Andre Sólo, Fellowship of the Wheel, Writing

Happy Midwinter

Photo by Guilerme Souza

It’s been over a month since my last update. In that time, I’ve written more; built my business as a freelance writer; continued educating myself on publishing; and just finished the first of my Mexico stories. The story is a work of magical realism called Concha and the Saints and I just sent out an advance copy to select supporters of my ride across Mexico. I hope to submit it to literary contests before publishing it. I’ll let you know here as soon as it’s available to the general public.

One thing I have not done in the last month is figured out the next steps for Rogue Priest. This blog serves as a chronicle of my journey, but the only thing to report lately is “stayed in one place; wrote more.” Not quite as exciting as tripping down pyramids!

I view this quiet work time as a necessary stage in my journey. It’s a way to make sure I develop not just as an adventurer, but also as an author. But it also feels strange leaving Rogue Priest quiet.

So I have questions for you:

  1. I’m considering starting a writer blog, separate from this one. I would share lessons I learn, snippets of stories in progress, and examples of feedback sessions with my writing partner. Would you want to read this? (Rogue Priest would still be here. The journey is far from over yet.)
  2. With the many months in between adventures, what sorts of posts would you like to see here?

Also, today is the official date of Midwinter, and yesterday was the traditional date. I’ll be holding a small offering ceremony tonight with BT Newberg. For those of you who celebrate, I hope you have something special planned too.

What are you doing for the holidays this year?

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Writing

Watcha Writin’?

Recently I caught up on where I’ve been since finishing the ride across Mexico, and what ridiculous Hallowe’en festivities we had here in New Orleans. But my biggest focus these days is my career as an author. And I think it’s high time to share what I’m working on.

Here are my top projects, and where I’m at with each one.

Image by Lívia Cristina

Mexico Stories

When I started my ride across Mexico last year, I promised I would write four short stories based on the places I visited. If you backed the crowdfunding campaign to launch the trip, depending on the level you came in at I may owe you a copy of these stories. Accordingly, they’re my top priority.

All four stories are finished in draft form. They all need more editing. However, I do realize it’s been a year since I set out in Mexico. I’m hoping to have them done within the next 30 days.

I think you’ll like them. Three of them are magical realism pieces similar to Lúnasa Days and one is a tale of lost love. All are set in real places, but none are based on my actual travels. They’re fiction.

As backdrops I chose some of the the most dramatic places that you saw in my road logs. Concha and the Saints happens in the bullet-riddled border region. The Cloud Desert takes place on pilgrimage through the misty, high-altitude wasteland. Guadalupe Calling, starring a 60-year old doña on a mission, is set by the pirate walls of Campeche. And the last story features my favorite city in Mexico: Meet Me in Xalapa.

Just because these stories are finished doesn’t mean they’ll be immediately available to the public. I will send them out privately to those supporters who are owed a copy, prbably before Christmas. Then I plan to enter some of them in literary contests. Eventually, they’ll be published.

My First App

The next project is a not a book at all. It’s a game. I grew up wanting to create my own video games, but I was always told you need a big budget for that. Then I saw the success of simple, story-driven games like A Dark Room. Minimal graphics, compelling gameplay, and a mystery to unravel. That’s something I can do.

I teamed up with a friend who’s a coder (creater of the Ananda app, which you can see reviewed here.) and we decided to make it as an app for iOs. After kicking a few ideas around, we settled on the game we liked best: Hunger.

You start Hunger alone in a dilapidated cottage. Your food supply is dwindling, just a few morsels. You own nothing else except an old ring on the shelf.

Outside, Ireland is starving. Soon you’ll be forced to leave the cottage and wander town to town in search of food or a better life. And in the process, you might start to change things…

My friend and I are working on this game slowly, one chunk at a time. It will come out in 2016.

“Project 30”

The last item is a collaborative fiction project about coming of age in your 30s. It consists of a “season” of 10 short, written episodes. My coauthor Am ber has been my writing partner for over a year, which usually just means we critique each other’s work. But this is a topic near to both our hearts, and we decided to take the big leap and write it together.

The story will center on four 30-something friends living in New Orleans, each coming to grips with a simple truth: they aren’t doing what they wanted to do with their lives. They have jobs and they get by but they yearn for something more. Some of them don’t know how to get it; others don’t even know what it is. The story follows them as they date, work, and struggle to launch a new life.

We’ve nicknamed the series Project 30 until we get a better title. (Do you have a suggestion?) It will appear in 2016.

Odds and Ends

Lower on my list, but still on my radar, as a few side projects:

  • Sky People, a novel about two girls who find a crashed airship and go to a lost kingdom in the sky.
  • Heart of Adventure, my long overdue book on the philosophy of living life as an adventure

Do any of these strike your fancy? Do you have a title suggestion for Project 30? I’d love your feedback.

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Andre Sólo, Uncategorized, Writing

Help Me Choose Which Essay to Write

Writing. Photo by Daniel Horacio Agostini.

What with planning the group trip to Mexico, lately I’ve found it difficult to make time to write. But that doesn’t stop me from coming up with ideas, so I have a sort of backlog of potential essays, listed below.

I’ve decided to put social time on hold this week and write at least one of these. The trouble is, I don’t know which one. All of these topics seem important to me, and all of them will be fun to work on, but I just don’t have time to do them all. So I thought I’d reach out to you readers and see which one (or ones) you’d most like to see brought to life.

Note that this isn’t everything I have on my to-do list, just some of the more interesting essay ideas:

#1 What It’s Like to Be a White Person Practicing Vodou

This first came up during a really interesting discussion with my friend the Fly Brother. Most of the time, when I discuss Vodou it’s just explaining the basics like “we don’t stick pins in things” and “no, we really don’t stick pins in things.” But when you get past the perceived weirdness of Vodou in general, it’s even weirder that I’m a white person called to serve African gods. Or is it? I rarely feel out of place as a white person in Vodou, but that itself speaks to a sense of entitlement. What are the ethics of an outsider practicing a cultural tradition?

#2 Update on the Journey to Meet the Gods

I originally framed my journey across the Americas as a quest to meet the gods. Since then, I’ve said very little on the topic. That’s partly because the journey isn’t over yet (“Nope, still haven’t met ’em”) but it also speaks to my changing beliefs. If anything, my spiritual journey and interaction with other faiths has only made me more skeptical of religious concepts. But I still consider myself a priest, and am still committed to this quest. So where exactly do I think the gods can be found?

#3 Joseph Campbell Revisited

One of my most popular posts ever was, to my surprise, Why I Don’t Like Joseph Campbell. I originally wrote it simply as a reference post I could point to when people asked me if I’ve read his work. But it struck a nerve with people, and I continue to get comments on it regularly. From the discussion on that post, I learned two things: (1) Campbell supporters are willing to get really, really nasty if you criticize their boy, and (2) I need to go into much more detail than what I originally offered. That post was written to be somewhat flip, and only gives the broad strokes of what’s wrong with Campbell’s “hero’s journey.” I want to do an expanded version that makes stronger points and offers more supporting evidence… but will that really matter to Campbell’s fans?

#4 Defining Polytheism

While I practice several religions, I consider myself firmly a polytheist: I believe the divine has many faces and that this multiplicity is one of its greatest strengths. Just as there is no one god that everyone can relate to, there is no single doctrine that has everything right. This open-mindedness is built right into the core concept of polytheism, yet many polytheists seem to miss it altogether. They insist that to be a polytheist you must believe the gods are real (why?) and that they are totally separate individuals, not faces of one single power (how do we know this?). To me, polytheism is not only about multiple gods, it’s about accepting—and encouraging—multiple doctrines and allowing people to choose the one that speaks to them.

Which of these would you like to see me write? I like them all and would write them all if I could—and hopefully will, eventually—but for now there’s only time for one. Which would you most like to read?

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Lúnasa Days, Writing

Why Won’t There Be a Sequel to Lúnasa Days?

Yesterday I detailed my writing plans for 2014, including announcing a new fiction project (with demons!). Several people have asked me if there will ever be a sequel to Lúnasa Days.

There will not be.

There are a number of reasons for this. The biggest is that Lúnasa Days was always planned as a stand-alone piece. I really don’t believe in taking a one-shot story and tacking on a sequel, even if the story is popular; I think too many bad sequels have been made that way. The finished novella would have looked very different if it was building up to a longer story arc. Instead, it ends on a purposefully open note with no implied next step for any of the characters. That was on purpose.

Another reason why I won’t create  a sequel is the nature of Lúnasa Days itself. I knew I was picking a difficult tale to tell. The main character is a polytheist on a bicycle, so I accepted that readers and critics would assume it was autobiographical no matter what. (It’s really not.) And since it’s a fairly humane, literary work I knew it would be painful to write and require many revisions. That also came true.

The result is that finishing that novella was very much a case of “art from adversity.” The book became personal and difficult to finish. I’d like to think that’s the sign of a good book, but it also means it reflects a moment in time which is now passed. Like all lost relationships, it’s best to move on.

Of course, I realize that this is little comfort to anyone who wanted more with the same characters. The only complaint I’ve heard about the book is that it leaves you wanting more. As a reader myself I can understand that pain, although for a literary work I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

So, as much as I like Bailey and eventually learned to like Emily, any future adventures of theirs—which would surely be separate and not together—must go unchronicled.

L Days cover_front only_half size

If you haven’t read it yet, Lúnasa Days is available in paperback and on Kindle. Get your copy here.

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Writing

What I’m Writing These Days

Having released Lúnasa Days, a few people have asked me what I’m working on next. The answer is “several things,” but until recently I wasn’t sure which ones were priorities. A big part of my sabbatical in Mexico is focusing on my writing, and over the last few weeks I’ve not only written but assembled a clearer plan. So, while definitely still subject to change, here’s a rough idea of what you can expect next.

Fiction

While I have both fiction and nonfiction projects in the works, fiction is my first priority. I have many ideas I’d love to develop, but I had to choose one to painstakingly outline, storyboard, write and publish.

So I chose the one I’m most excited about.

The book starts with one simple question: How bad would things have to get in Medieval Europe before the Pope authorized demonic magic?

The answer delves into the lives of knights who have lost their faith, friars who renounce their vows, virgin warriors of the Church, damned tomes of ancient spells, and a supernatural enemy devouring whole kingdoms.

The first chapter wipes Portugal completely off the map. Things get worse from there.

This story will be told as a series, with each episode following the arc of one character or group of characters as world-changing events unfold. The first tale follows an underpaid soldier as he’s dropped, by the dark arts, far behind enemy lines—knowing that he’ll go straight to Hell if he’s killed before he can find a priest to confess his sins.

I don’t have a title for this series yet, but I’m wide open to suggestions. I want to finish three whole episodes before I send any to press, which I hope will happen by mid-2014.

Nonfiction

Increasingly I want to take my work in the direction of serious philosophy and the effects of real life adventure. At present that involves two projects.

1. Philosophy of Adventure

Last fall, I released a preview of my long-requested book about adventure. I received extensive reader feedback on that preview version, including dozens of responses to an online survey that closed December 31. Thanks to that robust feedback, I’m reworking and expanding the book.

Originally, the book was titled Heart of Adventure. I was never totally in love with that title. It seemed better than a troped Art of Adventure, but somehow not quite right. Now I’m leaning more toward a plain, simple The Philosophy of Adventure.

Again, I’m open to title suggestions or your votes between those options.

2. My Own Story

The other nonfiction project is autobiographical. It was pointed out to me that just the first leg of my Journey–bicycling the Mississippi River–is a huge adventure by most people’s standards, and that I have dozens of stories from those hazy months. It got me really excited about writing the story of that first leg as a standalone tale, leaving it open to sequels as I reach new milestones. I can’t wait to start outlining.

But I plan to try something new with this one. Instead of indie publishing it, for the first time I’m going to pitch a book proposal to the big names. I’m interested in getting a literary agent—nothing drains me more than handling the business end of writing myself—and I think this would be the ideal project to shop to agents. An agent would then, in turn, pitch it to big publishing houses.

The time frame for the nonfiction projects is less certain than the fiction series. I would expect the tale of my bike ride to come out if and only if someone has interest in publishing it; and the Philosophy of Adventure book to come out around the end of 2014. Both are much lower priorities than the fiction work right now.

Becoming a Professional Writer

I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was a kid. Slowly, that dream has been becoming real. But it’s not something I’ve accomplished on my own.

After the initial success of Lúnasa Days I wrote that much of my success was because of my readers. Early on, readers encouraged me that the idea behind Lúnasa Days was a good one. A number of readers stepped up as patrons and helped finance the creation of the book, and stood by me patiently as I dealt with numerous roadblocks. I don’t think the book would have succeeded without all of the reader support.

So, to all of you reading this: thank you.

And if you don’t have it already, feel free to snag Lúnasa Days yourself:

L Days cover_front only_half size

Available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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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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