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.

Late September update

I am not a pleasant person to be around when I’m struggling to finish a difficult book.

Me: There’s just not enough time in the day.

Dad: I know how you feel, son.

Me: I don’t think that you do. You’ve never been self-employed.

Later…

Me: I need to quit my job.

Dad: But Joe, what about the benefits?

Me: Screw the benefits! I don’t want to be dependent on anyone for “benefits.” Besides, there’s a public pension crisis looming over this country, and in ten years your teacher’s pensions are all going to dry up. You can thank a decade of 0% interest rates for those “benefits.”

Like I said, not very pleasant.

So I had to push the deadline back another week for A Queen in Hiding. Really hate to do that. Problem is, the only writing time I can carve out of my schedule comes in short 1-2 hour chunks, and a single interruption can throw off everything. Like when a truck shows up during my lunch break. Or like when I’m playing catch-up and sleep in past my alarm.

It doesn’t help that every chapter, I run up against a wall that forces me to go back two or three chapters and completely change the direction of the story. This is definitely one of the weirdest books I’ve ever written. It’ll come together eventually, but it’s definitely taking more effort than it’s worth. Should lead the series in an interesting direction, though, and tie into the Gaia Nova series much further down the road. If I ever write any more of those books.

Anyway, so that’s coming along slowly. On the marketing end, I’m trying out a bunch of new things and/or working harder at things I’ve been doing for a while. All of my free and 99¢ book deals are scheduled through August 2018—now I just need to figure out how I’m going to promote them.

Not much is happening on the publishing front, other than The Sword Keeper which comes out this weekend. I’ve got a release schedule that runs through August 2018, which is part of the reason why I’m so stressed about getting Sons of the Starfarers finished. That series WILL be complete before the end of 2018, hopefully before July 2018. Four more books, of which 1.5 are currently written.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Time to get back to writing.

Free and 99¢ books for September!

Hey guys, just a quick update to let you know about some book deals I have going on right now.

First, I have a free short story this month!

My Name Is For My Friends

My Name Is For My Friends

eBook: $1.99
Two men, both strangers, hardened by blood and steel. Both are poised to kill. Neither knows whom to trust. Only one thing is certain: any mistake will result in death. More info →
Buy now!

Second, Desert Stars is 99¢ for the rest of September! I believe this is one of my best books, and it won’t be on sale again for a while, so be sure to pick it up now!

Desert Stars

Desert Stars

$9.99eBook: $4.99
On the fringes of a desert world at the heart of an interstellar empire, a young man embarks on a holy pilgrimage to the ancient temple of Earth. But love and honor clash as his companion, the daughter of the sheikh, seeks to win his heart. More info →
Buy now!

Finally, if you’re looking for a good free read, or perhaps you want to try out some new authors, I have books in three InstaFreebie group promos going on right now. Check them out!

SFF Book Bonanza (11 – 17 September)

September Sci-Fi (11 – 17 September)

Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Full Length Novels to Chill and Thrill You! (10 – 30 September)


That does it for now. Thanks for reading!

Joe

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!