Apocalypse Blog posts

Picking up and moving on

A beautiful picture that reflects how I feel right now.  (uncredited)

A beautiful picture that reflects how I feel right now.

So, I’ve been sick a lot lately. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing of it, and honestly, I’m tired of saying it.

I’m not well. I’m never well. Stupid chronic conditions. It has been worse over the past couple of months, and complicated by a nasty virus over the past couple of weeks, and it makes me want to whine and kick things (inanimate things, not living things – at least, that’s true when my frustration levels are low).

I’ve been putting things off. I’ve compromised just about everything in my life, taking time to try to get well. I’ve delayed Starwalker posts, taken time off my day job, postponed plans for other projects. Now, don’t get me wrong: I think this was the right thing to do, because health is important and without it I can’t do any of those things anyway. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not sick of it (ha ha, see what I did there?).

It’s time to get back into the swing of things. I’m only willing to put my life on hold for so long. I’m not fully over this virus yet, but if my work colleagues are anything to go by, the dregs of it are going to hang around for a couple of weeks yet. However, I’m well enough to start to do stuff again.

I’m back at work again, full time. I’m pushing myself to write the way I should be: every day on my morning and evening commutes. I managed to write this morning on the way to work, so I feel like I’m getting back on the horse.

Over the weekend, I cleaned my house. Tidied stuff up, got the bleach and the cleaning appliances out, and went nuts. It’s a testament to how off-the-ball I am that I had to split it over two days just to get it all done. (And this wasn’t doing everything on my own, either; I had family helping.) But it’s done. House is clean.

I also spent a few hours amid all that editing a 60-page business document, full of torturous legal-speak and obfuscating language that only marketing and business people with an incestuous relationship with a thesaurus can achieve. It also involved wrestling with Word’s styles, which is always an onerous task but one that I’m getting to be a dab hand at.

I got around to putting together the exercise bike I bought a couple of weeks ago while I was sicky, too. This is going to be my next attempt at putting some physical activity into my regular life, to try to drive the CFS back and generate some energy (I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it can work!).

I feel like I’m shaking off this fugue I’ve been in lately. Things are moving again.

I have been talking with my artist friend who did the Starwalker graphics for me about the Apocalypse Blog ebook covers, and I’m really enthused about the ideas she came back with. Can’t wait to get that going. The ebooks are currently being edited, and hopefully I’ll be able to release new and improved editions of the content over the next few weeks. Add the covers, and then all I need to do is revamp the blurbs, and see if that helps the books sales at all.

I got started with planning for this year’s NaNoWriMo, and the amount of stuff waiting for us to do there means that my mental list is filling up. But unlike those times lately when it’s all been too much, the long to-do list is making me feel enthused about getting stuff done.

It’s a lot of little things, all swirling around at once. But that’s okay: I tend to operate better when I’m multi-tasking, and having many balls to juggle in the air at once never daunts me.

I can do this. I’m still snuffling and coughing, still trying to shake off this virus, and still struggling for energy. It’s going to be a slow ramp-up to my usual levels of operation. But it has started now. This is me, determined to stop whining and get on with things.

There might be some stumbles along the way, however, I think I’m heading in the right direction. Wish me luck!

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Flagging sales

The Apocalypse Blog ebooks had a good year in 2012. After Book 0 went free, sales rocketed on Amazon and I started to get cheques through every month. Colour me one happy writer, actually being paid for the fiction that I share with the world.

However, the end of 2012 saw a dip in sales on Amazon. In January, they fell even lower. I started to get incredibly concerned – had the books saturated its audience? Had they had their day? Was I looking at a sad decline, until I was getting only a sad dribble in sales, from now unto forever? I was doing nothing different, so what made the difference?

Curiously, in February, the sales picked up again. Not back to their previous levels, but certainly looking brighter than before.

Also interestingly, my sales through Smashwords (and its distribution network) stayed roughly the same, maybe increasing a little (it’s harder to track these ones, because it requires consolidating a lot of disparate info, and I’m still working on the spreadsheets for this. A financial genius I am not).

For the funsies, here are some graphs of Amazon sales to show you the patterns I’m talking about. Let’s start with the overall sales revenue figures:

Sales revenue

Sales revenue

You can see pretty clearly here what happened when Amazon price-matched Book 0 and made it free: in March, the sales shot up. Note: this is sales revenue, so this is the effect it had on the paid-for books!

Sales of Book 0, the free one.

Sales of Book 0, the free one.

You can see the summer holidays pretty clearly in that one. The graph only covers the period from after the book went free – before then, it was just 1 or 2 sales per month. Let’s forget about those early months.

Sales of Books 1, 2, and 3

Sales of Books 1, 2, and 3

This is what the sales of the paid-for books look like over the same period. Interestingly, the pattern is quite different – summer seems to have been a bumper time for buying books. Books 2 and 3 sell roughly the same amount, so the knock-on series sales seems to be pretty reliable; if they get past Book 1, they’ll buy all of them. I think I like this pattern. Also, you can see the hike around August where I dropped the price of Book 1 to $2.99 (from $4.99). Another spike. Hello, sweet spot.

To make some of the implications and patterns a little more obvious, here’s the two graphs above merged into one:

Sales of Books 0, 1, 2, and 3, with 0's brought down for comparison (divided by 20).

Sales of Books 0, 1, 2, and 3, with 0’s brought down for comparison (divided by 20).

The sales of free vs paid books is almost completely inverse. Curious pattern! I wonder why this is, especially as I would have thought that the knock-on from the free teaser into paid series would have been stronger. Apparently, this is not the case. Why? Hard to say. Perhaps the teaser is a little too much of a teaser? Some food for thought.

What’s pretty undeniable is the drop-off towards the end of 2012. It’s not a nice trend. On the upswing now, but for how long?

And here is the Amazon ranking chart from October until today (sadly, they only brought in Amazon author rankings in October, so I don’t have figures from before then, and the individual book ranks are currently broken):

Amazon rankings across all books

Amazon rankings across all books

You can see the drop-off through January, but considering there was a steady drop-off in sales after October, the ranking is pretty erratic. If the average rank per week is taken, it’s a bit easier to see:

Weekly average Amazon ranking

Weekly average Amazon ranking

The ranking changes don’t seem to match the actual sales figures, which is a bit interesting. However, the overall downward trend exists in both sales and ranking figures.

So my first question is: why the change? It’s a little hard to fathom, but it could be due to a number of factors, such as:

  • The time of year. I’ve noticed some patterns with sales around holidays, but I don’t have any historic data to compare it to, so this one is hard to be sure about. However, post-Christmas slumps are not unknown.
  • Amazon’s overall sales performance. Very hard to verify, but the author ranking patterns above should give me a clue, as it reflects my sales against other authors and books on Amazon. The mis-match between sales and ranking puts me in mind of the predictions made on the Smashwords blog that Amazon will start to lose market share this year as other online bookstores begin to take over in this space. So at least a part of this trend might not be related to me or my books at all.
  • I haven’t released a new book for a while. Much of the advice I’ve seen about self-publishing and e-publishing say that readers are voracious and a good way to stay in their line of sight is to release new ebooks fairly frequently (every few months or so). The longer I go without releasing something, the more I fall out of sight? Seems plausible.
  • Reviews and ratings. I consistently get 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon, and most other stores (where I have any ratings at all). The reviews are largely positive and encouraging. However, there are some stores where my books don’t have any ratings at all, and that’s a problem I should tackle.

So what can I do about it all? Should I do anything at all? I have a few options, so let’s take a look at them:

  • Do nothing. I could put it down to market vagaries and the time of year, and ride along in my merry little boat, hoping the tide will swell back in my direction. As tempting as this might be, I’d rather try a few things first.
  • Release some new books. I have plans in this area for the upcoming Starwalker project. The usefulness of frequent releases is part of why I want to release the short stories as individual books: I don’t have to wait for them all to be finished before I can release them, and I can space out the releases to keep interest in my work.
  • Release another Apocalypse Blog book. As much as I’d like to do this (in no small part due to the requests I’ve had to continue the story), I don’t have time in my current schedule to write a fourth book. It would take probably a year to come up with a fourth book, by which point the ‘catching interest’ element will most likely have passed me by. It might happen one day, but it’s not at the top of my list right now.
  • Rejuvenate the existing Apoclaypse Blog books. There are a few ways I could do this: small changes that might make a big difference.

That’s the big picture. Releasing new ebooks is in the pipeline but it will be a while; there’s a lot of work to do there. They won’t be in the AB series, but hopefully it’ll pop my name up on readers’ lists and I’ll get some knock-on sales. In the meantime, I can look into doing something to jog the existing ebook sales. Smashwords had an interesting post on how to rejuvenate flagging book sales, and I’ve got a few things in the works that should help, too:

  • Fresh edit and proof of the manuscript. This is underway and I’m hoping to have a new edition of the ebooks available soon. This is mostly removing typos, not rewriting sections.
  • Make Book 1 free. I’ve been pondering whether I should do this for a while, and the strong feeling I’m getting is ‘yes’. It’s a great way to hook people into the series, and the success that followed Book 0 going free is proof of that.
  • Lower the price of Books 2 and 3. Similar to the point above. It’s mostly about removing potential barriers to sale. At the least, I’ll probably lower Book 2 when it becomes the first paid-for book in the series. They’re long books, but more sales net me more benefit than higher per-book profits do.
  • Redo the product descriptions for the books. This might freshen up the listings, and maybe sharpen the message for readers. I’ve learned things since I released the ebooks, so there could be improvements made here. Make sure it’s pinging all the right areas for the audience I’m trying to reach.
  • Get new covers. This one is tricky, because it will (or at least could) cost me money. Also, I have a deep love of the current covers; they’re so pretty. However, they don’t scale terribly well (particularly to thumbnails), and it might be possible to get something better and more eye-grabbing. Open to options here. Maybe just a re-imagining of the current look? Should I shoot for four distinctly different covers, instead of recolourings of the same one for that ‘matched set’ vibe?

It’s not a lot of work, so I might as well get moving on it. Changing the prices takes all of ten minutes (though the change of Book 1 to free will take a few months to ripple through to Amazon, if Book 0 is anything to judge by). I’d like all of the changes to hit at once – to maximise the impact, rather than dribbling it through – so somehow I have to coordinate all of those changes. The covers are probably the trickiest to get done, so perhaps I’ll kick that off sooner rather than later.

As if I needed any more balls to keep in the air. At least it keeps things interesting, right?

Wish me luck and better sales. Oh, and don’t forget to tell everyone you know to buy my books! Thanks! 😀

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Wayward sales

The last few weeks have been a worrying time for me when it comes to ebook sales.

I sell through a number of retailers. Through Smashwords distribution, my Apocalypse Blog ebooks are available at all the major stores: Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and more. These dribble a few sales in every month but not a huge amount. They’re fairly steady and have seen a slight increase lately (though nothing to get overly excited about). I haven’t crunched the numbers properly yet, so the exact patterns here are hard to see.

The other retailer that I sell through is Amazon. This is far and away my biggest earner (the sales volumes are several times all of the above retailers combined), and so variations here are both more obvious and have a larger impact. And, to put it bluntly, my sales lately on Amazon have sucked.

I don’t know why. From my end, nothing has changed. Both sales and rankings have plummeted, so it doesn’t look like a general slump in book sales; it’s my books specifically that are not doing well. The books continue to get positive reviews and rankings.

It could be a simple blip in spending habits. After all, I don’t have a lot of data about this time of year to compare it with, so this could be perfectly normal. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.

It could be due to some of the changes that Amazon have been making. In his (free!) ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, Mark Coker has some interesting insights into Amazon’s attitude in the marketplace and their worrying lean towards forcing authors to be exclusive (through the KDP Select program). He also has some interesting predictions about the future of indie, digital, and traditional publishing over on the Smashwords blog. The marketplace is changing. Could this be a part of it?

I’m waiting for the December sales reports to come through before I do a look at 2012 as a whole, and I’m planning to do an analysis towards the end of this month (here on this blog). Hopefully that will give a clearer picture of what’s happening.

In the meantime, I shall cross my fingers and hope the sales pick up. I’m also pondering options for how I can rejuvenate my poor, struggling books. Watch this space: there’s more to come on this!

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2013: plans and dreams

I’ve done the retrospective for 2012; now it’s time to look to the future. Now is the time for possibilities and ambition.

I usually like to aim high at a time like this. I know I probably won’t do everything I put on this list, but if it’s not here I’ll never do it. I’ll most likely get to most of it and that’s all good.

Let’s get the boring, necessary stuff out of the way first.


This is settling down for me at the moment. I’m hoping to stay with my current team for a stretch and make a bit of a home for myself, and the management have assured me that this is likely (as far as their current plans say, but, well, you never know with these things). Some stability would be nice.

The stress is a lot less than it was and I’ll be aiming to keep it that way.

Financial Issues

Now that our house move is complete and we’ve reduced some of our overheads, I’m hoping that this will plateau as well. We’ve got a bit of work to do on this front but, with luck, our situation should be sustainable for the next few months at least.

I’m working to worry less about this stuff.


The CFS isn’t going away anytime soon, and as long as it doesn’t get any worse, it’s manageable. I’m used to dealing with it (I was diagnosed over 7 years ago), so not a big worry there.

I’ve got some testing coming up in a couple of months to investigate some other issues I’m having. I’m nervous about the tests (mostly because they’ll put me out and anaesthetic doesn’t get along well with me), but I’m glad at the possibility for answers and, hopefully, treatment. I won’t say ‘cure’ because I don’t believe in unicorns and there’s no way I’m that lucky. Progress is good, though, and it’s moving in the right direction.


Ah-ha, here’s the important part! Here’s the section of my life where I get to have fun, where I aim for the stars and am quite happy with landing on the moon. So, what’s on my list for 2013?

Starwalker: Web Serialising

First up, I will finish Starwalker. I keep saying that there’s still a lot to come, and while I don’t want to put a date on its conclusion, it will definitely finish this year, probably in the first quarter.

When I say ‘finish’, I mean that I’ll get to the end of Book 3, which is the end of the original story arc I planned when I set out on this journey. Will that mean the end of the web serial completely?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t believe in stringing stories out for the sake of it (which is why I haven’t gone back to the Apocalypse Blog in so long: I haven’t felt like I’ve got more story to tell there). However, I’m pretty sure my readers will have something to say if I kill it completely and I’ve come to love my readers a lot.

I do have a follow-up story in mind. There has been a notecard with the name of the story-arc on it pinned to my planning pinboard for a couple of years now. I don’t think it’ll be a full novel-length story – it’s a novella at best at this stage – but maybe it’ll make a good interim story for me to tell while I ponder the future of the Starwalker and her crew.

Starwalker: Ebooks

This is something I’ve had my eye on for a while now. I’d really love to package the Starwalker saga up into ebooks and release it.

However, that’s not a quick process. Firstly, they have to be edited. I already know of some rewriting I want to do (nothing major, but it’s work that needs to be done), and I’m sure there will be more honing and polishing that I’ll do as I go through. This all takes time, and how much I continue the web serial will impact on how quickly this happens.

Next up, I need covers. That will probably cost money, which I’ll talk about later. I have some base graphics already but I want something really slick and professional for the book covers. Which means no home jobs by me (I freely admit that I suck at graphics).

The formatting and releasing parts are easy once all the above is done. I’d like to get at least one book out this year.

Starwalker: Shorts

I made a start on this in 2012 and I mean to continue it. I have stories planned for almost all of the crew (the shorts are character-focussed stories) and I’d like to get through all of them eventually.

It’s hard to have a fixed goal with this, because so much depends on other commitments. Shall we say one a month? That’s probably a bit ambitious; one every two months is more realistic.

My end goal with this is to compile them into an ebook – a Starwalker ‘get to know the crew’ anthology – and release it. Possibly for free. (Having a freebie available really helps draw people into paying for the series: this is what the Apocalypse Blog ebooks have taught me!)

Alternatively, I could release them individually, but that depends on being able to get the covers for them. On the plus side, I would be able to release them sooner if I didn’t have to wait for the anthology to be complete. Also, individual character covers would be awesome.

Vampire Electric

My goal for this year is somewhat simpler here: finish the first draft. I already have a pile of notes for the second draft, including a bit of a restructure, but I really need to get the first run-through finished. I’d love to find out how this story will end! (Yes, yes, I have something in mind, but as always with me, it’s a general, blurry picture that I won’t truly figure out until I get there.)

Tales from the Screw Loose

This is, potentially, the next web serial on my list to pick up. It’s set in the Starwalker universe and is the first spin-off that I have in mind to tackle (I have a whole list of spin-off ideas for the Starwalker universe!). You may have heard me refer to it as the ‘robot brothel story’: Tales from the Screw Loose is its proper name.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to this over the next year. A lot depends on whether or not I keep Starwalker going (as a web serial), because I have a strict rule of one web serial active at a time. I know my own limits well enough to know that both stories would suffer if I tried to keep two going in tandem.

Regardless, I still have some work to do before I can get started on this story. I have made a start on the worldbuilding (it’s set on one of the colony planets) but I need to work out the cast and some of the plot elements before I start putting fingers to keyboard.

I also need to sort out the website and I’m pondering some custom graphics/design for it. This may cost money, so is dependent on a number of factors. On the plus side, I’ve already got the domain: screwloosetales.com (yes, it’s a bit early, but I’m determined like that and I didn’t want to lose the domain while I sorted the rest of it out).

For this year, I think I’d like to have the prep all done and the story ready to go. Actual words on the page will be a bonus!

Apocalypse Blog

The ebooks are going pretty well. I’d like to capitalise on some of the good reviews and see about marketing it, but I’m pretty bad at self-promotion, so I won’t make any firm plans about this.

I would like to do paper book editions of it, however. Most likely through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which will link nicely up to the ebooks on Amazon (and it seems like a better and cheaper system than Lulu).

I’ve had a look at the work required to do this and it’s not as easy as the ebooks were. It’ll take some time to get the formatting done for printing, and I’ll also need to get the covers redone.

I’d also like to get the books re-edited, and will most likely refresh the ebook editions when I do that.

I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing an omnibus edition, at least of the ebooks, so I’ll look into this, too.

There have been many calls for another (fourth) book in the series, and a part of me really wants to satisfy this desire. However, I’m not sure what that fourth book would entail. I’m letting it rest in the back of my brain for now; if inspiration strikes, I’ll be sure to let you all know. Never say never!


Ah, my annual nuttiness. I don’t have a huge amount planned yet, but we’re all pretty sure that there will be another Writer’s Retreat. This time, up a mountain! I’ll be heading on a roadtrip soon with my lovely co-MLs (I might have two this time!) to check out the options. I’m sure that it won’t be long before that ball is off and rolling.

The rest of the NaNo stuff will be worked out over the months leading up to November. No other firm plans yet, but there will no doubt be plenty of write-ins at our favourite Coffee Club, drinkies, and possibly a write-out or two.


This is an option that I’ve been looking at lately. I know other writers have had success with platforms like Kickstarter and have raised money to allow them to develop a new story, pay for covers and printing costs, and that sort of thing.

As mentioned above, some of what I want to do requires paying for services. I’ve had donations through the links on my websites and I am endlessly grateful to the donors for their generosity: they helped to pay for the Starwalker graphics I had done in 2012. But what I have in mind is going to take rather more.

Due to being based outside the US and UK, I can’t run a Kickstarter campaign. However, there are other options available: most notably, Pozible and iPledg look promising, but I haven’t gone through all the crowdfunding platforms available to me yet.

A campaign seems like a lot of work but I think I want to give it a go. I am terrible at asking for money (see previous comments about self-promotion), but I have always been astounded by the generosity and support of the online community. I approve of the notion of the rewards you can offer to supporters, too. And at the end of the day, what’s the worst that could happen?

It’s good to know that I have this option when I’m looking at commissioning covers for Starwalker, or a website for Screw Loose. All those things that require money for me to achieve could actually be possible!

Now all I need to figure out is what to ask for and what I can realistically offer as rewards. And then the time to do it all.

Other Stuff?

Wow, I’m not sure. What else might 2013 hold for me? No doubt I’m forgetting about something. These are the things that are buzzing around in my head right now. This is what I’m taking with me into 2013.

Now excuse me, I think I’m going to go away and write something.

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The year that was… 2012

The beginning of a new year is not so different from any other day. It’s an arbitrary demarcation of a calendar that we give meaning to, rather like a lot of people did to the Mayan calendar (particularly, its end). It think it’s good to remind ourselves that calendars only hold the meaning we give them.

The turning of the year is a way to mark time and, hopefully, progress. It’s a chance to step back and take a look at where we were and where we are now. It’s a chance to try to gain some perspective. It’s when we look forward and think about where we want to be. It’s when we take the time to make plans, rather than the usual day-to-day we live.

So let’s start with the road travelled so far. 2012: a year of struggle for me.


Necessary toil: my day job as a technical writer pays the bills and lets me do my creative writing. Plus, I get to put my writing skills to good, professional use.

Over the past year, I coordinated the delivery of:

  • A major release, 2 and a half years in the making. I coordinated the entire documentation side of the project from start to end. Getting it released was a huge effort and I was glad to see if over and done with!
  • 2 minor releases, both roughly 4-month projects. There might have been another one in there. I lost track; they kept turning up on my plate without any warning.

With all that to juggle, there were a lot of changes. Over the year, I changed:

  • Positions twice. Once from team leader to team writer, and then back to team leader again (it’s a different role now and I’m managing developers and testers as well as writers, which is all new to me).
  • Teams thrice. Lots of reasons for this, most of them positive about me.
  • Desks more times than I can remember, but at least three times!

Other challenges included continuing to strive to overcome problem team members (despite no longer actually being in the same team as them) and adapting the documentation processes after a restructure as our department moved into Agile practices.

It has been stressful to say the least, and a lot of mental effort to stay on top of it all. But I did. I pulled off everything they handed to me. I made it to the end of the year without snapping and breaking down or getting myself fired. I’m still here, working away and keeping my head above water.

Financial Issues

At home, things have been tough, too. Like so many others here and around the world, our financial situation is not good. We’ve been fighting to make ends meet, and wound up moving house to reduce our costs. (It’s a good move and a lovely house, so I’m not disappointed by that, but wow it was a lot of work.)

A lot has been resting on me at home. I’m the primary breadwinner, which means those times when I’ve wanted to walk away from my job, even downgrade to something less stressful, I can’t afford to. So I’ve pushed through and done what I can to support my family while they get their own stuff sorted out.

It’s all coming along, as slowly as it always has. We’re in a more sustainable position now, which is good, and that should lift some of the pressure.


Between the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other issues that are exacerbated by stress, I haven’t had the best of years. I’m running ragged most of the time. I’ve been sick more than usual.

I’d like to think that it hasn’t impacted my writing but I know it has. I’ve missed posting deadlines; more than once, I’ve put posts off for a week because I can’t make it. I despise that. I hate knowing that I’ve failed to keep my promises; my readers are wonderfully forgiving, but I’m not. I know that if I don’t push myself, it won’t get done at all. I don’t like letting myself or my readers down.

I don’t know if the quality of my writing has been impacted. I don’t have any real perspective right now, but I suspect that it has.

It’s just another one of those things that I’m pushing through. I’m carrying on despite it, because I refuse to let things like this stop me from doing what really matters to me. Which is:


Here’s the part that we’re all interested in: that wonderful activity that I fill up all my off-time with, the thing that gives me a break from everything else when I need it and keeps me going. The things that spurs my hopes and dreams, and spills my soul out onto pages.

Even with everything that has been going on (and still is!), even with all that clutter in my head, I have stories to tell. I have characters who want to speak. I have things to say. It has been harder than usual – writing with energy when you don’t have any is far from easy – but I’ve done my best to keep up.


My web serial is still going strong. I’m averaging a book a year and this year doesn’t seem to be any different (though this third book is looking like it’s going to stretch well into next year!).

I’m still loving it. Starry and her crew are so much fun to play with, even when I’m torturing them. I have a wonderful, supportive readership; checking the comments on the posts is a highlight of my week.

The visit rate has been holding fairly steady through the year, slowly creeping upwards. Currently, I’m getting over 3,000 unique visitors a month, and anywhere between 250 and 400 visitors every day. It’s easily beating the Apocalypse Blog‘s stats, which hit 200 visits on a good day if I was lucky (I think it averaged around 180 v/d).

Starwalker has made it to the top 10 of Top Web Fiction‘s lists, and has been hovering around the number 1 spot for science fiction for some months now. This makes me insanely happy and proud.

The actual writing part has been rocky. As mentioned above, I’ve had to delay posts a few times this year. Keeping it going has been a struggle at times; one that I hope hasn’t been visible to the reader, at least not in the writing itself.

I feel like Starwalker’s plot has slid sideways and meandered more than I’d like, but it’s still heading in the right direction. I still know where it’s going to end up and how it’s all going to end. I’m excited to get there, though it’ll be a little while yet. So many miles to go!

Overall, I’m really happy with where I am. The serial is over 300,000 words now and still going. All my plans are still working and I’m laying the foundations for what’s to come. It still makes me smile when I sit down to write it.


This is usually something I keep promising that I’ll do and then never get to. But this year, not so! I made a start on some Starwalker shorts, and three of them are complete.

Not as many as I had hoped for, but it’s a start. They prompted positive reactions and I can’t ask for more than that. I have lots of plans in this area, but that’s for another post.

Vampire Electric

Ah, the elusive steampunk novel. I started off this year writing it in tandem with Starwalker, but had to take a break around March to get my breath back. It took until November for me to pick it up again. I made good progress with it, though there’s another big chunk that needs to be written before the first draft is done.

I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to keep working on it, even if my attention in this area has been sporadic. Often, it takes me a while to get back into a project – it’s one of the reasons I try not to take ‘breaks’ – but not so with this one. It still speaks to me loudly enough that I can take a few months off and still go back to writing it without any problems.

It’s not finished yet but it’s getting closer.


The annual novel-writing craziness was a wild ride this year. I’ve written four blog posts about it, so I won’t go into details here. In brief: it was hard, I learned things, my people are awesome, and I’m completely nuts (but the Retreat was amazing).

Apocalypse Blog

This one is last because I haven’t done any actual writing in this area this year. However, there has been activity!

Early this year, books 2 and 3 of AB were released. Around the same time, Amazon realised that Book 0 was free elsewhere and price-matched it, which led to a huge up-kick in sales.

I am now getting monthly cheques from Amazon. They’re not huge, they’re not enough to pay the bills with, but they do mean that I’m a published, paid author. I still grin like a kid when I think about that. I feel like I’ve Made It, at least in the indie sphere.

The books are doing well! After some experimentation with pricing, I’m selling roughly 150 books per month. Book 0 (the free one) usually hovers in the middle of Amazon’s top 100 (in science fiction).

I’m also getting some pretty awesome reviews. People keep asking when the next (4th) book is coming out. There’s no more, not yet!

Readers like my work enough to want more. Couldn’t ask for more than that, really.

Writing Community

I wrote about this in reference to NaNo, but it’s worth saying how awesome the people around me have been this year. The group has been building for several years now, and over the past year or so, it has taken on a momentum of its own. I feel that the writers in this city have really gelled and become a wonderful, supportive community that I’m a big part of.

In fact, I’m often leading it, which is intimidating when I stop to think about it. As a NaNoWriMo ML, I naturally do a lot of the coordination, but it extends well outside November. Its monthly write-ins and weekly drinks run all year now, along with my regular writing group.

My Creative Writing Group is still going strong. It has been running for over four years now and I still have a good turnout every month. There are new faces joining and long-standing ones drifting away, but that’s the way of things. We have yet to run out of things to talk about and explore, and if I know my group (which I do pretty well now!), we won’t stop any time soon.

I’ve made many good friends through the various groups and events that I’m a part of. They’ve become dear parts of my life and I’m grateful for all of them. As years go, this one has been a winner in this respect.

Not to mention that I have an actual social life now. Who knew that would happen to me? Who could have predicted that it would come out of what is, essentially, a solitary activity?

Life is strange. And there’s so much more to come.

That has pretty much been my year. Productive, hard work, and progressive. I’m in a better place now than I was at the beginning of the year. I’m getting there, one slow step at a time.

I’m glad 2012 is almost over; I’m done with it. I’m looking forward to closing the book on this year and starting a new one. Next year will be better and brighter.

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Review happy

Or, how to make a writer smile

I check for reviews periodically on the online stores where my ebooks are sold (primarily on Amazon because it has the highest turnover and tends to generate more reviews). It’s always good to know what people are saying about my work and how it is trending against other books.

I went in and checked on my ebooks recently and was pleasantly surprised to see a number of new reviews had been added in the past few weeks. With the usual trepidation (it’s always scary when you’re going in blind), I clicked through to see what they said.

I was honestly floored by the responses.

This series is the real deal and Melanie Edmonds needs to learn how to write quicker than I can read. She’s one of the best indie author’s I’ve found in the 2 years since my son gave me a Kindle for my birthday.”

Best Character Development I’ve Seen in Some Time.”

“Good read and recommend the entire series.”

The praise was wonderful! And some of the reviews were detailed, which as a writer, I always appreciate (have a look on the linked review pages on Amazon for the full text!).

I don’t expect positive comments in reviews. I don’t expect five-star ratings. I hope for them but I don’t expect them; it’s safer that way. Negative reviews and ratings are hard enough to take as it is!

I value honest feedback. It’s one reason why I’m so opinionated about critiquing fiction, and I strive to remove my ego from the equation. It’s difficult and negative reviews always hit me where I live, but I don’t discourage them.

When I was editing the Apocalypse Blog for the ebook editions, I had a list of negative things from reviews that I tried to address. Some sections were rewritten and many were expanded. I tried to improve and learn. For that opportunity, I thank those reviewers.

But nothing beats positive feedback. Nothing beats knowing that someone has read your story and honestly been touched. Yes, I love making people cry, because it’s a sign of my craft that I’ve managed to move someone that deeply. I love making people stay up half the night or spend time at work reading.

“I even put off watching the Olympics at times because this series was so good, I couldn’t stop at times, often reading throughout the night.”

Wonderful characters and story…loved every page….made me cry at several points.”

“I usually read while working out on my treadmill, I was so into these books I didn’t even notice my time on the machine as it shuts off @ 100 minutes: as it did every time while reading these!!!!”

“Once I started, I couldn’t put the series down. I literally read the entire batch over the course of a 3-day weekend.”

“Love this story, can’t put it down! I find myself very attached to the characters and am really enjoying the story.”

I love the complaints when they reach the end because there’s no more for them to devour.

“I read all four books in a week and I’m so hoping the author will consider continuing on with Faith’s story. I did see a review from someone re: Book 3 asking for more as well. Maybe with enough fans of this writer and ‘Faith’s Story,’ we’ll get our wish!”

“This is the third [book]. I’m bummed. I’ve grown to like Faith more and more. Lots of excitement . Violence and intensity too. You won’t be sorry you gave this series a try. My question is: WHEN DO WE GET INSTALLMENT 4?”

Great book, have read all the books to this series, hoping the next one will be out soon! great apocalypse book!”

They’re all signs that I’m doing things right. People are connecting with my characters and stories, and they’re reacting to them in good ways.

I’ve even had vindication in some of the things I set out to do. In the Apocalypse Blog, I wanted to show a different side to a post-apocalyptic situation than I’d seen before. I wanted Faith to be a different voice, and I didn’t want the zombies to be the centre of the story; it wasn’t about them at all. And that has been picked up in the reviews.

“When I started with the first book I wasn’t sure what scenario the characters would be faced with in addition to the zombies. Even though they took a while to show up they did not disappoint once they arrived. By then I was so attached to the characters it just added to the adventure. They were not the center of attention but the main problem the characters faced was easily just as interesting.”

“While I’m not a “zombie” fan AT ALL, I was able to get through their appearances in this series. I was also able to shake off the nightmares…yes, that how good the writing is.”

“I do like a good “after the collapse of society”, “dead things back to life” story, and while this one was reminiscent of every other apocalypse/zombie thing I’ve ever seen/read (The Walking Dead, Survivors, Falling Skies, The Road) it still had me captivated. Just enough newness to keep my interest.”

“The book has great characters and is very different than the usual apocalyptic novels currently available.”

“I’m glad to see female authors emerging in this genre. It gets old, reading about the ex-military, gung-ho zombie killer that’s taught all of his sons to shoot but not his daughter and hides the women in a closet.”

Better than that: I’ve been recommended to others on those grounds. It’s different and fresh and new. In this world of fiction, it’s hard to do something truly unique, but I feel like I might have succeeded in at least some small way.

It’s reviews like that that keep me writing and publishing. I write because I have stories in me; I publish because I want to share them, and I want to know that I have something worth sharing.

I should note that reviews are likely to affect sales, and of course, positive comments and ratings will sell me more books. But I won’t beg or buy them. I want my work to stand on its own and speak for me, and so far, it has (I’ve done little marketing, mostly because I don’t have the time). That’s enough for me. If the books do well, it’s because they deserve it and I’m happy with that.

Do I wish that all of my reviews were so effusive? What I’ve quoted above isn’t the whole story; I have only included snippets of them here, and I encourage you to check out the full review text. Many of them came with caveats and notes about stuff that could have been done better. And I’m working to take those on board and take them forward with me in my new writings, so no, I don’t hope for the reviews to be 100% positive. No fiction is perfect (and I’m not deluded enough to think mine is, either!).

I am grateful for all of it and I thank everyone who has commented on my work. But I am especially grateful to those who took the time to tell the world how much they enjoyed my work. You lifted my day.

I hope to give you even better stories to read soon.

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Ebook pricing experiment

Something I forgot to mention in my last post is that I’m experimenting with my ebook pricing! After reading the Smashwords blog post about the optimum range for ebook prices, I’ve decided to drop the price of the Apocalypse Blog Book 1 from $4.99 to $2.99 (on Amazon and Smashwords).

I’ll get less revenue per book, but the increase in sales should more than balance that out, if the stats are anything to go by. I’m keeping an eye on the sales (just a little compulsively), and will post again in a month or so to see how it’s going.

So if you haven’t picked it up yet, grab it now while it’s cheap! And cross your fingers that it takes off some more. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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Publishing on Kindle: thoughts and experiences

I published the first two Apocalypse Blog books (Book 1 and the prequel, Book 0) through Kindle Direct Publishing back in September last year. In March and April this year, I managed to get Books 2 and 3 out (respectively).

My sales weren’t great at first. I sold a few handful books every month and the Amazon ranking was around 500,000 (out of more than a million books). It was slow and I figured it would take me forever to earn enough royalties for a payout. I don’t have the time or money for a lot of marketing, so my chances of climbing the ranks were down to luck.

Then something unexpected happened. In March, my sales spiked significantly – I noticed that the rankings were at 200,000 and rising. At first, I thought it was the release of Book 2, even though I had done little promotion to warrant such a change. Also, all of the books were selling well, not just the new one. Bewildered, I looked into it further, curious about what might have caused it.

What I found was that Book 0 was now available for free. Amazon doesn’t allow authors to offer books for free (outside of the KDP Select program, which I haven’t tried yet); the only way for it to happen is through price-matching. It seems that they had noticed that I have Book 0 available for free through other stores such as Smashwords, Apple, and Barnes & Noble, and matched the Amazon price to it.

Mystery solved! As hundreds of copies were downloaded, I bewilderedly watched the Book 0 rankings soar, dropping digits off until it was hovering between 1,500 and 4,000. It even made it into triple digits a few times.

Not only that: Book 0 made it into Amazon’s top 100! In the Science Fiction chart, it has been as high as the top 30, and usually appears in the top 100 listing somewhere.

Better yet, books 1 and 2 also started doing well as a result (the ones that are not free!). I believe it was a mixture of knock-on sales from Book 0 and the increased visibility of the series as a whole. When Book 3 was released, it galloped up the charts to sit with the rest of the (paid-for books in) the series.

The paid-for books have had pretty steady sales over the months since Book 0 went free. It wasn’t a temporary bump of sales; if it was, it hasn’t ended yet! The paid-for books are all currently sitting around 50,000 in the rankings (there’s some variation, but that’s where I usually see them). That’s in the top 5% of all the books on Amazon!

I’m so proud. Self-publishing feels like a shot in the dark to me, putting my work out there because I want it, with little idea about how worthy it really is of taking up space on people’s shelves (virtual or otherwise). But it’s selling and people like it. I can’t say how happy that makes me!

I can see why the publishing houses are leaning towards preferring series rather than standalone books these days. The knock-on sales are fantastic.

Now I’m looking forward to the next ebooks I might release – Starwalker – and I’m wondering how I can make this work again. I need a free first book to pull people into the main series. I don’t have a prequel for that series! Not yet, anyway. It something to think about!

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Where I’ve been

2012 has been a rocky year for me so far. One of the most obvious signs of that is the lack of posts on this blog. I keep coming back here and lining up things I want to post about, but finding the time and brain-space to actually post has been out of my reach for much of the time.

I won’t go into detail why. I’ll just summarise and say that my day-job has been very stressful (more so than it ever had before). I don’t deal well with unreasonable expectations, untenable positions, or problems I’m unable to fix. I’m under a certain amount of pressure at home as well (most of it financial and none of it anyone’s fault – life just gets that way sometimes). Couple all of that with CFS (which is made worse by stress, of course), and, well. Let’s just say that it has been a strain to get anything productive done in my ‘spare’ time.

This blog is usually the first thing to fall off my radar when I get busy, as it’s the one I have least commitments to. So, to those of you who read this blog: my apologies, and thanks for your patience. It’s not that I love you least! I’d make more of a commitment to updating here if I thought I was capable of maintaining it!

Sadly, it has also been affecting my current web serial. I’ve missed posts, delayed things, mostly due to health reasons. I despise doing that. Part of what works for my web serial writing is keeping to a schedule, and missing that schedule means I’m letting myself (and my readership – more on that later) down. However, I have to be realistic and recognise that it’s not always possible to keep it up! And I’d rather not put up a shitty post just for the sake of posting.

All the same, I think the quality of the writing has probably suffered. At least a little. It makes me sad to know that (I take a great pride in my work, and I consider the web serial ‘work’, not play). It also makes me look forward to editing Starwalker! (Whenever that may be.)

However, it’s not all dire news. Firstly, I’d like to say that I have the most wonderful readers. They have been nothing but understanding and supportive, despite the amount of ‘sorry guys, there’s gonna be a delay on the next post’ messages I’ve had to put up so far this year. I’ve had so many wonderful comments, letting me know that it’s okay to take the time I need, and even emails offering more support and advice.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those messages. You guys are why I write. You make it all worth it!

I work to live and live to write. I push myself to write more and write better because I love it. I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do, so many stories I want to share with the world. Running around in my head right now:

  • Starwalker (in progress!).
  • Apocalypse Blog shorts (shelved but not forgotten).
  • Vampire Electric, the steampunk novel (along with a couple of non-vampire sequels).
  • Screw Loose, the robot brothel (the next web serial? Maybe!).
  • Starwalker spin-offs (I have a few in mind, including the villain shorts, the story of the Carapace, and something centred on the consciousness of stars).

I can’t wait to get to them all. I can’t wait to share them with everyone. I can only focus on one thing at a time right now (between working full-time and fatigue), but I hope to get to them all eventually.

And then there’s all the other writing stuff I’m involved in. I’m still running my Creative Writing Group every month, and the Monthly Write-ins are where I get a pile of writing done! Planning for NaNoWriMo 2012 started a couple of months ago and is already galloping ahead.

On top of all that, the ebook sales for the Apocalypse Blog are going amazingly well. (I’m hoping to do a post specifically about that; fingers crossed I’ll get to it soon!) I got my first cheque for ebook sales in this week! I can now say that I’m a professional, (self-)published author.

So, yeah, it’s been a hell of a year so far. But I’m just finishing a week’s holiday from work and I’m feeling better. I’ve caught up on a few things (this blog being one of them!). The work of dealing with the stressful parts of my life continues, and they’re being weeded out steadily.

Writing posts like this is usually an interesting exercise for me. I know I’m ambitious with everything I try to do. I know I push myself hard (mostly because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anything done; it’s too easy to let CFS be the excuse that stops you from doing or being what you want).

Today, I look at everything here and I think: I’m actually pretty awesome. I’m holding it together and I’m getting there. I’ll come out of the other side of this rocky patch better than before.

Most of all, I’m grateful. For the friends who listen to me whine, who hug me and make me laugh. For the family who love and protect me. For the budding MLs who are helping me with the NaNo stuff this year, and my previous co-MLs. For the readers who enjoy my work, both those who let me know and those who visit silently. For those who spend their money on my work, both through donations and buying ebooks, and help me know that they believe my stories are worth paying for.

You all know who you are. I love you and thank you. I’m lucky to have you in my life.

Time to press onwards. Hopefully you’ll hear from me soon! Be well, everyone, and I’ll try to do the same.

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Apocalypse Blog Book 2 now available!

After many months and much struggling to find time to work on it, the Apocalypse Blog Book 2: Rising is now available as an ebook! Huzzah!

The ebook is an extended version from the original blog, with lots of new content to enjoy. Plus, the guest writers that wrote posts for the blog kindly gave their permission for me to reproduce their work in the ebook!

The ebook is currently up on Smashwords and Amazon; it will roll out to other stores (such as Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo) over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks to everyone who helped this come together. Here’s hoping that Book 3 will be out soon too!

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