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Pictures from Portland, April 2017

I just returned from Portland on Tuesday, a weekend trip filled with family, mostly, and not an insignificant amount of wine.

I took a few photos while I was there of the beautiful country—and the wineries, of course.

It was relaxing and fun. I got to read a book and a half, and see cousins and aunts and uncles I haven’t seen for years, and unplug for a little while.

These grasses abound. The nectar of the gods fills those golden barrels to the brim.




The second to last episode of Tales of the Republic out now

Episode 6 of my dangerous dystopian thriller, Tales of the Republic, came to life yesterday. It’s called Early Warning and it’s the second to last episode in the series.

Here’s a little teaser…

First, the print cover spread for the print-on-demand version.

Then the opening chapter of this episode…

Episode 6, Chapter 1
Click to embiggen

This is one of my favorite episodes of the series for many reasons, most of which have to do with the urchin communication network that Po recruits, and the return of Noura, as she takes on a new role and helps Po on her mission because she believes in her.

You can buy Episode 6: Early Warning on Kindle now. The print version is on its way and will be available shortly.

The final episode to complete the series will be out in a couple more weeks. It all comes together in Episode 7: Killer Cause, on May 10th. The last stand. The final battle. Who will survive? What price must be paid to save the Republic, and who will pay it?

• • •

So what’s next?

About a month after the TOTR episodes are all out, I’ve got some fun plans for launching the complete novel that include bonus goodies like a deleted scene and some wallpapers and a chance to get a signed copy in the mail. Still trying to think of what else to give away that might be fun, maybe do a few readings on Facebook.

I’m also in the process of recruiting an army of ARC readers, people who will help me launch books by reading early and leaving honest, timely reviews. Email me or leave a comment here if that sounds interesting to you, and I’ll add you to the list personally.

I’ll be posting the good photos from my trip to Portland soon. But first I have some work to do on Translocator 2. Recently crested 40k words and I don’t want to lost that momentum.

Prepping for some book sales events

I love doing local readings and bookselling events. The next is coming up on April 29th at Lake Travis Spring Fest just outside of Austin, so I ordered some books and have been slowly getting ready for the event.


I enjoy these kinds of events partly because I love bookstores and have always wanted to run a bookstore of my own. Seriously, I am crazy about bookstores. I seek them out everywhere I go. I’ll be in Portland this weekend and if I’m within a ten block radius of Powells it will draw me in like a space ship of intrepid explorers to an ultradense black hole. So bookselling events, especially one like I have been invited to join next weekend, is like having a bookstore for a day. Hell of a lot of fun for me.

Since I’ve become cognizant of how bad my sales setup was for past book events (I’ve done 3 or 4, I think), I went out and got some bookstands and price tags for a better setup, and supplies for DIY bookmarks so people who drop by can make their own bookmarks and carry something away with them. Who knows, a little personal touch might help draw the crowd in.

Speaking of drawing people in, it has recently dawned upon me that writing is a retail business. Given my fetish for bookstores OMG IS THAT A HARDBACK FIRST EDITION OF—

*achem*

Given my fetish for bookstores, you’d think the full implications of that would have struck me sooner. How a good store is warm and welcoming and always open, how they keep the shelves stocked and fresh inventory rotating through. Now that I have several books for sale my shelves are more “full” (I’d still barter with Beelzebub to have 12 more novels under my belt). I’ve got some fresh inventory lined up for this year (just 2 more full novels in 2017, alas. No barter deal with satanic figures available), and more in production.

It’ll be great to have a chance to talk to readers and maybe make a new fan or two. I always learn something new and it’s interesting talking to people about the books they like. Plus it’s good practice—selling books, that is. I don’t just want to write books, I want to sell a bunch too. In person events teach me how to how to sell my books better. I’ve sold a lot of things over the years. Bagels, pitas, baby chimeras, river trips, websites, and the occasional Soul of an Innocent.

Selling novels is a different mountain to climb, though. I’m learning.

If you’re in the area, stop by Spring Fest and say hi.

Portland Bound

Meanwhile, I’m getting on a plane to Portland today. Don’t know why I always think about blogging when I travel, but I do.

Sometimes it feels like I measure my life by the intervals between trips.

I’m ready for a little adventure. It’s a family holiday, but it will be relaxing and fun. I’ll try to grab some good photos!

***

On the plane now. I wrote the first half of this blog on my phone when I couldn’t sleep last night. Always have trouble getting to sleep the night before a trip, too.

See you soon, west coasters!

Translocator 2 in progress

Here’s a snapshot of Translocator 2 in progress. Still don’t have a proper title for it, or chapter names, but I’m at 30k words and cranking onward into act two. The plot I shared two weeks ago is keeping me on track, and I’ve had a handful of 2,000+ word days—those are big for me.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to show my work here without showing my hand, if you know what I mean. I have no problem with blogging rough stuff if it’s nonfiction, but fiction is harder.

There’s a fear lurking in this area called perfectionism. More than that, though, it’s about preserving the magic of story. If I put rough chapters on the blog, I rub off some of the magic.

I also don’t want to be attached to anything yet. Any passage, any sentence, any chapter could be cut away at any moment. I need the freedom to do the cutting.

I’m deep in creative voice, and it would be foolish to invite criticism right now. I’ve tried that before. It kills the momentum, let me tell you.

But I still want to show my work, because it’s fun to follow along, and writing is a lot of being alone, sitting in this chair and typing—solitary. It’s great for a while, then fine for a time, then really dull for a stretch before being great again.

Let’s try this instead—snapshots of the work-in-progress:

Translocator 2, Chapter 5 (ROUGH DRAFT)
Part of Chapter 5 with the outline on the left. Color coded by point-of-view.
 
4-15-17 wordcount and target
My word count as of 4/15/17

If you’re on Twitter, I post daily wordcounts, too, plus thoughts on writing and other science fiction and fantasy inspired stuff.

(Those wallpaper photos are from Unsplash, by the way.)


In case you missed it, The science fiction novel that started the trilogy I’m working on is called The Auriga Project. Read a sample here:

 

There’s also Tales of the Republic, a dystopian sci-fi thriller which is being serialized right now:

Episode 1: Stolen Choices

Episode 2: Lost Memories

Episode 3: Perilous Journey

Episode 4: High Crimes

Episode 5: Reluctant Rebel

Coming soon…

Episode 6: Early Warning

Episode 7: Killer Cause

Catch up on my sci-fi series’

Straight fell off the blog wagon these last few months. Blogging just isn’t a priority right now. If you want to get updates from me in real time, I’d suggest the newsletter, which I am striving to make more entertaining and the primary source for book news.

Writing and releasing new fiction IS a priority, however. I’ve got a few new episodes of Tales of the Republic out over the last month, and you can read samples of them or catch up on the series right here:

And if you’re hungry for more, Episode 5 is available for preorder.

Long time readers will be thrilled to hear I’m also 15,000 words into Translocator 2! Drafting is coming along nicely. Smooth and fast enough that I’m happy with what I’ve done so far and the pace I’m moving at.

The drafting process isn’t very visual, but here are some photos of the outlining process, when I was using index cards to break out the plot into chapters.

Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 1
I’ve got the rough outline in broad strokes in Scrivener there on my laptop—now I’m just starting to break it out into notecards (1 card for each chapter).
Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 2
Act 1 is now broken out into chapters, with some placeholders for the rest. I went for 12 chapters per act this time, and a 75k target for the story.
Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 3
Two and a half acts complete now! This whole process with the notecards took 3 days, a whole weekend basically.
Translocator 2 outlining process, phase 4
Outline complete! Four acts, 48 chapters, an entire novel outline. Beer time!

If you want to know when Translocator 2 is ready, sign up for my newsletter. The big news will go to that list first.

This blog will remain as a creative outlet, but my activity will vary as I’m prioritizing writing and publishing in the limited time I have apart from my freelance business.

Refilling the Well

Photo by Sterling Morris: https://unsplash.com/@sterlingrmorris

I didn’t write much this weekend—too busy taking care of myself and my health, refilling the well of my energy so that I can write better than ever when I return to it tomorrow.

This is important to remember. The work will be there when you’re ready to get back to it. But if you regularly sacrifice your health, mental or physical, in order to bust out some words or push through a wall, eventually you will pay for it.

I’ve seen writers mentally snap and quit writing altogether to go back to manual labor jobs.

I’ve seen writers gain twenty pounds in a month because they pushed on when they shouldn’t have.

I’ve seen writers get carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems (I deal with these myself), and heart problems.

But the truth is that your health is a PREREQUISITE to writing. You can’t work well or at all without your health, so your health must comes first, always.

I began my journey as a professional writer about six years ago, and have made either part or all of my living as a writer since then. And one pattern I’ve noticed over time is that the Well of Inspiration eventually runs dry. It can’t be avoided.

When you’re just starting out, though, it’s hard to tell when you run dry because it feels just like any other blocker.

First, you think you just need another cup of coffee.

Next, you think maybe it’s a story problem. You go back to the concept; or you read through again, searching for the thread.

Then you open Facebook or Twitter and scroll through the endless feed, hoping to distract yourself, and that the inspiration will come back to you. Eventually, after staring at the screen for so many hours, you have to give up for the day.

The true test, of course, is when you come back to it the next day.  Finally, you look at the blank page and feel that blankness echoed in your own mind.

Your well is empty. Time to take a couple days off and do the things that refresh and energize you.

For me, those things are to read for pleasure, go hiking in the woods with the dog, play Tak with friends, attend a sketch comedy show at a local theater, and visit to a winery in the Texas Hill Country.

It can be very difficult to take the time you need—especially if you’re on a tight deadline. I told Shelly yesterday that since I have trained myself for years now to write every single day, taking a whole day off makes me feel like a worthless slug.

I am reminded of a scene from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Roark, the brilliant young architect, is a sort of ubermensch character. He has an enormous capacity and energy for work, and of course he is an artist in his field. But what struck me most was the scene near the end of the book where the newspaper mogul Gail Wynand brings Roark on a months-long cruise on his expensive yacht. Wynand is testing Roark—hoping to see the young architect crack under the pressure of not being able to work. Hoping to see him break.

But Roark manages to lounge in the sun, to be a completely lazy slug, with the same commitment he gives his work. Howard Roark tells Wynand:

“I’m not running away from my work, if that’s what surprises you. I know when to stop—and I can’t stop, unless it’s completely. I know I’ve overdone it. I’ve been wasting too much paper lately and doing awful stuff.”

And on the yacht, Rand writes of her hero: “Roark did not speak of buildings, lay for hours stretched out on deck in the sun, and loafed like an expert.”

We should all aspire to that kind of commitment on our off days. Fill your well. Read, lounge in the sun, do laundry, or just be lazy.

Do nothing with the same dedication you give to your work.

Wendigo + February Writing Updates

Some updates for you.

First, if you didn’t get my email this morning, “Wendigo” is now available as an ebook and paperback! Here’s the blurb for this 12,000 word paranormal/horror story…

Wendigo

After years of digging, anthropology student Blake Meier is about to strike pay dirt.

If all goes well, an interview with the Navajo chief will complete his doctoral thesis. It may also lead to the discovery of a lifetime.

But his advisor, Dr. Samarjit Chambers, has his own agenda. And unbeknownst to either of them, hidden horrors lurk in the ancient petroglyph they both lust after.

To what lengths will Blake go to satisfy his own desires?

If you like dark paranormal or horror short stories inspired by myths and legends, download “Wendigo” today!

February Writing Update

Now, onwards to more fun stuff in the works.

In my last update, I shared that I sent Tales of the Republic off to the editor for a copyedit. I’ll get that book back in another week or two, so no news to share there yet except that I still expect to begin serializing the rest of the story in March. If you haven’t read part one or part two yet, hold off because those will get an update when part three, Perilous Journey, drops in March.

Since my last update, I wrote a new 10k word short story about a basilisk for a monster anthology I was invited to with some friends. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I’m calling it “The Boy and the Basilisk” for now, although that title might change.

With every story, there are always things that didn’t turn out how I envisioned, but overall I’m happy with this one, even more so because I was able to turn it around so quickly. I also took a lecture on Endings while I was writing it, and applied what I learned to the ending of this story. I’m always learning new stuff and trying to level up as a storyteller.

Another observation about my process: “The Boy and the Basilisk” took 13 days to concept and write. I wrote about 1,000-1,500 words a day. I ran into a few challenges that slowed me down but nothing I wasn’t able to overcome with a little mental effort. Each day I spent between 1 and 4 hours working on the story, with varying levels of focus. The challenge is to be fully engaged with the writing when it’s writing time. The trick is to be very clear about what I’m writing that day, and what my word count goal is. As long as I know those two things, and stay focused, I can almost always make it happen. The agony only begins when I get bogged down in the story, or get distracted and lose focus because of social media or health problems or other monkeys life happens to throw on my back.

So, anyways, that’s another story in the bag. I also received form rejections from two magazines to which I had submitted short stories. I took those two stories and sent them right back out on the same day I finish the basilisk story (yesterday). Man, that felt good to get them back out.

It’s a month into 2017 and so far I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, more or less on schedule, and added an unexpected anthology story besides.

So what’s next?

  1. Finish “Body of Work”, a science fiction short story. This will take a few days, maybe a week depending how long it gets.
  2. Plan Translocator 2 and 3. These two novels will complete my first trilogy, which began with The Auriga Project in 2015. Since I published that novel, I have been focused on wrapping up other loose ends and unfinished projects (Like Tales). So I am both nervous and very excited to finally return to this series. So the task here is to plan out both novels at once, to the best of my ability, before I start writing. That will take me a couple weeks to do.
  3. Start writing Translocator 2. Once the planning is done, I’ll start writing Translocator 2. If all goes well, the actual writing will begin sometime in February. I expect it will take a minimum of 60 days to write the first draft. I’ll give myself 90 days to be sure, because I am determined to get it right the first time and not do any major rewrites. If I don’t give myself the opportunity to rewrite anything, there is no choice but to get it right on the first draft. That means good planning and execution, and no excuses.
  4. Figure out how to make time for the nonfiction project. I also need to figure out how to make time to write Practical Fiction, the nonfiction nuts and bolts on writing book I wanted to blog on the site here. Between fiction writing and client writing I just haven’t been able to find the time or energy I need to devote to this one yet.

So much I want to do, so little time.

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Editing  … 84,671 words

Translocator 2 … Status: Planning

Short Stories

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing … 2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words

“The Boy and the Basilisk” … Status: Out for edits … 10,100 words

“Search for the Vault of Fallsbard” … Status: Out for submission … 1,100 words

“Centurion” … Status: Out for submission … 3,800 words

“Earworm” … Status: Out for submission … 3,000 words

Nonfiction

Practical Fiction … Status: Planning … 500 words

Steady As You Go

Photo by Andrew Ridley: https://unsplash.com/@aridley88

I completed the second draft of Tales of the Republic on Sunday—a full week past the crazy insane Jan 15 deadline I set. So it took longer than expected, but I got it done. And I would have blogged about it sooner, but writing and freelance work and life (and trying not to mold my ass too firmly to this chair) has kept me busy.

What’s amazing about setting a crazy deadline is that I was forced to adjust my process to fit the deadline, rather than the other way around. Instead of asking, “how long will this take?” and picking a date at the end of that span of time, I picked the date I WANTED it to be done and then said, “now how the hell am I going to make this work?”

The task expands to fill the time allotted—or shrinks, depending on the point of view. I made it work—sort of.

My story tracker from Christmas Eve (one month ago) says I was at 30% complete—after 3+ months of editing! A month later, the draft is done. The difference? A deadline. Three months for 30% vs. 1 month for 70%. And I’d wager that I suffered more in the despairing 3 month crawl than I did in the 1 month sprint. None of it would have been possible without the crazy deadline.

Again, so I remember it: I wouldn’t have finished the book this month without that deadline.

So the lesson here is to set a crazy deadline, stay the course, and go after it. Steady as you go. Even a week late is progress worth celebrating.

After submitting the manuscript on Sunday afternoon, I went to North Austin to have beer and cigars with friends. Then on Monday morning I nailed down the concept for my next story. It’s for a “monster” anthology, and the idea is a ton of fun. I’m 2k words into that now, and I’m aiming to finish it before the week is up. Easy! Can you believe that a short story feels like a vacation after that book? Fun! Energizing! Not to mention new.

I have one other scifi story to finish before Tales comes back from the editor mid-February. And once those edits are cleared out, I’ll be digging into Translocator 2, my next scifi novel. It’s going to be a blast. I’ve been working on Translocator in the background for a while so I’ve got a ton of ideas. There will probably be another crazy deadline involved, but the crazy this time will be trying to double my daily word count since I’ll be writing new drafts. I’m sure I’ll talk more about that project when I get there.

Stay tuned here if you want more fiction. Wendigo is coming out next month. In the meantime check out the fantasy short story I published last month, which you can find below the story tracker.

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: 2nd draft complete–out for edits … 84,671 words

Short Stories

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing … 2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words

“The Boy and the Basilisk” … Status: Writing … 2,286 words written / 7,000 estimated total words

“Wendigo” … Status: Queued for post-production … 12,000 words

“Centurion” … Status: Out for submission … 3,000 words

“Earworm” … Status: Out for submission … 3,000 words

Nonfiction

Practical Fiction … Status: Planning … 500 words

Just Published

Bogged Down with Perspective

Photo by Jamie Hagan: https://unsplash.com/@dearjamie

It’s Jan. 17th, so time to fess up.

I’m at 87% complete on Tales of the Republic, which means I missed the Jan.15 deadline I set for myself. It’s two days past now and I still have about 11k words left to finish the book.

Now, considering where I was a month ago, and how impossible that deadline seemed, that’s still incredible progress. Leaps and bounds beyond what I was doing before. It’s important to keep that perspective in mind.

However, I readily admit that it bothers the hell out of me to miss deadlines, so I want to spend a second exploring why that happened.

I promised these blogs would be raw and uncut. I find it really difficult to talk about this, but I want to explore it because that directive means I owe you the bad along with the good. I also don’t want anyone reading these to get the completely mistaken impression that writing is all puppies and rainbows. I do a decent job celebrating the wins, but it’s just not like that all the time. Sometimes writing is messy and hard and full of little failures. The important thing is to not let them hold you back, to examine them and keep working at it and keep making progress.

So what happened?

There are 7 episodes in Tales, and I got bogged down in the middle of Episode 6. In hindsight, I should have known this would happen. Episode 6 and 7 were in rough shape compared to the first five episodes of the book. I rushed to the end when I wrote the draft, and didn’t cycle back to clean it up too much. These last two episodes simply needed more work, and I should have given them more time.

Add that to the complication of the climax, and it’s no wonder I bogged down.

Next time I will try to remember that.

I didn’t stop working. That’s also important to note. I kept pressing on. I banged my head against the keyboard and spent the same number of hours at my desk working.

I made progress, just slower progress. Moving the meter 14% in a week (about 12,000 words if you’re following along at home) counts for something, right?

So by that math, even at a slower pace,I should only need about another week to get to the end. My goal is to do one better and aim for the weekend, so another 4-5 days of work.

I’m glad I wrote this, actually, because when the book is done, I will be able to look back and see how what felt like a complete FAILURE at the time was transformed into a success.

A kind of alchemy.

Time to get back to it. See you on the other side.

Story Tracker

In among the novel editing, I also managed to write a new short story of 1,000 words called “The Vault of Fallsbard.” I’m sending that one out to magazines right now.

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 87.8% complete
(74,636 words revised / 85,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … 2,694 words written (6,000 estimated total words) … Status: Writing

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

Nonfiction

Work-in-progress for writers … 500 words … Status: Planning