So in case you didn’t know, I’ve been getting an omnibus edition ready for Star Wanderers. It’s subtitled The Jeremiah Chronicles, and contains parts I-IV (Outworlder, Fidelity, Sacrifice, and Homeworld). This covers the first major series arc, with all of the stories from Jeremiah’s point of view–hence the title.
I commissioned Ina Wong from Deviant Art for the cover, and this the result:
I must say, I’m rather pleased. It’s got a very different feel from the current space photography covers, but I think this is a lot truer to the actual story. I can’t commission art like this for the individual installments, of course, but for an omnibus edition, I figure it’s alright to go all out.
The only content in the omnibus that isn’t already in parts I-IV will be the author’s note, which I’ll either post here or include as a PDF to my newsletter subscribers. In other words, don’t worry about missing out on anything if you’ve already read the individual installments.
I’m getting feedback from my alpha readers for Benefactor, the next part in the series, so I’ll probably release that one in the next six weeks. In the meantime, I’ve picked up work on Reproach again (Part VII), and hope to finish the first draft before the end of the month.
Just as Dreamweaver is a parallel novella to Outworlder (from Noemi’s POV),Benefactor is a parallel novella to Fidelity (from Jakob’s POV) and Reproach is a parallel novella to Sacrifice (from Noemi and Mariya’s POVs). After that, I’ll do a parallel novella to Homeworld with Lucca and Mariya as the main POV characters, and then branch out into some other characters and storylines.
The fun part about writing this series is that each new story seeds at least two or three others. I just wish I could keep up!
I haven’t abandoned Lifewalker, but I did reach a point where I figured it would be good to take a short break just to keep things fresh. My creative process seems to work that way. As much as I’d like to train myself to stay on project until it was finished, creativity can’t be trained so much as fostered. I set myself a deadline to finish something by May 31st, so now it looks like that’s going to be Reproach.
As for The Jeremiah Chronicles, all I have left is to write the author’s note and book description. It should be out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords by this time next week. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on Reproach so you guys can have plenty more stories to read!
So I have a bunch of ideas for blog posts I’d like to write, and I’ll probably get around to them eventually, but I thought I’d drop a line now just to let you all know what I’ve been up to. It’s been a pretty good week, with some decent progress on the current WIP (Lifewalker) and some other random stuff that may be of some interest.
First, Lifewalker. It’s coming along quite well. I’m averaging around 2k words a day, so more of a leisurely pace than a white-hot creative heat, but not too bad. It’s kind of turned into a post-apocalyptic Western, mostly because I can’t write about southern Utah without the landscape taking over. This video should give you an idea why:
At the same time, the character’s voice really seems to be taking shape in a way that I like. He’s kind of drifting right now, but the way he writes about it is very much like an old man reminiscing on the course of his life, lingering on the regrets as well as the triumphs, with some rather wistful commentary on each. This is really a character that I can just pick up and run with–the story is practically writing itself.
It’s not just the voice, either. Random stuff is just finding it in–powerful stuff that makes the story awesome. For example, just in the last chapter, the characters were holding a meeting to see what they should do to rescue some of their friends who had been kidnapped. Out of nowhere, one of them pulls out a skull from a human baby, with beads and feathers dangling from it like some sort of totem. He brought it out to show that the people who’d attacked them were not just normal bandits, but cannibals from the Nevadan wastelands, which put them in a whole new category of badassery. Stuff like that comes out of nowhere every time I write, and it’s awesome.
I’ve had a lot of time to write, though I don’t feel I’ve been using it all productively. Still, I’m on track to finish this thing by the end of the month, which will be extremely gratifying.
In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting a lot with cooking and gardening. Just planted some tomatoes in 3-gallon ice cream buckets (with dirt instead of ice cream, of course), and those are growing nicely. It’s fun to have something to water in the morning, and when they start to yield fruit, I’m sure it will be awesome as well.
But I’ve also been experimenting with the old Egyptian kushari recipe I picked up after the 2008 study abroad. It always seemed to be missing that one thing that would make the other ingredients come together and achieve that delicious synergy. Well, I think I’ve found it: chickpeas and cumin, with maybe a touch of vinegar. It might not be 100% authentic, but when I cooked it this time with that stuff, it tasted heavenly.
So this weekend, I’m going to try to perfect the recipe, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. I’ll try cooking the rice in chicken broth, and adding more onions and garlic with maybe a little tomato. Also, coriander–I know that coriander and cilantro are basically the same plant, but I think the coriander will go with this better than cilantro. Also, it helps to fry it with a little oil after taking it out of the refrigerator, rather than sticking it in the microwave. I haven’t had a microwave for over a year, and I think I actually prefer cooking without it.
Speaking of food, my roommate’s sister’s roommates dropped off a bag full of crap from their kitchen, since they’re moving out for the summer. We’ve been having an interesting time combing through it–found some pretty good stuff, actually. One of the more useful things is a bag full of buckwheat, which is AWESOME because kasha was one of my favorite dishes in Georgia. Kasha and lobio–delicious!
So yeah, I’ve had food on my mind a lot this week. If things work out, maybe I’ll post a recipe or two. Kushari is delicious, cheap, filling, and healthy–a winning combination if ever there was one. Kasha is pretty simple, but that’s what makes it so great–a simple, hearty food that leaves you feeling warm and whole.
Besides cooking exotic foods, I’ve also been reading a lot of Freefall. I discovered it just last week, and I have to say, it is awesome. One of the better webcomics I think I’ve ever read. Like Schlock Mercenary, it’s a space opera comedy romp, but where Schlock kind of turned dark in recent years (which I’m not complaining about, don’t get me wrong), Freefall has still stuck to its happy-go-lucky roots. And just like Schlock Mercenary, the humor is not only entertaining, but often wonderfully insightful.
But by far, the best part of the story is how compelling the characters are. My favorite is Florence Ambrose, an artificially bred Bowman’s Wolf who is kind of a human-wolf hybrid. She’s one of only 14 members of her species, and the corporation that created her considers her more as property than an individual. She’s got all these biologically programmed safeguards that force her to obey direct human orders, no matter how ludicrous–but the only way for her species to survive is to convince the corporation that Bowman Wolves are profitable, so that they’ll make more (the whole 50-500 rule and all that).
Somehow, she becomes the engineer of the Savage Chicken, a down-and-out starship captained by the infamous Sam Starfall. Sam is basically a lazy, larcenous alien squid who wants nothing more than to steal everyone’s wallet and become famous doing it. At first, it seems like a horrible combination–Florence is basically a good, honest person, who wants to do good work and please everyone. But as the story goes on, the two develop quite a rapport, and start to rub off on each other.
Florence helps Sam to clean up and get his act together, and Sam helps Florence to learn ways to get around her difficult situation vis-a-vis her safeguards and lack of free will. More importantly, Sam helps her to stop feeling guilty long enough to recognize that doing the right thing sometimes means breaking (or at least twisting) the law.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s the whole cross-species romance angle between Florence and the biologist who rescues her back in one of the earlier subplots. As you might expect, it gets really lonely being the only Bowman’s Wolf on the planet–especially when the other 13 are frozen in cryo, on their way to a world several light-years away. Florence knows that she needs to do what she can to propagate the species, but she’s also got some emotional needs that demand to be satisfied now. Winston is kind of similar, a lonely parasitic biologist on a frontier terraforming project with only 40,000 humans and a 40-60 male-female ratio. Except for the whole cross-species issue, they make a really good couple. I’m riveted to find out what happens next!
So yeah, if I had to sum it up: good, honest, likeable person + insecure future + social limbo + unsatisfied emotional needs = really compelling story. Plus, she’s half wolf–how cool is that? What I would give for her incredible sense of smell…
In any case, it’s getting late, and even though tomorrow is Saturday, there’s a bunch of stuff I want to do tomorrow so I’d better cut this short for now. See you later!
So, for the past week, I’ve kind of been between projects. I finished the revisions for Stars of Blood and Glory last Saturday, after a week or two of light revisions, but since then it’s been a bit of a struggle. I’m still working on Star Wanderers: Benefactor, and progress on Lifewalker had been coming along, but haven’t managed to really immerse myself in either those stories yet. As a result, I don’t really have much to show for this past week, other than a scene or two in Benefactor and a new first chapter for Lifewalker.
One of the problems, I think, is that I haven’t really been able to turn off my internal editor. Even with my blog posts, I’m constantly going back and rewriting the previous sentence. This sucks, because it slows down the writing, makes the process tedious and painful, and doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of my writing either (at least, not beyond a certain degree).
What I really need to do is run with a project until I hit my stride, and then do all I can just to keep a steady pace. So that’s what I’m going to do with Lifewalker this next week: force myself to write without really caring too much about whether the stuff on the page is pretty good. Because usually, when I don’t angst about it too much, it actually turns out pretty well. Sure, I might write myself into a hole I can’t get out of (at least, not without breaking the story), but if that’s the case I can always toss out a couple of chapters and redo things.
So far, Lifewalker has surprised me quite a bit. I have a general direction I want the story to go, and a vague idea of where the main character is going to go up, but when it comes to a particular scene, things will pop up out of nowhere that takes the story in all sorts of interesting directions.
For example, my main character is currently wandering a post-apocalyptic Utah with just a handful of possessions. One of them is a copy of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire. At one point, he spends a night among the people living in the ruins of Santaquin (“Sannakin”). Out of nowhere, I decided to have him read them a chapter or two from the novel, which of course confuses the heck out of them. So then they start asking him questions, like whether the world before the apocalypse was covered in ash like in the novel, which leads them to all sorts of wild and ridiculous speculations. The aside only lasts a couple of paragraphs, but it takes things in a whole direction that I hadn’t planned it to–one that really fleshes out the world.
This is my first time writing post-apocalyptic fiction, and while it seems a bit daunting, when I actually sit down and focus on putting out new words, wild and interesting things happen. The research is a bit daunting, but the story takes place two hundred years after the apocalypse event, so there’s actually a fair amount of leeway. As long as I’ve got Google Earth running in the background, with ready access to Wikipedia when I need it, I should be all right.
As for Benefactor, don’t worry, that one’s coming along as well. When I’ve had too much of the post-apocalyptic world, it’s actually quite refreshing to come back to the familiar universe of the Star Wanderers series. Bouncing between the two stories should be a good way to avoid burnout–though at my current pace, that’s the least of my worries.
Next week is going to be fairly eventful. I’ve got a job on Monday that will take up most of the day, and LTUE will keep me occupied all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Still, I should be able to get in at least a chapter or two in both stories. We’ll see how it goes.
That’s about all for now. It’s getting late, so I’d better turn in. Night!
So last year about this time, I wrote a novel in the Gaia Nova universe. Usually when I sit down to write a novel, it falls apart about midway through the first draft, or I have some kind of a break down, or something else comes up and I have to put it on hold for a while.
From start to finish, this one came out in about six weeks.
Even the title, Stars of Blood and Glory, really seemed to stick (usually, I go through three or four lame titles before finding one that works). It took a lot of energy to write it, but the writing process itself was fun. Seriously, everything just came together and the story practically wrote itself.
However, writers can often be notorious judges of their own work. For that reason, I set it aside and tried not to touch it for a few months (I did rework the first couple chapters, but later ended up cutting out most of that stuff and going back to the original version, which was better). Over the summer, I picked it up for the first revision, and while the scenes were out-of-order and a few of them were missing, but for the most part, everything that was there seemed pretty good.
Just to be safe, I sent it out to some first readers and laid it aside for another six months. I didn’t hear back from everyone I sent it to, but those who did read it said it was pretty good. The problems they found were relatively minor, or could be fixed relatively quickly, without having to overhaul the story.
To be perfectly honest, this blew me away. My first drafts are usually really messy, and require a lot of work before they’re any good. But this one…this one seems different. This one, I might have just nailed it <fingers crossed>. And if that’s indeed the case, it’s probably better not to risk revising it to death, or polishing the voice right out of it.
It’s always a scary thing to send a book out into the world. However, I think the time to send out this one has come. I’m going to do one last revision pass, just to make sure there isn’t anything too egregious, and then I’ll send it out to my editor and commission the cover art. If all goes well, I’ll finish the revision next week, and publish it in ebook and print-on-demand sometime in February.
As an indirect sequel to Bringing Stella Home and Desert Stars, Stars of Blood and Glory has a lot of recurring characters. Here are some of them:
Captain Danica Nova
Master Sergeant Roman Andrei Krikoryan
Stella McCoy, aka Sholpan
Besides that, here are some of the other cool things you can expect to see:
A far future Japanese-Polynesian society on an ocean planet with giant floating cities.
A Hameji offensive, with massive space battles and planetary slaggings.
A lonely boy emperor who fears that he’ll never live up to his father’s dying wish.
A runaway princess who wants to experience everything the universe has to offer.
A young Hameji prince who yearns to prove himself in the field of battle.
A cyborg mercenary who feels like his humanity is slowly fading into irrelevance.
An unlikely assassin whose mind and body are not completely her own.
All of this comes together in a war of epic proportions that will determine the fate of the last free worlds in the galaxy.
So yeah, I’m really excited about this story. It’s a departure from some of the more intimate (and less action-y) science fiction romances I’ve been putting out lately, but in all of the right ways. If you read Bringing Stella Home and wondered when you’d get a worthy sequel, well, this is it. And hopefully, it’s just the first of many.
Expect it to be out in ebook and print-on-demand sometime next month.
So back in June I made a to do list of things I wanted to accomplish this summer. I’ve only got a week left before I go overseas again, and I’m happy to say I’m on track to finish most of them. A couple of them (such as doing a blog tour and submitting aggressively to book bloggers) I decided weren’t worth my time, and dropped them, but these are the major things I’ve accomplished:
Release print-on-demand editions of Genesis Earth, Bringing Stella Home, and Desert Stars through CreateSpace.
Redo cover art for Bringing Stella Home.
Redo blurb/description for all titles.
Put proper copyright page in all titles.
Publish all titles on Kobo Writing Life.
Find a better way to build an ebook and reformat all titles.
Finish the second draft of Stars of Blood and Glory.
Finish and publish parts I and II of Star Wanderers.
The only major thing I haven’t accomplished is figuring out how to sell ebooks directly from my website. I figure I can set that up later, though, when I’ve got a large enough readership to justify it. If it’s all online, I can probably do it from anywhere.
While I was vacationing with my family on Cape Cod, I had a chance to step back and take a long look at what I’m doing with my life, which helped me to set some new goals and get a renewed sense of direction. I stopped tracking my daily writing word counts in July, which threw off my productivity a lot more than I thought it would. After setting some long-term goals, though, I think I can find a better way to structure my writing.
In ten years (2022), I want to…
have 25+ published novels.
earn a solid middle-class income through my writing.
be married and have kids.
own a house.
live in the United States.
My lifetime goal is to publish 100+ novels, which is actually a lot more doable than it sounds. It means writing a minimum of two novels a year, though, so I’m going to have to follow Heinlein’s rules a lot closer than I have been in the past. That’s the trouble with keeping a daily word count: it made me look a lot more productive when I was in revisions, so I spent more time doing that than writing new work.
In three years (2015), I want to…
have at least 10 published novels.
make enough with my writing not to need another job.
be married or engaged.
have lived for at least three months in 3+ countries (not including USA).
I want to settle back down in the States eventually, but before that I want to get around and see the world a bit. The absolute coolest thing would be to marry another world traveler and make enough on the writing to have a bunch of adventures together. I’m not sure if I’ll find her in Georgia, but I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open.
As for short-term goals, I’m still trying to work them out. Here’s what I have so far:
Start at least 2 new projects.
Finish at least 2 first drafts.
Publish at least 2 titles (print and ebook counts as two).
I think this is enough to stretch me while still being doable. By my count, in the first quarter of this year I did 2-2-1, in the second quarter I did 2-2-0, and in the current quarter, I’m at 2-0-5 so far. Of course, this includes all the Star Wanderers novelettes and novellas, which I hope to expand in the future.
I’m not going to count revisions as progress, except as part of the publishing stage. Some stuff needs a lot of revision, other stuff, not so much. What I really want to do is train myself to produce high quality work on the first or second write-through. Of course, I’ll still use test readers to gauge my work before publishing anything.
Finish at least 2 projects (first draft or revision).
Write at least 15k words of new material.
I can write a lot more than 15k words in a month, of course, but I figure this is a good starting point. The key is that this is for new material. When I looked back at my word counts, I found that months of revision would go by before I actually worked on something new. I want to change that, but I still need to allow for longer projects that might require several weeks of revision (while emphasizing the need to produce new material, of course).
Keep all project deadlines.
Start each day with writing.
I’ve found that if I don’t start off each day with writing, I keep putting it off until I’ve spent more time and energy angsting about it than actually doing it. For a short period of time this summer, I put my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard first thing after waking up (even before getting dressed). It was amazing how much of a difference that made.
Beyond that, I’m not really sure what other goals to set. I want to plan things out on a project to project basis, but beyond that I haven’t yet figured out what kind of a daily structure I need to build.
It’s probably a good idea to keep things flexible at this point, though, since I have no idea what my schedule is going to be like once I’m in Georgia. I do know a little bit about my next placement–more on that later–but for the first half of September, I’m going to be all over the place. Ani, Tusheti, Kars, Akhaltsikhe, Tbilisi, Baghdati, and Istanbul–it’s going to be crazy!
For this next week, my goal is to finish the revisions for Star Wanderers: Sacrifice (Part III) and send that out to my beta readers. I’ve been struggling with it all month, but I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I need to go with it. I’m going to finish chapter 3 tomorrow, then rewrite chapters 4 and 5 from scratch.
Actually, this last quarter wasn’t quite so bad as the title might make it seem. For the first part, I was on roll, writing almost 25k new words a week. But then I finished that project, started a new career, moved to the other side of the world…yeah, my writing took a hit. Or at least, that’s how it feels.
In January, I was working on Stars of Blood and Glory, and was really on a roll. The application process for TLG was still pending, but I pretty much knew I was getting in, and since I was staying with my parents until it went through, I didn’t have to worry much about money issues. With lots of writing time, I finished SBG in about 6 weeks and published Journey to Jordan. Life was good.
After Stars of Blood and Glory, I went back to Star Wanderers, finishing up Part II and starting Part III. However, something felt wrong, and I didn’t really know what it was. With my TLG departure date imminent, it was really hard to focus, and I wasn’t in much of a position to move on to anything else. That’s when the angst began.
I flew out to Georgia on February 15th, did a week of training in Tbilisi, and then was whisked about 220 kilometers away to Kutaisi. As a consequence, I didn’t get any real writing done for almost a month. However, I didn’t have any major challenges navigating the new culture, and was soon settled pretty comfortably.
The trouble was, nothing was working. Star Wanderers was broken, and I was too close to the project to fix it. But after putting it on the back burner, I didn’t know what to do. For most of March, I switched from one project to another. Nothing seemed to stick, though, and by the end, I was getting pretty antsy.
What if I’d made a mistake to come to Georgia? What if that was the reason nothing was working? It sounds silly now, but that was what was going through my mind. I still worry about it a little, but I think it has to do more with my creative process than anything here in Georgia.
I have a very non-linear way of writing first drafts. After starting the revision for Heart of the Nebula and making some good progress on that, I got an idea for Star Wanderers and moved back to that. At this point, I think the only way to get productive again is to finish that project, even if it sucks. I’ve got a lot of great ideas for other stories, but until I can close the book on this one, I don’t think I’ll be able to make much progress.
So that’s where things stand right now. All in all, it wasn’t a bad quarter, but I’ll be happy when I’ve actually finished something for a change. Hopefully, that’ll only be a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing.
I was snowed in again this weekend, so I took advantage of the time to work on my writing–specifically, to figure out what to work on next. Things have been kind of crazy these past few weeks, so I haven’t written very much, but now that I’ve settled into a new routine, it should be much easier to get back to writing again.
The plan is to finish Star Wanderers first, before April. After taking a couple weeks off, I think I’m ready to get back into that project and write through the wall that I’d run up against earlier. Besides, Stars of Blood and Glory needs more time; it’s only been about a month since I finished the last draft, and that’s not long enough to get a fresh perspective.
I’m a little past the midway point on Star Wanderers–around the middle of part III–so it should be about 20k to 25k before the whole novel is finished. I wrote the first part in a little less than two weeks, so three weeks should be enough to finish at least the rough draft. The main thing is to write every day and get some momentum going, which shouldn’t be too hard–I’m still really excited about this project.
As you may recall, I submitted Part I to Writers of the Future. From lurking on the forums, it appears that the first round of rejections and honorable mentions are starting to come out. I haven’t heard anything yet, so I’m still in the running. Since no news is good news at this point, part of me hopes that I don’t hear back for a while–but the other part wants to hear back soon, so I can go ahead and publish it!
Here’s the current plan:
Finish the rough draft of the complete novel.
Publish Part I at $1.50 (free to newsletter subscribers).
Get feedback for part II, revise and publish.
Repeat for Parts III and IV, with one or two months between each release.
As a teaser, here’s the cover that I made when I was back in Massachusetts. I decided to go with some NASA / Hubble images, at least for the first release. Here it is:
Everything is ready to go; I just need to hear back from Writers of the Future before I can publish it. I’m going to wait until the rest of the novel is finished, though, just to be safe. Expect to see it sometime in April (unless it’s a finalist for WOTF–hey, you never know).
Enough for now; I’d better get back to writing. See you around!
So, I was going to finish Stars of Blood and Glory today…and then I went and spent some time with an old friend, had some dinner and spent the evening with the missionaries…long story short, I think it would be better just to wait until tomorrow than to do a rush job tonight.
I’ve only got two scenes and an epilogue left, which is very strange, because the novel isn’t even 75k words long yet. Something definitely seems to be missing, and it probably has to do with the storyline of the new characters I introduced. They’re the prince and princess of a futuristic Japanese culture (with a mix of Polynesian elements) that’s built on giant floating cities on a water world that never fell to the Hameji. I think I skipped a little too much on the research, so the culture doesn’t feel fleshed out enough at this point. Also, there’s a whole host of minor characters that I neglected to even give names; in the next draft, I’ll have to work out who they are and how they fit into things.
I’ll definitely finish this book tomorrow, though. There’s nothing stopping me, and I really need to get it done.
After that, the plan is to immerse myself in the world of Star Wanderers. I’ve got to be honest, I’m really looking forward to it. This story came to me like a love child: completely unexpected at a time when I was supposed to be working on other things. And yet, few other projects I’ve worked on have given me so much satisfaction. When I let my mind wander, I inevitably find myself daydreaming about it. And yet, it’s not a story I can force. I tried that once, and it was as if the characters just refused to cooperate; the answer, quite firmly, was “no.”
As for my next publishing project, I’m going to try to get the illustrated version of Journey to Jordan formatted and up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble before the end of the week. It’s a little intimidating, because I don’t yet know how to add pictures in html such that they turn out well in ebook format. However, I think it will be a good learning experience, once I climb the learning curve. Expect to see some news about that very soon.
And as for my New Year’s goal to read a book every week…I know, I know, I missed it last week. But I plan to make up for it with a couple of really good books in the next couple of days. Both of them are indie published, and they’re both really fun reads. The only reason I haven’t finished them is because I’ve been too busy working on my own projects.
So on that note, I think I’m going to retire for the evening with a good book while I wait with baited breath for Kris Rusch’s next Business Rusch post to go live. Have a good night!