The blog of author Harper Alexander

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Completion, publication, and elation!

It is finished!  June’s book, A Mischief in the Woodwork, is complete – and has gone live!  Still working on the paperback, but the e-book is available here: A Mischief in the Woodwork

It went live late two nights ago, only for me to discover (the next morning) that the formatting somehow got messed up when it converted to kindle format.  So I spent all day hastening to re-format in between cleaning house and preparing for a work party we’re having today (we’re building a shed), hoping no one would buy it in the meantime.  It was a crazy day, but I did it.  And not a moment too soon – the updated file processed a bit after midnight, and this morning I had my very first sale listed on my report 🙂  Phew.

And I didn’t even advertise it yet.  Off to a good start!

A Mischief in the Woodwork is one of my darker books.  All I was going for was dystopian, but it was very easy to slip into all the dark things that accompany dark times.  I myself wouldn’t go as far as to call it horror, but it may possess some similar vibes therein.  I do try to incorporate uplifting themes in all my work as well, though, regardless of how deep and dark they might get.  (A review someone left for Mind Games said it was both disturbing and uplifting – I’m not sure how those two can go together, but I am delighted to have achieved it.  That is also coincidentally how I would describe A Mischief in the Woodwork.)

Regardless of dark or light, this has been one of my favorite books to write, hands down.  I loved creating the world, really clicked with the main character, totally got into the atmosphere (I don’t know if a world I’ve created has ever been so clear and vivid in my mind before), and the underlying subject matter is something very dear to my heart.  This is one of those books that just worked for me, start to finish.  Rarely did I suffer from writer’s block, and I don’t know if there was ever a time that I was unhappy with what I had, or didn’t know where I was going.  That never happens.  I am constantly second-guessing my work these days, meeting with writer’s block a portion of the way through, or having to take a breather to figure out where the heck I want to go with a given storyline.

A Mischief in the Woodwork was simply like fulfilling a vision, all the way through.  Just putting down on paper something that, seemingly, was already in me, needing very much to get out.

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‘A Mischief in the Woodwork’ Blurb

20/46 chapters edited for ‘A Mischief in the Woodwork’ tonight.  Right on schedule to have it out by the end of the month/beginning of next!  I’ve taken a small break from editing to write the blurb, which I’ll share for today’s post…


In a land rife with unnamed terrors and untold danger…

A generation ago, something began to fail in the foundations of our country.  Devoid of a culprit, our cities began to crumble, becoming a derangement of ruin and decay.  No one could put a name to what began to happen in the nation, that day, and thus was born the term ‘mischief’ for the dark things that began to creep through the woodwork.

I, Avante, am a slave of this dark time.  But for all its terrors, it’s a good time to be a slave.  The Masters, fragile and loathe to be surrounded by anything crude or horrific, have retreated upstairs, and locked themselves away.  They don’t come out.

As such, we’re as good as free, now.  Free to take the ruined land for ourselves.  The only pitfall, really, is the challenge of surviving in such a forsaken place.

The Masters are not the only ones afraid to set foot out of their cowering domains.  Even the angels, it seems, have to be charged with standing their ground – lest they run from this place.

Lest they run headlong from our beloved, forsaken Dar’on.

is there anyone who can rise above the grueling task of survival to fight for greater things, and put a name to the mischief haunting the age?

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Today I started editing A Mischief in the Woodwork.  Mainly just typos, today, and then I’ll tackle the bigger stuff over the course of the rest of the week.  My sister, who is lovely and supportive, has done her usual “here, let me read your manuscript pretty much in one sitting” thing, and has given me her feedback.  (It’s a little disgruntling, spending so long on a manuscript, only to have it devoured in a number of hours by my speed-reading sister.  But encouraging in that she doesn’t get bored and stop reading halfway through.  At least I seem to write page-turning stuff, where one of my readers is concerned!)  Most of her feedback is exactly what I had already written down, so that is also encouraging.  Hopefully that actually is because I have a decent book and have thought of everything, rather than a mere tribute to the fact that she and I share a brain and seem to communicate telepathically.

On a side note, whoever left me that negative review on Amazon that I blogged about has edited their review since I went on my rant.  They left the review at one star, still, but changed the content of the review in a way that oddly seems to coincide with the gripes I had made here about their review.  This could be pure coincidence…  Or it could mean it’s one of my readers (blog readers) that wrote the review.  If that’s the case, and it is one of you…  I’m on to you 😉  In all seriousness, I love you anyway.  But I’m totally on to you.

(Anyway, they at least changed their wording and said what they had to say in a way that I’m totally fine with.  I still don’t approve of people giving books 1 star based on something that is purely a matter of opinion, but hey.)

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It’s Happened…

It’s finally happened.  I received my first negative review.  I have mixed feelings.  Obviously there’s the devastated part of me that would like very much to tear all my books to shreds, now, and never write another word again.  And then there’s the part of me saying “yay! – thank goodness that’s out of the way”.

So here’s the deal, now that I know from experience what it feels like…  It’s no fun.  But what really bugs me (not just for my own books, but for any) is the things that people put in negative reviews.  They’ll say something like ‘not my cup of tea‘, and give it 1 star.  Like it’s bad just because it’s not their cup of tea.  Just because it’s not your cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s bad for what it is, right?  Or, as in my case, they leave a single gripe as their reason for 1 star.  It seems to me that you have to have more than one gripe to take the trouble of leaving a super negative review, even if it was a big one (gripe).  Does one gripe that ruins the book (even the whole book) for you mean that every other aspect was bad, enough to warrant stripping it of all those stars?  If every other aspect was also bad, then SAY so.  Fine.  If not, give it more than one star.

Obviously I need a rant right now, but it’s honestly something that bugs me and seems unjust in a general sense, regardless of whose book is being reviewed.  I guess there’s nothing to be done about it, but it seems as though there should be.  These reviews are what people look to in order to judge a piece of writing, and it seems unfair to be able to write such a vague review attached to such an influential ‘rating’.  A person could type ‘hehehehehehehe’ and give something 1 star, and the star average will be what reflects on the book.

For the record, it was my prose that wasn’t well-received.  I get that.  Especially for this book.  There was a lot of prose, which was part of the point of the book (another reviewer mentioned the book goes from scene to scene in a dream-like haze, which is spot on and precisely the intention, really rather part of the plot.  They seemed to understand that, as their review was a 5-star one).  This new negative review complained the prose got in the way of clarity and plot.  I can see how this would be an opinion, even a strong one.

I don’t see how it constitutes one star.  It gets me wondering…  When you review a book, does (can) a single gripe ruin the whole thing for you?  Maybe it’s something you do absolutely hate, even something that somehow makes the rest of it unreadable to you, but does that automatically make the thing as a whole inherently bad?  As in…no one should read itEveryone should be warned against it.  As in…you have to take the time to trash the thing as a whole (which you haven’t even finished) to make sure your opinion reflects it badly so others will take heed and spare themselves what will surely be the same exact experience?

For me, I would never leave a 1-star review for any book unless it was bad on all (or at the very least ‘most’) fronts.  The grammar, the plot, the content, the style.  1 star is the lowest you can go, meaning there was nothing good about the thing.

What I do actually find kind of comical is that there will be a 5-star review and a 1-star review right next to each other, and they’ll showcase the same points of the book.  I think that probably sums up the entire point of this blog post quite nicely.  (It’s the kind of thing that makes you go ‘haha’, and wish you could write reviews about reviews, and say ‘the clarity and plot were clearly only hampered because this poor soul didn’t have the mind or attention span to get through it’)

Alright, rant over, time to get back to writing.  WITH my darned prose.

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Encouraging Rejection

Yesterday, I received one of the nicest rejection letters I’ve ever received before.  Usually, as I’m sure many of you are well aware, they come in the form of a standard-issue letter, which usually just says ‘thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work, however after careful consideration we have decided it’s not quite right for us, we wish you the best in your search for representation…’

So I was delighted yesterday when I received one of a different nature.  I had actually forgotten I had anything on submission, it had been so many months now.  But I checked my email, and found another rejection letter had come in.  And this one – this one was actually personalized, and said rather nicely that while my specific title was not the best fit for them, they thought my writing showed promise and they would love to consider future works should I choose to query them again.

Never thought a rejection letter could make my day.  Now all I have to do is carefully browse their past representations and write something that fits right in with the rest.  Voila.

Unfortunately, I hate writing with the intentions of fitting my work into a mold.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to get through a whole book that way, without trashing it just because I absolutely hate it.

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Some Statistics

I figured after I had a decent number of books released, I could begin to gauge which ones did the best, and therefore know what to write more of in the future.  So the other day, realizing I happen to have a ‘decent number’ of titles released now, I went ahead and compared some stats.

Verdict: it was not altogether conclusive.

This is the ridiculous comparison I came up with:


The most popular book sales-wise has gotten the least ‘likes’ and reviews.

The most popular book ‘like’- and ‘review’-wise has sold the least sequels.

The least popular book sales-wise has had the best ‘sequel’ performance.

The book I thought would fall flat on its face has taken off.

The book I thought would take off has fallen flat on its face.


Conclusion: I have no idea what to write more of in the future.  I know, I should write what I feel compelled to write.  But I was excited to start working strategically, at least to a point, and I just feel more lost than ever now, where strategy is concerned.  Guess I’ll try again after another few books.  One of these days, I’m bound to strike something that performs noticeably different than the others.  (I wonder how many books I’d have to write, statistically, to land a best-seller, just as far as probability is concerned.  An interesting thought…  What do you say?  5,000?  2,000,000?  Better get back to work…)




Today’s Tidbits

Based on my best estimate while I was yet working on what might be called the ‘middle’ of my current book project, I figured the end result would be somewhere around 120,000 words.  This is the number I plugged into my snazzy little ‘progress bar’ here on my blog, and what I’ve been basing my ‘percent finished’ progress on.  I came up with this number by figuring out the average word count per existing chapter, and multiplying that times the proposed number of chapters I had left to write (which of course, you can only do once you actually plot those chapters out, or else you really still have no idea).  So I figured out everything that still needed to happen in the book, figured out how I wanted it all to fit together, and sorted it into a certain number of chapters, named and everything (for the most part).

However, with only two chapters and an epilogue left to write, my prognosis has changed.  It’s something that can’t be helped, really.  You do your best to figure your own story, but it likes to take on its own shape as it goes.  In my present case, A Mischief in the Woodwork has decided it wants to be about 5-7 thousand words shorter than I originally predicted.  The actual, original estimate that showed on my calculator, admittedly, was also less than 120,000, but I know from finishing a few books that my endings seem to like to drag themselves out.  It’s like that’s when I really get into the whole thing, when I can see the finish line, and I’m excited, and the characters are excited, and the prose starts flowing, and everything is set up to just fall into place, at that point, so I know just where I’m going and how to get there without maneuvering through any more tricksy plotting, so the rest can just LAY ITSELF OUT ON THE PAGES.  So I went ahead and accounted for the likelihood of such happening, and rounded my estimate up to that nice, round, 120,000.

But this book isn’t doing that.  For the first time that I can remember, it’s fitting itself into a nice, concise, consistent little box.  And that’s fine with me.  It means I’m closer to finishing than I thought, which is great – especially because this is a longer book than my usual ‘write-a-book-in-a-month’ books, and will take longer to edit.  Of course, speaking of editing, the added words from that will probably see the thing come in at about – oh – 120,000 words anyway.  So I’ve probably reworked all my calculations for nothing.  But hey.

(On a side note, I’m running a free promotion for the ebook of my fantasy/thriller Mind Games over at Amazon.com.  It was one of those ‘on-the-side’ books that I never thought would do much, but it’s actually performed remarkably well.  Who knew?  Check it out (and download it for free!) here: Mind Games Freebie).  Its cover and blurb:



I have never known anything but the quaint legacy of Candleshire. As Mrs. Larkley would put it, “a homestead of community where everyone knows everyone”.

I never prepared myself for a stranger in our midst. Someone who wouldn’t knock. Someone who wouldn’t stay for tea. Someone we wouldn’t see at all.

But someone who would leave a most peculiar footprint. You’ve never seen anything like the silent brand I awoke to, marked by some stealthy artist in the night, tattooed without a whisper for something not of my making.

I would like to say I didn’t wake up one morning victim to a stranger’s unleashed conspiracy, harnessed for unknown treachery beyond my capacity.

But it would be a lie, if I still belonged to a world in which lies carry any weight.