I am not going to call this anything silly like “Goals” because 2021 is likely to be even more messy than 2020 was. We went into this past year with the impeachment (remember those halcyon days of innocence?), and that brought with it an expectation that sales would take something of a hit, as people would be focused on the news instead of space opera or mystery.
From there, it would be a presidential election, and those are always good for a hit on the reading side for the same reason, running from about Sep 1 to about Dec 1. Every four years like clockwork.
I’m not generally in Kindle Unlimited. (Exception: we put the Star Dragon novels up as an experiment this fall. Slightly better than Meh results at this point, but I digress.) Folks were suddenly home a lot starting in March, as the world came to grips with an unknown disease and shut down to try to fight it.
On the plus side, people needed entertainment. On the minus side, they tended to binge on various television shows, to the point that they fought and often defeated the various level monsters at the ends of Netflix, Hulu, etc.
However, a lot of people were also out of work, or saw their hours cut, or had greatly heightened concern about income. Kindle Unlimited (an all you can eat service) folks saw a big jump in page reads, anecdotally, because folks could do that without spending any more money than they were right now. Same with the streaming services. GORGE yourself now. Save your money.
So my sales were down considerably for much of the year. We’d budgeted for bad, but this was worse, so we cut expenses to the bone everywhere. No more audio books. No more translations. No eating out, except that I dedicated a portion of my monthly budget to one of my favorite restaurants and got take out regularly to help them stay in business.
One bright spot was an email from the US Government’s Small Business Administration offering us a loan of up to $25,000 USD on incredible terms. We took out $9,000 to get the next two Science Officer books (3 & 4) translated into German. (Look up “Velocity of Money” sometime to understand why things like that are useful.) Those will be coming out shortly, and have helped with my German readers, as those folks like a good space pirate story and many of them are bi-lingual enough to step over and read my English-language catalog as well. (Germany moved up to my second largest nation in both sales and income in 2020, displacing the rest of the English-speaking world along the way, behind only the US.)
I did manage twelve novels published monthly. Plus a few others. Four issues of Boundary Shock Quarterly. Two episodes of Blaze Ward Presents. 1.4 million words written. Fifteen novels. Fifty-one shorter pieces of various flavors.
It was a good year for writing, because my words was something I could control. Had to put some projects to the side, either for economic, social, or psychological reasons. Hoping to cycle back to them at some point.
So now we’re endgaming 2020 and I need to look at 2021. I will talk about aspirations, but not concrete goals, because there is a lot of putting-back-together yet to do.
Staying on the one novel per month pace. About a quarter of the way into the seventh and last Lazarus novel. Those should come out Jan-Jul of 2021. Got a lot of other science fiction/space opera novels in the can right now, and will continue writing more on those series, as well as circling back to The Science Officer. And maybe even another Dominion book or two, depending.
I have the first two novels of a sword and sorcery fantasy trilogy written, taking place after the end of Rebels. In addition, I have a new sword and sorcery fantasy novel written for what might turn into a series at some point, but this book stands on its own.
All of those will come out off schedule sometime next year. What that means is that I will have science fiction every month, AND ALSO will drop other things as well, so everyone will just have to pay attention. They will be obviously fantasy and not SF by cover, blurb, and such, so anyone whining that they expected ray guns when the cover is an orc in plate mail with a sword in hand, well, they get what mockery they deserve.
In addition, I wrote what was very obviously Book One of a straight Urban Fantasy series a while back. It will come out on its own, and hopefully I will have the time and inclination to write more of them.
And then: I just finished an Occult Detective novel set in London in 1924. First person to read commented that I got all the tropes right and entertained the hell out of him, so that’s a good sign. Will write more about Augustus Dexter Derlyth next year, and put those out. Unlike the Urban Fantasy, the Occult Detective stands on its own perfectly well.
I even have some straight Action/Adventure. One set in 1977 qualifies as “historic” and the other was intentionally set in 2018 so I could control the timeline and take into account the pandemic when it hit.
From there: I have a crap ton of serial short fiction I have written. Kumiko. Yasmin. Peter Najjar. Pizzafarmer. Flight Officer Brannon. Etc. Some of those will come out individually. Eventually I will have enough to do series collections (my goal is always more than 40,000 words combined so it weighs like a novel.) Already do with Yasmin. The others might need fortifying.
I even wrote a Hard-boiled private detective this year. Gunderson. Set in 1955 and about as weirdly Spec fiction as it gets, as I intentionally set out to explore every weird trope I could get. Think Kolchak, The Night Stalker. Gunderson might be his dad or something. We do science fiction, horror, paranormal, fantasy, and even straight historic mystery. Let me put it to you this way, any sort of weird shit might walk through his door with a case, so we’ve so far explored Cthulhu, super heroes, aliens, Hellenic gods, kaiju, and I still have list of maybe twenty others to go after at some point.
Looked at a different way, I probably published about a million and a half words in the last two years, and wrote closer to three million (just on either side of 1.4m twice). That leaves a lot of stuff in the trunk.
Some of it remains in the trunk, mind you. Not every experiment works. I have a set of five short stories intended to be a serial, but by the time I got to the end of five, it was obvious I had a problem. The characters were solid. The setting deep. The problems obvious and fun. But the tone had shifted radically, from rather light and silly at the start to kinda dark and ominous by the end of the fifth one, which in no way was the end.
Trunked, but I like everything about it so much that I do intend to start cold with the whole mess at some point and do a hard redraft, playing for the epic scale of what I originally intended. It will be a fun series, but it also has to be novels, instead of serial shorts. Too much going on. And eventually I stumbled into the epicness of the core. Way bigger than I thought on page one, so I have already led my readers astray by page two, based on where I intended to go in the end.
So I have science fiction/space opera aspirations in 2021. Lazarus 7 (Alliance) will be done close enough to count as a 2020 title. I have two Giles novels done (of five, I think). Three books in the Air Pirates of Cyrenaica (of five in this arc). Book One post-apoc “steampunkish” novel of a series. The first novel in a new Phil Kosnett series, set after Jessica Keller concludes in Petron. The first Kincaide novel (originally three, I already know there will be five, but book one clocked in at 165k and they will all be that heavy.)
On top of that, I have notes for an early 19th Century “Aeropunk” series of HARD sf. A new dark epic series tuckerizing Alison Kosnett (wife of the Ambassador) because she was feeling left out. (Turning her into a badass assassin chick.) And a couple of other series I want to undertake at some point.
There will be more Science Officer. (The response to The Bryce Connection and Alien Seas has been far in excess of what I expected, so thank you.) More Handsome Rob. More Greyson Leigh.
Sometime in the spring, you will see the first part of a sequel to Fairchild. Background: in 2018, I went to the Fiction River Anthology Workshop, like I used to do every year. I didn’t participate, because those things were an arms race, but Fabulous Publisher Babe™ always did. That year, one of the themes was “Dragons,” but the editor specified that she wanted stories where the dragon was a character, and not just a villain/menace/monster.
[Hint: she was not entirely happy with the results.]
I always sat in the back of the room in the evenings, learning how to be an editor from a cast of industry experts with more than a century of combined experience. Listened to her ranting about things and how unhappy she was with the outcome, but she did manage to make it work eventually, mostly by moving things around and editing her own theme call to cover more of the stories. They weren’t bad, just not what she wanted.
I got inspired, listening to her. Went home the next week and wrote a short story called “Strawberry Dragon.” It was the next Fairchild piece, originally intended to bridge to the next novel. Sent it to that editor (a personal friend) with the email subject line “This is all your fault.” and explained how the story had come into being.
Two days later, she writes back. “I want this for my anthology!”
Uhm… Okay? Sure. Yours.
Would have been my first professional sale ever.
As with everyone else, the world fell out from under Fiction River, and they reverted all the stories. Or rather, she asked Fabulous Publisher Babe™ to publish Dragons on bundle rabbit as a royalty share, if the writers were willing. Enough of them were, and my story was included. It will come out in the spring as the next “Cutter’s Final Cut” (I also had a story in Unlikely Heroines, from the same source, but that was me filling in with a story when she had space, rather than being part of the original.)
So, fast forward. I went ahead and just picked up the story from the end of the short and wrote the rest of it into a novel. Strawberry Dragon. Will come out in the summer, probably next after the Lazarus series completes. So August, I think. Don’t hold me to that, as these are all aspirations, and not concrete goals.
“Always write the publishing schedule in pencil.”
So that’s where my brain is coming up on the end of 2020. Got lots of stuff to publish. Even the start of a schedule, but nothing set in stone. You’ll get what I can do, and I’ll keep writing like mad to try to get all these stories out of my head and onto paper.
You will have something like 16-20 novels to pick from. Four Boundary Shock (already have three of the stories written). One Blaze Ward Presents (going to annual now, instead of semi-annual for reasons.)
Stay tuned here and on my newsletter. Listen in on my Monday blog post on Patreon as I discuss the nuts and bolts of my week.
And have a lovely holiday season.