Writing: Eric Flint found us some excellent consultants on aspects of space travel to give us versimilitude for Boundary. I had already found one for our nuclear rocketry aspects. An important note for all readers (which hopefully will be included in the book): Dramatics and story can trump technology. Any technological stupidities will be able to be laid directly at my and Eric's doors. Our consultants are giving us what they know; they also know that we may have to ignore some of it for story purposes. Hopefully, not too much.
It should also be noted that I couldn't WRITE a lot of what I do if I didn't have the experience from my current job. So a big thanks to Zack Mian and IEM. :)
I have come up with ANOTHER Jason Wood adventure idea; this makes three that I have, so I can definitely at least write two direct sequels to Digital Knight (in addition to the Grand Finale) if that becomes something Jim wants. I'm tempted to start writing parts of one now.
Mountain Magic has been selling quite well if my experience with DK is any guide; it is consistently placing well above Digital Knight's previous performance on Amazon, so I'm hopeful that it will also make the Locus bestseller list and earn out soon. (It's got a good chance to earn out quickly, as the advance on it was quite small).
Life Events: In case anyone out there doesn't know yet, Kathleen and I are going to have a third (and last) child. To her great delight, this one will be a girl; her name will be Victoria.
I have been confirmed with a new contract with IEM and am now looking forward to the next year. Yes, I want a career as a writer, but for those who don't know the routine (or who just want to read it again) let me clarify the way these sorts of things work:
- Careers are Not Assured. I happen to currently be on Jim Baen's publishing list, and Jim has one of the best track records in history for finding new authors and bringing them to honest-to-god careers as writers. But despite best efforts, NOT every writer, even good ones with decent writing speed, can become a full-time writer. It's still an exception, not a rule.
- It takes considerable time. Let's assume that destiny HAS decreed that I will become a writer who can support his family purely on writing. This is not something that happens overnight. In general, you need two things to make such a career work: first, a healthy backlist which provides some steady royalty income, and second, a goodly number of new book deals each year -- at least two or three, more if you're doing collaborations, collections, etc. Oh, there are the REAL freaks -- someone who gets a real honest-to-god bestseller and cuts a good movie/TV deal might become independent overnight -- but as they say, "don't quit your day job". I need to have (at least) four or five of my own books out there, and fairly popular, before they fulfill the "backlist" requirement, and then I need to be popular enough that Jim (or, theoretically, other publishers) would be interested in two or more books from me per year.
- Writers are in a Bad Position as Independents. Financially, the tax structure and other issues like insurance make it so that you have to be making a *LOT* of money as a writer to live reasonably well. My income as a writer would probably have to approach $90,000 per year to equal my current situation at IEM. And if I can even APPROACH that, there's a strong reason to keep working for at least a few years in order to build up a large reserve of cash, since writing is also a very heavily cyclic and unpredictable way to make money.
- Responsibility is important all the way down the line. I'm basically a slacker at heart. The thing that gets me to move, in a regular job, in writing, whatever -- tends to be that I've committed to doing something and as any deadline approaches the fact that OTHER PEOPLE will be affected by my screwing things up is what motivates me to get things done. Even if I do reach a level where I could be independent, I couldn't just quit my current job. I know how long it took Zack to find someone who would even come close to satisfying his standards for writing proposals, and I know how long it would take for me to teach someone what I've already learned from him. It's my responsibility, *IF* I ever reach the point that I become an independent writer, to make sure that my leaving is something that doesn't hurt the company itself. I probably would be less concerned about it if we were talking about a company like GE, where they can easily deal with ANY individual leaving, but a small business is a very, very different thing.
Gaming: The FTF campaign I've been running for the past couple of years (with my friends Eric Palmer and Vern Sodergren and Kathleen) has gone into a very odd sort-of haiatus. The PCs were approaching the point at which the final confrontations with the Monolith and Virigar could take place, but Kathleen's pregnancy has been hammering her ability to stay awake during gaming hours and causing her illnesses and so on, to the point that the players decided they wanted to put off the final reckoning until Raziel (Kathy's character) would be able to be present as a PC for the whole thing. As this probably means at least until the baby's sleeping regularly (from experience, between two and three months of age) that meant a delay of at least 6 months. However, no one really wanted to just stop getting together or gaming, so they unanimously decided that they would like me to allow Monolith one more rewrite, and arranged it so that the PCs (Eric's Peter Flaumel/Peter Mel'Tasne and Vern's Leonard Shadesheld, along with most of their NPC allies) would be outside of the protective shields at the conclusion of a particular combat. This allowed Monolith to nail them once more, while leaving Raziel inside the shielded Nautilus to be able to locate them in timespace when the time comes, so to speak. The really unusual part of this is that technically the game is still going on, but Eric Palmer is running one part of the new multiverse (with of course considerable consultation from me to make sure things will dovetail in the end), featuring my character Janus Shadesheld and his companions in a very, very rewritten form (Janus is now a happy, cheerful, optimistic guy instead of a dark Monte-Cristoish loner) and the rewritten Leonard (who really ISN'T very different, while I'm running Eric's Peter, who has been rewritten into a Shadowrun universe. This will be ... interesting.
In the Baen PBEM campaign I recently started, most of the PCs will have met by the end of this weekend, all hanging out at Verne Domingo's estate. The other two characters may or may not meet up with the rest soon. The campaign will be incorporating elements from my regular campaign worlds, from the projected real history of Jason Wood's world, and from other possible writing projects. So they will, in some cases, be seeing "behind the curtains" of my projected future, but not enough so to be able to know exactly what will happen (I don't want to spoil their ability to enjoy the books I hope to write).
And Kathy's been running me in a VERY bizarre Doctor Who-based campaign... in which I'm playing a former Dalek. (yes, FORMER Dalek. Very, VERY long story.)