Just a Quick Update

I thought I’d just give you a quick update. This past week not only have I started writing regularly again, I’ve also renewed tracking my day to day output. I’ve discovered this is a very effective way of exercising the necessary discipline to write.

I’ve taken the remaining four and a half months of the year and divvied them up–giving myself one month per book. For the half month remaining of August (’cause I started about a week ago), I expect to write upwards of 1,070 words per day–every day. This should give me just over 86K words by the end of the month, which should be enough to finally put A More Perfect Union to bed.

September I’m wrapping up The Music of the Spheres, the next Jonathan Munro Adventure. I’ve scheduled only 683 words per day to finish this book, bringing it also to 86K words. October will see the end of The Blood-Eater Coven, the second book in the Dragon’s Eye Cycle, which has been lingering far too long on the shelf. I need 1,059 words per day to wrap it up. November I’m working on Wizard Sky Pirates!, aiming for 1,411 words per day to finish it at 100K words. Or so. Then, finally in December, I’ll finish New World Order: Anarchy, which needs exactly 1,500 words per day to complete it by December 31st.

Given that National November Writing Month trains writers to churn out 1,667 words per day, each of these is attainable. Rather easily, in fact. Okay, maybe not “easily,” but especially given how few words I need to write in September, I have a feeling I’ll be able to get a jump start on these other books to wrap them all up by the end of the year.

So that’s the plan. And I really do believe that daily tracking of my writing goals is the key to completing projects quickly. This is what I’ve attained so far this week:

And I’m not done.

Total words per day
14-Aug 68,225 1,481
15-Aug 69,331 1,106
16-Aug 70,497 1,166
17-Aug 71,930 1,433
18-Aug 72,552 622
19-Aug 73,802 1,250

I reached my target today and then some. I’m already 432 words ahead of where I need to be.

Feels good to be writing again.

Four Mountains…

In my Webster Writer’s group the other day, one of our newer members commented on all that was involved in becoming an independent author – especially a successful independent author. This led me to observe there are four mountains every aspiring indie author must climb, and I thought I might share this thought with you.

Mountain #1 – Write a Good Story

This is the first mountain, and it is definitely a hard climb. For someone who may have never written a novel before, it is one of the hardest. There are two aspects to writing a good story. One is writing, and the other is story. A good story can be poorly written, and sometimes amazing writing is wasted on a poor story. I think both can be taught, though story seems to be a far more intuitive process than writing. Anyone, I maintain, can learn the mechanics of writing. It’s a craft. But story is art, and you can either do it or you can’t. Maybe you only have one story in you. If that’s the case, you might do okay with that one novel (Harper Lee, anyone?), but you’ve a far better chance of making it as an independent author if you have a knack for coming up with stories, and then choosing the ones readers are most likely to enjoy.

Mountain #2 – Publishing

Since indie authors are also independent publishers, this is another whole mountain. It involves learning how to edit, how to format a book for print and digital, and may well include book cover design as well. True, many authors choose to farm out their book covers to graphic artists. Those of us who are poorer have to learn to do it ourselves. Some choose to do it themselves any way. Either way, learning to format the book covers is nearly another mountain in and of itself, but I suppose it belongs on the same general peak as publishing.

Mountain #3 – Marketing

This is the mountain I’m currently climbing. Not only does it include identifying the various stores where books are likely to sell (and Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in that regard), it also includes learning how to create various electronic versions (epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, etc.), how to price competitively, how to set up affiliate marketing links, how to create reader magnets, setting up an effective mailing list, learning where and when to promote, and learning to do both paid and free ads – as well as tracking each to discern which sales channels, advertisers, and ad sets are most effective. I wish I knew back in 2010 what was involved in all this, or even that I’d had the foresight to ask better questions to gain answers I’ve had to get the hard way. But there’s no sense bemoaning time lost. All we have is the day before us, to start and grow from wherever we’re at.

Mountain #4 – Creating and Running Writing as a Small Business

This is a mountain I can see in the distance. I know, largely for tax reasons, that I will have to do this once my writing begins generating a little more revenue than a mere hobby, but I have yet to really start climbing it. I do know that it likely means setting up an LLC, tracking business expenses, and a lot more accounting than I currently have time for. I also know that I’ll be asking for help when it comes to this side of things.

At any rate, those are my random thoughts on the matter. My goal is, once I learn and implement the necessary changes as far as marketing goes, that it’ll free me up to do more actual writing. And maybe even a little more living, too. 🙂

Well, here it is mid-March. Ides of March, in fact, and I’m enjoying a few days off from work. As promised, I’m working on the next Jefferson’s Road novel: A More Perfect Union. Yesterday I had a great time learning how to pick handcuffs (oh the joys of research!), and I also spent some time putting down one of the key arguments in the book–not that I’m going to give anything away!

I do confess, however, that this story is stubborn. It refuses to reveal itself to me except in dribs and drabs. Bare trickles of text. My goal was to crank out 5,000 words a day for the four days I have off. Instead, I’m lucky if I can get a thousand out. Only 750 so far today. I need easily another 30K to wrap up this story with the word count I expect.

I think the problem is that I don’t really know where it’s going. Every other JR novel had had a relatively clear destination or obstacle in mind. With this one, its more an aftermath of what’s happened. I do know, however, that it preludes the final, essential conflict that must play out in the last book, a fulfillment of the prophecy or dream Peter has in this one.

I suppose I could share that part, at least. Let you guys know where I think we’re headed. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an excerpt, so certainly we’re due for one. I’ll share it below, and then I’ll share where it came from.

That night when I fell asleep, I had the dream again. Bishop Calhoun came to me—only this time it was in the Capitol’s open lobby, repeating once more the words I’d come to fear.

“A war is coming, Peter. A terrible war, when every life snuffed from the wombs of our daughters shall be paid for in kind by the blood of our sons.”

“But isn’t it enough?” I demanded as he turned to walk away. “We’ve already lost so many to the plague!”

“War. Famine. Pestilence and Death. For all this, His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.”

Then I stood upon a precipice, with a sniper rifle in my hands, overlooking a massive field of the dead. Bodies lay all around, fallen over on each other. Blood stained the matted earth, turning it to mud. No matter which way I looked, I did not see another living soul. Thunder rumbled from the heavy clouds, laced with lightning.

So anyway, those words that I gave to the Bishop in Peter’s dream came to me while we were traveling south to Washington, D.C. a year ago. Hit me like walking into a door frame. I don’t claim they’re prophetic–at least, I hope they’re not!–but they were compelling. At any rate, that’s where we’ll go in the last book. This one sets it up. And I do know how the series ends, it’s just a matter of finding my way there.

I began this series as a sprint through The Spirit of Resistance. I ran through Patriots and Tyrants, jogged through The Tree of Liberty, and walked through God and Country. Somewhere in the middle of this book I stumbled, and now I’m on my hands and knees crawling through the mud, reaching for the next mile. Sorry it’s taking so long, but I do promise that I won’t give up until we get all the way through the sixth mile of this hideous road. Maybe by then I’ll find someone to carry me.

Happy Monday!

Hi Everyone,

I’m writing this from somewhere outside of Jackson, TN. Yesterday we drove from Rochester all the way here, and we’re about halfway to my parent’s house in Texas. Long drive.

I just wanted to give you a quick update. The sale has ended for the Jefferson’s Road Omnibus. I hope you were able to grab a copy on the cheap. If you missed it and would really like to leave a review (based on you reading the series so far, of course), please email me and I’ll send you a copy as soon as we land somewhere. WiFi’s a bit iffy here, and I haven’t been able to access Facebook to start the campaign, which launches tomorrow. I’ll try again when we land.

At any rate, we’re off and running. God speed!

Michael

Jefferson’s Road Omnibus available and priced cheap!

Hi Everyone,

As promised, the Jefferson’s Road Omnibus is now available at Amazon and is sale priced at $.99 through Monday, January 5th. If you’ve enjoyed the series, please consider grabbing a copy to leave a review. Amazon gives greater weight to reviews based on reader purchases. It’ll also help to boost its ranking before I formally launch the books on Monday.

I know this is our first time doing this, and I’m not expecting miracles this time out, but it’s an important part of the process, and something I’ll continue doing every time I launch a new book. For those who’ve already signed up to my Advance Reader Team, you’ll get copies of new books even before they’re available to anyone else so I can solicit your feedback.

Also, if you haven’t signed up yet, I’d love to send you two of my other novels as a bonus for doing so. I’m offering both The Coppersmith and Topheth free to any one who joins the mailing list.

Thanks again, and happy New Year!

Whassup!

Hi Everyone,

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything to the blog, and also since I’ve actually published anything new, aside from Nicholas, of course. My expectation is that this is soon going to change.

To begin with, you will doubtless notice there have been some significant changes to the website. I’ve been studying my little tushie off on how to the third leg of authoring correctly (the legs are: writing, publishing, and marketing) – hence the website change.

Do you like the new look? Is it a little more user-friendly (ie: easier to navigate, etc.)? I hope so. You’ll notice there’s some free stuff being offered. I’m giving away two of my novels – The Coppersmith and Topheth – to anyone willing to tell me where I can send them. All I need is an email address. Along with that, you’ll be added to my mailing list to receive notice on other cool stuff as well as have an opportunity to join my Advance Reader Team and help me out significantly.

The Advance Reader Team will get early copies of my book and will be specifically invited to give honest feedback – anything from character and plot development to typos – before the book goes live! I confess I’ve been doing this a little backwards, not quite knowing how to get my book into the hands of readers who care until after it’s been published. It seems stupid, but when you’re building in the dark, things don’t always come out right the first time.

I’ve connected with Mailchimp – an email service – to assist me in coordinating these emails with everyone, and I’m crossing my fingers that it all works correctly.

The second thing I’ll be doing is beginning a twin outreach to Facebook users beginning in January. First, I want to invite all those people who have liked my works in the past – particularly Jefferson’s Road – to join my Advance Reader Team mailing list. I’ll be sending some posts to your feeds via Facebook advertising to invite you to join. I have a sign up list on my Jefferson’s Road Facebook page already if you want to get an early start. The second part of this outreach is finding readers on Facebook who might also like Jefferson’s Road and offering them an omnibus edition. I’ve already uploaded this to Amazon, and it will go live in January.

Naturally, the omnibus edition won’t have any reviews when it goes up, so you could really help me by downloading a copy and leaving a review. I’m going to make the omnibus edition available for $.99 for a limited time to give you a chance to get a hold of it on the cheap. I’d do it for free, but Amazon gives weight to reviews from actual purchases rather than just friends and family (as if my friends and family don’t give honest, critical reviews! Go figure.).

In the meantime, I’ve uploaded new editions of all my books which have the new links to the mailing list, reviews, and other ways to stay connected in them (except the Jonathan Munro Adventures, which are managed under Ellechor Publishing House).

And before anyone says something along the lines of “Why doesn’t he quit all this marketing stuff and just get back to writing! C’mon, we’ve been waiting for the next Jefferson’s Road for over a year now!”, please note that I hear and share your concerns, and I commit that I will get the next Jefferson’s Road novel completed soon, ideally by March. Think of it as a New Year’s Resolution.

And yes, I’ll get Wizard Sky Pirates and Anarchy done soon as well (my daughter Rachel is pestering me.). Truth is, I have a number of works nearly complete, and I hope to be sharing them with you all quite soon.

And just to keep you on the edge of your seats… there’s a new story thread in the works along the same lines as Jefferson’s Road. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve been inspired a little bit by Amazon’s rendition of Philip Dick’s The Man in the High Castle as well as the Political Correctness movements around various campuses – especially Missouri State. It’ll be a spy thriller kind of thing taking place in the future, after the United States has fragmented apart. I’m essentially putting it in “the same universe” as Jefferson’s Road.

Just to recap: if you haven’t done so already, sign up for the mailing list today, get your free books, and join my Advance Reader Team. It’s about to get interesting.

King of the Mountain?

Just thought I’d share this. I went to my Amazon.co.uk Author page and pulled up the rankings for the two books that are doing so well over there: The Lost Scrolls and The Elixir of Life.

Sales Rank

Couldn’t find a way to get the dates showing the same, but no matter. Clearly something happened right around the start of the year that shot the book up to number one in its category (Christian Suspense Fiction) where it has remained pretty much at the top ever since. I think there’s been four books that have temporarily dislodged it out of place, but it keeps rebounding back to number one. The second book, consequently, is doing extremely well also.

All this makes me wonder: what do the Brits know that Americans don’t? 🙂

Writing is like working out…

I’ve come to this realization after rather accidentally giving myself a three week hiatus from producing anything on my novels. It began when we went on vacation, and I left my flash drive with all my current WIP’s at home. D’oh! This really put me off stride, though I decided that maybe actually vacationing on my vacation wasn’t such a bad idea.

Shortly after we returned, my computer’s power cord went on the fritz, leaving us down to two computers in a house with five users… and none of the computers was mine. Took a week for the new power cord to finally arrive. And now that it has, we’ve entered April and I’m just now finally sitting down to work on something.  Being that it’s April, I’ve had to move on to yet another WIP, this one The Wizard of the Sky Pirates. I spent part of yesterday familiarizing myself with the story, and today I finally sat down to begin seriously working on it.

And it’s hard.

I find that I’m tired and that it’s difficult to concentrate, that getting into the story makes me want to do a thousand other things (like write a blog post).

In short, it feels almost exactly like what happens when I go too long between work outs. All this fatigue and lack of focus is not anything purely physical (like with working out), or is it purely mental (like dealing with writer’s block). It’s volitional. This is the pain of self-discipline, of overcoming laziness and inertia. I suspect this kind of reaction takes place in almost anything that might require self-discipline, whether it be writing or working out or finances or prayer or cleaning house or anything. We come up with all kinds of labels and definitions and, frankly, excuses for what amounts to the same thing: resistance to self-discipline.

But here’s the thing: I know I can write in huge chunks. Like I know I can exercise. Like I know I can do any number of things. So the trick is to turn aside the excuses and concentrate on my goal.

Right after I finish this blog post and refresh my coffee… 🙂

Oops!

The good news is, I caught it now. I’m only 50K words or so into this story–The Music of the Spheres. I’ve been working on it off and on for a couple years now, and this month is my attempt to finish it. What did I catch? I’m so glad you asked.

I just caught on to the fact that this story takes place in Kiev, Ukraine (and points further east) in the middle of winter. It sorta begins on New Year’s Eve, in fact.

And what do I do for research? I spend my days on Google Earth looking at pictures of the city so I can accurately portray it, along with numerous other photographs available via the internet.

What do all these photographs and Google Earth have in common?

Summer.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve got pages and pages of description for this book giving my best verbal interpretation of this city and countryside as I see it in these images–and I’m supposed to be writing about the bloody winter! Here I am, 50K words in, and I just now realize I’ve been describing the whole thing in the wrong  season! Gaah!

Like I said, it’s a good thing I caught it now. I can’t imagine how stupid I’d feel if I’d actually read this to someone or worse, sent it off to my publisher, with such a glaringly bone-headed error in the entire story. The good news is I’ve got some time off coming up, so I’ll have a few days to go through and pick out all the little tidbits of summer and replace them with winter.

Okay, I feel better. Back to writing.

 

So Here’s the Thing…

I’ve reached what should be the 92% mark on The Blood Eater Coven, the sequel to Eye of Darkness, and I’ve got two days left this month to write. Problem is, that still means about 8K words, and frankly, the story’s gone off the rails. I keep stepping back and glancing at my outline sketch, and it’s nowhere near what I’d originally conceived for the plot. On the one hand, I’m reluctant to hack and slash, but I honestly believe I have to at this point. So this novel won’t be finished this month. Sigh.

What I’ll do is take what I’ve got and set it aside till after August, and then come at it again with a fresh perspective. I just have to copy the prodigal material and put it somewhere out of the way, and then pick pieces of it I can weave back into the narrative once I correct the mistake. It’s not that unlike realizing you missed a stitch while crocheting a blanket, and having to undo all that work so you can correct it. Except in this case, I don’t actually have to “undo” anything so much as cut and remove it till I can find a way to weave it back in. If it fits at all, of course.

It’s a bummer, sure, but I’d rather get the story right than keep going with something that’s just going nowhere.

In the meantime, in two days I’ll be picking up The Music of the Spheres, which is the next installment of the Jonathan Munro Adventures. I’m looking forward to returning to it, especially considering how well the series is doing overseas.