Vampires of Michigan

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.


Well, let's see how 2021 works out

Happy New Year!  As the song says, it's been a long December but there's reason to believe that this year will be better than the last.

Taken as a whole, 2020 has not been without its joys.  The publication of Vampires of Michigan and the subsequent writing of Long Live Death and its success was not something I contemplated a year ago.   The COVID lockdown has put our family under great strain, but we also celebrated the birth of our first grandchild, who has been a source of unceasing wonderment and happiness.

In many ways, how we approach life determines how we perceive it.  What makes a "very good" year versus a bad one?  Folks used to advise people to "count their blessings" and I think it's good advice - though not something sad people want to hear.

That's my other observation this year, something I'd noted before but I've now seen it spread on a far wider basis: misery loves company.  Online places I used to visit have become so unrelentingly negative that I can't even stomach them.  If you bring in good cheer, they boo you right off the network.

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions but I am going to enhance my efforts this winter to push aside complaints and try to hold onto moments of joy that might otherwise have been lost.

 


Vampires of Michigan: Pandemic

The title of this post is a teaser for a sequel I've been mulling over for a while.  I know, I know, I keep announcing my next project only to bail a day later.

The problem of course is twofold.

The first issue is not knowing how things will turn out.  That's a pretty tough position for a novelist to be in, especially if one wants an intricate plot. 

Then there's the problem that writing about reality cuts into the escapism that is part of why I write.

I suppose I could go all-in on wishcast/Mary Sue type work, but I like to think I'm above such things.

Still, I've got a notion how it would work, so maybe once the vaccine and election work their way through, I'll get to work.  Though it sold less than some of my other books, Vampires of Michigan did get some of the strongest fan response I've seen.  I'm pretty sure people would read it.

Maybe next year.


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?


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.