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Ask M.G. Anything

Greetings, space cadets!

I’m taking questions. Ask M.G. Anything! I’ll write blog posts for the best 20 questions that get submitted to me.

For those of you who don’t know me well, I write sci-fi thrillers like The Auriga ProjectThe Republic, and other works in speculative worlds. Some are post-apocalyptic, others are near-future with a dystopian edge, and some are pure space adventure.

What my stories have in common is page-turner pacing, a drive to explore alternative futures for humanity, and characters who face choices where the right answer isn’t always clear—or where doing the right thing comes with an unexpected cost.

Still need ideas for questions you can ask me? Okay, I’ll play ball.

Ask me about my new book The Alien Element. Ask me about my biggest fears. Ask me about the places I’ve traveled, science fiction tropes, writing habits, my book buying addiction, beer, whiskey, productivity, rock climbing, dog training, World Cup soccer, what I had for breakfast this morning, the universe and everything,

For those of you that don’t know me well yet, apart from writing books, I run a freelance content strategy business. I’ve been an Amazon bestseller, a rafting guide, and I spoke at SXSW once. I’ve traveled across Europe, India, Turkey, the U.S. and Canada…

I could tell you stories, man.

Ways to ask me questions:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post
  2. Email me at matt at mgherron dot com

Don’t let me down.

Writing is a muscle

Deliberate writing practice, writing sprints

Now that I’m finally bearing down on this July-August challenge, determined to finish the cowriting novel, I’ve been doing word sprints again — that’s 20 or 25 minute sessions where I’m allowed to do nothing but work on the book.

If you’re sprinting, you’re only allowed to work on the story. The goal is number of words, as many as you can do. Nothing else—no internet, no talking, no disrtractions. At the end of the sprint, you check and report your word count (to yourself or a friend, but keep track somehow).

What I’ve noticed after a few weeks focusing on marketing/publishing stuff (not to mention client work for my day job), is that my fiction writing muscle has weakened.

I get tired faster. My average word count per hour is down. My stamina for writing is lower overall. And that’s after just a few slow weeks!

This just goes to further prove my theory that writing is a muscle. Like a muscle, you have to use it or it atrophies.

And fast.

I know I can get back to where I was. There are certain things you can do to write at your peak, like sprints. I simply haven’t been very diligent about doing those things in July.

Part of it is because it’s summer and I’ve been spending a lot of time doing other things, too. It’s The Time of Great Forgetting as Dean Wesley Smith calls it. The other part is that I just haven’t been pushing myself.

I’m getting back into it. I bought Freedom to help me block out distractions. And I have a word count goal to finish this novel by July, my old reliable 1k a day.

1k a day may not be as fast as some people write, but it works for me.

Treating writing like a muscle, doing sprints, recording my progress, and focusing on 1k a day has give me 3 novels so far.

About to be 4. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Photo by Evan Clark on Unsplash

White space

Finally hit white space on the cowriting project

I’ve been plotting and world building and revising the cowriting novel project for the past 4 weeks, ever since I turned in The Alien Element. Yesterday, I got to the end of revisions and hit white space.

And today I got to write new words.

It’s like emerging from a dense forest into a sunny glade. I can breathe again!

I love writing on the whole, but revising is my least favorite part. That’s why I’m a planner for the longer stuff. I make a plan and execute on the plan. Rather than a pantser who may find the story in multiple drafts, I prefer to get it right the first time…or at least as close to right as possible.

Because I hate revising.

In my experience, revisions are the most time consuming and least enjoyable part of writing. So the process I follow is all about removing revisions from the process to the furthest extent possible.

It’s not always possible, I admit. But I’ve found that with proper planning I can at least minimize the number of tedious, time consuming revisions I must do. The proof of this is that the longer I write, the more planning I do and the less revision is required. The proof of this is that each new book takes me less time to write than the last.

So I’m excited to have hit white space on this project. I estimate that I have to write another 18,000 or so words to reach the end of the book.

The new short term goal to motivate me will be to get it done by the end of July. I’ll aim for 1000 words a day so I have some padding.

Got my 1000 today, so that’s a start.

Halftime huddle on my 2017 writing goals

It’s halfway through the year, so I thought it would be useful to take a step back and get some perspective on the writing goals I set myself in January. Especially after the setback of the July-August challenge.

2017 writing goals

The 2017 writing goals document I wrote in January is ten pages long. I decided not to blog about it at the time, which I regret. But I can’t go back in time so I’ll summarize it for you.

I had two main goals:

  1. Publish new fiction every month in 2017
  2. Write a lot of new material

Let’s dive into these one at a time.

1. Publish new fiction every month in 2017

I actually started the streak in December 2016 with a short story. Here’s everything I’ve published since the streak began.

As you can see, I’m doing great on this one! Even exceeding my goals due to the serial release of TOTR and the anthology in April.

August is locked down with release of The Alien Element, and I have specific plans for September-December. Got some work to do, but this goal is well within reach—as long as I stay focused.

2. Write a lot of new material

What new material did I want to write in January 2017? I had these projects listed on my original doc. Here’s the list and status of each.

  • Finish Tales of the Republic – Done
  • Write Translocator 2 – Now called The Alien Element, the book went out to ARC readers today.
  • Write 30 short stories – Heh. Oops. Not doing so great here. I think I’ve written 2 new short stories this year. I have more planned, but 30 seems unlikely. That’s okay. Not as good as I’d hoped but them’s the breaks.
  • Write a nonfiction project – I ditched this sometime in March. My goals changed when I realized I was trying to do too much with too broad a focus. Changing goals with new information is a good thing, and I have no regrets cutting this project. If it’s important, it will come back on my radar in the future.
  • Write a blog every week – Doing better lately on this one. I feel like I’ve found a groove here this month. I’m publishing several blogs a week with ease, because I’m writing about topics with a clear focus (on books and new releases, with fiction samples thrown in when possible). Only seems to be a hand full of people reading the blog regularly (if you are, hello!) but the more I put into it the more it will grow.

Time for a gut check

At the start of the year, I had an unfinished novel, vague ideas for Translocator 2, and a handful of finished short stories.

I’ve made a whole hell of a lot out of that meagre start. The unfinished novel came together and became Tales of the Republic, which is fast on its way to selling its first thousand copies. The shorts I had already written got produced and went live in in January, February, April and July.

And I’m dancing a jig over how fast The Alien Element came together. I’ve hit ALL my deadlines so far. The journey to write that book was grueling at times, but rewarding. I know the kind of writer I want to be, and this project has shown me a glimpse of him.

Something unexpected is that I also started a cowriting project I mentioned the other day, a sci-fi mystery novel. That’s what I’m working on in July between marketing/new book production tasks. I didn’t foresee this project when I made my writing goals at the start of the year, but I’m glad it happened. We’ve agreed to keep the book name and partnership under wraps for now, but I’ll share more about this when it’s ready.

The second half of 2017

For the second half of this year, I’ve got the cowriting project to finish, 4 post-apoc stories (and the subsequent collection) to put together, and Translocator 3 to draft. That last one won’t make it through edits in 2017, so I am targeting early 2018 for its release.

I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to fit T3 in this year, but it’s looking like I might, so that’s incredibly inspiring.

Wow, that’s a lot

It’s a lot. I know. It is.

If you can believe it, I’ve got bigger plans for next year. For instance, I haven’t touched audiobooks with a yardstick, and people have been asking for them.

Mostly, this post is a reminder for myself to keep my eye on the ball. The most important thing for me at this stage in my writing career is to produce new work. The challenge to publish new fiction each month has shown me that I can make it happen.

There’s always room for improvement, but I’m getting better all the time. A little more practice, a few more books, a little bit of luck… who knows.

I’d be curious to know which projects sound most interesting to you, and if you do a check-in like this on your goals. Leave it in the comments.

Copyedits in for The Alien Element

Yesterday afternoon, my editor got back in touch with copyedits for The Alien Element. Right on schedule!

I hustled to get them all entered today. This is a simple but slow process where I take the changes back in to Scrivener, which I’ll use to produce the ebook version.

It was after dinner, nearly 11pm before I was done. Then I went out for a long walk to stretch my stiff back and legs.

A solid day. Tiring, but productive. Good to know I can do copyedits (and some minor revisions) for a full length novel in a day.

Tomorrow I’ll format the ebook and get it out to ARC readers. If you’re on my ARC list, look for an email in the next day or so! If you want to read this book early in exchange for an honest review, get in touch with me by email or leave a comment here.

Teasers for the book are starting to come out, too. Read Chapter 1 of The Alien Element on the blog there.

In the home stretch now!

July…er, July-August challenge

Checking in on the July challenge, in which I planned to finish a cowriting project (a sci-fi mystery novel), write 4 post apocalyptic stories, and publish a bunch of new stuff all by the end of July.

How am I doing? Haha, well, I could be doing better. But all is not lost!

I’m firmly on track with all the publishing and marketing stuff. Not Alone went live a few days ago, The Auriga Project is getting updated to the official “second edition” at this very moment. The Alien Element is still with my editor, but coming back soon.

On the writing side, I wrote 1000 words today on the cowriting project to finish a difficult section. I’m about halfway through what I wanted to get through by now, although I expect smoother sailing from here. After I get to the end of the current manuscript, there’s about 20k more words that need to be written to finish the story.

Given my schedule, I know at this point that I’m going to need more time.

Both the writing and the publishing side of things have taken longer than I expected this month. It didn’t help that I had a week long vacation smack dab in the middle of the challenge. I am REALLY slow at writing book descriptions.

Very probably, I’m not going to get to the short stories this month. Or if I do, it will only be one or two of them toward the end. I need the rest of this month to finish the cowriting project novel. The short stories can be written in August, and I can still get the collection published by the end of the year.

How about we start calling it the July-August challenge, instead? 😀

A setback, but not a loss. Still on track to publish something new every month this year. I just signed a contract for new sci-fi anthology. And The Alien Element is coming in August.

The July challenge

I want to start writing Translocator 3 on August 1st, the same day The Alien Element (Translocator 2) is published.

That gives me 42 days — the rest of June and  all of July — to do the following on the publishing side:

  • Format and publish a sci fi short story called Not Alone
  • Format and update The Auriga Project with a new cover and updated blurb
  • Format and publish The Alien Element with the cover I revealed yesterday
  • (And do all the associated marketing for this new stuff!)

But more importantly, that’s 42 days to do all this on the writing side:

  • Finish a cowriting project, a sci-fi novel that is halfway done
  • Write 4 post apocalyptic/sci-fi short stories for the collection whose working title is Boys and Their Monsters.

My 2017 goal to publish something new every month will be met if I can do all this in July.

If I keep some of the short stories on the shorter side (3-5k or even less as opposed to my typical 6-10k), this should be no problem. I typically average 1000 words a day. With 42 days, that’s 30k reserved for the novel and 12k left for four short stories. No problem. If I can hit the targets. 😛

I’m going to focus, too, on cutting all distraction out of my productive writing time. I write every day as naturally as breathing, but I tend to be easily distracted. Breaking that habit won’t easy but I know it will worth doing.

Even if I’m late, I can still meet my one story per month goal. This was by design. Let’s say it takes me until mid August to get all that stuff done. Well, so what? I’ll still be left holding four new stories and a novel, enough for the rest of the year and then some. And enough time to write one more book to round out the Translocator Trilogy before the year is up.

* grins maniacally *

* cackles like a cartoon villain *

So that’s my July challenge. Can I do it? Or is it too much? I’m sharing this in the hopes that maybe you guys can help keep me accountable. Cheer from the sidelines every once in a while. Throw tomatoes. I won’t dance, but I’ll throw them back at you.

$0.99 cents on Kindle! The complete Tales of the Republic!

Hey everyone! Big sale this week.

All seven episodes of Tales of the Republic are now available as a complete novel. And until June 22nd, 2017, you can get the ebook for only $0.99 cents!

→ Get your copy here! ←

If you buy the complete novel, you’ll also get all sorts of bonuses:

  • Commissioned character sketches of Ming, Ari, and Po
  • A commissioned sketch of the mech scene in Telerethon Square from Episode 3: Perilous Journey
  • A desktop wallpaper made from the book cover
  • And a deleted scene from the novel that takes place in Episode 4: High Crimes (also related to the mechs, but from a new angle)

I hope you like all the bonuses, and the book. Both the ebook and paperback can be found on Amazon. It’s also in Kindle Unlimited, so you can read free if you’re a subscriber to KU.

Teasers of the bonus art!

Now, let’s talk more about the goodies.

How do you get access to all this awesome art and the deleted scene? Simply purchase the ebook or the print book from Amazon, and find the SECRET LINK in the back of the book. That will take you to a page where you can download all the stuff you see below, but without the blackout bars on them.

Here’s a sneak peak of the loot…

 

 

About Tales of the Republic

What’s Tales of the Republic about? I describe it as a sci-fi action thriller. It takes place in a speculative future somewhere in Asia, in a new country called The Republic of Enshi. Here’s the blurb and the cover if you want to learn more about the story itself…

Tales of the Republic, a sci-fi action thrillerThe fate of the Republic of Enshi hinges on a genetically modified miracle—and three unlikely heroes.

Kai Ming, a troubled politician, is entrusted with the country’s only hope of ending the famine that decimated the population. Po Li, a scrappy farm girl, battles to be reunited with her sister after rebel insurgents tear them apart. And Ari Klokov, a soldier, wakes in an underground prison with strange biotech in his head and no memory of the last twelve years.

Thrown together in the chaos and united by a fierce love for their country, Ming, Ari, and Po have to cross the mad riots, outsmart the hawkish Senator Khan, and overcome Felix Hull and his tenacious rebels who wage war in the streets of the blasted city.

Learning to trust each other is a start, but it won’t be enough. Their resistance pits them against ruthless leaders on both sides who harbor designs on the halls of power. Ming, Ari, and Po need to stop them to survive, but every opportunity has a cost–and this one must be paid for in bodies and blood.

***

And some of my favorite reviews on the complete novel that have come in from early readers…

“Vivid worldbuilding with unexpected twists, great read.” – Amazon Reviewer

“An enjoyable page turner. Character driven sci-fi with a female protagonist and interesting characters.” – Amazon Reviewer

Some history, and a big thanks

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know that the first two episodes of Tales of the Republic came out in 2014, and 2015—about six months apart. I was dipping my toes into the indie publishing waters, and they were the first two things I ever published.

Episodes 3 – 7 were finally finished earlier this year, and the serialized publication was completed over the past few months.

Episode 7: Killer Cause completes the story, and concludes the events of the riot.

All together, I’m calling this version the “complete novel” because that’s what it is. I didn’t realize it back in 2014, but Episode 1 was really just the beginning of the journey. Now, I’ve come full circle. Tales is the first book I ever started (without knowing it), and I sense a certain pleasing symmetry in the universe knowing that it’s now, at last, complete.

Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way—I really appreciate everyone who has followed along or bought the episodes as this story came into being.

I hope you like it, and that you grab it while it’s only a buck and enjoy a whole bunch of bonus art while you’re there.

One last time… Get the book on Amazon for 99 cents while the sale lasts. It ends on June 22, 2017.