After writing this book, and working on others, a few people asked me where I get my ideas for stories.
The short answer: running.
Or riding my bike.
I generally don’t get ideas lifting. I’m not sure what the difference is in focus.
When I’m running/biking/walking my mind can travel elsewhere. My runs are somewhere between 4 to 7miles – plenty of time for my thoughts to go off into the ether, my brain to process things I’ve been dealing with, and for ideas to enter.
Exercise – whether lifting or cardio – is also a great way for me to take a break and NOT think about the story I’m working on, giving my mind a break so when I come back to it I’m fresh and can think chapters and plots through better.
As an aside, I find if I don’t workout first thing in the morning my writing – and work in general – suffers. I’m sure there’s research on that somewhere.
And what do I do if long runs and mental breaks don’t help bring ideas to the fore?
I bang my head against my desk.
It’s been four days since my novel “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” hit Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.
Thank you to all who have already purchased the book! I greatly appreciate the support, and I hope you’re enjoying the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
To those who haven’t yet, perhaps a few sample chapters will push you off the fence.
From Whence We Came
As some of you may know “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” is not the first iteration of my book.
Back in 2009/2010 I began writing a book of high adventure in space filled with mercenaries, feudal lords, and grand battles. And in 2011 I had an editor take a first look at it to begin the path to publication.
However, my situation changed and the editing ended. I was looking for a job and I wondered how I could make my book great on my own. I bought several books on self-editing and improving novel manuscripts and worked through each of them. By the time I was finished I thought I had a solid book to sell.
But after almost a year on Amazon kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo, and the iBookstore my sales of “DER STERNVOLKER” had gone from a trickle to none, and none of the follow-up short stories set in the same universe were selling. The title of my book was also really bad German…
I decided to submit my book to a professional reading service through Writer’s Digest. For a fee a professional author in the same genre reads your book, or an excerpt, and provides a few hundred words of feedback. A well-published scifi author read my book, and the feedback he provided was very insightful.
He loved the story, but noted that it seemed like there were three or four stories all wrapped up into one. I was trying to do too much with too little focus.
After that I was determined to rewrite the book to make it better.
And then life hit. I got a girlfriend, we had a baby, then got married. My full-time job began taking more of my time. We moved a few times. I got a divorce.
Life takes a lot out of a person, especially when writing isn’t the main source of income. Other priorities come first.
But I kept writing, and in fact my divorce was a catalyst that lit a fire under me.
At one point I had some extra money and submitted to another editor – and quickly regretted it. The individual was a “Yes” person and while they helped a lot with grammar and punctuation, they did little for the content of the story.
Another editor took a very close look at the content of my book, and i worked with them to cut a lot of the fat and restructure the story.
Finally, in 2019 I found an editor that had been in the industry for fifteen years and had led a great list of authors to publication. Four months of back and forth got my manuscript tightened up to where it needed to be.
I was optimistic about what my editor said about publication. Based on his assessment I was sure my book would be picked up by an agent and publisher in no time.
But the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months. After waiting I received a slew of rejection emails, while other agents didn’t respond.
Literary agents receive thousands of queries weekly, if not daily. They have a lot to sift through and they have to choose books they think will sell.
While I understand their predicament it still frustrates me. I’ve seen and read some of the absolute garbage that gets professionally published.
I write what I want to see in books, specifically scifi (maybe eventually fantasy). And, if social media is any measure, it seems what I write is in line with what other people want to read but aren’t getting.
After 100 or so rejections/no-responses I decided to self-publish through Amazon.
Some might wonder, “Why just Amazon? Why no B&N or iBookstore?”
That WOULD provide more exposure. However, formatting for kindle/Amazon Paperback is not the same as formatting for Nook, iBookstore, Kobo or the others. Each format is more work. I didn’t see the juice being worth the squeeze. And with smart devices anyone can quickly download the Kindle App and get my book. This may change in the future, but this is the way it is for now.
Besides my family and my real-person full-time job my writing time is split between promoting “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” and writing another book.
Will we see Petr and his merry crew in my next book?
A benefit of self-publishing is working on what you want. While I have a full outline for the next of Petr’s adventures, I currently despise it with every ounce of my being.
So I’m working on another project, and will revisit the next Star Folk book later.
Regardless of sales (or lack there of – no! there will be sales!) I will keep “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” up on the Amazon store into perpetuity.
I hope you enjoy my book, and look out for more from me in the future!
If you haven’t heard already, my book “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” will release Memorial Day Weekend on Amazon in paperback and for kindle.
That’s almost a week away!
As a bonus before then I’m posting two FREE chapters of the book, just to tease you a bit.
Enjoy! And look forward to the book next weekend!
* * * * *
Batumi, Tetradze District, Olympus Mons Technocracy, Mars, 9 October 2304
An explosion tossed Petr sideways, the five-point crash harness preventing him from slamming into the cockpit wall. He struggled to keep his shuttle under control as he dove through the stratosphere of Mars.
“What the hell, Batumi Control?” Petr exclaimed. “What’s going on down there?”
“Just land, dammit!” came the exasperated voice of the air traffic controller. “Get down here, stupid barbarian!”
“I didn’t sign on to some combat mission,” Petr said with as much calm as he could muster. Petr continued toward Mars’ surface. This was supposed to be an easy job – in, out, get paid.
The sound of an explosion filled Petr’s headphones.
This paycheck wasn’t worth dying for. Others on Mars could offer Petr jobs. Petr could whip his battered Raptor back into orbit. This client would never hire him again, but this client could also cease to exist in the next hour. The flak erupting around Petr’s shuttle did not bode well.
Money was what kept Petr from turning back. It was money, above all else, that Petr needed if he was going to fulfill his goal of becoming the man he wanted to be and proving his worth to his family and tribe.
Petr touched the rosary hanging from the Raptor’s heads up display.
A light show greeted Petr as he cut through the dark gray thunderclouds and neared the Batumi Space Port. Ruby lasers pulsed across the slate gray tarmac. From high above it seemed like ants swarmed around the space port, as if their nest had been disturbed.
As Petr descended the “ants” became soldiers loping along clad in two-ton suits of power armor. The soldiers looked like the knights of ancient Terra, but the right arm of the suit terminated in the barrel of a powerful laser. Both sides of this battle were firing lasers, hundreds of glistening ruby crystals burned before erupting into powerful beams. Where the beams touched, death followed. The thick carapace of the power armor was no match for the onslaught of the lasers.
Both sides also appeared to be wearing the same armor with the same family crest, and Petr became confused. What was going on?
“Pad one!” the air traffic controller screamed. “You’re flying right over pad one!”
“Pad one is a war zone.”
“You want to get paid?”
Petr grimaced, shutting his mouth and maneuvering his shuttle down toward Pad One.
Combat aircraft roared overhead, some coming dangerously close to Petr, but thankfully none fired at him. Lasers and missiles streaked overhead as Petr set the Raptor shuttle down on the tarmac. One missile whistled so close past Petr’s cockpit that he saw the warhead in stunning detail. Adrenaline pumped through Petr’s body, heightening his senses to their fullest. Petr lowered the Raptor’s rear loading ramp, his mind thinking of only one thing: survival. And survival meant exiting the area as quickly as possible.
A red beam burned past Petr’s craft as he doffed his helmet and squeezed back into the cargo bay. Normally Raptors would have a large empty space for crates and equipment, but Petr’s ship was a second-hand military shuttle bought off a down and out mercenary outfit, and so ten harnesses for power-armored infantry lined the cargo section.
Petr expected space port personnel to greet him and load the cargo, but instead the tarmac lay empty. Petr shuffled to the end of the loading ramp as he looked for someone who knew what was going on. Thunder rumbled, promising rain.
“Hello?” Petr yelled over the din of battle.
Suddenly, a dark form eclipsed Petr.
“Move aside,” said a deep, metallic voice from a speaker.
Petr looked up into the glaring emerald eye of a suit of Renegade power armor. Only Star Folk mercenaries wore Renegade power armor. Petr’s mind tried to work through exactly what he was seeing and why. Why were Star Folk mercenaries here?
“Move aside now!”
Petr was pushed aside with the suit’s three-clawed, tubular arm. He watched in disbelief as two more troopers in Renegade power armor trudged out of the hangar next to the tarmac and stomped up the Raptor’s rear loading ramp, carrying two oblong, gray crates between them. All three suits were midnight black with Thor’s hammer pendantsfestooned on their rounded shoulder guards and the bulbous, hunchback-like power packs on their backs.
“Who are you?” Petr asked. “What the hell are you doing in my shuttle?”
“Security for the cargo you were hired to transport,” the first trooper said. “We need to go.”
The explosion of a building several hundred meters away set Petr into motion and he darted back up into the Raptor. As Petr went he caught a quick glimpse of the cargo he was to carry. It didn’t look like much. Though the crates seemed innocuous, something nagged at the back of Petr’s mind, telling him these very boxes were the cause of all the wonton destruction outside.
Petr refocused on the payout. This wasn’t his war. He just had to complete this job and collect the money he needed.
“Batumi, this is Petr Drexel,” Petr said as he donned his helmet and snapped himself into the pilot seat’s five-point harness. “I have the cargo and I am preparing for take-off.”
“About time,” the air traffic controller replied, sounding both relieved and exasperated. “Coordinates have been sent to your shuttle. Remember-“
The feed suddenly cut out. The traffic control tower erupted in a ball of flame.
Petr switched from radio communications to shuttle internal communications. “You all better be strapped in back there. This ride could be a little bumpy.”
Petr heard a litany of complaints and curses from his passengers as he shut the shuttle’s rear loading ramp.
Soon the battle was below them, and Petr guided the Raptor away from the space port. Large, fat drops of rain smacked against the shuttle’s cockpit. Petr breathed a sigh of relief. With this job finished, he’d be one more step toward his goal.
An alarm on the shuttle’s heads up display made Petr jump. Missile lock.
“Damn!” Petr exclaimed as he yanked hard on the control stick. The Raptor dove hard right and down.
The missile still followed.
At the last moment Petr smacked the button to the costly countermeasures. There was a series of loud pops as the Raptor fired flares out its sides and back.
“What’s going on up there?” one of the power-armored men asked.
“Shaking missiles.” Petr’s tone was clipped.
The man let out a stream of colorful curses.
Half a second later Petr’s seat surged into his back as an explosion rocked the rear of the shuttle. The missile had cut through Petr’s countermeasures and found its mark.
Petr felt his stomach float up into his ribcage and throat. He saw the rosary hover in the air.
Please God, no, ran through Petr’s mind.
Then Petr was falling. The nose of the Raptor dipped down hard. Petr yanked back on the control stick, praying that some mechanical system in the shuttle still worked.
The shuttle lifted a little. Maybe the landing wouldn’t be so bad and he and his passengers would live to see another day. There simply wasn’t enough time or space to pull the shuttle out of its dive. Petr announced over the intercom “Brace for impact” as he simultaneously did himself, pushing his back into the pilot’s seat as hard as he could.
The Raptor slammed into the ground and Petr pitched forward, his helmet ramming into the shuttle’s heads up display. The harness holding Petr in the pilot’s seat knocked the wind out of him.
The Raptor’s momentum drove the craft forward several meters through the soft dirt blanketing the planet. Until finally, with a shudder, the shuttle came to a halt.
Batumi, Tetradze District, Olympus Mons Technocracy, Mars, 9 October 2304
Everything was eerily quiet. Petr sat, head hanging forward. Something in the back of his mind told Petr he needed to get up and move. The pain wracking his body overwhelmed a lifetime of training in the Star Folk Community Fleet. It hurt simply to exist.
With a grunt of effort and immense pain, Petr slapped the harness release and flopped down onto the shuttle’s console. Limbs aching from the crash, Petr pried the bulky helmet from his head, a movement that seemed to take all of his strength and concentration, before dropping it into the pilot’s seat. With great effort Petr crawled back over the empty communications seat and into the rear of the Raptor.
There was a gaping hole full of ripped cables and twisted metal where once the aft starboard side of the Raptor existed. The Raptor’s starboard airlock hung twisted and limp where it was still connected to the shuttle.
Two of the men in Renegade power armor were free of the troop harnesses. Both labored to free their comrade who seemed stuck.
“Hold on, Eyolf,” said the largest one through the Renegade armor’s external speaker. “We’ll get you out of there.”
“What a way to die,” said the man still stuck in the harness.
“You’re not going to die here,” said the other trooper in Renegade armor fighting to free his comrade.
The men bent and twisted the harness. After several attempts the harness was manipulated just enough that the third Renegade armored man could force himself out.
Pain suddenly blossomed inside Petr’s chest, and he stumbled with a sharp cry. The men turned to face Petr, three bug-eyed, round helmets staring at him. Petr swallowed hard as realization flooded his mind: they were going to kill him.
A long, pregnant pause filled the Raptor’s cargo bay as Petr faced the three armored Star Folk men before him. All three black, insect-like helmets glared at Petr from the far side of the cargo bay. Petr waited for one of them to raise the barrel of their heavy machine gun and paint the inside of the shuttle with Petr’s blood.
Petr’s knees gave out, and he sunk to the deck of the Raptor. The crash had done a lot more damage to Petr’s body than he’d thought. The world around him was shaky as he attempted to balance himself.
“We’re leaving him,” said the largest man.
“Sorry champ,” said the one with the wild red strokes on his helmet. “Better luck next time.”
“W-w-wait,” Petr said, his words slurred.
The two smaller armored men took one crate each in the three-clawed hands of their suits, then hopped out of the hole in the ship.
Petr reached out and grabbed the guardrails that led up into the cockpit. His arms held for a brief moment, then let go. Petr’s world spun as he crashed to the floor, his cheek coming to rest on the cool metal deck of the Raptor’s shuttle bay.
Then Petr’s world turned black.
I recently ran a poll to see which cover would look best for my book.
My friend Martin recommended this. I thought I had the perfect cover picked out, but one look and he wasn’t sure. He suggested I put the covers up for a vote and see what family and friends thought about them.
Option 2 came out on top with 4 votes.
Option 1 was close behind with 3.
And Option 3 came in last with 2 votes.
The reason I was surprised is that I thought more people would push me to get a professionally made cover. That’s what I did with my first (and ultimately failed) self-published book. I’ve seen a lot online where other self-published authors and gurus highly recommend a professionally designed book cover.
The plus is it’s unique and makes the books stand out. The drawback is it costs monies.
I do wonder, however, if the Twitter poll had more exposure if Option 3 would have received more votes.
But I’m driving on. The cover for the eBook and print book have been finalized. I am working on more marketing and getting my book into the hands of reviewers prior to launch. Plan on seeing on a launch date soon!
It’s poll time folks!
I posted a poll on Twitter for which cover I should go with for the eBook of my book “PETR – A STAR FOLK SAGA”. Head over and vote!
— Christopher Meyer (@RenegadeMeyer) April 25, 2020
(2/4) Option 1 pic.twitter.com/2lO9NO4VAc
— Christopher Meyer (@RenegadeMeyer) April 25, 2020
(3/4) Option 2 pic.twitter.com/oMbgfDfk1X
— Christopher Meyer (@RenegadeMeyer) April 25, 2020
(4/4) Option 3
Have an artist design a cover with my characters and a scene from the book. (This will cost money v. The two free covers in Options 1 & 2.)#amwriting #amwritingscifi #amwritingsciencefiction #sciencefiction #kindlebook #selfpublishing
— Christopher Meyer (@RenegadeMeyer) April 25, 2020
I have decided to self-publish my book “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service.
My book didn’t find traction with agents or publishers after four months of querying. Dozens of rejection emails later I decided the traditional publishing route wasn’t fot me. I have nothing against the traditional publishing route – it’s clearly worked for many people, and it may work for me in the future with another title.
So I’ve dived in working on perfecting the ms for kindle publishing. It’s been frustrating at times. I think I’m done and after another review I find a host of tiny mistakes and I have to go back and correct them before I upload the ms to KDP again.
I don’t have a release date yet, but I’ll be posting regular updates and freebies throughout the next month, and a release date will follow soon.
It’s been over a month since I had my last call-in with my editor. Since then I’ve queryed over forty agents – and the querying continues.
Of those forty, five have provided a negative response.
According to all the blogs and articles by those in the industry, including agents themselves, it’s an average of 6-8 weeks until they respond, IF they respond.
Each agent receives hundreds, if not thousands, of queries each day.
So mine is one in a roiling sea of manuscripts.
But, to quote Winston Churchill, “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”
And so I will query on, and I shall never surrender.
(500 words or fewer) [I went over the 500 word limit.]
* * * * *
I wake to the shrill chime of the monitor inset within the bunker’s triple thick metal door. Springing from the stiff mattress atop the thin metal bed frame, I see the monitor is green –glorious, spirit-lifting green! After a year of silent red, the green lights are a joyous sight. Hetzer, my Norwegian Elkhound, hops up from his spot next to my bed, and he barks at the door monitor’s incessant ringing.
Part of me doesn’t believe it. Something deep down tells me this isn’t real. My heart leaps as I close the distance and read the monitor’s glowing face.
The air up above is clean.
The radiation is gone.
It’s safe to come out.
Silencing the monitor’s chime I turn and look at Hetzer with a smile.
“Ready?” I ask.
Hetzer’s happy bark and wagging tail is all the confirmation I need.
I trot back over to the metal framed bed and pick up the cargo pants I tossed there the night before, and pull on a dirty t-shirt that used to be white. Plopping down on the stiff mattress I pull my gray hiking boots out from under the bed. The socks I wore two days ago – or was it a week ago? – are stuffed inside the boots, and I pull them on before stuffing my feet into the boots. With boots tied I make my way back across the drab, gray bunker and to the door.
Always ready, I grab the semi-automatic rifle hanging just next to the door. The last days before the bombs dropped were dark, and Hetzer and I only survived because of my diligence and a few well-placed shots with my rifle. Many others were not so fortunate. Too many. I pick up two magazines full of ammunition off the floor and slide them into the right cargo pocket of my pants.
Then, I place my hand on the door’s latch. I could have had a digital system installed, but if that had failed I would have been stuck in thisbunker with no way to escape. The giant wheel above the door monitor squeals and screeches from a year of disuse as I turn it. Behind me, Hetzer shuffles back and forth, anxious to leave the tight confines of the bunker.
One last, loud screech, and the door pops open.
I hold my breath, hoping that the bunker’s sensors are telling the truth, but warring with the dread that the sensors failed and in the next few seconds I would be dead.
Suddenly, a cool breeze wafted into the bunker, bringing with it fresh air.
The smell of the fresh was delicious, the sensation on my nostrils and in mouth like lemon gelato on a hot summer day.
I take the first step out the door and up the stairs. Hetzer, though so excited he can barely keep it contained in his furry body, waits for me, his master, his Alpha, to go first, and then trails close at my heels. As I ascend the steps I see above us the sky is black and clear. Billions of stars twinkle in the night sky, and the full moon is at its apex.
I reach the zenith of the stairs, my heart fluttering with excitement.
I am greeted by destruction.
The small neighborhood I lived in is gone. The only proof there ever was a neighborhood here are the foundations of homes and roads being slowly overtaken by nature. My house is gone, too. Only the bunker, what used to be the basement, is all the remains of the place I called home for so many years.
The neighborhood I lived in sat atop a hill overlooking most of the city, and now I stare at what remains. What was once the epitome of suburbia is now an empty, grass covered field. Here and there the crumbling skeletons of a few buildings remains. Far in the distance at the city’s heart stand the rotted, bombed out corpses of skyscrapers.
The silence overwhelms and presses in on me. Though Hetzer stands loyal by my side I feel the crushing weight of loneliness.
Another emotion wells up within me: hope.
Other people had to make it to other bunkers, I assume as the logical portion of my mind takes over. There have to be others out there.
With that shred of optimism beginning to take root and grow within me I step forth into this new land, Hetzer always beside me.
Dinner steak – the third most important steak of the day.
Back when Team Fortress 2 came out, Valve made comics to go with them, and the hero was a mountain of a man Australian who crashes through the glass ceiling of his own home and is served breakfast steak – THE MOST IMPORTANT STEAK OF THE DAY! – by his butler.
Ever since I have quipped the importance of breakfast, lunch, and dinner steaks, in that order.
And so tonight is dinner steak. USDA Prime ribeye. Yes it’s cooked to perfection. Yes, I use Redmond Real Salt. And yes, I cover it in Kerrygold butter.
First, because I follow a strict nose-to-tail Carnivore Diet 95% of the time.
Second, to get those creative writing juices flowing!
Today, Saturday, I had to work my full-time job. Such is the nature of the beast.
And while I was working, ideas for the latest book began to flow. Scenes, dialogue, effects of those scenes and dialogue.
As I worked I thought, “I’ll remember that.”
Morgan Freeman narrating my life: “He did not remember that.”
That’s over exaggerating. I remember some of the thoughts I had as I toiled away today. But not all of it. The vague memories of the ideas I had pale in comparison to when they leapt into my head. They were mighty bucks that strode into the clearing of my mind, only to be scared by the hunter who coveted them, and they dashed away.
So now I have a process to capture these ideas. A little notebook where I’ll jot scenes, feelings, colors, smells, dialogue, and background once the idea strikes. These great, fleeting stags, difficult to catch, will be mine for the taking.
What do you use to capture the ideas that flit through you mind?