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Novel #18

Mission accomplished: I finished writing the first season of AGROTHARN the Interstellar Semi-Barbarian on January 30. One hundred episodes (80K words) of sword & sorcery meets space opera meets gonzo insanity. It's a novel I never expected to write, each chapter inspired by four random story cubes. That could be a real challenge at times, and I had no idea how it would all turn out, but I'm very pleased with how it did. I probably had more fun with this crazy tale than anything else I've ever written.

While season one can stand alone, it might be even better with a second season, so I plan to start writing AGROTHARN: Blades & Blasters! this fall (after a summer of other projects patiently awaiting my attention). Already looking forward to that.

Eventually when I release the eBook and paperback, I'll use cover art similar to what I've included here. I want it to scream pulpy fun, like those adventure novels from decades ago. But for now, AGROTHARN will be exclusively available on Kindle Vella, where you can continue to read all of my recent works in progress—until this Amazon venture goes the way of Kindle Scout.

New Release: Unlikely Heroes Unite!

For fans of The Princess Bride, Shrek, and Fractured Fairy Tales...

When the eccentric Baron Rauxtund is kidnapped from Havenwaye Manor by a cabal of traitorous knights, it will be up to a handful of peasants to save the day. But what can a young serf, an old village priest, and a few loyal yet quarrelsome subjects do against such overwhelming odds? And who is this masked Strange One who rises to the occasion while kicking below the belt? 

WARNING: This is not your cute fairy godmother's adventure story. It is a tale of uncommon heroes and horrid villains, of virtues and vices, of courage against powerful evil schemes. Gird up your funny bone, for intense giggles, groans, and gasps in equal measure await! 

Originally on Kindle Vella, now available in eBook and paperback:  Amazon

Noveling Update

This month, my goals are to wrap up AGROTHARN the Interstellar Semi-Barbarian, make it to the halfway point of Lives on the Line (Inspector Broekstein #2), and get Uncommoner: A GrimFarce out there for the world to read in eBook and paperback. So, how am I doing? Glad you asked.

From the start of AGROTHARN I wanted to write 100 episodes. Arbitrary, I know; sometimes I just like to push myself. But four months later, I'm pleased to say I've got 95 episodes on Kindle Vella with another five to go. I'm on the final story arc of "season one," and things are shaping up nicely. I should be able to post the 100th episode by the end of next week.

As soon as I finished Murders at the Manor, I knew I wouldn't be saying goodbye to amateur sleuth Willem Broekstein anytime soon. Only a day or two went by before I dove into the sequel, Lives on the Line. 20K written so far with the target being a little over 50K. Here's the current blurb:

Quirky, lovelorn Inspector Broekstein is back, this time in a mystery that begins with a bar of soap and a simple message carved on one side: Help me. All is not as it seems, however, and he will need his wits about him if he is to solve a dangerous case of infidelity, misogyny, and revenge without losing his head or his heart in the process.

Last, but not least, I've been formatting the eBook edition of Uncommoner: A GrimFarce and re-learning how to format paperbacks. Instead of using the KDP method that does it all for you and ends up not looking so hot in print, I decided to do the interior myself with the templates they offer. Then I used the cover calculator and took the template/dimensions over to Canva to piece everything together. If the PDF files load correctly, it should end up looking pretty spiffy.

Start 2023 With a Free Book

Harold Muldoon, hardboiled detective, 
must travel back through time to save 
two colliding realities.

Muldoon has a big problem: he's dead. Twenty years ago, a monk cut off his head. Now his wife Irena is desperately trying to find him. So is Gavin Lennox, power-hungry owner of The Pearl, the hottest night spot in all of NewCity. Cyrus Horton, an eccentric inventor, has also joined in the search. But what they're really looking for is the BackTracker, a time travel device that has caused divergent realities to spiral out of control. 

In one of them, Muldoon is still alive. 

Year in Review: 2022

I spent the first six months on edits, and since June, I've been writing almost every day. Feeling pretty good about this year's output and looking forward to working on the next installment of Dome City Investigations next year. And another Inspector Broekstein mystery. And a Vic Boyo, Doofus Dectective sequel. Planning to wrap up AGROTHARN, probably by early February; then there's the possibility of sequels for that crazy bunch of characters as well.

But enough about next year. Here's what I somehow managed to accomplish in 2022:

Novels Edited: 2

Monsieur Moule's Subterranean Casino (The Interdimensionals, Book 2) — 60K
Peter Gideon's Aeroship Extraordinaire (The Interdimensionals, Book 3) — 60K

Kindle Vella Projects: 5

Uncommoner: A GrimFarce (26 episodes, 53K) 
Murders at the Manor (42 episodes, 53K) 
AGROTHARN the Interstellar Semi-Barbarian (80 episodes and counting, 62K) 
Shadowland Theatre (17 episodes, 12K)
Lives on the Line (16 episodes and counting, 15K)

Audiobook Produced: 1


Blog Posts: 26

Novel Length

For a while, I've considered 50,000 words or more to be novel length. Probably because I read that on the SFWA site back when membership was my hard-fought goal. But is this word count set in stone or something more arbitrary, depending on publishing trends?

Each of the books in my Spirits of the Earth trilogy is 120K. My Captain Quasar novels are 80K each. BackTracker is my longest at 150K, and Madame Antic's Hotel Grotesque was my shortest at 60K. But this year, I've written a couple of 50K books: Uncommoner: A GrimFarce and Murders at the Manor. Are they too short to be considered novels?

Walk into any bookstore (that's still in business), and you'll find most fictional works to be around 300-400 pages. Why? Because that's what sells, and publishers like to give their customers what they want. 50K is more like 170 pages or so. That's...really short.

But historically, what books have been around 50K? Here are a few: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Man, As I Lay Dying, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451. These novels have been around for a while, but they're still being read all over the world. So my latest efforts will be in good company!

In my experience, stories tend to let me know when they're done. Some want to stay short; some want to go a bit longer; and some have a whole lot to say. So I don't argue. Both Uncommoner: A GrimFarce and Murders at the Manor were based on novella-length manuscripts I wrote thirty years ago, so being able to double their respective word counts and make them better stories overall was a win. I'm pleased with how they turned out, and I look forward to making them available for you in eBook, paperback, and audio next year.

Novel #17

I wrapped up my seventeenth novel this week, and it's another shorty at only 53K. The original novella I drafted thirty years ago was 20K, so I fleshed it out a bit, adding more action, intrigue, humor, and dialogue for a much better story all around. And I enjoyed the main character so much that I'm already five chapters into the sequel, Lives on the Line. More on that next month.

For now, all 42 episodes of Murders at the Manor are available exclusively via Kindle Vella, but I'll be releasing this amateur sleuth spoof in eBook, paperback, and audio next year. So stay tuned.

Kind of funny: my original title was Murder at the Manor (I know, major difference), but when I searched for it online, there were over a dozen books by the same name. So I added the s, which works for the story, considering the high body count. And, so far, it's one of a kind—just like quirky, lovelorn Inspector Broekstein himself.

Writing Humor

Not all funny bones are created equal. Some prefer situational comedy or farce; others like puns or wordplay; for others, high comedy with its witty satire is the way to go.

For the past six months, I've been writing humorous fiction for the most part, and it's been a fun change of pace. Getting back to my roots, in a way. The first novel I ever wrote was Double Murders Are Twice as Bad, with Westward, Tally Ho! following close behind. After wrapping up edits on my Interdimensionals trilogy earlier this year, I shifted gears, taking a break from dark, speculative fiction to focus on my medieval comedy Uncommoner: A GrimFarce. I had a blast with that one and plan to release it in eBook, paperback, and audio early next year. Next up was Murders at the Manor, with more subtle humor. I've passed the 50K mark on that one, which was my goal from the start, and I'm working on the final chapter this weekend. AGROTHARN the Interstellar Semi-Barbarian is far from subtle; it's full-blown farce taken to the level of gonzo madness. I've passed 50K on that one as well and should have the first draft done at around 80K by February.

So, how do I go about writing humorous tales? Pretty much how every episode of The Office was written: put quirky people in awkward situations. Like all of my stories, I start out with well-defined characters, dump them into a complex plot-pot full of the unexpected, and turn up the heat. Then I let them play off each other and see what happens, always with the goal of furthering the story—not just connecting the dots from one hilarious gag to the next; that kind of comedy bores me, and my readers deserve better.

Do I succeed? For those who get my sense of humor, yes indeed. For those who don't, not so much. As with anything, you can't please everybody. But that's okay, because this world would be far less interesting if we all had identical funny bones.

How to Write Two Books at Once

Step one: train yourself to become ambidextrous. Step two: train your eyes to look both ways at the same time. Step three: train your brain to embrace cognitive dissonance. And voila!

Maybe that might work for you, but I've found another strategy. I write every day, but I don't always have time to work on both novels the same day. Lately, I've written five episodes of AGROTHARN during the work week and two episodes of Murders on weekends. That's averaged out to 6K a week, almost as good as that 1K/day regimen I had going for a while, way back when.

It's helped that both books aren't in the same genre, even though they both have elements of comedy. AGROTHARN is sword & sorcery in space while Murders is post-WWII amateur sleuthing. AGROTHARN is written in third-person with multiple points of view, but Murders is first-person from the limited POV of the sleuth. The writing style of AGROTHARN is very loose and shot from the hip, while Murders is more formal and old school; thus AGROTHARN is easy to pick up and draft during breaks while Murders takes more time and effort at wordsmithing. Lastly, every episode of AGROTHARN is prompted by four story cubes, while Murders was originally based on a novella I wrote thirty years ago, but now has emerged as its own monstrous entity.

To summarize, in order to write two books at once, I've needed them to be very different, and I've needed the process to be very different. Yet, at the same time, it's helped that they're both comedies, so I don't have to take either one too seriously. Crafting the tale is serious work, but the path along the way has been chock-full of foibles and follies, and that's worked well for the humorous tone of each book. 

I'm shooting for 75K with AGROTHARN, and I'm over halfway there. 50K is the goal for Murders, and I've got about 6K left to go with that one. When I finish it, I'll either start on the sequel to Dust Freaks & Demigods, which is more action/adventure with less comedy, or the sequel to Double Murders are Twice as Bad. We'll see what the muse and the funny bone can agree on.

AGROTHARN Gets a Nice Review

"A fun blend of Conan the Barbarian and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and sci-fi. When AGROTHARN, an Interstellar Semi-Barbarian, and his faithful Triceratops, Fred, encounter a trickster who has not only stolen his never-ending pot of porridge but broken it as well on the orders of AGROTHARN's long-missing (and thought dead) mother, he goes on a journey to find his mom. Along the way they encounter a T-Rex bent on avenging the death of his father, a group of alien hunters stranded on the planet, and talking trees. The story is broken up into serial format and is not complete; I look forward to reading the rest of it."
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