Beta Readers…any interest?

The new year is upon us and that means a fresh start for the projects I’ve been idling on.

One thing that happened is that I finished the draft of the first novel of the Princess of the North quartet, Scion of Andoya.  So now, I am looking for beta readers.

If there is any interest, please let me know.  Anyone who enjoyed Pilgrimage to Skara might be interested in this one too.  The tone and pace are quite a bit different, but the prose is about the same.

Of course, if Pilgrimage made you want to vomit in your hat, this might not be for you either.  🙂

Anyone who interested please email me at jonathanspembroke@gmail.com and let me know.  Wide fantasy critiquing is a plus; if you have a blog or website, please link it, unless you know I already know about it (as in, I’ve been there and interacted with you).

Thanks!

 

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Errata

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.  Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.  You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. — Neil Gaiman

So…

Getting some feedback on Pilgrimage to Skara and its all good to hear.  One thing for sure that is coming out is….I really fucking did this wrong.

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart.  There’s a lot of work involved that one might not consider.  I sure didn’t.  Getting started in this process, I felt a like a blind and deaf man in a spherical room covered in teflon and olive oil.

So it was kind of done on a wing and a prayer.  I did what I thought I could and hoped for the best.

After my fist review, I was contacted by a kind soul who offered some blunt, helpful advice on what I was doing wrong.

EditorNo, I did not use one.  Of all the mistakes I made, I should have seen this one coming, since I am a lousy, worthless copy editor.  Everyone who has read Pilgrimage has pointed out the numerous editing errors, even though I read through it…I don’t know eight or nine times.  Professional editing would have prevented this.

Cover.  I’m a victim of my own bias here.  I am not a cover guy when it comes to picking books but I’m getting the idea that many people are.  And my cover was not well-received.

Publicity.  I did bupkis.  It showed.

The good news is that I have a blueprint for going forward.  I know what I need to do and have an idea how to go about it.  If I end up self-publishing my Princess of the North series, I’ll be doing this different.

So, pace Gaiman’s quote above, I am learning from my mistakes.  I tried something new and I am learning from it.  Never entered the SPFBO, and I might never have figured this out, or at least not as fast.  I might still be blind and deaf but the traction on the floor is better now.

(Muse:  You probably could have figured this out beforehand and saved yourself the embarrassment.)

Maybe so but what’s done is done.    And if we’re going to consider mistakes as learning experiences, I have to go with this quote:

Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time. — George Bernard Shaw

Noted, George.  Noted.

What Goes Up….

So….

Based on my last post, one might think I was riding high in the saddle.  Not only did Pilgrimage get a stellar review but was also selected as Booknest‘s finalist in the 2017 SPFBO.  It’s quite an honor and I still keep waiting to wake up and realize it got thrown out and a more deserving book took its place.  No matter what else happens, I can savor the moment.

And then that happened.

(Muse:  Lemme guess:  someone peed in your pool?)

A little, yes.  Prompted by the good review I got in the contest, another reader picked it up and left a decently scorching review on Goodreads, pretty much finding fault with everything about the book.  I think theyu got bored and wrapped it up before saying my grandfather was a baboon, but it was a near-miss.

(Muse:  Hey.  Would you accept the argument that Stephen King is probably the most consistently-popular spec-fiction writer of the last forty years?)

Sure.

(Muse:  Based on Goodreads reviews, his best-rated book is The Stand.  It still has about 3% one and two star ratings.  The latest edition on Amazon has about 6% one and two star ratings.  No matter how good you are, bad reviews are gonna happen.)

I know.   Bad reviews happen.  It’s easy to know that intellectually.  It’s tougher on the heartstrings.  I didn’t curl into a fetal position or anything but the tone and content of that review was quite a contrast from the previous one, and did get a bit of a wince out of me.  If nothing else, it is a reminder that not every book is everything to all readers.

So….ego raised up, and then brought back down with a little reminder.

This book didn’t win over that reader.  Perhaps my next one will.  Only way to find out is to keep writing.

In the meantime, I again send heartfelt thanks to the folks who did enjoy it.

First Review for Pilgrimage to Skara

Greetings.  Yes, it has been a long time, and real-life, as it likes to do, has been kicking my ass in about five different ways.

No matter.  Good news brings me back.  Back in May, I entered author Mark Lawrence’s 2017 contest Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO).  Essentially, it’s three hundred books divided into ten thirty-book blocks, with one “best” book floating to the top of each block and the ten best going head-to-head.

Now, I didn’t (and still don’t) really expect to win this thing.  That’s a real challenge, to overcome 299 other entries and no matter how good you are, those are long odds.  I did hope to get a good review (thorough, not necessarily glowing) out of it and a little exposure.

I never expected the positive response I got.

Reviewing on behalf of Booknest.EU, Leona Henry (follow on twitter at @authorlrh) was very kind and indicated that she enjoyed Pilgrimage a great deal.  She did–rightly–point out that I am lousy at copy editing (she didn’t say me specifically, but it was me) and that a bunch of those errors are still in the book.  I agree and admit it’s a weakness.

Otherwise, she was quite complimentary and I am humbled.  Here is a link to the review.

So thank you to Ms. Henry, to Booknest, and to Mr. Lawrence for giving me this chance.

I look forward to where things go from here.  Regardless of whatever happens, this is a feather in the cap.

Cheers!

 

EDIT:  I originally put the 2016 SPFBO, not 2017.  I will chalk that up to my excitement.

The End

So….

If one were to listen to the news lately, one could be forgiven for thinking that the end is nigh.  Between political strife, natural disasters, the fact that a man with the name Carrot Top has his own Las Vegas show….  And that’s just what’s going on in my native country.  It’s repeated all over the world.  It is enough to think that we are facing the end.

Are we?  Probably.

Most religions and ancient mythologies have stories about the destruction of everything and everyone.  Often, there is a rebirth or ascension of those who are saved…but sometimes, we are just left with the cold sterile void.

I am not sure why humanity is so absorbed with “The End.”  I think it is simply in our blood.  One of the counters to the Fermi Paradox is that it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.  That idea manifests in literature and in our culture in general; it is pretty much the staple behind apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.

I’ve talked about this before but it does make me stop and think–and recent events have me thinking about it more often.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I guess some answers are not meant to be known.

In the meantime, it sometimes seems silly to deny myself that extra bite of ice cream or have more than a passing annoyance with the granddaughter’s non-stop mouth.  Life indeed is too short.  And probably shorter than we dared hope.

(Muse:  That is some serious dark matter today, man.)

Yeah, sue me.  I’ll have something more relevant and fun next time.

Daily Update #36

Wow, I checked and I haven’t done one of these random updates for a long time–like eighteen months.  I didn’t realize it had been quite that long.

Well, whatever.  I’ve been slacking, actually.  I took about a month off from writing or doing much related to writing, so I am back now feeling recharged and ready to rock and roll.

— In my last entry, I noted that I entered a contest for self-published novels, organized and hosted by author Mark Lawrence.  Mine was assigned to the readers at Booknest.eu .  I was unaware of the site before the contest but I paged around and it appears to be a pretty robust review site.  They have started filling results for their allotment of books.  As of this writing, they have eliminated 4 of their 30 books from competition but mine is still in there.

(Muse:  That just means they haven’t read it yet.)

Probably, but I shall remain hopeful.

— Speaking of Pilgrimage to Skara, I checked my sales numbers and they have tapered off a bit–and by “a bit,” I mean completely.  As if I (or you) didn’t know already, this is illustrative of why a self-published writer needs to endlessly self-promote.  An old online friend with the handle of Bowfinder would be shaking her finger at me and telling I me I know better than this.  She would know better, as she has sold tens of thousands of self-published books.  I had plans to make a few edits to Pilgrimage and get a paperback version available.  I need to get off my ass and make that happen.

— As soon as I finish this blog entry, I am putting the first words to page of the second in the Princess of the North series, which is tentatively titled Empress in Waiting.  I’m alternating between getting the first draft of Empress written and editing Scion of Andoya, which is the first book.

— One of my writer’s groups appears to have ended; not with a bang, but with a whisper.  We lost a key member some months back and tried to replace said member.  It never really coalesced and the one guy we brought in was pretty raw and he eventually left town for job reasons.  So leaving just three of us, the momentum died off.  We coasted for a few meetings, then one person had to go out of town and missed a meeting, and we haven’t had one since.  We might be fusing that group with the other one but there has already been some drama about doing so…so we shall see what happens.

— On a happy note, a story I wrote in June managed to win the monthly online writing contest over at Fantasy-Writers.org .  I thought the tale had a lot of flaws but other readers seemed to like it.  An aside:  this story is my first steampunk-ish story and was set in an alternate future where the British Empire never completely fell but just degenerated into several allied super states.  The main character was a government minister in Singapore for one of those states (“Protectorates,” I called them).  When I wrote the story, I envisioned the woman as Malaysian.  It wasn’t explicit about it and no one seemed to pick it up.  I am aware there is a dearth of women and people of color in leading roles in spec fiction.  Does it need to be stated outright?  That would seem to scuttle the point of doing so in the first place, like I was simply calling attention to it.

Anyway, that’s today’s rambling and rants.  Off to start the next book.  Cheers, everyone!

Hat in the Ring

So….

I have done exactly what the title suggested.

A fellow author brought to my attention this contest, over on the blog by author Mark Lawrence.  I think it is a really neat idea, so what the hell, why not?  I entered Pilgrimage to Skara (still available on Amazon, for those you still looking for a fun, exciting read) and contrary to my normal procrastination mode, I made it in just under the wire.

I was assigned to Booknest.eu , which I was unaware of but looks like a really awesome review site.

Now, it is very possible that pilgrimage will get bounced before it even has a chance.  Someone might read it and go, “Eh, not my cup of tea,” and toss is aside.  But there’s that saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  I see nothing but upside for this, so again, what the hell, why not?

I will let y’all know what happens.