“Anyone can see it so clear”

I have really been neglecting this blog of late. I’ve set my sights on doing updates by the first of the month and the fifteenth, so I was due for an entry last week, but instead I opted to just work on my next novel a bit more. I know that it’s all still a bit confusing considering that I haven’t released my last novel yet, but the life of a novelist is one that is always ongoing. I don’t have a solid release date yet for Terminus Cycle, but I do have a window that will be somewhere in mid-March to mid-April, if that helps. There will be a pre-order page up on Amazon as soon as it’s ready and you’ll hear about it (probably a lot) from me.

Part of the job of any novelist is to read as much as humanly possible. It’s for enjoyment, inspiration, ideas and just to get a lay of the land in the market. I grew up reading science fiction but since college I kind of veered more towards literary fiction and postmodern stuff. This meant that over the last few months I’ve been reading as much science fiction as possible to see what is selling and what is getting traction out there. Some of it is good, some of it is great and some of it is frustrating.

Series are a big thing right now because there is an audience for them and they tend to be gobbled up by readers. This is of course the market that I’m looking to go after when I release Terminus Cycle in a matter of weeks. Originally I had planned on releasing two books this year; Terminus Cycle and the follow-up. Now after some discussion with my wonderful wife, Lori, we’ve talked about me cutting back on the outside writing that I’ve been doing (you know, the stuff that pays bills) and focus on trying to churn out three this year. It’s an aggressive goal but it is an achievable one, especially after all that I’ve seen and experienced in the lead-up to releasing Terminus Cycle.

Realistically I’m looking at a Spring release for Terminus Cycle, a Summer release for the second one and a late-Fall to early-Winter release date for the third one. That is a lot of writing, a lot of revising and a lot of work for me, but I’m confident in my work and believe that at least having the second one out as close as possible to the first will be a good idea.

I guess I have some work to do.

Rooks Across the Gates

The act of writing isn’t something that you can really give up on ever. It’s not something that you just do and find yourself “done” with. Right now it’s difficult for me to talk about my “next book” because in my mind my “next book” is the one that I’m writing right now. The book that I’m releasing next, the one that I’ve been speaking about for months and months on end, that book is my last book. Confused yet? Imagine trying to have polite conversation with people about what I do.

The next book that I’m releasing, which is titled Terminus Cycle (yes, I am finally confirming the title) will be out in the next month or two and is currently being lovingly tended to by my editor at the moment. The book that I’m working on is the followup to Terminus Cycle and it has me all excited again. I’m not saying that Terminus Cycle doesn’t have me excited, because it does, but most of that excitement was from a while ago when I was crafting the world, the characters and their stories.

What is exciting to me is that I’m writing the second book in what will become a series. I don’t want to make any sort of wild commitment as to how many volumes there will be in the series, but there was a lot of groundwork laid out in Terminus Cycle that I get to work with in the second book and I’m really excited about being able to do that. Terminus Cycle is where I got to build a world, introduce some pivotal characters and then show the reader the struggles that they went through to help make their galaxy what it turned in to.

A story like The Godslayer was pretty self-contained, which was how it was supposed to be. There is a very low chance that I ever revisit Alek Turner or his world mostly because I’ve already told the story that I felt was most important to his character. He was the central figure in that story and at the end he was the character that you grew to know and follow around, who cares about the other guys, really?

Growing up I was always into telling long stories and creating intricate worlds that would go on for as long as they kept my interest, so being able to once again build a “world” (quotes because this is science fiction and inhabits more than one planet) up from nothing and finding myself wanting to see the inner workings of it is really fun. There will be characters in Terminus Cycle that you get just enough of to make you say “well, I want to know more about this character, why isn’t there more?” There might even be characters that you don’t particularly like very much, but that will be in the second installment and you’ll get inside of their heads to better understand their motivations.

Essentially I am happy to be back to creating characters and storylines that arc over a long period of time and will be allowed room to breath and grow.

Now, the other thing that I wanted to talk about is the title to my book. I had initially settled on the title of Omega Destiny, which isn’t a terrible title, but I wasn’t really super happy with it. Titles and names are the things that I hate the most because if they don’t come natural to me they tend to be obnoxious. I settled on Omega Destiny and was prepared to use it until a simple Google search last night popped up a relatively new book on the Amazon marketplace titled Omega’s Destiny. Usually this wouldn’t be that big of an issue except for the fact that it’s male werewolf-on-male-werewolf erotica. I don’t have a problem with that by any stretch of the imagination, if you are into that, more power to you, but a recent release with a similar title plus the strange subject matter was just too much for me to handle.

The idea of someone searching Google or Amazon for my book after hearing the title and thinking, “well, I guess it was this” and giving someone else money is just too much for me to handle.

“I sometimes feel as if I’ve given birth to this island.”

Marketing is literally the worst thing in the world. There, I said it. It’s out there and the whole world can see it.

I have a pretty solid plan to market my upcoming book, most of which comes from stuff that I learned from the release of “The Godslayer.” I have a better idea of what to do and how to do it, something that I didn’t have before. This is very, very important. I also know what things that I shouldn’t be wasting my time and money on anymore, which might be more valuable.

I’ve had a difficult time sleeping over the past week or so because I’ll be laying in bed and thinking about ways to make my book a success. These lamentations have led to some really positive discoveries and also led to a lot of sleepless nights. It’s the good with the bad, right?

What I’ve discovered is that there are lots of people out there who want to give out advice on how to market a book but don’t have any actual advice to give. I’ve seen countless blogs taking advantage of the fact that this is a topic that is heavily searched for by many authors only for them to just give boilerplate advice. Believe in yourself? Interact with your audience? Have a blog? Use social media? Great! None of those things should be news to a writer in 2015. There are even people who are looking to sell you advice in the form of an ebook, seminar or one-on-one coaching session on how to market your book.

Now, I’m not a fan of judging people (who am I kidding, I’m a writer, that’s all that I do), but these people are awful. They are the pond scum marketing themselves as a new age cure of the publishing world and will often tout how they are a “successful author.” Successful authors aren’t trying to sell impressionable, young, confused and scared writers snake oil. Unless they are and I’ve missed the memo that an important part of being a writer is trying to make a quick buck off of people looking for advice.

I understand that it’s not easy out there for writers and that it’s not a field that yields crazy salaries. In fact, it’s a profession that is full of disappointment, heartache and endless hurdles. But man, this stuff is just sad. I’ve met some wonderful people out there in social media who are going through these same struggles, but it’s hard to ignore the bad ones.

This all being said, I’ve come up with a pretty solid plan to market this book and I’m looking forward to executing it and seeing how it all works out.

The exciting stuff that is happening is that I’ve started on the follow-up to this book already. I had a rough time getting into it, but now it has started to flow out of me again and it is very easy to remember why I love writing so much. I’ve never had a chance to write anything that sprawls quite like this series will, which is fun. There are going to be some unresolved issues in the first book, but I’m thinking big picture here and have already started working on these issues in the second book. That’s the kind of stuff that excites me.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list (on the left bar) where I’ll only bug you for big announcements on my stuff and when I put stuff on sale. That’d help me out quite a bit so I don’t have to pay Facebook to “amplify” posts to actually reach people.

You could only win when I’m not afraid to lose

Movement. That’s where I’m at right now, the phase where there is movement. I’ve sent my novel off to my editor and now it is only a matter of time. The work that I have to do now is actually kind of the worst stuff. It’s the promotional stuff, it’s preparing for release and all of that other stuff. Bleh.

It is only compounded by understanding what comes after that, which is of course releasing said work into the world where people can say and think whatever they want about it. I saw this photo on Twitter the other day and it definitely made me laugh. It just shows that some people can absolutely love something you create while others will find something wrong with it. There might be some truth in the criticism, but it’s also just one person’s opinion. It’s important to weigh criticism and learn from it, but it’s even more important to not get weighed down by it and to believe in yourself.

What better proof than this?

fawltytowers

Yikes.

Like I said, my second novel is off to my editor at the moment and I’m kind of at a loss for what to do anymore. I’ve started on the follow up already, but for right now I’m kind of just enjoying not being super stressed for the time being before I have to go into promotional mode.

Onward! And Onward! And Onward I go

Being inspired is tough business sometimes. The same can be said for being candid without being overly candid and inserting too much of yourself into your characters. For those of you that know me, you’ll probably see some of me in the characters that I write. The truth of the matter is that it is nearly impossible to formulate a character as a writer without trying to insert yourself into said character. Part of what I prided myself with in The Godslayer was how little of myself that I put into Alek Turner.

I served my time training in martial arts and at one point was fascinated in them beyond the realm of just being a spectator or an “expert,” but instead wanted to be a part of that world fully. Even so, things never went beyond a cursory level of exploration and I’ve never been a champion martial artist. I’ve known a few and studied enough of them to be able to piece together Alek Turner, but a lot of the blanks had to be filled in to make him a living, breathing person. As much as I like to think that he was so far away from myself, he wasn’t entirely. There were small things, personality traits and opinions that came directly from myself and my experiences.

That is what I bring to the table, though. I bring to the table my experiences, thoughts and opinions. I try to do so in a way that doesn’t directly interfere with the characters that I’m writing or to hinder them. Some of my favorite authors are fallible individuals who were so connected with their characters that eventually they all started to feel the same, the stories taking the same turns and featuring the same tropes. In a way it is endearing, in another way it is frustrating. I’m not talking about dime store hacks, either, I’m talking about Haruki Murakami, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov and many others.

These were heavyweights, the kinds of writers that I look up to and will probably never achieve the same level of success as, but I can see the flaws in their work as plain as day. That isn’t to say that my own work isn’t flawed, because it is. It’s just humanizing to see that great writers all have their flaws, all have their focuses and that sometimes it isn’t a big deal to fall into these tropes and pour too much of yourself into characters. It makes the most sense because as fascinating as a writer finds a person on the street met in passing and wants to inhabit their mind, that writer’s life experiences are going to start filling in the blanks. The more blanks, the more of the writer weasels its way into the character.

In my upcoming book there are two main characters; Jonah Freeman and Captain Peter O’Neil and while they couldn’t be more different, they also couldn’t be more alike in some ways. One had to claw his way through bureaucracy and overcome the odds to achieve what he wanted, while one was born into a position of great power, but neither are happy. A large part of the novel is the idea of showing both sides of the coin; that being poor and hungry is different from being rich and powerful, but that personality and outlook have more to do with how each condition is viewed.

I’ve written stories in the past that sampled heavily from myself, like most writers do, but they usually lack the kind of intimate personal details that I lent to some of the characters in this book. Some of it is very painful to express, but felt valuable enough to get out there. It’s also part of the reason why I get so nervous about this book and why my stress levels have been through the roof. There is a lot of me in this book and I’m not sure how else you can make a big gamble than to toss that much of yourself into something.

So as I enter 2015 with the goal of publishing two novels I look forward to the end of this week where I’ll finally ship off this novel to my lovely editor and start preparing everything for release. This should be an interesting year.

Happy New Year.

“They Won’t Break You, Destroy or Erase You”

I feel that fiction is criminally undervalued in today’s society. Maybe that is just because of the work that I’ve done over the past few years or the people that I’ve been interacting with, but it just feels like there is less and less of an emphasis on how important fiction can be. Television and movies are still interests of a lot of people, but to really get someone to want to sit down with a work of fiction seems like a struggle sometimes.

A lot of what I hear is, “well, nonfiction is real, not made up,” or, “I just prefer reading about things that have really happened.” There’s always this sort of latent understanding that fiction is frivolous and silly, or that reading fiction makes you some sort of nerd. It kind of baffles me and drives me mad.

The world needs fiction, it just isn’t always aware of it.

Looking around at headlines over the past few weeks it is clearer to me than ever that the world needs more fiction and that more people need to be ingesting this fiction. Good fiction is able to intertwine serious social issues in with a narrative and sometimes even do so without it being overt. It’s able to get the reader thinking about these issues or feeling a certain way, looking at the world in a way that they might not have before.

This is a key part of my job as a writer; to not just write about characters and their struggles, but to make the reader stop and think.

The recent cases of blatant abuse of police power against citizens is almost impossible to ignore right now, especially in the cases where they seem racially-motivated. These kinds of cases are nothing new, but now in our digitally-driven age we are having more and more information fed to us and we are allowed to do our own research and come to our own conclusions, outside of just the justice system having its own and that being the final say.

Sometimes these forms of “social justice” can do more harm than good if ill-informed, but they still evoke passion in people and bring to the spotlight the underlying tensions that exist in our society and how we need to address them.

In my upcoming novel the future that I built was based around the idea of these issues never being properly addressed. When they were addressed it led to violence and for governments turn towards a harsher, more strict style of governing. In science fiction especially, it is a tradition to weave stories by building off of the fears as to what might happen if our society keeps moving in a direction that the writer sees as the wrong direction.

So I built off of my own fears, hopes, dreams and opinions in building the Earth of the future that is embroiled in turmoil and struggling for survival. It is a world where the Michael Browns and Eric Garners of the world never see their justice, their families never get their closure and the world simply shrugs its shoulders and says, “at least it wasn’t anyone I knew.” I truly believe that ignorance and ambivalence could lead humanity down a dark path someday and I applaud all of the people who are unafraid to show compassion to their fellow humans and question if what has happened is really fair.

Issues like these are why I write fiction and why I’ve always loved fiction. I think back to the writers who have most influenced me over the years, the Philip K. Dicks, the Kurt Vonneguts, the Thomas Pynchons and Cormac McCarthys and somewhere in each of their books there are messages to the reader that go beyond personal struggles and has to do with the environment and how it affects their characters and the whole world that they reside in.

This is why I love fiction and this is why I want YOU to love fiction as well. I’m doing my best to present something to the world that I’m not only proud of, but that I hope readers will enjoy and make them stop to reflect, even if it is just a little bit.

“Pain is Proof of Your Existence”

Sometimes the process of refining my own work feels like a chore, other times it can be exciting. It’s this valuable process where I go back and reflect on the whole insanity of a novel that I’ve written and make the changes needed to make my vision come to life. It’s frustrating sometimes, like I said. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first four or five chapters of this book now, but then again, I feel good about them at this point and don’t want to see much changed in them.

At this point I’m rounding out the whole feedback phase and just working on tightening things up and taking all of my feedback into account. If you are reading this and I gave you a copy and you haven’t said anything to me yet, well, shame on you, although, I probably accounted for it. I do appreciate the sentiment, though. Anyway, like I said, I’m at the point of taking into consideration the feedback that I’ve received and comparing them with my own notes and making changes as I see fit.

It’s difficult to sometimes let go that not everyone is going to like my work and that I’ll never be able to make enough changes to my book to make it universally appealing. It sucks, but it’s the truth. I want people to enjoy it, but not everyone is going to enjoy it and not everyone is going to “get” or agree with what I’m saying. I still look at the feedback that I’ve received and go from there, though. It’s also a skin-thickening exercise, kind of like getting back into shape for the long haul, which will be people being critical of my work in public.
I do understand that I should be used to that by now and that I publish my “work” on a daily basis still for thousands of readers to scoff at and take shots at, but it’s different. While that stuff is still important in its own way, it has never been my passion like fiction is. So if someone wants to be rude to me over some silly article that I wrote, that’s their thing, it bothers me less and less with each passing day, but to dislike something that I put this much work into? Yikes.

There are always going to be roadblocks that get in the way of this stuff, as well. I’ve been putting a lot of work into things over the last few weeks and it has been stressful, so much so that it has begun to affect me. Lori says it is probably too much, but I just explain that it’s a sign that I’m serious. I had equated a nagging toothache with stress as well, but it turned out to be a cavity in a wisdom tooth which was unceremoniously yanked the other day. They also told me that my blood pressure was high and asked if I was stressed, which was kind of funny.

The mixture of my tooth having a giant, gaping hole in it and this whole “I want this book to be truly great and what if the world hates it/me?” stuff pretty much led to me feeling awful over the past few weeks. I’ve been combating it with taking the dogs for longer and longer walks and trying to eat better. Trying is the key phrase here. I still forget to eat because I need to work, then later on start to feel it, but that’s nothing new with me.

This is a strange coincidence, but I’ve seen a lot of talk over the last few weeks of “chase your dreams and live without regrets” and I’m pretty sure that I’m not looking this stuff up, it’s just the usual rabble that pops up on Facebook. It is true, though, you do have to pursue your passions. When I wasn’t writing and being creative I was a truly miserable person and when things started to go downhill it all went very quickly. Writing again was one of the few things that made me feel like myself again and it’s not something that I ever plan on letting go of again.

I’m writing this at 3:40 in the morning and my mouth is starting to ache and bleed again. I’m reminded of the 2004 Takashi Miike film Izo, for some reason. “Pain is Proof of Your Existence.”

“Did I ever exist?”

There’s a hunger still unsatisfied

Satisfaction with one’s work is probably the most difficult thing to really accomplish. As I stated a few weeks ago on here, I “finished” my next book, but I kept using quotation marks. Part of what makes it done but not done is the fact that a book never really feels finished. I’ve been pushing this book off to different readers to get some feedback, which is one of the most important parts of the process. It helps to either confirm fears or reaffirm beliefs as to what has to change in a book. For me, I have these fears about certain parts of the book and having people reading these parts is helpful.

Feedback is difficult. In a way, the feedback portion is the toughest part. It’s difficult because I have to send to people that I know and trust as well as people that I don’t know as well and might not have a profile already built in my head for their tastes when it comes to literature or their background. These are wildcards. They can provide useful insight or they can provide nothing, it’s kind of a crapshoot. Regardless, I appreciate everyone’s feedback and input into making my stuff better and more ready for primetime.

Right now is my obsessive time where I tweak, fix, delete and add into the book. It’s the time where everything is being prepared to be polished and I want to make sure that I’m not polishing a turd. Does that sound extreme? Because this whole process is kind of extreme at times and if you are a writer, even a good one, it will make you second guess yourself. It’s kind of just nature.

I’m still not sure when I’ll be able to release it into the world, but I’m thinking about January or so depending on how long it takes to get everything perfect.

Now It’s Omega Zero Day

I’ve reached the point where I’m pretty sure that I’ve finished my next book. When I say pretty sure, I mean that I’ve completed just about all of the different stages that go into writing a novel. I’ve written all of the words that need to be written, I’ve gone back and edited most of it, adding and subtracting along the way. I’ve re-read and come to the conclusion that I’m happy with it. What happens from here is probably the worst part. What happens from here is when I start passing out copies to readers while I await their feedback.

This is a vital part of the process and something that I feel is important before I send it off to my editor and start getting things finalized. What if something sucks? What if something doesn’t make sense? What if a character feels flat? Those are the things that I want to know before the book gets wrapped up neatly in a bow and those are the things that I can fix.

Anyone who has done something similar to this can attest to how nerve-wracking it can be; people are reading my book for the first time. These people reading it will determine how I move forward with it. Maybe I need to add something, maybe I need to remove something, maybe I need to start again? I try to pick diverse individuals to read my books when I go through this, not just people who prefer to read what I prefer to read and write. Why? Because I’m pretty sure that my target audience will enjoy this no matter what. What I’m worried about are everyone else.

Today has been such a strange day for me because it’s my first day “off” from my responsibilities that I have with other jobs since I finished this book. What do I do with myself? Over the past few years I’ve pretty much worked at a fevered pace nonstop. I take breaks here and there, but my life has been a continual cycle of work. Sure, I could work on my next book, which isn’t a bad idea and something that I’ll probably get going on soon, but I want to take one day to just sit back and relax, but the problem there is I’ve kind of forgotten how to do that.

Crazy, right?

I guess I’ll just pace around or something.

You say I can do it so well…

One of the most difficult parts about being a writer is believing in yourself. Sounds kind of silly, right? Clearly, I’ve made the decision that this is what I’m going to do, this is how I’m going to do it and I’ve already set the gears in motion. This is what I’m going to do, I’m going to give it my best shot and hopefully the whole thing works out in the end. The thing is, along the way, you sort of lose the support of everyone around you in the process and find yourself lost in a jungle of endless criticism.

It isn’t that your friends and family don’t believe in you or that they don’t think that you are good, it’s just that things have changed. There will always be some level of divergence when it comes to career paths and not everyone shares my level of insanity. I have a lot of talented friends who all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but not all share my insanity (or stability at home) to be able to venture out into the jungle without a safety net like I have. This means that we don’t have these encouraging conversations with each other anymore where we talk about what we want to do while analyzing our strengths and weaknesses.

This also means that nobody is telling me that I’m good at what I do anymore, nor am I really telling them that they are good at what they do, either. Like I said before, I’m lost in the jungle now and it’s far too late to turn around. I’ve been making a living as a writer (of a freelance sort) for a while now, which means there isn’t that encouragement to “get out there” and to “show the world what I’ve got.” I’ve been doing that for years now, so there really isn’t a need to give me that nudge anymore.

My work is out there and honestly people pay me for what I do now. I am paid for my expertise, my voice, my opinions and to get people talking. Of course, when writing online a lot of the feedback that I see is far from constructive and usually along the lines of “you disagree with me, kill yourself.” These people still click on my articles, they still read them, they still feel something from them and feel the need to leave a comment, send an angry tweet or even go as far as to find my email and send me shitty messages.

It’s a strange, unnerving feedback loop that happens where when I wasn’t actually doing I’d receive all of the praise and encouragement to get out there and do it, but then when I was doing it and are making a living off of it the only feedback that I’d get is from people that are upset by me and want me to end my life. Generally speaking, this means that I’m doing my job well, believe it or not. This is also why I’m making a push at writing fiction and transitioning away from my career as a blogger-slash-journalist, because I will still get some private praise from people that I respect, co-workers and peers, but the public feedback is always toxic, always angry. It’s easy to have thick skin as long as you love what you do, but if you don’t? Dear god.

Writers online are treated as sub humans that are there to be battered and mistreated because, well, anyone can do it, right? That is the general consensus; that anyone can be a writer, they just don’t have the time or energy to bother doing the job that I’m doing better than me. I had my share of trolly years on the internet for sure, but we’ve sort of reached a critical mass where everything is online and pretty much anything and everything can be said without much in the way of repercussions.

I’ve been asked by a lot of people over the years why I hate MMA now, why I am only critical and at times negative about the sport, the people involved with it and everything else. My long answer would be about it being a young man’s game, by that I’d just mean people newer to the sport, still passionate about it compared to me. That is opposed to someone like me who has been watching it for almost twenty years and writing about it for ten. My short answer is a lot more simple; the reason why I don’t care anymore is because of the community, the people and the toxicity. My heroes have retired to been beaten into obscurity and the people that were fans alongside me gave up on the sport and the community a long time ago.

I don’t love you anymore. That’s what I’m trying to say.

What I do love is writing and reading literature. A lot of the same criticisms and general insanity exist within this realm, but it’s easier to work around. I’m still told by people all of the time that they’ve always wanted to write a novel, but just couldn’t find the time. That’s of course ignoring the fact that I’ve been writing my whole life, studied literature my whole life, done tons of hours of writing workshops, been critiqued on every little thing, faced rejections, crazy highs and crappy lows as a writer to get to where I am. I’ve also had people run down my first novel, claim that they could do better, or try to “figure out” who it was about (seriously, your guess is probably wrong, it is fictional).

Writing is such a personal process that it is incredibly difficult to finally let that finished work out into the wild. It is, after all, a part of me. It is something that I crafted, spent time on, worried about, formulated and combed over manically until I felt it was ready for the world to see it. Just like anything else, though, as long as it is something that I’m proud of and happy with, there is no shame in presenting it to the world and letting them sink their teeth into it.

I’ve written online for both large and small audiences, I’ve played music live for both small and [modestly] large audiences, released an album into the world, released tons of articles both widely-read or completely unread and I’ve released one book into the world and am preparing for my second one. The thing is, even when people piss me off about writing fiction, I’m able to push it aside because writing fiction is still about the document that I store my book and myself.

In the coming weeks I’m going to be asking people to give this book a read for me, which is both one of the most exciting times as a writer and the most humbling. It can also be frustrating, but that’s another story for another day. There might be things that I feel compelled to add in after they read it, there might also be stuff that I subtract. I might also scrap entire sections and re-write them. This is the time when it’s all about putting my money where my mouth is and believing in myself and the work that I’ve created. This is me at my most vulnerable and alone, but I appreciate everyone who decides to come along for the ride with me and their feedback. You guys make it all that much easier.

Thank you.

I write things, you read them. Pretty simple.