Day 5 of Oaths of My Fathers

Just a quick progress report.  I’m five days into drafting Oaths of My Fathers, and I’m currently about 11,000 words in, trying to reach 13,500 today.  I’m sort of behind because I started by Day 1 at about 9pm and only got a few hundred words in rather than the 3000 words-per-day target.  However, each day since then, I’ve hit well over 3000, so I am definitely on track to catch up.  Then again, weekends with the kids at home is tough.

But it is underway, and I’ve got a pretty good feel for the plot route I’m taking.  The target size is 90,000 to 100,000 words.  Ships came out to about 86,000, and Debts is currently much longer at 107,000.  My drafts tend to grow during edits as I see things that I left out the first time through, so even if I wrap up at 90,000, Oaths may very well top 100,000 before it goes out the door.

Print Formatting: Page Size and Margins

Some folks from my local writers’ group have asked me about some of my print formatting decisions, so I thought I would write up a few posts about it. I realize that most of my sales are e-book, but I wanted to have some nice-looking print editions. If nothing else, they look good on my bookshelf.

I should also point you towards The Book Designer, which is where I learned most of what I know about print formatting. He also made several MS Word templates for formatting a print novel, available at Book Design Templates.  I have heard good things about them, but I’m something of a DIY guy for this kind of thing.

So today I’m talking about page size and margins. I’ll put a summary of the numbers at the bottom, but first I’d like to say a little about how I chose them.

First of all, I print my books at 5.5 x 8.5 inches, and right off the bat, I’ll tell you it’s a compromise. I started off wanting to do the tight little mass-market paperback size of 4.125 x 6.75 inches, but I couldn’t. For starters, that size was not offered by my printer, and even if it was, it would be problematic. I would either have to shrink the margins and font quite a bit or have it be so thick as to be unrealistically expensive. Print-on-Demand charges per page, not per square inch of paper, so a 200 page book at 5 x 8 is about twice as expensive as a 100 page book at 8 x 10, even though they have the same amount of actual paper. So, bigger is cheaper. But is it better?

I went through my library and grabbed a dozen trade paperbacks of various sizes and thicknesses. I recommend you do the same if you can. Handle them. Flip through them. Hold them open with one hand, particularly at odd angles like you might in bed or flopped down in a recliner. Of all of those, the 5 x 8 felt the best in my hand. Anything 6 x 9 and up flopped around too much – the paper and cover wasn’t stiff enough to hold itself up across such a distance.

But once I started playing with fonts and margins, the 5 x 8 page-size simply required too many pages for the 80,000-100,000-word novels I intended to write. So, I compromised at 5.5 x 8.5. My sample books of that size held up fairly well, so that’s what I went with. I squeezed my margins just a tad (but far less than I’ve seen elsewhere), and that got the price down to the right range. It also made for a nice aspect ratio for the cover image:

ShipsOfMyFathers_FrontCover_600pxAs for the margins, it would nice to say something simple like, “Yeah, three-quarters of an inch all the way around.” Alas, it’s not quite so simple. Let’s take a look at a sample page from Ships of My Fathers.

MarginDiagramFullSize(click to see at full resolution)

There are four main margins and two more annotational distances. The top margin and bottom margin are fairly self-explanatory, but do note that these are the distance from the edge of the page to the main body of text, not the distance to header or footer. I chose 0.8 inches for both of these margins. I have seen a number of other folks recommend anywhere from 0.5 to 0.75 inches for that, but when I held various books in my hand, I found that my thumbs or fingers tended to push up through those shorter distances. So, if my print books seem to have more white space than the norm, blame my big hands.

The side margins are a little trickier because of their asymmetry. Note that this sample page includes a bit of the facing page to put it into context. Also adding to the confusion, there are two ways to specify them. I usually deal with them as “inside margin” and “outside margin”. The other way to go is to specify right and left margins and then add in a special “gutter” margin that will be added to the right margin on lefthand pages and to the left margin on righthand pages. I found it simpler to fold it in and deal explicitly with inside and outside margins.

I set my outside margin to 0.65 inches. My big thumbs would have preferred something closer to an inch, but that pushed the page count up too much. Besides, given how many books I saw with half-inch margins, I figured I was being fairly generous here.

I set my inside margin to 0.9 inches. In terms of the gutter, that’s adding a quarter of an inch. How much you add here depends a lot on how thick the book is. Hardcover books that stitch their pages to the spine have more flexibility here, but with a glued or “perfect” binding, thicker books don’t open as wide. Here it was not just how far I could jam my thick thumb into the page-fold, it was a matter of reading the text that was curving into the spine of the book. It doesn’t become illegible, but I found it to be annoying if it went in too far. How far was too far? Again, it’s a matter of personal taste, but after looking at several other books in the 300-page neighborhood, I found the comfort zone between 0.8 and a full inch.

(A note on measuring the inside margin on sample books: do not try to jam a ruler in there. You won’t get an accurate measurement. Measure the cover width and measure the distance from the inside-most text to the outside of the page. That difference will give you the proper inside margin measurement.)

Finally, the header and footer. I could have gotten by with just a header, putting my page numbers up top in the corners, but I liked the look of them at the bottom. It was also the more common location in trade paperbacks. (Mass-market paperbacks tend to use the corners.) For these, I pushed them 0.4 inches from the top and bottom of the page. Note however, if you avoid the footer, don’t think you can skimp on the bottom margin. It’s fine if the readers’ hands and fingers obscure the footer, but not the bottom line of the text.

So, to wrap up:
Page size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Top/bottom margins: 0.8 inches
Inside margin: 0.9 inches
Outside margin: 0.65 inches
Header/footer distance: 0.4 inches from edge

Next time I’ll talk about font choice and size as well as some of the other paragraph-level formatting choces.

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.

Writing Update, November edition

Sadly, I have very little update to give. With one thing or another, October has passed without me making much progress on any of my current projects. Spending a week in the hospital was merely the lame icing on an unproductive cake.

About the only news I have to report is that Ships of My Fathers is no longer in the KDP Select program at Amazon which means it should be rolling out to Barnes and Noble as well as Kobo sometime this month.

So, back to editing Debts of My Fathers

World-Building in Public

I’m considering a blogging experiment. I have a number of things to flesh out in my Hudson Confederacy universe, and I think I might just start publishing them as blog entries here. They won’t be spoilers, and they won’t really be canon either – I figure until this stuff shows up in an actual book, it’s just rumor. Still, it might make for some interesting reading while other books in that universe work their way through edits.

It started when I found myself daydreaming a little about the Navy of the Hudson Confederacy, and after listening to a podcast on building a space navy, I realized I need to back up and look at the history. After all, a Navy is there to perform missions in support of strategic goals, and those strategic goals come from both the surrounding environment and how the nation perceives itself. So, I had to ask myself, how does the Hudson Confederacy see itself?  That, in turn, took me even further back to seeing where it came from.

Why dig so far back? Well, any student of US politics today can’t help but see that many of the forces date all the way back to religious persecution that drove some of the early colonists to cross the Atlantic in the first place. For that, of course, you then need to go further back to the Anglican church of King Henry VIII, then back to the Reformation of Martin Luther, and ultimately back to the politics of the Catholic church in the 1400s.

So… how far back am I going? Well, in the brief back-story of the universe given in Beneath the Sky, humanity shot out to colonize rapidly once they finally got FTL. This led to a vast union called The Republic of Man, usually referred to now as the Old Republic. Sorry, no Jedi Knights. Anyway, that eventually shattered, leaving the original core as the Solarian Union and giving birth to dozens of smaller nations The largest two of those were the League of Catai and the Hudson Confederacy, where the bulk of my space opera will occur. While the League has done well for itself, the Hudson Confederacy has suffered through two civil wars since establishing its independence.

My intent is to look at the forces that eventually broke up the Old Republic, how that breakup occurred, and what that meant for the various nations that resulted, specifically the Confederacy. Then, I’m going to look at the two civil wars that rocked the Confederacy. I’m thinking of the first one as mostly a rocky transition from a loose gathering of colonies into something with stronger central control – a bit like if the US’s transition from the Articles of Confederation to the 1789 Constitution had resulted in a civil war where the 13 colonies were reduced to 9 states and some foreign neighbors.

But it’s the most recent civil war that is both drawing my attention and completely stymieing my imagination. A fair amount what is going into the Father Chessman saga (Ships of My Fathers, Debts of My Fathers, etc) is the fallout from that civil war. It left a lot of bad blood, but while I know a fair amount about how the war was fought, I haven’t really figured out what led to it. That seems, well… important.

So, I’ll be making history here, literally. Well, make-believe, future history, but you get the idea. Tune in and see how it develops.

WorldCon, Part 2

And here’s the rest of my WorldCon, picking up Sunday morning…

Religion and Fandom: This panel looked at the attitudes of fandom towards those fans who are noticeably religious, and it pretty much hit the mark. While SFF fandom has a good reputation for being tolerant of the other, whether that be race, nationality, sexuality, etc., many fans are openly hostile to religious folks. We talked about a few specific examples, including one where the chairman for a WorldCon bid specifically told one fan/priest that he did not want any of “your Christians” voting for his WorldCon bid because he did not want them at his convention. Another panelist, who was a fan long before becoming a pastor, had been asked upon selecting seminary, “You’re so smart – why would you want to be a pastor?” They also gave a few examples of when fandom had been particularly tolerant, including one Jewish panelist who was once assigned a volunteer to help her get around the convention on the Sabbath while still remaining observant of her religious restrictions of not performing work on the Sabbath.

They then talked some about the forces behind this, going all the way back to the catholic church vs. Galileo, but they also spoke about how on a personal level, many fans have been burned by specific actions of religious people outside of fandom. This makes it easy for them to lump religious fans in with the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-science Christian right here in America. Certainly, that particular culture has a lot to answer for, and it’s hard to make the distinctions when their political actions (and IMO, their betrayal of Christ’s teachings) get more and more extreme each year.

In the end, nothing was really resolved, but I suspect this issue is going to get worse over the next decade.

Living with a Creator: I was hoping to hear about strategies for easing the home life with writers and families, but I did not really find much of that here. There was some discussion of spousal health insurance, but mostly it was some reminiscing about how they met their creative spouses. So, it was sweet and all that, but it didn’t have what I had come looking for.

E-Books Nuts and Bolts: This turned out to be a good indie panel, focused on how to make e-books. However, given the wide range of experience in the audience, we could not settle down into the specifics of any particular tasks. However, lots of good information popped out as we flitted from one topic to another.

There was another strong recommendation for Sigil, including the fact that it does have elements of code validation. There was also a solid slam against Smashwords’ Meatgrinder from several panelists, one saying, “Friends don’t let friends use Smashwords.” The Mobile Reads forum was recommended as a good place to ask technical questions.  They also pointed us at the official standards documents for e-pubs and a tool called e-pub validator . But overall, they pushed the KISS mantra (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to avoid incompatibilities across the dozens of different reading platforms.

They also tossed out a lot of other sales platforms beyond the standard Kindle, Nook, and Kobo sites. apparently is a good place to buy ebooks in Australia. is a good place to get your e-books into libraries, though one librarian made it clear that not all libraries were moving towards Overdrive. seemed to be a place to buy Kindle books *not* from Amazon. They also recommended for having something of an SFF focus.

SFWA Membership for Indies: This wasn’t a proper panel, but at one of the panels, the new president of SFWA said a little about SFWA membership. Currently, SFWA membership requires either three short story sales to qualifying markets, one book sale to a qualifying market, or a produced script with acceptable credits/quality. (For the full thing see here ) Under those rules the most successful indies in the world cannot be members of SFWA. However, given that the publishing world is changing, this is under reconsideration. In fact, Gould made that part of his campaign platform. He said in the panel that it was now in committee discussion, looking to define some ways to compare Indie sales to the original professional sales requirements as well as some way of verifying those sales.

I tracked him down a little later and asked him for details, particularly how we might see the committee process in action. He said that at the moment, one of the hold-ups is their bylaws. Apparently, the existing bylaws pretty much make it impossible for Indies to come in. However, they are in the process of reincorporating in California as a 5013c non-profit organization, and the new bylaws should offer them greater flexibility to address the issue. Right now they’re waiting for the IRS to rule on their non-profit application. After that, it will be addressed more publically, but for now it’s just in a closed committee. I asked him where I should be watching for updates on this, and he pointed me towards the main SFWA blog.

How to Extend Your Book Beyond the Page into Social Media: This was something of a disappointment. Three of the four panelists did not show up, and one extra was drafted at the last minute. It turned into more of an interview between the moderator and the draftee. The draftee was mostly a twitter fan, and all the advice was structured around twitter. When I raised the possibility of Google+ I got the standard, “What? Is there anyone even *on* Google?” To which I replied that there were more on G+ than on Twitter. I was pretty much shouted down by the rest of the audience, but I was then saved by the moderator, who said, “Actually, I may need to check Google+ out. Evo Terra swears by it.” I got a big grin out of that, because Evo is in my circles there. But other than that, the panel was not very informative.

Creating Memorable Podcasts: This turned to more of a technical session than a content session, but it was still packed full of good information. There was some discussion of PC vs. Mac – with a moderately strong Mac bias – but they made it clear that it was possible on both. There was a strong recommendation for the Zoom portable digital recorder. For solo or face-to-face interviews, they all agreed that the quality could not be beat. A good condenser microphone could add to that, but they felt strongly that the Zoom recorder was much better than your computer. This matches advice I’ve heard elsewhere, so I’m going to accept this as gospel for now. For such equipment, they suggested checking out pawn shops for cheaper deals. As one panelist said, “Many podcasters built their rigs from the failed dreams of garage bands.”

For non-face-to-face stuff, the general solution seems to be Skype. There was also some discussion about making multiple recordings when interviewing over Skype, i.e. each person record their own voice and mix them together later. There was also a tip on using a program called Levelator to even out different volumes between two speakers in an interview. One person noted that running over a Wifi network made his Skype much choppier, and that he had much better luck when all participants were on physical-cable network connections. They recommended Hijack Pro and Wiretap Pro for recording Skype on the Mac.

For posting, there was a strong recommendation to explore dedicated podcast hosts because most blog hosting accounts can’t handle the bandwidth for a popular podcast . I’m currently on Dreamhost with an unlimited download service, which I think I snagged on a limited-time deal, so I might be ok. They also recommended as a good podcast host. They also recommended using the WordPress blog with the Blueberry Power plug-in for managing the podcast release, since it ties in nicely to iTunes and other podcast-broadcast services.

They did say a few things on content. Notably, for narrative, don’t focus so much on the voices of characters as on cadence, rhythm, and accents. These come off better than an attempt to disguise your voice. You can do varying amounts of show prep, but a certain level of spontaneity sounds better than the sound of you reading off a teleprompter. Length varies quite a bit. Twenty minutes seems to be a sweet spot, but 45 minutes is also good. One longer podcaster said she tried to stay under 90 minutes, but that she set a hard limit at two hours. The best advice, though came from someone who does a lot of interviews, and he said his three rules are: “No politics, no religion, and no BBQ, because these are the three most divisive issues in America.”

Writers, Their Fans and Flame Wars, Oh My!: This was a good panel. I had been hoping to see Chuck Wendig on it, but he was unable to make it. However, I thought Hugh Howey made an excellent replacement, and the rest of the panelists were quite good. The general sense of the panel is that flame wars suck, and that there are lots of things you can do to make them worse and precious few things you can to do make them better. Some of this is because griefers and trolls like to generate drama, so you’re often battling against people dead-set against civilized conversations. Other times, however, you run into trolls who are true believers in their cause, and you can make some headway with them – not pulling them out of their belief but in correcting their drama-generating practices.

A few quotes: “Most people are posting in good faith, even if it doesn’t sound like it. Try to remember that.” “The greatest shortcoming of HTML is that it has no <sarcasm> tag.” “A lot of folks pile on because their friends are piling on, not because they really feel strongly about it.”

Several of the panelists pointed to John Scalzi as someone who has dealt beautifully with some flame wars. Notably, he has turned his greatest detractor into a fundraising drive, where he is donating $5 to appropriate causes every time this detractor mentions him by name. Enough people have pledged to match the donation that by years’ end, this detractor will have effectively raised tens of thousands of dollars for causes he detests.

And finally, they recommended two books: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Elgin, and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson (and others). I’m going to toss in one of my own favorites, The Usual Error by some friends of mine Pace & Kyeli Smith.

The Hugos: I confess I did not actually attend. Dinner ran late with my wife, and by the time we got back to the hotel, it seemed to be standing room only, and we weren’t exactly dressed for the event. We had hoped to catch it on closed-circuit TV in the hotel, like we did years ago, but now we have to rely on UStream. Apparently they had their own problems with it (but not as bad as last year), but the internet connection in our room was not up to the task of watching it. So instead, we caught the play-by-play reporting made by several others in attendance.

I didn’t have much riding on any of the awards, since I had not read or seen many of the nominees. However, I was glad to see SF Signal get their second Hugo for best Fanzine. I also thought it was very classy of them to recuse themselves from future nominations so that other deserving fanzines could have a shot at it. I was frankly ecstatic to see Mur Lafferty win the Campbell for Best New Writer. Her “I Should Be Writing” podcast helped get me moving on my own writing career all the way back in 2007.

I was not at all surprised to see Game of Thrones win for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form. The Whovians had managed to nominate three different episodes, and that effectively split their vote. Babylon 5 suffered a similar problem early on, and they solved it by asking Straczynski to choose which episode to nominate. I have to say I was a little surprised to see Avengers beat out The Hobbit. I think Avengers was a better film, but I had expected the more literary Hugo voters to go for the Tolkien favorite.

I’m glad Scalzi won Best Novel for Red Shirts. I had not actually read any of the other nominees, so I can’t say that it was the better novel. In my opinion, it’s certainly not the best work Scalzi has ever done, but I think the fans may have done a little bit of “lifetime achievement award” for him here. He has set down the mantle of the SFWA presidency, and I think he’s done a lot for the field in that capacity, so I don’t mind seeing a little extra weight being thrown his way for literary recognition. Then again, it was something of a fun take on the Star Trek tropes, just like Galaxy Quest was thirteen years earlier, and it may have just won enough fans’ hearts in the same way.

Marketing: I did not really do much in the way of marketing at the convention. While I focused enough on the writing end to make my tax write-off believable (I hope), I was there more as a fan than as a writer selling books. However, I did find a giveaway table that was quite happy taking the last of my ARCs for Ships of My Fathers. They went like crazy. Two things may have helped: First, I only put out six or seven at a time, and people seemed drawn to the shorter stacks on the scarcity principle. Second, I was next to the other trade paperbacks, and my cover was IMHO much better than the other covers there. I also tried some little cards with the cover on one side and a description on the other side. The back also included a QR code linking them to the Amazon buy page. About sixty of those were picked up. I don’t know how many readers I’m going to gain from these efforts, but I figure WorldCon attendees are the alpha dogs of SF/F readers, and if they like something, they’re more likely than most to tell their friends.

So, that’s it for my 2013 WorldCon. It’s going to be in London next year, but I’m unlikely to go. More likely, I may finally make the trek to DragonCon and see if I can take it all in. Just remember folks, fandom is vast, and there are plenty of smaller regional cons to check out. You don’t need pointed ears to attend, but don’t be surprised when you see them.

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.

Ships of My Fathers, Free for Kindle through Friday

Ships of My Fathers will be free on the Kindle from today through Friday the 28th.

Michael was orphaned at seventeen, light-years from home. His inheritance: a starship, distant relatives he never knew existed, and inescapable questions that challenge everything he thought was true.

Michael’s quest for answers takes him halfway across the Confederacy, from the gleaming corridors of the wealthy super-freighters to the dark holds of Father Chessman’s pirate ships.

The truth is waiting for him, but he’ll have to survive to find it.

Summer Writing Schedule

writing_iconI thought I’d take a few minutes to update you about what I’m working on this summer.

Hell Bent is officially in beta. I handed it off to the bulk of the beta readers in the last few days, and I’m working out a handoff for the last one today. Hopefully I’ll get all that feedback by mid/late July and then do my edits in August. If I can get it to the copy editor in the September time frame, I might manage to publish it in November.

Debts of My Fathers (the sequel to Ships of My Fathers) is still in pre-edit limbo. I have the printout ready and waiting, but I haven’t looked at it since I wrapped it up last November. I will very likely do my initial edits to it this summer with an eye towards getting it to beta readers in the early fall. Publication is targeted for around New Years, but at this point, it’s hard to nail it down.

But for now, I’m starting to draft new work. In fact, I’m planning to draft two new novels this summer, if time and brain allows. My goal is to draft two new novels this year, with some hope of stretching that to three, and here I am with the year almost half-gone and not a single one written. Time to dig in.

shattered_vaseThe first one, tentatively titled Shattered, is quite the departure for me and might actually be a throw-away novel. Why? It’s a mystery, something I’ve never written before. Then why am I writing it, especially now when I should be trying to establish a rhythm in my publishing career? A couple of reasons. First, my mother is not a sci-fi or urban fantasy fan, and she keeps asking when I’m going to write something she can read. Well, I’m going to indulge her and try to write a mystery.

But the other reason is that a number of SF writers recommend that every writer should write a mystery at some point in their career, the earlier the better. Apparently, there’s something to be learned from the way a good mystery lays everything out and yet keeps the reading from seeing the resolution until the characters wrap it up all together. I’m also going to try a few experiments with additional prep work. I won’t say I’m going as far as the dreaded outline, but I’m at least laying down a few details before I type “Chapter 1”.

The second book I hope to draft this summer is the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer. My general goal in writing series is to draft the sequel before publishing the first, or to generalize it, draft N+1 before publishing N. I figure that improves my odds of fixing continuity problems before they go to print since it allows me to spot a problem in N+1 and fix it in N before it’s too late. So, since I hope to hand off Hell Bent to the copy editor around September, that means I’ll want to draft Stone Killer before that.

But if you do the math, you’ll see that’s drafting two full novels in the next two and a half months. Even considering that one of them is a mystery (typically a little shorter, targeting 65-75,000), the total for both novels will be in the range of 140-160,000 words. That’s about three NaNoWriMo’s worth in less than three months, while also trying to wrap up edits to Hell Bent and making my initial edits to Debts of My Fathers.

I honestly don’t know if I can do it, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

Fixed Format

I caught a couple of formatting errors in the print edition of Ships of My Fathers.  Well, ok, I caught five of them. 🙁  Nothing too major, just a funky justification/indent bug in Word.

Anyway, they are now fixed, and the new version should be live in a day or two.