Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Did I Do? And What Am I Doing?

So I've reached 227 published works, and now that I've had a chance to sit back and watch the dust clear, I'm wondering, "What did I do?" I have a bunch of shorts, no novels to speak of, and most of what I've published are children's books.

Is there something wrong with this? And should I be made to feel like something is wrong with what I've produced?

Due to changes in Amazon's payout system, the operative advice is to make your books longer. Write more, if you can, especially if it fits the story. In this, I don't really have a problem. I actually have a couple novels that I haven't published yet, and I will eventually change gears and finish them off. Eventually.

But I love short fiction, and based on reader feedback, they seem to like it, too. Should I give up short fiction for a while and put everything I have into novels?

Not so fast…

Picture books need to remain short--around 30 pages--so that young readers can actually finish them. Although extending stories might seem like a great idea, I've received complaints about some books being too long. That's right--a picture book that's too long. Is that even possible? But the readership is speaking, and I do not necessarily disagree with them.

All stories have a desirable length that they fit in, and each is different. Writing longer simply doesn't apply to children's books as it does to other genres.

So what's a children's book author to do? What they always do: produce more books, not stretch existing ones.

Can you imagine if Dr. Seuss tried to extend the Cat in the Hat to make a few more pennies from borrows? It might have a disastrous effect on the final product. Money has a way of muddling things, and that's exactly what I think this is: a muddle.

Some readers like my picture books because they're short and sweet. More complex works, like the 16,000 words I poured into Bubblegum Princess: Pinkberry Patch, create an entirely new reading experience. Forcing one to become the other isn't always in the book's best interest. Since the book is a showcase of our efforts, you would think an author would take a more guarded approach.

Such is not the case from what I've seen, and I worry that authors might screw up perfectly good stories to make a few bucks.

While each of us has to do what we need to survive, I'm going to avoid the temptation of extending anything and simply write more stories. I'll write as long as I can, but not at the expense of the work at hand. I'll also tackle larger, more complex books, such as Secret Agent Disco Dancer, which I've avoided for one reason or another. (Which is a nice way of saying that I've been lazy.)

Another thing I read about is authors getting stuck writing in a particular genre. I'm a free spirit, and I understand exactly how this feels. I love the challenge of producing something new and following my instincts. The thought of rehashing something or continuing to write a series that I'm no longer fond of doesn't appeal to me, but even that's secondary.

What writers seem to forget is that they're getting the opportunity to write what they want and make a decent living off of it. Some of us will even become rich off of our endeavors. That's not such a bad deal.

But forget about the money or what you'd rather be writing instead. Just write. Write as much as you can whenever you can. Let your universe explode!

While it might sound like I'm advocating scattering one's focus, I'm not. I'm just of the mind that if other writing projects are important, you'll find a way to fit them in. You'll wake up an hour earlier, etc., just for the chance to live in that world.

And why not? If you have an idea, go for it. Don't put limitations on yourself that you can only write certain types of books, etc., because there's no money in certain genres. Your desire to write other things may be an indication that you need a break, and will give you the opportunity to test out new waters.

Just yesterday I finished up Bubblegum Princess. "But the picture book has been available since 2012," you say. Yeah, but I wasn't satisfied with it. It didn't represent my best effort or fulfill reader expectations. So I vowed to write a little each month, a chapter here and there, until it was done. Although the project dragged on, I never forgot about it, and forced myself to sit down and extend the lines a little further. I'm proud of what I accomplished, even if there's no financial reward.

I kept my promise, that's the important thing. I gave the reader something closer to what I had in mind. And it feels good. So very, very good.

Now I'm presented with a challenge: Do I work on Story A or Story B? Why do I do this to myself? Isn't the intention to write all of them? Just dive in and take them all on. Be fearless! Challenge yourself, don't limit yourself! If all of us acted on our instincts rather than getting lost in the benefits of writing one book versus the other, we'd produce a lot more content, and thus, make more money.

That's what I'm trying to do right here--to break out of this narrow mindset. If I can even accomplish one tenth of what I set out to do, I'll do far more than I would otherwise.

Sure, a successful series brings with it obligations, but that doesn't mean that we can no longer be creative or try out new things. We just need to mix them in: a sequel here, a brand new picture book there. And by all means, none of us should ever feel stuck. Enjoy all of the writing, even if there are other things that you'd rather be writing at a particular moment. Give it a chance, and you'll be surprised at the results.

So at 227 published works, what am I doing? Starting over. And moving on to #228.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bubblegum Princess: Pinkberry Patch

Back in 2012, I wrote a picture book titled Bubblegum Princess that was short, sweet and full of colorful pictures. It wasn't a chapter book to the disappointment of many who had downloaded it, and in hindsight, it probably should have been. To correct this, I've been writing a children's novel to accompany the picture book titled Bubblegum Princess: Pinkberry Patch. The coolest part about this is if you already own the book, you can read the new chapters for free. Just delete it from your Kindle and download it again (look in the Coming Soon section in the back of the book). It's also reasonably priced (99 cents) and can be borrowed from the Kindle Unlimited Lender's Library.

Twenty chapters have been added thus far, with more on the way. It's a little over 14,000 words or  57 pages at 250 words/page. Currently, I have no idea how many chapters it will take to wrap the story up. It wouldn't surprise me if it stretches past 50. Enjoy the story for now, and I'll put up more chapters as soon as I can.

UPDATE: Bubblegum Princess: Pinkberry Patch is now done! The last few chapters have been added, now 22 in all and nearly 16,000 total words. Right now I'm in the process of going back and smoothing everything over. I expect to wrap it up in the next few days.

Here's the full chapter list in case you are interested:

Chapter 1: Tingle
Chapter 2: Peculiar
Chapter 3: No Problem At All
Chapter 4: Skyward
Chapter 5: Marnie
Chapter 6: Gatekeeper
Chapter 7: Teaser
Chapter 8: Incomplete
Chapter 9: Amiss
Chapter 10: Awakening
Chapter 11: Found
Chapter 12: Alexandra
Chapter 13: Flash
Chapter 14: Hedgehopper
Chapter 15: Schooled
Chapter 16: Tears
Chapter 17: Retribution
Chapter 18: Truth in Numbers
Chapter 19: Vermin
Chapter 20: Replenish
Chapter 21: Memento
Chapter 22: Blue

As well as the first chapter:

Bubblegum Princess
Pinkberry Patch

By Scott Gordon

Chapter 1: Tingle

Melissa Alexander knew something was amiss the moment she slipped a piece of bubblegum in her mouth. Although the package said Pinkberry Patch, BubblePop Girls' brand new flavor, it had a minty aftertaste that sent tingles down her spine. As she rubbed her arms to keep from freezing, her pearl skin began to glow.

"What's happening to me?" She noticed her unblemished skin. Years ago, when she was just a wee thing, she cut her hand on a glass, leaving behind a one inch scar that she would carry for the rest of her days. But as she passed her fingers over it, the eternal mark rubbed off—as if all she needed was a fine polishing. "No way." She gawked at her perfect skin.

"Miss Alexander, are you chewing gum in class?" said Beatris Blunt, a middle-aged woman with thick, brown hair pulled back in a bun.

"Uh...no, ma'am," she replied.

The entire class turned and looked at her. A pair of girls snickered in the far corner.

"Really? Then what's that in your mouth?" The teacher tapped her foot.

"Oh, that. I was just chewing my nails." Melissa tried her best to hide the gum.

"Those must be some really big nails.”

"Yes, ma'am." Although mommy and daddy frowned whenever she talked with food in her mouth—even gum—Melissa could carry on entire conversations without exposing the contents of her mouth.

"You really have a thing for fingernails, don’t you? Is this part of some bizarre health craze?" The old maid raised an eyebrow, evoking a fresh round of giggles.

"No, I just chew them whenever I get nervous.”

"And what on earth is there to be nervous about?" Beatris stepped closer and crossed her arms.

Melissa shrugged, but no words came out.

"Great heavens, child. What have you done to your hair?" said Ms. Blunt.

"What's wrong with my hair?" Melissa grabbed a handful and gasped. No longer was it golden brown like her mother's; instead, it was strawberry pink, the very shade of bubblegum that she was trying to hide. As she caught her breath, she accidentally gulped down the minty morsel. "I’m not feeling so well…perhaps I should see the nurse.”

"Yes...perhaps you should..." The teacher eyed her suspiciously.