I have no idea what I’m doing

Photo credit Andre Benz, Unsplash.com

Friends often send me texts: “I want to apply for this job, but I don’t fit the qualifications. Do you think I should go for it?”

That’s really similar to, “I want to write this book, but I don’t think anyone will take me seriously.”

A few years ago, I went to New York City for the first time (as an adult). I was there to celebrate my 10th anniversary with my amazing wife, and we were on our own dime. We couldn’t afford to take cabs, so it was time to learn to use the subway. We’d never done it before. Without asking anyone, we started trying to get around, checking maps and cross-referencing. Before long, we ended up in Brooklyn as we tried to hit Times Square.

For those who know New York, that’s a Super Subway Fuck Up™.

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A VERY NICE book deal: We did it again!

Once more, I am in awe of Connor Goldsmith, who sold my three-book series, “The Salvagers,” to Orbit, a major SF publisher.

I’m extremely grateful for his help, as well as to Brit Hvide, my new editor, who sees my story with the same eyes I do. I know we’re going to make some brilliant books together.

And for those fans who loved The Gearheart, get ready! While the book isn’t in the same universe, it’s a spiritual successor. Kind of like Xenosaga to Xenogears, to quote my PS1-literate agent. If you’re ready for magic, adventure and gunfights (in space), you came to the right place!

I’ll keep you all in the loop over the coming year about our progress and when you can expect to read it. For more about the first book, go here!

A Traditional Publishing Timeline

“My book came out yesterday!”

“Oh yeah? How do you get published?”

First, you get an agent.

In 2006, I finished my first novel. I started querying. By 2007, it became clear that no one wanted it. Barbara Lowenstein sent me my first form rejection letter.

In 2009, I finished THE GEARHEART. Again, I started querying. The only real response came from Laurie McLean, then of Larsen Pomada. I met her through Philippa Ballantine.

Laurie said, in a nutshell, “Great imagination! Your craft sucks!”

I spent 3 years wasting time on that book, trying to get it right, rewriting it from scratch. I never did.

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Safety Through Ritual

I am a creature of habit. This post is going to sound entitled and whiny, but I’m going to describe core parts of my personality, and (hopefully) how I overcame them.

Between the years of 2011 and 2015, I had a set schedule. Arrive at work at 8:00 am. Write from 11:30 to 1:00, leave work at 5:30pm. We had a conference room scheduler at my office, so I would always grab one of the rooms with a perfect, picturesque view of a green hillside. It was like the Windows XP background up in there.

The routine was easy: First, I walked the quarter mile to my secret meeting room. I heated up my lunch while my computer booted. Then I streamed music into my sanctuary and shut out everything except me and the window. And, man, that made me so happy.

But I was promoted and moved to an Army base.

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How to Name a Novel: The CAM Method

I’m not the best at a first-draft name. It’s tough, because I’m usually writing it with little to no knowledge of how the project will actually turn out. I may as well call it NOVEL 09 DRAFT1 and be done.

Inevitably, I’ll have to change the name when it goes to my agent. But what do I call it now? How do I alter the way I think and talk about the book?

I use a chart.

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Celebrate Yourself

Let’s face it: unless you are spectacularly lucky, your first book is crap. I know mine was.

Many authors I’ve met over the years never managed to publish their first five or six books. Some of them didn’t publish until they hit twelve or thirteen. Others still have vast bodies of work and a meager to moderate self-publishing audience.

And that’s okay. The first rule of writing is always “you do you.” But it’s lonely to push work out into the void. You’ve done all of this incredible writing, and no one wants to read it.

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Make a Meal of Your Novel

I think of a lot of things in terms of flavor. Numbers, for example: I think 3 would taste like a cracker, 9 would be sweet and 5 seems kind of metallic. I’m not going to claim synesthesia, but I have natural associations that drive me in that direction.

I think these associations are a powerful tool to evaluate and improve your writing.

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