What’s Coming Next

With the release of the third Corvette starship novella coming in just a few short weeks, I thought I’d take a moment to let you know what’s coming up next. The Corvette Trilogy is just the first of three planned trilogies with the same main character – Armon Vance. His story started with Corvette, then advanced with Corvette: Seer of the Black Star and finishes with Corvette: Pirate’s Lair.

          

The next book I will write for this series will be called – Destroyer: Declo Demons. Look for it in the Spring of 2019. Following along on the heels of that will be book 2, Destroyer: The Mutineers, which should ship for Christmas in 2019. The trilogy will finish in the Spring of 2020 with Destroyer: Letting Go. The Destroyer Trilogy will be darker and all the books will take place in a single system with seven habitable worlds, none of which are in the Federation.

I have one final starship trilogy planned. It will be called the Explorer Trilogy. The names of those books are still subject to change, but chronologically speaking, will end with the events that take place in Starforgers, Book One of the Star Saga. That will complete the Captain Vance starship series and take you right into the Star Saga.

Speaking of the Star Saga, I need to get back into that middle trilogy starting with Book 5 – XiniX. The Starstrikers trilogy will continue in parallel with the Starship Series. After XiniX comes out, there will be a novella – Dark Wind, followed by the final book in that trilogy: Nex Gen. Now the Star Saga books take longer to write because they are closer to 300 pages long and usually have more involved plots. So it’s going to take me longer to write them. But when the Starstriker Trilogy is over, it will have three novels and two novellas, just like the Starforgers Trilogy.

Needless to say, my lunchtime writing sprints are spoken for well into the near future. I should continue to have two books come out every year for the next decade or so.

 

Book Series Issues

I’m having quite the time figuring out the branding of my Sci-Fi universe. For the past few years I’ve been calling it the Star Saga, which is accurate in that the whole series follows multiple generations spread out over a thousand years, but doesn’t make it easy for the reader to understand. So I’m reorganizing the books once again for clarity.

This is part of branding my fiction and plays into how it gets advertised to readers. If the reader comes across one of my books I want her to know where that book fits into big picture and where to find the next book so she can continue the story. This is no easy task when confronted with the Star Saga. It was previously divided into three trilogies and then each of those trilogies became five books long, which technically means they are no longer trilogies. Then I added some short story anthologies to the mix and finally, a prequel series revolving around a single starship and its crew. The end result was mass confusion.

I’ve given up on the whole trilogy moniker and instead will start using “series”. So the Star Saga now contains four series each in a different time period and with a mostly different cast of characters. The next problem becomes what to number them. Some of the books are full on novels and some are novellas and the novellas come in between the novels. Currently the plan is to just number them in time order, regardless of whether they are novels or novellas. This will suggest reading order and when done, each series will be just five books long.

But what happens if I write another cool novella set in the middle somewhere? Then you can’t just redo all the book covers in the series. Do I say Book 2.5 in the series? Then later I write another related novella and call it 2.1 and that one comes before 2.5? So I think I’ll only number the main trilogy of three books. That’s the main arc of the story and the lead characters. The novellas are fillers and smaller tales so they won’t get a number but they will be in a specific order that will be listed in this read order list. This lets me come back to the series and write another Devon Ardel novella that takes place before Devon’s Blade or After The Rising and as long as this one page is updated the reader will know the time order of the book.

Below is the latest incarnation of the Star Saga broken down into four series. I will put a page that shows this breakdown in every book going forward and hopefully by next year they will all have it and possibly a galaxy map. Although that has yet to be commissioned.

 

The Star Saga

Starship Series

Corvette (Starship Series, Book 1)

Seer of the Black Star (Starship Series, Book 2)

Pirate’s Lair (Starship Series, Book 3)

(30 Years)

Starforgers Series

Tales From Ocherva, Vol 1 (Starforgers Series)

Starforgers (Starforgers Series, Book 1)

Devon’s Blade (Starforgers Series)

The Rising (Starforgers Series, Book 2)

The Blood Empress (Starforgers Series)

Counterattack (Starforgers Series, Book 3)

(500 Years)

Starstrikers Series

Trader Tales, Vol 1 (Starstrikers Series)

Starstrikers (Starstrikers Series, Book 1)

K’Nat Trap (Starstrikers Series)

XiniX (Starstrikers Series, Book 2)

Dark Wind (Starstrikers Series)

NexGen (Starstrikers Series, Book 3)

(500 Years)

Starveyors Series

Anthology to be Named Later, Vol 1 (Starveyors Series)

Starveyors (Starveyors Series, Book 1)

OPFOR Vikens (The Starveyors Series)

Tripartite (Starveyors Series, Book 2)

Nor Alien I (The Starveyors Series)

Ancestors (Starveyors Series, Book 3)

Library Reading This Saturday

I’ll be one of the local writers featured this Saturday, the 22nd of July for the Writer’s Spotlight at the Meridian Library in Idaho. I’ll do a reading from K’nat Trap and take questions from the audience. Later on I’ll be at a table displaying my books and some of the models on their covers. Please come out and say hi to my fellow local authors and myself.

Rick Just

Devri Walls

Hilarey Johnson

Natalie Perry

Michaelbrent Collings

Peter Leavell

Shannon Foy

Ken McConnell

Loni Townsend

Diane Raptosh

 

Selling Ebooks

You may have noticed that some changes happened in June to my back list. The first change I made was that I raised prices on all of my ebooks across the board except for Corvette. Corvette is the introduction to my Star Saga and it is also the first book of at least three featuring the same crew. So it will always be .99 cents. I raised the other novellas to $2.99 and regular novels to $4.99. I did this because after having some success with Corvette, I wanted to increase the value of the rest of the Star Saga novels.

For that first week in June, sales stayed pretty much the same. Which in this case, is a good thing. The second change I did was take all my ebooks out of other markets and put them exclusively on Amazon in the Kindle Select Program. This earns me pages read and that, it turns out is where you make your money on Amazon. At least for now.

Did anyone protest not being able to get my books on Kobo or Nook? Nope. I have no audience there to protest. My sales on both of those platforms were dismal. Now that I’m all in on Amazon, sales are maintaining and not starting to dip, like you would expect three months after the release of a best seller. So far, June is going to be at least as successful as May was and that’s a good thing. Because sales of Corvette are eventually coming down. That’s normal.

Next month, I’m releasing a new novella set after the Starstrikers novel. I’ll do the usual pre-sale thing for a week before it launches and then hit my reader list with the announcement of when it comes out. So far my most successful pre-release was Devon’s Blade, but Corvette was close. I’d love to get at least 30 pre-sales of K’nat Trap so that launch day will make a splash. K’nat Trap will debut at $2.99 so that if needed, I can run sales on it later.

When you write your own novels and publish them yourself, like I do, you have to be part writer, part editor, part salesman and part cheerleader for your own work. It’s not easy and most writers decide to quite after seeing how much work is involved. But for those of us who persevere, you can find some success.

Hopefully K’nat Trap will have some success and that will carry sales over to the end of summer when I hope to be finished with Corvette II. I will try to get the third Corvette book out by Christmas to boost sales again. We’ll see if that happens. Starting next year I will be writing Book 5 of the Star Saga and that will take me much longer than the novellas. I hope to have it ready to publish by Fall of next year.

How well the Corvette sequels do, will determine how many more books in that series I write. If after the third book people are still loving them, I have plans to write another trilogy using the main character. So I could be writing more Captain Vance novellas on into 2018.

Below is the rise from obscurity that happened for me when I released Corvette in late March. The only thing that has sustained me three months later is my back list. I have far fewer sales for the other books in my series, but enough to keep income at a decent rate. Ideally, I would love to release a new novel every three months. But I simply don’t have that kind of time for writing. I suppose that will keep me at my day job until retirement or a movie deal. ;-) Which I’m totally fine with. At this rate I’m looking at about 30-40K per year from my fiction writing. Which is not a bad second job.

 

 

The Journey Continues

What you see above, is the end of chapter two of the next Corvette novel. Being written on a shiny new System76 laptop purchased with money I earned from selling the first Corvette novella. You gotta love that. I’m writing two more Corvette books this year to satisfy the demands of readers. That’s a perfect storm for a writer. Having fans that buy your novels and want more, ASAP.

The first sequel is called, Corvette – Seer of the Black Star and will take place about a year after Corvette. Then I will write another one called, Corvette – Pirate’s Lair. As you can guess by those titles, the crew of the Weippe are back to escorting transports and defending them from shipping pirates.

In the meantime, later this summer I’ll be releasing another Star Saga book, K’nat Trap. So be on the lookout for that one. If you follow me on Twitter, GooglePlus or FB, you will probably get regular pictures like the one above as I write. Hey, I see you enlarging that image to read the page. I’m careful not to show any spoilers for those who do that. ;-)

Using Google Docs For Novel Writing

I recently got a request to do a post about how I’m using Google Docs to write my novels. Looking back over some old posts, I already covered this a year ago, and you can read that article here. I’ve now written two novels and I’m currently working on a third using the Google word processing software. I’m pretty much doing the same thing I started out doing except I’m no longer stitching together chapters to make a whole manuscript. I’m just writing linearly, the same way I used to write in Word. I can hear all the Scrivener users gasping. People still write this way folks, it isn’t so crazy. It’s also how you read a novel.

I still outline pretty extensively before starting a first drive. By using Google’s spreadsheet program I can have them both open in tabs and easily see them with one click. I can also keep all my images and notes in a folder and access them from any tab of my browser. The biggest reason I’m using Google Docs instead of LibreOffice is because during the first draft, I don’t want a dead laptop to kill my draft. If my lappy dies, I can grab a nearby Chromebook and carry on cranking out the word pies.

You may recall that I use Linux as my operating system. I normally run Ubuntu with the Unity desktop but this week I’ve switched to a more minimal look with the Gnome Desktop. Still running Ubuntu 16.10 under the covers. Anyway, in the above screenshot you can see my browser and a PDF of a screenplay that is my first draft outline for Betweos, my WIP.

I have found a add-on for GDocs that offers a TOC or Table Of Contents on the right. I like this because it lets me easily jump to whichever chapter I like. I set the size of the editor to Fit and it leaves me a gutter in which to jot notes.

I also use Jamie Todd Rubin’s word count and tracker program that you can read about on his blog. I have it set to record my word count at two in the afternoon which is well past my normal lunch hour writing sprints. It lets you know all the days you didn’t write by filling them with zeroes. But it’s nice to have a record without actually recording it into a spreadsheet after each session.

Above is part of the word count tracker spreadsheet for Betweos.

Because of the way Jamie’s software works, I have to keep my active WIP in a folder called SANDBOX. I have that located in my Fiction folder along with all my other stories. You can see the tracker spreadsheet lives there too, along with programs provided by Jamie.

My Betweos novel folder holds all my notes, outlines and misc stuff. You can look at images in the folders using this screen shown below.

Because I’m using a screenplay as my outline for Betweos, I have the screenplay up as a PDF and I Alt+Tab between them as needed. Below you see the same scene in both formats. I wrote the screenplay when I was in my early twenties. That was a loooooonnng time ago.

My novel outlines are exactly the same as they have always been, I just didn’t use one for this novel. My next novel is going to be a Mystery under my other writing handle – Johnny Batch. I’ll be back to a regular spreadsheet style outline for that novel.

I started writing Betweos in mid October of last year and as of now, late February of 2017, I’m only halfway through it. I need to buckle down and get this draft completed before summer. That’s when I’m supposed to start writing the next novel. I hope this short update post was informative for you. Ask away in the comments if you have questions.

Writing Update August, 2016

It’s been a while since I posted around here. Sorry about that. Summer is when I tend to stay inside and write and not venture into the furnace of my garage. So not much modelling gets done. Right now we have 90+ degree days and lots of smoke from nearby fires. So breathing is a challenge some days too.

I have, however, been working on my current novel, Corvette. I’ve left the Atom editor and migrated just the manuscript to Google Docs. I still use Atom for all my notes and outline, but all my writing is now linear in one GDoc. I’ve set up the writing scripts of Jamie Todd Rubin to help with word counts. I refer back to my outline open on another desktop, as I write. Currently I’m about a hundred pages into the draft and I’ve already added a few chapters to the outline. Actually, I don’t change the outline, I just add things to the manuscript. The outline is just a blueprint for the author and no reader ever sees it, so I don’t make it match the manuscript. That’s just wasting time and effort.

AtomOutlineCorvette

In the above screenshot of my outline, chapter 11 does not match up with where I’m at in the story or the actual draft. Pictured above in the manuscript is the last paragraph of chapter 12. Looking at the Google Doc above, you’ll notice I am using a chapter outline. This makes jumping from chapter to chapter easier. Each scene in the chapter is separated by three stars. One oddity is chapter 9 witch is one long scene.

I’m well into the second act of the story and I’ve realized that there might not be enough story to make a three hundred word novel. So I’m drifting a bit and adding character related materiel that might normally only be added in a second draft. I’m also considering whether this might be more of a novella. Normally you shouldn’t worry about all that on a first draft. Just write the story and then analyze it after you’re done. In many ways though, until you write about 20K words of a novel, you’re just not sure if you really know the characters as well as you need to. So sometimes a good examination of characters is needed to keep the reader engaged and story moving forward. And that’s where I’m at right now.

I’d like to be done with this novel before October, so I need to keep churning word counts on a daily basis to make that goal.

 

Atom’s Back

I finally had a moment to investigate why Atom was refusing to let me type on the pages of my current WIP. It turns out that it must of been some kind of bug in the file system reader. I opened a different folder and then closed Atom and reopened it. Then I opened the novel folders and suddenly things were back to normal. Strange. I suppose it had something to do with using Dropbox folders and the fact that I rarely close programs. So my new SOP is to close Atom after I finish a writing sprint.

While Atom was down, I used Bluefish HTML editor to write Corvette. But that was only for a few sprints. Happy to report no problems using Bluefish or reading the newly created files with a working Atom editor. So for today’s lunchtime sprint, I’m back in the saddle again and raring to write. Below is a screenshot from the Bluefish webpage. Still one of the best HTML editors on Linux.

bluefish-2.2.6

Story Fix by Larry Brooks

I’m currently reading the latest book on writing from Larry Brooks, Story Fix. If you’ve never read Story Engineering or Story Physics, then many of the concepts of this book will be a shock to you. Take my advice and read Story Engineering before you write your next book. I still read through it every time I’m starting a new novel. Serious writers trying to get their work published and read no matter how you do it, all must conform to the same basic Story Sense.

My last novel is in revision now and many of Larry’s concepts in Story Fix are applicable to that project. While reading Story Fix, I kept referring to my last novel and how I could make it better. But I also keep thinking about my current novel and how to keep it focused on the core concepts that every story needs. So this book is useful no matter where you are in the writing process.

I can’t recommend this and his other books more. Get them. Read them. Learn from them.