A Bit of Art

gargoyle series scene break darkerI’ve got about a million things to do, and that doesn’t count the impending arrival of baby #3 or a ground-shaking realization that one of my fellow authors put me onto late last night, but I just had to stop for a second and show you all a bit of art that Katie made a little while ago.

We’ve been struggling to find a scene break graphic that would work for the last three series of books that we haven’t managed to get squared away in print, and this was one of the options that she came back with. I suspect that it’s not going to work because of limitations with our printer, but I think it’s absolutely stunning.

As with most of what we do, it’s stock art that she’s modified, but I say that only to give credit to whatever artist did the original bit that we purchased so that Katie could work her magic, not to discount Katie’s talent or hard work. I think that her changes have made the art even better, and it reminds me once again just how impressed I am with what she does.

Truth be told, I’m more than a little jealous sometimes that she works in a medium that can have such an immediate impact. It took me all of a tenth of a second to know that I loved these wings!

May 2016 Status Update

Wow does time ever fly! My last update was on the 12th of February, and I don’t honestly remember what I was doing between then and the start of March, but I expect there was a lot of print proofing, marketing and administrative stuff that must have taken place.

Fortunately, I was able to start writing on the first of March. I picked up the 5th Broken World book managed to finish it off by the end of the day on the 22nd, writing just over 95k words to bring the book up to a total of more than 138k words—the largest I had ever written.  In comparison, Broken was 127k words and Left was 125k words, but the real surprise was that along the way I figured that my 5-book series (originally intended to be 4 books) was actually going to have to be a 6-book series.

That was a little bit of a disappointment to me because it meant that my carefully planned schedule was going to have to change, but the story that I still need to tell after finishing the 4th book was just too large to fit into one book, so that was just what needed to happen.

On the plus side, I managed to maintain a production rate of just over 5k words per working day from the 1st to the 22nd, so I was feeling pretty good about that, and as I got to the end of book 5 I started playing with a crazy idea… What if I were to push really hard for the last week of March and the first week of April? 5k words per day works out to 30k across 6 working days per week, so if I really buckled down I just might be able to write all 80k words I figured it would take to close out the series in just 2 weeks.

Katie was a little doubtful, but if I could pull it off, it would mean that I would start my editing round only 1 week late, and there was a chance that I could then push hard enough to get all of the editing done in April and start the next Compelled Chronicles book in May just as I’d told all of you I was planning on doing.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. It wasn’t that I didn’t put in the effort—in fact, I managed to average more than 6,800 words per day (possible the highest long-term average I’ve ever achieved), and along the way I had one day in excess of 12,583 words (beating my previous personal record of 12,321), a day of 14,106, and what is my current personal best of 18,400 words in one day.

Given all of that, I really should have managed to do exactly what I set out to do and finished A Broken World #6 in just two weeks, but it turns out that the story I had left was a bit longer than I’d been expecting it to be—more than 211k words to be precise.

For the last couple decades or so traditional publishing has considered 80k+ to be novel length, but recently without the push to ‘pad’ a story so that publishers could charge more for it, a lot of indie authors have found that their stories end up in the 60k-70k range. By that metric, I wrote three books in April, and I’m going to be taking a hard look to see if there’s any way to split this manuscript up into two or three books rather than one giant novel. We’ll just have to see what happens there.

If you haven’t started The Society I really hope that you’ll give it a look—I’m really thrilled with how the series turned out, and the next four (more if I can find a good place to break the 6th book) releases are all going to be in the Broken World series.

Beyond that, we had the normal trips to the doctor to get little fingers x-rayed (it ended up not being broken, thank goodness), crashed computers (I ended up losing files—including my dragon naturally speaking profile, which slowed things down as a result even once I got my desktop up and running again, but I didn’t lose any writing), and the wonderful trip for one day to the Salt Lake Comic Con/FanX that I emailed you all about before we left (which is where these pictures are all from).

Where does that leave us in the Murray household? Well, as much as I want to just jump into the next book on May first (I’m writing this on April 30th), I have a whole host of things that I really ought to do—things like this status update, a survey, print books, just to name a few.

Given that, and the fact that Baby #3 is due to make an appearance in June, I think I’m probably realistically going to not have much chance of getting any significant writing done until July, which isn’t ideal, but if I can keep up my newfound productivity, there’s a chance that I can make up an extra book’s worth of writing across July and September, which would put me back on track.

With regards to our print layout efforts, it’s easiest now to name the books that haven’t been laid out yet rather than listing off the ones that we’ve gotten squared away. Currently we still need to get all three of the books in The Awakening series done, along with The Society, The Destroyer, Stone Heart and Left. We also need to get the 4 books in the Guadel Chronicles series redone so that the price is updated and the cover is snazzier.

Out of that list, Katie has covers done for everything but Left (I haven’t laid it out yet so she doesn’t have the dimensions available to her), which means it’s just a matter of getting the scene break graphics right (we’ve been struggling there with these most recent books) and then me getting proofs ordered and checked. That’s definitely a big part of where I’ll be spending my time during the next two months.

Our hope is still to get some business with libraries and indie bookstores, but Katie and I have decided to go ahead and try to book a table at the Salt Lake Comic Con in September this year. That’s going to involve a significant amount of work, but we are hoping that it will pay off with a chance to interact with a ton of readers and a bunch of books sold.

Beyond that, the plan is to resume writing in July and then write at least one new book every other month, although I’ll still be doing what I can to try and fit an extra book or two into that schedule if I can. I’m still going to work on finishing up the Compelled Chronicles, at which point I’ll be able to give the Reflections and Dark Reflections books the focus they deserve.

I don’t have any official release dates for anything yet, but hopefully during the next two months as I get through some of the editing passes that are starting to pile up I’ll have a better idea—either way, once I get the production pipeline filled up, you should be able to see a steady stream of releases every month. 🙂

As always, thank you for all that you do—I’m excited to see how the rest of 2016 goes!

Dean

Feb 2016 Status Update

LeftCover

I’m trying to do a status update with every book launch (so that I can link to it in the release email rather than putting a bunch of extra information in the body of the email), and it’s almost time for Left to go live, which means that I need to get another update written and posted.

This time I want to include a 2015 in review aspect to the post.  2015 was a critical year in that in spite of Katie’s apparent willingness to continue to let things slowly build, I felt like she’d had to put off too many dreams for too long. I decided in 2015 that the book income needed to cover our living expenses or I would need to go back to a day job in order to make sure that we could provide for baby #3 whenever it arrived.

The numbers are in, and in addition to writing more than 495k new words, we spent more than 4 times as much on advertising as compared to the year before, which drove a 60% increase in book sales. That’s not quite as good as it sounds given that we still had to pay for the aforementioned advertising, editing, and all of the other normal business stuff like web hosting, but it meant that we managed to end the year having put money into savings for the first time since we quit to write full-time more than 3 years ago.

We hit my personal threshold for being able to continue writing full-time, and Katie seems happy with the results, which means that I get to keep telling all of the stories that seem to be piling up inside my head much more quickly than I can get them out. The trick now is just making sure that we can do that well for 2016—something that has me more than a little nervous given just how hard I worked last year and how little writing I actually got done, but that’s a feeling that I’m sure most of you can relate to in some form or fashion. Life is full of uncertainties and all we can do is work hard, be smart about where we’re spending our time, and try to leave enough wiggle room in our plans to cope with the curve balls that inevitably get sent our way.

2016 so far hasn’t looked very much like I thought it would. I set a new-year’s resolution of writing a million words in 2016 because I figured that was the best way to make sure that my readers got the books they’ve been waiting for, and then promptly got sucked into what has felt like an endless round of print proofing.

One of our big goals for 2015 was to get all of my books out in print so that we could more actively pursue relationships with independent bookstores. I ended up focusing on other projects for most of 2015, but with everything that Katie was getting done in the last half of January, it was looking like we just might manage to get caught up with getting print editions out for the first time ever—but only if I got busy laying out and proofing so that Katie could stay busy with the covers.

Just as it looked like we were getting to where we could see the end of the tunnel with regards to the print versions of the Reflections books, my desktop computer went kaput and I came down with the cold that Daughter #1 brought home from kindergarten. It was a disappointing week or so which has meant that I didn’t get anywhere nearly as much writing done so far this year as I planned on.

In some ways being sick for the better part of a week might have been a good thing though, because it forced me to slow down and think about the bigger picture again (something that I often don’t do enough of). Recently I’ve been trying to do a little writing 6 days a week month in and month out, but that’s not how I used to work. Before this most recent change to my writing process, I went for more than two years alternating writing one month and doing editing, marketing and admin the next month. It was a pretty good system that resulted in me writing 6 books a year, but even more than that, it let me focus on writing to the exclusion of almost everything else, and it let me feel okay about getting to some of the necessary but less fun aspects of business that have been falling by the wayside lately.

As a result of all of that, I’ve decided to go back to my old schedule in the hopes that it will keep me fresher and working more efficiently. It’s too soon to say for sure what that will do to my overall writing productivity. I have more recurring administrative stuff now than I used to deal with (emails, marketing, just staying on top of so many books), and the increase in sales in 2015 still wasn’t enough to let me hire a part-time administrative assistant to get to all of the stuff that seems to get in the way of actually sitting down and writing.

On the plus side, I’ve started dictating all of my stuff since the last time I was working my alternating monthly workflow, and I can dictate much more quickly than I can type. I seem to end up spending some extra time on the editing side of things, but that may be enough to offset some of the extra administrative overhead I’m dealing with.

It’s possible that I’ll end up getting a little bit less written in 2016, than I did in 2014, but if I can hit 600k words this year rather than the 495k I did in 2015, that will still be a massive improvement.

Now that I’ve buried the lead, I’m happy to announce that Left will go live on the 12th of this month, and that the following books all have print versions live with the new branding:

Broken, Torn, Trapped, Forsaken, Riven, Driven, Lost, Marked, Bound, Hunted, Ambushed & Shattered.

The four Guadel Chronicles books need reworked (I did the back covers instead of having Katie do them, so they aren’t as pretty), but the old versions are still available in the normal places.

Burned, Splintered, The Greater Darkness, and A Darkness Mirrored all have print proofs winging their way to Utah, and hopefully I’ve got them all right this time so that I can approve them with the printer and have them show up at the various retailers rather than having to upload a new version and order another round of proofs.

Reborn, Immortal, Endless, Stone Heart, The Society & The Destroyer are all finally laid out and ready to go on my end, which means that as soon as Katie gets the wraparound covers squared away I can load them up and order proofs.

Doing the wraparound cover for a new series is always a little challenging because there are a few dozen tiny decisions that have to be made with regards to everything from the typography on the spine to the background image on the back cover, but once we get all of that figured out, it seems like Katie can polish off a new print cover every day or two. Hopefully that means that we’ll be able to at least get the proofs ordered and headed our way by the end of the month, so that I can put the two or so hours per book required into checking the physical proofs.

Hopefully the print books ultimately help contribute enough extra sales that we’ll be able to justify bringing an assistant onboard sometime this year so that I can spend more time in 2017 writing. I seem to be a year behind on the print and completed series goals we set in 2015, so maybe 2017 will be the year I finally hit a million new words written in just 12 months.

Cute Daughter Pictures

We visited my parents this fall and the girls got to play in a very big pile of leaves that their grandpa had left specifically for that purpose. If you look closely in this picture you can see Daughter #1. I don’t think Daughter #2 is in this picture, but it’s entirely possible that she’s just so buried that she can’t be seen.

2015-11-14 15.18.35

2016-01-09 18.53.41The other picture that stood out for me as I was looking through my phone recently was this one. A month or so ago I was working in my office while the girls were coloring with markers in the other room. I came out and saw that Daughter #2 had gotten marker in her hair. Katie makes sure that we get the washable markers, so I wasn’t overly concerned until Daughter #2 told me that she’d done it on purpose because she thought blue hair was prettier than blonde. I thought the colored lock of hair was a teenage thing…

And that’s it for “Cute Daughter Pictures”. I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

-Dean

 

Stone Heart Now Available For Purchase

Stone HeartI’m happy to be able to announce that Stone Heart (The Compelled Chronicles Book 1) is now for sale!

The Setup:
Dani’s new home isn’t just another stopover in a long chain of places she’ll never see again, it’s the home of both Caine and Jerek, two guys like nobody she’s ever met before. One represents the best friend she’s been hungering for, and the other represents something much more.

It should be the perfect recipe for a fairytale, but Caine and Jerek live in a dark, shadowy world and one of them is hiding secrets that will change everything, secrets that relate directly to Dani.

You can find all of the links to this book on the Stone Heart Product Page.

As exciting as that is, for a limited time I’m also giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Just purchase a copy of Stone Heart within the next two and a half days and there will be a link to the giveaway page at the very end of the book.

*No purchase necessary to win. If you would like an entry, just send a letter to the address on my mailing list emails with your name and email address.

Dec 2015 Status Update

Hello Everyone!

I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing status updates. At one point I tried to do a mini update at the end of each mailing list email, but that led to the emails getting awfully cluttered, so I’m going to try and revert back to doing semi-regular updates on my website and then I’ll just link to them from my mailing list emails for those who might have missed the update on my site.

After spending most of the summer editing and working on various marketing initiatives, it feels good to be writing again. I resumed work on The Warlord (the third A Broken World novel) (which saw 50k words written in April before I had to set it to one side) in October, and finished it up in the first week of November. It weighed in at more than 95k words so it was quite the undertaking.

November (and nearly the first 2/3rds of December) was spent working on The Founder, which ended up at more than 118k words. It’s ironic that I wondered at one point in November if there was enough material in this section of the story to justify its own book. It turns out there was a ton more taking place in this section of the saga than I’d realized.

For those of you who have been paying especially close attention, you’ll notice that I didn’t originally list The Warlord as being one of the titles for the A Broken World books. It turns out that the story ended up growing somewhere between the start and the end of Book 3, so I ended up splitting The Founder into two books, and now A Broken World will end up being 5 books rather than 4.

On the writing front, the plan is to write The Desolation (A Broken World book 5) in January so that I can conclude Skye’s story, and then I’ll go back to The Compelled Chronicles and write the final two books in that trilogy. At least I hope it’s a trilogy—I haven’t really figured out what happens after Stone Heart other than some really broad sweeping plot points.

If I’m right and there are only two more books left, then I should finish working on the rough drafts sometime in April, at which point I’m planning on picking the Reflections and Dark Reflections books back up. I suspect that I’ll end up spending the better part of a month reviewing everything that’s happened in the story so far and then get started writing with the intent of finishing up the series—however many books that ends up being.

On the book release front, Stone Heart will come out the day after Christmas, and will be followed by Left (Jess and Wyatt’s book) sometime in late January or early February. The Warlord should then come out in July/August of 2016, after which new books should roll out every month or two.

I’ve talked a bit about marketing this year. I don’t want to get into all of the gory details and numbers, but I’m happy to announce that 2016 was our best year yet in terms of both books sold and income. We’re still going to end up a long ways off from what I was making as an accountant, but for the first time in 3 years it’s looking like our savings account will go up a little rather than going down every month…which is a good thing because we’re expecting a new arrival in Jun!

For the first time, Katie and I will be outnumbered even when we’re both around, and a new arrival always seems to throw some wrenches in the works. It’s entirely possible that will have a knock on impact on my renewed work on the Reflections books, but maybe we’ll luck out and get a really good sleeper (or at least a baby that likes to sleep on my chest while I’m typing like Daughter #1 did.

So in short, 2015 was a somewhat disappointing year on the writing front, but a big step forward when it comes to pushing our book sales up to the point where I should be able to continue to write full time, and I want to thank each of you for your help getting us there.

The marketing had an impact (or I wouldn’t have kept doing it), but all the marketing in the world wouldn’t have gotten us there without the word of mouth from so many awesome readers. Hopefully 2016 will be so amazing that I can forgo the marketing altogether and just focus on getting new books completed and ready for all of you!

Wishing each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

-Dean

Merry Christmas

I’ve got a bigger status update post that I need to get wrapped up, but I just wanted to take a second and wish everyone a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holidays depending on your belief system.

I hope that you all have a wonderful day tomorrow surrounded by people you both love and are loved by in return.

Here’s to a 2016 that’s better than 2015 in every way that really matters!

A Big Sale Over at GooglePlay

If you’ve been meaning to buy one of my books from Google Play, but just haven’t gotten around to it, now might be a good time to go out and see what Google has done to the price.

They’ve discounted several of my titles (Ambushed, Shattered, Marked, and The Dark Reflections Bundle) by 2/3rds, and even when I cranked up the list price to $50+ the price everyone is paying is still down in the sub $2 range.

If you buy right now you’ll get a screaming deal and maybe after Google pays a few $25+ commissions out they’ll change my prices back. 🙂

It’s a win-win right now for everyone, but double-check that the price is still below $4.99 before buying–I’d hate for any of you to overpay on one of my books.

Here’s the link: https://play.google.com/store/books/author?id=Dean+Murray

The Destroyer is Live Plus a Chance to Win 9 Hardbacks

thedestroyer3dbookAs seems to be the case more often than not these days, I’m a few days behind getting new developments posted to my blog, but I just wanted to let anyone who hasn’t signed up for by mailing list know that The Destroyer is now live at all of the major retailers!

The Setup:
They armored Skye’s body and taught her how to kill, but didn’t do anything to shield her heart.

They injected her with nanites to make her faster and stronger, but that didn’t make her ready to meet Brennan.

She arrived expecting to find a despot—heir to a failed system of thinking—and instead found a visionary intent on rebuilding the world.

Now, with Skye’s masters poised to destroy Brennan’s city, she will be forced to turn her skills against the very people who trained her. Only she can save the man she loves and the dream he’s trying to realize, but doing so may very well destroy her.

Pick up your copy today at:
Amazon, iBooks, Google play, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Smashwords

To celebrate the release of The Destroyer, (and to say thank you to all of my amazing readers), I’m giving away 9 hardbacks from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series. You can enter to win here: but you’ll want to hurry, the contest ends soon.

Mortal InstrumentsInfernal Devices