Friday, 22 January 2016

My Experience in Publishing So Far

Back in early 2011 I sat down and wrote my first book. It was called A KNIGHT'S DUTY and it was to be part of THE RIGHT OF SUCCESSION trilogy, followed up by A PRINCE'S HONOUR, and A KING'S RIGHT. I had the entire trilogy planned out and by late 2011 I had the first book down. It was to be the first story set in FIRST EARTH, the same setting of THE TIES THAT BIND and BEST LAID PLANS. It told the story of Jackt Veritean competing against his brothers for the Five Kingdom's crown. The problem was it just wasn't good enough.

When I wrote A Knight's Duty I hadn't found my voice (as writerly types say), and I hadn't quite got to grips with the world I was writing in. So in early 2012 I shelved the trilogy and went to work on a new book, one revolving around a trio of unlikely protagonists. That book became THE HERESY WITHIN and, though it was originally intended as a stand alone, as I neared the end it became clear it was going to be more. THE COLOUR OF VENGEANCE and THE PRICE OF FAITH quickly followed and The Ties that Bind was born. In this trilogy I found what the last was missing, a touch of humour to lighten the oppressively dark nature of First Earth.

I received a few rejections from agents as I sent The Heresy Within around. Though I probably didn't receive as many as I should have. I was ultimately very new to the game and rejections hit me hard. My decision to self publish was a defiant one. I wanted the world to read more story and meet my characters and I'd be damned before I let those agents get in the way.

So I found an artist who could do me some covers for... well pretty damned cheap to be honest. The rest of the production was done In House so to speak. That is to say that the cover design was done by myself and my father on a 5 year copy of Paint Shop Pro. The layout of the book was done with a similar treatment, and the marketing (upon eventual release) was pretty much just a social media spam by family members.
The original The Ties that Bind artwork by Julio Real
In mid 2013 I released The Ties that Bind to the world. It did pretty well. Actually it did very well considering it was fairly rough and unpolished. At this point it had never been seen by a professional editor, and that was the biggest criticism folk had of it. It felt unpolished. OK, there was that 1 reviewer who said I was likely a 13 year boy who had never seen a pair of tits in my life, but those types of review were few and far between. Mostly they were very positive. Not only that, but my little trilogy sold better than I had hoped... much better.

Soon I had folk emailing me about foreign rights and even 1 fairly well-known publisher interested, although they were going through a fairly rough time and that swayed my decision against them.
The Russian cover for The Heresy Within
I soon decided it was time for a re-skin, to up the quality of the covers. I hired an exceptional artist and the new cover for The Heresy Within looked fantastic (it's actually still my favourite of the covers). Originally I had hoped for the same artist to do covers for The Colour of Vengeance and The Price of Faith, but that unfortunately never happened.
Still my favourite The Heresy Within cover. Artwork by Sigbjorn Pedersen
After releasing my debut trilogy I decided to take a break from First Earth and I wrote THE NORTHERN SUNRISE, a alchemypunk heist caper with a much lighter tone. After my success with The Ties that Bind I decided to self publish this one as well. It didn't do nearly so well and I have since been informed by a few agents that steampunk literature simply doesn't sell very well... unless you have a much bigger name than my own. Eventually I renamed this book IT TAKES A THIEF TO CATCH A SUNRISE and gave it a new skin because, even though it's never sold particularly well, I love it and I love the world and those fans it does have want a sequel... so they're getting one. IT TAKES A THIEF TO START A FIRE is well on its way.
The Northern Sunrise artwork by Real Tidy Design. It Takes a Thief to Catch a Sunrise artwork by igreen Graphics.
So back to The Ties that Bind. In mid 2014 Mihir Wanchoo of Fantasy Book Critic put me in touch with the young but fast rising Ragnarok Publications helmed by Joe Martin and Tim Marquitz. They seemed like a good fit and I decided to go ahead and give them the rights to The Ties that Bind. The old copies of my trilogy came down and in late 2014 The Heresy Within was re-released under Ragnarok with another new skin and touch more editing. The Colour of Vengeance and The Price of Faith quickly followed in 2015.
The Ties that Bind (Ragnarok Publications release) artwork by Alex Raspad.
Now Ragnarok Publications have been through a bit of turmoil recently. They'd be the first to admit they grew too large, too quickly and didn't have the experience necessary to properly deal with that. But, as one of their authors, I have never felt un-looked after and I actually feel I've been treated quite fairly. So with this in mind I mentioned to Joe Martin that I had a number of short stories set in First Earth. It's fair to say he was excited. THE BOUND FOLIO was born, collecting these short stories into 1 anthology and it's releasing soon.
The Bound Folio artwork by Shawn (the Purple Wizard) King.
So what did I do in 2014 and 2015? You may ask. I may have been busy with re-releases and attempting to keep up to date with blogs, and watching Star Wars films, but that doesn't mean I've been slacking off. Well I've been writing.

First off we have Best Laid Plans. It's a sequel to The Ties that Bind... of sorts. It's actually another stand alone series of books set in First Earth. It follows on pretty directly from The Ties that Bind, but requires no knowledge of that first trilogy. They're both part of a much larger story I'm telling within the world, but that's a blog for another day.

I presented Best Laid Plans to Joe Martin and he jumped at the chance to publish them and I'm more than happy to stick with Ragnarok. The first book in that series WHERE LOYALTIES LIE is releasing this year and the second, THE FIFTH EMPIRE OF MAN, will surely follow soon after. Even better, with the new distribution deal Ragnarok have signed with IPG, my books will soon be available to book stores world wide... such as here in England!
Where Loyalites Lie artwork by Alex Raspad.
That's pretty much where I am right now and this has been a brief history of my own experience in publishing so far. There's been a few bad days, but for the most part I've found it to be a positive experience. The best thing about it is this. I'm following my dream. I'm a published author and my dreams and insane ramblings have been read by people all over the world.

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy. Find out more on his website here.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Chewbacca is the Real Hero of Star Wars The Force Awakens

This post will contain spoilers for Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens (TFA).

By now we've probably all seen some of these memes going about. Here's one below... right in the feels.
Right in the Goddamned feels!
It got me thinking and I'm thinking this: Chewbacca is the real hero. That big Wookiee badass is everywhere in TFA. He delivers both funny and heartfelt one-lines and does it while speaking a completely foreign language that (I would assume) at least most of the audience can't understand. I'm guessing there's folk somewhere who have learned to speak Wookiee.

Lets just go through a list of his accomplishments in TFA.

Pretty much EVERYTIME someone needs saving in TFA, from the moment Chewie is introduced, he is there to do just that. Hero!

Back on the cargo ship when shit breaks loose and Han needs to open a door, Chewie takes a blaster shot for his best friend while covering Han's old, wrinkled ass. He shrugs it off pretty handily after a piss-poor job of bandaging. Seriously, most folk die from a blaster shot, Chewie requires a plaster. Hero!

He gets left behind to looks after the Falcon while Han, Rey, and Finn go to the bar. Does he complain about being left behind? No. Do any of them offer to bring him back a drink? No. He lets it go. Then when shit starts kicking off and the First Order shows up, Chewie runs right the hell into the thick of it to help out. That's pretty much the definition of a Hero!

Despite the fact that he has no other weapon and Han is already packing a blaster, Chewie readily lends his Bowcaster to Han, leaving him fairly defenceless in a fire fight. He actually does this twice and never complains. Why? Because he puts his friends well-being ahead of his own. Hero!
Friends for life.
With minimal planning from the group (by the looks of it Finn just says he has a plan and rushes off, hoping the others will know their parts), Chewie moves with more stealth than Solid Snake and captures the biggest badass the First Order Stormtrooper division has, Captain Phasma. This girl is so hardcore she runs around with shiny armour... in a battlefield situation that is called painting a target on yourself. And Chewie captures her, easily... barely a fight. Then Finn pretty much takes the credit for the whole thing while Chewie sits back and lets him gloat. No big deal. Just another day for the galaxy's most heroic Wookiee. Hero!
She's badass. Chewie is badder...ass...
On their way back out into the freezing temperatures outside, Chewie (despite being cold himself), picks up Han's jacket and hands it to him, reminding him to dress against the chill. Selfless. Hero!

Here's the feels one right here. Chewie watches his best friend and heterosexual life partner try to mend bridges with his nephew (we all know he was uncle Chewie to little Ben Solo). He doesn't get involved. He watches, hoping it all works out. Then Han is betrayed and stabbed through the chest with a lightsaber before being thrown into an abyss... Chewie lets out a scream and activates HERO MODE. He takes a well-aimed shot and injures Kylo Ren (not even Chewie has it in him to murder his own nephew), a calculated move which will give them all time to escape... hopefully. He then dodges a hail of blaster fire and takes out a unit of Stormtroopers before blowing the charges (allowing Poe Damoren to detonate Star Killer Base and take all the credit), and manages to escape. HERO!
You may think he's on fire, but no! That's Chewie going Supersayain.
Then, holding in emotions that would cripple most people, Chewie treks ALL the way back to the Falcon (this is not a short trek either and it's through freezing snow). Does Chewie run? Fly away? Not a chance. Despite the planet blowing up around him with the force of a supernova, Chewie flies the Falcon and manages to find his new friends lost and injured in a frozen forest. He then lands the Falcon long enough to go and fetch the injured friend, AND THEN flies them all the hell out of there before the planet explodes. Hero!

Lastly, and I will point out again that this is despite the fact that his best friend and life partner has just been murdered. At this point Chewie would be forgiven if he faded away into a bar and drank the rest of the trilogy away. But no. Chewie is too much of a hero for that. This giant walking carpet is the Jack Bauer of the Star Wars universe, always in the fight no matter how much of a shit storm is going around in his head and heart. Lastly, when one of his new friends sets off to find the long-lost Luke Skywalker... Chewie is the first to sing up on that mission and even takes her on the Falcon. Hero!

So that's it. There's been a lot of shit on the internet about how Rey isn't featured in as much merchandise as she should be. How she doesn't have a Monopoly figure and how her action figure is sold out due to inadequate supplies.... But the real hero of The Force Awakens is Chewbacca and he doesn't have a monopoly figure... his action figure is under-supplied AND under-demanded. Do you hear him complain? Of course not. He's Chewbacca. He's a Hero!

Heroes can also be cute. In this case too cute not to share.

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy. Find out more on his website here.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Writerly Problems: One WIP is Never Enough

Seems pretty accurate.
Now I like to think I work fairly quickly. I've written roughly 2 and a half books this year, 2 of which are on their way soon, and 1 which may never see the light of day if I can't figure out what to do with it. I'm not a patch on the likes of Stephen King or Brandon (I own all the words)Sanderson, but I'm no slouch.

One of these men is a cyborg sent from the future to use ALL the words.
The problem is I sometimes (like today) look at the work ahead of me, of all that I want to write, and I feel a little lost. There's just too much to do and not enough time, not with gaming addiction and the need to spend at least SOME time with my better half (yes, it's usually in that order and I really hope she's OK with that).

I'm not joking, it's an addiction.

To put things into perspective:
  • I have just finished BEST LAID PLANS (my upcoming piratical duology) and submitted it to the publishers for editing.
  • I have just started to write IT TAKES A THIEF TO START A FIRE (the sequel to IT TAKES A THIEF TO CATCH A SUNRISE).
  • I'm in the planning stages of a project so ambitious it scares me just thinking about it.
  • I have 2 more trilogies set in First Earth to write, which will eventually finish off the project I started about 15 years ago.
  • I have begun world building and plotting for an entirely new trilogy in an entirely new world which I am entirely in love with and can't wait to start writing in.
  • I'm trying to keep up a blogging presence both on my own site and on my publisher's (and anyone else who may want a guest post writing... :D ).
  • I have a bunch of short story ideas swimming around my head and if my next release, THE BOUND FOLIO, does well I'll be forced to get them written down.
  • I have a tax return to fill out.

It's a lot to do... it's a lot to even think about doing. I looking forward to it (most of it), but I am also daunted by it. Just looking at it in list format sends me a little cross-eyed.

I've written 5 full length novels and 1 collection of short stories set in First Earth and I have that much to do again. 11 full length novels in all... 3 trilogies and a duology... and that's not including the trilogy I started and cancelled. Sorry, I'm rambling. But that's what tends to happen when I think about it in one big collection.

I made these! 
I know I'm fairly new to the game and have (hopefully) my whole career ahead of me. I know there's a lot of writers who have a substantial catalogue of dozens upon dozens upon dozens of books. And I know I'm not the first to look at the pile of work I have ahead of me and think “How the crap am I gonna do this?” But this is the first time it's really felt real to me, this task I have set myself.

So what do I do about it? Well my father once said to me something along the lines of:

When you've got a long way to go, don't look at the destination. Look at the path ahead.

And it makes sense. Sure, it's wise to glance up every now and then to make certain you're still headed in the right direction, but if you look down at the path in front of you, the trip doesn't seem nearly as impossible and progress in steps always feels more than progress in miles.

The horizon always looks so far away.
So that's what I'm going to do. I have started IT TAKES A THIEF TO START A FIRE and by the Maker, the Creator, and the Ruiner I am going to finish it. The last thing I want is to leave the poor novel sitting, half-finished, by the roadside while I march on unto the next project. After that? Well after that I'll see where I am, see which story is loudest in my head.

Sequel imminent.
I think this is the way it works best for me. Choose one story and finish it before starting another. One at a time or I become too unfocused and jumbled. Some authors may well be able to write 5 WIPs at once but not me. Too many WIPs spoil the broth.

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy. Find out more on his website here.