Survey of self-published authors

Here are some interesting survey results. I’ve only taken a cursory look at this, but I believe these numbers are supposed to apply to self-published authors who are making a serious attempt to succeed at building writing into a career, putting at least half their working hours into writing and related activities.

This is based on a broad survey targeting whomever wanted to answer survey questions on this topic AND spent about 50% of their time on writing and related tasks. I would assume the numbers are biased toward people who are doing well, because those are the people most likely to fill out a survey. But I don’t KNOW that; it just seems likely. Nevertheless, the numbers seem reasonably plausible.

  • The average (mean) income of self-published authors in 2022 was over $80,000.
  • Some 28% earned $50k+ and almost a fifth ran six-figure publishing businesses.
  • Almost half of the respondents (43.8%) reported over $20k revenue.
  • Almost a quarter had not yet started to earn, bringing in between 0 and 1K.
  • The median income of self-published authors was $12,749. 

So something like a fifth below $1000 per year, another fifth above $100,000 per year — very wide spread, which of course we knew. Mean of $80,000, about 40% over $20,000 per year, median about $13,000 per year.

The difference between the mean and the median tells us that a significant number of self-published authors surveyed are making A LOT over $80,000. It’s the “fifth” that are in six figures that must be pulling up the mean, and “running a publishing business” strikes me as something that should be chopped up into pieces. Any writers who are publishing a significant number of works by other people as well as their own ought to be in a different category from authors publishing only their own works. Maybe they are; as I said, I did not look at any of this in detail, just glanced over the linked summary.

The difference between “about 40% earning over $20,000” and “median $13,000” is interesting. The other 60% must be way below $13,000. Of course that includes the quarter of respondents who are not really earning much at all.

  • More than 2,000 authors have surpassed $100,000 in “royalties” from Amazon KDP in 2022. 

That doesn’t surprise me at all. If you have a million people fairly serious to very serious about self-publishing, then 2000 people represents 0.002 or 0.2% of those people. If anything, that sounds low. Maybe only 100,000 people are fairly serious; that would put the percentage of those authors earning above $100,000 at 2%, which seems plausible.

  • Many authors now run thriving businesses on their own websites, through direct sales, crowdfunding, and patronage from readers.

That sounds like a fair bit of trouble. You have to do a good deal of work to run a Kickstarter, and doing weekly or monthly content for Patreon would be worse. I mean, unless you have a knack for writing short stories fast or whatever.

Selling books directly wouldn’t be particularly annoying. I wonder how many readers would like to buy signed copies? Even though I don’t have any particular setup to do that , I’m certainly happy to sign a copy of anything and send it to anybody who asks. I mean, in case you wondered.

  • Author Brandon Sanderson made crowdfunding history publishing by independently publishing four books through Kickstarter, securing a record-breaking $41m (his goal was $1m).

I think we all heard about that.

  • The Pulitzer Prize, the British Book Awards and the Commonwealth Book Prize (amongst other major literary awards) are now all open to self-published authors.

I’m not sure we had all heard about that! I hadn’t.

  • Books by indie authors account for 30-34% of all e-book sales in the largest English-language markets, as reported in Publishers Weekly.

I would be stunned if it were any less. I’m actually surprised it’s not more. If you add in Kindle Unlimited, I bet it’s more — maybe a lot more.

  • A study by FicShelf found that women wrote just 39% of traditionally published titles, but 67% of self-published titles.

Well, of course. That’s the huge emphasis on romances in self-publishing. I mean:

The Smashwords annual ebook survey shows how self-published romance ebooks dominate the ebook market. In short, the romance genre accounts for a staggering 87% of the top 100 bestsellers on Smashwords and their aggregators. Should I repeat that number? Eighty-seven percent! The number must make all romance authors smile. While it is impossible to compare this data with sales of self-published romance novels on Amazon Kindle, one could make a logical assumption that romance probably also dominates Kindle ebook sales.

And here: about 40% of all fiction titles are romances.

I wonder how many guys are writing and self-publishing romance under a female name? I bet quite a few. I would actually really like to know (a) what proportion of “romance authors” are actually scammers with ghostwriters and clickfarms, and (b) whether Amazon is EVER going to slam that loophole shut.

Also, looks like about half of all bestselling romances, SF, and fantasy are now self-published. That doesn’t surprise me either.

Okay! While on the subject of self-publishing:

Have you heard of Publisher Rocket? If you are self-publishing, you probably have; if you’re thinking of self-publishing, it’s an interesting service. It costs about $100 for a lifetime subscription. I have just poked at it a little so far, but I hope it will be useful. It looks like it may be. Among other things, it will take a keyword phrase, such as “space opera” and show you what searches that phrase actually occurs in, such as (among lots of others), “space opera military SF” or “space opera adventure” or “space opera romance free” and it will show you, among other things: (a) how many titles currently use that keyword phrase; (b) the average price of those titles; (c) how many people search on Amazon for that particular phrase per month; (d) how competitive that keyword phrase is — that is, how hard it is to get your book noticed if you use that phrase.

For example:

Space opera –> 38,000 competing titles –> average price $13 –> 5500 people per month search for that phrase –> highly competitive keyword phrase.

Space opera military science fiction –> 18,000 competing titles –> average price $3 –> fewer than 100 people per month search for that phrase –> medium competitive keyword phrase.

Space opera adventure –> 26,000 competitors –> $4 –> fewer than 100 people per month –> highly competitive keyword phrase.

Space opera romance free –> 330 competitors –> free –> 6500 people per month (isn’t that interesting?) –> medium competitive keyword phrase.

Space opera exploration –> 7800 competitors –> $5 –> fewer than 100 people per month –> low competitive keyword phrase

Space opera cherryh foreigner –> 336 competitors –> $9 –> fewer than 100 people per month –> very low competitive keyword phrase

It would never have occurred to me to put author or series names into keyword boxes. But not only can you do that, apparently it can be quite useful to do that. You can put as many words as will fit into each of the seven keyword boxes KDP offers you (this was not obvious to me; someone had to tell me you can fill up those boxes). You do not need to put in keywords that are already chosen as categories, such as “Science fiction.” That means one box can be “space opera adventure exploration military battles” and the next can be “friends family “romance free” “enemies to allies” aliens” and the next can be “piper fuzzy cherryh foreigner chanur” and so on.

I wonder how much difference keywords can make? Not sure, but various people (David Gaughran) suggest they can be very important. You are also, it seems, supposed to make an effort to put useful keywords into the book description. Fine. I added a line at the bottom of the description for NO FOREIGN SKY that uses the terms “space opera” and “adventure.” Can’t hurt, might help. Have I mentioned I dropped the preorder price? It might drop further, not sure, but it won’t go up higher than $4.99 until June, maybe not until the end of June.

Anyway, still gotta poke at Publisher Rocket some more and maybe adjust the category strings for various books.

Meanwhile! I’ve finalized the newsletter that will go out May 1st, including adding the entire first chapter of NO FOREIGN SKY. It doesn’t copy with correct formatting, so I had to go through and add a line between each paragraph and the next. Have I mentioned this is a pretty long first chapter? So that was somewhat tedious. Done now, and scheduled, whew! That’s a nice checkmark on my Stuff to Do list.

Please Feel Free to Share:


One more time: Cover comments?

For simplicity, let’s call these covers 1, 2, and 3.

Cover 1


Cover 2


Cover 3


It seems to be VERY DIFFICULT to get borders on the sides. I’m serious. Every frame and border, the sides vanish as you move the frame into place. I have no idea about that and, once more, I’m going to reiterate that my patience for this is running low-ish, so I’m feeling that putting borders on the top and bottom is good enough. BUT I am glad to try a greenish background. What do you think?

Canva mostly wants to put a picture of some sort on the background. I’m having to scroll past a million cover images to find the blank ones that are basically plain colors.

Again, against a white background, the palest color does show up better. I grant, it’s never going to show up as well as a darker background. If enough of you say you prefer a darker background, I’ll bow to your collective wisdom, especially because to be honest, I pretty much do like all of these about equally.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Please comment on the cover

I’m glad early commenters think the basic cover idea looks good! Please pick one. Comments regarding background color and borders are fine — that’s exactly what I would like — but let’s just please note ahead of time that I reserve the right to not spend fifteen hours trying to get Canva to produce a particular type of border when it REALLY does not want to do that.

Please Feel Free to Share:


A somewhat horrifying view of cats and cat domestication

Cat Psychology & Domestication: Are We Good Owners?

From my title combined with the title of the linked post, I bet you can guess that the answer is: (A) Possibly we’re not overall doing great as cat owners. (B) More surprisingly: cats may not have been domesticated as vermin-killers. (C) One horrifying part: the real reason cats may have been domesticated. (D) A second horrifying part: we may be de-domesticating cats, with the cost of that de-domestication paid by the cats.

The linked article is REALLY long, so click through if you are interested and have PLENTY of time. But it’s certainly interesting and thought-provoking. It’s based on a book called Cat Sense by Bradshaw.

Let me provide a tidbit from the linked article that addresses each point above:

A) Are we good owners?

…cats’ emotional needs are still the cause of widespread misapprehensions. Cats are widely perceived as being far more socially adaptable than they actually are. Owners polled for a recent survey said that half of pet cats avoid (human) visitors to the house; almost all pet cats either get into fights with cats from neighboring houses, or avoid any contact with them; and half of the cats that share households with other cats either fight or avoid one another.1 Research confirms that cats find such conflicts highly stressful: they experience fear during the event itself, and anxiety in anticipation of the next encounter. They are constantly hypervigilant through cues we are unaware of, such as the odor of a rival cat. Chronic anxiety can lead to deteriorating health and may reduce life expectancy. Unfortunately, we do not know enough about how to mitigate this situation, made worse by the ever-increasing number of cats kept as pets.

How many of us really try hard to ameliorate the boredom and stress experienced by indoor cats?

Based on Bradshaw’s advice, I tried a number of things:

I replaced a noisy box fan & put rubber vibration-absorbing pads on the bottoms of all the fans/air-filters/⁣dehumidifiers/⁣computers (unclear efficacy);

I bought a Feliway cat pheromone diffuser spray (no apparent benefit and the Feliway-sponsored studies left me skeptical);

I bought a large water bowl to encourage drinking and moved his feeding station to a more hidden corner;

I bought two ‘puzzle treat’ balls, simple and complex, to put dry food or treat bits in for him to play with (a big hit, although use must be strictly rationed to avoid triggering cystitis again, and the simple treat ball, which was an empty sphere, turned out to be far too easy to get treats out of6);

I bought 2 ‘cat condos’ which are cubes similar to cat perches (which he frequently sleeps on although again I don’t know how much difference that makes);

I got red/blue/⁣purple/⁣green laser pointers off eBay to supplement the wand for playing chase (initially highly effective but he quickly lost interest & I think limitations of cat color vision may make some colors much less effective7);

I got a Sphero Mini (cool toy but he remained afraid of it so after a year I gave it to my sister for her ferret); [snip]

The vet, during the next visit which went poorly (as usual: Volk et al 2011/⁣⁣Volk et al 2014)9, gave me a 3-pill sample of gabapentin10 to try during relatives’ visits or future appointments (when I tried one dose, it made a little difference but not a lot, so I reserved the remaining 2 for the next vet visit, and 2×100mg turned out to be much more effective although the visit was still difficult for both of us); a

and I replaced the opaque cardboard/foam insulation around the cat-flap with an acrylic sheet from Lowe’s I cut to fit so he could more easily watch outside while laying on the window ledge.

I also began periodically putting him in the cat carrier and carrying him around either by hand or in my car to try to gradually reduce his aversion to it.

One particular success was using ‘videos-for-cats’: I had a hard time getting him to pay attention to the computer monitor long enough to realize that it was displaying videos of birds, but when I turned on the sound, he noticed and instantly became addicted.

Of these, the most worthwhile changes seem to be the wet cat food, puzzle treats, cat condos, videos-for-cats and exposure therapy.

In total, this owner took more than a dozen substantive steps to try to improve his cat’s life by reducing the boredom and stress of daily life and also reducing the stress of going to the vet. How many of us have done this much? I bolded the most useful tips in case anybody would like to try this video-for-cats thing, which I have never heard of.

B) The common assumption I shared, that cats were naturals for domestication because they are such good vermin exterminators, is apparently not well-supported as there were many alternatives, some superior to cats in ways. Instead, Bradshaw suggests that the key to their domestication may be—and this is speculative, I should caution—their essentially arbitrary role as popular sacrifices, requiring countless ‘catteries’ attached to temples, and at least millions of sacrifices on a scale staggering to contemplate: … We will never know how many cats were sacrificed this way. The archaeologists who discovered these sites wrote of vast heaps of white cat bones, and dust from disintegrating plaster and linen blowing across the desert. Several other cemeteries were excavated wholesale, and their contents ground up and used as fertilizer—some was used locally, some was exported. One shipment of cat mummies alone, sent to London, weighed nineteen tons, out of which just one cat was removed and presented to the British Museum before the remainder were ground into powder.

Mummies, by the way, do not weigh very much. They are desiccated objects.

C) While on the subject, let me also draw your attention to this paragraph of the linked article:

Kittens have a much shorter window of plasticity than puppies, who can tolerate lack of human contact for up to seven weeks with any harm, but by that point, kittens have already been damaged. … Similarly, kittens raised as litter-mates will get along closely, as indicated by things like grooming each other or laying touching another or happily eating side by side; while cats who met as adults will rarely or never do those behaviors no matter how cordial. And kittens raised with friendly dogs will be fine with dogs in the future, which is not something which could be said of all (or even most?) cats who encountered dogs as adults…

Not everyone realizes that kittens MUST BE SOCIALIZED VERY YOUNG or they do not get properly socialized at all. When I picked up those two adorable stray kittens last summer, they were about five weeks old, which is very young to separate from the mother BUT NOT TOO YOUNG TO BE SOCIALIZED. That is in fact the ideal age to socialize kittens. They hiss; you ignore that and pick them up, cradle them securely, pet them, and put them down again one zillion times a day. Two days later they are no longer hissing. Two days after that, they are coming to you for attention. If you don’t get this done before seven weeks, it does not work properly and the kitten’s ability to socialize to humans has most likely been permanently impaired. This is something to keep in mind when adopting kittens.

Cat respiratory viruses are a major killer in kittens and therefore some shelters keep kittens separate from each other and avoid handling the kittens and you know what that does? It crushes socialization, which cannot be made up later. In my opinion, it’s much better to risk kittens getting sick and dying rather than permanently stunting their socialization.

Also, always get two. Either littermates or age-mates. It’s very unlikely you can get two unrelated adult cats to ever be buddies the way littermates will be. Two kittens are four times as cute as one, and half as much trouble as the exercise and entertain each other. Two kittens, every time.

Moving one: Here’s an interesting point I never thought of, though it’s obvious:

D) Where do cats come from? Given that we sterilize almost all our pet cats and hardly buy from cat breeders, pedigree or otherwise, they must come from somewhere.

I don’t know where my family’s two cats or my cat came from, beyond “the animal shelter”; my neighbor’s cat was definitely a feral cat’s offspring; my aunt’s cat was from a pet cat’s litter but almost certainly had an at least semi-feral father; on the other side of the family, my uncle’s farm cat was definitely a semi-feral cat tolerated for its assumed pest hunting; more pointedly, as far as I know, no one within two degrees of separation of me has ever bought a purebred or pedigreed cat, while I can offhandedly recall 10 purebred dogs (and counting) which were bought specifically from dog breeders and 3 or 4 of which were even registered. (I eventually asked my grandmother, “has anyone in our family ever bought a pedigree cat, or from a cat breeder at all?” She could think of no examples either over the last century, but agreed that there were at least a dozen dogs bought from breeders.) Those dogs definitely were not accidents or fathered by stray feral dogs. I do not know how much reproduction feral cats account for or how much de-domestication it is responsible for, but it does seem like it could be a lot, and could be enough to drastically slow any domesticating process or even reverse domestication.

… I acknowledge that Ragamuffins might be too dog-like for many people, but I do not think that things like stressing oneself to death via cystitis or being terrified of strangers are intrinsic to cats’ appeal, nor do I think any owner actively desires those things, and it should be possible to improve social skills & plasticity & anxiety while preserving the things we value about cats, like their perennial curiosity, watchfulness, clever trial-and-error, enjoyment of playing chase, purring etc without having to keep their problems like exploding kidneys or adult cats’ inability to befriend.

… “if a dog breed were as unhealthy, neurotic, unable to adapt, and stressed out by interaction to the point of routine life-threatening kidney failure, as normal cats are now, buying such a dog would be considered more immoral than buying a pug or English bulldog is now”; and so on. But because they are cats, it’s taken for granted and just the ‘catus quo’. (“Oh cats—isn’t it so funny how cats spend all that time staring out the window? Or won’t stay in the same room as the family dog? Or hide whenever someone visits? Or pee in your bed? Or bite you for no reason? Adorable!” No. No, not really.)

Basic conclusion of the linked article: cats are barely domesticated, possibly less domesticated than pet rats and definitely less domesticated than those Russian foxes; and lots of people do not know how to handle cats and routinely subject their cats to unnecessary, accidental, repetitive stress. And every problem currently experienced by cats may be getting worse, as shy feral and half-feral cats are by far the cats that are permitted to reproduce.


An interesting and certainly thought-provoking article. It’s made me think differently about how and where to get a couple of kittens in the future, something I very much would like to do eventually, when I have fewer dogs.

Image from Pixabay

Please Feel Free to Share:


Tuyo World Companion: possible cover

Okay, so I just put this together myself using Canva. What do you think?

I tried to get a black border all the way around, but that was startlingly non-easy. And this border came out double, as you see. But it looks all right, I think?

Please Feel Free to Share:


If You Need a Prompt for an SF Thriller

Scientific discovery gets kind of government seal of approval

Known as CNEOS 2014-01-08, the meteor measured only 1.5 feet wide and was hurtling toward Earth at about 45 kilometers per second, well over 100,000 mph, which is a clue that it’s not from this solar system. The meteor ignited into a fireball on Jan. 8, 2014, when it entered Earth’s atmosphere off the coast of Papua, New Guinea, with the energy equivalent to about 110 metric tons of TNT. It may have sprinkled fragments into the Pacific Ocean. CNEOS 2014-01-08 is now the third interstellar object that has been confirmed, along with Oumuamua and the comet 2I/Borisov. … the researchers are currently looking into an ocean expedition to search the ocean floor off the coast of Papua New Guinea for pieces of the 2014 meteor.

“If we were able to recover any fragments from this meteor, it would represent the first time that humanity has ever touched a rock from beyond our solar system,” Siraj said.

This reminds me strongly of the Egyptian sarcophagus — I mean the giant creepy black one that had been closed for 2000 years. The one that obviously constituted a prompt for a fantasy thriller. Or maybe a horror novel.

In the same way, here we are, an interstellar meteor that struck Earth and (probably) broke up into pieces. Or maybe not! Maybe if you go poking around on the ocean floor off the coast of Papua New Guinea, you’ll find something that didn’t break up in the atmosphere … This is making me think of the movie Alien vs Predator. Don’t go poking at the mysterious object that crashed to Earth!


As a writer, I will add, that headline would be more effective this way: Scientific discovery gets government seal of approval, kind of.

Stick the fun part of the headline at the end to increase visibility and add coolness to the whole headline!

Giant black sarcophagus to be opened Tuesday: “Not creepy at all,” claims lead researcher.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Check this out:

Cover Reveal: Song of the Lioness Quartet 40th-Anniversary Reissue

How about that? A 40th Anniversary edition! Wow. This isn’t as striking for me as for a lot of readers, I’m sure, because somehow I missed these books in the 80s and 90s. I didn’t personally read anything by Tamora Pierce until I was an adult. Even so, look at that, a whole generation of fantasy fans probably grew up with Alanna as their introduction to fantasy.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers is reissuing special editions, the covers of which are seen here for the first time. The anniversary editions include hardcover and paperback versions out on August 29, a reissue of the paperback boxed set with new art, and the first-ever hardcover boxed set, available September 26. All editions will include an afterword by Pierce.

This is certainly a nice thing to offer fans.

With the new cover designs, Jimenez said, the goal was not only to acknowledge Alanna as an iconic character but to focus on the power and strength that makes her so beloved. “Many of the previous covers for this series have either gone with a traditional ‘medieval fantasy’ aesthetic or have used a more symbolic approach that doesn’t visually center Alanna herself,” she said. “Designer Rebecca Syracuse and I wanted to show Alanna in strong, dynamic poses that cue how epic her adventures really are. And our incredible cover artist, Yuta Onoda, was right on the same wavelength with us.” The books “keep becoming relevant in new ways,” she added, and the new covers reflect the message that these stories are for “anyone who believes they can be something more than what society tells them they’re supposed to be.”

They’re nice covers, MG style of course, but very appropriate for that category. I like them, especially the last, Lioness Rampant. Somehow that image just really appeals to me.

There’s an interview at the link as well as all the covers, so certainly click through if you’re a Tamora Pierce fan.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Update: Puppies are only getting more distracting, but progress is somehow being made anyway

First, the distractions:

Leda’s pups, I think three weeks old in this picture. The one most visible is Girl 1, the puppy I am most likely to keep from this litter. I am so ready for a puppy, and man, I am short of girls.

Below, the little ones again — here, they have moved from the living room playpen/crate to the actual puppy room. At three weeks, they need more space, more interesting things to do and explore. That will help them develop mentally and physically. Therefore the move. That cardboard box behind them is a den — if you squint you can see the opening. Very tiny puppies sometimes like a den to retreat into if they hear or see something scary. Or if they get cold, they may go into the den. As a plus, going AWAY from the den to do their business is a puppy instinct that should be kicking on just about now, and providing a den plus plenty of space helps that instinct come in properly and therefore assists in housetraining.

Here, the tiny ones are meeting Aunt Naamah. She is one hundred percent reliable. She won’t hurt them on purpose AND she won’t hurt them accidentally. Morgan is like this too. Just absolutely super with tiny puppies. You can’t always count on that, so it’s great to have adult dogs who are perfectly reliable with puppies.

Below, Uncle Conner meets Morgan’s Blenheim puppy. Actually I guess he’s Great-Uncle Conner, but gosh, that makes him sound old and he’s only six. Nevertheless, he’s Naamah’s father, so yep, Great-Uncle. Look how cute he is! He wants the puppy to chase him. This Blen puppy is SUPER confident. He’s not very fazed at all by Conner barking and bouncing at him. Little Blen boy would be … I hate to say this … but he would be a FANTASTIC show dog. Have I mentioned that I’m extremely tempted to keep him? In theory I have one puppy available for a pet home, but if I keep this little guy, I don’t, and wow, I am SO tempted. He has a lovely broad head at this age and his bite is correct so far. Honestly too early to evaluate structure, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be excellent.

Trundling toward me outside. Honestly, what a great puppy! I think he is going to be a bit independent and something of a handful. The Tri boy back there isn’t heading toward me right that second, but in fact I think he is very person-oriented. He doesn’t so far want to explore. He wants to follow a person. He’s always moving toward a person, very seldom heading out and away. That’s a nice personality as long as he’s not shy. Which he isn’t, he’s quite bold for his age, it’s just the Blen puppy makes every other puppy in the world seem at least a little hesitant. The first move toward independence is supposed to develop about seven weeks, but I think it already has in the Blen puppy.

Wouldn’t Anara Quintessential be a great name for a show dog?

While on the subject of show dogs, check this out!

This is a boy from Morgan’s previous litter, full brother to Morgan’s current pair of boys — his name is Gimli and here he, right after winning his first major in the show ring this past weekend! Go, Gimli! Good job, Camille! His real name is Owain Lord Of Moria At Your Service, and I am pretty sure he will eventually be a “well-balanced dog” — that is, with a title at both ends. (Champion goes in the front, performance titles at the back of the name, hence the jokes about “well-balanced dogs.”)

One more dog pic from this weekend:

Morgan and Naamah are not sure what they think of Rover, my brand-new robot vacuum cleaner. I have thought about a robot vacuum cleaner for years, for obvious reasons. My primary vacuum cleaner jammed, again, and I can’t get it unjammed, again. My secondary vacuum cleaner is still functional, but I’m tired of taking my primary vacuum cleaner to the shop in town and paying for them to fix it. So this seemed like a good time to try a robot vacuum cleaner, especially since the prices have come down quite a bit since the first time I though about getting one.

So far I’m pretty optimistic about Rover. I have been following him around watching as he swooshes up leaf bits and the first oak flowers — man, I hate those things — and (this is probably not a surprise) dog hair.

The dogs are not super sure they like Rover, but I am cautiously optimistic that I am going to LOVE Rover.

Rover is filling up his teensy little dust compartment quite briskly. However, the real issue is that the entire downstairs is carpeted and, when placed downstairs, Rover is also picking up enough old ground-in dog hair to jam his roller. I actually think this is great! Who knew Rover would have powerful enough suction to do that? Also, it made me figure out how to take out and clean the roller, which fortunately is not at all difficult. (I hate hate hate having to figure out new technological appliances, so I am always really happy when an engineer somewhere makes something super easy).

I have a small scissors that is perfect for the task of cutting the pet hair so I can pull it out of the roller, and already Rover is jamming up MUCH more slowly. He has gotten stuck just once, not sure why since it looked to me like he should be able to back and turn and get out of that situation, but at the moment, I’m only running Rover when I’m home to keep an eye on him. I’m docking him downstairs, though that is not the primary living area, because I do not want the delicate power cord exposed to little puppy teeth. I’m fine with running Rover upstairs only at night, or only when I’m there to supervise, whatever turns out to be most useful.

Oh! I’m also finally able to leave the mothers unsupervised upstairs at night and go down to sleep in a real bed instead of on the couch! The couch is not bad — good thing since I slept there for the past five weeks — but I am still happy about being able to go back downstairs to the bedroom. Big milestone for puppies. Three weeks and they’re no longer subject to chilling, too big to get accidentally squashed by their mother, mobile enough to move around if they need to, AND the puppy playpen/crate thing in the living room gives Leda enough room to move away from the puppies when she wants to, but keeps her close enough they can move toward her and nurse when they actually need to. So much better than last year, when I had to wake up at least once per night and order Leda to lie down and let her puppies nurse.

Meanwhile! What ELSE is going on, you may well be asking.

A) I’ve integrated yet another proofreader’s “finds” into TASMAKAT and uploaded the new! improved! manuscript to KDP. That was Hanneke, and sure enough, she found a bunch no one else had found. We are NOWHERE NEAR my predicted 180 typos, however. This is either an extraordinarily clean manuscript, or else proofreaders are all too absorbed by the story to notice typos. Possibly both!

You know how I warned you not to start chapter 40 at bedtime because you would not be able to stop at the end of the chapter? I am happy to report that proofreaders are uniformly telling me this is one hundred percent true. I am immensely pleased to make readers stay up till 2:30 AM, but seriously, let me reiterate, do not start chapter 40 at bedtime.

B) The audiobook narrator for TARASHANA finally completed the narration, MANY ECSTATIC CHEERS FROM ME

It took much much longer to complete than I had anticipated or hoped, but it is fantastic.

I instantly hit the go button from my side … well, I had somehow lost the audiobook cover, but as soon as the artist re-sent that to me, I instantly hit the “Approve” button. So, after a hopefully short review period, TARASHANA will suddenly become available in audio format. You ought to see it available at a good price if you already own the Kindle version. I hope you do! I have certainly listened to it several times and it’s great. I hear everyone’s voices in this narrator’s voice now.

This means I ought to be moving ahead with audio editions for SUELEN and TANO as soon as possible.

PRO TIP: If you are self-publishing, do not do a royalty share arrangement with the FIRST book in a series. You cannot control the price if you do that and therefore you cannot run promotions of any kind. You do get control back after, I believe, seven years, which is actually not that long! However, I will soon be asking ACX if there is any way I can pay the audiobook narrator for the first book a fee and reclaim rights to the audiobook immediately. That way I would be able to run price promotions via, I don’t know, isn’t there something called Chirp? I’m sure there are ways to do audio promotions these days. There is no real rush, as promotion is more worthwhile when all the books in the series are available in audio format.

C) I’m making progress on the story about returning Hokino’s knife, the story that is meant to be included in the World Companion. It is not going to be 15,000 words long, ha ha ha no. It’s that long right now and we are not near the end. Instead, a middle section unexpectedly appeared, which is making the story significantly longer than I expected. Will that middle section remain in the final version? Well, I hope so, given I have written most of it. Anyway, I am now aiming to bring that story in at 30,000 words, which is approximately 100 pages. I still maintain that there’s no way this is going to expand into an actual novel. No. Way.

If any other questions occur to you that you would like to see in the “interview” section of the World Companion, or indeed if anything at occurs to you that you would like to see in the World Companion, please let me know. You can check out previous suggestions in the comments here if you like.

D) FINE, I have approached an illustrator about making a map, maybe two maps. These will be world maps, probably focused on the parts of the winter country and summer country that we’ve seen in the most detail.

If any of you happen to draw and would like to produce illustrations, I would be very happy to consider whatever you draw and I would of course pay you for artwork that gets included. I do not really want illustrations of main characters, however, as I honestly prefer to let the reader imagine characters as they wish.

This is also going to force me to double-check where tribes’ territories lie relative to inGara’s territory (I needed to do that anyway), and where counties, towns, and villages are relative to each other, and mountain ranges and stuff, in the summer lands (yes, that too needed to be done anyway). I will just mention that this is really tedious and annoying.

I hope it’s easy to include drawings and maps and things in an ebook. Google tells me that you can just add images to the Word file in the ordinary way and KDP will take it from there. Why do I suspect that it may be more difficult than that in practice?

E) Did I mention I got a clean paper copy of NO FOREIGN SKY? Well, my mother is proofreading it now. She says it is heavy going, but as long as she just looks for typos she is okay. I’m pretty sure this is not going to be the book of mine she puts at the top of her personal favorites, though. (She puts the Death’s Lady trilogy at the top.)

F) Did I mention I included the first chapter of INVICTUS as a teaser at the back of NO FOREIGN SKY? Doing that caused me to re-read the first chapter, tweaking it to match the cover art that is already finished and finalized. And THAT pulled me back into INVICTUS. It’s been just about exactly a year since I finished the draft, and I guess that has been long enough, because it’s quite seductive, pulling me away from the story about returning Hokino’s knife. I’m letting this happen, working on the new story in the morning when it’s easiest for me to do new writing; then switching to INVICTUS in the afternoon when I don’t have the right kind of mental energy to work on anything new.

So, lots of progress in various semi-random directions over the previous week! I expect this week will bring more of the same, plus lots (LOTS) more distraction from the ever-more-distracting puppies! But with luck I will not have to spend time vacuuming, even if I do need to clean the pet hair out of Rover’s roller every day for the next week before the little guy gets caught up and is able to concentrate on cleaning up those dratted oak flowers.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Gratuitous Puppy Pictures for Friday

Puppies really do like slippers. A minute after this incipient wrestling match, they were both chewing on one with their new little teeth.

Very first trip outdoors! You know why I start housetraining puppies so early? Because I don’t like cleaning up messes any more than the next person, that’s why. Yes, it makes later housetraining easier for us all. Sure, it’s also good for the new puppy owner. But it’s also just worth extra trips up and down the stairs to take the puppies out and let them do their business outside. Which they automatically do if given a chance, so that’s handy. Also, I’m really happy my knee is almost back to normal because I see a lot of stairs in my near-future.

Please Feel Free to Share:


Setting and sense of place

From The Creative Penn, this article: Setting And Sense Of Place

Your job as a writer is to manipulate the reader’s imagination, to make them think and feel what you want them to, but too many writers forget the importance of setting in their books. … In fact, a common error for new writers is “talking heads in an empty white room,” where characters have great conversations and undertake significant action, but it’s unclear where it’s all happening.

This is true. “White room” settings are a common failure mode one sees in workshops. The linked post adds these examples:

Morgan walked along a path through the trees.


Morgan slowly walked along a winding path that meandered through a dense forest of towering evergreens with needle-like leaves, interspersed with spindly birch trees with papery white bark. Their trunks reached up towards the sky like giant pillars, their bark rough to the touch with deep grooves and ridges that formed intricate patterns. Leaves rustled gently in the light breeze, creating a soft whispering sound as the scent of pine and earth filled the air. Sunlight filtered through the branches of the trees, dappling the ground with patches of warm light.

And there you go, that’s a good contrast. I mean, even I, who love description, would cut some of those adjectives, but nevertheless, sure, adding description is crucial. White room settings will just not work in a novel, and here I’m pausing to try to think of the most stripped-down possible fiction to see if I think I really mean “crucial.”

Yes, I really do. You cannot write successful fiction without including decent description to give your reader a sense of place. If the reader does not get a feel of the setting, the story will fail. If anyone can think of an exception, let me know.

Maybe flash fiction could do it. I mean things like “Baby shoes, never worn, for sale cheap,” or whatever that example was. But anything longer than that, I don’t think that’s possible.

Back to the linked post:

All stories, whether fiction, memoir, or narrative non-fiction, happen somewhere, so setting is a key aspect of writing.

From an epic fantasy world to a small room in a literary novel, to the open road of a personal travel memoir, your characters experience their journey in specific places.

A scene in a story has one or more characters in a setting performing some kind of action toward a specific goal. The setting is the backdrop against which the scene unfolds.

In fact, a common error for new writers is “talking heads in an empty white room,” where characters have great conversations and undertake significant action, but it’s unclear where it’s all happening.

Here are three quick tips to help you write better settings, whether you’re writing fiction, memoir, or narrative non-fiction.

  1. Use sensory details
  2. Write from the character’s point of view
  3. Use metaphor

I think all of these are good points. That is, I think the first is a no-brainer. It’s impossible to write description without including sensory detail. True, it’s possible to forget that any senses exist besides vision, but still, description is fundamentally based on the senses.

Oh, let me pause here to mention an unusual series: The Blue Place and sequels by Nicola Griffith. That does not appear to be available as an ebook, which is a shame. The publisher should be embarrassed at not converting the books to ebook format. On the other hand, Griffith really ought to ask for ebook rights back given that the publisher isn’t using them. Regardless, I still recommend this series, even if you ordinarily read only ebooks. It’s a thriller or a crime novel or something in that general ballpark, not SFF.

I know I’ve said this before, but the protagonist, Aud Torvingen, is one of the very few sensualist protagonists I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and amazingly well drawn. This makes for a remarkable reading experience, especially for readers who ordinarily may like, for example, competence porn. Thinking of it that way, you know what would be super interesting? Reading The Blue Place and The Martian back to back. Both protagonists are highly competent people, but the sensory world is so central for Aud and practically absent for Mark Watney. Description is of course important for both novels. Andy Weir has to pull the reader into the limited environment of the Mars habitat and show the deadly inhospitality of the Martian environment outside the habitat. Of course description is crucial for that. But Griffith pours the sensory world of summertime Atlanta into the reader’s mind in a way that is just so purely evocative of place.

Also, The Blue Place is a character study, and of course The Martian has about the flattest character in creation.

Do I need to pause here and add that I loved The Martian? Probably I should say so with some emphasis. I loved The Martian and I’ve read it several times. I enjoyed it tremendously. I love well-done competence porn. I am not criticizing The Martian. I am pointing out that it is way out at one end of a specific curve and The Blue Place is way out at the other end. The way each book handles description is fine, but totally different: entirely filtered through the protagonist in Griffith’s novel and almost entirely independent of the protagonist in Weir’s.

Aud is a highly competent but very physical person. Maybe I should say she is primarily competent physically. That’s very different from Mark Watney. It means The Blue Place is a highly physical book, a sensory explosion of a book, while The Martian is much more cerebral. This is true even though both are high-tension stories at times.

The third suggestion made by the linked post is something different. Use metaphor. Okay, what does that even mean?

You can even use the setting itself as a metaphor. For example, two characters walk through a graveyard in the snow on a dark wintery day. “Let’s talk about our future,” one says.

The same dialogue, the same two characters, but the setting is now a white sand beach fringed by palm trees in the glorious sunshine. The setting changes the mood and the meaning entirely.

Yes, this is interesting because it doesn’t depend on the pov of the protagonist. It arises from the, um, the stage-direction of the author. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of description, but certainly the setting the author chooses may allow certain emotions to be evoked rather than others.

The linked post is advertising a course about setting. I’m not crazy about courses of this kind, though I guess some writers must find them helpful. I would suggest paying attention to setting and sense of place in books you love. Attentive reading is, in my opinion, much more use than tips, hints, tricks, hacks, methods, techniques, or anything else that the writer is supposed to consciously deploy while writing.

I probably feel that way because I write by feel and the idea of deliberately using some sort of technique, any sort of technique, seems so alien. Nevertheless, I hereby recommend The Blue Place for evocative setting, intense sense of place, and pulling the reader into the story through the sensory world of the protagonist.

An April night in Atlanta between thunderstorms: dark and warm and wet, sidewalks shiny with rain and slick with torn leaves and fallen azaliea blossoms. Nearly midnight. I had been walking for over an hour, covering four or five miles. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t sleepy.

You would think that my bad dreams would be of the first man I had killed, thirteen years ago. Or if not him, then maybe the teenager who had burned to death in front of me because I was too slow to get the man with the match. But no, when I turn out the lights at ten o’clock and can’t keep still, can’t even bear to sit down in my Lake Claire house, it’s because I see again the first body I hadn’t killed.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Scroll to Top