Welcome 2016

I love New Year. Christmas was my favorite Holiday as a kid, but New Year is my favorite as an adult. Partially, this is because my friends throw a fabulous Art Trade party, which has become a decades-long tradition that brings old friends back into town from across the country. I bring signed books and I go home with paintings and pottery, a belly full of great food and drink, and wonderful memories.

But even beyond my friends’ amazing house party, I just love the new year and what it represents. I love all the Year-in-Review blog posts and podcasts. I love hearing people’s goals and how they plan to achieve them.

For the past four years, I have set aside the first 2 weeks of January to do a detailed personal cleaning, inventory, and re-calibration. I guard those two weeks jealously, sometimes turning down lucrative work.

During this time, I go through everything I own and evaluate whether I should keep it. I ask myself three questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Is it beautiful?
  • Have I used it in the last year?

If the answer is “no” to all 3, I need to get rid of it via either Goodwill or the garbage. This process does a lot of things for me besides eliminate clutter. It reminds me of good times, because I actually look at all my keepsakes and pictures once a year. Even if I all I do is take something out of a box, evaluate it, and say, “Yes, I’m keeping this useless class jacket,” it brings back fond memories. It also reminds me what I own and where it’s located. “Oh, yeah, I own a drill! Better not buy another one.” I can’t tell you how many rolls of tape, scissors, and Band-Aids I've saved myself from re-purchasing.

I also extend this process to computer files, external hard-drives, and cloud storage. I delete lots of excess Dropbox folders around this time of year. Again, I often find things I’d forgotten about.

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions if by “resolution,” you mean “a new habit I’m planning to acquire from a standing start.” However, I’m definitely a believer in reevaluating habits and processes that may have drifted off-course. I’m a believer in trying to do better something that I’m already doing. I’m a person who focuses intensely on projects, and sometimes it’s important to step back, look at the big picture, and adjust my trajectory.

2015 was not a great year for me, but no year is all bad, so I’ll start with the positive.

What I accomplished in 2015

I learned to cook! I’ve been a foodie pretty much since I lived in Asia at 21, but I was mostly a connoisseur of good restaurants. I felt frustrated and bored with the small number of things I knew how to cook. The constant struggle to come up with ideas felt exhausting, and I hate going to the grocery store.

So, I subscribed to a food service called Plated. I got my first box on 12/30/14 and cooked my first meal right about New Year’s Day, 2015. I loved it. I’ve continued to order weekly boxes whenever I’m in a position to cook them. I have made gourmet meals in hotels and hospital lodging with camping equipment. I’ve built up a folder of recipes that I enjoy repeating, and I continue to learn new things.

I attended the Smokey Mountain Writer's retreat, made friends with Katie Bryski, and then Lauren and I invited her to our yearly get-together in Orlando. We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, recorded hilarious podcasts, and got excellent story feedback. I hope we do it again!

I didn’t do any big international trips this year, but I did work for two months in Fort Defiance – an extremely isolated location in Navajo country, right on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. I did some amazing hiking around there, and I traveled up to Monument Valley, which I missed last time I was in Arizona. I also got my New Mexico license and will be using it shortly.

Right about the middle of the year, I decided that I must pay off my student loan before I turn 40 in March of 2017. I’m not sure why I suddenly found this debt unbearable and began thrashing like a cat in a new collar, but I did. I made a plan, and I stuck to it. This had some unpleasant knock-on effects, but it did result in my paying off $40,000 worth of student loan debt in 2015, with plans to pay off another 60K and interest over the next 6 months. I really hope I can do it without making myself dangerously miserable.

I only released two books in 2015 – The Art of Cowry Catchers in March and Cowry Catchers Comic Issue 0 in December. Both of these were a lot of work in the layout and design department and very beautiful, but they weren’t novels, and that bums me out. More on that in that later.

I launched a Patreon in May, which coincided with the launch of the Cowry Catchers webcomic. I have been very pleased with the Patreon, which now has 49 donors. Those donors have covered the basic costs of the comic, as well as hosting costs for the podcast. I’m planning to add some additional incentives for donors this year. More on that in a different post.

The Scarlet Albatross was written in 2014, but it needed some careful editing, including some additional scenes, and that got done this year. The book also needed a ship diagram that required a lot of carefully collaboration with my designer/map maker, Jeff McDowall. In addition, I cast voice actors and began production on the audio version. I formatted the ebook and commissioned 2 covers, one of which is finished.

Most of my written words this year were on Jager Thunder, and that book gave me hell. It was frustrating, because The Scarlet Albatross came so easily. I wrote Albatross in about three months – the fastest I have ever written a novel. I brainstormed nearly the entire plot on a single walk in a glorious state of creative fugue, and the book unspooled almost exactly as I’d planned it, down to various key lines of dialogue.

Jager Thunder…did not happen that way. I fought for every scene. I was intimidated by the large number of complex characters, and the byzantine political situation I’d engineered. I felt certain that I would not do all of the characters justice or end up with a coherent plot. The whole thing just felt like a mess.

All this was aggravated by forcing myself to stay in unpleasant situations in order to meet my financial goals. I signed on for more work than I wanted, and I returned three times to 7,000 feet altitude at Fort Defiance even though it kept making me sick. In the midst of all this, my childhood home was being sold, and my parents were having an awful year. This contributed to depression and made it hard to write. Jager was bound to be a challenging book, but I don’t think it would have been quite so hard in other circumstances. At this point, I have 120,000 words, and it’s actually coming together. I’m still crossing my fingers on a few things, but I think it’ll be a good book in the end.

Also under accomplishments - this is the first year I’ll owe taxes on writing income. In spite of the fact that I did not release a single new novel this year, I made a profit – not the kind of money you could live on, but the kind of money that could pay the rent for four months and change. A lot of this is due to Audible.com putting Hunters Unlucky in the Hidden Gem Sale in August (and then Hunters proceeding to sell a lot of copies). That was lightning in a bottle. There’s nothing I can do to make it happen again except create good audio books and hope. The other substantial new source of income, however, was Patreon, and I do have a lot of control over that. So I’m going to up my game over there in 2016.

Finally, I learned Facebook Advertising this year and grew my mailing list from about 350 to 1000. I also learned how to use Facebook to market-test cover images, which may be its most useful function in the end.

The Bits I’m Not Happy About

Not a single new novel. Seriously? Not even a new short story! Not one single piece of new fiction released this year. That is crap, guys. I’m sitting on 220,000 words of new stuff that isn’t quite ready for release, but still… No excuses. That’s crap.

So, I did a poll from my Patreon donors in the last week of the year. They voted on a character they’d like to see in a short story. I wrote the story on New Year’s Day. It’s about Dakar - 1000 words, telling the origin of the name she gives herself when she and Gerard first meet. I sent it to my brother and a couple of friends for typos. It’ll be out to Patreon donors next week. So…a story! Finished! First day of the year! I’m already ahead of last year!

On a related note, I’ve been tracking my word counts since 2013, and these are the raw numbers:

2013 – 114,300 words

2014 – 121,490 words (and here’s the crazy thing; I didn’t start writing until July)

2015 – 97,294 words

Obviously I didn’t do an actual face-plant. It’s worse than previous years, but not vastly worse. In my best years, I’ve written around 250,000 – 300,000 words, but I’ve only had 2 or 3 of those years in my life. Mostly, I plod along at about 100K per year. I’d like to write faster than that. I know I can. I’ve done it before! But I need a consistent environment without too much upheaval, and I’m not good at giving myself that. I’m hoping that if I can get this loan off my plate, I’ll have more flexibility (I won’t need to work quite as much just to keep up with that giant student loan bill).

For instance, I liked just covering vacations for Tillamook, but I couldn’t afford to do only that with the student loan bill. I had to find a rotating array of supplemental jobs, some of which I really didn’t like. Then, in order to have a shot at paying off the student loan quickly, I had to accept a 3-4 month block in a new location for next year. This is not my favorite kind of travel work, but it’s the only way I know to make a pile of money fast. If it’s like all the other blocks I’ve worked, I’ll be fairly depressed by the end.

So I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t know whether I’ll be able to do what I want with my writing in the first half of next year. I can’t predict what effect the new location will have on my creative output. However, I can say that I’m working hard to build the life I want, where I get to spend most of my time telling you stories and not worrying about money. By the middle of next year, I should be in a better place than I’ve ever been before in terms of building that life.

I have one novel on the cusp of release and another almost drafted. I have a new short story. The comic is going well. I think 2016 will be a good year.

Signed Book Orders Are Open for 2 Weeks!

Hey, I know it seems early to be thinking about Christmas, but if you want an artbook signed by both Rah and me as a present for someone, you need to order it now. I've just opened the store for orders of signed paper books Oct 13 - Oct 27. They will ship around Nov 23. 

I may leave the store open for a few weeks longer, but only for stuff signed by me. I can't get anything signed by Rah after that point.

I hope you're having a great Fall!

Cowry Cathcers Comic and Patreon

It's the official launch day of the Cowry Catchers Comic and Patreon Page. :)

For the comic, Rah and I are doing the short story "Professionals" to work out the kinks before starting into the main Cowry Catchers story line. Feel free to comment on the pages.

At this point, the comic is black and white and will update every other week. If you'd like to see more frequent updates and (eventually) color, chip in with Patreon. Even very small donations (like $1 per month) are helpful. If everyone who loves this story gave that much, we'd hit the goals in no time.

If you're not familiar with Patreon, it's a lot like Kickstarter. However, while Kickstarter is designed to collect a specific amount of money for a single project, Patreon is designed for creators who make on-going content. So, podcasters, comics creators, and prolific novelists. :) Patreon donations are monthly instead of one-time. For this reason, they tend to be smaller than Kickstarter donations. $1-$5 per month is common.

It's super-easy to change or cancel a donation at any time. I donate to several Patreons, and I've tried changing and canceling to see what it's like. It's the click of a button. You're never locked in.

There are two types of rewards on Patreon. There are Donor Rewards for donating at a specific level (for instance, if you donate at the $5 level, you get a sneak peak of what I'm writing each month). And there are Milestone Rewards that I give to all donors at all levels whenever we hit a Milestone Goal as a group. In some cases, the Milestone Reward is the thing that we're able to pay for (like a weekly comic). In other cases, I make or commission something special for you because we hit the half-way point or covered some significant cost.

This will all make more sense if you go over to the Patreon page and poke around. Even if you can't donate, you should do that, because Rah created adorable Silveo chilbis for the page, including the one at the top of this post.

If you look above the video on the Patreon page, you'll see tabs that say things like: "Creator Posts" and "All Posts." That's what Patreon calls their "Activity Stream" or "Activity Feed." I can make posts there that only donors can see. That's where I will put rewards. You can also comment there if you like, and you can make your comments visible to everyone or just to me and other donors.

I did a soft-launch of the Patreon to my mailing list on Wednesday. As a result, we have already hit the first Milestone Goal! The reward is cute chibi art for donors. I have already seen the line art for this and the next chibi, and I'll just say that they're related to Hunters Unlucky and they're adorable. :) Since everything here is monthly, I figure we've got about a month to finish any given reward. Chibis will probably get done faster, though. 

Please chip in if you can, and I really hope you enjoy the comic!

After the End, etc.

A reader just wrote me, asking where he could find the epilogue for Cowry Catchers. The link to "After the End" in the ebook was broken and he had been all over the website looking.

Oops! I totally overlooked the deletion of that page along with the old Cowry Catchers website. I've also had a request to post the interviews with the voice actors that disappeared along with the old feed. I will get to that eventually, but I feel like the epilogue is kind of an emergency. It's present in the print and audio versions (both Audible and podcast), but ebook readers currently have a broken link. 

I'm going to send Amazon an updated version of Book 5 with the epilogue included. I'll ask them to push it out to previous purchasers, but there's no guarantee they'll do that. In the meantime, here it is, and hopefully people looking for it can find it.

Obviously, if you haven't read Cowry Catchers HUGE SPOILER ALERT. This is the epilogue!


Epilogue…or The Next Chapter

Nothing was stirring when Gerard and Silveo got back to the ship with the sun just peeking over the horizon. Gerard suspected the Fang had had a wild night of incoming refugees. Two of the sailors on watch greeted them with excitement and relief, but Gerard only wanted his bed. He was grateful that Silveo didn’t try to talk to anyone.

When they reached the cabin, Gerard closed the door and leaned against it. The silence beat at him. He felt like he had water in his ears.

Silveo tugged on his hand. “You fought with her all night, didn’t you?”

Gerard nodded.

“Why are you staring at me like that?”

“You were dead.”

“Only for a night.” He was trying to make a joke out of it.

Forever. You were dead forever.

“Gerard, you need sleep. Shelts are going to be asking all kinds of questions. Come on.”

Gerard let himself be led into the bedroom. He sat down on the edge of the bed and took off his boots. Silveo was tugging his coat off, one arm at a time. “You know what the worst part was? For me, I mean?”

Gerard shook his head. His bandaged arm was throbbing. He hadn’t even felt it during the fight with Morchella.

“The worst part was you trying so hard to hang onto me, and I just couldn’t stay. You were trying to hold me in my body, and I just…couldn’t.”

Gerard nodded. He didn’t want to think about that.

“Being mauled by a griffin,” continued Silveo, “that wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. After he broke my back—”

 “Silveo!” Gerard buried his head in his hands.

“Sorry. Gerard, I’m sorry. Lie down. Sleep.”

Gerard was afraid he would dream about wind chimes, but he didn’t. He woke much later to soft lamplight. Someone who was not Silveo was standing by the bed. He jerked away.

“Sorry, sorry!” It was Lu. “Silvy wanted me to have a look at your arm, make sure you’re not bleeding to death.”

“Mumph.” Gerard ran a hand over his face. “What time is it?”

“Getting near sunset.” He could tell that the ship was moving. The cabin window cover was open just a crack so that he could see the evening light outside. He felt the breeze across his cheek.

“Here.” Lu put a ship’s biscuit into his left hand. “Eat something, and let me see your arm. Silvy said a wyvern bit it.”

A mixture of blood and straw-colored fluid had soaked through the bandages. Lu said it didn’t smell like corruption. She washed the wound and redressed it.

“Did Silveo tell you he can talk?”

Lu flashed a grin. “I’m not sure he’s stopped talking since he stepped out of the cabin. Dinner is within the quarter watch. We’d all like to hear your side of the story.” She hesitated. “Silvy says he died.”

“He did.”

Lu left him to bathe and dress. When he finally emerged from the cabin, Basil was waiting to pound him on the back. “Gerard! I knew you were magic! I said it, didn’t I? Magic!”

Gerard smiled weakly. Basil was guiding him off down the hall. “Silvy is talking! Talking! Like with a tongue sort of thing! He says it’s something you did, which doesn’t make any sense to me, but then I never really understood the alpha bond.”

“Something I did? It’s something the Firebird did,” but Gerard’s words were drowned as they entered the dinning cabin. There was a happy roar of voices and the clatter of cutlery.

Silveo spoke in his head immediately. “Gerard! I’m sorry Lu woke you; I thought you might be bleeding.”

Gwain started talking to Gerard simultaneously. “Good to see you up and about. According to Silveo, you have slain the largest wyvern in Wefrivain.”

Several other shelts were slapping him on the back. Gerard looked around at them, smiled, tried to explain that he hadn’t slain anything, that Silveo and the Firebird had done all the slaying.

Silveo was half standing on his chair at the end of the table. “Come on! Come eat! Come listen to me jabber.”

“I do that anyway,” said Gerard.

“Yes, but out loud.” Silveo was radiating goodwill. He was dressed in cloth-of-gold coat, with bright red pants and shirt. He had gold ribbon in his tail.

Gwain had two black eyes, and he was moving stiffly, but he looked profoundly content.

“Is Merta alright?” asked Gerard.

Gwain nodded. “Someone stuck a sword in her thigh, and she lost a lot of blood, but she’s awake and eating this morning.” He grinned even more broadly. “She’s got a cousin on board she didn’t know was alive. All told, we’ve added more than four hundred new shelts to our crews.”

Gerard said he was pleased to hear it. He found that he was suddenly very hungry. Silveo was telling Basil and Lu about being picked up and carried into the Great Lodge by Morchella’s wyvern and subsequently killing it.

“So, apparently the Firebird Monuments have some sort of healing properties,” said Gwain to Gerard. “There’s mention of that in the old stories.”

Gerard tried not to laugh. “Healing properties? Gwain, Silveo was dead and then he burned up.”

Gwain nodded. “Have you ever heard of salamanders?”


“They’re creatures that live in fire, and they—”

Basil’s laugh interrupted him. “Gerard’s dad? As in Lord Holovar?”

“Well, yeah,” said Silveo. “I wasn’t picky at that point.”

“What did he say?” asked Lu.

“Not much. I don’t think he recognized me at first. He and Jaleel—that’s Gerard’s little brother—helped get Gerard inside, and then Gerard’s eyes rolled back his head, and I thought he was going to break his back the way he was thrashing. Then he almost stopped breathing. We took him into a bedroom and laid him down. That was about the point when Jaleel realized who I was. Then it was question and answer time.”

Basil grimaced. “That must have been awkward.”

Silveo shrugged. “I didn’t care. I thought Gerard was dying. Fortunately, Dakar’s daddy turned up with the antidote. Mad as a barrel of lemurs on sweet leaf—but he did help. He looked like a shelt, but he wasn’t good at it, not like Morchella. He smelled like a wyvern, and you could tell there was something wrong with him. Gerard was alright by morning.”

Silveo paused. “Gerard, what did your father want to talk to you about? I meant to ask, and I forgot. Was he angry about me?”

Gerard hesitated. “No, he wasn’t angry.” Aloud, he said, “I promised father that if we survived, we’d stop by Holovarus on the way out of the crescent.” He glanced at Gwain. “No one else has to come, of course. We can meet you in the Sunkissed Isles.”

Gwain shrugged. “I don’t mind. It’s not much out of the way. I’ll see what the other captains think.”

Gerard looked back at Silveo. “I suppose I could take Felbane and just go alone—”

Silveo looked nervous, but he covered it with a laugh. “Of course, we’ll all go. Maybe this time, we’ll even stay for dinner.”

Art Book! Signed books!

In January of 2007, Abigail Hilton emailed an artist she had never met to commission a few illustrations for a story she hadn't finished. The artist was Sarah (Rah) Cloutier. The story was The Guild of the Cowry Catchers. Over the next seven years, Cowry Catchers grew to a five-book series and became a fullcast audio production, involving forty voice actors and music from many musicians. The story was released first as a podcast, then as an audio book. It was also beautifully illustrated. Some of the illustrations were made available online and in the ebooks, though never in high resolution. Other images are released for the first time here. A few pieces were created specifically for this book, such as a full character lineup and a lavish set of paper dolls. Enjoy!

I am delighted to announce that the Cowry Catchers premium hardcover art book is finished and available for purchase!

Amazon Hardback

Signed Hardback (me and Rah)


The art book includes several illustrations that you folks voted on back in August and Sept of 2014. 

I am also excited to present the online store (the link is in the main menu above if you're looking later). The store is for ordering signed books. In addition, I can sell large digital files, like the PDF of the art book.

The store will have limited order periods for physical goods. The current on is April 22 - May 6th. Books will be shipped between May 23 and May 29th. I'll probably have another order period in June.

I have created a FAQ for the store with details about shipping costs and other countries. Please read the FAQ if you have questions and then email me if I haven't answered them.

If anything about the check-out process is confusing, please let me know. This is my first time using Square Space's Stripe service, but so far I've been impressed. Set-up was much easier than the plug-ins I used back in my Wordpress days. If you have a problem with your order, please don't panic. Just email me. I will get it sorted.

If you purchase the hardback version of the Art Book, either on Amazon or from my website, I will give you the PDF for free if you send me a photo of yourself holding the hardcover. :) The paperdolls are meant to be scanned and printed on cardstock. However, you'll save yourself a step if you just print them from the PDF.

If you buy only the digital version of the Art Book, be aware that the download code is good for 24 hours, so grab it before then.

I hope you enjoy the art book!

Votes are in on the Comic

Check out the snazzy new website, guys! I've been working hard on it for the last few days.

In other news, you have told me your wishes in regards to the comic. Results:

Which of my epics would you most like to see turned into a comic?

  • Cowry Catchers – 51%
  • Prophet of Panamindorah – 27%
  • Hunters Unlucky – 22%

 Which of my short stories would you most like to see turned into a comic? (Not counting "Professionals," since we're doing that one already.)

  •  Sky Dance – 41%
  • A Cat Prince Distinguishes Himself – 19%
  • The Secret – 13%
  • Chemistry – 11%
  • Night in the Crystal City – 10%
  • Hualien – 4%
  • On the Edge – 2%
  • Distraction – 0

That's what you voted, so that's what Rah and I are planning. Project updates: I JUST (as in just a few minutes ago) got the first hardback proof of the Cowry Catchers Art Book in the mail, and it is beautiful!!! All of our hard work paid off, and I am totally pleased. At first glance, there are no gross errors. Color quality is substantially better than Create Space. I'll pass it around to my artist and designer, and I'll go through it myself with a more critical eye. I'm guessing we'll tweak a few things, but I can't imagine that we'll need more than one more pass. The book is 95% done. I think we could put it on sale right now without being embarrassed.

I am working on Jager Thunder again, got unstuck from some plot elements that were giving me grief. Hunters Unlucky is rolling along in the podcast. Albatross is still out to beta readers. And I am working on a super sekrit Patreon page related to the comic and podcast. There's some art associated with it, and the art is terribly cute!! I can't wait to show you. But not yet. Not quite yet.


Hello, listners and readers.

I've been pretty quiet for the first quarter of the year, haven't I? Well, it's not because I'm not working on art and stories. We've fixed some problems with the Cowry Catchers artbook cover, and I've order our first hardback proof. Eep! Albatross is with its first round of beta readers. Jager Thunder is still half finished. I've been busy at work in Oregon for a lot of the first quarter of the year, but I'm taking most of April and May off and expect to finish Jager during the coming two months. Hunters Unlucky is just getting into Part 4 in the Worlds of Abigail Hilton Podcast. The free audio wraps up in July. This is an epic-length story, so if you want to get Hunters in podcast form, jump on board now!

All of that is exciting, but it's stuff you already know about. Here's something you don't know if you're not on my mailing list. Rah and I are looking at making a comic! I have wanted to be involved in a comic pretty much since I started telling stories, but I always figured it would be too expensive. I talked to Rah about it recently, and we can definitely make this happen if we don't get too elaborate right out of the gate. We're going to start slowly and simply (black & white, every other week).

We've chosen the short story "Professionals" as a test run. Assuming tests go well, we'll start into one of the epics after that. Or we might do one more short story first. We'll see. The comic will be free online, and I'll probably do periodic paper versions.

People on my mailing list found out about this several days ago, and I asked them to vote on which epic and short story they would most like to see turned into a comic. If you would like to be in these kind of updates and voting options, sign up for my mailing list. I won't drown you in emails, and you'll never get anything that's not related to my stories.

My polling service, surveymonkey, allows up to 100 votes per poll. I have a few votes remaining on this poll, and nothing is winning by a landslide, so I'm putting this out for a few more votes. Which of my epics would you most like to see turned into a comic? Also, if we do another short story, which of those would you most like to see as a comic? Here's the survey. Go vote!

Artwork from my Books

No, I'm not talking about the Cowry Catchers artbook (although I have gotten first proof, and it looks awesome!)

I'm talking about my Tumblr and Pinterest accounts. I'm going to try harder this year to post art from my books there regularly, so if you're on those platforms, please follow me and share my pictures. I'm doing this because I have a lot of artistically-rich story content, but Twitter and Facebook are not good social media platforms for sharing images or discovering things via artwork. I feel like I need to make more of an effort to engage on platforms that focus on images.

Also, with the cowrycatchers.com website gone for good, the artwork from those books is no longer available anywhere other than the ebooks. Apart from Book 1, it's now behind a pay-wall. Since the podcast on Podiobooks promises listeners that the artwork from books 1-3 is available for viewing, I feel like I need to get that back up somewhere, and it will draw more eyeballs on Tumblr and Pinterest than on my website. So, I plan to add a few images a day and try to engage more with folks on those sites. I'll post some art that's not available anywhere else, so follow along if you're interested.

If you don't want to deal with those sites, but still want to follow along, there's a Tumblr RSS feed here - http://alhilton.tumblr.com/rss  I think there's a Pinterest feed, too, but it's basically the same content.

Welcome, 2015

It’s a new year, and I just got done doing my final book-keeping/tax work for 2014. I enjoy year-end and New Year’s posts. It’s a good opportunity to assess and regroup.

If 2013 was the year of catch-up in paper, then 2014 was the year of catch-up in audio. I finished production of my epic fullcast Cowry Catchers series, and the podcast competed in March. On Audible.com, I released the complete Prophet series in February, the complete Cowry Catchers series in June, the Crossroads short story collection in July, and Hunters Unlucky in November. I also paid all the people involved in the audio for the right to sell it, so this was an expensive year for me. I released just shy of 700,000 words (about 74 hours) of paid audio on Audible.com.

 In ebooks and paper, I was able to settle back and do what I always wanted – release things as I wrote them. Malachi and the Ghost Kitten came out in ebook in August and paperback in October. Hunters Unlucky came out in ebook in March and paper in July. These releases would have gone more smoothly if I hadn’t been juggling my entire back catalogue in audio, but it was worth the effort.

In new content this year, I wrote Malachi and the Ghost Kitten (6,500 words), The Scarlet Albatross (101,000 words), and 26,000 words of Jager Thunder. I also laid out the upcoming Cowry Catchers art book. I commissioned artwork for Malachi, Hunters, and the art book.

Going forward, I get to produce new work in all three formats without juggling a giant back-catalogue (yey!!).

Upcoming projects in their most likely order:

  • The release of the art book (I just ordered the first physical proof)
  • Finish writing the draft of Jager Thunder
  • Edit and release The Scarlet Albatross
  • Write Eve and Malachi Book 3
  • Edit and release Jager Thunder

Further down the road, there’s the Sunkissed Isles Book (not its final title), Walk Upon High, and a hazy mystery in Danda-lay, starring Chance and involving the Prophet characters.

Money-wise…like I said – it was an expensive year. I spent almost 3x as much as I made this year. Put another way, my book business has been going since 2007 (that's when I started buying illustrations; I didn't know it was going to be a business then). Half of my total expenses to date were spent this year! Or put it another way, I spent as much this year as I have in the last 7 previous years of making books. Audio is expensive.

On the plus side, about 42% my income has been from audio this year. About 85% came from Amazon and Audible, and that 85 was split right down the middle, in spite of the fact that my Audible catalogue was thin at the beginning of the year. If you look at just the last quarter, Audible is out-pacing Amazon as my primary source of income for books.

So I think the audio books are worth it, but they are a huge initial out-lay. It will take several years for those books to make back the money I spent on them this year. Fortunately, I doubt I will ever have 700,000 words of audio to pay for and release in a single year again. That was catch-up. I would have paid a lot less if I’d narrated all of my own audio, but I also wouldn’t have written nearly as many books to date.

Other things on my plate this year include learning more about hardbacks and Lightning Source (the art book will teach me that) and learning more about Kickstarter. I plan to use Kickstarter or a similar crowd-sourcing platform to defray the costs of upcoming audio books, hopefully as a kind of pre-order system.

I’m excited about the future, and I hope you are excited about upcoming books! It think you folks will love The Scarlet Albatross and Jager Thunder. As a Happy New year, I’ve put up a sample of Jager Thunder on my website (up there under "Sneak Peek"). If you missed Gerard and Silveo, click and read. Happy New Year!

Hunters Unlucky Audio Book

Hey, guys! If you keep track of me mostly on my blog, you may not know that Hunters Unlucky audio book is now availble! The entire book is on Audible.com for a single credit. It's over 24 hours of audio. Or, you can listen for free on my podcast. The book began on Nov 10th, and it will run 2 episodes per week through July.

If you're new to the world of Hunters, here's the description: Storm is born into a world of secrets - an island no one visits, names no one will say, and deaths that no one will talk about. The answers are locked in his species' troubled past, guarded by the fierce creasia cats. But when Storm's friends are threatened, he decides that he must act, pitting himself against the creasia to show that they can be resisted and outwitted. To prove his point, he must stay one step ahead of clever hunters, who have more to lose than Storm imagines.

Christmas is Coming...along with 2015

Hello, Readers and Listeners!

It's that time of year - when you order stuff online, so that it will arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. If someone in your life enjoys my books (or if they might enjoy my books), please consider getting them a lovely paperback. They are all available from Amazon or CreateSpace. You get a 25% discount from CreateSpace if you're on my mailing list. The code is in the welcome email. If you're on the list and have lost the code, let me know.

Cowry Catchers stickers from Redbubble also make great stocking stuffers.

If you're traveling for the holidays, consider an audio book.

And if you read this far through my sales pitch, I invite you to tell me what you'd like to see for sale in the coming year. I'm making my business plan, and I need to know where to focus my efforts. Thanks for the feedback.

Malachi and the Ghost Kitten

Malachi has the most wonderful adopted family in the world. They love him and tell him stories and bring him food. The problem: Malachi is a boa constrictor and his adopted family are a colony of rats. His particular friend is a young rat named Eve, who does her best to steal tasty treats for Malachi from the farm house. However, the treats seem to be making Malachi sick, and he is growing dangerously hungry. Then, one day, an old enemy comes to visit. She offers a solution to their problem in exchange for a favor. Animals from the neighborhood have been disappearing into a house down the street, and she wants Malachi and Eve to investigate. The local cats say the house is haunted.

I am proud to announce that Malachi and the Ghost Kitten is available in paper and ebook, just in time for Halloween! :)

This is the 2nd book in the Eve and Malachi series. The first book is called Feeding Malachi. The stories are stand-alones, although events will make more sense if you read them in order. These are creepy chapter books for kids 7-12 or (long) short stories for anyone else.

Like the first book, this one has ink illustrations by Sarah Cloutier at the beginning of each chapter. The illustrations are in both the ebook and paper book.

People on my mailing list get a 25% discount when purchasing any of my paper books from CreateSpace.

Happy Fall!

Survey for the Podcast Audience + Sketches for Artbook

Hey, guys!

First of all, I have some important questions for listeners of the podcast, reguarding the direction you would like the podcast to go. I talked about it in the podcast episode I just posted, so maybe listen to that first. If you're interested in the content of the podcast, please follow the link and vote. If the survey fills up, you can respond in the forums, but please please don't do that unless the survey is full and won't admit more responses.

Secondly, I thought you all might enjoy the new sketches for 2 of the additional illustrations for the art book. As I predicted, Rah altered the composition for a couple of them. The first is Thess meeting Silveo (one of the illos you folks chose by vote), and the second is Gerard finding Silveo with the hunti. There are two versions of that second one, and I chose "A" (that's the illo that I personally commissed even though it wasn't one of the top 3, so I felt that I got to pick which version.)




Hunters Unlucky in Paper

Hello, Readers!

I am proud to announce that Hunters Unlucky is available in paper. This is the largest single title that my designer and I have attempted to fit between two covers, and I'm pleased with the way it came out. The paper book has some artwork not available in the ebook. It also has a different cover, in which we took advantage of the greater detail visible on a physical page.


People on my mailing list get a 25% discount when purchasing any of my paper books from Create Space. If you're not on the mailing list and you're interested in that, you can sign up on the right. The mailing list gets a heads-up whenever I release anything new and occationally when I need their feedback.

The audio for this title is almost 50% finished. It should be done before the end of the year. :)

P.G. Holyfield

This morning, I woke up at 5 am to go to work and saw a confusing, but ominous facebook post. When I had time to follow-up on it, I learned that P.G. Holyfield has been diagnosed with aggressive, late-stage cancer. The here-today-gone-tomorrow kind of cancer. Days-to-live kind of cancer. Sudden-massive-organ-failure kind of cancer.
This is wretched beyond words.
P.G. Holyfield is the author of a podcast novel called Murder at Avadon Hill. It was either the first or the second fullcast podcast that I ever heard (I found Avadon Hill and T. Morris's Billibub Baddings at about the same time). Before Chris Lester or Dan Sawyer, there was P.G. Holyfield, creating wonderful sound-scapes with casts of voice actors. P.G.'s work had a direct influence on how I chose to produce Cowry Catchers. I also found Beth Quist's music by following also-listens from the music that P.G. had used. I had this mental imagine of P.G. sitting in a castle-studio with ethereal music wafting around him, turning mysterious nobs and pressing buttons (that was before I actually did any fullcast production).
Later, I asked P.G. to do a cameo in Cowry Catchers. He was the voice of Leopaard Maijha, Gwain's father, in Book 2. His voice work was swift and professional, and he was unfailingly kind and friendly in emails.
I met P.G. for the first time in real life at Dragon Con 2010, about the same time that I met Norm in real life. I've since seen P.G. at just about every Balticon and Dragon Con I've attended. He was usually kitted out in dapper steam-punk attire and always had a crowd of people around him. It will be bizarre and sad not to see him at conventions anymore.
P.G. has three children who have been blindsided by this. His family and friends have started a GoFundMe campeign to offset medical costs and help care for his young kids. If you can spare a few bucks and want to say thank you for the ways in which he's influenced my work, go here.
P.G., if you get a chance to read this, thank you so much for the inspiration and entertainment you provided. Thank you for lending your lovely voice to Cowry Catchers. Thank you for putting beautiful things into the world. Whether you step off the stage tomorrow or beat all the odds and stick around for years to come, the things you’ve made will outlive you. They will continue to be bright and beautiful long after you’re gone. Thank you.

Additional Artwork for the Cowry Catchers Artbook

For the last few weeks, Cowry Catchers fans have been voting on 3 additional illustrations for the Cowry Catchers Art Book. There were two rounds, once among 30 sketches that were created but never finished, and then another vote among the 8 favorites from that set.

The votes were impressively even in their distribution. I'm tempted to do one final round, but I think we do have clear (though narrow) winners. They are 1-1, 2-8, and 5-1. You can view the eight finalists and winners here.

So Rah will be finishing these pieces for the artbook. One will be watercolor and the other two ink. I will leave which ones to her judgement. In addition, I am going to purchase 3-2. It's an important scene, and I originally had it illustrated by another artist, whose style is so different from Rah's that it wouldn't make sense to include it in the book. Consequently, there's a gap in the illustrations at that point.

Composition of these pieces may evolve and change as Rah works on them. This happens frequently, and I hope no one will be upset if angles and such get shifted around as the sketches evolved into finished pieces.

I did want to ask one question. I completely understand why 1-1 and 5-1 were chosen, but I am mystified as to why so many people wanted 2-8. It's a very sad, very dark point in the story. Composition for that piece is nothing spectacular. You can't even see anyone's face. I suspect this is an image that Rah will want to re-arrange. Those of you who voted for it - can you tell me why? Is it just that you wanted to see that particular moment illustrated (the broken windchimes that remind Gerard of Thessalyn's death and haunt him for the rest of the story), or was there something about the specific composition of that image which appealed to you? I'd like to keep the element you voted for, so I need to know what it was!

Cowry Catchers Complete Series Available on Audible.com!


Cowry Catchers re-mastered audio is finally live!!

I've spent most of my 30's working on this project, so I'm super-excited to complete this step. Unlike Prophet, Cowry Catchers had fairly extensive re-mastering before uploading to ACX. You would definitely notice if you listened to the podcast and audiobook back-to-back, although you probably won't notice if it's been a while since you listened to the podcast.

Only a handful of lines were actually re-recorded. Mostly, the touch-up involved noise-removal, a little added music, and adjustments to the levels of music and sound effects. Books 1-2 needed the most touch-up. Book 3 also had a fair amount of remastering. Books 4 and 5 are pretty much as they were.

In addition, Audible requires that each chapter fade to complete silence at the beginning and end. This is an obvious problem for musical bridges and certain kinds of sound effects, so I spent many hours editing the files so that they can fade up and down between chapters without being too disruptive.

The voice actors were paid, and all the music was licensed.

The audio book is the entire 5-book series as a single download with no intros, outros, or story-so-far's. It's 32 hours long. Audible has priced it at $29.95 for non-members. If you're a member, it's on sale for $15, and of course you can get it with a single credit (about $12). I think you also get a discount if you go through Amazon. iTunes has it listed for $26.95. Links at the top.

You can only review an Audible.com title if you own it. So if you purchase Cowry Catchers, please considering leaving a review. Audible.com listeners pay attention to those reviews for hints about the quality of the listening experience in addition to the story itself.

I hope those of you who get to hear this version find it shiny, fluffy, cuddly, and sharp.


Project Update

Hello, Readers and Listeners.

I just got back from a 2-week vacation. Right before I left, I turned in the last of the audio for the re-mastered version of Cowry Catchers on ACX. Their QC review is pretty exhaustive. They've had it for two weeks and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they take 2 weeks more to get back to me. But for now, it's done!

That was the last of the production things that I was trying to get off my plate before writing new novels. So yesterday, I started working on the Scarlet Albatross again. :) I have ambitious goals for the next 12 months. Some of them depend on other people, others are all on me. I'll try to post updates now and then so that you can follow along. Or you can subscribe to my podcast and listen to me talk about it.

Drafting, roughly in this order:

  • The Scarlet Albatross (~80,000 words)
  • Malachi 3 (~6,000 words)
  • The Holovarus Book (~50,000 words)
  • Malachi 4 (~6,000 words)
  • Sunkissed Isles novella (~20,000 word)
  • Malachi 5 (~6,000 words)
  • Walk Upon High (~200,000 words)
  • Malachi 6 (~6,000 words)

Production (not 12-month goals, just a current todo list):

  • Paper Hunters - Have first proof. Jeff and I need to make adjustments and send for next one.
  • Hunters on iBooks - Yes, I'm embarrassed to say I still haven't done this. Dealing with iBooks is a pain.
  • Audio Hunters - Rish has Part 1 of 5 recorded and edited. I'm waiting on him and also on Bryan, who is doing some minor clean-up before my final polish of the files.
  • Cowry Catchers paid Audio - Waiting on ACX
  • Malachi 2 - waiting on illustrations and cover from Rah
  • Cowry Catchers Art Book - I need to start watching Lynda.com videos on dealing with images in InDesign.
  • Crossroads on ACX - Waiting on Dave Robison record one story for me.
In addition, I manage my own podcast and am launching a semi-secret new podcast with a friend. I also have a promotion-related todo list, but I won't bore you with those.

How Long Does it Take to Create a Fullcast Audiobook?

On 3/23/14, I finished the audio for the 5th and final book in my Guild of the Cowry Catchers series. This fullcast recording includes 41 voice actors (counting me as narrator), close to 100 pieces of music, numerous sound effects and ambient noises, and over a thousand hours of production time on my part. I began this enormous project five and a half years ago at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009.

Every single one of the voice actors stuck with me through five and a half years of production. I did not have to recast any major parts. I knew it would be a lot of work, and it certainly was, but I'm tremendously proud of the results.

However, if I ever do something like this again, I will hire someone else to do at least part of the production, and I will probably do a kickstarter first to pay for at least part of it upfront and to gauge audience interest. Fullcast audiobooks are just too involved and expensive to do on spec very often. With this in mind, I carefully tracked my production time on the 5th book. I wanted to know how much time it really took to produce one of these things so that I could know how much I need to reasonably pay someone else to do parts of it. These numbers may be useful to other producers for obvious reasons.

I tracked only my own time as narrator and producer. Here then are my numbers:

Total Word Count for the Book: 70,000

Actual Audio Time Without Intros or Outros: 450 minutes (7 hours, 30 min)

21 hours, 52 min - Recording Narration (2.9 min per finished min)

28 hours, 28 min - Marking Lines/ Communicating with Voice Actors (3.8 min per finished min)

123 hours, 40 min - Voice Track (16.5 min per finished min)

62 hours, 50 min - Scoring (8.4 min per finished min)

22 hours, 30 min - Final Pass Edit/Outros/tags/Conversion/Show Notes/Art (3 min per finished min)

259 hours, 20 min - Total Production Time (34.6 min per finished min)

If you are considering hiring another person for, say, the voice track, then the breakdown will be useful. Obviously, that last number is the most important for someone who is considering producing fullcast audio all by themselves. However, it's also misleading. Here are things that I did not have to do for this book:

--learn how to narrate

--learn sound equipment

--find and test a sound-prouf environment

--learn audio editing software

--develop a library of music and sound effects

--cast major voice actors

--get to know my voice actors, their strengths and weaknesses

Time that I didn't include, but may be required if you're the author and you podcast it:

--social media to promote your book

--managing forums or wikis

--managing and trouble-shooting RSS feeds and websites

--tweaking and reformatting for sales channels

Since this was the 5th book in a fullcast series, I was working in an establish narration style with known equipment in a tested environment. I knew all of my audio editing software inside and out. I was working with voice actors I'd known for a long time (with a couple of small exceptions). At this point in my audio editing career, I have a large library of music and sound effects. I have chosen a limited pallet of musical artists for Cowry Catchers in order to maintain a specific sound. I always check for new albums from those artists and always end up using a dozen or so new pieces in each book, but I spent a lot more time searching for music and sound effects in the early books.

I am often asked at conventions how long it takes to create a fullcast audio book. I tell newbies to budget 1 hour per finished minute of audio. Audio will be roughly 1 hour per 10,000 words.

I still stand by that advice. If you are brand new to recording books, it will take you that long at the beginning. I am certain that I have spent at least 1500 hours on the entire Cowry Catcher series, especially if you count things like building the website, trouble-shooting the RSS feeds, sound-proofing rooms, managing the forums, etc.

If you're new to fullcast audio, you should budget 60 minutes per finished minute. However, at this point, 5 books in, it's taking me 34.6 minutes per finished minute. If you hire someone for a new book, it's going to take them a little more time than that, because they'll have to establish voice actors and a specific sound for the book. However, I don't think any professional should take longer than 40 minutes per finished minute. I think that's a very reasonable time expectation for a pro doing fullcast audio, even if he/she is starting from scratch with a brand new property.

If you're a producer or an author who is considering being a producer, I hope those numbers are useful to you. If you're enjoying Cowry Catchers, awesome!! Many people worked hard to bring it to you. Episode 11 of Book 5 goes live tomorrow. It will finish with 13 episodes on April 11. There's an epilogue and outtakes on April 18, and I'll probably put a few other little things in the feed before the end of the year.

I am in the process of paying all the voice actors. I have licensed all the music I used. I am going through the series now doing a little remastering and clean-up. That will probably take me a month, and then I bet it takes Audible another month to do QC. After that, the complete series should be on sale as a single download in all the usual audio places.

It's been an amazing voyage.

Edit 4/7/16: If you found this post useful, you might also enjoy the related post from about a year earlier, What Does it Really Cost to Create a Fullcast Audio Book?