The New Phone Book’s Here! The New Phone Book’s Here!

For those of you who don’t get the reference, google “The Jerk,” Steve Martin’s first movie.

But it concisely expresses my mood as I just published my third novel, The Reaper Plague.

It’s the third book in my mil-sci-fi series.

I’d been struggling with it until my “pilgrimage” (see the post before this one) but refreshed and re-energized and unblocked, I completed the second half of the draft in something like two more weeks, published it in almost exactly four. For those of you who don’t write, those two weeks are a necessary delay for some of my good kind friends to beta-read and give feedback, for my wife to go through and proofread, and for me to do the same.

Plus, it gives me time to cogitate, think about it, fill in holes, and in this case, even come up with another whole chapter suggested by Sharon the Kentucky horse-rancher.

She’s one of my beta-readers. Who’d a thunk a spry septuagenarian equestrian would like science fiction?

Bottom line, those two weeks made it a lot better book. In the meantime I have been working on the next book, the Orion Plague, which may or may not be the last book in the series. It all depends on how it shakes out. On the one hand I’d like to cap this one off, take a breather and work on something else. On the other hand, there is definitely more material to be written with these characters and this setting.
I wonder what the best strategy is, from a writing standpoint and also from a marketing standpoint: write more than one series one book at a time in rotation, or write one series entire, then the next, etc. Either way I am averaging about a book every two to three months, four to six books a year, when a “book” is defined as about 80K words. I’ve averaged just under 40K words per month, even with almost a month of blockage prior to my pilgrimage. So even if I think I will keep going with Plague Wars, I think I will take a shot at starting another series, or possibly a standalone book, after book 4. Then I can pick the series back up if I feel like it.
Speaking of Plague Wars, I’m tremendously excited about an opportunity my amazingly kind and generous friend Brian (B.V.) Larson (  and Vaughn Heppner (  are extending me. These are a couple of great midlist authors who I have known most of my life. They both are professionals, making a genuine living writing a variety of sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and thrillers. Read my last post for more info on this. But anyway, they are putting together an anthology of novellas similar to this wherein several authors publish novellas on a genre theme, and they are including me! Wow!

This is a great opportunity for me and I am and will be forever grateful for the leg up. My sales crept up for a couple of months but this month have been pretty pitiful for no apparent reason – vagaries of the market, who knows? But I really believe my work is as good as any other mid-lister and better than some, if only I can produce, publish, and gain a following. It’s rather like rock bands, I believe – lots of great talent out there, but it takes luck and persistence to break in. Brian and Vaughn are going to give me a shot.

I’ll do my damnedest to hold up my end. I’ll certainly write a good story, but I freely admit that from a marketing standpoint they are doing me a huge favor that I hope I can repay sometime. Linking my names solidly with theirs in a book that is likely to sell thousands of copies is worth a lot. I’d be perfectly okay with just getting the links and exposure, since I haven’t quit my day job and make a comfortable living right now, but hey, a couple extra bucks is always nice. I also hope it will all be synergistic – their fans will discover me, I’ll make some sales, and my few fans (I’ve given away about 6000 copies, sold almost 400 so far) will hopefully give them a few sales.

It’s even more exciting on another level, in that it fills a kind of spiritual place in my heart to reconnect with these guys. Men normally relate to one another on the basis of shared interests, and these guys and I (and a couple other guys in the group that are not authors) played wargames and roleplaying games and swam and biked and launched model rockets and all that teenager stuff for about ten years or so, until I ran off to the military and came to my hometown of Turlock less and less frequently. They didn’t take up writing until after that, in their twenties, so I wasn’t part of that genesis. In fact, I thought about them from time to time but you know how time can run away from you, especially when you have a wife and family and a career that goes around the world (I spent a total of more than twelve years overseas out of 21).

So my excuses are thin, but at least I have a couple. But in this day and age of internet, e-mail and unlimited talk and text, there was nothing but inertia getting in my way and I am sure glad I did. In a lot of ways I didn’t know what I was missing until I got it back. So for the record, even if as an author I never go beyond hobby status, it will still have all been worth it just to reclaim friendship with these awesome men with whom I should never have lost touch.

Getting to do something fun and exciting as well – that’s just a bonus. Some guys hunt together, fish together, play ball together. Writing together is a dream come true. And if they’re reading this right now, I hope they get all choked up and teary, though they’d never admit it.

But you bet I will.

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