Writing

Why I’m Removing Posts from My Blog

I’ve run over 400 posts on Rogue Priest. I’m about to prune that down to a much smaller number.

Like any writer, I don’t always love my earlier work. Some older articles remain important parts of my philosophy or tell part of my story—but many don’t. That’s why I’ve gone through everything from the beginning and tagged 75 posts for removal.

Just because a post is tagged for pruning doesn’t mean it’s a bad post or that I no longer agree with it. In some cases that’s true, but others promote products (which I no longer do) or take a tone I don’t like. My voice has, I’d like to believe, matured a lot since 2010.

But the majority of these posts will be pruned simply because they are completely off topic for the main themes of this blog, which are:

  • Living a life of adventure and travel
  • Becoming a writer
  • Exploring religious traditions
  • Practicing formal philosophy and making it applicable to real life
  • Heroism

Chances are, if an older post doesn’t directly relate to one of those five topics, I’ve decided to take it off the site.

None of the posts have been removed yet. I realize I have fans out there who might like some of these old posts more than I do, and I didn’t want to prune them off without warning.

Worried a favorite post of yours will disappear? You have 7 days to save it to your own computer. You can see all of the posts in question under the “Pruning” tag here: Posts to be Pruned

Although it may be more fun to see them oldest-first, which you can do by starting here.

All of those posts will disappear Sunday night.

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Writing

How did you promote your book so well?

Over the past four days I ran a promotion for my book Lúnasa Days that helped put it at the top of the Fantasy and Literary lists on the Amazon free store. Several people have asked me how I managed to do this.

Instead of writing a lengthy how-to, I’ll point you to some of the articles I used to learn the ropes:

The book that took #1 in Fantasy

Note that I perused significantly more articles than this; I’m focusing on these because they offer specific actionable steps, they do not have a “here is what a great author I am” tone and they aren’t just hooks for you to buy a how-to book. If you read these, you’ll know just about everything I know when it comes to making a Kindle Free Promotion work. It’s rather formulaic, actually.

However, there are two things I would emphasize that these articles don’t. The first is writing a book that’s actually good. If your book isn’t good—and if you don’t pay for a professional editor—then you’ll see poor results long term. When an indie author puts out a mediocre book, it makes all of us look bad (and, long term, it hurts your own sales). I’m very proud of Lúnasa Days and I had two different editors tear it apart before I dared to show it to any of you.

Secondly, talk to your readers first. I think a lot of the “how to win at Amazon” type blog posts focus entirely on the numbers and the tactics, and really don’t look at readers as human beings. If you hope to be an author then I assume you have a blog (if you don’t, you should start a blog). So you have a group of readers who are almost definitely going to buy your book the second it comes out. How involved are they in whatever happens after that? Do they feel like they were there with you as you struggled to produce this book? Did you reach out to them for their opinions as they read it?

I made a point to send a review copy to about 80 people, almost all of whom would have purchased the book had I not sent them one. That’s 80 sales I gave up, but it also meant I quickly got lots of reviews on Amazon—and that 80 of my best friends and readers knew their opinion matters to me, and were invited to talk to me about the book.

I also told my readers about the free promotion in advance, explaining why it was an important marketing step. Hopefully no one felt cheated that they’d already spent money on it.

The result was that when the promotion happened, I already had 21 reviews on Amazon and my readers cheered and Tweeted the book all the way to the top. So I really, really recommend being good to your readers… if not because it’s the right thing to do, then at least because everyone loves a non-douchepan.

(To be clear, this advice comes from someone who once stole a date’s car because I thought it would be “funny.” If I can manage not to be a douchepan, so can you.)

Are any of you writing a book? If you have a link to it, put a shameless plug in the comments (there is no shame in plugging). If it’s a work in progress, tell us about it!

Thank you 1,000,000 times to anyone who helped promote my book, left a review, bought a copy or downloaded a free one. If you missed it you can still grab it on Kindle or in paperback.

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Lúnasa Days, Writing

How does one begin casting spells?

My novella Lúnasa Days is FREE through Thursday only!

It’s currently the #1 book (!) in Fantasy on the Kindle free store, and #2 in Literary. If enough people download it could make the Top 100 overall and maybe even leap to being a bestseller. Please tell your friends to grab Lúnasa Days today… for free. 

This is an excerpt.

How does one begin casting spells? It’s different for every magician. Some find it in a book. Some learn from a teacher. Some seek it out, others have it shoved upon them.

Bailey tripped into it.

He’d wanted a book on the Greek gods. He didn’t know the one he grabbed was meant for practitioners. The woman at the counter appraised him. She sold him the book but said, in a kindly way: don’t use the dark stuff.

He read it all that night.

Reading does not make you a magician. It requires practice. Half of Bailey strained to try it; half of him sneered. It can’t work.

Can it?

He set about building a shrine. He hid this from his parents. Trinkets from junk shops. It looked baroque, ceremonial.

One night he cut a wand of willow under moonlight. He followed all the prescriptions, approached his shrine, chanted.

He felt foolish.

But he continued. He said the words and made the motions. At every step he expected that nothing would happen. Nothing, and he was stupid for trying.

Then something happened.

The world opened. Something was with him. His eyes went wide. He told himself it was his imagination. Then he bowed.

If there are gods, this was a god. He had called to Apollo, and Apollo answered.

There was no shower of sparks, no glowing fog or shaking earth. Bailey didn’t see anything. But it grabbed him. On his knees Bailey could hear his own pulse, galloping.

Why did Bailey chant that night? So he could make offerings and ask for something. Instead he held communion.

The thoughts in his head came from somewhere else. He received answers faster than he could form questions. The voice was neither kind nor cruel. It was direct.

His moment with Apollo was short. He came away knowing: if you’re going to do this, do it right. Otherwise quit.

Bailey did not quit.

In that moment, Bailey discovered both magic and religion. He still had his doubts—imagination?—but he couldn’t forget what he felt. As his deity ordered, he studied before he tried again. It was a long time before he did. But at his next ritual, he was prepared.

FREE BOOK

The Kindle version of Lúnasa Days is FREE right now. But only till Thursday! Grab your copy and tell your friends: get it now.

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Lúnasa Days, Spotlight, Writing

My book Lúnasa Days is FREE today

FREE BOOK

My book Lúnasa Days is now FREE today through Thursday!

This is the story of a man who casts spells—and doubts them. A reader explains:

Lunasa Days is a story about magic. But it’s a different kind of fantasy story. I love how the question of magic is treated. Actually it is more about the effect that magic and faith have on us.

The short, crisp, descriptive style makes the whole town come to life. We can feel the wind, the heat, the sweat. Even if the environment is far from perfect it feels strangely comfortable. The characters are not right or wrong but deeply human. It’s refreshing. Like you or me, they have doubts, they’re flawed, they have dreams.

Even if it is book of fiction I suspect some autobiographic themes infiltrated the book. And this is probably what makes it more realistic.

Who Loves This Book?

Will you like it? History tells me that:

  • If you are a Pagan or polytheist you will like it.
  • If you work magic, you will like it.
  • If you’re sick of troped fantasy and want something with more nutrition, you will like it a lot.
  • If you don’t like shorter books you will be left cursing my name and wishing for more.
  • The writing is direct and minimal, which my Mom hates and everyone else likes.
  • If you’re a lesbian, you will not like it. (Seriously, 3/3 so far! What!) I would love someone to prove me wrong.

Edit: Reader Kali J. Veach says she is a lesbian, and also says she liked my book. I have no reason to doubt either claim.

Lúnasa Days is professionally edited and formatted, and the reviews are stellar. So grab a copy for free while you can and see for yourself.

(You can also read an excerpt or another excerpt or this final excerpt if you like.) The free promotion only lasts through Thursday 2/6.

Please share and tell your friends. They like books too!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this book possible.

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Lúnasa Days, Writing

The Devil’s Balls

This is an excerpt from my book Lúnasa Days . It will be FREE for four days starting Monday. 

Emily had problems of her own.

It was a fine morning. Sunny. Dry.

She knew she had to go but she stared out the window. There were clouds—actual clouds. Clouds can bring rain. She had no hope for these clouds. They didn’t smell like rain.

They all heard the pitter-patter last night. Unlike anyone, she didn’t get up. She didn’t run outside. She didn’t sit nervous to know how much fell. She just listened to the sound, the comforting sound, and went back to sleep.

But the earth did not look dark and damp like coffee grounds. The grass was not matted nor dewed. It could have been a photograph of yesterday, or any day before.

And she really didn’t care anymore.

She did know, however, that something was going to break. And it would break hard.

She looked back at the cards in front of her. Every Sunday she drew her card. She read for the week ahead. Once it was daily, with a full spread. Then she fell in love, and it changed everything.

Love is not good for little girls. It is poison and intoxicant.

When Kore ate the seed she died for half a year. Real girls don’t die for half a year. Real girls die.

But this card had cock and balls on full display. And a grin. Red skin, princely horns, a lazy erection.

She looked out the window again. The face on the card kept smiling.

The Devil.

FREE BOOK

The Kindle version of Lúnasa Days will be FREE for four days: Monday, Feb. 3 — Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. I encourage you to grab a copy while you can! If you can’t wait or would rather have paperback, buy it now.

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Lúnasa Days, Writing

My Book Will Be Free For a Short Time

FREE BOOK

Starting Monday my novella Lúnasa Days will be free for four days only.

I wanted to announce that in advance here on the blog, because many of you loyal readers have already paid actual money to buy it, or even signed up as a patron to help fund it before it existed. Every sale has mattered to me a great deal, and I’m thankful to everyone who bought or funded a copy. I want to explain why I’ve chosen to do a free promotion.

Most indie books don’t sell a lot of copies, even in this fabled age of self publishing. At this point, the initial rush of sales is over. Quite a few of my regular readers (that’s you guys!) have already bought your copy (thank you), so sales have slowed to a trickle. This is normal.

However Amazon gives limited visibility to any individual book, and the exact amount of visibility you get depends entirely on your sales figures. If more copies have sold, the book is recommended to more people or shows up higher in search results. Without the marketing budget of a large publisher, most indie books quickly fall into obscurity.

To combat this Amazon allows an author to hold a “free book promotion.” For several days, the book is offered on Kindle for free—which means hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of readers download it. This has several helpful effects:

  • Amazon counts each free download as a “sale.” The downloads massively boost your sales figures, leading to greater visibility on Amazon.
  • These freebie readers are people who wouldn’t otherwise buy your book. Either they never would’ve found it or they only want free books. So you don’t actually lose any profit, but if your book is good you gain new fans.
  • After the promotion is over, the increased visibility and the sudden buzz mean you get a spike of actual sales—meaning the author finally makes some money.

I wanted to be transparent about this, because I don’t want anyone to feel cheated if you bought a copy of Lúnasa Days and now you see it offered for free. The book (and my writing career) would not exist if it weren’t for those of you who support good writing with real dollars. The free promotion can only exist because of all the support, encouragement and sales that come from my dedicated readers. Meanwhile the free copies make thousands of people happy and help me get my book in front of more readers. I’d like to think it’s a good deal for everyone involved.

Anyway, the book will be free only this coming Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday ONLY! (February 3-6, 2014) and I encourage you to tweet it, share it and tell your friends so they can read the same awesome book that you just read. Or that you’ve been meaning to read, so if you didn’t buy it before please grab a free copy!

I’m very proud of Lúnasa Days, including the work of my two professional editors and the beautiful, evocative cover. It has very good reviews so far (21 and counting!). I’ll post two excerpts over the coming days, or check out this excerpt that’s already available.

Don’t like free things? You can also just buy it:

L Days cover_front only_half size

Buy now!

Note: only the Kindle version will be free. If you want the paperback, you’ll have to buy it.

Thank you again for everything you do. From the helpful comments, to sharing my work, to just being there for me when I’m alone on the road. You guys are the best readers an author could ask for.

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Writing

On Being a Writer

Photo by MP Clemens.

I have failed at many things in life, but I did become a writer.

This is, perhaps, in spite of myself. Early in Rogue Priest’s history, I produced a lot of posts that weren’t very good, and some that were downright combative. I judged my progress in terms of site traffic. But that is the same metric that guides the direction of low-quality news and entertainment sites. It’s equivalent to the metric used to guide television programs, and it is very easy to become the daytime TV of the internet.

Pandering to large numbers has a predictable effect (“large” being relative to your platform). It changes how you title your work, how you open your work, the tone that you take and to some extent the very topics you choose to discuss. “5 Ways to Be a Hero” with an open ending will attract more eyes than “Heroism Is a Spoken Song” with a definitive closing thought.

Literature is hard to eat.

Then I began to use my website as a place to sell things. I would market other people’s products and get a sales commission. If I were a business, that would be fine—although the bloggers who head down that highway do not seem to know how clownish it makes them look. Your conversion rate is the inverse of the number of people who see you for what you are.

The essential problem is this: I’m here to promote a philosophy, a way of life. I want you to try traveling away from familiar surroundings because I believe that journey will help make you a more whole human being. And if I have these products to sell you, maybe it’s because they’re great products that will help you on that journey. But maybe they aren’t so great, and the whole thing is a sham. How can you tell?

This conflict of interest eventually overrode my desire to “monetize” and even my faith in the products I recommended. Less than one year after starting, I removed all affiliate products and services from my website and I made an official policy never to promote them again.

ISBNs

I do believe in selling my own writing, and my book will be available on this website (release date: “soon!”). Lúnasa Days began as a wild idea, a series of daydreams as I biked through a blighted landscape. But readers believed in it and slowly, painfully, I made it real.

The bun is in the oven.

Learning to manage myself as a writer has been hard. Smart and encouraging bloggers—with helpful affiliate products nested on their sites—report that this is the age of the Indie Author. If that’s so then authors everywhere must be developing a new sympathy for giant publishers, who speculate real money on potential losses.

Not that I’d give it up. It’s nice to be the one speculating, and far nicer to be independent. But to give an example of how it’s been hard, let’s talk about ISBN’s.

Every book should have an ISBN. It’s a long number that you’ll never notice or care about, unless you happen to work in the library or publishing worlds. A book isn’t required to have one, but it makes some vague difference in your sales figures, that no one can ever explain well. Perhaps all those chain bookstores rushing to stock self-published novels won’t know where to shelve you if you don’t give them the number.

Alright.

There is only one authorized ISBN agent in each country. They sell you the number, you register it and put it in your book. Kind of like registering a domain. Domains cost around $8. An ISBN costs $125.

I’ll need two of them—one for print, one for digital.

Graciously, you can buy them in bulk to save money. For $250 you get ten. To put it in perspective, that’s more than the entire cost of having my book professionally laid out by a printer.

Or you can go to a reseller. Resellers buy them thousands at a time and sell them for between $10 and $100. But the reseller’s company name will forever be locked into the ISBN, and they appear as the publisher of record for your book on some industry catalog.

That causes bad things, but they are vague and hard to explain.

This week was my ISBN Learning week, just like last week was Cover Art Learning week and the week before was How to Format an eBook. There is always one more hurdle, it seems, before I can make my book go live—and simply go back to the business of writing the next one.

Lúnasa Days, I’m proud to say, creaks onward.

Words

It’s an honor to work as a writer. I spend most days writing articles, but then, so did Hemingway. What gets me is: if he hadn’t needed to eat (and drink) when he lived in France, if he hadn’t spent his work days on newspaper dispatches, would he have created more great books?

Or would he not have created any at all?

Increasingly I view myself as a writer on sojourn from one typewriter to another. My journey provides me with all the literary and philosophic wool that I need—but until I reach a quiet place to work, it cannot be spun. Sanctuary is spending two days or a month completely buried in writing.

Last week’s redesign of Rogue Priest is part of that change. The new look puts the focus squarely on the written word. The change in voice to a more philosophic tone—oddly closer to my in-person tone—is intentional, too.

While there are many things I have yet to discover on my journey, there is no longer any doubt what my art form must be. I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t a likely career; they say it’s impossible to succeed. Some days it feels like they’re right. But I make my living that way now, and it fuels me.

I want it to be something more. I’ve learned to combine words, and if there is a way to hold that before me like a sword—if there is a way to use words to change our species—I count myself armed.

Armed, and wandering the earth. Penniless as a ronin. But just as ready to struggle for the right lord.

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