This is a question I’ve been asked occasionally for a long while, usually with the implication that I don’t seem to have been doing much of anything since a flurry of small press publications through the ’90s. It doesn’t look like I have, does it? Since the original publication of Why Coyotes Howl in 2005, I’ve only had two stories published, both in 2008. (Those were “The Narrow Road in Morning Light,” in New Fables, and “Carrier,” in the Alone in the Dark anthology; they’re both in the new ebook edition of Coyotes.)
A commenter on a previous entry suggested this was because I’m too much of a perfectionist, and that—by implication—I’m sitting on stories that rational people would consider good enough. While that’s not entirely untrue, it’s a little more complicated.
I referred to the act of writing a novel as my personal Everest. Over the last ten years, I’ve made six attempts at novels, all in various states of disrepair. One was a rewrite attempt of a novel that I abandoned many years before called In Our Image. (That’s back to abandoned again.) One is a rewrite/expansion of a previously published novella some of you might have heard of in the past, “A Gift of Fire, a Gift of Blood.” Another is a rewrite/expansion of a story only those of you in my writing group might remember, a new Ranea story called “Going Concerns.” Another is an alternate earth spy story. Another involves dragons. And another is a hard science fiction piece that’s my current obsession.
The upshot of all of this is that I’ve written over 100K of words on new material—plus likely half as much beyond that in back story and research—that you haven’t seen not because of my neurotic perfectionism, but because they just ain’t done yet. Objectively, this still isn’t a whole lot of words (Kyell Gold may write about that much before breakfast most days), but it’s good for me to keep in mind when I ask myself just what I’ve been working on.
Even so, in a real sense the words I’m writing and not showing off don’t matter much. As Dan Benjamin said the other day about programming, eventually you gotta ship or get off the pot.
I don’t expect the science fiction novel to be finished for a while even if things go well, but the greatest magic of ebooks may be that novella length is suddenly acceptable. I may go back to the rewrite I was working on for “Going Concerns,” which really was too short at ~13K words, and just aim for 20K rather than 80K. And I want to get back to the new version of “Gift of Fire.” And throughout the year I’ll try to dust off other older stories and get them out either as singles or in another collection.
There are still dilemmas here—for instance, ebooks still need cover art. I got lucky with Coyotes in that it already had terrific cover art from H. “Kyoht” Luterman and purchasing extra rights to cover ebook sales was pretty cheap—yet at this point, I’ll need to sell one more book for my profits to be enough to buy both a donut and coffee. Paying for new cover art, even with the very modest rates some very good artists charge, will—well, let’s say it makes this into a labor of love, particularly since I’d be unlikely to sell a novella for more than 99¢. (Which, in turn, will probably drive me over to Smashwords rather than Lulu, since as near as I can tell Lulu’s author revenue is “80% of the cover price after we deduct 99¢ from it,” although on iBooks and the B&N store it’s just 56% of the cover price straight up—they take 20% of the remaining amount after the store takes 30%.)
(Originally published at Coyote Prints)