Friday, November 29, 2013

Novum-2 update: seven chapters finished

More important is that I crossed the 5,000-word barrier. I like milestones and that's a good one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Novum-2: Five chapters finished

I completed the fifth chapter of Novum-2 today (3,600 words). Based on where I am in my outline, it looks like this book is going to be twice as long as book one. So much will happen in this book, and still that's nothing compared to book-3.

Stay tuned. Exciting things are ahead...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Brain keeps writing even when I'm not

My brain spent the night tweaking one critical part of the Novum series "master plan", so I didn't get much sleep. However, I really like what it came up with so I'll say this: You are forgiven brain, but just don't do it again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What was the "spark" for your latest story?

Just wondering if there was a moment, a particular “thing” that triggered the creation of your latest story. For Novum, I was driving in my car listening to "Going Under" by Evanescence, and during the chorus:

"I'm going under,
drowning in you,
I'm falling forever,
I've got to break through,
I'm going under"

I saw a woman's face falling away from me into the depths of the ocean (falling forever). That image triggered a story arc that now spans four books, and for anyone who read the first book, that exact scene haunts my main character’s thoughts and dreams, all the way to the final scene.

So, what was the "spark" for your latest story?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

From the author

Novum is a stand-alone story, but it is intended to be the "pilot episode" for an epic scifi series. It was written as a short novel, or novella, and is approximately 30,000 words long (about 1/3 as long as my first novel, Cyberdrome). The novella itself has a long history in science fiction and is considered one of fiction's "most open-ended and compellingly discursive forms." I'm happy to be able to offer the digital version this first book for just $2.99 around the world (and just $7.99 for the paperback) as an open invitation to enter this new world and get to know its inhabitants. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Go to to learn more.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How important is the title of your book?

Let me say right from the start that the titles of my books are very important to me.  They often drive the narrative and sometimes they are a clue to some aspect of the plot. I don't pick them based on possible "market value" (even though I probably should) but instead they usually just materialize when I'm outlining the story arc.

My first book, Cyberdrome, was a combination of "cyber" (meaning man-machine interface) and "drome" (meaning arena) since my story took place inside a virtual world inhabited by digital avatars controlled either by humans or computer programs. It was essentially a meeting place for humans and A.I.

I consider it a coup d'├ętat that I was able to snag the title "Novum" for my newest science fiction book (and eventual series) before any other SF author. Why? From the Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction:
novum (n.) [Latin for "new"] the primary element in a work of science fiction by which the work is shown to exist in a different world than that of the reader. "...the term refers to those concrete innovations in lived history that awaken human collective consciousness out of a static present to awareness that history can be changed."
That describes my story so perfectly that I was actually panicked that someone else would publish something with that title before me, even though the term has been used in science fiction circles since the 70’s.

So how important is the title of your book, and how did you come up with it?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Novum 2 begins

I wrote the first 500 words to the Novum sequel tonight. Woot!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Novum is Live!

Last week was the official worldwide launch of NOVUM (Dystopian Undersea SciFi) Get the Kindle edition for $2.99 or 162-page paperback for just $7.99! Go here to learn more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Novum is finished! (but now I don't want to spend time promoting it)

Is it weird to have my second book finished and have absolutely no desire to promote it? I mean like not even submit it to any review sites or give copies away on Amazon Select?

I love my new story, and I'm very happy with the quality of the manuscript, the Kindle and paperback covers look great, and I like the book descriptions, both long and short versions. I even have the website created and uploaded, ready for visitors. Everything is in place and ready to start promoting. However, all I want to do now is write another book (actually the sequel to Novum), and then the one after that, and the one after that...

What's wrong with me? At first I assumed that I was just burned out from years of promoting my first book, but today I'm wondering if I'm actually becoming...dare I say it...a writer? More specifically, a writer who cares about quality and finishing books but doesn't care one lick about sales...a writer who just wants to write.

Anyone else in this strange place, or at least visited it sometime in their past?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Almost there: Novella passing through final stages of publication

It's kind of depressing to realize that the "publisher" half of my novelist sideline might end up taking longer than the "writer" half. I completed the manuscript to my new scifi novella in under 3 months (a record for me.) It has now taking over 2 full months to work it through beta readers, then have it edited, and finally polished by me. I also went through numerous variations of the blurb (which is quite important for online sales.) Now I am having second thoughts about the cover I had planned, so I am experimenting with something very different. My artist brother, Dave, will be rendering the new cover soon (hopefully) and it will be perfect and all will be well in the world (again, hopefully.)

On the positive side, I am very happy with the 26,000-word story as it now stands and will feel no trepidation when I release it to the world. Hopefully, that will be in a month or so . Stay tuned...

Friday, April 19, 2013

writing novellas

I passed 21,000 words in the first book of my new science fiction series yesterday, officially making it a "novella" (novellas are traditionally 20-40,000 words long). I am just about to write the "climactic" final scenes, so the final length should be just under 23,000 words. As I go through my first real edit next, I might add a few bits of dialogue here and there, or even a new scene if it appears the story needs it, but in the end, the story will top out at no more that 25,000 words, so a novella it is.

While comparing this story to my first full-length (95,000-word) novel, Cyberdrome, I have to say I really prefer shorter works. It's not that I'm lazy; it's just that I really prefer to read medium-length stories, especially if there are more stories to come in that universe (I have outlined 4 stories in this series.) Novellas tend to be more concise and to the point (i.e. there is no room for rambling dialogue or "filler" chapters in a 20,000-word story.) Novellas are also closer to the structure of screenplays, which to me is a good thing.
More on the uniqueness of novellas in the link below:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing Update

I completed 5 chapters of the first book in my new series last night - passing 16,000 words. Only one chapter to go!

As soon as I finish that, I am going to start writing a short story (10-15k words) that I outlined 10 years ago. After that, I'll go back to book #2 in the new series.

I'm on a writing roll!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

writing science fiction

To answer a question from a fellow writer on Google+, I thought I would go ahead and mention how I go about outlining a new story and what I do to keep track of all the many details involved in world-building.

For Cyberdrome, which was my first full-length science fiction novel, I knew I would be taking several months to write it (actually turned out to be several years) so I knew I would need a very detailed outline to keep the story coherent over many writing sessions, sometimes separated by weeks, or even months.

Since I decided to plot Cyberdrome as a scene-based thriller, I created a very complicated excel file that contained dozens of little details, like character profiles, scene descriptions, which characters were in any given scene, location descriptions for each scene, tension level of each scene, character arcs for each major character, etc. I also plotted words per scene, words written per week, and tension level scene-by-scene (important for a thriller). In hindsight, I think I spent far more time on that darn file than actually writing the manuscript!

For the science fiction series I am writing now, which is planned as four ~20,000-word novellas (with 8 more stories outlined if the series does well), I simplified everything and just created a number of MS Word documents in advance. These included;
1)  A short outline which is a paragraph description of each book in the series
2)  A detailed outline which is a page or two long and describes the major events of the book, and sometimes a bit of dialogue if it's important.
3)  Character profiles for all major characters, including a picture of an actor matching the part. I find that if I add a real face to the part, it forces me to make that character more three dimensional.
4)  Background info like the "history of the world" leading up the events in the story (my series is maybe 150 years in the future)
5)  A list of any "secrets" I plan to distribute throughout the series.
6)  Setting descriptions: Most people wouldn't do this, but since most of my stories take place on board a cargo submarine of the future, I created a detailed floor plan of the entire ship, and then my brother rendered the whole thing, inside and out, in 3D. So now when I walk through a room, I can describe every detail if I want, because I can actually look at real images of it. This really helps me "live" in the space I'm describing.

So, before I started writing the manuscript, I printed all of this out and placed it in a 3-ring binder, so that while I am writing, I can reference everything quickly.

Now is this new simplified method working any better than the older, more complicated one? I think it is. However, what is probably more important is the fact that I am now writing as often as possible, at least 3-4 times a week, even if it is only for 30 minutes at a time. I used to think I needed 3-4 hours in order to organize my thoughts and make the characters come alive, but that's why it took me so ling to write my first book, because I seldom found 3-4 hours free time in any given day. Now I find that by writing several 'quickies" a week, the story stays in my head and I can actually output quite a bit in those 30-minute sessions.

So that's my method. What's yours?

Friday, February 1, 2013

7,500 words in new story

I passed 7,500 words in my new story last night, and I haven't even reached the halfway point in my outline yet. I was originally hoping for at least 20,000 words for this first story (of three) to put it firmly in a "novella" category (typically 17,000 to 40,000 words) and I should reach and then pass that mark quite easily. When I eventually finish all three novellas, I plan to combine them into a final "Omnibus edition" novel, which should be 60-80,000 words long. Still enjoying the experience of writing again!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

5,000-word mark

Passed 5,000 words in my new story today. I love this story!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

WIP Update

I past 4,000 words in my wip (work in progress) today. The more amazing part (to me) is that I am doing this in short but regular bursts of writing (half hour every other day or so), rather than how I wrote my first novel, Cyberdrome, which was 4-hour stints once every week or two. I didn't think I could write this way, but I actually like is better. I find that I don't "loose the moment" when I keep the space between writing less than 48 hours, which is great! I recommend it to anyone who, like me, feels they have no time to write.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The New Story - part 2

I wrote another 1,000 words of the new story last night. I'm not averaging 1,000 words per day like some writers I know, but 1,000 words per writing session works very well for me. My original goal for this first of four stories was around 20,000 words, with a goal of ~80,000 words for the 4-book series when finished. However, as I am 10% there already and my characters are just now leaving the dock on their way to the adventure that will change their lives, I think this first story will be much longer, which is great!

My first science fiction novel, Cyberdrome, was such a struggle because it was originally going to be a movie script, then it turned into a graphic novel, then finally a traditional novel (with a few of my brother's illustrations moved to the end.) I was also trying to base it on a computer game my brother and I had created years earlier, but at the same time, trying to infuse it with cutting edge technology and still make it a character-centered story. Add to that my brother kept designing really cool vehicles and gizmos that sent me down new avenues of thought on a weekly basis. That's why it ultimately took me 7 years to complete.

Thinking back on those days, it reminds me of Ridley Scott's problems with bringing "Prometheus" to life on the big screen, in that he apparently kept changing his mind about what the story was ultimately about (from what I've read anyway.)

So after my experience, I decided that all future books would be outlined beginning to end, in detail, and "written in stone" long before I started typing a single word of the manuscript. I also decided to create this story with no outside influences this time. I've been doing that for about a year now and I even have all of the characters and sub-plots firmly established on paper and in my mind.

I should add that my brother, Dave, is still involved, but this time he doing what he does best, which is bringing the futuristic submarine (where 80% of my story takes place) to life, inside and out, using CGI modeling. Even he doesn't know the plots of any of the stories yet, although he will be the first to read them when they are finished.

I am completely ready for this and it's showing in how ridiculously fast this first story is flowing out of my brain and into my laptop.

More as it happens...

Monday, January 7, 2013

The New Story begins!

On Saturday Jan 5th, I wrote the first 1,100 words of my next book. More important is the fact that they are the first manuscript words I've written in 5 years!

Why am I writing again? Well, I have been outlining dozens of stories, and tweaking them over and over, but nothing really jumped out at me, at least enough to force me to "make" the time to write. With a full-time job in science and raising two kids, I simply don't have the free writing time I used to. Then I finally settled on one particular story that takes place on a distant ocean planet (I'm an oceanographer so it made sense to "write what you know") and I began outlining what was going to be a series of short stories or novelettes. I've been tweaking that outline for over three months and two weeks ago I thought I had a perfect 8-story arc completed.

Then this past week I had a major brainstorm and slashed some of the middle "filler" stories and merged some of the others, to come up with a 4-part story (actually 5 parts counting a stand-alone prequel story I want to write) that is very tight, action-packed, full of deception and mystery, and yet centers on one man's struggles to deal with both his tortured past and his troubling present. It is also an "epic" story in that it deals with the very survival of humanity in the distant future.

In addition there is a subtle "moral" to the story--which follows some of my own rather liberal beliefs--that of the importance of embracing differences in people and of not fearing change. I know so many people who distrust anyone of a difference skin color or background, and others who live in fear of tomorrow and what it may bring, and I just wanted my story to discuss those subjects without preaching.

I also like that I came up with a survival story that takes place not in a stereotypical post-holocaust "dystopian" future, but rather a utopian world that has just gone wrong from neglect and is now falling apart. It is actually a play on the word "Utopia" which many believe means an ideal place, but literally means, "an imaginary and indefinitely remote place." 

So anyway, there I was, Saturday afternoon, realizing that I no longer had a valid excuse to keep me from starting down the path to bringing this epic story to life.  So I just started the simple act of putting fingers to keys and the story just flowed out of me and onto the computer screen. It was almost magic!

At long last I am heading down the writer's path again, and it looks to be an arduous, and yet adventurous one!

I'll keep you posted as I go...