Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the End of 2011

Well, somehow we've made it all the way through 2011, and man has it been an interesting year. As seems to be traditional, I will spend this last post of December as a way to run through some of the major events and accomplishments that marked my life this year and express gratitude for the opportunity to have them. None of these things came free, but they are each definitely worth it.

First among them was the birth of my first daughter, Sera. She has been a wonderful blessing to my life, and I have been able to get to know this wonderful little being as she has grown up. So far, she doesn't seem to mind me, which is always a plus; hopefully that continues in 2012!

Second, I managed to start a writing career! Wolfhound was published in December, and has already sold a fairly decent amount. Besides that, I've managed to write over 340k new words in four different novels. Now I have a revision schedule that says I will publish each of those four novels in 2012, while writing four more to follow them up. It has literally been a miracle for me to be able to pursue that dream, and I think I've done rather well getting four rough drafts written in a single year. The revising has gone pretty well too, and I have high hopes to be able to continue the process in the coming months. We shall see if my abilities meet my expectations of course, but so far I think we are doing pretty well.

Third, I finally outgifted my wife for Christmas! Mwahahaha! It took me about four years to put that accomplishment together, but I managed it. Okay, it's kind of a small victory, but I say that it was totally awesome, so there. :P We've also been able to keep the writing group going for over a year now, and I've officially been working full time at the emergency room for over a year as well. We've been able to move forward in a lot of ways, and that has me looking forward to what we can accomplish together in the future. Thanks to everyone for all of your help, support, and love, and I hope that you are all celebrating the accomplishments in your own life and looking forward to the dawn of a new year.

So there's the year in very, very brief terms. Here's hoping that after all the trials and obstacles, all the work and the struggle, we can keep moving forward in the coming year. Thanks again for all of your help, and I will see you in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Politics and Cyberpunk

One thing that I've always tended to avoid was the blatant introduction of political viewpoints into my books. I've always believed that including a clumsily worded or demonstrated political message would just outrage people and drive them away from what otherwise would have been a good story. So I've avoided that, and so far that rule has been rather good for me. It's kept me from making preachy stories that nobody likes, and I appreciate that kind of help. :)

With cyberpunk, though, it seems like the genre is heavily invested in having at least one political message, no matter what that message might be. Somehow, the cyberpunk genre has not only included a lot of stories dealing with politics and political viewpoints, but has also avoided becoming preachy or overly simplistic with it. Or at least that is my perception of the whole thing, from my narrow view of it.

Perhaps it is the equally dogged insistance of the genre on allowing things to be messy and complicated which prevents the preachiness from happening. Or maybe it is the omnipresence of some crazy world-spanning conspiracy elements. It is something I'm going to have to adjust to as I write this next book, and one that I might be a little uncomfortable with, honestly. But then again, a good writer stretches their limits right? I suppose my alpha readers and writing group will just have to let me know when I've messed it up and when it works well.

Well, enough rambling pondering. Time to write! Iron Angels isn't going to revise itself after all! See you around.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On Another Draft Done

So as of yesterday, the first draft of Murders in Whitechapel has been finished. The overall story still needs a bit of work, but I think that people who like the first book will enjoy this one as well. I certainly enjoyed writing it; now I just need to get to work on the revisions on it.

In other news, I now get to work on The Social Contract! That book will probably occupy me for the first few months of 2012, and I am so excited about it. The various elements of the story are going to be pretty cool, and it will be a very different kind of story. At the same time I'm going to be revising a book for a friend called Edawkuh, (Yes, I will get to it, Megan) and hopefully finishing up an alpha rewrite of Iron Angels before the week is up. So yeah, even on break I still plan to be pretty busy. :)

In any case, the completion of the last book of the year calls for a celebration of sorts, so I'm going to give you guys the back cover of the paperback/hardcover version of The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, courtesy of Mr. Ennis once again. See you around, and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

On Christmas

It's that time of year again! This week we will be heading home to visit family. It's been a while since we have been able to take time off (I think my last break was sometime in June, to give you some perspective on that) and it will be a welcome opportunity to reconnect with people who are way too far away.

I hope that all of you are also near family, or that they are at the very least close to your hearts. Have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. See you around!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Rudeness and Indie Publishing

So this post might take me close to involving myself in the big, artificial indie versus traditional publishing dispute, something that I have previously taken great pains to avoid. I have no problems with either route in publishing, and would gladly accept benefits and opportunities from both sides of the debate (my main reasoning for my current course has more to do with economics and time limits than it does with team spirit, let's say), and so I hope you readers will not mind if I approach the topic carefully.

I was browsing the Amazon forums the other day, mostly because I saw a thread asking for good sci fi titles to read for a beginning reader. I was planning on contributing and mentioning some of my favorite authors in sci fi--Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Jack Campbell, even David Weber if they wanted to risk some of the "harder" sci fi out there. I was also, truth be told, hoping to mention my own novel as a sidenote, since while Wolfhound is doing well, it never hurts to get your work out in front of more people.

To my dismay, the thread was repeatedly marked by people outraged that indie authors were recommmending their own work. Their condescending treatment of those authors was only matched by the smug sense of satisfaction that Amazon had decided to create a self promotion thread for indie authors and limit all self promotion posts to that thread alone. Anything outside the thread will be deleted by Amazon moderators. One commentor took great pains to say that it was "rude" for indie authors to promote their work, and that he was excused for taking them to task for it.

I have to admit that comment irked me, and not only because it betrayed a critical ignorance in how publishing of any stripe--or, well, any kind of business at all--works. Any author has to self promote, be they traditionally published authors doing book signings in stores or an indie author putting ads up on websites. It's a part of the business, and one that you need to be willing to do in order to live off of your work. If you love writing, and if you want people to love your work too, you will need to stand up for it.

In fact that's true of any business, which is something that Amazon well understands. I know they do because after reading the thread I had to delete yet another spam email that they had sent me promoting their products. They send me one every other day or so, and you know what? I don't mind. Because while most of the stuff doesn't appeal to me, sometimes I want their stuff! I like buying from Amazon, and I don't object to sifting through the rest to find what I like. For Amazon to deny indie authors the same opportunity to promote themselves seems to be the type of special hypocrisy that only a large bureacracy can produce, usually to their detriment. Especially in this case.

Aside from the sheer lack of understanding those commments had protrayed, I was disturbed by the attitude that indie authors were somehow being rude. That they had somehow interrupted the delicate waltz of society with their boorish attempts to produce and sell work on their own. It was as if the commentor thought he had somehow been wronged by the intrusion, when he likely tolerates self promotion in many other forms as a matter of course. I doubt he would be so inflamed by commercials on television or the ads before a movie. I doubt that he would even mind the occasional email from an author he likes advertising a book comming out in a few months. After all, those little communications between sellers and buyers are the key to civilization. Without communication, civilization doesn't exist and nobody would argue that listening is just as important as talking in a polite society. Yet somehow indie authors are treated like scum simply by trying to copy the model everyone else uses to survive. I dislike that attitude, and would even if I wasn't an indie author myself.

Of course, life provides a way to test us in our little principles. Not two minutes after I had finished working myself into an incandescent rage over the subject, a company spam posted on my blog. I believe that they would like me to publish my books through them, or at least print some hard copies through their business. My first reaction would normally have been annoyance, followed by a deletion of their post. After all, self promotion doesn't necessarily mean clumsy, spam promotion, and nobody likes spammers.

But then again, who knows? Maybe they are still learning how to do it right. So I'll leave it up and see. Because honestly I'd like to have a little "rudeness" now and then if it means coming across the occasional diamond in the rough. And nobody deserves to be looked down on without being given a chance.

And so ends the eternal rant. We'll be back to normal on Friday, I hope. See you then!

Monday, December 19, 2011

On The Measure of Success

One of the things that can be hard about self publishing is how you measure your own success. This problem seems especially present at the beginning, since you never know how much of your books are being bought by family and friends (yeah, that means you Mom) and how many are being bought by new customers. Not only that but there is nobody outside of yourself that can really evaluate your numbers for you. There's no boss, publisher, or accountant looking at your sales and saying "Alright, this isn't working so let's do something different" or "Wow, we're doing pretty good, keep up the pace!" The only current judge of my success is myself, and that is unusual for someone who has spent his life passing other people's tests or trying to meet other people's business goals. The only similar situation has been when I was on my mission and had to set my goals for each week. It's crazy to think that I have that kind of freedom again, only now in a far different field of work.

So I think I will set some benchmarks for Wolfhound's success, just so that I can have them recorded here. That way I can try to adapt and change things if needed. Hopefully we will just sell thousands and thousands based off of my sheer, recognizable writing genius, but my brilliance cannot always carry the day, can it? :)

So, as a benchmark, we have set a minimum, scraping the bottom of the barrel goal of five books sold a month. If that's all that is happening, we are still moving forward, but we should probably look into changing marketing strategies or something in order to increase sales.

Fifty sales in a month are more like an okay number. Not bad, not good, but pretty much average in terms of our expectations. Wolfhound is my first book, after all, and we are hoping that we can sell at least that much until Kingsley goes up in February. It's a bit of an ambitious goal, but it would set us up with a decent base to launch from.

Anything over that would be awe-inspiring. One hundred in a month would make us happy, two fifty would have me dancing in the streets. Dreams to shoot for, but probably not going to happen unless things really take off--or at least until I get multiple books up and start in on the sequels.

So yeah, those are my benchmarks, if anyone was curious. As of now Wolfhound is currently edging towards "okay" territory, and blissfully staying out of "scraping" levels. We are already surpassing the hopes we had for December, and I'm taking that as a good sign of things to come. Thanks for sticking with us and for all of your support. See you around!

Friday, December 16, 2011

On Hardcovers and Kingsley's Cover

So we have progress! The hardcover version of Wolfhound is now up on Lulu. It is selling for quite a bit more than the electronic version, but I've always thought that was worth it for a physical copy of a good book. And it is a good book, so... :)

In any case, we are going to try and get paperbacks up on Lulu and maybe Createspace this weekend, so stay tuned for that. We are going somewhere! Huzzah!

In other news, we have a cover for the first Hector Kingsley novel. It was created by the distinguished Mr. Robert Ennis. I think it looks awesome, and has only made me more excited for February to roll around so the book can go up. Until then, I'll see you around!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Being Published+Guest Post with Joe

Well, it is finally dawning on me that I have a book up where people can buy and read it. It is a weird feeling.

I guess part of it is the fact that I've worked so hard on that novel, and now there is nothing left to do. It's done, all over but the formatting. By the end of the week we hope to have the paperback and hardcover versions more or less adjusted and squared away, and after that point I will never have to edit Wolfhound ever again. That alone is a strange, unfamiliar feeling.

That's not even including the social aspect of the thing. I occasionally mention the book to my coworkers, half of whom don't seem to have remembered or realized what I was doing with the whole writing thing. Their reactions range from surprised to indifferent, but at the very least they tend to wonder what in the world I am doing with my life. When I try to explain about how pubishing has changed these days and what my writing plan is for the next few months, I get a few polite nods and maybe a glazed look. I think actually publishing something has forced me to realize exactly how much technical jargon I've absorbed over the past year of working on this thing.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that I actually know what I'm doing for the next year. Kingsley will probably be out by February, if everything goes to plan, and Iron Angels won't be too much longer after that. Good crappity, Badger is planned as coming out in six to eight months unless I totally drop the ball. And after that I have other books planned out stretching out all the way to December 2013; the main question about the whole thing is how I will find enough time to revise everything.

So yeah, I suddenly have a career outside of the emergency room. And it's awesome and strange and I'm not quite used to it yet. But thanks to everyone who has already bought the book (and thanks for the patience of the people waiting for the hardcover!), and I hope I don't let you all down, despite my failings. Also, go check out the guest post I did on Joe's blog! It talks about space pirates. Can't go wrong there! See you around!

Friday, December 9, 2011

On It's Done!

It's up! Huzzah! Wolfhound is now up as an Amazon ebook. That alone is kind of nerve wracking, but I feel like I've done my best with it. As a first book and a start to my publishing career, I could hope for nothing better.

And of course, it has railguns, pirates and explosions in it. What more could you ask for? :)

So I will be putting the link to Amazon on the Links and Samples page. Links to the hardcover and paperback copies will be up as quickly as we can get them active (paper covers are so much harder!), so if you want to hold out for the non-ebook copy, keep checking back! Thanks to everybody for your support, and I will hopefully be on a more sane schedule soon. See ya!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On The Final Readthrough

Getting to the end here, and once I'm done the book will start being put in by tomorrow morning. Almost there...

I'm happy to report that I like the book. I like it enough that I laugh at the characters and look forward to a lot of the scenes. That's a good sign right? Can you tell I'm nervous about this? Just a little?

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Eggnog

How is it that this stuff only comes around once a year? We should start a petition or something...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On December

Alright, we've made it to December. So far so good. Now I just need to make it to the end of the year, and then not only will Wolfhound be out, but we should be well on the way to getting a couple other projects up as well.

In terms of that progress, we have succeeded in getting cover artists not only for Kingsley, but also for Iron Angels! That, in addition to a copy editor for Kingsley, means that we have a sustainable little publishing schedule set up. Now all I have to do is get IA revised and out to alpha readers, and we should be set for the next little while.

Of course, all of that is easier said than done. End of December, end of December...

Monday, November 28, 2011

On the Finish Line

So, another cross country related post. Hope it all makes sense.

I've done a previous post on a portion of my cross country course. As I mentioned then, our coach had taken great pains to provide a challenge to us and to our competitors. At one point, I heard that he had measured out the entire five kilometer (three and some odd miles for you non-cross country people) course to make sure that it was exactly one third up hill, one third down hill and one third flat.

Running the course could easily help you believe that rumor. There were several hills, each providing its own challenge and given its own unique name. There was Starter (pretty obvious reasons there), Ice Cream (sweet, sweet downhill), JV (cause its playin with ya) Sandy Hill (also obvious), and Mother (Cause it's not playing with you. At all). Each had its own way of confronting you with difficulty and forcing you to tough it out until you got to the top. By the time you got down off of those hills and onto the nice, flat bike path leading back to the finish, you were grateful they were all done.

What you didn't realize, of course, was the fact that all of those hills had been packed into about two thirds of the course. By the time you got down to the path, you still had a full 1200 meters left to go, nearly a full mile. If you sprinted the moment your feet hit the path, you were destined to die long before the finish.

The other thing you have to remember is where our coach put the finish line. He designed the course to loop back through a central area, where spectators could sit and watch the runners go by. You passed through that spot three different times after the start, and the finish line was set up right there. That means everyone is sitting there, waiting and cheering for you for the entire length of that last grueling flat section.

Those of you who run, especially in competition, know that cheering spectators are like crack for a runner. It's addictive; you want so badly to run harder and faster when people are shouting for you. It's an incredible boost, and one that I appreciated many times during my track and cross country days.

I did not appreciate it for the first thousand or so yards of runnning down that path, trying so hard not to sprint too early because I knew I wouldn't make it to the end. In a phrase, it sucked.

It was not an easy temptation to resist. After all, at the end of the race, you really, more than anything, just want it to be done. You want to stop running, cause it hurts. You want to get some water, maybe get your breath back, probably puke if it's been a really bad day. Mostly you want to finish hard, run well, and have the rewards of all the hard work you put in. Coach found a way to test us mentally with that last little trick of his, and I'm glad to say it taught me a lot that I need to know right now.

I say that because as of now, I'm on the last little bike path with Wolfhound. I have all the chapters for the book, I need only to go and look through some of the copy edits, format it and put it up online. There is an incredble urge just to put in a couple of 4am nights and have done with it, because it has been a really long race.

At the same time, I feel that is the worst thing I could do. I could get the book up, sure, but I would miss some of the final, refining touches that need to be made to it in order to make the story really shine. Putting those touches in means that I will no longer get the book up by the end of this Monday. It may mean that I will have to delay it until December 10th or so, which was the original deadline for the book before I started to advertise it around. Yet in spite of how frustrating that is to me, I believe that Wolfhound--not to mention my mental and physical health--will be better off in the long run for doing it.

So yeah, if you've noticed that the book isn't quite up yet, do not worry, it will be soon. I just haven't reached the sprinting point yet, and I hope that you will all have patience with me until I do. See you around!

Picture of the bike path courtesy of Yes, that was where the finish line was in the distance there. Yes, you could hear the spectators the whole way. And yes, Coach Cohen is a mad genius whose course terrified the other teams. He was awesome.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Juggling Projects

With all the excitement over Wolfhound--which hopefully will be up by next week--it is easy to lose track of where I am on the other stuff I've been working on. Here's a quick update on that.

Mysteries is now about 57k words long. That means I've got about two thirds of the book done, and that I'm on track to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Unfortunately, I seem to need to slow down my original schedule. What with the extra work to get Wolfhound up, the need to revise a few drafts of previous novels, and the general fatigue from the past six months or so of running all out, it is probably a better idea to stick to six thousand word weeks on Kingsley's second novel rather than push the envelope and risk burning out in two weeks. At least, that's my perspective.

Iron Angels is sadly still partway through the third draft. My ideas are ready and I'm starting to get excited about getting it ready for alpha readers. I just can't seem to find the brain energy to spare for it right now; Mysteries and Wolfhound are kind of stealing the show. Once Wolfhound's up, Iron Angels is next on the spot, and I hope to have it ready for an alpha read by mid-December. That way we will be on track for a fourth draft by the end of Feburary or so. I hope, I hope, I hope....

As for the True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, we have a breakthrough! We found an editor who is more than willing to run through the book for us, and the search is already on for a cover artist! I think that we have a better than decent chance of getting Kingsley up by the end of this winter, which is really exciting. It might be a little exhausting too, but that's the life of a writer I suppose.

In any case, those are all the projects I'm currently juggling right now. Soon as Wolfhound goes up, life will be a bit more managable. At least I think it should be, right? Hope all is going well for you guys, and I will see you around!

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Crunch Week

One week to go! We just have to finish up the editing process, format everything so that it looks good on ebooks and paper copies, stick some bonus material in for the paper copies, get cover stuff for the teasers for the next books I'm publishing at the end of Wolfhound, write dedications, acknowledgements and a copyright page, format that stuff...

<_< >_>

Oh crap, we've only got one week left! AHHHH!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On Progressing as a Writer

So I was thinking about it today and I have come to a decision. I think I am a better writer today than I was a year ago.

I know that must sound like a really obvious statement, but you have to look at this in perspective. When you are progressing as a writer it typically comes along very slowly. Your projects often take several weeks at a time, and it takes several weeks more to get most kinds of feedback on it. Often, aside from your own opinions on the subject, you don't have a lot of benchmarks to measure yourself by. It can seem like you are just running on a treadmill in terms of your skill, running and running until you wonder if you will ever have a chance to improve. That and there is this creeping fear that it is just as easy to lose your skill as it is to gain it, and that it could have happened to you.

Fortunately, I don't think that has happened to me. Wolfhound, is my first publishable quality novel. I've made it pretty much as good as it will be, and I feel confident that Jacob Hull will do a very good job of leading the way for my other stories to follow. Kingsley and Iron Angels both came afterward, and I can confidently say that the level of skill I've shown in those books is higher than Wolfhound, which given how good that first book is, really says something. Of course, they are also different types of books, so I could imagine that I was just finding a better kind of story to tell. The tipping point, I would have to say, was Badger, the sequel to Wolfhound. It's the same kind of story that Wolfhound was, though perhaps a bit less heavily structured, but it's just plain better. The characters stand out more, the plot is more balanced and understandable, and is all around a better story. I've gotten better!

I think I have had quite a few advantages that have helped me do that. My writing group has been a big part of that. The advice, suggestions and reactions of my fellow writers in that group have helped me to tweak my own writing style and grow as an author. The fact that I have been working flat out for about a full year on four different stories has helped me continue to improve--I didn't need to remember things that I'd learned with a previous project, because there hadn't been any downtime where I would have forgotten it. Finally, I've kind of had the desperation and determination provided by the fact that in a very short time I was going to have to start selling these things. That kind of need to produce things in order to publish on time breeds plenty of motivation to get better in the craft.

So yeah, I've gotten better at writing. Here's hoping that I can continue that progress as Wolfhound and my other stories start coming up over the next year. We shall have to see!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On eBook Fomatting

I will never, for the rest of my life, indent a paragraph using the Tab button for as long as I live.

Also, I will not spell names in two different ways over the length of an entire novel.

That is all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Samples!

So hey! I've managed to get sample chapters of Wolfhound up on my blog and over on the Wandering Leaf Publishing blog. Check it out for the beginning of the novel I'm putting up for sale in a couple of weeks. On this blog, it'll be under the Links and Samples page, along with the back cover description for the book. Hope you enjoy it!

On another note, AHHHHH! We're almost publishing something!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Interview Up+On Early Christmas Commercials

So I've got another interview up, this time at Michele Ashman Belle's blog. I think it turned out pretty well, so go take a look.

So the other day I was watching TV during my lunch break--a luxury of working in the emergency room I suppose--and I found myself confronted by an age old enemy of mine. No, not the political ranting which now somehow occupies two thirds of any given preelection year. No, not people who hate videogames, or label nerds as an enemy of society. No, not even the spectre of bad sitcoms or repetitive drama shows disturbed my evening meal. It was a far older enemy that has haunted me more each coming year.

I speak, of course, of the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas commercial.

It may be that my feelings on this subject are tainted by the bias I picked up living in Massachusetts and Connecticut. There, Thanksgiving is a holiday you actually celebrate and everything, rather than a temporary gluttonous pause before launching into the shopping furor we know as Christmas. I like Thanksgiving. I like the memories I have from childhood of pumpkin pie and going over what I'm grateful for in my life. I think it is a tradition our society dearly needs to preserve. Yet each year it falls more and more by the wayside as Christmas tries to swallow November whole--having already polished off December of course.

The worst part about it is that it only gets worse from here. Holiday shows start taking the place of regular episodes, often just recycled stuff from the eighties. Songs I rarely want to hear before mid-December start repeating on the radios (is anyone else disturbed that we haven't had a new Christmas song since like the fifties?) and doesn't stop until they've squeezed every last drop of Holiday cheer out of it. The whole thing has gotten so overblown that it all begins to feel hollow.

This scourge has grown worse with the passing of time. I have not even had the opportunity to enjoy my traditional turkey and Pilgrim imagery, and I already have a bunch of idiots prancing to Christmas carols and telling me to buy something. My dear wife might consider me something of a Grinch when it comes to disliking these things. Maybe she's right, but it won't stop me from crying out indignantly when It's the Most Wonderful Time, to Buy Stuff gets butchered by another commercial in early November. Because trust me, at this point, somebody needs to.

Aaannnnd that's my curmudgeonly rant quota for the month. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On College

Just some thoughts I've been pondering lately. I've come to the conclusion that college is less of a bank and more of a commitment to jump off a rock. Yes that will make sense later.

I can remember several times that various instructors, speakers and advisors told me during high school the reason I should go to college. "Go to college," they said, "that way you won't have to work so hard when you're older!" They would then lay out the math behind the reasoning--that college graduates make more money than those with just high school degrees, that the money made by simply getting a job doesnt measure up when compared to those future earnings, that all the best jobs required a college degree to get. All seemed like pretty good reasons, especially since I was planning on going anyway. It was like making deposits in a bank: I would just withdraw it at the end and not have to worry so much.

Of course, they didn't mention that most jobs also require job experience, and place more importance on that than on the degree. Or that it is possible--likely, even--that you change your mind and not work in the same field as your degree anyway. Or that sometimes there are such a lot of unremarkable college graduates applying for jobs in your field that you end up unemployed or interning for free instead of earning those higher salaries.

The biggest misconception, though, was the concept of not having to work hard after the bachelors degree is done. If you are still an undergrad and reading this, yes, people still do actually have to work hard after college. In fact, I would say that after college you have to work even harder, whether that means you are trying to kickstart your writing career, attending the grueling hours of medical school or putting in 60 to 80 hour weeks in a research lab somewhere. The Fallout videogame series has a saying: "War, war never changes." There is a similar one that people should probably adopt when considering higher education. "Work, work never changes." It's going to be hard, it's going to be unpleasant, and there is no place on this planet you can hide from it. That includes mom's basement. :)

So rather than going to college and getting a degree with the hope of hiding away in a comfortable, work-free niche afterwards, please go to find the career you are passionate about. Find that thing that makes your life satisfying, where the work, while hard, is fulfilling. Then commit to working your brains out to make that career happen. Because if you are going to be suffering through all that work, you may as well commmit to something you care about. Otherwise, life will be terribly unpleasant. Kind of like someone who has jumped off a rock and hesitates partway through, it's not going to end well. You will probably end up with lots of bumps, bruises, and disappointment.

So whatever you decide in terms of education--and I think this will apply to graduate school as much as undergrad stuff--commit or you'll always regret it. And if at the end of your jump you find something you don't like, pick yourself up get back up the rock and try again. At least, that's my take on things. For what it's worth. See you around!

Monday, November 7, 2011

On Getting Through November + Interview at A Storybook World

Alright! So it's been a busy last couple of weeks. We are officially about three weeks out from putting Wolfhound online, and that fact has me a little intimdated, excited, befuddled and happy. It's kind of a mix of things. In one way I feel like it's taking forever to get up, because I've been working on publishing this thing for months now. At the same time, it's like this deadline is rushing straight at me way, way too fast. So I'm now enjoying the delightful blend of impatience and panic that I would assume accompanies the publication of anyone's first book. I guess that means I've hit the perfect middle ground then right?

Progress on Mysteries continues apace. I'm at about the halfway point, which is more or less where I had wanted to be by now. Based on the status of other projects, however, I think that I will need to prolong the number of weeks I work on this one. It is not that the novel is taking too long--far from it in fact--I just need more time to revise other projects so that they are ready for the next step in the process. Among those projects would be a 3.2 draft of Iron Angels to get it ready for an alpha read (would have already been ready with 3.1, but then I got an excellent character development idea), work on getting a copy editor/cover artist team together for the True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, a 2.1 draft for Badger (Emily really liked it! Huzzah!)and finally the formatting and prep work to put Wolfhound up on the 28th. I figure that those projects are important enough to extend the schedule a little bit for Hector's second novel, especially if it means that I get the next few books up online in a shorter amount of time.

So yeah, that's the progress so far! I just need to make it through this month without going completely nuts and we will have finally gotten this book up! Now it's just a matter of following through...

On another note, I have another interview up, at A Storybook World. Go there and read it! See you around.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On Making the Shift

So it occured to me that I look at writing much differently now than I did a year ago.

Before I decided to make writing a career, writing used to be what I did for fun, or what I did to relax. How much I wrote in a day or a week really didn't matter, and finishing a book was almost something I did just to have it done.

Now I'm on a writing schedule. I still enjoy the work, but that's what it is now, work. I'm responsible to produce so many words in a week, and I try to hold myself to those expectations. It's a different perspective, and I wonder if that shift in viewpoint is the difference between people who putter along on projects and people who actually make it as writers.

Then again, maybe I should wait until I have a book online before I talk myself up, huh?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Birthdays

Today I will turn twenty seven years old.

For some reason this birthday fells like a turning point to me. Twenty seven seems to be the age that I can no longer tell myself I'm just a "young adult". Maybe it is just that a lot has happened since my last birthday. I've had a daughter come into the world, I've decided on a career and gotten the wheels turning on publishing a book, and I've even somehow managed to write three or four more books to continue publishing after that. I've held down a job for over a year, kept the writing group going for a year after that, and have been living in Houston for nearly as much time as I once lived in Washington state. Looking back over the past few years, I've managed to get through a lot more challenges and changes than I ever could have expected.

Somehow, without quite realising it, I've become an adult.

The change is a little disconcerting. I have to be mature now, responsible even. I have a family depending on me to do what needs to be done, to provide for and protect. I'll need to take care of myself to, so that I can be there for them when they need me. That means I'll need to start thinking about retirement funds, health care plans, even life insurance... All that stuff I thought that other, more mature people could deal with. Maturity sucks.

That still doesn't mean I'll be giving up all the little nerdy quirks and habits that make me, well, me. I wouldn't want to leave all that behind, of course, or try to be someone I am clearly not. I suppose I will just need to get a bit smarter about it. Wish me luck; I'll probably need it.

And with that cheery sentiment, happpy birthday to me! Also, it's November! Four weeks to publication!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On One Month Until Publication

So as of yesterday, I have about thirty one days until my first book goes up for sale, and I find out if other people like the story as much as I do.



All futile panicking aside, I am really, really excited about this whole thing. It is an incredible opportunity to put my work out there and to have the help of so many people to get this thing done. We have had a wonderful cover artist, an impressively dedicated copy editor, and friends willing to both give advice and help refine our efforts. I've been amazed at the amount of help and friendship we've recieved, and in case I haven't remembered to do so before, I just want to thank all of you for being there when we needed you.

Now we just need to get the edit done and format everything for release. Also, now that I think about it, if we mean to get Kingsley up in four months, we need to look for another batch of cover art and copy editing. Along with Mysteries and Iron Angels, that should be more than enough to keep me busy. Like I needed help with that before, right? See ya!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Guest Post on My Writing Bug

So I have a guest post up on another blog! Chantele Sedgwick was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to do an interview on her blog, My Writing Bug. Her blog supports a lot of aspiring authors, and she has her own books in the works to be published. In my interview she asked me about my writing schedule, my favorite authors and a few other little tidbits. Thanks again to Chantele for her support, and I wish her luck in her own projects!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On a Crazy Baby

So, those of you interested in Sera news, she is now crawling all over the place and getting into everything. She's cruising, grabbing and giggling up a storm pretty much every time we turn around. For example, yesterday she pulled the fruit drawer out of the fridge, messed with a bag of stuff she found on the ground, discovered our DVD collection and made her way along the table we have in the living room without falling down.

How did the little bundle we brought home get so big already? Next thing I know she'll be talking. Oh, the humanity...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On a Crazy Week

You know its been a particularly crazy week when you can't remember the last normal day at work you had. This week has been one of those, for better or worse. To all those who have emailed me and are still waiting on a response, yeah, I will try and get back to you by the end of the night. I just hope that I can make it through November, because at this rate I'm starting to wonder if my poor little brain can take it.

At the very least my writing schedule has been moving along pretty well. Hector Kingsley's second book, for now Mysteries in Whitechapel, has now reached the one third point, which means that I've already written everything that my writing group will see before I rewrite it for the alpha readers. That's always kind of a turning point for the story in a lot of ways, and I am very glad to have reached it. I'm also all the way through the second draft of Badger; now I've turned it over to Emily for a preread. She always gets the good stuff first (mostly because at that point it isn't that good, and she's an excellent editor.) and she's liking it so far. Iron Angels' third draft could be going a bit better, but I've nailed down Susan's character a bit better and I hope to have it ready by the end of October to send out to alpha readers.

All in all, things are going well, just really, really busy. I hope that all of you are keeping up with the challenges life throws at you as well, and I'll see you around!

PS. Here's the cover for Wolfhound as far as we've got it. Cool, huh?

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Wolfhound: The Cover and Possible Ads

So we've been working on creating ads and an official cover for Wolfhound. Well, at least Emily has (Thanks Em!). Here are a few of the ads that we've come up with.

And another...

And another...

And one more!

So those are the ones we've come up with so far. They all, of course, feature the art of Paul Hamblin, who is awesome. Let me know if there are other ideas you have for more ads, and I will see you around!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Bios

Bios are hard to write. I have now officially discovered why authors hate these things. I guess part of it is the fact that a bio is either a list of your previous accomplishments or a story about yourself, neither of which seems very comfortable to me at the moment. The list of credentials thing doesn't really work when your entire publication history consists of a contest I won at BYU and a degree that has nothing to do with writing. Not exactly the kind of resume that I want to introduce people to when I am just starting out.

The other way of doing it seems just as hard, but at least it has the advantage of being more personal. I think I will probably end up going with that one, since it would help readers get to know me and what I am doing. Still, it just seems weird to be writing something about myself rather than one of my characters. They're so much cooler than I am, after all.

In any case, hope all is going well for you guys and I will see you around!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Bad Discoveries

Sera has made a pair of very unfortunate discoveries. First among these is the discovery that she can attract our attention by doing things we don't like her doing. That would be things like grabbing computer cords, banging her head against things, etc.

Secondly, she's discovered that I don't like having the hair on my legs pulled out. Combined, these things are bad news...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Cover Art


AHhahahahahahahahaha! It's awesome!

Many thanks to Paul Hamblin, the incredibly talented artist behind this wonderful cover. See you later!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Updating Schedule

Alright, so the past few weeks it has been a bit difficult for me to update this blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Part of that comes from the fact that I have had such a crazy writing schedule outside of the blog, and another part comes from the fact that it is pretty hard to come up with three interesting blog posts in a week. I mean, my life does not seem so entirely interesting that I would need three posts a week to detail it to the world. Of course, rampant laziness is also a factor, but I flatter myself and say it is a small one.

Then again, a blog is always a good form of advertising and marketing, which is something that I will need as Wolfhound gets closer to publication. And I am loathe to lose those few readers that I already have.

So what do you guys think? Should I cut it back to two a week, Tuesday and Thursday, or do you feel I would be cutting myself short? Or are you kind of just ambivalent about the whole thing? Hope all goes well for you guys, and I will see you later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Marketing

I would just like to preface this post by saying one thing. I apparently suck at marketing. Apparently when people were lining up for talents before we came here, I was off eating cupcakes or something when this one was handed out.

I am trying to improve though. As of a few days ago I now have a Project Wonderful account, and I am already surfing around trying to figure out which sites I want to carry ads for Wolfhound. I just need the cover art to come through (any day now I hope?) and we should have ads soon after! I am even doing blog stuff! If there's anything else you guys think I should do, let me know. I am willing to branch out in order to make this thing work.

It's just too bad that all of this involves talking to people. Bah, my one weakness...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On Dwarf Fortress

Some of you may recall the post I did on Spelunky, that wonderful game where everything--and I do mean everything will conspire to kill you. Dwarf Fortress is a similar game with one difference: while Spelunky once in a while, out of sheer pity, may allow you to win, Dwarf Fortress does not. Mercy, pity, remorse, Dwarf Fortress needs nothing of these things, and you may hope for none of them here.

Dwarf Fortress is the product of a single developer, who I believe is a math teacher. That alone should give you pause, but the motto doesn't really give a whole lot of room for interpetation. When the rallying cry of a community is that "Losing is fun!", then you know that the game's going to be a little more challenging than your average game of Halo.

The point of Dwarf Fortres is to construct a colony of happy, productive little dwarfs in a particular region of a preconstructed world. Among the challenges you face include goblins, trolls, titans, madness, more goblins, magma, aquifers, flooding, drought, famine, lack of beer, hippy elves, more goblins... I think you get the picture.

Since it is a free, independently developed game, the original graphics are limited to some pretty obscure ASCII characters. There are some graphics tilesets out there that can make it prettier, but at the moment it looks like an impenetrable wall of characters when you start. Weirdly enough, though, if you play long enough it becomes perfectly understandable before long. Graphics, however, are going to be the least of your worries.

To say that the interface for Dwarf Fortress has a steep learning curve is kind of like saying that Mount Everest is a little hard to climb. The understatement is a killer. The person making this game has planned out nearly everything, from how the water flows downhill to how magma flows. He has modeled how injuries to dwarves play out not only in the general "blows to the head kill you faster" sense but also to the "if this guy hits the dwarf in the hand, he may lose feeling in some of his fingers for a while" sense. Wind, migration patterns for animals, social dynamics between dwarves and even the possible difficulties in providing healthcare for your settlement are taken into account, along with whatever possible disasters they might cause.

The number of possible failures are numerous. One fortress might fall when a maddened carpenter slaughters half your population, leaving the rest to fall into mourning, starvation and frantic attempts to survive. Another might succumb to a devastating assault by a goblin horde. Yet another when you accidentally build a volcano in the middle of your settlement (yes, you can!), while another might fall apart simply because of a sudden famine that leaves your weakened dwarves too vulnerable to fight off the elements any longer. The list goes on, but every fortress is a frantic, futile effort to keep your dwarves alive until finally your settlement is brought to ruin.

Yet in spite of the difficulty of this game and the sheer complexity of its mechanics, Dwarf Fortress is incredibly addicting. You get to design every aspect of your fortress yourself, and you quickly become attached to the stubborn, frustrating creatures you command. The online wiki helps make things a little less frustrating, and the fact that the game is free certainly adds to its appeal. If you have a few days to spend on a puzzle with infinite creative variations, I highly recommend Dwarf Fortress. And if you take me up on that, good luck. Don't let the giant cave spiders bite.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guest Post by Joe Vasicek: On Music and Writing

So today we have a guest post by Joe Vasicek, an independent writer who happens to be a friend of mine. His books are already up on Amazon, along with several of his short stories that he has graciously allowed you to obtain for free. Go check them out!

And without further introduction, here's Joe!

I have a mild case of ADHD, which means that I alternate between being hyperfocused on an activity to being distracted by anything and everything. As a writer, this can make things difficult, especially when I’m slogging through the middle of a draft where everything seems to suck. But when I get on a roll, the writing comes much easier, provided I can train myself to focus.

Music has tremendous power to cut through the distractions and focus my thoughts on the story I'm trying to write. For that reason, I usually put together a soundtrack for each of my books, and listen to it repeatedly while writing them. Over time, I gradually come to associate certain tracks with certain characters or scenes, so that all I have to do is hit play and let my mind take off with the story.

The trick is finding the right music. For any given soundtrack, there will usually be only two or three songs that really trigger that state of hyperfocus for me, while the rest just help keep me from getting distracted. It's partially about finding the song that evokes the right emotion, but it's also a matter of personal association and things that might have very little to do with the music itself.

For example, when I was writing an early draft of Bringing Stella Home, I saw this clip from Il Mercenario. The scene struck me powerfully, because it features a downtrodden, defeated rebel who is given a second chance and uses it to face his demons like a man.

In a broad sense, that's very similar to James McCoy's struggle from my book: his older brother and sister have been captured by spacefaring barbarians, and all he wants is a chance to prove himself and get them back. Just like the rebel from the movie, James gets knocked down repeatedly--and always gets back up.

As soon as I'd made that connection, I knew that song would have to be in the soundtrack for my novel. For the next two or three drafts, it became the first track I'd listen to--the one that triggered me to start writing.

This song from the Halo 2 soundtrack makes me think of the mercenary team from the novel, who take James in and give him that chance he's been looking for. I remember listening to this on the Washington DC Metro while I was at my K Street internship, thinking of all the things I would put into the story as I worked on the third draft. Music can be great for focusing my thoughts in the prewriting stage, which is often just as important as the writing itself.

Another major song was this remix of a track from Shinobi III, featured on overclocked remix. I had my mp3 player on shuffle and this track came on just as I finished the last chapter of one of the early drafts of the novel. The bittersweet emotion evoked by the music paralled the emotion of the book's ending so perfectly, I can't listen to this song anymore without thinking about Bringing Stella Home.

A lot of these connections are so personal they probably wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to someone just listening to the music, but that's okay--these homemade soundtracks aren't for the reader so much as they are for the writer. In that sense, finding and listening to the right music can be a great writing technique.

In college, I got most of my music from Overcocked Remix. The site features over two thousand fan-made remixes and arrangements of video game music, and not only is it all free, but the quality is amazing. My favorite remixers are Zircon, bLiNd, and Phr4cture; they've also produced some independent stuff that is quite good, Zircon in particular. Well worth checking out.

Nowadays, I get my music from a variety of places. I've recently taken a liking to trance and progressive, with artists such as Armin Van Buuren, Tenishia, Protoculture, tyDi, Jaren, and others. Trance is all about emotion, and so is fiction--that's why we have genre categories like "romance," "thriller," and "fantasy" which revolve around the emotion the stories are supposed to evoke.

But really, it all depends. Every project is different, as the wide variety of the music in my homemade soundtracks attests. When everything clicks and the story just flows, it's pure magic.

To kick off the release of my novel Bringing Stella Home, I'd like to give away a free copy of the companion novella, Sholpan. When the spacefaring Hameji barbarians capture Stella McCoy and make her a concubine to their chief overlord, it seems as if she is powerless to resist. But by refusing to compromise her values, she finds friends in unexpected places, even as the dangerous world of harem politics threatens to destroy her.

To download a free copy, select your preferred format from the story's Smashwords page and input the following coupon code: SN58S (not caps sensitive). The offer expires in a week, however, so be sure to pick it up before the 13th.

Joe's blog is at He has all sorts of interesting posts over there, so check that out as well. In any case, your regularly scheduled nerd stuff will be back on Saturday. See you then!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Cyberpunk

So I have been thinking lately about a cyberpunk novel idea. Why I would be wandering off on the subject when I already have so much to do, I have no clue, but the bits I've cobbled together have come from a few different sources.

Cyberpunk, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, involves a future setting in which the boundry between machines and humanity is explored. It tends to be pretty gothy, and the main protagonist tends to be a loner who hacks his way to victory against cold, unfeeling corporate overlords. Cyberpunk tends to be pretty dark, and grim as well. I guess the Matrix was a good example of cyberpunk genre in film, and there's a lot more out there.

My first exposure was a game that I ran across called Deus Ex. It was a pretty fun game, but kind of dated. A new prequel to it has come out recently called Deus Ex: Human Revolution. For those of you who like videogames, look it up. It looks awesome. Sadly I am denied the opportunity to play it since I have no console or TV, but the entire concept of the game is fascinating to me. The setting is in a future where mechanical augmentations--and later nano augmentations--are widely available. Something about that caught my attention, and I have been studying it for a while.

Of course, another source of interest in cyberpunk comes from the fact that cyberpunk is closely related to steampunk. My foray into the world of Hector Kingsley has so far turned out to go very well, so why not try a related culture?

I think that if I wrote it though, I would try to turn some of the conventions on their heads. That seems to work well for me. The only problem that I would see is that cyberpunk always seems to carry some kind of political context to it, and that might turn away readers. Oh well, I won't have time to explore it for quite a while yet anyway. I will continue to ponder it more. See ya!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On General Conference

Ah General Conference. Always a time to listen to the prophets and reevaluate our lives. My life is full of memories of going to nearby stake centers to listen, or as the conference became available on the internet, gathering with my family to hear the words of the Lord's servants. I remember going to preisthood sessions on Saturday with Dad and Caleb, and listening to the direction the prophets had for us. Of course, I also have memories of spending half of conference doodling on some project or other as the hours wore on. Naps occasionally happened, as I am sorry to say. Let's just say that I wasn't always really good about paying attention when I should have. :)

This year I have to work during conference weekend. This will be the third conference where I only get to hear part of the talks. To put it bluntly, that really sucks. I've missed listening to each of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency speak, and it always feels like I am missing out on something that is extremely important. I'm sure it will be especially bad this time, since I am looking for a lot of guidance lately. With my baby girl growing up, uncertainty about my future career, and other questions spinning around my head like a tornado, I could use all of the direction I can get. Unfortunately I will have to wait for some of that guidance.

Let's just hope that guidance comes during the morning sessions, right? See you around!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Crawling

No, this is not a post on the progress I've made this week writing-wise (though it very well could be. Stupid reasonable limits on my abilities...)I am proud to announce that Sera, as of two days ago, is now a crawler.

She can now toddle pretty much anywhere she wants. This means that anything--from computer cords to toys to shoes--is now fair game. The chaos has officially begun...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On the State of the Writer

Friday was somewhat less than a good day. I think I basically hit my stress limit in terms of all the projects that I've been working on, and my brain decided to take a little vacation. My apologies for those who have been awaiting any news from me. I know there were many who were holding their breath. :)

In any case, my most recent question is if I should try to publish Kingsley indie style or traditional style. Going indie with Kingsley means further investment out of my own pocket, but it offers rewards quicker. Traditional means waiting a year or two to see if the publishers will want to pick it up, which will tax my patience, but it would reach a broader market and require less financial backing on my part.

Which side do you guys come down on? I know some of you have already weighed in, but feel free to give your opinions. See you around!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On the Wall

It has been hit...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Setting New Goals (aka Scheduling Crazy Stuff)

So Murders in Whitechapel (or Mysteries in Whitechapel as I think it will probably be called), has been progressing pretty well. I am about seven thousand words in, and the story is shaping up pretty well.

My attempt to rewrite Iron Angels fell a little flat, however. Instead, I decided to turn Badger into a readable copy first, while I am still interested in Jacob's story. Once I get to that point, I will return to Gabriel and Susan and hopefully get an alpha reader copy out by mid October. After that, I will do another revision of Adventures and probably send out queries and summaries to editors and agents by the beginning of November. That will get me ready to finish off Mysteries by mid-November, and hopefully get Wolfhound published on Amazon and Smashwords by late November/early December, thus completing my journey towards having something up by Christmas.

On a totally unrealted note, I'm feeling kind of tired lately. Any ideas why? :) See you around!

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Hobbies

So I realized the other day that I don't have any hobbies. This disturbs me.

I used to have plenty of hobbies, but I seem to have either outgrown them or turned them into careers. Writing was once a hobby, but now I am doing it at a pace that makes it a career rather than something I do just to goof off. Gaming was something I did up until college, and videogames don't seem to fit the pattern of hobby that I'm thinking of. Running I guess you could consider a hobby, but it falls more into the exercise category since it isn't like I am preparing for races or anything.

I think I might need to start one, if only to bleed off some of the stress of working full time, plus writing books, plus baby. Any ideas on hobbies I could do? Post some that might be interesting, and I hope you all are doing well. See ya!

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Darker and Grittier

It's always a bit disconcerting for me when a character disagrees with me on how I am writing him or her.

Yet it happens on a fairly regular basis. Most recently, Kingsley decided to disagree with me on how I was writing the sequel.

I had originally intended to have a large portion of the book to be devoted to tracking down a serial killer in London. It was going to be a rather gruesome case, with a lot of violent themes involved, until Kingsley finally undoes the whole thing. Murders in Whitechapel was going to be kind of like the Dark Knight book of my series, exploring the nature and causes of evil.

Kingsley didn't like that. His style just didn't seem to fit with the darker tone the story was taking, and it certainly didn't fit with the event style plot. He's a detective, and his story follows mysteries and questions, not events and battles. Further, there tends to be very little gory stuff in a Kingsley book, even with violent characters like Rook in the mix. Trying to stick such a dark plot just didn't seem to work.

And so I had to change things, refocus them on new questions instead of a new event. The story has shifted around Kingsley's way of telling it, instead of the way I had pictured it before. Now I've got what might as well be a different story, to the point where I almost want to change the story to Mysteries in Whitechapel instead of Murders. It's weird, but it works a lot better, and I am looking forward to writing it that much more.

Oh well, I suppose it will turn out well in the end... See you around!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Prologues

You know, I don't think that prologues are all that bad.

There are a lot of prologue-hating authors out there, and they make a lot of very good points about the deficiencies of including a prologue in a story. It's often an unreasonable delay to the story, many prologues don't tend to add anything to the plot, character development or mystery of a story, and there are many prologues which signal instantly to the reader that they should turn their brains off and coast for as long as the prologue lasts, if only to be able to enjoy the story that follows. A lot of this comes from prologues that tend to exist only to "tell the reader what they need to know" or explain some obscure part of the backstory that doesn't show up again until much later on in the book. These prologues can break a story before its even begun.

Yet I've noticed lately that a lot of these arguments only really target poorly-done prologues rather than the concept of a prologue in general. There are a lot of well done prologues, including those written by Brandon Sanderson and other fantasy writers, that add a lot to the flavor of the story. I'd say that as long as a prologue helps the reader get a feel for the world and the main characters, it can actually do a lot of good. One example of that is the prologue to Mistborn or Elantris. They not only provide some small setting details and character traits, but also set the tone and flavor of the tale that follows, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the story.

Another example comes from my own work. There is a certain series of stories about a certain steampunk investigator who gives a short prologue before each of his books. While some setting details are revealed, the main function is to allow the reader to get a feel for Mr. Kingsley and his view of life. I'd say that without that short 600 word prologue, the rest of the story would not go nearly as well. In fact, it would pretty much break the book.

My evidence for that comes from the sequel. When I started the newest iteration of the series, I had to labor over the prologue a while before I got it right. The first version was so bad it had to be thrown out completely. It set the tone entirely wrong, and I actually couldn't convince myself to continue writing because the story just felt wrong. But the second...

Let's just say that it tastes like victory. Mwahahaha!

So let's all be nice to prologues, alright? They do have some good points, and you never know. Someday, you might end up writing one yourself... and even worse, you might like it.

In any case, I hope that your lives are going well, and I'll see you around!

Monday, September 12, 2011

On A New Project

I made it! Badger is now done, at least as far as the first draft is concerned. The book will likely need a second draft before it can be readable, but for now I will be shifting my focus to the next project: Murders in Whitechapel.

I'm a bit concerned on how to start this one off. Part of the problem is that Kingsley is a mystery oriented story, which is very different from the event oriented storyline in Badger. Rather than a battle, I need to inject intrigue and trickery, which requires a bit of a different focus.

Another part of the problem is that unlike the first Kingsley novel, you start this one with a fairly good idea of who at least one of the bad guys is. That brings the conflict a lot more quickly into focus than the first book, and changes at least some of it from a "Whodunnit" type story to a "Whatshegonnado" plot. It's enough of a difference to make things subtly different, and it presents a puzzle I'm going to need to work around to get things right. Given the success I had with the first book, I am hoping to not flub the second one completely, so there's that presure to deal with as well.

At the same time I'm going to be doing a third draft rewrite of Iron Angels. The writing group has made its way through nearly a third of the second draft, and their critiques have given me fuel enough to go through and make my alpha readable draft now. That story's pretty different from Jacob's or Kingsley's as well, but I don't think it will distract me too badly. I hope.

Here goes everything...

Friday, September 9, 2011

On Anniversaries

You know, every year around this time I start to worry a little about the state of my soul.

Maybe it's the constant, politicized reminiscing about Sept 11th in the news. Maybe it's the op eds that try to explain what happened and how, sometimes occasionally placing the blame on us as a nation rather than the murdering bastards who committed the crime in the first place. Maybe it's the sudden worries about various groups or individuals who might try to duplicate the tragedy of that day, simply to make some kind of political point, alongside the distant memory that things didn't use to be this way. We used to live without worrying about having a major terrorist attack each year at the beginning of September, we didn't use to have airports that acted more like screening centers than travel hubs, and we didn't have an anniversary to commemorate quite possibly the worst day in recent American history. Or maybe, as I half suspect, I just have a particular emotional trauma associated with the whole thing that has simply refused to heal.

So I end up being angry half the time, for no particular reason. I hate hearing about that day, dislike reading op ed articles about it. In fact, I've started avoiding most articles that have to do with it around this time because I just know by the end of them I'll be enraged. The frustration just sort of sours and festers and sits for as long as the collective 'celebration' of the 'holiday' lasts, until it passes and we can get on with life as usual. At least we can until next year when we do it all again.

In the beginning I kind of tried to deal with it with bitter, sarcastic humor. I would make jokes about it, as if by mocking it I could deny how much it hurt. That wasn't too healthy, but just chaining it up and soaking in the anger doesn't seem to work either.

At some point I started to wonder if all this anger is really just something wrong with me. That I just haven't healed the way some people have and it's my fault that I keep nursing the grudge or whatever that causes it in the first place. I wonder if I have someone I need to forgive in order to get past it, and then I wonder how to forgive someone who uses what happened to get political gain, or to sell tickets to a movie, or to sell newspapers? Or how do you forgive the people who originally did this in the first place? I still haven't found a way, and I wonder if I ever will.

This year it was kind of especially bad. Probably because it was the tenth year since the attacks more than anything else. I just wish that some day, somehow, I can manage to get all the way from August to October without once having to say "crap, it's that time of year again." Or even better, if I could look back on Sept 12th and say, "Oh yeah, I guess yesterday was the anniversary. Huh."

Someday, right?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Frustration

Well, if this post goes up, it means we've gone a whole week without Internet access. I'm most likely alright--if by alright you mean curled up in a corner whimpering--but we'll be back soon. Really soon! I hope I hope I hope...

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Hitting the Home Stretch

So by the end of the week, I hope to be finished with Badger. Huzzah! It is at this point that my writing drive goes into high gear. Maybe it's a leftover from the cross country and track days, when I would throw everything I had into the final push before the finish line. When I got to the end of Kingsley, I was writing fifteen thousand words a week; the Iron Angels finish was a similar burst of new words written in the final week. So far Badger is shaping up to be similar, so I have high hopes to finish the thing by Saturday, in spite of moves, baby and work in the emergency room. :)

Of course, the end of Badger's first draft means the beginning of the next Kingsley novel is right around the corner. The working title will be The Continued Adventures of Hector Kingsley: Murders in Whitechapel. If you have protests, requests, demands or bargains for that project, now's the time to make them! In any case, I hope that all goes well for each of you in your work, whether in writing or your other pursuits. Hopefully the Internet will be back up in our new digs, and I will have a report for you then. See ya!

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the Publishing Industry Part Three: Changes for Publishers and Writers

So the changes to the bookstores will probably continue to change the relationship that publishers and writers have with each other. As I said, the publishers traditionally acted as the negotiators with the distributors, something which may be a lot less necessary in days to come. I think that publishers may act as a different kind of help for writers, shifting from the go between for writers and distributors to the go between for authors and their readership.

The reason for that shift is pretty logical. The publishers, for all their faults, still know how to market and prepare books for a wide readership. Self-published authors, while they might get a lot of that work done on a contract basis, just don't have the same kind of experience. Cover art, copy editing and a lot of other work that goes into a book have been done by publishers for so long that they have made it into, well, an art. Marketing is another facet of the industry where the publisher has reigned supreme. The boost in readership that a self-published or e-published author could enjoy merely by being associated with a publishing brand is incentive enough for them to accept traditional contracts now; I can only imagine how much more attractive those kinds of deals will become once the publishers adjust to the new state of things.

At the same time, writers are going to enjoy a lot more control and responsibility in the industry than they have before. Publishers and agents may start treating e-publishing as a kind of universal slush fund, and offer contracts to the writers whose work rises above the rest. They may even start offering contracts where the books come out before the hard copy, allowing publishers the chance to gauge how much demand there are for the books. The issue is that it might start to depend on which authors the publishers can count on to produce work on a steady schedule, authors who know enough about contracts not to get suckered into bad deals with agents or publishers. Contracts may change as well, revolving more around royalty rates, deadlines, and rights to the work itself than advances or multiple book deals. A new breed of author might need to be willing to create themselves as marketable properties and brands for publishers to pick up, almost like viedo game companies working with consoles. The new state of things will ask for writers with business sense and at least some marketing knowledge, which traditionally has not been true.

One thing I don't see happening is the absolute disappearance of publishers as a whole. While they may be scrambling right now, and while here and there they haven't been adapting in a good way, publishers simply have too much usefulness and staying power to vanish. It will be interesting to see what further changes come and how the industry grows as a result. We shall see how I can fit into things; hopefully there's a place in all of this mess for a little newcomer like me. :)

In any case, hopefully my internet will be up by Monday and our move will be complete. Wish us luck, I think we'll need it. See ya!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the Publishing Industry Part Two: The Future of Bookstores

So bookstores have been dealt a pretty harsh blow. Borders went under, and lots of other brick and mortar stores have either followed suit or are swirling the drain. Amazon continues to sell more and more of the books people are reading, and epublishing has cut out the bookstores from the process entirely.

As I see it, there are a few options for the bookstores to follow in the coming days. I'm going to try and lay it out as clearly as I can and hopefully I will not attract anyone's ire. Here goes nothing...

Option One: The Borders. This option involves more or less doubling down and continuing to try and keep the business going as usual. Ignoring the changes going on in the electronic market, the bookstore tries to squeeze more cash out of the writers and publishers supplying it with material. As time goes on and profits remain dismal, the store tries last minute attempts to adapt, perhaps even throwing grand sales in a grasping try to catch up to where their competitors already are. They end up going the way of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Borders, closing their doors in defeat as the market leaves them behind.

Option Two: The Hybrid. This option relies on diversifying the product the store sells. Barnes and Noble seems to have relied on this one extensively, developing not only its hard copy books, but also music, board games and the Nook. That last one was probably the more important one, because it helped put a hand in the territory that Amazon's Kindle had occuped alone for so long. As a result, the bookstore continues to make enough profits in order to survive, but not much else will change in its relationships with traditional publishers and authors. The only real difference is that in addition to the product coming from self-published authors will be lined up alongside traditional authors, in the electronic half at least. Self-published authors may still get exluded from hard copy bookshelves though, so no real change there.

Option Three: The Comic Book Store. Rather than continuing as a hardline corporate institution, the bookstore starts to rely on local and cultural appeal to continue functioning. They feature hard copies not only from traditional authors, but also local epublished authors as well to appeal to local audiences. Book signings, book readings, tables for writing groups or book clubs, and other add ons might draw more interest to the physical building. Online, the bookstore forms a strong relationship with print on demand companies as well as the usual publishers, so that they can get at least a small amount of profit through that source. They might even communicate directly with self-published authors to get signed copies of books in their stores like collector's items. All in all, the bookstore becomes more of a cultural icon, a gathering place for people who enjoy books, than a commercialized business venture.

So those are the three options that I see availble. There are probably more, but these seem to be more likely than the rest. Obviously, any of these changes are going to effect how publishers and writers run their side of the business, so that will be the purpose of the next post. See you then!

Monday, August 29, 2011

On the Publishing Industry Part One: The Situation

So those of you who have been following the conflict over the current state of the publishing industry (who by the way are entirely nerds) know that the battle lines have apparently been drawn between those who support "traditional" publishing and those who are going full speed ahead with the new concept of epublishing. Some on one side use the argument that the epublishing sphere is producing a bunch of crap that will crowd out good literature and ultimately harm the industry as a whole, while the epublishers are crowing about the apparent downfall of the publishing companies that have acted as gatekeepers for so long and the birth of a new era of freedom for writers as a whole.

I think in a lot of ways the industry has changed permanently, but the conflict we are seeing between self publishers and publishers, editors and agents isn't helping any of us adapt to the change.

First off, a distinction needs to be drawn between the publishers and the distributors. You have to keep in mind that for the past who knows how long, the only way a book could be sold was through a bookstore, and that most of those bookstores were chains owned by a handful of companies. Publishing companies were the people who developed relationships with those distributors and got the books from the authors hands to the stores. They were almost like the union for writers as a whole; they were big enough that the distributors had to listen to them or lose out on product, and for the most part I believe that they tried to guarantee the fair treatment of the writers producing the product they sold. The agents who represented the authors were likewise part of that process.

Unfortunately, that bargaining all too often came out in favor of the distributors. As I heard it described to me, the bookstores kept the lion share of the profits, while the author, agent and publisher basically divided up the small remainder. It was the needs and demand of the bookstores that moved books in and out of shelves in less than a year, that told publishers that if a book didn't sell they would have to ship it back and store it at their own cost, and that generally bent things in the advantage of the distributors. Writers are very often known as being poor, but I doubt the publishing company was the reason for it. It was likely the fact that the publishing company could only get so much out of the bookstore before they were simply turned down.

Now the internet has officially revolutionized the industry, almost on accident. Suddenly the bookstore is not the only place to find books. In fact, it's almost a second choice behind Amazon and other online stores, where electronic books and actual hardcopies by the thousands are available at the click of a mouse. The effect has been devastating to the distributors who have had a lock on the market for so long. Long invincible chains like Borders are literally vanishing almost overnight, and the publishing companies which had spent so long developing ties with those stores are suddenly left hanging in the wind, with the likelihood of unpaid bills piling up behind them. It's probably going to end up with a balance that favors writers much more heavily, but for the time being it's chaos.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On the Seventh Book

Ah, Kingsley. Probably the best story ever formed by the mating of two alternative rock songs, an episode of Castle, and the quiet bother of an hour long commute.

Okay, so there were a lot more influences on the story than just that, but those were the main ones. It was one of those fusions of ideas that came together all at once, and I really couldn't argue with the result.

Basically, I came up with the idea for The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley while I was on my way home from work one night. At the time, things were a little bit stressful. I was now working at the emergency room, and at the same time I was starting to volunteer at a research lab in order to stick my toe into the water for that career path. I had discovered that Christmas with the family was not in the cards for this year, and I had already begun my time driving an hour to work and back. On top of that, Em and I had been working opposite schedules for about two and a half months, which was more than a little discouraging. All in all, I was stressed out, working hard and missing my wife.

Also at the time my wife was discovering her interest in steampunk. She had gotten into the genre by buying Leviathan by Scott Westerfield (curse you shiny cover, you were irresistable!). The genre was apparently the spiritual home that she had been looking for, and it was fun to watch her geek out over the various stories and styles she found. I found myself drawn to the genre as well, though for the most part I hadn't thought much about writing it myself.

Cue the Castle episode. It was a normal episode about a murder involving a steampunk club, but it was fun to hear the main character's description of the genre as a whole. It was something to the effect of "steampunk is a combination of the romanticism of Victorian times and the ingenuity of future design", which kind of resonated with me. After all, in those times you didn't need a research grant to do science, you just picked up a snail or something and said "How does this thing work?"

Then came the night that I was driving home, exhausted, and came up with the idea of writing a story in a universe where they had discovered something that brought out the inner side of people. Something that made monsters out of psychopaths and vampires out of addicts. Something that made wheels turn on their own and engines run without obstacle. The idea would only work in a steampunk setting, and the character I came up with to fit it was based on the song I had on in the car at the time. Hector Kingsley, investigator, came to life in all his sarcastic, stuffy glory.

I started writing a little bit at a time in the midnight hours when I got home. Little by little the story developed. A second song gave me Patricia Anderson, aka Mustang, and the story just took off. When I had enough of it down, I sent a bit of it to the writing group and found a pretty positive response. Encouraged by the reaction, I started to write a little bit more, eventually sprinting through the story in March to finish the first draft and taking most of May to do the second. It went from a story I was basically writing to enjoy myself and entertain Em to an actual honest to goodness novel, and is probably the best thing I'd written so far.

So go figure. Life is strange, but sometimes the twists it gives us are really, really good. :) Hope all is going well for you guys, and I will see you later!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Driving in Houston, Part Deux

So the other night I was driving along, minding my own business, and eagerly getting closer to arriving at home for the night. Traffic wasn't too bad, which was wonderful, and I was able to drive at a pretty decent pace--below the speed limit of course (cough cough).

I saw a little motion in the cars ahead of me and looked over to find a car that seemed to be completely out of control. Not as in moving around a bit inside the lane out of control. I mean swerving completely across five lanes of traffic and nearly colliding with the concrete divider out of control. The driver literally pulled out of the swerve just barely in time to avoid a messy crash, swerved back into traffic and across two more lanes before finally settling into something resembling a sane driving course.

In the process, they cut off three different cars--one lucky guy got it twice--and scared the crap out of all of us. I've never seen an entire section of traffic look disapproving before, but you could almost feel the collective "What the crap are you doing?" in the air. The crazy driver slowed down under the sheer shame of it, and most of his fellow drivers accelerated to leave him safely in their dust. Drunk, asleep or just plain cracked out, at the very least they didn't sideswipe me as I edged my way past them a few moments later.

This has been another episode of why Houston drivers are awful and why my commute is terrible. I hope you guys are driving safe, and I'll see you around...hopefully.

Monday, August 22, 2011

On Supporting Good Causes

So I find myself in a quandry. As some of you know, I really like webcomics. There are several out there that I enjoy, from Schlock Mercenary to Girl Genius (and yes, yours too Aneeka) and checking up on those stories has given me a little habit to enjoy as the week goes on.

My particular moral dilemmma currently has to do with one of the webcomics I read. The author actually runs a site with multiple comics on it, and some of them have become my favorites over the years. He speaks a lot on faith and heroism, which is something I always enjoy in my stories. He's also a super-conservative right wing Christian, which means that every so often he goes off on subjects that he finds threatening. Most of the time it is just some old fashioned humor, but occasionally he will drift into vitriol every once in a while. For the most part I had decided to tolerate his personal flaws and respect his work as an artist. In fact, I was actually planning on buying a bit of advertising space on his site, both to support him in his work and to promote my own work.

Things kind of took a new turn recently. The author of the webcomic also has a blog attached to his comics, and he has recently been posting an awful lot of anti-Mormon stuff. You know the kind--the creepily hateful websites with claims to know "actual" Mormon history, the old chestnuts about Mormon "secret" doctrine, the delightful distortion of half-truths for effect. It surprised me to see him not only posting it, but also advocating the material, basically acting as a parrot for these things when he could have been making the comics I enjoy.

I had always been aware that he wasn't necessarily a fan of Mormonism, which was something I could deal with. After all, many of the webcomics that I follow have authors whose viewpoints differ quite a bit from my own. The difference for me is between speaking up for your own views and spreading gossip and rumors about another's views. I had always been happy to hear about his faith, about the principles he believed in, because in a lot of ways they mirrored my own.

At the same time, I find it hard to support or read from an author who is actively spreading lies about my own beliefs, in a manner that won't permit reasonable discussion. I literally felt sick to my stomach as I watched the comment threads bascially denegrate into a pit of hate and bigotry, knowing all the while that any comment I would make would either be deleted or merely feed into the spirit of contention. Any intentions I had of buying ads on the site evaporated, and at this point I am wondering if it is even worth continuing to read his comics at all. It's not like I don't have other things to be doing, and I wouldn't want to approve of that kind of discourse about any person's faith, let alone my own. Given the political situation, we're probably only going to get bombarded by more of this stuff in the coming days, and the last thing we need is more.

So yeah, quandry. Let me know if you guys have any suggestions, and I hope you have a good week. See you around!

Friday, August 19, 2011

On the Sixth Book

After Wolfhound, my next project was based on a new idea I had developed based on a dream I had. You may already see where this one went wrong.

My dream had me playing a game of Zelda. I'm a bit hazy on the details, but the supporting characters were urging me to get to the end of the level before the boss broke free and ruined everything. Lazy sod that I am, I kind of laughed to myself, mid-dream, and said "Silly people. The boss never gets free. He just sits there until I decide to beat the crap out of him."

When I woke up, it occured to me that a videogame where the boss does get free would be an interesting project. At the time I was still unemployed and games have always been a hobby of mine. So I decided to come up with a videogame where that aspect would be included. Along the way it kind of morphed into some kind of proto-MMORPG monster where players would attempt to build and defend a realm against the demonic monsters that would undermine and destroy it.

By the end, I had a pretty neat setting and background, but unless some interested millionaire stumbles along I probably will never get the chance to put it into production. Given how many successful companies already have MMORPGs out, and how risky it can be to start one (i.e. Tabula Rasa) I don't know if anything will come of it in the game arena.

Yet I had a setting and world built, so I thought why not use it in a story? At that point I wasn't sure I wanted to do a lot of science fiction yet, and the temptation to slip back into fantasy for a while was alluring. So I started the project, now known as The New Realm, and poured effort into it like water on a fire.

Thus began the dreadful experience of writing a setting story. It was awful. Characters changed names, back stories and abilities. Plot events shifted like sand beneath my feet. By the end of the story, I just wanted to finish the thing and be done with it for a while. Even now thinking of going back to it sends a ribbon of pain through my skull. By the time the story shuddered to a delightfully disconnected halt, I was more than ready to take a break after a while. New Realm has been officially shelved since I finished it, even though the occasional inspiration strikes to add some detail to its background. I might eventually go back and work on it again, but for the time being I have other more interesting projects to tinker with.

Still, it would make one heck of a cool videogame though...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Running up Mother

Don't worry, the post title will make sense eventually. I promise. :)

Back in high school, our track and cross country coach had a saying: "The longest distance you will ever run is the one between your ears." What he meant, of course, is that no matter how hard it is to run any particular race, the mental battle is the hardest part.

When he laid out our cross country course, Coach Cohen made sure it reflected that. Every part of the course carried its own particular mental challenge--from the start that took us right up a pavement hill to the finish that tricked hasty runners into a final all-out sprint half a mile from the finish line--but none of them were quite as painful as Mother.

Mother was a trail named for who knows what reason. Our course was filled with trails like that, from Ice Cream to JV, but I always tended to imagine that Mother got its name from the first half of the vulgar, instinctive reaction of the runners who first encountered it. The trail came about two thirds of the way through the three mile course and it started out easily enough. Just a short, mildly difficult incline that you had to run up before you reached a slight turn to the left. A lot of runners, especially those who hadn't run the course before, would sprint up that first little hill and make that turn, fully believing they would have no trouble reaching the top.

The turn was the trick you see. No sooner did you make that turn than a monster confronted you. It was a sharp, long incline that seemed to stretch on forever, and you could see every painful inch of it the moment you made the turn. I remember more than one competitor coming to nearly a dead halt the instant they were confronted with that sight, and I have to admit that I often looked forward to blasting past runners who had so overconfidently sprinted past me a moment ago. It was the ultimate test of your endurance and mental fortitude, and I think I will remember running it the rest of my life.

At this point in my writing career, I think I'm running up Mother all over again. I've made it a pretty decent part of the way through the set up phase. I've got three different novels, and I've set up a writing schedule that will let me get two more done by the end of the year. I know I write well, and I am excited to start breaking into the finish. At the same time, I've turned the corner and realized that it's still going to be a long haul until I start seeing profit and benefit from it all. It's daunting to think of everything I have left to do, and it makes me wonder if the Lord will help me last that long.

At the same time, though, Mother's the wrong time to decide to quit. The best thing I can do is push harder, make it to the top and keep going. Otherwise it'll all have been for nothing, and I'll have to watch some other dirtbag sprint by me as I putter around the trail. So, head down, arms pump, time to hit it hard. Cause, if there's one thing I learned from cross country, it's how to make it up a hill.

This has been your regularly scheduled philosophical rant. More interesting posts will return Friday. See ya!