Review: Writer Emergency Pack

Arrived today: The #writeremergency #darkmode deck! @writeremergency @johnaugust #amwriting

A photo posted by Michael Hicks (@mphicks79) on

Back in November, I supported the Writer Emergency Pack as a Kickstarter project and received the final print deck in December. I was absolutely thrilled with the final card deck, and wrote about it a bit back then and posted a couple pieces of iPhoneography to go with it.

Tuesday night, I received the Kickstarter backer-exclusive Dark Mode deck, which is basically the same as the regular pack but printed on sleek all-black cards and a much darker box. It’s really nice looking and a fun little change of pace from the standard cards. The Emergency Pack crew even added the delightful little touch of wrapping the Dark Mode deck in black tissue paper, helping to emphasize the stygian nature of this updated deck.

The two #writeremergency packs side-by-side. @writeremergency @johnaugust #darkmode #amwriting

A photo posted by Michael Hicks (@mphicks79) on

Although these decks started out as a Kickstarter project, the Emergency crew is now making the standard decks available on a wider scale. Every writer can (and should!) now buy them via Amazon.

Here’s the review I posted on their product page:


This is a terrific and easy-to-use resource for writers both established and up-and-coming, designed to help storytellers get out of whatever corners they’ve written themselves into or to brainstorm ways of reinvigorating stalled ideas.

The Emergency Pack is designed to look and feel like your average deck of cards, like Bicycle playing cards, but for authors in a jam. Using these cards is very simple and is outlined on a 3-step “Emergency Procedures” card at the front of the deck: focus on your writing conundrum, draw an illustrated Idea card at random, read it and then read the corresponding Detail card. Maybe the ideas will help, or maybe they won’t, but the goal is get you asking “what if?” and to hopefully get you drifting back into the right territory. Some random cards might be “What Would Indy Do?”, “Switch Genres”, or “Kill The Hero.” The accompanying illustrations are well-drawn, detailed, and amusing (and sometimes even downright irreverent).

Shuffling through the deck during one of my own jams helped me brainstorm a finale to a recent short story that I had no idea how to finish. The writing had gone smoothly throughout, right up until the climax. And while the fix ended up being fairly simple, it wasn’t really until I’d played around with these cards that I realized how helpful the Emergency Pack truly was. It gave me a much-needed kick in the rear, helped me think my way through a muddled segment of story, and wrap up my project in a way that I found both useful, true to the story, and a worked as a satisfying finish.

The Writer Emergency Pack is a fun little tool for writers, and it’s small size – the same as your average deck of playing cards – makes it’s conveniently portable for authors on the go. If you’re the type to write while traveling or at your local coffee shop, you can easily incorporate this pack into your writing routine at any place, at any time. You might not always need it, but, then again, it is for emergencies, and you never know when it might come in handy. It very well could save your entire story, although some of your characters may never forgive you.


I’ll have a new short story printed in an upcoming anthology (currently slated for Aug./Sept. time-frame), and I absolutely did use these cards to drum up that piece’s finale. They were a total lifesaver (well, for me, as an author anyway. Less of a lifesaver for some poor fictional schmucks, but whatever). I’ll let you be the judge on how well I did with that story later this year, but as far as I’m concerned the Writer Emergency Pack has proved to be an excellent investment already. I’m keeping these cards handy and close to the keyboard when I write, just in case.

And if you want some more info on these cards, check out www.writeremergency.com/

Review: Writer Emergency Pack

The Tough Decisions of Independent Publishing

Yesterday, I wrote about making 2015 B I G! Alongside that, I am also hoping to make it different.

I’ve been an author-publisher for little more than a year now, and 2014 was a big learning experience for me with quite a few highs. That first sale! Hitting 100 sales! Having both Convergence and Consumption selected by Kobo for their Next Read listings! Newsletter subscribers! All these were huge achievements in my early, learning-as-I-go, baby-steps into the publishing arena.

2015, on the other hand, feels like it needs to be a bit of a fresh start, in some ways, as I look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I need to be bolder, I need to be more proactive, I need to try new things. 2014 was all about being an author, and while that part will certainly continue, I need to pay more attention to the publishing side of this business. In short, I need to keep learning and experimenting.

May will see the release of my first solo novel for this year, and, as a publisher, I want to change things up a bit.

So, I’m enrolling in KDP Select.

hicks-kdpThat means, for the foreseeable future, my titles will be available exclusively on Amazon.

I am hopeful that this move will help me build a larger audience, particularly as the release of Emergence draws nearer, as well as the release of our second anthology this fall. Amazon is the world’s leader in book sales, and KDP Select offers me some unique options as a publisher, like offering a 5-day free run on my titles, or countdown promotions. You’ll also be able to, effective immediately, find both Convergence and Consumption in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. So if you haven’t checked out my work yet, here’s a free and easy way to see what I’ve been up to. Go give these stories a borrow!

This exclusivity agreement with Amazon operates in 90-days intervals. If I’m not convinced of Select’s validity to me as both an author and publisher, I can always end my KDP Select agreement and re-release my titles on all platforms. But for at least the foreseeable future, my works are gone from the Nook, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and Smashword platforms.

The why of all this is simply to experiment and to dip my toes into new and interesting waters. I’ve not used KDP Select previously, so this shift is an attempt to expand my base of readers on one of the single largest eBook platforms available, and to see how it stacks up against the way I had been operating. I want to see what works best. Quite frankly, there’s just not enough of a demand on all those non-Amazon platforms at the moment to make the diversification worthwhile, and getting multiple sites to synch and coordinate properly during those rare promotional periods can be a time-consuming headache with so very little reward. The vast majority of my sales have been to Kindle customers, and I’m hoping to tap into the very large pool of readers that the Kindle platform possesses.

But, again, we’ll see what happens. This isn’t a decision that I’ve made lightly, and I’ve been weighing the chicken-or-the-egg-like options for the last three months. I think now is a good time to act and to shake things up a smidge. This is a trial run and I’ll be looking at the numbers closely, particularly once Emergence launches. The bottom line is that, from a business perspective, I need to be doing more and I think that KDP Select may be the solution, even if only a temporary one in this ever-shifting landscape of publishing as a whole. Again, we’ll see. In the end, it’s all about reaching more readers, any way I can and figuring out the best way to maximize attention for my releases while building an audience of readers. Time will tell if this is a smart move, or not, but right now it feels like the right moment to experiment and compare and contrast my efforts at diversification versus exclusivity, and figuring out where the readers are at.

The Tough Decisions of Independent Publishing

Making 2015 BIG!

One of my big life goal’s was to become a published author before I hit 35. In Feb. 2014 (at the age of 34 – that self-imposed deadline was looming large!), I released Convergence as a creator-owned production after it hit the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2013 and won acclaim from none other than Publisher’s Weekly. This was easily one of the seminal moments in my life, and I knew better than to rest on my laurels. I put out a short horror story in October called Consumption, which advanced readers responded kindly to, but which hasn’t exactly set the world on fire or found the readership I had hoped for.

Somewhere in between, I’d begun e-mailing back and forth with Lucas Bale, also a new name to the indie sci-fi scene, and we and a few others formed a sort-of writer’s club (dare I call it an Author’s Guild?) where, in addition to being a bit of a support network, we talked of releasing an anthology, which became the No Way Home collection of short stories.

I knew that 2015 was going to be a big year for me. There are certain road-markers that I had envisioned for this year, but even I’m surprised at just how big 2015 is looking, both professionally and personally.

The real big news, and a true surprise for my wife and I, is that we are expecting our first child in September! Talk about burying the lede, huh? We’ve been trying for a few years, and after two miscarriages and no luck with IVF…well, this pregnancy kind of took us off guard. The first trimester is now past us, and we’ve got a ton of work ahead of us to make our home ready for baby Hicks. Lots of planning to do, lots of money to save, and lots of decisions to make. But jeez, can I just tell you how freaking excited I am? I recently got to see our little jellybean in action at a recent ultrasound, where it was jumping around and sucking its thumb. (By the way, I say “it” not to be a detached, callous sounding asshole, but because we’re not really sure what other pronoun to use as we won’t know the gender until maybe the May time-frame.) Easily a seminal moment in my life, even more-so than publishing Convergence!

On the professional side of things, I knew that 2015 would bring about not only the release of No Way Home, but also my upcoming solo release of Emergence, the follow-up to my debut. (Pro-tip: sign up for my newsletter and get early access to Emergence for free before it goes on sale!) So, there’s two titles for the year. I had two titles out in 2014, so how is 2015 bigger and better?

How about the addition of a second anthology? Since Lucas spilled the beans on this a short while ago, I feel safe in discussing it here. This collection will be bound by the theme of crime and punishment, and we’ll be dragging a new author in with us by the name of Ceinwen Langley. We’re aiming for an August 2015 release, and I’ll be giving my contribution some polishing work after I wrap up proof-reads for Emergence. For those of you that may have been turned off by the highly unsubtle political nature of Revolver in No Way Home, you’ll be happy to hear that I’m off that kick for now. Instead of leftist dystopian and gender-rights issues, you can instead expect aliens, gore, and a dash of near-future, old-fashioned, weird Wild West. It’s a bit of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, western horror mash-up that I really enjoyed writing, and I hope that readers of Convergence and Consumption will find lots to enjoy.

If No Way Home is any indication, our next anthology will be an even bigger hit. I was truly caught off guard at the success of our first anthology, and have been delighted by the responses from readers. There’s a lot of love for this book, and we all did our damnedest to make sure it was a solid and compelling read. It’s been sitting at the top of the charts in Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Sci-Fi Anthologies, peaking at the #1 spot and is currently #3. We’ve also spent all of March in the Top 20 for Sci-Fi anthologies (currently #15). We are very eager to get the second anthology out soon, so expect to hear lots of news on this one in the coming months.

There’s the current plans for 2015 then. Embracing fatherhood, and potentially going overboard with the spoiling of our little one (by the way, I totally want to build this sandbox. Poke around this really cool site run by Ana White while you’re there. So many awesome ideas!) One solo novel and short stories appearing in two anthologies. And then there’s that third anthology I need to get prepared for, which is all about….oh, you’ll have to wait and see. But I’ll tell you this right now, 2016 is looking pretty darn good, too!

Making 2015 BIG!

2014 Writing In Review

2014 was a fairly productive period for my first year as an author. In late February, I released Convergence, and it’s since been featured as a Kobo Next Read Selection in their Science Fiction & Fantasy category, and was just recently a Book of the Week over at SciFi365.net. I’m pretty proud of this work, and reviewers have been responding favorably. I’ve heard from several readers who have greatly enjoyed it, and that alone has made this indie venture worthwhile. The title itself has raked up 10 reviews at Amazon, with a 4.8 out of 5 star average. On Goodreads, it’s accumulated an average of 4.42 out of 5 stars. It’s also made the Top 100 in Amazon’s Cyberpunk category multiple times since its release in both the US and the UK, which was very, very exciting to see.

My productivity hit its peak over the spring and summer, when I finished the first draft of Emergence and then dove into a short horror story, Consumption. Between those two works, I broke more than 110K in word-count over roughly three months.

Consumption released in October, and is currently standing at a 4.4 out of 5 star average among nine reviewers at Amazon, 4.15 on Goodreads. Again, I’ve been really happy with the reader reactions to this one. I was a bit nervous releasing it, as it’s so very different from Convergence, and is a bit off the wall. Horror is a genre I love, and I plan on dabbling in that end of the writing pool again in the (near?) future. I’ve got a few ideas I’m toying around with, but for the time being I’m heavily involved in my next novel.

And that next novel is, as I mentioned above, Emergence. This sequel to Convergence has been undergoing some serious editing and rewriting throughout the back-half of 2014. I recently received some beta reader feedback, which I think has helped tremendously, and it was great to get yet another set of eyeballs on this work. My content developer had terrific notes and suggestions, as well, and between those two readers I really do think Emergence is going to be one heck of a strong book. I’m hoping a few more betas will chime in soon. The next step is line edits, and I know my editor is going to have some more mighty fine suggestions, and that, in some ways, the work is only really just getting started.

Once those line edits are done, it’ll be onto the proofreading stage, and then art design and formatting. I’m eying a late first quarter or early second quarter release for 2015.

That’s not all, though! With Consumption out, and Emergence close to wrapping up, I was invited to take part in an anthology. There’s been a few kinks to work out on the scheduling for that one, but I have a 10,000 word short story, Revolver, that will be in the mix. Current plans are to have that one out for the spring, and I got an early look at the cover art and some of the story ideas from my fellow contributors. This should be a really great anthology, and I’m looking forward to sharing more details as we get closer to release.

I’m also in the very early stages of sorting out ideas for book three in the DRMR series, which will follow-up on some of the plot developments that occur in Emergence. I’m still a little bit away from hammering out all of the story details, but have settled on some interesting ideas that help expand on some of the conflicts seen in Convergence. I’m about five thousand words in and things are just starting to gel, so lots and lots of work ahead of me on this one.

On the blog side of things, I published 258 posts. These drew in more than 11 thousand views, across close to eight thousand visitors. Not a bad first year for this site (note: posts prior to 2014 were imported from a previous blog). I’m going to hedge my bets and say, conservatively, that between this blog and all the story writing, I probably produced close to 300 thousand words this year.

So, 2014 was busy, and I’m expecting 2015 to be equally productive. Keep an eye out for more news, more reviews, and new releases in the coming New Year.

Now, back to writing…

2014 Writing In Review

CONVERGENCE is SciFi365’s Book of the Week

Breaking news: CONVERGENCE was chosen as SciFi365’s Book of the Week. I’m absolutely thrilled by this. They write:

Our new book of the week, ‘Convergence’ by Michael Patrick Hicks, is one of those where it’s summary just doesn’t do justice to how good it is. It is truly an excellent Sci Fi novel and a worthy ‘Book of the Week’.

A cyberpunk thrillride…. The conflict between the humanity of the main character, Jonah, and the things he has had to do to survive in this harsh new world makes ‘Convergence’ an absolute pleasure to read.

Again, just sheer delight from me, and many thanks to the SciFi365 team for their support and their kind words.

CONVERGENCE is still on sale, for a limited time, for only 99 cents, so go feed your eReader!

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |

Also, be sure to check out SciFi365 and sign up for their mailing list. I’ve found lots of great suggestions from their e-mails, and plenty of good deals. You can subscribe right here.

CONVERGENCE is SciFi365’s Book of the Week

The War On Christmas

It’s that time of year again… Pundits of a particular “news” station are frothing about the annual “War on Christmas.” Over on twitter, I, and a few others, reminisced about the ordeals of last year’s struggle and the impending holocaust that will no doubt be upon us this month with the hashtag #WarOnChristmas.

What do you remember of last year’s atrocities? Did you battle against the Elves and the chaos the Kringles wrought? Share your tales of woe and horror here, or on twitter with the #WarOnChristmas hash tag.

Here’s a few I enjoyed and retweeted:

The War On Christmas

The Writer Emergency Pack just received full funding (and well beyond!) on Kickstarter, which is excellent news because I have absolutely no idea how to wrap up my current WIP!

Congrats to John August on this wonderful project. These helpful cards got the backing of 5,714 awesome people (me among them, of course) and raised $158,109, which is well above the initial $9,000 goal.

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