When you publish your own work, you have a lot of balls to keep in the air. You have to keep writing, first and foremost, but you also have to keep up the sales work, illicit opinions and reviews, get a feel for how the work is being received, so on and so forth. As much as I like to travel, seeing new places and reconnecting with acquaintances, this can eat in to those other tasks.
I’ve made some progress on Cold Streets, and I have a fairly good notion on when I’m going to wrap the first draft. It’s important to set deadlines: you always want to have a goal to shoot for, and in my case, it provides a timeline to which I feel I must adhere. It can be difficult for me to manage my time properly, and establishing deadlines helps with that. I’m at the stage where I’m picturing certain key scenes in my head, and just need to fill in the blanks between them on paper.
Having made Cold Streets my primary writerly focus for the time being, other projects have been put aside but are still fairly important to me. I’ve been thinking about the serial nature of old-school pulp sci-fi, and since my idea for that genre hews closely to those sensibilities, I’m toying with the idea of posting the project serially here, or perhaps in a separate webspace, in lieu of these writer reports.
Leave a comment to tell me what you think of this idea. Would you be interested to read some slightly old-school pulp science fiction instead of this somewhat dry blow-by-blow of my writing progress every week? Or is it a bad idea to split my focus? I need your thoughts, Internet.
Bait Dog is one of the hardest reads I’ve ever experienced. Not because any of the language was obtuse, mind you: Chuck Wendig, as always, writes smoothly and conversationally. It also wasn’t because there are any plot problems or discordant character moments. It was hard to read because it deals with the ugly and absolutely repulsive world of dog fighting.
Atlanta Burns is a girl who gets shit done. We established this in Shotgun Gravy. Word has gotten around, and now other people want her to get shit done for them. A rich girl hires her to find out why her dog crawled home missing her claws and teeth. Atlanta isn’t much of a dog person, but she needs the money so she takes the case. Her friend Shane seems to think this means she’s given up on finding who killed their gay friend Chris, while evidence suggests the young man committed suicide. The more Atlanta kicks over the rocks hiding this depraved world of dogs teaching other dogs to kill, the more she finds animals far worse behind them, the sort of animals who would stage a suicide just to murder a boy who likes other boys.
Gritty tales such as this are necessary in worlds where people would much rather invest in canned sequels and safe but mediocre remakes. People may think that sordid affairs and underhanded people of this nature only exist in certain places far from their homes. Stories like Bait Dog remind you that nothing could be further from the truth. Having lived near and moved through the areas of Pennsylvania described in the world of Atlanta Burns, the idea of dogs being tortured and murdered for profit so close to my home is absolutely chilling. And that’s only part of the story.
So many people say “it gets better” when it comes to bullying, to hatred, to racism and homophobia and every other type of evil, ignorant behavior that seethes in the hearts of human beings. But when you see a friend with an eye swollen shut because of bullies, or crying because of narrow-minded hate, or hanging from the end of a rope, it’s hard to believe that it will ever get better. Atlanta has her own way of making things better. It usually involves a squirrel gun, a collapsible baton, or a big can of bear mace.
It can be hard to remember that Atlanta’s a teenager. She goes about her business with what seems like certainty to the outside observer. But from inside our head, we see how much she flies by the seat of her pants. We keenly feel her lack of confidence in herself, her concerns for her mother and her friends, and her absolute intolerance for the intolerant. In a world where polite society would have her working out a compromise, learning to forgive and forget, where compassion is expected to be levied against hatred, Atlanta answers hatred with hatred, blood for blood. So all-consuming is her thirst for basic, natural justice that she will risk everything, anything, to see it done. She’s a pint-sized pubescent Punisher.
Atlanta’s stories, so far, work on very basic levels and play on raw nerves. This both makes it hard, at times, to read, but also worth the time and effort to read it all the way to the end. The story builds in a very organic and visceral way, pulling off plot twists and character revelations in a fantastic way. As difficult as some of the mental imagery can be to process, by the time you’re in a hard-to-read section the tale’s already got you by the balls, and you can’t not finish reading it.
If you like very human protagonists who kick ass, if you want to see true evil punished, if you love your pets, Bait Dog is for you. Know going in that it’s going to hurt. Remember that the hurt will be worth it. Take a deep breath, and dive in.
I’ve never really considered myself a salesman. Yet, that is one of the many hats one has to wear when publishing one’s own work. It’s probably part of what deters some folks from taking that step: not only do you have to write the thing, revise it until it’s decent, and get some lovely volunteers to test read and copyedit the work, you have to take care of the marketing, publication, and sales of the book. Nobody’s going to do it for you.
That said, how did the first week of Cold Iron‘s sales go? Pretty decently, I must say.
It’s my first published work ever so I didn’t expect things to be big or brisk in the sales department. But the initial trends seem relatively promising. I’m certain there will be more reviews coming in, and good or bad, I’ll be sure to tweet them. I think the most important thing I can do, other than the occasional reminder that the book’s on sale, is keep writing the next one.
My goal is to have Cold Streets done, if not available for sale, by the end of the year. I have most of it plotted out, though I still need to work out some of the more granular logistics of certain things. I’m expanding the PoV characters to four, one of whom is a direct antagonist, and my hope is that changing up the dynamic in this way will keep things fresh and exciting for my readers.
I have some ideas on how to rewrite Cities of Light (yes, again) to even further divorce it from extant young adult fantasy novels. I’m going to keep jotting down notes and outline points until I get a coherent structure together. It’s pretty much a side project to the novellas, which appear to be more straightforward affairs.
And then there’s the pulp science fiction thing. I’m wondering if there’s a way I can get myself started on that in such a way that it captures that episodic feeling of old movie serials but conveys my interest in good characters and new takes on old themes. I’ll be pondering this over the weekend while working on Cold Streets.