Passing in the Night

I just finished Passing in the Night, the story I wrote for Writers of the Future.  So I’m feeling pretty good about myself.  Not that anyone’s surprised by that.  It came in at 11,975 words, so it’s quite a bit bigger than I initially thought it would be.  But that’s ok.  It needs to be as big as it needs to be, and Writers of the Future accepts up to 17,000 words.  So that makes 12,000 words in the last two weeks.  Not too bad.  If I could keep that pace up all year, I’d end up with over 300,000 words on the year.  Not too shabby at all, from what I’ve seen around the writing blogosphere.  So now it’s time to proofread, and send it to some folks for feedback.  It’ll have to be quick, since the entry is due by the first.  But it’s doable.

I’m posting the blurb for Passing in the Night on my Short Stories page, if anyone’s curious.

The one question I have, and I haven’t found a good answer yet, is what to do with Passing while it’s being judged at Writers of the Future.  The Contest rules state that writers who submit keep all the rights to their stories, but there’s got to be some kind of rule or something about publishing the story while the Contest is actually in progress.  It seems disrespectful, at the least, to submit it for publication, or put it up for sale on Kindle, before the results are in.  Or maybe I’m over thinking it.  Wouldn’t be the first time I did that.

So we’ll see how this goes.  It’ll be fun, regardless, but wouldn’t it be cool to do well in the Contest?


More Gatekeeper drivel

Lee Goldberg posted his reaction to a comment from James W. Hall, talking about how horrible it would be for everyone to self publish, because what about the quality check that gatekeepers do?  How could readers possibly deal without being told what’s good or not?

As I said in my comment to his post, as someone who’s really new to this whole business, I find that sentiment ridiculously insulting.  I was, and still am, a big-time reader of fiction of many varieties.  Before I decided to try my hand at this writing thing, that’s all I was, to the publishing industry.

I don’t know where this notion that somehow readers are too incompetent or stupid to figure out what’s good or not, or what they like or not, on their own came from.  But it sure as hell didn’t come from the readers.  How often have you read a book from a best-seller, or that got great reviews, that you thought sucked?  I’ve read plenty.  It seems to me the vaunted gatekeeping that publishers do amounts to little more than the personal opinion of some nameless guy or gal who works there.  Granted, that guy or gal has to then sell the marketing and other teams on the books they like, but still, it all comes down to personal opinion.  Why does the opinion of someone who works in a publishing shop become more valid, or better, than the opinion of the average reader?  It only is more valid if the publisher is the real customer, and not the reader.  And I think, for the longest time, that was the case for writers.  But no longer.

But Mike, but Mike!  The readers will have to wade through the slushpile!  What will they do?

Well excuse me, but customers in every business have to wade through a ton of crap that sucks.  Whether it’s the junky shit that gets sold on late-night TV infomercials or the decision between Volvo vs Hyundai, customers are ALWAYS trusted to make the right decision.  The decision that works for them.  Except, apparently, in publishing.  That is, until very recently.

This notion that somehow readers need to be shielded from making a decision about quality reeks of the pseudo-intellectual, nose-in-the-air condescension that I’ve come to expect from people who call themselves “artists”.  They know better than the plebes, you understand.  Which, of course, is why I will NEVER refer to myself as an artist.  Well, it’s not the only reason.  But it’s a big one.  Most who have this attitude wouldn’t know good taste if it walked in the door and hit them in the face, so where do they get off lecturing the rest of us?  Seriously, it’s a very insulting, and highly inaccurate view of the rest of humanity.  And it’s piss-poor business.

Trust your customers to decide for themselves what’s good or not.  The crap will get left in the dustbin of the marketplace.  It’s worked for every other industry quite well, up until now.  It’s time it was allowed to work in publishing as well.

But that’s just my opinion.  And no, it sure ain’t humble.  Not this time.

Shifting Gears

I put Masters on hold for a while, starting the middle of last week. I’m up to 45,500 words, and have a clear end point in sight. But last week I realized it was halfway through March, and the deadline to enter this quarter’s Writers of the Future contest is 1 April.  Since I determined a while back that I wanted to take a try at it, it seemed a good idea to focus on getting something ready to submit.  Besides, to meet my writing goals for the year, I need to do a couple short stories a month in addition to working on my novel.

So I got started on another short story.  This one is longer than the first three.  I’ve already got 6,200 words, and have probably another two to three thousand to go before it’s finished.  That’s ok, because Writers of the Future accepts up to 17,000 words.  The new story is straight science fiction.  It details the life of crewmembers aboard an interstellar starliner, heading back to earth with cargo and passengers from a colony world.  Halfway through the journey, on the shift they call the center passage, the ship and its crew make a dramatic discovery.  I’ve taken pains to get the physics right as best I can, and to make the ship function on sound engineering principles.  But of course, I’ve taken a few liberties here and there.  I call the story Passing in the Night.  I’m on track to finish it this week, which will leave me the weekend and early next week to proofread and get some other eyeballs on it.  Then I’ll hit click on the Writers of the Future website, and we’ll see what happens.

In reality, I don’t expect to win, or come close to winning, on my first try.  But it’ll be fun regardless.  And who knows?  Maybe it could get an honorable mention or something.  Guess we’ll see.

Right.  Back to writing.

Evening with Edmund Morris

I live in Ballston Spa, NY, about 25 miles north of Albany.  A couple weeks ago, I did a google search for local writers clubs, and found the NY State Writer’s Institute.  They have a visiting writers series, and I was surprised and excited to see Edmund Morris was scheduled to come to town for a talk.

For those who don’t know, Edmund Morris writes presidential biographies, the most famous being Edmund Morris’s Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy Bundle: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, and Colonel Roosevelt. He won the Pulitzer Price for the first in the series, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which came out over 30 years ago and details TR’s early life and career up until he became President. Theodore Rex details his exploits as President, and Colonel Roosevelt, which just came out last fall, details the remaining years of TR’s life.

The books are meticulously researched and cited (the references and bibiolography sections of the three books totals about 400 pages).  They’re also very good reads.

Last night he came to town, and I happily went to see him.  I was impressed with how good a speaker he is.  He’s a researcher, and it shows, but he could easily be a professor or teacher.  He was interesting and very informative.  Best of all, he spoke with a stately british-sounding accent that added a certain authority to his words.

Afterwords, he had a book signing, and he was kind enough to sign all three of his books for me.

It was a pretty cool evening.  I’m glad I went.

Book Review: Shackled

Over the weekend, I finished Shackled by J E Medrick, a new indy writer. I’ve commented on her blog a couple times, and she on mine.  So I figured I’d give her book a shot.  I planned to write a review for Amazon, but since I haven’t made any purchases with my Michael Kingswood account yet, I’m not allowed to post any reviews yet.  Ah, the trials of using a pen name.  To get around that, I spent $20 and ordered a couple old computer games.  But it’ll be 48 hours until Amazon will let me post, so in the meantime here’s my review:

Full disclosure: I don’t know Ms. Medrick personally, but I have interacted with her via blogs and email.  So this wasn’t really a cold read.

That said, I was very impressed.  I started reading it during a lull at work on Friday, but didn’t get very far before I had to stop for feeling like a slacker.  That evening, after putting the kids to sleep, I re-commenced.  To put it simply, the book sucked me in.  I didn’t stop reading that night until I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, at a bit after 1 am.  The next morning, I continued in between helping my wife with some tasks for a business event she had in the afternoon.  Then, when she left for that and my son took his nap, I hit the book again with gusto and finished it.  It was a very good read.

Not to give away any spoilers, but it’s a pretty original take on a classic theme (the cover art should clue you in to which theme).  I liked the way she made it all completely believable and within the bounds of natural possibility.  Well, as much as it could be, anyway.  The language she used was very good: a bit old-fashioned, in keeping with its being set 300 years ago, but without going so far that it was difficult to read.  I found the characterization believable and the story compelling.

I will say I was a bit disappointed in the ending.  Not that it wasn’t good, but it left me thinking, “That’s it?  What the heck happens?”  I guess that’s good in a way.  Ambiguous endings make you guess and leave you wanting more.  But to me, it felt a little rushed in the end.  I guess I just like a bit more closure.  Also, I’m not entirely sure why Dragos would have gone along with Anghel’s plan at the end.

Regardless, I liked this book a lot.  As compelling as it was, I have to give it five stars.

So there it is.  I suggest you roll over to Amazon and check it out: Shackled.

Sales! And updates!

First off, Damsel has sold twice this month so far: once on the Amazon UK Store and once on their US Store. Considering I’ve done nothing in the way of promotion except this blog, facebook, and a couple comments on some other writers’ blogs, it’s hard to find anything to complain about with those sales numbers. Considering my cash flow estimates assumes five sales for each short story each month, it looks like I’m on track. Except Falling hasn’t sold at all. But whatever, I’m not worried at all. The more stuff I throw up, the more sales that will happen. Theoretically anyway.

So it’s a good start.

As for updates, I got about 800 words written in Masters last night, and just under 2200 tonight.  That brings the total word count to 44,363 so far.  By Scrivener’s reckoning, that’s 138 paperback pages or 212 printed pages.  I’m not sure how it differentiates between the two.  Regardless, this is far and away the biggest thing I’ve ever written.  And there’s quite a bit more to go.  So maybe it’ll be a bit more than 50 to 60 thousand words I projected last week when it’s done.  I don’t know.  We’ll see how it goes.

I will say the chapter I finished tonight is pretty good, if I do say so myself.


Clearly the new plan my wife and I are executing is working well so far.  Amazing what results come from just turning off the damned Boob Tube!

Well that does it for tonight.  Until next time!

Nearly Done

After about 2,000 words today, I’m up to 41,300 words on Masters.  I just finished a scene that is just beautiful in its poetic justice.  I absolutely love it.

So that makes about 4,000 words for the weekend.  Not as good as last weekend, but still it’s up there.  My wife and I agreed on a plan for the rest of the week that should allow both of us to make good progress on our respective projects this week.

Who knows, with our new plan, and my newly rekindled eagerness to work on this project, I may get Masters done sooner than I thought.  So much the better.

I’m going to go ahead and call it a night.  Until next time!

Team in Training

I addition to writing, my day job in the Navy, keeping my better half happy, and raising my kids, I’m training for a Century Ride.  What’s a Century Ride?  Well, as the name implies, it’s a 100 mile bicycle race.  I’m training for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, 100 miles around Lake Tahoe, on June 5th.

A few years back, I ran a couple marathons with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, to raise money for research into the cures for blood cancers.  I’ve been off the long distance wagon for a while, but over the last year or so I’ve been biking a lot more, so I decided to join the Team again, this time on my bicycle.

I’m riding in honor of my Aunt’s late husband, Joseph, as well as all the victims of these diseases.  I know it’s a lot to ask in these tough times, but I’ve put a link in my sidebar to my fundraising page.  If any of you folks out there in blogland read this and decide you’d like to help, please follow the link and drop some $.


We now return to our regular programming, already in progress.

Inspired Ending

No, I haven’t finished Masters yet.

In fact, at about 37,200 words, I’ve only made about 2,000 words of progress in the last week. Not so good. But, I think I should be able to get at least 2,000 words tonight so that’ll help a bit.

Why such bad progress after doing so well last Friday and Saturday? A lot of reasons. Mostly I got distracted by life. In general, I think my evening plan is pretty poor. My wife has a business she started a couple years ago. She sews stuff for new moms and babies: bibs, burp cloths, cushions, that sort of thing. Many nights, after the kids are asleep, she goes off and sews. I ostensibly use that time to write. Of course, a lot of the time I don’t turn off the boob tube, so I get totally distracted. Then around 10 pm she gets tired and goes up to bed. In general I go with her, and write after she falls asleep. But a lot of the time I don’t really write much at all. These things don’t really equate to good writing time.

I need to do better at prioritizing my evening time to include writing, so I can make acceptable progress on my stories. That means turning the TV off once the kids are asleep. And maybe not going to bed when my wife is ready to, however I might like to.

So let it be written. So let it be done.


Or something like that.

So what’s with the “Inspired Ending” title to this post, you ask?  Well, I’ve known for a while how the story for Masters goes….up to a point.  But after that point, I have only vague notions about what should happen.  Where the hell to go with the story after the 15 to 20 thousand words that will be required to do what I know needs to happen so far has been weighing on me a bit.  But yesterday, or maybe it was Thursday, I had a revelation.  Dean Wesley Smith’s recent post about novel length in the new world of ebooks got me thinking.  I really don’t HAVE to spend the 150,000 or 200,000 words necessary to complete the entire tale right now.  Maybe it’d be best to stop where what I know has to happen ends (that’s actually a good stopping point, as it happens), at around the 50 to 60 thousand word mark.  Then I can move on to another project I’ve been thinking about.  In a few months, when my brain is fresh again, I can come back to the Masters story for part two.

This of course means I’ll be making Masters into a book series.  This is not what I initially envisioned.  But I find myself liking the notion of completing this portion of the story and moving on.  So I think that’s how it’s going to go.

Now that I’ve made that decision, suddenly it’s like a weight has been lifted, and I’m psyched to work full throttle on Masters again.  Taking the pressure off myself to get every detail of the story finished immediately helped a lot.

So that’s the new plan.  Finish part one of the Masters series and get it out for sale by the end of April.  After that, move on to the next project, for completion over the summer.  Part two of Masters will be my NaNoWriMo project.

Who knows, maybe enough people will like Masters that there will be a big demand for number two.

Of course, stopping midway may just piss people off and turn them away from my work forever.  But I doubt it.  Were that the case, trilogies and longer series would never have worked for other writers.  And we all know they do quite well.  So I feel good about this new direction.

Ok, off to write my story some more.