So Close I Can Almost Touch It

The first cut of Transmute – the 3rd book in the Henchmen series – is almost done. I guess I’m kind of unique in that my revisions and edits usually add more text, most people remove words when they edit. I add them. This is probably because I have this nasty habit of writing all over the place. I get bored with one section and move to another one, then I find the stuff I did in the new section needs some more explanation in earlier sections. So, it’s sitting at about 70k and will likely tip the scales at 80k before it’s finally done.

Coming to the end of a book is never exactly easy. When I finished Henchmen, I kind of wandered around for a while wondering what to do with myself and where my adventurous friends got off to. Turns out they were still there, lurking in my subconscious like a bunch of muggers.

To tell the truth, I didn’t exactly have any further plans for Eve and the gang when I was done with Henchmen. Spoiler alert: they won. Of course, I couldn’t let that go and knew there had to be something else going on. That something else turned into Arise and it was in Arise that I finally introduced the main enemy of the series. Transmute leaves the gang in a bad space and the final book will ultimately end the saga. I still haven’t decided how it will end, but the pieces are finally in place for that last book to go a bunch of different directions.

There will also be one last Saxton story before Transmute hits. The Saxton stories give us a look at the bad guy of Henchmen and Arise and how he comes to grips with the world. They also add hints about the main antagonist of Transmute and whatever follows it, so if you haven’t read them, give ’em a shot. At the very least a lot of stuff gets blowed up real good and there are a couple awesome car chases.

All that said, I’ve never been big on cover reveals, so here’s the tentative cover for Transmute. If that image of Eve looking like a bad ass doesn’t get you interested, you might want to check your pulse and make sure you’re still alive.

Transmute cover ©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover
©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

But wait! There’s more! Here’s a couple other ideas I’d been experimenting with, but ultimately discarded.

Transmute cover ©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover
©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover ©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover
©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Drop me a line, let me know what you think.

Kindle Unlimited and Serials – An Experiment In Exposure

Ask a handful of authors what they think of Kindle Unlimited and you’ll get a handful of different answers. Some love it, some hate it, most seem somewhat ambivalent about. We’ll never admit that, though .We’re writers, we’re supposed to be cantankerous.

So, for those who are uncertain what Kindle Unlimited is and why it’s important think of KU (as the cool kids call it) as a kind of Spotify for ebooks. Pay a small fee each month and you can read all the books you want. You can only have ten or so on your device at a time, but once you’re done you can get more. If you’re really into reading KU is a great thing. I’m a really slow reader so it makes more sense for me to buy a couple books a month and call it good.

Authors get paid for the people who read their works through KU, but it’s not as much as if someone bought a full copy. The Clock Man, for instance, is $2.99. For each sale I get 70% of the total cost which comes out to about $2.09 per sale. For each page read under KU I get about half a cent, or about $1.59-ish for the 318 page Clock Man. A little less, but at least people are reading it, so it’s all good. Henchmen and Arise, which clock in at 200-ish pages and about 270-ish pages respectively, pay less for a full read. Again, all good, people are reading and that’s a good thing.

A couple years ago I wrote a post about digital printing and binding – the kind of stuff Create Space uses to put together a book. It’s pretty revolutionary technology, easily on par with the movable type printing press. KU isn’t a new tech per-se, but it is a new distribution method. And I am going to try to take advantage of it.

In a recent book review I discussed Felipe Adan’s Lerma’s idea for a serial novel. It’s a good idea. It used to be short stories and the like were the exclusive purview of anthologies and literary magazines. KU is a game-changer, though, and new games require new exploits. Now it’s possible to put together a novelette-length story of around 15k-20k words, enough to tell a full story without delving into short-story territory but still staying away from full-length novel territory.

I’m picturing a kind of Television show level story, where each story is a complete unit, but each unit builds on the total story arc. Something that would be ideal for KU subscribers because it would be easy enough to produce a monthly installment and the shorter time to read would allow readers to cover more stories per month. It wouldn’t pay much, but it might be good exposure and it’s certainly a good writing exercise.

Now this plays right into the Henchmen universe because of everyone’s favorite go-to guy. No, not Steven. Wilford Saxton has a story that’s separate from the main Henchmen story arc but will still intersect at a later point. In the interim, he’s out building a small army and hunting monsters. I’m still working out the long-term story arc and figuring out the first tale which will take place immediately after the events of The Hunt (one of the stories in The Clock Man).

So, without further ado, let me warn you that a new hunter is coming and all the monsters of the world had best tremble.

SaxtonAdVertical

BTW, I will never advertise this as Free on Kindle Unlimited. Nothing on KU is really free; the readers pay for it. But I am hoping to leverage KU to achieve my goals of world domination. By which I mean, selling more books. Saxton’s adventures will also be available for purchase at $0.99 and I might even compile them all into a “box set” at some point.

Expect the first one in about a month.

This Picture – Writing the Other Side

They were actually BFFs off-screen.

They were actually BFFs off-screen.

I stumbled across this picture several months ago and loved it. I still think Aliens is toward the top of my favorite movies list. In addition to the slow build that everyone in the audience knew was coming, the movie had a lot to say about who the monsters really were. As Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) says, “You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.

Burke, Carter J. proceeds to run, leaving everyone to die horribly in the face of the Xenomorph onslaught. Of course he gets caught by an alien. There’s a scene in the book that shows (sorry, tells) him glued to the wall, waking up just in time for the egg in front of him to open and you know his death is going to be delightfully uncomfortable.

comeuppance

Comeuppance. Heck yeah.

In fact, you could make the argument that the true villain of the movie was really Burke and the Weyland/Yutani corporation all along. The aliens and Marines were just along for the ride and didn’t find each other’s company agreeable.

Anyway, back to the picture. It’s a still shot, probably from the production that shows our two heroines: the small, squishy one and the gloriously armored one. The alien queen gets a bad rap in the movie, but to be fair, she was as much a tragic hero as Ripley. I say tragic because, in the end, the alien queen fails and her children all die in fiery inferno.

Her tragedy comes down to motivations. It’s motivation that should drive a character. Even the bad guys have motivations for what they do and guess what? No matter how loathsome the bad guys may be, they all think their reasons are very good reasons for doing what they’re doing.

shocked

Don’t gasp. It’s true. We can all justify our actions at any given time. The reason for this is because we, as humans, are exceptionally good at lying to ourselves. Whatever it is we’re doing, we have managed to convince ourselves it is the correct thing to do.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, if you’re going to write the antagonist in the story you have to keep something squarely in mind: whoever the bad guy (or girl) is, they are doing what they’re doing because they think it’s the correct thing to do. Then you get to the really cool part: exploring those reasons. You may come to find that the reasons are noble, after all, just not in the context of the story you’re trying to tell.

Now, take another look at Aliens and examine the main actors in the movie. By my reckoning you’ve got three major players represented in the story.

  • The Marines (and Ripley)
  • The Weyland/Yutani Corporation (and Burke)
  • The aliens (and the Queen)

Every single one of them has a valid motivation for their actions. The Marines (and Ripley) want to do their jobs and go home. Those jobs include saving colonists and eliminating a threat. They’re attempting to realize that goal by killing all the aliens. The Company (Weyland/Yutani and its representative Carter J. Burke) wants to make profits for its employees and shareholders. It attempts to achieve its goal by bringing aliens back home. In their minds the value of the aliens as a study far outweighs both the hive and the lives of the Marines. The aliens simply want to live. They attempt to achieve their goal by capturing colonists and using them as both nurseries and food.

By putting all these groups with differing and mutually exclusive goals in one place you create our good buddy conflict. And you do it in such a way that the conflict becomes much more nuanced; now it becomes less like to say “So-and-so did x because he’s a big dumb jerk-face.” The parties in the conflict now have very valid reasons and, interestingly enough, the varying conflicts have become MECE.

mece

This means the resolutions for each possible outcome aren’t compatible with the other outcomes and at least one of the outcomes must occur. This is the nature of conflict. Let’s face it, it’s just not very fun if the conflict resolution is everyone just walking away.

In Aliens, there was no way that was going to happen, each party had a vested interest in their own goals. Most importantly, each party felt their goals were, in fact, not only attainable, but actually good things to do.

So, when you look at it that way, who’s the real villain? In the context of the movie it’s Burke and the aliens because the movie is ultimately about Ripley and the Marines. Told from another point of view, though, a struggling colony of aliens was wiped out by aggressors from beyond the stars or a potentially huge revenue stream was eliminated by shortsightedness.

Really look at your villains and you might see them in a different perspective. In my mind, the picture of the alien queen and Ripley will always be called “Two Lovely Ladies” because if you look hard enough, it’s pretty difficult to call either one of them a villain. It’s just that their goals contrary to each other.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Neither of my books have sold for beans.  It’s not entirely surprising; I’m an unknown author in a sea of people.  I wrote some fairly strange stuff.  It’s been called uncategorizable by more than a couple people.  People love categories; I find them kind of restricting.

I was pondering all this the other evening and wondering if I should change my style, make it fit a singular genre.  Maybe I could write a horror story where villains stalk virgins or a science fiction story where a valiant crew faces insurmountable odds, or a crashed spaceship on a world of magic leads to a clash of high technology and powerful magic.

Actually, that last one might be pretty cool.  I’m claiming that one.  No one else can write it.  And it doesn’t fit neatly into a category anyway and, as we’ve already established, uncategorizable is my category.  So there; it’s mine.

Anyway, as I was pondering all this I realized I had far too many ideas to just throw in the towel.  Besides, I’m not writing because I’m looking for fame or fortune (actually, fortune would be nice.  It’s hard to collect exotic cars on my salary), I’m writing because it’s fun and those ideas have to go somewhere, right?

So, your first book didn’t sell for squat?  Write another one.

Second one didn’t catch on, either?  Write another one.

Bottom line, just keep writing.

write1

 

I think everyone who writes a book somehow expects it will immediately become the next best seller and they’ll be showered with praise.  It can happen, but it often doesn’t.  That’s one of the things that I keep reminding myself of.  Well, that and I’m not really writing because I want to become the next big name; I write because I enjoy it and it’s nice to know at least a few people out there have enjoyed what I’ve written.  Consider it my good deed for the day; a half-assed atonement for all the things I’ve done wrong.

So that’s it.  It’s exactly as easy and hard as Neil Gaiman says.  There’s no magical formula, there’s no advice to give that will change your fate.  There’s no hidden secret out there that will suddenly make you a great writer.  I’m thinking writing is like anything else, the more you practice at it the better you’ll get at it.  The only way to practice it is to do it.  A lot.

That said, here’s some inspiration for you.  There’s a story in each and every one of these pictures, and that story is probably longer than a thousand words.

230-montroguemystery

 

panda-robot

Ancient-Chinese-dragon-Desktop-Wallpaper

Code-Monkey-Wallpaper

 

The-Fighter

Faked-Moon-Landing-Proof

big_e275b2fd5f529ec05440700177a9c55167ab7a92

Armored-Woman-with-Sword

tumblr_me42f8VUbg1rbss9eo1_1280

Go forth and write a story.  Expect my next book, a collection of stories called The Clock Man sometime this summer.

Writing

I started writing Henchmen in around July of 2013.  As long as I can remember I always told myself stories and thought they were devilishly clever.  That July I was sitting on the couch.  It was hot as balls in Albuquerque and I was playing Saints Row III for, like, the fourth time.  Don’t get me wrong, Saints Row is awesome, but after the fourth time through I was kind of getting bored with it.

That was one of those “fuck it” moments.  I’d been bandying this idea of a group of henchmen around in my head for years.  I’d had several false starts with it (I should see if I’ve still got the original first chapter around here somewhere -it’s dreadful) and something clicked.  I started writing and never looked back.  Even after I didn’t sell a gajillion copies I just kept going.  About a month after publishing the first book I finally figured out where to go with the second.

Writing started as something to do, became a hobby, and sort of spiraled out of control from here.  It’s become my release in a way that gaming never could.  There were times when I caught myself writing with my eyes closed; so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open but still typing away.

Times like those always make me happy that I learned to type on an old mechanical typewriter.  I was trained by a woman who had been a professional typist (read secretary) back in the day.  She was a serious battle-axe.  Everyone in my junior high school was terrified of her.  I found that if I just paid attention and tried my best she was remarkably easy to get along with.  I was never quite good enough to use the electric typewriters, though; only the really good students got to use those and I never broke 60 words per minute.  Now, as a programmer, I’m probably better than I was back then, but that just means I can type semi-colons and curly braces like fiend.

Anyway, I found myself typing with my eyes closed, seeing the story unfold in my head and transferring it to the screen by touch alone because I was too damned stubborn to, you know, go to sleep.

Now I can say I’ve written two books and am working on a short-story collection, which is something I never would have guessed I’d be able to say a few years ago.  I haven’t made squat for money, but I don’t think that’s why I’m doing it anyway.  I’m torn between saying I keep writing because it’s a great way to while away the time and I keep writing just because I want to think someone, somewhere, is listening to what I say.

At any rate, if you’re thinking about writing a book, go for it.  Just think of it as telling someone a story.  You may not get famous or rich, but you might find you have a good time doing it.