2011 has seen a lot of changes in the book industry as well as in my personal life, so everything's changing. :)
The ebook market has really changed the game. I first started dabbling in it in 2010 so I could teach the setup to my Professional Writing students at the University of Oklahoma. With the way New York has downsized, there are fewer and fewer editors able to look at undiscovered writers. More of the burden is being put on agents, who have always been trying to sell new writers to publishers. The creative process got a little more bottlenecked at the same time that technology has allowed anyone to become a published writer -- and some of them very successful.
I grew intrigued by the sheer ease (after some learning curves that were incredibly tough) by which a writer can get a book out there. I started out learning stuff for my students and ended up becoming blown away by what was possible.
I've always loved genre books, but some of those can be tough to sell these days. Especially the Western, which people have said has been dead for decades. I think it's making a comeback of a type because many of today's young readers view the West as something almost as magical as a fantasy novel. My fourteen year old son has gotten to where he loves them and the way that a lot of cowboys have codes by which they live. He's fascinated by the morality landscape that is out there (and that is echoed by Raylan Givens in Justified), and I think that's probably because that code is as binding as the rules for magic in fantasy.
I've always wanted to write a Western, one of the true Westerns instead of a mystery or detective story set back in the Old West. A man against man or man against nature story. So I contacted a couple friends of mine who also share a love for Westerns, and we came up with Rancho Diablo, a fine little series now five books long and counting.
During the 1980s, a lot of Westerns got mixed up with sex novels along the way, and while those were interesting reads and remain popular, I wanted to do something different. Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and I sat down and hashed out what as become the backbone of our series as well as some future plans (including an upcoming cattle drive that will span several months). We remembered great shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The High Chapparral, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, and even Maverick. We talked about how we'd loved those shows and the moralistic values they had, but we also wanted the action and adventure we'd become accustomed to in other stores we'd read and written.
Rancho Diablo primarily centers on the Blaylock family, but the stories are growing along with the cast of characters. Bill Crider is currently working on a book that will tell some of the "almost-true" adventures of Gabby Darbins, the ranch's "town character." I enjoy writing the stories a lot because I get to dip back into all those Westerns I grew up on (Louis L'Amour, Luke Short, Max Brand, etc.) and mix it up with growing up in southeastern Oklahoma. I was something of a cowboy myself when I was a boy and a teenager. I rode horses long before I rode motorcycles. I'm pretty sure Bill and James feel the same way.
Another series that I've put together with a fellow writer (Paul Bishop) is Fight Card. Paul and I got to talking about a novella I'd done (Smoker) and how much he enjoyed the old boxing stories in the pulps, especially ones written by Robert E. Howard. We kicked things back and forth for a while, then came up with the series idea for 1950s boxing stories. After we did that, several other writers (Eric Beetner, Robert J. Randisi, Wayne D. Dundee, Gary Phillips) contacted Paul and told him they'd like to climb into the ring with us as well. The first three books are out and more are coming. Paul and I are both penning second books about our characters, so 2012 should have plenty of fights in store for fans of the "sweet science."
My artist buddy Keith Birdsong has started drawing cowboys lately, probably because he got interetested while doing the Rancho Diablo covers. He did a painting of a Confederate soldier that was just the bomb, and it got me to thinking that we could do books about that guy as well, so we're cooking up Cullen's first adventure too. This one is going to be a hell-for-leather ride about a guy trying to find something to live for and a place to carve a new life after the Civil War. He's lost everything, doesn't believe in anything, and has nothing except an iron will to survive, to kill or be killed.
My friend Phil Athans and I have got some projects going on as well. Two series, in fact. The first is called The Fathomless Abyss and is an SF series with true greats in the field: Mike Resnick & Brad Torgersen, Jay Lake, J. M. McDermott, and Cat Rambo. The intial anthology springboards into individual novellas about a group of humans and aliens trapped/living within an impossible world and what they make of that and their lives.
Since we grew up on great SF and sword and sorcery barbarian novels, Phil and I have also created another series, Arron of the Black Forest. The first book is out, and the second one is coming, and it's sporting one of the niftiest titles I've ever created.
I love the fact that ebooks are so versatile and that I can write some of the stuff I've always wanted to write. The coolest thing of all, though, is that the ebook has brought back the novella. Some stories just don't fit in a 5,000 word short story or an 80,000 word novel. Plus, I like reads (and writes!) that take less time. I have trouble fitting a big novel into my schedule. I like to read a book pretty much cover to cover when I it down with it, but that's just becoming harder and harder to do. And if I let a week go by, I tend to forget who is who and why I should care. I think a lot of readers will favor these shorter (30,000 word) reads. An adventure in a night that costs less than a movie ticket and about as much as a video rental. How awesome is that?
I'm also working hard in the New York publishing market because I love the opportunities I've got there. At first blush, there appears to be something of a segregation between New York "legacy" publishin and the emerging ebook phenomenon, but I think after a while readers won't notice the lines between them. They'll be looking for favorite authors in whatever venue they can find them, and hardworking authors will have plenty of stories to tell!
I've got a new military series coming from Tyndale publishing, home of the Apocalypse Dawn books and the NCIS books I wrote, and I'm really excited about that new cast of characters and the stories I'm writing. The first one is called A Thousand Deaths and will be out sometime in 2012. More on that as the pub date finalizes.
I'm also working on the second book in the Identity trilogy for Fantasy Flight Games. The first book is out now and was a lot of fun.
My agent and I are also putting together a military-SF trilogy called Warlord of Makaum that I've been wanting to do for a couple years.
I've got other projects I'm working on as well.
This is my 1,000th post on this blog. I'm pumped about that as well. I hope our venture into the new year brings hope, health, and happiness to everyone.