Your suggestions, please!

Our 3.6 Loyal Readers will have noticed two new books out from Yr. Obt. Svt. I am happy to report that my health is unusually good so far this month, except for stubbed toes and similar trifles. While this good fortune holds, I want to see what else I can finish and get out the door, to hold the interest of the Amazon ‘also-bot’ now that I have attracted its attention.

What I am hoping to do is a variation of the so-called Liliana Nirvana technique, so named by Hugh Howey. The original technique was used by romance writer Liliana Hart, with great success, and has been successfully replicated by a number of other authors. Ms. Hart, who is perhaps less inclined to be wilfully silly than Mr. Howey, calls it her ‘five down, one in the hole’ technique. It works like this:

Annual releases are too slow to build on one another. And not just in the repetition of getting eyeballs on your works, but in how online recommendation algorithms work. Liliana suggests publishing 5 works all at once. Same day. And she thinks you should have another work sitting there ready to go a month later. While these works are gaining steam, write the next work, which if you write and edit in two months, will hit a month after the ‘hole’ work.

This technique catapulted Ms. Hart from unpublished to earning a living in a few months.

There’s just one problem: I can’t use it.

You see, the purebred Liliana Nirvana requires that these be your first five books, and that they all be published on the same day. I haven’t got five books ready to go at once, and at this point, I can’t afford to wait until I do have. Also, my existing books have attracted some readers and acquired some reviews, and I don’t want to lose that by unpublishing and re-releasing them (which, apparently, is a variation of the Technique that has been successfully tried.

What I can do, though, is build on the momentum started by The Worm of the Ages and Style is the Rocket, and put out several more books as quickly as I can. It’s a question of which projects are closest to completion, and which ones are likely to yield the best return on a small investment of time.

Going over my stuff in drydock, I see the following unfinished ships, roughly in order of how close they are to completion:

  1. Another essai collection, more general in nature than my previous ones. Tentative title, Superversive: Essays on Life, Language, and Literature.
  2. The ‘pilot episode’ (novella length) of Where Angels Die, samples of which have previously appeared in these pages.
  3. A collection of pieces by H. Smiggy McStudge – if he will consent to write two more of his snarks, which, I think, will be required to fill out a book.
  4. A novella called The Stone Sword, which is set in the same world as The Eye of the Maker, and reveals the previous history of a few of the characters that you will (eventually) meet in volume 2, The Grey Death.
  5. The Grey Death itself, resuming (at long last) the forward motion of the Magnificent Octopus itself, The Eye of the Maker.

This last project will take at least a couple of months to finish. The first four can be done in a matter of days or weeks; and if I work very hard and luck holds, I may be able to put three of them out by the end of June – which would give me a sort of soft-pedalled Liliana Nirvana, spread out over a full month.

I invite the Loyal 3.6, and all and sundry, to offer your suggestions. Which of these books would you like to see me release, and which do you think I should concentrate on? Or do you have another idea, involving something I have overlooked? All comments are most welcome.


  1. I vote for Smiggy’s filthy screed first, to follow up the witty tone of The Worm of the Ages. After which I’d suggest The Stone Sword to gain some momentum for The Grey Death to be released in a couple months or so.

    • It does seem to me that The Stone Sword should be released immediately before The Grey Death. I’ll definitely be wanting to release more than one title ahead of them both, though.

  2. One, three, four/two– Smiggy and the essays for sure.
    Of course, I’ve been hollering for the essays since forever, but the main thing is that I think they play to your strengths while also playing into the other books.

  3. Essay collection. Followed by Smiggy’s.

    And — err — if it’s feasible — Death Carries a Camcorder in paperback.

  4. I’m split just about equally between a Smiggy McStudge collection and a new essay collection. Both sound wonderful.

  5. I vote for the order you crafted above – mainly because I think your collected essai are indeed your best work and the Where Angels Die teasers are also wonderful. Smiggy I have to be in the “right mood” for but enjoy them when I am properly disposed. Four and five both sound great but seem like they may be further from completion and hence harder to use to start things off.

  6. I would strongly suggest rethinking the title of Superversive: Essays on Life, Language, and Literature, simply because your other titles are so unusual, evocative, have a clear visual and a similar rhythm to them. It seems like your hallmark, or branding if you will.

    Writing down the Dragon
    Death Carries a Camcorder
    Style is the Rocket
    Superversive: Essays on Life, Language, and Literature?? Non sequitur.

    Maybe something along the lines of, Superversive: Found in the Universe (but better).

    • Subtitles are always negotiable. I’m not happy with that one myself, but haven’t thought of anything better yet.

      Working titles are tricky. This is why I come up with things like ‘Magnificent Octopus’ and ‘Orchard of Dis-Pear’ in the early stages of a work. I actually have an unfinished novel, tucked away somewhere, with the working title ‘BARPH II’.

  7. You know, I was desperately googling, because I could not remember the exact title or author of Lost in the Cosmos, which I was trying to riff on. Lo and behold, I click over to John’s blog and Walker Percy is staring at me out of the comments section. Life is funny.

  8. Bob McMaster says

    I seem to be in the minority, but I would vote for 5, 4, 2, 1, 3 in that order. I enjoy your essais, to be sure, but the reason I began buying your books in earnest was to encourage and support your efforts so that you’d finish The Eye of the Maker. As for McStudge, well, I find him so uncongenial that I must admit I don’t know that I’d buy a book that only had him in it.

    Looking over what others have said, though, I’m probably not the person to whom you ought listen.

    • I shall listen to everybody who comments, and I greatly appreciate your confidence in The Eye of the Maker. I assure you, I fully intend to get back to The Grey Death with plans for an autumn release. I just need to have some cash coming in before then.

      • Bob McMaster says

        I quite understand that it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Those were simply my druthers. Choose any book but McStudge and I shall endeavor to be first in line with cash in hand.

    • Stephen J. says

      I too would want to have The Grey Death sooner than anything else, though I would take both Superversive and “McStudge” with great enjoyment given their comparative closer-to-completion state. (Suggestion for the McStudge book’s title: The Gehenna Memoranda: Instructions on Destruction from H. Smiggy McStudge, Esq.?)

      What I need to do first is buy Death Carries a Camcorder, though. Seriously behind on that.

  9. I know someone who tried the technique, and wasn’t happy with it, after all her work – it didn’t work for her kind of writing.

    And there’s nothing magical about ‘five’ – no guarantees, no demons summoned to guide its passage.

    Do whatever number seems comfortable.

    • Oh, I’m not expecting magical results from five. But it does seem, in a more general way, that more titles = more sales per title, thanks to the inner workings of the Also Bot. And I do have a certain amount of hurry-up required here, so I want to get as much output as possible this summer.

  10. Nathan says

    I would be selfish and ask for the essays first, but I look forward to all.

  11. Please check out the Castalia House blog tomorrow morning. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    • Sir, you do me too much honour. To be compared with Wolfe is a heady dose; to be compared with Chesterton would be positively frightening, if I had escaped that particular comparison until now. (It helps that I am a tall fat man with a strong tendency to crack wise. These qualities make it rather difficult for anyone who knows G. K. C. not to think of me as sort of a cheap knockoff edition of him.)

      But I do rather revel in the feeling of being heard. As I said in ‘Why I write’, I have always wanted to take part in the Great Conversation that is Western literature; and it is a comfort to me to know that when I speak into the apparent void, somebody is listening with sympathy and understanding. Also, it may help me sell some books; a consummation devoutly (by me) to be wished.

      Since no good deed ever goes unpunished (as I think I said to you in an email a few days ago), I am about to complicate your task. It is true that I have only six books out at present, but I am scrambling to add to that number, and hope to reach double digits this summer, if only by a transparent subterfuge. That will give your pen something more to do; if your readers do not yawn and tell you to change the subject, as might, alas, easily happen. I hope they do not.

  12. Andrew Brew says

    I would go for almost the order in which you list them: 1, 3, 2, 4, 5. That is, the essays first (yours and McStudge’s), then the fiction. I am looking forward to more of “Where Angels Die”. Do you have much beyond the novella as a followup, or will that have to wait?

    • I have a good deal of stuff plotted out for subsequent episodes of Where Angels Die, but not yet written. However, much of it will be open-cast mining – an analogy I got from Richard Usborne: I can write a lot of it off the top of my head, without deep digging. In a variety of peculiar ways, Angels draws on things I learned while studying M*A*S*H in such detail. I hope to have more news very soon.


  1. […] I should like to release all of them at once, and get some of the ‘Liliana Nirvana’ effect I referred to earlier. We shall see if this has a salutary effect on […]

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