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!

The thousand year view

How will your life impact the world in a thousand years?

It’s an easy question to dismiss. After all, how can one person possibly shape the course of history? Even if we accept the impact of certain great men, how can we have the hubris to think that we might one day join them?

But the truth is that our lives have more impact than we realize. Each one of us is literally a product of our ancestors. Their decisions, for good or for evil, have put us where we are today. We also have a hand in shaping the people we come into contact with. That impact can be felt through multiple degrees of separation—and how many degrees does it take to encompass the world?

In the year 1017, Europe was rising out of the ashes of the Viking age. Kievan Rus was ascendant in the east, vying with the Romans who dominated the religion and commerce of Europe (we know them today as the Byzantines). However, tensions were rising between Constantinople and the bishopric of Rome, where one of the last vestiges of the Roman state in the West would soon break communion and form the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, an apocalyptic Muslim death cult known as the Fatimids had swept from North Africa all the way to Baghdad, the cultural and scientific capital of the world. From the harsh steppe wilderness of central asia, the Seljuk Turks were building an empire that would save Baghdad from destruction, while in China, the Song dynasty had invented the first paper currency.

In short, it was a completely different world. How different will things look a thousand years from now?

By the year 3017, we will probably have established an independent colony on Mars. Other parts of the solar system will probably also be colonized, and we may have even begun our expansion to the stars. After all, faster than light starship drives are about as fantastic to us as cars, airplanes, and space stations would be for medieval serfs.

It is highly unlikely that the United States—or any other country, for that matter—will exist with its current borders. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that the majority of countries extant today will even exist at all. China is probably an exception, but let’s not forget that China is a civilization pretending to be a country.

Pessimists will say that there’s a good chance humanity won’t exist at all. They point to things like climate change, pandemics, and global war as challenges we may not overcome. But in the last millennium, we faced all those challenges and rose above them (little ice age, Mongol hordes, black plague). Same with the millennium before (extreme weather and crop failures of 535-536, Muslim conquests, plague of Justinian).

So how will your life impact the world a thousand years from now? What sort of impact do you want your life to have? How have the things you’ve done today brought you closer to leaving that legacy?

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few weeks. I want to impact the world through my books, but it’s unlikely that most of my books will still exist. My family and descendants will, though. I want to leave them with the best foundation I can. Here’s how I plan to do it:

Step One: Master the Basics of Provident Living

Provident living is more than just learning how to do your laundry and keep up with the maintenance of your car. It’s learning how to live sustainably, with a degree of self-reliance that can see you and the ones you love through hard times. It’s all the stuff I’ve been writing about in the Self-Sufficient Writer blog series.

I’ve made a lot of progress in this area, but there’s still a lot of progress left to make. Here are the next few steps I want to take in this area:

  1. Establish a rotating 90-day food storage for dry goods.
  2. Establish a herb garden.
  3. Expand food storage to canned goods.
  4. Buy a chest freezer and expand to meats and dairy.
  5. Plant a garden and expand to fresh fruits and vegetables.
  6. Learn how to can.
  7. Learn how to hunt.
  8. Begin keeping livestock (chickens, goats, etc).

A lot of these steps are going to have to wait until I have my own land, which brings us to:

Step Two: Live Debt-Free and Own the Place Where You Live

When you live on someone else’s land and owe them a portion of your labor, that’s a form of serfdom. In both historic and modern times, this has been the norm for the vast majority of people.

It shouldn’t be.

When my ancestors came from Europe to the United States, one of the first things they did was buy land. There was a reason for this. In the old country, they were serfs. They paid the corvée. They were not free.

They knew that unless they lived on land that they owned, in a home that was theirs, their children would not be free either.

We’ve enjoyed a century of prosperity in the United States. It’s led us to believe that home loans and mortgage payments are normal. They aren’t. When your home is the collateral for a loan you’ve taken from the bank, and you spend most of your adult life paying it back to the tune of 250%, that is a modern form of serfdom.

Until you own it outright, your house is a liability, not an asset. And in some places, true ownership is impossible. After all, if the government has the power to seize your house for non-payment of taxes, did you really ever “own” it to begin with?

It’s a similar thing with debt. All debt is a form of bondage. “Leverage” is when someone else has control over you or something that belongs to you. Unless you can get out from under it, you will never truly be free.

If most of your life is spent in serfdom and bondage, the thousand-year impact of your life will be muted.

The Habsburg dynasty started with a small castle on the top of a hill. From that starting point, the family went on to shape the development of Europe into the modern world. The castle was so important in that effort that the family took their name from it.

I know how to live debt-free. I’ve been doing it for several years. But I do not currently live in a place that I own. That is my overriding goal: to own the place where I live within ten years.

The government isn’t making it easy. Neither are the central banks. A decade of 0% interest rates has ravaged the middle class. As a direct consequence, home ownership rates are dropping to historic lows. 70% of Millennials have less than $1,000 saved for a down payment on a house, while at the same time, the helicopter money from the Fed has inflated a new housing bubble larger than the one that burst in ’08. In California, Google employees with six-figure incomes are living out of RVs because they can’t afford to buy a house.

It’s brutal. These are the same economic pressures that led to the rise of medieval serfdom in Europe. But there are also opportunities, for those who know how to take advantage of them. Which leads to:

Step Three: Build Multi-Generational Wealth

Poor people buy luxuries. Middle class people buy necessities. Rich people buy investments. If I want to leave something behind for my children and descendants, I need to master the skills of investing and managing wealth.

This goes back to the thousand-year view. The biggest impact I’m probably going to make on the world is going to be through my children and descendants. Raising them will be the most important investment I can ever make. I want to give them a life of opportunity, so that they, like me, can make a thousand-year impact on the world.

This is what my ancestors did for me. My Mormon ancestors crossed the plains in the Willie handcart company so that their descendants could grow up in Zion. My first-generation immigrant Czech ancestors invested in Texas farmland that still pays a small dividend to their descendants (greatly increased now because of oil royalties). There are many other countless others who made great sacrifices so that I could enjoy a life of privilege and opportunity. I’m sure that’s not unique to me.

We seem to have forgotten, here in the United States, how important it is to make sure that our children enjoy better lives than we have. To some generations much is given, while of others much is required. I fear that we are transitioning from the former to the latter. Nations are born stoic and die epicurean, surrounded by mountains of debt.

This is why it is so important to build wealth: not for your own personal consumption, but for the security of your children and descendants.

The most important investment you can make is in your education. If I’m going to develop these skills, that’s what I need to do: invest in my own financial education.

I also need to learn by experience, so I’m taking $100 of my book earnings each month and investing them. I’ll probably experience a couple of big losses, but that’s called paying tuition. The knowledge I gain from doing this will hopefully help to accomplish this goal: to build wealth that will bless the lives of my children and descendants for generations to come.

A lot of things fall into perspective when you take the thousand-year view. When you focus on the challenges of the present, it’s easy to become pessimistic, but when you take a clear-eyed look at the future—not just the immediate future, but the long-term future as well—you cannot help but take an optimistic view.

How will your life impact the world in a thousand years?

Write every day or quit now?

Hoo-boy, do a bunch of writers have their panties in a twist over this article. Who would have thought that the suggestion to “write every day” could be so triggering? Not just for aspiring writers, either, but for Hugo-award winning authors as well.

I’m being a jerk, of course. So is Stephen Hunter. But he isn’t wrong.

Writing is hard. Habits are automatic. Turn writing into a habit, and you’re much more likely to succeed. That’s it. That’s the whole message.

In particular, I really liked this part:

The most important thing is habit, not will.

If you feel you need will to get to the keyboard, you are in the wrong business. All that energy will leave nothing to work with. You have to make it like brushing your teeth, mundane, regular, boring even. It’s not a thing of effort, of want, of steely, heroic determination… You do it because it’s time.

Now, do I follow this advice? Do I write every day? No, but I probably should. It would certainly make life interruptions easier to deal with. I would probably finish a lot more books, too. Right now, I write almost every day, but there’s a very big difference between finding success and almost finding success.

As far as professional goals go, making writing into a daily habit is a pretty damn good one. Unless, of course, you’re just a professional victim and/or Twitter queen with a writing hobby. Which seems to be the case for a great many butthurt people.

And what if health, or circumstances, or whatever else prevent you from writing every day? What if just the title of the article throws you into fits of self-guilt? Remember that it’s free advice. It’s just an opinion. Take a deep breath and like it or leave it as you will.

Personally, I like it. It feels right. If writing were so habitual that I didn’t have to expend any willpower to do it, I could get so much other stuff done. Why would I want to do otherwise?

Great article. Check it out.

Trying something new

I’m going to try something new and post to this blog every day for a while. I’ve heard that blogs do best if they have daily content, and while I personally find it difficult to keep up with those blogs (unless, like The Passive Voice, they’re more like a subject-specific newspaper), I’m willing to give it a shot.

I gave up social media about a year ago… or was it two? I still post stuff to Twitter occasionally, but only to procrastinate or waste time. For a variety of reasons, it’s not a platform I take very seriously.

But blogging, I actually enjoy. Mostly, I just like reading other people’s blogs, but I have been posting to this one for… what, ten years now? At times, it’s been more sporadic than others, but it’s something that’s definitely stuck. I’ll probably keep blogging for the rest of my life.

In any case, I’ll try this out for the next month or so, just to see how it works out. If you have any ideas or suggestions, or you’re a longtime follower who just wants to say hi, feel free!

January update

I had hoped to write a big blog post detailing my goals and plans for the year, but January got off to a rocky start (food poisoning, the flu, massive back-to-back snowstorms, and sub-zero temperatures), and this week I’m working a temp job. The big New Year’s post will have to wait.

I do have plans, however, and they’re already in motion. The main thing for now is to finish the 3.0 draft of Gunslinger to the Stars. The story is pretty much ready to go, so now I’m doing a final draft to tighten it up. I’m hoping to get it down from 66k words to just under 50k. Should make for a rip-roaring adventure.

My original deadline for Gunslinger was the end of this week, but with the job eating up all my time, it looks like I’ll have to push that back to Wednesday. Fortunately, that’s still quite doable. Revision is a pain, but it goes a lot faster for me than drafting, especially if the story is already in place.

After that, I plan to work on The Sword Keeper and finish the 2.0 draft. These are major story revisions, so it’s going to take some time to work them all out. My plan is to publish it in August, and I want to have it finished before it goes out for pre-order.

With luck, both of those projects will be finished by mid-February, freeing me up to really throw myself into Edenfall. You guys have been asking for it, and I plan to deliver. The Genesis Earth trilogy has waited long enough!

There also seems to be a great deal of interest in more J.M. Wight stories. “Worlds Without Number” has been performing exceptionally well, especially without any kind of promotion. I have some great ideas for more stories in that universe, and do hope to finish Starship Lachoneus sometime in 2018. There’s still a lot of work to do before that can happen, but if this is the story you guys want to read, I’ll move it up from the back burner.

I also just came up with a great idea for the next two Gunslinger books. The first one will be Gunslinger to the Stars, the second, Gunslinger to the Galaxy, and the third, Gunslinger to Earth. If the first one does well, I’d love to expand it into a trilogy.

But first! I’ve got to finish book one. The next big step is to find a good cover artist, then send it out for edits and put it up for pre-order. Right now, it’s scheduled to release in May, going up for Amazon pre-order in April and everywhere else in February. Gotta get on that!

TL;DR, things are crazy crazy busy around here (but in a good way). I do have a resolution to blog more frequently this year, especially with these quick update posts. Let me know what you think, or if there’s any particular book you’re looking forward to! In the meantime, thanks for reading!