Getting Back to Writing After Vacation

It’s that time time of year again when those of us fortunate enough to have a disposable income and a job that gives us paid time off blow off work for at least a week and travel or head to the mountains or the beach.

I just got back from Walt Disney World, and while it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation (my idea of vacation is not going to the day job, sleeping late, and binge-watching Netflix), it was a fun and much-needed respite from the proverbial grind. It also put me in mind of what I as a writer need to do to not only successfully unplug, but to get back up to speed and start writing again once I returned. Hence this blog post.

Here then, are my Vacation Tips for Writers. As always, your mileage may vary.

If you can, finish your big project before you leave for vacation. This was key for me to not only actually enjoy my vacation, but to not have to regain lost momentum on a project I stopped in the middle of. I finished the edits on my latest novel, Ix Incursion, two weeks before leaving for Disney. This gave me a lot of time to decompress and work on the planning stages for something I planned on starting once I got back.

Rest. Don’t even think about writing while you’re gone.
This is very hard to do. I know, as this was one of the few times I’ve been able to do it. For me, unplugging creatively means having your last project finished and your next project existing as little more than an outline.

No laptops allowed.

Don’t bring your work with you. Trust, me, you won’t have time to work on anything anyway, and if you do you won’t feel like it. Leave that stuff at home. Really unplug. It’s the only way to refill the creative well. You’ll also get to focus on the really important stuff, like your family. During my vacation I got to hold my daughter’s hand in the ocean and see her react to all the wonderful things around us, and nothing is more important than that.

Create a to-do list for when you get back

This is key for getting back up to speed quickly and easily. When I got back, I was tired and still in vacation mode. I needed to rest some more, but I also knew I had some business-related things to attend to. Having a to-do list helped me remember exactly what those things were. I created a Scrivener file with a running weekly to-do list. This helps me stay focused on the business side of my various creative projects, and I updated it before we left.

Have a project ready to go for when you get back.

And last but not least, have something else you’re eager and ready to get started on once you return. In my case, a 30,000 word novella I’m contracted to write for a publisher. I’ve been planning it for over a month, and planned to start on it when we got back. Next week I start the actual writing, and I’m stoked. And recharged now that I’ve had a nice break away from everything.

Bottom line: your body needs rest, even from the creative work we all love. But a vacation doesn’t have to make you get behind. By following these simple tips, you can not only unplug and have a relaxing time with your family, you can come back refreshed and ready to get started on your next project.

What other vacation tips for writers do you have? Share in the comments.

Star Swarm Now Available for Preorder

Star Swarm cover

My first space opera novel, STAR SWARM, is now available for preorder. It officially launches next Tuesday, but you can reserve your copy now.

About the book:

Man’s outer colonies are being destroyed one by one, leaving nothing behind. Suspecting an old enemy, Captain Henry Kuttner, of the Solar Navy rail-gun ship the Onslaught, wants to investigate.

But the Onslaught is scheduled to be decommissioned, and Captain Kuttner given mandatory retirement on one of the League’s pleasure worlds. But this old war dog isn’t going down without a fight.

Going against orders, Kuttner leads his crew in search of answers. That search leads straight into the territory of mankind’s former enemies, the deadly reptilian Draconi, whose colonies are also being destroyed, and they blame man.

Now the crew of the Onslaught must risk violating a fragile peace treaty and all out war to solve a cosmic mystery before more lives are lost. Only the ship’s maverick second in command and a disgraced Draconi scientist can unravel the secret of this enigmatic enemy and its sinister purpose before it’s too late. But there are certain factions who want the human-Draconi war to begin anew, and they’ll stop at nothing to make it happen.

And meanwhile, in the outer dark, an ancient enemy returns. An enemy known only in the songs of a long-dead alien race. An enemy that leaves chaos in its wake.

A maverick first officer, a misfit crew and an aging vessel are all that stand between humanity and total destruction.

If you like Peter F. Hamilton, David Weber, and Chris Fox’s Void Wraith series, you’ll love Star Swarm, the first volume in an exciting new space opera trilogy.

“Classic military science fiction in the vein of David Weber, with conspiracies and ancient threats throughout. I want the next book now.” –Joseph Cadotte, author of In the Land of Nod

Go and grab it here.

FREE Book Offer!

I’m still putting the finishing touches on my debut novel Star Swarm, which will be ready very soon. To get everyone warmed up for it, I’m offering the prequel story Chaos Conspiracy, absolutely free. All you have to do is sign up for my mailing list. That way you’ll be the first to know about new releases, my appearances, and get exclusive access to more free stuff as I think of it. Plus you get a free book! What could be easier? To get your free copy of Chaos Conspiracy in your choice of formats (sorry, no papyrus scrolls or clay tablets), go here.

About Chaos Conspiracy: A Starm Swarm Prequel:

The Prequel to the exciting events in Star Swarm.

Special Operations agent Lt. Noah Hamilton thought his mission was easy enough. Go and retrieve an undercover operative Leda Niles and bring her back to home base. But things get more complicated than he’d planned. Now he’s up to his neck in seedy gem merchants, criminals, and a shadowy group targeting remote scientific outposts for some sinister purpose. Now it will take all his training, all of his resourcefulness, to get the job done. That is if Lt. Niles doesn’t get him killed first. It’s interstellar action and intrigue in this short prequel that leads directly into the forthcoming novel Star Swarm: The Chaos Wave Book One.

Go here to get it now, so you’ll be ready when Star Swarm debuts.

A Change of Direction

Star Swarm cover

And now for something a little different.

The time has come for some restructuring, and I thought it prudent to share some of that news with whomever reads this blog or will read this blog in the future.

The cover you see above is for STAR SWARM, my next book. It is a departure for me, not only in length but also genre, as I am diving into the hopefully more lucrative genre of space opera. I still am planted firmly in the pulp world, and one day I plan on getting back to spinning tales of supernatural detectives and two-fisted heroes, but you can have roots and wings, and if I am going to keep doing this, it needs to be with an eye toward making some money, and New Pulp, while fun, just isn’t a money maker for me. So, if all goes according to plan, the book will be available for pre-order on September 22nd and launch on September 30th, my birthday (because why not?).

Along with this new direction comes some inevitable re-branding and restructuring. The biggest change will be that the website for my imprint Mechanoid Press will go away. The press will still exist; it’s what I publish all of my stuff under, but Mechanoid Press as a brand in and unto itself will be no more. It was just too hard trying to develop content and keep up maintenance on two websites. Then there’s the separate business cards, and the show signage, and the web hosting, and…you get the idea. Streamlining this thing was something I should have done a long time ago, but my concept was too ambitious. Instead of two separate sites I’ll create a Mechanoid Press page on this site that lists all the anthologies and books I put together and published as an editor featuring stories by other authors.

If you look down the right-hand side of the page you’ll see images of my books. I’m working on adding Amazon buy links to them now, so you can check them out with a single click. I hope you will do so.

With this change also comes a shift in focus. My days of producing multi-author anthologies are probably over. I say probably because you never know. Something might catch my fancy later on down the road, but for now it’s just too much trouble for not a lot of payoff. The anthologies and one novel Mechanoid Press has already published will remain in print, there just won’t be anything new in that vein, at least for the foreseeable future.

Paperbacks. In my experience, these are a tricky aspect of self-publishing. They can help sell e-books, but usually don’t sell that well themselves. I have trouble moving them at conventions, mainly because they are usually trade paperback size, and cost around $14.95 or more, a risk for someone at a show to spend on a new author. So going forward I will only produce a paperback if e-book sales warrant it. I don’t know exactly what that number is just yet, but I have a feeling I’ll know it when I see it. I still have one or two promised print editions, and I will get those out. It’s just a matter of money and finding someone to create the back cover and spine. Mainly money.

And those won’t be $14.95 trade paperbacks either. They will be traditional paperback size and priced accordingly. I miss the old days of SF paperbacks you could stuff into your back pocket. I think self-publishing and e-books have brought these smaller books back into popularity, and I intend to find out. I’m going lean and mean, writing science fiction adventures of 40-50k. I will try to put them out fast, writing either a trilogy or a standalone, and build an audience over time.

I know it isn’t a sure thing, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that there’s no such thing. Finding a decent paying job is now as much of a lottery as traditional publishing ever was, and I know personally several people who are making a nice living with self-publishing. Chances are great you’ve never heard of them, they don’t win awards, but they are paying their bills. And they don’t have to court agents or kiss an editor’s ass at WorldCon to make it happen. I will gladly throw my lot in with them any day.

So there it is, more or less. I hope those of you who have been with me so far will continue to stick around. It may not always be sunshine and roses, but it will always be interesting. I will be trying some new things and thinking new thoughts as I go through this process. So please stick around.

As for what’s up next, I’m writing a short prequel story to go with the book, and I will give it away to people who sign up for my newsletter. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, keep watching the skies.

Entropy Strikes Back: My Novel in a Week Update

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Well, if you’re not seeing fireworks at the top of this post, it means I did not finish my novel in one week. The plan was to write 3,000 words starting on Sunday, and then add another 1,000 words on top of that number all the way until Saturday. I failed. Miserably.

But does that mean I’m a failure? Hardly.

I still clocked over 12,000 words, and counting. Before I started writing this post I just added another 531 words. And I will keep going until the book is finished. I didn’t finish it in a week, but I will finish it. It’ll just take a lot longer. No biggie.

I’ll see how much of it I can get done throughout the month of April. That’s on top of finishing up a work-for-hire nonfiction e-book for a paying client. So we’ll see. But just because I didn’t pull it off this time around doesn’t mean I can’t do it eventually. And I learned some things from the process. I’ll be talking about those things–and some interesting backlash that I and, to a greater extent, Dean Wesley Smith received as part of this journey in another blog post.

Until then, keep watching the skies.