My Process for Starting a New Book

So while some of you are happily reading Child of Lies, I’m already working on BOOK 3. The working title is: Something of something.

The pic below shows how I generally start a book, especially a sequel. I write a list of Things I Know For Sure (I had to blur out a bad spoiler). I’m sometimes wrong about these items, but usually I have a few big facts, scenes, reveals, and twists I’m pretty sure will show up.

Starting Book 3

I’ve also got a document that reminds me Where We Left Off With Each Character. I’ve got another list titled Open Loops, which is currently taking up a huge part of my new whiteboard wall.

If I follow my usual process, once I get bored with all this pre-writing, I’ll begin outlining some plot points. Quickly after that, I’ll get hopelessly stuck in the outline. That’s when I start actually writing chapters.

At exactly 33% into the book, I’ll get utterly stuck and extremely depressed and wonder why I chose to write any novel ever. I’ll mope around and binge on Netflix for a week (or maybe more), before just giving up on figuring it out. Then I’ll start writing some boring scene I had been avoiding all along, and suddenly I’ll break through. A few weeks later, the first draft will come together and I’ll wonder why it took me so long.

But this is where it all starts. A bunch of dense paragraphs, handwritten with a fountain pen and a heaping dose of love.

Free Short Story: Welcome to Earthworld

In this humorous science fiction satire (a 7900 word short story), posthumans Zee and Dox visit the amusement planet of Earthworld, hoping to get in touch with their human roots. While Zee merely wants a human-themed wedding, Dox has a darker purpose for his visit. 

Join them and their Marktwain, an Artificial guide, as they explore the history of the human race as pieced together from the remains of Earth’s debris field.

Read it in this tiny Wattpad embed or on their website or app.


“Some Nobody Called Veronica Roth”

In a recent Facebook post, I made a joke by declaring that my book was ranked #2 in its categories behind “some nobody called Veronica Roth.” This was, of course, intentionally absurd. Among my writer friends, Veronica Roth is well known as the author of the enormously popular Divergent series. The first movie based on her books is coming out at the end of this month.

Anyway, when I wrote my post, I thought it was kind of hilarious because if anyone is a nobody author, I am.

Later, when I was reading through the comments on the post, I realized that through my grinning, faux self-aggrandizement, I had  revealed the unconscious belief that I am, in fact, a nobody.

True, my wife, daughter, siblings, and father wouldn’t think of me that way. My readers, many of whom have left glowing reviews of my books, wouldn’t think of me that way. In fact, one young reader recently wrote me a letter about Undermountain, telling me how much he loved the whole series. He even drew pictures of the characters in the margins.

“Your readers?” the voice in my head says, laughing. “Isn’t that a little grandiose? Next you’ll be calling them fans!” More laughing. “Who do you think you are? You’re certainly no Veronica Roth. You’re no Stephen King. You’re no J.K. Rowling.

Here’s the thing. Every burst of success I’ve had as an author (and it does come in bursts, it seems), I’ve found a way to invalidate. “Well, I did run that Bookbub ad, so it could have been anyone’s book they bought. Just happened to be me this time.” Or, “These sales don’t really count because I discounted that book  to $2.99 for a while.” Or, “Yeah, but I lucked out and got in with some great also-boughts on Amazon.” Or, in response to a good review, “I know they said that, but they didn’t want to say anything bad because we had such a nice email exchange.”

There are zillions of folks on the internet who take it upon themselves to delineate who counts as a professional author and who doesn’t. I’m quite aware that as an indie author, I’m on the doesn’t-count side for many of them.

The shock for me was discovering that I had drawn the line in the same place they had.

Then it dawned on me. The characters in my books  struggle with this exact same issue, and through their adventures they’ve been trying to teach me something. And it is this:

Someone has declared that you don’t matter. Someone has pushed you down. Someone has mocked you for your efforts. Someone has weighed you on a scale, and found you wanting. Someone has stacked the flimsy pages  your accomplishments next to the towering reams produced by greater minds and laughed out loud at the comparison.

These oppressors do not want to let you into the elite clique. And the worst offender, the one shouting the loudest, spittle flying from his or her lips . . .

. . . is you.

You do it because you’re afraid to accept this simple truth: your worth is intrinsic and it is infinite.

Why won’t you accept this power?

Because you’ve insulated yourself in the armor of self-deprecation. Take it off and you don’t get to apologize for showing up. You don’t get to make fun of yourself before someone else does. You don’t get to make sure everyone knows that you know you’re a nobody.

If you accept the responsibility that comes from your self-worth you’ll be utterly naked. You’ll stand exposed to the derision of the trolls, those poor, fearful souls who tear down others in order to build themselves up.

It’s scary, but you can survive it.

How else are you going to stake your claim among the pantheon of your heroes? Are you waiting for an invitation? Are you waiting to be chosen?

My novel was #1 in its categories, ahead of Veronica Roth, for a couple days.

It deserved to be there. I deserved to be there.

And I will be back.









Excerpt: Daughter of Nothing

Below is an excerpt from Daughter of Nothing, book one of The Scion Chronicles.

Daughter of Nothing

But first, what is Daughter of Nothing about?

Few people even know that the Scion School exists. Tucked away on a private Caribbean island, the school is host to thirty-six exceptionally gifted students, all orphans. They train and study every day to prepare themselves for an immense responsibility, to lead humankind back from the brink of extinction.

At least, that’s what they’ve been told.

Among the thirty-six is Jacey, 17, one of four Scions in the Eagle class. She is the favorite of the 93-year-old headmaster, Dr. Carlhagen. But when Jacey overhears a conversation between a strange visitor and one of the school’s first graduates, she learns a stunning fact about her future. One that Dr. Carlhagen has kept from all the Scions.

Following the cryptic clues given to her by the school’s AI professor, Jacey races to untangle the truth of who the Scions are, and what the headmaster really means when he says they are bound for a great destiny.

Here’s the excerpt . . .

The girl waved for Jacey to stop, which was very strange. Belle had done so much to avoid Jacey that something had to be wrong if she was waving Jacey down. Maybe she had sprained an ankle or something.

Jacey almost kept going. But if Belle was truly injured . . .

She left the path, picking her way through the jagged rock and Turk’s Head cacti. “What’s wrong?”

Belle faced her, hands on her hips. The glove tucked in her waistband caught Jacey’s attention. And where was the glass object she’d been carrying?

Belle pointed at Jacey. “You’re what’s wrong.”

Jacey sagged. “Did you really wave me over just to insult me?”

Belle looked past Jacey.

She turned to find two boys from Vaughan’s Nine standing behind her. Horace, a tall, rail-thin boy who rarely spoke, and Kirk, his exact opposite, short, squat and thickly muscled.

They took position to block her way back to the main path.

“What’s going on?” Jacey demanded. The menace in Kirk’s eyes sent a chill over her skin.

Belle clasped her hands before her and strolled forward. “You asked Sensei the other day when you were going to be punished. And I know you were denied your virginity examination. At least I don’t think Wanda lied about that. I’d like to help you with at least one of these problems.”

Jacey’s blood froze and she backed away. The boys took hold of her arms.

“I figure we have a few options,” Belle said, stepping closer. She smiled, showing an even row of perfectly white teeth. Jacey had never seen Belle smile before, and it sent another shiver over her skin.

Belle stepped even closer, so that her shadow fell over Jacey. “Kirk could deliver the punishment. Blow for blow, the exact punishment Vaughan received.” She tapped Jacey’s ribs and the side of her head to show the spots the kicks would land.

“But no. That would break your ribs and skull. You might even end up in a coma.” She caressed Jacey’s forehead, face full of mock concern.

Belle’s fingers slid from Jacey’s temple down to the waistband of her running shorts. She pulled it down an inch on one side. “The virginity test . . . I’m afraid that’s not my area of expertise. Though I’m sure Kirk here might be willing to try.”

Jacey acted without thought. She may never have learned kung fu or muay thai, but she had studied ballet for years. She kicked, wildly. Belle threw up her arms, which absorbed most of Jacey’s attack. But the strike drove her back.

The boys still held Jacey in their steely grips. Horace swept her feet from under her, slamming her flat on her back. Jagged rocks bit into her flesh, forcing a cry from her lips.

Kirk swung a leg over her and in a second wrapped her in a jiu-jitsu submission hold. Jacey struggled to breathe. The blue sky overhead started to blacken.

“Don’t knock her out,” Belle said in a singsong voice that reminded Jacey of Mother Tyeesha. An evil version of Mother Tyeesha. “Without pain there is no punishment. Isn’t that right, Jacey?”

Belle held a jar. She brought it close so Jacey could see what was inside.

A shaddle spider. The tan arachnid was two inches long from the back legs to the probing front ones. Yellow markings, like slashes, crisscrossed its back.

* * *

Daughter of Nothing is available in eBook and Hardcover