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.

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.

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.

Ships of My Fathers is off to the Copyeditor

Last week, I handed my next novel off to the copyeditor. If all goes according to schedule, she’ll have it wrapped up by the end of March, and I’ll be able to release it around the start of May.

BeneathSky_Chessman_ParallelShips of My Fathers is the first of a five-book series set in the same universe as Beneath the Sky, though it’s neither sequel nor prequel. In truth, it happens in parallel to Beneath the Sky and touches on one or two minor characters from that book, most notably Father Chessman and the Yoshido pirate syndicate. Chessman is not the central character, by far, but in search of a good-sounding tagline, this might very well end up being known as the Father Chessman Saga. I’ll say more about it as the release approaches, but until now I suppose it’s been nothing more than a title to everyone but my beta readers.

BloodOnThePageHanding it off to my copyeditor is a strange milestone for me because it marks the beginning of the hurry-up-and-wait stage. I still consider copyediting to be part of my polish process, but until I get those edits back, there’s very little for me to do. That sudden inactivity comes on the heels of a major push to reach that point, so in some ways I’m still hearing my writing-brakes squeal.

When I started the year, I set a schedule that called for an “editing” deadline in late January, but when February 1st rolled around, I was nowhere close to being done. Knowing that much of the rest of the schedule would be out of my hands (copyedits, bake time at printers and retailers, shipping time for galley proofs, etc.), I realized that if I missed my end-of-February deadline, there was no hope of catching up. So I doubled my efforts and did three different editing passes in February:

  1. I finished the story edits, incorporating the beta feedback. The book grew about 5000 words along the way.
  2. I did a word-crafting pass, beefing up my word choices, slaying weak adverbs, adding more colorful metaphors, and just getting rid of really annoying filler words like “just” and “really”.
  3. Then I did my own copyedit pass and found some truly awful errors that had amazingly slipped past every one of my own reads as well as those of my beta readers.

In the end, I missed my deadline by two days, passing it off near midnight on March 1st rather than my original February 27th goal. It now stands at about 85,000 words, and I think I’ve read it beginning to end at least four times. At this point, I’m strangely ambivalent about it. In some ways I’m sick of it, but in other ways, I’m reveling in it. This one bit towards the end still makes me tear up, even after that many readings. So, either I’m incredibly narcissistic, or the book is pretty good… though I suppose both could be true.

So now I’m edging into the publishing process, even as the polishing process is wrapping up. I’ll be doing a rough cut of the print formatting so that I can get an approximate page count. This is necessary to calculate the spine width, and I need that to correctly size the wraparound cover. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with it, image and text-wise, but I’m still toying around with fonts and such. I also need to think forward to the next four books and their likely covers, so that the series will have a more unified look.

And I’m also starting to think about other projects. I’m going to revise the cover of Beneath the Sky and get back to the edits on Hell Bent. Hopefully I’ll be handing that over to my beta readers about the same time I get my copyedits back on Ships of My Fathers. And then I need to start thinking about drafting a new novel from scratch, quite possibly the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer.


This blog is now officially one year old. My first post was little more than “Hey! This is my blog!” and a brief introduction. I didn’t have any grand plans then. I can’t say my plans are that grand now either, but at least I’ve got some momentum.

And momentum is exactly what I was lacking a year ago. I had been piddling around with my writing for years… well, decades really. I felt I had a lot of stories to tell, and I thought my writing was rising to a professional level, but I was not getting anywhere. Of course, I wasn’t trying that hard, either. I had a couple of leads on agents, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed. For that matter, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to proceed.

You see, somewhere in that tentative agent hunt, one of those agents had asked an important question: why do I want to be published? This was different than the age-old question of why do I want to write, and notably, it was a question I had never asked myself. At the time it was asked, my only answer was that it seemed to be the next logical step, but writing and publishing are very different tasks, and just because I enjoyed one was no reason to think I would enjoy the other.

The other lurking question was whether to pursue traditional publishing at all or head out into the lands of self-publishing on my own. “No unagented submissions” was the rule of the day, and even getting an agent was a dicey proposition. Meanwhile, a legion of scam artists were eager to pounce on my dreams and turn them into debts and disaster.  And the self-publishing evangelists were making claims that seemed too good to be true.

To say I was stuck would be an exaggeration of my forward motion, but that had changed two weeks earlier. I was having lunch with a friend, and we were both bemoaning our lack of progress. He was trying to make the jump “above the line” in films, and I was trying to move forward on some kind of writing career. We had both been stuck for years, and we didn’t see anything obvious that was about to yank us forward.

And that’s when I said it. “I don’t want to be having this same conversation in two years.

It’s not pithy enough to be a Nike slogan, but it had the same effect. I dusted off this domain – registered but idle for years – and started blogging. I finished the edits to Beneath the Sky. I finished the draft to Hell Bent. I wrote the draft to Ships of My Fathers. When the new year came around, I finally answered my questions about publishing and made the decision to self-publish Beneath the Sky.  In May I did exactly that. Since then I’ve done first pass edits to Ships of My Fathers and launched into the draft of its sequel, Debts of My Fathers.

I’d like to say it’s been one steady roll of successes, but I’ve had my stumbles along the way. Publishing Beneath the Sky took longer than I had hoped, and I feel like I rushed the cover. The draft to Debts of My Fathers stalled over the summer due to distractions from a house full of special-needs kids and some problems with how the third act was shaping up. I’ve resolved those now, and I’m heading back in to finish it up. But now I’m two months behind where I wanted to be.

Still, I’m eager to keep moving and confident that when next September rolls around, I won’t be having that same stuck-in-the-mud conversation. Tasks that I’m still hoping to finish off this year include: finishing Debts of my Fathers, polishing and publishing Ships of my Fathers, getting Hell Bent into the hands of my beta readers, and writing the first draft to the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer.

As for the blog, I have a few changes in mind. Some of them are cosmetic, but a few are content-focused. I will probably be dropping my intermittent blog entries on making gold in World of Warcraft – though for the record, I did punch through the one million gold mark this summer. (Fanfare?  Cheers?  Golf clap??)  Instead of talking about gaming, I’m going to take a stab at writing more short fiction. This is something I have not done regularly since the 1990’s, but I want to give it another shot. The SF/F essays will continue, and I will likely continue to talk some about writing and publishing. The book reviews will keep coming along as fast (er, I mean, as slow…) as I read them, but I’m thinking about adding some columns on movies as well.  Podcasting is still a possibility, but it’s iffy.

I hope to have two or three more books in print by the time this blogiversary rolls around next year, but other than that, I have no idea where this is all headed. As always, I’m making it up as I go.