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:


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).

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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.

Free Heist Story!

I love con and heist stories. I love them so much that I’m building a science fiction series, Underwater Restorations, around a band of roguish, fun-loving thieves. In fact, over the next few months I’m releasing two heist novelettes and later this year a full-length heist novel in the Underwater Restorations Universe. It’s the type of fiction that’s just fun to read (and super-fun to write!) and pretends to be nothing else but entertaining.

To celebrate my love of heist stories, I put up the The Secret of Sky City *free* on NoiseTrade. It’s a heist story (in case you couldn’t guess). So if you love heist/con stories then check out the The Secret of Sky City for free.

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2065. A Floating City. Unexplained Powers.

Sky City. Billed as the most perfect place on earth. It floats a mile above the surface, leisurely circumnavigating the globe, a favorite vacation spot for the wealthy. Its king: an alien-being shrouded in mystery. Residents and visitors alike are compelled to follow his rules, an enchantment placed upon them.

All except for Jena Alwen—a first time visitor, and the thief contracted to steal: The Secret of Sky City.

Celebrating One Year of Indie Publishing

April marks my one year Indie publishing birthday!

Approximately one year ago today, on April 17th, 2014, I released Voices in the Deep my first ever Indie publication. Since then I have released a total of seven Indie publications (!) and learned a near un-quantifiable (and satisfying) amount about publishing. It’s been frantic at times, but always a blast. Connecting directly with readers who enjoy your work makes it all worth it.

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To celebrate the first year of Indie Publishing, I collected the first five stories I Indie published into one volume called Vacationing Offworld: Ballard’s Speculative Fiction Collection 1. I also included three never before publishing stories in the collection that I felt were too short to release on their own. So look for those! The collection will be the only place they’re available. And! And! I wrote an introduction to each story: the story behind the story, as fun bonus material. I talk a bit about inspiration for the story and some of the writing process involved. I always enjoy reading those in collections, so I hope y’all do too.

The first year was incredible. And the second year is shaping up to be even better.

Time-travel Story Bundle


I’m interrupting the regular schedule of blog posts to bring you this awesome time-sensitive (heh) announcement. Fiction River: Time Streams (of which I am a contributing author) is in a pretty awesome story bundle of all time-travel stories. So if you love time travel as a plot device, then you absolutely don’t want to miss this.

If you’re unfamiliar with story bundles, they’re awesome and they work like this. You pay want you want (generally with a minimum [way below market value]) and if you’re willing to pay a little bit more you can get bonus work. It’s a super-affordable way to get a bunch of books curated around a theme that the reader likes. For this time-travel bundle:

The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Rock by Bob Mayer
  • Time Streams by Fiction River (My story The Highlight of a Life included!)
  • Alternitech by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Time’s Mistress by Steven Savile
  • Parallelogram Book 1: Into the Parallel by Robin Brande
  • Lightspeed: Issue 28 by Lightspeed

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $14, you’ll get another six titles:

  • The Edwards Mansion by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Time Traveled Tales by Jean Rabe
  • The Trinity Paradox by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason
  • Summer of Love by Lisa Mason
  • Ansible by Stant Litore
  • Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch


It’s very appropriate to me that this bundle just recently brought The Highlight of a Life to mind. I recently posted the above photo of me to Twitter, working on my current novel one handed while rocking my new baby daughter to sleep. When I wrote The Highlight of a Life, my first daughter was seven months old (the very one that is now a toddler and at this very moment screaming at me from across the table becuase she asked for milk and I dared to put it in her cup, thereby prompty giving her exactly what she asked for–toddlers!). But at the time and I was spending the longest time I had been away for a week at a writing workshop learning and practicing my craft and the theme of balancing work with fatherhood was heavy on my mind. The story is one of my favorites, and I’m always looking for an opportunity to share it. So check out this awesome story bundle! It’s a great steal at $5.