Blue Salvation is submitted!

As of just a few minutes ago, Blue Salvation has been submitted to Chris Kennedy Publishing. It clocked in at roughly 108,000 words, or 432 pages in standard publishing format. I imagine that will fluctuate by a couple thousand by the time editor Beth gets through with it, but it should be close to that mark when it’s published.

It was a fun ride! It took far longer to outline than it should, but between the draft and the edits it took about seven weeks to complete. If I can just manage to take care of that normally, I’d be able to crank out a lot of books in a year’s span! And that is the plan, no rhyme intended. 2020’s been a crazy year, but there is a lot left to come!

Blue Salvation’s Rough Draft is Finished!

It took a lot longer to get here than it should have, at least to me, but Blue Salvation’s rough draft is finished! For those who enjoyed the first book Blue Crucible (And it’s available here), you are in for an even wilder ride! Lots of action, lots of great characters, and more than its fair share of ups and downs. There were a few scenes that even got to me as I was writing them, so I have no doubt they will get to you, too.

I’m looking forward to digging down into the edits over the next few weeks. For now, here is the opening scene to the book. It is edited and polished, but always subject to change as editor Beth may see fit to change some things. I can do edits to an extent, but it really takes an editor to make a work shine, and that’s what she’s great at. I hope you enjoy it!

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The late night air in downtown Columbia was quiet but for the sharp sound of booted and shoed hooves striking pavement. Calico Countess walked northeast along Paris Road at a steady pace, her natural night vision letting her see obstacles in the street that I couldn’t make out without a flashlight. I kept a loose hand on the reins and trusted my tri-colored American to get me where I needed to go: to the next intersection, and then the next.

I rode at the head of a column of fifteen mounted officers, with my brother Sergeant Danny Ward of the Mobile Alabama Police Department on my left and Sergeant Berengár Silva of the Marajó military police on my right. Each of us, human and animal, was decked out in bulletproof riot armor, a huge upgrade from the stuff previous generations of officers had worn. Well, an upgrade in protective qualities, anyway. Sweat trickled down my neck and soaked into my already drenched undershirt. Late July in Missouri wasn’t nearly as hot and humid as late July back in Mobile, but it didn’t mean it was enjoyable. And since armor didn’t breathe too well…

“I’m glad there weren’t ever any riots in Mobile,” Danny said. He rode with the faceplate of his helmet raised, so he could periodically mop his face with a handkerchief. “Can you imagine wearing all this day in and day out, in August?”

“I’d have died. No question about it.” I glanced to my right. “Silva, how hot does it get in Brazil in the summer?”

The stout sergeant tilted his head up as he considered. “I can’t speak for the mainland, since I never spent much time outside Marajó. On the island, the average is around twenty-seven degrees Celsius. During the rainy season, it can go up to thirty-two.”

I did the temperature conversion in my head. “That’s between eighty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit.”

Patrolman Jeremiah Jones whistled from somewhere behind us. Between his dark riot gear and his even darker skin, the six-foot-eight giant was practically invisible in the dim moonlight in an otherwise lightless city. It didn’t help that his stallion Rambo was as black as Danny’s aptly named Noir. He’d gotten beaten up pretty badly during the assault on the Country Hotel, but he’d recovered swiftly. “Damn, Sergeant Silva. I’d be happy to trade Mobile’s weather for yours.”

“Yeah, it’s a lot hotter by us,” I said. “Maybe it’s why the fire ants like it so much.”

“Isn’t Mobile the port city that fire ants came in through?” Danny asked.

“Thanks for that!” Patrolman Lewis of the Atlanta PD said. “I hate those little bastards.”

“Don’t thank us!” I hiked my thumb at Silva. “Take it up with him. They came from his neck of the woods.”

“What is it you Americans like to say from time to time? ‘Sharing is caring?’”

Everyone laughed at that. Well, most everyone. As I turned in my saddle, I noticed the only local riding with us tonight wasn’t laughing. Lieutenant Kevin Hanson, sole survivor of the St. Louis police department. He and his squad had ridden back to the neighboring city after the bombs dropped, but all they’d found was an irradiated wasteland. He and Patrolman Orson McGraw had been the only ones to make it back to Columbia, and both had been in bad shape. McGraw hadn’t even lived long enough for the responding medics to arrive, but Hanson had somehow made it to the hospital and pulled through, at least physically. “Kevin, is this kind of heat in the middle of the night normal for this area?”

Kevin had been idly stroking the dark mane of Watson, a red gelding our department had given to him after his had horse to be put down due to radiation poisoning. He looked up at hearing his name, but I couldn’t see his face in the shadows. “Been awhile since I was on night shift, but if the daytime’s hot enough, I don’t see why the night would be much better.”

His tone was that of someone who didn’t care, and that worried me. Kevin was normally a jovial person, the kind who could put a smile on the sourest of faces or calm down the most violent of criminals. He’d changed since the fall. He was more withdrawn now, only spoke when he was spoken to, and his eyes had such a haunted quality about them. He also had fallen into the habit of doing the absolute bare minimum when it came to personal care. His uniform was often wrinkled, his riot gear dirty, and his face had the unkempt beard he’d acquired while in the hospital. It surprised me that Captain Graham and Sheriff Welliver had cleared him for duty, but maybe they thought getting back in the saddle would help snap him out of it.

I don’t know that anyone could be “snapped out” of this situation. We’d all suffered in the fall. Nearly every member of the unified mounted patrol that made up the core of Columbia’s defensive garrison had lost their hometowns and families. With the exception of my two children and Danny, I’d lost every blood relative, and I was uniquely blessed in that regard. Or cursed, depending on your outlook. Many were glad their families hadn’t survived the fall, because they feared what was coming next. Compared to them, I had a lot more invested in keeping this city alive and functional, and it weighed on me daily.

Distant gunfire echoed through the moonless night, reminding us that the fall had done more than change our demeanors. It changed our entire way of life. “Imagine that,” Jones said. “Gunfire in Columbia? Must be a Tuesday night!”

A bright ball of blue light suddenly lit up the eastern sky, in the direction of the gunfire. That signal flare meant at least one of the parties involved in the firefight requested police protection. With telephones and most radios down, it was the best way to notify us of trouble, which is why we distributed them to neighborhood leaders we could trust.

“Jones, I thought you said it was Tuesday.” Danny pointed. “Signal flares are a Wednesday night thing.”

“My bad, Sarge!”

I checked the nearby street sign to get my bearings. We were a little north of the university, and that flare had come from the east. There was only one neighborhood in that direction that I could remember handing flares over to. “Gotta be Jay Dawson and his folks.”

“That the guy you were having sweet tea with while I was getting shot at in a doughnut shop?” Danny asked.

“The very same. His wife brews a damn good pot.”

He grinned. “Well, let’s go get some, then.”

“My thoughts exactly.” I squeezed Countess’s sides with my knees, urging her into a trot, and then a canter. “Follow me!”

A horse or buffalo can eat up a lot of terrain in a short amount of time at a fast jog, but it was situations like this that reminded me of how much slower animals were to vehicles. I chafed at the delay as the sounds of gunfire grew louder the closer to the scene we got. With so few vehicles working in the city due to the EMP shockwave, we were often the fastest to respond, as slow as that had once seemed. Then again, with so many disabled vehicles clogging the streets, we would probably still be the fastest to respond. Horses and buffalos could maneuver these tight spaces much better than a car or truck.

“Why does it feel like we’re never going fast enough?” Danny demanded.

I chuckled. “That’s twice in one night you’ve read my mind.” The staccato sound of automatic weapons fire stifled my levity. “It’s the nature of the job. No matter how fast we can go, it wouldn’t seem like enough.”

Jay’s neighborhood was a relatively new development, built sometime in the last twenty to thirty years. After JalCom had bought the city and proceeded to knock down and rebuild huge swathes of it, a number of people had moved out into what had once been farmland and put down roots there, close enough to the city to still be able to work there, but not so close that the Corporate hand was upon them. Trees surrounded the fenced-in subdivision on three sides, and the wrought-iron fence and gate facing the street had been fortified with sandbags, old furniture, scrap metal, and as much other debris as could be found. Some industrious individual had even hauled over a few broken-down trucks to add to the growing wall.

Shadowed figures stood in the beds of those trucks and fired across the road into a crop field that had been plowed up back in early May, shortly after the bombs dropped. More shadowy figures crouched behind caged tomato plants or peeked out between cornstalks to fire back at the neighborhood entrance. I didn’t need to use too much deductive reasoning to figure out what was going on here. Someone was rustling up food that someone else had gone to the trouble of growing, and that wasn’t right.

I put my whistle to my lips and blew. The sharp trill pierced the night, rising over the gunfire and the distinct clop-clop-clop of our mounts’ hooves. “It’s the police!” one of the neighborhood defenders shouted.

“Kill ‘em!” someone in the crop field yelled.

Rounds zipped past our heads or skimmed along the pavement. Countess snorted and danced away from an impact that showered us both with chips of asphalt. “Way to make the locals angry, Nate,” Danny said as he pulled his Remington 870 pump-action shotgun from the scabbard connected to Noir’s saddle. He put the weapon to his shoulder, lined up his ghost-ring sight on an enemy, and squeezed the trigger. I looked forward just in time to see the target dive for cover. Danny clicked his tongue. “Damn. Missed.”

“At least his pants are ruined!” I drew my assault rifle, clicked it over to semi-auto, and stared down the glowing tritium sights at a bad guy crouched between two rows of caged tomatoes. I realized he was aiming at me, and we both froze. I recovered more quickly, and squeezed the trigger once, twice, and again. The man’s body shook with each bullet’s impact, and he slumped to his knees, and then fell face-first into the soft, tilled soil.

A round buzzed past my head, and I shifted to fire at a pair of men hiding in the cornstalks. I know I hit one, but both spun and disappeared into the corn. “Fall back!” someone shouted.

“Silva, take your squad around back on the right side! The rest of you, follow me!” I spurred Countess into a gallop. To the defenders of the neighborhood, I shouted, “Hold your fire!”

I led Danny, Jones, Kevin, and four other officers down the street, our horses’ hooves thundering along the pavement. Countess and I raced past a pair of bodies on the hard-packed dirt shoulder. Both had died facing the crop field, so I wasn’t sure which side they belonged to. One of them was a young boy, by the look of it. “Shit,” someone muttered behind me. I know how he felt. I’d seen a lot of corpses in my time as a cop and more than I ever wanted to since the bombs dropped a couple months back, but the sight of dead kids never got any easier.

The day it did was the day I’d hand over my badge.

The tomato patch near the road turned into peppers, then summer squash, but the cornfield beyond them stretched for a good fifty yards or so, and there was no telling from here how deep it was. I had to hand it to the folks of Jay’s neighborhood. They were hard-working.

As we neared the edge of the crop field I turned Countess off the road and onto the grass. Row after row of leafy green cornstalks flashed past my periphery in a blur as we galloped toward the far end of the field. Shouts and gunshots echoed from somewhere up ahead and to the right, along with Silva yelling, “Police! Drop your weapons!”

Movement in the corn up ahead caught my eye, and I reined Countess in. “Woah!” I called to the others.

A trio of figures burst from the cornstalks, each laden with sacks full of what I assumed had to be food. I flicked on the flashlight attached to my rifle and shined it in their faces. Even though it was directed away from me, the sudden intensity brought tears to my eyes. “Freeze!”

The three men snapped their heads in my direction, their expressions like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding truck. If not for the seriousness of the situation, I’d have laughed. “Put down the sacks and get your hands in the air.”

One of them had canted his body away from us slightly. My flashlight caught the glint of metal. I shifted my aim to him. “Drop the gun. Tomatoes and corn aren’t worth dying over, man. I don’t care how well-grown they are.”

“Drop it, man!” one of the man’s buddies hissed. “I don’t wanna get shot!”

“Tch. Fine.” The armed man tossed the rifle to the ground, then dropped the sack. He raised his hands over his head and glared at us, heedless of the lights shining in his face. “Happy now, you pigs? You enjoy picking on hungry people?”

“Do you enjoy shooting it out with equally hungry people who are expending the effort to grow food?” Danny demanded.

“They’re only in it for themselves! They’re not helping us out.”

“Mr. Dawson and his people contribute vital supplies to the city on a regular basis.” I kept the weapon light focused on them, but I removed my finger from the trigger. “Supplies that get distributed every other day. Supplies you were stealing for yourself. Now, each of you get about five feet apart from the other, turn your backs to us, and keep your hands in the air.”

Kevin, Jones, and Lewis slid from their saddles and approached the trio. Jones and Lewis moved with purpose, but Kevin’s slumped shoulders and downcast gaze didn’t give me a good feeling. “Keep an eye on that one, Lieutenant Hanson,” I said.

Kevin’s head lifted, but only slightly.

Lewis reached his target first and pulled the man’s arms down behind his back. He let himself be cuffed without incident.

That wasn’t the case for Kevin’s suspect. When he reached for the man’s wrists, the man smashed an elbow into the side of Kevin’s helmet. Kevin staggered and fell just as the suspect spun around, his hand going to his waistband.

I set my finger back on the trigger. “Put your hands in the air!” I prayed I wouldn’t have to shoot over Kevin like this.

Jones appeared in my view and swung his fist down into the man’s face. The suspect’s head snapped back and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Jones stood over him, his right arm extended, his left hooked around the man he’d cuffed. He’d dragged him along with him when he set out to neutralize the threat. Jones forced his charge down into a sitting position and put a finger in his face. “Don’t go anywhere.” Then he knelt next to the man he’d downed and started to cuff him with the set Kevin had dropped in the grass.

The man groaned as Jones roughly pulled his arms behind his back so he could cuff him. “Fuckin’ pig.”

Jones grinned. “Oink oink, baby.”

Silva and his buffalo riders came around the corner then. A few had dismounted to drag along a half-dozen cuffed thieves. Tonight had been a good haul, it seemed.

Blue Crucible Release Day!

As of midnight, Blue Crucible has gone live on Amazon! It is available in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Paperback formats. It is marked as the seventh book in the Fallen World universe, but note that it is the beginning of a new series in that world. It can be read separately and out-of-order from the other six books. In fact, in terms of chronology, I believe it is the first. All the other books take place months or decades after the fall, but Blue Crucible begins on the day it all turned to crap.

From the back cover blurb:

The end came fast for Lieutenant Nathan Ward. One moment he was participating in an international convention of mounted police officers, the next he was in a command bunker watching the world’s two biggest Corporations—Obsidian and Teledyne—destroy it in an exchange of nuclear hellfire.

While Columbia, Missouri was spared a direct strike, a near-miss EMP fried most of the vehicles and the electrical grid. Then the Corporations started a shooting war in the streets, and they didn’t care who got caught in the crossfire. But Columbia was one of the last cities still standing, and Nathan and his fellow officers weren’t going to give it up. Even if it meant facing the worst the Corporate militaries could throw at them.

The Corporations had no intention of giving up the city, either, and Obsidian called in reinforcements to match Teledyne’s Specialist, a woman with the power to defeat a company of soldiers all on her own. Both Corporations intended to reign supreme and were willing to crush anyone who got in their way. In the post-apocalyptic world, there was only one law—theirs—and not the one with a badge.

The world may have fallen, but the Thin Blue Line’s battle is only beginning.

For those who read it, please consider leaving a review! Every review helps Amazon take notice of the book and start to passively and then actively promote it. It’s how small-press and indie authors get noticed. Thank you for your support!

And a huge thanks to Chris Kennedy of CKP, Christopher Woods (the creator the Fallen World), Beth Agejew my editor, William Joseph Roberts and RJ Ladon for helping me with the rough draft, and to all those on the early reader team! That includes two very good friends of mine (Aubree and Bill, thank you both!) and my wife, who has to suffer through all my, “Hey, what about this…?” moments. Thank you all!

Lastly, please consider joining my mailing list. It is rudimentary at the moment, one of those free plugins that comes with WordPress. I am looking into some of the professional services like MailChimp, AWeber, and a new one that’s meant specifically for writers. In the meantime, though, I plan for posts on the blog once or twice a week, and e-mails no more than once a week unless something big is happening.

Again, thank you all!

Blue Crucible Cover Art Reveal!

Since my publisher went public with it, I can only assume I’m free to post about it here. All I can say is, wow. I’m absolutely blown away by this cover art. Never in my life did I expect my very first novel would have this kind of artwork.

And the coolest part about it is Chris let me help design it. He came to me back in early December after I announced the draft was finished, and asked what I would like on the cover. From what I understand of traditional publishing, this isn’t typically how it’s done. The big firms have marketing departments who figure all that out. Authors get a little bit of input, but not much. Depending on the author, anyway. I laid out a few ideas based on scenes from the book, and this was the one we decided would be best: a crazy charge into the hotel the bad guys are holed up in at the climax of the book.

I forget what the third idea was, but the second one was a close-up shot of the main character, Lieutenant Nathan Ward, charging towards the “camera” with mounted officers behind him. We axed that idea pretty quickly because Amazon has some new weird rule for cover art that effectively bans any kind of artwork where weapons are being pointed at the “reader.” Why, I don’t know. The audience has been getting shot by James Bond for decades and there hasn’t been any outcry over it that I’m aware of. But, such is life. And this cover art turned out amazingly well. I would argue it’s the best Fallen World artwork so far, but all of it’s excellent. Elartwyne Estole just gets better and better!


Blue Crucible is Finished!

After a month of edits and rewrites and lots of red ink from a pair of really good writer friends, Blue Crucible is off to the publisher! As I submitted it, the document sat at around 92,500 words, or 315 double-spaced pages. I have no idea what that will translate into in terms of Kindle pages or the paperback version, but it’s in the realm of a longer novel for the Fallen World series.

The story begins on the day of the fall itself: May 1st, 2067. It follows a mounted police officer trainer as he, his subordinates, and the men and women of numerous visiting police departments fight to restore order to a city spared from direct nuclear attack but still hit with an electromagnetic pulse strong enough to bring down most of the electrical grid and disable most vehicles. Horses will be the main mode of transportation, so it’s a good thing so many mounted officers are gathered together in one spot. And things are going great, until Teledyne and Obsidian – the two Megacorporations responsible for the nuclear exchange that destroyed most of the nation – start a shooting war in the city of Columbia. The officers are ordered to stand down and let the two fight it out, but as civilian casualties rise, how many of the good men and women of the Thin Blue Line are going to just stand by and watch? Not many, that’s for sure.

Expect lots of gunfights, horses, a titanic clash between a Teledyne Specialist and an Obsidian Agent, and regular officers caught in-between as they try to serve and protect.

LibertyCon 2019 After-Action Report

I’m not the best at these After-Action Reports, mostly because I’ve only been to a few writer’s conferences, but also because so much happens during them that I’m not sure what to focus on. And with my usual habit of digressing, well, you see where that can lead.

This is the third LibertyCon that I’ve been to (2017, 2018, and 2019). The only other one I’ve attended was World Fantasy Con back in 2016, where I spent the majority of that opening Friday helping first set up the art exhibit since they needed volunteers, and then sitting and listening to Larry Dixon regale me with stories of, well, everything from his wife Mercedes Lackey’s writing career to his artistic and authorial pursuits to the various jobs he’s held over the years. Basically, I let him talk my ear off to the point that he was probably wondering what he got himself into by inviting me to sit. But, hey, I’m the kind of guy who loves a good story, and Larry reminds me of a friend from church who always has a story about everything, and the story is always worth the hearing, even if it’s the fourth or fifth time he’s told it.

I don’t remember much else about World Fantasy Con, other than the panels that Mercedes Lackey and L.E. Modesitt (Both fantastic authors, and both guests of honor that year) sat on. Many of the other panels were about how to make a book as politically correct as possible and filling out character and setting quotas and what kinds of authors publishers want and don’t want.

Back to LibertyCon 2019. (See, there’s that digression thing I told you about…) This was the absolute best LibertyCon I’ve been to, to date. 2017 was great, 2018 was awesome, and 2019 was infinitely better than the first two combined. Back when I attended World Fantasy Con a number of the pros I spoke to who had been attending regularly for years all said it took about three or four consecutive convention visits before you started to feel like you fit in. I can say that seems to hold true for LibertyCon, though I would argue that LibertyCon is much more welcoming on the face of it. They make it a point to mark down first-time visitors and first-time pros, and everyone does their best to engage with the newcomers, from pros like Larry Correia to publishers like Toni Weisskopf to the men and women running the con. So, while I definitely felt like a dish out of water at the first con, I didn’t feel isolated or alone.

2019 was a culmination of the previous two years’ worth of visits. In 2017 I became good friends with my online writing partners William Joseph Roberts and RJ Ladon, both of whom introduced me to Ed McKeown and Michael Hanson and helped me get into a fantasy horror anthology Ed and Michael published in 2018. In 2018 I sat on my first pair of panels ever, discussing the aforementioned anthology (Sha’Daa: Toys, part of the Sha’Daa mythos), and I also met Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, Kacey Ezell, Marisa Wolf, and several other authors published by Chris Kennedy Publishing in the Four Horsemen military sci-fi mecha action universe. I pitched a short story idea to Chris for an upcoming anthology, and that was how “Return to Sender” was born (Available in Tales from the Lyon’s Den). I am still working out a novel idea for arms dealer Jackie Warren and her tough crew of bodyguards, but that has been sidelined for now while I work on something that came up at this year’s LibertyCon.

Aside from getting to meet friends from past years and getting to make new friends and acquaintances, the biggest deal of the con was solidifying an idea I had for Christopher Woods’ Fallen World universe. It started as a pitch for a short story and Chris liked it so much he sent it over to Chris Kennedy, who liked it so much he wanted to turn it into a book. So, there we go. I’ve got a couple short stories to work on, and then it’s on to plotting out and drafting this book! It’s gonna be great.

Can’t wait to finish this book, and can’t wait for LibertyCon 2020! And maybe even FantaSci 2020.

 

“Impossible Hope” Short Story Anthology is Released!

A few months back, my friend and fellow author William Joseph Roberts let me know about an anthology being put together for a charitable cause. The Impossible Hope anthology came together as a means of promoting and supporting the medical GoFundMe for Bonnie Oliver, who’s suffering from a number of issues that require specialized treatment. This anthology is available in digital format to any who donate to the GoFundMe, and will also be available in a physical release sometime soon. Please consider supporting the GoFundMe, or at least spreading the word by sharing links and posting about it. Prayers and well-wishes are needed and appreciated, as well.

The theme of Impossible Hope was inspirational stories, stories that people could take hope from. There was no genre limitation, so the stories ran the gambit from nonfiction to fiction, literary to speculative. Since I can’t help but write speculative fiction, my story “Blue Pearls” was a modern-day / near-future fantasy about a deep dive worker operating out of Ago Bay in the part of Japan where they have a lot of pearl beds.

During his short tenure there my protagonist has managed to befriend a mermaid, who brings him a gift of pearls. But, before he can take the offered gift, disaster strikes. If they’re going to survive, they’ll have to work together. It’s a short piece, a little longer than what some would consider flash fiction (1,000 words or less) but not by much. In its original form a few years ago, it was short-listed for Flash Fiction Online, but ultimately didn’t make the cut for a variety of reasons, one of them being the sheer amount of grammar and spelling issues I hadn’t noticed in my muse-fueled haze of drafting and editing. The other issues with it required me to expand the story into the form you will find in the anthology. I’m happy with how it turned out, including the ending that’s a little open-ended. Depending on if you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person, it’ll have a different result.

Yesterday, a few of us got together on a podcast hosted by Ben Wheeler and April Freeman, to talk about our stories and what inspired us to write them and to contribute to the anthology. It’s about 43 minutes, and was a lot of fun:

In the anthology, you will find the following stories by the following authors:

Do Something – Logan Lewis

Battle Buddy – Tom Rogneby

Queen’s Gambit – David Freiberg

Glastonbury Abbey – Josh Griffing

Four Funerals and a Wedding – L. Jagi Lamplighter

A Random World of Delta Capricorni – John C Wright

Shoulders of Giants – Dave Higgins

Sir Ronan and the Smooth Road – Frank Luke

Buddy – William Joseph Roberts

Bullies and Soggy Soup Bones – Woelf Dietrich

Battle Within – Musaab Sultan

Take My Breath Away – Sam M. Phillips

Ghosts of Camlan Hill – Ben Wheeler

Moulin Rouge’s Last Secret – Denton Salle

Life on the Fringe – B. Michael Stevens

Blue Pearls – Benjamin Tyler Smith

The Other Side – Heather Hood

Invisible Battles – R.J. Ladon

With Royal Beauty Bright – Nicholas Arkison

The Switchman’s lantern – James Pyles

Short Stories, Book Contracts, Con After Action Reports, and Honorable Mentions!

Just a short post for today, to let people know the site is still active. We had family up visiting for the last month (Supposed to be a two-week visit, and then…), and a lot has happened in the last several weeks that I still need to catch up on.

For starters, I have a short story to finish for Michael Hanson and Ed McKeown’s “Not to Yield” anthology. I call it an anthology, but it’s more of a shared novel. There are a proposed 17 chapters to this military sci-fi space epic, with each chapter being written by a different author (Including my friends William Joseph Roberts, R J Ladon, and Marisa Wolf), I have the honor of writing Chapter 12, where the ship has been infested with insect aliens who use psychic abilities to mask their presence and sow confusion amongst the crew. The captain will have to save her ship, but the tool she has to use might very well kill her. Cue the dramatic music!

 

Once that is finished in the next week, I have the rest of my year planned. Shortly before leaving to go to LibertyCon in Chattanooga, I had a conversation with Christopher Woods and Chris Kennedy of Chris Kennedy Publishing. The conversation began with me telling Chris Woods that I really enjoyed his Fallen World universe and was looking forward to the next short story anthology he and Chris Kennedy put together, since I’d like to contribute to it. He asked about my story idea, and when I mentioned a mounted police cavalry unit riding in to save the day in his post-apocalyptic world, he told Chris Kennedy. That started a three-way Facebook conversation that ended in, “It’s too late for this to be a short story. You’re going to have to write a book!” So, yeah. I’m still a combination of excited, numb, and more than a little nervous about how all that turned out. I’ll write more about this in my next post as it deserves its own, but I wanted to mention it here at the very least. I wasn’t given a firm deadline on it, but it’s my own personal goal to have it outlined and drafted by mid-September, and edited and sent over by sometime in November, if not sooner. I’ve drafted a couple of books before this one, but never for someone who’s actually requested it. I am battling paralysis and motivation all at the same time, but the motivation is winning. Oh, boy, is it winning. It’s been my dream to be a novelist since I was a little kid, and it’s something I’ve been working much more seriously at these last five years, when I started building my library of craft books and honing my craft on short stories. This will be my career, if the Lord is willing and I do my part.

Thirdly, LibertyCon 2019 was the most amazing convention I’ve been to. It was my third year visiting the Con (2017, 2018, and 2019) and my fourth writer’s conference ever. The first was World Fantasy Con back in 2016. We’re ready for LibertyCon 2020, and next year we’ll be going to a new con, at least for me: FantaSci in Durham, North Carolina. I’ve got to do my part to have this book finished, with a second one on the way before those cons get here!

Lastly, but still just as important as the rest, I received the results from Quarter 2 of this year’s Writers of the Future contest. My as-yet-unnamed short story (I may resubmit after editing) earned a Silver Honorable Mention spot! From what I understand, that means the story survived all the way up to the semi-finalist paring. So, it wasn’t in the top 16, but it was in the top 30 or so. And for the first quarter, another story of mine was an Honorable Mention. I’ve been submitting to Writers of the Future at least once per year for the last several years, and this is the first time I’ve ever made any kind of ranking. Super exciting and humbling all at the same time.

And the short post turned out a lot longer than I thought it would be. Regardless, each of these things deserves its own post, so expect that in the coming days. In the meantime, it’s back to the day job, then on to more writing!

NaNoWriMo After-Action Report

Well, by the grace of God and with the help of a stalwart wife unafraid to lock me in the basement, I’ve managed to “beat” the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge for the first time, at least from a wordcount perspective. The goal for the month-long challenge is to complete the first draft of a novel, or 50,000 words minimum. It had been my goal to go beyond that minimum by at least double, clocking in at 100,000 words and completing the rough draft of a novel set in the Four Horsemen Universe. In the end, I managed 70,279 words, and much of that was in the 8 days following Thanksgiving. It’s been quite a journey, to say the least!

However, when November 1st rolled around, I was still in the midst of outlining. I’ve gotten much better over the years at planning out critical plot points and twists, but the journey between those points is often a nebulous area for me, prone to much head-scratching and hours spent doing anything but putting in keystrokes or penstrokes. So, November 1st became November 2nd, and 3rd, and before I knew it, we were four days into the month and still nothing written other than what was in the outline. At that point, I decided I had to just get to it and continue the outline while drafting.

Then life interfered, as it always does. And while I was getting words down, it was a trickle of what I knew I was capable of. 1,500 words one day, 400 the next, 3,300 the following, and so on. By the time Thanksgiving got here, my wordcount was sitting at 8,527. Just barely past the opening scenes of Jackie Warren’s novel adventure, and nowhere near the inciting incident. That made for a very frustrating experience, especially as I was hearing about the successes going on with the people in both of my writers’ groups. I wasn’t envious of them. I was kicking myself for not living up to that potential, for letting them down. This, I think, is one of the best parts of being in a group of writers with just as much drive as you. Their accomplishments spur you on. At least, that’s the case for me.

Thanksgiving happened, and it was then I decided to just pull back from the writing for a day, to rest and be thankful for all God’s blessed me with, from my family and friends and colleagues to the desire to write and the opportunities that have been set before me. I also took time to reflect on those who are nowhere near as blessed as I am, who suffer many more afflictions or life stresses and go on to produce so much.

And then on Black Friday, while many were out killing each other over factory-second TVs and game consoles, I went down to the basement, set up a writing spot, and got to work. In that one day, I wrote 9,183 words, more than I’d produced the entire month. I’ve done 10k days in the past, but they were rare. And I’m tired of them being rare, so the push was on! And from Black Friday to Friday the 30th, a total of 61,752 words were produced. They’re rough words, but they’re words on digital paper, waiting to be torn apart, reassembled, and polished up in the editing phase, which will begin shortly.

The point of this post is to show that it is certainly possible to produce a fair amount in a relatively short amount of time. Now, I wish I’d been more consistent with this throughout the month. The words produced would probably be of a higher quality if I’d spread this out over the entire month rather than the last week of the challenge, and I’d have reached my goal of having the entire novel done by the end of the month if I’d been putting in, say, 4,000 per day rather than 7,500 a day in a frantic final push. But, I know now what I’m capable of doing when I have five solid hours of writing to do per day, and a basement with nothing else to do other than write.

So, yes, once more: I am very thankful for the people in both my writing groups for giving me the encouragement needed to push on through with the draft, not just during November but in the weeks before and the weeks to come. And since this particular manuscript is set in the Four Horsemen Universe, special thanks to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for creating such a badass place to house a group of characters I hope people find cool and fun to follow.

I have no idea on the ultimate fate of this novel, as I sort of decided to put the cart before the horse and whip up this draft before the story was even looked at or approved. But, hey, it’s too cool a universe to not want to write in it. I haven’t been this excited about a shared world experience since back when I was writing Star Wars and Warhammer 40K fanfiction, so I couldn’t help but dive right in.

In any event, back to the basement dungeon I go, to finish the draft, figure out what needs to be done with the editing, and then get a proposal written up. As mentioned earlier, this novel features the character Jackie Warren and her Justin Timers from the short story “Return to Sender” in the Tales From the Lyon’s Den anthology published back in October. If you enjoyed the story and characters and have something you’d like to know more about or see more of, now’s the time to let me know! The carcass of a rough draft has yet to be opened up in an editing autopsy, so many things could change.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A holiday such as today warrants a post, and it’s a great excuse to kick myself in the butt and get this blog going again. Preferably I’d like to have some sort of posting schedule, but for now it’s enough to get back to posting at all.

I have much to be thankful for this year, from physical health to new work responsibilities to new writing opportunities. As I don’t want this post to drag on and on and on (And neither do you, I’m sure), I’ll just list them:

  • First and foremost, I am thankful for Jesus Christ, for the sacrifice He made on behalf of all who would believe in Him, and for the blessed assurance that comes from that faith.
  • I am thankful for my wife and immediate family, and the support they show me in all things, but especially in writing. I couldn’t do this without you!
  • A big thanks also goes out to those in the two writing groups I’m honored to be a part of. Scott, Rachel, Jessi, Will, let’s keep it up! Together we can win this thing.
  • I am thankful for the new position in the company I’ve worked at for the last several years. It provides steady, fulfilling employment, and as long as they need me, I’m there.
  • I am thankful for the editors and publishers who have taken a chance on my writing this year, most notably Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, Mike Hanson, and Ed McKeown. Thank you all for enjoying my stories and publishing them in Tales from the Lyon’s Den and Sha’Daa: Toys. I look forward to working with all of you again in the future!
  • I am thankful to the editors at Baen for deeming one of my Necropolis short stories to be worthy of a finalist position in the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award for 2018. That was a huge shock to me when I got back from LibertyCon.
  • Likewise, I am grateful to the judges of the Writers of the Future competition for finding one of my stories worthy of an honorable mention in the 4th Quarter of the contest this year. That’s a first, and a great step in the right direction!

Everyone, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Save travels, good food, good fellowship, and always be grateful to the God who blesses us in all things.