Ghost of Christmas Future

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“The thing that all men fear.”

I only recently understood this line from Scrooged! It isn’t future Christmases that are scary, it’s our ultimate future: death. Thus the reaper-looking ghost. Duh.

This third of three blog posts, however, is not about our ultimate demise. It’s about my hopes, dreams, and (most importantly) plans for 2019.

One thing going forward that I would like to do (if I can scrape together the time) is get to this blog more regularly! Like, once a week, at least, aiming for Fridays and/or Mondays as posting days. I also would certainly like to talk about more than what book or story is coming out, or happens to be on sale this month, or whatever! No one wants to hear only about “Why don’t you buy this?” all the damn time!

Unfortunately, in the chaotic maelstrom that has been my during 2018, I haven’t had much time for the casual, “So how’s tricks?” blog posts. During a typical day, I’ll come up with lots of little tidbits, reflections, and opinions I could share, but having immediate access and/or time to blog about them just isn’t happening.

(And whatever is happening in the really-real world probably takes priority over blogging anyway, right?)

So anyway, one hope/plan for 2019 to blog three or four times a month, maybe every Friday or Monday if possible. And to talk about more than just my own damn books.

Some blog topics I do expect to do are the writing discussions from my book Top Secret Codewords for Indie Writers. The whole thing started as blog posts anyway, so it’s only fitting to bring it back to that too. I can do a chapter a week, or a fragment of, in the case of longer chapters. There are about 15 chapters to the book, so that’ll take a while. Can’t do it right now, because it’s currently enrolled in KDP Select, which is Amazon’s 90-day exclusivity deal. I’m generally against the exclusivity thing, but I do sometimes experiment with it to see what happens.

Another topic I’d like to be able to share more about would be games, more specifically Warhammer 40K and Dungeons and Dragons. I barely get to play either one anymore, but I’d like to! And I’d like to make more time for not just playing, but talking about them in general.

To that end, another of my would-be New Year’s resolutions is to manage to paint one unit a month of 40K miniatures. Over the decades I’ve collected quite a few—too many, in fact! I have enough to field armies of Eldar, Crimson Fist Marines, Space Wolves, various colors of Chaos, Daemons, and a few odds and ends. And I’d like to try out just about every force in the 40K universe, just for fun! I’ll never get them all painted, unless Games Workshop all of a sudden decides to hire me on full-time just to see if I can do it. (Purely as a challenge—they’d never hire me for my painting skills.) But if I can get to a single unit a month—be that one hulking monster or a 10-man infantry squad—that might be a realistic goal. (Semi-realistic, anyway.)

So that’s another possible, don’t-quite-hold-me-to-it resolution: Get one unit of 40K models painted per month.

On the D&D side, it’s mostly talking about what I like about 5th edition, maybe updating my optional rule companion on the Dungeon Master’s Guild, the Fifth Edition Creative Companion. Although, I’m kind of waiting to update that after I write a fantasy book that’s literally been brewing for years, so that I can then include what would be their 5th Ed stats, too.

I also hope to read more in 2019. I’m probably not alone in that one, eh? I’ve read more in the last few months here than I did all year, and probably all last year. I’ve started reading before I go to sleep at night. That helps alot! I was also reading during my lunch while I worked at the busy, busy hospital. Needed the relaxation there. Eventually I’ll blog about what I’ve been reading, too.

And, of course, there’s the usual New Year’s fare: lose weight, get into shape, make more time for friends, make some friends, go to Mars, discover the cure for cancer, and other equally lofty and unlikely things.

The biggest focus for me, though, is more writing and more business of writing. Expand my penned library and build more of an actual business from it so that, one day, it might actually serve as my full-time job. Even if it allowed me to work a day job only part-time, I’d be good with that, too. But if you want writing to be a business, you have to know something about business! So I need to carve out time for that, too. I’m writing and making book covers and all the fun stuff. That’s getting done. But the harder side of things, the marketing, the accounting, the taxes, etc. All that… Not so much.

There are resources out there, indie writers more successful than myself who are lending a hand to (and making a big chunk of income from, btw) other writers.  I have been collecting lectures and videos and slideshows and tips and everything! (…pant, pant, breathe…) I just haven’t had the time to make use of them.

So next resolution: focus on business, as well as writing.

To which end, I also always reassess at the end of each year to see how I can streamline my operation. Remove clutter, reduce drag, you know. This year, I think that means cutting two sites that I’ve been publishing on. Neither of which produces jack for me anymore. (Or ever did.)

Now it could be argued that, since I’m already there, I should just leave everything up. The work that’s done there is done, just leave it be.

But they’re both still work. When I upgrade and update things, like with my whole superhero universe right now, I have to go back on and spend hours on those sites doing it too. And for what? No one ever buys anything there. No one even knows I’m there! It’s hours of work with no appreciable results. So…

Streamlining.

Okay, that brings me to the last section of Future, the best part: my writing plans for 2019.

Of course, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy and mine pretty much change monthly, if not weekly or even daily. But here’s the basic structure/idea I’ve got going forward right now:

In keeping with my “Donut Hole” codeword/philosophy, I have existing series started but not finished. Those need to keep running. But unless fans give me a reason to really dedicate my efforts to one series or another exclusively, I also have many more ideas that have been waiting years to finally reach the page.

So, going forward, my tentative plans are:

  • One Identity Crisis Universe (superhero) book. At least one. (Besides, Deus Ex Machina, which will land January 31st, technically a 2019 book.) I’m already about 10,000 words into Golden Age Heroes (Secret Origins: 3) and about 25,000 words into Twilight of the Gods (Identity Crisis: 3). TotG I literally started writing years ago. It’s going to be a long one, though. I once thought it might be two books instead of one, but I really want to keep it inside one cover right now.
  • One Cold Stars book. This is another long-view vision of a science fiction series. I envision six books, the first two of which have essentially been all short stories. Book 3, Ghosts of Chaucer, will include two novellas. Book 4, then, will be the first full-length novel. (Which I already wrote, back in 2003! Needs tweaking though.) The early books set up characters on their own paths across light-years of space, who, by Book 3, are drawn together into one big plotline. Books 5 and 6 will be way more focused on one galaxy-threatening story.
  • One or more miscellaneous, as time allows. As I said, I’ve got years’ worth of shit swirling around up in my noggin. 2019 will definitely see Green-Eyed Monster come out by spring, which is a collection of 9 or 10 short stories and novelettes. Those are all but ready right now. Beyond that, I could also write the first of my D&D-style fantasy books, start the long-awaited space pirate series, do my relatively new werewolf-space samurai trilogy (not as lame as it sounds, I promise!), or maybe my “strange noir” book. So many options, so little time!

Am I really going to write three or more books this year? With my crazy life?

It’s certainly possible. I generally aim for 10,000 words a month. (Unless I’m editing/revising a book at that time.)

And my doable, working stiff publishing goal is 80,000 words a year, which will already be covered when Deus Ex Machina lands in January. (Although a lot of indies might say, “That’s not enough,” they may not have as much on their plate as I do.)

So the pressure’s off, baby!

That gives me a year to have 80K ready for 2020. Easy breezy! (Though don’t worry—I have no intention of waiting until 2020.)

Okay, that’s it, folks. The end of my Christmas Ghosts. And the end of 2018!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, have a good Kwanzaa, celebrate the New Year, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2019!

(P.S. If you want to join up for the future, you can enlist on my Conspiracy Newsletter by clicking here… I’ll never spam you or abuse your info. I’m way too busy for that crap!)

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Merry X-Mas, Emperor Palpatine

I am both excited and offended by recent developments in my life related to Star Wars.
Allow me to explain.
My son, who just turned eight via a Star Wars/Darth Vader-themed birthday party last week, has finally gotten into something cool. I mean, he had a brief relationship with the classic G.I. Joe cartoons about a year ago, but after I spent way too much on cool toys for him for Xmas via Ebay, Joe basically got his walking papers.
The chief factor responsible for getting him into Star Wars is the Battlefront video game we have.  I decided to go ahead and track down the original movies (the only ones I like) and expose him to Star Wars the correct way. We started with Empire, not only because it’s the best one, but the first movie is kinda boring. Plus, he’s really into the big AT-AT and AT-ST walkers.
Tonight we watched Jedi. Apparently, over the long years, I had forgotten just how great these movies were. I was never the big Star Wars nerd my friends were (except when I was 8 years old myself, maybe), but they really are great.
And then, at the very end, I got super offended.
I knew that crazy old man Lucas had gone back and messed with the masterpieces. But my tender sensitivities were deeply offended when the ghost of Anakin at the very end was that punk kid from the new movies! WTF??!!!  Damn you, George Lucas, you’ve ruined my childhood!
Well, maybe not ruined. But boy, am I sore…
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Funny Business at Amazon

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So last week I set up a giveaway for the first book in my Identity Crisis series, Hungry Gods. Supposedly, the way it worked was, for every 100 people entered, there would be a winner. Well, because I didn’t get around to pushing it out until there were only two days left, I only get 131 entrants.

But that should have meant 1 person won a book, right?

Apparently not. Amazon reported to me that 131 entered and no one won.

And I have no idea why. 

I may roll the money I already put into it for a re-do, but that might only be open to subscribers to my mailing list. As in, the first 21 people to respond will be the winners. (Thus no more funky, unpredictable odds.)

We’ll see. I’ve inquired as to what happened and will go from there.

If you want to join my Conspiracy Newsletter and get in on the next round of action (plus more news and special offers), just click here. 

Superheroes for X-Mas

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In case you missed the last “Ghosts of Christmas Present” blog post the other day, or just didn’t quite get through the nice, long version, here’s the abridged edition:

IDC Campaign.

I’m excited to finally present the new book and new look for my Identity Crisis Universe (IDCU) titles, all fun romps through a slightly more realistic, grown-up superhero land. Consider it all to be PG-13, give or take. My new series/universe catchphrase is “Capes aren’t just for kids anymore!”

 

If you’d like to check out any of these books, you can click there these links. Hungry Gods is up for only $0.99 right now, while Deus Ex Machina is brand new and up for pre-order right now.

You can also try your luck to score the first book for free on Amazon. I’m giving away 21 copies of Hungry Gods here.

The drawback is that there’s only 1 winner for every 100 entrants. I’m not super thrilled about that method, but that’s Amazon’s new way to doing things, I guess. I prefer the lottery draw after a certain date, but Big A’s new thing (from what I can tell) is 99 people enter and don’t win, #100 does, rinse and repeat.

And the femme fatale, superhero short story Silk Spider: Behind the Eight-Ball, is now FREE on all sites. So you can sample, then nibble, then chow down on some superhero/sci-fi fiction for big kids.

Please enjoy the Christmas goodies and tell all your friends to do so as well!

Ghost of Christmas Present

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To continue with my Dickens/Scrooged theme…

The Ghost of Christmas Present. What’s happening right now. (Aside from starting a new job, first Xmas home in about 11 years, etc.) Basically, my big project right now is my IDC Campaign.

I’m excited to finally present the new book and new look for my Identity Crisis Universe (IDCU) titles, all fun romps through a slightly more realistic, grown-up superhero land. Consider it all to be PG-13, give or take. My new series/universe catchphrase is “Capes aren’t just for kids anymore!”

There are three series in the IDCU: the Identity Crisis (IDC) series, starring Spitball and the Phenomenal Five (living and dead… and undead, in some cases); the Secret Origins (SO) series, spin-off stories giving more background on various characters in the universe; and the Identity Crisis 2029 (IDC’29) series, which started out as a one-shot novella that I’ve since decided should be the first installment in a trilogy of its own, although I haven’t progressed on it as of yet.

The first book in the IDCU, Hungry Gods, has been my most successful book ever and was first published nearly four years ago. I’ve been working on the sequel, Deus Ex Machina, off and on for about three years. Finally, it will go live exactly four years to the day from HG’s original debut: January 31st, 2019. (But it is available now  for pre-order, if you’re interested…)

So, the IDC Campaign. What’s that?

Honestly, I’m still wading in and figuring it out. As I’ve probably said, I haven’t had as much time for admin/infrastructure in the writing biz as I’d have liked, but I’m making a go of it right now. Kind of building the airplane in mid-flight, as it were.

STEP ONE: Cover Convergence

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Over the last few months, I’ve been working to revise and recover (re-cover?) all these IDCU books so that they look the same. (That decision was finally made back when my Sun Tzu inspiration hit, which I blogged about and then included in my indie writers’ survival guide TSC4IW…) With the help of the talented Henry Ponciano, I have now assimilated all the IDC and SO covers to follow the same visual theme. This way, passersby will know at a glance that all these books are related, even though they are in different series.

(Invasion (IDC’29) will follow before long. That one’s on hold for now. Henry actually did the current/original cover for that one, too.)

The sad part about revamping covers that there are some I like and will miss. (And some I don’t like and won’t.) I’ve been planning to have an “obituary page” on my website at some point, featuring all the covers that have moved on over the years.

If you’d like to check out any of these books, you can click here:

STEP TWO: Make Them Easy to Get

The first part of making them easy to get is “going wide”. I know a lot of people swear their allegiance and financial futures to Amazon, but I’m not one of them.  So if you prefer Kobo, iBooks, B&N, even your local library, you can do that.

The second part is putting the first book on sale.

For a limited time, Hungry Gods is only $0.99!

(And if you like it, you might consider leaving a review that says so and then moving on to another IDCU book.)

And for those who do prefer Amazon, I’m giving away 21 copies of Hungry Gods there.

The drawback is that there’s only 1 winner for every 100 entrants. I’m not super thrilled about that method, but that’s Amazon’s new way to doing things, I guess. I prefer the lottery draw after a certain date, but Big A’s new thing (from what I can tell) is 99 people enter and don’t win, #100 does, rinse and repeat.

The other drawback is that it ends on December 21st! Which I didn’t realize when I set it up a week ago and got too busy to anything with it! CRAP! So go there now and try your luck!

(UPDATE: Amazon and I both screwed up, in my view. I didn’t get the word out in time, but they didn’t award any prizes to those who actually did sign up. Hmmm…)

Which means, the more people that enter, the more who will win. So if you want one, it actually helps to tell other people to join in too!

And if you don’t want to leave it to chance, you can score it for cheap right now! Free or a buck, now is the time to grab it. After this free-for-all is over, the price will go back to $4.99.

I’ve already mentioned another aspect of Step Two, which is putting Deus Ex Machina up for pre-order.  Pre-orders tune up the cyber-gibberish algorithms to help make a book more visible. (Apparently doesn’t work on Amazon anymore though–they like to dismantle everything that helps authors for some reason…) So if you know you want to read something and it’s on pre-order, you could actually be helping the success of that book by pre-ordering it before it releases. (And we appreciate that immensely.)

I’ve also set Silk Spider: Behind the Eight-Ball, an IDCU short story, at FREE on all sites. And it will likely stay free so that more folks will be willing to give the IDCU a try in the future.

STEP THREE: Tell All the Good People!

Which is what I’m doing now!

But my voice doesn’t carry very well. Which is why I deeply and truly appreciate it when you pass this news along.

If you know anyone who likes superheroes, science fiction, or fantasy… If you’re a social media butterfly who always posts your most delicious findings…. If you feel the holiday spirit and just want to share, share, share in this time of giving… Please let other people know what’s happening here.

All you’re doing is telling your friends where they can find a book for a buck, or even for free. They might just appreciate that.

And so will I!

Thank you for reading this far, thanks for your support, and good luck for those who will try for the freebie.

Next up: the thing that all men fear…

Ghost of Christmas Past

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Ah, the classic Dickensian Ghosts of Christmas: Past, Present, and Future. For my purposes, they will be depicted in their incarnations from my favorite Christmas movie, Scrooged.

What do they have to do with what I’m about to blog? I don’t know yet, I’m working on it… I just came up with this as a theme to fit what I want to say. Forcing my words to fit that theme is part of what writing is all about, right?

“Your assignment: write X.”

“Roger that. X on the way…”

What I’m really trying to talk about is the past, present, and future of my writing plans, the rollover of the new year, and the exciting news that’s happening now and how it relates to what’s past, present, and coming up.

(Yeah, that’s it! I knew that, somewhere in here, I knew what I was talking about!)

Which makes this the post about Christmas Past. And for the past several months, this guy has been driving…

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That should pretty much tell you all you need to know! But I’ll elaborate a little…

Okay, very little. ‘Cuz it’s depressing, confusing, and more than you really care about.

Basically, got out of the Navy in February, in and out of the Navy Reserve since then (active to inactive, actually), started a job, quit by Naval decree, got another one, went inactive reserve (so Naval decree has way less weight), went back to first job. So December 10th was me starting over yet again! At least it was the job I started back in February, so I am at least familiar. But it’s still starting anew.

So unstable life. Moved from Japan to Ohio, family still settling in and finding their places. My son’s been in three different schools this year.

Every step forward is followed by two steps back. You know that dance, right?

Despite all these real-world setbacks, I’ve still managed some progress in my writing world. My yearly goal for words published (not written, but actually published into the world) is 80,000 words. A novel by definition is 40K, though a typical one put out by the Big Five New York publishing mafia is about 80K. I’m going to fall short of that mark this year, but that’s okay! I allow myself some leeway given all the seismic shocks of our lives this past year. I’m lucky to have gotten anything published at all.

Here’s what I did get out there. Most of these are short stories or novelettes that were written before 2018. One book I did write this year. (Crammed it in in only 2 short months, in fact.) Plus, I have a short story coming out still in Weirdbook Magazine #41, hopefully before the year is out.

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And even though I fell short of the 80K goal, I’ll more than make up for it in 2019. I already have Deus Ex Machina set up on pre-order, which is 85,000 words by itself. BAM! My 2019 goal is already in the bag! And Green-Eyed Monster will soon follow, which is a collection of all these short stories above, plus several more. BAM! Overkill! And those are all already written! So 2019 will be a productive year.

But that’s a different ghost…

We’re talking 2018 right now. The yearly wrap-up.

For a while there I had decided to stop tracking my written word counts. This was likely one of my new 2018 streamlining goals about this time last year. About mid-way through the year, though, I decided to start tracking them again. My monthly, active writing goal is a comfortable 10,000 words per month. Given my chaotic and over-taxed life, that’s not bad. And even without writing new words every month in 2018, I still managed about 86,000—and that’s probably underestimating April and May when I wasn’t quite keeping track. You can’t publish 80K next year if you don’t write some this year, right? Well, even with riding the whirlwind and all, I still cranked out enough to ensure my current and future publishing goals. Not too shabby.

What I did not get enough of in 2018 was business savvy. Marketing knowledge. Cybernetic infrastructure. The administrative and business side of the indie writing biz. I hope to make more time for that very soon.

For now, given the tumultuous real-world events of 2018, I’m pretty damn happy with the way my writing/publishing year turned out. Which I couldn’t really say until right this minute! Because I, like all indie writers, am too impatient and too hard on myself. Which is why doing little recaps like this are good for me (us). Looking back and seeing that, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I mean, uh, Yes, Virginia, you did accomplish more than many aspiring writers this year, despite always cursing yourself as a failure. Therefore, No, Virginia, you’re not a piece of shit.

Good job.

Alrighty, that’s it for the Ghost of Christmas Past. Stay tuned. Expect the next ghost at the stroke of one… (This was the midnight ghost, ya know?)