Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I think I'm wearing out my keyboard

I began a new writing project in early December.  I finished the first book (just shy of 100,000 words) in only a few weeks, and accepted a challenge from Miss D. to keep it up and write the complete trilogy before publishing any of it.  I accordingly sent out the first volume to alpha readers (there's a teaser excerpt at that link, too), and began the second.  Yesterday, I finished the main arc of Book 2.  It's too short, at about 86,000 words, but there's an additional plot/character arc I haven't yet included (I started work on that this morning).  By the time I finish the extra chapters, in a few days' time, I expect it'll also be in the 95,000-100,000 word range.

I'll get that out to alpha readers by the weekend, God willing, then it's hi-ho for Volume 3.  I still have no idea how I'm going to bring all the elements together in a climactic conclusion to the trilogy, but I reckon I can do it as I go along.  I have the essential elements in mind;  now, all I have to do is make them work with each other.  (That's sometimes easier said than done!)  After that, the third volume will go to alpha readers.  When I have their comments on all three volumes, I'll do an edit across all three, to fix errors, ensure commonality of names, spellings, settings, etc., and spruce them up.  The next step will be to get the edited volumes out to beta readers, then format them for publication.

(For the benefit of those who may not understand the distinction between alpha and beta readers:  the "alpha draft" is the first, unvarnished draft of the manuscript, not yet ready for publication.  It's virtually guaranteed to contain errors, misspellings, poor grammar choices, etc.  The alpha readers highlight those errors as they find them, and also look for inconsistencies in plot, characters, and storyline.  After the author gets their feedback, he fixes what they've found, and polishes the manuscript according to his own further thoughts.  At this point it becomes the "beta draft", and goes out to more readers to check for any errors that may have been missed.  Beta readers will also examine the book in terms of its overall cohesiveness, making sure all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed, and that no plot elements have been introduced early on that have not been resolved in later chapters.  [Chekhov's gun is a good example.]  The beta readers will submit anything they find for correction.  Once that's been done, the draft should be pretty much finalized.  I'll then begin the laborious task of formatting it for e-book and print publication, which will take some time to do properly.)

Meanwhile, I've got to submit some points for fine-tuning on the draft cover for the first book (previewed here), and get the artist to begin work on those for Books 2 and 3.  That process will continue in parallel with writing and editing.  Miss D. has already come up with a good title for Book 2, and we're looking for one for Book 3.  She'll also begin considering tools and venues to publicize the series when it's launched.  We'll probably do so at approximately 30-day intervals, trying to get each new book out before the interest generated by the previous volume has died down.  That will hopefully boost sales of the entire trilogy over time.

With all that to be done, you'll understand why they say that writing a book is only half the work.  All the rest involves preparing it for sale, then publicizing and marketing it.  It's a lot of effort!

To give you another foretaste of what I'm up to, here's an excerpt from the second book.  (One from the first book may be found here.)

The electronic ‘brain’ of an autonomous orbital mine cannot be said to ‘think’ at all. If it could have felt emotion, it would have been utterly astonished to find a spaceship bearing down on it, and shoving it rudely out of its way as it rushed by.

As Saranda passed close to Secundus Two, keeping five million kilometers away from the planet to avoid even the slightest risk of detection, its gravitic shield deflected one of the outermost of the mines protecting the planet, that had strayed too close to its path. The ship broadcast no emissions at all, so the mine could not ‘see’ what had disturbed its peaceful vigil; but its onboard computer knew that only one thing could have done this. The mine instantly switched its array from passive to active mode, bathing surrounding space in a torrent of radar energy.

Moving at almost thirty thousand kilometers per second, Saranda was well past the mine by the time it detected her, and out of range of its laser cone. That did not stop the mine broadcasting the position and course of the intruder at full power to every other mine nearby. Its warning was also picked up by the mine control console in the Operations Center aboard Jean Bart. The message was instantly relayed to every Hawkwood ship in the Mycenae system. Light speed delay meant that many ships would not receive it at once… but it was propagating at ten times Saranda’s velocity.

As more mines received the signal, they, too, switched on their active sensors. Several of them obtained readings of Saranda’s course and speed, and relayed them to the OpCen. Now the intruder’s trajectory and velocity could be plotted more accurately, and more precise warnings issued – along with orders to intercept her.


The contact beween the mine and Saranda’s gravitic deflection shield was very light and very fleeting, over almost before it had begun. Nevertheless, at a velocity of one-tenth Cee, it shook Saranda hard, taking everyone on board completely by surprise. Those not strapped into chairs or bunks were sent flying as the deck heaved beneath their feet. Several were injured as they slammed into bulkheads, furniture, and each other.

The ship’s hull whiplashed slightly as the energy of the deflection was passed down her length, like a ripple passing through water. The sliding cover over the docking bay, presenting a smooth, stealthy surface to protect against easy radar or lidar detection, buckled as its frame twisted around it. It popped out and flew away from the ship, moving outwards as it began to diverge from her base trajectory. It would leave the system in due course on its own path, to be lost in the trackless wastes of deep space and never seen again.

The ship’s gig and cutter, secured by locking bars holding them against the airlocks in the docking bay, were rocked back and forth. The smaller, lighter gig withstood the flexing of the hull, and remained in place. The larger, heavier cutter did not. Her inertia snapped all but one of the locking bars securing her. In an automatic reaction to the suddenly unsafe condition of its connection, the concertina tunnel extending from the ship’s hull to her rear ramp withdrew into its housing. As its sensors recognized that the tunnel was unlocking from around it, the ramp’s emergency system kicked into action. It slammed closed and sealed itself with a sudden hiss, preventing the cutter’s internal atmosphere from escaping.

The four Kedan spacers were tossed about inside the small craft as if they were rag dolls. One broke his neck against a storage cabinet as he slammed into one of its sharp corners at just the wrong angle. The others were knocked unconscious as their heads struck the inside of the hull. The cleaning materials they were using splashed and splattered all over the interior.

As Saranda rushed onward, the cutter swayed and tugged against the restraint of the sole locking bar still holding it in place.


Lieutenant-Commander Malaj cursed violently as he struggled to make sense of what had just happened. Saranda had clearly just had a near-miss with something big and heavy, but what? There were no emission signatures anywhere near her. Worse, there were now small active radar emitters lighting off from several point sources nearby. He knew they would obtain reflections from the ship’s hull. If the enemy could track them and work out his course and speed, they might be able to intercept him.

He hit the release buckle of his harness, thrust himself to his feet, and hurried across to the Plot, where the operator – who had not fastened his harness – was groaning on the floor, holding his right arm. “Stand up, man!” he snapped as he stepped over him. “Return to your duties at once!”

“My arm, sir – I think it’s broken!”

“Then call for a relief at once! You can’t go to sick bay until someone’s taken over your post.”

“Yes, sir.” The man struggled to his knees and crawled over to the Communications console.

Malaj scanned the three-dimensional plot carefully. Anything behind him was no longer a concern. It would take them too long to catch him, and even if they tried, he could always increase speed and outrun them. The problem was the three ships ahead of him, on inner and outer system patrol. Could any of them possibly change course in time to reach him, before he could leave the system?

Muttering in aggravation at having to do it himself, he instructed the Plot computer to calculate the odds of interception. Almost at once, it highlighted an icon in the display. Only one enemy ship, with a gravitic drive signature resembling that of a destroyer, could get close enough to Saranda to threaten her. He made up his mind at once. He would have to take evasive action. Fortunately, a destroyer could usually achieve about one-third Cee at best. He could exceed that comfortably. Combined with a ten-degree change in trajectory, it would be enough that even her missiles, building upon her base speed as she drew closer, would not be able to reach Saranda.

He hurried back to his command console and checked his calculations. Satisfied, he called to the Helm console, “Drive to full power! Change course to 090:100!”

“Drive to full, course 90:100, sir!”

The Helm operator was still startled and shaken by the sudden jolt of the near-collision with the mine. He didn’t operate the controls as smoothly as usual. Instead, he slammed the power slider all the way from ‘Stop’ to ‘Full Ahead’ in a single swift motion, even as he tipped the course control joystick over to one side.

The courier vessel jolted again, hard, as her drive cut in with unaccustomed abruptness. The remaining locking bar holding the cutter to the ship sheared under the stress. The small craft was ejected cleanly from the wide-open docking bay, floating away on the ship’s original course as the larger vessel’s trajectory began to change. It drifted, without power or beacon or anything else to indicate its presence, as its mother ship accelerated away.

I hope you enjoyed it.  There's a lot more to come!



Old NFO said...

Very nice! :-)

stencil said...

A-a-and next week, the Duino Elegies.

Howard Brewi said...

This may sound like a dumb question but I am new to kindle. I got an amazon read free card for Christmas. I picked up King's Champion on the read free option. Do you authors make anything on the book when we readers do it that way? Good book by the way!

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Stencil - fortunately, unlike Rilke, Peter has a wife who makes sure any boundless storm, any hurricane of the spirit, will get fed even if he has no thought of food! (I don't believe in starving my artist.)

If I can keep him fed, rested, in clean laundry, and coming to the gym with me often enough he's still making progress on getting better physically, I really don't mind losing a month or three to him in the office all day. After all, I challenged him to see just how much he could do - the least I can do is support him fully when he takes me up on it! :-)

Howard - yes, the authors do make some money on the read free option - if not as much as a full sale, it's still enough for Amazon to reasonably entice 'em to have their books available under that program. In this household, we're of the opinion that the best way for you to enjoy the books is the way you'll most enjoy 'em (although we strongly prefer not off a pirated site). What we might lose on any single book's maximum royalties, we'll make up when you enjoy the story enough you come back and check out more books later.

-Miss D.