A More Modest Giveaway

MWRFG_KindleI gave away 93 copies of my new novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” this past weekend. It was a bit of a disappointment, after my 400-download day for The Library of Lost Books.

There may be a couple of reasons for this. The first thing I asked myself  was: What did I do differently from that first giveaway? Here are the key differences I came up with:

  • The giveaway lasted two days, so people might have felt they had more time to download and forgot about it.
  • The book has the word “God” in its title. Face it, it’s a loaded word. It may have turned off more people than it turned on.
  • It’s a novella, not a novel. And so, it may have been less enticing: a free NOVEL is a easy choice, more free content. A novella, less so.
  • It’s not a new world/universe, but the retelling of an old, well-known story.  The ‘Library’ had more of an obvious hook. The hook here is subtle: an old story, told in a fresh way with a familiar character, reimagined.
  • I did the giveaway the first weekend the book was out, before reader interest had a chance to build or word of mouth developed.  
  • It’s historical fiction and not fantasy. It’s simply a less popular genre (I’m guessing here) with fewer readers. Hilary Mantel’s popularity notwithstanding.

I’m not too worried about it, though. I always figured ‘The Man’ would fare a little less better than ‘The Library’ because it’s shorter. I mostly attribute it to the relative popularity of the fantasy versus historical fiction genre. I know, I know. You historical fiction readers are pretty voracious (I think of Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Shogun, other historical fiction tomes), but those fantasy readers devour long books. The A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings epic cycles are nothing to sneeze at. (By the way, they’re histories, too, just of imaginary worlds).

Anyway, it’s early days yet. I think with time, once this book finds its audience (I see indications of this already on Amazon), it will do much, much better.

It’s all about expectations. Two years ago, I would have been thrilled to give away 93 books. [“Almost 100 people could be reading my book!”] Now, I know I can give away hundreds in a day if everything goes just right. Maybe I should just relax and enjoy the ride. 

So that’s what I’m going to do.

,DJ

PS: For those wondering, these are the country breakdowns for the giveaway:

  • 72 in USA.
  • 17 in UK.
  • 2 in Germany.
  • 1 in Japan.
  • 1 in Canada.

PPS I would be interested to know any other Indie writers’ experience with giveaways, in numbers. Feel free to leave details in the comments below.

My Novella Is Out and It’s Free

I just published my historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” on Kindle. It’s also free this weekend on the Amazon Kindle store (June 22 and 23, 2013).

MWRFG_Kindle8

Here’s the book’s blurb, just to pique your interest.

In a dream, the voice of God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh, capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. Instead, he books passage to the other end of the world. A storm and a hungry whale are the least of his worries, as Jonah confronts deluded fishermen, befuddled peasants and crooked priests. At the end of it all, Jonah must face the hardest decision of his life: stand and preach to the fervently pagan crowds in Nineveh’s main square or flee back home to Judea.

This modern, secular retelling of the Jonah tale unwinds fact from fiction. The narrative imagines Jonah as a real man who felt compelled to spread his monotheistic belief at a time when paganism was almost universal. Loosely based on the Biblical narratives of ‘Jonah’ and ‘The Book of Kings,’ the narrative draws on recent research on the Neo-Assyrian Empire to paint a lush picture of its forgotten people, cults and customs as seen through the eyes of its determined, cantankerous hero.

Other than that I have one final request. To become a better writer, I need feedback. The quickest, easiest way to do this is to leave a short review (you’d be amazed what 25 words can do, for me and the book) on Amazon, Goodreads or even Twitter. And feel free to send me longer critiques via email. I’d love to learn what worked well and what didn’t. 

Before I go, I want to thank you for following the blog. And for all your support on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. Every click on this site and every comment on a post fires me up and helps me keep going. Those little things help more than you know.

A Very Warm Thank You and a Promise of More to Come,  

Darius

PS The book will be on the Kindle exclusively for the first 3 months it’s out. After that, I will reassess and see if it’s prudent to post to Nook. I will keep you updated. 

The Craft: My New Novella in 3 Drafts

[This is part of a continuing series on the art of writing fiction.]

In the interest of getting you as close to the writing process as I can, I’m going to do something new on the blog. I’m going to present three different drafts from my soon-to-be-released novella, The Man Who Ran from God.

MWRFG_Kindle

I will include the first draft, the second draft and the final draft. The first two are raw, with spelling mistakes, punctuation errors and notes intact. It’s just a guy hammering away at a keyboard. I want to do all this so you can see how a manuscript progresses (how painstakingly slowly it progresses at times…). I hope, if anything, it will show how a “shitty first draft” can morph into a finished, polished piece that you can be proud of. 


So, without further delay, here is the COMPLETE first draft of The Man Who Ran from God. It was only 900 words—a solid writing day’s worth of words on a page. Be warned, the ending is truly bad writing. (The tone is also humorous, unlike later drafts.)

Jonah at Nineveh

Once again, Jonah found himself surrounded by idiots.

“Toran,” said the red-headed sailor from Gaul [??] across from him. “Toran will save us, we must call on him.

“Toran? Bah!” spit out a small dark man from Bablyonia next to him. “What use could your god of the north wind have down with us here on the southern sea? We must call on Ba’al! Ba’al is wise and all powerful he will save us.”

“Hold your tongue!” warned another man with a wide, open Asiatic face seemed his eyes narrowing. “Neither Ba’al nor Toran will save us.”

“Then who? Who must we call on?” the first two men asked.

“Marduk, Marduk commands the sea and he will calm the storm and deliver us safely home.”

“You’re wrong,” said a fourth man sitting next to Jonah. “There is only one reason this storm has us in its grip and won’t let us go.”

Jonah’ face froze and he stared ahead dully, trying not to notice what the man had said.

The fourth man, small and swarthy, eyed his companions nervously and glanced furtively at Jonah.

“We have come on this hard luck because we harbor a fugitive.”

“A fugitive?” the red-headed Gaul spluttered out. “What do you mean?”

“A fugitive is among us, but not a fugitive from man, but from the gods.”

Jonah remained quiet.

“Who?” the Babylonian asked.

“Well…” the man glanced at Jonah and then became quiet.

Jonah looked around at everyone. They stared back.

“What?” he asked, exasperated.

“Is this true!?” demanded the Gaul.

“Well…No, no it’s not true.”

“Don’t mince words with us, stranger,” the Babylonian warned. “Are you fleeing from the gods?”

“God,” added the small swarthy man. “He says there are not gods, but one God.”

Jonah winced at the last two words as if he were in pain.

“What!?” the other men gasped.

“Explain yourself!”

“Is this true!?”

“How can???”

They all asked questions in unison, but Jonah raised his hand to quiet them.

“What is the meaning of this, Jonah?” asked the Gaul. “Is what Al-Machel here says true?”

“Well,” Jonah felt the boat lurch up and down and he bidded for time. “Yes, yes, fine, it’s true. You see, I’m a Hebrew. I’m not about to get into finer theological points with the maritime set, but we believe in one God, the god of Heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

“That’s idiotic!” cried the

“One god?” asked the Asiatic.

“One god?”

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!” said the Gaul.

The sailors laughed outloud at Jonah’s assertion.

“Laugh all you want,” said Jonah. “But it really is true. In fact, here is what happnened from the beginning.”

At Jonah told the sailors the following tale…

* * *

…It all began one day when I was walking back home. I heard a voice come out of the clouds, as clear as I am speaking to you now.

“Jonah, Jonah!” it said.

“What!?” I asked.

“Excuse me?” the voice said.

“What do you want?”

“I am the Lord thy God and-“

“Well, out with it already,” I said.

There was a pause, and for a moment, I thought the voice was gone.

“Do you know who I am?” it asked somewhat annoyed.

“If I had to venture a guess, I would have to say you’re Yahweh.”

“That’s right, and as your Lord I think that I…”

“Look. I’m quite busy today and if you don’t mind, can we cut to the chase here and tell me what it is you want?”

“Cut to the???” the voice stopped. “Listen! Do you know how many people wait their whole life to hear from me? To hear a single word? Or phrase? How many wait there entire lifes and never hear from me? Now, listen…”

“I have been listening the whole time. And by the way, you sure sound surprised at my answers, for someone who’s supposed to be omniscient.”

“Now, listen you, I don’t have to…”

“No, I suppose you don’t. You are the almighty and you don’t have to do anything if you don’t like. Besides there are plenty of other….”

“Shut up!” the clouds rumbled and the earth shook below me as he said this.

“Ok, jeez! I was just trying to move things along.”

“Ok, Jonah now listen…This is what I want.”

“All ears, my Lord.”

There was a short pause.

“Jonah, go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”

“Well, that’s a bit formal way to put it across, don’t you think?” I asked.

“Jonah!” the sky rumbled and the earth shook once more.

“Ok!” I cried. “Ok. I will leave on the next ship.”

“Good, only do my will, Jonah,” the voice said, then it disappeared from whence it came.

I turned around, went home to gather a few things I would need, realizing it would be a long journey and set out for the nearest port.

After a day’s walk I came to the port town of Joppa. I entered a nearby inn and enquired within about finding a suitable ship to take me on my journney. In no time, I met a rowdy crew of old salts who were able to advise me on the next step of my journey.

“So how would I get to Nineveh?” I asked.

* * *


And here is the second draft of the novella, up to the first 1,000 words. That draft maxed out at 1,600 words. Apparently, I was able to slap 700 words onto the first 900 words from Draft 1.

Jonah at Nineveh

Once again, Jonah found himself surrounded by idiots.

“Toran,” said the red-headed sailor from Gaul [??] across from him. “Toran will save us, we must call on him.

“Toran? Bah!” spit out a small dark man from Bablyonia next to him. “What use could your god of the north wind have down with us here on the southern sea? We must call on Ba’al! Ba’al is wise and all powerful he will save us.”

“Hold your tongue!” warned another man with a wide, open Asiatic face seemed his eyes narrowing. “Neither Ba’al nor Toran will save us.”

“Then who? Who must we call on?” the first two men asked.

“Marduk, Marduk commands the sea and he will calm the storm and deliver us safely home.”

“You’re wrong,” said a fourth man sitting next to Jonah. “There is only one reason this storm has us in its grip.”

Jonah’s eyes grew wide and he glanced at the man. But in a flash, he recovered and stared ahead, unfazed.

The fourth man, small and swarthy, eyed his companions nervously and glanced furtively at Jonah.

“We have come on this hard luck because we harbor a fugitive.”

“A fugitive?” the red-headed Gaul spluttered out. “What do you mean?”

“A fugitive is among us, but not a fugitive from men, but from the gods.”

The men began to mumble among themselves as Jonah remained quiet.

“Who?” the Babylonian asked.

“Well…” the man glanced at Jonah and was quiet.

Jonah looked around at everyone.

They stared back.

“What!?” he asked, exasperated.

“Is this true!?” demanded the Gaul.

“Well…No, no it’s not true.”

“Don’t mince words with us, stranger,” the Babylonian warned. “Are you fleeing from the gods?”

“No, I’m not fleeing from the gods,” Jonah said.

“He lies!” interjected the swarthy man. “He is tricking you with words! He says there are not gods, but one God.”

Jonah winced at the last two words as if he were in pain.

“What!?” the other men gasped.

“No!”

“More lies!”

“How can-?”

They all asked questions in unison, but Jonah raised his hand to quiet them.

“What is the meaning of this, Jonah?” asked the Gaul. “Is what al-Machel says true?”

“Well,” Jonah felt the boat roll up and down over a large wave. “Yes, yes, fine. It’s true. I may be running from God, you could say that I guess.”

“God?” blurted out the Gaul. “Which one?”

“You see, I’m a Hebrew. We have one God, the god of Heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

“Idiotic!” spit out the Babylonian.

“One god?” asked the Asiatic.

“One god…” repeated al-Machel in confusion.

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!” laughed the Gaul.

The sailors all began to laugh out loud at Jonah’s assertion.

“Fine, laugh,” said Jonah. “But it really is true. And he’s no doubt the very reason for this storm.”

“Tell them, tell them what you told me, Jonah. What happened in your homeland,” said al-Machel excitedly.

“Very well,” Jonah replied.

* * *

“It all started,” Jonah began, “When I was walking back home one day from the field. I heard a voice come out of the clouds, as clear as I am speaking to you now.”

[Change the following quotes to single hash-marks later.]

‘Jonah! Jon-’ it said.

“What!?” I interuppted.

“Listen to me” the voice said.

“What do you want?”

“I am the Lord thy God and…”

“Well, out with it already,” I said.

There was a pause, and for a moment, I thought the voice had gone, leaving me in peace once more.

“Do you know who I am?” it asked.

“If I had to venture a guess, I would have to say you’re Yahweh.”

“Yes, yes, that’s right, and as your Lord I think…”

“Look. I’m quite busy today and if you don’t mind, can we cut to the chase here and tell me what it is you want?”

“Cut to the?” the voice stopped. “Listen! Do you know how many people wait their whole life to hear me? To hear a single word? Or phrase? How many wait there entire lifes and never hear from me? Now, listen…”

“I have been listening the whole time. And by the way, you sure sound surprised at my answers, for someone who’s supposed to be so all knowing.”

“Now, listen you, I don’t have to…”

“No, I suppose you don’t. You are the almighty and you don’t have to do anything if you don’t like. Besides there are plenty of other….”

“Shut up!” the clouds rumbled and the earth shook below me as he said this.

“Ok, jeez! I was just trying to move things along.”

“Ok, Jonah now listen…This is what I want.”

“All ears, my Lord.”

There was a short pause.

“Jonah, go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”

“What? What doesn’t that even mean?” I asked.

“Jonah!” the sky rumbled and the earth shook once more.

“Ok!” I cried. “Ok. I will leave on the next ship.”

“Good,” the voice said, then it disappeared from whence it came.

I turned around, went home and gathered what I would need for the jounrney. The next morning , I locked up my house and set out.

* * *


And here is the second-to-last, the penultimate, draft. It’s just the first 1,000 words of the story (the final manuscript ended up being 20,500 words). It’s polished and looking good. It also has a new title: “The Man Who Ran from God.”

The Man Who Ran from God

“Molek!” Ishbi whispered. “Molek will redeem us. We must call on him.”

“Molek!?” Shamshi spat out. “What power does he have here on the Great Sea? Where would we find a sacrifice he would accept?”

Ishbi looked down sullenly. Shamshi, wide-eyed, searched the eyes of the men huddled in a tight circle on the wooden floor of the hold in the darkness. The ship crested a wave, shifted upward weightlessly, and lurched back down as cedar beams groaned in the gloom behind them.

“Benoth! Call on him,” said Shamshi with certainty. “Benoth casts down fire from the heavens as he rides by on his chariot.”

“Hold your tongue, foreigner!” warned another man with olive skin and dark hair, called Ashur-dan. “Neither Molek nor Benoth can save us.”

“Then who?” asked Ishbi, staring at him.

“Perhaps, Ishtar will decide to help us. She holds the keys of life and death in the palm of her hand. From her throne deep in Tiamat she will hear our cries and deliver us. Marduk himself, who causes the earth to shake and the seas to tremble will listen to her and her alone. If we turn to her in humble supplication, perhaps Marduk will listen, cease his rage and end this tempest.”

“You’re wrong! All of you!” said Adapa, a thin man with curly dark hair and almond-shaped eyes. His damp face glistened in the rocking lights cast by swaying lamps in the hold. “There is only one reason this storm has us in its grip.”

The man sitting next to Adapa shot a quick, furtive glance at him. In a flash the glance was gone and the man stared ahead vaguely again, as if unconcerned.

“We have come on this hard luck because we harbor a stowaway, a fugitive,” continued Adapa.

“A fugitive?” asked Ishbi in an annoyed tone. “What do you mean? Speak plainly.”

“A fugitive is among us, but not a fugitive from men, but from the gods,” said Adapa.

A few disjointed low mumbles rose up from the group of men.

“Who?” asked Shamshi. “Who is this gods-fugitive?”

“Well…” said Adapa, glancing at the nonchalant man next to him for a moment.

The man had a face that was almost plump, with graying dark, curly hair and dark brown eyes which were deeply set in his face. Everyone, except Adapa, stared at him.

“What?” the man said, loudly exhaling.

“Is this true?” demanded Ishbi.

“Well, no,” he said emphatically. “It’s not true”

“Don’t mince words, stranger,” Shamshi warned. “Are you fleeing from the gods? Is what Adapa says true?”

“Not a word. I’m not fleeing from the gods,” he said confidently.

“He lies!” Adapa said. “He tricks you with his words! He is not running from the gods, but a god! His god! He claims the other gods are not as powerful as his, that all gods worship his god.”

The other man frowned, gasped and waved their hands dismissively. The ship rode up and down another wave, the beams groaning in the shadows.

“What!?” Ishbi cried.

“No!” said Shamshi

“More lies!” said Ashur-dan.

They all asked questions in unison, but the man raised his hand to silence them.

“What is the meaning of this, Jonah?” asked Ishbi. “Is what Adapa says true? Are you running from this god, your god?”

“Well,” Jonah replied, feeling a dull pain in his stomach as the ship rode down another wave. “Yes, fine. It’s true. I may not be running from gods, but one god in particular. You could say that.”

“Which of your gods are you running from?” Ishbi asked.

“I am from the land of the Israelites and we worship one god before all others, Yahweh. It is to him alone we turn as master whether we are on land or on the sea.”

“But you honor no other gods?” asked Ishbi.

“We try not to, though in past times our people were tempted and they and their kings turned to Ba’al and others for comfort. But we were chastised most strictly by Yahweh, paid back a terrible penance and returned to the true path.”

“Bah!” Shamshi threw one hand down in disgust and grimaced.

“One god?” asked Ashur-dan.

“One god…” repeated Adapa .

“Of all man’s idiocies!” Ishbi laughed.

The others sailors joined Ishbi in his laughter.

“One god!”

“Master of all!”

“But where have the other gods gone to?” joked Shamshi.

“Under the table, hid in the sea!” Ashur-dan laughed.

The men laughed loudly, but it soon subsided. There was an isolated snort, a chuckle and then silence. The hold became quiet again, except for the clanking of the lamps and groaning cedar timbers.

“Fine, laugh,” Jonah said, breaking the silence. “But it is true. And he’s no doubt the very reason this storm has come upon us.”

“Tell them,” Adapa began animatedly, turning to Jonah. “Tell them what you told me, Jonah. What happened in your country, among your people.”

Jonah paused and looked at the faces of the men in the semi-darkness. Their eyes had turned to him. Some held curiosity, some fear, others spite.

“Very well,” Jonah replied, and began his tale.


Hope that was useful. In the end, between rewrites, revisions and proofing I had 20 revisions (I hesitate to use the word “draft” because some changes between the drafts were very minor or just proofing).

The complete, final manuscript is loaded on my Kindle now. I own the only copy in the known universe for the next couple of days. But it won’t last. I press “publish” on the Amazon Kindle store on June 22. Look for it then!

Cover Reveal for My New Novella

A simple post this week. I just wanted to share the cover for my new historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God.” Here it is.

MWRFG_Kindle

First, thanks to Dave Fey for a great design. I really think it captures the setting of the piece: the Middle East circa 800 B.C. I like to think of the cover’s scene as the view from across the Tigris toward Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian empire. Nineveh is the setting for about half of the action in the novella and is the destination of the novella’s protagonist, Jonah.

The novella is set to launch on the Kindle store on June 22. I just have to get files back from the e-book design firm and we’re in business.

In the next couple of weeks, I will post some excerpts from the novella here along with earlier drafts so you can see my creative process up close. I hope that helps the aspiring writers out there to see how something very rough can become very polished over time.

Until then,

Darius


In the interest of honing your writing skills, I also wanted to share two great posts from other blogs this week. One is very informative, the other is tongue-in-cheek. I leave it to you to decide which is which.

– “Ten Stupid Writer Tricks (that might actually work),” by Chuck Wendig.

– “If You Wish To Be A Writer, Have Sex With Someone Who Works In Publishing,” from The Onion.


In a continuing sub-series, I’m mentioning each time viewers from a new country visit the blog. This week we have:

– Indonesia.

– Hong Kong.

Welcome, everybody!