Immortal Duplicity Chapter 1

Immortal Duplicity, book 2 of the Chronicles of the Mages series, will be released later this month. Here is Chapter 1 as a free taste. The book’s predecessor, Immortal Betrayal, is available at all retailers.

Chapter 1

“Captain, they need you in the stockade!” Corporal Hansen stood in the office doorway, with flushed face and breathing hard. He was one of those people who looked like they were about to hyperventilate when they got excited. To make matters worse, breathing excited him. It obviously also made him forgetful.

“Corporal, I realize they’re new enough to not have dust built up in them yet, but I am wearing my oak leaves. And I’m sure whatever is going on in lock-up can wait. It’s not like they’re going anywhere,” the major pointed out.

“Sorry, um, Major, but sir, I think you’ll want to go see this one. They just caught a Reb spy trying to get into the armory, but that’s not why you’re needed. It’s hard to explain, you just have to see him to understand,” Hansen stammered.

“You’re not going to leave me in peace until I see this guy, are you? OK, let’s go,” he said in a resigned voice.

They left the main office and made the short trek across the parade ground of Fort Lyon. In an effort to show his annoyance with this interruption, Maj. Edward Wynkoop purposely walked with a slow gait. Several thoughts went through his mind as he strolled along, kicking up the Colorado dust as went.

Why was it necessary for him to see this prisoner? He would be getting a report soon enough detailing the man’s capture. From the information provided he would then decide how to proceed. They may not have used these stockades much, but there was still a protocol to follow. But he supposed out here in the wilderness of the Colorado Territory, protocols were easy for the men to forget, or flat out ignore. It had been a while since they had organized drills on discipline. Perhaps they were overdue.

Then he started thinking more specifically about the prisoner. Hansen called him a Rebel spy. Why would the Confederacy be spying on them? They were about as far removed from the fighting as one could get. Their primary concerns related to the Indians in the area. But the Cheyenne and the Arapaho were peaceful tribes. As long as the white men respected their space, they didn’t give them any trouble. He was starting to doubt this person’s connection to the South. More likely he was just a guy looking for something sellable to steal.

This trip across the fort was really starting to irk Wynkoop. Why did they need to drag him from his work for this? When he arrived at the guardhouse he was met by a couple of privates who had been left to guard the prisoner. They looked at him rather queerly as he walked into the holding area. “Did I have dirt on my face or something?” the major thought to himself.

There was only one prisoner at the moment. Wynkoop didn’t think they ever had more than one at a time unless he ordered both sides locked up for fighting. The prisoner was lying on the cot with his hat pulled down over his face. He was wearing typical civilian clothes that one would expect to see on a local farmer. The doubts of his rebel nature were getting stronger.

“Well, I’m here,” Edward said to no one in particular, but to everyone at once. They dragged him over here, what did they want?

“Stand up!” Cpl. Hansen ordered the captive. The man was in no hurry. He lopped his legs over the side of the cot and ran his hand through the helter-skelter mess that was his hair, before putting his hat back on top of his head. Then he stood up and looked at the newly arrived officer, reckoning he was the man in charge.

Wynkoop froze. The prisoner froze. Each one’s face reflected the other’s own astonishment as if they were each staring into a mirror. Edward’s hair was cut short and he was clean shaven per Army regulations. His counterpart was shaggy headed and he had a beard that was in need of trimming. But that was the only physical difference that could be seen.

“Clear the room!” Wynkoop suddenly ordered. “I’ll question this prisoner personally.”

“But regulations require another person to be present for all interrogations,” Hansen piped up. Fine time for him to suddenly remember protocol!

“Regulations also require you to follow the orders of your superiors, now get out!” the senior officer nearly roared. The men were already to the door by the time he got to the last syllable. Once they were out, Edward returned his attention to the captive.

“For now, I only have one question: How old are you?” Edward demanded.

“Twenty-six, Major” he answered with a hint of suspicion in his voice.

“Sir, it’s just you and me in here now. What’s your real age?”

“I think you already know that, Major,” he sounded like he knew the two men shared a secret, but Wynkoop was unsure.

“Tell me anyway,” the interrogator tried to keep his voice as flat as he could.

“Very well, then. I turned 272 in June, just as you did, Brother.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Making a Living as a Writer

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I have a regular old 9-to-5 day job. Wish I didn’t. I want my profession to be: writer. But how to make that work in a financially demanding world? Here’s my game plan.

I set a goal for myself. My employer is the State of Colorado. Our fiscal year ends on June 30th, so I picked next June 30th as my target date to leave my job. This gives me time to accomplish several things, but also gives me a goal to work towards. I will also do analysis in about March to see if this is still feasible.

A large part of this goal hinges on making decent money from my books. My non-fiction work appeals to be a specific niche of book buyers, and past experience has shown that I can count on them to consistently buy the work I put out. So that is a pretty much known quantity, albeit a rather small one on a monthly basis. Therefore, the novels need to do the heavy lifting.

Money from writing a novel comes in chunks, rather than a steady stream. The traditional model is the author gets an advance, and if the novel sells well enough that future royalties extend past the advance being paid off, there are then royalty payments, usually on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. For starting off authors, advances are usually meager, often less than $5000, and almost never over $10k. And these are from major publishers. Small presses usually can’t afford to pay advances, so you only have royalties as the sales come in. Furthermore, the amount of royalty an author makes on their books is pretty small, usually in the 7-10% of the cover price.

These are very general numbers, but if you publish with a small press and your book is selling at $15.95 full retail, your take (before taxes) is somewhere around $1.15 per book. So to earn $50k in a year, you would need to sell 43,478 books in a year. That last part is a tough mountain to climb.

Every writer I personally know falls into three categories: 49% have a day job and write for their second income; 49% have a spouse/significant other who contributed heavily to the expenses of simply living; and 2% have hit it big. Even this last 2% do not live on their royalties alone. They have reversed the roles of the ones who have day jobs though. Writing is their day job now. But, they also have secondary work they do. Some teach a class now and then, many do free-lance writing for other businesses.

This last path is the one I am taking. I am working to build up a second career as a freelance writer. What I have learned about the job so far is that there lot of scammers out there saying they can help you make a career out of free-lancing, but if you end up with $10 after putting in a lot of work, you’re lucky. But there are some that are more reputable. I am currently getting writing projects through odesk.com and elance.com. Even with these, I find I have to be a bit selective, because there are some loser clients there too. But there are also decent ones to work with.

In future blogs I’ll recap how it is going and will likely share some anecdotes about how things I have found on the way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Critique Groups

Something I have not talked about yet is the value of critique groups.

First off, it is important to know what a critique group is, or even more importantly, what it is not. It is not a group of your friends telling you what a good writer you are. It is also not a firing squad for writers, unless that is what the writer really needs. A critique group is a collection of fellow writers, perhaps even editors, who all submit material for review from the whole group. It is best if the people in the group are not well acquainted so they will feel more free to give honest opinions. Needless to say, it is not for the faint of heart. Before you go to such a group, make sure you are prepared emotionally to receive honest opinions of your work, even if those opinions are negative. And some will be.

Finding critique groups is not that difficult. Usually a simple Google search of something like “Denver critique groups” will do the trick. If you live someplace rural, or are not able to travel about easily for one reason or another, you may want to consider on-line critique groups. Rather than face-to-face, they conduct everything via email. Whichever way you go the result is about the same.

One of the best parts of critique groups is getting the feedback you need to make your writing better. But there are a few downsides. If your group is not genre-specific, and most are not, there are likely members of the group who simply do not like the genre you are writing. If they are polite, they will refrain from making comments unless they are more general about the writing style than what they dislike about the story being told. But sometimes you might find those who are not so polite. Each Critique Group should have a moderator and that is the person to handle those kind of situations. But to some extent, the writer must consider source of the criticism, and judge its value accordingly.

Another downside can come from being in the same group for a long period. You get used to one another, maybe even start socializing outside of the group. This can lead to less-than-honest appraisals. It is human nature to want to accommodate our friends. The first group I belonged to started out as a group of friends who all had writing as common attributes. I was never sure of the honesty the opinions I was getting, so I sought other groups for this purpose. As I suspected, the group of friends were mostly honest, but sugar-coated their honesty in the name of friendship.

The most important thing to get from a Crtique Group is what you need to make you a better writer. I find their comments invaluable and any new novels I write will have this sort of input during the writing process. It is one step of several to ensure my manuscript is the best it can be before submitting it to a publisher or agent. Also, if the work is well critiqued before publication, it is more likely to get good reviews during and after its release.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Trying to be a Full-Time Writer in 11 Months

For quite some time I have harbored the no so secret ambition of quitting my day job and being able to live off of my writing. As each month goes by, I get closer and closer to making that a reality. Now I’ve set an initial goal: Quit the day job at the end of the fiscal year, 30 Jun 2014.

I’ve set up several paths to follow to get me to this goal. One, which I am doing right now, is to promote the shit out of Immortal Betrayal and get ready for a big release of Immortal Duplicity in November. I am currently on a one-man sales mission to encourage all of the independent bookstores across the country to carry my novels. There are even a few I have found that are genre-oriented in such a way they may be interested in carrying some of my non-fiction too. My publisher is tackling the big chains, like Barnes and Noble.

Next, and I have already started this, really step up my game on the article writing. I’m using every connection I can find to get hooked up with magazine and ezine feature article publishers to write on any topic they willing to let me write about. I have a job-hunting article pending editorial review now and have recently written things on a haunted hotel and the local political scene on Colorado. Check out Contently.com for my articles to date. As each one comes out, I will add it to my portfolio there.

Between article writing and book royalties I am making about as much as a part-time hamburger flipper now, but it’s moving in the right direction. Now I am focused on getting it to a livable wage by June. I’ll give until March before I do a serious assessment of how I’m doing. By then I should be able to determine how I’m doing and if I need to continue slaving for the Man (Actually my immediate supervisor is a woman).

Wish me luck!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My First Full-Length TV Interview

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a show called “Off the Page.” This is a public access show the focuses on Denver-area authors and airs on the municipal channel through the metro area. The show will air for two months throughout August and September. Each city has their own schedule. In each city it airs a few times a week. In Denver, this three weekday mornings and on Thursday evening.

To view the interview, just click on this link.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Two of my early books have found new life.

I was rather surprised to learn that two of my first books have come back to life. The Descendants of Louis XIII (1999) and The Descendants of King George I of Great Britain (2002), were both originally published by the now defunct Clearfield Company. They have both been out of print for several years.

A couple of days ago, I received a letter from Genealogical.com, the owner of Clearfield’s assets, including my books, explaining that they were again becoming available to a network that provides books for libraries and colleges. They do not seem to be available for regular retail purchase, but I still received a royalty check with the letter which represented sales from 2012.

Just goes to show that old books never really die.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Immortal Duplicity” is FINALLY done!

I have been working on the second book of my mage series for what seems like since the fifth grade. I am happy to report I finished the first draft today!

Writing this book took a twisty turning path because I was not sure it was going to be my next book out. I was beginning to focus more on a stand-alone urban fantasy novel I want to write because the mage series wasn’t getting any traction. Then, suddenly, Thursday Night Press wanted to do the whole mage series, all 5 books. Woohoo! But that meant I had to get on the stick and finish book two.

I got pretty stuck at one point. I am firm believer in the saying “Writer’s block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you.” My imaginary friends and I had a 2-month falling out. Ben & Jerry helped us work through our issues and then I could move forward.

I mentioned in a recent post that I have only a general idea of the plot of a book while I am writing it. I am like the readers. I find out how it ends when I get there. So now I know how book two ends. I think you’ll like it.

Next step is the editing process. Many writers hate this portion. I typically don’t mind it much. My editor doesn’t tinker much with the storytelling, but cleans up the way I tell it. This is where I think I differ from other writers. I have never considered myself a “writer.” I am a story teller. I have stories to tell that I think are fun, entertaining, and thought provoking. I love telling the story, but I need editors to help me “write” it.

Immortal Duplicity is currently on schedule for an early November release. Watch this space, I will announce it when a more definite date is set.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized