Five Years On

Greetings, all who are still keeping up with my blog! I thought it might be time for a little update about the main event. That is, my fiction, which could just as easily be interpreted as a very minor event, but even after five years, it’s a big deal to me.

One could easily say that I’ve gone completely off the rails for the past five years and make a good case of it. Sometimes I choose priorities that others wouldn’t understand. That’s not say I’m ‘right’ by any objective measure… In fact, my own ‘objective’ measurement systems yell at me constantly.

It all started with a friend, a guy I considered to be a very good friend. He wanted to do a UAV business, and I wanted to help him as much as he has helped me over the years. In typical fashion for me, I jumped in with both feet, learned enough to see the future and realized I was in a race. I worked at it like it was a race, made a lot of progress, but lost the race when my friend not only gave up on the race, he gave up on me. I’m still not exactly sure what happened, but I know I lost a good friend. At that point, the situation had changed and I needed that hard won expertise to generate some cash flow here at home, so I took another job with a UAV company. Like the first, it was a flaky, shoestring operation, but I still managed to fly an amazingly efficient UAV while fighting a boss who had a tenuous grasp of reality, at best. There came a time when it was clear he had no real intention of fulfilling orders and I left, with my wife’s mandate to quote, “Write my ass off.”

Along came another cash flow opportunity and I had to take it. Even if I get as lucky again as I did with Renewal, it still takes months before money comes in. I’ve been building a system in earnest that my boss can handle, knowing full well that eventually I have to step away for a variety of reasons, and also knowing that I can’t step away until I can publish again. For the past 5 or 6 months, I have been hard at work on picking up where I left off.

There was a time when I could have simply started writing, but after all this time, I had forgotten far too much. I had to start with Renewal again. I had to incorporate my editor’s input, Connie Rinehold for you authors out there, and I had to correct a myriad of my own mistakes. I had to add a few things I thought were missing and I had to pile it all together into novel form. For the record, novels are harder than a series which adds up to a novel. Most importantly, I had to re-immerse myself into the Renewal universe and the motivations that took me there in the first place. I had to adjust a few of those perceptions and assumptions based on the last five years. Some things have changed radically for me, and some have not.

Then, by about September, I jumped back into book 2, which I’ve been calling Decay, but have changed to a new title a don’t want to reveal as yet. Connie, who I can assure you has flogged me mercilessly to write, and I dig that about her, asks me to send her chapters, but I don’t think in chapters. I think in story arcs. I apparently bleed continuity. By mid-October, I had rewritten most of Book 2, and started on Book 3, which was my darling of the Renewal set. It resolves the future and my love of resolution, which I’ll confess right now is why I will probably never be good at short stories. Right now, I’m dealing with the illogical nature of a couple of deux ex machina in the tail end of Book 3. I hate ’em, you hate ’em. Let’s get rid of them.

And let’s talk about motivation… I am motivated by people, and how they deal with events, and how they collect into social patterns which create the reality of our lives. Needless to say, this election cycle has been fascinating. The whole point of apocalypse for me is to explore how people react when the entire rug is yanked out from under them. Can they adapt? Can they flex into a new set of rules fast enough to survive? What happens if the food chain breaks? What happens if text messaging disappears, email, GPS, Google? What happens if we are reduced to FM radio?From the past year, how did the entire left get so blindsided by an election, and what cultural patterns left them so unable to cope with it? I went to high school with a young adult author whose entire Facebook feed now looks like the most tortured, grasping logic of how to change the reality of a Trump presidency. What happens if the pendulum swing results in the fascist regime the left thinks Trump represents? Stuff like that… Fascinating.

The point is simple. I’m writing, and working hard to get free of other commitments so that I can spend more time writing. The Renewal Universe is just one of my many attempts at fiction, but the only way past is through, and you will see the results as soon as I can manage it.

 

 

 

It’s March Already?

Hi folks! I’ve been driving some of you crazy (along with myself and my wife) waiting for Decay. There are a number of reasons I’m still working on it, but the goal is to make it as good as I possibly can. As you can probably tell from the mistakes, Renewal was a test for me. I literally spent my adult life trying to convince myself to write. I mean, I wrote, but I never let anyone read the vast majority of it. I always ran up against the voice in my head who said, “Why would anyone care what you have to say?” There it is. That’s the argument that kept me locked down for 44 years.

I made a loophole for myself by calling Renewal an experiment in ebook publishing. “Hey,” the other voice said, “If it’s just an experiment, then you can totally screw it up and still learn something.” Under this loophole, I created the mental space to travel down the roads of Coffee County. I don’t need the loophole anymore. Thanks to all of you, I can sit down to write, knowing that I have a right to be there.

The catch (there’s always a catch) is that I now regard it as a professional activity, and I go after it with professional diligence. Without boring you with the details, Decay has six times the hours and effort involved, compared to the Renewal series. It doesn’t help that all three novels are being balanced against each other, and I’m here to tell you, 800,000 words do not balance themselves.

I’d love to tell you that Decay is coming right now, but all I can honestly say is that it won’t be long now. I’m two list items away from having my final revisions complete, and there will be a couple of rounds of proofing after that. There’s no guarantee that all this work will produce a better story, but it’s my hope that you will think it’s worth the effort.

Print Version of Renewal

I have put a considerable amount of time and work into this decision, and I’m sorry to say that printed copies will have to wait. There are two main reasons. The first is that I can’t make the numbers work into a price that I’m comfortable asking for a trade paperback of Renewal. The second and more important reason is that I’m behind my own schedule on releasing Decay and the ebook novel version of Renewal. I think I would rather use my time to get those out that to spend a week formatting a novel for print. Perhaps some of you would agree…

Thanks to all of you who gave me your thoughts and support on the printing idea. I’m sure I’ll get to it before too long.

 

The Biz

First, an update… I’m probably spreading myself a little thin. I’m literally working on all three novels in the Renewal series right now. There’s novel 2, Decay, which is my main priority until it is released. There’s novel 3, Promise, which is most likely the final chapter of the Breakdown story, and there is the novelization of the Renewal series.

I’m open to feedback on what is important to you, but I’m working on the assumption that continuing the story is more important than repacking and extending the series that you have all paid good money to read. Tell me what you think.

The second big question is what to charge for a novel length work. I’ve solicited some opinions already, but I’m looking for a consensus on what you, my core readers, believe is a fair price for a full novel-length version of a Renewal story. Just for reference, Decay is running about 60,000 words longer than the entire Renewal series. Please let me know.

Next up is my sincere thanks for everyone who takes the time to review on Amazon. Based on the numbers alone, reviews are the lifeblood of success on Amazon ebooks. I saw a new review this morning, from Dan, who wrote the first Amazon review for Renewal. I can’t really express my gratitude for that initial review, but I can tell you that one review made the difference between 24 sales in two months and 30 sales in a single day. Every review makes a difference on Amazon, and I just want to say that I notice and appreciate every one of them. I pay attention to all the feedback. As I’ve mentioned, I treat this whole process as a learning experience, and everything you say feeds into making me into a better writer. That is priceless to me.

Now, for the downside… There is another entire platform out there, known as Barnes & Noble. My wife and I are Nook readers. My basic take is that the Nook hardware is better, but the Kindle system is much better as a whole. That appears to be changing with the release of the Kindle Fire, which among other attributes, excites the possibility for illustrated work. (My “official” career, such as it is, has been in digital art for the last 25 years, which naturally lends itself to concepts for children’s books).

At any rate, if you do a search for Renewal on B&N, you might find me at the end of a very long list of books. I’ve been told that reviews contribute to search ranking, but not as much as sales. Compared to Amazon, there are no sales to boost my ranking on the B&N, so I live at the end of a long search result, and the outcome is predictable. I can’t ask you to buy a B&N copy of my books, obviously, but I would ask that you help me out on the B&N side of the aisle. If you have the ability to do so, please post a review on B&N to help kickstart the sales on the Nook system. If not, please search out your Nook friends, weird as they may be, and point them in my direction. A search for “JF Perkins” – Totally unknown author, will work just fine.

I’m not particularly motivated by money, but I am motivated by the freedom to spend my time writing, and every sale makes it easier to do exactly that. I do love it, and I would be very happy to spend the rest of my working life telling stories with the written word. Any help is vastly appreciated.

Thanks again to all of you, and please let me know your thoughts.

Decay – Good News, Bad News

I’m almost done with the first draft of Decay. Writing a novel that is quite a bit longer than the Renewal series in a month is pretty cool. I didn’t know I could do that. Even better, I like it. It feels like I learned a great deal from Renewal. That’s the good news.

The bad news is – it’s bound to be a mess, which means the release is still going to take some time. My friend, Hans, is taking me on a little scouting trip to clean up some of the details of the early settings. There are mistakes to be corrected, along with the usual pile of editing to be done. I’m hoping to do a better job with the editing from now on. It’s great to read all the glowing reviews, but not so fun to see those glowing reviews framed by editing mistakes.

The whole Renewal series was a learning experience, an experiment. If I hadn’t framed it that way in my mind, I probably never would have started. As an experiment, it’s been far more successful than I ever expected, which means that the story is no longer an experiment. More professional results are required. I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to reach the next level.

As happened with the series, the story unfolds itself as I write. I’m not one of those writers who has it all figured out before I start writing. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it makes the writing as much fun as reading. The point here is that there is a third book unfolding as I write the second one. I have copious notes. I even have a title, but I’ll save that until after Decay is released. First things first.

Thanks for reading.