Category Archives: writing

six freakin’ years!

I was pretty busy this month. So busy, in fact, I didn’t realize that I’ve now been self-publishing for six years. The first book I self-published was DEMONSOULED back on April 15th, 2011.

Six years! Man! There have been some jobs and activities in my life I’ve done consistently for more than six years, but not that many of them. Clearly God has been good to me. Back in April of 2011 I figured I would publish DEMONSOULED and SOUL OF TYRANTS, write one more DEMONSOULED book so I would have a trilogy, and then I would be done with novels.

Ha. That sure didn’t go according to plan, did it?

Let’s see. In six years, I’ve written:

-8 new DEMONSOULED books.

-16 new GHOSTS books (counting BLADE OF THE GHOSTS).


-7 CLOAK GAMES books.

-2 1/2 science fiction books (coming later this year).

-9 technical books.

-A whole lot of short stories.

Anyway, thank you all for coming along on the adventures of Ridmark, Mazael, Caina, Nadia, and all the others.

Now back to editing FROSTBORN: THE SHADOW PRISON. šŸ™‚


a secret project

Back in October, I started writing a Secret Project, and today I passed the 50% mark on that project.

Actually, why be secret about it? It’s a series of science fiction novels, and once I have four of them, I will release them all at once. That probably won’t be until the end of the summer, though.

Meanwhile, tune in at this space tomorrow for some exciting news about the FROSTBORN series!



Apropos of a discussion in the CLOAK GAMES thread, I should mention that I liked to think of my writing career as being like the Borg from STAR TREK.

I am always trying to learn new things and adapt new techniques and new technologies.

Of course, if one day you look up and the see the sun blocked out by a Giant Space Cube, you’ll know I’ve taken the metaphor too far. šŸ™‚


did I meet 2016’s writing goals?

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s time to take stock and consider whether or not I met the writing goals I laid out in 2015.

-800,000 to 900,000 words of new fiction.

Success! I wrote about 1.1 million words of new fiction in 2016.

-Three new FROSTBORN books.


-Finish the GHOST EXILE series!

Success! In 2016 I finished GHOST IN THE PACT and GHOST IN THE WINDS, which brought the GHOST EXILE series to its conclusion.

-Finish the MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED trilogy at last!

Success! Both MASK OF DRAGONS and MASK OF SPELLS came out in 2016, bringing the trilogy to a close.

-Two new CLOAK GAMES books.


-A systematic approach to print books.

It’s funny I should mention that, because GHOST IN THE PACT and GHOST IN THE WINDS have both been available in print for a couple of weeks now, and I haven’t gotten around to updating the catalog page yet. But I think this one was a success. I have a main page for print books on my site, I made 17 of my books available as trade paperbacks in 2016, and November and December 2016 were my best months for print books ever.

-More Kindle Unlimited Fix-Up Novels.

We’ll say this one was a half-success. I put out FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS, a compilation of some of the early FROSTBORN short stories, and originally put it in Kindle Unlimited. That said, I got completely out of Kindle Unlimited in the summer, so FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS is now available on all platforms.

I wanted to combine the Mazael short stories into a novel, but I never got around to it. Maybe in 2017.

-A 101 TIPS & TRICKS tech book on Linux Mint.

I didn’t do that one. The only tech writing I did in 2016 was to update my Ubuntu book from edition seven to edition eight. I wrote about half of the Linux Mint book, but I never got around to finishing it.

So I met most of my writing goals for 2016! In a few days I will type up my writing goals for 2017.


Does permafree still work?

Occasionally I see writers taking about whether or not “permafree” still works. Permafree is a marketing tactic where a writer with a long series of books makes the first book of the series more or less permanently free. The idea is that readers will read the first book, enjoy it, and then move on to purchase additional books in the series.

Some writers strongly dislike the idea of permafree, since they feel it devalues literature and writing in general. Other writers aren’t opposed to the idea, but doubt that it is effective.

Fortunately, while feelings are subjective, math is not. I recently made CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP, the first book in the CLOAK GAMES series, permafree. Here is the Amazon sales chart of the last thirty days for the second book in the series, CLOAK GAMES: FROST FEVER:


Note that CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP went permafree on November 30th.

Permafree, like any other marketing tactic, has its time and place, but it still can be useful if employed at the proper time and place. Generally, I think permafree works best once a series has 3-5 books, but a writer can’t expect older books to sell well forever. Eventually, you do have to write new ones.

Fortunately, I enjoy doing that. šŸ™‚



Steve writes to ask:

A question… when you start something as big as Frostborn, do you have the whole plot laid out in your head for 15 books, or is it a bit more organic than that?

I totally outline everything in advance. I plotted out the entire FROSTBORN series in 2012, something like six months before I even started writing it.

That’s not to say some things haven’t developed organically over time.

I’d say the biggest changes are the role of Morigna, Imaria Licinius, and Mara. Originally, Morigna and Imaria were supposed to be the same character (more or less), but after I finished writing FROSTBORN: THE UNDYING WIZARD, I realized there was no way that would ever work. Fortunately, Imaria would serve the role just as well, given her massive grudge against Ridmark, which was why she appeared in FROSTBORN: THE MASTER THIEF.

Mara’s change had an even bigger impact on the series. Originally, I basically planned her as Jager’s somewhat dimwitted but good-natured girlfriend. But when I got to her first scene in FROSTBORN: THE MASTER THIEF, I was bored with her character, so I threw in that she was half-dark elven and used to be an assassin.

And THAT really changed the series, because I hadn’t originally designed the world of FROSTBORN to have half-elves. So the Artificer, the Anathgrimm, the Traveler, and Third, all of that came from that one impulse decision to make Mara’s character half dark elf.

Antenora was also a later addition to the series (her character was originally supposed to be male, but I didn’t think that worked and changed it at the last minute), and I didn’t think of the idea of the Sculptor until I was about halfway through FROSTBORN: THE FALSE KING.

But the overall arc of the series was planned out in 2012, and I’m looking forward to finishing at last in 2017!


can you make a monthly income writing?

Let’s talk about the business of writing today! Bradford emails to ask:

I am a new author with my first book out this week on amazon. I have read your frostborn series, Demonsouled series and the Ghost series. I have enjoyed them all so far and looking forward to reading the Ghost Exile series next.

Was hoping you might have a few tips on marketing. Do you have any recommended places to put my money for advertising.Also very curious at what book number did you finally start seeing a steady income? Ā I have read many a authors tale and some say 3 books others 5 books.

It’s important to remember that there are no guarantees of anything with writing or publishing, and especially with marketing. I’ve tried things that I thought were good ideas, but nothing happened. I’ve tried things on a whim that took five minutes, and it turned out to be wildly successful.

That said, I started seeing (relatively) steady income after eight books – the 1st three Demonsouled books, the 1st three Ghosts books, my Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide, and my Windows Command Line Beginner’s Guide. I had also made the first Demonsouled book free and the first Ghost book free. That especially did the trick, since it’s five years later and there are now ten Demonsouled books and eighteen Ghosts books (nineteen if you count Blade of the Ghosts).

I should also mention that I was something of an anomalous case because I was able to do all of that in four months. I had written the novels over the previous ten years and was unable to get them traditionally published, so I could self-publish them pretty swiftly. Additionally, my Ubuntu books was originally a long series of blog posts for one of my older websites, so I combined them together in a single book.

If I was starting now, I wouldn’t spend any money on advertising until I’ve got at least three or four books in the series. (I won’t really do anything to advertise CLOAK GAMES until after Ā the fifth book SHATTER STONE comes out, hopefully in December.) I’ve had good results with BargainBooksy, BookGorilla, and BookSends. Bookbub is the best, but you need a certain minimum number of reviews first, and they reject about 90 percent of their submissions, so persistence helps.

Of course, that is true of all things in life!


the romance AI

After editing some GHOST IN THE WINDS, I read a news article. Apparently Google is having its natural language algorithm scan romance novels in order to develop more “conversational” responses.

I dunno. Traditionally in science fiction artificial intelligence decides to destroy humans, but instead of the Terminator or the Matrix we might get a cybernetic version of theĀ Glenn Close character from Fatal Attraction.

I don’t think that would be an improvement. šŸ™‚


how did I learn to write non-fiction?


Antonio asks:

“How in the world do you write so much and such diverse topics?

How did you learn both fiction and non-fiction writing?”

How did I learn to write non-fiction? Long story.

First, I learned the fundamentals in high school. IĀ took a journalism class from a very competent teacher, who taught me the three basics of non-fiction writing: 1.) Avoid passive verbs, 2.) Answer the questions “who, why, where, when, and how”, 3.) You can write an article on any topic by sticking to the basic structure of Introduction/Thesis, Point A, Point B, Point C, and Conclusion, with additional Points added as necessary.

This was to serve me in excellent stead later in life.

Jumping ahead to 2005, DEMONSOULED was published, and author blogs were all the rage back then. Since I wanted DEMONSOULED to sell lots of copies (it didn’t) so the publisher would buy the sequel (they didn’t), I started an author blog, and promptly ran into a problem.

Namely, I didn’t have anything to blog about. The trouble about writing non-fiction is that you need something to write about.

So I tried blogging about various observations and witticisms, but nobody read them, and I gradually started to lose interest until I accidentally did something clever.

Namely, I complained about a Ubuntu Linux problem.

My day job is in IT, and Ubuntu Linux is the most popular version of Linux, and it turns up in a lot of server rooms. Back in early 2008, I upgraded a machine from Ubuntu 7.10 to Ubuntu 8.04, and in the process the upgrade broke the file sharing functionality. I happened to complain about it on my blog, and the next day I noticed that the blog post had gotten over 60 hits from Google searches. Apparently a lot of people were having that problem, and turn to Google in search of solutions, and so came to my blog.

That suggested possibilities.

I started writing more about Ubuntu Linux and the various things you could do with it – SSH, Samba, web servers, WordPress, and so forth – and my blog traffic climbed steadily, spiking up a bit with every new release of Ubuntu. Soon the site was getting hundreds of hits a day, and then thousands. I started experimenting with Google Adsense ads on the site, and at its peak in 2011 and 2012 it was getting five thousand hits a day and bringing in a few hundred dollars in ad revenue every month.

In fact, it was going so well, and I was so disgusted with the traditional publishing industry, that after I wrote CHILD OF THE GHOSTS in 2010, I decided to stop writing novels and focus entirely on the Linux website. Maybe I would do a short story from time to time if I saw a call for submissions that looked promising, but that would be it.

Then in 2011 I found the Kindle, and discovered self-publishing ebooks. After I got the rights back to DEMONSOULED, I self-published that, and then I realized my various posts on Ubuntu could make a book. So in April of 2011 I combined them, rewrote them, and self-published THE $0.99 UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE, later renamed to simply THE UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE. It sold really well – it was my first book to reach 10,000 copies, as it happens.

However, I also decided to write one more novel to finish off DEMONSOULED, so I wrote SOUL OF SERPENTS, and after I made DEMONSOULED free, the novels started to sell more copies than the nonfiction books, so I’ve been focusing on that ever since.

So that’s how I learned to write nonfiction – real-time feedback from blogging! I don’t do as much nonfiction these days, since all my attention goes into novels. That said, if I lose my day job, I’ll add in non-fiction, since it’s easy to do 500 words here or there as you work on a novel.


on writing speed


Image credit BBC.Ā 

I receivedĀ a few questions about writing speed lately, since I can usually do a rough draft in a month.

Typically, when I’m trying to write something new, I’ll do 3,000 to 4,000 words a day, more if possible. It doesn’t always happen – sometimes other stuff just takes priority, and there are things more important than writing (I missed a couple days last week because of said priorities) – but I do it whenever possible. And sometimes I surprise myself – if I’m tired and want to finish for the day, if I push a little further, sometimes I can go farther than I planned. Like on yesterday, I thought I would only write 4,000 words of GHOST IN THE PACT and then play Pillars Of Eternity, but I kept going and pushed to 7,000 words.

Now, that might sound impressive, but it just takes practice to write that fast, and I know people who can write a lot faster. I’ve written something like 50 novels at this point, and it’s a lot easier to write quickly on the 50th novel than on the 1st!

So, how did I learn to write that fast?

Basically, I failed into it.

I think it took me five or six tries to finish a novel for the first time. The first time I actually finished a novel, I started it in January, and I managed to finish it finally in August. I insisted on doing a thousand words a day, and it finally turned into this 330,000 word monstrosity. (This is when I learned the value of outlining thoroughly in advance.) When I wrote DEMONSOULED, I started it in August and finished it in December.

Originally I stuck with 1,000 words a day, but when I wrote SOUL OF SERPENTS in 2011 I upped it to 1,500 words a day, and started the book in May and finished it in mid-July. As it turns out, having people actively waiting for the next book is an excellent motivator to write! In 2012 I pushed up to 2,000 words a day. By the time 2013 rolled around, I hit my stride and dialed it up to 3,000 words a day,Ā and have tried to stick to it ever since.

So I think it just takes practice, just like acquiring any other skill.

That said, finishingĀ the first novel feels like an immense hurdle. It’s THE BOOK, and you think a lot about finishing THE BOOK or worrying about being unable to do so. I suppose the first time doing anything, whether writing a book or running a 5k or asking someone out on a date or driving a car or whatever, the first time is just the hardest. The trick is, of course, is that once THE BOOK is done, you write the next one, and the next one, and keep going. Every time you learn new tricks, and get a little better and a little faster.

Now, during this process, a lot of people realizeĀ that writing’s not for them. That’s fine – we all have different strengths. Or people realize they detest the business side of writing, whether in traditional publishing or self-publishing. That’s also fine – I stopped writing novels in 2010 because I had lost all respect forĀ traditional publishing (I was going to focus on my Linux website), but fortunately I found out about the Kindle in 2011, and I took to the business of self-publishing very well. Not everyone does. I used to be baffled why certain writers didn’t self-publish, but then I realized they couldn’t – they were either unwilling or simply unable to learn the skills required, just as I didn’t want toĀ master the networking necessary to succeed in traditional publishing.

But if you do realize that writing is for you, and you don’t mind the business side of it, and you do stick with it, eventually it does get easier. šŸ™‚