Vampires of Michigan

Why did Amazon jack up their cover creator? I miss Createspace

When I first started self-publishing, Amazon had two options.

You could go direct to digital, or use their paperback portal, called "Createspace."

The latter had a much more flexible way to develop a book cover, and since you could port paperbacks into the Kindle system anyway, that was the way I always went.

But that's gone away, so now cover options are pretty terrible.  I'm thinking of just doing the whole file on my own.  Well, after this book, that is.  Right now I just want to finish.

I suppose the ugly truth is that e-books pretty much dominate publishing these days.  What's not to like?  Money without actual printing costs.  I certainly sell more e-books than paperbacks, but I myself do not buy e-books.  I'm a traditionalist, I guess. 

Obviously, this is coming up because Long Live Death is inching towards publication.  I may yet revise the cover, but I'm going to see what I can squeeze out of the Amazon interface first.  Three Weeks with the Coasties used a default cover, but it worked with the subject matter.  The same was true of The Vampires of Michigan, but I want something a little less abstract.  We'll see how it goes.

Observations on non-fiction writing

I haven't written a substantial piece of non-fiction since college.  Sure, I've written reports, articles, that sort of thing, but this is my first stab at anything even remotely approaching a term paper in length. 

I figured that it would be a slow process, requiring note-taking, drafting and then a slow march through the outline, nothing like the speed I achieve with fiction.

I was wrong. 

I'm writing at the blistering pace of 7,000 words per week.  My goal is to have the first draft done by the end of June, and it's looking good.  Why is it going so quickly?

I think there are several reasons.  The first is the nature of the book, which combines a traditional historical narrative with analysis and discussion.  The bulk of the book is essentially an opinion piece backed by what I consider to be key data.  Much of this came to me while I was reading on the topic so the arguments are familiar to me and I'm just setting down things I've been thinking about for a while.

I'm also not doing a lot of original research, instead synthesizing existing data.  That was a large part of my goal -to build a concise military narrative that covered everything I found interesting.  That's a lot quicker than going to primary sources and seeking out new information.

Then there's the fact that I've read most of this stuff fairly recently, so it's fresh in my mind.  If I was starting from zero, there would be a long pause for research, but that's mostly been done.  When my mania hit less than a year ago, I soaked up a lot of information.  Now it's largely a matter of refreshing it as I set it down.

Finally, the change in technology has been a major factor.  In the typewriter era, one had to get everything set just so before working.  Word processing was just coming into play, so I could make corrections easily, but it was a lot harder to bounce around a manuscript and add things out of order.

But that's what I'm doing a lot of right now.  I'll address a topic, move on and then find more pertinent information (or a needed correction) while writing about a different area.  So I simply bounce back to the relevant passage and add to it.  I'm doing a lot of this, particularly as I work on the campaign narrative. 

One thing I did not expect to find was such variation on basic information in my sources.  I have three different start dates for the Battle of Teruel.  I've also found mistakes that could only stand out when one is directly comparing sources.  That's a caution for me to watch for, but also kind of cool that I've picked upon stuff the "industry standard" writers missed.

For those who care, the current word count is above 43,000, so it's already about as long as The Vampires of Michigan or Three Weeks with the Coasties.

Of course, that's not entirely accurate in terms of content since this book has a bibliography and I've added an extensive chronology to help the reader (and me!) keep everything straight.  Stanley Payne did this, but mine is more detailed and includes external events that I feel are important, like the dates of Stalin's purges, Hitler's moves, etc.

Those don't strictly relate to Spain, but they did have a clear impact on it.

My target length is roughly 60,000 words, so if this pace keeps up, I should get there by the end of the month as planned.

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.

A belated dedication

Because the editing process of The Vampires of Michigan was so prolonged, it was only after it went live that I realized I'd forgotten to make a dedication.

I pondered this while attending a memorial service for one of my uncles that passed away.  Speaking with my relations, many of whom I had not seen in years, I suddenly realized how closely the story hewed to family history.  I don't mean the whirlwind romance, but the larger issues of finding meaning in life and the choice between decadence and duty.

I've since updated both versions, but for those of you who already purchased the book (thank you!), I offer it below:

This book is dedicated to:


Jay, who has just awakened,

Noel, who held the line for so long, and

Blaise, who is finally at rest.

Now available: The Vampires of Michigan

The day has come at last!

My eighth novel is available in paperback as well as a download for the Kindle.

Those who have been following along will know that this is a bit different from my previous work.

While it (obviously) features supernatural elements, the core of the story is really about human behavior. 

This obviously includes love and violence, but it's also a meditation on self-defeating choices.  Zip Zimmer isn't a loser by circumstance so much as by choice.  Everyone experiences setbacks, but some people have the uncanny ability to create thwart themselves no matter how much help they get.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral service for my uncle, who was such a person.  Gifted, talented, witty and undeniably charismatic, he seemed destined for success.

And yet, he always managed to find a way to fail.

He died just short of his 70th birthday, and though none of the characters were consciously based on him, it's clear to me now that his influence is undeniable.

I've often said that you should write what you know.  I would qualify that by adding that we write best what we know best.

All of which is to say, if you want a fast-paced story about vampires in Michigan, you've found your book.  But there's more than that going on here.  I hope you enjoy it.

Vampires of Michigan goes to the editor

The re-write took about as long as I expected and involved some significant changes, but I think it was all for the better.

I'm not sure how this book will be received.  It's certainly different from my other works, though it shares some common points with Three Weeks with the Coasties insofar as it's set in the modern world and takes place over the space of a couple of weeks.

At any rate, I'm hoping to have it ready by the end of the month for your buying pleasure.

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.

The Vampires of Editing

While I met my Thanksgiving weekend deadline for writing, editing is going very slowly.  I can't see having this book ready for publication until January.

This chief culprit is the uneven quality of the work.  I started writing this many years ago, cleaned it up over the summer, then took time off after my health scare and so the concepts continued to shift.

It think this will result in a better book than it would originally have been, but continuity is all over the place.  That takes a lot of time to fix on both ends - finding the mistakes and correcting them.

Writing can go surprisingly fast when you're 'in the groove' but I've never had a similar experience with editing.  It pretty much moves at the same glacial pace with frequent stops to avoid fatigue.

After that, the re-writing, which is also painstakingly dull.

Still, it keeps me off the street, so there's that. 

I will say that the unique origin of this project has made it harder than most.  Three Weeks with the Coasties was a much quicker edit.  Basically this is the worst of the lot. 

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.