Tag Archives: novels


See the right sidebar? Those are my new covers for the first three Howard County Mysteries. The new editions, published by Red Tales, are now on sale all over the place. You should be able to find them at your favorite online store. Brick-and-mortar stores can order them for you, too. If you don’t mind the original covers, you can still get them at clearance prices at Serpent Cliff.

So that’s one big job for 2019 crossed of my list. Next up: Space Operatic! If you’ve been following me, you’ll have heard me mention it here and there. We’re starting the book design now. The novel will be released sometime later this year (release date to be determined). To whet your appetite, here’s a possible blurb for the back cover:

Curse be damned!

Roberto Maccarone has taken his company, Space Operatic, to the fringes of the solar system in pursuit of artistic acclaim. But in the cold dark of the Oort Territories where the culture scene is lower than that found in most petri dishes, Lady Luck plays hard-to-get. Maccarone’s theater blows up, a power-mad businessman tricks him into spying on a gang of malcontent miners, and a horde of ruthless mercenaries descend, guns blazing. Really, now, how hard can it be to stage a performance?

Some say a curse has followed the company ever since that incident on Titan, but Maccarone will never lose faith, especially since he’s discovered that the most fabulous theater in the solar system lies just next door, cosmically speaking. If only he could play that theater, Maccarone’s success would be assured! But the keys are held in the icy grip of the local Culture Minister, and nothing–not Maccarone, not obscene amounts of money, not even that guy who juggles flaming kabobs while singing an ancient song about how great America was–can pry them loose. Will it be fame for Maccarone and his troupe? Or unemployment in Beelzebub’s outhouse?

Let me know what you think!

One Million Words

Earlier this summer, my father passed away. Like me, he was a writer, although in the main he kept his writings to himself. As a result, I’m not familiar with most of what he wrote. I do know he wrote at least two novels, a fair bit of poetry, and some essays.

Near the end of his life, he self-published his first novel and sent me the second one on CD, which I promptly managed to lose. Fortunately, my wife rediscovered it the other day. I’m planning to edit and publish that novel for family members. In quickly reviewing it, though, I realized that my father’s fiction, like that of many would-be novelists, is what I call immature.

I have to be careful with that word. Call someone’s writing immature and they’re likely to think you’re calling them immature. But no, it’s about the writing, not the writer. Immature writing lacks the craftsmanship associated with professional writing. An apprentice carpenter who hasn’t acquired the skill of cutting a smooth, straight line can’t produce mature, professional work. Likewise, a writer who regularly uses fifty words to say what can be said in ten or mistakes exposition for story can’t produce mature, professional work.

Nearly every writer starts out immature in this sense. We learn through practice, by reading the works of others, by studying the craft–whether formally or informally–and by getting feedback. No writer is expert from the get-go. Even prodigies read before they write. All expertise is acquired, and in many technical fields it’s said one must spend about ten years developing a skill before reaching expert level.

Writing is no different, except the point of expertise is typically given in words instead of years: you have to write one million words before you’re an expert writer. The number isn’t as significant as the concept. Some acquire expertise faster, others need longer. Either way, writing takes consistent practice.

Today, technology makes everyone a potential publisher. There may be good in this, but it comes with a dark side: a great many writers rush their work to completion and publish long before it’s ready. Even if they’ve spent years putting words down, they haven’t spent years developing their craft. Result? Huge numbers of books debut every day, a large percentage of which are poorly written. Immature.

I had the good fortune to suffer through many years of my wife’s critiques and edits. Generally it’s a bad idea to ask a friend or relative to comment on your work, because those close to you may be afraid to give you bad news. Not so with my wife. She once referred to her technique as “Kathy’s slash and burn school of writing.” Her first comment on The Fibonnaci Murders, which I wrote after nearly a decade of not writing fiction, was, “I can tell you’re out of practice.” Honest feedback in invaluable, if painful. I suspect that many writers never get that kind of feedback. If they had, they might not have rushed into print (or electrons).

My father at least tried. At the end of his manuscript he noted the dates when he finished the first draft and several revisions. He also noted the date he sent the manuscript to a friend. Unfortunately, as he also noted, he received no comments. Fortunately, his work is now in my hands. With any luck, I can whip it into shape for him. I promise I won’t publish it until I do.