Sunday, October 13, 2013

ABOUT WRITING PIRATES

PIRATES OF THE OUTRIGGER RIFT

As I type this, Pirates of the Outrigger Rift is halfway through its run as a Kindle Serial for 47North.  For a short time, it held the rank of #1 Bestselling Kindle Serial, which was way cool.  The amazing cover art is by Christian McGrath.  Chris is such an awesome artist.  You've seen his work gracing the covers of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher as well as novels by Brandon Sanderson, Warren Hammond, Rob Thurman, and others.

A long time ago right here in this very galaxy, a short-lived company appeared called Dime Novels.  They wanted genre fiction--science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, westerns, etc.--short novels that would be placed by registers in stores as an impulse buy.  Bill Allen and I thought we should take a stab at writing for them, so we came up with an action oriented sci fi romp called The Tycho Conspiracy, and they accepted the story for publication.

And there was much rejoicing.

Then, before they could send us a check, they promptly went out of business.

And there was much cussing.

So what do you do with a space opera about pirates that doesn't pretend to be anything other than fun when it clocks in at 35K words or so?  Well, it was too long for a magazine to touch it, and it was too short for a publisher to touch it, so it went into a drawer, and was lost to the sands of time.

Bill lives in Oklahoma, and I live in Colorado, but every so often we'd get together, and sometimes we'd talk about doing something with Tycho.  Then one year I went down to Oklahoma to visit for a week, and we decided to turn that novella into a full-length novel.  As I recall, we didn't keep more than a few scenes.  We took turns typing, and we cranked out a new improved version of the book, and it came in at 55K words.

Still too short to do anything with it as a book, and way too long for a magazine.

Back in the drawer it went.

Many years later, eBooks exploded onto the scene, and we finally talked about possibly doing it up as a Kindle book.  We looked it over, and it was pretty good, but needed work.  We changed the title to Pirates of the Outrigger Rift and hired a respected editor to go over the book.  She absolutely HATED it.  She had some excellent points about what needed to be fixed, though, so we made some changes, and it's a much better book thanks to her help.  Yes, it's true, editors don't have to like something in order to help improve it.  What a concept.

The book was still short, but on Kindle that wouldn't matter.  We'd need to format it, get a cover created, and then launch it.

But as fate would have it, Amazon started doing Kindle Serials, and they were open to unsolicited submissions.  Bill and I talked about it, and decided it was worth it to submit to the Kindle Serials program to see if they'd buy it.  Getting an advance wouldn't suck, so I followed the directions and sent Pirates to the good folks at Amazon.

A month later, I got an e-mail from the acquisitions editor to set up a phone call so we could talk about the book.  Next thing you know, I'm on the phone with David Pomerico at 47North, and he saw exactly what we were trying to do with the book.  He loved it.  We had a great conversation.  David rocks.  So it wasn't too long before we were going over a contract, and setting up a schedule to get the book expanded to at least 70K words.  We came in a bit longer than that, which is great.

We knew we were breaking the book into six episodes, so Bill and I spent a lot of time on the phone discussing how we'd make it all work. I was crushing a deadline on Dragon Gate for Sky Warrior Books at the time, so Bill did a lot of the heavy lifting once we worked things out.  We cleaned up everything, and the book, which was good before, was now terrific.

Next step: Developmental Editor.  We had the pleasure of working with Mike Shohl to whip the book into shape, and he caught things we missed.  This proves that all writers need good editors.  Mike did a great job helping us to make sure everything worked properly, and when he was done, the book was firing on all cylinders.

That brings us to the Copy Editor.  Our copy editor was Jodie Young at Rooftop Copy (if you need a copy editor, you need to hire Jodie--she's awesome!).  You'd think after we'd been over the pages, and multiple editors had been over the pages, there wouldn't be much left to fix.  Right?  Wrong.  Jodie totally got the book, and she made us look good (and that's not an easy task!).  She's by far the best copy editor I've ever worked with, so I'll sing her praises to everyone.

The entire team at 47North has been amazing.  They're all positive, and they love what they do.  I didn't think it could get any better, but then David told us we'd get a cover by Chris McGrath, so it was one of those times when you love to be wrong about something.  Chris is at the top of the list of cover artists working in the field today.  His work has energy, and I suspect that cover has helped our sales more than anything else.  I love that on the cover, Hank looks a bit like Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy in the new Star Trek movies)--NOT SO SUBTLE HINT TO HOLLYWOOD--Karl Urban would make an outstanding Hank Jensen.  Just saying.

The journey from writing Pirates of the Outrigger Rift to now having it reach the readers, has been a blast.  Once it graduates from the Serial program to a regular eBook at Amazon, the price will go up, so you might want to grab a copy while it's $1.99.  You snooze, you pay more.  The paperback will be out in a few months, and shortly after that, it will be available on Audio, so the ride continues.

Bill and I have plans to work together on more books, but we also have plenty of solo projects.  At the moment, Bill is writing a new novel about Carl, the War God from Gods and Other Children.  I know it's going to be awesome.  If you haven't read Gods, you need to follow the link and buy a copy.  You can thank me later.  Meanwhile, I'm working on the next Jonathan Shade novel.  Speaking of which, I should get back to work.

2 comments:

  1. I know I'm posting this a bit late but I wanted to tell you that I love the Jonathan Shade series and really hope you write and publish more!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words! I'm almost finished with the fourth book in the Jonathan Shade series. It's called Anubis Nights, and if all goes well it will be complete by the end of the month. Not sure on the publication date yet--depends on whether or not 47North wants it. If they say yes, they might have it out early next year. If they pass, I'll go indie with it, so I'll hire an editor (hopefully the same editor who did the first three), then I'll make corrections and it will be out this fall. It's the first in a trilogy, so the next three are already mostly plotted. The trilogy starts with Anubis Nights continues in Sunset Sorcerer and finally concludes in Wizard's Nocturne. The next two should be faster as most of the research is already done. As always, I'll write them so they each stand alone, but there will be threads that get resolved in the other books. Thanks again! It's nice to know someone is reading them.

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