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Author: Matt

Matt (MG) Herron writes science fiction thriller novels and nonfiction how-to guides. His first novel, The Auriga Project, was published in 2015. His first nonfiction book for writers, Scrivener Superpowers, was published 2016.

When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt organizes Indie Publishing Austin, a local Meetup for writers and authors. He also likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind.

Fridays are backwards

Every day my first priority is to get some fiction words done, except Fridays when I do it backwards and write in the afternoon.

So today I did freelance stuff first. I’m still feeling crappy, stuffed up with a head cold, but I grabbed some coffee and got to it straight away.

That went good for a couple hours. Quick break to walk the dogs, then another three hours of work. Ended with a phone call around 2pm.

Next, I drove to a coffee shop where I met two other writers to work for a few more hours, this time on the novel in progress. That’s why Fridays are backwards—writing with company.

It’s worth going out of my way for. One of the guys that shows up to the Friday meetings is a good friend and we act as accountability partners for each other. It’s good to have someone to talk to about story problems and hang ups, and share progress with to motivate each other.

He and I also happen to write similar genres and have a similar writing process, which is rare enough to worth pointing out. No two writers are the same. It’s lucky to be able to talk to someone who writes like you. They just get it.

I like my backwards Fridays. Makes the last day of the week different enough to be interesting. Keeps my on my toes. And writers may work alone, but they’re better together.

Now I’m back at home, clearing my stuffy head with theraflu. My tolerant fiancé has made lasagna for dinner (smells delicious).

An otherwise uneventful but productive Friday. I’m going to fire up the most recent episode The Orville as my reward.

Here’s a photo of Elsa pup for you. Enjoy your weekend!

Huge giveaway of signed science fiction paperbacks

I’m involved with this incredibly massive signed paperback giveaway over at Sci-Fi Bridge. They’ve got such an amazing deal going on right now I can hardly believe it myself, and it just seems a crime not to share it.

The giveaways SFB does are particularly special because everyone is a winner. Those who sign up will get these 6 ebooks straight away, no strings attached (and you can unsubscribe from the list whenever you please, although I don’t know why you would).

A little bit about each of the free books currently being offered, with links to Amazon* and author pages if you’re curious to find out more about a particular one.

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Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson – If you loved Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, and Old Man’s War, you’ll love Earthrise, a new military science fiction series. From a USA Today bestselling author.

Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott – Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race. Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space–once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.

Ambassador 1 by Patty Jansen – “A Matt Damon political thriller meets Total Recall action with Avatar otherworldliness.” –Ditmar Award winning author Zena Shapter

The Future Chronicles – This Future Chronicles Special Edition volume is a compendium of stories selected from the Chronicles’ standalone titles, and includes five new stories, never before published, from some of today’s best writers in speculative fiction.

The Galapagos Incident by Felix R. Savage – The Galapagos Incident is the first book of the Sol System Renegades series, an action-packed near-future space opera series perfect for fans of The Expanse, the science fiction of Neal Stephenson, and character-centric hard sci-fi.

Earth-Last Sanctuary by Christian Kallias – When the evil Obsidian Empire delivers a deathblow against the Star Alliance, fighter pilot Lieutenant Chase Athanatos leads a band of scattered survivors to the farthest reaches of the known universe, to a little planet called Earth.

As for the winners

As for the actual signed paperback prizes, of which my novel The Auriga Project is one, six lucky winners will receive these gifts…

  • 1 Winner will receive 25+ Signed Space Opera/Exploration/First Contact Books.
  • 1 Winner will receive 25+ Signed Dystopian/Post Apolcayptic/Time-Travel Books
  • 1 Winner will receive 15+ Signed Military Sci-fi/Space Marine Books
  • 1 Winner will receive a Brand New Kindle Fire 7
  • 2 Winners will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card

This will be live until the end of October, but it won’t last forever. Good luck!

sfb-signed-paperback-giveaway

* Links to books are affiliate links, which means if you do decide to buy a copy I get a few pennies as a referral fee. That money goes to supporting my writing, so I thank you kindly.

Giving up on perfect

At some point in every draft of every novel I’ve ever written, I’ve had to give up on the idea of perfect and get out of my own way.

Like many artists who want their work to be considered good, the words that end up on the page often fail to match—sometimes barely even resemble—the shape of the story that exists in my head.

Such is the nature of the beast.

No reason to fight it. Just the way it is. People aren’t perfect, and neither are the things they create. I’m certainly no exception. I just do the best I can with what I’ve got.

Still, perfect is one of those things that I struggle with. It stops me up from time to time.

Today, as I sat down to write, I finally identified the problem. Not being sick (though I was) or busy (that too) or distracted (guilty), but just being a damned perfectionist and stubborn to boot.

So I kicked perfectionism to the curb. Once I did, the words began to flow faster.

I got out of my own way by giving up on perfect.

Don’t know why this happens, but it’s one of those things that always seems to come at me again from a different angle. As soon as I recognize it, I remember how to get past it. It takes a mindset shift more than anything else. Just being able to accept that rough drafts are rough, and keep typing.

I got 1000 words before lunch, a good pace for me. They might need some polishing, but that’s the best part of writing—you get lots of second chances.

First words on Translocator 3

I’m finally making some visible headway on Translocator 3. Spent the first half of the month planning/outlining the book using a combination of the 9 point outline from Larry Brooks and 4 act plot structure (see Lester Dent’s Master Fiction Plot), journaling madly, and then blowing it all out into a chapter by chapter synopsis.

Some people think I’m crazy for doing that kind of legwork up front—they’re either afraid of the work or it bores them, or they call themselves pantsers and just don’t believe in planning. For me it’s thrilling, architecting the whole diabolical scheme and making sure all the pieces fit. The plot of a good science fiction thriller like these books is complex. Multiple points of view! Ancient mysteries! Secret alliances! Betrayals… It’s the only way I can keep it straight.

There’s another advantage, too. Once I figure out how the book goes at a high level, I can let go of the plot and focus on the scenes and the characters, and on the rhythm of the sentences. I think it makes the book better, and it certainly makes the writing easier. And planning well also cuts down on the amount of rewriting I have to do. Ye gods, I hate rewriting.

And so, with my blueprint in hand, last week I finally started typing. I got off  to a slow start, and then got sick over the weekend, but I kept dripping out words the whole time.

Right now I’m at 2500 words with a deadline of December 15th and a target of 80,000 words.

No idea if the 80k target is going to turn out to be accurate, or if I can hit the deadline. I guess we’ll see 😀 The challenge is half the fun of it.

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July-August writing challenge finished

Did anyone else notice it was nearly the end of September? Good grief.

Despite the late date, I wanted to return to the subject of the July-August challenge briefly and review the results. I always get mad at myself when I don’t close the box on goal-setting exercises like this, so here we go.

My goal was to write four short stories in July. This got bumped by other project back to August, hence “July-August Challenge.”

I managed to write only 2 of the four stories—a 2k word story and a 8k word story…

  • The Road Is Three (2k) – Read it here.
  • Make Like The Roaches And Survive (8k) – Still in editing

Would I rather have gotten 4 complete stories out of the challenge? Of course. But sometimes you’ve got to be flexible. Life intervenes, like the vacation I took in June. Then finishing a cowriting project took priority through July and into early August. And after I finished two stories in August, I had to switch gears in order to get through the Translocator 3 outline on time.

The way I look at it, I got 2 new stories out of the challenge and a nice break between novel projects.

So that’s a win in my book.

Have you done any writing challenges this summer? I invite you to share your own experiences with writing challenges in the comments section.

Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard: A Post-Apocalyptic Story

My post-apocalyptic novelette Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard is now available as an ebook!

Originally published in a monster anthology back in the Spring, this is the first time the story is available by itself—and it’s only $0.99. Here’s the blurb:

Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard

Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard: A Post-Apocalyptic StoryA basilisk barks and chases boulders across the desert.

Has the thing lost its blinking mind?

As a scavenger, Das is no stranger to the beautiful and deadly alien creatures the invaders left behind. He’s always careful, like his father taught him, when he’s exploring the ruins. But this is unlike anything he’s ever seen.

Putting himself at risk is one thing…but imperil the lives of the people he loves? Unthinkable. When the mad basilisk goes on a rampage, it’s up to Das to prove himself worthy of his father’s memory, and find a way to put the brute out of its misery before it hurts anyone else.

Buy on Amazon  Buy on iBooks, Nook, or Kobo

 

Short Fiction: The Road Is Three

Earth changed the day the invaders attacked, and even though they’re gone now, departed for reasons unknown, our world will never be the same.

All I want for my son, David, is a chance at a normal life. We survive by scraping together a meagre existence in the Rocky Mountains, but we’re isolated. No friends or family to speak of. That might be living, but it’s a great distance from normal.

So when a woman contacts me on the shortwave radio and tells me there’s a place where David might have a chance to live a normal life, how can I resist?

The Road Is Three is a new story in M.G. Herron’s After The Invasion universe, which chronicles an apocalyptic world through the eyes of the survivors as they adjust to new realities and outsmart the dangers Earth’s mysterious invaders left behind.

Note: This story will only be available here for a limited time! This is a rough draft. I apologize in advance if you find typos or other small errors. This story is for a collection I intend to publish soon, and will be professionally edited at that point.

The Road Is Three

M.G. Herron

“Dad,” David said, “Why is the road divided into three parts?”

I glanced down at my son, then up at the four-lane highway along which we had been walking for the last several days. David had never seen a highway before, and he gasped when we first came in sight of it.

He had barely been old enough to talk when the invaders came. David had spent the majority of his ten short years and most of his accessible memory in my grandfather’s cabin, where we eked out a living, foraging and hunting for food, surviving on the land, living day to day, season to season. The cabin was several days’ hike into the rockies and far removes from any paved roads.

“Three parts? What do you mean?”

His eyebrows knitted in confusion, like they always did when he was puzzling through something in his head. David was an introspective, quiet kid, with mousy brown hair and sharp green eyes that looked exactly like his mother’s.

If this were the world before, I think he would have loved video games, been a bookworm, gotten good grades in school…but it wasn’t. The hard life we’d been living in the mountains had forced him to grow up faster than I’d ever imagined, faster than I’d ever wanted him to. But what choice did we have? Whereas I was boisterous and selfish at his age, concerned only with taunting my sister, playing with my friends, and concerned only with things that led to my own pleasure, David thought long and hard before he spoke, had no friends except me, and never wasted food or water or anything that we might be able to use later. I was proud of how he’d turned out, but I don’t know that I can take full credit for his thoughtfulness. His was a thoughtfulness born out of necessity. This was a different kind of world, and a different world produced different kinds of people. His generation, the ones who survived the collapse of a global society and the return to a primitive existence, would know a much different life than the generations that came before.

I knew well enough not to interrupt him. We walked for another few seconds while David gathered his thoughts, gazing at the rusted-out corpses of vehicles scattered along the side of the road as he did so. Only a few of the cars, trucks, vans, and semi-trailers been pushed to the shoulder. Most had simply been abandoned in traffic, left where they were as people ran for their lives. The road was like a graveyard of vehicles, and apparently to David the road was three.

“Well, there’s this part,” he said, pointing to the cracked grey pavement along which we walked. A faded dotted line of white paint ran between us. “There’s that part,” he said, pointing to the eastbound lane on the opposite side. “And then there’s the grassy part in the middle.” He pointed to the depressed median between the lanes. “Three parts, right?”

I smiled. “I guess you’re right. Two lanes on either side and a median between them.”

“Median?”

“Median means middle.”

He nodded. “Okayyyy,” he said, drawing out the word as if he was talking to a simpleton. Me. The old man who knew how to navigate the strange ways of the world before. “That kind of makes sense. So what’s the median for? And why is it slanted down like that?”

I was used to him asking a lot of questions. In fact, I encouraged it from the time he could talk. I figured an inquisitive child who questioned everything he saw around him was more likely to survive this hard-scrabble new world. I’d taught him everything I knew about foraging, about hunting, about survival. Keeping your eyes peeled could go a long way. And I had not been wrong. David was as much responsible for our day to day life at the cabin as I was. He knew to boil water before you drank it, how to collect dry wood for the stove, how to build a game trap, how to clean and cook the rabbits we caught. But he didn’t know anything about the world before. I hoped he would fit in where we were going. He’d never met another child his age. I so wanted him to have a normal life. But nothing was normal now.

“It’s hard to imagine, but thousands of cars used to drive this road every day.”

“Thousands?” he said, his voice sharp and disbelieving.

“That’s right. Thousands. So the median is there to keep them from crossing between the east and westbound sides and causing traffic problems—cars are only allowed to change directions at an exit, like the one up there that the green sign is pointing to.”

“Couldn’t they just drive across it?”

“They could. And sometimes people did. But they weren’t supposed to. You could get in trouble for it.”

“Huh.”

“Also, the median helps drain water away from the road. So the roads are safer to drive when it’s raining.”

He nodded slowly. Keeping things dry and directing the rain were things we had talked long about. We had barrels that caught water off the roof of the cabin, and I had spent many days showing him how it all worked, and how to maintain it.

“What keeps the roads safe in the rain if the roads are only one or two parts? Like the road we were walking on before we came to this road.”

“This one’s called a highway. The rural roads are usually only two lanes and a ditch on either side. So the ditches drain the water the same way the median does.”

“I see. What does rural mean?”

“Out in the country.”

“Rural.” He twisted his lips as he repeated it. “Rural is a funny word.”

I laughed. “It is.”

“So the ditch on either side drains the water on the two-lane, rural roads.”

“That’s right.”

He looked very serious as he contemplated these variegations in road and highway design and terminology. It must all seem very alien to him.

“The road is three,” he said. “But it is also one. The world before must have been a strange place, huh, Dad.”

“It was.”

“Did people walk on these roads before, like we’re doing?”

“No. Just the cars.”

“So where did people walk if they had to take a road trip?”

“They didn’t. They drove.”

“All the time?”

“Most of the time.”

He shook his head. “Do the cars work anymore?”

“Most of them don’t, no. No gas left to run them. No electricity to charge them up.”

We passed the green sign. David read it out loud. “Air Force Academy.”

I nodded.

“That’s where the lady told us to go, right?”

I nodded.

We took the exit. It circled around and dumped us out on a long road that led up to the academy grounds—another two lane road.

“I’m scared, Dad,” David said, taking two steps closer so he was right by my side. His head came up to my waist.

I put an arm around his shoulder. “It’s okay,” I said, though I felt far from certain that everything would be okay. I hoped none of the nervous fear that had bubbled up in my gut as we approached the end of this trip had bled through into my voice. I didn’t want David to think I was afraid.

But the fear was there all the same. What if the woman we spoke to on the shortwave radio, the so-called President of New Colorado, had been lying about how they had established a city here? What if it was a trap meant to lure us in and steal what supplies we had? These were desperate times, and despite contacting people on the radio before, we’d never given out our location or gone out of our way to find anyone. Sometimes, the guilt of my selfishness overwhelmed me. But then I’d look at David and be reminded about how he relied on me to be strong. We couldn’t afford the risk that other people brought…until I learned about New Colorado.

We’d hiked for days to get here. The dried meat and water we carried on our backs were enough to take us home if we were careful. If we were careful. If no one tricked us. I tightened the pack on my back.

A tree trunk several feet thick had been lain across the road like a kind of drop bar, presumably to keep unwanted vehicles from passing. Buildings loomed in the distance beyond—buildings that had withstood the invasion were an incredible sight, but I wasn’t about to let my guard down yet. We climbed over the logs and approached a closed and padlocked chainlink fence built across the road ahead of us.

There were people here all right. People who didn’t want other people to get in unless they were invited.

We had been invited. I stopped in front of the gate, and waited. Once we’d made contact, her instructions were simple. We waited here, just like the lady on the radio told us to.

As the minutes passed, my mind raced. I had no backup plan. If things went bad, I needed to make sure that David could get home. That he remembered what he was supposed to do to survive in a worst case scenario. I’d trained him for it. He was young, but he was thoughtful and strong and smart—nothing I could take credit for, but the inevitable result of fighting for your survival every day for your whole life.

We came here because I didn’t want that to be his whole existence. I wanted nothing more than a normal life for him. I wanted him to have friends his age. I wanted him to have an education. I wanted him to have opportunity. But coming here was a risk all the same. I scrambled to come up with something he’d remember—something that would help keep him safe if the worst happened.

“The road is three,” I said. “Remember that David, the road is three.”

“Isn’t that what I said?” His brow furrowed over his green eyes.

“The road is three. It’s where you were, where you are, and where you want to be. If anything happens to me, this road can take you home. Do you think you can get home on your own?” I turned and looked behind us, in the direction we had come.

He looked up at me with those beautiful green eyes that reminded me with a sudden, sharp pang in my gut of his mother. Clearly, I hadn’t managed to keep the fear out of my voice. But David he was a strong kid. I knew he could do this.

“I—I think so,” he said. He turned and looked long and hard down the road, then pointed—correctly—in the direction of our cabin in the mountains, several days’ hike and maybe forty miles distant. He met my gaze. I nodded. His hand dropped.

“The road is three,” he said. “It’s where you were, where you are, and where you want to be. But we want to be here, don’t we Dad?”

I turned back to the fence. Several people could be seen through the fence now, walking toward us. In the distance, I thought I heard the low sound of an engine rumble to life. Hope flared in my chest, impossible hope.

“I hope so,” I said. “But that could change, and I need to make sure you’re ready.”

David took a deep breath and let it out with a heavy sigh. “I’m ready.”

Together we waited to be welcomed—or turned away—from New Colorado.


Copyright © 2017 by M.G. Herron. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

 

If you liked this story, you might also enjoy The End of the World Is Better with Friends or Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard. Both are in the same universe, and follow different young men as they face down deadly monsters the invaders left behind. Click the covers to buy the books on Amazon!

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.