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February Wrap-up

Short month, went quickly.

I started, deleted, started again, and didn’t finish a novel this month. But I’ve solved how to finish it and now need to start over one final time. This annoying process underlined how important having the right point of view in a book really is (the POV issues were what was stalling me out in the middle, thankfully I figured that out before giving up forever).

Words written this month: approximately 72,000
Words discarded/deleted this month: about 34,000 (this number will GO AWAY next month. Seriously going to stop doing that. Seriously)
Ebook earnings: 22.75 (just slightly less than last month, yay!)

For March, I’ve got two novels to go up as e-pub. I need to get on the POD/Createspace thing and learn how to do that and get print copies out. I’m also going to start the sequel to a book while working on the SF novel (now that POV issues are solved). I’m behind on the Write one/Sub one challenge, so I’m going to try to get seven or eight stories done this month as well to catch up. And I’d like to finish one of the romance novellas. I’m debating on waiting until all eight are done to start putting them up, but we’ll see. I might wait until I have three or four, then start putting them up every couple weeks.

Meanwhile, today I’m going to be approving copy edits and generally taking it easy. Just got back from an amazing week of workshops and really need a little brain break before I start writing for the week.

Sale Sale Sale Sale (again!)

Yeah, I know. But I sell sporadically enough that any sale is worth a giant announcement, damnit.  Because it’s been almost 6 months since my last sale to a magazine, so I was starting to tell myself it had all been a fluke etc…

Anyway, I sold a flash fiction story titled “Love at the Corner of Time and Space” to Daily Science Fiction.  Which marks my fourth short story sale to a magazine and my second pro-rate sale. W00t!

On another note, I’ve written 3 pieces of flash fiction in my adult life, and sold 2 out of the 3.  Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something…

Gotta Know When to Fold’em

To date this month, I’ve written just under 60,000 words.  Most of that was on my SF novel project.  However, nothing seemed to be coming together with the novel and I kept throwing out whole scenes and chapters and starting again and again trying to make the plot gel.  I kept doing this until the fun was gone and all I could do is sit and write and then delete and try again and hate every second of it.

So I’m sort of quitting that novel for now.  Not forever.  Just for now.  It’s a complex plot, more involved with more POVs and more threads than I’ve ever tried to write before.  Which is a good thing, since I think it’s healthy to stretch my writing muscles and make myself deal with something I’m weaker on like complicated plotting.  But beating myself up about it not coming together wasn’t helping anything.

It’s really hard for me to admit I need to take a step back from this project.  I follow Heinlein’s Rules, after all.  Rule 2 is “finish what you write”.  When stepping away from this, I had to ask myself honestly if I wanted to put it down for now because that’s the healthy thing to do? Or am I just walking away because this is difficult?  It’s one thing to set something down and let it percolate a little more.  It’s another to start forming a habit of dropping a project the moment it gets rocky.  I don’t want to form a habit of not finishing things, because nothing will kill a writing career faster than not finishing, except maybe not starting.  (If I don’t start, I can’t finish, if I don’t finish, I can’t submit, if I don’t submit, I can’t sell…see?)

So I’m making a compromise with myself.  I’m stepping back from this novel.  I’m still going to keep up my writing streak and go for my necessary 3,000 words a day and a short story on weekends (the numbers I need to hit my annual goals).  And I’m designating Mondays as the day to work on this novel (minimum one page/250 words).  If I have to just write it scene by scene and take 40 weeks to finish, I’ll finish.  Meanwhile, the rest of the days will be devoted to other projects that I feel more comfortable with.  I figure that this is a good compromise.  I’m not quitting this novel entirely, but I’m giving myself breathing room on it while hopefully continuing to develop my skills enough that the sort of complicated plot I want to construct here will become an easier thing for me.  I’m tired of second guessing myself and deleting words and basically letting my critical voice eat away at me.  I’m a better writer than that and I should know better.

So that’s what’s up with me right now.  I’m turning to short stories while I get a couple of novels formatted for e-publishing and then I’ll be back to novel writing in March (working on a fantasy novel with a nice straightforward quest/romance plot and only one or two POVs, thank god).

I’ve fallen behind on the Write 1/Sub 1 challenge by 3 short stories, so I intend to catch up this week and next.  Also next week I have two workshops back to back, so I think that will help recharge my batteries and be really interesting and amazing as always (but especially with the changes in the industry right now… being around multiple professional writers for an entire week is going to be very, very educational).

Neo-Pro Interview #2

And we’re back! I’ve been letting blogging slide in the interests of finishing a novel (I’m about to mail query packages and would hate to get a full request and have to scramble, so getting this novel done is first priority). But now I have another neo-pro interview for you. Enjoy!

Brad R Torgersen Interview

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Brad: Brad R. Torgersen, full-time nerd, part-time soldier, and night-time writer.  I came into science fiction and fantasy through the usual routes: Star Wars and Star Trek, both on the screen and in novelizations.  In my early teens I got into techno-thrillers, but eventually drifted over to original fantasy in the form of David Eddings and Stephen R. Donaldson, as well as original science fiction like the “Sten” books from Allan Cole and Chris Bunch.  Ultimately, I read Larry Niven’s two omnibus volumes, “N-Space” and, “Playgrounds of the Mind,” at which point my whole fan paradigm got rickrolled.  I came up for air and said, “I want to be like Larry Niven!!”  That was in 1992.

What’s your Race score?

Brad: My Race score tends to hover in the teens, with occasional spikes into the 20s.  My goal is to try and drive it up into the “pro-zone” that Dean Wesley Smith talks about: 80 points or higher, but it’s possible I may sell too often to get it that high or keep it there.  Especially in the new universe of electronic self-publishing.  I liked your article you did on that with Amanda McCarter by the way.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Brad: I got “serious” in 1992… the first time.  I’ve gotten “serious” several times since.  The best and most recent period of “serious” began in 2007 when I went back to work on my short fiction and begin to deliberately attempt winning Writers of the Future.  There were many stops and starts between 1992 and 2007, and if I had to advise anyone, I’d advise them to not be so herky-jerky about their effort, the way I was.

What are your goals with your writing?

Brad: To pay off my house, put at least $500,000 in the bank, and quit my day job.  In that order.  That might sound rather mercenary, but the truth is, part of what made me get “serious” in 1992 was that I realized Niven was getting paid to do what I’d been doing for free on the dial-up bulletin boards for a couple of years already: write science fiction (and occasionally fantasy) stories and books.  Once I decided that merely writing for fun was not enough, I switched over to looking at it like a business prospect.  Now that I am selling, the business aspect is very front-and-center for me, beyond simply finishing books or stories.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Brad: It’s tough to say because there is no single road to anywhere in this racket.  Just because I’d like a thing to be true by 2016 doesn’t mean it will be.  However, if past paths of Writers of the Future winners are any indicator, if I bust my tail and get numerous manuscripts written, in five years I should probably have some novels sold and/or published, additional short fiction sold and published, and be generally working as a new “mid-list” man in the genre.  Not a bad place to be.  Going beyond mid-list is almost entirely up to the market and audience taste.  No way for me to guess how that may shake out.  I could crash and burn, or wind up on the New York Times list.  Or maybe be an e-publishing breakout success?  It would be nice, but I can’t count any of those chickens yet.  I don’t even have the eggs!

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Brad: Back in 1992 I daydreamed of writing a 5-book supernovel series in the Star Trek universe, detailing the exploits of Captain Sulu and Captain Chekov.  I’d written numerous chapters on a fanfiction along these lines.  Now?  Now, I’d love to dabble in Larry Niven’s universe via the Man-Kzin Wars, with Baen.  And I am currently collaborating with award-winner Mike Resnick, which is a whole unexpected but very welcome bit of fun.  As for original projects, I would very much like to write an original science fiction series with the audience penetration of “Ender’s Game” and those books, or perhaps a rigorous military fantasy series.  My imagination goes all over the place and I know I can’t write it all.  I just have to hope one of these projects, somewhere, connects with enough people to earn me a following and (hopefully) a decent amount of money.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Brad: Hobbies?  I have given up many of them over the years, to be a Dad and to get “serious” about writing.  Now and then I find a video game I like, though I haven’t played anything more modern than the TRON 2.0 game (from 2004) or the MECHWARRIOR game from before that.  Once upon a time I used to scratchbuild starship models from paper, glue and cardboard.  That was a lot of fun.  Again, just can’t seem to find the time for it these days.  Maybe when I am a big famous published author guy?  But then, Kevin J. Anderson doesn’t seem to have time for hobbies either.  He he he.

*(Nobu sez: squee moment… Mechwarrior 4 is one of my all-time favorite games!)

What’s your writing process like?

Brad: I am still trying to form a process, actually.  Left to my own devices I am a “burst” person, with periods of intense writing and then long troughs with little or no writing.  This is my “hobbyist” writing habit on full display.  Currently I am trying to teach myself to put down words every single day, whether I want to or not.  I’ve arranged my schedule so that every night come hell or high water, I am doing one hour before bed.  Whatever words I can cram onto the page.  It’s not the most inspired way to go about it, but in truth, the stuff I write when not inspired and the stuff I write when totally inspired winds up reading more or less the same.  Hat tip to Dean Smith on that truth, as you well know.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Brad: The toughest part has been ignoring the odds and the self-doubt.  The odds are terrible.  Just awful.  Anyone coming into commercial fiction because they think the odds are good is fooling themselves.  The odds are putrid.  Which is a big reason it’s always tough for me to keep my wordcount and morale up, even after breaking in.  Having climbed one “mountain” there is a whole Himalayan range ahead of me.  Do I really want to keep doing this??  Surely there are better and/or less crazy ways to make good money and have fun.  But I long ago consigned myself to this goal: of becoming a successful, well-paid science fiction and fantasy writer.  It’s been my deepest, most sought-after dream for almost 20 years.  Turning away or giving up is simply not an option for me.  So I slog on.  Not because I am especially inspired, but because I feel like if I quit now, I will be failing myself and my family, and I simply can’t do that.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Brad:  Best “trick” I can offer anyone is to just read frequently, and perk up when you see something you like.  Doesn’t matter if you think it’s what will sell.  Ignore that impulse.  When you read a story or a book, and you say to yourself, wow, I really, really liked that, PAY ATTENTION!  Try to figure out what it was in the story or book that hit your “cookies” and made you like it.  Examine these things and try to figure out how to apply them to your own stories.  My novelette “Outbound” in the November 2010 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact was like that.  I’d read a wonderful novelette called, “Arkfall” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, and I really sat up and tried to figure out what in that story worked so well for me.  When I sat down and did “Outbound” I had “Arkfall” kind of simmering in the back of my brain, as both template and inspiration.  Both stories are very different in specifics, but I think they have strong, shared themes.  I think new writers could do well to examine their favorite work by their favorite authors, and without copying per se, try to pick apart what it is those authors are doing — the size and scale of the stories, the emotional impact, the types of conflict — and bring some of that to their own work.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Brad: If I can pimp anything it would be my on-line project the Emancipated Worlds Saga.  It’s a big space-opera war story that I’ll be doing all year, with an eye towards consolidation and e-publication to the Kindle and other platforms by the end of 2011.  (Here’s a link to the Prologue)

Thanks for the interview Annie!  This was a lot of fun!!


Thank you to Brad! You can follow him at his blog:

Science Fiction Novelette

I have a near-future, hard science fiction novelette on sale now.

Ian and Jack Talley and the Prometheus Space Program set a record for the fastest manned flight to Jupiter. But the journey ended in disaster, crippling Jack and killing the rest of the team.
Ten years later, an eccentric multi-billionaire offers them all of his money, and a second chance, if they’ll fly him to Pluto. The Talley brothers reunite their team, ready to rekindle the dream of manned space flight. But self-doubts and technological issues both old and new appear, leaving the question open: are they making history? Or repeating it? And finding the answers could cost them far more than the Prometheus program.

Here’s the links to buy- (it’s only $1.99!)  Kindle (which hilariously has a reversed cover image, that will be fixed soon), Nook, and pretty much all other formats.

Now, back to writing this novel.  Enjoy!

Quickie Preview

Want to see what I’m working on?

Here’s a hint:

Now, I have to get back to it.  (This novel is going out to NY publishers while I finish the two sequels, so it might, if it sells, never make it to e-pub, but I had a cover made because visualizing something done helps me get it done.  Yeah, I’m weird).  Besides, this is awesome and I got almost 2,000 words written while my designer and I talked back and forth about it through the middle of the night.

Ebooks January

Hey, why not? I love it when other people talk frankly about the money, so I’ve made it my policy to do the same, for good or ill.  It’s tough starting a new business, which is what I’m doing with writing.  Today marks the two year anniversary to my “get serious about writing for a living” day.

In January I released a short fiction collection as epub and had my best month ever, earning a whopping $22.95 (whoops, forgot initially to count B&N and Smashwords into this, yay extra money).  Who knows if that’s a fluke or if it’ll pick up from here.  I’m planning on releasing a novel this month (if I ever get this other novel finished so I can have time for something other than writing).  Novels supposedly sell better than short fiction, so we’ll see.

Also, I received an amazing review of my collection from Alex J Kane.  I’m sort of in awe of people who can write up their ideas and opinions on a work in a way that really talks about things instead of just being a “durr, I liked this” or “gah, can’t stand this”, which is what I normally end up thinking about things I read (I am the world’s WORST reviewer, which is why you won’t see many reviews from me, just recommendations on occasion).  Anyway, if you want to read the awesome review of “The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories”, do so here at Alex’s blog.  And if you like what you read, well, I’m always up for having a better February than January any day.

And with that. Back to writing.  11 days left. Meep.

15 Days

This novel (currently standing at 7,300 words) is due on the 15th of this month.  15 days.  (I’m shipping out the query package tomorrow).  I need about 72,000 words more to have it be a decent (re: marketable) length.

15 days. 72,000 words. 4,800 words a day.  Go!

So yeah, I’ll probably be fairly absent from my blog for the next two weeks.  But some cool things are coming (more interviews, a fantasy novel released via Doomed Muse Press).  Meanwhile, I gotta write.

Neo-Pro Spotlight Interview #1

The Interview!

This is going to be the first in a hopefully long-running series of interviews with neo-professional writers. What’s a neo-pro? Someone who has started writing seriously, submitting seriously, and has a goal of making some or all of their living at writing, ie intends to be and/or has taken the first steps down the road to being a career writer.

It’s tough being a neo-pro. We might have a few sales under our belts, are likely getting more “nice” rejections than form letters, but we haven’t quite been here long enough to have the shine rubbed off. We’re past the “use correct submission format, follow guidelines, put ass in chair and write” kind of advice and into the deep end where there are only hints and no real, clear path, just hard work ahead. So I wanted to interview and spotlight some of the neo-pros I interact with (and hopefully I’ll meet more of us as I do this). While our paths may all look a little different, we’re all in this together.

And hey, this way I can say… “I knew that writer back when…”
So here’s my first victim writer interview.  Let me know in the comments if I missed a cool and/or obvious question that you’d like me to ask in the future.  Thanks!

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?
Tom:  My name is Tom Carpenter.  I have and will write just about anything I’m interested in, but I think my sweet spot will probably be fantasy and science-fiction since those forms suit me best (and it’s what I’ve most written so far.)  My day job is a Production Manager at Toyota which has kept me quite busy over the years.  Thankfully, I really picked up the old steam shovel and started working on my first novel when I was still in college.  I finished it a few years later but then got side-tracked by a few poor choices, kids, and insane amounts of work.  It wasn’t until I finished my MBA about four years ago that I realized I really do have time for writing…well actually, my lovely wife reminded me of that and I’m sure she’s regretted that decision a few times since (just kidding!  she’s amazingly supportive!)

What’s your Race score?
Tom: I’m currently at 48 which boggles my mind.  I was at zero about 1.5 years ago.  Granted, I had three novels I’d finished and was starting to write shorts, but it seemed daunting to make that score grow.  I started sending out the second and third novels (the first is not good enough by a long shot) and have been steadily increasing my score.  It’s strange to think that professionals are usually above the fifty level (though probably closer to one-hundred) and that I’ll hit that level soon.  Granted, I haven’t sold anything yet, but I feel like it’s coming.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?
Tom: After the MBA.  I also gave up my World of Warcraft addiction.  It’s amazing how much time there is to write when you’re not obsessively playing games.

What are your goals with your writing?
Tom: I’d love to say getting published, but I can’t control that.  So I’ll stick to my 2011 targets: above 50 on race score (close!), 300,000 words written, over 100 rejections (close!), and over a 20 on eRace.  I’m also planning on editing and producing a yearly anthology about augmented reality (more details in a few months!)  The world of epublishing feels so amazingly freeing.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?
Tom:  I’m sure I’ll still be working for Toyota at least until the kids are in college.  If at that time, I’m making enough to safely leave?  Then I would take that chance, but until then I’ve got two jobs.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?
Tom:  Oh jeez.  I have so many ideas for novels that it’s hard to pin that one down.  Every project I start seems like the greatest thing ever when I’m writing it.  So really I’m always dying to write, what I’m currently writing.  I would love to work with other authors on some projects though.  Either ones of my devising, or maybe something like George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series.

What are your hobbies outside writing?
Tom: We’re allowed other hobbies?  Seriously, if I had time, I would still play computer games.  I do occasionally get together with friends and play cards or other nerdy games, but it’s too far and few between.

What’s your writing process like?
Tom: I have weekly goals for word count that I expect myself to meet.  If I’m ahead on other weeks, I will allow myself a little slack, if for a good reason, but otherwise I’m a slave to the targets.  I always write on Sat and Sun morns, but try to fit in one or two nights during the week.  I also do a lot of thinking during the work drive, or when I go running with the dog on the weekends.  Overall, I’m extremely taxing on my muse, expecting her to perform whenever I demand (read my post about creativity to understand that statement:

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?
Tom: When I finished my first novel I got an agent and she scammed me out of $300.  I was devistated at the time, but now I consider that money well spent, because that small amount (compared to what some authors lose) opened my eyes to the unregulated world of agents.  As for keeping going now?  I was an undisciplined youngster when I wrote my first novel.  I actually think my time in Toyota has helped me become more focused and capable of meeting difficult targets.  It has felt like a long strange trip though, and while that first big sale (magazine or novel) will be exciting, I think I’ve also reached the point that I know its just another step on a long and daunting staircase.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?
Tom:  Listen to people with more experience than me (I recommend Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch).  Otherwise, I’d just parrot the usual advice you get from pros: read a lot, write a lot, write even more, send that stuff out and go back to writing.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?
Tom: I jumped on the self-pub bandwagon and recently put out a novel I’m very proud of: The Digital Sea.  I also write for a tech blog about augmented reality called Games Alfresco ( and I have my author website where I talk about augmented reality, writing, tech stuff and the robot apocolypse.
It’s an exciting time to be a writer!  Thanks for sharing me with your readers.

*Big thanks to Tom!*