Indie Writer Code Words: Sun Tzu

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Yes, this series continues despite set-backs!

Most of those set-backs  relate to “real life” where the struggle is real! (Hence the INDIE WRITER bit, right? It’s part of the definition of terms.) Lately the biggest factor there has been the Navy Reserves, which they sell as a very part-time gig. It’s not, folks. It’s still the Navy, which I thought I had gotten out of…

Anyway, on to the code word: SUN TZU.

To describe this code word, which I came up with just very recently, here is an excerpt from an email I sent to Henry Ponciano, one of my go-to cover artists.  (You can check out his Deviant Art page here.)

*
Henry,
I have other books already in this same superhero universe, in other series. One is INVASION which you already made a cover for a few years ago! And there are others in the SECRET ORIGINS series, which I am working on the 3rd book right now to release the same time as DXM, which is the cover you just made for me.
So I have been thinking that “sometime” I should really redo all the covers so they look the same. So even though they aren’t the same series, they are the same universe that share heroes and histories and you can tell just by looking at it that they are all related. best way to sell them, right? how would a casual reader know those books are also the same vein if they look totally different?
so i have been thinking, “yeah, that is the smartest way to go. but i’m not going to do that. not now anyway.”
WHAT??? Why the hell not? what am i waiting for??!!
so even though i personally like the covers i have, and i already have an idea for the next one, it would really make sense to go forward with the thing that’s best. that i know is best. why not do that??
it’s Sun Tzu right? why go into battle knowing i’m not doing the best thing, knowing i’ll lose?
So let’s Sun Tzu this bitch, Henry! what’s your availability?
*

Okay, that may or may not help much to illustrate the meaning behind the code word. But it was written within minutes of the lightning strike that established that term in my writer’s mind.

Sun Tzu is the ancient Chinese master who wrote “The Art of War.”

The main idea is this: Win the battle before it starts.

How do you do that? By scouting, planning, setting up, and making the right decisions.  You figure out the absolute best path you can take, and you take it.

Do our leaders these days so this? Hell no! Almost none of us do. Even when we know it’s a bad decision, we do it. Every day.

For me, as an indie writer, it means following the best practices, rather than knowing and NOT following them.

Case in point: I’ve been creating different series within the same universe and, even though a series might have uniform covers that indicate it’s a series, one series to the next in the same universe have nothing to do with each other.

To see what I mean, go here, where all my current Identity Crisis Universe superhero books are.

You’ll see the pair of Secret Origins–Masks and Secret Identities–books look similar, but nothing like Hungry Gods, which is in the Identity Crisis series.

I am currently working on Identity Crisis Book 2 and Secret Origins Book 3. I have a cover for IDC 2 that looks like IDC 1. And have had the plan for SO 3 for years, which looks like SO 1 and SO 2.

But if you see the books from these two related series, featuring some of the same characters, all next to each other, you’d never guess they are related. They just don’t look the same. And cover appearance is 80% of why a reader picks up a book. (Right?!)

I realized that NOW is a great time to consolidate the appearance of all these books so that I don’t have 2 IDC books and 3 SO books, but 5 IDCU books! Wouldn’t that be better? Then everyone will know there are 5 books here, not 2 or 3. (Actually, there’s six including Invasion, and more planned for the future.)

Another case in point: The fact that I have all these different series started, in different genres, and have been working on them for years. Had I focused (as I knew I should) years ago, I’d have one or two complete series right now and be a hell of a lot more successful as a genre writer than I am now. My total word count is over half a million! But it’s spread out so much that you’d never know it.

…Okay, I kinda feel like I’m talking to the wall. (I’m actually talking to a screen, so pretty close.) It’s not you, it’s me. I worry that I may not be expressing the point I want to make. Visually, you’d get it. Or rather, you WILL get it when the task it done.

And the more I blather here about it, the less I’m actually making it happen elsewhere!

In summary: SUN TZU means, if you know the right, best course of action, take it! Don’t do what I have done (and most of us do), which is say, “Yeah, Path A really would be best, but even knowing that, I’m going to take Path B instead. It’s easier and faster, which is all I care about right now.”

You say your books aren’t going as quickly and wide-spread as you’d like? Have you done what you know to be best, like spend a few more bucks on the covers and editing? Or are you knowingly taking the wrong path?

How can you expect better results when you already decided to take the wrong course on purpose?!

SUN TZU my friends. Don’t go to war knowing you’re going to lose. What’s the point of that?

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New Superhero Secret Origins Started!

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Despite the recent chaos and ego beating of my present job searching situation, I managed to start on the next book today!

I was thinking the other day to blog about how hard it is to get started.

“A beginning,” the Princess Irulin told us in the first line of 1984’s Dune movie, “is a very delicate time.”

And despite all your mental preparation, squeezing out the beginnings of a new story or novel is hard. It’s like jumping out of an airplane or off a cliff (I imagine). Even if you’ve done it before, looking over the edge at what awaits below is still there. Throwing yourself from that nice safe bit of solid ground beneath your feet is just not natural.

Okay, it might not be quite that bad, but starting is difficult. It takes a leap of faith. And sometimes a shove out the door from behind.

It’s especially tricky when your confidence is not at its best. Which is my case at present, in the face of trying to support my family with no job at the moment. But I spent the last two days in job searching mode and have set up two promising interviews next week. So I think that may have secured for me the sense of, well, security to enable some new writing today. With that safety harness strapped across my shoulders, I was ready to take the leap!

And so I have. Got the first chapter in the can! I haven’t decided yet if the title of this novella is going to be The Golden Age or Golden Age Heroes — it’s been GAH in my mind, but that feels awkward to me coming off the tongue. (What do you think??? Let me know in the comments!)

Either way, it’ll be Book #3 in the Secret Origins series, right behind Masks and Secret Identities. (Which you can learn more about by clicking those titles now…)

And then, this book will get paired up with the recently completed Deus Ex Machina as the next superhero sequence this fall/winter.  (For more on sequencing, see the last Indie Writer Code Words post here.)

Okay, gotta get moving. Lots more to do with the day. But the most important bit is done!

Superhero Sequel Nearing Completion!

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This week (Tuesday, July 10th), I finally finished the first draft of my novel Deus Ex Machina, the sequel to Hungry Gods (Identity Crisis, Book 1).

AT LONG LAST!  

It’s literally been YEARS in the making. I’ve started and stopped it a few times, all for various reasons.

Which was a mistake. For various reasons.

This was also before the concept/codeword of SEQUENCING came about for me, which is the next post in my “indie writer codewords” series.

Anyway, at this point, there’s not a whole lot I want to say about DXM except, Yeah! I did it! The hardest part is done! 

And it turned out longer than I expected. I was projecting 60,000 to 75,000 words. The first draft is 83,000, a nice, solid length for a novel. (Final form will be around 320 pages, maybe?)

Unfortunately, it’s still going to be a few months from release. (More on that reasons for that in the next installment of my codeword blog series.)

Meantime, though, that sketch at the top is a sneak peak for you. It’s a prelim sketch for the cover art by Henry Ponciano.

Henry has also done the illustrations for two other covers for me: Invasion and One-Eyed Jacks. You can find more of his work and contact him on Deviant Art here:

henryponciano.deviantart.com

His end of the DXM cover work is actually done at this time, but I’m not ready to share all that yet. Wait till I’m closer to launch and ready for some promo to stir the pot.

All in due time.

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…Weeeeell, if you really want a good sneak peek, you can go purchase the superhero anthology Collateral Damage on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited right now. My story in there, “Tuesday Afternoon Mayhem,” is the actually first few chapters of Deus Ex Machina.

Enjoy!

End of Days

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Before I go pick up the U-Haul van, I need to make a last-ditch effort on this Kickstarter campaign for my new novel, Deus Ex Machina. Please see below for a quick blurb and to see what you can earn by pitching in just a few bucks to help our cause.

U-Haul? you say.

Yes, after three months of eating on card tables and sleeping on the floor, we finally got our new house! The house my son will grow up in. Of course, we’ll still be sleeping on the floor for a while, as our worldly possessions are still en route from the Navy. Hence, a van is enough to get our things moved today.

Which I have to go pick up now! So while I work on that, please take a moment to read what’s below and check out the LAST 48 HOURS of my Kickstarter.

***

This is it, folks! The final 2 days for the Deus Ex Machina Kickstarter campaign.

We still have quite a ways to go, but it’s not as far a leap as it seems. Our goal is not a big one. Twenty more contributors could make this happen. Or twenty folks who told twenty other folks. It’s still very much in our grasp.

And what’s at stake?

I have three primary objectives here: fantastic cover art, eagle-eyed editing, and cool voice narration for the audiobook. And I’d settle for the first two if that’s all I could get.

But Kickstarter is an all or nothing system. If we don’t reach our full goal, the whole thing shuts down.

What’s in it for you?

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Books! A whole superheroic universe for the nerd in your life! And we all know some superhero fans these days. Capes are like video games—they’ve finally come out of your parents’ basement and gone mainstream!

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So please take a moment to check out the campaign, your reward options, and the new video I made for it, which sums up the situation nicely. (Just click here!)

We only have about 48 hours to make this happen.

THANK YOU!

Seven Little Superheroes

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Does that phrase sound familiar? Probably not, unless you’re an uber-geek like me who grew up in the 80s and watched way too much Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

There was an episode with the Chameleon that was like an Agatha Christi murderous dinner party in a mysterious mansion kind of scenario. And the Chameleon would come on the horn with little rhymes counting down the remaining heroes. (Sorry, no actual examples come to mind–I’m not that much of an uber-geek.)

The reason I am mentioning seven little superheroes is because there are SEVEN SUPERHERO BOOKS up for grabs on my Deus Ex Machina Kickstarter right now. Ebooks, paperback, audio, all are options as your reward for volunteering to help out.

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AND I CERTAINLY NEED YOUR HELP.  So far, halfway through the campaign, we have only reached have 3% of our goal. That’s only TWO generous readers who have decided to pitch in. 

I hate to ask for help from anyone, especially strangers, but total life transition still in full effect, making this book happen would really be way easier with a little boost from the community. “It takes a village,” and all that.

And your financial assistance isn’t for nothing! You’re buying books. One two, three, up to SEVEN of them, maybe more if the stretch goals get pinged.

But that looks woefully unlikely right now.

So if you were thinking about pitching in, maybe waiting till the last minute…  The last minute may be too late. There’s no time like the present! The more activity a campaign gets, the more visible it becomes to others. And we need some visibility to make this happen!

And do you know what’s just as valuable as your small monetary pledge? Telling other people! We few can’t pull this off without some outside help. So please don’t be shy about letting other folks know!

THANK YOU for your consideration and your generosity!

In case you missed the links above, just click here to check it out now. 

Avengers? Avenge this!

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I created a Facebook Ad to run for the next 21 days. That’s through May 7th, which is the last day of my Kickstarter. I haven’t had much luck with FB ads before, but we’ll see what happens. (All Russian propaganda aside…)

Maybe they’ll help generate the momentum we need to get this project off the ground and pumped into the algorithm! The more “popular” a campaign is, the farther up on the list it appears to folks randomly searching for ways to help out on Kickstarter. 🙂

 

Mythology References

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I’ve been a big mythology buff for as long as I can remember. I can still envision the cover of the Greek myths book I repeatedly borrowed from the school library when I was in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. An orange cover featuring Perseus holding Medusa’s head. The style was suspiciously similar to the Harry Hamlin’s pose from Clash of the Titans. (The original, classic movie, not that crap show they peddle now. Which was my fav movie from ages 5 to 8 or so.)

In Hungry Gods, I named the three major sections of the novel (I generally subscribe to the three-act structure) after aspects of Greek epic poetry: Gods and Monsters, Patron Goddess, and The Underworld (as in “journey to the underworld”). And the story fit these three headings quite nicely.

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In Deus Ex Machina, I’m sticking to the pattern. This time, I leaned on Hindu mythology. Partially because the main bad guy is a James Bond-style supervillain from India. And partially because I plan to use that same thematic structure in all the books of this series, as well as a few other related books. (For example, I’ve already started writing Twilight of the Gods, which refers to and borrows from Norse mythology—you know, Thor, Loki, and Ragnarok.)

DXM’s three acts are called Brahma’s Oasis, The Tenth Avatar, and Shiva the Destroyer. (At least, they are right now. This could change in the final draft.) It helps that Hindu has a holy trinity of sorts and these refer to those three gods.

Not sure what the heck I’m talking about? Not a big Hindu buff? Neither was I. And it was great fun researching those stories and traditions in order to build my new novel. I won’t use everything I read about, but it all provides a background in my mind from which I can draw to make these characters. And to provide confusing references from the eccentric villain of the story that no one else in the book quite gets either.

Hopefully it’ll inspire you to look up some heroic Hindu epics yourself!

Deus Ex Machina, live on Kickstarter right now! Click here to become part of the legend!