Creating new worlds, one story at a time

An Inconvenient Interruption

Some unpleasant news arrives

I hesitate to write this because I know some of you have (or have had) much worse stories, about yourselves or a loved one, but I promised myself to be honest and transparent to you both as friends and as readers of my novels. Last week I was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in the back of my tongue and in a lymph gland on my right neck. Today I learned that the cancer has not spread except for a suspected second lymph node. That is very fortunate. The standard treatment is surgery followed by radiation and possible chemo, or no surgery but more intense radiation and definitely chemo. I’ll be making a decision soon as time is of the essence.

I write this only to let you know that the sequel to “Payback” may take a bit longer than I had hoped. While I am vowed to keep writing and maintain as much normalcy as possible, I also want to focus all my energies on attacking this invasion. I think of it as a war against an invader, a substance made foreign by its corruption of the normal cells. It does not belong in my body and has to be destroyed without mercy; somewhat like Jason Richards’ approach to the outlaws in the “After the Fall” series, or Dan Stone’s attitude to the mob in “Payback”.

This is a very treatable cancer and I’m grateful for that. It definitely sharpens my focus on the fact that there is a horizon out there for all our lives and makes me feel I should live more in that reality; not to frighten or depress myself, but to help me live more fully each day, each hour. I am committed to keep writing; there are more stories in me that I’m anxious to get out (and they take some work to bring forth). So I’m sking for your patience as I deal with this inconvenient interruption and then get back on course.

Thank you all for your support and if you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of “Payback” (paperback or ebook). And, if you like it, write a review on Amazon; I seem to have stalled out at eleven reviews. One reader told me it was my  best so far. I hope he puts that in a review on Amazon.

Thank you all; more to come.

Genre Switching (not Gender Switching)

Genre switching; That’s not gender switching, but something more literary than physical. It’s what I’m going to attempt. Since I started writing I’ve had a desire to write in the “thriller” genre. As fate would have it, my first novel was inspired by a post apocalyptic story, so I began there. Post apocalypse (PA) stories have a certain freedom to them. You can create whatever type of world you want to put your protagonist into, but they do require you to build that world.

A thriller on the other hand exists within the framework of a known world. Admittedly it’s not a world in which most normal people exist. Thrillers are what they are because the characters experience life events far outside of normal; that’s why we read them.

But there are similarities:   both types of work have lots of action, a protagonist who must overcome challenges, and generally an antagonist to defeat. There can be fantastical situations to overcome (high tech dangers stopping short of science fiction) which can be taken further in PA literature.

My challenge, and it’s a bit scary, is that my readers have come to me through their interest in post apocalyptic or dystopian literature. Now I’m going to offer them something different. Will this fall flat? Who knows? But it is a concern to me as I approach publishing.

I take comfort that my first novel, Jason’s Tale, started from nowhere; I was non-existent on Amazon before publishing the story. However, it rose to reach #1 in both PA and dystopian genres. So I hope my first thriller, Payback, can be successful as well; (maybe not that successful as there are some real super stars in this genre). You can order the ebook as a “pre-order” on Amazon. When it is published in August, you’ll be sent the book automatically.

At least I now have a group of readers who know I exist and my hope is that many of them will follow me to this new novel. I’m working hard to make the writing my best. While I’ve read some PA novels that were not well written but did well in sales ranking, ButI firmly believe quality forms the basis of all successful writing in the long term.

Grunt work; that’s what I’m now I’m engaged in. The novel is written and has had one edit pass. But three trusted beta readers have commented that while most of the story is prime-time quality (yea!), the first part needs work. After the opening chapter, which they think is good, the story gets a bit lost in the “back story” that explains how the first chapter could have happened. It goes on for about fifty pages.

Structure/restructure: The work now is about structure, or restructure. This is not as creative as the original writing but has to be done carefully. A story becomes interlocked in many ways, so to take it apart one has to be very careful in order to not result in a chopped up narrative that doesn’t flow easily. Big time writers probably have staffs to work on issues like these. The rest of us have to figure it out for ourselves. That can actually be a good thing, providing lessons along the way. It’s just a bit daunting and different from the writing part. Luckily my issues are at the front where things are not strongly interlocked.

My first pass at this resulted in shaving the story around the edges. I took out a scene in the look-back part that I didn’t like and streamlined some others. I cut out five pages of the back story, but I’m not sure I’m there. The only thing to do is try another version with more serious chopping. First I’m going to read through what I changed to see if anything else jumps out at me. Waiting for the obvious solution to show up, but what the hell do I do if it doesn’t?

Oh, well, I’ve got a couple of weeks to solve this in order to still meet my August deadline. More to come on the polishing work. This is going to be good. A writer friend of mine says he can’t do a critical read because he gets so into the story he’s just turning pages without stopping; music to an author’s ears. Check out the book Here and set up your pre-order; coming soon in August!

Publishing update

It’s been a long time coming, but both Catherine’s Tale books are now out. Today is the publication of Catherine’s Tale Part 2 in ebook form (paperback will be out the end of this week). I’m putting the ebook on sale starting Monday at only $.99. It’s an action-packed conclusion to the intrigue built up in Catherine’s Tale Part 1. You’ll enjoy both stories; they are tightly knit together.
It has been about six months since I’ve done any solid creative writing. I’ve been busy reading and rewriting and more rewriting. Last week I had to face that fact that I needed to start my next book. Catherine’s Tale Parts 1 & 2 were done. My new thriller novel, Payback, was at the editor, so what was there to do? Write something.

So I sat down and started Jason’s Tale Part 2. When Catherine’s Tale came out many people around me asked why I switched from Jason to Catherine for my sequel. I didn’t have a good answer and, after doing Catherine justice with a good, two-part sequel, I decided I should heed their advice and go back to Jason before moving on to some of the other characters. I may or may not complete the story; it depends on you, the reader. If you want more of Jason and the other characters in that world, I’ve got a start on one of their stories. If not, I’ll shelve it for later.

But right now he’s off on another adventure, trying to rescue some friends, being true to his nature–the rescuer taking care of the flock. He’s got a partner, but I can’t say who it is at this point. My fears about getting back into creating a new story seemed to have been unfounded; I’m about 16,000 words into the story. That’s a good, solid start. My finished story should run in the 80,000 to 90,000 word range. The key is to write every day in order to keep the story fresh in my mind, not let the characters or plot go stale. I’m starting to dream of each next scene at night, then I get up and write it. It doesn’t always work that way, but I love it when it does. Just writing is important; like practicing one’s instrument if you’re a musician.

If I complete the story, I think I can get it out in October. My new editor turns work around in three to four weeks so I just have to get it to her by September. I’ll be busy this summer.
Please check out the two Catherine’s Tales on Amazon and leave a review if you like them. If you don’t send me an email. I’m not offended and have gained some insight from some critiques.

Catherine’s Tale paperback and a lesson from Amazon

For those of you who have been waiting for the paperback. It’s out now on Amazon. You can link to it here. Although I read a lot more ebooks since I received a Kindle reader as a gift, I still have a soft spot in my heart for a physical book. Seeing the proof copy of the paperback made it all seem more real. Ebooks sell in greater volume, but seeing one’s work in print is very satisfying.

I learned something very interesting over the last week. By my estimate there are about 15,000+ readers of Jason’s Tale. I always assumed that the sequel would start from that platform; that those 15,000 readers would be notified that I had written a sequel and they could then find me and jump start sales. As progress on the sequel dragged on and on, I took comfort in that fact; when it came out, it would rocket forward on the momentum of all those readers.

That isn’t the case.

From what I’ve been told by Amazon and Kindle people, no links like that exist. (Would that get too complicated for them to manage?) And after 13 months, many readers had moved on.

So…I am starting out anew, sort of.

People will have to discover me again and I’ll have to rely on my personal connections to get momentum going. After a few more books that situation can change. An author can reach some “critical mass” point where the momentum becomes self-sustaining. A broad enough reader following develops and they will look for new works by that writer. It seems I’m not there yet and (foolishly) thought my previous 15,000+ readers would get pinged and create that momentum. Again, I find that real-world lessons are often the most expensive.

What helps? It seems that reviews are the single most important element in that effort. They help convince readers to try a book if they are not familiar with an author (my current situation).

So I hope you will get a copy of Catherine’s Tale and if you like it, write a review (hopefully a five star one), however short or long. If you have other comments/questions about what I’ve written, send me an email at david[at]davidnees.com. I answer them all.

Coming up in my writing endeavors:

June, 2017: Catherine’s Tale Part 2; this is action packed with very strong scenes as the growing conflict in Hillsboro explodes.

August, 2017: Retribution, the Beginning; this is the first book in my new thriller Assassin series. It has lots of action and is definitely not post apocalyptic. Think of Vince Flynn or Lee Childs (I can only hope to achieve their levels of storytelling someday).

Fall, 2017: Trying for an audio book of Catherine’s Tale Part 1

2018: If readers call for it, I’ll write another in the After the Fall series and the second novel in the Assassin series with publication of one in the first half of the year and the other in the second.

Lots to do, but I’m enjoying it all.

Good reading.


Disruption is our Future

I came across this article one year ago by Robert M. Goldman, MD, PhD; World Chairman-International Medical Commission; Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board-A4M; Co-Founder & Chairman –World Academy of Anti-aging Medicine; President Emeritus-National Academy of Sports Medicine; Chairman-U.S. Sports Academy’s Board of Visitors.

He is, obviously, a man of many accomplishments.  His article chronicles some of the astounding and rapid changes we have already lived though in the past twenty years and some which are coming soon.  Predictions are dicey things to make; you rarely get them right. One thing is certain however, change and disruption are now a regular part of our world.


“In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.
Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. By 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. [ed. note: we’ve already beaten that timeline.] Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.

“Most car companies may become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are completely terrified of Tesla.

Insurance Companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

Electric cars won’t become mainstream until 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all cars will run on electric. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025.

Cheap Water; “With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

Health: There will be companies that will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breathe into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, nearly for free.

3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large number of spare parts they used to have in the past.

“At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they already 3D printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

Business Opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed in to failure in the 21st century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.” [emphasis added] Robotics combined with AI is proving to accelerate the change.

Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all days on their fields. Agroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow-produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups that will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

“There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you are. Until 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they are telling the truth and when not.

Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even become the default reserve currency.

Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably way more than 100.

Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. Until 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to world class education.”

A prepper question from the baby boom generation

A reader asked whether or not there was a place for older, less mechanically skilled people in prepper groups; or are they on their own. It’s a good question.  I spent some time looking across the internet on prepper sites. Some had contact forms, so I asked that question. The answers I received showed me a couple of things. First, is that preppers are generally nice people; all the replies I received were polite and considerate. Second, I found that this question has no clear answer.  Most replies centered around the idea that everyone has something to contribute, even older people and that character is what is most important in prepper communities.  That latter point makes sense when you think about a small group of people getting together when society is falling apart.

So the answer is really individual in nature; there’s no fixed formula here. I confess that I’m not a prepper, but a post apocalyptic world interests me as an author. Two websites that I think are worth checking out are: http://survivingprepper.com/ and http://www.americanpreppersonline.com/. Surviving Prepper has a handy list of prepper links that can quickly steer you to many different sites having to do with prepping. The second one has a bulletin board where you can post (and read posts) about people looking to join or add to a survival group.

It is an interesting world I’ve come to know about through writing Jason’s Tale.  You can read some of my thoughts about in my earlier blog, “Thoughts on Post Apocalyptic Literature. The sequel, Catherine’s Tale is getting closer to publication. It is much more complex a story which I hope will be an enjoyable read.

In the end we each have to choose. If one prepares, one risks having people try to take what you have away. If one doesn’t prepare, one is certainly going to suffer. In the end, the ability to have minimal supplies to support you and your family for even a few days or weeks makes some sense. Such preparation is useful for any kind of emergency, not even of the apocalyptic level. And the ability to defend loved ones is a natural instinct and one you may not want to avoid or suppress.

For a real apocalypse, a basic plan would make sense. For me, living near a very large city, it makes sense to figure out how to get out of town safely. Large cities are going to become dangerous places; I’m convinced of that. Out in the country you have a chance, both to be safe and to find food. Shelter may have to be up to your ingenuity. As Douglas Adams said, “Don’t panic”.

Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) and Its Effects

Since my novel, After the Fall: Jason’s Tale, takes place after an EMP attack on the United States, I thought it might be good to write about what our experts in Washington think about this threat.

E1-E2-E3: First, the bones of an EMP: there are three parts to the “pulse”, cleverly labeled E1, E2 and E3. E1 is the shortest pulse and consists of gamma rays. They travel at nearly the speed of light. Their danger is that they hit electrical circuits so fast that surge protectors cannot react in time to block them. They disable the surge protectors and cause some damage to the electronics downstream, mostly semi-conductors. The E2 pulse lasts longer, but still well under a second, and it has unimpeded entry into electronic circuits whose surge protectors are now disabled, completing the damage, shutting down most electronics. The E3 pulse is the final round, lasting up to hundreds of seconds. It has a long wave length and couples to long distance power transmission lines following them and burning out power stations and transformers on the grid. An EMP burst couldn’t be better designed to do maximum damage to a society’s power and transportation infrastructure.

Sun attacks: We get EMP attacks from our sun via “coronal mass ejections”.  We’re protected from most of their effects by the earth’s magnetic shield. However the threat posed, as in my and other stories, by a nuclear induced EMP attack is real and our magnetic shielding won’t protect us.  The scenario may be attractive to many rogue regimes as you don’t have to precisely target a city and you can do more wide spread damage. As in my novel, the terrorists at first don’t like the idea; they want to see fire and death rain down from the sky, but they are won over by the vision of the U.S. “dying from within” as society collapses.

Food: Think about it; our cities have approximately a three day supply of food. Grocery stores and their food delivery systems are a modern marvel. We get a bewildering array of choices, mostly year around, ever replenished in a three day cycle, thus insuring a constant flow of perishable items. Now take away the delivery system; modern trucks stop running, trains stop running, planes stop flying.

The first casualty of the breakdown in our transportation system would be food supplies (next would probably be gas). Cities would quickly run out as people made a run on the grocery stores. Add to this situation the fact that credit cards don’t work anymore. How many of us have sufficient amounts of cash on hand to make necessary purchases, even if we can fight through the crowds to find the goods?

No Information: So we have no food being delivered and no credit cards being accepted. Now let’s add in the loss of electricity and communications. We don’t have lights, we can’t call anyone and we don’t get informed about what is going on—no television, radio or internet. In modern disasters, there is generally some form of communication by which the authorities can let the population know what’s happened and direct them in how to respond. The sense of isolation would be terrifying to many; local officials, when found, would have no better idea of what happened and what was being done about it than anyone else.

Hospitals would be out of action; their backup generators, conveniently integrated into their electrical systems, would have been damaged. No lights means surgeries would have to be done under flashlight, if the hospital had any. Medicines would soon be in short supply. People with diabetes might be the first to suffer without a supply of insulin, but others would soon succumb.

Breakdown: I don’t mean to depress my readers, but you can see that it is not hard to project an apocalyptic vision from the above. How long could our society remain cohesive? The density of our cities is made possible only by the infrastructure that would now be disabled. How long would we remain friendly to and supportive of each other? How soon would hunger and fear drive us to desperate action? Not to mention those in society who already tend to live on the edge of the law. We may find there are many more sociopaths as well as psychopaths amongst us than we want to believe. And many would be driven to such behavior out of a belief that aggression is needed for survival. Survival for most people would drive out most other feelings.

90% Casualties: This is grist for an author’s mill. For my novel, I have drawn the most severe picture. I have an electrical engineer friend who doesn’t think it would be as bad as I describe (but that doesn’t make for as good a story). The army has some “hardened” systems so it wouldn’t be completely disabled. Still James Woolsey, former CIA Director, in an August 12, 2014 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, points out that the EMP Commission (whatever that is/was) concluded in 2008 that within 12 months of such an attack 90% of the U.S. population could be dead. Even if that estimate is way off base, 50% of the U.S. population dying would be catastrophic.

So clearly an EMP attack is great fodder for a novelist, but it is also a real and present threat. This threat has been recognized by our current administration, but no one seems to be in any hurry to address it. Woolsey’s editorial pointed out that protecting the country’s national grid (which would keep the power on, even if transportation were shut down) would cost 2 billion dollars, about what we give Pakistan a year in foreign aid. Something to think about; meanwhile, the subject provides fertile soil in which to sow stories.

Would you be able to survive the collapse of society?  Would you want to? Let me know your thoughts.

[to comment go to the top of the blog and click on the title]

Audio Book Completed

It’s out! The audio version of “After the Fall: Jason’s Tale” is available on audible.com. Follow this link to connect.

By Monday or Tuesday you’ll also be able to purchase it from Amazon and iTunes. The narration took longer than I expected to complete, but what did I know? I started the project last summer. Near the end, we ran into some technical problems, but my narrator, Gabriel Zacchai, worked them out. It’s exciting to hear the words I’ve labored over for so long spoken out loud.

It’s priced at only $19.95 (I don’t have anything to do with the pricing) which seems pretty good for an audio book. You get 7 hours, 44 minutes of listening pleasure; perfect for a road trip or a week’s commute. I hope you enjoy the narration. You can even leave a review on Audible. For an audio book you can offer three ratings: “overall”, “performance” and “story”; kind of cool.

Would you like a copy for free?
I have 10 promo copies (codes, actually) that I’m giving out to my reader group. To get one email me at david@davidnees.com and say, “Send me the code.”  With your permission, I’ll add you to my reader’s email list so you can follow my progress, get access to new writings and generally let me know how you feel about what I write.  A writer puts words down on “paper” for the readers, so we want to know how you feel about the results of those efforts.

I want to thank you all for your support in this endeavor. They’ll be many more stories and audio books to come.  Look for the sequel, “Catherine’s Tale”, to be out early in the first quarter next year.  It’ll be worth the wait.

Sequel Update

Off to the Editor

I sent the manuscript off to an editor last week.  He’ll take over 100 hours to go through it.  It’s a very particular skill set and the author is definitely not the one to edit their own work. I’m sure I’ll need a hug and words of encouragement after I go through his edits, but that’s what editors are supposed to do, find the holes, the misused words, the plot kinks, awkward dialogue and expose them.  It’s my job to suck it up, so to speak, and fix them.  You, the reader, get a better story, which I hope everyone will appreciate.

All successful writers have editors whether traditional or self published, so why shouldn’t I? Jason’s Tale was beta read by thoughtful friends and self edited by me dozens of times. That process took a long time. A professional editor can shorten the time to publish, getting to the heart of a story’s issues. By investing in an editor, I think I’ll save months to publication. I want to get this sequel out this fall as promised all summer.  That said, I think beta readers are still a good step for me to take before sending my work off to an editor.

Will I have a long term relationship with this editor?  Who knows?  Some writers do.  Like any relationship, one has to take time to see how it develops.  Does the editor like reading my work?  That’s important; if they don’t like the story lines or writing style, it’s harder for them to edit.  Will I like the changes he imposes/suggests?  Sometimes an editor may want the author to go in a different direction than the writer wants to go, or to not take “license” with the rules of grammar where the writer thinks they are justified for the effect…think The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Publish date?

My editor will take three passes at the story, after each of my rewrites.  We’re looking at about a month to complete it all, so I’m shooting for mid-November.  Of course when I get his markup back, I’ll be “head down” and hard working to get the manuscript turned around and back to him.  He said the first pass would take over 100 hours, as I said above, the second pass, maybe 30 hours and the third pass less than 10.  Hopefully all will go as expected.

New Thriller Novel

I’m still going to try to fit this in and publish it before year’s end.  It sets up a protagonist, Daniel (Dan) Stone, who becomes a black ops assassin for the CIA.  This first novel, tentatively titled Retribution, tells the story of how Dan loses everything and winds up with the CIA.  Most of the action takes place in Brooklyn, with some pretty colorful characters.  I like it and I think you will as well.

Audio Book

The audio book of After the Fall: Jason’s Tale is on schedule for mid-November as well.  Gabriel Zacchai has completed the narration and now he has to do the editing.  Check out his website; he lives in Maine, is a folk singer, tattoo artist, story teller and dad along with being a narrator; a very interesting guy.

Thoughts on success

While I am a new to writing, I’ve had some experience with success in three other fields of endeavor:  motorcycle racing, motorcycle dealer, and fitness equipment store chain owner.  In each of these I learned more clearly what is necessary for success.  So many have written about how success is a matter of hard work, perseverance, breaking the rules, making up new rules.  They are all pertinent and I’ve used them all in the course of my career.

I’ve found helpful, encouraging information from established self-published and hybrid authors, such as J.A. Konrath and Hugh Howey.  Inspired by them, I humbly offer my addition to the large collection of success advice; mine having to do with the concept of visualization.

A story from motorcycle racing

Kenny Roberts is champion motorcycle racer, winning two Grand National Championships (US titles) and three 500cc World Championships (equivalent to a Formula 1 championship).  These are an individual accomplishments equivalent to winning multiple Olympic gold medals, multiple Super Bowls and many other sports pedestals where few ascend.

Robert Road racing

Roberts revolutionized pavement motorcycle racing.  His lean-off-the-bike style led to greater cornering speeds and his background in dirt track racing allowed him to be comfortable with the motorcycle drifting and sliding on pavement.  The result was a form of riding that dominated the Europeans who, until that time, did not think to slide their machines on pavement.  His style was so effective it changed how motorcycles were raced on pavement and changed how designers built the bikes; they had to accommodate this faster style by changing how their machines turned into a corner and how they reacted when the rear wheel started to slide.

Trans Atlantic Match races

This story is from the days before he became world champion, when he was involved in a spring racing series in Great Britain, called the Trans Atlantic Match races.  The format involved the top U.S. racers traveling to England to compete with the top British racers each spring over the three days of the Easter weekend.

It was a compressed format; three races at three tracks in three days.  In the morning there were practice sessions where you had to get the motorcycle dialed in (adjusted to the circuit and the current conditions) and learn the lines through the corners.  Right after the noon break, a qualifying session was held to determine your starting position.  A good position was critical since overtaking was difficult on most of the circuits.  An hour after qualifying, the race was held and at the end of the day, everyone packed up to head for the next circuit.  There wasn’t a lot of time to get it right.

A bad day at the track

Now England in the spring is cold, rainy and not friendly to motorcycle pavement racing, especially for the U.S. riders, many of whom came from sunny southern California.  Cold pavement lacks traction, and when wet it is treacherous, demanding a delicate hand on the throttle be fast enough to win yet not fall down.  At one of the tracks Roberts was having a difficult time of it.  He could not post competitive times during the morning practice sessions.  After struggling through two rounds of practice, having tweaked the settings on his motorcycle to no avail, he skipped the third and last round of practice.  Instead he went into the Goodyear tire van, threw a bunch of racing tires up to block the entrance and sequestered himself alone during the last practice session.

After the noon break, he went out for the qualifying session.  In that session Roberts turned the fastest time of the field to start on the pole position.  He then went on to win the race.  After, people came up to him to ask how he did it, since his times were so poor in practice.  How did he turn it around?  Did it have anything to do with his secluding himself in the tire van?

Roberts explained he was so frustrated during practice that he went into the van to review the track in his head.  He took each of the corners, ran through them in his mind, tracing the perfect (fastest) line:  the braking point, the turn-in point, the apex, how much brake he applied and where, how much throttle he applied and where.  When he had the corner figured out in his head and memorized, he went to the next corner and did the same thing.  In each of the corners he visualized how the motorcycle felt, how it would react to his inputs of braking, steering and throttle.  When he had all the corners down in his head, Roberts said he then connected them together so that he could run a pole-setting lap in his head.  “Then I just went out and replayed the movie in head, on the track,” he said in his signature laconic style.

We all accept that visualization works, but few of us have experienced it in such a dramatic fashion.

Don’t drift into fantasy!

One thing to note is that Roberts needed to visualize the corners in a way that didn’t violate the laws of physics.  He couldn’t “fantasize” about flying around a corner defying the laws of motion and energy, ignoring the coefficient of traction of his tires, the force vectors on them, velocity limits, how quickly the motorcycle would react to his steering inputs, and dozens of other factors in play.  The visualization process involved taking the corners apart and dissecting them, figuring them out and only then putting them back together.  But the process had to be grounded in reality.

I have watched amateur racers try visualization without taking reality into consideration.  The results were not pretty.  Some of the racers that engaged in the sport for the fun and adventure of it went on to pay a huge price in damaged bodies for their misplaced confidence.

So it goes in any endeavor.  If you want to visualize your success, you must break the goal down into its supporting parts.  These are the building blocks to the success you seek.  Visualize them, not just the end goal.  Keep your visualizing grounded in reality and then you can go out and “replay the movie” that is in your head.

What about writing?

What are the parts to writing success?  Here’s my list so far.  One should consult other writers who have ascended that mountain.  But I’m sure the list includes:

  • Write every day. It’s a skill and like any, grows with practice
  • Get critical advice and review. No great musician, sports person or artist got there without tutors or coaches.
  • Learn all the parts of what make up a good story. It is central to success.  If you don’t write well, don’t learn how to tell a good tale, engage the reader and keep them engaged, success with be hard to find.  Racers without Roberts’ skill set could visualize all they wanted but would not achieve the same results.
  • After a good story, if one is self-publishing, one has to figure out the “business” parts of the job. Much has been written on the business of self-publishing and I’m still digesting it.  My business background, hopefully, will make that part a bit easier for me than some seem to find it.

So to reach your goal, break it down to all the parts you must master to achieve it, visualize doing them correctly, then go out and “replay the movie in your head”.  Let me know if and how visualization has worked for you.

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