On Absence and the Impossibility of Book Five

I’ve been…absent for a while, I know. Missing in action. Lost.

Well, it’s time to blow the cobwebs off the site and get to writing again.

I was…stalled on Book Five for most of the last year. I was about two-thirds done with it, with all the major beats written (or at least plotted out) and how I wanted it to end figured out. “I just have to connect the dots,” I’d tell anyone who asked how it was going. “It’s almost done,” I’d add.

But…I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t feeling the urge, the desire, to write, and so I…didn’t. I went several months — most of last year — without putting a word on the page.

Every time I’d open up Dropbox and look at the Hazzard folder, I’d see the file sitting there, daring me to open it and type a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or even, God forbid, a whole page. Can you imagine, a whole page? But I’d open it, and stare at the words already on the page, and I’d come up with…nothing.

Just absolutely nothing, for months at a time. And then I looked and realized I hadn’t written anything here, even, for several months. I’d sort of abandoned all writing, except for my daily webcomic, and even that I took several extended breaks from in the past several months.

I felt bad about it. Really bad. Embarrassed and annoyed with myself and just angry that I couldn’t sit down and finish this damn book, or write a blog post describing why I couldn’t write. And there were an endless number of reasons I couldn’t put words on paper, though most of it boiled down to (1) depression or (2) apathy.

And I feel bad about that, too. Not the depression part — I have depression, it’s something I have to live with, and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing the things that bring me joy. The apathy is probably tied up in the depression, if I’m being honest.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, those are only part of the reason I stopped writing Book Five. I also stopped writing because of reader apathy.

Now, this isn’t an exercise in passing the blame. If readers aren’t flocking to my books, lavishing me with praise and million-dollar Hollywood contracts, that’s probably on me. I don’t do marketing, like, at all. And in the indie publishing game, if you aren’t hustling 24-7, you aren’t gonna find your readership.

All of which is a long way of saying: I was dormant for a long while, but I’m getting back in the swing of things. I’ve added a few thousand words to Book Five, and I’m hoping to have the first draft done in the next few weeks. I’ll try to post more consistently here as well.

Book 4 Cover Reveal and Release Date

Hey, folks! I’m all finished getting the fourth book of the Hazzard Pay series, Crooked Halos, set up! That means it’s time to get it out there. Here’s the synopsis/back cover blurb for the book:

In Arcadia, no one is innocent. This is true even for Dresden Crowder, Eddie Hazzard’s old partner from his days on the Arcadia police force. While the city considers Crowder to be a hero who sacrificed his health and well-being for the sake of the city, Hazzard knows better: Crowder was a crooked cop who framed Eddie and got him kicked off the force.

Now, Crowder is suddenly back in town with murder on his mind and a patsy to frame. Three guesses as to who the patsy will be. Hazzard has to save Crowder’s would-be victim—who actually wants to be murdered—salvage his own tarnished reputation, and survive against a whole host of villains, all while trying to shut down organized crime once and for all in the city. Poor odds? Little chance of success? Yup, this is definitely a case for Eddie Hazzard.

And here’s the cover:

Cmcottrell_3D.jpg

The book will be available this Friday, August 10th! You can get it from Amazon or from a number of other fine distributors, as is your wont. The dead trees edition will be available this weekend as well, for those who still prefer to read that way.

I keep getting asked about audiobooks and when I’ll have those available. The sort answer: not unless the ebooks or physical books really take off. Audiobooks are expensive, unless you’re doing it yourself (and no one wants to hear me drone on for hours and hours, reading my stuff and being impressed with my own cleverness. Or do they? I don’t know).

But anyway: book! Buy it! I worked really hard on this one for a really long time. I think it is pretty darn good. That is all.

Book 4 Update

I’ve been quiet, but busy the past couple of weeks. Book 4 has been to the editor and returned, and I’ve made changes and corrections based on her suggestions. I’ve formatted the paperback and the ebook version, and I just ordered the cover this afternoon. What does all this mean? It means Book 4, Crooked Halos, will probably come out sometime next month!

In other news, I’ve set up all three of the other books to go wide, which means you can read them in iBooks, Nook, and a half dozen other ways now. I’ve also sent the first half of Book 5 off to my beta reader to find out if it’s horrible drivel or not.

Long story short, there’s lots going on, and I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated.

The July Project

While I’m entering the home stretch with the rewrite of Book 4, I’ve decided I want to spend the month of July doing something a little different. So, every day for the month of July, I’m going to write a song or a poem. I’ll probably share a few of them here as we go along.

Book 4 Status Update

By the end of the day (I’m writing this on Wednesday, May 30), I’m hoping to have about 20,000 words on Book 4 written, almost all of them brand-spankin’ new. There’s at least another five or six thousand to write after that before I can start working old material back into the story, fixing inconsistencies and continuity issues as I go along and making sure it all makes sense in the end.

The choice to ditch the first 20K seemed like madness when I decided to do it a few weeks ago, but in hindsight it’s been the best choice I could have made. That initial sequence–a massive flashback about Hazzard’s first case as a police officer–was draggy and slow and far too police procedurally for my tastes. It felt far too generic and lacked the fun inner monologue that (I like to think, anyway) Hazzard stories have. I’m still going to have that story in the final book, in a way: Hazzard will give a much briefer, more concise version of it as his present self, so we’ll get more of his snark and all that. It’ll be five or six thousand words all-told, not 20,000. That’s opened things up for more action and less sitting around talking about warrants and proper police procedures.

Probably not going to be done by the end of the week, unfortunately. There’s just too much still to write and not enough hours in the day. But maybe by next week? Hope springs eternal.

I should probably get off here and get back to writing the actual book, huh? Yeah, that sounds like a good choice.

Going Wide

After the debacle of all the mysterious KENP page reads, I’ve decided to “go wide,” as they say.

What does that mean? Well, up till now, I’ve only distributed my books through Amazon. They’re the biggest kid on the block, of course, and it’s really easy to sell books through the site. But my experience with the Kindle Unlimited nonsense has me thinking it’s time to give some other sites a shot.

To that end, I’ve started setting up my books in Draft 2 Digital, a platform that sets up your ebooks through a variety of distributors (including Amazon, if you so choose). Right now, the only book that’s available through multiple platforms is Death Comes Calling, because I never enrolled it in KU. The other two books will be available through multiple platforms in mid-July, when their KU enrollment period ends.

What does all this mean for you? Well, it means if you prefer reading your ebooks through iBooks or Nook or Kobo or whatever, you can totally do that! There’ll still be print versions of the books available through Amazon/Createspace, and you can still get the books for Kindle. They just won’t be available through KU. I’m just a little too gun shy after everything that’s happened.

Speaking of future books, I’m hard at work doing the rewrite of book 4. I’m still hoping to have it done by the end of the month so I can send it off to my editor. I’ve got about 10K written, and there’s at least 30-35K from the previous draft I can use and at least another 10-15K left to add. This might end up as my longest novel to date.

TFW You Scrap 33% of Your #WIP

Writers are full of advice for one another. “Write every day,” some of them say. “The first draft is you telling the story to yourself.” “Kill your darlings.”

Kill your darlings.

It’s a simple idea: you can’t be afraid to cut stuff you really like if it doesn’t fit. Even if it’s the best scene you’ve ever written, with dialogue crafted into perfect prose, if it doesn’t fit in the book, you have to cut it.

Now, most authors will keep scraps and bits they’ve cut like this in case they find somewhere to put it later on down the road. Just because this particular scene doesn’t work in this book doesn’t mean it won’t work in another book. Your darling may still see the light of day.

And then there’s what I’m experiencing. I’ve been going through book 4, giving it a once-over before sending it off to my editor at the end of the month. And…

…and dear lord, the first third of the book is just dead boring. It’s flat, lifeless, and doesn’t really do much besides move the proverbial pieces around the board, getting them in place for when things do start to pick up. It bored me when I was reading through it. I hated it. It plodded in the worst possible way.

So I cut it. All 20,000 words of it. A full third of the book, just gone.

Am I insane? Couldn’t I have just worked on it, made what was there more interesting? I mean, I’d already invested all this time and effort and energy into the thing.

But no, you gotta kill your darlings, even if they’re not quite as darling as you’d like. You can’t be afraid to put massive swathes of your book on the chopping block if they just don’t work. And this 20,000 words just did. Not. Work.

I’m going to try to rewrite that chunk of book over the next couple of weeks. I’d still like to hit my (self-imposed) deadline to get the book off to the editor by the beginning of June. I spent a bit of time yesterday plotting out what I’ll do in the rewrite. It has me far more excited than what I had originally.

This book has been the most challenging for me to write. It was the second Hazzard novel I ever wrote, way back in, like, 2013, and it’s now on its third major draft (where I’ve rewritten massive chunks, not just little tweaks here and there). This damn book is my problem child, but it’s gonna get written.

Even if I have to kill half of it in the process.

Format

I’ve been busy since last week, getting files formatted and polished for the upcoming release. Book 3’s Kindle .mobi file is all formatted and uploaded; I’m currently looking at a PDF of the paperback version to make sure everything is in order there before final approval (which, thank goodness I am, ’cause I just noticed a pretty glaring typo in the title for Part Three of the book).

It’s got me going back to reexamine the eBook files for the first two books, just to ensure consistency (I did this with the paperbacks already; when I got the rights back to The Invisible Crown, I re-formatted the paperback completely so I could (1) understand how book formatting really worked and (2) so I could credit the new cover artist). What I’ve discovered is that I…wasn’t very consistent with how I set up the first two books’ .mobi files.

Yesterday, I fixed up The Hidden Throne‘s eBook file and re-uploaded it; that corrected version is now the one available on Amazon.

But I apparently never did anything to Book 1 other than slap a new cover on it and call it a day (probably because I didn’t put the new cover on it until a few months after the rights had reverted back to me). I’m having to go back and create a whole new .mobi file from the original text, setting up all the chapter breaks and the hyperlinked table of contents and all that. Thankfully, it’s a simple matter of copying and pasting from the original Word document into a Scrivener file, though I then have to fiddle with all sorts of formatting details to make it look right.

The upshot will be greater consistency in formatting and styling across the three books. The downside is it’s a tedious pain in the ass. But I think it will ultimately be worth it when everything is all done and all the books have a more uniform formatting.

Book Three Cover Reveal (and Release Date!)

I’ve been toiling away behind the scenes, getting things done on the third Hazzard Pay book. The good news is, all that hard work is paying off! The book is almost ready to release into the wild that is Amazon, where hopefully it won’t be eaten by wolves (or a grue. Those things are mean).

Anyway! I’m not the only one who has been hard at work. So has my cover artist, the always-wonderful rebecacovers over at fiverr.com. She’s put together a pretty awesome cover for the new book, which is titled Death Comes Calling. Care to have a look?

Charlie_Cottrell_1_ebook

Spooky and awesome, right? Here’s the blurb that goes along with said book:

Death stalks the streets of Arcadia, and no one is safe.

Eddie Hazzard’s mentor-turned-nemesis, John Bodewell, is out on parole and on his last legs. He’s looking to make amends, but Eddie isn’t having it.

Then Bodewell turns up dead, and Eddie is left with a cryptic message from his old partner hinting that a secret of epic proportions is out there, just waiting to be discovered. Whether he likes it or not, Eddie has to solve the mystery Bodewell’s death left behind. But Eddie’s not the only one after Bodewell’s treasure. If he’s not careful, Eddie might end up just as dead as his old mentor.

Now, for the fun part: the book will be release on March 27th of this year. Hey, that’s my birthday! What wacky guy planned that, I wonder? It’ll be $2.99 for the eBook and $11.99 for the dead tree edition.

So, tell your friends, tell your family, tell your neighbor who loves mysteries but hates having to leave the house: Death Comes Calling on March 27th! It’s definitely not a pointed commentary on my own aging and impending mortality.

Book 3 Status Update

Just got word this morning from my editor that he’s done with Book 3! As soon as I’ve sent him his money, I’ll get the manuscript back, and then begins the arduous task of making corrections.

It shouldn’t take more than a week or so to get the corrections and changes made, at which point I can start formatting. Once formatting is done, I can get the cover made. I already know what I want it to look like (a rough sketch is featured above), and I’ve got the stock photo all picked out. My cover artist has a pretty damn fast turn-around, so best estimate is that the book will be ready to go before my birthday at the end of March. And what better birthday present than a new book?