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: 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

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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 →
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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:

Back in Utah

So! It’s been a while since I updated this blog, and there’s actually a good reason for it. I quit my day job in Iowa a couple of weeks ago and just moved back to Provo. In other words, I made the pioneer trek in the wrong direction and repented.

Driving across Wyoming, I got a small sense of what my pioneer ancestors must have felt as they made the trek to Utah. Compared to Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Wyoming is a lonely, windswept wasteland. It’s not quite as empty as Nevada, but wow, is it a forlorn place. Beautiful, but lonely.

After passing through Evanston, route 80 descends from an attitude of about 7,000 feet into the mountain valley’s of northern Utah. I have to say, the stretch between Evanston and Park City is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. From there, I came down the eastern side of the Wasatch mountains through Heber and Provo canyon, which is also gorgeous this time of year. Fall foliage, with just a little bit of snow on the highest peaks.

It’s good to be back. I’m renting a room from my friend and cowriter Scott Bascom, who is letting me pay him back in labor to clean and improve his house. He went through a series of major life crises in the last couple of years, and a back injury prevents him from getting the house back in shape. That’s where I come in. It’s a suitable arrangement for both of us and I think it will work out quite well, especially once we get a virtuous cycle going with our writing.

That’s my going to be my focus for the next several months: writing. I have a very aggressively release schedule for the first half of 2018, and a much better business foundation after taking a small business class in Iowa. I also saved up enough money from the old day job that I can afford to focus exclusively on writing and publishing for the next several months. So that’s the plan.

In 2014, I had my first 4-figure month and thought I was doing well enough to go full time in the near future. But looking back, I can see that I didn’t have the foundation set up to sustain a profitable business. The market shifted, the things I was doing to sell suddenly didn’t work anymore, and I made some stupid mistakes that drastically hurt my business. But I learned a lot from all that, and now I’m coming back with a much better foundation, a detailed plan for how to build on it, and enough experience to know how and when to abandon that plan as circumstances change.

Lots of stuff to talk about on that end, but I’ll leave it there for now. One thing you can definitely expect, though, is for the Sons of the Starfarers series to be complete before the end 2018–hopefully before the summer. Also, Gunslinger to the Galaxy should be out next year as well. And if you’re a fan of print books, I hope to put out a paperback of every book that I’ve written in the not so distant future. Audiobooks too, in the long run.

So if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter, since that’s the best way to stay abreast of my new releases. I’m not always as good at posting about them here as I should be. Also, now that the big move back to Utah is complete, expect to see more on this blog.

So long, and thanks for reading!

Beginning of September Update

It’s September, my favorite month of the year! Maybe I’ll revisit that post in a blast from the past or something. So many reasons why September is awesome.

Things are going well on the writing front. I’ve switched up my daily routine to make more writing time, and it’s working well so far. My alarm goes off at 5:45 am (just after oh-dark-thirty) and I write for about an hour before heading off to my part time job. I’ve found that I tend to write a lot more when I start first thing in the day, so the earlier I can start, the better.

I won’t bore you with the rest of my routine, unless you want me to write a post about it. There’s a bunch of interesting lifestyle tweaks I’ve been trying out, like reading a couple chapters from one of the books I’m reading as soon as I get back from work in the afternoon, in order to refill the creative well and not get caught in a Youtube / general internet trap. Stuff like that.

My current WIP is A Queen in Hiding (Sons of the Starfarers, Book 7) which is proving to be a surprisingly difficult book. It’s definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve ever written, and that’s saying a lot. In Captives in Obscurity, Reva and Isaac get assimilated into a hive mind, and things only get crazier from there.

Sometimes, stories come really easy, almost like they spring fully formed from the mind. Other times, I’ve found I have to throw out almost the entire first draft before I discover the story.

The weird thing is that it has nothing to do with actual book length. Stars of Blood and Glory and Outworlder are totally different lengths, but they both came out almost perfect in the first draft. However, almost all of the Star Wanderers novellas took multiple drafts filled with stuff that had to be cut. Heart of the Nebula took years to finish, and I had to throw out multiple characters and subplots. I struggled for a long time with Genesis Earth, until I decided to throw the whole thing out and start with a blank page. The book was finished less than four weeks later.

The holy grail, of course, is to write a perfect book in four to six weeks (or less!) every time I set off to start a new one. But as awesome as it would be to barf rainbows and poop gold, all of those things sadly remain out of reach.

My goal at this point is to publish the last four Sons of the Starfarers books in 2018, two months apart from each other. Ideally, I’d like to have the next one up for preorder in time for the previous one’s release. It’s going to take some coordination, but I already have all the covers, which leaves just the writing and editing (metadata and formatting doesn’t take more than a day).

Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen unless I can get A Queen in Hiding ready to go by December. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

Gunslinger to the Galaxy is on hold for now, though so far it’s coming along very nicely. I should be able to pick it up and finish without too much trouble. Edenfall is also on hold, for how much longer I really don’t know. Before the end of 2018, I’d like to publish either the one or the other, but publishing them both is probably a bit of a stretch.

Also, I haven’t even started The Sword Bearer yet (second book in the Twelfth Sword Trilogy), though I have lots of great ideas for it. Since The Sword Keeper is coming out in just a couple weeks, I should probably get on that.

On the publishing side, I dropped the ball a bit in August. It took so much energy to get The Sword Keeper ready for publication that I totally spaced publishing anything. I do have a bunch of shorts that are nearing the end of the submissions gauntlet, and some bundles that can go up too.

I don’t sell many print books, but I want to get print versions of all of my books up, including short stories. That’s going to be an ongoing project for a while. I also want to put up audiobook versions eventually, but it’s going to take some time to get that ball rolling. However, it has moved up the priority list.

That’s pretty much it. So much stuff I want to do, so little time to do it. Time, money, or youth: you can only pick two (and one of them isn’t your choice).

Take care, and thanks for reading!