Earlier today I finished reading Dust by Hugh Howey. Considering what the Silo Saga and Hugh have meant to my career as an author it seems only fitting that I should devote a post to a spoiler-free reflection on the experience of reading this phenomenal series.
I first read Wool during a family vacation in Hawaii. I was in the middle of writing Atlantic Island at the time, and learning about the process of publishing and promoting work on Amazon from the numerous articles I read about Hugh Howey. It’s so unbelievably rare for me to try a new author’s work, and even more unusual for me to like what I read. I was hooked by Wool right from the start, and fascinated by the slow reveal that took place throughout that book and its sequel, Shift. Hugh managed to depict a markedly different, yet strangely similar world while all the time holding back the secrets of what was truly occurring.
I bought Shift to read on my Kindle on the flight home. I later learned that there was some criticism from readers about Hugh’s decision to reveal the backstory to the events of Wool in the sequel. Personally, I liked Shift even more than Wool. Anyone who knows me (and my unwavering love for Stephen King’s The Stand) knows that I prefer to see a world fall apart rather than jump into it after the damage has already been done. That approach guided me in writing Atlantic Island and it was remarkable to see it handled by a master. As the plot caught up with the timeline of Wool, the stage was set with enormously high expectations for the finale.
In between reading the first two books and excitedly reading the third, I became a part of the Silo Saga world when I wrote Angels of the Earth. Because of that book I came to know a wonderful, supportive, ever-growing group of authors, read several of their Silo works, and befriended Hugh Howey himself.
And so it was that I sat down to read Dust, now being a Silo author and knowing that I was reading the words of a friend and mentor. Could I be brought back into that magnificent, ruined world deep within the earth? Could Hugh tie all his characters and plotlines together? Would it all lead to a satisfactory conclusion?
For three pages, I admit I thought to myself, “this is all too much. I’ve been gone too long, too busy with my own stories and now I don’t even remember what was happening.” By page four, all my worries had evaporated. Hugh Howey is that good. He brings the reader right back into the heart of the action without wasting time explaining what came before. His exposition occurs organically as his characters embark on the final leg of their respective journeys.
Everything in this novel comes together to work like a finely tuned machine that would dazzle the hard-laboring gang down in Mechanical. Hugh continues to reveal his secrets in a way that seems natural and not at all forced. There are no reveals just for the sake of the reveal. I can say without spoiling anything that the plans that made all the devastation possible just seem plausible…plausible enough to give one pause about some of what goes on in the real world.
Hugh’s characters have an amazing amount of depth to them. There are very few men and women in his story who can be seen as “all good” or “all bad.” Hugh finds the levels in between. His characters and his story are so much richer for it. This also lends the trilogy an overarching theme of redemption that works whether it is a character or the world itself that must be redeemed.
As to my third question, did Hugh’s conclusion satisfy me as a reader? Absolutely. I’m sure the ending won’t thrill every single reader, but Stephen King (and many others) once said that a story is about the journey, not the ending. Hugh wraps up his journey in a powerful way while leaving room for journeys to come. Whether Hugh Howey is the tour guide who will take us on that next leg or if he will simply pass the torch to his growing legion of Silo Saga authors, he has more than succeeded in doing his job here. He entertained, dazzled and intrigued through three wonderful books and created a world so elaborate and layered that it is just beginning to be explored. Amazing.
I’ve been plotting the next phase of my writing career since wrapping Atlantic Island not too long ago. That book continues to slowly gain traction and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, which makes me feel pretty wonderful. My goal was, after all, to entertain my readers. If you’ve looked at the little progress bars on the side of my blog page, you’ll know that I finished writing a short story for an upcoming silo-related project. I’m not going to go into detail about that yet, but I certainly will when the time is right. The story takes place in Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga world, but is not at all related to Angels of the Earth. It’s just a disturbing little horror story that I enjoyed writing.
I’m outlining a project that I’m co-authoring. It’s called Burning Bush and is a conspiracy story based on true events. If you’ve read Ben Mezrich’s books or seen the movies based on them, you’ll get how we are approaching this- it borrows ideas from the real, headline-making story but creates a solid bit of entertaining fiction around it.
Finally, my latest announcement. No, it’s not a new Atlantic Island project (I know some of you are still waiting for that!), but it is new sci-fi. It’s a series, actually, about time travel (something I’ve always wanted to write) and will introduce a new main character who goes on different adventures in each book. It’s a different style of publishing for me, but I got into this business to have some fun and try new things. I think it will be enjoyable. I’m just ironing out the details on that now.
So that’s what I’m up to. Please continue to send me messages through whatever forum you prefer. I love talking to my readers and the feedback I’ve received has been so helpful to me as I realize what my audience wants. I promise that you will see at least one, maybe two new publications from me before the end of 2013! Thanks again for all your support, my friends.
I’m going to be doing a charity sale of the complete Atlantic Island novel this Friday, July 26th. Any money I make from sales of that book that day will go to the Make A Wish Foundation. The organization, for those who do not know, grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening conditions. It’s a wonderful thing that they do, and if it means that the proceeds from the best day of sales I will ever have as an author go to this amazing charity rather than in my pocket, that’s something that would make me very proud. You can buy the book here, but please wait until the 26th if you want your money to go to Make a Wish. Please share this with as many people as possible! Thanks so much for your time and support.
This week I published both the final, third installment of Atlantic Island as well as the full novel (the Omnibus Edition). It’s a huge milestone for me as a writer to have truly completed my first novel. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written, coming in nearly a hundred pages longer than Doing the Job. The reviews, including those on Amazon, on Twitter, and told to me personally have been very positive. I’ve been asked several times what comes next. The truth is I’m not one hundred percent sure. I do know I have some other projects coming up (several of those are listed in the word count widget on the side of this blog). After that, there’s a chance I could return to the world of Atlantic Island. The story has many open threads that could be explored in sequels or prequels. I do have a sense that Atlantic Island could become the first book in a true series. Maybe a trilogy. That all depends on a few things that I can’t talk about just yet. Vague enough for you? In the meantime, I would be very open to others exploring that world in whatever way they see fit. Just give me a shout out somewhere on the cover or something. Deal? Deal. I’ll check in soon with some more Kindle Worlds news as well as some specifics on my next project. Thanks for reading!
I know I’m long overdue for a post. I imagine you’ve already picked up on much of what I’m about to say from other social media. Nonetheless…
Hugh Howey has joined the new Kindle Worlds program at Amazon. This formalizes the process of writing and publishing Silo Saga stories (there are other brands in the program as well) and lets Amazon control all the elements to make the books successful. So as it turns out I am the first author accepted to be published by Kindle Worlds! It’s been a fun few days since that happened. The people at Amazon have been awesome and Hugh himself has been great, as he has been all along. Right now Angels is in the store and Amazon is just trying to get things running and get some more works in the store. I know some of my fellow “Wool” authors will be in the store in a day or two. This is great as they are wonderful people with brilliant stories to share. They’ve been unbelievably supportive since I published Angels initially. I can’t talk too much about what’s going to be happening but it should be the most exciting thing to happen since I started writing. More as soon as I can share it!
I’m in the middle of adding some things to this website and will be flying home to Florida today, so forgive the brevity of this post. Just a quick update:
“Angels of the Earth: A Silo Story” is selling very well. Still lagging most of the other Wooliverse tales but I’m proud enough to just be part of that crew. My book did briefly enter the top 20 sci-fi short stories.
“Atlantic Island: The Event” is picking up a few occasional buys or borrows, one would assume as a result of the silo story’s success. It’s selling about 3% of the number of copies of Angels.
“Atlantic Island Book 2: The Leadership” is in the hands of beta readers. When I have their feedback I will incorporate it, tack on my snazzy new cover, and get it moving to Amazon. I’m already itching to get to work on the final installment.
In other news… Opened a Facebook fan page. Created a new cover for AI Book 1 that more closely matches what I developed for Book 2. That’s on Amazon now. As I said, I’m going to flesh out this blog/website a little more today and tomorrow. That’s all… thanks for reading!
Well, I finally did it. Since starting on my self-publishing endeavor I have promised to write a short story in Hugh Howey’s Wool universe. After a week of writing at a feverish pace I had something longer than a short story and, I hope, different than any other fanfic type story out there. I won’t waste time telling you Uriel’s story, since if you’ve made it here there’s a good chance you’ve bought the book already. In that case, thanks!
What I will tell you is that while the story is fiction, there are elements of Uriel’s personality that come from my memories of myself at his age. That and the haunting descriptions Hugh and others have given of the silos made writing this a very engrossing, powerful experience for me.
For those who are here to follow my career, I can tell you that sales have been much better than my other work but not yet where I’d like to see them. It’s possible people are just burning out from too much Wool stuff that doesn’t come from Hugh, but I prefer to think it will just take some time.
In the meantime I go back to read and edit Atlantic Island: The Leadership. I still think that story has potential and I’m hopeful that reading with fresh eyes will help me make it all it can be. I’m aiming to have the book available for sale by the end of this month.
I know I promised a blog post yesterday, but I elected to sit down and type another 400 words of my story instead. Gotta indulge those impulses when they strike. What I wanted to discuss in this post is something I’ve been debating as I write. “Atlantic Island” was envisioned to serve two purposes. One- to give me the chance to explore a concept I’d had in my head for years. To take the Stephen King approach of throwing a couple normal characters in a horribly abnormal situation and see what they do to get out of it. Two- to position the book (and future series) as a successor to “Hunger Games”, “Twilight”…any of that kind of thing. To that end, I chose to write a book that had mature appeal but was appropriate for young audiences. If you’ve read the first part, “The Event,” you know that although the language gets a bit heated in times of strife, no character uses any of the mighty curse words of doom. As I got deeper into the followup, “The Leadership,” I started to find myself censoring my natural flow of writing. People in stressful situations curse. Teenagers curse. Teenagers in stressful situations? Well, you do the math. With the draft I am about to complete I have dabbled in allowing one new character to use foul language freely, as it fits his personality. I’m not sure that will stay. One of the cool things about writing for the Kindle Store is that I can reedit my already published book if I feel that the dialogue should be modified to fit later portions. It won’t change the story at all. Of course, the tradeoff is losing appropriateness for a young market…though based on my rankings I don’t think I’m selling well in that market at all (sci-fi is where I’m seeing action). As a long time wrestling fan (as detailed in “Doing the Job”…cheap plug) I remember starting to feel a little funny as WWF and WCW dabbled in edginess. Seeing a guy as large as Hulk Hogan say he was going to kick his opponent’s “butt” just seemed phony. Of course, eventually the companies went full bore into adult-oriented language and situations. Now their business is bigger than ever and is back to being a child-oriented, PG product that I find horribly dull. I’m curious to hear your feedback. Is it better to let my characters have their natural voices and lose a huge potential audience? Or should I continue to doctor them to be appropriate for all ages? Did any of you who read “The Event” feel anything was lost by the language being softened?
My first five day free promotion is in the bag and it’s time to reflect on the results. Did this effort increase my audience and spark further sales?
Let’s start at the beginning. I used Amazon’s KDP free promotion option to push Book 1 of Atlantic Island for five days last week. Prior to that the book had been available for a month at 99 cents. It had sold in the very, very low double digits worldwide over the month. Being free meant I lost my ranking in the paid books on the Kindle store. Since I was ranked in the 300,000’s, this was no great loss.
So the book went free. In the first hour I had sold the same amount as in the previous month. I averaged about 100 downloads per day and moved up to the 1300th best selling free book, plus a #3 ranking in free sci fi short stories. Now remember, I didn’t make any money from this. The question remained: what would this publicity do for me? Well, of the 500 plus who got the book, nobody reviewed it (though certainly not everyone is finished reading), nobody followed me on Twitter, and in the three days since I have been back at 99 cents there hasn’t been a single purchase. I don’t think it was a waste in any way to try this out because I probably didn’t miss out on many sales. I’m going to consider the positive that so many people read at least some of my work. That’s a big part of what it’s all about. Back to writing… I have 14000 more words to write and Book 2 can go into editing!