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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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Okay, so maybe I’m guilty of a little hyperbole: “Success” is like the mechanical rabbit that dogs chase around the track and never quite catch, so maybe claiming it is a bit premature. However, as a principle … well, let me explain.

I put The Killing Scar up for pre-order a couple of days ago, and when you do that Amazon sends you a nice little email confirming that the site is live, so people can actually, you know, pre-order the book. And in the email, it says if you want to see how things are going, you can check the “pre-order” tab on your private author site. So, being as anal about these things as all authors are (regardless of whether they admit it), I checked the “pre-order” tab, on a lark. After all, even I hadn’t known the site was live, so no one else was going to know…

And there it was, my first pre-order. I did a double-take. Somebody had gotten to the site even faster than I had. (Whoever you are, thank you!) At first I thought it must be a friend, but when I checked I saw it was from a foreign market, in a country where I don’t know anyone.

Oh my gosh. I have a fan. There is someone out there who has read the first two books and is so eager to read the third that he/she/they jumped on the pre-orders as soon as it was possible to do so. How cool! I thought, then: Oh, wow, what a responsibility.

As Ben Parker famously said: “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” Now, I’m not going to claim that writing adventure novels is a great power, but it is a great responsibility. There is someone out there (and I hope a good many someones) who has put faith in my ability to write an entertaining story, to the point of reserving my next book before it’s available. There is someone out there who is looking to me in the same light (although not in the same way) as I look to Jim Butcher.

That’s a lot to live up to. Not that I am comparing myself to Jim Butcher (you may laugh), but we share the same burden: We both owe our readers the experience that we ourselves have set them up to expect. We both are responsible for producing the best product we can, every time we sit down.

And with that being said, I’m sure that when I sit down tonight to write, there’s no reason to believe that I will suffer from terminal writer’s block. Really. No reason at all.

Help…

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The cover for The Killing Scar is here, and the book is available for pre-order at a discount price!

cover1-3

A German scientist pursued by Allied agents…a victim of mob violence…both believed dead by the world at large. But the history of their struggle, begun in the chaotic months after the Great War, will come to a fateful conclusion in the days of the Great Depression, deep in the wilds of a ravaged Europe, where a deadly secret weapon is being developed which could change the course of history!

After the War, Eric Reinhold pursued the murderer Captain Skorzos for two years, until their final confrontation on a night the Eric still will not talk about, twelve years later, but which is widely believed to have ended in Skorzos’ death. Since that time, Eric himself has wrongfully been declared dead, the victim of a gangland shooting. But now it appears that both men are still alive–and their next meeting will have consequences that could shape the fate of the world…

The Killing Scar will be released on February 28 for $3.99, but you can pre-order through Amazon and Smashwords at the reduced price of $2.99. Plus, in celebration of the publication of book #3 in the Nemesis saga, the first book, The Choking Rain, will soon be available for free on all platforms.

And don’t forget, the fourth book in the series, Marauders from the Moon, comes out this summer!

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It’s scary starting a new book. You have an idea, maybe just a scene that you’ve been carrying around in your head for weeks or months, waiting to see if it grows into something you can use. If it’s a series, you already have your main character(s), so that’s a help. But you don’t have a plot, you don’t have secondary characters, you don’t have a beginning, a middle, or an end… You have to write 1200-1500 words per day for the next four months and you have no idea what Word One is going to be! Help!

It’s exciting to start a new book. There’s this image you’ve been carrying in your head for weeks or months that you can’t wait to get down and see where is goes. This is the fourth book in your series, and you’re really getting into your characters’ psyches, and you’re learning more and more about your setting all the time. Right now you’ve got nothing more than maybe a half-page of scattered notes, but in a few months you will have a book: Tens of thousands of words that you put together in a way that has never been done before and never will be again. Your universe, your mark on history. The possibilities!

And you wonder why writers can never seem to confine themselves to the here and now, even when they’re away from their typewriters. They are in a constant state of simultaneous terror and awe. (No, not shock and awe. That’s different. That’s when someone buys your book.) There are those who say fiction is irrelevant; it has no relation to, or effect on, the real world. They’ve never written a novel. Believe me, when you write a novel, it affects your real world a lot.

I am at the “ten lines of notes that I may never use” stage. And I have a blurb. In fact, the blurb came first. It was the first thing I wrote, because once you have a blurb, you have a story. You just have to fill in the details.

I have no idea right now what those details are going to be. I am in the same state as anyone else starting to read this book; I have little to no idea what’s going to happen.

It is scaring my pants off, and exciting as hell.

#SFWApro

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