Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jack Badelaire's 2014 Short Story Challenge

2013 was the year I became a writer. I don't say this as a boast or to beat my own drum, but rather because I decided this year that writing four novels wasn't just a flash in the pan for me, something to get out of my system, reflect on with the taste of sour grapes in my mouth, and move on. I know now that I'm in this for the long haul.

I also know that in 2014, I need to step up my game. I need to either be writing, editing, or in some other way working on one project or another every single day. It doesn't matter if I work for ten minutes or a full, eight-hour day - I've got to do it. Right now, I'm in a plane and I'm taking off from the runway, and I've got to push those throttles against the stops. Either I gain enough airspeed and altitude to clear the trees at the end of the runway, or I'm going to stall out and crash. This is a vulnerable time for me, and I know the only way to make it through is to write and close, write and close, write and close. I have to remember - coffee is for closers.

A year ago I posted this article on how I need to always be closing in 2013. I didn't think my goals were unreasonable, but I failed to achieve some of them. Why? Because in April, a fluke of chance right as Operation Bedlam went live meant I made quite a bit of money over the spring and summer, and that money made me lazy. Instead of writing Operation Cannibal in two months, it took me five. Instead of getting Spiders and Flies out of my desk drawer in 2013, I'm going to have to get it published in January. I did write another short story, but it wasn't the one I wanted. I let a small taste of success go to my head, and my hands got soft. I've got to build up my calluses again, and I need a challenge to keep driving me forward.

So in 2014, I'm throwing down the gauntlet - not just for myself, but for all of you, too. Here's how it's going to work:
  1. Go and look at your bookshelves. Find a book or two that you've read, in a genre you like, and re-read them. Right now. You're going to write a short story in the spirit of those books.
  2. Put a dollar bill in a coffee can. This can is your Cover Can. Put another dollar in that can every day.
  3. Write at least 300 words a day, every day, for six weeks. That's 12,600 words. If you fall a little short or run a little over, that's fine. The goal is to write a short story between 10,000 and 15,000 words. But seriously, at least three hundred, you big sissy.
  4. Once the story is finished, over the next four weeks you're going to get (at least) four people to read that short story and provide feedback. Two of them need to be anal retentive grammar Nazis who'll slap you senseless for every little typo and screw up. Two of them need to be the sort of folks who read mostly for pleasure and like the kind of fiction you're writing - they represent the people who'd pay money for your story.
  5. Once those four weeks are up, spend the next two weeks editing the story, factoring in all the grammar and spelling edits, any suggestions that seem to make sense to you, and ignoring some that your gut tells you don't work. Remember, at the end of it all, it's your story.
  6. After these twelve weeks, your story is done. Stop mucking with it and tweaking and fiddling. At this point, there's as much a chance of you breaking something that isn't broken as there is of you finding something that could use some improvement. Perfection is the enemy of Good Enough.
  7. Return to Step 1 and begin this process over again.
  8. When you're not working on the next short story, take the 84 dollars you've got in your Cover Can and find a cover artist. DeviantArt is one option, but there are a million others. You can get a good, professional, embarrassment-free cover for 80-100 dollars. Go forth and do so now.
  9. Read up on how to format your short story for the Kindle, and make it happen. I've gotten to the point where I can format a Word document for the kindle in about 10 minutes, minus proof-checking. As long as you keep things simple, you can too.
  10. If you aren't signed up for KDP already, make an account, then create a new title, fill in all the relevant details, upload your new cover and that Kindle-ready file, then hit Publish.
  11. Do this four times before January 1st, 2015.
I already have the ideas for my four short stories. Two of them are Secret Projects that I'm not yet at liberty to discuss. A third is a fantasy short story, and the fourth is another Resistance short for the Commando series. These are going to be in addition to all the other things I want to accomplish in 2014, but if I'm going to clear the treeline at the end of the runway and make a successful takeoff, this is how it's going to happen.

Anyone care to join me?

Monday, December 2, 2013

COMMANDO: Operation Cannibal On Sale Now

Click the Cover to View on Amazon
The third book in the COMMANDO series of World War Two action-adventure novels is now available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook. In the next week or two, I'll have the paperback ready for purchase as well.

Operation Cannibal takes Lynch and the other Commandos to North Africa, where they take on Egyptian spies, German Brandenburgers, and a unit of crack Italian Bersaglieri. There's lots of desert adventure, battles with armored cars and some heavy weapons, as well as gunfights with rifles, submachine guns, knives, grenades...you know - the usual stuff!

Writing this book was a lot of fun, especially as it gave me a chance to delve more into the history and details surrounding the early North African campaign battles. It's amazing how much the war changed between 1941 and 1945, and so much is different than the later Italian and French/German campaigns.

Here's the product description from the Amazon page:

The sands of the North African desert run red with blood as the British Eighth Army battles against the German Afrika Korps. While preparing for a major offensive, the British learn of an enemy raiding unit operating in the deep desert, attacking supply convoys and endangering vital reconnaissance patrols.
Corporal Lynch and his companions find themselves part of a strike force of Commandos and men from the Long Range Desert Group. Their mission: drive deep into the Libyan desert, find the enemy raiders, and wipe them out in a storm of lead.
But when the Commandos discover a nest of Egyptian spies with ties to German Intelligence, has their mission been compromised before it even begins? Will the Commandos find the enemy raiders, or will the hunters become the hunted?
The desert is as dangerous as any enemy in this, the third book in the COMMANDO series of military action-adventure novels written in the spirit of classic war movies and wartime adventure pulp fiction.
 I'll make another announcement when the paperback format is available.