Last year, a writer friend suggested I submit to his publisher. They had just signed a well-known actor, and my proposed novel arc seemed like a good fit. But…
They have a tendency to release a writer’s backlog as well as expect new content in short order. I’d never done that before. The Nick Kepler novels I wrote as Jim Winter usually took three months in first draft, followed by three more months of revision. Holland Bay started on a whim, with me sending scenes I thought would help a friend get through a bad spell in the hospital. He dared me to finish it, but as I pantsed the whole thing, it took years. The version Down & Out Books is editing bears almost no resemblance to the first draft. For starters, it’s 40,000 words shorter.
But to be ready for a book every month or every other month? That meant having my ducks in a row before I submitted. So, I dared myself. Suicide Run, the first novel with my character Suicide as the central figure, would be written in a month. Through well-timed breaks, the obligatory half-hour Starbucks layover during Uber shifts, and stealing time wherever I could, I did manage a 75,000-word novel in 30 days. Could I do it again?
Checkmate, which features Children of Amargosa protag JT Austin with Suicide as a major supporting character (Sense a theme here? This arc is built around a trilogy of Suicide novels) checked in at ninety. In fact, by the time the pandemic upended our lives, I had three novels in the can.
Then the pandemic set in. We were on lockdown. No more Uber or trips to Starbucks, but I did switch to Door Dash. With food delivery, there’s no one in your car. So on the way to restaurants and waiting for cars, I dictated into Google docs. (By the way, Google docs sucks for dictation.) I had a handful of 10,000-word weekends. So, several more, including a second Suicide-centered novel, Suicide Gambit, came together in short order. But are they any good?
I’m pretty confident in Suicide Run. Checkmate and its follow-up, Royal Orders are solid with maybe some minor changes to a few scenes or arcs. There’s a James Bond-pastiche for the Amargosa character Eric Yuwono, however, that requires another trip across the keyboard. And an adventure on a rough-and-tumble frontier planet that I dubbed Tishla & Louise as a working title could stand to be ironed out before I hand it off to the betas, possibly an editor.
And then there’s Suicide Solution, the end to the series, and the one that actually took two months. It most definitely will require a massive rewrite. Indeed, I had so much trouble getting this to work that I wrote half the novel backward until it met the parts that still worked.
But the series is in the can. And maybe its time that I leave the Compact Universe be for a while. Not that I won’t be releasing or rereleasing new material. I have a Wiki to write. And none of what I’ve written over the past year has seen the light of day yet. I do hope to have news on Suicide Run soon. But from the writing perspective, the part you don’t see until either I upload it or a publisher does, I need to be Jim for a time. Holland Bay needs a copy edit and a follow-up. And really, before you’ve even read Suicide Run, I have to decide if I want to stay in the Compact Universe as TS or move onto something else.
But, as a wise man once said, “Aaaaaaand I’m spent!”