Amazon release: Change of Heart (Endless Forms 3)

I know I said Innocence Reborn was the next novel I’d release, but this one slipped in. Today, March 24, you can pick up Change of Heart, the third in my Endless Forms paranormal detective series, on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

What is real, and what is within our minds?

Cam Weir has seen things no human being should ever look upon. Once, he was a skeptic, believing that monsters were nothing more than figments of the imagination. Hallucinations, certainly not reality. But now he knows the truth.

And the truth is only getting stranger, for this case doesn’t match those he has investigated. Details are different. Motives are unclear. Worst of all, the gruesome murder of an accountant will lead Cam to a frightening conclusion. Because this monster will strike too close to his heart.

The Kindle version is $3.49, while the paperback format costs a little more at $9.50, but it’s worth a few extra dollars to have the physical book in your hands, isn’t it? And if you want access to all my works, make sure to check out my Patreon, where you’ll find everything.

Although all my writing is currently on hold, I do plan more in the Endless Forms series. Pitch Shift is the 4th book, and it will come one of these days, I promise. So enjoy Change of Heart, and keep reading!

Meet the family

Innocence Reborn is my newest novel, the first in the Orphans of the Stars sci-fi series, and it’s coming to Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats on June 9! Remember to check out the free prologue on my Patreon, and enjoy this look at the story’s characters.


The primary story of Orphans of the Stars as a whole, and particularly Innocence Reborn, centers on children. Some are fairly young, some are nearing adulthood, but all are underage. As the story progresses, they come to be one big family. Not always a happy family, thanks to the events of the novel, but they all know they’re stuck together, that their fates are intertwined. So let’s take a quick look at each of them.

Main characters

First up are the “main” characters, those whose perspectives we see. All told, of the 17 on the Innocence roster, ten of them get time on stage in the first novel, with a few others having their chance to shine later in the series.

  • Levi Maclin, age 15, is a space nut. Oldest of three children, he’s enamored with space, and he loves the idea of traveling through the starry void. Adding to that, he has those natural leadership qualities that make him take charge in a pinch. Levi can get stressed, and his decision-making abilities aren’t always the best, but he feels personally responsible for those placed in his care, in a way that, for example, a military captain wouldn’t.

  • Justin Maclin, age 11, is Levi’s younger brother. Your typical preteen, for the most part, Justin tries to play the tough guy. He’s not a bully by any means, but he does consider himself very masculine. He likes cars, space fighters, action movies, and things like that. Anything fast and furious, anything that explodes. He’s good at making friends, too, as long as they’re other boys.

  • Gabriel Cross, technically the oldest boy on the Innocence at age 16, doesn’t want to be a leader. He’s more of a thinker, a problem-solver. At home in Amarillo, he’s on the track team, which leaves him very put off by the idea of a place where you can’t run. So he sometimes complains about being in space, but when there’s work to be done, he’ll do it. Of the whole group, Gabriel’s also the most paternal and charitable, especially watching out for his siblings by birth, but ready to help anyone in need.

  • Hanna Laviola, also 16, earns the title of oldest overall by a few months over Gabriel. She’s a native and lifelong resident of Marshall Colony’s capital city of New Venezia, where she has a summer job wrangling the children of the elite visiting Outland Resort. But she likes that. She loves working with children, and her career plans revolve around daycares, preschools, and the like. Ending up in a situation where she has to become the counselor to sixteen scared kids, all while floating around in space, never crossed her mind.

  • Ed Tran, age 15, isn’t a prodigy. He doesn’t consider himself a genius, and he isn’t even sure he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. But his father is a doctor who talked his way into a paid vacation at Outland Resort, ostensibly to study the effects of its environment on visitors. Ed comes along for the ride, because it’s summer, he’s out of school, and maybe he can make a few friends among the upper crust. And he has picked up some medical knowledge, which is a good thing to have on a ship full of kids.

  • Lucas Joshi is only 13 years old, but his future is already planned. He’ll inherit the family fortune, and what a fortune it is: stock options, cash, property, and probably even mineral rights for a lunar crater or two. His mother is the bigwig in the family, and she taught her son well, showing him the ins and outs of business firsthand. As the proverbial rich kid, he doesn’t like interacting with other children without a reason, which leads some to see him as shy and withdrawn. But behind that quiet exterior lurks a growing intellect and a corporate-trained ruthlessness.

  • Mika Harriman is 14, and she’s a colonial girl through and through. She loves her home on Marshall Colony, and she can even stand Outland Resort. After all, her mom works there, so it obviously helps the colony. In most respects, Mika’s a typical teenage girl, and that makes her hard to describe in broad strokes. She has an intelligence and an analytical brain, which has led her to find interest in STEM fields, but her emotions sometimes get the better of her. At her age, that can lead to fireworks.

  • Tori McConnell, despite being 11 years of age, would boldly claim to have spent a decade in space. She really hasn’t, though. It’s more like five summers, a couple of winter breaks, and the occasional jaunt to an orbital station. All of that came in the company of her uncle, Glenn; her parents died when she was very young, and he took her in, adopting her and bringing her with him whenever possible. Tori considers herself a space expert, a model crewman, and someone twice as old as she really is.

  • Nic Cross, also 11, is Gabriel’s little brother. He just started middle school in the year before his big brother won a vacation to the stars, and he’s loving it. Strong for his age—he’s already the star of his school’s wrestling team—and loyal to his friends, he knows he’s not cut out to be the captain of a spaceship. Instead, he’d rather find other ways to help. All he wants is the chance to be in control of his own life, just like any middle child.

  • Derry Glass, age 12, is shy, slight, and smart. Although she’s very often timid and untalkative, she can get a bit…intense. Especially when she finds something she likes. On top of that, she’s good at reading a situation, at seeing the possibilities. While she saw quite a few of the other children at Outland Resort while her father was working on upgrading its computer network, she barely said a word to any of them, instead spending her days reading, watching movies, learning about the world around her.

Supporting characters

Though the story of Innocence Reborn is told through the eyes of these ten adolescents (using the term very loosely in a couple of cases), they aren’t the only important characters. The other seven on the ship feature prominently. They’re always around, and some play big roles later in the series.

  • Malik Almadi, at 14, is on his way to into high school, and he dreams of being a pilot like his father. Lucky for him, the elder Almadi got assigned to the defense of Marshall Colony. So, while school’s out for the summer, he gets to watch some of the very boring patrol work that goes on in a system on the outskirts of human space. That’s enough to satisfy Malik, even as he dreams of a more exciting life.

  • Reza Vinter, 13 years old, belongs to a prestigious New England family. His brother Karim even has a job working for the State Department, giving him the opportunity for a vacation. A chance to make connections, except that Reza is an introvert in the extreme. Bookish, quiet, and altogether nerdy, he’d rather be anywhere than a resort, let alone one 70 light-years from home.

  • Alicia Cross, youngest of three at 10, looks up to her brothers Gabriel and Nic. But she’s also her own girl, with her own life. She likes to explore, loves being adored as the “baby” of the family, and lives in the moment in a way her siblings barely understand.

  • Rachel Shao is a mere 9 years old, and she’s lived with her grandparents in New Venezia since she was 4. They’re all she knows. Rachel hasn’t really had time to grow much as either a character or a person yet. She paid attention to all her grandmother’s traditional cooking lessons, but not all the math classes at school. And she sometimes has trouble making friends, mostly because she’s quick to cry when things go wrong.

  • Aron Alvarez, 10, is the last of the Marshall colonials. He’s a gamer, and another child of an Outland employee. But he’s never once been in space, and it shows. He gets sick. Even after he grows accustomed to a lack of gravity, he’s still not comfortable swimming through the air. Fortunately, two other boys about his age take him under their wing, but he’d just rather play games. He’s got a lot of them, and he sometimes feels like he’s the only one who knows how to keep them organized.

  • Sora Okada, another 9-year-old, doesn’t have much to show for those years. She’s a fairly average student, quick to startle or scare, hard to talk to. Just being on a new planet overwhelms her, and that’s before she ends up on a spaceship, separated from her family, with only a bunch of strange kids for company.

  • Holly Maclin, youngest of the lot at 7, is Levi’s little sister. It’s hard to talk about her without spoiling the novel, though. Here, I’ll just say that she’s fond of her brothers, and that she is young enough that wonder comes from more than space for her.

Through the eyes of a child

My novel Innocence Reborn is coming to Amazon in paperback and ebook form on June 9! You can check out the prologue absolutely free over on my Patreon starting February 9. In the intervening months, I’ll use this space to talk about the setting, the characters, and the writing process for what has become one of my favorite stories.


I’ve said before that I enjoy writing child characters. There’s something to be said for the simple pleasure of seeing the world from the point of view of a boy or girl. Immature by our standards, innocent, sometimes bewildered by the world around them, they can yet see a wonder that we adults have lost. When written well, a child’s perspective can be beautiful, if for no other reason than it takes us, the readers, back to childhood ourselves.

In the past, I have written numerous stories revolving around children, and quite a few had teens or even preteens as the protagonists. Lair of the Wizards, for example, revolves around a group of teenagers (and, for one of them, his 8-year-old sister) finding a secret base full of advanced technology. Two of the short stories of The Linear Cycle are told from such a perspective, as well. “Either Side of Night” tells of 11-year-old Dusk’s journey from a scared boy in a world gone mad to a veteran soldier of a zombie apocalypse, while “The Final Sacrifice” is the heartbreaking story of Tod, the bullied teen who discovers the deadly secret of the power within his blood.

Those are all great stories. Even “Miracles” isn’t too bad, and it’ll be better once I finally edit it; that short, which I used to use as my introduction, concerns twins, Thomas and Mira, on their way across the Atlantic in the 1730s, and it was my first completed work centered on children.

It hooked me. When I finished “Miracles” back in 2015, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I explored the perspective of youth. Lair came not longer after—well, it started around then, at least.

Let me admit right now that I am not a fan of anime. I don’t know what it is, but something about the Japanese style of animated entertainment, in all its various guises, rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s from growing up on a steady diet of Hanna-Barbara and MGM cartoons. Maybe it comes from never really going in for JRPGs until I was in my 20s. Whatever the case, I just don’t “get” anime. Sometimes the animation itself bugs me. If not that, then the overwrought drama in the voice acting. And if I can get past both of those, the beats of an Asian story don’t align with the Western sort I know and write. No matter what, my mind will find some reason for rejection.

That’s not to say I haven’t tried. And the premise sometimes catches my attention, even if I’m turned off by the presentation. That was the case for Sword Art Online, for instance. Watching the first two episodes of that (because my brother had it on while I was playing on his gaming PC) helped inspire my novel Before I Wake.

Inspiration struck again a few years ago. The circumstances were the same: I was playing, if I recall correctly, Civilization IV. Something that really doesn’t trigger my storyteller instincts, for sure. But my brother’s TV habits caused me to see the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Once again, I wasn’t hooked, but I was intrigued.

Many of my stories come about because I see a concept or topic and think, “What if I wrote that?” That’s how it was with The Linear Cycle: what if I wrote something like The Walking Dead? Heirs of Divinity (I will release that book one of these days, I promise!) was my attempt at crossing Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle with Harry Potter. And the Otherworld series, as I’ve stated in the past, came as a direct response to Stargate Universe‘s cancellation.

So here I am, watching a reasonably hard sci-fi story about a group of kids who have to grow up fast on a spaceship. Could I write that? What if I did? At the same time, I had started getting very heavily into The Expanse by James S. A. Corey, a somewhat different envisioning of a future involving interplanetary colonization.

Those two, then, were the ingredients for my special concoction. But I knew I would have to give it my own flavor.

The premise

I titled my series Orphans of the Stars. That’s a nod to the anime that provided the seed, obviously, but I feel it’s one of my best titles nonetheless. As a hook, it just sounds so right. The first book I named Innocence Reborn, a phrase derived from a line in the Nightwish song “Bless The Child”. And those two names were portentous in a way I didn’t expect at the start.

If you’ve read my articles on here, you know I’m a worldbuilding nut. And a space nut. This was my first attempt at space-based science fiction, and I wanted to do it right. So I set out to create a story, a universe, I would want to experience.

First off, I wanted something not too Star Trek. Not because I don’t like it, but it’s been done to death, and there are aspects of that universe I think are out of place. So this isn’t a utopian future, nor is it the capitalist dystopia of The Expanse. And I didn’t go for the ultra-hard style of sci-fi that the purists prefer, because the idea I had requires some bending of physics.

In the end, I made three main breaks with our world. First, in the Orphans setting, FTL travel is possible through something broadly similar to hyperspace or warp drives. Travel between star systems does take time, but not the ages we would need. This allows for colonization of terrestrial planets, which are common enough to make that worth the effort. (This isn’t so outlandish that it’s unbelievable. Current estimates place the number of potentially habitable worlds as high as 1.6 per star.)

Second, my setting has viable reactionless propulsion. This is technically a violation of Newton’s Third Law, yes, but 2016 brought out a number of possible loopholes in that law. Emdrives, the Mach Effect, and Q thrusters were all being talked about as the next big thing, and it still seems to me that something like the Unruh Effect can allow for a much more efficient conversion of energy to acceleration…if we can make it scale. The Orphans-verse can, though no one in it knows precisely how it works.

Finally, the humans in this story have developed a form of cryogenic stasis that can be used in a pinch. Best of all, it’s even reversible! This one was absolutely pivotal to the plot, so I don’t even care how unbelievable or unrealistic it is. Stasis, suspended animation, or whatever you call it, it’s in.

Other than those, the setting for Orphans is…humanity. Give us about 400 more years of development, a few superscience techs, and off we go. Maybe I’ve been conservative in my projections. I hope so, but time will tell.

So, the book has spaceships, including some specifically intended for defense. Humanity (I always use that term rather than “mankind” in the story itself) has expanded from our cradle of Earth into the stars. Colonies on the Moon and Mars, the former being more an Antarctic-style base than a place where people live, came first. Then, a planet in the Alpha Centauri system, which may or may not be Proxima b. And we went on from there. By the time of the prologue, our most distant reach is about 70 light-years away, around a small star named Kiosa—the name was the result of an algorithm I developed.

Kiosa hosts an Earthlike planet, so of course people would try to live there. Now, a peculiarity of the setting is that essentially all off-world colonies are isolated, whether underground or in domes. Marshall Colony, sitting near a bay on Kiosa’s habitable world, is one of them, comprising three domed cities and an outlying resort. Outland Resort, rather, the place to go when you really, really want to get away from Earth.

Now, you’ll notice that there’s one thing missing from this setting that’s present in just about every other sci-fi story not intended to be excruciating in its realism. “Where are the aliens?” you might be asking. Well, that’s to come, but first, back to the children.

The crew

Levi Maclin is fifteen years old, and he’s essentially me at 15: enamored with space. As luck would have it, his family has saved up enough money to go to the greatest resort in the galaxy for their summer vacation. It’s through his eyes we look in the prologue, and that establishes what I feel is the series’ most important aspect: the wonder.

Space is wonderful. I’ve thought that for decades. As a child, I eagerly read and watched anything to do with space, from accounts of the Apollo missions to planetary tours on PBS to that awful Space Camp movie. Which, come to think of it, might have been another inspiration.

With Orphans of the Stars, I wanted to recapture that feeling I had when I first imagined floating in zero gravity. I wanted to envision what an impressionable youth would feel upon leaving the entire solar system behind for the first time. In the prologue, a lot of that comes through. Levi floats. His sister Holly, a mere six years old, swims through the cabin of the shuttle transporting them to the cruise liner. The middle child, Justin, gets sick, because that’s a thing that happens, too. My books are real. My characters face real problems.

Those three are the most important characters for the prologue, but the rest of the book adds in quite a few more, none of them what we would consider adults. Gabriel Cross, a teenaged genius from Texas, meets Levi along the way, and they start to become friends. His siblings and Levi’s hang out together in the resort, and all of them recognize that they’re not the upper crust of its clientele.

Some of the others are. Lucas is the son of an important executive, Reza the younger brother of a State Department official. Derry’s father has money, but he’s there to do work for the colony, not to relax in a bungalow. Ed’s father pulled the old trick of getting a vacation in the form of a grant.

A few of the children, by contrast, grew up on the colony world. Hanna actually has a summer job at the resort as a kind of kid wrangler. Aron and Mika both have mothers employed by Outland. Rachel might not have been born there, but she lives with her grandparents and barely remembers the planet that was her first home.

The rest all find ways to get mixed up in all this, too, because the events at the prologue’s end bring them together, whether they realize it then or not. Once the meat of the story starts, all sixteen come onto the stage, and they find themselves in an untenable position: adrift and alone, lost in the void of space.

I’ve written disasters through a child’s eyes. That was “Either Side of Night”. With Innocence Reborn, I wanted something more. The children who become the ship’s crew have already survived the disaster. Now, they have to work out where to go from there. They’re not heroes, even if some of them wish they were. No, they’re just…kids.

As this is an ongoing series of full-length novels, I get to explore that dynamic. Everyone has to grow. Some are growing in a different way than others, and that makes this very much a coming-of-age series. But they all have to learn how to act mature, how to perform tasks intended for someone much older. And sometimes they fail, because they’re not perfect. They’re not larger than life.

But they’re still awed by the wonder of it all. That’s what I was going for, and I really think I got it.

Release: The Frozen North (Tales of Two Worlds 1)

It’s time to build some more bridges to the Otherworld. This set of 6 stories is called Tales of Two Worlds, and it focuses on the “in-between” times following last year’s Point of Origin and Future in Sight.

First up is “The Frozen North”, and here’s a blurb for you:

The other world touches ours in many places, and Damian Enfield believes he can find one of them. The problem? It lies deep in the Canadian wilderness, miles away from any modern civilization, locked in ice for the winter months. Even after he locates the most promising site, time is short, and his team must contend with not only the elements, but other forces beyond their control, for some foes may pose as friends.

As always, my Otherworld stories are available on my Patreon for a mere 3 dollars per month. And you get all of them: 23, as of this writing. That’s too good a deal to pass up.

Make sure to check back in March, when you’ll get the second installment of this series, “Alone With Myself”. Until then, remember to keep reading!

A decade in review

Wow. We’re just hours away from the year 2020. In my childhood, that was always the future. I knew I’d see 2000 before I became an adult, so my eyes were set on a more distant goal. One that is now upon us.

Back then, I had a pretty good idea of how things would be in this coming decade, and…not one of them has come true. I don’t have a flying car, or a personal spacecraft, or a wife and kids. People don’t live on the moon, there hasn’t been a manned mission to Mars. There’s no cure for cancer or AIDS or even the common cold.

But the biggest change of all from how my younger self saw the future is that I’m an author. Thirty years ago, I wanted to be a doctor. Twenty, and I thought I could be a scientist. At the start of this decade, I assumed I could make a living off repairing computers. At no point did I ever expect that I would spend so much of my time writing fiction. It wasn’t until 2012 that I seriously considered it. Thanks to depression, a lack of drive, and far too many family problems, I’ve somehow become what I never thought possible, and…I’m content with that. Maybe not happy, but I’ve long since learned that true happiness is not something I’ll ever find. So this will have to do.

Ten years of writing…or more

Technically, my first piece of fiction came in 1992. It was nothing special, just some school assignment where I had to write a two-page story for some kind of Earth Day thing. I hated it, and still somehow got judged one of the best in the class. At the time, I just wanted it to be over.

Later, in high school, I wrote a bit of nonfiction. Again, I had an English assignment where I was singled out for having the highest grade, a situation I still, two decades later, can’t figure out for the life of me. In my free time, however, I actually did begin a couple of extended technical works. One involved teaching assembly language by way of creating a toy operating system, while the other was…something to do with Java, maybe? I was big into Java in the early 2000s, I remember that much.

At the end of the last decade, I started another “popular” technical book, this time on conlangs. Worlds Within Words is its name, and I’ve seriously considered going back and finishing it. Not many people have written a full book-length tutorial on creating a language, after all.

But the past ten years have been, for me, the decade of writing. I tried Nanowrimo for the first time in 2010, but I failed. The story wasn’t too bad, really. Set in 1876, it was a cross between a western and The Walking Dead. Nowadays, I would consider it a part of my paranormal universe, so…yeah, I could see myself returning to it one of these days. Maybe I’ll get more than 3 chapters done, right?

After that failure, I didn’t try my hand again at fiction for a couple of years. My grandfather’s stroke, and the complications that led to his death, stopped me from doing a second Nanowrimo in 2011. Instead, I had to wait another year. But that’s when things got real. For 2012, I had an idea, a plan, a story. The 50,000-word goal for the month went down with some difficulty—I distinctly remember staying in my room on Thanksgiving, struggling to get a chapter done.

The streak

The 16 chapters I wrote in November 2012 became the first quarter of Heirs of Divinity, which I still need to edit, revise, and release one of these days. It’s not exactly my best work (it was my first completed story, so of course it’s unpolished), but I truly believe the setting, plot, and characters all have potential. This one’s a kind of historical fantasy, my first attempt at the genre-bending I’ve made my trademark.

I placed this one in Europe, 1737. The very center of one of my favorite eras, because the Enlightenment, to me, is the most important time in human history. And that shows in the text. Heirs of Divinity is a struggle to understand the world, a fight between the nascent study of the sciences and the old forces of religion that seek to keep their hold on knowledge and power. And lying in the shadows is magic, mostly forgotten, if not repressed, but still lurking in the hearts and minds of some. All in all, this was an epic novel, in both length and scope, and I’ll freely admit that I bit off more than I could chew. But I did it. I wrote a 700-page doorstop over the course of some 9 months.

And that was only the beginning. Since then, I have not failed at either writing 50,000 words or completing a story (or even both!) in the month of November.

Fresh off my success with Heirs, I noticed on the calendar that Nanowrimo 2013 was coming up soon. What would I do for an encore?

My baby

In the summer of 2013, I created a setting. Originally, it was intended to be nothing more than a linguistic playground, a chance to make a set of interrelated conlangs and maybe dabble in some alternate history. “Hardcore” worldbuilding, as I’ve termed it. There just wasn’t a story in there, at least not in my original plans.

That changed as November neared. What if I did write a story in this fantasy-like world? So, as the days ticked down, I polished the setting, removing most of the fantasy elements (but keeping the idea of magic as a cultural aspect), and I searched for a way to make something out of it. Thus was born the Otherworld.

The impetus for the setting was, in fact, the cancellation of Stargate Universe in 2011, after only 2 seasons. I didn’t like the show at first (it was a poor replacement for SG-1 and Atlantis, in my opinion), but it grew on me when its second season became more serious. The episodes “Common Descent” and “Epilogue” profoundly affected me, and stayed in the back of my mind for over 2 years. When I started thinking about languages, and the possibility of a world inhabited by humans that hadn’t been in contact with Earth for centuries, if not millennia, I could only think back to a show killed before its time.

A lot of Otherworld has its origins in what I guess you could call my take on a Stargate setting. The inhabitants of Talac are descended from humans transported there some 10,000 years ago via a wormhole created by an unknown, yet highly advanced, civilization on Earth. But I went overboard. My creation is intended to be scientifically rigorous, from racial evolution to astronomy and even to food. Sure, the mechanism by which the humans arrived in the other world is a handwave, as are the conditions that made it habitable in the first place, but nothing else really is. In fact, I’ve spent years carefully scrutinizing archaeology papers relating to the first inhabitants of the Americas, because I want to know if something breaks my assumptions. As yet, nothing really has. Except for being totally impossible, Otherworld is possible.

The list goes on

I wrote the first Otherworld story for Nanowrimo 2013. It didn’t get a title until years later, when I named it Out of the Past. In early 2014, I even made sequels, because those were intended all along. The book was supposed to be the pilot of a series (another nod to my inspiration). The next two and a half are the only stories I’ve ever scrapped, because they were…bad. Slower than even my usual writing, and they just didn’t feel fun. I’ve always said that I want to write stories I’d like to read, and I didn’t like reading Episodes 2-4. So I threw them out.

Not much else happened until late in 2014. Again, November rolled around. Again, I had an idea. My cousin passed away in January of that year, one of the factors leading to my depression. I often dreamed of him, some of the most vivid dreams of my life, and that eventually gave me the idea of a story about experiencing and controlling dreams. I’ll also give credit to Sword Art Online for this one, because my brother watched it while I played games on his PC. (Mine just wasn’t good enough at the time.)

Before I Wake remains one of the most emotional novels I’ve written. And it was the first one I ever let other people read. Indeed, it was the first I uploaded to Amazon’s KDP service, which gave me the wonderful opportunity to hold a paperback version of a book I wrote. That was almost 3 years ago now, and it still warms my heart to remember the day I opened that box.

After that, my writing became more serious, and much more prolific. “Satellites”, a frankly awful short story, came from a competition between myself and my brother. “Miracles” was a spin-off of Heirs of Divinity. “Either Side of Night” also started out as a kind of throwaway; it was my attempt at crossing fantasy with a zombie apocalypse, and I thought little of it at the time. Then I wrote the sequel, “The Last Captain”, as a personal dare. (Can I write a short story in a week? Apparently, the answer is yes.) Those gave way to four more, the Linear Anthology, which eventually became the Linear Cycle.

By November of 2015, my mind had drifted back to Otherworld. I wanted to try again, to go back and finish the 8-part series I had originally envisioned. Nothing in the Nanowrimo rules says you can’t write a sequel, and I really did start over. The City and the Hill was the result of that one, and the other 6 parts came in the following months: A Matter Settled, Written in Black and White, The Bonds Between Us, Situational Awareness, A Peace Shattered, Long Road’s End.

Around that time, when I needed a break from that setting, I began Lair of the Wizards. I’d originally intended that one as a series of shorter novellas that told the tale of a small group of teens in a Renaissance-era fantasy setting (I prefer these to the traditional High Middle Ages style) finding a secret bunker of an advanced civilization. In a way, it’s almost the reverse of Otherworld, which is probably why I got the idea in the first place.

Anyway, I wrote a few chapters, then realized this was not something that could be wrapped up in a novella or four. So Lair had the dubious distinction of being over 60,000 words long, yet still residing in my “short stories” folder. I never said I was infallible.

Nocturne

It was fun, but I put it on the shelf for a while, because upcoming events had given me a new idea. The Great American Eclipse of 2017 was coming up soon, and I started planning for it years in advance. As I’ve said before, I had the good fortune to live in the path of totality, so while some people traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to see the spectacle, I just stepped outside.

But the very notion of eclipses gave me an idea in the closing quarter of 2016. Why not a fantasy novel where magic revolves around the sun and moon? The “moon magic” people would be the bad guys, of course, because they’re the “dark” ones. October 2016 saw me coming up with that idea (in the shower, where all great ideas are born), then fleshing it out into something worthy of the eclipse.

Seven weeks. It took me seven weeks to write Nocturne. Less than fifty days for a novel that clocked in at around 400 pages. And I still consider it my best. It just clicked, in a way nothing else in my life ever has. I won’t call it perfect, but something about the book felt so…right. Words flowed freely. I would wake up each day with something to add. It was great, truly magical, quite possibly my peak as an author in terms of quality.

The year of the writer

But the peak in quantity was yet to come. 2017 sucked. Politics, family troubles, and my deepening depression made me want to do nothing at all. But then I didn’t want to do nothing at all, because that was, and is, anathema to me. So I wrote. And I kept on writing. And I didn’t stop writing in 2017 until 2018 arrived.

I finished Lair of the Wizards, which came in at a hefty 230,000 words. I wrote 10 new stories in the Otherworld setting, including 6 “bridge” novellas (“The Code Breaker”, “The Red Magician”, “The Control Variable”, “The Dark Continent”, “The Lessons Learned”, “The Candle’s Flame”) and the first four novels in the “second” season: The Second Crossing, Alignment Adjustment, Waters Rising, What We Leave Behind. The second half of the Linear Cycle came in this frantic period, including “Beneath the Surface”, which has one of the absolute saddest scenes I’ve ever written.

That did for the first 8 months of the year, but I wasn’t done yet. Three short stories set in the 1920s, revolving around psionic talents, which became the Modern Minds series. A teen space adventure, Innocence Reborn, which has become one of my favorite settings. Thanks to a pitch from my aunt, I wrote a paranormal detective novel, The Shape of Things, which has also spawned a series. In December 2017, I slipped in what I thought was going to be a theological dissertation disguised as a novella. Instead, I ended up with a paranormal romance involving a lonely nerd and a fallen angel. (I’m not above wish fulfillment.)

And then we have Nanowrimo for two years ago. Once again, I had come up with an idea. This time around, what if a gaming group got stuck in a world like that of their favorite RPG? Granted, it’s not the most original of premises, but I thought I could make it my own. Thus was born The Soulstone Sorcerer, and I very nearly died in childbirth. The final word count was somewhere around 150,000, and I wrote it in five weeks. I don’t know what possessed me, but I hope it’s been exorcised, because there were days where I came very close to a mental breakdown. And yet I couldn’t stop writing. There just wasn’t anything else for me to do. It was either write until I dropped, or just drop.

Change of pace

The final tally for 2017 was amazing, in my view. Twenty complete stories written, a 21st finished from its partial state. Over 1.2 million words. The numbers are mind-boggling no matter how you look at them. But I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace. It would kill me.

For 2018, I planned out a much less intensive schedule. Oh, I would finish the second season of Otherworld, and I did, with Falling Into Place, Whence We Came, Point of Origin, and Future in Sight. A sequel in space, Beyond the Horizon, and one for the monsters, The Beast Within. The massive Rise of the Wizards, a follow-on to Lair, which was now the first of the four-part Hidden Hills series (named after, no joke, the trailer park where my parents lived before I was born).

This year, strangely enough, my big inspiration came not in the fall, where I could use it for Nanowrimo, but much earlier. In fact, a dream I had in either late 2016 or early 2017 became a novel I wrote in 2018. In the dream, I saw a young woman walking across a blasted wasteland, the site of a massive battle involving both technological weapons and magic. The last battle, the dream called it, and you can’t tell me that’s not the perfect hook for a novel. So I took it and ran with it, and the end result is Shadows Before the Sun, which I’m holding in reserve on the off chance that a “real” publisher wants it. November paled in comparison, and the story I wrote then, Seasons Change, was nothing more than a kind of Otherworld prequel. (I’ve since released it for free, because I don’t think it’s worth paying for.)

Around this same time, something strange happened, something that had never happened to me before. I entered a relationship. An online relationship, to be fair, and it never advanced beyond that point, but it was new, and it took up much of the time I had previously devoted to writing. She didn’t like the idea of me being an author, so it fell apart after only a few months, but those months changed my whole outlook on life.

Or so I thought.

Darkness and light

At last we come to 2019, the year we’re ending very soon. I won’t lie. It started out bad from any perspective. Barely two weeks in, and I seriously considered ending my life. That wasn’t because of the breakup (or not only that), but because I genuinely felt I had no future, no prospects. I was never going to be anything, so what was the point of even living? Fortunately, my better sense prevailed, but it was close. As in “I know where my brother keeps his gun” close.

This year’s writing hasn’t been anything special. I finished 7 new Otherworld stories in total. Six of those were more bridges: “The Frozen North”, “Alone With Myself”, “Secrets Uncovered”, “A Life Complete”, “Destiny Fulfilled”, and “The Price of Freedom”, while the seventh is the Season 3 premiere: Winds of Change. Another pair of Modern Minds shorts, the two-part “Fortress of Steel”, but I postponed the sixth, “Memory Remains” because I wanted to work on other projects. And this year saw new entries in the Orphans of the Stars and Endless Forms series: Homeward From Afar and Change of Heart, respectively.

Probably the biggest change compared to every other year of the decade, however, is that I will end this one in a nebulous sort of “on again, off again” relationship status. It started in June, and has stayed online-only since, but it got very…intense for a time that was all too brief. In October (two days after my birthday!), it entered the off phase, but she won’t call it over. So I don’t know. Writing characters in this kind of situation did not prepare me for living it.

Looking to the future

So that’s where I stand on the precipice of 2020. In a mere decade, I’ve written close to 60 stories. About 4 million words of fiction, not counting editing and the like. Sometimes, I think I’m done, I feel like taking a break, but I just can’t. There’s still too much to write, too many stories to tell. My ultimate goal is 100 total before my 40th birthday, and I have just short of 4 years to reach that. I still believe I can.

For 2020, I have 11 planned, plus Nanowrimo, which I don’t start thinking about until October. These include 7 for Otherworld, three for Modern Minds, and the fourth Orphans adventure, tentatively titled Time in the Sun. Another few sit on the back burner, waiting for their chance: a sequel to Nocturne which I’ve codenamed Black Sun, Legacy of the Wizards, and new stories to follow up The Soulstone Sorcerer and even Heirs of Divinity. Plus, I want to edit and release some of my back catalog. The Occupation Trilogy, which started with Shadows Before the Sun, still has two more novels, but those will have to wait a bit longer.

And that’s not counting my “seed” list. I have plenty of ideas that have yet to see the light of day, but tomorrow is the start of a new decade. I hope that means I’ll have time to give them a chance.

Novel month 2019 – Day 27 (finale)

Total word count: 58,071

And that’s a wrap. Chapter 9 done. Story done. One more notch on my belt, the 8th in a row. To recap:

  • 2012: Heirs of Divinity
  • 2013: Out of the Past
  • 2014: Before I Wake
  • 2015: The City and the Hill
  • 2016: Nocturne
  • 2017: The Soulstone Sorcerer
  • 2018: Seasons Change: An Othersides Story
  • 2019: Winds of Change

Nothing more to say, really. This one was fun and frustrating both, but I’m glad I chose to return to the Otherworld. What’s next for me? I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to tell you when I find it. Until then, thank you, and keep reading!

Release: Future in Sight (Return to the Otherworld 8)

This is it, the end of the line. Well, at least for this season. Here’s Future in Sight, Part 8 of Return to the Otherworld.

This is no longer the other world. For those who dwell here, whether by birth or choice, it is home.

Seven have now crossed the stars to take this place as their own, and their reasons are as unique as their personalities. Knowledge, science, acceptance, love, or lust, the outcome is the same. They are the colonists, the pioneers, and their numbers, they know, will grow with each passing year.

But being in this world means becoming a part of it, with all that entails. In a place no longer foreign, they are drawn into politics, intrigue, the games of a land not their own. Those around them, their families, friends, apprentices, and students, can do little but come along for the ride, and that ride is reaching its roughest section yet.

Last time, it was all about Earth. This time, it’s all about the Otherworld. Specifically, this story only has POVs from characters who live there. Whether they were born there, or simply moved, the Otherworld is their home and this is their story. And it’s about to get a lot bigger.

But not this year. Future in Sight marks the end of 2019, at least as far as this setting is concerned. Next year, I’ll be back with 6 new “bridge” stories, a set I’m calling Tales of Two Worlds. And then, in 2021, I hope to bring out Season 3 of the “main” series, which I’ve tentatively titles Adventures in the Otherworld. I’ll see you then!

Novel month 2019 – Day 24

Today’s word count: 1,412
Total word count: 52,889
Average word count: 2,203

No need for a projected total word count, since I’ve already crossed the 50K mark. All that matters now is finishing the story. While I didn’t get too far into Chapter 9 today, I do think I can reach the end by Wednesday. One thing I’m thankful for: Thanksgiving being so late this year.

Novel month 2019 – Day 23

Today’s word count: 2,613
Total word count: 51,477
Daily average: 2,238
Projected total: 67,143

Done with Chapter 8, done with 50K. But I’m not done with the story, so we’ll keep going. This chapter was just fun to write, because it’s a character in a situation I don’t (and technically can’t) fully understand, but also a character getting her first introduction to the Otherworld. So it was a challenge, but with that great sense of exploration I so love. Chapter 9 is sort of the same, but it’s also the finale. Time to pull out all the stops, you know?