March 2017 Status Update

I did my taxes last month. This was the first year I got to report royalty income on a 1099-MISC form, thanks to sales of Yesterday’s Demons. That was a nice problem to have.

Let’s take a look at the current status of my Project Tracker:

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I’m 7% done with the second draft of Tomorrow’s Shepherd, but honestly, that number is a little high. I bumped the bar to that percentage last month after I thought the first two chapters were done, but then I spent the rest of the month going back through chapters two and three, fixing up a few more things. I’m still not done with those two.

I mentioned in my 2016 Year-End Status Update that for a while during the drafting of the book’s first draft, I experienced some writer’s doubt. I wasn’t sure what I was writing was Not Crap. Specifically, that time was while I was writing the book’s first few chapters. I’ve finally zeroed in on what the problem was. It’s a writing problem I’ve never had to deal with before.

Tomorrow’s Shepherd is the sequel to Yesterday’s Demons, so characters and plot points from Yesterday’s Demons will inevitably be mentioned. But I also want the book to stand on its own for readers who — for some odd reason — haven’t yet read Yesterday’s Demons. And since I like that book so much, I want to tell these new readers all about it. Or more accurately, I want my characters and narration to talk all about it.

But I don’t have to go into the incredible level of detail I want to. And it’s bad if I do. The problem I finally realized was this: the early chapters of Tomorrow’s Shepherd were just telling too much about Yesterday’s Demons, and it was slowing down the pace of the story. And that’s an especially big problem because Tomorow’s Shepherd starts with a fun three-chapter action scene.

To sort through the mess, I wrote on my whiteboard “TS Chapters 2 and 3 — justify your existence.” Underneath that, I wrote down every reference to Yesterday’s Demons in those two chapters. And once I did that, I performed a brutal analysis. Every reference on that board was only allowed to stay in the story if (1) it was absolutely necessary and (2) it was communicated at exactly the right time — no earlier, no later. If it failed the first test, I said to it, “See ya.” If it passed the first test but failed the second, I found a new, more appropriate place for that particular item.

This might sound like a dull exercise, but this is actually my favorite part of writing. It’s like refactoring in software engineering — all the code you need is already there, you’re just making it better via improved syntax and more accurate placement. So that’s what I’ll be doing for a while on this new book. I can’t wait for you to read it, but only once I make sure all of its elements are in the proper order.

February 2017 Status Update

carsland
Ka-chow!

I spent two weeks of last month in the best possible way: at Disneyland! My beautiful bride, our children, and I had a great trip to my favorite place in the world. It had been two years since we’d been there, and SoCal was calling to me. I love the drive across I-10 from Texas to California, through the beauty of New Mexico and Arizona, and right past the splendor of Joshua Tree National Park. While there, we stayed at our favorite vacation rental home, and besides Disneyland, we managed to get in a day at Huntington Beach. Overall, it was fantastic. I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere but Texas, but no matter how many times I go, California remains near the very top of my list of places I want to visit.

Oh, and this trip was the first time I’ve ever been able to experience that tiny slice of paradise called It’s a Small World Holiday. I have always loved It’s a Small World. I didn’t think it could get any better. But every December and early January, when the attraction is decorated for Christmas, and the dolls sing “Jingle Bells,” it does.

And then we got home, and I got back to work.

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I’ve begun work on the second draft of Tomorrow’s Shepherd. I mentioned in my previous update how excited I am about that book and that excitement hasn’t ebbed.

You know what else I’m excited about? I recently hit a milestone with this blog. This is the 101st article I’ve published.Considering that at times I’ve struggled with what to do with this blog, that’s a big deal to me. I’m not a very social person, so it’s just not in my nature to step up to a microphone and start speaking to the world, which is basically what you do every time you publish a blog article. There’s also the simple facts that I’m a writer with a day job, and writing is a zero sum game — any time I spend writing blog articles is time I’m not spending writing my next book.

But one of my goals for 2017 is to get better at this. I’ve said it before, but it’s still very early in my career, so if you’re reading this shortly after it’s published, you’re one of My First Fans. And that means I want to stay in touch with you. I’m committed to checking in via this blog at least once a week, even if it is just to give the blog equivalent of a wave hello. Only after I do that will I allow myself to crawl back into my writing hole and get to work on my next story. Deal?

Deus vobiscum.

2016 Year-End Status Update

At this time last year, I posted a 2015 recap of the progress I’d made on that “become a published author” project I’d been working on. With the new year now upon us, it’s a good time for me to reflect back on 2016 and see how similar Plan and Reality ended up. Here’s what I had planned for 2016, followed by when I checked the item off my list… or when I didn’t.

Complete the final draft of Yesterday’s Demons
Done on March 5.

Publish Yesterday’s Demons in ebook
The pre-order went live on March 10, and the book was released on April 12. There’s really nothing else that I can consider my professional highlight of the year. This was a dream come true. If you haven’t bought it yet, check out the shopping links in the sidebar or on this page.

Publish Yesterday’s Demons in paperback
On April 22, newsletter subscribers were the first to learn this was now available. At this point, I exclusively read ebooks. But I learned that plenty of folks still prefer books made out of atoms instead of bits. And as my friend William Munn recently put it, he’s come to see a dead tree copy of a book as a collectible. So this was also a big milestone, and a true highlight of the year. For purchasing links, again see the sidebar or this page.

Complete the first draft of Tomorrow’s Shepherd
After releasing Yesterday’s Demons in ebook and paperback, I spent the remainder of 2016 head down writing its sequel. I had hoped to have a near-final draft of that book in the hands of my editor by the end the year, but life got in the way. I transitioned to a new day job, which was great for my mental health but bad (for a while) for my productivity. But the biggest problem I had in finishing by my self-imposed due date was that I struggled with the book for a while. I don’t know if I’d call it “writer’s block” so much as I’d call it “writer’s doubt.” For a while, I just wasn’t certain I was writing something that was Not Crap.

In the end, everything came together into something I’m proud of and excited about. This is the news that newsletter subscribers got earlier this week: on December 31, I completed the first draft of The Verdant Revival, Book 2: Tomorrow’s Shepherd.

As is my tradition whenever I finish a novel draft, I celebrated with a bowl of cereal:

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This time I chose a bowl of Frosted Flakes with some fresh strawberries and blueberries and, because it was Christmas and because my wife is an amazing Italian, I garnished it with some struffoli on top.

SPOILER ALERT: The final word of the book is “ours”! (Gah! Why did I give it away?)

Complete the second draft (with beta reader feedback) of Tomorrow’s Shepherd
and
Submit Tomorrow’s Shepherd to my editor
These are the two items that were on my 2016 checklist that I did not accomplish. At some point last year, I opened my 2016 annual plan notes, found the “finish the first draft” item, and added in red ink: “This seems wildly unrealistic.” Sadly that turned out to be true. But though I didn’t get as far as I hoped, I ended up with a work I’m wildly enthusiastic about. I’m an artist; I’ll take quality over deadlines any day.


So what’s next? I’m still formulating my complete 2017 plan, but I can say my number one goal for the year is to have Tomorrow’s Shepherd on sale by the end of the year. I’m going to work hard on that one, because I can’t wait for you to read it.

I’ve mentioned that each of the three books in The Verdant Revival will feature a different main character: first Siv, then Fritz, and finally Cassie. What I haven’t mentioned before is that each book also has a different theological virtue at its core. Yesterday’s Demons was about love, the opposite of fear. The finale will be about faith. And Tomorrow’s Shepherd is about hope. So while I wish I would have finished the book’s first draft sooner, there was something special about completing it during the Christmas season — the ultimate season of hope.

Thank you to all of you who helped make my 2016 so wonderful. A lot went wrong in the world last year, but I’ll always remember 2016 fondly as the year I became a published author. And as the year the Cubs finally won the World Series. #FlyTheW

June 2016 Status Update

hello-world-1333103_640I have been a slacker when it comes to writing articles here, so much so that it feels like this opening paragraph should be accompanied by the driving guitar riffs of a Creed song. “Hello, my friend, we meet again. It’s been a while, where should we begin?” Yes, that should be how I open this article, but I don’t want to sing and you don’t want to hear me sing, either.

The good news is I haven’t been a slacker when it comes to writing. Work is proceeding nicely on The Verdant Revival book two. And in my last update, I promised I’d reveal its title in this status update. You already know it if you’ve made it to the final page of Yesterday’s Demons, but just in case you’ve been unavoidably detained from reaching that goal, the title of The Verdant Revival book two is:

Tomorrow’s Shepherd

Yesterday’s DemonsTomorrow’s Shepherd. You’re probably starting to see a theme develop here, aren’t you? If you want to call Las Vegas now and put in a bet that book three’s title has something to do with the present, I assure you it would be a pretty safe bet.

I also won’t try to be coy. I’ve previously stated that each book in the series would feature the same three main characters, with each of them taking a turn in the lead role. Fritz Reinhardt is the titular shepherd of tomorrow. The story sees him attempting to bring about his dream of a world full of restored chipware. The only problem is not everyone thinks that’s such a good idea. Someone even tries to fight him over it. But, I’m not ready to tell you who just yet.

The most interesting part of writing the book so far has been the shifting of main character perspective from Siv to Fritz. Those two guys have very different perspectives! I’m also about to write the first ever Verdant Revival chapter written from Cassie’s perspective. I’ll need the practice since she’s the star of book three.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has purchased Yesterday’s Demons and especially everyone who has posted reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever else you like. The book’s launch has been more successful than I imagined it would be and for that, I am very grateful to all of you.

Deus vobiscum.