Early January Update

The holidays are over. Blergh.

I don’t generally do well when my routine gets broken up by outside forces, which is why this blog has fallen by the wayside for the last week or so. I’m also not very good at creating structure in my life where none exists, so during times like the holidays I don’t tend to do very well. This is definitely a skill that I need to work on.

In any case, the holidays are over, which means it’s time to get back to work. Thank goodness!

I am about 10,000 words from finishing my current WIP, An Empire in Disarray. With the work on my friends’ basement finished and my roommate starting school in Salt Lake today, there shouldn’t be any more interruptions between now and the end of next week. This bodes well.

When that’s done, I’ll jump right into work on Victors in Liberty. I’ve got to admit, there are other projects I’d really like to work on right now, but finishing Sons of the Starfarers takes priority.

The series was supposed to be finished way back in 2015. But I underestimated the volume of work I’d taken on—and that was before I got a girlfriend. I fell behind on my writing as the relationship got really serious, and then we broke up, which didn’t help with productivity either.

Long story short, I did a lot of things wrong back in 2014. But I learned from my mistakes, and I think my books are better because of it. So instead of finishing up Sons of the Starfarers in 2015, I’m finishing it now in 2018. And then I’m moving on to other projects.

Edenfall is at the top of that list. It’s been years since I started the Genesis Earth trilogy, which is another ball that I’ve dropped. Genesis Earth does stand alone, but I’ve been promising to finish the trilogy since I published it in 2011, and judging from the reviews (as well as the slow but remarkably steady trickle of sales), this is a WIP that deserves to get priority.

One thing I’m really trying to do this year is to get better at structuring things: my writing, my publishing and marketing efforts, my daily routine, etc. Towards that end, I’ve put together a publishing schedule for 2018. Here it is as it stands at the beginning of the new year:

  • JANUARY — Patriots in Retreat (Sons of the Starfarers, Book 6)
  • FEBRUARY — The Janus Anomaly: A Short Story
  • MARCH — A Queen in Hiding (Sons of the Starfarers, Book 7)
  • APRIL — Time and Space in Amish Country: A Short Story
  • MAY — An Empire in Disarray (Sons of the Starfarers, Book 8)
  • JUNE — Lizzie-99XT: A Short Story
  • JULY — Victors in Liberty (Sons of the Starfarers, Book 9)
  • AUGUST — Edenfall (Genesis Earth Trilogy, Book 2)
  • SEPTEMBER — Sholpan
  • OCTOBER — The Sword Bearer (The Twelfth Sword Trilogy, Book 2)
  • NOVEMBER — In the Beginning: A Short Story
  • DECEMBER — Gunslinger to the Galaxy (Gunslingers Trilogy, Book 2)

Lots of book 2s and finishing series. I suppose you could say this is the year where I start to finish what I’ve started.

And while the schedule may seem a bit daunting, the first four books are already ready to go, with Patriots in Retreat and A Queen in Hiding already up for preorder. Of the ones that are left, half are already written. So even though it seems ambitious, it’s actually quite doable, even if something crazy happens and I end up eloping to Mongolia before the end of the summer.

So that’s what I’m up to. I’ll get back to blogging as I can, but my first priority is writing, followed closely by publishing. Lots of behind the scenes stuff happening which I don’t have time to get into right now.

Take care, and thanks for reading!

Joe

Trope Tuesday: The Chessmaster

The Chessmaster is a fun trope, especially when done well. A good villain is always at least one step ahead of the good guys, so when it turns out that he’s three or four or ten steps ahead of them, it can make for some interesting plot twists.

Of course, the chessmaster isn’t always the bad guy. Sometimes, it turns out that the mysterious figure behind the scenes pulling all the strings is actually working for good, even though he may sacrifice a few pawns along the way. Or is he? There’s always that tension, simply because of the chessmaster’s manipulative nature.

I’ve played it both ways. The last time I wrote a chessmaster was Gunslinger to the Stars, but the Patrician in Heart of the Nebula definitely also qualifies. In both cases, the character was introduced as a mysterious employer. I won’t tell you which one was the bad guy, and which one was the good guy.

I’ve never written a story from the perspective of the chessmaster. I imagine it would be quite difficult, since all of the plot twists would have to be telegraphed and/or th reader would have to be kept in the dark about the main character’s plans. Dune is an excellent example of the former, but I can’t think of any good examples of the latter. The Davinci Code comes to mind, but the way it kept the viewer in the dark (seen the movie, haven’t read the book) didn’t work for me.

Even as a non-viewpoint character, the chessmaster can be difficult to write. Careful plotting is key, of course, but so is the iceberg principle. For everything the reader can see, there has to be a bunch of stuff beneath the surface that they can’t see. It doesn’t require the same level of detail as the surface level stuff, of course, but you have to at least have an idea of what the chessmaster would do if the story went in a very different direction. Even if the chessmaster never reveals those plans, you can bet that he still has them figured out.

In part, this is what made Heart of the Nebula so difficult to write. The final draft bears little resemblance to the first draft, with characters and subplots cut out or combined with others. Still, I’m satisfied with how it turned out, and it seems that the readers are as well.

In Sons of the Starfarers, Gulchina isn’t a chessmaster so much as a magnificent bastard with delusions of grandeur. She has plans and does tend to be three or four steps ahead of everyone else, but she’s less interested in manipulating events than she is in manipulating people. Her ultimate goal, as revealed in Captives in Obscurity, is to establish a proud warrior race that will one day wipe out and take over both the Empire and the Outworlds. She doesn’t know how that’s going to happen, but she knows what needs to be done to lay the foundation for that work.

The chessmaster is a challenging trope to write well, but I’m sure I’ll use it many more times in the future. The storytelling potential is just too great to leave it out.

Trope Tuesday: Chekhov’s Armory

The famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov had a rule:

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

This is, of course, where we get the trope called Chekhov’s Gun. If a gun shows up at the beginning of a story, you can almost always be sure that it will be fired at some point before the end.

Chekhov’s armory is where the story starts out in a place like this:

Or this:

Or this:

What the hell, I might as well just give you the link to the blog where I got all these photos. There’s plenty more gun porn where that came from.

My first time playing with this trope was Gunslinger to the Stars, and I have to say, it made for a really fun story. My outline literally consisted of listing a different gun for every chapter, and figuring out how to work it in. Chapter two was where all most of the guns were listed, but after that, it was pretty much “open fire” and “reload” right up to the grand finale at the end (with a little bit of kissing thrown in for good measure).

Seriously, though, it’s not a bad way to write a book: list all the things that need to go boom and figure out which order to put them in.

The biggest criticism I’ve received for Gunslinger to the Stars is that I should have described the guns in a more personalized detail. To be honest, my life experience is sadly lacking in this regard. I own a couple of guns, most notably an old Mosin 91/30, but most of my shooting experience comes from the Boy Scouts (though to be fair, I did impress the shotgun shooting instructor with a 40+ shot streak). This is a shortcoming that I am eagerly working to rectify.

So yeah, Chekhov’s Armory. It’s a really fun trope to write. When I’m finished with Sons of the Starfarers, I look forward to doing it all again with the next two books in the trilogy: Gunslinger to the Galaxy and Gunslinger to Earth. Expect book two before the end of 2018!

Gunslinger to the Stars

Gunslinger to the Stars

eBook: $5.99
Sam Kletchka here, freelance gunslinger and interstellar privateer. This, my friends, is how I went from being stranded in the armpit of the galaxy to becoming the luckiest human being in the universe. More info →
Buy now!

Late November Update

Is it time for another update? Why yes, I suppose it is.

Sons of the Starfarers is coming along quite well. Book 6, Patriots in Retreat, is up for preorder right now with a release date of January 19th. My editor just got back with the edits for book 7, A Queen in Hiding. Haven’t had a chance to look through those yet, but I will in the near future. Come January, that book will be up for preorder as well, with a release date of March 16th.

Right now, I’m writing book 8, An Empire in Disarray, with a hard deadline of 22 December (just before Christmas). Normally, I’d be panicking right now, but I’m trying out a new outlining method that seems to be working quite well. If everything works out the way I hope, I’ll finish up book 9 sometime in February and move on to other projects.

Looking back, it was a mistake to set out to write a nine-book series before knowing how the first one would do. If I could go back to 2009 and do it all over again, I’d stick to trilogies, where the first book stands well enough alone that I can abandon the other two books if it doesn’t gain much traction. That’s going to be my modus operandi from here on out.

So here are the trilogies I need to finish:

Genesis Earth Trilogy

This one has been outstanding for a long time. The first book did much better than I was expecting, and while its popularity has fallen off in recent years, it still gets very good reviews. For a first novel, I’m honestly surprised that this book has done as well as it has.

The second book, Edenfall, is still on the back burner for now. Partially written, partially outlined, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of months to get it done when I finally sit down to finish it.

As for book three, The Stars of Redemption, I have no idea because I haven’t even outlined it yet. Perhaps that’s what I need to get the ball rolling: outline the last book, so I know what has to happen in the second book. In any case.

Gunslingers Trilogy

Gunslinger to the Stars hasn’t done as well as I would have liked, but I enjoy this universe so much that I’m going to finish the trilogy if for no other reason than the fun of it. I’ve already written the first four or five chapters of Gunslinger to the Galaxy, and it’s coming along swimmingly. In fact, I’ll probably go right back to it after finishing up Sons of the Starfarers and call it a vacation. Expect to see more Jane Carter soon!

The Twelfth Sword Trilogy

I am super super excited to finish this trilogy—which is good, because the way the first book ends, it’s definitely not a standalone. Definitely not. Haven’t formally outlined it yet, but there’s a ton of stuff I’m going to throw into the second book, The Sword Bearer. Mercenaries, sorcerors, death mages, winged cataphracts, desert ruins, and mountain strongholds—it’s going to be great fun!

The Outworlds Trilogy

For a while now, I’ve been playing around with the idea of condensing all of Star Wanderers into a novel and then turning it into a trilogy. The first book will basically be made up of bits and pieces from all of the Star Wanderers novellas, spliced together to make a coherent novel. In particular, I’d like to expand on Noemi’s viewpoint and trim out some (or a lot) of the extraneous stuff that made the series drag on. Basically, turn it into less of a sci-fi romance and more of a classic space opera.

I’ve already started the sequel, Children of the Starry Sea, though I haven’t gotten past the first chapter. Where Star Wanderers is a series of novellas, though, Children of the Starry Sea is definitely a proper novel, and it would probably work a lot better to frame it as a trilogy than anything else.

I suppose it’s a bit like how Orson Scott Card turned a bunch of his early short stories into The Worthing Saga, which in my opinion is his very best book. I won’t unpublish any of the old Star Wanderers stuff, but I may just let it fade into obscurity as I push the other stuff.


These are the books that are on my mind. I’ve got to be honest: Sons of the Starfarers feels a bit like a ball and chain, but I’ve committed to finishing it and I’ll do my best to finish it well.

On the publishing front, there’s so much stuff I want to do that I’m having trouble keeping up with it all. My main goal is to get to 10k subscribers on my email list. Currently, I’m just shy of 4k. InstaFreebie has been hugely useful for that, but I’ve got to try other strategies as well. One of those strategies involves a new signup incentive, so if you’re already signed up for my email list, I’ve got a surprise for you soon.

So much stuff going on. I swear, this is the best depiction of what it’s like to be an indie author:

Late October update

I’m running at about 70% to 80% right now, but should be back up to 100% next week. However, since the blog is usually the last thing I get up to speed after a major life event, it will probably be another week or two before the blog is running like I want it.

Right now, I’m finishing up A Queen in Hiding and getting ready to send that to my editor. I’m still shooting for a November 3rd deadline. After that, I’ll take a week to go over the edits for Patriots in Retreat and put that up for pre-order.

I’m also working on a short story for an anthology with a deadline of November 1st, so that might throw a wrench into things. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot more time to write now, so that shouldn’t be as much of a problem.

Lots and lots of stuff going on behind the scenes. Right now, I’m getting my tasks all lined up so that I can hit them all in quick succession. One of the things I want to do is put out a print version of everything I’ve published electronically. KDP Paperback has advanced to the point where I can finally do that, so be sure to look out for that in the near future. Right now, I’m typesetting Gunslinger to the Stars.

I’m really looking forward to getting all the Sons of the Starfarers books written. Should happen within the next three to four months, if all goes well. There are so many other projects that I’m excited about, but I’ve committed to this series and I’m going to finish it. I don’t know if it will be my best work, but without sacrificing any more time I’ll strive to make it as good as I possibly can.

You may have noticed some changes in my prices. I’ll blog about that in the next few days. Also, I need to catch up on book reviews. I’ve found that I can dramatically increase my writing when I make a conscious effort to read more books, even if my writing time goes down. So that’s another goal.

Point is, things are happening even if it doesn’t seem like it. Ideally, I want to be up at the point where I always have something on preorder, and a short story publication coming out every month or so, most of them reprints, some of them new. So far, I’m at two short story publications this year—better get out and submit to more markets!

Now, back to writing!