Sunday, June 25, 2017

What I've been reading to write Oil Apocalypse

A brief bibliography for the new series:




1) Anything I could find on small ground-unit tactics, including parts of the US Army field manuals and after-action reports from Australian, US, and British ground troops going back to the 1950s. In a few cases, the reports had a few lines about what it felt like to be there and vivid descriptions that helped me imagine (though I’ve never been in combat myself) what that might be like. Many thanks to those authors.

2) I admit that I’m no expert on weapons (I’ve fired a half-dozen, but that’s about it), so online manuals and discussions have helped me appear (I hope) something other than a fool on the topic. Writer Eric T. Knight read Slashed to make sure I hadn’t said something utterly stupid about the topic, and I’ll continue to use my friends for just that purpose as I write the rest of the series. A big thank you goes out to them for this help.

3) Though it’s a subtle part of the setting, there is a warming trend in the deserts of the southwest US right now and I’ve extrapolated worse in the near future setting of my novels so that the snow level is higher, the mid-altitudes hotter, and the animal populations are shifting. I’ve read paleoclimatology edited for the non-professional reader, including The West Without Water, Ingram and Malamud-Roan. I’ve read climate change books that focus specifically on Arizona and New Mexico, including the beautifully written A Great Aridness by William DeBuys. I revisited some of the ruins of Sinagua and Hohokam people in Arizona where drought and heat drove them away from their home (and which also drove other cultural changes that led to the abandonment of many Indian cities in the 1400s in the southwestern US.) Brian Fagan’s books on water and climate and the history of human civilization provided some additional help.

4) Over the past three years, I’ve read probably everything written on peak oil since 1990, including many blogs and debates in comments, ones from the wackdoodle to the sober. I’ve interviewed a petroleum engineer, viewed every movie on the topic, and if I’ve missed a single popular book, I’d be shocked. (Thanks to the public library and the concept of free inter-library loans for much of this.) For a quick overview, I might suggest (though it is not without its problems) the film A Crude Awakening.

5) Wikipedia has become a sine qua non for most authors. I probably look at some page there five times a day. WokFI is just one page I looked at one day (for a scene that lasts barely 25 words), but hardly an hour passes that I don’t look up something like that. I remember the days when you had to drive to the library and look in books and Periodical Indexes and ask reference librarians (who are terrific people) and call around to find friends of friends of friends in order to find such facts. I donate every year to Wikimedia Foundation because they save me a lot of time and effort.



People tell me I spend too much time and effort on research, but as a reader of novels, I like to think the author is telling me truth about the real world rather than nonsense, and so to me it's a worthwhile use of my time. Besides, I like learning, so it's no chore.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On vacation

I wish it was going to be all fun! I'm completing a big home repair project in early June and taking some time to visit with relatives I've too long neglected.

In any case, I am/will be away from the computer a lot between June 1 and June 19, the date I will upload my new novel to Amazon, change all my social media and website banners, and otherwise reveal the topic, summary and look of the novel series that will be coming the next year.

Planned release dates for that series:

July 9, 2017
October 6
January 5, 2018
April 6

I know that this seems "slow" in indie publishing these days, but I'd rather do it right than do it fast. If you don't want to wait three months between books, might I suggest you wait until April of 2018 and buy them all at once?

I have another series in the same world in mind, but I'm not 100% sure I'll immediately jump over to it in 2018. I still have a pen name book I'd like to revise and publish, and by April of 2018, I'll have enough stories for a collection of short speculative fiction (which I'll likely put at free from time to time, and which will have Dawn of Mammals and Gray short stories in it, and very likely one from the new series too.) So I might get those up on Amazon and do the work required to bundle Dawn and this new series before I start releasing another series.

Other releases to keep an eye out for this (northern hemisphere) summer are: Gray omnibus edition in late July and the audiobook of that from Podium Publishing in August on audible.com and Amazon.

So, back to the original topic (I did drift!), you may not see a blog post next week from me and the one I'd typically do on the 18th might be a day late.

If you email me from June 1 to 19, I also probably won't respond within hours as I usually do.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mid-year report

No, it isn't yet the middle of the year yet, I know! I'm a rebel like that.

I'm a full-time novelist, earning a living that way, paying all my bills and maxing out my retirement contribution via novel sales. I know many, many writers out there would like to be this. Because I actually track my hours and tasks each day (I once worked for a management consulting firm, so tracking "billable" hours is like falling off a log for me), I thought I'd tell you what I've done so far this year, so you can see what one full-time writer's life looks like.



  • new words of fiction written: 186,000
  • words revised and proofread: 384,000
  • research: 169 hours 
  • administrative tasks: 215 hours
  • social media: 30 hours
  • socializing with other writers: a lot! But sometimes I learn something, so it is business time as much as social time
  • volunteerism: didn't track my hours, but I do help other writers
  • days off: 11 
  • blog posts written: 29 (I have some queued up for after the next novel release)
Not that the days off were usually off, exactly. That's when I run around and catch up on major-hassle errands, do repair projects, wrestle with government agencies, and so on.

My work days usually last 5.5 hours, and I work seven days per week, though there are moments outside those hours when I'm probably thinking about if this or that plot twist would work. ETA in response to an email: I'm a morning person, so I'm usually up before 5:00 a.m. and often done by noon.

I expect the second half of the year to be pretty much a duplication of the first half.

As you can see, I don't get as much as a one-day weekend most weeks (I tend to take time off in 3-4 day chunks). The time I work is close to that of any full-time job, 40 hours per week, and while a lot of what I do is fun, it certainly isn't all fun. Other benefits to this work: I get to write in the oldest, most comfortable clothes I own and not commute and not put up with horrible coworkers. So I'm not complaining, you see. But it is a job, aspiring novelists should know, not some endless happy dance in the land of frou-frou bunnies where ice cream drips from the trees. (which would be a real mess, come to think of it.)

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to live this life. It was a long-held dream and Amazon, the Kindle, and my fans have made it come true. To all of them, many thanks.