I always thought that when you reach a certain age, say, your early 60s, you’d begin to slow a bit. Stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Take more trips to warm locales and read more books, visit museums and do all the stuff you once thought sounded boring, back when you could party all and still function the next day. You’d spend your days arguing with the government about all the personal stuff they never had any business getting into in the first place, like social security and medicare, and your grandkids would prop their heads in their hands and pay attention to every old story you told them. Regardless of how many times you repeated the same story, they’d always hang on every word.
When you weren’t arguing with some government bureaucrat, or refilling prescriptions to keep bodily functions running smoothly, maybe you’d play a lot of golf, or maybe you’d go fishing, plant a vegetable garden or tend bees. Maybe your spouse or significant other would shoo you out of the house because you were driving them crazy, or maybe they’d hand you a ‘honey-do’ list longer than your arm. All of those and more, either in full or in part, were what I envisioned life post-kids would be like. What I never, ever thought is that I would be busier than I ever have been in my entire life, and damned glad that I am.
I’ve been a writer for going on fifty years. My first (unpublished, thank God!) novel was finished in 1986, but it wasn’t until 30 years later than my first book came out, the one that started my diversion from a semi-sedentary life into an even more sedentary one, Standing The Final Watch, The Last Brigade, Book 1. Since then I’ve sold somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 books, in all formats.
None of that happened because I’m such a great writer. It happened because I’m lucky enough to have amazing friends and family in my corner, without whose support it could never have happened.
Next weekend, the first weekend in January of 2020, I will attend my first convention as Guest of Honor, SHADOWCON. It’s gonna be epic, not because of me, but because of the awesome people running it. In February I’m going to Colorado Springs for SUPERSTARS, a conference featuring some of the top writers in science fiction and fantasy teaching others how they became successful, and how to improve your craft. March will be MIDSOUTHCON, where I will again be a panelist and have a table in the dealer room.
In 2019 I was lucky enough to attend LIBERTYCON, and got up at 6 am on a Saturday to get a spot in the June, 2020, convention. If you know me at all, you know how nearly impossible that is for me. The convention sold all 750 spots out in 29 minutes and 9 seconds. I hope to get a spot at the 20booksto50k conference in November of 2020, but that’s not a guarantee yet.
See what I mean? Sedentary.
In March of 2019, my novella The Hairy Man, A Story in the World of the Last Brigade, was First Runnerup for the Darrell Award, and in October it won the Imadjinn Award. Jurassic Jail, The Time Wars Book 1, was First Runnerup for the Imadjinn Award. For me, and I suspect for every writer, awards are confirmation that others appreciate what you’re doing and the way you’re doing it. They help alleviate that voice in your head that whispers “this sucks” about everything you write.
August of 2019 saw Jurassic Jail as part of my first bundle with Science Fiction Writers of America. It sold close to 1,000 copies in three weeks. I could never have dreamed of such a thing even a year ago.
In 2019 I published one long novel, Standing Before Hell’s Gate, The Last Brigade, Book 4, one novella, The Nameless, Task Force Zombie 1, four novelettes, Kill Me When You Can, Hit World #1; Shoot First, Hit World #2 (with Larry Hoy); The Sting of Fate and Grinning Soul (with my writing mentor Thomas Lyon Russell), a Time Wars short story, Tail Gunner Joe, and my non-fiction magnum opus, Killing Hitler’s Reich, The Battle for Austria, 1945. I cannot conceive that I will ever write a book with more long-lasting impact than that one.
Already written and scheduled or contracted for in 2020 are novella Hitler a la Mode (on pre-order now); novelette The Granite Man (in the Cthulu Universe!); novelette The Moles of Vienna, A Story in the World of the Last Brigade; novelette The River of Walking Spirits, A Story in the World of the Last Brigade; novelette Nalusa Malaya, A Story in the World of The Last Brigade, novellette Drumsticks Along the Mohawk and novelette Roland the Headless Mecha Driver, my first entry into the magnificent Four Horsemen Universe.
I have publicly vowed to try writing 1,000,000 words in 2020. For many writers that’s a drop in output, but for me, with all of my hand problems, it will be quite a challenge.
Novels already in various stages of writing and planned for release in 2020 include my first full length book in the Four Horsemen Universe, with the working title of High Mountain Hunters; Standing In Righteous Rage, The Last Brigade Book 5; Cretaceous Kill, The Time Wars Book 2 (with J. Gunnar Grey); The Demon in the Jewel, Sharp Steel & High Adventure 4; Ghosts of the Coast, an alternate history of the Battle of France, 1940, and Not Enough Bullets, a Task Force Zombie novel.
Novels planned for next year, but not yet begun, include Standing Among The Tombstones, The Last Brigade Book 6. Out For Blood, Task Force Zombie 2 will likely be a novella, as will Beyond The Dead River, Sharp Steel & High Adventure 5. On the horizon, but highly unlikely in 2020, are The Dragons of Anthar, Sharp Steel & High Adventure 6 and Dark Time, The Time Wars 3. I also have a sequel to High Mountain Hunters forming in my mind, but not yet planned or gotten permission to attempt.
As if that doesn’t sound like enough, in the non-fiction realm I’m planning on finishing Killing Hitler’s Reich, The Battle for Velikiye Luki, 1942-43; Unsuck Your Writing Career, What I’ve Learned; Essays on the War for Southern Independence and, should I somehow run out of things to write, there are further projects already in the works.
Four years ago today, December 31, 2015, I had the first draft of the longest novel I’d ever attempted, totaling about 175,000 words. I had no idea what to do next, absolutely no clue about the publishing industry of the 21st Century, no website, no Amazon author accounts, no twitter account or contacts anywhere in any genre. I literally had no concept of what to do next.
The point of all of this is to encourage others never to quit pursuit of your dreams, no matter what happens. For my fellow writers, I revel in every success you achieve and find inspiration from you. The list of amazing people I’ve met in the past four years is too long to list here, but nearly all of them are new to writing within the past five years. It really is a brave new world out there. Go get you some.