I was going to take a month off, read a load of screenplays, and focus on developing a screenplay for JET. That seemed like a useful pursuit, if somewhat daunting, given that I know about as much about writing a screenplay as I do about milking llamas. But never one to let my ignorance to deter me, I was all set, freshly rested from my vacation, and was dutifully reading my way through The Matrix (which is brilliant, BTW) when I got slammed in the noggin by an idea.
A book idea.
I tried to resist it, because I’ve already got a lot on my plate – with the new series I want to start, a plot for Fatal Deception mapped out, and a host of other BS, not the least of which is writing a script.
But it wouldn’t go away.
And then the kiss of death. I thought of a title. The perfect title for a different kind of novel – a bio-terror novel in the vein of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook.
Upon a Pale Horse.
An allusion to the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, Death, who brings with him pestilence, and is trailed by Hades. Revelation. End of the world stuff.
Now I have a title, and the basic premise for the story – a young attorney is propelled into a conspiracy involving the mother of all bio-weapons secrets, and only he is in a position to stop the effective end of the world as we know it.
Sort of a little bit of The Firm crossed with Marathon Man (only not really), with a big dose of Contagion thrown in.
When I get to the point where a title pops into my head, along with a high-level understanding of the plot, I’m generally screwed, because it will be all I can think about until I write it. Or at least some of it. So I did what I always do, which is write the first chapter, which was vivid in my mind – just to get it down on paper. That took me into the second chapter, again, solely to get the idea out, which then led to the third. So now I’m pregnant – I’m 7500 words into it, and I was just going to write a few paragraphs while I thought about the JET screenplay and how to best start my new series.
I’m telling myself I will absolutely not write any more of it until I have the new series at least penciled out – structure, plot, beats, characters – but I suspect it’s no good, because I’m getting that, “Oh, just one more chapter, just to see how it develops – no harm in that, is there?” feeling, which invariably ends like a three day drunk, with me rambling and incoherent, not remembering most of what I just did, and unsure whether I should regret it or celebrate it. Fortunately I think the chances of me waking up spooning a 300 pound sweating Samoan cook on a tramp freighter bound for Jakarta are pretty slim (unlike when I have a few cocktails, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), so things will probably turn out okay.
One of the reasons I’m kind of reluctant to write this kind of novel is because series sell better. Modern ebook readers seem to love series novels, whereas stand-alone books are a harder sell. And this isn’t a series. It’s a fully-formed set of new characters who are in this story, and no others. Which means from a commercial standpoint, I would probably be better off investing my energy in the new series and getting two or three books done by end of summer. But the muse doesn’t always give a damn about filthy lucre, or commercial viability, or maximizing resources, and sometimes you just have to lay back and think of England and not fight it. This is one of those times.
So until I lose interest or come to my senses, I’ll be working on Upon a Pale Horse, and temporarily shelving the other projects – they’ll still be there, so it’s not like I’m abandoning them. But I’ve found it’s best to write when you feel compelled to write it, not when it’s opportune, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Plus, the name is cool. I can do a lot with it. It even sounds a little more literary than my usual fare, which I’ve been leaning towards in my style of late. A good fit. Perhaps an auspicious sign. Hope so. I’ve even got a pretty good idea of how the cover should look. Not that I’ve really thought about this at all.
On other fronts, Blood of the Assassin and JET V – Legacy, are both selling well and are garnering universally rave reviews, which is gratifying, as they’re probably my best novels to date. I also have a lot of exciting things coming up I can’t talk about, but suffice it to say that after a blowout March and an extremely strong start to April, I’m happy guy. I won’t post hard income numbers, like some do, and I’m reluctant to even post sales figures (cough cough 22K+ cough) for March, but suffice it to say that it’s a big revenue number, and growing, for which I’m extremely grateful to my readers, who seem to be enthusiastically recommending me to others.
If you haven’t read those two books, do so – you won’t be disappointed. Even if you haven’t read any of the predecessors for Blood of the Assassin, it’s written so you can jump right in with that book and it all makes perfect sense. I recommend it as the perfect place to start with my work, if you’re curious. Either it’s all a case of mass hysteria, a la Wham! or Crouching Tiger, where large numbers of people lose their minds and think something that blows goats is actually good (I think of it as Charlie Sheen syndrome), or there’s some redeeming value to the books, and they deliver as promised.
Of interest is that I’m not by any means the cheapest of the bestsellers in my genre, nor am I heavily promoted, like others occupying plum positions on the lists. I’m actually at the top of the indie author price curve, in nosebleed territory for indies, kissing trad pub pricing, so this isn’t the case of “People will try anything if it’s only .99″ that we saw a few years ago. In my case, folks seem to feel that $5-$6 is a fair price to pay for several days of quality entertainment, and I celebrate their discriminating choice. More power to ‘em. I recently shelled out $7 apiece for a few 10 year old titles from a great author (James Lee Burke), and I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation doing so – even though I’m backlogged at around six months of reading on my Kindle, and growing. Which reminds me – if you want me to read or review your novel, I’m not accepting any more books at the moment, due to failing miserably to keep up with what I’ve already promised to look at. I know. I suck. Get over it, already.
That’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. If I keep motivated by the story, April will be the month of Upon a Pale Horse in the Blake household, and I’ll be pushing starting the series off until May, which isn’t the end of the world, I don’t think. I’m taking it day by day, which is sort of a first for me – I usually stick to a very disciplined writing and production schedule, but now that I’m a veteran, at month 22 of my self-pubbing career, I figure I can bend the rules a little and write something that’s captured my imagination.
Here’s to hoping that I do it justice and it captures yours, too. Guess there’s only one way to find out.