After a long break from fiction writing to finish up several non-fiction books, I’ve come back to Iona Stronghold, the second book in the Synaxis Chronicles.  It’s a much darker book than the first, but in some ways I like it better.  Most of our old friends are back, but it also has some interesting new characters.  Once again the tiny island of Iona plays a crucial role in the survival of the human race.  I’m now well over 2/3 of the way through the first draft.  My goal is to have it published within six months.  Thanks for your patience!  I hope you think it was worth the wait!


Get Iona Portal on your Kindle NOW for just $.99!!!

IONA PORTAL was first published one year ago this month.  In the past year it’s gained 93 “5-star” reviews and has been one of Amazon’s “top-rated” SF books for 9 straight months.  (It’s been downloaded 17,000 times!)    

I’m celebrating Iona Portal’s successful first year with a month-long anniversary sale.  Don’t miss your chance to get Iona Portal on your Kindle for just $.99! (Sale ends August 31)  CLICK HERE to go to Amazon’s IONA PORTAL page!

Why indie ebooks are the best thing for readers since the Gutenberg press!

To read this post in a black-on-white format, click HERE!

I just read a great blog post by Joe Konrath called “The Tsunami of Crap”

WHAT IS THE TSUNAMI OF CRAP?    A frequent argument against indie publishing is that millions of wannabe writers are flooding the market with crummy ebooks–a virtual tsunami of crap–and that good authors will get lost in the morass.  Konrath does a great job refuting this charge, and I’m not going to repeat his points, though they’re worth reading.  But I do want to add my observations…

Are a lot of self-pub e-books crap?  YES!  Absolutely!  Without doubt!  But as a wise man once observed, “90% of EVERYTHING is crap.”  A lot of self-pub books ARE crap.  But the same thing goes for movies.  The same thing goes for TV shows.  (Maybe 90% is a conservative estimate?)

Go down to your local bookstore.  Most of the books on the shelf are crap!    Before an international trip, I used to go down to the dead-tree store and buy 3-4 books, hoping that just ONE of them might be good enough to hold my attention on a long flight!   Most of those books were ditched in the trash when I reached my destination.  Crap!

In my younger days, I’d go to the library and check out 5-10 books at a time.  Most of them would be crap, but maybe, just maybe, I’d find one that was worth a read.

So the tsunami is not limited to self-pub books!  We LIVE in a tsunami of crap, trying our best to wade through the garbage and occasionally find something of value.

But in that tsunami, self-pub ebooks give four distinct advantages over buying at the dead-tree store…

1. With e-books, you can usually read reviews online before you buy.  This greatly increases your chances of finding something good.

2. When you find a book that sounds good, you can download a sample for free… and usually find out in a few pages if it’s worth a read.

3. When you DO buy a book, you’ve only invested $.99, or maybe $2.99… not the $15-$25 price of a traditionally published book!  (And if you’re buying from Amazon… if you get through the book and find that it’s crap, you can return it for a full refund!)

4. Best of all, with indie authors, you can usually go on twitter and actually get to know the author!

So indie publishing is not only great for authors…  it’s great for READERS!   Indie ebooks have made it EASIER to wade through the crap!   No wonder most of us are reading more now!

That’s why the e-pub revolution is the BEST thing that’s happened for readers since the Gutenberg press!

Finding Time to Write

(To read this post in a “black on white” format, click here.)

A big question for many beginning writers is, “How do you find time to write?”  I think all of us have asked that from time to time.  We have an idea of a great book… but weeks and months go by and the book doesn’t get written.  There just never seems to be enough time!

I’ve read advice from some seasoned authors who recommend disciplining
yourself to write a certain number of hours each day, or turn out a certain number of words each session. If that works for them, that’s great. I know that approach would not work for me.

My problem is, I have never had time to write. I  In my “day job” I’m a teacher, conference speaker and dean of a school. I also spend a lot of my time travelling. For most of my adult life, a typical work week has been 70 or 80 hours. Every week. There’s always been more to do than I have time to accomplish. I’m not complaining. I love what I do! I teach, I travel, and I speak. But it’s a very demanding career.

Yet I’ve also had a strong urge to write. I always seem to have four or five books simmering on the back burner of my mind, just waiting for the time they can make their escape onto a printed page.

My first non-fiction book was written on vacation. The book had been burning inside me for months. So while my wife and kids relaxed and visited with family and friends, I sat with laptop open, writing.

My second book found its way to paper while I was stranded for two weeks on the Island of Cyprus, waiting for a kidney stone to pass (not a fun experience!) I didn’t even have a laptop along, so I sat on the terrace of our friends’ home, overlooking the beautiful Troodos mountains of Cyprus, typing my book on a PDA (remember those?) using a portable fold-up keyboard! (Turned out to be one of my best sellers!)

For me, writing always has had a pregnancy aspect. I have a book on the inside and it’s growing and developing, looking for a time it can be birthed. And when that time finally comes, there’s no holding it back.

Because of that, I find it hard to relate to statements from writers who have to discipline themselves to grind out a certain number of words a day. To me, writing is not a job or a chore. It’s a consuming passion. It’s not a task I must remember to do, like cutting the grass and cleaning the garage. The book growing within me becomes a living thing, demanding to be expressed on paper, threatening to explode if I don’t let it out.

Let me share how I wrote Iona Portal, my first fiction book. Iona Portal is a Science Fiction thriller that views the ancient battle between good and evil through the lens of Science Fiction. I like to think of it as Lord of the Rings meets The Matrix. (As of this writing, it’s the top-rated science fiction book on Amazon, and rated #2 for mysteries and thrillers.)

At the start of the project, I had a vague idea of what the book would be about, but not a clue as to any details.

I started with the characters. I wrote a biography of each one, formed a mental picture of them, even scoured the internet to find photographs that matched my mental image of each one.

These people became more than names on a page. I knew their strengths and weaknesses, their struggles and fears… even the sound of their voice. (Michael Fletcher sounds a lot like Sean Connery.)  I knew them so well, I’d be walking through an airport and see someone walking the other way and think… “She looks just like Lys Johnston!” In short, these characters became real people to me. I CARED what happened to them.

Stephen King once said, “I try to develop sympathy for my characters, then I turn the monsters loose!” That was my next step.

Once I had the characters, I let the action start. Iona Portal begins with a gripping scene where our strong female lead, Lys Johsnton, finds herself driving a narrow mountain road in the middle of the night pursued by two strangers with blood-lust in their eyes.

I wrote the first version of that chapter with no idea where the story was going. Lys Johnston was in a dire situation, but I cared about her, and willed her to survive.

In the next scene, I added the next character. The characters began to interact. Then, as the story progressed, the direction of the book became clear. More characters were added, and “the plot thickened!” How would these people manage to survive and save their world from disaster?

And so the story gripped me. It burned within me. I didn’t have to schedule times to crank out words.

I’d often wake up at 3 in the morning with the next part of the story racing through my mind. I’d get up, pour myself a coffee, turn on my laptop, then lean back in my recliner … and write. I had no choice! Lys Johnston needed me! She had to find a way to overcome the armies of darkness and save the planet from destruction!!!

So that’s my advice for time management for writers. Don’t allow your writing to become a mechanical chore. Don’t let it be a job or an obligation.

It has to be a passion! If the story doesn’t grip you enough to draw you back to write, how will it ever draw your readers back to read?

So, be excited about what you are doing. Be passionate. And the time to write will come.

NOTE:  This was written a few months back as a guest post for Dean Rich’s blog, The Write Time.  Please check out Dean’s blog for more tips on time management!