Mid-August update

It’s already mid-August? Where in the heck did the last eight months go? Feels like the election drama from last year never really died down.

Don’t worry, this post isn’t about politics. Not enough time in the day to follow the latest circus sideshow in the Emerald City of Oz. Time has been on my mind, though: specifically, how to write 10k words a week (minimum) while catching up on the massive list of publishing tasks. I think I’ve found the answer.

I already get up every day around 7am to get ready for my part-time day job. Recently, I started getting up at 6am to put in an hour of writing first thing in the morning. The goal isn’t to pound out words so much as to get the mental gears turning, so that later in the day (such as lunch break) I can pick up very rapidly where I left off.

So far, it seems to be working. Plus, it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and write at the end of the day when you know you’ve already got more than a thousand words under your belt and can hit that daily word count goal with just another few hundred. My writing productivity is improving significantly, and as I continue to work out the kinks, I believe it will continue to improve.

On the writing front, I’ve put A Queen in Hiding on the back burner for the moment, and have instead moved on to Gunslinger to the Galaxy. This one is from Jane’s point of view, and so far, it’s a blast. Should be finished with that WIP by the end of September.

On the publishing side, there’s all sorts of stuff going on. I’ve got a cover artist for The Sword Keeper, and the preliminary sketches look really amazing! Also going through the edits and getting the metadata worked out. I’ll probably write the author’s note over the weekend. By the end of next week, it should be up for preorder with a release date of September 23.

My goal is to get to the point where I’ve always got a novel on preorder. Another goal is to have print books and audiobooks for every title more than 15k words, but that’s going to take some time.

This would all be so much simpler if I didn’t spend 30 hours a week at a day job. Time, money, or youth: you can only pick two of the three, and if you’re under 40 one of them has to be youth.

That’s what I’m up to these days. Expect to see some exciting stuff in the weeks ahead!

Sick, sick, sick

So Thursday morning, I came back from the gym after running 2.5 miles on the treadmill and promptly fell asleep for half an hour. Later that evening, I went for a walk and found myself out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs. For some reason, I was having difficulty getting air into my lungs. No other symptoms, though, so I chalked it up to the inversion and took an alka seltzer to clear things up.

Friday, I woke up with a complete lack of desire to go anywhere or to do anything. The day was mostly a wash, though I did get up to Salt Lake to see my sister who was attending Rootstech 2017. On the way, I started coming down with a mild headache. Also, minor congestion.

Saturday was when the plague finally struck me.

Congestion, massive headache, unbelievable chills—the whole works. I spent most of the day in bed, with a blanket, a quilt, and a down comforter all piled on top of me, and I still didn’t feel warm enough. Drank lots of water and took a bunch of medicine, but I was still in a pretty bad way through most of Sunday.

As things stand right now, I’ve still got a headache and I’m coughing up all kinds of nastiness, but it seems that the worst has passed. Still popping vitamin Cs and drinking piss-tons of water, which isn’t fun, but at least I’m getting better.

No idea how that’s going to impact things this week. Hopefully, I’m back on my feet and writing again relatively soon, but that may or may not be the case.

Either way, there’s still a lot of prewriting to do before I can start my next WIP, Edenfall. I need to reread Genesis Earth and really immerse myself in that universe. I also plan to look over the reviews and spend a day or two picking over tvtropes like a menu. If I can line everything up the way I want to, I should be able to write a really clean first draft and publish it before the end of the year.

No promises, though. I’m still not sure when this sickness is going to go away. Hopefully soon.

Only two more chapters!

I’m only two chapters away from finishing the first draft of Gunslinger to the Stars! This book was supposed to be finished a month ago, but life got busy and my chronic disorganization got in the way.

Of course, these last few chapters are taking WAY longer to write than I thought they would, just like all of my books. It’s like Zeno’s paradox for writers: no matter how close you are to finishing the damn thing, you’re still only halfway to the end.

The ending for this book is going to be awesome, though. Truly awesome. How do I know? Because I started this book with Chekhov’s armory, and the only gun that hasn’t been fired is called Charity. Why? Because Charity is the greatest of all, Charity never faileth (even when all things fail), and whosever shall be found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

So yeah, I’m really excited for Gunslinger. It’s probably the funnest, most entertaining book I’ve written to date. I tell people it’s like Monster Hunter International meets Guardians of the Galaxy. I actually told Larry Correia that at LTUE back in February, and he got a kick out of it.

In other news, I’ve decided to publish a bunch of short stories in the next couple of months. These stories have been out on submission for a while, but it’s time to put them out there for you guys to read.

I’ve decided that any short story market that takes longer than 60 days to respond with a form rejection is not worth my time. If the magazines were the only way to get these stories out, then sure, I’d grin and bear it, but in an age of indie publishing it just doesn’t make sense. Why should I wait three, four, or five months for each market to make a decision? Multiply that by ten or fifteen markets, and my stories can be tied up for years. I don’t need that, and my readers don’t need that either.

Stand-alone short stories have always been hit or miss for me. A few, like Starchild and Worlds Without Number, sell at a small but consistent rate. Others, like Decision LZ1527, haven’t performed as consistently. I’m never quite sure whether to publish a short story as a stand-alone, so I’m going to just throw them all up there and see how well they perform after three or four months. Let the market decide.

As for the ones that don’t perform well, I’ll take down the stand-alones and republish them in bundles and short story collections instead. No sense keeping an individual title up if it isn’t selling. I’ve already taken down a couple of the old ones, which will definitely go up later in some of these bundles. Trouble is, I just haven’t had stories availabe to bundle them with.

So you can expect to see that in the next few months, as well as (hopefully) Gunslinger to the Stars. The first draft is pretty rough, but I don’t think the revision process is going to take that long. Mostly I just need to run it past my gun nut friends to make sure I got all the details right, and find an awesome artist to design the cover.

I’ll leave you with Shostakovich’s Second Waltz, because it’s a fantastic waltz that’s been stuck in my head for several days now. Enjoy!

SSF-V: Captives in Obscurity 2.0 is complete!

Yesterday I finished the second draft of Captives in Obscurity (Sons of the Starfarers: Book V). I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out, and I think you guys are really going to enjoy it!

Unfortunately, writing the book is only the first step. Publishing is going to take resources that I don’t currently have, so it’s going to be a few months before I can get it out. Right now, it looks like Captives in Obscurity will go up for pre-order sometime in April/May, for a release date in July.

In the meantime, I plan to start working on Book VI: Patriots in Retreat right away, in order to release it soon after. With luck, there should be three Sons of the Starfarers books published next year, with only two left to complete the series.

I’ve got so many awesome ideas for stuff to fit into the next few books. Captives in Obscurity and Patriots in Retreat fall squarely into the midpoint of the series, where the characters hit rock bottom right before the plot twist. In other words, this is where I really get to twist the knife, and if you’ve read my other books you know that that’s the part I like best!

So yeah, it’s going to be a while before these books come out, but they are really going to be awesome when they do. In the meantime, I’ve got some short stories coming off of submission in the next couple of months, including a Sad Puppies inspired piece that I want to have up before the Hugos are in the news again. So even if it takes some time for Captives in Obscurity to get out there, I’m definitely not going away!

Why SSF-V: Captives in Obscurity won’t be coming out in January

Okay, so here’s the deal.

Back in May, I made what might possibly be the worst mistake of my entire publishing career: I severely underpriced all of my Star Wanderers books. For the year and a half leading up to that decision, sales had been declining rather steadily, and I was getting rather desperate for some way to reverse that. By lowering my prices from $2.99 to $.99 for that particular series, I thought I would bring in some new readers who would go on to buy my other books, and that that would offset the loss in income.

At the time, I kind of had an impression in the back of my head that it was a bad idea. And for a while, I listened to that impression. But when you feel desperate, there’s a temptation to shift strategy and just do something, especially if it’s easy and produces immediate results.

So from May to October, I severely underpriced my books. In October, I went through all the data I’d collected, and realized that I’d categorically failed to accomplish any of my goals. Sales had increased by only two or three copies a week for the books I’d discounted, and sales for the non-discounted books hadn’t increased at all. Meanwhile, my writing income had fallen precipitously, to the point where I could barely cover costs.

At the same time, my personal expenses started to become a problem. I’ve always been frugal, but a couple of unexpected expenses combined with poor planning and lack of work meant that by the end of the summer, my emergency savings were drained and I had to make some hard choices. Long story short, I had to pull most of the money out of my business account in order to avoid going into debt.

I’m doing okay right now, so don’t worry about that. Work opportunities have picked up with the Christmas season, so I should be able to get by for the next couple of months just fine. And as for the writing end of things, business is still profitable, so if I just let it sit for a couple of months I should be able to replenish the money I had to take out. It’s not like I’ve eaten my seed corn.

At the same time, though, it kind of is like I’ve eaten my seed corn, because I don’t currently have the money to pay for editing and cover art. In a couple of months, I will, but not soon enough for a January release.

I had originally planned to release Captives in Obscurity (Sons of the Starfarers: Book V) in January. And on the writing end, I’m still doing pretty good: I’ve heard back from my first readers and should have the revisions done by the end of the month. But the actual production isn’t something I can do right now, so I have to put the project off until the money comes in.

So that’s what’s going on. It kind of sucks, but lesson learned.

As for Captives in Obscurity, barring any more problems, it should come out in March. And I do still plan to publish some short stories between now and then. The nice thing about short stories is that they’re small enough that you can do most of the editing/art yourself. It’s kind of like the difference between planting a backyard garden and planting several acres of farmland. In fact, if things go well I should be launching a pen name soon, potentially as soon as December.

And for the future, I will be careful not to underprice my books. If I could, I would love to give away all of my books for free (in fact, I actually do: on Smashwords, my books are available on a “reader sets the price” arrangement), but that just isn’t practical. Lesson learned.