Welcome to Endless Iterations.

A place where one writer can chronicle the process of turning an idea into a story--through endless iterations....

Friday, June 29, 2012

WHAT'S NEXT? (Guest Post by Benjamin X Wretlind)

I wanted to do something special for my thirty-sixth birthday. Something to really celebrate turning a new page in my life. This is, after all, the first birthday I've had as a published author! On top of that, I'm only about three weeks from being married to the person who inspired me to finish my first novel, so this is definitely an exciting time in my life!

So, in the spirit of "me", today I have the pleasure of hosting Mr Benjamin X Wretlind, author of the newly released "Sketches from the Spanish Mustang", as well as the best book I've read this year, "Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors". And when I say it's the best book I've read this year, I mean it. And I've read a LOT of books. He's an incredibly talented writer with a phenomenally powerful voice. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you stop WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING and go here IMMEDIATELY! And while you're at if, pick up a copy of his new release, "Sketches from the Spanish Mustang." I'm sure you'll be a fan, too!

So, in the spirit of new chapters(har, har), I give you Benjamin X Wretlind!

First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jason! It's not often you get do a blog tour, and even rarer to get to post on someone's blog on their birthday!

One of my favorite songs by the modern Big Band group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is called "What's Next?" Everytime I hear that phrase, I think of the song, and the title of this post has me singing it to myself.

If you haven't heard, Sketches from the Spanish Mustang was released early on 6/27 (thanks to Amazon and Barnes and Noble) and I'm running away to fresher air since my little town of Colorado Springs is on fire.


Even though that's not much of a video to look at (did you look at it?), it's got a catchy tune. So, you have to be wondering now . . . what's next?

Sketches from the Spanish Mustang is out the door, and I'm moving on. I have about 3,212 different ideas that are constantly floating around my brain waiting to be snagged by the writing spirit. Rather than focus on all 3,212, however, I've narrowed it down to two.

First up will be a rewrite of the first novel I ever wrote, a magical realism piece that I feel deserves a bit of an epic feel to it. A Difficult Mirror should be ready to go in the Winter, and whether that means December or February, I can't say just yet.

Here's the "blurbage" for the novel:

All too often, the most difficult thing to look at is the mirror in front of you. While it’s easy to just walk away, Harlan Reese and Marie Matthews quickly find that option isn’t available. Four travelers lost in a strange land face a past that has become a painful reality. Four-year-old Justine is lost to the world, and there are forces that would rather it stay that way. When Marie meets a strange man on a deserted road and a body is found mutilated in the desert, a deep resentment teeters on the edge of release. Someone drew a line in the sand, and when Harlan, Marie’s ex-lover, walks into a forest in central Arizona looking for his daughter, that line will be crossed. In a world between Heaven and Hell, their journey across an unforgiving land to find the way home with Justine by their side is wrought with pain and triumph. A Difficult Mirror is a novel for anyone who has faced their own mirror and conquered their fears. It is a story of resentment, failure and love woven together in a fantastical world too close to our own.

The novel is also, I should say, the first of three.

As I rewrite and rework A Difficult Mirror, I'm also going to be writing a literary thriller, currently titled Driving the Spike.

As I have it plotted out, the novel follows the lives of three brothers who each go their separate paths but come back together in a marriage of opposing forces for a common cause. It's a novel that's spent a long time in that "thinking" part of my brain, and if you read yesterday's post about theme, you'll may have a feeling that I have something to say. I'm not a political person, though, so don't think this is really going to be partisan or petty.

It's going to be . . . awesome. Driving the Spike will make you think, and that's what I love to do.

That's pretty much the next year in a nutshell.  I do have other tasks to accomplish, of course. The marketing of Sketches from the Spanish Mustang and my first released novel Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors. I'm also going to work with Jason here on a different approach to the Indie world, one that will focus on quality. We'll both have more to say on that subject soon enough.

Until tomorrow, when I announce the winner of the autographed copy of Sketches from the Spanish Mustang and the $50 Amazon.com gift card . . . .

Thank you all!


Benjamin X. Wretlind, the author of Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors and Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, has been called "a Pulitzer-caliber writer" with "a unique American voice." Aside from novels, he has been published in many magazines throughout the past 10 years.


In Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, a haunting, heart-warming and often brutally direct exploration of the lives of seven people in the mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado, a woman must come to grips with the failings that cost the lives of her husband and child. Bestselling author Michael K. Rose says: "Mr. Wretlind has penned a tale of such emotional and literary depth it will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned."

Friday, May 25, 2012

A New Publishing Company

I have an idea for starting a publishing company that I wanted your opinion on. It's based on a model of a non-profit collective, rather than a for-profit corporation, and I wanted it to be structured around authorship, rather than publishing. It's pretty simple in theory, but I think that the details of setting it up may be significantly more problematic.

The nutshell is that I think a lot of self-published writers need help in their craft. I want to set up a company to help self-published writers get the help they need to publish a professional product. I want to give authors competent copyediting and revising. I want to set them up with artists who can give them professional looking cover. I want to ensure that once they have their professional product, they have a platform to advertise their work. You know--all the things that publishing houses do.

On the other hand, I want to make sure that the author maintains final control over everything. I want them to set the price point, choose what platforms they're sold on, decide who does their editing, and choose the final artwork. I don't want anything to be published without the author's final say so, and I want the author to retain all the rights to their work. I also want the author to retain the lion's share of the royalties.

I don't think I can make this happen--but I think we can make this happen as a community. I want to start a publishing company where the authors, editors, and artists are the "shareholders", and the shares are the books. Self-published authors can't afford to pay $1000 for cover art, or $2000 for editing, or god knows how much for a product placement and advertising campaign--but they can agree to a percentage. I want to charge 15%--what they'd pay for an agent--to be the publisher. I want to use 5% to run advertising, web sites, logistical shit, et cetera; use 5% to pay for peer critiquing, copy editing, and other similar expenses; and 5% to pay for art, formatting, and the like.

On top of that, the author only has to pay for services he or she uses. We, collectively, figure out what the price of a service should be. Then we "charge" the author that price. The royalties for that service only come out until that "price" has been paid--and then enough comes out for them to pay for the next guy. Not every book will succeed, but every one that does will pay it forward.

In addition, since the author retains all rights to the work, the author is under no obligation to continue to be published under the label. If it is ever not in their best interest, all they have to do is pay their collaborators (artist, editor, et cetera) the remainder of what they owe them for their services. Then they can part ways with no hard feelings--or they can pull some books but retain others. I want the author to have control.

But I'm hoping most authors won't want to leave. I hope they'll see value for their money. They'll become part of a community of peers, where they have the opportunity to work with and grow with other self-published authors, where they can be part of a professional-quality publishing house, where they have additional ad exposure, where they have listed editors to validate how clean their work is. In essence, the little guy can become part of a publishing house based on one criteria--the strength of his or her work. And they get in the door if their peers believe in that strength, rather than if a big, faceless publishing house thinks it can become a best seller. I think that's going to add a lot of value for most indie publishers.

There are a lot of hurdles to overcome, and a lot of things to figure out. But I think this model has merit, and I think it could be a good thing for a lot of people. I think it has potential, and I'd like to know what you think.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: Lunara: Seth and Chloe, by Wyatt Davenport

Four Stars

When I was growing up, I’d read whatever I could get my hands on, but I had a particular affinity for sci-fi and fantasy. I guess I never managed to grow up. And that’s exactly the feeling I got from reading Lunara: Seth and Chloe, by Wyatt Davenport.

Just about everything in this book is well done, from the characters to the plot. The world is well fleshed out, and the author has put a lot of thought and effort into creating Lunara’s setting. His descriptions are very vivid, and he keeps the pace of the plot at a good speed.

Where his story really shines, though, is in the main characters. Seth and Chloe stole the show, and their dynamic drove the emotional impact of the story. I was left with a strong sense of who the main characters were. More importantly, I was left with the desire to know what happens next.

One thing that I LOVED about the story is that it kept the focus on the human elements. The action was good, but it wasn’t an “action” novel. The sci-fi details take a back seat to the story, which is one about people. And Mr Davenport crafts a story full of human dynamics, a real “space opera” with plenty of politics, love stories, and enough tense, interpersonal moments to keep it kicking along at a quick pace.

The book isn’t perfect. I think the editing could have been a little tighter, as sometimes the dialogue seems a bit on the formal side. There were also a couple of scenes where it stretched my suspension of disbelief, where the circumstances were a bit too contrived for the sake of drama. But all in all, as a young adult sci-fi story, Lunara: Seth and Chloe delivers. I don’t have any hesitation recommending it to someone who is a fan of the young adult or sci-fi genres.

And, most telling of all, after reading the free book I went out and bought the next two. I really, REALLY want to find out what happens next!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors, by Benjamin X Wretlind

Five Stars


Are you done? If you said “yes”, I’m assuming you’re lying, because after reading the book you’re not going to need to read this review. So I’m going to assume you’re either a bald faced liar, or you’re just really bad at following directions.

Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read in years. Part horror, part lit-fic, Castles tells the story of Maggie, a girl who lives in a trailer park on the edge of the desert. It is the chilling tale of the psychological effects of a childhood of abuse, and the damage that can be done when a child is raised in a culture where violence is used to insidiously strip young women of their senses of autonomy and self worth. But it’s also a story that gives us a perverse sense of hope, that when the world is damaged beyond the hope of justice, sometimes retribution can be divine.

The brilliance of Castles is not just in Maggie’s voice, which is itself sublimely woven; it is in the universality of Maggie’s tale. This story RESONATES. The effects of a culture of violent and sexual oppression on the psyche of young women are universal, and Maggie’s story could have just as easily taken place in the streets of Compton or Calcutta, or on the border of the Australian outback or the jungles of Brazil. And this is the genius of Benjamin X Wretlind’s writing—you cannot help but identify with the all-too-human Maggie.

Woven through the story is a tale of dark horror and divine retribution. But in the end we’re left to wonder if the supernatural elements are the work of God or the Devil, or the product of a mind brought past the point of breaking by a world out of control. Without trying to spoil the book, in the end Maggie’s story is one of retribution and redemption.

Now, go read the book.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Djinnx'd, by Nicola Rhodes

Four Stars

First off, let me say that I LOVED Djinnx’d! It is EXACTLY what it aims to be, and it hits the nail on the head with the story. Campy, zany, off the wall, and a hell of a lot of fun, Djinnx’d doesn’t slow down. It reminds me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the book, not the movie), and Nicola Rhodes writes with a similar narrative style to the late, great Douglas Adams.

Tamar and Denny are lovable characters, and you can’t help but enjoy their banter. Denny is a great anti-hero, a slacker who wants nothing more than to walk through life invisibly. He has the great (mis?)fortune of being the proud owner of a lamp, to which Tamar, a four thousand year old force of nature, is enslaved. And hilarity ensues.

The story is definitely character driven, with the dynamic between the two stealing the show. The  plot is fun, funny, and surreal, with no pretense at being a literary tour-de-force, but each scene gives the reader an opportunity to enjoy the relationship between Tamar and Denny. It’s light and quick, with a lot of great dialogue. Supporting characters are written as archetypes rather than real characters, but they do a good job of supporting the narrative voice; just enough detail to keep things flowing, but not so much that they bog down the story.

Nicola Rhodes also does a good job as narrator. Her literary voice is clearly heard throughout the novel, as she inserts comments about the absurdity of the story throughout. This allows her to function as a storyteller, almost like a twenty-something neighbor recounting a story of a zany night out with the girls. This is one of those rare times when snarky comments from the narrator actually work within the context of the story. It adds another level of humor (or, in deference to Ms Rhodes, “humour”), along with the self-deprecating comments and pop-culture references.

Over the course of the book, it’s clear how much Ms Rhodes loves her characters, and that love is infectious. By the end, you’re going to love them as well. Four stars for me means that I’m going to be reading more of this author’s work, based on this one, and I’m giving it four stars. I’m excited about reading more of Nicola Rhodes—I want more! If you love authors like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, pick up Djinnx’d—it’s well worth the read!


What, exactly, constitutes a five star review? How do you tell the difference between a three star and a two star book? What in god’s name do you have to do to earn one measly star?

I don’t know about everyone else, but I like what I like. I’m not editing or breaking down every book I read—I’m enjoying it. I try to read a book for what it is; I try to adopt the mindset of the audience before I read something, so that I’m not comparing adult horror with young adult fantasy. If I like it, I rate it highly; if I don’t like it, I rate it poorly.

Without further ado, here are my criteria for ratings….

Must Read Again!
“Oh my god, this shit is brilliant! I’m going out and getting this author’s next book and shoving everything else to the side until I’ve gotten so fat and bloated on their work that I just can’t eat any more!”

Will Read Again.
“I really liked this book. I’m going to shell out cash for more of this author’s work and put it into my queue.”

Might Read Again.
“It was okay. I may or may not pick up something else this author wrote. Depends on my mood.”

Won’t Read Again.
“I didn’t like this book. I’m kind of sorry I read it. Someone is going to have to seriously pitch another book by this author for me to give them another shot.”

Will Warn Others.
“This book was so bad that I can’t, in good conscience, allow others to waste their time on. This person was the literary version of the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, without the cult appeal. ‘DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!’”

How do you determine YOUR ratings?

Monday, May 14, 2012

A New Paradigm

What is wrong with publishing today?

The world of publishing has been dominated by a few companies for a long time—the so called “Big Six”. For decades, they have been the gatekeepers for aspiring authors, ensuring that the books we read are the books we love. They have ensured that the marketplace is full of products with professional editing, cover art, pricing, distribution, and advertising, and they have provided countless authors with the means to live their dream as professional storytellers, getting paid to spin their tales to a worldwide audience.

But their services have come at a steep price.

Stories abound about cryptic bookkeeping, late royalty checks, and draconian editing. The conditions and clauses of the contracts offered by the Big Six are said to be so similar that they are often accused of collusion. In the end, the author sacrifices control and profit so that their voice can be heard, and the author is left with little choice but to agree to the terms offered or they will have no audience at all.

Worse than the conditions of the published, however, is the graveyard of the publishing world—the slush pile. An innumerable host of stories have languished in this purgatory of words, waiting for a judgment that may or may not come. Who knows how many brilliant writers’ works have disappeared into the slush piles of the Big Six, only to be dismissed as not quite right for the marketplace or genre? Or are never read at all?

The Big Six ruled their empire with an iron fist, secure in their knowledge that they hold the keys to the gates. Vigilant protectors of an honorable standard, they are the old guard of an ancient regime. But the old empire is crumbling. Changing. Evolving.

E-publishing has changed everything.

Now, anyone can publish anything. Literally. With self publishing, the world of publishing is open to anyone with a computer. The biggest hurdle in an aspiring writer’s career (aside from actually writing books) is finding a platform to distribute their work, and now there are a number of platforms available to anyone. And, for the first time in human history, we are able to publish our own works without investing a small fortune into the publishing process. All we need is a computer, an internet connection, and a little time, and nobody can tell us that we are not authors.            

But with the good has come the bad. With the Big Six, you had some expectation that the books that made it through would have some sort of merit. Were there bad ones in the mix? Sure. But they were usually still well edited. You might not care for a book, but at least you knew that it was the product of professionals. Authors, agents, editors, publishers, advertisers, and artists all worked on these books—and they all got paid for it. They all had a vested interest in making sure that the product was a good, solid, professional product before it went out the door.

With self published books… not so much. There are no guarantees with self published books, simply because anyone can publish them. The cover art speaks for itself—but what about the rest? The only way to find out if a book is competently edited is to read it; and the only way to find out if a story pays off at the end is to get to the end of it. When you buy a book that’s self published, you’re really buying it sight unseen—Caveat Emptor.

So, modern publishing is at a crossroads; the old publishing model is no longer necessary, but it still fulfills a useful function. How can we, as people who are both authors and readers, make sure that we’re stocking the marketplace with products that are just as valuable as the offerings of the Big Six while maintaining the control of self publishing? How do we assure the readers that they’re getting a professionally edited book without having to sign contracts with publishers that set prices and diminish our returns? How do we gain all the benefits of working with a big publishing house without having to pay the steep price?

We form the publishing company.

I have a vision of a publishing company for a new marketplace. It’s a company where authors are given the opportunity to control their own works, from editing to cover art to pricing. It’s a company where the author gets to keep the lion’s share of the proceeds from his or her creations. It’s a company where we, the authors, get respect from the publishers because we ARE the publishers, and we, collectively, own the company. And we run it as a non-profit, so that we can be sure that our artistic integrity is not compromised, that nobody has a financial motive to take advantage of the artists involved, and that we work together to foster other writers in a community dedicated to the success of all the members of that community, rather than working for a company that profits by forcing authors into contracts that see their creative control and profits stripped from them in the name of “promotion”.

It hasn’t been done yet—but now the technology exists to make it possible. We can create a company to publish our own works, collectively rather than individually. We can create a company that produces the quality of work of a publishing house while preserving the profitability and control of self-publishing. We can create a company that is owned by its members, that is run as a non-profit, whose mission is to ensure that the integrity of authors is upheld. We can create a company where editors, artists, and most of all authors are able to profit from the fruits of our labors, where everyone is an entrepreneur and we are all working towards the common good. A company run as a meritocracy. A company of the authors, by the authors, for the authors.

I want to know what you think. If you’re reading this, you’re probably what I’d consider an “interested party”. I have a model in mind—something that I think will work. I want to know what other authors think. I want more ideas, more input, more thoughts. Would you be interested in something like this? Would you be willing to pay in essence what a professional author would pay an agent, instead of what a professional author would pay a publishing house? Would you be interested in paying an editor and artist a percentage of your profits so that you don’t have to pay them up front? Would you be willing to work with other authors to be part of a real, honest community of your peers, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed together?

I have a model. Now I want to know what YOU think.