You have to imagine the blog title said in my best Michael Jackson impression for the full effect.

One of my 2014 yearly goals was to attend a one craft level workshop and this past April I had opportunity to meet that goal. I spent one week on the Oregon coast (pictured right, gorgeous right?) learning how to write thrillers. The workshop was put on by Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch.
It was exhilarating. It was exhausting.
I walked away from the week with six, hard-earned novel proposals, although they tended to get a little loopy toward the end. We did one a night (see the exhausting comment). But the lectures were the highlight for me. We went over what makes a thriller a thriller vs. a good mystery or drama. It was illuminative and a lot clicked into place for me through it. I had been struggling with pacing and the idea that form follows content for the past year, but it finally clicked into place.
It also turns out that I think I naturally tend to write thrillers (when I don’t try to reign myself in), but I haven’t been writing them as thrillers. I guess we’ll see as I put into practice what I learned over that week.
Of the six novel proposals, I intend to write three of them in the immediate future. I’m already writing one. I wanted to practice some of the thriller techniques in short form before committing to a novel so I took one of the proposals that I didn’t think was quite long enough for a novel and outlined it.
I hoped the story would fit into a short story, but it quickly became apparent that no, it wouldn’t fit into that little space. So I accepted it would become a novelette. Erm … no. That story refuses to be contained. So now it’s a novella and may end up a short novel after all, but I think it’ll stay at a novella length.
I expect to wrap up the novella by the end of the month or in early June. After that it’s time to start on my first novel, which I’m targeting to be done in three months. I no longer have trepidation about it. Turns out: thrillers are fun to write.
I’m having a blast again.

One-third of the Year Course Correction

I stated in an earlier post that 2014 will be the year of Indie publishing for me, and so far I’m track for that. I put up my first title Voices in the Deepin April after some delay. But I’m back on schedule and just released The Highlight of a Life. The Highlight of a Life represented my first professional level sale (first published in Fiction River), and was featured in the 2014 Campbell Anthology (still available!).

I also stated in my 2014 goals that I wanted to write 16 new stories. I’m revising that goal to 8 new stories, plus 1 novel. I have yet to write a novel and have decided it’s time. There are two reasons for this. One, novels sell better. The majority of readers read novels not short stories. The second is, my longer work always seems to be more positively received, which I think ties into the first reason.
I’ve never written a novel before so it should be an interesting experience. I’ve blocked off a 3 month period to focus only on that. I have more trepidation than excitement. Three months is a long time to spend on one project—I’m having some commitment issues. It’s been proven difficult to choose a project for the novel. I mentioned this to some professional writers and they all understood. One mentioned that it was a year of your life dedicated to one project. One year! Ugh, I hope not.
But with my revised 2014 goals, I’m back on track to meet them. I’ve achieved starting to put up titles and I’ve written four stories so far and attended one craft level workshop (but more on that next post).
Now to start that novel …

A Week of Firsts

The past two weeks saw a series of firsts for me. First, as you can see from the photo, I received my first proof in the mail. I cannot tell you how very cool it is to hold in my hand. The sense of accomplishment runs deeper than I thought it would. All aspects of this was due to my labor, from writing the story, writing the ad-copy, the cover design (not the art, though), designing the interior. It’s super awesome. I’ve been wavering on what to do with my first copy; I’ve been leaning toward lugging it to the next con I go to and trying to a get famous author to sign it (heh).

While I was waiting for the print book to get into place, I went ahead and put up the ebook version of Voices in the Deep and had my very first sale! I have done zero promotion beyond this blog, so I can be reasonable certain whoever bought it, was not family or friends. This was also rather satisfying.
Continuing the firsts, my story Underwater Restorations (Part 1 and Part 2 here) in OrsonScott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show was reviewed by Tangent online (my first review!). You can read it here.
And finally, not really a first, but a relief none-the-less, I finished another short and got it off to my alpha readers. I had started writing this one in early February, so almost ten weeks to write. That’s six weeks too long. Part of the problem is I had zero idea where to go at one point, the other was I was spending a lot of my writing time learning to compile .epub and .mobi and other publishing tasks. But those tasks should be behind me now for a few months.
Now all I need to do is figure out what to start on next (eyes the precarious, swaying mountain of ideas).


These past few weeks saw two major milestones in my budding writing career. The first is the completion of my novelette “Underwater Restorations” in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Showwith some very cool artwork by M. Wayne Miller (in color this time!). It’s a strong issue and I am humbled to share the issue with such great writers. The table of contents is:

1. “The Sound of Death” by Gareth D.Jones
2. “Underwater Restorations, Part 2” by Jeffrey A. Ballard
3. “Extinct Fauna of the High Malafan” by Alter S. Reiss
4. “Right and Wrongs” by Brain K. Lowe
5. “A Little Trouble Dying” by Edmund R.Schubert
6. “From Other Places” (Audio) written by Shannon Peavy and read by Emily Rankin other milestone? I finally put up my first title, Voices in the Deep, for sale! Whew, what a learning curve that was/is. Still loads to learn. Publishing your own title can be done very simply; publishing it right so that it looks professional took some time for me to learn. The print edition is still being ironed out and I’m currently working on getting the title up at Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other places. So look for it at your favorite retailer soon!
My plan was to release a title every other month through 2014 starting in March, but the learning curve pushed the first release into April. However, now that most of the machinery is in place, I plan to get back on schedule and release the next title next month in May. So stay tuned for that! You can catch a sneak peak of it on the front page of my website.
Hopefully, now that the publishing pieces are in place, I can refocus on doing what I really love: writing!

Progress Made

I’m inching ever closer to putting up my first title. Over the past few weeks I have designed the covers, interiors, and wrote the blurbs for the all the titles I’m planning on putting up in 2014 and some of 2015. I’m now waiting on some advanced copies to arrive in the mail so I can look them over and make any necessary corrections before starting to publish.

The act of designing covers, interiors and writing blurbs has drained a lot of my creative energy, such that I haven’t been putting many new words down during that time.  But most of that’s behind me and I recently started writing again on a short story I started in early February–much to my relief. I can’t recall the last time it took me this long to write a short story (longer pieces are different) and I was starting to get anxious. A large part of my publishing strategy is to have a steady release of material, so I need to regularly produce new stories.
But progress has been made on multiple fronts. I have my 2014 lineup mostly ready to go. I’m close to having all the pieces in place to start publishing. And I started writing again. Anxiousness averted; progress made.

Cover Reveal March 2014

Well, I had said earlier that I would start putting up titles in March, in my mind that meant March 1, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. It’s a bit of a learning  curve so far and it’s taking longer than I anticipated. But I’ve made significant progress and should hopefully post my first work by the end of the month or early April. I’m not going to rush, or publish until I’m happy with the product and ready.

In the meantime, I have been diligently designing covers and writing adcopy for my catalog that I’ll roll out over the coming year. My first title is called Voices in the Deep. Here’s the blurb:
Guilt follows all men—even into the depths of an alien ocean.  Kale does what he can to keep men alive, but after three years his own guilt wears.  Understaffed, underfunded and little thought of, they complete the terraforming tasks too dangerous for everyone else.  Now the scientists have seeded the biggest storm yet, and its arrival will force Kale to finally face his guilt once and for all.
The title should up soon as I get everything in place. Stay tuned!

2014 Campbellian Anthology

My first pro-level fiction sale this past August automatically qualified me for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction and Fantasy. A writer is eligible for the award for two years from the their first sale that paid at least 3 cents a word. As you might expect, that catches a lot of new writers, and the field is crowded.

The award works by first narrowing the field from all eligible writers through a nomination period. If you’ve attended a Worldcon (the previous one to the current year) or have bought memberships to the current year’s or the following year’s you are eligible to nominate. I believe 5-6 are nominated and then they move on to another round of voting to choose the winner.
By my quick count, there are over a 100 eligible writers. So who to choose? How to make an informed decision? Thankfully, M. David Blake graciously put together a free anthology of all the writers that sent him in work. That’s over 860,000 words of free fiction from up-and-coming writers!
My story The Highlight of a Life, which first appeared in Fiction River, appears in the anthology. It’s only up until when the voting for the award closes (expected to be April 2014). So check it out free while you can!
Also, to help introduce the eligible writers, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, queried the field of eligible writers and posted their responses to her short story review blog. My response is here.
Hope you enjoy all that free fiction!

My Story is Up!

Earlier last week, the first part of my science fiction novelette Underwater Restorations debuted in Orson Scott Card’sIntergalactic Medicine Show Issue 37. It marks my second professional level sale, and the first time art has accompanied one of my stories. I couldn’t be happier with the illustrations; I think it might be what I most excited about.

As writers, the story almost always plays out as movie in our heads, which we try and transcribe to the written word. But we can never be exactly sure if what played in our head, plays in the readers’ heads. So it is really neat to see a picture of what someone else envisioned from one of my stories. It was a very surreal and satisfying experience. One I hope to have again soon.
I also get to humbly share the TOC with writer’s I’ve read before and admire:
1. Elsa’s Sphere by Marina J. Lostetter
2. Underwater Restorations by Jeffrey A. Ballard (me)
3. High-Tech Fairies and the Pandora Perplexity by Alex Shvartsman
4. Big Al Shepard Plays Baseball on the Moon by Jamie Todd Rubin
5. Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest by Van Aaron Hughes
6. Into the Desolation by Catherine Wells (audio available)


The $15 annual subscription is well worth it in my opinion (you get access to all back issues as well). Check it if you can.  Part 2, the exciting conclusion, will be in issue 38!

Time Management

I recently decided to shift my blogging schedule to the first and third Saturday of every month.  Previous to this, it had been every Saturday.  I still, of course, reserve the right to post more than this, but the twice a month will be the minimum number I do.

The reason is simple: time management.  Kris Rusch wrote recently on her blog about the acronym WIBBOW which she attributed to Scott William Carter.  It stands for Would I Be Better Off Writing.  And the answer, for me, is yes.
At this phase in my writing career, I have, on average, about 8-10 writing sessions a week.  Writing this blog takes up at least one session, so about 10% of my available writing time (sometimes more).  And this blog currently doesn’t have the readership or interaction to justify this use of time.
I’m not disappointed by this or even surprised.  It is what I expected when I started–I just wanted to acquaint myself and get used to the idea of blogging.  I’m simply not well known at the moment, so there’s no reason to expect any of that right now.
How do you get known?  By writing great stories of course, and getting them in front of readers, not blogging (this isn’t an absolute rule, but it clearly applies to me).  So I am going to shift to blogging twice a month to give me more time to write what I really love: speculative fiction.
I’m off to go write ….

Standby …

I have decided to shift to blogging the first week and third week of every month.  I’ll discuss why in next week’s blog post.  So standby until then.