Belated New Year Update

Oh, boy, I think this is the longest I’ve gone not updating this space. Life has been exceptionally busy, and I got hit with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis back in the fall that’s thrown a wrench into things. It feels like my life is now full of managing doctors appointments, medications, and dealing with insurance companies. Writing has fallen down the list of what I simply have time for. It’s been a bit frustrating honestly.

Despite all that, I have made progress, but at nowhere near the rate I wanted. Which seems to fit the pattern of my life lately. With the MS diagnosis I’m spending a lot of time coming to terms with what I used to be able to do, to what I am actually capable of doing. I finished the edit of MK1, and only this week finally finished compiling and organizing the series bible.

I still have a butt load of edits to do to get it into shape, and I have a good idea of how to solve some of the more thorny ones, but now it’s a matter of finding the time. Writing is like riding a motorcycle for me, momentum plays a key role and at the moment, I don’t have any. I finished the read through of MK1 probably close to two months ago now. That’s enough time that much as fallen out of my head such that the edits are going to be tough to get back up to speed on. I will continually have this feeling I’m forgetting something in some chapter somewhere.

Which means, I’m looking at another read through when I’m done. Another one! If you can’t tell, I’m kinda sick of that right now. The fun part is writing. I had hoped to start writing MK2 by April 1. There’s no way that’s going to happen now, but I hope to get to it by July now. We’ll see what the next three months have in store.

It hasn’t been all bad though, I did get to go skiing twice this year. Once at Big Sky and once at Revelstoke in Canada. Big Sky was amazing and I loved it, although I had to learn where my limits were the hard way with my MS diagnosis. One of the primary symptoms is a weakness in my left leg the more I use it. So the more I used it, the weaker it got, the more I fell. Took a bit of experimenting to find the right ski/rest rhythm. Revelstoke on the other hand was rougher for my leg. I got lost on the very first run and ended up on more technically challenging run than I wanted to right out of the gate. It destroyed my leg for the rest of the day and into the next. It was a bit of a rough trip mentally with my leg, but was an absolutely beautiful experience.

I’m curious to see how my leg holds up the next time skiing. It’s a bit ridiculous, but with the issues and my leg and MS I decided I was going to try and ski as much as possible before I couldn’t anymore. And with the trip to Revelstoke I worry that might be a lot sooner than I hoped.

Pics from Big Sky. Lone Mountain in the distance. Going down Liberty Bowl from Lone Mountain (hard times on my leg). And night skiing! Easily the coolest experience I had, can’t recommend it enough.

Pics from Revelstoke. The first pic is the long trail I got lost on the first time out. It looks clear, but that second pic is what the top of them mountain looked like before I dropped out of the clouds. It wasn’t the bumps or steepness that did me in, it’s the length of runs. Revelstoke is known for super long runs–which is why I picked it in the first place! I spent much of my skiing youth on small hills in upstate NY so these long runs are the epitome of luxury to me. Unfortunately, I did not know about my leg when I booked it and now long runs really run me down. The rest of the pics are just some gorgeous scenery. It was stunning.

My plan is to move into edits on MK1 and then assess how they’re going in-situ before deciding on how long I think they should take. Hopefully, I’ll have a good handle on when I might actually get to move on to MK2 next. I suspect it will be on the order of months.

November 2022 Update

Well, I’m glad I wrote that it would be unlikely that I would be drafting book 2 by January, because that probability has now officially gone to zero.

I finished rereading “Creating Character Arcs” by K.M. Weiland and replayed “The Last of Us” on PS4 to map out Joel’s character arc. I played the game several years ago and loved the story and fall arc of Joel such that I thought it would be a good candidate to revisit and break down. Plus, I got to play video games—something I love, but rarely get to do anymore.

I also answered the questions at the end of every chapter for “Creating Character Arcs” for the two main protagonists. It was time well spent and resulted in a major revelation for me on one of the arcs. The major revelation was that I was trying to fit the whole character arc within one book, but really the way its structured it will be over multiple books. Once I hit on that, it’s much easier to structure and pace their arc.

At the same of all of this, I still have that series bible problem. I had worked out a rough structure for the series bible but was waiting to do a read through before starting to populate it. I reached the point with the character arcs that I thought it was time to sit down and do another read through armed with my new insights and questions filled out to flush out the character arcs. And since I was doing a read through, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and highlight all the things for the series bible (different colors of course).

Good plan. Tedious in execution. It’s taken me an hour or two to get through the first ten pages or so. It was brutal. At that rate, it’s going to take me months. I expect it to get faster as I go, but I’m buckling in for a long process. My new nebulous target is to be able to pivot to outlining/brainstorming book 2 by April of 2023. That’d only be 3 months behind my original target. My hope is that all this work will make planning/drafting book 2 faster such that I’ll make up the 3 months and still have book 2 drafted by Jan. 2025. We’ll see!

A Well-Deserved Break?

The Sunken City Capers series is now complete! I published The Cleaners’ War Book 5 last month and was planning on taking a well-deserved break until the new year before picking up my next project. Except, that’s not how writer brains work.

I opted instead to reread MK1 with an eye toward outlining book 2 and beginning to draft before the new year. I figured it would be a low effort to refamiliarize myself with that world and figure out where to go next. Boy was I wrong.

Three things were immediately apparent. The first was that the writing was choppy and in desperate need of a smoothing pass. The second was that I really needed a series bible before being able to sit down and brainstorm book 2. And finally, the third thing was that the character arcs were not hitting on all cylinders as they needed to be to make the book work.

I smoothed out the worst offending sentences as I went, but didn’t spend too much time here as the text is likely to change several times before publication. The actual smoothing pass will come once all three books are complete and will be an absolute nightmare to complete—but that’s a future problem.

I’ve known for awhile I need a series bible and even looked into it once before, but taking a step away to finish Sunken City Capers and coming back to this world brought the need into sharp relief. This is a sprawling multi-POV space opera. There’s a lot going on, a lot of different technologies with their own rules, artifacts, societies, characters, etc. I’ve spent some time on how to organize the budding series bible and even printed out a copy of the novel to reread again with multi-colored highlighters to help pull what I need, but I haven’t started that effort yet.

Instead, I’m focused on mapping out the character arcs for the two main characters. I’m rereading “Creating Character Arcs” by K.M. Weiland and taking the time after every chapter to answer all the questions and really think about it. I’m only one chapter into the book and the first set of questions, but it’s already helped a lot, so I’m convinced this is the right path.

With all this work to get MK1 into shape, it seems unlikely that I’ll be drafting book 2 by the new year. But I was supposed to be off anyway, right?

SCC5 is live!

The gears of publishing were not as rusty as I feared! It was kinda like riding a bike, you’ve never really forgot even if the start is a little wobbly. So here it is, the last and final book in the Sunken City Capers series: The Cleaners’ War, Sunken City Capers Book 5. And since it’s been five years (!) between book 4 & 5, book 5 includes a “What you need to know” section that summarizes the key details in the series before the start of book 5. I hope you enjoy it!

Her father executed. A gun to Charlie’s head. One week.

Tick Tock.

After witnessing her father’s execution, Isa finds herself stripped of her tools, her allies, and alone in a foreign country’s custody. When an orchestrated escape opportunity presents itself, she leaps without looking.

Now free and hunted on all sides, she’s forced into an unexpected alliance with her enemies: disgraced Cleaners. And, if that weren’t enough, the path to redemption leads straight through that oily snake Ham—desperation makes for strange bedfellows.

Thrown into a tangle of vipers, Isa must navigate hidden agendas, false identities, and a vortex of prima-donna personalities, least of which is Puo’s, all while making sure she steers the ship straight into the heart of the National Syndicate.

The National Syndicate murdered her father. They kidnapped Charlie. They will never stop coming for her. She needs to deal with them once and for all.

Gears of Publishing Revving Up for SCC5

SCC5 is done! It took a bit longer than I thought, but all that’s left is final proofing and then churning it through the gears of publishing to make the ebook and print layouts. It’s been four years (!) since I did this last, so there’s a bit of trepidation in remembering how to do everything. Plus, since it’s been four years, I have no idea what’s changed since then (and things will have changed). I hope to have everything published by September or October.

The final readthrough after the cool down took longer than I thought. I thought that readthrough would’ve been small word choice or wordsmithing, but I was making (minor) content edits right up until the end. But it’s done now (whew). I was hoping to have it wrapped up before mid-June before I went on vacation, but the novel got to come on vacation with me which turned out to have coming-full-circle feeling.

I finished the very first Sunken City Capers novel when I was on vacation in Bath, England accompanying my wife to a conference she had. I was fortunate enough to once again accompany my wife to one of her conferences to Southampton, England where I finished SCC5. I don’t travel to the UK a lot, so it’s strange to bookend the series in the same place as I finished the first in the series.

We spent two full days in Amsterdam before the conference. It’s such a beautiful city.

Two days was not enough time. There wasn’t time to do half the things I wanted, but still managed to fill both those days full of stuff. One of the activities was a bike ride through the city, which was intense. I think there’s more bikes in Amsterdam than people. Everyone bikes everywhere over there, and there seem to be a lot of unwritten rules. We did a bike tour and moving as a group made it harder since we had to go slower going single file. I also have some unexplained leg weakness that makes things harder for me and affects my balance. But I got through it! (And it was worth it!)

We then flew to London and took a bus to Southampton (after dealing with multiple canceled flights). We had a day before the conference started and went to New Forest National Park west of Southampton for another bike ride! The word “bucolic” kept passing through my mind on the ride. I could see Tolkien’s love the shire in the country side. The fancy house is the Osborne house on the Isle of Wight, that I went to see when my wife was conferencing. And the conference dinner was on the HMS Warrior which was a neat ship to look around on.

SCC5 on Track!

I finished the tightening pass on May 2nd, a few days past when I targeted, but honestly, I’m so relieved it’s over I can’t help but smile. Ye gads that was tedious. Like insanely tedious. I had a headache for most of the last two weeks of April.

I came across the 10% Solution by Ken Rand a year or two ago. I found it a useful little book that doesn’t really tell you anything you don’t already know, but presents it in a logical, straightforward manner that forces you to think about the things you already know. The premise is to be able to take any writing and be able to trim it by 10% by tightening up the prose.

This is done by going over piece 10-15 times looking at each and every instance of specific words like “of” or “was” and really deciding if they need to be there or if there’s a shorter, clearer way to communicate something. I had tried it on some short stories and flash fiction and found it useful, if it a bit tedious.

Applied to a novel, tedious doesn’t quite capture the experience. But it’s hard to argue with the results. I only trimmed about 3% of the novel, but that was close to 3000 words of fluff. The prose is a lot tighter and reads much smoother.

The novel is in the cooling off phase. I’ll pick it back up later this month or in June for a final proofing pass and then start to spin up the gears of publishing. As for the rest of the month, I’ve already dusted off and finished two flash fiction pieces. I have another flash fiction piece I’m going to expand to a short story. There are also an alarming number of weeds in the yard, and there’s a work conference later this month that’s sucking up an inordinate amount of my time. Once those are past though, there are some video games I’ve been eying and some naps to catch up on. Then I’ll figure out what the next project should be, which my writing brain has already started to chew over despite me telling it take a break.

Oh, well. It feels great to have SCC5 in the bag and almost (almost!) ready to share.

SCC5 Zero Draft is done!

I did not finish drafting in March as I hoped, but I did finish drafting the first week of April! That’s why I didn’t post in March. For about a two week stretch there, I kept thinking I was one more day away of finishing up, but those last two chapters kept going and going. It took a bit to wrap up an entire series.

The zero draft came in a little over 90k which is about 20% longer than the longest book so far in the series. It’s a huge relief to finally have it done. And I’ve already done the reading for the first full book editing pass. It went way smoother than I dared to hope. All that editing along the way really paid off.

My target is to finish up the first draft in the next week and a tightening phase before the end of the month and then let it sit for awhile while I wrap up some other smaller projects as a palate cleanser. I’m hoping to fire up the gears of publishing by mid-June and have it out in the wild by the end of summer or early autumn.

Then what? I don’t know to be honest. I’ve been playing with the idea of taking a break for a bit. There’s a backlog of video games I’d like to play and there’s some data analysis projects I’ve been wanting to do but don’t have time for. But writing’s an addiction that’s hard to shake. I can see telling myself I’m taking a break while also starting to research book 2 of the MK series and then creating an outline and then starting drafting. So, who knows.

For now, it feels good to have the zero draft and almost the first draft done. I’m excited to polish it up and get it out there in the world.

February 2022 Update

Alas, I did not make it out of the quarterfinals for the SPSFC. Oh, well. I can’t say I’m surprised or even that disappointed. I got as far as I dared to hope and the initial reviews weren’t favorable. It was fun and blast though, I’ll definitely be entering again if it becomes an annual thing. Although, that might be years before I have a book one ready to go.

I also did not finish SCC5 in January or February. I was pressing hard through the end of January, got up to 74k and into the climax, and then decided there were too many loose threads to keep track of everything that needs to come together at the end. So, I stopped in the middle of the climax and entered an extensive edit of the whole book. That took all of February and probably another week. An edit normally wouldn’t take that long, but life and work have been exceptionally busy these past two months.

The good news is the edit is clipping away all those loose threads and tying everything together into one cohesive story. This actually makes it easier to draft. It was getting harder to draft as the story went on–my brain was constantly trying to remember small details earlier in the book or worried I was missing something. It made it hard to get into the flow. I’m hopeful to have the zero draft down by the end of March. Or at a minimum, through the climax.

It wasn’t all work in January though. My wife and I took the kids skiing for the first time. We went to Deer Valley in UT and it was incredible. I love skiing. I find it incredibly freeing and peaceful and amazing. If I had remembered how much I loved it when I was looking for a job, I don’t think I would’ve moved to TX. Oh, well. The kids did great and I was super happy and relieved that they liked it. I’m hoping to make a yearly skiing trip now (honestly, I’m scheming to figure out how to go more than once, but not sure how to swing that).

Next month, I’ll also outline the targets for 2022 (and hopefully the news that SCC5 is done drafting).

SCC5 Update and 2021 Recap

First an update on SCC5:

Well, the first half of the plan came through—a Christmas miracle! I wrote ~16k worth of words on SCC5 over Christmas break. Based on my last assessment, that would be put me within 3k striking distance of capping this series off, right? Nope!

Alas, as the third plot point developed it became clear I needed another 10k to wrap things up. I’m currently sitting at 67k on the novel and I think it’ll wrap up around 80k total, which will make it the longest Sunken City Capers book to date. So 13k in one month to wrap it up by the end of January? Possible, but we’ll see. There’s a strong possibility I may have to stop and do an editing pass before the climax to get all my ducks in a row. If that happens, then the zero draft will likely be done in February sometime. Still looking like June/July release date is comfortably achievable.

Now to recap 2021:

Here were my targets at the start of 2021:
1. Finish current novel (this includes drafting and at least the 1st whole pass novel revision)
2. Write one short-story/novelette set in novel world.
3. Create and maintain a series bible
4. Start either novel #2 in current series or Sunken City Capers #5
5. Read 10 nonfiction books

I hit all except #3!

I finished MK1 back in February/March, edited it through March/April, wrote 2 short stories set in the MK world, and started SCC5 in May. As for the series bible. Eh. I didn’t have a good plan for this or good software. I started looking at some software options, but couldn’t find anything that made sense to me. Besides, writing is the fun part, so that’s what I spent most of 2021 doing.

Another 2021 highlight was the first two books in the Sunken City Capers series being produced and released in audio! I love audio so it was a dream come to true to be able to listen to the books. I’m really, really happy about this and the narrator Margaret Mikkelsen does an amazing job bringing the characters to life. I didn’t realize how many accents I wrote in the 2nd book until listening it and she handled them all beautifully.

I read 30 fiction books and 11 nonfiction books this year which is right around my average. What made this year more unusual than previous years, was that there were more nonfiction books I would recommend from the year than fiction. On the fiction side, the only standout for me was the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman. As long as you buy into the premise (and it’s easy for me to push the “I believe” button), it was a really interesting, engaging, and though-provoking read—plus it had one of those antagonists you really love to hate. On the non-fiction side, I really liked Nudge by Richard Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, Grit by Angela Duckworth, The Unseen Realm by Michael S. Heiser, and Eating Glass by Mark D. Jacobsen.

I also started Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman this past year, but couldn’t get through it in the time I had it from the library. Between that book and Nudge I think I found a favorite new subgenre of behavioral economics—super, super interesting. The Unseen Realm is Christian book about understanding scripture through the supernatural lens of the ancient Hebrews. I found it super interesting to the point that I plan on revisiting it.

Eating Glass is a book about failure that I recommend any artist or entrepreneur pick up. Few people ever acknowledge what real failure feels like and looks like. There’s always a pervasive culture of “fail often, fail fast” or “fail forward,” but few ever talk about how hard it is to pick yourself up again and again. One failure is easy to recover from in my experience, it’s the constant stream of it that wears on a person.

Hopefully, next month’s blog post will have SCC5 either done or within spitting distance of being done. I’ll also post my writing targets for 2022 then.

SCC5 Drafting Update

Whew, that was a long chapter. It was the chapter where the curtain was finally started to be pulled back on everything that’s been going on over the whole series. I think it took be the better part of month to write that chapter for two reasons.

First, it’s a lot of information that needs to come together that’s been spread over four books. And because I’m a discovery writer, there’s no master plan written anywhere or outline. There are only hastily scribbled notes, and a few attempts to try and collate all the relevant information into some master documents. So, it took some effort to sort it all out and ensure it was self-consistent.

Second, that chapter turned out to be the longest in the series. Most of the Sunken City Capers chapters are on the order of 2-3k words. That chapter turned out to be 7k. That’s a lot of words for a chapter. I target about 1k words a week, but often land around 2-3k words when I have a good rhythm. So, it took me some to get through it.

But, I’m through it and have launched into the 3rd plot point. I was a bit listless drafting this past week. I was having a hard time finding a rhythm. I think I’m back on track as of this morning—basically I unleashed Isa and Puo to be them snarky smart-ass selves, and suddenly I was cracking myself up and having a grand ole time.

Seem like every time I update this blog, I end up pushing the estimate of when the zero draft will be done for SCC5 to the right. The end of January is looking a bit dicey—I estimate I need another 19k of words to wrap it up, and 19k in 6 weeks for me is above my average. But, but! Christmas is coming and I have some extended time off, so I usually get more words written in those periods. And, and! The last parts of books tend to write fast for me once it all falls into place. So, I’m going to keep the target to be done with book 5 by the end of January and hope for a Christmas miracle.