New Book: Last Stand


Last Stand is the fourth book in the GALCOM Universe series. Lots of action and I get to blow things up in the story. Here’s what’s it’s about:

A routine planetary office call turns deadly for Colonel Eric Graul of the S.C. Kangjun.

Lysian slavers monitor the new space station construction.  Planning an attack?

Spies lurk in the shadows.  Who can Graul trust?

But things about to get worse for Graul…much worse.  His courage challenged as the fate of the galaxy lies in balance.  A page-turning, action-packed story of survival.

It’s up on all the usual places, which you can find on Books2Read.

Editorial Calendar for Publishing and Inventory Control


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As I write this, it’s 23 out and feels like 14.  I can hear the wind howling between the buildings.  A bundled-up woman and a little white dog with a sweater are out walking.  Despite the cold, that dog is still checking every telephone pole!  Good time to be inside doing writing and administrative tasks like my book and story inventory.

I’ll admit it—I’ve gone from productivity system to productivity system, trying to figure out what works for me.  Part of that is my crazy day job—think getting hit with a fire extinguisher all day and trying to fit a tornado through a keyhole.

Most systems are surprisingly complex, sometimes with the author’s own self-imposed complexity.  Some are outdated.  Try getting hit with a fire extinguisher all day and prioritize by A, B, C.  Does. Not. Work.

I tried Trello as a test run for work.  It does better if you have projects.  Which meant it wasn’t going to be useful for work.  I don’t have any projects.

But I decided to revisit it, since I’m working towards publishing a book a month.  Plus I have short stories on tap to be e-published, as well as cover refreshes. I’ve previously had the inventory in a spreadsheet, but after there are so many entries, it gets cumbersome real fast and lose stories on the list.

This is from Trello’s Editorial Calendar template.  Trello is like a storyboard.  You can create different lists (i.e., Ready for Publishing) and drag the cards with the story from list to list.

Trello board display showing 5 lists: Writing, Editing, Making Graphics, Ready for Publishing, and Published.
Click on image to see it better

Each card has a place for comments (mostly for collaborating with teams, but useful for making quick notes), a checklist, and the ability to add attachments.  So I made the cards look spiffy with my covers.

This is my checklist, not a template from the calendar.  This one’s for Golden Lies, which is at the copy editor’s (there’s a comment below the screenshot where I noted the date I sent it).

Click on image to see it better.

Text from the list:

  • Write book
  • Copy editing
  • Create ebook cover
  • Format to ebook
  • Write blurb
  • Create keywords
  • Publish to D2D
  • Publish to Amazon
  • Publish to Smashwords
  • Publish to Publishdrive
  • Publish to BundleRabbit
  • Publish to Website

Since Golden Lies’ release is dependent on the copy editor schedule, doing all this helped me identify one omnibus I could publish in February if that schedule gets thrown off.

Golden Lies Log One cover: spaceship orbiting a planet, stars and more planets in background.

New Short Story: Sentry Ghost


Beach with a planet back drop - cover for Sentry Ghost.

Hope Delgado, GALCOM’s only expert on ghosts in space, must solve the mystery of a haunting on a planet.

The ghost terrifies the Koraxians, who depend on the area for their livelihood.

But the ghost refuses to talk with Hope.   With the death of one of the Koraxians, Hope must come up with another plan, and fast.

The odds are stacked against Hope in this thrilling space opera.

Pick up this short story from your favorite bookseller.

Story as a pinball machine


This week, once I decided I was going to stop striving for novel-length, I looked at my mystery, changed one line at the end of a chapter and realized I was in the climax.  It’s amazing how what seemed like a simple goal became so distracting!

(It’ll be in the 30K range).

What then ensued was a cycling pass over the story.  I actually like cycling.  It’s evolved over time for me.

Cycling is a pantser tool that’s rather difficult to explain.  Writers hear it as “revising as you write,” but it’s not revision.  If you write a story too thin, you add more; if you write too much, you take something out.  That’s the core of cycling.  It can be setting, and that’s most commonly done with cycling because it’s both easy to put too much in or leave too much out. Revision is more like going through, finding fault (sometimes erroneously), and then correcting it.

The change of the one line triggered a round of cycling for the entire story.  I knew who the villain was and the story needed some additions to sneak him in.

And I’ve needed my Thinking Cat for some of these.  Cats are good at that (when they aren’t knocking stuff off).  A lot of the additions were more story.  Most of them were a sentence or two, maybe a paragraph at the longest. 

Except for three scenes.  Those ran into my weak area with time.  They have to be in the story because the story is about Hollywood and the victim is an actress.

Golden Retriever Muse put the scenes in much later in the story.  But the scenes kept nagging at Golden Retriever Muse: “We’re in the wrong place.  We’re in the wrong place.”  Like that commercial where all the insurance people come out of the cornfield.

Writing Nerd does not think sequentially—my brain is more like a pinball machine.  It does not like sequence.  At all.  When I dial a phone number sometimes, I know what the number is, I look at the numbers, and my brain’s going “I don’t like the order.  I must change it!”  Maybe there’s a cat up there, whacking at the pinballs.

To figure out where the scenes were actually supposed to go, I had to do a full cycle through the story.  The place was obvious once I did.

Fixing it…

Ugh.

It was early in the story, so I had to change scene numbers.  Brain.  Pinball.  Bzzzz! And this was all about getting the numbers numbered right.  Without goofing them up.

So it was move one scene into place, renumber it and all the ones that followed.  Then repeat on all the scenes and shift them forward in their chapter folders (this is Scrivener for Windows).  Then move the next scene and repeat, and the third, same thing.

Golden Retriever Muse is wagging her floofy tail now. 

Trip around the sun


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Waves from the other side of the year.

And very cautiously approaches goals.  Everyone does them for the New Year, and I saw something in the news the other day that said they last until about January 10!

I remember several years back, I set an aggressive writing goal of write 10 books in a year—and managed do finish none that year.  It was very discouraging.  It was like announcing the goal immediately doomed it. 

But I’m going to try again.

2020 Goals

These goals are with a cautious note.  Every time I’ve set an aggressive goal, I end up in December having accomplished none of it.

  1. I’m going to shoot for a book release once a month (see my word count section for more on this). 
  2. Write more short stories (also see my word count goal on this).

Successes

Three major wins for me this year:

  • Tidying Magic accepted for X Marks the Spot.  It’s pirates + tidying magic + ghosts
  • Alien Pizza for Monsters, Movies, and Mayhem.  This is my first pro sale.  Yipee!  It’s aliens + pizza + movies + movie monsters.
  • Published Digitial Minimalism – this one has turned in my “best selling” book.

Word Count, Word Count, Word Count

Sometimes you can really get the wrong goal and lose sight of what you actually intended.  I had one of those in 2019.

My goal was to learn how to write a book that hit 50K.  I’ve always had problems getting stories to even this length, much less what the publishers wanted.  When I was still thinking about traditional publishing, getting to 90K seemed like an impossible goal.  I actually still don’t know how other writers can write so far over they have to cut 20K or more.

But this year, I wanted to put a novel exclusively on Amazon and having a longer book is a requirement for those readers. 

Instead, I wound up derailing myself because I got too focused on hitting that word count and lost track of the story. 

I also swore off short stories until I learned how to write longer because, in the past, when I let word count mess with me, I would procrastinate by writing short stories.

Goals

  • I’m going to mightily ignore the story’s word count.  It is entirely possible I might simply write books that are in the novella range only.  It’s also possible that the books will eventually get longer with more practice.  Which I’m not getting by focusing on length.
  • But, cautiously, she said, I’ll track general word count numbers and try for 1,500 a day.
  • I’m also going to tack back to short stories, but nothing like having a once-a-week goal or so many a month.  It’s just going to be when there’s an anthology call that I can write for.  So there might be more than one in a month or none, depending on what’s available. A lot of them have not paid well, or been on political titles (really?  I get too much of that now!), or a category I don’t fit into. 
  • Also need to continue the cover refreshes.  Might need to update the bio in all of them (good reason, but still, a lot of work).

New Releases & Upcoming

Last Stand

Man in spacesuit against backdrop of space with planet and ships.

The fourth GALCOM book is first on tap.  That’ll be out in January.  Big space battles, aliens, lots of explosions.  Adventures are so much better happening to fictional characters. 🙂

Golden Lies

Woman in 1940s red dress standing at window.

First book in the Al Travers Series.  He’s a private detective in 1940s Hollywood.  That’s right at the tail end of the studio system.  Studios used “fixers” to keep star misbehavior out of the headlines.  Perfect place for deception and crime!

Giant Robots

Giant robot stands over city.

Another GALCOM book about—you guessed—Giant robots!

15 Productivity Secrets for Employees

This one’s going to be a non-fiction list book. It’s inspired because there’s a gap in productivity books. Every book assumes you’re a manager or a CEO, not an employee. For me, this is a topic I know really well and no one is talking about it.

Broken Notes

From my Writing in Public several years ago that fell off because work turned into utter chaos.  So I’m going to dust it off and have a look.

Amateur Sleuth Mystery

Untitled at the moment, but set in the same time frame as Al Travers, but in Morro Bay, California (Balboa Bay in the story so I can make stuff up about the location).  Main character is a war widow who solves mysteries.  I’m thinking along the lines of Nancy Drew, rather than Cozy.

Learning

I’m reassessing this area of my writing.  For a while I was grabbing classes that I really did need, to address skill gaps I had.  I also tried to identify one thing to learn for everything I wrote.

In 2019, I only took one class this year (and wished I hadn’t spent the money), plus Superstars Writing Seminar (and very glad I did this).  I also found it frustrating and stressful trying to identify something to learn for every story.  My Golden Retriever Muse kept putting her feet down like a dog who didn’t want to go to the vet.  Nope, nope, nope.

So 2019 marked the point where I just threw everything to the wind.  I’ve done that before.  This time around, I unfollowed a lot of writing blogs to cut the information flow.  It wasn’t helping me to read a lot of the same topics over and over and I wasn’t finding anything that got at gaps I still have.  All those gaps are things no one talks about!

I did subscribe to The Compleat Writer (their spelling, not my typo) as a monthly subscription.  I figure I can wander in and pick out topics that catch my interest.  I like what I’ve been seeing from Dave Farland—he’s had a lot of those little things:

  • Have your characters argue.
  • Include light in every scene
  • Include temporal motion (which is like looking at the house you grew up in and remembering what it looked like when you were little)

Wish List for Learning

These are all the things I wish someone would talk about and don’t:

  • Pacing – typically, writers talk about the length of sentences, paragraphs, scenes.  All fine, but it’s only one aspect of pacing.  There are at least two more that I’ve run into.
  • Time – This has been a surprisingly hard topic for me to work with.  Things like identifying the time of day with the light or thinking

What are your goals?  Anything that you have on a wishlist for learning? 

Blog on Vacation


The blog will be on hiatus for Christmas. I’ll see you back here the first week in January.

Merry Christmas!

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem


Exciting news!

My short story Alien Pizza was one of 22 stories accepted for Kevin J. Anderson’s Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem!

More will follow as I find out.