My First NaNoWrimo

Well, last time I wrote that I’d roll out one of those unused covers, and as you can plainly see, there’s no cover posted. That’s because between now and the time of the last blog post something unexpected happened: NaNoWrimo!

I wrote a bit last time about delaying publication of the first Underwater Restorations novel, and while at first disappointing, opened up some interesting opportunities. One of those opportunities was a sudden gap in my writing schedule that I was trying to decide how to fill. I have since decided to write the second book in the Underwater Restorations series, and then noticed NaNoWrimo was coming up and decided to harness the collective writerly energy to try and get a jump on the novel.

I’ve been writing for about five years, but have never before participated in NaNoWrimo. It’s never appealed to me to try and force out 50k words in 30 days, not to mention November is a terrible month for it with Thanksgiving and family and what not. And technically, I’m not doing it this year since I’m not trying to get out 50k.

I had tweeted that my low, middle, and high bar targets were 10k, 15k, and 20k. And in the first six days I wrote ~12k. A new personal best ( non-workshop) week for me, and the week isn’t over. So it looks like middle bar target will fall soon and the high bar target looks achievable. When I pass the high bar target, I’ll reassess then on what the targets should be.

I’m not going to project forward at this point and say, oh look, 12k in one week that puts me on target for 50k. This isn’t my first novel. The openings and endings always write fast for me. The middles are always freaking slogs (and I just transitioned to the middle on this novel)—particularly when pantsing a novel, which all Underwater Restorations stories are. The only way to get through slogs is discipline in sitting down and working, which sounds a lot like NaNoWrimo, but it isn’t.

NaNoWrimo is about hitting 50k words, good words, bad words, doesn’t matter. It’s about quantity in the pursuit of crushing the critical voice and letting your subconscious freely write (something I’m fortunate enough not to usually suffer from). The discipline of slugging through the middle (at least for me) is dragging my butt to the keyboard and forcing myself to write prose, or edit previous chapters to better understand the story, or structuring what I’ve already written to gain insight. Some of those sessions in the middle may have negative word counts as I back up and prune things out! My personality is such that if I set a 50k word goal, I will stress out about staying on track—which kinda sucks the intended fun out of the thing.

But I can harness all the extra energy of other writers forcing themselves to the keyboards to get to 50k. So, I’m doing my first NaNoWrimo—kinda.

Writing in two series

I had identified some time ago that readers like to read novels and read novels in series (duh). This should have been painfully obviously upon a second’s reflection, but I had been too busy trying to write ALL the things that it had never popped into my mind as I was happily writing away into strange new worlds and meeting new characters. Once I got serious about this writing thing and started to make some money, I wisely evaluated my business and plan and found it wanting. So, as I have written before, I shifted to only writing novels in series.

Now of course, I couldn’t have simply written one series. No, that would’ve made too much sense. Instead I started writing in two series. Present-day-Jeffrey grumbles and shakes his fist at overly-ambitious-past Jeffrey. I have since written two full length novels, the first one in each series and have yet to release either (bah-hum-bug). I had hoped the first  novel in the Underwater Restorations series would be released this winter, but alas, no. I couldn’t get ALL the stuff lined up in time and it was causing me far more stress than it was worth. It’s both a blessing and curse to be you’re own boss. I’m now thinking the first novel in the Underwater Restorations series will be released in the fall of 2016–so it goes.

The extended timeline, while at first disappointing, offers some interesting opportunities as well–if I were only writing in one series. Which I’m not (*gives past-Jeffrey a dirty look*). I haven’t decided entirely yet what I’m going to do. I’m currently polishing the first novel in the steampunk universe, and I’m leaning toward putting that series on the back-burner while I try and write more in the Underwater Restorations series for a winter and spring release on the heels of the fall release. But … but, I love the steampunk universe. I really dig the character relationships and conflicts. The steampunk books are just huge, epic things that take much longer to write than the fun, fast Underwater Restorations stories. About the only thing I have decided is that we need a thirty-six hour day.

Next time I’ll roll out one of those unused covers I have laying around, and will be hopefully closer to a decision about where to write next.

A Favorite Writing Memory

I have had the good fortune to have a writing career blessed with some very good memories. I’m going to differentiate here between the act of writing versus the business of publishing. The act of writing is creating the manuscript, a quiet, solo endeavor. The business of publishing is trying to then turn that manuscript into something profitable and is a very different kind of challenge which can be stressful at times. But for this post when I refer to “writing” I mean the former creative process.

I discovered when writing that first ill-fated novella that writing is therapeutic for me, calming, stress-reducing. If I start to go too long (on the order of days) without participating in the creative process I start to get a little wound up. Which is why when I go on vacation my laptop comes with me and I look forward to writing in a new setting. And if I can’t bring the laptop (or don’t want to carry the extra weight) I bring my paper notebook with me and hand-write. This is how, before my latest trip, I had happened upon my favorite writing memory: hand-writing on a manuscript of The Bear that Painted the Stars in a cigar-bar in the heart of Athens, Greece. But it’s now my second favorite writing memory.

I focused on short fiction in the first few years of writing, writing something like thirty plus short stories, novelettes and novellas. But as I wrote before, people aren’t interested in reading individual pieces of short fiction off of Amazon. People want novels; they want novels in series. So that’s what altered my writing plan to deliver (a business decision by the way). The plan called for writing novels in two series. The first series is an epic (tentatively five-book arc) steampunk series that I want to finish in near entirety before starting to release. The second series are stand-alone episodic novels (similar series structure to the Dresden Files) in the Underwater Restorations universe. So while I finished the first novel in the steampunk series this past spring, it wont be released until 2017 likely (sigh). However, since the Underwater Restorations novels are episodic and meant to be stand-alone, I plan on releasing them as soon as they’re done (about one a year for the foreseeable future).

This is where my now favorite writing memory comes in. My wife had a conference in Bath, England and we decided to make a vacation of it the week beforehand. But during the conference in Bath, I was left to my own devices. So naturally (after sight-seeing) I found a pub and promptly started writing. I was working on the first Underwater Restorations novel at the time and I finally got to write those two words writers have a bittersweet relationship with, “The End.”

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Of course, it isn’t really the end for Isa and her crew. Really, it’s just the beginning. Which is why it’s such a great memory. I’m really (really!) excited to share their first full-length novel adventure. But now that writing is finished, queue all that pesky publishing business stuff. The release date is tentatively set for December 2015 as I try to scramble around and line everything up. Hopefully, my next post will have a more definitive date and details. No matter what though, it was a fantastic memory, one I can’t wait to share the product of with you all.

A Well Deserved Break

Up until recently I hadn’t missed a scheduled blog post in two years, and now I’ve gone and missed two. But whereas, the first missed blog post referenced in the linked post was accidental, these past two were intentional (but perhaps I should have mentioned something before going dark—I’m in my thirties and still navigating proper social behavior). I missed the last two blog posts for the laudable purpose of travel (both personal and work).

First, I was on vacation to England for two weeks (omg!) and while I was over there I realized I hadn’t taken a day off of writing (doing something writing related, e.g. writing, editing, researching, blog posts, social media, etc.) in two plus years. Every. Day. So I took a proper vacation and didn’t work on anything unless I wanted to. I had such a wonderful time. It was such a blessing to be able to unplug from all work, and just relax with my spouse. Curiously enough, I found unplugging and traveling around London and seeing all the amazing sites and eating delicious food and drinking large frothy beers in old Victorian pubs recharged my creative juices quite a bit. Here are a couple favorite memories:

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The first is the outside of the Natural History Museum, which was a ton of fun to wander around in. The second is the Rosetta stone at the British Museum, which was full of stuff. We spent a whole day in there and still didn’t see everything. The third is me standing on the Prime Meridian at the National Observatory in Greenwich–which was just awesome. As a scientist that does a lot with latitude and longitudinal tracks, it was really neat to see where everything is tied to and learn about the quest to figure out longitude at sea. The last pic is of a cool Victorian pub near where we stayed (I love that kind of stuff!). After a busy week in London, we then went out to Thornbury, west of London and spent a relaxing weekend in a castle:

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When we first got to our room, we couldn’t find the bathroom! My wife almost had to go ask, turns out we had to twist the metal cross to open a secret passage–so, so awesome. The castle has been around since ~1500 and there are grounds to wander around in. It was a perfect weekend getaway.

But my travel didn’t end there. As soon as I got back, forty-eight hours later I had to turn around and fly up to the northeast for two weeks (ugh!) for work. But it wasn’t all bad. I ate a lot of lobster and had some nice scenic views for dinner (including some wildlife):

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And since I work at a pretty great place, and the flights back to Austin were so horrible for the weekend I was stuck in New England, work covered flying me to Charlotte to hang out with my parents and my sister and her family. It was a very peaceful weekend. I got to wake up each morning, grab a hot cup of coffee and sit here and write every morning with this view:

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So I had a nice well deserved break. But I’m back at it again and very excited about the notebook full of ideas I came back with. Next time, I’ll share what my favorite writing memory is to date which happened on my travels in England (I know I said I didn’t work on vacation and I still stand by that–I’ll explain next time).

Unused Cover 1

Last time I wrote about how I’m shifting away from releasing a new story every other month and focusing on writing novels. One by-product of this decision is I have a number of covers I’ve designed, but don’t get to use. So for the first one, I thought I’d share the cover I would have used for Venus Snow (currently published in Plasma Frequency’s Anti-Apocalypse Issue).

Venus Snow Cover 300 dpi High

Nothing fancy on this one except fading the  yellow to white on “Snow.” Still I like it. It’s a hard sci-fi story and it was hard to find something that conveyed the brutal nature of Venus. Most pictures of Venus were of either the planet far away or some variation on the goddess Venus.

If you want a teaser, I also have the back cover copy for this one:

Nothing survives Venus’s hellish climate for long, not even dreams. When an unexpected radiation storm wipes away years of planning, Captain Andrea Lewis must temper her hopes as she takes shelter. Every passing hour Venus’s brutal climate subsumes the equipment necessary to answer the question that drives her: What is Venus Snow?

Theories abound. Facts are scarce. And now the clock is ticking.

Changes in the works

So I missed the last schedule blog post more on accident than any deliberate purpose. That’s the first time that’s happened since I started blogging two years ago almost to the day. It’s been an interesting two years, and I’ve flopped back and forth on what is a good blogging schedule for me and even if blogging is a good use of my time.

I decided that, ultimately, blogging is useful to me, but perhaps not the most high-density activity in my arsenal of furthering my writing career. This is why I chose to use the time I would normally write a blog post for last time to work on the Underwater Restorations novel instead. I find blogging to be useful as a kind of internal (external?) record of progress. It’s helpful for me to call up old posts and see where I was, where I was aiming, and where I’ve ended up. So, I’m going to continue blogging the first and third Saturday of every month for that reason.

The bigger change that I’ve already shared with my mailing list is that I’m moving away from publishing a new story every other month like I have since April 2014. I had been releasing short stories, novelettes and novellas. With the exception of the novellas, the general reading public doesn’t normally read random short stories off of Amazon. Those that do read short fiction, tend to read it in the short fiction magazines. What the general public does read is novels, particularly novels in series. So that’s what I’m planning on delivering. I’ve already finished the first in a steampunk epic (summer 2016 release), and am in the dreaded middle of the Underwater Restorations novel (fall 2015 release).

This is a bittersweet decision. It frees me up to focus more the novels (sweet), but due to my workflow, leaves me with quite a few unused covers I designed that I don’t get to use (boo). So instead of having the covers go to waste I’d thought I’d roll them out occasionally here on the blog.  I’ll roll out the first one next time. Until then!

 

First Draft Novel Done!

I wrote last time that the next time I checked in I would likely report that the first draft of my current novel WIP is done. I am much relieved (and somewhat surprised at how fast this Saturday loomed up on me) to write that I, in fact, did finish the first draft of the novel on May 28th! I’m stoked, it came in at 108k.

I have some editing to do,  and then let it sit for awhile while I map out book two which I’ll start to write in the fall of 2015. For now, I’ve already started to write the Underwater Restorations novel–man are those characters fun. I need to be careful with them. I’m targeting a 60k novel to help put me back on track for three novels this year, but those characters have too much fun and if I’m not careful that word count will soon blow up as I simply enjoy spending too much time with them.

In fact, I think I’ll go visit with Isa, Puo, and Winn right now. Until next time!

Quick Status Update

Well despite a heavy push, the first novel in the steampunk series I’m working on still isn’t complete. The original target was to have it wrapped up May 1st (a novel every four months), but the Fantasy workshop by Kris Rusch I attended in the last full week of April set me back some.

I had to write a short story before I arrived to the workshop so that took up the week before the workshop and then at the workshop I was kept so busy I never once even entertained the idea of working on the novel. I’d love to say the workshop was an incredible experience, but I was sick the whole time (bad ear infection the week before->antibiotics->kill all good GI bacteria->miserable for weeks). It’s only now three weeks later that I’ve finally recovered. If it hadn’t been for that it would been an incredible week. Kris really knows her stuff and more importantly, knows how to effectively communicate it. I would never hesitate to recommend her as a teacher.

But it was harder than I anticipated to come back and slip into the novel. I spent the first week back editing the previous 80% of the novel and then it was back to drafting, which I had hoped to finish by today. Alas, no. Even after a 8k word week (which is pretty solid for me). But the end is definitely in sight. One, possibly two more chapters, then the validation chapter and the epilogue to set up book 2 (which I  already wrote–the epilogue that is, not book 2). Should be done this week.

During all of this, I’ve begun development on the Underwater Restorations novel which I’m targeting to come out this late fall. I’m also hoping that the Underwater Restorations novel will put me back on track of a novel every four months. It should write faster as it’s single POV and I’m targeting a length of 60k (where the steampunk is an epic with multi-POV that will likely come in at ~105k [it’s 99k now]). I’ve also cooked up an awesome opening sequence and I’m itching to write for the Underwater Restorations novel, but I’m saving it as a reward for finishing the steampunk novel.

So now I guess I’m out of excuses and will go back writing the novel. I’ll go out on a limb and say the next time I check in, I’ll be happy to report that the first draft will be done.

Underwater Restorations Released!

Last post I wrote a bit about how I love heist stories, and this month is particularly exciting as I launch the first story in Underwater Restorations series. The Underwater Restorations series combines two of my favorite things: heist stories (big surprise) and all things underwater (also probably not much of a surprise based on my website). It’s set nearly sixty years in the future when most of the coasts are underwater and a heist team pilfers these underwater sites as a means to make a living. Hi-jinx ensue, and it’s just plain a lot of fun (so much fun to write).

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these past few weeks, so I’ll save the Fantasy Workshop I did and novel progress for next time. I hope you check Underwater Restorations out, it’s a universe I’ve already written more stories in and am currently planning on writing a novel to be released later this year.

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High-tech Thievery. Betrayal.

On the run.

Flushed out from the criminal underworld of pilfering underwater graves, Isa must gamble to survive. Cut off from the world she knows, and in the open without a citizen’s chip, she attempts the desperate. Among the stakes gambled: another man’s life—the only decent one she knows.