Battle Officer Wolf

Next Project: Chinese Military History

Over the past year, I've been all over the place on my next book project.  I looked at a sequel to Battle Officer Wolf, pondered writing The Vampires of Michigan: Pandemic, dabbled in doing a series of essays on spiritual warfare, and even took yet another stab (or two) at writing something in the fantasy genre.

Instead, I've settled on writing a concise, quick-moving military history of China.  I'm not sure how long it will be, but if you know me, you know it will be short.  Long books bore me.

I feel that Long Live Death was the right length for the topic and I'm very happy with it's reception.  It goes into just enough detail to make its point and inform the reader, and also points you to more detailed information in case you want it.

That's what I want to achieve with this new book.  At the moment, it's working title is "Something Something Dragon," because books about China almost always have "dragon" in the title.  You know, something like "The Dragon's Brittle Claws," because one of my themes is that Chinese military track record is uneven at best.

Hey, it took me a while to come up with Long Live Death, so no hurry.

I've not yet put together a deadline, or a projected completion date, but unlike other efforts, there is significant momentum.  I'm starting to get some good writing sessions and acquiring additional sources.  The mania is setting in.

I should note that like the Spanish Civil War, Chinese military history is another area that fascinated me in my late teens.  It was always somewhat obscure, and I found that a challenge.  At one point in college I came up with a Chinese version of Milton Bradley's Shogun game (which has been renamed a bunch, not sure what they call it now).  So a lot of my research is already floating around in my head, it's just a question of organizing it.

Music to write by

Last night I was bit by the writing bug, and cranked out 500 words on a new project, but I have no idea if it will go anywhere.

I seem to do a lot of that lately.  It isn't exactly writer's block, since I'm not under any obligation to write anything at the moment.

A big part of writing is mood.  With each book, I've had something of a soundtrack to facilitate creativity.

Battle Officer Wolf was written while listening to Enya's Amarantine album, over and over again.

For much of A Man of Destiny, I had a Star Wars mix of the darker ("imperial") pieces playing.

I had a special mix as well for Vampires of Michigan, which drew heavily from the Blood and Chocolate soundtrack.  (Yes, I know that movie was about werewolves, so sue me.)

Long Live Death didn't really have a soundtrack.  I just wrote it in a manic frenzy perhaps sensing the parallels between the faltering Second Spanish Republic and our own.

As for my other books, there was nothing specific, though Three Weeks with the Coasties sometimes caused me to look up the music that was popular at the time.

In any event, 2020 is winding down and so it will soon be time for me to start my 2021 book. 

Perhaps instead of thinking about topics, I need to think about music?

Where's my fantasy novel?

With Long Live Death moving to final publication, I'm already thinking about my next project and once again I'm pondering writing an epic fantasy tale.

Why haven't I already done one?

It's a good question.  I'm huge Tolkien fan, spent countless hours playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up, and of course I even did a take on Beowulf.  It's not like I'm a stranger to the genre.

So what's the hold up?  I've done sci-fi horror, space opera, vampires, military fiction and even a romance novel.  Oh, and an entire book of fantasy miniatures rules!  Where's the obvious tie-in to Conqueror: Fields of Victory?

The answer is that because I've spent so much time doing gaming and roleplaying, every time I get going on fantasy story, I get sidetracked (and then bogged down) on world building.

It's weird.  I can write other genres without having to explain the setting in meticulous detail, but when it comes to fantasy, I have to be all Tolkien and discuss language evolution and the date of the ruins.

I've probably written more fantasy material than anything else by far.  Almost all of it was background for DnD campaigns.  In my more mature phase as a writer, I've got give manuscripts that could fit into the description, none of which got very far.  They all come to a screeching halt over setting considerations. 

Until I figure that out, fantasy remains closed to me.


A little reorganization around here

In response to some queries, I've added a new category to help people who share my interest in the Spanish Civil War.

I call it:  "Spanish Civil War."

Speaking of which, I'm still right on schedule, producing 5,000 words a week.  I don't have a projected deadline because I'm not sure how long the book will actually be.  Unlike with a novel, I don't have a story arc that needs completing, I'm instead trying to pull pieces of information together and I often find something new when I'm looking up something else.

Which is to say, I keep hopping backwards and forwards, and also breaking up chapters as I get more information.

For example, I originally was going to have one chapter on foreign involvement.  I now have five, each taking a deeper look at the issue.

I personally believe you need at least 40,000 words before you can call writing "a book."  So it will be at least that long.  The page count will be bigger because I will have to add a bibliography and index - two things that will I'm sure take time.

I'm also thinking of doing a sequel to The Vampires of Michigan as my next project (sorry Beowulf fans!) but we will see.

Looking ahead in 2020

Happy New Year!

It's 2020 and we still don't have moon bases or flying cars.  Weird.

On the other hand our "telephone" have more computing power than Apollo 11.  Weird how that worked out.

Looking ahead, I'm on schedule to get Vampires of Michigan published this month and then I will look at the long-neglected sequel to Battle Officer Wolf.  None of this is particularly earth-shattering, but I figured I'd get it out there.

I'm not a big believer in new years resolutions.  If something's worth changing, I change it.  In terms of goals, I tend to set those on my birthday.  At first it was because it lined up with the end of the school year.  It never made sense to me when people would get all worked up about doing things differently in the new year and then go back to the same class schedule when break was over.  Plus, I tend to date stuff to my age, rather than the calendar year. 

Still, for those who get into such things, good luck and hopefully 2020 will be better than 2019.

A productive holiday weekend

In addition to having a relaxing time with friends and family, I've managed to wrap up the first draft of my latest book, Vampires of Michigan.

To celebrate this, I created a new tag for it.  This will be my eighth novel for those keeping track at home.

I still need to finish the epilogue and then do a detailed edit.  One of the things I've noticed is that my drafts are getting...draftier.  That is to say, I'm focusing more on getting books finished than getting it right the first time.

I think this is a function of my experience with editing.  I've gotten better at doing cross-referencing and making master notes of description, character references, etc.  I also rely more on the hard copy than trying to do the heavy lifting on the screen.  Spell check is helpful, but it only goes so far.

And I need to remember to do it twice, because it's easy to botch something while making an edit.

Anyhow, no firm time frame on publication.  I suspect it will take a couple of weeks to get it presentable enough for my volunteer proofreaders, and then I have to get it formatted, which takes a while.  With luck, it will go live before Christmas, but January is looking likely.

After that, I'll look at Battle Officer Wolf's sequel.


A sequel to Battle Officer Wolf?

Recently there was a surge in interest in my first book, Battle Officer Wolf.  This is a faithful retelling of the classic Beowulf tale set in a sci-fi/horror environment.

It was fun to write and the response I've gotten is quite favorable, but the book does have a minor flaw: I didn't actually finish the whole poem.

At the time, this was because I wasn't sure of my writing skills and feared that adding more length to the book might prevent me from finishing it.  I figured leaving some parts for later would give me room for a sequel.

Since then, I've written other things and am currently working on my vampire book, but given some renewed requests, it may be time for me to revisit B.O. Wolf and finish his story.

Movie Review: Aliens

Okay, this isn't much of a review but rather a link to my latest article at

It was supposed to be about the anniversary of Alien, but I prefer the sequel and am not shy about saying so.  

One of the things those movies did was tap into the fear of isolation.  That was a major reason I set Battle Officer Wolf in space.  It's difficult for modern people to relate to the sense of danger and the unknown that shadowed people in ancient times.  The only way I felt I could capture that same sense of fear and despair was by putting Heorot on a remote planet.  I think it worked.

If you like Alien (or Aliens), you'll probably like Battle Officer Wolf as well.  

Let's talk about Scorpion's Pass

I recently realized that my romance novel, Scorpion's Pass, has gotten very little attention - including from me! 
I suppose because it's kind of a quirky concept.  I combined a Jane Austen-style romance with a pseudo-Victorian/steampunk desert planet traversed by massive wheeled warships.
On the one hand, it's got something for everyone, but those genres don't often mix.
So why write the thing?
The answer is simple: it was a present for my wife.  Several years ago, money was tight so I thought it would make a good Valentine's Day gift.  And so it did.
Once I discovered online publishing, it was one of my more polished manuscripts, so I published it after Battle Officer Wolf.
Other than being out of the ordinary, I'm not sure why it never caught on, but it's quite inexpensive to take a look and see for yourself.

Wow, Goodreads hates me

I suppose it's my own fault for not keeping up on all the book reading stuff, but I really didn't know much about Goodreads.  I joined a few weeks ago out of curiosity but never dug deep into the site.

Then the other day I was recommending my books to an acquaintance and he responded that Battle Officer Wolf got terrible reviews, so he probably wouldn't read that one.

I shook my head in disbelief.  "No, it's got 4.7 stars on Amazon.  How is that terrible?"

He pointed out that it is only 2.5 stars on Goodreads.


I'm not sure why there is such a large discrepancy, but it is annoying to have people leave negative ratings (or luke-warm ones) without offering a word of explanation.  The one written review knocks me for not using enough "contemporary" terms for women's breasts.

I admit I didn't really think about that because the story is actually a sci-fi horror piece about horrible man-eating monsters on a space station and a hero who turns up to fight them.  I suppose I was sloppy on other descriptions because they simply weren't that important to me.

I have to wonder how many of those reviews have less to do with the work itself and more to do with the genre.  I don't much like romance novels (yes, I know) so I try to stay away from the genre.  Were I to read a book for whatever reason, I'd grade it on a curve, that is judging it for what it is supposed to be, not what I want it to be.  I think that is why the Amazon ratings are better:  People knew what they were getting and were happy that they got what they sought.

Bad reviews come with being an author, and I suppose it was inevitable that I'd run into people that don't like my work. 

I don't have to like it, though.