Writing Through the Unknown

About a month ago, my wife dropped a bombshell on me regarding our finances. The projected costs of daycare for our son next year will be roughly equivalent to what I bring home from the day job, which leaves me in a bit of a tough spot. Although nothing has yet been decided one way or the other, at the moment it is looking like I have two options. I can continue working so we can break even on the budget, or I can become a stay at home dad with zero income.

While I would love to stay at home and spend time with my son, this latter option would force me to change the way I write and publish. The day job, you see, is how I pay for editing and cover design. Without the day job, I have no income for publishing. But with the day, going into next year’s round of tuition hikes, I’m working just to pay that bills and still having no income for publishing aside from whatever revenue I can generate from selling those titles currently available.

And that income? … Well, it ain’t much at all, really.

As you might expect, this news has thrown me for a bit of a loop. I’ve spent much of this month trying to recalibrate and plan ahead for a bit, and try to get a grip on the shape of the rest of this year.

I’ve also been submitting to several different markets in the hopes that something lands. The recently released CLONES: The Anthology was a good, but brief, bit of exposure. For a few hours, I was even in the Top 100 of all science fiction authors on Amazon. That did not last long, but it was fun momentarily, until it was time to get back to work.

I haven’t submitted to any markets in more than two years now. I shopped Convergence around for a bit after hitting the quarter finals and scoring an insanely positive review from Publisher’s Weekly in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest. I didn’t get any takers (or even any responses to inquiries), and self-published it to pretty solid reviews (it’s currently sitting at 4.4 star rating, so if you’ve read this book, or any of my other works, please leave a brief review), and was quite content to carry on as an independent author-publisher.

Now I find myself potentially facing a pretty massive change. I don’t foresee abandoning writing anytime soon, but I may have to alter how my work gets published and distributed. If it’s to get published and distributed at all.

I do still have some tentative plans to release a few standalone titles later in the year, the bulk of which will be publishing several short stories that appeared in various anthologies recently. An audiobook of Revolver will be starting production soon, and I’ve got a terrific narrator on tap to bring Cara Stone to life. This is going to be a really exciting project to direct and produce, and I’m hoping to share more on this in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’m submitting. I’ve gotten some feelers out there with various publishers of science fiction and horror. I’m about half-way through a sci-fi novella and staring down the end of an open-door submission period that I may not be able to make, but we’ll see what happens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I’ve got a short story in review for a magazine, and a horror novella submitted to another publisher. It would be stupid of me to pin all my hopes and dreams on being accepted to any of these, let alone all of them, so I’m keeping my hopes firmly in check.

I’m also writing. Writing, writing, writing. That’s the only thing I can do. Maybe these works will get published, maybe they won’t. All I can do is work, and, hopefully, be able to keep working, even if at a reduced capacity next year. Worst-case scenario, I suppose, is that I get plenty of trunk novels saved up until I can make my grand re-entry.

Or, you know, maybe my books suddenly take off like wildfire and I build up a nice cushion of savings to keep on publishing (hint hint).

But, again, nothing has been decided one way or another yet, and it will take a few more discussions with my better half before we figure out the logistics and what will work best for us as a family. Of course, I certainly hope and want to continue releasing my work and am planning as such until I know otherwise. So, this is not goodbye. This is merely me venting something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for news on that Revolver audiobook and future short story releases later in the year. And plenty more book reviews are on the way!

Writing Through the Unknown

Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

I was catching up on some episodes of the Three Guys with Beards podcast (hosted by Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, and James A. Moore – all great storytellers that you should be checking out) when they got onto the topic of writing styles. Or maybe how they approach their writing is a more apt description. Which then got me to think about the manners and methods of how I write.

Look, every writer has their own style. There’s no right way, and there’s no wrong way. Anyone who tells you different is talking out of their ass. If you’re a writer, find a method that works for you, but don’t be afraid to try new things. If that new thing doesn’t work for you, pitch it out the window and do something else. Simple, right?

In the episode, the bearded ones mentioned a couple different styles they’ve employed, from running straight through beginning to end, writing the climax first, or playing hopscotch through the manuscripts and going back and forth.

For me, I’m a straight-up beginning to end kind of writer. I wouldn’t say I outline, but I have the barest of bones of a structure in my mind, usually supported by at least three story beats that get fleshed out as the story progresses. Once an idea locks in, I typically know the three big beats – beginning, middle, and end – at least in general terms of action. Not always, but usually. This breaks down to having an inciting event, a significant action set piece at the half-way mark, and a (hopefully!) strong resolution. These constitute certain narrative tent-poles that I work toward in a linear fashion, letting the beats in between build naturally from the story as I go. When I’m first starting out, I rarely have any kind of in-depth plan starting in Chapter One as to what will happen in Chapter Thirty, but I do have a general idea of where the plot is leading. I mostly just let the characters and story figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C.

The book I’m working on now, a sci-fi thriller set in a post-climate change Earth, has been working slightly different, but still following a similar road map. I knew the inciting event, which occurs (in this first draft) around chapter three. Last night, I figured out what chapter four needs to be and will be writing that today. This is all building toward a mid-story event that puts everything into upheaval and will change the dynamics of the story a bit as the plot expands around a new threat that I have been slowly teasing in an off-handed way. Now what happens from chapter four to Point B, I don’t really know yet, but am confident I’ll discover it along the way. I have a few rough ideas, but the story will let me know what it wants to do, and I trust in that.

I recently completed a short story called Let Go, which is slowly getting prepped for release (it’s off to my editor now, and a cover designer is on tap, so stay tuned!), and which is a zombie horror title. My horror works differ only a little bit from my sci-fi stuff in terms of work flow, and tend to be much shorter. Even though they tend toward short story-to-novella end of the spectrum, I’m still teasing through that three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end, only at an accelerated (for lack of a better term) rate. However, I tend to go back and feed in a bit more information throughout the story in future drafts after it’s all been written.

This is true of Let Go, and was perhaps at its most serious extent with another recently finished short horror story that I wrote for an upcoming anthology (more on that soon!). This short story is tentatively titled Black Site and is a sci-fi horror, and required extensive amounts of revision both as I went along and through subsequent drafts. After I had the first draft written, I had a much better understanding of what needed to change, altered, deleted, and added. Especially what needed to be added. For only being around 10,000 words, I think it may be the most heavily re-worked 10,000 words I’ve written yet and it hasn’t even been put in front of the editor yet.

This brings me to another point in terms of figuring out a writing style or methodology, and why nobody can tell you what works for certain – nobody else knows your freaking story like you do. And so nobody can tell you how to write it. Sometimes you just have to learn how to write it as you go along, or after you’ve beaten yourself through that first draft. With Black Site, I had an idea of how that story would go and what I needed to do with it. When I hit THE END, I found myself deeply unsatisfied and knew that certain elements were missing. That’s what a second draft is for! But, I had to get through the finale in order to figure out how to work through the earlier segments to take corrective measures and get it back on track. Could I have avoided this by writing the ending first? Well, maybe – but only if I had known for sure what that ending was going to be. While I knew what the ultimate fate of the characters would be in terms of the story’s resolution, I didn’t quite know the circumstances surrounding the climax until the characters figured it out and told me how it was gonna be.

I like to let the story speak to me. I’m comfortable with that, and often find myself enjoying the surprises the story hurtles at me. Others need to have a rigid outline with every detail mapped out. That’s just not my bag. What about you, fellow writers?

Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

Follow Your Muse

Monday night, I was emptying the dishwasher when I had an errant vision of an old man stuck in a diner during a zombie outbreak. In a matter of moments, the whole story unraveled in my head as Everett Hart told me his story.

I had just finished the first draft of a short story that I’d been tapped to write for an anthology coming out, I think, around this spring/summer. I was intent to dive back into my sci-fi novel, already in progress and put on hold for a month while I wrote for the anthology, and had spent the better part of the day trying to get myself situated again in that world. And then Everett Hart showed up, and he had a story to tell.

Yesterday, I finished Everett’s story. Well, the first draft at any rate. Let Go is currently out to a couple beta readers, one of whom already wrote back to tell me it’s great and that he liked it a lot (Thank you, David!). It still needs some polishing and editing, and I’m curious to see what the feedback is going to be like as I move onto the second draft in a short while.

At the moment, it’s an 8500 word piece. I like it. Quite a bit, actually. The story itself is a bit of a change of pace for me; it’s a quiet horror story, far less bombastic than some of my recent stuff. The zombies are really ancillary to the whole thing, although their inclusion marks my first foray into the zombie genre. It’s a far cry from Consumption, in terms of violence and bloodletting, and is much more reflective, if not completely gentle at all times.

The words came surprisingly easy, which can be both a burden and a fairly good problem to have. Not all those words are keepers, obviously… Once I let it rest for a bit and have properly detached myself from the work, I’ll be able to be a bit more clinical and give it a proper second pass before turning it over to my editor.

I feel, though, that this is one of those stories I wouldn’t have been able to write at any other time. There was an urgency to it needing to be told, and I was in some particular spots emotionally that helped compel me through this. I had to follow this particular muse immediately. If I would have waited until my current WIP was finished, I think the story would have been remarkably different, and perhaps would have risked my needing to tell it at all. Had I waited, Let Go may have simply been let go of. Muses can be funny like that.

I’ll have more to say on this later, I’m sure. Keep an eye out for news as things take on a more permanent shape. The release date is still very much TBA, but hopefully there won’t be too long of a wait. And if you want to check out the story a bit earlier than everyone else, as soon as it’s ready and the ebook is finalized, but before it goes on sale, might I suggest signing up to this mailing list for an advanced copy?

Now to rediscover my sea legs and get back to work on…well, you’ll see. Eventually.

Follow Your Muse

2015 Writing In Review (plus a shameless plea and a peek at 2016)

Last year was a banner year for me in terms of sheer accomplishments. 2015 was definitely my best year as a reader, my wife gave birth to our son (OK, so this is more her accomplishment than mine, but I’m at least 50% responsible for her enduring 9 months of morning sickness, back aches, heartburn, and the random thumping, kicking, and punching of various internal organs, that all resulted in our little bit of awesomeness that is a tiny, hilarious human who deprives us of much-needed sleep), and I was at peak productiveness writing-wise. It’s this last part I’ll be writing about today because this is, largely, my silly little author blog.

So, 2015 in terms of writing – I was in three anthologies, released a solo novel, and published a short story that originally appeared in one of these anthologies.

I also finished the manuscript for a novella, tentatively titled Mass Hysteria!, of approximately 50,000 words. I’m estimating this brought me to about 180,000 words of fiction written across the year. This is an awful lot of writing for me! I also wrote 141 blog posts, figure those are about 500 words each, a nice conservative estimate which gives me an additional 70,500 words written. *Phew!*

In terms of sales, 2015 was a definite improvement over my first year as an author-publisher, but still fairly insignificant in terms of income and paid sales. Income doubled over 2014, but not enough to off-set expenses put toward self-publishing my work, which means my indie career is still a far-cry from being a successful endeavor and I’m starting off 2016 heavily in the red. Expenses in 2015 were also double those of 2014 thanks to larger promotion efforts and editing (Emergence is a bigger book than Convergence, and more words means more money spent to edit).

A successful writing career is built on hard work, talent, and a whole lot of luck. Although I’ve got a few dedicated and devoted readers (thank you!), I haven’t yet gotten lucky enough to really break through. Although, in its first week of release, Emergence outsold the entire previous year’s worth of sales for Convergence, it was not enough to break-even on the expenses generated by editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing. I did run a couple free promos for Convergence, which were pretty damn successful in terms of volume, but had little impact in terms of carry-over toward more sales of Emergence or my other works. I gave away about 7,000 copies of my first novel, which is awesome, but I suspect a very large number of purchasers were simply collecting a free title. I saw little in way of new reviews and only about 4 percent of those ‘buyers’ went on to pick up my other titles. It’s a bit distressing, but also a lack of simple, pure luck. I just haven’t found my audience yet. That said, the word of mouth surrounding the solo release of my controversial short story, Revolver, generated a good amount of interest and sales, but it’s definitely not a best-seller by any means. Furthermore, Revolver is a very unsubtle and highly polemic work that may not exactly be the best entry-point for my work; I have to expect that title to maybe turn off a lot of new readers, actually. The good news is, those that do like it seem to be enthusiastically supportive of it, which is freaking awesome!

Unfortunately, all this means that a lot of the big stuff I had wanted to do in 2016 will likely have to wait. This comes down to easy economics, since I can’t spend money on making more art without that art making money to spend. One project I had wanted to tackle was producing audiobooks of my DRMR novels, but this is a very expensive undertaking and could easily set me back several thousand dollars. This would be on top of getting Mass Hysteria cover art and edited. And I’ve begun working on another sci-fi novel that I should be able to finish sometime this year, but finding the time to really sit down and write is getting more difficult (psst – having a kid can be a huge time drain! Who knew? But seriously, he’s awesome and it’s worth it. But still.), so everything is still kinda TBD on that front.

This means that some plans for 2016 are being shifted around a good deal. I’m seriously considering shopping around Mass Hysteria. If I can hook even a small publisher with this title, it’ll save me a lot of money in terms of editing and artwork. It’s an apocalyptic horror story, and there’s a few horror houses that I think it would align pretty well with. Kindle Scout could also be an option, but kind of a last resort for now since they require a completely finished book for submission, which still leaves me on the hook for editing and cover design costs. So we’ll see what happens there.

I’m determined to get Mass Hysteria released in 2016, but the when of it all is very, very murky at this point. Those two December anthologies have also given me two more short stories that, in about six-months time, I’ll be free to release as stand-alone titles, which means The Marque and Preservation will need an extra bit of work to get ready for their individual debuts. Again, though, I have zero idea what kind of timeline I’ll be able to operate on with those, and that’s a little bit scary and disheartening. I wanted to have a solid timeline to plan out releases for this year, but the financial aspects are seriously cloudy. So, hey, if you want more books from me, get buying them! Tell your friends to buy them! Buy copies for your friends, family, loved ones, enemies, neighbors, pets, dolls, future readers, strangers at the bus-stop, pantsless subway riders, your reading club, whatever.

One bright spot, and I need to keep in mind that it’s still early, but my inclusion in The Cyborg Chronicles, the latest release in Samuel Peralta’s acclaimed series of The Future Chronicles anthologies, looks to have given my profile a slight boost. In 2015 I went Kindle exclusive and have stayed there for a while. In the wake of my Chronicles story, it seems a few more readers are borrowing my DRMR books, so that anthology could be a nice entry point for new readers to find me.

Diversification is key, really. Readers weren’t finding my solo works, but look to be discovering it a bit more now that I was fortunate enough to get invited into a release as large as The Cyborg Chronicles. I may be appearing in a couple more anthologies in 2016, but the ink isn’t dry enough for me to discuss those details yet and anything can happen. For instance, I was slated to be in a fourth anthology last year, but the publisher dissolved before the book could be released. So, for now I’m only focusing on my cli-fi novel currently in progress. I’ve got a good 5,000 words built up there at the moment and plenty more on the way.

Cli-fi, sci-fi, what is this? What’s this about? Again, too early to discuss, but it’s a future-Earth story set in the days after humanity has firmly wrecked the world and climate change has significantly altered the geographic landscape. It’s a bit of a seafaring story with rogue military squads, pirates and salvagers, and mermaids. Wait, mermaids? Maybe mermaids. We’ll just have to see about that.

2015 Writing In Review (plus a shameless plea and a peek at 2016)

Books, Depression, and Writing: My 2016 Resolutions

I don’t often make New Year’s resolutions, but there’s a few things in my life that probably need changing if I’m going to try and be not only more effective in leading myself around in this world, but also happier.

Happiness is a big issue for me, as I’ve become keenly aware of over the last few months of being a new and sleep-deprived parent with an ever increasing temper. I suffer from depression, have, in fact, for quite a long while now and for the last two years or so I have been able to keep it mostly controlled with a prescribed medication called Lexapro. I haven’t written about this before, and I actually don’t think anyone, until now obviously, has really known about it beside my wife and doctors.

Some days are harder than others. I haven’t experienced truly crippling depression, the kind where I can’t even make it out of bed, although I’ve gotten close and my thinking process can get a touch dark and haywire at times. And if I’m not careful I could make (and have almost made) some pretty devastating choices regarding my interpersonal relationships simply because saying ‘fuck it’ seems much easier in the short term.

The medication helps, but there are still some proactive steps I need to take to ensure my own mental well-being. I’ve noticed over the last few months, particularly in the wake of our near-year-end shootings and the frothing hysteria of the far-right, anti-Obama, it’s-the-end-of-the-world, hooray-Biblical-Armageddon fear-monger types, that if I’m not careful I can let the world cripple me a little too easily. Thus, my first resolution of 2016:

  1. Limit my use of Facebook. This is the big one. My top priority. It’s often advised that those who suffer from depression not watch the news. The endless stream of reportage on how awful the world is only helps to reinforce the depressive’s viewpoint that the world really does suck and that everything really is hopeless. This is a problem. Facebook only helps feed into this. As bad news circulates, friends, family, and followers begin chiming in across your social media platforms, interjecting their own viewpoints. Which would normally be fine, until you realize just how many of them are either ignorant, spiteful, hateful, and generators of filth and believers in nonsensical conspiracies, as their BS begins to overpower and drown out the more rational minded. Some are just talking to the wind, others are preaching to the choir. And if you disagree, those who have never commented or Liked anything you’ve posted in the past, are among the first to hop on board and remind you how stupid you are. Over the last few weeks there’s been some posting about how bad the insular nature of Facebook friends can be, as we tend to seek out those who are similar to us, particularly in the wake of posts calling for Trump supporters to unfriend non-Trump supporters, an act that, I must admit, I am guilty of. Some question why this is a necessity, and my response to that is, why, exactly, do I need to have all these homophobic, mysgonistic, xenophobic, racist bullshit posts capturing my eyeballs? Why is unfriending the asshats so bad? It’s just proof of the awful state of the (in this case, very limited) world, and for a depressive it’s likely better to not be seen or heard. As it stands, my timeline is often cluttered with these asinine, bullshit ‘1 Like = 1 Prayer” memes, worries about how Obama is coming to take our guns (he isn’t, hasn’t, and won’t), pro-Trump rhetoric, anti-Muslim rhetoric, All Brown People Are Terrorists rhetoric, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and…fuck, why are these people my friends and followers again? It sometimes gets more and more difficult to parse out why I associate with these people (even in the loosest sense possible). If anything positive can be drawn from it, then it’s that these people can at least serve as a good reminder of the type of people I desperately hope my son doesn’t grow into, and the type of person I do not want to be. Because, let’s face it, if either of us become so damaged that we’re willing to support a fascist for president, we’ve seriously lost it and I’ve failed as a parent and as a human being. Frankly, though, the bottom line is that I don’t need this crap in my life, and Facebook, or at least my particular Facebook feed, seems to have devolved into the unmoderated comments section of any given website. The central question is, is this something I need? Is there a positive net effect to being active on Facebook? And right now, I don’t think there is. It’s a time-hog, useful largely only for procrastinating when it’s not all about people telling me how I should feel bad about whatever their cause du jour may be, or why I should feel bad because they don’t like my cause of the moment (Internet protip: you can ever only care about one thing at any given time, and that one thing is determined by the most vociferous follower/friend/family member who barely interacts with you online or off). While I won’t be scrapping my Facebook account altogether, I must make a concerted effort to, at the very least, limit my use of it. I think I’ll also be unfollowing, possibly even unfriending, a good number of people for my own sanity (and also because it’s my Facebook page, and I can choose who is connected with it). So, there’s number one.
  2. Write more. Writing makes me happy, and one of the best ways to stave off depression is to do things that make you feel good. 2015 was a bit of a banner year for me in terms of productivity. I wrote and published Emergence, appeared in three anthologies, and completed a new manuscript that should make its way to market sometime in 2016. I’ve also been invited to take part in a new anthology set for late spring/early summer release and have begun work on a new science fiction novel. Writing helps me cope in a lot of different ways, but it is also, first and foremost, a business. I’m a professional author and this helps me get food on the table and gas in my car, in addition to funding the release of my future projects. Or at least it would if I had enough sales to support myself and my family independently as a professional author (see #6 below). Hypothetically, the more I write, the more I can sell. Maybe 2016 will be the year I can good and truly test this claim, but there’s only one way to really know.
  3. Read Less. Now this is a bold proclamation! Let me explain though. I’m a compulsive book buyer and a bit of a NetGalley addict, which means in addition to purchasing a large number of novels and ebooks, I also have an enormous stockpile of ARCs, or Advanced Reader Copies. Too many to read, in fact. So my goal for 2016 is to request less ARCs and work on catching up with the titles already on my Kindle. I want to put ARCs on the backburner entirely, sooner rather than later, so that I can focus on the incredible backlog of owned titles that are presently sitting in my ever-expanding digital To-Read pile. Forgive me for making a rather misleading claim with this one! The goal isn’t actually to read less, but to refocus my priority and to read less ARCs, and give my attention to books I already have. I love reading. However, I don’t love it when reading feels like a chore.
  4. Read More. More non-fiction, in particular. While I have a whole ton of fiction and plenty of ARCs to get me through 2016 (and beyond!), I really need to peruse more non-fiction. For the last few years, in my annual reading round-ups, I’ve noted that non-fiction titles are a large deficiency in my reading habits, and this is something I want to address in the new year. I’ve got plenty of non-fiction titles on my Kindle, and a good number of them in my Audible wishlist; I just need to make more time to absorb them.
  5. Buy Less Books! This is a huge, huge, huge issue for me. I’m a compulsive reader, and, almost by default, a compulsive book buyer. I do recognize that psychologically, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with one-clicking a Kindle title and having it appear almost instantly on my tablet. This got out of hand in 2015, and with a three month old vying for household resources and attention, I must be much more conscious of budgetary needs and buy way less books. As it stands currently, I have an enormous backlog of titles both bought and in ARC form. I also signed up for a library card a few months ago, and it’s high-time I started using it. My local library has a pretty good digital collection, so I can score plenty of free reads – a number of which have populated my Amazon wish list in hopes of a price drop – without even leaving the house. It also makes it that much easier to balk at the asinine purchase price the Big 5 publishing houses tag most of their ebooks with, selling titles for the same cost as a hardcover novel and many times for more than the paperback version. This became a source of frustration in 2015 when I wanted to buy John Scalzi’s Lock In for my Kindle, which cost around $9 whereas Amazon was discounting the paperback down to, at one point, less than $5. I refuse to pay $15 or more for an ebook. And I won’t buy an ebook that costs more than the paperback, which means if I want it right then and there on my Kindle, I won’t be buying that book period. After perusing my local library’s digital collections, I’ve found a terrific way to continue reading my favorite authors and titles of particular interest without breaking the bank. And for those bemoaning me with “But $15 isn’t a lot of money,” well, no, in the grand scheme things of it’s not, and if I only bought a single title a year maybe I could excuse it. But I’m practically a bulk shopper. And with a three month old in the house, $15 is half a container of formula – so if I have to choose between buying the next Clancy or keeping my baby healthy, it’s a no brainer. Also, I have to save up money for publishing my own titles and hawking my own wares in 2016! The local library and the Kindle Owners Lending Library are most certainly the way to go from here on out!
  6. Worry Less About Other Writers. Writing is a business, but fellow writers are not competition. We’re all in this together. This resolution is all about trying to not compare myself to the success of others – I can certainly try to reach the same level of success my friends have achieved, but I also need to not berate myself over my own (perceived) failures. So far my work has been fairly well received by critics and readers, but sales are lackluster. Sometimes in talking about this business with my writer buds, they’ll lament about how they’re “only” getting 50 sales a day, and I just sort of cry into my beer wishing I were getting even 50 sales a month. What am I doing wrong? Do I really suck that badly? Is my work uninteresting, dopey shit? Are people finding my work? Or do they maybe discover it and just ignore it? Why? What am I doing wrong? It gets to be a cyclical bit of recrimination, and in the nature of cyclical things, this resolution points a bit toward resolution #1. While I certainly do not want to limit contact with other writers, I do want to limit my own feelings of failure and inadequacy. Some of this can be addressed by writing more and putting more work out there, opening up my chances of discoverability even wider. I was invited into several anthologies over the course of 2015 and was tapped for another one set for 2016, so I maybe don’t suck that badly. But still, I’m not getting any movie or TV deals; my stories don’t debut at #1 and their staying power is ridiculously short lived. Sales come in tiny spurts, one or two a week if I’m lucky. Clearly, I am so very much not an insta-best-seller like several of my author friends, and while I celebrate their success and am truly happy for them and immensely proud of them and their work, there’s a part that stings. I’m not owed a single goddamn thing – I realize this. I also realize that my feelings are nothing more than petty envy. I need to stop wishing for success and figure out a wait to earn it. Maybe success will come, or at least a modicum of success, and maybe it won’t. Until then, I need to stop worrying about it and remind myself that I’m just not there yet. It’ll happen one day. Maybe this resolution should have been titled Quit Being So Fucking Insecure. Yeah, that’s a bit more accurate…

So, there you have it. My resolutions, coupled with a peek at my damaged, scarred psyche. What are you big resolutions for 2016?

Books, Depression, and Writing: My 2016 Resolutions

Finished With Mass Hysteria!

Mass Hysteria! is done!

Or at least the first draft is. There’s still plenty of adjustments and edits that need to be made before it goes off for formal development and edits sometime in 2016. But for now, it’s finished.

You may recall I mentioned writing a short companion piece to this story in an update last month, but I think I may hold off on that one for now.

I’m itching a bit to get back into the sci-fi groove, but I’m also a bit too burned out on all the real-life horrors of late to want to continue writing about cannibals and humans decimating one another so completely and so viciously.

Since my last blog post on my writing affairs, and in between finishing Mass Hysteria! right after Thanksgiving and today, we’ve seen terror attacks on Paris, on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, and in San Bernadino yesterday (some refuse to call these last two terror attacks, but I’m calling it like I see it.). In the US, we’ve now had more mass shootings than we’ve had days in the year thus far (336 days, 355 shootings. But it’s still fairly early on the Eastern Standard Time zone at the time of this writing. Those shooting numbers will go up again soon, if not today then by week’s end, no doubt).

So, no. I’m not in a particular mood to write about yet more horrors at the moment. Mass Hysteria! took a bit of a toll on me, and it got brutally dark in some areas. For now, then, any more stories in this world are off the table.

Mass Hysteria! is a complete story all by itself, so no worries there. Whenever it does release, you’ll still get the complete arc and know everything you need to know. The story I had tentatively titled Checkmate was little more than a subplot I had to drop and which was not working well with the central narrative of the story proper. I’m also becoming of the mind that…well, I dropped it for a reason. It wasn’t working. It just was so not working. Maybe rather than trying to shoehorn a separate short story out of it, it’s better to just move on. I’m not even in a particular rush to edit, which is probably a good thing (and besides, I can’t afford it right now, so that helps, too). I need to come up for some fresh air for a little while and get some distance between myself and the work.

And then there’s that itch for sci-fi again. Science fiction is where I made my dent with the release of Convergence and Emergence. There’s a third book to be done, eventually. Maybe not right now though. Not until I’ve gotten my head into a little bit better of a space for the long-term commitment it would require.

The idea I’m tossing around now is, actually and funnily enough, post-apocalyptic. And although that doesn’t exactly inspire all kinds of happy thoughts, I think the kernel of the idea carries with it a certain amount of hope for mankind as a whole. We are, as a species, survivors, and it’s important to remember that, even when things get as bleak as they are at the moment, and especially as anger threatens to consume us. It’s easy to be angry, less so to be hopeful (at least for me).

And that’s what I need to write about right now. Survival. Change and adaptation. But most of all, a little bit of hope that can shine against the darkness.

Finished With Mass Hysteria!

A Not-NaNoWriMo Writing Update

bigstock-burning-computer-keyboard-170261961Another November, and another annual National Novel Writing Month is upon us. Although I’m not taking part in NaNoWriMo, I thought it would still be a good time to give you a little update on what I’ve been working on. Coincidentally, though, my current Work In Progress is expected to be (at least) a 50,000 word novella, which I hope to have completed by the end of November.

I started writing Mass Hysteria! over the summer, with the blindly optimistic hope that I could finish it before my wife delivered our first child. Naturally, the story kept growing while time grew more and more scarce as we approached our September due date. And since Baby Hicks was born, free time has been…well. What is this “free time” you speak of?

Whaddaya mean you need to find time to write? #fuggitaboutit

A photo posted by Michael Hicks (@mphicks79) on

Mass Hysteria! will be a return to straight-up horror for me, following my shorter detour into this arena with last year’s Consumption (which, incidentally, received this great review from SCREAM Magazine). It’s a dive into some natural horror, in which Mother Nature gets its aggro on against mankind and the food-chain gets flipped upside down…and then things get crazy from there. This past weekend involved writing a fairly strange and gruesome scene that I’d sort of been putting off, but finally plowed through. I’m now in the homestretch and think there’s maybe two or three more chapters worth of material left to cover before I hit THE END on this first draft.

Editing this one is going to be a bit of a doozy I think-slash-fear. I’ve already had to cut out a particular subplot involving events in DC since it just wasn’t flowing well with the main Northern Michigan-based narrative, and there’s more than a few things that need fleshing out and clarifying. But I still really dig that subplot, which means although my work will (should) be done soon on Mass Hysteria! prime, I’ll then begin working on a companion stand-alone side-story that I’m tentatively calling Mass Hysteria!: Checkmate.

The plan is to have both these titles released simultaneously sometime in 2016, budgetary concerns (read both time and money) permitting. They’ll be independent narratives, but set in the same “world” and facing similar events and consequences. Each will give readers a full story in their own right, but reading them together will provide a larger A and B story. Or at least that’s the plan…

Alongside writing, I’ll also be proofing final edits for my short story, The Marque, and giving a read over on some of the other stories to be collected in Crime & Punishment.

Crimeand-PunishmentMy story is a bit of cosmic horror by way of the apocalypse turned wild, wild west. It’s gooey and gory and inspired quite a bit by Eastwood westerns. I’m waiting on edits and suggestions to come through from Lucas Bale and Alex Roddie, and I was given a sneak peek at the forward from Samuel Peralta. If there’s an award for Best Damn Foreword Ever, Sam’s is a sure-fire winner, let me tell you.

I also recently completed edits on a short story, Preservation, which will be seeing publication in The Cyborg Chronicles, with an ETA of December. Keep an eye out for the cover and more release details as soon as I have them! Although Preservation is completely a stand-alone story, it is set in the DRMR world established in my novels, Convergence and Emergence. Preservation introduces us to all-new characters (a Wounded Warrior with plenty of cybernetic enhancements) and an entirely new setting (Africa’s Kruger National Park) than the central storyline told in the two DRMR books, so there’s no required reading prior to enjoying this short story. My hope is that it will act as a gateway to these novels, though, and introduce new readers to my work.

chroniclesThe Cyborg Chronicles is part of the line of The Future Chronicles anthologies, spearheaded by Samuel Peralta, and which, taken as a large body of work in its entirety, has featured the likes of Hugh Howey, Lucas Bale, Anthony Vicino, Ernie Lindsey, Susan Kaye Quinn, Ann Christy, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Peter Cawdron, Therin Knite, Ted Cross, and loads of other great authors.

In The Cyborg Chronicles, I’ll be sharing pages alongside Hugo Award winner Ken Liu, whose debut novel The Grace of Kings released earlier this year, and Hugo nominee and USA Today bestseller Annie Bellet. This a huge, huge honor for me, and having the chance to appear in a Chronicles anthology has been a dream of mine since starting this whole indie author venture a year ago.

So I think these projects will carry me through the rest of this year, and hopefully 2016 will be just as productive as 2015 has been. Now, what’s happening your world, writers?

A Not-NaNoWriMo Writing Update