Do NOT Live in the Now

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Many times in life I’ve been given the advice, “Live in the now.” Dwelling on the past robs you of the present. If you live for the future, you will never get there. Philosophically, I agree. We can only  affect what we are currently doing. Guilt for things we’ve done saps energy and sours today. Constantly reaching for future goals means never experiencing the greatness you could be feeling.

So, from the perspective of living, it’s great advice.

From the point of view of an author, however, it’s terrible.

Writing a book takes a LOT of time. Few have the luxury of sprinting through a manuscript un-distracted. So that means dedicating a lot of “right nows” to something you only vaguely hope will pay off in the long run. The biggest enemy of an author is “the now.” If you want to have a great experience, you’ll go out with friends or binge watch the latest TV show. Those things feel better in the moment.

Don’t get my wrong. Writing is emotional. It’s a lot of great moments. But they are solitary, and the good times are punctuated with outlines, edits, and confusion. That’s where the emotion driven artist falls down. The passion to create can only fuel so much writing. So you either have to stick to short stories, or you eventually have to face the long dark of the manuscript.

It means choosing not to have fun or relax during your precious few hours after work. It means not going out on a Saturday sometimes. It means closing Facebook, turning your phone to silent, locking your door and sitting in a desk chair. Those hours have to come from somewhere… and that means a lot of “right nows” that you don’t really live in… rather you work through.

I’m not saying you have to become a hermit. See friends. Watch TV. Have great experiences and moments. Those are all fuel for future characters and scenes. However, you can’t live in it. Some of your time has to be the fitful typing when you’d rather be at a movie.

That’s the price of writing a book. And if you want to get good, you have to write MANY.

So when people say, write what you love, it’s because you will be dedicating a lot of present hours to something unsure in the future. Learn to love the journey. Find enjoyment in slogging through proofreading or tweaking an outline. Only when those difficult tasks become something you enjoy will the actual time spent writing become something rewarding enough that you don’t have to rely on the end payouts to make it worthwhile.

In the long run, that’s the only way to get from “Once upon a time…” to–

FB All Covers 2017


GameLit Expansion Pack

GameLit Expansion Pack

Cover Reveal!

Now a story from my writing past…

When I started writing, I only wrote novels. I’d written ten or twelve of them when I started seriously querying publishers. After a LOOOOONG stretch of nobody interested, I heard people say sometimes you can break in by writing short stories and publishing those first to build up a writer resume. So I tried my hand at shorter form fiction.

I entered the Writers of the Future contest a few times and submitted to the big sci-fi magazines. Even those were a little above my level at the time. Eventually, I found some “for exposure” anthologies and managed to get three stories in. Soon after, I sold my first steampunk story for money ($20.00). And “won” a contest that included getting another story published and fifty bucks.20130530-222635.jpg

With this new resume, I began querying again. I saw Curiosity Quills calling for subs on Twitter, and they accepted my first book. That book, Theocracide, is GameLit. Only, at the time, nobody used that label.

The first label I heard of was LitRPG. My publisher caught a trend and wanted to brand the Actuator series accordingly. It worked well, boosting sales. But as the fans of LitRPG fleshed out what that really meant, the definition didn’t really fit my work. To be LitRPG, having a role-playing game the books are set in and including scenes where people go into video game realities isn’t enough. They wanted actual game statistics in the book. So my publisher re-branded the Actuator series as GameLit, where it belongs.

Actuator Series Wallpaper

I wasn’t excited by LitRPG books I read where they say things like, “Adarian leveled up when he killed the troll, gaining 6 hit points and better fighting skills.” It just pulls me out of the story. Clearly a lot of other authors felt the same way. So, they created a label to separate game-based literature from stories that literally describe the game terms. The new subgenre, of course, is GameLit.

actuator-rpg-e-book-coverAs I talked with other authors interested in these themes, and supported their facebook pages, Indie Illuminati issued me an invitation to put a story into an anthology designed to raise awareness of this new genre. Several authors writing in that field were each preparing novelettes (15,000 – 20,000 words) to go with GameLit books they’d written. One of the contributing authors dropped out and they asked me to fill the void.

It just so happened that my current work in progress, Virtues & Virtual Reality, is a GameLit book. If not, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to such a large side project on such a short deadline. Anyway, I immediately knew what story I’d tell for this antho, and I’m over 10,000 words into it now. That story: Pre-screening Test.

Since the rest of them are ahead, they already started advertising. The cover (top) is out and they have it available for pre-order on Amazon. When I looked it up today, I saw it’s already ranking on the Amazon charts! You should get it now while it’s cheap, BTW. Only 99 cents!

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They have a “Pre-release Party” page up on Facebook, too. They’re giving away books every week until the release. (Go check it out!)

Also, there is a book trailer! (Watch it now!)

What struck me about this situation is how everything fell into place so neatly. After years spinning my wheels and never getting any kind of interest from publishers, I’m now to the point where invitations come to me. It feels pretty great.

So, if you’re an aspiring author, keep at it! Write a lot of books and stories. Write what you love. Submit like crazy. Most of all, keep writing. Once you break in, things get a lot easier. 🙂

GameLit Expansion Pack Box Set


Online Vote & Real Life Signing

I’m up for a Writecast Listener’s Award. If you want to help, all you have to do is go to this website and vote for my episode (Acquisitions Strategies and Content Rating Systems). I’m sure you’ve heard it, but if you’re just sure mine would be the best, that’s okay. 🙂

Vote here!

Signing Banner

Also, I’m doing a signing at Fortis College on Thursday, March 1, from 12:30 – 2:30 PM in Suite 200. If you have some time, please stop by! It’s the first time I’ll be signing paperbacks of The Actuator 4: The Last Key.

Come say hello!

The Last Key Wrap Cover

Uncommon Love

Uncommon Love

My latest blog post is part of series by Curiosity Quills Press on Romance (for February). I talked about love, but how genre fiction provides a unique medium for exploring non-standard relationships. Also, it includes an excerpt from Exacting Essence.

Go check it out!


The Road So Far

All Covers 2017

Five years.

The Last Key came out  five years after my first book and short story in print.

The full score is 6 Novels, 1 Novella, 3 Anthologies I edited, 1 RPG manual with 2 short stories in it), short stories in 18 Anthologies edited by other people (including 3 reprints), and comics in 2 episodes of 1 magazine.

I have 2 Novels ready to go whenever I decide to buckle down and send them in, and 4 short stories going into Anthologies coming out in the future (including 1 reprint). I’m currently working on a new novel, which I paused to experiment with a serial story.

I hope this doesn’t come off as bragging. I’m just taking stock of where I’ve been, as a way of deciding where I want to go next. It’s been a rough year, and I think I need a little direction and motivation before I start to build up momentum again. Seeing this block of covers really makes me happy.

A writer’s only real success is the readers, of course. I’m immensely grateful to my readers, fans, friends, and family. I’ll leave you with some eye candy from the first test version of The Last Key by cover artist Eugene Teplitsky.

Here’s to the next five years!

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Book Piracy

I love a good pirate story.Remembering Emily

I’ve been enjoying the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series a lot. I even included pirates in my Actuator series. There’s something appealing about bucking unjust authority, although it requires some pretty advanced mental gymnastics to justify the heinous things done by real pirates.

These days pirates tend to be the type who steal media. Most of them do it because they want to see movies for free or before the release date. There are also plenty of people looking to get free music or books. Consequently, most or all of my books have been pirated. perf6.000x9.000.indd In fact, one of my books, Exacting Essence, has been pirated so extensively that it hasn’t even sold many legitimate copies. I’ve even found discussion boards where people were recommending it to each other… which struck a whole range of conflicting emotions. At the very least, they could have reviewed it!

I can’t help thinking back to my teens when I pirated music. First of all, I should say that I also bought a lot of music. However, my humble means and the exceptional importance of music to my social group and our generation added a lot of pressure. Plus, I had this neat boom box that had a double cassette deck with high speed dubbing that made it sooo easy… So I copied music from and for friends. Later, I mended my ways and now I get my music legitimately. Movies and books, too. I later bought most of that music legitimately, but I’m probably getting my just desserts.

Cyber CowboySo what can an author do? The Internet makes it so easy to share files now, I suspect there’s not much we can do. Technically, one can pay a lawyer and try to sue people for it. But most of the “sharing” on the Internet is done by anonymous people who try not to leave any detectable trace. I have one publisher who sends “cease and desist” orders to anybody they find posting their books illegally, but it’s a never-ending game. The truth is, if somebody decides they are going to pirate something, the effort it takes to stop them is usually a lot more time and money than it took them to do it. They even program bots to do it, leaving almost no trail. So it’s a game that can’t be easily won. (Maybe a super-corporation like Disney can make some headway, but not an independent author.)

Oscar Wilde is an example of an amazing writer whose life turned tragic because of an emotionally charged law suit. Imagine how many more great works he could have written if he spent his efforts differently.

So I think the only healthy attitude is to not burn energy getting angry and trying to fight it. Pirates gonna steal. But since they aren’t likely to have ever bought my book in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. I just chalk it up to “exposure” and hope over time it will contribute to a general increase in name recognition. Maybe they’ll recommend it to somebody who’ll buy the book in the future. It’s not all that different from libraries lending books to many patrons… except nobody bought the first book. Honestly, I’ll just give my books to anybody willing to review them. So if you ever stole one of my books, please leave a review and we’ll call it good.

What’s Wrong with Movie Rights


I love movies. I have defended Peter Jackson against Tolkien purists in front of hundreds of people as a panelist and presenter. I even like the Percy Jackson movies and The Seeker (adaptation of The Dark is Rising). Although my art is writing books and short stories, I am a rabid fan of cinema.

So I get it.

After years writing books and sending queries into the abyss, somebody finally sends you a contract for your novel. Once the butterflies settle, and after you call your mom and go out to celebrate with your friends, you sit down and actually read the thing. It’s nine pages long and most of it is in passive voice using sentence structure your English teacher would punish you for. You make an appointment to have somebody go over the confusing stuff with you. But the one thing you know, is that it has a clause claiming all the movie rights for the publisher. And even though you don’t personally know anybody who had a movie made out of a book, you vaguely remember a fear-inducing tale about an author who didn’t get a dime when they made her story into a blockbuster and she couldn’t stop them from changing the ending so the noble unicorn heroine actually turned out to be a robot-zombie.

You raise your emotions against such indignities and tell the publisher you want to keep your movie rights. And for good measure you throw in TV, live stage play, and merchandising.

The publisher says no.

Now you have a tough choice to make. Before you do something you’ll regret, give me a chance to talk you off the edge. Or, if you happen to read this before it happens, maybe I can save you some stress.

Movie deals almost never happen. By almost never, I mean you have a better chance of winning the lottery. If you don’t have an agent actively pursuing a movie deal, the odds effectively approach zero. At a book signing, I heard Terry Brooks (yes, that super famous guy) explain how movie rights for his Shannara series had been sold many times. People even started making plans for a movie a few times, but it fell apart over and over. They did finally make a TV series, but that was decades later. What went wrong?

[Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on the moving making process, or even an expert on publishing. This is just my own perspective on information I gathered along my journey as an author and editor.]

As I understand it, there are many hurdles along the road to making a movie. Somebody (usually an agent) will contract to represent the author or publisher and take a large number of books and try to find one in which a movie maker will be interested. Movie making people (companies, directors, who knows?) buy a “movie option” from the publisher and/or author. It’s basically reserving the right to make that movie if they want. It has a time limit and usually it’s for little or no money. If a director or producer really likes one of the options they might pursue it further, but among so many optioned properties, they tend to only seriously consider a few. A small percentage of those get started, and even fewer ever get all the way to filming. Some movies even fall apart after they start shooting. Obviously, a NY Times bestseller has a better chance of becoming a movie than a first-time author’s debut book.

Even if the miraculous comes true and your book gets made into a movie, there will definitely have to be a new contract, and you as the author are guaranteed to get some of that money. Who controls what and how much will have to be ironed out. If the publisher does all that, you’ll get the percentage your contract promised.

If you or your agent makes the golden contact and bring that deal to the table, you can renegotiate with the publisher for higher percentages. They will love you for it. Or, if you really don’t want the publisher involved (which is probably unethical since they are partly responsible for making the book so popular in the first place) you can either buy back all your rights from them before making the movie deal or let the time run out and end the contract.

If you feel that way about the publisher, though, maybe you should question why you would sign a contract with them at all. In my own modest experience, publishers earn their share of the royalties. I make more even though I share the profits with them because they generate more than twice as many sales than I would alone. And since I don’t know anybody making movies, if one of my publishers landed a movie deal, it would all be free money for me since it wasn’t anything I did to make it happen.

So why, if the odds are so remote, would a publisher care about retaining those movie rights? First, the publisher is taking a risk on your book. Most of the time, they lose money on books. A small number of books make enough money to keep them in business despite the losses on the majority of what they publish. If your book isn’t one of the stars, a movie deal isn’t going to happen anyway. If you do make the money, shouldn’t the publisher share in the profits for taking a risk on your work?

Second, you should remember that the story is still yours. You own it. Your contract only “loans” that property to the publisher for the duration of the contract so they can use it to make money. And if they are good, you’ll make more money, too. They can’t do their job effectively if you are able to sell the same story to other companies. That’s why they retain foreign language rights and such. Even if they aren’t planning to translate it into Japanese, their investment in the book is damaged by other companies selling the same story. So, for the duration of the contract, they need to be part of all such negotiations. It doesn’t mean you or your agent can’t make such a deal. Any extra deal would always come with another contract where you can negotiate for more if you feel you deserve it. Working with a publisher is a partnership. It’s only fair that both partners work together to make as much as possible out of your book, regardless of who brings the deals and how much each partner deserves.

If you have any real contacts that might lead to a movie deal, it’s reasonable to ask for that consideration to be in the contract. If you don’t, I recommend NOT hanging up a publishing contract because of unfounded fears that you might be taken advantage of. The publisher is taking a risk investing time and money in your book. It’s only fair that you share the benefits of any fruit such an investment yields.

For the record, if anybody reading this really does want to make one of my stories into a movie, I’ll probably let you do it for free, just to see it happen. 😊