Tom 2.0 (or 2.1, even)

Since I talked about the sequel to BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE last week, I thought it was appropriate to talk about other books and their sequels this week.

THE GRAVITY OF NOTHING is one of my new adult/literary fiction offerings. While the manuscript was written within 30 days during NaNoWriMo 2018, months and months of research and interviews and outlining came before that. The writing itself was a very quick process, but everything that came before it felt like torture.

To give some context, in case you haven’t read the book, GRAVITY is the story of two boys who met on the first day of summer camp. One of them was sexually assaulted. Here’s the actual blurb (minus the trigger warnings) to make this easier on all of us:

All stories start with “once upon a time” and end with “happily ever after.” Except for Tom’s. Tom’s story ends with “happily never after.”But a life is full of “once upon a times” because a life is full of stories. Everything in between the “once upon a times” is just details. Two boys met on a bus. Two boys went to summer camp. Two boys walked into the woods together. Two boys swam in the lake. One boy was assaulted. One boy was frozen with fear. One boy became overwhelmed by everything. One boy was dragged down by the gravity of nothing. This is a story of two boys. They met. They became best friends. And now one of them is dead. Over the course of this book, Tom tells a story to the other people in his therapy group. But, whose story is he telling?

I’ve gotten requests from several readers over the last (nearly) 2 years to write a sequel or “follow up” of some kind.

I’m very proud of this book. A lot of research, outlining, and care went into it. When I sat down with all of my notes in November 2018 to write it, it seemed to just flow from my fingers into my laptop.

It was also brutal as fuck to write. November 2018 was a pretty harsh month for my emotions and psyche.

While I felt honored to take the information dozens of people shared with me about substance abuse, suicide, suicidal ideation, mental health illness/disorders, therapy, sexual abuse, rape, and outpatient/inpatient mental health care and treatment and tell a story that needed to be told…I’ve never truly shaken the experience. Talking about these issues so candidly with others, writing the story of Tom and Dally (as stand-ins for all of the people who shared their experiences), has stayed with me.

I feel that the book contains some of my best prose, and I think I did well jumping around in time, giving the story a dream-like quality, and I think I did a good job with the unreliable narrator, Tom.

In fact, I think Tom is the reason so many people have asked for a sequel. So many readers became invested in knowing whether or not his life got better after the last page in the book.

Obviously, that makes me happy. If readers get invested in your characters, that’s a huge compliment to a writer.

However, I feel that the book is complete as is. When the reader turns the last page, they can easily decide for themselves what happens next with Tom. Maybe he gets better. Maybe he doesn’t. That’s totally up to the reader. Either interpretation is fine with me.

It kind of has to be because I don’t think I can get into that head space again. Well, I could. Don’t want to. Once was more than enough.

Like A SURPLUS OF LIGHT, THE GRAVITY OF NOTHING, to me, is a complete story as is, and took a particular head space to write. SURPLUS was a lot more fun, GRAVITY was more mentally and emotionally taxing. But, for better or for worse, I told everything about the characters’ stories I wanted to tell in those books.

Not every book needs a sequel–though I’m guilty of writing plenty of sequels, right?

I think knowing when to stop is one of the hardest skills to acquire and refine as a writer. Knowing when the story has been told just as it should be told, is difficult.

I’m getting better at that.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

A Free Tool You’re Ignoring

Today’s blog post is a Grande Cause Nationale–or public service announcement, if that makes more sense to you. And I’m writing this blog post mostly as a reader for once.

Us indie authors–or those with smaller imprints or publishers–have to hustle a little harder than our counterparts with the Big Five. We don’t have big marketing budgets or huge ads in international magazines, usually. Nor do we have writers like Stephen King writing endorsements for the flyleaf of our books. In fact, most of us don’t get our books in hardback, so there really is no flyleaf on which to place such an endorsement if we were so lucky. It would just have to go on the back cover with the blurb, I suppose.

Obviously, indie authors have to take advantage of every possible tool and opportunity to get word out about our books.

Renting a megaphone and having someone drive you around a shopping center while you hang out the passenger window and read excerpts is something some of us might have contemplated at one point or another. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s a quick way to tell a lot of people about your book, anyway.

Of course, you’ll probably look like an asshole…but it’s cheap and easy.

Regardless of how you choose to get word out about your book, at some point or another, someone will probably venture to a website where your book is sold so they can check it out.

Most websites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and so forth, give potential customers the option to preview books online.

A customer can click on “Look Inside” (or some other verbiage), and see if the writer’s style works for them. It gives them an idea of whether or not this is a book they would like to purchase and read. It’s a great tool that helps to seal the deal on a sale.

Most companies will let a customer preview 5-10% of a book.

Lately, I’ve seen a startling trend where indie authors are filling the front of their book with title pages, dedications, promo, and other filler material that really sucks up that 5-10% that the companies allow for preview. By the time the potential customers flip through all of the crap, they might get to read a page. That doesn’t really help them decide if they want to buy the book or not.

Sale lost.

This is particularly true if it’s a short book–20 to 100 pages. If it’s a bigger book in the 200+ pages range, this isn’t that big of a deal. If you have a 38-page story you want to sell, and the first five pages are filler material, your potential readers won’t get to preview anything.

This, in the common parlance, fucks you.

Indie authors need every opportunity to get their words in front of potential readers’ eyes. So we should be taking advantage of every tool at our disposal–especially those that cost us nothing. Money saved is money put towards editing, cover design, and marketing, right?

So, what does an indie author do if they have a 38-page story? The potential reader will only get to preview 3-4 pages of your book, after all.

Format differently. Title page. Copyright page. Story. You can put everything else at the back. If your story is 38 pages, you probably don’t need a clickable table of contents.

I know people will tell you to put things you really want an reader to see (like “Books Also By <writer>”) at the front so it won’t be missed. However, if a reader truly enjoys your story, they’ll flip through the last few pages to see if there are other books of yours they can buy and so they can read your bio and other filler material.

Get at least one or two pages of the actual story in front of readers’ eyes!

If necessary, an author can always post the first few pages (or first chapter, for longer books) on their author website. Put this link in your Twitter or other social media bios and post about it often. Make it your pinned tweet. Give readers a chance to see if you’re what they’re looking for.

The idea for this post came to me because I saw a book that intrigued me, and when I went to preview it, I flipped through 10 pages of the author’s book…title page, copyright, promo, table of contents, imprint information, so on and so forth…and the preview ran out before I could actually sample the work. I went to the writer’s Twitter and website, desperately searching out some other preview method…but there was absolutely none that I could find easily.

Needless to say, the book did not get put on my TBR.

I didn’t want to be that kind of reader/customer, but I also didn’t want to spend $4.99 on something that I might not like, either. Money is money, right? And I’m not the type of guy who likes to return ebooks.

So, use all of the tools you have effectively. Give your potential readers confidence that their money will be well spent on your work.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

A Sequel To Enzo

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking if there will ever be a sequel to BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE. Needless to say, it’s incredibly flattering and humbling that readers want to know more about Enzo and Peter and what happened after their one perfect night in Montreal together.

I’ve mentioned in passing on Twitter, in newsletters, and here on Chase Connor Books, that a sequel for ENZO is in the works. However, many readers don’t follow what happens on Twitter or the website, nor do they subscribe to the newsletters (and all of that is perfectly fine). Because of this, though, they aren’t kept in the loop about any upcoming books.

Additionally, there are people who only follow me on Twitter, or on the website, or just receive newsletters. These people might also get left out when it comes to certain news, too.

For these reasons, I thought I should make today’s blog about ENZO and the sequel.

For the past several months, I’ve been working on finalizing projects that I have lined up with my imprint, The Lion Fish Press. In my spare time, I’ve been writing the sequel to ENZO. It’s a slow process, to say the least. Mostly because I have so many projects we are working on, but also, I am taking my time with writing the sequel.

I don’t want to eff it up, obviously.

Writing a book like ENZO (or its sequel) takes a great deal more time than something like JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE or GINJUH. Of course, the fact that I have so many projects lined up for release through The Lion Fish Press also means I am scheduled out pretty far. Which means I have lots of time to write the sequel. I’m maybe taking advantage of that a bit. *insert evil laughter here*

Due to all of the projects that are finished, or are close to being finished, my release schedule with The Lion Fish Press doesn’t have an opening until 2022 – which is when the sequel to ENZO will drop (exact date to be determined).

Regardless, in 2022, THE WARMTH OF OUR CLOSEST STAR, the sequel to ENZO will arrive. Everyone who fell in love with Enzo, his family, and Peter, will get to find out what happened after that one perfect night.

And I want to make it as perfect as possible for those readers.

So, there will be a bit of a wait for WARMTH. However, ENZO is being translated into other languages, an audiobook version is coming from Tantor Media on September 29th, 2020 (narrated by the incomparable Brian Lore Evans), and I’ll have plenty of other books to fill up your time until 2022.

In the meantime, here is a mock-up of what we think the cover for WARMTH will look like:

Of course, that’s not the final cover, but it will give you some idea of what to expect, I suppose.

I don’t want to give too much away – still in the middle of writing the book, after all – but like ENZO, WARMTH will do some leaping through time. Back and forth, present day, a year ago, six years ago. There will be joy and happiness, good times and bad times, celebrations and moments of reflection, and there will be new characters you (hopefully) will fall in love with when you read it.

On the final page, I hope readers will be satisfied with the conclusion to Enzo’s story. And, just like BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE, readers will feel a sense of hope when they set the book down.

Until 2022…

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Mood

For a multi-genre author, one roadblock that might be encountered when moving from writing one book to another is tone.

Obviously, an LGBTQ+ Young Adult will have a different tone than an LGBTQ+ New Adult book. LGBTQ+ Paranormal Romance will be different than both of them. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Lit Fic…they all have a certain tone–or mood–that is unique and sets them apart from other the other genres. Even within a specific genre, one story may be lighthearted, while another has a more serious tone.

Writing one genre repeatedly is a bit easier than hopping around from one to the other. The way I write, well, I generally hop around a bit.

I’m the type of crazy ass writer who needs to write the story that’s stuck in my head right now.

It doesn’t matter what I just got finished writing, the new thing my mind is stuck on must be chased with a passion. With as many projects as I have in various stages of development, that means the hopping around is even crazier.

Recently, I’ve been entrenched in writing the sequel to BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE (titled: THE WARMTH OF OUR CLOSEST STAR) while doing deep-edits on other books of different genres that will be released between now and 2022.

My writing life is strange and chaotic, to say the least. But I love it.

So, how do I skip around from one project to the next and slide into the tone of each story?

I’d be lying if I said it was easy.

Recently, I’ve been working on the finishing touches of a book that has a very joyful, celebratory tone. The last few things I’ve released (BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE, JACOB MICHAELS IS DEAD, and A MILLION LITTLE SOULS had much heavier tones.

Switching to something that has a happier, more lighthearted tone has been wonderful…but difficult. I’ve had to shake off the gloomy feelings that had invaded my brain from the previous books.

Unfortunately, an artist lives their art, right?

So, how does a writer immerse themselves in the tone (or mood) of a story, when their brain is still swimming with the characters and themes from a previous story that was completely different?

Well, I consume art that isn’t my own.

If I need to pull myself out of a dreary mood, I watch a movie or read a book that is joyful. The opposite holds true if I’m moving from something lighthearted to something heavier.

One of my favorite ways to move from heavy to lighthearted is to watch Rom-Coms (especially LGBTQ+). Movies like But I’m A Cheerleader, Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Birdcage, Love Simon, To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar, or Pride. Sometimes I’ll watch a musical I love, like Singin’ In The Rain. Anything that makes me happy. Not for nothing, but my recent acquisition of a Disney+ subscription also helps in this area.

Moving from lighthearted to a more serious tone is the same, but opposite. I’ll read or watch something in the genre I am moving towards. Maybe I’ll watch a more serious LGBTQ+ movie (like Mysterious Skin), or I’ll watch something with vampires and werewolves (think Twilight).

Having a friend make a playlist of music that matches the tone of what I’m about to write also helps. The right “soundtrack” can help get me into a head space that is beneficial to my writing sessions.

Regardless, I find that art created by other people–whether it be music, print, or film–really helps me with the creation of my own art. You can’t steal ideas, but you can certainly steal a mood.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase