Deep in writing mode

I'm deep in writing mode now, so my mind is a million miles away.

Spent this week outlining two novels, including Translocator 3, and brainstorming ideas and writing backstory for the post-apocalyptic short stories.

The two novel outlines are coming together nicely. And I got 500 words today on a brand new story. Nothing is done, but all my projects are once again in motion.

I'll admit, the novels are more exciting to me, and I know they'll perform better in the stores. But the short stories are good practice and I like doing them. So I'm having my cake and eating it, too. I'll write short stories for the rest of August while I plot the novels.

*grins*

This is the important work, the writing. Everything follows. More books is what I need. Many, many more books.

I'd like to have one or two more books out before the year is through. The guaranteed one of those is the post-apoc short story collection I've had on my project board for months. The longshot is Translocator 3.

You never know. I'll try to stay focused on work and stay motivated. Holler at me if you find me in the local coffee shop, staring intently into the bright rectangle.

Don't be offended if I don't answer. Chances are my mind is a million miles away.

Words complete on the sci-fi mystery project

Yesterday I finished my part of the sci-fi mystery cowriting novel.

*Fist pump*

The title is undecided (different than what you see here) and I can’t share much of the concept yet, but we reached 50k and the book is currently being revised by my industrious co-author.

All told I’ve probably written 30k manuscript words and 5k plotting/planning words so far on this novel. Feels awesome. And goes to show that steady work, even slow, adds up over time.

I had planned to be done this by August 1st, so I’m running a little bit behind on my original schedule. The schedule says I’ve got 4 post-apoc stories to write in August, so be on the lookout for those. I’ve also got some anthology stories to publish individually, Centurion and Low Desert, High Mountain, Big LizardI’ve already got covers for them. Will share those when the stories are publishing.

More soon!

The Alien Element is here

It's my pleasure to announce that The Alien Element, my pulse-pounding, throat-grabbing, ancient alien-having science fiction novel, is now available! This is the second book in the Translocator Trilogy.

The Alien Element

The Alien Element by M.G. HerronEarth is endangered by an ancient source of power…The Alien Element is here.

On Kakul, Rakulo scours the Wall for a way to free his people from centuries of subjugation. On Earth, Eliana searches Mayan ruins for clues to the origins of Kakul, and Amon is brought under investigation when an intruder in the lab is murdered.

The intruder seemed to be after the carbonado, a powerful black meteorite that caused the Translocator to glitch and stranded Eliana on that other world. Although the motives of those who sent him remain obscured, his disfigured body says all that Amon needs to hear.

Rakulo’s mission, Eliana’s search, and Amon’s troubles collide when the god known as Xucha steals the carbonado and uses its power to entangle the destinies of the two worlds.

This sets off a chain of events that drive Eliana back to Kakul, where she begins to unravel an ancient alien mystery.

"WOW! What a second book! The character development is amazing!" –John J. Knight, Amazon Reviewer

"Action packed sci-fi book with a wonderful storyline. Switching back and forth between locations lets you get a good feel for the similarities and differences between them and the mythology the story is based on is very rich." –Cleocutie, Amazon Reviewer

"This series is full of surprises, smooth to read, and definitely hard to set down. Highly recommended if you enjoy a good read." –Vickie, Amazon Reviewer

Buy on Amazon US  Buy on Amazon UK  Buy on Amazon CA

The $0.99 cent launch sale on The Alien Element will last through August 5th, and which point the book will go up to its regular price of $2.99. Grab it while the sale lasts!

Print readers can get a paperback copy here.

AMA Q9: What are some of your favorite hidden dining ‘gems’?

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

Jeff Wetherbee asks, “As somebody who spends a lot of time in Austin myself, I’m curious…what are some of your favorite hidden dining ‘gems’?”

Last question! This is a fun one.

I love Radio Coffee and Beer, especially the taco trailer out back, called Veracruz.

If you want another truly Austin experience, La Barbecue is probably my favorite BBQ place in town.

For fine dining, I usually recommend South Congress Cafe, Uchi/Uchiko, or Sway.

And because Austin is known for breakfast tacos, you can’t leave town without breakfast at Taco Deli.

If you hit all these places, you’ll be set to burst. So work off the calories at my favorite outdoor places: hiking in the Greenbelt or kayaking on Lake Austin.

Enjoy!

And a big thanks to everyone who submitted questions. This was fun!

AMA Q8: What’s the first adult thing you ever had to do?

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

Kelly Manfredini asks, “What’s the first adult thing you ever had to do?”

One of two things.

First, when I was still young, maybe 10 years old, my mother got sick with pneumonia. While she was sick, I had to take care of myself and my sister—including cooking, which was strange and new and scary at the time. I grew up a lot in a short time dealing with that, and I guess it was the first time I had real adult worries for someone I care deeply about.

The other thing that comes to mind is all the training and studying I did, and the ultimate performance for, my Bar Mitzvah. That was the first time I ever did anything that took over a year of work, and culminated with myself on stage in front of hundreds of people—singing, no less (and I have a pretty bad singing voice, as anyone who knows me well can tell you. I sing, just not very well).

It was scary and very real. But I did it. And I was proud I did it afterwards.

They tell young men after their Bar Mitzvah that they’re “men” now. I don’t know if that’s true or not, as I don’t think I was really an “adult” for another decade, but it did something to my psychology to think so, made me take responsibility when I might otherwise not have. A good learning experience. And while I disliked the ritual and religion aspect of it—organized religion has always had a bad taste for me, even the one in which I was raised—it sure did affect the course of my life in a positive way by giving me the confidence of having overcome that hurdle. I often thought back to those moments later in life, when I was trying to do something hard.

Still do.

AMA Q7: Which of your characters had the most depth. Is the most real.

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

Michael Bunker asks, “Which of your characters had the most depth. Is the most real. Could you see producing works developing the life and journey of this character.”

Eliana Fisk is probably the character I’ve developed with the most depth. She’s an action hero, but her emotional journey and how her relationships change with the people around her as she learns more and more about the mystery of Kakul, gives her a lot of depth.

She’s a fully fleshed out, complex character, with real passion and love, resentment and determination, and even a bit of tragedy to her.

Her and her husband, Amon, came into my imagination together. You can’t take one without the other, but Eliana is central to the series. Always will be.

I can’t wait to explore her journey more in the third book of the Translocator Trilogy, which I plan to write this fall.

At the end of the trilogy, she’ll be a very different person than who she was when she started out on this crazy intergalactic adventure.

AMA Q6: When did you know that you wanted to become an author and what drew you to the sci-fi genre?

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

John Knight asks, “When did you know that you wanted to become an author and what drew you to the sci-fi genre?”

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy. My love for technology and futurism (not to mention futuristic movies, books, and games) is probably what drew me most strongly to sci-fi first. I still intend to explore both genres, but my focus right now is sci-fi thrillers.

I love exploring possible futures.

As for when I knew I wanted to become an author, I think I came to that realization later than most.

I didn’t even grow up knowing I wanted to be a writer. I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer, or a programmer, or just travel the world as a backpacker through my 20s. None of that went as planned. I could have gone any of those routes, and did explore each of them. But in college, when I switched out of computer science and into English Lit, I really decided to take writing seriously.

I was about 19 then.The travel and climbing bug distracted me a bit in my early 20s, but I never lost the writing focus. For the next 10 years I experimented with fiction and nonfiction, journalism, blogging, ghostwriting, copywriting for advertising. I wrote stories, but rarely finished them, and had no discipline with my craft. I was just trying everything, trying to make a living, and figure out what I liked.

I finally managed the “make a living” part. I’ve been a freelance writer/content strategist for two full years now, after several years of part-time freelance writing (while also doing project management for several years).

It wasn’t until 2014 that the thought of actually finishing a book went from distant imagination to active reality. I decided I wanted to try to make a living as a novelist sometime shortly after that.

AMA Q5: How do you come up with the names for your characters?

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

John Knight asks, “How do you come up with the names for your characters, especially the ones in The Alien Element?”

Names are powerful. It’s not uncommon for me to go through three or four names for a character.

Amon, Eliana, and Reuben from the Translocator Trilogy each went through a name change in the first draft of The Auriga Project.

As for the names in The Alien Element, the unique names for the Mayan characters were either made up based on Yucatec Maya phonemes (and my imagination), taken straight from mythology, or borrowed from the many, many websites that came up when I Googled “Mayan baby names.”

Ixchel, for instance, is the name of the Maya goddess of midwifery and medicine. This name really fits her character and role in the books.

Maatiaak was cribbed from a website, or maybe made up. The soft “aa” sound is typical of the Yucatec Maya dialect, and it seemed to fit.

Dambu and Rakulo and even the name of the village, Kakul, were all invented. But again they use variations of Maya phonemes.

Uchben Na in Yucatec Maya actually means, “Ancient Mother,” as I wrote in the book. I try to be very careful with the names and mythology I put in my books, and put as much realism into it as I can.

AMA Q4: How much do you plan your stories over a whole series of books?

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

Matt Ud asks, “Be honest: How much do you plan your stories over a whole series of books? Does that change based on your style and experiences between books?”

The short answer is that I have a rough idea, but not the full picture.

I only have one series right now, the Translocator Trilogy, and I thought it was a short story when I started it.

As I worked on it, I realized it was a novel.

As I worked on it some more, I realized it was a trilogy.

For me, stories have always evolved as I worked on them. The characters get deeper. The plots get more intricate. The motivations become more clear.

I need to know where I’m going—where I want to end up—but I don’t need to know all the details.

When I realized The Auriga Project was the first book in a trilogy, I took a step back and tried to sketch out an idea of what would happen over the course of the three books—some people call the plot over the course of a series the “meta plot” or the “series arc(s)”.

But I certainly didn’t know all of the details that ended up in The Alien Element. I didn’t even write out a synopsis for each chapter of The Alien Element until March of this year.

So I plan as much as I can and trust in the process for the rest.

Maybe other people won’t agree, but I’ve always found that as long as you know where you’re headed, keep an open mind, and work hard at writing words in a certain order, the rest will happen on its own.

AMA Q3: What kind of stuff do you read? Etc.

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

Jess Hutton asks….

This is a long one, Jess, so let’s do this rapid fire style, one by one.

What kind of stuff do you read?

I go through phases. Right now I’m reading lots of classic sci-fi novels like Arthur C Clarke, but also contemporary sci-fi books like The Atlantis Gene and Nomad. I always seem to have a writing book open, too. Right now it’s Immediate Fiction.

Have you felt like your reading improves or inspires your work?

100%. I love reading. After I finish writing a book, the first thing I want to do is read something good to recharge. Good books inspire me, and make me kind of jealous. Bad books teach me things.

Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Hard to say, I have so many… Stephen King, Norman Mailer, Ursula K Leguin, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, Brandon Sanderson, Franz Kafka… an incomplete list.

I don’t believe anyone has a single favorite author. Readers read LOTS of books.

Were you a reader growing up or more into other things?

Oh yeah. I devoured fantasy and scifi books growing up, too. No wonder I end up writing them. In college I got turned onto the classics, and philosophy. I even like literary books, sometimes. But SFF is in my blood.

How has content strategy (that order, planning, high-level amazeballs work that we do) changed or affected your approach to fiction writing?”

For those that don’t know this about me, in addition to being a science fiction author, I’m a freelance content strategist, which means I help tech startups tell their stories—write articles and documents and advertising copy for their businesses, and implement strategies that help grow their audience or customer base.

It’s made me more organized, that’s for sure. And more able to see the big picture. Small things add up over time, details matter, and data needs to be analyzed in different ways to glean new insights. Content strategy teaches you to test assumptions, to experiment, and that’s helped me in self-publishing.

Knowing all the web stuff, like WordPress and SEO, has certainly been a boon. Being tech savvy has made it a bit easier than it might have been to master all the tools necessary to produce professional quality ebooks and paperbacks.

On the other hand, publishing books is SUCH a different business than offering content strategy services to my clients as a freelancer. You’re dealing with intellectual property and retail sales instead of offering hourly or per-project services. It’s a very different business and I’ve had to change how I think. Four books in, I’ve had some success but I’m definitely still learning and trying something new every day.