This year started out pretty good for me. December of 2013 and January and February of 2014 were very solid. Comfortable sales numbers that made me feel great about how 2014 was going to go. Then March started to slack off and it didn’t get any better in April or May. I became almost desperate and tried some new books that broke away from my usual routine to try some new stuff. New stuff that I really enjoyed writing, even though it didn’t take off.
Then my wife stepped up and said why don’t you do something different? That’s what people are reading, and that’s the kind of books I like to read. Why not…
And so I did. With her ideas, support, and feedback along the way, we put together a paranormal serial romance called Claimed by the Beast. It’s done great so far and, honestly, saved us from some rather embarrassing financial shortcomings. It could do a lot better still, but neither of us is complaining in the least about what success we’ve had.
But I missed my books. I missed pure fantasy and science fiction. I missed my characters. So after we finished the last bit of Claimed by the Beast, I went straight into my next project, my seventh Voidhawk book (Voidhawk – Broken Shards). I’d been talking about what I wanted to do for a while and finally I had the chance. But I had to be quick. I was out of circulation for a couple of months now and my wonderful readers were probably beginning to wonder. I went from publishing at least one novel a month to nothing for over 2 months? Had I died?
So Broken Shards had to be written fast. I started it on June 19th and finished the rough draft on July 19th. Not my best, but it’s also 95,000 words (give or take a handful). It’s in my editors hands and cover art has been moving along nicely. But that’s just numbers and stats, it doesn’t share why it’s such a great idea.
Broken Shards returned the crew of the Voidhawk (a fantasy vessel that sails through the void between worlds using the solar wind to power it). I’d forgotten how much fun they are. Diverse, exciting, flawed, and mighty. The thing is, there’s always something bigger and badder, and they have a talent at finding it. This time around their only hope to stop what’s happening takes them to a very special place. A world called Kroth.
Kroth not only has the means of helping them put an end to their troubles, but it has some special people that can help along the way. People my long time fantasy readers will know and love. Alto, Patrina, Garrick, Karthor, Mordrim, Kar, and Namitus. It’s a little rocky, putting two very strong and opinionated groups together, but when the fate of their very realm is at stake they either have to get along or find a new reality to live in.
As much fun as all of that was, I shocked myself with the ending. I know, the thought of me leaving myself shaking with excitement is kind of weird, but the end wrote itself and just turned out to be absolutely amazing. Granted, I may biased and kind of close to the topic, but even so the way it worked out felt like poetry. The good kind, where the words makes sense and you’re not wondering if you’re supposed to like it because people who think they are sophisticated tell you to.
And what’s next? Well my month off writing Broken Shards saw Dawn Michelle dreaming up all sorts of thing for us to collaborate on next. So we’re working on a prequel to Claimed by the Beast. Taken by the Beast is the name and it’s going to be a historical paranormal romance. It will also flesh out a couple of the characters in Claimed by the Beast that deserve to have their backstory told and understood. And yes, it will contain a lot of what made Claimed by the Beast so fun, meaning some flaring passions and a lot of action and excitement.
Fans of Dawn Michelle, be on the lookout for Claimed by the Beast – Part Six coming out around August 1st. Fans of Jason Halstead and the Voidhawk series (and Blades of Leander) watch for Voidhawk – Broken Shards a week or so after. Then Taken by the Beast will be next and when that’s done, we’ll have to see what’s next. So far we like the concept of me writing a novel and giving my wife chance to come up with what’s next and then working on it together, so alternating books might be the way things go for a while. Whatever the case, I know I’ve got another Vitalis book burning in the back of my head and with the way Broken Shards ended, I’m dying to write the next book in that series too! I guess the one thing I can guarantee is that there won’t be a shortage of great books to read.
I’m asked all the time where I come up with all my ideas for stories. Partly because I’ve got a ton of them – after all, that’s why I haven’t been blogging as much lately, I’ve been writing hard on new books (Voidhawk – Broken Shards, the 7th book in the series and a tie in to the Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series) and helping my wife out with her Claimed by the Beast books. I tell people I’ve always been writing and always been coming up with ideas. People, places, things – all the essentials for writing.
Then this weekend happened. My wife had a bachelor party to throw this weekend and I stayed home with the kids. Ages almost 8 and 5.5. They both love telling stories and making things up (more than just the ones where they try to get out of trouble), so I figured – what the heck, let’s try something different. I did some research since I lost all my original books years and years ago and found out that a brand spanking new fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons was being released. Better yet, the 110 page core intro book was available as a free download!
Well, I downloaded and read through it to see what the changes were since the editions I enjoyed playing (first and second, 3, 3.5, and 4 were all too complicated and took away from the spirit of the game, in my opinion). 5th Edition seems geared to go back a little and make it more fun and less complicated. I hope. Then I reached the end of the book and realized there was no monsters, no DM guidelines, and nothing else of much help.
So another Internet search led me to packing the kids up and heading to a hobby / comics store a few miles away to pick up the starter kit and sets of dice for each kid. That included an adventure, some pre-rolled characters, and some generic monsters. It’s a long cry from something a real campaign can be developed out of, but it’s a start.
That day we began the adventure. We didn’t get far beyond an initial encounter. It got my daughter (the almost 8 year old) excited and my son uncertain and possibly freaked out. It also helped him focus on his basic math skills. The next day after my wife got home she joined the adventure and we finished the first milestone. Woohoo!
And somewhere along the way I realized something. This wasn’t what started my love of creating and writing, but it helped a lot. More than a lot, it was essential to helping me figure out a lot of how to come up with ideas and make them complete and well rounded. After all, since my first time playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 11 years old I quickly became the dungeon master. No, there’s no whips and leather outfits involved, it means the guy (or girl) that runs the game. In my case, I usually created my own worlds and adventures to put my victims— er, friends— through.
So, genre and characters aside, I learned how to tell a story because I used to fantasize about using swords and sorcery to battle dragons and rescue maidens. My kids are enjoying the game so far (the girl loves it and the boy is coming around, especially when he was responsible for putting some serious hurt down on the leader of the bad guys). I suspect the colorful descriptions I’m giving, especially when battling feral wolves, goblins, and bloodthirsty bugbears, helps make it more fun for them too. Oh, and the family that slays together, stays together. ;-)
I’m slapping keys working hard to bring another Voidhawk book into the world. It’s long overdue, I know, and my readers are already miffed enough I took a couple months off to help my wife (Dawn Michelle) get her stories out there (Claimed by the Beast). So I’m working hard and about 10k into Voidhawk : Broken Shards (book 7 in the series).
In fact, Dexter, Captain of the Voidhawk, just found out he needs to visit a new world. A world by the name of Kroth. Kroth, as some of my diehard fantasy readers may remember, is the place where Alto and his companions have toiled and triumphed over the years in the Blades of Leander trilogy and Order of the Dragon saga. Will they meet? Probably. I won’t deny it’s almost guaranteed to happen. I don’t know the details yet though, nor am I even sure if they’re going to get along.
At what point do things become messed up? Just a few minutes ago, actually, as I was thinking about one of the scene stealers from the Blades / Order books. Thork,, an unusual troll shaman. He plays a key role in every book and yes, he’s going to be in this one too. What just occurred to me and, honestly, astonished me, is that Kroth (the name of the world) and Thork (the troll) are anagrams. Not only that, but they’re practically spelled backwards of each other (except the darn ‘h’ screws things up).
Totally unexpected and unplanned. But I don’t think for one minute that my brain didn’t do it on purpose. It just didn’t tell me what it was doing. My brain let me figure it out on my own, trusting that I’d be a good student and realize it sooner or later. It only took me over a year and a half to do it…
Amazing the little tricks we play on ourselves. How many other hidden gems like this are out there in my books? Some I’ve done on purpose, I admit, but maybe there are others I don’t know about. If you find something and aren’t sure, drop me a line and ask— maybe we’ll both learn something!
I’ve got an iPhone, an iPad, and an iPad2 (with Retina, which makes it an iPad3, I think?). I have an old iPod in my truck so I can avoid radio chatter and I’m getting my kids iPods so I can go somewhere with them without having to hand over my phone so they can play Baby Princess Stroller Racing or whatever one of the four screens worth of games they’ve begged me to download on it.
In spite of all that, I’ve never been an Apple fan. Steve Jobs, I think, was a touch between evil genius and mad scientist. I admired the heck out of him even if I didn’t care for the simplicity and limited functionality of his company’s products (not taking Pixar into account here). It is a testimony to him that I have so much Apple crap when I’m not an Apple supporter.
But then something happens out of the blue that threatens to shake me to the core. I got an email this morning letting me know that Apple has listed my book (Child of Fate) as one of 23 other sci-fi and fantasy titles that Apple is showcasing in a new promotion called their FIRST IN A SERIES promotion. All told, amongst all the books showcased (fantasy and beyond) there are 80 books listed. I’m mixed in with some impressive names, in my opinion.
So if you like using iBooks and iTunes to get your books, check it out! They awesome part is that Child of Fate (and the other books on this promo) are free! And, at least in my case, they launch an awesome series of great books just begging to be read. I can’t speak for the other books, but I’d be willing to bet that there are some pretty darn good ones there too.
As for me and Apple, well, I guess I’ll give them another chance. Besides, I think the iPhone 6 will be coming out around the time my contract is up and I can upgrade to the next model…
Our culture puts a premium on aesthetics. Sculpted figures, plucked eyebrows, laser depilliation, and cosmetic surgery. It’s a multi-billion dollar business and it makes a person wonder if it’s all worth it. The great news is, this post has NOTHING to do with any of that!
I’m a writer anxious to find any ethical means possible to sell my books. Part of that means having some outstanding cover art for them. By and large, I’ve surpassed that goal with everything I have. But sometimes there are exceptions to that rule. Exceptions that knock even my personal standards away… but more on that in a moment.
For my 50th title available for sale, I put together my fantasy series, Order of the Dragon. It consists of four books that continue the adventures of the characters in the Blades of Leander trilogy. This comes right after I put out a 4th book in my Wanted series, which meant my trilogy omnibus needed to be updated to a series. More cover art changes!
Willsin Rowe to the rescue! Not only did he make the minor changes to the text for Wanted, but he put into reality some work he’d been dabbling with for 3D style cover art. So now Wanted and the new Order of the Dragon boxed sets show some outstanding cover art! The only problem was the original Blades of Leander omnibus – how could we leave it plain and 2D? Willsin put his creative genius to work and a couple of days later he gave me my answer. A new 3D cover for all 3 of them!
But is a new cover art, no matter how amazing, reason enough to buy the book? Well, if you ask me and if it’s about my books – absolutely! But if not, then consider the great deal getting all of these top rated books at once is. How can you go wrong?
Near the end of January I decided to get back in shape. I never stopped lifting, but it had been a long time since I’d lifted with the kind of dedication to be serious about it. So I got back in and hit the weights religiously. That and some dietary changes (no more soda or junk food, limiting carbs) has me, after about 8 weeks, down from 241.5 to 225 pounds. Cool, right? Well there’s more to it – I’m stronger now than I was then too, including a recent 615lb rack pull and repping 300lbs 4 times while bench pressing.
But I’m not hungry for food. I’m hungry for success. I’m seriously considering competing in power lifting again (dead lift only, my bench is shot after tearing my pec off my arm in 2009 and requiring surgery to reattach it). I’m hungry for success in other venues too though. More on that in a bit.
And that brings me to a different kind of hunger. The Hunger Games (spoiler alert coming). I re-watched HG 1 this weekend and I admit, I enjoyed it more than the lukewarm reception I gave it the first time I saw it in the theater. Then I watched Catching Fire (or as I prefer to call it, the story about a girl with a magical quiver that regenerates arrows in every scene). It’s at this point I have to ask some questions from anyone who read the books: Is Catching Fire really the same story as book 1 like the movie portrays? And does it end without ending?
So I’m disgruntled about The Hunger Games, but it got me thinking about stories and success. I’ve flirted with success with a few of my books (Wanted and Vitalis, in particular), but they never fully took off. I’ve written a lot of books, but I keep finding fun things to write about that end up being niche markets versus mainstream. Granted, I had some great runs in the fantasy genre with some fairly mainstream fantasy books, but I can’t seem to find my way into the really big pond.
But I’m trying. I’ve got a new idea that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s coming together while I finish up Marshall, my 4th Wanted book. I’ve been analyzing what makes traditional stories successful and so far my new idea seems to be hitting all those points. It’s exciting and, I hope, will finally take me to a happy place. So far my books are teasing me with being on the edge of success.
Speaking of books, Devils Rising, book 2 of the Fallen Angels series co-written with J. Knight Bybee, will be out very soon! The other good news is that Marshall will be hot on the heels of it (I’ve got 2 – 3 chapters left to write, then editing and cover art). Then I’ll launch into my new dystopian story that I’m hoping will be a game changer. Wish me luck…or better yet, buy the books and rave about how awesome it is to everyone you know!
After I wrote Black Widow, the fourth book in The Lost Girls series, I did everything short of promise that I wouldn’t write another. That bothered a lot of people – they wanted more. The main character had been a part of my life (fictitiously speaking) for several years now and I couldn’t subject her to the kind of hurt that a main character goes through.
Then I came up with another idea. I’d closed a few chapters in Katalina’s life and didn’t want to make it any worse for her. But damn it, this new idea…it needed her to make it work. So Katalina came out of retirement for Guardian, book 5 in The Lost Girls series.
Having confessed all of that, I’m not the one with the good intentions gone bad. It’s actually the premise behind the book. There’s somebody who means the best and wants to help out, but they don’t realize the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. Forty years too late.
Here’s the blurb, cover, and all that jazz but before I get to it the obvious question is: what’s next? Will there be a Lost Girls 6? I can’t say. About the same time I thought of the idea for this story I was trying to come up with an idea for some detective agency based fiction. I thought of a bunch of young people trying to both atone for their own screw-ups as well as learning how to get by and do a little good in the process. Katalina would make an excellent mentor, if not a main character. Guardian sets the stage for that with Katalina and Skyler’s second chance home for troubled foster kids.
Kobo / Sony (coming soon)
iTunes (coming soon)
Back in the early 90s I was a huge fan of the roleplaying game, Shadowrun. I dabbled once or twice in a similar game, Cyberpunk, as well. For those that don’t know (and don’t feel bad, I don’t expect many do), both games are near future science fiction that offers a dystopian society with the heroes being people that have learned to merge man and machine. Not quite Terminator-esque, more Robocop.
So what the heck does that have to do with anything? Well, I’ve been hankering lately to dig into something like that. I’ve dabbled in my Lost Girls series and in my Wanted series (which I’m currently writing book 4 on). But I think my next one is going to be something brand new. As in, a brand new series in a setting that has some similarities to it.
I haven’t worked out any details yet, but I’ve been debating if I want to go into a new fantasy series or something new and science fiction. I’m thinking I really want to go for the sci-fi cybernetically enhanced stuff. One or two books there and then perhaps onto the fantasy stuff. I still owe my readers a new Voidhawk book too. Hmm… the ideas are a popping now!
What’s brought this about? Well, as I’ve been talking, I’ve been studying books and sales and all the data I’ve gathered so far (over 10k records now). I’m seeing some impressive numbers in the sci-fi and fantasy lists. Numbers that, dang it, I’d like to hit. I don’t have the marketing or promo savvy to get my name out there worth a darn, nor the money to pay for getting it done. The alternative then is to just write my butt off and get more books out there. Of course a little word of mouth wouldn’t hurt either (wink, wink).
And reviews. How the heck do people have so many !@%^ing reviews on their books? I’ve got a few acquaintances / friends in the fantasy genre that have dozens or reviews or more on their books and they’re doing far better than I am. I know they aren’t buying reviews either, so I have to ask what the heck? Granted, they sell 10 – 20 copies / day than I do of most of their books.
Ah well, I’m grateful for what I get and I’ll keep pushing for more. Couple more days, hopefully by the end of this week, and Guardian (book 5 in the Lost Girls series) will be out. Then before the end of next month I hope to book 4 in the Wanted series out (no title yet).
And I still have a lot of data that’s crunching. Over 10,000 books on file so far. One of these days soon I should be able to make some sort of sense out of it. Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing it (or something else terribly interesting) soon!