start on things a little sooner than that.

First up will be the e-book version of Thorvald’s Wyrd.  As a quick refresher, this is a heroic fantasy tale inspired by Norse mythology and told in 100-word scenes.  Originally serialized here (and it’s still up and available), the feedback I’ve gotten has been really good and even included several requests/demands for an e-book version.  I’m about to put out feelers for cover art and have a couple of people in mind to ask.  This may happen before the end of 2011.

Next in the queue will be the e-book version of Turn the World Around, my current serial.  First Contact with an attempt at interstellar peace.  I’ve had some good feedback on this, too, mostly by e-mail, and while the serial isn’t complete, the story is at a little over 35,000 words.  This also might happen before the end of the year, or maybe early January.

In both cases, there will be a print version as well, almost certainly via CreateSpace.  There isn’t a huge cost associated with this and it makes it easy to get a bunch to take with me to a conference or a convention if I choose, something that a couple of people have put a bug in my ear about.

Here is where things start to get a little more fluid.  Or maybe variable is the right word.  For the rest of the year, I’m going to continue writing the stories for Graceland (the themed collection with a story inspired by each of the songs from Paul Simon’s seminal album of the same title).  I’m going to do very little editing of my own work in October, focusing on some other things I need to get completed.  November will be for a reread and revision notes on Skip To My Luu (a working title, which I do kind of like), and picking up whatever I still need to do on a couple of other commitments.  In November, I hope to start the second draft along with the first round edits on the Graceland stories.

But wait, you exclaim, what about Heroes Inc?  Didn’t you say you planned to have that done by the end of the year?  Heroes Inc is a working title, by the way, and yes, I did say that on more than one occasion.  But the beauty of self publishing is that the schedule is up to me, and I found when I finished the second draft, I wanted to let it rest for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes again.  So now the plan is to alternate drafts with Skip To My Luu.  The outline has me finishing the 4th (usually final for me) draft of Heroes Inc in the very early spring and Skip To My Luu a few weeks after.  The Graceland final drafts should be done just about when I start on Heroes Inc, so I’ll be looking for Beta readers for three different things within about two months.  That might be an interesting challenge.

So, allowing for a good amount of time for potential revisions after the Beta readers tell me all the problems with each volume, finding cover art, and doing all of the formatting and prep work for each of the three books, I hope to have all three ready for publication between mid-summer and mid-autumn.

Which makes the basic order of release:

Thorvald’s Wyrd

Turn the World Around

Graceland

Heroes Inc

Skip To My Luu

While I’m doing all of these later drafts and getting a bunch of short stories out into the wild (which I haven’t done much of this year, or none, actually), I will be drafting the next big project.  I’ve already started it, referring to it as Alishra’s story in a previous post back in May.  I haven’t got a lot done so far, two whole scenes, almost 5,000 words, and all of it long hand (and that was the point, to work on it without letting it take over).  It’s a big story and might take me a long time to get the full first draft down, but I’m going to start on the keyboard early in the new year, assuming I can catch up on everything else first.  I have been doing some heavy duty plotting.  It’s a multi-book arc and if I can get the first two done to the first draft level in 2012 along with everything else, I’ll be thrilled.

And yes, I’ll publish that story, too.

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