Thursday, October 6, 2016

#poweredbyindie: No one can take this away from me

Want to know a secret? I never tried to find a publisher. I never even considered it. I was DIY from Jump Street because I didn't want to tell marketable stories.

I wanted to publish whatever the hell I wanted.

My first novella, The Single Staircase, was plotted over years but written in just a couple months. It's 18,000 words of gritty, depressing, determined cop talk, mashed up with an Agatha Christie-style locked room puzzle. No publisher in the world would have touched it. But why would I have needed them to? It was exactly the story I wanted to tell.

So I got on to CreateSpace and KDP and figured out the process. And today the Owl and Raccoon series has fans all over the world.

Now, Sin Walks Into The Desert? That book, I could've found a publisher for. Desert noir isn't really a thing, but sexy tattooed loner kids with guns and grudges are pretty fucking marketable. But by the time I finished writing it, I was rolling. I loved my book. I wanted to make it real. Even more, I wanted ultimate responsibility for its success or failure.

Sin went on to sell thousands of copies, get picked up by the Thrilling 13 anthology, and win Shelf Unbound's award for Best Independent Novel of 2015.

At this point, any sane publisher would have been hounding me for more Sin books. But I wanted to jump genres. Sever is a melancholy memoir about college in the '90's, but with four rampaging ax murderers running around. Should it be marketed as YA horror or Gen X time capsule? I don't know. It's not my problem.

The most important thing is this. Every day I get to look myself in the mirror and say, "I did this. Maybe it sucks and maybe it's brilliant. Maybe it'll find an audience and maybe it won't. But I did this. And no one can take that away from me."

All because one day I decided to jump. To upload the file. To hit the publish button. To be #poweredbyindie.

[Ed. - This post is part of Amazon's #poweredbyindie month. I hear a lot of griping about how Amazon is a giant juggernaut that uses authors. But if Amazon didn't provide free publishing tools and a free sales platform, I might not be an author to begin with. The Single Staircase would still be a 122-page Word doc in a folder somewhere. So thanks, Amazon.]

Sunday, September 25, 2016

No damn character arcs: The story behind the missing Owl and Raccoon novella

In January 2015, I sent a breathless get-stoked message to my email list. "The third Owl and Raccoon novella is coming! A kindergartner disappears from a moving school bus! Here's the gripping opening chapter!"

Cut to July 2016. I finally published the third Owl and Raccoon novella. Except it was called Not With A Bang. And the missing kid was a teenager. And the bus was a city bus. And, yeah, obviously not the same book.

So what happened to the novella I'd titled Last Child Missing?

One of my goals when I sat down to write the very first Owl and Raccoon novella, The Single Staircase, was to avoid anything that looked like a character arc. Owl and Raccoon were adults uniquely suited, in different ways, to hunt for missing children. The decision they make in that book's final pages was based on decades of dedicated police work and frustrated personal lives. They weren't meant to evolve, they were meant to find Sophia Grey.

But after the second Owl and Raccoon novella, WDYG, I started to get a clear vision of where Owl and Raccoon were going in their lives. I knew them as humans. And I wanted to let them follow their different paths.

So when I wrote Last Child Missing, I ended it with a moment that would irrevocably alter the course of their lives. And here it is:

Raccoon executes a pedophile and Owl covers it up.

I came so close to publishing that book. But I couldn't do it. Because I hated my ending. It was like the serial killer from The Wire. Or the episode where you learned Buffy was hallucinating. Or that whole arc where Crockett got amnesia. It was a moment so stunning it eradicated the grinding, quiet, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other universe I had worked so hard to create.

So I sat on Last Child Missing. For sixteen months.

This was harder than it sounds. While Sin Walks Into the Desert is my most successful book, it's had tons of advertising, awards and reviews supporting it. Meanwhile, the Owl and Raccoon novellas just kept plowing forward, earning readers through giveaways, word-of-mouth, and the support of blogs like The Locked Room Mystery and The Invisible Event. I needed to keep the momentum going with a third installment, but I couldn't make myself publish Last Child Missing.

Unfortunately coming up with a third mystery was hard. Wait, that's inaccurate. I came up with dozens of great mysteries. It was coming up with one great solution that took forever.

But eventually, I figured it out. And I'm glad I waited. Not With A Bang moves Owl and Raccoon forward in a way that's true to the characters and the series as a whole. The title is an allusion not only to the book's end, but to the struggle I faced writing it. In the real world, there's no big catharsis and there's no dramatic closure. There's just people making the best decisions they can with flawed and incomplete information.

Or as Owl himself says, "We're all good men. Things just go sideways on us."

[Ed. - If you've never read any Owl and Raccoon books, I recently published The Single Staircase, WDYG and Not With A Bang in one collected box set entitled Owl And Raccoon: Locked. You can get it on Amazon now.]

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Not With A Bang featured today on The Invisible Event

Mystery blogs like The Invisible EventThe Locked Room, Brandywine Books  and Crime Fiction Lover have been so encouraging to me. Most days I feel like publishing a book is just flipping pennies into a well. And then, at last, there's a splash.

Today the former has a five-star review up of the third book in the Owl & Raccoon series, Not With A Bang:
[W]hat I particularly love about Ingwalson’s writing is how inside of those words he finds so much space for pathos, and fear, and hope, and redemption, and love, and all the other quiet things that gnaw away at us, and it makes these achingly human stories motivated by these beautifully universal themes. But — crucially — he does it without ever smacking you over the head about how Human and Universal his themes are, and throws in an excellent update of the impossible crime while doing so, keeping everything moving at a brilliant pace and slowly binding these threads tighter to each other on the way to the solution.
And the blog's writer let me publish a guest post, too:
The man’s nose had been broken and his teeth were bloody. He was looking into the cop car. And he was laughing at me. 
Why was he laughing at me? 
For a second, I couldn’t figure it out. I was on an overnight ride-along with the Denver police department. And a stabbing at a club had incited a legit riot. Hundreds of half-drunk club-goers had poured onto the street and for several minutes, our city was chaos.
Go check the whole thing out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Episode two of the Optimism Delivers podcast: True Detective and The Sources of Inspiration

I did another solo episode of Optimism Delivers. Based partially on my earlier post on True Detective's second season. And partially on a bunch of other thoughts I have about what creatives tend to do when they feel like their backs are against a wall. Check it out.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Owl & Raccoon #3. Get it first, get it free.

Not With A Bang, the next Owl & Raccoon locked room mystery, is just about wrapped up. So this is a reminder that everybody on my email list gets a free advance reader copy. Subscribe in the sidebar of this blog before July 17 if you're interested.