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Archive for February, 2018

The third book in my neo-pulp Nemesis series, The Killing Scar, is now available for purchase on Amazon and Smashwords. (You can start the series with The Choking Rain, for free.)

Set in 1932 Berlin, where the Nazis are literally battling for power, with gunfights in the streets, Eric Reinhold and his crew have come to investigate reports that the mysterious Dr. Scar has built a weapon of great power that could bring a nation to its knees and begin a new world war! But when Dr. Scar’s power proves to be their match, Eric must re-invent himself for a second time, rising from the ashes of his own apparent death to become something more than human.

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A legend is about to spread its shadow over evildoers across the globe–the legend of Nemesis.

 

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One of the best pieces of advice for a new (or any) author is: “Write what you love. Write the kind of story you would want to read.” The theory behind this is, if you’re going to pour the effort into a work, you might as well enjoy the process. What they don’t say is, you might as well enjoy the process, because the satisfaction of the work itself may well be the only reward you receive.

Let’s face it: No matter how good you are, and no matter how much you love your story, there are only so many outlets, and they are inundated with stories that somebody loves.* Added to the hurdles facing you is the fact that the stories you love may not be in vogue at the moment.

And therein lies the rub: What do you do when the stories you want to write are not the stories that are being published? Granted, there’s a good chance that the kind of stories you like are being published somewhere (and there’s always self-publishing), but let’s assume you actually want to make money and have people read your work–what do you do?

Beats me. I wish I had an easy answer, but there isn’t one. Your choices may be selling to lesser markets, waiting for your kind of story to return to the forefront, or writing things that you believe are more commercial. (Beware–writing to commercial tastes is a very chancy business. By the time you submit your story, the popular current may have changed and you’ve done all that work for nothing.)

In the end, I’d opt for writing the best story I can, even if it’s not what I’d truly love to write. After all, just because it isn’t in your preferred milieu, that doesn’t mean you can’t write a great story. One of the biggest problems with beginning genre story writers is that they concentrate on “genre” instead of “story.” While it’s true that the SF in an SF story has to be integral to the plot (although that rule can be broken later on in your career), the SF should aid the plot, not the other way around. For example, Star Trek is not popular because it’s cutting edge SF (or ever was, with a few notable exceptions), but because people love Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al. It could have been a Western, or a cop show, so long as it had those relationships.

So write a strong enough story and people will read it. If it’s really strong, people will read it no matter the genre or setting. And at that point, as they say, you will be able to write your genre and read it, too.

*Pro tip: Watch for new markets and get something in quickly before the editor becomes jaded. It doesn’t always work, but it has for me.

#SFWApro

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One of the bad things about being a writer is that you are your own workforce. If you take time off, no one picks up the slack. You also have to live with your decisions, good or bad.

One of the good things about being a writer is that you are your own boss. You set your own goals, your own hours. You want to take a week off, you don’t have to ask anybody. And if you want to change your business model, you don’t have to run your new plan by a committee.

So I’m changing my business model. And while I don’t have to run it by a committee, since it’s sudden and runs smack into the plan I was publicizing as late as a week ago, I felt like I should say something.

I am taking an indefinite hiatus from self-publishing. It’s for the obvious reason: economics. I have proven to myself that, given the proper motivation, I can write a lot faster than I had been, which is essential to self-publishing. You have to push a lot of product to the market. Unfortunately, this is only half of the equation, in that once you have put product on the market, someone has to want to consume it. And therein lies the rub.

The most formidable obstacle to successful self-publishing is discoverability. This is not a writing problem, this is a business problem. According to the numbers, I do not have the business acumen to make a go of self-publishing. It takes about twice the time I was putting in before, and it provides about the same money. I may not be a business genius, but even I can see this makes no sense.

So I’m going back to writing short stories, and with any luck I’ll be able to apply some of the lessons that I gleaned while learning to write a novel in two months. My backlist will remain in print, of course, so theoretically I will soon have two income streams.

Being the boss means sometimes you have let go of an employee. Or a business. I’ll miss being a self-published writer; I just won’t miss being a self-publisher.

Okay, I’ve got to go. My boss is yelling at me to write something. Short stories or novels, some things never change.

#SFWApro

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When I was writing The Scent of Death, second in the Nemesis series, I posted irregular reports on “the Experiment,” i.e., whether I could write a book in three months. (I could.) You can find some of them here and here. I even did a “Son of the Experiment” as I started out the next book, The Killing Scar. These posts, however, were mainly concerned with charting progress through word counts, not so much about the nature of that progress. This time I propose to do something a little different.

I am currently working my way up to starting Marauders from the Moon, the fourth book in the series. And when I say “working my up to starting,” I mean that I haven’t written Word One. It seems, then, that this would be a good place to start with regular Progress Reports–not only to document where I am, but how I got there and where I think I’m going. (As you will see, where I think I’m going is an important caveat.)

Convention-goers are familiar with Progress Reports, and know that PR 0 (zero) is the very first, before the committee really has a lot to say. And that’s where I am, so I’m going to talk about the process so far.

I’ve been trying, with some success, to outline before I write. Many writers outline, and no two of them do it the same way. My approach has four steps:

  1. Write a blurb. Like for the back of the book. A book blurb contains your entire story in a few words. Once you write that, you know what the book is about.
  2. List every thought, concept, setting, character, and plot device you can possibly think of, in no particular order. Just throw a bunch of stuff at the screen that you think might be fun or useful to include.
  3. Begin what resembles an outline. Lay down a few plot lines, pencil in some character interactions. Try to work up a paragraph for each chapter, more or less. Get as far into the book as you can before you start writing so you can get a running start.
  4. Start writing the book, ignoring half of step 2 and most of step 3.

I like to write the book from the inside out, which is to say, I’m a pantser who uses an outline as a crutch. There’s only so far I can outline before I lose track of where I am and how many words I have covered. At that point, I have to start writing the book itself so I can see where it’s going. If I’ve jotted down 12 plot points and cover them all in the first 15,000 words, then I’m going to need a lot more plot points–but I can’t know that until I start writing. And yes, this is a messy process; you should have seen it before I got organized.

The plan is to write about 5000 words a week and be done by April 30. I will also try to post at the end of each week how I’m doing, and why it’s going well or poorly.

That’s it for PR 0. See you in a week. At least, that’s how I’ve outlined it…

#SFWApro

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I’ve mentioned more than once that characters have a way of telling the author what they want to do in a story. I can’t count the number of times that characters have intervened in scenes they weren’t supposed to be in, or decided that they want to take up romantically with another character without telling me first. But those things are not so tough to deal with; they can be handled. In the extreme, the author can veto the whole idea. What’s more difficult (and difficult to understand) is when a character thinks he’d better serve the story by being dead.

For such willful souls, characters can be very selfless. In a recent book, I had a character walk into a room and unexpectedly find another character’s lifeless body. And when I say “unexpectedly,” I mean that neither he nor I saw this coming. It was like the one characters said, “Ooh, what if you walked in and found me dead. Wouldn’t that be cool?” Well, yeah, except that all he has to do is play dead; I’m the one who has to explain how he got that way, and more importantly, why.

In this instance (not to give anything away), I had set the character up to be aligned in the reader’s mind with the bad guys–so why was he dead? Why would his supposed allies do him in? This raises possibilities: Maybe he wasn’t who you thought he was. Was he merely an innocent bystander? Was he actually playing for the good guys? I mean, thank you for the chance to mess with the readers’ perceptions and expectations, but come on, I wasn’t planning to do all that extra work! And I thought you were going to be around for the climax!

Oh, well, he’s dead (Jim). Deal with it and move on. But I wish he had warned me. I was going to put him in a sequel. Yeah…you didn’t see that coming, did you? You could’ve been a star… Well, let that be a lesson to the rest of you. Writers write, characters act.

And preferably, not on their own.

#SFWApro

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In celebration of the upcoming release of The Killing Scar , third book in the Nemesis series (available at the special pre-order price), the first book, The Choking Rain, is now available for free on Amazon and other platforms!

February, 1932: The city of Los Angeles is anticipating a huge boost to its depression-ravaged economy from the upcoming Summer Olympics. But when a horrifying and unexplained wave of deaths sweeps the city, the incipient panic could ruin everything. An ex-fighter pilot uncovers an international terror plot which threatens not only the city and the Games, but the peace of the entire world. He will throw everything he has into the fight–and victory, if it comes, will demand a terrible price: Before it is done, a life will be lost, and a legend will be born.

And if your tastes run more to the out-of-this-world, The Invisible City, first in the Stolen Future trilogy, is also free. A 20th-century man is hurled into the distant future, where he is considered nothing more than an ignorant barbarian to be hunted and killed. If he survives, he may save the world–but will he choose the world of his past, or of his future?

#SFWApro

 

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