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!
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!
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.
It’s 2020 now apparently.
The Global Defense Initiative hasn’t built a space laser yet. There’s no tiberium…
I call B.S.
On the bright side, I am working with my editor to craft a query letter to agents for my novel, tentatively titled “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA”. I’ll be querying agents within the next week or two. I’m extremely excited to take the next step in my writing journey.
One of the big things I am having trouble with writing is delving deeper into the details. In my mind I see my story and then I write it out how I see it, more like a movie with a few more details, specifically inside Petr’s mind.
However each iteration of editing my editor has remarked that more detail is required. Even my beta readers have mentioned that more dialogue to move the story along would be better.
So I keep plugging away. In the darkness of the not-so-far future I expect publication.
Happy New Year, y’all!
(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.
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?
We’ve all heard about the archetypal hero’s journey and the steps involved:
- Ordinary world
- Call to adventure
- Refusal of the call
- Meeting with the mentor
- Crossing the first threshold
- Tests, allies, and enemies
- Approach the inmost cave
- The ordeal
- The road back
- The resurrection
- Return with the elixir
There are many iterations of this, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.
In August of this year (2019) I attended Paleo f(x), and had to opportunity to hear Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, talk about the hero’s journey as it applies to us and the mind.
And my mind was opened.
I don’t know why, but the hero’s journey had always been a physical thing to me. Luke Skywalker leaving Tattoine to fight the Empire. Beowulf fighting Grendal.
But Aubrey talked about the hero’s journey as it applies to the mind and personal self-improvement.
The ideas for stories blossomed in my head.
Of course, when given the chance to shake hands with Aubrey I blubbered like and idiot. “I like your gym and your supplements. . .”
But the seed of an idea Aubrey offered is still planted in my mind, and it’s being applied to the two books I’m working on now. The second book I’m writing takes the largest influence from the Hero’s Journey for mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the characters. While the physical realm is important in stories, the mental or spiritual journeys have added a whole new dimension to my works.
How have you encountered the hero’s journey mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in your life?
I am 16,500 words into my second novel. The next 60,000 words should be easier.
SHOULD be. . .
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write with work and family?
I go to work for eight hours a day and my mental capacity is utilized for the job. I meet with people, work through problems, and coordinate activities. After eight hours of that in some sequence or another I’m mentally spent!
Then I commute home and pick up my children. They are the joy of my life, and like all children take their toll on mental capacity, too. They’ve had problems at school with friends and teachers and they are seeking guidance. Then they fight with their sibling, and I have to step in and provide correction and more guidance.
I wouldn’t give up my children for the world. I’d like to keep my current job, too.
But then I go to write – what has been my passion and joy for years – and the words refuse to flow. I stalk from my front room to my dining room, and up the stairs to my study, trying to work out scenes, conflict, reactions, and feelings in each chapter. Yet the words themselves resist my call to come forth.
Some authors talk about writing preparation, or warm-ups they do where they write about something other than their book. But when you’re a single father with a full time job and two high energy kiddos, sitting down at 8:30PM/9PM at night leaves little time to “warm-up” before bed and 5-7 hours later I’m up again getting ready for work before I have to wake up my kids.
But we strive on, right? For our passion? For our hope that we can provide our children a better future while doing something we absolutely love? To be published and, hopefully, have someone read our book and have it positively change their life in some way?
So, once more, into the breach!
So I’ve made some decent progress on getting Ship Strike ready:
Progress seems slow. But I have to remember I’m the only one working on this.
That said, using foam core instead of cardboard has been a great improvement over the cardboard I was trying to scrap from boxes and packages we had lying around the house. Though not pristine, edges are cleaner. I printed the tiles onto cardstock instead of using graph paper, making the tiles themselves look cleaner.
So where do I go from here? First I will finish cutting the foam core and gluing on squares. I actually have doors and stuff so I need to make those, too. Then comes the really hard part: making cut-outs of the dudes (read: miniatures).
Dudes are important for this game.
They are sorta the focus.
Hard to play a miniature wargame without your dudes/dudettes. (Disclaimer: Ship Strike is an Equal Opportunity game)
I’ve considered purchasing and painting up some cheap minis from somewhere, but I’m not sure where to look and I’d hate to pitch this to a big company and have them look down on, or even reject, my game because I’m using someone else’s – perhaps even a competitor’s – models. I’m not sure what route to go there. If anyone with real industry knowledge/experience has input on that I would greatly appreciate it.
And then more playtesting. While I’ve firmed up the rules for the most part, and the troops for each faction are pretty tight, there is always room for improvement. And you never know when something will come up where you and your playtesters will go,”What the deuce?!”
I have also decided to post the rules on the http://www.boardgamegeek.com forums.
Many people worry about piracy and having their idea stolen, and I had this worry, too. But Adam Ferrel, creator of the game Havok and Hijinks, made an excellent point on The Cardboard Republic podcast when he was asked about it. First, Adam stated that he didn’t believe piracy really existed. If someone snagged and played his game for free, oh well. But he made a much more important observation. He stated there are three types of gamers.
First, those who would never buy the game. They would print off his rules and cards and play for free forever. And he doesn’t care. He’s just happy someone is enjoying his game.
Which leads to the second category of gamer, those who will first play it for free, and then go out and purchase it. Whether they download and print everything themselves, or are introduced to the game by a will-never-buy-friend, this individual will, theoretically, become a customer.
And finally there is the gamer that will always buy the game to support the creator and to get all the cool stuff you don’t get when you print and play.
In Adam Ferrel’s mind, all three types of gamers are good for his game. Word of mouth and PnP gaming sessions will spread news of his game and increase its popularity.
I’m inclined to agree with Adam Ferrel.
The Ship Strike rules will be posted in the next day or so after I give them a once over and ensure the majority of spelling errors are corrected, and that any changes to rules/stats are updated in the official documents and not just my notes.
It’s all coming along, and I’m getting really excited about it! Playtests this weekend. I will update with pictures and results.