Cover Reveal for Sunken City Capers Book 2

Last time I wrote a bit about all the work that is going on behind the scenes to prepare for the October launch of Sunken City Capers and I wrote that I should share the covers for books 2 and 3, so here’s the cover for The Elgin Deceptions: Sunken City Capers Book 2. I love the way it came out; it matches the tone of the book perfectly.

elgin_fullI had a lot of fun writing The Elgin Deceptions, almost to the point that when I finished it, I wondered if I should start the series with book 2! Then I rolled directly into writing book 3, and had the same exact thought about book 3. Turns out that I tend to favor whichever book I just finished. I was relieved when I went back to edit book 1 that I felt that book 1 brings the awesome and kicks off the series nicely.

The Elgin Deceptions is special to the Sunken City Capers series (and me) in a unique way. It was in a pub in Bath, England that I finished drafting The Solid-State Shuffle: Sunken City Capers Book 1. It was also during that period that I conceived of The Elgin Deceptions while traveling around London with my spouse. My personal favorite of the trip was Buckingham Palace, which we were able to tour inside of. But my second favorite part was the British Museum. Both places make an appearance in The Elgin Deceptions.

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The first two are the British Museum, specifically the south entrance and the King’s Library–an absolutely gorgeous place. The third picture is Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, I don’t have any interior photos to share, but I loved it. It added a lot of fun to tour these amazing places and imagine them underwater and how they would be defended and broken into. You’ll have to read The Elgin Deceptions to find out how they’ve been incorporated into the novel!

 

Busy Busy

So I didn’t post the last scheduled time I was supposed to. A result of which was one part being busy, one part choosing to prioritize other work. I wrote last time about how the eARC for The Solid-State Shuffle is now available (sign up here) and that milestone has kicked off a very busy period for me getting ready for the upcoming October 4, release.

One of the tasks that occupied my time was laying out the print book. A tedious, but enjoyable, task that culminates in the always satisfying feeling of holding your book in your hand:

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Pretty nifty, right! Easily one of my favorite parts of the process.

Other work has included final edits on book 2, The Elgin Deceptions (coming Nov. 1, 2016), and book 3, Leverage (coming Dec. 6, 2016) ready to go. Speaking of which, I should share those covers at some point, maybe next time. At the moment, I need to dive back into those final edits. I’m so close I can smell it! I’m also seriously itching to write book 4, but one thing at time.

Underwater Restorations in Audio!

This past week an event finally happened that I had been eagerly anticipating for months: Starshipsofa published an audio version of Underwater Restorations! And if that wasn’t cool enough, it’ free!

Audio stories are soooo cool. I got to listen to this one on a plane and it was a thoroughly cool experience. There are parts of the story where the characters drop from 10,000 feet, and to be that high up and looking down on the landscape passing by under me while I was listening to those parts was surreal. The narrator Setsu Uzumé was perfect for it. It’s now one of my favorite writing experiences to date.

I highly recommend you check it out!

Patience is a Virtue

Well my day job puked all over my free time the past few weeks, and for the first time in a long time, I’ve gone more than a day at time without working on writing related tasks. This is, in part, due to the fact that I am now cycling back to edit The Solid-State-Shuffle, book 1 in the Sunken City Capers series. This both an awesome and terrifying task.

I finished The Solid-State Shuffle almost nine months ago now, and have written two more complete novels in that series since then. As the series evolved so too did the characters, the world, and the tech. I pants this series, which means I make it up as I go along and trust myself and my process that’ll it all come together in the end (which it does, but usually unexpectedly so). The problem became that as I made stuff up for books 2 and 3, that book 1 needed to be changed to accommodate those narrative decisions.

This is why patience is a virtue. I get to make to those changes. And that is both awesome and terrifying.

Initially, as I went back to edit chapter 1 in The Solid-State Shuffle, I was a little stressed out and despondent. I hadn’t looked at book 1 in nine months and chapter 1 needed a fair amount of reworking. Most writers hate to go back and read their “earlier” work because we feel we’ve gotten better with practice (and usually so). I was no different here. I was both terrified of screwing it up, making book 1 inconsistent, as well as reading it again for the first time in a while and hating it, killing enthusiasm for the series.

Well, chapter 1 did need a little more love than the other chapters, but once I was through that, it went easy. Like “damn this fun” easy. And book 1 is about ten times stronger than it was before the edits. I finally found what book 1 had been missing and it makes it all the more awesomer. It just took me to book 3 to figure it out, and then it was like a flash of lightening and I started cackling in delight.

Had I rushed publishing to “get something out there,” I wouldn’t have been able to make those edits and make book 1 the strongest book I could. Patience is a virtue, and I consider myself fortunate and lucky to have been patient at least once in my life.

 

The eARC for The Solid-State Shuffle (the book that is now ten times more awesome and set to be published October 2016) is scheduled to go out July 1 to a select group of advance readers. You can still sign up here if you’re interested.

Some Free Stuff

I have a couple of free things going on at the moment.

1. First I put up a free science fiction heist novelette, Just Heroes on NoiseTrade. It’s a fun entertaining read that plays with story structure by telling the story out of chronological order (it was a ton of fun to write too!). Cover and description below.

2. I currently have an Amazon Giveaway going for Underwater Restorations: A Sunken City Capers Novelette. Two prizes have already been claimed, there are three still remaining. Enter now!

3. If you can exercise patience and delay gratification (available July 1) the eARC signup for the Solid State Shuffle: Sunken City Capers Book 1 continues to gain steam and is still open.

 

Just Heroes Cover 300 dpi Max

For once, Asher finds himself getting shot at for reasons not of his own making. Well … at least he thinks so. Could go either way really.

Forced into the unlikely role of hero on the Ceres Mining Colony, Asher must find a way to stop runaway mining payloads from devastating Mars, all while still achieving his team’s original goal. In a situation where secret agendas abound, Asher fights to save Mars while keeping his own motives unknown.

2016 Targets Update

This is going to be a short post. The last three weeks I’ve been on a ton of travel for work and now that I’m finally home long enough to relax, sleep is continually tugging at me from around the corner of consciousness.

While I was on travel, I realized that I had almost inadvertently hit one of my 2016 targets already and quite by accident: read 6 fiction novels. This is the first year I had ever set a reading goal, because I had never needed to before. I love reading and had never had any trouble plowing through books before. But it felt like I hadn’t read much fiction in 2015 and that didn’t sit well with me (I had read a fair amount of non-fiction).

Well, it’s the start of May and I’ve already read 5 fiction novels, all steampunk so far and I’m loving it. I’ve already narrowed down my next book, switching now from steampunk to classic sci-fi between Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or The Man in the High Castle. I’ll probably end up reading both (and in that order).

But I think I may have underestimated myself on number of books I could read in 2016. Not that it matters, whether I read 6 or 12, I’m spending time doing what I love.

Nothing like a deadline to inspire

My current novel was actually writing pretty quick (48k words in 5 weeks!), that is until I hit a wall. Like smacking-head-first-and-falling-on-your-ass-and-can’t-get-up kind of hitting a wall. I’ve faced this in various ways over several novels now and the solutions are always some form of tough love, sit in the chair and churn out words until things start making sense again.

But I was stuck, stuck. Nothing was coming. So, I switched from drafting new words to editing the 48k I had already written, hoping the process of reviewing the past work would help illuminate where to go next. Nope. Nice thought, but nope, I was still stuck after that.

Then a sudden looming deadline reared it’s ugly head, causing much stress, and a frantic rejiggering of schedules (I like schedules, not so much when they’re suddenly thrown into chaos). But one result of this, is I no longer had the luxury of not writing if I were to get this book done on schedule. The fear of not hitting the schedule was greater than the fear of not getting the book “perfect,” which is what I realized the problem was.

So rather than spending time figuring out the “perfect” ending, I just plowed ahead telling myself, if it wasn’t right or I didn’t like it once it was done, I could let the schedule slip if I needed to and fix it then. This was very freeing. The power of the deadline, and the permission from myself to suck, let me wrap up that novel over the next ten days. Done! And–I love it. It fits the book and the series perfectly.

The crazy part is, I’ve faced this with every book to some degree. That fear, and just having to trust yourself that once it all comes together it’ll be much more coherent and fun than the 500-1000 microscopic word chunks you work on in spurts. I don’t know why I forget this book to book. I’ve been thinking I need to make some framed signs of these things to put in my writing space to remind me. But …

Book 3 of the Sunken City Capers series is done! Now it just needs some editing love. Sigh.

 

Writing Fails

Last time, I wrote about in some detail all the different ways that I harvest time throughout the day to actually get some writing down while having young children and a career. That post actually grew longer than I thought it would, and halfway through writing it I realized, I arrived at being able to harvest that time through trial and error. So this post will detail some of those errors.

First error: writing on my daily commute. My wife and I share a car, and she prefers to drive. This leaves me with twenty minutes each way to potentially get some writing down. It was quickly apparent that writing on the return trip home was an awful idea for two reasons. One, I was generally way too tired for creative work after working eight, nine hours. Two, writing is like rolling a boulder, it’s easier to make progress once you get started. After eight hours in the lab, the boulder was plum stopped. Writing on the morning commute was a more viable option, as it was a continuation of my morning writing sessions and the boulder was already effectively moving at that point. However, I wasn’t a great fan writing at this time and at times it made me carsick. I decide to ax it and use that time more effectively to talk and bond with my wife, which turned out to be prescient decision as the kids have grown older–they’re currently in a phase of never stop jabbering. So sometimes it feels like our commutes are the only time we get to talk.

First error part b: writing on planes. This is so hit or miss. And it depends on the task that needs to b done. Drafting? Is the seat empty next to me? Yes: write away! No: how aggressive is the person with the arm rest? How large are they? How big are the seats? Next up is the rogue in front of you, did they put the seat back? No: write away! Yes: how bad do you need to get write writing done vs. the arm cramps involved in writing in a squished situation (as I’m currently writing now—freaking goob). Editing on the computer from a hard copy? Forget about it. The only way that’s possible is with no one next to you. About the only task that is reliably possible on a plane is editing on hard copy. So, I still try and eek out some writing tasks on the plane, but I don’t plan anything extra.

Second error: Staying up late from an evening session to “ride the wave.” In this situation, I’ve managed to fit in a evening session and now it’s time to go to bed, but the writing is going so well, the end of chapter or scene is in sight, so I make an active choice to “ride the wave” and continue writing. This is almost always a mistake. I think the only time it’s not (for me) is if writing the last chapter of a novel or ending a story. The result ends up being that I’m too tired the next day and I miss the morning sessions and then I am too worn out for any other sessions. I gain an extra 30, 45 minutes at night, but lose almost 2 hours the next day. It’s just better to leave some quick notes about where to pick up in the morning and go get good night’s sleep.

Third error: Drinking alcohol while writing. Another one that’s almost always a losing proposition for me in terms of productivity. To be clear here, sometimes I make the active choice to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer while writing, but the key word there is enjoy. It’s a leisure activity I know full well will impact my total words for the week. I’m not as young as I once was, and even one drink these days affects my sleep which puts the morning sessions in peril. Also, I’ve found with alcohol that there’s a steep cliff in productivity after two drinks. Even during the second drink, my mind starts wandering way too much that I end up just listening to music (which I do while writing) while sipping a drink—which is not a bad way to relax. But if words is what I’m after, alcohol is a bad choice.

Fourth error: Working on two or more projects at a time. I’ve found for me and “my process” (snicker) it’s better to focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise, it starts to feel like I’m spinning my wheels and not making progress on either project, which can be discouraging and lead into a downward spiral. It’s far better to just push the schedule to the right if it needs to and buckle down on one project.

So there you have some of things I tried that didn’t work for me. None of this is to say it won’t work for you (although I’d strongly discourage substance abuse as a writing plan). I think the important part is to try and experiment. Keep what works, toss the rest. And be mindful that both of those may change over time.

Harvesting Writing Time

Last time I wrote about the wonderful opportunity I had to hole up in a hotel for a weekend and do nothing but write the whole time. One of my takeaways from that weekend was how much easier it was to gain, and maintain, writing momentum when there was nothing else to occupy my brain space. Pretty obvious in retrospect. But now that I’m back into the flow of things, I wrote about how it felt like writing was like watching a moving in five or ten minute chunks over several days, frustratingly slow and disjointed. And I lamented that there was little I could do about it, as I had already harvested all the possible time out of my day I could to get writing done.

So this entry I thought I would record for posterity how I manage to scrap together the time I’m able to at this point in my life. This year also happens to be the first year I started tracking how much time I’ve been spending between certain writing tasks, so I actually have some numbers to go along it.

As mentioned throughout this blog, I wake up early to get the lion’s share of my writing done. And I am not a morning person. Never will be. I look forward to the day I can follow my body’s natural circadian rhythm, but for the foreseeable future that just isn’t possible. The saying is true that “you make time for things that are important,” and writing is important to me. So I set my alarm for four a.m. every morning and drag myself to the computer screen (coffee in hand of course).

I’ve had the best success with writing in short sessions (30-45 minute chunks) with short breaks in-between (to check email, make coffee, go to the bathroom, etc.) and then daisy chain them together. So I start every morning with a 45 minute session, and then depending on time (when I actually made it to the computer—more on that below) and what is going on that morning, I’ll add in another 30-45 minute session. So I generally log between 75-90 minutes every day first thing in the morning.

The alarm might go off at 4 a.m., but with a baby I can count on waking up with once a night, a dog with terminal cancer that needs to be let out once a night and a toddler with random nightmares thrown into the mix, quality sleep is hard to come by. And though the spirit is willing, sometimes the body has its own opinions about what’s best for it. For a stretch there I had a terrible time getting up, and overslept to 5 a.m. (the horror!). It got so bad, that I started researching alarm clocks to try and find a solution. I finally settled on “Sleep Cycle” which is able to track your sleep cycles and wake you up at the optimal time in a given window you set. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect or what, but I love it. It’s not a silver bullet for waking me up, but it’s close. I’ve been far more consistent waking up on time using it. And it logs your quality of sleep and how long you sleep. For the record I average 6 hours 14 minutes a night and never log better than 75% quality sleep. So if you ever meet me and I look like I’m about fall asleep, now you know.

But back to eeking out writing time throughout the day. The early morning writing sessions are the only static, consistent time I can count on. But I have a handful of other times I’ve been able to find on occasions. The first of those is my lunch break. It depends on what’s going on at work, but sometimes I can use my lunch hour to leave work, find a nearby coffee shop, and write for 30 minutes. It doesn’t happen every day, but I actually really enjoy that time, and in a words-per-minute sense, it’s my most productive time. I think because I only have 30 minutes (I set a timer) before I need to stop and get back to work, that helps give me focus so as not to waste the time.

And then, as you can imagine, the only other time to write is then in the evening after the kids go to bed. But this can get dicey on when they go to bed. Because don’t forget—I have to wake up X amount of hours for the morning writing sessions. So some evenings, I can squeeze a session in, but it depends upon the combination of how long a session would be before I need to get to bed and fatigue. My general cutoff is, if the session would be over 20 minutes (regardless of fatigue), then it’s a go. I’d say I’m able to pull this off maybe two to three times a week. Generally, by the time the kids are tucked in my wife and I are both almost always running for the bedroom to go to sleep.

That’s a typical weekday, and the weekend is actually very similar. Except instead of work in the middle of the day, it’s spending time with the kids, which I don’t regret in the least. You make time for the things that are important, and those two little girls are substantially more important than writing.

Hmm, this post is already rather long for me, so I think I’m going to cut it off here. So with the times I outlined above and according my handy-dandy tracker, I’ve averaged 2 hours 12 minutes a day so far in 2016. Not too shabby.

This post I wrote about what works for me in terms of writing. Next time I’ll write about all the experiments/methods that didn’t work for me personally.