I hope that’s not arrogant to say. Or maybe it should be obvious. After all, if I don’t like them, why would I expect anyone else to?
The explanation behind this unusual statement is that I was doing some research while working on my latest book (Vitalis: Catalyst). I didn’t have notes written on what I was after (something from Vitalis: Genesis), so I had to read through some of the book to find what I wanted. Well, reading a little soon turned into reading a lot. I was sucked in and couldn’t stop myself.
This isn’t the first time that’s happened. It happens a lot, actually. Whenever I need to do something like that, I get pulled in. I’d do it more often but I have this irrational fear that when I read a book I wrote a while ago, I’m going to find parts of it that I don’t like. Things I want to rewrite or change. Or parts that just plain suck. None of that has happened yet, for the record, although on rare occasions I do find typos that got missed through multiple rounds of editing. No such problems this time, but that irrational fear lingers.
That also serves as a refresher for me. Sales are in the water closet (that’s a fancy term for shitter for us working folks) lately, so my natural assumption is that I’m writing garbage. Sure, I know they’ve taken a dive for virtually everybody out there and a lot of it has to do with Amazon’s fluctuating algorithms and attempts to monetize their own product lines and brands as much as possible, but the demons hiding in the shadows still linger and wait for me to turn away so they can pounce.
I was wondering though, why do I enjoy what I write so much? I’ve written a lot – over 100 books between myself and my shared projects – and I’ve forgotten bits and pieces of everything. Being reminded of them is a blast. It’s more than that though, it’s also my writing style. I write what I like to read. Fast paced, fun, thoughtful, and challenging. Or at least that’s what I like to think I’m writing!
I had a business trip recently and I wanted something to do on the plane (my laptop is too damn big to write on during a flight since I can’t afford first class). I picked up a Terry Goodkind book (The Omen Machine), and revisited some old friends in the process (the main characters of his Sword of Truth series). I also reread the Sword of Truth series last year and found myself enjoying it less the second time around because of all the passive mumbo jumbo they contain. The Omen Machine had a little less passive stuff in it, but near the end it contained a ton of repeated stuff that was really tiresome. Practically entire chapters, in a few cases. I was disappointed and it left me in no rush to buy his next book.
I’ve still got Raymond Feist and Terry Brooks – both of whom I’ve fallen behind on. There’s Dean Koontz too, although reading anything he writes leaves me feeling like a grade school kid who’s barely learned how to spell. And of course, that doesn’t include numerous other writers worth reading like John M. Davis, M.R. Matthias, and Jane Taylor to pluck just a few of my favorite names.
And speaking of Vitalis, I’m over 40,000 words into book #10 in the series (Catalyst). I know it’s going to be another favorite because I find myself thinking about it all the time when I’m not writing. I figure I’m somewhere between halfway and 2/3 of the way through it, but the ends of my books have a way of stretching out longer than I expect them too.
I finished the rough draft of Medic – it took way too long to write, but I had a ridiculous end of the year. Over two weeks off but every single “vacation” day I took I spent working several hours for the day job. On top of that, I had a ton of basement work planned to finish off my basement. Most of that happened, except early on I ended up with a vicious infection in my chest from inhaling too much drywall dust. I’m still not sure what happened for several days while I worked through some epic amounts of hacking and wheezing. But, the end result is a semi-finished basement (waiting on having carpet installed a few weeks out and then I’ve got to find some bargain basement furniture). Oh, and like I said, I wrote the last word on Medic’s rough draft today.
So now I need some help! What do I write next? I’ve got an awesome fantasy character idea that I could turn into a Voidhawk book that also helps finish up my Serptent’s War trilogy, or I could write something in my Dark Universe or Vitalis series. I’m torn, to be honest. I could do any of them – but times are lean so I’d love to hear what my readers are most interested in.
So let me know what piques your interest! More tales of the Uma and her new captain and crew (Dark Universe), the Voidhawk trying to return a natural order to the void, or humanity struggling to adapt, survive, and prepare for the invasion coming from the Ultriarch flying through space to consume them?
That’s a strong title. Perhaps too strong. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed something as I near my 100th published story. A pattern or a trend, if you will. Almost every book suffers from parts where it becomes almost a chore (or in some cases it is a chore) to continue on. And that, my friends, sucks.
When I start a new story, no matter the premise, setting, or characters, I’m excited. It’s a blank book full of possibilities and potential. Anything can happen. And, invariably, it soon does. Beginnings are a mystery waiting to be explored. Action and adventure and excitement and even romance. Yes, I can appreciate romance even considering I may not be plumbed for it.
The end of the book is another fast paced and very exciting time. The characters and sub plots are coming together. Questions are being answered and good things (usually) are happening. It’s fun and vindicating. All that time spent crafting the story and exploring the ups and downs of the characters is about to be rewarded.
The part that can suck? That’s in the middle. That’s when I’ve got different characters doing different things and I start to doubt what’s going on. The end seems so far away and I often wonder if the people I’m writing about will ever make it there. It’s not writer’s block – I don’t believe that exists – it’s a matter of complexities and low points in the story that are necessary. Truth be told, they aren’t even that low, they just aren’t the emotional build up and pending release that other points in the story hold.
Several months ago I read something that I believe R.A. Salvatore posted on Facebook where felt a very similar thing. I shared my empathy with him, but my comment was no doubt lost among the masses. After all, Mr. Salvatore is a NY Times Bestseller and has achieved exceptional success with his writing and sales. I may have the NY Times bestseller title under my belt, but sales these days are in the gutter, so I remain a little fish in an ever expanding pond.
The point is, for budding writers out there or those that feel they get stuck mid way through their book: take heart, it happens to most (if not all) of us. The fear that we’ve overstepped our bounds and that the end we envisioned can’t possibly happen because of what we just did. Well, the good news is, you’re in charge (or the characters are). Either way, the book can and will go on. If the ending changes, then change it. Just keep writing and finding the words to reach that point. It’s like putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination. It may seem like a long walk, but no matter how long it is, you can only get there one step at a time.
My current project, Lucky Star, is the 6th book in my Dark Universe series and I’m suffering a minor spell of this sort. I love the new and old characters and I love the story, I’m just troubled about how I’m going to connect where I’m at with where I want it to go. The characters will show me the way, they always do, but that doesn’t stop the frustration of wondering just how, exactly, that’s going to happen.
The answer, as always, is to write on.
A couple of months ago a man by the name of Filip Wiltgreen reached out to me and asked if he could interview me for his blog. It’s been a while since I’ve had that opportunity – I thought my 15 minutes were over. So of course I said yes, but I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. Filip hit me with a string of questions that kept me busy and stumbling for quite a while. By the time it was over I was relieved and exhausted, but I was also impressed. He had done a very thorough job of gathering data.
And now, today, the interview is live on his blog. I just finished reading the finished copy and I’m quite pleased with it. A little bit of advice for writers, a little bit of background on me, and some shout outs to the people that have helped me along the way. Good job, Filip!
Dark Energy? Dark Matter? No and no. It’s the name I’ve settled on for my new scifi blockbuster / bestseller / series. But what’s so dark about it? Are there evil alien necromancers trying to destroy the cosmos? No. That would be weird – even for me!
It’s called Dark because that’s what happens when ships use the mysterious devices sold by Kesari merchants to travel faster than light. These devices have universal hookups allowing a ship to power them and communicate with them, but they have limited ability outside of plugging in coordinates and filling them with the energy needed for the black box to create the FTL bubble around the ship.
Woah— what? Yeah, it’s like that.
Kesari, that’s a race I covered a few posts back. They’re called squids by the other races because it’s a name Terrans used for them and it stuck. It’s not complimentary, the Kesari are merchants and the most alien in their thoughts and emotions, aside from the insectoid Criknids.
Black box? FTL travel? So what does going faster than light mean? It means light can’t catch you. And that means you can’t see it, because it won’t reach you. So when a ship travels at superluminal velocities it’s considered to be traveling “in the dark” or “in the black.” Hence “black box”, even if the FTL engine isn’t technically black.
And thus the series title of “Dark Universe” is born. Without being able to travel in the dark, spaceships and races would be trapped in their own solar systems. Or perhaps between two or three, if they found a relativistic way to travel close to the speed of light. Unlikely, at best. But with the black boxes ships travel hundreds and thousands of light years in reasonable time frames. Right now, roughly halfway through the first book, the protagonist’s ship is looking at close to a week to travel almost a thousand light years. Pretty darn fast! As a point of reference, the Milky Way galaxy is around 100,000 light years across.
Why are they doing this? They’re chasing someone. Why? Well, to even up the score on someone that double-crossed them. Or at least that’s why they think they’re doing it. There are more powers at play than the unlikely heroes realize.
Curious? Excited? Anxious to read more? I sure hope so, because I’m loving the book as it comes out of me. If you’re not on the fence, let me share this little bit I just wrote:
Adan nodded and headed off the bridge. He hurried down the lift and down the hall to his interior cabin. His luck held out and no one else spotted him and wanted to talk to him. After the fight and the repairs, then having to match wits against Tosc and Janna, he’d run out of steam. He opened his door and turned on the light in his cabin, only to see a bumpy form under his blankets.
The voice that drifted out from under the blankets surprised him. It wasn’t Amber, it was Twyf! “Hope you don’t mind, my cabin hasn’t been repaired yet.”
Adan turned the light back off and smiled. Maybe he wasn’t so tired after all.
Yeah, there’s more action than just lasers an space battles and even trysts with buxom alien women. There’s probably going to be some love triangles and girl fights too!