Contingency Plan

I have this book written; it’s a full-length SF/Steampunk story, around 90,000 words long. At the moment it has a working title of Smoke & Mirrors, but I can’t really use that (Neil Gaiman has a short story collection out with that name). I do have a better title but I’m keeping it under my hat for now. I might not be able to use that one, either—it turns out that it’s very similar to the name of another short story collection, this one from the 1970s. No matter; if I find a publisher they can make that call.

But that’s a big If. Right now I have the typescript out with some agents, and the indications are that all I’m going to see is rejection letters. It’s par for the course, really; only a small fraction of books get picked up by agents because they have to be picky about what they take on. After all, they have to bear costs until the book hits shelves and starts making cash, and even then their slice isn’t going to pay the rent if the book doesn’t sell. Fifteen percent of zero doesn’t go very far.

My problem here is that it could easily be December or even later before all the agents get back to me (and I don’t expect them all to reply, either—some agents only seem to reply to the few percent of queries that they want to pursue, leaving the rest to hang; one that I’ve queried this time round has a response rate of 4.4%, so I really don’t expect to hear a peep from that direction).

So here’s the quandary: If all the responses are going to be rejections, then I’m wondering: why should I wait for the bad news before moving? Why not just self-pub the book anyway? Then, in the event that one of the agents does actually show an interest, I can always un-publish.

Of course, there’s a danger that an agent might be interested, at which point I then have to tell them that I already self-pubbed—but hey, don’t worry, I can un-publish in thirty seconds with a couple of mouse clicks. But the fact that the book’s already out there and maybe sold a few copies might be enough for the agent to get cold feet. I don’t know what agents do in that situation, to be honest. I don’t know any agents to ask.

What to do, what to do . . .

So here’s the contingency plan: I’m going to start merging the chapter files into a single master document, ready for self-publishing. I’m also going to see about how much it’d cost to have a professional editor look at it, and get some idea of how much a cover artist might charge for an eye-catching cover. That’ll take a couple of weeks, at least, during which time it’s always possible I’ll get a good word from an agent. If not, then I can make the decision on whether to go forward the self-pub way, or continue to wait.

The plan is planned. Tomorrow, I’ll begin merging files, and researching editors and artists. I’ll post progress here. Watch this space.

First Query Result…

…AND it’s a rejection. No surprise there—I’m told that nineteen out of twenty queries result in rejection (even for really good books, apparently), so you get used to it. The real surprise is that it was so quick (only three days).

Also no real surprise: no hints whatsoever as to the reason for the rejection. Didn’t like the sample chapters? Didn’t like the synopsis? Didn’t follow the submission guidelines exactly? Is the writing horrible? Who the fuck knows. Don’t expect an agent to spend the extra ten seconds to throw you a bone. Again, get used to it.

Anyway, three more queries in the pipe, so still more chances. And if those drop out, I have two more agents on the list that are open for submissions in September.

Queries have been sent . . .

I just sent out query letters for Smoke & Mirrors to five agents. The original query letters I sent out a few months ago didn’t work at all, so this time round I read up some stuff on Query Shark and Writer’s Digest then, rather than reworking those old letters, I wrote new ones from scratch. Let’s see if that makes any kind of difference.

On a different note, I found out last night that I have a kidney stone. I feel like crap—persistent aching in my side, tired because of lack of sleep.

And on that note, that’s all I can manage for now. End of post, except for this thought:

Screenshot 2017-07-07 at 20.13.54

Don’t. Plan. Anything.

YESTERDAY was a wipe as far as getting any writing or editing done. See, I’d planned to work (i.e. day-job work) until the usual 3pm or so, then spend some time working on Smoke & Mirrors. (The night before, I’d re-read the script for the first time in some months and spotted some glitches; and since I’ve been looking for agents and publishers to submit to, I decided I’d better hold off until I’d run another editing pass to find and fix as many of those glitches as I can.)

So much for the plan. Around noon something came up that meant I had to quit the day-job early and go help with moving furniture. That took until after 8pm, and by the time dinner was done it was too late, and I was too tired, to do anything else.


This is ALWAYS the way it goes when I plan anything. I’m sure we all get the same thing. Plans are as fragile as soap bubbles. Make a plan, and something comes along to bugger it up for you. Your plan is a house of cards sitting on the San Andreas. It’s Alderaan an hour before the Death Star shows up.

So the only solution is: Don’t. Plan. Anything. There’s no point setting aside an hour or two later on, or tomorrow, to write or edit or anything else — because, guaranteed, the fuck-it-up fairy will be there to wave her magic wand and, well, fuck it up. Instead of making any kind of plan, grab whatever time you get —  ten minutes here, fifteen there — and use it. Get shit done.

On that note: this morning, lovely Saturday morning, the cat and I have been the only ones awake in the house since around 7:30am. The cat’s been parked on the work laptop, resting after a hard night’s sleep, and I’ve been working on Smoke & Mirrors — reading it through carefully, marking up changes where I see a word here or a phrase there that could be better. I also wrote in a new five hundred word scene that’ll help foreshadow something that happens near the end. I got shit done. Having done that, I put it to one side to write this — and if the house is still asleep when I’m done, I’ll grab another coffee and do some more.

Right on cue, the fuck-it-up fairy fairy appears; the house is waking up. And I don’t care. I’ll find a few minutes here and there later today, or tomorrow if things get busy (there is a little bit more furniture to be moved and cleaning to be done, but it’s almost done). Shit will get done.

Until next time . . .

Bad Days, Good Days

THE last couple of weeks have been really heavy going at work, which is the main reason I haven’t had a chance to throw out any updates here. We’ve been moving a few of the web applications to new host machines, and it’s one of those jobs where ninety percent of the work is easy and takes ten percent of the time, but then you hit the ten percent that’s all hurdles and problems and means you can’t just finish it up and get it done. As I write this it’s Sunday morning, and tomorrow I have three, count ’em, three system moves that are stalled waiting on things.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, writing work has all but stopped, which is very frustrating. I’m working on a story I want to write, and I’ve been stuck at the planning part for something like a month. I have a character, she has a name, and she has an interesting past that’s given her an ability, if you can call it that—sometimes it’s going to be a lifesaver, most times it’s a curse. And I can’t say more about that without giving too much away at this early phase. The big problem is that I still don’t have a solid story, and I just can’t seem to get the time to think my way past that.

The day-job work craziness been part of that, of course—among other things I’m so tired at the end of most days I just don’t have the energy to get into writing, and in any case there are home/family things that take up what little time I might have had—but there are other things too. For example, I now officially work at home and hook into the office over VPN; I rarely need to go in. It’s great, but one definite downside is that it’s caused a complete change of routine. I used to use the drive time between home and office to think about story and characters; Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was planned and plotted and all but actually written on that daily drive, as were The Artemis Device and Smoke & Mirrors (more on status of both of those shortly).

But I don’t drive in any more, and my writing time is suffering badly for it. I need to change my routine to give me some of that time back somehow.

OK THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT. It’s not all doom and gloom. Time to focus on some of the positive.

One thing that’s taken away some of the writing time is that I’ve been catching up on READING, and that’s not something I consider at all bad. I mean, seriously, I went through a period of several months during which I hardly read a thing. Not good. So I kicked myself in the pants and told myself to shape the fuck up.

Rod Duncan’s The Custodian of Marvels came out Tuesday and I’ll be starting on that just as soon as I’ve finished reading Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles; I’m almost through Trapped (which I think is the fifth book in the series). But wait, there’s more: the eighth book, Staked, just came out and we went to Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins on Thursday to meet the author and get a signed copy. Really? I hear you say. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. Okay, then:


There you go.

Now, last points: I mentioned I’d give a couple of status updates, so here they are:

  • The Artemis Device is still with my copy editor at Xchyler Publishing, but as I think I mentioned she got married recently, and then she was dealing with a book release (Ben Ireland’s Kingdom City: Revolt) and now, as I found out just a few days ago, she’s off on honeymoon. So I don’t expect to get back any editing notes in a hurry.
  • Smoke & Mirrors is still looking for an agent or a publisher. A publisher in England had an open submission period last month, so I sent them the first couple of chapters. The web site said it could be three to six months before I hear anything, so right now patience is the word.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .


What I Did On My Holidays

THIS is more of a diary entry than anything else. Most pro writers agree you should write something every day. And so…

Dear diary…

I took extra days off work to bridge the gap between the Labor Day weekend and the next, so I have a nine day break, of which I have three and a half days left. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Writing Stuff

ON Sunday I went through a three-and-a-half hour editing marathon that finished the long-running first pass of The Artemis Device at long last. That went off to my editor the next day, so now it’s just a matter of waiting until she gets a chance to look at it from her side and start feeding back suggestions for improvements. Not holding my breath, as I know she has at least two other projects on her plate right now.

So the plan is to get started into my own self-editing pass of the next project, Smoke & Mirrors. I’ve deliberately taken a breather before I get on with that, but now I feel ready and I’ll probably get to it tomorrow or even (time permitting) later today.

I’ve also been writing a series of blog posts about Google Chrome. You might have seen them. I have a couple more written and scheduled to auto-publish over the next few days.

Bought a New Printer

OLD printer was old. It kept getting clogged print heads and was having problems feeding paper. So I took advantage of a Labor Day special at Office Depot, and got a nice new printer for $50. It’s wifi so we can set it up pretty much anywhere, and thanks to Google Cloud Print we can print stuff directly from phones and tablets from anywhere we have an Internet connection. Nice.

Watching TV

NO vacation would be complete without some actual rest, and in my case that means lying in bed and watching TV. I watch quite a bit on my tablet using the Netflix app. Recently I’ve been watching The 4400, which despite being more than ten years old, I’d never heard of until recently. I’ve also been re-watching Warehouse 13. Fun show, that. I actually wanted to watch The Dresden Files again, but it’s disappeared from Netflix (why? WHY?), so I’ll have to see about buying it on DVD, if it’s even available.


CHUCK Wendig’s Miriam Black books, a book about writing (The Snowflake Method), and Ian Watson’s God’s World (which is SF, by the way, not a bible tract).

Pest Control

THE warm weather brought with it an influx of insects. Earwigs (which seem to have died down without help from me), and tiny little red ants which (thank you, Internet) I was able to identify as grease ants. I bought some stuff from Home Depot that took care of that problem in two or three days, and they haven’t come back. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

That’s enough for now. Until next time . . .