Marching Along

Books are moving along, and my health is a generally upward trend. I have the final text for Debts of My Fathers finished. I still have to write the front and back matter as well as format it for e-book and print. I’ve contracted an artist for the cover, and it should be ready sometime in April. So, that will be coming soon, at long last.

I’m still integrating the copy edits into Hell Bent, but I have started work with a cover design company for its cover, which should be available in June. The fire under that one isn’t burning quite as hot. I’m closing in on the end of the draft of its sequel Stone Killer, with hopes that I’ll be able to release that one by the end of the 2016.

I’m also in the process of rereleasing both Beneath the Sky and Ships of My Fathers. Don’t expect any major changes to them. I’m fixing one error in one and adding a clarifying sentence in the other. However, Beneath the Sky is getting a new cover. In fact, once I have Debts of My Fathers settled, I plan to contract that artist to redo the cover for Ships as well as the rest of the series.

And speaking of the rest of the series, I hope to be editing book 3, Oaths of My Fathers, by the time Debts is released with an eye towards releasing it later in 2016.

That’s it for now.

2015 In Review, and 2016 Goals

calendarpagesMy overriding goal for 2015 was to get books out the door. I actually made a lot of progress, but I don’t have much to show for it. I did put a story out in a Christmas anthology (Demon’s Delight), but that is my only publication this year. That story is something of a prequel to my urban fantasy novel Hell Bent, but that hasn’t been published yet. Mostly, it was a year of editing, but I’m mostly done with two books. Hell Bent is back from the copy-editor, and I’m working on the cover and production now. Debts of My Fathers (the very-long-awaited sequel to Ships of My Fathers) was just handed off to the copy editor today. So while I say I made some progress, I ended the year with the same number of books in the queue as I had at the beginning of the year: six.

2015 was also the second full calendar year that I’ve been suffering from this chronic back pain. Specifically, I have two herniated discs on either side of the T7 vertebrae. I had a total of four cortisone injections, but they were not very effective. I did a lot of physical therapy. It improved things, but I kind of plateaued with merely moderate chronic pain instead of severe chronic pain. As a result hitting that wall, the physical therapy folks kind of fired me. Looking back on it, I think I hit the wall because they weren’t pushing me hard enough, i.e. the necessary strength training wasn’t using enough resistance to get the results they wanted. So, I’m looking at physical therapy again with an eye towards pushing to more strength training.

2015 was also the year that I caught a lucky break and found almost-but-not-quite-yet colon cancer while it was still in the PREcancerous stage. Had I not been suffering from all the chronic pain and doing lots of extra tests because of it, we would not have seen this for another 3-4 years, by which time it would have been stage-3 or stage-4 cancer. The doctors were able to excise it with clean margins in a fairly simple operation that only kept me off my feet for a week or so.

And 2015 was another tough year for me and my special-needs kids, especially with my oldest son. We’re now getting additional help from the state and county organizations, and I have hopes for greater levels of intervention in 2016.

So, my goals for 2016 are about the same as my goals for 2015: Get Books Out The Door! I think I have a much better chance of achieving that this year though. Two books are approaching the finish line, and then I have the rest of the year to do more. I’ve been heads-down on getting Debts handed off to the copy editor, so I have not yet done proper planning for 2016, but it’s quite conceivable that in addition to Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent, I might also get their sequels out before the end of the year. So after a couple of years with virtually no publications, I might manage four books this year. But like I said, I haven’t done proper planning for the year yet.

Still, I can confidently state that I will get Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent out this year, probably in Q1. I’ll make another post later on once I’ve sat down and planned out the rest of the year.

Moving Right Along

It’s been another month, and things are moving along. I handed off all my stuff for the Christmas UF Anthology today, and I’ve reviewed and approved some of the Hell Bent copyedits as part of that since the anthology will include an excerpt. Of course, none of that matters to you folks who have been waiting for Debts of My Fathers.

So at this point, the deck is clear for Debts of My Fathers. I’m not going to do another round of beta readers at this point. I think I’ve fixed the main issues raised by the first round of beta readers, and I’m just going to have to believe that my fixes are good. I still have a few details to hammer out, and then I’ll do the language pass where I look out for my problematic words and phrases. As each book goes forward, I’m catching more and more of these, and the most recent, “towards”, was caught by my copyeditor for Hell Bent. So anyway, I’m pushing towards that and then handing it off to the copyeditor sometime next week. At least, that’s the plan. It might need through next weekend as well, but as I’m already on Plan G, I’m trying to avoid Plan H. I still think I’ll get it out this calendar year, but it’s going to be tight, particularly on the cover.

I also have the final art for the new Beneath the Sky cover, so I’ll be pushing that out soon, but to be honest, it’s taking a back seat to my edits to Debts of My Fathers.

When it does finally go out the door, I will be sure to send email out to the list, so sign up if you want to be notified.

As for my health, October was a really painful month with extra stress to my back from stuff around the house plus two business trips.  It’s gotten some better in November. The pain is still there a fair amount, but the back spasms have mostly stopped, and they were the source of the worst pain. That is, the steady state pain is in the 5-7 range while the spasms took me up to 9 and a little beyond. I haven’t passed out yet (the definition of 10), but I have seen stars.  We’re running a few more tests, and I’m meeting with surgeons, but that’s mostly to confirm the non-surgeon opinion that the herniated disc is not operable.

Progress on Debts and the Possibility of NaNoWriMo

I’m finally making good headway on the edits to Debts of My Fathers. I’m behind schedule again, but I’m moving quickly at last. My target is to get it to the state of its second Beta by the first of November. I have a punch list of things to address, and I’m working my way down that list. Still, my goal of December looks more like January now, which will suck. But we’ll see.

Part of what’s driving me towards getting those edits done by November is that I’d like to take a stab at NaNoWriMo again this year. I don’t think I’ll be properly starting from scratch, though, but I do have an unfinished project that could use another 50,000 words. It’s the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer, and I won’t take Hell Bent to the polish stage until its sequel is at least first-draft complete.

Still, Debts is my primary goal. If I get beta-reader feedback before November is up, it will take priority over the draft of Stone Killer. If I can get Debts polished by the end of November, then depending on the copyeditor’s schedule, a late December release is still a possibility.

In other news, my back is continuing to give me a lot of pain. The doc has me on anti-inflammatory steroids at this point. They’re helping some, but it’s a matter of dropping the pain from a 10 to an 8. Which is to say, when it seizes up, I can now sometimes keep my eyes open as I scream. Not fun, but I guess it’s something.

2014: The Next Step

It’s goal-setting time again! I avoid resolutions because they tend to take the form of “exercise every day” and crumble into disappointment by February. I aim for SMART goals. That’s one bit of corporate wisdom I’ve actually hung onto. The SMART acronym has a bunch of different expansions, but for me it means that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Not all good goals fall into this, such as my goal of making friends with more writers last year, but I still think it’s good to think about those criteria when setting goals.

It’s also important at times like this to think about goals instead of dreams. Goals are results that can be achieved through a series of my own actions without requiring the actions of others. Writing a novel is a good goal. Winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel is not a good goal, because it requires the actions of a lot of WorldCon voters. That, instead, falls into the category of dreams. The best I can do is to set goals that I believe will make my dreams more likely.

So, with that in mind, here are my big goals for 2014:

1. Write one million words.
2. Get 500,000 words out there (blog/publish/etc).

Crazy? Well, let me give you a little background. I honed my skills early on with NaNoWriMo, writing 50,000 words of a novel during Novembers over the years. 50,000 words never completed the actual story, but it was a good start, and I could finish it off in the weeks/months/years that followed. I skipped NaNoWriMo this most recent year to focus on the edits to Debts of My Fathers, and I really missed it.

Then I caught wind of another group challenge amongst my writer friends on Google+. The idea was to write one million words in 2014. The insane pace of it appealed to me – it’s like one and a half NaNoWriMo’s, twelve months in a row. In fact, it appealed to me a in a way that scared the crap out of me, the same way NaNoWriMo did a decade ago.

But to be honest, drafting new fiction has not been my biggest problem. It’s been editing it, polishing it off, and getting it out there door where readers can actually see it. At the moment, there are about 230,000 words sitting in my edit queue. (Closer to 270,000 if you count the work already done on Stone Killer.) If I were to simply crank out a million words… I shudder to think what my edit queue would look like then. It’s the very reason I did not do NaNoWriMo in 2013.

So, I added the goal of getting 500,000 words out there. That would clear out my current queue, plus some. Now, if I count some blog posts, social media, etc. – in short, anything relatively public – I’m really only looking at 350,000 words of fiction to get out there. That 350,000 doesn’t have to come entirely from fiction I write this year, so I’m already most of the way there with the three and a half novels in my edit queue. Still, I will have to get them out the door, plus one more that I write from scratch. So that’s four to five novels to publish, as one of them is quite short. As a stretch goal, though, I’d like to make that 500,000 words of published novels, or about six or seven novels. Otherwise, I’m going to end the year with an edit queue double the size I have now.

Are these SMART goals? I think they’re clearly Specific, Measurable, and Time-bound. I also think they’re fairly Relevant to achieving my long-term goals of getting more books out there. The real question is whether they’re Attainable. I will say more about that next week in my next writing column. It’s a little too long and philosophical to include here.

So those are the big goals. I do have a few other smaller goals that are only tangentially related to writing.

3) I’ve become friends with a number of other writers and editors online, and now I’d like to actually meet some of them face to face. I’m not about to go stalking their neighborhoods or anything. Mostly I’m just going to start paying attention to which conventions they are going to and seeing whether or not they fit with my convention schedule. This might not happen until the 2015 WorldCon for some of the ones further afield, but I would like to meet up with some other south-central ones sooner than that.

4) I want to beef up this website quite a bit. In fact, it might even be changing names or URLs, but I will make sure everything forwards over properly. I also want to set up a mailing list for any interested parties, and if you’ve been commenting regularly on the blog or inquiring after future releases, I’ll try to get you onto it from the beginning.

5) Again, I want to improve my health. It’s been fairly poor this year, but I am taking steps to improve it. If nothing else, this most recent sinus surgery should help knock down the 4-5 sinus infections I’ve been getting every year.

That’s it for now. A modest share of those million words will end up here, so look for more content. I’m also fairly active over on Google+, so you can check me out there.

2013: The Year in Review

Each year I set out goals rather than resolutions, and as part of that, I monitor my progress and make some assessments at the end of the year. So, how did I do this year?

My writing goals this last year were to
1) Publish two new novels, and I managed only one: Ships of My Fathers
2) Write two new novels, and I only managed one and a half: Shattered and part of Stone Killers
3) Keep up the blog, and I feel down on that more than I wanted.

In more detail, I probably could have pushed Hell Bent (the first of my urban fantasy series) out the door this year, but I decided I should be focusing my efforts where I already have an audience in space opera, so I spent the latter part of the year focusing on getting Debts of My Fathers out the door. It is not out yet, but I did make progress.

As for the writing, I did crank out a draft of Shattered, my first attempt at a mystery, but it will need a lot of work before it can even make it to the beta readers. I started on Stone Killer, the sequel to Hell Bent, but when I decided to delay the release of Hell Bent, I put Stone Killer on hold. It’s still sitting in the draft mode about halfway through.

On the blog, it fell apart over the summer for one reason and then again in the fall for another reason. A full schedule of posts would have been 156 posts, and this little gem will bring it up to 107, or about 68%, compared with last year’s 135/85%.

I also had a few other goals where I had varying levels of success. I wanted to do better multitasking, so that when I was blocked (or waiting on someone) with one project, I would be working on another. I did some better this year, but there was plenty of room for improvement. I also set the goal of doing a little bit of marketing/promotion this year, and I dipped my toes in with some success. I think my biggest boost, however, came from Nathan Lowell pointing me out to his many fans – in whose number I am proud to count myself. Mostly, though, it was having some business cards and a book-promo card that gave me a more professional feeling.

I also had a vague goal of making friends with more writers, particularly those who are cohort, i.e. those in about the same place in our careers. This, I must say, was one of my greatest successes of the year. Between Google+ and a local Meetup group, I befriended several authors who are about as early in their careers as I am, give or take a couple of years. Some are coming up fast, and some are racing ahead of me. Others can use a hand up, and I’ve done what I can to pass along the help that other writers have been so generous to grant me.

I did battle two problems throughout the year that severely impacted my ability to make progress on these writing goals. First, as bad as my health was in 2012, it was worse in 2013 and included a hospitalization and then later on, some long-delayed sinus surgery. As if to make a point, as I write this, I am running a low fever from a GI bug that’s been working its way through the family since Christmas. I do have some plans to make this better in 2014, but only time will tell.

The second problem was from my kids. I don’t talk about this much, but I have special-needs children. This year, the eldest (who is autistic) took something of a turn for the worse in August, and it has made the rest of the year much more difficult. I don’t want to gripe with the details, but it as the kids say these days, my difficulties here are “totes legit!” I do not have much of a solution going forward except to stay the course and keep trying.

Still, I did start seeing some commercial success this year. At one point, an agent challenged me by saying it was not quite “quitting the day job” money, but I was able to reply that it was enough to pretty much pay all the monthly bills short of the mortgage, i.e. electric, water, phone, cable, etc., with a little left over. Some of my favorite people sold well and even won some awards. I also put out a novel that I’m very happy with, and I’m very grateful to live in a time that I can choose to do that rather than merely hope to do that. So, while I’m a little unhappy with the things I did not get done, I’m full of warm fuzzies for things I did get done.

Check back tomorrow where I plan to lay down some epic goals for 2014.

NaNoWriMo: Why I love it, why I hate it, and why I’m not doing it this year…

As October winds down, new writers across the globe are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month of November. The challenge is to start with a blank page and write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. It boils down to 1667 blood-soaked words every day, and at last count, more than 125,000 wordsmiths are gearing up for it this year.

squirrel-winner-100I love NaNoWriMo! After piddling around for twenty years with outlines, back-stories, and world-building – and barely three chapters of actual novel – NaNoWriMo got my butt into the chair for some serious work. In 2004, I put in 51,000 words on a novel that was something like Pinocchio’s tale but with androids. I never did actually finish off the plot for that story, but by the time I finally gave up, I had more than 65,000 words of a novel. The story has its problems, and it was on target to be a bloated 150,000 words, but damn it, it was more than I had written in any single tale I had ever attempted. It felt good, and it made me the dedicated pantser that I am today.

And NaNoWriMo has done more than clutter my closet with unfinished drafts. My first published book, Beneath the Sky, started with my 2005 NaNoWriMo win. I finished it off in the summer of 2007. My upcoming entry into urban fantasy, Hell Bent, started with my 2010 NaNoWriMo win and was finished off the next September. And Ships of My Fathers, the start of the Father Chessman Saga, was my 2011 NaNoWriMo book, actually completed in December immediately after the rush of my fourth NaNoWriMo win!

2005_nanowrimo_winner_largeI love the camaraderie, the constant updating of my word-count spreadsheet, and even the crazy rush as the week of Thanksgiving rolls around. It takes one of the loneliest tasks in the world and turns it into a party. The success and failures of those around you gives you both inspiration and cautionary tales. So, if you have ever thought about writing a novel, I encourage you dive on in and make NaNoWriMo 2013 your path to wordsmithing glory!

But I also hate NaNoWriMo! Yes, I know… it’s great for getting you moving, for getting a lot of those glumpy words out of the noodle factory between our ears, and for daring you to even make the attempt. It’s not quite Steal Fire From The Gods Month, but sure, it taps into stuff only the immortals can handle. Yep, great stuff… in November.

The real problems show up on December 1.

First of all, you very likely don’t have a novel on December 1. I know that e-books and the liberty of self-publishing are shattering the preconceived notions of proper book length, but the reality is that readers are used to books of certain lengths in different genres. Light romances and quick mysteries might squeeze down to 50,000 words, but most start at 60,000. Sci-fi and urban fantasies like to play in the range of 80,000 to 120,000 words. And then there are a number of weighty tomes across those genres that flop down on the beach with 150,000 to 250,000 words.

nano_10_winner_120x240-6Even apart from word-count, did you actually get to the end of the story? Have Bilbo and the dwarves defeated Smaug, or are they just now leaving Rivendale? When I bailed on my 2004 effort (the unnamed Pinocchio tale), I was barely past the 40% mark of where that story was going. On December 1, 2005, Beneath the Sky had just dealt with the pirate attack. That pattern carried through on both Hell Bent and Ships of My Fathers. I was proceeding at the right plot-pace to get to 80-100,000 words, but I simply hadn’t gotten there yet. No one wants to read a book that ends in Act II.

But even once you finish a novel-sized draft – truly, an accomplishment even greater than a NaNoWriMo victory – you’ve only just begun. If your first drafts are anything like mine, what you have is a bucket of words. I say bucket because if this is your first NaNoWriMo, then you will be vomiting forth a fair number of those words, and it shows. I don’t merely mean typos and sloppy grammar. No, I mean that there are fundamental problems with your plot, your characters, your… your… well, your everything. But that’s what editing is for, and NaNoWriMo at least gave you something to edit.

But it is not a ready-to-publish novel. In recent years, I have often heard that most terrible claim, “All right – just need to run the thing through spell-check and then format it for Kindle!” No. No, NO, NO!

So that’s the main thing I hate about NaNoWriMo. It suggests that you have won the race when in truth, you have only gotten off the starting blocks. The race is long, and it’s going to take a lot longer than a month – even one of the ones with thirty-one days.

Winner_120_200_whiteSo, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but not because of the reasons I hate it. Nor am I dead set on never doing NaNoWriMo again in the future. It’s just that I’ve gotten past the point where I need it to be November for me to pile on in and write a new novel. Since 2011 I’ve written two other novels, neither of which were in November. I plugged away with NaNoWriMo intensity – typically shooting for 2500 words per day, not a mere 1667. I think I’ve mastered the process of getting that first draft out of my brain and onto the page.

But what I’m still struggling with is the process of turning that bilious bucket of draft into a publishable novel. Right now I have three novels grinding their way through the editing gears. The furthest along is Hell Bent, but the highest priority is Debts of My Fathers. Shattered, my attempt at a mystery, is going to wait for a while.

And here it is, the closing days of October, and believe me, the adrenaline rush of NaNoWriMo is calling to me, but I’m not going to do it. I certainly don’t need an unfinished draft distracting me in December, and even if I finished it off in November, I don’t need to have a fourth novel cluttering up my editing queue. No, what I need is the month of November to work on the novels that are already written and fighting their way towards publication. I know this sounds lame, but I’ve got to make the grown-up decision and work on edits this November, and that means I don’t have the hours in the day to do NaNoWriMo.

But somewhere down the line, I will find myself gearing up for another draft in late October, and when I do, I will almost certainly put on my NaNo hat again and ride off to do battle with the 1667.  In the meantime, I salute those of you heading into the fray this year.

Heading off to WorldCon and a Few Writing Updates

pocket-programI’m heading off to WorldCon this morning. I haven’t been since 2000 in Chicago, mostly because of the kids and the difficulty of travelling. Now, of course, the kids are older, and this year it’s just down the road in San Antonio. I’m definitely looking forward to it, but at the same time, I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in the programming.

You see, in all my years of going to SF/F conventions, I’ve often attended the writer-centric panels. They tended to be split between the craft itself and a dozen different ways of asking the question, “How do I get published?” I’m still interested in the panels discussing the craft of writing, but I’m no longer interested in the panels on getting published. I chose to go indie, so I’m not particularly interested in tips on crafting an agent query letter.

But I figured that with self-publishing (or indie publishing as the cool kids say) on the rise, there would be some panels talking about that. Well, no, it turns out there aren’t any. The closest it comes is what looks to be a defense of traditional publishing with all the agents, editors, and publishers holding the line and a separate discussion on the transition from print books to e-books, though not about the business changes that represents.

Meanwhile, I have seen estimates that anywhere from 10%- 30% of the SF stories being read today are by independent authors like myself. A quick glance at Amazon’s top 20 SF books shows me that about half of them are from indie authors. Mind you, this is across all SF books, not just SF e-books. Amazon represents about half of the US book market, so even if you cut that ten of twenty in half, you still have about 25% of those top sellers coming from the indie world. (A brief note to statisticians: I realized this is a very rough estimate, but there are no real, solid numbers available on this anywhere.)

Apparently, whoever did the programming for this year’s WorldCon didn’t get the memo. I can’t entirely blame them though. Most of their main guests and headliners come from the ranks of traditional publishing. This is sure to affect their mindset. Then again, with the commercial success of Wool, it might not be that long before an indie shows up on the fan-based Hugo ballot.

Still, there’s plenty to see and do, so I’m looking forward to it.

As for the rest of the writing, August was something of a crap-fest, particularly towards the end. I have special needs children, and their needs became, well… extra special this month. The last Friday before school, we put two and two together and have made a change to one of the medications, and that is already paying some dividends. And of course, they’re now officially back in school, granting me hours of kid-free time each day to do productive work.

And what work have I done so far? I confess much of this week has been spent on catching up on some administrivia that had nothing to do with writing. I sold off an old flatbed trailer. I dealt with some insurance issues for my mother. And quite lamely, I paid the water bill just in time to keep it from being disconnected. But I’m at least gearing up again. Here’s the current state of various projects:

Shattered: Draft done and lying fallow for the next few months.

Stone Killer: I’m about 40% of the way through at 32,000 words. I’m hoping to wrap it up sometime in September.

Hell Bent: I’m still waiting on the rest of my beta feedback. I’ve gotten three out of the six so far, and while it’s generally been good, I’ve got a pacing problem in the first third that I haven’t figured out how to fix yet.

Debts of My Fathers: It’s still in edits. I found this particularly hard to work on with the kids home in summer. Drafting new words was easier by comparison, because I could do that on my laptop. In fact, much of the new text for Shattered and Stone Killer was written in the early morning, down in the kitchen, while I cooked large batches of my picky son’s favorite food. Alas, I have to edit in my office where I can spread out with my printed copy and hand-written notes. Long-story short: I did not get much good editing time in my office this summer.

Oaths of My Fathers: It’s still in pre-draft limbo. I will attempt to get started on it once I had Debts of My Fathers off to the beta readers, and I will want to finish it before I send Debts to the copyeditor.

You may note that I left the dates off those. Well, they’ve slipped since my original estimates in June – I’m just not sure how much yet. Debts of My Fathers is the priority since I have readers asking for it, and I still hope to get that out around the end of the year or the beginning of 2014. Hell Bent, which is actually further along will very likely wait until after Debts of My Fathers is out the door. As one friend recently said, I’ve primed the pump for chocolate, so I need to deliver more chocolate before I send out the mint.

That’s it for now.

Shattered Complete

shattered_vaseSo… I finished off my fifth novel this morning, or at least the first draft of it. It’s a mystery, tentatively titled Shattered. I wrote it mostly as an experiment, and I did learn several things from it. It will likely see publication sometime next year, but given the genre difference, I will probably publish it under a different author name.

First, the vital stats: It came in short – quite short – at 51,551 words. As I’ve often said regarding NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words is not a novel. Well, at least, it’s not a novel by sci-fi, urban fantasy, or epic fantasy standards. My two published novels are 90k and 85k words long, and even then, they’re on the short end of SF. However, many mysteries tend to be much shorter, in the 60-70k range. This draft is fairly rough – as most of my drafts are – so I expect it to bulk up about 7-10k during my first pass of edits. That’s a typical expansion in actual word count, though obviously it’s a larger percentage. However, this draft has a few notes like “[Whoops, forgot to mention the thing about the ammunition and the lock and the loading procedure. Put that in during edits.]” That’s 500 words right there, and that note is not exactly rare.

What did I learn?

For starters, outlines are still not my thing. It sucked my energy for writing the actual draft, and in the end, I didn’t follow it all that closely. For the 3 days and 5,000 words I put into the outline, it didn’t really help me much at all. I think all I really needed were my destination and waypoints, and once I had those in my head, the rest didn’t really matter.

Then there’s the matter of writing in a completely new genre. Yes, I can do it. I didn’t particularly feel the passion for it, but I was able to sit down pretty much every day and crank out the words. I didn’t need to light the magic candle or wait for the Spirit of the Muse to descend upon me and fill me with her divine inspiration. Nope, it was mostly a matter of putting my butt in the chair and pounding out the words on the keyboard. I think that just comes from the experience of past novels. I did pick up a couple of minor productivity tricks, and I’ll see if they work out again on the next book.

Also, the fact that it was a mystery pointed out a couple of specific lessons I should be able to carry elsewhere. First, character’s motives need to be believable, apparent, but not shouted out at the reader. Apparently some of my background characters have been a little two-dimensional, so I’ll be keeping this in mind going forward. And second, it’s hard but not impossible to spread out all the pieces of the climax to where they’re not obvious and then pull them all together for the big “Aha!” moment. I think I had an intuitive grasp of this already, but doing it in the mystery genre made the act of doing so much more explicit.

But probably my biggest take-away today is that my reaction has been decidedly business-like. I remember the first time I finished off a complete novel draft. I was euphoric for days, but with each novel completed, the emotional reaction had been less. This time, it was pretty much just, “Check that one off the list… what’s next?”

So yeah, what actually is next? I’m finishing off my edits to Debts of My Fathers and getting it off to beta readers. Then I’m doing the post-beta edits to Hell Bent and drafting its sequel, Stone Killer. Then it’s post-beta edits to Debts of My Fathers and drafting Oaths of My Fathers. And somewhere in there, both Hell Bent and Debts of My Fathers will go through copyedits and production to be released late this year.

So, it’s back to the word mines…

Welcome and Writing Update

ShipsOfMyFathers_Cover300pxI did a free Kindle promotion for Ships of My Fathers last week, and it was fairly successful. Worldwide, a little over a thousand folks downloaded it.  It seems a number of you enjoyed it and told your friends, and some of them are now buying it. Yay! Thank you.

Also, it seems a few of you have followed the links in the book and ended up here at my blog. Welcome. I tend to blog about three times a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. On Mondays, I usually write an essay relating to the genres I read and write, though sometimes you’ll just get some update on what’s happening in my life. On Wednesdays, I try to write something about writing and publishing. I’m not really trying to build an audience of writers, so I try to pick topics that might also interest readers. And on Fridays I post a review of a book or a movie. Random events intrude, so the schedule is a goal, not a guarantee.

If you are another writer wanting to talk about writing, I’m fairly active in the writing communities on Google+, and I encourage you to look me up there.

A couple of weeks back, I laid out my writing projects for the summer, so I thought I’d give a few updates on those.

Hell Bent: It is still with the beta readers. A few of them have finished their first pass but are going through it a second time before giving me their detailed feedback. It will be another week or two before I start gathering that stuff up, but the initial reactions sounded good. I hope to do the post-beta edits in August and get it to my copyeditor in September. Publication is still slated for November.

Debts of My Fathers: This is the sequel to Ships of My Fathers. I have now made my initial red-line edit pass over the printed document. I’ll start integrating those changes into the document over the next week. I hope to get it to my beta readers sometime in August. Publication is still slated for December or January. Of course, given my series goal of drafting book N+1 before publishing book N, I will need to draft book 3, Oaths of My Fathers, sometime in the fall.

shattered_vaseShattered: Contrary to my theme of “making it up as I go”, I actually did something of an outline for this one. It ended up being a 5000 word summary of events. In some ways it has been helpful. Given that I’ve never attempted this genre, it was useful to lay out the order of events. That way, I’ll know all the pieces are in place before the big reveal.

On the other hand, now that I’ve begun the actual text of the narrative, I’m already seeing ways in which I want to change some of those pieces. In fact, I’m feeling a strong desire to set aside the ongoing text and go back to edit the outline, and that sounds like it could be an unending task with no real progress going forward. Also, the mere existence of the outline is sapping my energy to write the book, since in some ways I’ve already spent the driving need to tell the story. So, for the moment, I’m doing my best to forget that I ever wrote the damned outline in the first place and only referring back to it for some of the research that I embedded into it. I hope to wrap this up by the end of July, but I’m already behind schedule.

Stone Killer: This is the sequel to Hell Bent. It’s still in pre-draft limbo. I like to think of it as sitting on the back burner of the stove as I add little ideas here and there. This one is taking shape in my more traditional fashion, sans outline. I know how it starts, and I know how it ends. I’m just plotting a few waypoints in between to help me go in the right direction. I hope to start drafting this in August.

That’s it for now. The narrative calls, so I’m heading back into the word-mines.